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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are you doing the things you know you need to do?

March 6, 2014 § 1 Comment

today i wake up not wanting to go to work because i have been going at it so hard that i deserve time off. don’t i? no, today i wake up vowing that i’ll go in early but i’ll leave early. this time. past two days i have been working compulsively, unable to go home, unable to turn off, when i get the internal signal that i’ve should–or even when i’ve made very deliberate decisions for myself that i need to leave at a certain time. my overall goal is to work at something less than full capacity, and much less than over capacity, so that i have something on reserve. so that i am not always rushing, frantic, manic, driven, taken over, swept away. today, today is the day when i leave at 4:30 or 4 instead of 5:30 or 6 or 6:30 or 6:45 like yesterday. g was supposed to call 5:30 from ft worth to check in, to make sure i was out of work like i wanted…but he has been sick with depression and texted saying he did not want to talk, that as company he was no good. to punish myself, to punish him for abandoning me, i worked too much when i’m already at a deficit; i didn’t bother to leave 5:30 as intended. if no one cares about me, if no one is around to object, then why should i bother caring for myself. of course i know that doesn’t work, is self violence and subtle terrorism, but it is so much easier somehow to run roughshod over my own boundaries than to listen to my body and follow through. than to open the wound of, i was depending on you. i needed you. where were you.

today i wake up turning over in my mind a dream i had in the early morning hours, of almost vomiting from the smell of raw chicken that i had stashed beneath the rickety particleboard floorboards of a garage apartment i had inherited from miguel. trying to clean the space, not knowing where to begin. and then floorboards began to buckle and cave and collaspe, revealing a plastic container with rotting raw chicken from a year earlier stinking in a soup of rainwater. i found a plastic bag, i dumped chicken and water into the bag and tied if off to throw away, but caught a whiff unexpectedly and gagged. i sat in the doorway of the garage, struggling with the spasms seizing my throat and gut, tasting the contents of my stomach at the back of my throat. finally it passed and i kept cleaning. but that was the dream, so real and intense it felt like really vomiting. and when i wake i have a sense of dread because of it, as though it is premonitory, and i google “vomiting dream” to read the standard stuff, return of the repressed and etc. something i didn’t want to deal with or discard properly suddenly revealed, returned to me in a neglected form that was repulsive. there are only two anxiety dreams that i have recurrently–that i am watching others vomit, that i am vomiting–so this was one of them.

the lingering question for me though: why is it we cannot do the things we know we need to do? from where comes an impulse to self-jeopardize that is so strong it cannot be resisted? i know i know i know i need to do certain things to stay healthy and stable: i need to not work at full capacity. i need to allow time for meditation and exercise and just time to do nothing in particular, to have an ordinary evening where i just come home. i need to have enough time to take the supplements i need to take as replacement for SSRI. i need to i need to i need to but i don’t. and i witness others doing the same. are you going to the gym like you said, are you going for bike rides, meditating? if not, why not, when you know that these things keep you stable?

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a sister, a double

December 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

it was a dream where s was with me. she was silent, she sat close by. a double, a sister. a dimension of self that protects. she was there when i was sitting in a chair before your desk as you worked, your attention elsewhere, anywhere else. me trying so hard not to disturb, reading words on a page with eyes cast down. not talking even tho i wanted to. because i knew you didn’t want it. trying so hard to please. thinking as i always have that if only i was small enough. to fit through the cracks of fear or indifference, the seismic faults shaken open in fragile ground. tiny enough, like the way i would slink inside the building to your office, hoping no one’s eyes would snag on my back, wondering who and what. later s and i drove together in a truck, me in the driver’s seat, she beside. still a silent presence, a season before men, a stillness within me making sure i know that i am free. to speak. that i am equal: to be spoken to, to be deserving of response.

like a leaf

December 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

i don’t think much about the scars on my arms anymore. i used to be very self conscious. i’d never wear sleeveless tops or even short sleeves that showed too much arm. if i saw anyone looking at my arm alarmedly i’d feel upset and ashamed. now i wear sleeveless shirts and don’t even think about whether anyone is looking or what they might be thinking. the scars have become just another part of my body, rather than something extraneous to or in excess of it.

so, it surprised me when my 3 year old daughter noticed for the first time that i have scars on my arms – slashes from self-inflicted razor cuts and two large, raised areas from burns. she pointed to the largest burned area and said, “what’s that?”

“it’s a scar,” i said.

“does it hurt you?” she asked.

“no.” i arranged thoughts in my head, thinking of how to explain answers to any further questions in terms she could understand.

but the only other comment she had was, “it looks like a leaf!”

i realized it did, and that this view of things had never before occurred to me.

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