Category Archives: Manic

A Glimpse into My Manic Episode

Well, it’s back; the dreaded beast known as mania. I’m in the midst of a relapse and I’m so upset about it. I know exactly how it happened this time. I got sick with the flu and bronchitis about a week and a half ago. And because I was so overextended work-wise, my body took a long time to heal. In the meantime, the physical ailments took their toll on my mental health. I stopped sleeping and eating, and I had constant migraines. It was too much for my brain to handle. All of this brewed together like a perfect storm to produce my own personal tornado. Mania. It started slow, as a hypomanic event. But over the last week, it has exploded into a full blown episode.   

When I’m manic, my judgement is extremely skewed. There are no boundaries, personally or professionally. Everything I think, I say. And everything seems like a fantastic idea. No matter how outrageous or out of character it may be. I don’t feel any fear. Thankfully as I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown out of the extreme behaviors I used to engage in during mania. Gone are the days of tattoos, self-harm, addiction and self-medication issues, dangerous endeavors, etc. Now I usually just stay up for days on end, talking online or watching movies.

This episode is challenging. My brain is moving a million miles a minute. I can’t stop talking and yet I can’t seem to talk or type fast enough to keep up with my thoughts. It’s dizzying. I’m so tempted to say certain things to people that I’m guessing might be inappropriate, so I’m choosing to refrain. But it’s so hard. I just feel like blurting everything out, consequences be damned. I mean what’s the worst that can happen, right? Except I remember my therapist telling me that I may not realize it, but I do have some level of control when I’m like this. He wanted me to tap into that self-reserve. I don’t really want to, but academically, I know he’s right. I’ll hate myself when this is over if I’ve offended or alienated anyone because of my behavior. I’m trying to remember that.

At least I have my actions somewhat in check but there still is a complete lack of self-care that is happening. I just don’t feel like doing anything to help myself. I feel as though everything will eventually work itself out. I know what I should be doing to get better; however I’m just not motivated to do it. It’s almost like a game of chicken I play with myself. I think, “How long can I go on like this until I end up in the hospital?” The thrill is intense.

It’s funny. I just told a friend that I could sense something was coming my way. I wasn’t sure what it was but I had butterflies and a sense of foreboding. My premonitions are always like this. I have them mostly in a mixed state or in full mania. But they’re rarely wrong. It’s such a strange phenomenon, and I have yet to meet anybody who mentions this as a symptom of relapse. It’s happened to me several times over the years. It’s like I’m vibrating on another emotional frequency during these episodes. I know that sounds supernatural, but I don’t mean it that way. It’s much the same as when I’ve described how my skin and eyes glow during mania. My body just changes in a variety of ways when I’m like this. I might pretend it’s enticing, but really it makes me feel like an alien. I don’t recognize myself.

I’m upset that I let allowed this relapse to happen. I knew beforehand that if I overscheduled myself and wasn’t in optimal physical health that something like this would occur. But I forged ahead anyway. It’s like I was daring my brain to keep up with my frenetic pace. That was ill-advised in hindsight and yet I couldn’t do anything to stop it. But now I’m wondering if the way in which I pushed myself these last few weeks was a symptom of my mania and not a cause. Only a doctor would know I suppose. And right now, I’m not willing to see one. I’m determined to muscle through this alone.  

*What I just described is how I was feeling the last two days with my relapse. However, I’ve since decided to nip things in the bud and be responsible. I’m taking my meds and have scheduled a few days of rest for myself. I know that if I get ahead of this, I should be able to recover quickly and without incident. I provided that essay as a look into how I feel when I’m fully manic. I wanted others to know what I go through and to be able to relate to my symptoms. I’m nervous to expose myself in this manner, and yet I know it can be of help to those going through this without help or information. And for that treason I share my story.

 

unnamed (4)I am an African American Muslim woman living  with mental illness. I’m a mental health blogger and advocate for families in my area. My goal is to bring mental health awareness to both my local and online communities. In doing so I hope to help erase the stigma towards these illnesses.

Sakinah can be found on Twitter and her blog.

Tom18

Stigma Fighters: The Ghost of Christmas Past

The Ghost of Christmas Past
It was a Thursday afternoon, December 17, 1964, when Mom died of a ruptured brain aneurysm. She was only 34. I was 14 and my little brother Jerry’s 7th birthday was the day we saw our Mom laying in her casket at the funeral home. She was wearing a pretty blue dress and her hair obviously been done by someone who did not know how she usually wore it. Our baby brother, Randy, was barely three. He reached out to Mom crying “Mommy” as if she were just asleep.
Memories of Christmases’ past faded quickly that Christmas. Colored lights, a Christmas tree and Santa Claus—were all frozen in a teenager’s mind. The four decades following Mom’s death were marked with depression in December and ruined the holiday for my wife and after our divorce for my partner.
Mental illness stigma in the 1960’s was the same, if not worse than it is today. My Dad should have taken me to a psychologist or psychiatrist for treatment for my depressions after Mom died, but in his mind “no son of mine will be called ‘crazy’”! Mom’s death was the loss of unconditional love. Her last words I overheard her tell the physician were “Tell Tommy I forgive him”. It was in connection with property damage I caused in a juvenile prank with my friends. It drove up her blood pressure, which contributed to a burst aneurysm that took her life. Guilt haunted me for decades as if the normal grief of a parent’s death wasn’t enough.
I was eventually treated for major depressions after graduate school, but it was the wrong diagnosis. Bipolar disorder ran in the family, but never acknowledged or treated because of fear of stigma. My untreated illness destroyed my marriage and ended by college teaching career. I got the diagnosis a year after my brother Jerry’s suicide. He, too, had bipolar but was too ashamed and fearful of stigma reinforced by our Dad to get professional help. He was 35.
It was my grief over the sudden end of a long-term relationship that coincided with the 40th anniversary of Mom’s death. I met a grief counselor by chance. I never heard of that specialty in psychotherapy. Grief counselors aim to help people cope with grief and mourning the death of loved ones, or with major life changes that trigger feelings of grief. He said he often advises his clients to write a letter to their deceased loved one. “Go somewhere to be alone,” he said, “and read your letter aloud and then it.” I decided to try the ritual on December 17, 2004. I was 54.
My letter to Mom was based on the last words I heard her say. “Tell Tommy I forgive him,” she told Dr. Hathcock that terrible December afternoon in Batesville, Arkansas. I am asking her forgiveness now for holding onto my grief for 40 years and letting it affect all of my intimate relationships. I told Mom how sorry I was for causing her distress when she learned I helped chop down a neighbor’s pine tree when I was 13.
Pacifica, CA is a beach town just south of San Francisco on Highway 1 toward Half Moon Bay. I often went there to walk along the beach and up the side of a high cliff overlooking the ocean. I chose the top of that cliff as the place where I would read my letter to Mom. I cried as I read aloud the words I wrote, visualizing every moment of December 17, 1964, the saddest day of my life matched only by Jerry’s suicide. The wind off the ocean kept me from lighting my cigarette lighter. Fortunately, I had lit a cigar before climbing the cliff and used it to ignite the two-page letter. I watched the wind scatter the ashes into the bright December Sunday afternoon sky. I never had another Christmas depression.
“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.”
? Shakespeare, Macbeth

Tom18Tom Roberts is a mental health speaker and writer living in Huntington Beach, CA. He is the author of ” Escape from Myself: A Manic-Depressive’s Journey to Nowhere”. It will be available in January 2016.
Tom speaks to his audiences about his experience living with a devastating mental illness. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1993—too late to save his marriage and college faculty position. Tom speaks out,too,against mental illness stigma because fear of stigma keeps many people in desperate need of treatment from getting professional help. Two of them were his brother and sister both of whom committed suicide.
Tom earned his Master’s degree in Radio-Television-Film from the University of Kansas. He worked for several years as a broadcast journalist for local stations and freelanced for National Public Radio’s popular news program “All Things Considered,” the Voice of America and ABC Radio News.
He was Assistant Professor of Broadcasting at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas and later taught Technical Communication for the University of California – Berkeley School of Engineering Extension.
Tom has been a professional actor on stage, screen and television and currently does voice-over work in the Los Angeles area.
Tom was diagnosed this year (2015) with Multiple Sclerosis, which left him partially blind. He and his wife, Noha, have four children and seven grandchildren.

Tom can be found on his blog, Facebook, and Twitter

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Stigma Fighters: Kelly Burch

Bright and early one Monday morning my phone rang. I saw with shock that it was my dad, awake and calling before 7 a.m. Clearly something was wrong.

“Could you stop by on the way to work?” he asked, sounding cheery. I sighed. I was already squeezing in a workout and still hoping to get to work early.

“Sure,” I said, reverting to the little girl who doesn’t want to say no. “I’ll come by when I’m done working out.”

Five minutes later the phone rang – Dad again.

“Can you come over? And can I talk to your mother? Oh, you’re working out?” The rapid-fire, repeating questions were the second sign that something was amiss.

An hour later I walked in and found my Dad sitting at his table furiously writing. “Hi,” I said. “I’ve had an epiphany!” he replied.

My heart sank – he was textbook manic. His hands and voice were shaking and he was overjoyed to tell me about the religious awakening he had had overnight. The saddest thing about a manic episode is that the person having it feels fantastic. With a spark in his eyes, my dad told me how he felt the best that he had felt in five years.

Luckily, by this point the family has a pretty good system in place: run symptoms by someone else to confirm your suspicions; gently bring up a trip to the ER; wrack your brain about who you may know in the mental health fields; pray.

When your loved one is constantly in and out of crisis care it is exhausting. So many emotions overwhelm you: rage and bewilderment as you ask “Why couldn’t you just stay on the meds?”; hope as you think “Maybe this is the time”; and contentment when you realize that – maybe just for today – your loved one is doing the right thing and seeking help.

Now I’ve tagged in another relative and Dad is in the ER, waiting to be evaluated. He called me just before walking into the hospital to reiterate what he had said this morning – he wants to share the journey. He asked me to write about my feelings and to share his writings. Part of that is the mania speaking, but part is a man speaking about something he believes is important, no matter what his mental state. So, I’ll do it.

And in the meantime I’ll ask a favor: if you can spare a prayer, join me in hoping that maybe – just maybe – this time will be different.

IMG_7330Kelly Burch is a freelance writer and editor who is passionate about sharing her family’s experience with mental illness. She writes about the impact of her bipolar father on her blog, www.kellyburchcreative.com. Kelly is also the editor of Renew Magazine, a national lifestyle publication for people who are in recovery from addiction.

Kelly can be found on her blog

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Stigma Fighters : Laurel Roth Patton

Superwoman Has Left the Building

“Why am I the one always left to do the cleanup? It wasn’t me who made this mess!” I view the aftermath of a hypomanic episode with horror and disgust.

“Um, actually, it was you . . . .”

Oh. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde merge back into one fucked-up being. I did this, no one else. The sensation is both familiar and disorienting. But it is always sickening.

Spread out everywhere are the beginnings of ambitious projects. Each undertaking is essential, but abandoned for the next, more pressing one. It’s not that the new seem more important than the current. It’s just that each new idea must be acted on immediately, before it disappears! There’s no intention to discard the last project—I’m going to get back to it. The great endeavors, piling higher and higher, threaten to spill over the windowsills and into the street, exposing glittering but strange ideas to my neighbors and the world. During the high period this never bothers me. My life is an open book, one of which I’m proud. You don’t like what I’m saying? I’ll either dismiss you as unworthy, or take you on like a prizefighter.

Then comes the requisite sharp dive that always follows the high. I plunge deep into the black water of the river Styx. After a gargantuan struggle to surface, I’m forced to tread water to keep from drowning. This is my sentence in Hell. Tears stream down my cheeks for so long that my face gets chapped.

Slowly I pull myself out of the murky depths. I re-examine the projects begun, the enthusiastic letters sent and received, the ideas that bubbled up faster than I could record.

The project notes all begin in organized fashion, bullet-pointed, well thought out and written with attention to detail and syntax. Soon they begin to drift from one notebook to another, then to Post-It’s, then to the odd scrap of paper. The backs of envelopes have notes, beginning in a normal size, but getting smaller and smaller toward the bottom. With no space left, the tiny letters are forced to march up the right margin of the envelope, bravely hanging on upside down until they reach the left side and descend. Some are color coded, but there is no key. Without a manic Rosetta Stone with which to decipher them, the meaning of the codes is lost.

In addition to the typed and handwritten notes, there are those dictated into my phone and tablet, digitally recorded into Notes, Stickies, and emails to myself. Organizing these notes into manageable order is a dubious task. Is it even worth the time? I remember staying up all night, working on my laptop, and feeling desperate when I moved too far away from it. The ideas had to be recorded before they disappeared from my fragmented memory.

Some of the sketched-out ideas are so impractical as to be laughable. The tricky thing is, many of them are excellent. They approach problems from original angles. They are not only worthy of follow-up; they demand it. Thinking outside of the box is easy when there is no awareness that the box exists.

“Remember that proposal I was telling you about?” I begin nervously, hoping to clarify for a friend a conversation we’d had when I was hypomanic. She had probably been humoring me as I explained the idea.

“The letter I was writing to the Senator? That might have sounded kind of crazy to you, my thinking I could take that on . . . .”

“No, I thought that was a great idea! Why wouldn’t you be able to?”

In a way I’m relieved. My perceptions haven’t all been off, then! At the same time I’m filled with a profound weariness at the impossibility of following through on every recent brainstorm. I’ve been living in a rainforest, and the ground is sodden after the deluge.

So, at least that idea was good in the Real World. And I know the same is true of some of the others. But who will do it? It’s too much for one person—at least in a post-hypomania depression. By now I’ve wised up to the fact that Superwoman has left the building.

*   *   *

Bio-pic-SFLaurel Roth Patton is a writer and speaker; retired educator, librarian, and textile designer. An education junkie, she has a BA in Art, Spanish, and Jungian Interpretation of World Creation Myths; a Master of Fine Arts; and a Master of Library and Information Science. Her work has been published in print and online.

She fights stigma by telling her story to community groups, in essays, Facebook, blogs, and to anyone who will listen.

She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, near their daughter, and in the vicinity of their wannabe feral cat, Xena Warrior Kitty.

Laurel can be found on Facebook

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JackieCioffa

Stigma Fighters : Jacqueline Cioffa

It hurts, Ya’ Know
by Jacqueline Cioffa

The earliest picture I have of me lives in the stories I’ve been told. The image of a sweet, loveable, desired baby girl with sparkly hazel eyes and an infectious, bubbly grin. Can you picture her? In her white crib with pastel yellow and blue painted sheep, beaming inside out, her delicate arms wide open. I can if I squeeze my eyes real tight, I can feel her eight-month bright-eyed wonder, innocence and exuberant joy. The stark white blank slate possibility and endless adventure of a life that is still to come. She could color it neon green, bubble gum strawberry, juicy purple, azure sea, sunshine yellow, paint any color she chose. I’m guessing in her mind this baby believed she could fly. Shimmying up the wooden bars, tugging with determination with strong legs she would hurl herself over the edge, not caring where she might land. Her distraught mother would find her on the cushy rug clapping, giggling and intact. No one ever figured out how the mischievous darling managed to thrust herself out of that crib.

I have a funny deja vu feeling her new-new untainted soul; unspoiled heart and bare canvas spirit were the perfect tapestry for the little human being who trusted she could fly.

They placed a net over the crib for her own safety, and in the dark when she lifted herself up feeling the bouncy cord hitting the top of her head, her spirit broke. As hard as she tried, willed her tiny limbs life would become less and less colorful until black was the dominant hue in her jumbo box of Crayola crayons.

It was no one’s fault, you know. Slowly, and all at once her sunny colorful mind dimmed and became dull. The dark that is the all-consuming fear of living a life with no color is her reality today. She cannot reconcile the diagnosis, “insanity runs in the family.” She does not know how to keep the child safe, keep that wondrous piece with her. She doesn’t understand how her broken mind can ask her to be separated from the most exquisite, adventurous, kind, funny, lovable parts of her. She refuses to believe in a world where the only light she sees is through a pinpoint hole in the deep, dark recesses of the fractured mind where science has no tangible answers, where she is forced to battle. She prays the flicker of light that remains, that is all she has left and trusts and believes in does not dim and burn away.

She cannot reconcile the two living embedded inside one mind. They are so very different, and yet they are the same. She trusts the muscle that is her bursting purple heart that her chaotic misfiring brain plays tricks on her. She is blinded, consumed with the pain of staying sane. When most days she’d really rather be the child whose arms are extended to the wonder and magic that is the beautiful gift called life.

She is I, I am she. Together we fight the insidious, solitary grown-up war that is mental illness. When exactly it happened, the particulars, the precise moment I went insane who cares.

It happened. To me. And her. Mental Illness is the agonizing, paralyzing, uncompromising, anxiety-ridden, paranoid, numbing fear, night terrors in the daytime. It is the hideous, unforgiving, relentless, tedious, Ad nauseam unknown. Mental Illness is the unwanted safety net that stops me from believing I can fly.

Well fuck you disease, it hurts anyway. I don’t care if I break a few bones, act stupid, and say inappropriate things, scream and cry. The hazel eyed, precious baby keeps me dreaming colors and alive.

I won’t lie.
It hurts, ya’ know.

*   *   *

JackieCioffaJacqueline Cioffa was an international model for 17 years and celebrity makeup artist. She is a dog lover, crystal collector and Stone Crab enthusiast. Her work has been featured in “Brainstorms, the Anthology” and numerous literary magazines. Living with manic depression, Jacqueline is an advocate for mental health awareness.
She’s a storyteller, observer, essayist, potty mouth and film lover who’s traveled the world.

Jacqueline lives with manic depression, anxiety, paranoia, agoraphobia, depression, mania, med. resistance in a tidal wave of symptoms the best she can. Some days that means coping by counting the seconds. Writing saves her from the brain chaos, the respite mini sanctuary spa vacation from the harsh reality of living with mental illness. By sharing her voice, truest truths, struggles and wins she hopes others facing heartbreaking challenges find solace, solidarity and serenity. Jacqueline is her own best advocate, fighting a broken healthcare system, researching alternative treatment as well as traditional medicine. She champions anyone who is fighting hard to survive.

Say NO Stigma, YES to empathy, understanding and kindness. The time for positive change is right now.

Jacqueline can be found:

Blog  |   Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Amazon Author Page

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