Tag Archives: writing

Better

I’ve spent the better part of the last decade in therapy and on meds. Going to therapy, takin’ my meds. Rescheduling therapy, adjusting my meds. Adding more therapy, adding more meds, then backing off a little on both. Though I’m still a habitual marijuana self-medicator, I’ve more or less stopped drinking over the past year. I definitely stopped that shit where I pick up a 6 pack on my way home and drink alone in my living room with my guitar before the sun even goes down. A bottle of gin in my house has a way longer shelf life these days. I been good. A model prisoner of my illness (or whatever poetics you wanna stamp onto this situation).

A week or so ago in therapy, my doctor commented on how much better I was doing. I’ve been on Depakote for like 5 months. No hair loss or anything! I’ve had some kinda funky depressions and at least one pretty awesome hypomanic episode, but overall things have been less sharp and less rough. I’ve been writing a lot. I’m working on a collection of poems and I’ve been writing some essays just for shits. I feel stupid and wordless a lot. Then I don’t. Sometimes I feel proud of myself. It’s real weird.

But my doc says I’ve been doing better. She has my chart. She’s been treating me for 8 and a half years. I told her I didn’t really believe her, but that she’s the expert. So here we are. I’m better. Yikes.

Part of me is upset by this prospect: better. It makes me wanna destroy myself a little and I certainly know how, but there’s a large part of me that feels I owe it to my psychiatrist – to all the hard work she’s done and all the shit she’s put up with from me – to stay better. Why don’t I feel beholden in the same way to myself?

Couple theories: Firstly, and most obviously, if I’m doing terribly, I probably can’t get a whole lot worse. There’s nowhere to fall from rock bottom. It’s paradoxically comforting to know there are no threads left to cradle you. You get to lie all the way down.

Secondly, I’ve had more experience with depression than…almost anything else over the past decade. I know how to navigate it. Sure, it hurts like hell, but it’s a hurt I’m used to. I can change all the dressings ‘n everything. I’ve been ill as a full time job for years and years. I’m getting fired or something. Additional metaphors relating to the unknown, etc.

But I think my biggest problem is: what now? My identity is kinda shifting away from simply Bipolar Laura to _______ Laura. Not sure how to fill in that blank. I mean, I’ll always have bipolar. I didn’t get here by magic, I worked toward this. I don’t think, though, I ever really thought concretely about what I was working toward, just that I needed to keep pushing in an upward direction. Now I have more time and energy (most days) and I don’t need to use those circumstances to patch myself up the same way. I can do things!

I told my doctor that I’ve arrived at the downside of up and she said, “Yup, that’s the downside.” She recognizes that the new imperative I’m facing to do something with my life is not an easy thing to tackle. Maybe it’s even complicated by the fact that there are like a hundred things I wanna do with my life. Basically, I’m having a Sylvia Plath problem:

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The Bell Jar

‘Cept I’m starving not just because I can’t decide, I’m starving ’cause even if I do decide, I can’t rely on my own self-motivation which has been directed entirely at my mental health for so long that I don’t really know how to use it for anything else. I just haven’t really had to, and though people keep telling me to be easier on myself, I still insist that I’m awfully lazy.

So let’s not confuse “better” with “cured.” I still have to take care of my illness, but the difference is that it’s not the sole thing I have to take care of right now. I still have mood swings and panic attacks and episodes. Like, that shit’s never going away entirely. Not unless I cloister myself in completely perfect behavior and probably take some stupefying meds that I don’t want. But that’s not a life. I’ve always been scared of the future for the same reason I’m now scared of being better. I don’t know precisely how to move around in it.

That’s basically where I’m at. And don’t think that I won’t stretch my indecision and cowardice and self-doubt into months and months of soul searching or some bullshit, ’cause I definitely will. Out of fear and hesitation. I have some thinking to do. It’s probably gonna be a minute.

-LB

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Smokey Knows

So I don’t have a whole post in me right this sec ’cause I’m working on some other writing thing, but I was listening to Smokey Robinson, my love of whom knows no Earthly bounds, and I got to “The Tracks Of My Tears” and it kinda struck a chord a li’l. So, alright this is a breakup song, but, my dear mood-disordered compatriots: tell me you can’t relate to the lyrics in the first ~60 seconds, almost eerily.

That’s pretty much it. Enjoy!

-LB

Medzzzzzzz…

I had like 3 fucking meltdowns over Christmas weekend which is sorta normal for me but this year was probably worse than previous years ‘n I don’t really wanna talk about it right now, not because I don’t wanna revisit that shit but because I’m sleepy as fuuuuuck…..

My doc and I decided to halve my Welbutrin dose ’cause I think neither of us is 100% sure that I still need it. I tried it a long time ago, pre-bipolar diagnosis as a treatment for depression and that didn’t really work out, obviously (see LBD: antidepressants). Then a couple years ago, while on mood stabilizers, my doc prescribed it again to help me quit smoking because I have like zero willpower and I get upset a lot and it’s super easy for me to rationalize breaking my tobacco fast if I’m really, really, really upset (so, like, often). Welbutrin makes smoking really uncomfortable (I frequently liken it to trying to inhale a large marshmallow I picked out of bag of wet garbage) and also disrupts your brain’s ability to enjoy nicotine so you may as well just be smoking the paper for all the good it’ll do in terms of calming you down.

The other reason we went with Welbutrin is that it’s kind of an upper – not in the same way that speed or even caffeine is, but among its peers, Welbutrin is the most likely to give you a little boost. All my other meds are sedating so the intention was to sort of counteract that problem with more meds (I’ve written about medicating my medication before, but probably not thoroughly enough, remind me to get back to it).

This time around, I don’t think I’ve been prescribed Welbutrin specifically to combat depression, but if it happened to do that, then yay? So last week, my prescription ran out and I was talking to my doctor about it and we thought maybe cutting to dose in half might be fun (ahem: a medically sound choice that is reversible if it happens not to work out). I didn’t start taking the smaller dose until after my Xmas meltdowns because I fucking hate the holidays and I didn’t wanna start experimenting until they were over. Which turned out to be, probably, a really good idea.

This is either day 2 or 3 of the halved dose and I’ve been a fairly drowsy. Which, I mean, is unsurprising considering the drug’s invigorating properties. I suspect I’d feel similarly if I switched from coffee to tea or something – which will never fucking happen, when I die, I wanna be ground up like coffee beans and served, hot or iced, to all my mourners (no I don’t, that’s gross, Laura). 

So, like, I spent the day fucking around with my roommate’s mandolin and working on some poems just for fun, and I think I paid off the balance on my Target card. Like, I got some shit done. I taught myself this song on mando:

Don’t get impressed or anything, it’s not a super complicated song, just a really good song and a fun one to sing and play. But now my fingers hurt ’cause mandolin strings are a little more ouchy than guitar or banjo strings ‘n I’m not really used to them yet. But I did like, at least one or two things today and I didn’t actually have to do anything today, so good for me. Fine.

But it’s me, so I worry a lot about these specters of things that are pretty unlikely, chiefly here: I’ll be sleepy forever. Before my various Christmas freakouts, I had been doing really well. Depakote seems not to have given me the stupids like I worried it would. My moods were pretty even, almost predictable (!!!) and I was feeling good about myself and having all these neat ideas for creative projects which, at this point, I haven’t been neglecting as severely as I usually do when I have good ideas. Good. Cool.

But I wanna take as little medicine as I can get away with and Welbutrin, among my other meds, is the easiest to play around with, so here we are. Slightly less medicated, but markedly more sleepy. This should go away. I mean, if I were taking Welbutrin and nothing else, I’d be about 100% sure the drowsiness would wane after the physical withdrawal was over, but that’s not the case ’cause, like I said, I’m on other meds, 3 others exactly, and they all sometimes make me very tired. More specifically, they shorten my battery life. It’s not that I’m evenly sedated throughout the day, it’s more like I only have energy for one or maybe two activities in a day and I don’t like to stay out late anymore.

So right now it’s a little after 4 p.m. It’s rain-snowing like the goddamned apocalypse outside and I’m legit afraid my power will go out. I’ve run out of shit to do except take a shower which is only necessary because it’s my habit to shower daily, I’m not actually dirty enough right now to warrant bathing. After that, it’s very likely that I’ll get high and watch cartoons or something. Maybe reread my poems a few hundred more times. They are part in Italian and I’m like real stoked on that point. But that’s about it. I don’t have energy for much else. I could:

Clean something, like my desk maybe (nah…)

Investigate the meaning behind the text I just got from my sister which simply reads: “Butt fun?”

Learn more mandolin chords and maybe develop some muscle memory and build tougher calluses

Mulch Arturo more thoroughly (Arturo is my pet blueberry bush. He lives on my patio and should be able to withstand a northern Midwest winter storm but he almost died this summer so I worry about him a lot)

Play some solitaire chess. Gotta stay sharp ‘n whatever.

But I totally won’t do any of these things (except maybe find out what the deal is with “Butt fun?” ’cause there is zero context for that text and it’s fucking funny). I’m probably just gonna return my roommate’s mando to his room, take my evening meds (including the ones I prescribed to myself), move from the office to the couch, watch some Jaclyn Glenn youtube videos, lazily entertain sexual thoughts about this woman who I only know through her Etsy shop but who seems like my kinda people even if I can’t quite see what she looks like or tell how old she is from her tiny picture, and maybe see which of the cats is more amenable to being used as a pillow today ’cause one of them will usually let me do that, but it’s not always the same one. All eminently slothful pursuits.

Anyhowl, getting back to things, I’m gonna give it maybe another 7-10 days of grogginess before I decide if the new Welbutrin dosage is right for me. Like, fingers crossed real hard, I guess, ’cause, like I said, the less medicine I can get by on, the better. In the meantime, jammies ‘n couches ‘n…”Butt fun?”

-LB

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

Hi. Poe. May. Knee. Uh…

*big loud screeching noise*

*laugh track*

*laugh track*

*honkey tonk guitar lick*

*words words words words words words*

*the sound of my tongue moving in my mouth*

*tasteless lesbian porn*

*laugh track*

*trains, lots of them*

*I can hear my eyeballs slide*

*Ok Ok Ok Ok Ok*

*distant hisses*

*laugh track*

*uh, um, uh*

*lightbulbs popping*

*a belly flop from which I never recover*

 

Theory: I am, in fact, my dad’s kid even more than I thought, which is to say, my natural state is quiet, ponderous, shy, and introverted. The only reason people don’t believe this about me and the reason I don’t always believe it about me is because these traits are squashed by my big, loud, sexy hypomanias. Which means sometimes I don’t live up to myself (?) which, in turn, causes a fair degree of dissonance upstairs ‘specially  when I have to perform Laura when Laura is feeling quiet, ponderous, shy, and introverted.

One Reason To Think This: I’ve been hypomanic for about 2 weeks and it hasn’t been particularly euphoric but hasn’t been irritable either. It’s been creative above all else and it fucking rules. I’ve been reading and writing frenetically and, while I’ve been enjoying other people’s company more comfortably than usual, I’d rather be in my office makin’ shit with my suddenly cartoonishly oversized brain.

Another Reason To Think This: I’ve been super, super good about not drinking and this is probably the first hypomanic episode I’ve had where I haven’t had a single drink, not even once. I’ve had to learn about 9 times (non-hyperbolic) that Laura + hypomania + booze = a noise blasting sex monster that’ll chew your damn ear off. Instead of expending this energy and disinhibition on trying to fuck your girlfriend, I’ve been shoving creative production out of my being with superhuman strength and I’m enjoying it a great deal.

 

What about the eventual fall?

What about it? Fuck you.

 

So I can’t sleep for shit. I’d been self-medicating with weed or NyQuil (or both) until my doc asked me to please stop doing that and prescribed me Sonata. Cool thing: Sonata gives me crazy vivid dreams. The people in my dreams are so lifelike, I’d deem them identical to their IRL forms. I dreamt of my dad the first night. I saw his real face, his real height, his real glasses, and I heard his real voice. I’ve not seen, in any hallucinatory form, my dad so lifelike since he was actually still alive. SO. FUCKING. COOL.

 

What about the eventual fall?

FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK you.

 

So, I’m sober, sleeping about 7 hours a night, laughing ’til I get stomach cramps, writing, writing, writing, writing, writing, just diggin’ it, really. I haven’t frightened anyone yet, not even myself. Good. More than good.

FRENETIC. The word has a great mouthfeel and is an entirely apt descriptor. I’m good with it, I’m just good. Barking for a speeding ticket, gesticulating even more than usual, tying together the windblown threads of my savaging mind because there is good stuff up here, and despite alienating people who might be put off by my pace or my presentation, I’m fine. And safe. And diggin’ it. Absolutely.

 

What about the eventual fall?

Not even dignifying that one right now.

-LB

Absurdities

I’m working on a writing project – which is the ambiguous name I give to song lyrics, short stories, essays, poems, and attempts at novels, just in case I don’t finish the thing which is almost always. Anyway, the narrator/protagonist of this particular project is starting to take shape and take on dimensions and feel like an approximation of a plausible person, which is what I’m going for. But there’s something missing. My protagonist is not mentally ill. So there’s a challenge here.

The storyline calls for a pretty hefty amount of absurdity, so I think creating a sane character in an absurd setting isn’t, in practice, dramatically different from creating an insane character in a non-absurd setting. I could be wrong about this. I’m excited to find out.

But I’ve been a weirdo all my life and then “weirdo” got stamped with the clinical “bipolar” around age 22, so I kinda question my ability to explore how the average brain works. Maybe I’m just being down on my own abilities and refusing to flex muscles to see if I do indeed have them, I’m kind of negative. At any rate, and I’ve said this before, probably out loud and probably here, I assume that the average brain is a dull space. I assume things happen methodically and I assume the average brain doesn’t tend to question whether or not to pathologize this or that emotion upon feeling it. ‘Course, the thing about average is that it’s a pretty blurry figure. Everyone’s bizarre on their own right, regardless of mental illness. My narrator doesn’t have to be sick to be weird.

‘Cause of course (s)he’s gonna be weird.

So, I guess, in the context of simple daily functioning, how does my thinking and behavior differ from someone who doesn’t have bipolar? Not in the broad overall sense, but more like, what am I thinking as I board the bus vs. the person behind me? I’m hyperaware of how I situate myself in my surroundings. I don’t just take a seat. I often feel watched and very occasionally judged. I have a very hard time sitting still. I have mildly dissociative fantasies to kill the boredom, it’s one of the reasons I’m almost never bored. And then there’s the disentangling of bipolar traits from simple Laura traits, and just believe me, 8 years of therapy will make that hard for anyone. If I explore something long enough, the detail seems infinitesimal.

Maybe I’m in a unique position here, ’cause most often, to me, the world feels absurd and arbitrary. I can totally work with absurd and arbitrary. They’re my vernacular.

Boiling this all down, I guess I’m questioning whether I can craft an imaginary person who responds as reasonably to a situation as is required when I don’t know if I could pull that off myself. Also, y’know, people have done this shit for as long as storytelling has existed so the more I think about this and the more I write about it, the more I’m sort of seeing that this is really an issue with me and my self-doubt. Despite my history of candor here, I actually have a super hard time sharing my creative work, even with close friends because I fret over details, I fret over how they’ll interpret it, I fret over its general likability. Sometimes, I wish I had a proxy who could assume all credit for whatever work I do and I can just enjoy the work (except when I backtrack on that if the work is received positively and I want my props, because of course I do).

Anyhowl, I guess all this explains my sporadic presence here and…my absences to come…sorry…really. BUT! BUT! A couple weeks ago was Casual Bedlam’s first birthday. This baby is a year old! And I’m still writing about about my poop, just like the inaugural post. Poop, one of the greater equalizers. It’s kind of out of character for me to do something for an entire year, so this is a proud moment for me. CB is not my first or second bipolar blog. Some of the early few died before the first post ’cause I couldn’t settle on a font or a background color or some shit. You guys, you guys, I did a thing. I don’t get to say that a whole lot. I get the chance to feel proud of it even less often. So, ending on a high note: Happy belated birthday, Casual Bedlam, here’s to many more!

-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