Tag Archives: paranoia

Answer Me! Pt. 2: Answers!

Ok, so I made you guys wait a little while for this. I’m sure you were on tenterhooks these past 8 days. I’m here to relieve you.

The question is sort of a meaningless li’l ponderable that came to me when I was, of course, in the shower washing my face with my eyes scrunched up real tight. I think it was super windy or something that day and I was worried about a power outage while in the shower, ’cause at best that’d be kinda slapsticky but at worst, I’d get like a cracked skull and die in my tub which, if I were able to become so postmortem, would make me really pissed off. A slip and fall in an unlit shower at age 28 is not how this lady is going out. That’s dumb.

Even so, I still went with: B. Blind! Shit! Shit! Fuck! Shit!

My general guess about what the hypothetical “means” was this rough dichotomy:

A: Power outage = you’re probably prone to becoming a little paranoid about the state of your life which you regard as precarious, making you slow to let your guard down.

B: Blindness = you’re a hypochondriac that assumes all fevers are typhoid, all cuts are gangrenous, all aches and pains are rheumatic, all plagues are bubonic (calm down, it’s just a plain old plague, pal).

‘Cept when you guys answered, you kinda steered me in a few different directions. I hadn’t really taken into account personal histories with either vision loss or frequent power outages (stupidly, nor did I expect some of you to come up with modified or third answers, Acid and Illuminati, I’m looking at you guys, you made me laugh).

So what does it all mean, man? It doesn’t really mean anything. It’s just a goofy question that can be tediously analyzed and parsed apart for significance, or it can just be a silly conversation starter. Ask your coworkers! Ask your friends! Ask whoever. Why not?

But, in truth, I am kind of a hypochondriac. I blame my dad. He was an even better weirdo than I am, and if I could ask him this question, I know how he’d answer but I also know he’d think about it for a really long time before and after saying anything. But let’s just say this post and its sibling are celebratory gestures regarding the completion of my physical therapy for my ankle tendinitis, which I assumed was a horrible, degenerative joint disease with no cure, causing me to have a like maybe 2 panic attacks a few months ago before I went to the doctor to have it looked at and diagnosed. At this point, after like 6 weeks of physical therapy, my ankle is nearly well enough for me to return to my MMA class which I miss a bunch. Also, after like 6 weeks of physical therapy, my right leg is visibly more muscular than my left, which means my roundhouse kicks are gonna be fucking lethal when I get back to the gym. Seriously, you guys, I could probably kick a tree over with this thing, it’s pretty cool.

I’ve always been a big fan of personality quizzes, ever since I was like maybe 11, reading teen magazines and taking quizzes like, “What Lipstick Shade Are You?” and “What Do Your Dreams Say About Your Love Life?” (The answers being, respectively: coral in the summer, brick red in the winter, fuck the quiz, I know my complexion; AND a series of unending rabbit hole nightmares, apparently…?). But I have this theory (don’t I always?) that personality quizzes are not particularly simple for those of us with bipolar, because our behaviors and self-assessments are perhaps a li’l more malleable than the average bear’s. This feels especially true* when I answer questions pertaining to introversion/extroversion. Do I consider myself introverted? No, but I did most of last week. Would I rather go to a party or stay home and read a book? I dunno, is Thursday purple this month? I don’t mean to imply that we’re so mercurial a group that we lack static personality features entirely, but I also don’t mean to say that these types of quizzes will provide us with much insight about ourselves (I mean, they don’t for most people anyway, but I think even less so for us).

Anyway, if I come up with any more seemingly ponderous but actually completely trivial hypotheticals, I’ll share them. Just don’t think too hard about your answer. You’ll sprain your neurons er something.

-LB

*The part of me that studied Philosophy in college really hates the notion of something feeling true, apparently enough to prompt this footnote, but it’s just rhetoric, so calm down, Laura.

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Answer Me! A Hypothetical Just For Fun

I’ve posed this hypothetical to a few people and expected to get the same answer every time, but I didn’t:

You’re washing your face in your bathroom and you have your eyes scrunched closed so you can’t see anything, including light. When you open your eyes, everything is unexpectedly completely dark. Your reaction is:

A. Damnit, the power went out!

B. Shit! I’ve gone blind!

I have a theory (actually, like a theory and a half) about which answer means what, but really, this was just a weird question I came up with ‘n I’m kinda curious to see how people respond. Don’t think too hard about it. Tell me in the comments! Followup next post!

-LB

P.S. Have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve! See all you lovelies next year! ❤

The Very Distracting Elephant Has All Of My Attention

I almost never think about this because I kind of don’t really care, but it comes up now and then, at which point I’m forced to think about it, which often leads me to the conclusion that I still don’t really care.

I have ADHD as well as bipolar, which is pretty common. I often forget I have ADHD even though I’ve been diagnosed with it twice and treated for it twice, and I feel like maybe there’s a joke hiding in the fact that I generally don’t remember that I have ADHD. I guess part of it is that my ADHD is really mild and treating it with meds ended up exacerbating my bipolar symptoms a whole lot more than it alleviated my ADHD symptoms, so it’s really not worth it. Most of the time (but not all of the time), the meds you get for ADHD are stimulants, usually methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta) or amphetamine salts (Adderall). I tend to think of these drugs as “legal speed” much the same way that oxycodone is arguably “legal heroin,” because prescription stimulants can be a little intense and cause a person to behave in ways that are similar to their illicit, street-dwelling cousins.

Way back in April, 2006, a few months before she turned 19 and after an inexplicable plummet in academic performance at the beginning of college, Laura’s well-meaning dad brought her to a specialist to get tested for ADHD. Currently, Laura isn’t 100% sure why she’s speaking in the third person, but she’s gonna keep doing it for a sec, so deal. The nice doctor (he really was super nice) prescribed Laura 18mgs of long-acting methylphenidate a day. Upon beginning treatment with the methylphenidate, Laura did not sleep more than 4 hours a night for about 6 weeks (“night” meaning between the hours of 7:00 and 11:00 a.m., after the sun was up). During the day, Laura spent hours and hours playing guitar in her room and doing little else. She…fuck it, I’m done with the third person thing…I couldn’t bring myself to close my eyes while it was still dark out because I was afraid of this or that faceless, gloomy specter, likely a shifting amalgamation of horror movie previews, posters, photos, and fucked up memories. So, I was almost 19 and so afraid of the boogeyman that I kept every light in my room on all night and tried to keep blinking to a minimum. Once the sun came up and I heard my parents moving around the house, I felt Ok to close my eyes and get some sleep, but I still usually kept the lights on. The point is that I got bizarrely paranoid of shit I don’t and didn’t actually believe in (demons, ghosts, the remaining peppery flakes of my gothic-ass Catholic upbringing – side point: I posit that growing up Catholic predisposes nervous people to deeply intense but irrational fears, or at least that’s what happened to me).

So I was getting by on 4 hours of sleep, hyper-focused on creative projects, and immensely paranoid of the dark. It was a weird time. Through those long nights, I watched a lot of shitty romance movies and replayed the sex scenes over and over (bonus points If the DVD had a cache of scenes deleted from the film for being TOO HOT FOR THEATERS!), because, at 18, I had done most of the sex things I was then interested in doing, but not all of the sex things I was interested in doing, and I wanted to make sure my orgasming visage would be the right combination of sexy and cultivated* when said visage would smear itself all over my face.** Pro tip: don’t explore your own sexuality by watching adaptations of Nicholas Sparks books, you won’t have any fun. DO masturbate more.

Shit calmed down a lot after that first 6 weeks, but the paranoia stuck around, kinda shapeshifting. I felt I could sleep with the lights off, but I was convinced people were watching me from their windows when I walked around outside. It should go without saying that by “watching” I also mean “judging” which is a little funny to think about, when I root around in that notion a bit more and realize how important I must’ve felt. I went back to school for my sophomore year of college (which, for like a dozen reasons was a total blast, despite the really bad cockroach problem in my apartment), but over the course of that year, my paranoias got worse. In quiet elevators or train cars, I was never sure if I was talking or thinking, so my brain would go off the rails, whipping up waltzing cyclones of hateful language that I never use in real life, like just to fuck with me. Did I really just call that woman standing next to me a [blank-ity blank blank]??? I would never call a person that! She has to know I don’t think she or anyone is a [nope-ity nope nope]!!! So my solution to this was to bite my lips. Like real hard. ‘Cause if I was chomping down on my lips, I couldn’t be also using them to hurl obscene epithets at elevator strangers, right?

In a moment of clarity, I realized that the shit that was happening to me re: this paranoia nonsense and the things I was doing to cope with it were stupid and making my life needlessly stressful. So I called my doctor and told him I was gonna stop taking the methylphenidate and he said Ok. Fun thing (and my psychiatrist has told me this more than once): sometimes when you stop taking a medication, the side-effects you experienced when you were first taking it that went away after your body adjusted can come back. And mine did SO HARD. I became completely hypomanic (which I didn’t know was a thing at the time). I may have told this anecdote before but for like about 2 weeks, my poor, poor roommates had to deal with my assertion, nay, my insistence that the floor was a trampoline. Thusly, I would often start screaming, “THE FLOOR IS A TRAMPOLINE!” while jumping up and down in the living room (which should’ve scared the roaches at least a little, but totally didn’t, those fuckers are hardy as hell). I was bathed in awe, and the object of my awe was skyscrapers, which was pretty convenient since I live(d) in a major city. I haven’t had a hypomanic episode with that awe component in it for a really long time, but it’s not unusual for a person experiencing mania or hypomania to feel an intense reverence for X thing. People often land on stuff like trees or mountains or bodies of water, but it can really be almost anything. I considered skyscrapers to be these magnificent testaments to human ingenuity – from the minds of the architects who envisioned them to the hands of the workers who made their integrity incarnate. It was all very poetic, etc.

Then my dad died. I was reaching this unbelievable psychic climax when, without warning, my dad was felled in seconds by a faulty heart. I was still hypomanic during the first week or so of grieving my dad, which may be the most surreal thing that’s ever happened to me, if you don’t count psychedelics.

All this weirdness ’cause of some ADHD pills. When I returned to college post-graduation to study more Philosophy, I was put on Adderall, but this time, I was also taking mood stabilizers, so I didn’t have any significant episodes, none that I can readily recall, anyway.

So, it comes up in therapy now and then. The ADHD. My doc will occasionally remind me that I have it by suggesting it may have a minor role to play in such-and-such event/feeling/endeavor. My response is usually along the lines of, “Well, whatever,” and then I just move on. I don’t know exactly how to express the fact that I don’t really care whether or not I have ADHD…except, I guess, by saying that I don’t really care whether or not I have ADHD. But it’s probably fair enough to say that it has me sometimes, as in, by the short hairs but so what? Is it Ok to say “so what?” here? It doesn’t feel especially un-Ok. Plus, ADHD seems to fall into that category of Silver Lining Disorders where people who have it may experience some trouble, like in school maybe, but that trouble is often (sometimes tremendously) offset by the facets of the illness that are fucking great. People with ADHD are often more adventurous and creative than the average bear, and, I’ve been told, more easily think outside the box (sorry…) than their unaffected peers. There’s also a theory that ADHD may be the result of an evolutionary advantage re: hunting vs. farming, essentially making people with ADHD traits better suited to certain scenarios and more prone to hyperfocus, which, when aimed at the right target, can be really fucking fun. Look it up, it’s cool.

So, 1,500 words say that I have an illness about which I don’t really care. But maybe that I’m better than you (I am…on some days, on other days I’m less preferable than hemorrhoids, but this whole parenthetical is pretty typical of what I know and feel about myself as a person with bipolar, not as a person with ADHD). So, long story short, uh, comorbidity is a thing, it can lead you to some weird crossroads and…maybe not all disorders need treatment. I think I’m getting along Ok. The hand I drew doesn’t allow a ton of room for perfect, functional normalcy, so why try to force it? In this case, I insist for myself, that it’s better not to.

-LB

*This doesn’t exist. Humans, with little exception, look ridiculous when we come. That doesn’t make it any less hot, though.

**Yes, that phrasing was intentional, thanks for noticing!

Obecalp

About 2 weeks ago, my doc upped my Welbutrin dose from 300mgs to 450mgs because we’re trying to stay on top of my depression and this was the only compromise medication-wise that I’d make because I didn’t wanna change any of my other meds or add new ones.

Welbutrin (bupropion) is kind of a neat drug. It tends to give me a little extra energy and it prevents me from smoking (mostly). Other people sometimes find it helpful for issues like weight management and sexual dysfunction. I think John Oliver once referred to it as the “happy, horny, skinny drug,” though he was mostly lampooning its off-label overuse. Including my dad before he died, all of my immediate family members have been on Welbutrin at one time or another, all for different reasons related to depression. I know I mentioned in the LBD that antidepressants are usually ineffective in treating bipolar depression and can even have some hazardous effects, but that’s not always the case. Partly ’cause everyone responds to meds a little differently and partly because, at least in my case, combining Welbutrin with a mood stabilizer and anxiety meds seems to be a workable balance. The Welbutrin handles the grogginess I experience with my other meds and my other meds seem to keep the Welbutrin from making me hypomanic. (It’s more nuanced than that, but I’m not getting into it.)

So when my doc offered to increase my Welbutrin as a means of handling my worsening depression, I went for it because I wasn’t comfortable with my other medication options. Increasing my olanzapine makes me really tired and I oversleep. I was not keen on introducing Depakote – an anti-seizure med which also works as a mood stabilizer – either because the last couple of times I took anti-seizure meds, they made me stupid. That’s really my biggest fear. Some medications make you a little slow. One of the notable side effects of many psych meds is having difficulty finding the word you’re looking for when you’re speaking or writing. This is a really big deal to me because I’m not good at most things. Language is kind of all I have and there’s an easily roused part of me that would rather be sick than stupid.

Last week, during therapy, after I’d been on the increased dose for about 5 days, my doctor mentioned that a newly documented side effect of Welbutrin is that hard to find words thing. I asked her if it was one of those side effects that tend to go away as you adjust or if it’s just part of the nature of the drug. She said it was likely the latter and I told her I wished she hadn’t shared that with me ’cause now I’m hyperaware of everything I say and write, constantly checking things to make sure my vocabulary didn’t shrink.

The annoying thing about this situation is that it doesn’t matter if my lingual capabilities are taking a hit or not, I just assume they are. It’s this reverse placebo type thing…or just the power of suggestion and and I’m suggestible. We bipolar folk are notoriously hard to medicate and it’s not just for one reason. This is a complicated illness.

I think a lot of us have this warped notion of losing ourselves to wellness. At least for me, I see such a radical difference between myself as I am untreated vs. myself with a fairly controlled mental illness, I naturally assume that getting from the former to the latter requires a deep sacrifice on a fundamental level. Instinctively, I always assume the thing I’m sacrificing is of value, I almost never think of this shit as shedding symptoms of my illness via modern medicine. I also cling to fears that are irrational because the idea that everything is gonna be OK consistently strikes me as entirely ludicrous.

There are some parts of my life that are a bit too black and white. If I can’t do something I deem important perfectly, I’d rather not do it at all. I take the adage, “anything worth doing is worth doing well” and stretch into a preposterous shape. I’ve been like that since I was a kid. I understand that I’m frequently my own roadblock. I contemplate this nonsense as I’m constructing yet more roadblocks. If I can’t write good songs, I shouldn’t even play instruments. If I can’t write good stories, I should turn off my computer. I also have a very strained relationship with mascara ’cause my eyelashes are like a foot long so if I accidentally clump my enviable fringes, I wash that eye off and start over. I will do this even if I’m running late. These things are a shitty combination of obsession and self-defeatism. It’s gross. I hate it.

My doctor asked me to give it about a month before I make any decisions about changing my medication dosage. So that’s like, a little over 2 more weeks. I don’t get dizzy anymore. I’m starting to adjust. It’s easier. But I’m still paranoid. I’ve been reading over some of my older posts and thinking, “Why don’t I write like that anymore?” when there’s no real discernible difference between the talents I had last October and the ones I have now (’cause they’re the fucking same, Laura).

Even if I operate a little differently at the moment, my first assumption is that my meds are messing with me, not the more likely scenario that it’s super fucking hard to do things when you’re depressed. Why is that? Why am I like that? Why do I have such a complicated relationship with help?

So, fine, I’ll stick out out mistrustfully for the next ~2 weeks. If I’m still in this big, dumb depression, if it stays the same or gets bigger and dumber, then I’m gonna have to revisit this Welbutrin thing with my doc. No sense in being sad and stupid.

-LB