Tag Archives: philosophy

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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I Finished A Book

I finished a book. That makes two in one month! If that doesn’t seem very impressive to you, bear in mind that I’m still kind of in the process of relearning how to read, so I’m pretty stoked on this.

I read Maggie Nelson’s Bluets which is lovely and philosophical and lyrical and just really cool. Highly recommend, especially if you’re into poetry, philosophy, or both. Even if the book did shit on the color yellow just a little bit, which bugged me ’cause yellow is my favorite color and has always been my favorite color, but I’m willing to forgive here, ’cause Bluets stretched my brain into all sorts of fun shapes and that’s something I both want and need with regularity.

I have another book lined up: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s short story collection The Thing Around Your Neck. I figured shorter books and short stories are probably a good way to ease myself back into being fully literate again and so far, so good. This whole thing is really important to me ’cause I frequently bemoan the stagnation I feel in my life, and continuous reading  keeps my brain from getting sludgy and helps me write better. And write more.

So this is basically me giving myself a cookie for having read a whole book, but I can’t overstate the significance of this for me. Before my dad died, before my bipolar diagnosis, and way before meds, I was always, always reading. There’s a period of my life during the first few years a college when I felt like I was advancing on a very satisfying track at a very thrilling pace. I don’t expect ever to get all of that back in the same form or pick up where I left off, but I’m hoping for a little redirection from the nowhere upon nowhere I’ve been passing through for the last several years.

Also, if I write it down and if I promise you guys I’m gonna finish another book, I’m a lot more likely to do it, so, you guys, I’m gonna finish another book. Let’cha know how it went!

-LB

Live! From An Implausible Afterlife!

Yeah, fuck it, I don’t have a fully formed post in me today. But I’ve been missing. Kinda. Sorta. I’m not dead. I mean, I’m pretty sure I’m not dead. I posed a hypothetical to a philosophy buddy of mine (never do this) where I asked, What if when we die, we don’t know we’re dead, we just keep on trucking like normal, but, over time, things get incrementally better and better in ways too small to feel implausible, into infinity, each day getting slightly better than the one before but not so much that we legitimately wonder if we’re actually dead and in heaven?

Which is just bananas, let’s be serious. But wouldn’t that be kinda cool? I think so. But not grounded in reason, as are not most (all) conceptions of a human afterlife. Feel welcome to disagree, but, after having given it like a decade of thought, the notion that human consciousness survives the death of the body strikes me as wishful thinking in the best cases and a manipulative threat in the worst (Hell). But I’m an atheist, and I will see your Pascal’s Wager and raise you a Russell’s Teapot every time, up unto the point where doing so is illogical, but that has yet to happen, not to me, at least. When I die, I’ll be dead. Like, I’m pretty sure I’ll be dead after I die. But I can’t prove that so much as ponder it deeply, so I welcome any arguments to the contrary. I like to be proven wrong when I’m wrong, but only when there’s actual proof (see: necessary truth and my further abuse of Wikipedia’s watery philosophy articles today).

ANYway, you can close your textbooks ’cause I mostly came here to tack up the following stray thoughts in a lazy, disorganized manner because I’m fucking depressed and my motivation’s in the can, and words, more words, larger words, showoff words, curse words, edited words, reedited words, precisely selected words, words I don’t mean, words I do mean but not as much as I’m making it seem, words I mean more than I’m making it seem, and then close with a curtsy.

AHEM:

– The Welbutrin dosage increase is fucking with my already fucked appetite and it is SUCH A GODDAMNED PAIN IN THE ASS. I want my protein pills, Bowie. Will supply own helmet. Don’t let me down, dude. I’m hungry.

– I started journaling again. It seemed like a good idea. Plus the journal I bought is really pretty and accommodates my stupid, gigantic handwriting nicely. But the best thing is that it’s intended to be completely private, so I don’t need to edit anything or spellcheck anything and I can write down the things I probably won’t ever say to anyone but which do weigh on me uncomfortably enough. You guys, I’m totally cheating on you.

– I’ve been having panic attacks and then getting mad at my Klonopin for making me feel better – erm…mad at my Klonopin because I sorta need it to make me feel better. Which, I mean, that just further underscores the reality that I probably can’t have a real life without my meds which makes me even more depressed. There are like a dozen reasons why we bipolar folk are hard to medicate. This is one of them, for me anyways.

– I’m pretty busy being a bigger pothead than usual, but I semi-promised my psychiatrist that I’d stop getting stoned so much once I ran out of weed, so it’s gonna be a few minutes.

– My aforementioned stoniness is not helping my aforementioned appetite problem as much as I’d like it to. So, the only logical step here is to smoke more weed? Uh…

– I’ve gotten even better at rationalizing my vices and I was already really good at that. Depression will absolutely do that to you. I feel a twinge. I shouldn’t walk on this leg, I really shouldn’t. I did plenty of standing and walking and bathing and speaking yesterday, better nurse this mystery twinge. I taught my husband how to use the French press. The coffee I’ll badger him into making me will not be as good as if I’d made it myself. Sub-par coffee is the second or third worst thing human beings do to each other, now I’m doubly wounded. Go on without me, just go. I’ll make sure to turn myself periodically to avoid bedsores.

– I recently bought body lotion that’s supposed to smell like a mojito, so it’s probably good that I don’t drive.

– I told my psychiatrist that I’ve been having problems feeling secure in my identity, or that I feel like I jettisoned my identity five or six years ago and have been basically a nobody for several years. She recommended that I read Oliver Sacks ’cause she says that he discusses ideas of personal identity a lot in his work. Anyone wanna back her up on this? I’ve had him recommended to me before but that was when I was still on lithium and couldn’t read very well because of it.

– I wanted to jump rope today. Jump roping is fucking hard. I have to do it for 5 minutes at the beginning of each of my MMA classes, so I thought I’d do it at home some so I wouldn’t tire out so easily in class. I’m not gonna jump rope today. My belly hurts. And I’m sad. And twinge. There’s always tomorrow. Unless I am dead.

Words, curtsy, shut up, bed.

-LB

Medicating My Medication

I had a big presentation at the end of one of my Philosophy courses in college. It was a dense, grueling, 300-level class taught by possibly the world’s awesomest Phil professor in the history of ever. I never left her office hours without a smile, even if she called me in to talk about how I was fucking something up. Excellent human being and a complete genius. That being said, the combination of my prof’s towering intellect and a classroom full of really impressive students (really – not a dummy in whole lot) made me pretty nervous about presenting my work.

I know most people really hate public speaking. I sort of don’t. I’ve been performing in front of people for most of my life. I gave my first piano recital when I was 4. I was in theater all 4 years of high school. I’ve played in (and often fronted) bands since I was a teenager (still do). I tend not to get stage fright.

Well, ok. I tend not be afraid of facing a crowd; however, while my mind is more or less fine with public speaking and performance, my traitorous body is not. I shake really bad. It’s normally not a big deal because few people notice my trembling over my oratorial genius (kidding. Kinda). What makes it a big deal is my meds.

All meds, even over-the-counter ones, have side effects. I’m really sensitive to medication so there’s a pretty solid chance that, if there’s a side effect to be had, I will have at least a little of it. My dad had the same problem. I’m a small woman and my dad was a relatively tall dude of average (or slightly more wiry than average) build, so I’m fairly sure this isn’t a body mass thing.

Tremors are among the worst side effects I’ve had to deal with on a daily basis. Lithium gave me crazy tremors. Abilify (see LBD: atypical antipsychotic) gave me such bad tremors in my hands and knees that walking was probably a little harder than it should have been. Drinking from a cup was also really hard. On top of those things, though, I find tremors embarrassing because I worry that people will see my tremors and draw one of the following conclusions:

1. I’m high and/or craving a fix (not the case ~95% of the time).

2. I have an illness that’s making me shake and there’s probably something really wrong with me – what if I’m contagious?? Heavens! (It’s not the illness making me shake, it’s the treatment.)

3. Something bad is about to happen to me like a stroke or a seizure (unlikely for at least 3 reasons).

When I gave my presentation, I was still taking a combination of meds that made my tremors a lot more noticeable than they are now. Couple that with the fact that public speaking makes me tremble uncontrollably and you get a Laura so wobbly that I had to lean against the blackboard because my knees were knocking and I couldn’t stand up straight. I had a stupid stack of research material in my hands that I couldn’t read because it was vibrating. I actually stopped mid-presentation, because I didn’t really know what else to do, and apologized to the class for my distracting quivering. I thought it might be better if I addressed it because it was so conspicuous. I said, “It’s just a thing that happens, there’s nothing I can do about it,” and continued reading (FYI: I got an A on the final project because I’m good at philosophy).

I had spoken to my psychiatrist a few days earlier about how my shaky hands were gonna make me uncomfortable and bashful for my presentation and she offered to prescribe me a heart medication (which I can’t recall the name of right this second) because it would keep my heart from pounding and my hands from shaking. I declined the prescription because I’m gonna be shaking my whole goddamned life, so I should probably learn how to do things without a crutch. It was not a comfortable lesson, but I’m prouder of myself, despite my Richter taunting composure, than I think I would be if I’d taken the heart pills. I try not to miss opportunities to build character because I’m gonna die one day, so I’d like to take some blinding confidence and intestinal fortitude with me when I go. I want to have earned those things. This is important.

So I deal with tremors a lot, but I’m pretty used to them at this point, and it’s not a big deal. I’m still a better guitarist than you are (probably) and I can walk in a pretty straight line, so, y’know, whatever.

I still take Zyprexa (see LBD: atypical antipsychotic) and it makes me really fucking sleepy. When I quit smoking almost 2 years ago, my doctor prescribed me the antidepressant Welbutrin (buporopion) as a smoking cessation aid. It worked like a charm. I was never a heavy smoker – 1/2 a pack a day at my peak, but usually less), but I went from smoker to complete non-smoker in the space of like 4 days. The active ingredient in Welbutrin is the same as what’s the drug Zyban which is prescribed exclusively as a quit smoking drug. It reduces your nicotine cravings and it makes smoking taste and feel really unpleasant – imagine trying to inhale a large marshmallow that you just picked out of the trash. That’s what it feels like. It’s been ~2 years since I needed the Welbutrin to quit smoking, but I’m still using it because Welbutrin gives some people (like myself) a bit of an energy boost. It’s not quite speedy, but it won’t sedate you and it makes you feel a little more awake. This side effect has been helpful because every other drug I take is sedating and I wanted some of my energy back.

But, between the heart pills and the Welbutrin, I’m medicating my own medication. Which is bullshit. This circumstance is more common than it should be. It’s one thing when lithium shuts down your thyroid and you need to take a hormone replacement drug, but it’s another when you’re pushing and pulling from every useful direction just to land in a place of relative comfort. It becomes exhausting.

I don’t take lithium anymore and I’m on a reduced dose of Zyprexa. Honestly, I feel pretty Ok. I could use a little more energy, but who couldn’t? But, because my comfort seems always to come with an expiration date, this shit just happened:

As I mentioned in previous posts, I found out like 2 weeks ago that I have irritable bowel syndrome. I was prescribed Bentyl (dicyclomine) and I’m still not sure how well it’s working. I did, find out, however, that Bentyl gives me unbearable dry mouth. Over the years, many of my meds have given me dry mouth, but the Bentyl-induced dry mouth is by far the most intense. I’ve tried every product Biotene makes. Everyone I’ve talked to about this swears by Biotene, from my peers to my grandparents. It does nothing for me. I don’t know why. I found some dry mouth lozenges that work pretty well (not a Biotene product) so I thought I was in pretty good shape. The main ingredient in the lozenges is xylitol – an artificial sweetener that stimulates saliva production. Xylitol (if I’m not mistaken) is also the ingredient that makes all those Biotene toothpastes, mouthwashes, sprays, gels, etc. do their job. Cool. Fine.

Except not fine because, it turns out, xylitol exacerbates IBS symptoms. So, to review: I have IBS, I take Bentyl to alleviate my IBS, Bentyl gives me dry mouth, I use xylitol lozenges to relieve the dry mouth, the lozenges upset my intestines, so I take more Bentyl. Awesome.

So now, I have to pick a favorite orifice because, apparently, my mouth and my butt can’t be happy at the same time. I’ve gotten a few really good suggestions that I haven’t been able to try yet, but if you have a dry mouth problem (which, by the way, will decay your teeth prematurely) and you have a remedy that doesn’t rely on xylitol, TELL ME PLEASE. I feel like I’ve been eating spoonfuls of sand.

But I’m really frustrated because the idea that the side effects of my medications need to be treated with other medications is pretty demoralizing. This is one of those everyday problems we bipolar folk have to deal with constantly and without respite  – finding a balance between efficacy and tolerance in our meds, but mostly dealing with the fallout when we don’t because many of us never do. I know that a lot of side effects ebb significantly after your body adjusts to the drug, but that doesn’t always happen. Zyprexa is the most effective antipsychotic I’ve used to treat my depression. So, Ok, I will take this pill that works. Crap, now I feel sedated…languid…listless…droopy…somnolent…fatigued…falling off the couch…don’t care…hello floor…just let me lie here a sec…

So, yeah.

At some point, you have to accept the reality of the trickiness in medicating a chronic illness like bipolar. I know there are plenty of people out there taking more meds than I do for more life threatening conditions than I have. That sucks. Again, I’m trying not to miss an opportunity to build character. I think that from now on, whenever I’m pissed off about my dry mouth, I’m gonna try to remember that I have access to so much clean running water that I can actually kill myself with it (water intoxication is a real thing, look it up, it’s weird. Also drowning), while so many human beings would trade a lung for a glass of Illinois tap water.

This isn’t sanctimony. I’m just trying to grapple with something that’s bugging the hell out of me. If it’s gonna suck no matter what, than why not broaden my perspective by accepting the fact that some things just do suck and it could be a hell of a lot worse? Good. I think I’ve solved this one. Well, not really, but this is what it looks like when Laura’s trying her best. My best is frequently meager, but I find a great deal of value in seeking solidarity with the other people who share this planet with me.

So, Ok, fine. I should be grateful for the luxury of fatigue and dry mouth because if I was unable to get proper psychiatric treatment (like most of the world can’t), I’d’ve bought the farm years ago. I’m really trying. I think. I think I’m really trying.

But seriously, if you have a non-xylitol dry mouth remedy, help a lady out because GUH.

-LB