Sunday, February 10, 2013

I Really Am Bipolar

I have been officially bipolar since 1978, when I was correctly diagnosed after three years of hell.  First they got me settled down with lithium and stellazine, and I don't know what else; then someone confirmed the diagnosis; you are bipolar when your condition stabilizes on lithium.  I was so relieved that I immediately accepted the diagnosis.  From there on I let psychiatrists push psychotropics on me to such a degree that I lived like a sane person, got jobs, got into a good marriage, went to grad school and got a PhD, and realized that being a college professor was not a dream, but a nightmare.  My life felt tinted gray, but they weren't the worst years of my life.

But I digress.  That's one feature of hypermania.

Still, after all these years I don't think I quite realized what it meant to be stuck with bipolar.  This truth has been forcing its way in since that meeting last Tuesday in which the shrink he said he couldn't do a thing for me.  At the moment, I am sleeping okay.  The moodswings are another story.  The regular cycling of up/down days that Seroquel had damped has returned.

Meanwhile, life goes on.  On the heels of Tom's last fall, we are in the process of figuring out when and how to move to the retirement home we like.  At first we thought I would go there into a one-bedroom, where I might have a stress-free life while Tom stayed in the house and got some things done (and didn't fall down again).  But our financial counselor nixed that - just too expensive month by month.  By that time, though, I had chosen the colors for my beautiful little one bedroom.  (They paint for you.)  And just last week I got to see them on the walls.  Here is the living room -
 I chose those colors from a favorite still life with apples.  The windowsill is not purple, but brown, and the coral is really that bright.  It seems much brighter than it did on an apple and a little paint sample.  The yellow is pretty yellow, too.  I wanted the living room to be warm and stimulating. 
Above is a view of the living room from the bedroom.  Fortunately, I was inspired to choose the bedroom colors by a serene mountain scene.  That's a kind of French blue, not too vibrant, and the window wall is the faintest blush pink.  Actually, this room is a little bright too, in daylight, but feels overall serene and pretty.

The bathroom turned out perfect though.  The aqua is well-represented in the photo to the right.  I might go for that in the next place.

Here's my point:  When the admissions officer opened the door to that warm, really warm coral and yellow, I thought, "You can tell these colors were ordered by a manic."  It was one of those small experiences that keep coming along; some people call that gradual enlightenment.

As realizations do, that truth has been soaking in.  When I feel real good, confident, joyful, that can be hypermania.  It can lead to poor decisions.  I have been revisiting memories of extravagant purchases, of spontaneous travel.  And from the depressed side I remember raising my voice at someone who was just trying to help, and saying too much in another situation.  These things are called "inappropriate behavior" in the psych wards.

 I really am bipolar.

I really am stuck with this self and its chemical swings. Whether bipolar is a disorder or a chronic illness it's hard to live with.  And I think it's true, there's no mood-stabilizer I can take.  So I need to take seriously the problem of life style, how to live well enough on up days and down days.  Getting through hypermania has challenges, but is somehow more manageable than depression.  And a depression is probably coming tomorrow.  We'll see. Sun-faced Buddha, moon-faced Buddha.


  1. would you like some color help? I do color consulting.
    I would make the upper crown moulding always make it ceiling "lift up" ie...heaven. If you need help with the bedroom let me know.
    When it doubt...squint at the you are trying to compose a painting.

    1. Thank you! I see your point about the crown molding. That apartment was old and had original dark woodwork, and I guessed there would be no painting that.

      And squint. A drawing teacher told us that, too - back up and squint at it.

  2. Dalai Grandma, behold my gadgetry.

    I don't have a gadget for bipolar disorder. But, i do have one for your e-mail. Only took me 3 years to figure out what you were saying.

    What comes up for me when I read your post is where is the bipolar in me? I'm just thinking about Sunday, when I ran from the monastery and bought a beef wellington and a beer. What that hypermania? (I make about 75 dollars a month, and usually hold fast.) Or was it my tax return? Or was it chest expanding experience I had with my practice leader, Meiya?

    I wonder if we can experience little spikes of what you are talking about, acknowledge them so you don't feel so isolated but refrain from crossing the line of ally? I can't possibly understand your experience. But I welcome it and I'll be generous to it.

    And I love your life. Before I visited your blog, I almost threw up in my mouth about another blog that was going on about her personal attainment. What a disservice, I thought! But to come here and be met with open hearted bloodletting is what I think emptiness my appear like to a guy a like me.

    Deep bow,
    Kogen, your friend Austin, your little flying pig.

    P.S Zen center is building a contemplative care (barf?) retirement home here in California. Should be done in 5 years. It will be big. It will be beautiful. There will be a Zendo, open to all types of Buddhists. There will be a garden, there will be priests and classes, and there will be about 20 of our own senior monks (70 and up) who need that place, as our mountain, farm, and city centers can be really intense in climate. I have no idea what it will cost, but I can ask. Just a thought.

    1. I so know what you mean about people bragging about how spiritually advanced and happy they are. I left the Aging as a Spiritual Practice group because of that - it was being used to affirm ego. And woe betide you if you showed an imperfection; people would be quick to Teach you.

      In an earlier post I tried to speak to how I'm just human and everyone knows excitement and despair. But then they took me of Seroquel and I started rethinking that. I often think how we are each unique, and so is every oak leaf, yet in the same identifiable pattern.

  3. but do the colours make you feel good now? I'm always drawn to cool, pale colours, and especially blue, but someone else might look at your bright flower room, and think that's where it's at. And besides, it just needs some art! You know you'd pick something good.

    1. Karen, they make me smile. It sounds like you are in touch with what you need. Cool, pale colors are good for high-fire people, which you seem like to me - creative, expressive, emotional. I was going to get a big print or poster of that beloved still life by Cezanne from which I picked the colors. That would cover some of that stunning coral.