a dream, some thoughts

January 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

had a dream last night that the demographics of district 9 (one of the historically affluent white northside districts) had changed, and that they elected a woman with bipolar to city council. when questioned by skeptical media commentators as to whether she could effectively do the job, she responded with confidence: of course she could; the only difference was that when she became overwhelmed, she needed to take breaks. but that was all.

when i read that, i felt vindicated, because i knew my old boss was reading the same news account and consequently would see that, insofar as this councilwoman’s experience was exactly the same as mine, my requests for accommodation were valid.

hey, but does anyone who’s been diagnosed bipolar question the diagnosis when they’re not in an episode? when i’m functioning well, i can’t imagine having ever functioned poorly or that i’ll ever function poorly again. and when i’m functioning poorly, i can’t imagine a way out. each experience is completely incomprehensible to the other.

yeah, right now, in a non-elevated state–and those states feel so infrequent and so incomprehensible–tho i guess i have had two in the past 5 years–but yeah, right now, i’m feeling like the more accurate diagnoses are “anxiety” and “borderline” (which really just feels like attachment difficulties or maladaptive defenses that formed secondary to a primary, probably biophysical anxiety condition). because i have those experiences so much more frequently than elevated states. and because i never have depression or self-injuring impulses outside of intense relationship anxieties. and because the two diagnoses have a lot of overlap and are frequently mistaken for the other. and because my anxiety seems impervious to the mood stabilizers i started taking after the bipolar diagnosis. and because i don’t actually feel anything on a mood stabilizer–tho i can’t tell if not feeling anything is testament to the effectiveness of the meds. like, would i be feeling something i’m not if i weren’t taking it?

but when i have been elevated, it does feel different than any other set of experiences i’ve had. it’s not anxiety, not depression. elevation feels unfamiliar, relatively, compared to the duration of time i’ve lived with other symptoms (all my life, pretty much). what it feels like is anxiety ramped 10-fold or more. like a huge outpouring of energy that simultaneously drains me to the point of collapse. like i am borrowing energy on credit. like i am a conductor or channel for an electrical current whose voltage is so huge and powerful that it blows my circuits. all my metaphors are energetic, electromagnetic. it’s like the scene from the brave little toaster where lampy charges a car battery by harnessing lightning, burning himself out. coughing sparks.



i can remember that experience, kind of. i remember that it’s huge and scary, but also awesome in its power and intensity. and yet i’m still like, well, maybe it was a one-time thing. maybe it was something else. i’m like, c’mon–do i really have bipolar?

what if everything you thought was your life was actually a symptom?

March 24, 2014 § 2 Comments

okay, “everything” may be an exaggeration.

been thinking about this lately, tho. it would take too much time and energy to elaborate much on all the life things that now look like symptom things, but the long & short of it is that i have begun to suspect that the overarching, lifetime pattern emerging from my many symptoms and episodic waves of symptoms point to bipolar. or, to follow the interesting reading i’ve been doing on new paradigms for thinking about and diagnosing bipolar–

see here: http://www.psycheducation.org/depression/02_diagnosis.html#soft

–that i have a significant degree of bipolarity.

according to this quiz here:  http://www.psycheducation.org/PCP/launch/downloadMoodCheck.htm

fill it out yourself, even. if you have episodes of depression plus other stuff, you may be surprised, as i was.

in recognizing an overarching pattern whose big picture has emerged only over a lifetime, i’ve had to reevaluate aspects of and events in my life that i always just assumed were part of my external reality or set of circumstances.

the most recent for-instance: the love-at-first-sight encounter that tripped off a massive existential crisis that led me to pull the plug on an academic career and come home to figure out how to apply my academic/theoretical training to the work of social movement building. was this just an unexpected turn in my life, a legitimate moment of crisis in what i wanted to be doing? or was it in fact an episode of manic depression?

or, was it some more complex interplay of the intense and the ordinary, the internal and external, the symptomatic and the circumstantial? genetic predisposition to disabling freakouts meaning that falling in love and having to make hard choices about vocation tripped some switch in my brain that unraveled into illness?

at the end of the day, i do think i made the best decisions  for myself despite (or because of) illness. and maybe my decisions were in some way unconsciously self-protective: i could not continue as expected because i was having lots and lots of symptoms, and i needed to adjust my circumstances (work, location) to my reality (history of alternating episodes of disabling depression and anxiety/agitation that have made it difficult for me to function).

at the end of the day, i find myself in a valuable relationship with the person i fell in love with, even if that relationship has its own day-to-day challenges that arise from the cohabitation of two probably bipolar people. i have a close relationship with a daughter who is brilliant and creative and loving, even though i worry about how my symptoms will impact her. and i am doing work i find greatly meaningful and creative–even tho is has also begun to be deeply triggering (of anxiety and hypomania mostly). but i think that those symptoms would be triggered irrespective of my love or family or work circumstances. after 30 years of living with various symptoms, i think maybe my tendencies and intensities are portable, part of a brain that leans that way: that is the conclusion i am beginning to come to. that is the reflection i have begun to recognize in some of the diagnostic literature i’ve been reading.


in any case:

if i were never so intense

if the atomic age of panic

and longing blackhole deep

to begin with

had not exploded inside

my five year old brain

i might not have had to rasquache

dysfunctional attachments

i might not have sought comfort

by carving into my arm

or burning my flesh

or diet pills or laxatives that

even now

poison the taste of cheap chocolate.

i might not have wanted to die

when my love went unreturned

or chased after abuse or indifference

i might not have fucked up

the transmission of advantage

afforded by the fragility of minimal

family mobilities–

poverty to working class to

professional to professor

in just two generations.


if i were never so intense

i might have stayed at rice

i might have taken the tenure track

position i was offered

i might not have felt things

so strongly, so quickly

so blindingly brilliantly

so quasi-mystically that

i had to leave my marriage

on the drop of a dime

i might not have married

to begin with

or stayed on

for ten years

hiding from strong feeling


but if i were never so intense

i would never have loved

those i have loved

as hard as i did, and do

i would never have written

zines and novels and poems

i would not have gotten in

to rice or davis

i would not have gotten

the offer from kansas

or from stanford or duke

i would never have  sat

all the summer before seventh grade

taking notes from medical manual

trying to understand the dynamics

of immunity

or before computer screen for

seven years, to finish

a dissertation, a degree

trying to understand, to understand

i would never have prompted

my mom to observe

even back then

when you were into something

you were really into something


and likely i never would have carried you

to term, and

i never would have loved him

enough to leave

i never would have been crazy enough

to say no thanks

when i was supposed

to say yes, crazy enough

to say yes

to myself, to come home

to suppose that through

the fury and intensity

of our bodies and words

together that

we could actually transform

all of the violence

that chains us.

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