I’m in Trouble…..

I was browsing this morning through selections at my local bookstore and I came across a new book by author Annalee Newitz. As I stared at the title, all I could think was,

“I’m in trouble. Serious trouble”.

The book is about “How humans will survive a mass extinction”. But there is a word in the title that will prohibit me from surviving any such thing, because the title alludes that I will have to rely on my memory to do so. For those of you who have also gone through ECT, you’ll know why:

The name of the book is,
“Scatter, Adapt and REMEMBER”.

I’m so screwed.

Who needs help?

I’ve previously shared on this site a few quotes from a woman named Glennon Doyle Melton, founder of “Momastery” and author of “Carry On, Warrior”.  I found one more I’d like to pass along:

“People who need help sometimes look a lot like people who don’t need help”

I think we all have pre-formed images in our minds of what a “helpless” person looks like.  I honestly believe that many people might view me as someone who is fairly put together – in fact, when I’ve confessed my bipolar to people, I often hear, “Really?  I never would have guessed!  You seem so “with it”!”  But, in fact, I’m far from “with it”.  I’m an internal wreck.  I put on a happy face and push myself through my days, hoping to make it to the end of the night without losing myself in my illness, my misery, my dread and fear of what my future holds.  I do it for my kids, because it kills me for them to see me not operating at full capacity.  They need stability and reliability in a mother, and I wear a mask all day that tells the world how together I am, that assures my kids that I can be a good mother.  They know I’m sick, but they also believe I can do everything, and they know that I will will do anything for them.  In truth, I can barely help myself, which leads me to wonder how I’m every going to effectively help them?

When I crawl into bed at night, after my kids are safely tucked in, I lay awake lonely and scared, wondering how I’m every going to get through the next day.  I psyche myself up, hoping to convince myself that if I can get through today, I can get through tomorrow.  It works – sometimes.

But ask for help?  Forget it.  Never.  I publish this post anonymously because I don’t want people I know to find out I’m barely getting by.  I don’t want anyone to learn that I am scraping by mentally.  Would I love for someone to reach out and offer help?  You betcha.  But how will they ever know unless I ask for it?  Because I don’t look like the kind of person who matches the image of someone society pictures as needing help.  So nobody offers.

It’s my own fault.  Don’t ask, don’t tell.  I’m not ashamed of the stigma attached to bipolar.  I’ve rambled on and on to people about bipolar and how important it is to have awareness of mental illnesses.  But not unless I’m asked.  Which brings me back to my original point:  nobody is going to ask because I don’t look like I need help.  Lots of people in my town know I am bipolar.  They just don’t know I suffer from it.  See the difference?

If you have a friend or acquaintance living with mental illness, please reach out.  Ask if you can help.  Chances are, she’s dying to talk to someone.  She’s desperate to be offered assistance, or even just a shoulder to cry on.  But she’s not going to ask.  Not ever.  Believe me, I know.

“Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder”

For those of you who have been following my blog regularly, you will already know that my husband and I are separated.  He simply could not live with the person who I had become when my bipolar disorder became severe and I was refusing help.  He could not forgive me my indiscretions and disrespectful behavior; if he did eventually forgive, it is the forgetting he is unable to do.

I’m wondering what it’s like for other couples dealing with bipolar.  Do we all end up separated and divorced?  Is there a love out there so strong that it binds a family, regardless of illness?  Regardless of behavior?  Are there bipolar couples who get to work together on staying in love and building trust?

I often refer back to a book that I’ve read cover to cover a couple of times.  It is a book a therapist recommended for my husband when I was first diagnosed, and it sat on his nightstand for a couple of years, well leafed-through and well-read.  It made me feel happy and loved to know that he wanted to read it, that he was interested in helping me.  I used to sneak it from his table and flip through the chapters myself, wondering what it was telling him to do, what advice it was giving him.  The name of the book is, “Loving Someone With Bipolar Disease”.

It’s a great book, but it didn’t work.  At least not for me.

The book really is a fabulous resource for family members of those suffering from bipolar disorder.  It introduces the reader to the facts regarding bipolar, how to identify triggers, what therapies are available, how the disorder can affect work and money, and most importantly it coaches the partner on how to take charge of the relationship and remain a couple.

It is my belief that my husband got as far as chapter fourteen:  “The Hard Truths about Bipolar Disorder”, and it was just too much.  The subchapters include, “The Past Hurts”, “Acceptance and Loss”, and “Letting Go”.  The following is an excerpt from “Letting Go”:

“There comes a time when there is just too much to handle, and you just have to let it go.  If you want to stay with your partner, you will have to let go of what you thought your relationship would or should look like.  Try to focus on the present.  Thinking of the past can drain all your energy.  Can you embrace your partner for who they are now?  Not for who you thought they were when you fell in love.  Not for what you think they should be, but as someone with a serious but treatable illness.  To help the new plan work, try to let go of the past and any mistakes, hospital visits, money problems, sexual misconduct, and angry fights it might include.  

But some things can’t be repaired.  Your partner may have committed unforgivable acts when sick.  Their behavior may have hurt you to the bone, yet you’re still here.  But how are you here?  Do you hold past behaviors over your partner’s head?  Or are you able to let go of what happened?  Some things can’t be repaired.  So don’t try.  Forgive, forget, and move on – if you can.  This may be easier said than done, but you can choose to give it a try”.

My husband did not choose to give it a try.  He couldn’t.  He was worn down; exhausted.  He was afraid of living his life in a state of paranoia:  “Can I trust her?  Is she well?  She looks well now, but is it just a matter of time before she slips again?  Do people truly change?”  And to be honest, even though it’s been a year and I know my (in)capabilities, I know how hard I’ve worked to be a better person and I realize my faults and have made huge strides in self-improvement, I don’t blame him for not offering me a second chance.  I sit here alone, day after day, medically well but terribly lonely, watching my beautiful children thrive without the conventions of a traditional family.  And it hurts.  And although I’ve done plenty to change myself, I can do nothing to change him.

He no longer keeps the book on his nightstand.  I don’t know if he threw it away, or used it for kindling, or if it’s hiding among the piles of books he no longer needs but can’t bring himself to throw away.  But I’m pretty sure he never got as far as Chapter 15 before he stopped reading:  “How to Create Laughter and Joy in Your Relationship”.

However, there is a fresh copy of “Loving Someone With Bipolar Disorder” now lying on my nightside table.  It’s not as well-worn, yet, as my husband’s copy, but I’m trying to read a little of it each evening.  Because maybe I am the person who needs to be reading this book now.  Maybe I need to learn to love myself.  Maybe the “someone” in the title is me.

“Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder: Understanding & Helping Your Partner”, written by Julie A. Fast and John D. Preston, PsyD

Maya Angelou on Doing it Better

I just finished reading Glennon Doyle Melton’s book, “Carry On, Warrior”. It’s loaded with great quotes, but my favorite I found near the end.

As written by Maya Angelou:

“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better”.

I LOVE that! And now I also know better. Thank you, Ms. Angelou. And thanks, Glennon, for putting it in a place where I would see it.

“The Missing Year” (as shared from “Momastery”)

My best friend, and fellow fan of “Momastery”, just sent me a link.  She thought I should share it with my husband, from whom I’ve been separated for one year.  One year on Friday, to be exact.  The link is to a story written about a couple who reconciled after one year of having been divorced.  The story is beautiful, and inspires hope for all couples out there who might still share love for each other and just not know how to put back together the pieces.  This story is not meant for me, because in order for this “missing year” concept to work, there has to be love on both sides of the equation.  And my husband no longer loves me.

But I am sharing this story with you, anyway, because it is so lovely.  And I am so envious of the couple who finds their way back to each other after “the missing year”.  I am jealous of the family they get to be again, and I wish with all of my heart I could inject myself into that same story line with exactly the same outcome.  Sadly, I am facing decades of “missing years” for committing a similar crime against my wedding vows.  You see, my beautiful and kind husband has the ability to forgive.  It is the ability to forget that he does not possess.  He simply cannot continue on with me, knowing all of the horrible things I have done over the years.  The years when I was not myself, but bad behavior is still bad behavior and I am unable to convince him otherwise.

I hope you will read this story that I have “borrowed”.  Thank you, “Momastery” and Vanessa Diffenbaugh for bringing me “The Missing Year”.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share with you that there can be hope for many of you out there.  Try to reclaim that love that used to make you a family.  I truly wish that some positive reconciliations can come from having shared this piece of her story.  There is hope for all of you.

Just not for me.

http://momastery.com/blog/2013/04/17/vanessa-diffenbaugh-and-the-missing-year/

May the Force Be With You (with a little “Magic” thrown in)

Princess Leia is bipolar.

I read recently that, in addition to Carrie Fisher’s drug and alcohol addictions, she has also admitted to being bipolar. For those of us who carry this disease as a burden, we all know that addiction is a common “side effect” of manic depression, a way of self-medicating. So I’m not surprised at the Princess’ most recent admission.

But it got me thinking: how many of Hollywood’s other famous celebrities suffer from bipolar and are willing to admit it? I started doing a little research and found a surprisingly long list of names: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Kurt Cobain, Mariel Hemingway (her grandfather, Ernest, famously so), Britney Spears, Patty Duke, Marilyn Monroe, and Axl Rose, to name a few. I also found a few similarities surrounding this group of people.

Let’s start with Ernest Hemingway, Kurt Cobain and Marilyn Monroe. All incredible talents. All who lost their lives presumably to drug overdoses, presumably because the pain of their illness was too much to bear, all before more traditional methods of therapy and assistance were available. Add Vincent Van Gogh to that list, who of course lost his battle to a disease that probably didn’t even have a name during his lifetime.

The next group falls into the “fading celebrity status” list. Catherine Zeta-Jones was popular for a while back in the ’80s and ’90s but it seems as her star status began to dwindle, suddenly she was willing to “come forward” and admit her illness. Do some of these stars use their bipolar as an excuse for not having worked in years? Do they made the public admission to gain a small amount of attention, hoping to use it to work their way back into the spotlight? Actors like Fisher and Duke haven’t seen a spotlight in decades, and Axl Rose faded twenty years ago. Suddenly, it’s ok to admit they have bipolar. But why are they stepping forward now to inform the world of their illness?

Of course, singers like Britney Spears seem to use their illness to excuse their horrific public behavior and whacky antics. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lindsay Lohan was next on the list of celebrities who claim bipolar as an affliction that prevents them from showing up on time to press dates and keeps them from being able to pay their taxes.

As someone with bipolar disorder, I recognize the shame involved and the stigma attached to the disease. It is crippling. And I am guilty of not telling anyone for a long time for those exact reasons. But why are celebrities suddenly stepping forward and “pleading insanity”? Is it for the attention? Is it in an effort to try to regain a little stardom by way of sympathy? Is it a way to say, “Look at me! Here I am! The only reason I haven’t worked in years is because I’m bipolar! But I’m broke and need the money so I’m stepping forward hoping for a resurgence in popularity”.

When you Google “list of celebrities who are bipolar”, the list is very long but it does not contain many names you might have heard of. Lots of authors and poets, lots of artists and public figures from decades ago. But since roughly 1 in 4 adults suffers from some sort of mental illness, many of those bipolar, why isn’t the list longer? Or more updated? Why aren’t there names of more popular celebrities? Are movie stars exempt from having bipolar? Or is that list longer than we think and they just aren’t owning up to their illness?

I think it’s the latter. And I wish that wasn’t the case. Celebrities are in the unique position of having a large public following of people who have such adoration for them that they’d be willing to do just about anything for their favorite star. Celebrities with bipolar could step forward to promote awareness, reduce stigma and help to eliminate the shame that comes with this lifelong affliction. You know they’re out there. Are they afraid to admit they have a mental illness?

I saw on TV recently that Magic Johnson was publicly offering love and support to his openly gay son. He commented that there are no publicly homosexual athletes in professional sports. We know that can’t possibly be true. They have to exist. But those people, too, are afraid to admit their lifestyle for fear of how their teammates or fans would react. I remember when Johnson stepped forward to admit having contracted HIV/AIDS nearly twenty years ago. Since that time, he has lost his basketball career, but he has used his illness to promote awareness and reduce the stigma associated with his disease. He has used his “disadvantage” to the public’s advantage. He has done amazing work raising money and supporting organizations involved with the work being done with HIV/AIDS and in my opinion, he is more of a hero now than he was playing basketball.

I think mentally ill celebrities are also afraid of “coming out” and admitting their illness. I hope those who are making the admission are not stepping forward for the mere purpose of re-igniting a dying career. I hope they are doing it to make an effort to reduce the shame and stigma attached with bipolar disorder. I hope they are doing it to help make a difference. They have a public voice, and they could use it to help make such fantastic and much-needed progress in the world of misunderstood mental illnesses if they would just ‘fess up. Kind of like Magic Johnson. His illness affected his career, but perhaps it changed his life for the better. I’d like to think that he is happier now knowing that he is doing good work for good people.

Princess Leia’s Carrie Fisher has done just that. Sure, her acting career may have faded. But she is responsible for such fabulously “truthful” accounts (disguised as fiction) like “Wishful Drinking”, “Postcards from the Edge” and “The Best Awful”. Ms. Fisher is candid and frank about her disorders and she has stepped forward and is helping to raise awareness.

So listen up, Hollywood. Don’t be afraid. Come forward and make yourselves heard. You may find that the work you do for mental illness is priceless and worth more than that shiny little statue you probably won’t ever win, anyway. Use your public image to promote awareness. You may learn that it’s more rewarding than the red carpet. Who says you can’t be both an actor and an advocate?

May the Force Be With You.

“Everyone has a story to tell”

I’m still reading that new book I quoted yesterday: “Carry On, Warrior” by Glennon Doyle Melton. If you haven’t heard of her, Google her please. She is a woman who battled addiction, eating disorders, depression and several other “life” issues, and one day decided enough was enough. She realized she could not continue on that way and flipped off her old life in favor of moving forward. She started a website called “Momastery” and basically put herself out there for everyone to see, in the hopes that her transparency could help others with similar issues. She is a witty and enjoyable author, and while I’m reading her book, I can almost close my eyes and picture her telling me her story over coffee at the local Starbucks.

Anyway, you may see me quoting her in my posts because she is very truthful and open, and I find myself agreeing with so many of her words. Here’s one paragraph that I think you can all relate to, regardless of what issues you may have:

“If, anywhere in your soul, you feel the desire to write, please write. Write as a gift to yourself and others. Everyone has a story to tell. Writing is not about creating tidy paragraphs that sound lovely or choosing the ‘right’ words. It’s about noticing who you are and noticing life and sharing what you notice. When you write your truth, it is a love offering to the world because it helps us feel braver and less alone……If you feel something calling you to write, please refuse to worry about whether you’re good enough. Just do it. Be generous. Offer a gift to the world that no one else can offer: yourself”.

Everyone has a story to tell. I like that.