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When things are illuminated, life is beautiful. Luminosity is, indeed, a wonderful thing. You are anchored in your body and that body is easy to please. You only have to honor the integrity of your senses. The bad smells bad, and the good is to be luxuriated in. You feel your senses acutely and realize you were blessed with them because they make you into a deep participant in life. Others have their senses too and you share yours with them. Social intercourse is your way into earthly heaven.

You are not alone.

Life belongs to you. Life can be shaped according to your vision and by the grace of its better possibilities. You love life and intend to affirm it by being a co-author in the shaping of a destiny you have faith in: it can only be for your good.

When things are illuminated, life is beautiful. Luminosity is, indeed, a wonderful thing. You are anchored in your body and that body is easy to please. You only have to honor the integrity of your senses. The bad smells bad, and the good is to be luxuriated in. You feel your senses acutely and realize you were blessed with them because they make you into a deep participant in life. Others have their senses too and you share yours with them. Social intercourse is your way into earthly heaven.

You are not alone.

Life belongs to you. Life can be shaped according to your vision and by the grace of its better possibilities. You love life and intend to affirm it by being a co-author in the shaping of a destiny you have faith in: it can only be for your good.

At the age of twenty, clutching the hand of your seventy-two year old grandmother, you board a plane on the tarmac of a tiny island nation with $120 dollars in your pocket. When you land in the United States of America you decide this is truly the first day of your life because you have adopted a new country as the one that complements your values, dreams and big capacity for joy.

The next day you resist invitations to explore the city of your new home—Atlanta—because you need to find a job. You put on your suit, take a train that turns out to be the wrong one and enter a city in which, during the next five hours, you will become lost countless number of times. You apply for over twenty jobs and finally take a break by sitting on the curb of a busy street to take off your shoes and massage your feet.

You end up getting a job in a bank where you work for a year to finance your first year of college tuition. You read voraciously and use some of your college money to buy too many books. No Matter. You are reading about two per week. The perfectibility of your mind is a child’s fantasy carried over into early adult life that you cannot give up.

Life is on your side.

You enter college full-time and work in a bank for thirty-five to forty hours per week. You impose an exacting regimen on yourself, and people say you’re the most disciplined person they know. You write tons of newspaper editorials and make around $1,000 from your writing in one year. You maintain an A+ average, graduate magna cum laude and take off a year to write a novel. You’re ruthless with yourself when the rejections come in. For every rejection you receive, you send out thirty more submissions. You decide to get an agent. That proves just as difficult as finding a publisher. You snag one after 250 rejections.

Graduate school is tough, but in your third week you’ve already decided on a dissertation topic. You identify the month and date of your graduation in five years time.

It all comes through as you planned. You graduate four and a half years later with a Ph.D in philosophy. It hasn’t all been easy. You’ve sometimes been weighted down by mood swings. You’ve fallen in love, fallen out of love, and left your partner for another person. But your creativity has never left you. You write your dissertation in little over a year, and you get a good teaching position.

Reality is there for you to shape it.

You write and publish your first book with a good publisher in nineteen months. You read like a book addict. You are always writing. Ideas compete among themselves and all come crashing in your head, leaving you in a state of heightened bliss—your hand cannot keep pace with the speed at which your thoughts and ideas are targeting and then shattering you. You feel like a god.

You give numerous talks in Europe and the United States and you feel more at home in your adopted country.

Things are illuminated. Then, life comes crashing down.
You collapse in your bath tub and doctors say it’s anxiety. But you sense it’s more than that. During the next couple of years you carry a constant Death Baby inside of you, one that dreams of and yearns for death. It feels like you’re being eaten from the inside by this creature. But still, you write. Poetry comes flowing out of you like mineral water from hidden rocks. You’ll spend the next couple of years revising each poem for a minimum of two years. Death Baby grows and you feed him little pills that satisfy him for a while. For one year it feels like you are drowning, but the poems just come pouring out. In spite of it all, you teach, think and write and finish a new book.

Suicide seems like a good thing to think about. Suicide is calming. You empty a bottle of pills in your hand one night and look at them for an hour. You contemplate them like little religious icons. Religious icons, though, belong on a shelf. You put them back in the bottle and line them up with your other bottled icons. They make a shrine you neurotically fetishize.

Suicide seems like a real possibility. You begin to think about it constantly. The pain is unbearable. You think: how to do it? One day to ease the pain you take a lot of pills. At 2a.m you still can’t sleep. You feed yourself more Xanax tablets. Beginning from the morning you end up having taken twelve tablets by 2:30 a.m. You slip in and out of consciousness and then something shifts. You enter the dark hour, a period where it feels like you’re slipping over to the other side. You don some clothes and somehow walk to the hospital. You are interred in the psychiatric ward for four days. Bedlam is not glamorous. You wonder which way is home.

Life is still on your side.

Bipolar is the most lethal of all mental illnesses. It accounts for more suicides than the other illnesses and can catapult a person into the stratospheres of euphoria and then down into the darkest doldrums of depression and despair. When in the hypomanic phase one can feel powerful, be extremely creative. You hear this as a diagnosis is rattled off to you. It makes sense, you think. And you begin to feel comforted. You are prescribed Seroquel and Abilify and you begin to move once again in the world. The poems keep coming, the sequel to your first book progresses and you feel elation. Depression comes but it does not last for very long. Then you begin to sink, deep, deep. You’re drowning and you can’t breathe and the vortex keeps swirling. When you get out, you spend a few months staggering through life, often pacing the floors like a caged jaguar with too much energy.

Life is tired. Life becomes suspended. Life needs a break—from You!

Lithium Carbonate—a salt—is used to treat, among other things, bipolar disorder. You are hopeful. You feel relieved; finally something to quiet the Death Baby. Then it starts. The world becomes flat. You feel flat. You cannot feel. You are numb. Your confidence is now erased from your soul. You cannot write. Words just won’t come. Verbal creativity—once a constitutive feature of your identity—is gone. You stare at the screen; there are no words to fill even a quarter of it. In one year there have been no new poems, although, thank God, you got one published in a good literary journal. All inspiration has gone; the vision behind the work is a blur, like the streaked makeup of an aging harridan. You are a harridan. Making love becomes a chore. The libido is a strange capacity you used to have but can’t remember what it feels like. You cannot read. Dullness descends like some presage of gloom every time you attempt to tackle a book. Your life was built around reading. That life is gone. Your hand shakes constantly—the tremors—the Lithiumians call it. Your face breaks out in acne and your back pushes out the assaults of this determined drug. You wait for the Second Coming, and it never comes.

Months pass and you begin to feel a shift. Your friend tells you to start blogging and you balk at the idea. Blogs are for people who contaminate language. He persists and tells you to try Open Salon. You begin and are hooked. Your creativity is improving. You begin to write; even a short story about your father’s mental illness. You take a trip to teach a few seminars and ideas came pouring out—but just a few. You return and go to a conference and ideas come pouring out—a bit more. You return to your book. Now that’s a miracle right there! You walk to the bookstore and buy a few books. In one sitting you read eighty-seven pages. You begin to read The New Yorker cover to cover. Reading is a joy once more.

It is October. It’s sunny and unbelievably warm for New York. You take a walk and feel your heart pounding; but it is not from anxiety. It is from excitement. There has been a restoration. You skip along happily. You begin to wonder if it’s legal to skip and to be happy. You walk aimlessly entering a space that needs no name and no validation. You re-enter life not as it ought to be, but as it is and always has been—waiting for you. Patiently. Lovingly. You think: I shall rise. I simply have to rise!
This is my story.

And this is my life.

Originally posted to Jason Hill on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 02:29 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  That's some powerful stuff. (16+ / 0-)

    Thanks for sharing.

    Love that "power of the purse!" It looks so nice up there on the mantle (and not the table) next to the "subpoena power."

    by Sacramento Dem on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 02:36:10 PM PDT

  •  Give it a week. (12+ / 0-)

    You'll be walking on sunshine.  Good luck.

    "Intelligent minds believe only in lost causes, realizing that all others are merely effects." -e.e. cummings

    by Super Grover on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 02:36:51 PM PDT

  •  great insight and writing (13+ / 0-)

    and good on you for having the guts to write this.  Thank you.

  •  A big hug for you Jason. (14+ / 0-)

    Thank you for sharing - and we'll all be pulling for you.

    Anthropologists for human diversity; opposing McCain perversity

    by Denise Oliver Velez on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 02:38:22 PM PDT

  •  Thank you for this. (8+ / 0-)

    I admire your strength.  Be good to yourself; you deserve it.

    "Sarah Palin is the distilled essence of wingnut." -- John Cole

    by GreenMtnState on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 02:39:02 PM PDT

  •  Please post a tip jar (10+ / 0-)

    You write beautifully.  Please take care of yourself, and please keep writing.  

  •  Life is illuminated - I like that (18+ / 0-)

    I too am bipolar. About 7 years ago I switched to a timed release version of lithium (Eskalith). The tremors stopped and the dullness has left. My psych said he's had patients tell him this, but there aren't any studies to back it up, blah, blah, blah.

    I'm happy you're doing well! It sounds like New York is beautiful right now.

    The only thing that helps me maintain my slender grip on reality is the friendship I share with my collection of singing potatoes. -5.75, -7.18

    by Rogneid on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 02:48:01 PM PDT

  •  My ex-husband is bipolar. (25+ / 0-)

    He was one of the first patients in this country to be put on lithium and it was a miracle drug. He was successful, he was productive...then he and his internist, after over 15 years, deciding they didn't like the side effects, opted to try life without it. He crashed, of course, so they put him back on it. However, it was never really effective again. It held the manic episodes at bay but for ten years he was mildly depressed. Then it became toxic and doctors have found nothing else that works. In a manic episode last year he ran away from home and divorced me--and his family--then crashed. He's now in assisted living. Stay with lithium. It may be your only salvation. I recognize the nostalgia for the manic highs, but do not let them tempt you. Enjoy the ordinary, celebrate the sunshine--live as a calmn, happy person.

  •  Wow. Just ... wow. (12+ / 0-)

    My husband and I are both writers; we have both struggled with depression.  We both count our blessings that we've never had to deal with bipolar.

    Take care and keep writing.

    "Any nation that can survive what we have lately in the way of government, is on the high road to permanent glory." -- Molly Ivins, 1944-2007

    by Sailbourne on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 02:53:20 PM PDT

  •  there are lots of meds (14+ / 0-)

    If you are bipolar you are lucky if

    (1) your illness is correctly diagnosed within 10 years of the onset of symptoms (for plenty of people it's longer)

    (2) you find a medication that your body can tolerate and that keeps you steady

    (3) the medication keeps working

    The reality is that most people with bipolar disorder have to be on several medications -- "polypharmacy" -- and you spend endless amounts of time tweaking the doses and trying different combinations. If your doctor has a sense of humor they will admit it is like a witch's brew.

    But, the alternative is suffering and death.

    So, you have to hang on to your blessings. You've got a medication, you have a doctor you can talk to, things are stable for now. Write all that down, like you did here, so you can refer to it if things get rough again. Get your support system in place now, while you are stable and healthy, so if you fall in the future, someone can catch you.

    Good luck to you and God bless you.

    Virtues are lost in self-interest just as rivers are lost in the sea. -- François de la Rochefoucauld

    by rilkas on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 03:03:44 PM PDT

  •  Are you OK now, or (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    churchylafemme, kyril

    would you like some new ideas around natural medicine concepts?

    You can just call me Swiftie.

    by SwiftBoat McCain NOW on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 03:12:03 PM PDT

      •  EMPowerplus (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        You might want to look at this site.

      •  In the same grad school, bipolar boat. Advice: (8+ / 0-)

        Not a medical professional, but...but subjectively... Lithium is a rather crude but effective drug. Depakote works for alot of people, but really does not work with alcohol very well (or if the liver isn't too hot). My doctors have balanced me on low doses of those two and--for when depression hits--"Lamictal," a very expensive but wonderful anti-seizure drug.

        Of course, I'm still miserable alot, but then I just come on DKos alot. Seriously. This site has honest to god helped get me through my divorce.

        But yeah, I see you have a PhD and an "edu" email address. I imagine if you're a professor or work for a university you might have one of those mythic "gold-plated cadillac insurance plans" that McCain talked about in one of the debates.

        Man, I really connect with you. I'm in the same situation you're in, feeling really bummed out with everything. I'm a grad student, and next week are my masters comps!

        It's terrifying, and I'm always perpetually behind in classes not because I'm "sad"--I've really learned to not internalize it that much, for the most part--but because it's just a chore to wake up and do anything but put on my automatic funny face that sort of churns along like a wind-up doll.

        So, experiment! Fight! Revel! Overcome! Fall back again, shrug it off, and get back up again!

        And for heaven's sake, blog! You know what? I just got off the phone with my soon-to-be ex-wife. By "just got off the phone" I mean the second I hung up the phone, I looked at the rescued diaries.

        I told her I had been looking at wedding photos and my resolve was fading, that I was feeling miserable, that my entire lifeplan was thrown off, that that moment in front of the pastor, everything had seemed so clear, so wonderful, and it seemed having a family was the magical centering of it all.

        And she told me, "but you still have plenty of hope! The plan was always for you to get your doctorate, find a teaching job, and then I'd figure out what I wanted to do along the way. Now I sort of know because you helped me find it, and I'm sure you'll accomplish your goals!"

        But in the throes of feeling like you're letting everyone down--God, family, teachers, friends, roommates, pets, and the Obama campaign--each class seems unpassable, and there seem to be an ocean of hurdles to overcome.

        And I really think I've cast my lot with Barack Obama because, vicariously, since he started out in Iowa (where I live) in June 2007, there was the in-control fight against long odds and the weathering of storms.

        Well, I guess what I'm saying is that--never underestimate the power of your words. They hit me pretty awesomely tonight! I guess this is its own diary of sorts, but I don't think personally I'm ready to "come out" with this as a diary. I'm still kind of ashamed. But I'm certainly less hopeless for reading this.

        •  Don't be ashamed (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Howie, you have an awesome userid and you too are pretty fascinating.  (I went back and read your past diaries.)  Aren't we "mental cases" just the most interesting personalities on the planet? Yes!

          Anyway, just a smile -- sent from me to you.

          Also, to prove I'm not all mushy-gushy and because I find our kind to have awesome humor I have to share something which I was afraid to comment above.  This comment seems sufficiently buried that it might be safe:  When I first read this diary and scanned the comments... and saw "Give it a week" as the 3rd comment, my dark side took over and I couldn't help but think, "Give it a week... you'll feel like shit again in no time!"  Please, Super Grover and Jason, do not hate me for that -- I mean no ill will at all.  It comes from someone who has lived through so many ups and downs of his own.  Humor has been my savior.

        •  no, don't be ashamed (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          It sounds like you and your ex are still friends.  That says a lot about what good people you both are.

      •  The new idea would be to test for and (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        consider if Mercury could be the base cause of your problem.

        You would first test for Mercury toxicity. If the test indicated you had high levels of Mercury, you could then take actions to eliminate the Mercury.

        The process for Mercury removal is long, 6 to 12 months. During that time, you would still continue with the prescrip meds you now use while you were removing the Mercury. Eventually, you would quit those meds entirely. That is the objective here, mental health without the prescrip meds.

        I myself am now in the process of removing (chelating) Mercury from my body & brain to resolve depression.

        Do you have/have you had silver metal dental fillings, which contain 50% Mercury. The Mercury leaches out of the fillings as vapor every time you chew or drink hot liquids, and then gets stored in the fatty tissues of the brain, which can accumulate there over time and cause mental illness.

        Mercury accumulated in the fatty tissues of the brain can affect different people differently. Some may manifest Alzheimers, some may manifest depression, some may manifest bipolar, some may manifest chronic fatigue, some may manifest autism, some may manifest fibromyalgia, etc.

        If you want to learn more, post your email here in a reply.

        You can just call me Swiftie.

        by SwiftBoat McCain NOW on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 12:05:42 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  every day (7+ / 0-)

    Well written and well done. Writting has been a wonderful tool for me as has my site reaching out to others.  Your post was powerful.  Thank you. Each day gets a little better, each month gets a little better. I wish I could write my journey as clearly has you have done here.  I could only sum it up with this, the unfinished beginning of a book, but the beginning of a site that touches others.

    Your an inspiration Jason.

    I'm dreaming.. maybe

    I'm standing on the edge of a huge pool, at the deep end. The air around me is heavy and it is neither night nor day. The water is dark and still. My toes are just over the edge of the concrete. I fall in. There is no splash, no sensation of hot or cold, no ripples in the water. I just fall, silently, feeling a strange thickness envelope me.

    In between the top and the bottom of the pool, I stop falling. I am suspended, perfectly still, not struggling for air. I look down. The bottom of the pool seems endless. It gets darker and darker the farther I look. There are no drains, no tiles. Just deep dark blue. I look up. The water gets lighter and lighter blue, fading into a crystal clear sheen as smooth as glass. I feel that my time is limited. That I have to make a choice.

    There are only two. I can choose to continue to sink into the dark. To just let go and float down into the emptiness. Or, I can reach up with everything I am. There seems to be no time, no contemplation of a deadline, no fear.

    I simply extend my arms upward. The water ripples, becomes cool against my skin, my hair waves around my head as I reach up, up, up.

    I have made my choice.  I am reaching up for air.

    We are happy when for everything inside us there is a corresponding something outside us. ~W.B. Yeats

    by Redheaddeb on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 03:31:16 PM PDT

  •  I'm glad I got (7+ / 0-)

    a chance to recc' this diary before the time expired. Thanks, especially for the phrase 'death baby.'  I'm taking that one to my therapist Thursday morning.  

    Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. --Molly Ivins

    by sap on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 08:54:44 PM PDT

  •  as someone who's been right at that edge, (5+ / 0-)

    staring at a knife, wondering if it was worth the pain just to feel anything, wondering if it was worth carrying on.

    I salute you.

    I've know only one person that was possibly bipolar and the burden is immense.

  •  Thanks for sharing your experience... (3+ / 0-)

    Peace brother.

  •  I like the name (4+ / 0-)

    of your "live-in partner", Death Baby. Mine is too nebulous to accept a name.

    Thank you for letting us see that someone, at least one of us, escapes from time to time.

    My name is Cindy Hussein Rose. I am not afraid.

    by crose on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 09:28:36 PM PDT

  •  One of the best descriptions (4+ / 0-)
    of bipolar disorder I have read.  Beautiful.  My son was diagnosed at 14, but drugs have complicated life for him.  I admire you for sticking with the lithium through that flat year, until the flatness began to leave.  Many people can't cope with that feeling long enough to get through it.  I get depressed but not manic.

    Best wishes to you, and the others in this thread who are coping.

    If not me, who? If not now, when?

    by ramara on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 09:48:48 PM PDT

  •  Beautifully written and sadly accurate (eom) (3+ / 0-)

    "Justice is what love sounds like when it speaks in public."

    by thedivademos on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 10:04:22 PM PDT

  •  I'm bi-polar also (6+ / 0-)

    Thank you for sharing your story.  It is a lovely diary. I hope that you continue to have more light back in your life.

    I can certainly identify with a lot of it.  The accomplishments, then the crushing darkness of the illness.  The highs and lows.  The suicide attempts.  The terrible flatness the medication can bring.  I have a Georgia O'Keefe print on my wall which is the visual representation of the old bi-polar days for me - a canyon of gray and black with rolling undertones of red and horrible jagged flashes of light.  I am so glad to be out of that canyon.

    I think it is different for each of us, but the same in so many ways.  I'm glad that you have been diagnosed so you can start trying to find a medication that works.  You said in a comment that you'd welcome information on medications.  I'll at least share my medication journey - I've been on the journey for lots of years now.

    For me, medication is a moving target.  My grandmother was one of the first people put on Lithium - great discovery, but the line between therapeutic and toxic is a fine one.  I started on Tegretol and it was wonderful - until I developed a potentially fatal side effect.  So, taper off that and try Depokote.  I'm still on Depokote.  It causes weight gain, so we tried substituting some Topamax.  THAT made me stupid.  So, no more Topamax.  I don't like being stupid or flat.  So, I take the absolute minimum of the Depokote that I can manage - and when my sleep is disrupted or I get upset by something - out come the demons.  (George W. Bush's re-election actually triggered a major episode!)  Then I have to increase the Depokote to quiet the demons for a while, resulting in being flat again.  So, every night there is the Clonzapine to try to make sure that I sleep and don't have to increase the Depokote.  When that won't work, there is the Temazapam to make me sleep - but that is so horribly addictive that I refuse to take it unless I absolutely have to.

    And there is the the music in my mind.  Like so many bi-polars, I also have some schizophrenic aspects.  I hear music - wonderful, beautiful music at times.  At other times, the music is dark and depressing and drives me to the depths.  So, I take medication for the music.  Started with Prolixin, but developed a bad side effect on that one.  So, now it is Seroquel to quiet the music.  I guess the good news is that I have a clear "sign" if I'm getting in trouble!  The problem with the Seroquel is that it is so powerful, or I'm so sensitive to it, that I have to be very careful with the dosage.  A single 25 mg pill too much, and I'm so fogged I can't work.  One too few, and it's equally as bad.

    Oh, and most of the drugs I'm on potentially cause liver damage, so I'm checked for that every 6 months.  And sometimes I have fine muscle tremors from them.  And problems remembering words sometimes.

    But, the meds beat the way it was before.  Now I can usually manage my meds sufficently to have a life.  I was a successful lawyer for many years before medications - somehow!  It was much easier medicated.  I blew through a WHOLE lot of marriages and relationships unmedicated - but my husband and I celebrated our 18th anniversary this year.  I self-medicated with everything under the sun before my diagnosis - but I'm completely alcohol and non-prescription drug free now.

    Good luck with your journey.  It is possible now that you know what you are facing.  But, I can't assure you that it will always be easy.

    Distrust all unreasoning fanatics - even those who agree with you

    by Anti Fanatic on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 10:12:25 PM PDT

    •  Brother with dual diagnosis (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NHandler, under the bodhi tree

      One of my brother is developmentally disabled (mild) and schizo-affective.  He also was on Tegretal until his side-effects were too severe.  Now he's on depakote and Seroquel.  Along with bipolar mood swings he also hallucinates even while on his meds (mostly auditory).  He has pretty severe tremors now but has recently lost weight. He's actually a pretty interesting guy and quite well informed on current events. He also hold down a part time job as a bagger at a grocery store but needs full time job coaching only because he spaces out due to meds so much.  If there wasn't funding for his job coach (certainly a concern now) he could not hold down a job which is so important to him.  We've watched him get much worse and need much higher doses of medication over the last 10 years.

      •  funny I commented much more briefly (2+ / 0-)

        about our brother before I read your comment.  It is great to see more diaries on mental illness.  

        S.I.B.S. Supporting Illinois Brothers and Sisters

        by NHandler on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 04:17:45 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I've some diaries about my experiences (0+ / 0-)

          It may seem a long way from "promoting progressive candidates and causes", but adequate treatment for mental disorders should certainly be on the agenda, I think.

          If you are interested, my diaries are at and at

          I wrote them very early in my time here at KOS and have not revisited the issue since.  I sometimes think I should write about it more often, covering different aspects that I have learned too well.

          Distrust all unreasoning fanatics - even those who agree with you

          by Anti Fanatic on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 08:58:21 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I'm sorry the meds space him out (0+ / 0-)

        It really is tough finding the line between enough and too much.  I try very, very hard to hold at 1500 mg of Depokote per day and I've been able to keep that my baseline for several years.  Sometimes I have to go up as high as 2000 for a while, but I've always been able to taper back down.  I'd rather run the risk of an occasional blip in the moods than be so out of it with meds that I just can't function.

        I know that it is different with each of us and that I am very, very fortunate to be able to function normally with the meds.

        Distrust all unreasoning fanatics - even those who agree with you

        by Anti Fanatic on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 08:54:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Jason--spud here for OS (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Creosote, kyril

    when you post your diary click on post comment and put in "tip jar" as the first comment and they rate you.  Your writing will get some real action here, I love this place.  I got 188 comments on my first diary.  Haven't done as well since.  Always get in the high 20's made several friends here.  

    too soon old--too late smart

    by idahospud44 on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 10:38:13 PM PDT

  •  thanks for sharing this (3+ / 0-)


    by dancewater on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 10:51:06 PM PDT

  •  At the risk of seeming antiquated (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    under the bodhi tree

    it may be possible that analysis may offer you some help. Look up such contemporary people as Michael Eigen or James Grotstein (East and West Coasts, respectively), or read some of their books.

    May not be for you, but there's much of interest going on today that is deeply caring and brilliantly written.

  •  I can relate to much of what you say. (3+ / 0-)

    You have so much to be proud of: your hardworking nature, your college degrees -- unfortunately for me my troubles began before I was able to finish college & I never have done so. I spent over three years (and tons of money) at Princeton University and all I have to show for it are memories and a small handful of friends, the ones I didn't drive away.  That and an abiding love for the color orange!

    Diagnoses are like souvenirs & I've collected quite a few through the years.  I'm never entirely comfortable claiming the mantle "bipolar" -- though I can say I have experienced manic, or at least hypomanic, episodes.  One reason I cannot call myself bipolar is that I am no longer on any medication and that probably would not be possible for a true manic-depressive.  Then again, I'm not exactly the most successful life-form on this planet either, so... who knows?  I keep things in check by attending weekly therapy and there have been times in the past when I went much more often than that!  (It can all get very expensive, obviously. Mental health issues were one area which drew me into liberal politics.)

    When I read this diary, I thought that I would not comment. Then I gave you a recommend and thought I'd leave it at that. Then I felt that I had to at least write something, but that I would not grandstand with my own personal details... Then I thought about the courage it took for you to write your true feelings and I decided it would be worth it to share a little after all.

    Please share your main blog's address. (I haven't read every single comment yet, so maybe you already have.)  I especially liked your term "Death Baby" -- so perfect a description of that terrible feeling.

    Take care of yourself---

  •  I'm bi-polar too- (4+ / 0-)

    It hit me when I went back to school, a single mom with not enough money. I got through undergrad through sheer force of will but had a breakdown in grad school and flunked out. I'm on disability now and semi-stable, but miserable. Been on every available drug and then some. The lithium has packed on dozens of pounds and the rest of my body is suffering. Count every moment you have as an incalculable gift. Life is a miracle.

    "It is our choices Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." -Albus Dumbledore ~~~~~~~~~

    by Lainie on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 11:17:56 PM PDT

  •  I deal with similar things. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NHandler, flumptytail, kyril

    When the bailout proposal got pushed through, the Democrats added a provision that gave equal weight to psychiatric treatment as to medical treatment.  When I read that I cried.  I spent most of the 90's with awesome insurance but I would wind up paying $400 a month out-of-pocket for psych meds and would be entitled to one doctor visit a month.  I paid for this instead of eating a lot of the time.  What I needed was affordable medication and psychotherapy.  When I lost that insurance, I almost wound up a ward of the state of Texas.  I had to work very hard to get to where I can afford meds again.  I work for myself, have no insurance whatsoever, and truthfully need much better treatment.

    If I were to go back corporate, it makes me happy to know that I will not be second class in my coverage anymore (or so I hope).

    I used to be a prolific poet.  I ran open mics and writearounds and workshops.  When I started lithium I lost it completely and never got it back.  I still have the tremors sometimes after years off of it.  I became so miserable that I had to do something, but in the process I lost my spark to create things.  Sex is kind of a distant mystery nowadays.  But hey I'm stable.

    The worst part about mental illness is the understanding of what you lose and what you have to lose to get better.  There is no way out to win completely.  You cannot "think your way through it".  You get to view yourself as several versions of yourself for the rest of your life.  You wind up blocking out years.  

    Where I used to be a social person, I can now count my friends on one hand.  I am not dour, but I am so cautious.  I question my abilities regularly.  I avoid people in general.

    I'm glad you are feeling better, Jason.  I wish you the best of everything.  I'm OK, too.  I can't wait to be taken seriously.  It seems like it may happen.

    •  I am not really sure (0+ / 0-)

      what the parity part of the bailout bill will mean for people but I know that people that advocate for people with mental illness are celebrating it.  The medical insurance issues so piss me off and the price of the meds are riduculous.  

      S.I.B.S. Supporting Illinois Brothers and Sisters

      by NHandler on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 04:22:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  My brother is severely bipolar... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    flumptytail, kyril

    The first time anyone knew it was after he'd attempted suicide.  We still struggle every day with his irrational anger, his self-consciousness, his many tics and paranoias and inability to find the right medications.

    I will never be able to fathom the lives people like you and my brother have.  Even though I cannot, it still creates an incredible sadness within me.

    But I'm thankful of the things that give me (and him) hope.  I'm thankful for those positive moments you chose to share.


    "If we don't change direction soon, we'll end up where we're going." - Professor Irwin Corey (1914 - )

    by CaelanAegana on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 12:32:13 AM PDT

  •  Thank you very much for sharing! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Today, my husband and I spent the day attempting to convince our 24 year old son that he needs to get medical help.  His biological mother was schizophrenic and in the last few months his behavior has clearly shown all the signs.  For the first time, his behavior brought the attention of the police and we are clearly at a crossroads.  We failed to get him the help he needs today, but we will continue to try.  Your diary is such a help and comfort to us - your life and our son's life are so precious - after a day like today we need that reminder!

    You have a wonderful gift for writing - thank you so much again!

  •  great diary Jason (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    my brother has a mental illness and has struggled with some of the medications. He often seems so spaced out but he can't survive off the meds.  I am glad you are feeling better and thanks so much for sharing your story.

    S.I.B.S. Supporting Illinois Brothers and Sisters

    by NHandler on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 04:02:20 AM PDT

  •  NAMI (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mae, Margfh

    The National Alliance for Mental Illness may be a resource that would be helpful.  Alot depends on the closest chapter since they can be quite different.  In Chicago my husband and I took the 12 week family to family class and it was so helpful.  Check out the national website if you have not seen it yet. It has support for people with mental illness and their families.

    S.I.B.S. Supporting Illinois Brothers and Sisters

    by NHandler on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 04:27:47 AM PDT

  •  Bless you, Jason (0+ / 0-)

    I will be thinking of you.  

    "Republicans are poor losers and worse winners." - My grandmother, sometime in the early 1960s

    by escapee on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 05:08:19 AM PDT

  •  The only thing "mental" about it... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kyril, Anti Fanatic, Donna O

    Jason, never have I seen it so well expressed what it's like to live with a chronic "mental" illness like we do. (IMHO, the only thing "mental" about it is how much mental energy it takes to stay stable.) I'd send your beautifully written, super-effective second-person account (along with HowieBeale's comment) to my Obama team leader if I didn't feel like it would be me making yet another excuse for why I keep letting her down in the GOTV effort. But now I forgive myself.

    "Death Baby"--that is EXACTLY it. And the incalculable loss of the ability to read and fly on the wings of words.

    What is hard to convey to people is how hard it is for many of us to "stay stable" not only because of our illness but because we have to also navigate a medical and "mental health" system with pharmaceutical reps crawling in its innards like maggots and the prejudices against "mentally ill" people affecting others' judgments of us.

    I became permanently disabled for my depression in 1999. Until then I, too, was highly educated despite the constant battles with my illness; wrote poetry and books and won awards; went back to university for a BSW and MSW, and later completed MDiv and DDivs, positioning myself to try to help others who were suffering like I was; crashed and burned and, finally too old and tired to be able to get back up again, had to hunker down and take care of only myself.

    My primary care doctor recently told me, when I presented with debilitating side effects from six weeks on Lipitor, that I was "depressed!" That I could not manage my own depression and needed to see a psychiatrist. (I've told you, lady, I've been there done that a zillion times, mostly to my detriment, and the only one worth a damn in the lot helped me find the best long-term regimen for me.) She refused to regard me with anything but contempt, as a waste of her time, a person permanently disabled for depression who could not possibly have just cause for being taken off yet another expensive, all-the-rage, drug-pusher's designer medicine that has put me into a tailspin yet again.

    But we learn how to read the PDR, don't we? And how to research meds and their side effects and how different meds can interact badly and make us not only unstable but very sick. We know what the words "contraindicated" and "iatrogenic" mean. We learn how to listen to our bodies and step out of ourselves to observe how we're doing every single minute of every day. You can tell we have developed strong support systems because we're still alive. We know we can't do it by ourselves! We are creative in finding ways to keep ourselves going, and maybe we get to the point that we have compassion for ourselves for the days we can't get out of bed or tear ourselves away from the computer that somehow helps keep us floating on the surface, occasionally feeling a fish tickling at our toes. And laughing!

    Although we sometimes forget it, we are not "broken"; we are fucking STRONG. You have to be strong and damned determined to survive the illness and all the bullshit you have to go through navigating the "mental health" [COUGH, GAG] system.

    So this Internal Med doc who spends MAYBE one whole minute with me each visit gives me a referral to a psychiatrist. (Fortunately, on one of those visits, I'd gotten her to write me a year-long refillable script for Prozac.) She has just told me that it would take her three weeks to read the debilitating symptoms brought on by the Lipitor that I've taken the time to summarize for her in succint, bulleted form on a third of a page; she refuses to waste her time reading it, but she knows for sure that the Lipitor is not my problem. That's when I know for sure that I cannot trust her ever again. Before she flies out the door, she tries to put me on another expensive designer drug on top of the Lipitor, but I refuse to take the script. My anger at being so dismissed and my time and money so wasted threatens to make me cry, but fortunately she's gone before she sees it. "Good riddance, bitch," I am thinking. "Your ass is not going to get another dime out of me." (Normally I'm not like this. But anger is one of the mightiest tools in a depressive person's arsenal. When you can no longer muster some righteous indignation, you know you've slipped too far down into the black pit of doom.)

    Her nurse does see the tears. She tells me that, well, the psychiatrist is a really busy man and I probably won't be able to get in to see him for three or four months, but not to worry: he's got physician's assistants who can get me in right away and try me on some other meds. To which I'm thinking "NO FUCKING WAY!"--like I'm going to go to one of those shrink ranches again where someone with little understanding of what they are treating destabilizes me with the latest minimally tested but highly profitable drug (like the Cymbalta they put me on last year that almost killed me) and then I have to spend a year or more recovering and getting myself back to a bearable steady state? I don't think so.

    I stopped taking that Lipitor and, lo!, I was back to my best-case baseline dysthymia within a few days and vowed not to go back to the doctor unless I was on the verge of death. (Which I soon was, over a very infected abscessed tooth, but that's another story. At which time the nurse told me they were dumping my doctor and I'd be getting another one; that lots of patients had complained about her. As sick as I was at the time, I laughed out loud from happiness!)

    Now, I'd told this particular doctor before that I've had five years of intense and excellent psychotherapy of my own plus worked professionally for three years as a trauma therapist working with some really sick veterans to help them manage various depressive and anxiety disorders and PTSD; I read up on the many drugs they were prescribed and worked with their doctors when adjustments were clearly needed. (I also knew the whole non-drug bag of tricks, but I didn't tell her that. She would have been too threatened.) I'd conveyed to this doctor that, over the years, my own shrink and I worked out what works for me unless some incompetent, self-important "doctor" who's in the wrong profession (I didn't say that) starts fucking around with it:

    Prozac 20 mg/day unless and until, as Jason put it so well, "Suicide seems like a good thing to think about."

    Up it to 40 mg/day and let family know I've been feeling depressed, which is code for "watch me and make sure I don't get worse." (Since my last hospitalization in 1999, this has been sufficient; I have not gone over the edge even once.)

    When my muscles start seizing up at night and I wake up clenched like a fist all over, I drop back down to 20 mg. (This may happen after a month or after three months. It is my sign that I should drop the dose back down.) I don't let family know I'm feeling better until they notice it themselves, so they won't stop watching to be sure I'm going to be okay as I transition to the lower dose.

    A few months out of the year, when I am feeling as well as can be expected, I go off the Prozac entirely, then go back on the 20 mg dose. This keeps the Prozac effective over the years. I have learned that, if taken constantly, it will cease to be effective. That one good psychiatrist, who lives in another state now, approves of this regimen.

    Doctors need to give us some credit. People who suffer a lifetime with these illnesses and have been through the ringer with finding what treatments work relatively well both in the short term AND over time know better than anyone how to manage their illness. They need a doctor (shrink or PC) who they can trust to help them obtain their meds and also hear them when they say they know they are losing the current BATTLE (not war) and need intervention--not this simplistic, dismissive, authoritarian drug-model shit.

    Anyway, pardon my fringe....

    Speaking for those of us who have lived with depressive illness our whole lives, if we weren't this tuned in to our illness, if we did not so strongly choose life that we're determined to survive no matter how bad it feels and expend all the energy we have if it takes it to do just that, we'd be long dead. We learn to be exquisitely sensitive to the signs leading up to that "beyond the point of no return" suicidality (or mania, except I don't experience that). We know that our illness is tricky and complex and that a whole hell of a lot more is involved with managing it than a $400 doctor's minute and taking whatever drug some pharmaceutical rep with his/her kickbacks is pushing this month.

    And sometimes, yes, things are illuminated, and life is very, very beautiful and worth living for.

    •  WOw (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      THis is a super response. You are hell on wheels--a tough cookie. I hope you stick with the meds--they really do help. I'll be re-reading your comment over and over again

    •  Great post! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dkistner, kyril

      I'm a bi-polar with schizo aspects.  I was VERY fortunate that a friend with a bi-polar sister really tipped me to my diagnosis and found me a doctor who specialized in it - at really GOOD doctor.  I've never found another as good.  But, my first good doctor worked with me to get the meds adjusted, worked on how I could increase/decrease to adjust to what happened, etc.  When I moved to another state, she warned me not to let a new doctor mess with what we had worked so hard to stabilize.  And I believed her.  I have my range of up and down on meds as well, though never completely off.  I vary the Depokote and Seroquel as needed to cope and not be completely zombied - I risk an episode rather than be a zombie, then up the dosage when the signs of trouble hit.

      Great post.  Great description of the ride.

      Distrust all unreasoning fanatics - even those who agree with you

      by Anti Fanatic on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:26:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for the insight. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities" -- Voltaire

    by ohwilleke on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:08:57 AM PDT

  •  Been depressed since I was a child. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Intervening events haven't helped. At this point in my relatively young life, I'm already certain that analysis doesn't help, homeopathy doesn't help, and none of the drugs on the legal market help.

    At this point, what you describe as a death-impulse is such a core part of my personality that it can't be extricated. Anger and doubt are now my value to humanity, my best talents and only purpose. Even my music is ultimately bankrupted by the unappealing character of its maker. All I have is the anger, the doubt, and the inevitability of the Fight.

    If I didn't have the Fight to look forward to, I'd kill myself tomorrow. Hi y'all.

    •  Hang in there (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Joseph Hale, kyril

      I can't stress enough how important medication is!!!! And I have had my share of bad experiences..still struggling with Lithium. But it does give you a little bit of life and strength to go on. Pour all that anger in your music. You're probably quite brilliant. Please don't think of suicide. LIve..even if you make other people's lives hell

      •  They had me on Zoloft for a year. (0+ / 0-)

        By the end of it, I had to reteach myself basic things about melody. The real reason I stopped was, I couldn't afford the psychiatrist visits to get the prescriptions anymore. Still, six months off the drug before I could come up with any work that wasn't total shit.

        Anything further that I say will feel like self-pity, so I'll leave off there.

        •  Joseph, have you tried EFT? (0+ / 0-)

          I'm with you pretty much on the drugs. But I know I have to take a small dose of Prozac or I'm going to go downhill and fall apart.

          I've been depressed since hitting puberty. Maybe before, but I don't much remember my childhood. I can remember being happy sometimes, though.

          Give EFT a chance. It's free, easy, and does seem to have excellent results IF you do it. Better than EMDR, and one session of EMDR was extremely effective for me. It works neurologically, apparently. Lots of research you can read.

          Go to and get download the free information. Also sign up for the newsletter, because it includes links every week to techniques being used by EFT practitioners. You don't have to buy the DVD training unless you just want to. In fact, you can post on Craig's List or Freecycle asking if anyone has EFT DVDs that they'd let you copy. Gary Craig says the DVDs can be copied and disseminated up to 100 times, so it's a legal copy.

          I wish more veterans would find out about this. It is extremely effective with PTSD. It's not voodoo, either. It works. Of all the techniques I trained in or observed when I was a trauma therapist (hypnosis, EMDR, etc.), I consider EFT to be the most effective. Considering you can do it yourself at no cost and don't have to go pay somebody to do it for you (as with EMDR), it just can't be beat.

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