Awareness and Education    

 “With every small act, you can build momentum to move out of bipolar depression,” Robin Flanigan bp Magazine: Hope and Harmony For People with Bipolar 

This is my small act today to move out of my dip. There are some general misconceptions about bipolar that unfortunately I, one who has the illness, buy into when depressed. The best course of action for myself is awareness and education.

Self-Awarness: This is the key to managing symptoms. Although during a depressive episode it’s a key which often opens a pandora box of self-doubt. So let’s bust some doubt-causing misconceptions with the facts:

I do not spend weeks awake, spend loads of money, or go “postal” on people. Some symptoms of bipolar I mania are decreased need for sleep, reckless behavior, and heightened mood. Truth: Studies found that people with bipolar spend far more time in depressive states than elevated. Depression to mania ratio in bipolar I is 3:1. Meaning, 3 more depressive episodes to every one manic episode.

“But Violet,” I tell myself, “You only have bipolar II so this is less serious.” False: Instead of mania I suffer from hypomania,“a milder form of mania.” Even by definition it sounds like hypomania is far more preferable than mania.

And in many ways it is, but it’s what I call my “Wonder Woman” period, but I am entirely unaware that I’m acting superhuman. Observers often (as I’ve personally have been told by friends) admire the qualities I show during hypomanic periods. I’m highly capable of multitasking and taking on many projects. I convey a general sense of happiness; even if there are external difficulties the glass is always “half full.” I’m able to work, be social, engage in life to the fullest.

How is that any different than being a “go getter American”? 

Because the hypomania period is usually just a week or two,and by the end my mental activity is off the charts. I want more work responsibility but can’t concentrate on a single task. My speech, thoughts and ideas race around in a million different directions. This type of mania deceives me because  I’m on medications, sleep well, get things done. It feels pretty awesome and I feel totally in control until perhaps the last day of this “up cycle.”

“That sounds wonderful, Violet, sign me up for hypomania!”

In bipolar II the ratio of time spent in a depressive state to hypo manic is 40:1. That means for every 40 dips I get ONE Wonder Woman cycle.

Presently I am in a major depressive episode. This generally happens to me after a hypomanic state. Good news: I only get this chemically down after a hypomanic state, and hypomanic states do not happen very often.

“Just get off the couch and turn those lemons into lemonade.”

That’s the worst misconception of all. Because, you see, there are no lemons. Everything in my life is great. This is what frustrates me the most, but also brings out the truth of my disease. I have a chemical imbalance, a disease that is separate from my reality. I am having a depressive episode, and am aware that I need to practice self-care.

I have to have the awareness to practice “good enough.” I don’t have to go all “just do it” in regards to moving out of this depressive state. For example, I didn’t have the energy to shower yesterday but knew I needed to go see my therapist. A few years ago that would have been enough of a stressor to cancel the appointment.

But I took a wet wash cloth & cleaned myself up. I even brushed my teeth and concealed my greasy hair with a hat! Winning! As long as I take these”good enough” steps and stay out of guilt and judgement. As long as I am aware that I am in a chemical state of depression and remember I can be happy, the small acts will move me out of this bipolar depression.

Sunday Sobriety Song – Day by Day

Mike Doughty is a musician in long term recovery. When I was first in recovery, I could not get enough of listening to him, and did not even know he was “like me”- not until the release of his memoir, Book of Drugs.

I also finally watched The Anonymous People this week, which I highly recommend for anyone in recovery or who advocates recovery.

A Beautiful Mind with Tits: In Memoriam, Jennifer Ellen Devich

  This is something I wrote four years ago in response to the death of my best friend. We had been friends off-and-on for 10 years. We both battled our mental health and addiction demons, and became incredibly close when we went through treatment together five years ago. I want to turn this into a personal essay but I can’t: it’s a time capsule of love and loss in early sobriety. She died on my old sobriety date, and although I wish I had not relapsed for four months two years ago, I am glad I have a new sobriety date. If I had not relapsed, I would be celebrating 5 years of sobriety today, and grieving her death four years ago. I try to keep in touch with her daughter, who now has a daughter of her own, but I am terribly human at it. But having a selfish day of suffering from the should-of, would-of, could-of’s will not bring JED back, however I can try to stay better connected with her daughter in the future.

A Beautiful Mind with Tits

I’m so sad and still wrapping my head around your loss. I am so blessed to have had you in my life. You were my closest friend this year. I hope you knew that. I got a year Jed! You should be fucking celebrating with me ~ with a Diet Coke. I have a roll of quarters; we could be at “The Big L” right now, raiding the pop machine, ensuring that there are no Diet Cokes left for the rest of the residents. And clear out the Reese’s Peanut Butter cups as well. I hope you know how much you meant to me. I wish you had called me one last time. You would not have been a burden. Here are some random memories of you from the past year:

  • When you arrived at “The Big L”: I looked up from my lunch and said “Jenn?” You were so happy to see me. I was hesitant about seeing you. You said “You know me as Jed, PURPLE!” Then would get pissed at anyone who did not call you Jed: “It’s Jennifer Ellen Devich ~ JED!!”
  • We talked about this so I have no problem posting it, but you had scared me for years prior to our time together in rehab. I was so afraid of being friends with you. Even though we hung-out off & on for the past ten years, I had always kept you at a distance. So I didn’t want you in my group, on my floor, or eating meals with me at my table.
  • But JED, you were a force that pulled me in. I am so glad we were in my group, on my floor, and followed me around like a puppy. And I got to know YOU; you let down all those walls you’d been hiding behind for so long!
  • Remember when we ordered out of The Victoria Secret’s catalog in rehab? Remember how scarred I was because I was sure it was against the rules? BTW, you never gave me my underwear.
  •  You’re constant, questioning, “Who DOES that?” Especially when I told you I was moving to Rochester.
  • After wanting to keep you at a distance, you and I manipulated our way into being roommates.
  • We both had chicks at “The Big L” that threatened to beat us up
  • You helped me when I entered that horrible halfway house. When I told you they took my crayons away you said “Why? Are they the new gateway drug?”
  • I helped you when you needed to flee your horrible halfway house.
  • Going to see The Flaming Lips together last September. You laughed when I gave “bubble Wayne” a kiss through the plastic.
  • One of our last conversations, you were so proud because you had an IQ test taken, which of course proved your brilliance. You proclaimed, “Who knew! I’m a “Beautiful Mind with Tits!”
  • It was you who I had present me with my graduation certificate. You gave the most wonderful, heartfelt speech. No one had (or will) said (say) such wonderful things about me. We cried in each others’ arms. I will always have this memory. I know how much you loved me.

Fanny Cancer Fear Tsunami

I fear fanny cancer. Fanny is English slang for vagina and sounds less anatomical than the V-word , and less insulting than pussy or cunt.  Cancer……well I can’t think of any funny slang for that disease, and putting fanny before it does not take away the fear.

This fear is a tsunami, which runs deep and long in my emotional waves, surfacing again and again as an overwhelming sense of dread crashing the calm surface of gratitude I so desperately want intact.

The cause of this particular fear tsunami happened 25 years ago with the earthquake/landslide/ volcanic emotional eruption that was my mother’s death.  She died suddenly at age 52, when I was 17, of uterine or cervical cancer. I do not know which one because my dad did not keep track of such things. He’s very academic, and theoretically she died because the cancer spread plaguing her inner surfaces.

She died on Father’s Day, approximately two weeks after she was diagnosed. She did not take care of her health, was my understanding of the situation. She had a fear of doctors, I remember family members telling me at the time.

It was a blessing and a curse. Losing a mother is extremely emotional at any age. At 17 the loss was unbearable at times, but I lost a depressed, alcoholic mother who I never thought loved me, except that one time she soberly told me so on her death bed.

Blame is an easy reaction to life events when you are 17. I blamed the doctors for not catching my mom’s cancer sooner. I blamed my mom for not receiving health care sooner. Their timing was all off, and consequently my mom died.

As I got older this blame turned to shame. I became an alcoholic myself because I did not want to feel. Shame on me.  I would occasionally get physicals and pap smears performed, but after one bad biopsy experience didn’t follow-up on the bad paps.  Shame.

Shame damned-up my emotions. Slowly I’d let the emotions flow when I found sobriety.  Then an ego-based tidal wave of fear would rip my sobriety away. This time after six months of sobriety, I faced the fanny cancer fear and had a pap smear done. It came up negative. I let nearly two years pass before following up.

The fanny cancer fear tsunami washed away my calm surface after I finally saw a gynecologist, got a colposcopy done and four biopsies. Four minuscule pieces of my cervix that were once intact and then sat in separate petri dishes in some lab.

“Two years too late?,” I asked myself as waves of tears surfaced, again and again over a week’s wait. The lapse of time it took for me to get the procedure done was illogical, which I told myself again and again. New shame surfacing its ugly unproductive head, spiraling my emotions, wreaking havoc on my serenity surface.

Calm came again with the results, which proved I was fanny cancer free. My feet are again planted firmly in the sand, faced forward, away from the tide.  I will let my feet get wet with the passing tides of emotion as I maintain my two plus years of sobriety, but for now the tsunami of fear has ceased.

Our Home

Bass and I  are actually away for the weekend visiting  his mother in the middle  of Wisconsin. So instead of posting a sobriety  song (which I’ve failed  to do for a month) I’ll post pics of our place in a small Southeastern  Minnesota  town.

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We live in the bottom  half.

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Beginnings  of a home.

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Basses and musical things.

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Tech boards make me hot.

Sunday Sobriety Song and Moving Up and Out

With the onslaught of freelance writing work, I have a fear that I will post even less (if that’s even possible) on the blog. So each Sunday I will post a song that either speaks directly to sobriety, addiction or moving positively forward. And on the subject of moving, Bass and I are making a home together.

Yes, I know it’s super quick but it’s just happened this way for three important reasons:

  1. Bass needed to move into a new place first of February.
  2. I need to move into a place by March, and would have to live with a roommate because my income is tiny.
  3. Life is short. Love is infinate. When you feel it, give it. When you receive it, unconditionally, it is a blessing. Accept it. A good relationship is a very precious; don’t waste your life if you know its right.

But I’m also cautious so here are the steps in place in case things go astray, although hate to put this out into the Universe. This is the healthiest relationship I have ever been in, but I also want my readers, friends and family to know I have thought this through.

  1. The lease is month-to-month.
  2. Bass can afford the place on his own.
  3. I know women with whom I can live. I would have to find more income sources, though.

I’ll post pictures of our new place in another post this week. Also, the name of the blog will be changed to reflect the changes in my life. Now, here’s your Sunday Sobriety Song:

Med City Write Now (but I don’t want to).

I’m sitting on a red velvet couch, in dim lighting, at our collaborative artists’ salon. Every Monday we have our writing group. I’ve missed the last two weeks primarily because it’s cold and dark now at night and I do not want to leave the coziness of my room.

Even though I only see these people once a week (unless I participate in other salon events) these are my peeps. We sit, we write, we share. It’s a social introverts dream; socialization in silence. A time to write alone with others.

We begin with a prompt. Some days we write on this subject, then pass our work to the right every five minutes; each writer beginning where the last left off. I  love these communal works of fiction.Today we did a short prompt followed by 45 minutes to work on our own stuff. We are a diverse group; a film writer, a poet, sci-fi writers, the undefined, and I, the blogger.

Before group tonight I was at home daydreaming about Bass and not wanting to post anything on my  blog. But here I am, on a comfy couch, in total silence, writing for you. Well, not total silence; just heard the helicopter bring some poor soul to med city central.

Our prompt tonight  was “A Superhero whose power is only activated when he/she is drunk.” We had 15 minutes to write. My story is about a criminal  defense attorney, who is a non-drinking Mormon, discovering she can read minds after drinking a Long Island Ice Tea. Fifteen minutes is not long enough to write fiction, or even flesh out a concept, but it gets you writing. For this girl who did not want to blog today, that short work of fiction with this group of writing misfits inspired a necessary November post (NaBloPoMo).