You are currently browsing the archives for the manic tag.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

April 27th, 2010

When I first met her, I didn’t think I’d like her.  We were supposed to be friends, we’d both been told.  We’d both been told we’d like each other.

She has blond hair, and she’s thin.  Her teeth are perfectly white.  I want to give her the benefit of the doubt, but I’m judging her.  She knows I’m judging her.

At the end of the day, I write my friend.  He used to be in the lab—he knows how it used to be.  He knows me.  I tell him that I don’t know if I’ll like her.  He tells me to send him a picture of her in a bikini.


There’s nothing like going crazy.  Having already gone crazy and then recovered and forgotten what it felt like, I feel uniquely qualified to say it.

In my head, I try on metaphors:

Going crazy is like drowning in a deep warm ocean.  At first, it shocks your lungs.  Your limbs flail and you struggle against it.  You fight.  You fight so damn hard.  But eventually, you sink too far and you just give up.  You let it wash over you, fill your alveoli and stop your heart.  You let it have you.

Bipolar disorder is the color of water.  Bipolar disorder is the heat of the sun on a day in December.  Or July.  Or both, all at once.  Bipolar disorder is wanting everything in the world at the same time, wanting everything and knowing—without question—that it’s already all yours.

Bipolar disorder is pain.  On your couch, in your car, in your bed.  In the shower, sitting in your seat at the dinner table.  In your head.  Pain that moves down your nerves and makes you hot and shaky.  Makes you not eat or sleep until you’re nauseous and immobile.  Makes you so much less than what you ever wanted to be.


Sometime after I fell in love with her—in the passionately innocent way that only girls can fall in love with their friends who are also girls—I told her about the crazy.  We both have chronic illnesses.  We both have friends who didn’t want to deal with chronic illnesses.  We were both dealt shit hands, and we spit in the face of the dealer.  She’s better at it than I am.  But sometimes, I can get a good shot in too.

Still—I never wanted her to experience it for herself.  To see the crazy unleashed in full-force, wild-eyed and swirling patterns of dust around my existence.  Didn’t want her to see how it could consume me, steam-roll me, hold my head underwater just to see me squirm.  Didn’t want her to see how it made my legs shake and stomp, my teeth clench up in my mouth, my hands curl into fists until my nails leave half-moon patterns in the skin of my palms.


Bipolar disorder is a devil, a demon.  Real-life, with hot hooves that burn you and sharp horns that gore you, right through your abdomen, and pin you to walls.  Think back to all of the literature you can think of, all the ones about Satan and his minions.  Animal-shaped and furious, they dance with you—grab your hand and spin you around and around.  You are dizzy.  You are exhausted.  You sweat through your clothing.  You don’t know if you’ll make it.  You’re not sure you’ll survive.

Do you even want to survive?

The sole purpose of a devil is to tempt you.  To hold your hand out toward all the shiny things you think you could be.  You want to smoke weed, drink too much alcohol and fuck.  You want to run—as fast as you possibly can—in the warm streets on the darkest nights.  You itch in your own skin.  You are uncomfortable.

You want to be uncomfortable.  You want to lose yourself.  You are tired of holding it together.  The devil tells you that you don’t have to.


I didn’t want her to see it, but she did anyway.  She knew where I was headed.

My head lit up, hair messy and undone.  The previous day’s clothing, my fast words spewing out of my mouth.  A sideways wicked smile.  I was unraveling.

“Tell me how you’re feeling.”

I tell her I don’t want to.  That I’m sick of people who leave when I’m sick.  If I pretend that I’m not sick, I rationalize in my fucked-up head, then people will have no reason to leave.  I don’t want to get her involved with the nasty tangled web of my mind.

But she jumps in.  “I’m not going to leave.  I just want you to be honest with me.  I just want to help you.”

So I tell her about the monsters in my head.  Tell her I’m drowning.

I cannot see, in my own mirror, how crazy I am.  How crazy I look.  But in the reflective pool of her concerned face, I can see it clearly.  Because she is scared, I suddenly am too.  She’s pulling me back out.  And then, I do something I’ve never done before, not with any other person.  Not really.  I let her.

When I write that I feel run-out and done-for, she writes that she’ll pick me up.

When I say I’m glad she’s in my corner, she promises she’ll be princess of my corner forever.

When I remember that I once thought we couldn’t be friends, I think of how stupid I can be.

Here, with her, there’s hope between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Where Do I Go From Here?

January 29th, 2010

By Dianna

Where do I go from here? Once again I feel my life spiraling out of control and have nothing with which to stop it. I am a logical person. I know what I should do to make myself feel better, however I seem to have no way of stopping myself from doing what I shouldn’t do.

When I get nervous and feel disliked in a situation, I drink. When I am manic and feeling like the world is mine and everyone should bow to my amazingness, I drink. When I drink, I inevitable fail and the all consuming guilt spirals into depression.

This weekend I celebrated my friend’s birthday. Her friends don’t like me. Perhaps the best thing was not for me to point out how one particular friend of hers doesn’t even say hello to me and shoots daggers at me with her eyes. They make me feel uncomfortable and she herself, always seems to want me to act a different way, or be a different way, and I try to tell myself it’s all in my head and than I feel bad, but perhaps maybe it isn’t.

That night, I separated myself from the group. Instead of talking to them, I talked to strangers. People who didn’t make me feel disliked and uncomfortable. People who listened to me and didn’t tell me I was talking too loud or act as if I was embarrassing them. They left me at the restaurant and I had to find my own way to the bar. Then, they left me at the bar and I had to get myself home. No matter how poorly I was behaving, how can that be the way to treat a friend?

Here I go again. One more friend down. When you only have 3 left it’s a sad and lonely place to be.

Being bi-polar is not conducive to friendships, and those you do find generally are engaged in the same self destructive behavior you should avoid like the plague. It gets you nowhere real fast. Yet, no matter how many times I am told “it’s not my fault”, no one else seems to believe it or wants to take the effort to understand that. And sometimes I just don’t believe it.

Whose fault is it if not mine? I’m the one who chose to have sex with strangers, to put things up my nose that shouldn’t go there and to put that glass to my lips over and over again.

Today I made it out of bed, albeit late, and I will drag myself to the gym and remember each hour that passes is another chance to begin again.

Give Me A Head Of Hair

December 6th, 2009

In junior high a cool kid appeared as a transfer.  She was amazing and had been living in Canada.  She was originally from New England like me but wow, Canada.  She played hockey on the boy’s team and she liked awesome stuff that I liked and awesome stuff that I wanted to like.  And she helped me figure out how to convince my mother to let me get a giant streak of magenta dyed into my hair by a very odd man in a very odd hair salon in “the city.”  I rocked.  Just like that I rocked and was awesome and felt it.  It was like the cool just came out with every breath but mostly with each toss of my ash blonde and MAGENTA hair.  That silly streak opened me up and helped the inside heal when all my secret ways of trying had failed.  I am forever grateful to my cool girl friend that showed me how easy it could be to just be.  And that you can play on the same side as the boys sometimes.

In the years between then and now I have had red, auburn, blonde-blonde, just highlighted, streaks, caramel, brown, cherry coke, bad decision black, natural and most recently- my happy fun hair.  I have mentioned my happy fun hair before which will only go to prove my long winded point.  Last spring I realized I was getting too old for my brain and maybe even for my body and went on a spree of random actions.  I got an iPod with bejillion accessories.  I got a ton of new clothes after losing 25 pounds.  And I got a great hair cut followed by 6 appointments to get the right hair color.  It was a deep, deep, rich red with undertones of cherry and mahogany.  At the crown I had medium sized chunky highlights in a golden blonde tone that I could make disappear with a trick of the brush.  It doesn’t sound right but it kicked ass.

This was before the economic dive of the country and the cutbacks at my husband’s non-profit job.  I spent a lot of money on vanity and fear of aging.

But when I walked around, when I picked my son up from pre-school- I stood so tall.  I was taking back my youth on the outside and it was jumpstarting the process on the inside.  I stood out and got to feel like the suburban subversive I believe myself to be.  My hair was a symbol of the old lady me being banished so that I could reconnect to the version of me that is, well, happy fun me.

I got the color redone once and then there was the 10% pay cut, the mandatory furloughs, the loss of retirement benefits etc.  So it faded.  I didn’t have a good enough reason to commit that much money to something as foolish as my hair.  How vain can a person be to spend several hundred dollars (I have a lot of very absorbent hair) on a dye job when their kids need sandals or later on- winter boots?  Then again I was feeling better so my symbol of happy fun me seemed less vital as long as I could sustain the pep on my own- which I could.  For a while.

So now it is much too long and I have mismatched colors throughout.  I have discovered that in my attempt to reconnect to my youth I hid the massive growth of grey hair around my temples and forehead.  The grey, along with the 3 inch roots contrasting against the faded red and blonde, make it look dirty or filled with dandruff of epidemic proportion much of the time.  This is clearly not the look I am searching for.

My foolish hair has become a symbol of enormous proportions again now that I am facing a depression.  Happy fun me (maybe that deserves proper noun status by now?) needs a boost to come out and I think a shock of red hair catching the sun will do it.  I am fixating.  I am embarrassed and feel older and like everyone assumes I am 10 years beyond my calendar years.  That isn’t the compliment it used to be.  It is common in my town to be 42 and have a 5 and almost 4 year-old but I am 32.

When I got my hair done last Spring I took a step away from the boring person who was walking around in a psychiatric contemplative state.  I connected to a new, more vibrant, more vital and present me.  Now that I know I can get to that person and that I have become distant from her, I am desperate to get back there.  The last thing I need in my world right now is distance- let alone from myself.

There is no way to make this happen.  I don’t have a ball to go to where I can hope to have a fairy godmother appear.  From what little I know of guardian angels, they don’t drop cash or Aveda gift cards from on high.  I probably shouldn’t skip eating or medication and even if I did… it would be a while and it might make me nutso beyond the fix of a good colorist.  But you know what- to spill some openness- I have lost 47 pounds in the last year and I am very grateful for that.  I have been better but am now worse.  Right now is hard and me with my happy fun hair and 50 pounds lighter might make the next few months less scary and more bearable.  I might enjoy them.  I would feel pretty and 32 and like I could play hockey on the boy’s team even though I don’t really skate.

Yet again- I want, I want, I want.  It feels so petty and selfish but it is consuming at times.  How did I become the woman who spends this much time concentrating on her hair?  I didn’t even own a blow dryer until I was married.  This happened because I am like so many struggling people, trying really hard to find quick fixes for my problems, my life, my anything.   Kicker is this one, this silly color combination from fancy-schmancy-here-is-your-tea-Aveda, really does bring me up from my down.  And… it works a lot faster than any antidepressant I know.

What color hair do you have?  Do you like it?  Would you change it?  What color or cut or pattern of stripes and dots do you think could make you feel the whiz, pow, pop of life in a new way?

Dear Shadow, Alive and Well

October 6th, 2009

“My shadow side, so amplified, keeps coming back dissatisfied—“

It’s starting to be autumn here—creeping, slowly but surely, through the windows and the trees.  Each morning is a little cooler, and it’s almost unnecessary to keep the air on at night.  I’ve picked back up the habit of leaving my car windows open when it’s too cold, blowing the heat on my feet so I don’t freeze up.  I remember starting this, in the almost-autumn of 2006.  A lot of things were starting then.  I was about to go completely crazy, and I didn’t know it yet.  I wouldn’t know until after the fact.

So the autumn brings the memories, brings them in viscerally.  As it gets colder, I will keep remembering.  I won’t stop.  I will try to, sometimes.  But they get stuck inside me, stuck on repeat.  They are skipping records, spinning in my abdomen.  The echo is enough to drive you crazy.

Or, at least, crazier than you are already.

They get exacerbated by new memories, by the phrases tossed around by friends.  One of my closest friends from medical school is on her psych rotation, and she had the distinct pleasure of doing a home visit for a man in an acute manic phrase.

“I know he’s sick,” she said, “but I couldn’t help thinking ‘This is someone I’d want to hang out with.’  He made us mix cds, and he was wearing these huge glasses.  He was…fun.

I don’t want to be sarcastic, because I love her and, anyway, her perceptions give me new perceptions.  It’s like looking at someone looking into my past and describing me.  But still, in my head, I want to quip, real sardonic, like I am these days: “Fun…yeah, that’s one word to describe it.”

On bad bad days, when I’m beaten down and feeling miserable, I worry that I will never feel that euphoric again.  People want to be that, don’t they?  Euphoric?

[Hey all you bipolar people—let’s tell the world our secret.  Euphoria is unnatural.  The kind of happiness that shouldn’t exist, the kind that is only possible with spazzed-out neurons and illegal drugs.  It’s a dangerous feeling, in that you will always want to chase it.  Don’t you want to be happy?  What’s wrong with being happy?]

Not to leave out all the normal people.  Hey normal people, over here!  Welcome to my Mind Fuck.

Every day, I make the conscious choice to file my memories into piles and folders.  Memories of cheating, of lying and manipulating, of sleepless nights spent pounding coffee and writing plays, short stories, poetry—collate into folder marked “BAD.”  Memories of time spent getting out of that hole I’d dug myself, memories of therapy breakthroughs and the first time he said “I’m sorry,” after all that—pile overflowing the “GOOD” box.

But there’s always the shadow of everything that was.  Where do you file the memory of someone else putting on your motorcycle helmet because you always fuck it up, the conjoined memory of your hands in the air, 70 MPH on city streets at 4 AM [File it BAD, Jenny.  File it BAD.].  When you think about winding red ribbon around your favorite book and giving it to someone else—this book is about love, you think.  When you are crazy, you think you have the power to make everyone see everything—you think you can make people love you [FILE IT BAD, GODDAMMIT—DON’T THINK ABOUT IT—JUST DO IT].  Every moment when you felt beautiful or brilliant or sexy, every moment when you thought you were spinning the world with the electricity in your heart [BAD—BAD—BAD].  Everything you worry you will never feel again.

I put those things in the BAD folder, sure.  But the Shadow keeps wanting to pull them out.  So I re-file them, once or twice or a hundred times a day.  But sometimes I worry that the Shadow will pull them out, and that they’ll sit on the desk in the sorting pile while I stare at them.  That I won’t remember why they’re so bad in the first place.  That I’ll drop them somewhere else, or just pick them up and inhale their dusty pages.  That I’ll tumble into them, like some movie for children.  Except it’s not a game.  It’s my life.  It’s the life that I’ve put everything too.  It’s the whole life, everything I have to lose.

So, I focus on generating more memories, to hang on the wall over the GOOD box.  So I’ll remember:

-That I feel beautiful when I catch a glimpse of my eyes in my rearview mirror

-That I feel brilliant when I finally work out a mechanism, when I take something apart with my hands and put it back together, better than it was

-That I feel sexy when my boyfriend picks me up in the kitchen [though I’m wearing glasses and a pair of umbrella-print underwear, and I’ve got morning hair] and throws me onto our bed

-That every day, I get the chance to spin the world with the electricity in my heart.

It’s A Balancing Act

October 5th, 2009

I feel myself slipping, ever so quietly, into a mild state of mania.

It’s quite possible it’s time to back off my meds.

This time four years ago, I experienced a similar, but stronger mania. My General Practitioner had ever so quickly upped me to 150mg of Zoloft (I had never been on anti-depressants before, despite numerous bouts of depression).

I became erratic in my decision making. I did not think — or care — about the consequences of my actions.

My previous boundaries, which I held on so tightly to in years past, became silly little invisible fences.  It was so easy to step over those fences since it appeared that they did not exist.

It’s true that before this time my boundaries were like the walls of a medium security prison. It’s true that these walls needed to be relaxed.

But a comfortable boundary would have been between a picket fence and an eight-foot chain link fence. The former is a visible barrier that is easy to go around, or open the gate to walk through. But it requires a decision.

The latter is a sturdier deterrent — tall enough to be a serious hurdle — but not SO scary that I would not climb OVER it.

Now I’m in a new place mentally and in a new space in my relationship with my husband. I also now have a child to consider when setting up my boundaries.

My return to medication is due to my child. Post-partum depression set in shortly after I weaned my baby after nineteen long months (of breastfeeding).

I spiraled down into a depression that I could not out think. I became uncomfortable to live with. I needed help, mentally and physically.

I needed permission to get help. I needed permission to ASK for help. I had to let go of the notion that I had to do everything myself. I had to let go of the notion that accepting help equals weakness.

Now, a year later, I have willingly accepted help and favors from friends, relatives and neighbors.

I have accepted help from artificial serotonin replacements.

I am clearly more upbeat than I was last year.

But when does this help become a hindrance? When do my boundaries solidify?

I aim to find out somewhere along the way.

Revive Me, Release Me

September 30th, 2009

These last few weeks I have been spending a lot of time alone with my almost 4 year-old daughter.  As summer counted down and my son’s first day of kindergarten drew nearer I started to get very nervous about all this upcoming alone time.  You would think I would have been looking forward to it- excited and eager for the opportunity to have all the “Mommy and Me” time I had one on one with my son repeated or matched up with my daughter.  I wish that I could lie and say I have waited for this for years.  I have actually been terrified of it for a long time.

After my son was born we had mommy and baby playgroups, developmental activities, hours giving Good Night Moon and Kerouac equal reading time, coloring outside the lines, giggling at the walls- the list goes on.  When I became pregnant around his first birthday there was no need to stop any of this.  Well, at least not until I was too huge and tired to make complete sentences.  Then I threw all promises of saintliness aside and taught my son how to use the remote.   Okay- not exactly- he could never figure out the right combination of buttons to get to PBS… but I did give in to the TV and settle into the couch.  Until playgroup or Kindermusik or a well-timed trip to the park.

The delivery of my daughter was so traumatic as to bring on a new recurrence of my previously undiagnosed but obviously there PTSD. The severe post-partum depression was just a fun bonus.  I was connected to the baby in all the “right” ways.  We nursed and co-slept, stayed abreast of developmental stages and her relationship with my son.   I made sure she was happy.  We had a new playgroup too.  One for the town, one from when my son had come along.  Mommies had their second babies.  I spoke wisely and joked about all the silly things and was the sarcastic one but pleasant as always.

I was also a super-mom.  Cloth-diapers- some sewn by myself, homemade clothes, no chemical cleaners EVER, organics, the best play date table spread you could imagine.  Theme days, crafts galore, organization of organizing tools, the continued ability to run my handmade goods business and do weekend fairs even with a new baby.  I was also lying to the world.  I was not super anything unless super crazy counted.  I hid my symptoms all day and let the night hold them for me.  It was during that time that I lay in bed and wrote the following piece.

Today seems interminable

Sleep refuses to revive me or release me

or open its arms widely enough to hold me

Daggers and ripping in my belly like cold fire

Heavy lids and skipping heart teasing me

When darkness goes on forever and

daylight is no sweet relief or proof of God

each minute is like a notch on failure’s belt

A bitter reminder of all the ghosts

that hold open your eyes and gorge on your dwindling faith

The tears and the terror that lurk on the

edges of my dreams, my terrible dreams,

make me wish for a few more moments of

wakefulness in spite of my worn down body

During these hours I dabble in forgiveness

I almost allow myself to breathe deeply

as though unburdened by responsibility

I almost let my heart empty itself of its

terrible weights and measures

I almost sleep

Three beautiful bodies rest next to me

chests rising and falling with whispers of peace

A rhythm of hopefulness and prayer

that guides me through nightmares and sadness to

a beautiful dawn and one more chance

at forgiveness and sleep.

-May 03, 2006 (my daughter was just 4 months old, my son 2 years old)

I still have nights like this and I still have bouts with insomnia.  I still have all of those feelings at one point or another, but a miracle of sorts is taking place.  I was so afraid of being alone with my daughter when she was small because I didn’t want to stare my agony in the face and try to love it unconditionally while managing nightmares and laundry.  Now years later- I was afraid of being alone with her as my son started school because I never really had been and I certainly hadn’t done it regularly as a healing person.  Spending mornings and lunches and drives to school with my daughter in her big girl body has forced me to realize that my life kept going when I thought it wouldn’t.  I didn’t die from hidden misery, the push of frantic, imaginary perfection or even the breakdown that eventually came.

My daughter helps me see with clarity so much that once was obscured. I am sure this year will be one of great growth for both of us.  I am still looking for chances to forgive both myself and others and I hope that I find more.  I am still looking for sleep but now I am not always fearful of it or conversely trying to escape within it- most of the time it is just a need for sleep.  After dropping my wonderful son at school I can enjoy looking at my daughter and seeing her beauty, grace, intelligence and humor- not a terrible delivery, medical professionals who failed me or someone to whom I owe a debt for years lost because of mommy’s craziness and failure.  I can look and see a reflection of myself that is not the terrible one I spent so long wrestling with when she was so tiny.  During our time together, Mommy and sweet girl on our own, we are teaching each other.  I get a new way of moving towards forgiveness and restful nights.  She wrote the word “fairy” all on her own just yesterday.  She dreams of fairies and I am happy just to dream.

Bear Traps and My Urgent Need for Hobbies

September 19th, 2009

There are so few words in me right now and they are so mangled that I am struggling to make conversations much less coherent sentences.  Let me state for the record- the record that is really just for my sake so I can point something out that I am not willing to deny- that I am doing better than I have been in a long while.  Just today I saw my doctor and we spoke of my many improvements and the signs that prove I am fortunate enough to be moving forward- away from the depression, the instability and lack of will.  Among other good developments I have even quit one medicine and lowered two.  I am more willing to meet people, keep up with things I enjoy and things I don’t but that are necessary.  I am even working on new projects.  To the point I go-

Just now my DVR disrupted the recording of a show I wanted to watch.  A repeat, one that I may have even seen already but I wanted to record in case I hadn’t.  When I asked my husband to fix it there came an escalation, or maybe a de-escalation.  How should I describe me swearing horribly at my husband, twisting the remote as if I could break it with bare hands and breathing more quickly than a racehorse at the end of the Kentucky Derby?  It got worse.  There was twisting and turning, begging and pleading.  Things I won’t put to page because I am not yet that brave.  All of it a showing of vulnerability I despise.

Because of TV?  An electrical malfunction?  Why is TV so important- this is my second post that highlights its place in my life?  I’m beginning to understand why people worry so much about the television as babysitter.  I’m 32 and I pay it every month to keep me busy.  I must make a note to watch less TV and pick up macramé or perhaps a weekly bridge group.  I digress.  Boy, do I digress.

I know better than to believe that I should blame the silver box beneath the flat screen.  I already mentioned the medicine changes, although I stand behind them as being the right moves.  Last week I wrote about my overwhelming fatigue and of course that can play into a flash of panic and irrational anger.  Of course there is the ankle sprain and twisted knee that I sustained on Sunday during the extreme sport of apple picking.  There are also the other chronic pain conditions I have that cause me to be on a separate cocktail favored by pharmaceutical reps.

And so I write somewhat briefly and definitely without my best skill right now to say that sometimes even when things are okay I cannot, must not forget the undercurrents of the diseases that are rooted in my brain.  I cannot ignore the pangs that go through my stomach or the quick, double breaths I occasionally take.  So many things make me, us, anybody and everybody, vulnerable to falling into a bear trap.

I am tired.  It hurts right there.  How come I forgot to do that thing?  He/She is being ridiculous.  Stop tailgating.  Is the bank wrong or am I?  I just need two more inches of space.  I only wanted to watch the one damn show and then I will go to bed.  I am thirsty.

Little things, big things, the size in this case simply does not matter in the least.  Vulnerable is vulnerable and for someone with depression, anxiety, mania, PTSD, you name it- the smallest of bear traps can be the most deadly.  I am lucky that tonight I was not alone and I had enough wits to want to hold it together and want help even when I pushed it away and I think even called it names.  My bear trap of an anxiety attack and outburst of anger came equipped with a ladder: my husband and his steady hands and clear mind.  They should all be that easy.

I am saddened to read backwards and see that I have developed a view of panic, terror, helplessness, fits and rage as being able to be called “easy” even once.  However, I recognize that if I didn’t do this, I wouldn’t be able to get up most mornings and take my two kids to my son’s school where I make pleasant conversation with people who have no idea that this is my life.  I do not know their lives either.  I can only hope that this is a moment in time that will be lost as the minutes tick away.  I also hope that if even one of the people I make eye contact with in a day finds themselves surprised by a bear trap that they can reach a ladder or at least summon the courage to scream until they are heard.

I’m listening for them and will resolve to hone my ladder building skills.  It seems like a better past time than TV and is far less likely to be effected by electrical failures.