Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Disorganized Mind

I am hypomanic, occasionally slipping upwards to anxiety-wracked manic episodes, with what one of the doctors I saw in my recent hospital stay - the first - called a "disorganized mind".

I pounced on the phrase, "Yes! That describes it perfectly!"

My voice was strong, enthusiastic, and I was oh-so-delighted at this utterly brilliant phrase that sparkled with meaning.  Hypomanic glow gives me such appreciation for everything - words, butterscotch pudding, the doctors and nurses.

But that didn't happen until later.

First was the mixed state, the thought fragments that slipped and slid through my consciousness, energy sawing through my body that hurt, the inability to completely understand what was happening because I just couldn't quite manage to put together all the pieces.

I knew what was happening, but I didn't quite know what to do.  I have so effectively trained myself to take so little action when I am manic that I was frozen solid - don't speak, don't move, and for God's sake, do not buy anything. 

I could not bear to look anyone in the eyes, that was the strangest part.  I suddenly understood the symptom where manic's believe they can read minds - people's emotions and thoughts were betrayed by body language so loudly, even as my ability to accurately interpret it was so impaired that I couldn't bear to look.

I could write a huge post about the hospital, but this isn't it.  I'll leave it at - it was good overall, I got a new med, took lots of notes about depression that might be useful at some other time, and left a three page feedback note for the staff pointing out that advice for depressed people doesn't really scale well with manic episodes.  I played along nicely for the most part, set boundaries fairly effectively and came out stabilized - sort of.

So, third week in on my new med.  I'm still too high, too over-reactive, too close to the edge.  This med has seemed to help, but I usually have honeymoons with meds, as my body adjusts.  It's what is happening a month from now that will tell.

Too high, set up for a fall upwards - not downwards.  I had something happen yesterday that triggered me sharply upwards, with jagged edges, panic-not-delight.

I wish for resilience, but can't understand how to make it happen.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Angel, Angel, Burning Bright

There was an angel.
She wasn't a heavenly angel, because she was kind of me, but maybe me-who-I-wanted-to-be, wished-I-was.
She was tall, in that way that mothers are tall, to their children.

I have walked, walk, will walk along a cliff, it is my life.
Pacing me, along the cliff of my life is a dark cloud, a void, a portal to nothing.
The Neverending Story, The Wind In The Door, they described that dark, so I knew I wasn't the only one who saw it, others saw it.
They saw it, they Named it, they fought it.
Artax was lost to it, no matter how loud Atreyu screamed his name.
Sporos, stupid little Sporos, someone gave their life for you (me), because you (I) played too close to the edge and almost fell (don't do that).

That angel was my Meg, my Progo, my Empress (my mother), and she was me.
She brushed the hair from my eyes.
She put her hand on my shoulder.
She was warm, and reminded me that the dark was too cold.
She was cool, and reminded me that the dark was too hot.

Somehow, because of her, I kept turning away.
I'll keep turning away.
But I'll always need her help.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A conversation to save

I invest far too much importance into these strangers
as if one of them saying no to me might result in the
word "reject" being branded on my forehead for
everyone to see

Why do you feel it?  I'm really curious
because you have proof right there that
people love and want you. I'm not downplaying
the fact that you feel it, I just am wondering
where that feeling is coming from

It doesn't transfer from them to me. I can't accept
myself, when I believe that I should be rejected,
that I'm unsafe for people


Because my self-loathing and fear of myself is
internal, externalized love from other people
can't make that go away
It's between me and me
not them and me

I understand

Much, most, of it is about my mother
as I suspect is most of yours
rejection from the day we were born, babe
We've lived under threat to our very survival as
tiny little babies, how could we not?
We learned that that threat to us WAS us
I was unsafe for my mother, I became an unsafe
person to everyone.
When we were born we separated from them,
we had different needs than them, and our
stupid little baby heads didn't understand that
we were supposed to take care of them
When we finally learned that, we were so much
older and the damage was already done
We'd already failed

and we carry that burden and don't know how to
let go of it yet

I was lectured the other day,
he told me I need to let it all go
and that I alone am responsible
for my happiness
Right in the middle of lunch
I felt like crying

That's a very nice sentiment, pop
psych person, (rolling my eyes around,
shooting out sarcasm rainbows) but that's
far more advanced than we're ready for, and
to my mind completely ignores the damage
done to us.  We have a lot we have to do before
we can tackle that lovely concept
Let me know if I project my issues onto you
too much, btw

You are pretty damn spot on

But the first thing that you and I have to do,
being oldest children, having the types of mothers
 we did who witting and unwittingly did their specific
brand of damage - what we have to do is get
to a place where we can even look at the damage
done to our little baby selves, where we were NOT
taken care of FROM THE BEGINNING
Take care of ourselves, wtf?
we don't know how that's done!
It wasn't done for US, so how could we
have learned what that looks like???!!
And then, just maybe, after facing that truth,
we have to wade through ALL of the abandonment,
rage, grief, in an emotional, not just strictly
intellectual way
and JFC if that's not going to be a BITCH

I know
My massive breakdowns in therapy are
just the start for me heh

and only then can we even begin to put
the pieces together to imagine what we
might have wanted, might have needed,
breaking down years of suppression and
repression and oppression, and going
through that grieving process, mourning
that loss
and THEN, working our way toward figuring
 out how to let our adult selves take care of us
so yeah, lol
Make your own damn fucking happiness
that just makes me rage

It's like I want to be sad?


It sounds like it will never get there 

Nah, we will

I've spent the last year blocking myself from
feeling anything just so I can be content
And maintaining those walls, last year, it's
just too fucking hard now

yep, that's actually why we'll succeed, and
probably faster than we expect
Because the thing is - you and me - we grow,
it's who we are. We're crazy strong.
Have you seen that owl picture - the
depression one, beating at it with a stick?

Oh yes

So we're that kind of strong
and smart
And whatever it is about us, our temperaments,
personalities, souls, whatever you want to call it,
we are the kind of people who get there
Take a look at your family... content in their
ignorance, narcissism, bigotry, and look at you
you didn't stay in that
you grew
you fight for yourself and the survival of your soul
and that is why you'll get there and probably
faster than you think

Oh my god

Man, can you imagine us when we've been
able to set down those strength-sucking issues?  lol


That's my take on it.
Pretty sure I'm right about it.
Of course I would.
But I'm still right.

Lol I love you

Love you too. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Lithium, Part One

Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes

         Mar 28 Dr Strauss came to my room tonight to see why I dint come
         in like I was suppose to. I told him I dont like to race with Algernon
         any more. He said I dont have to for a while but I shud come in. He
         had a present for me. I thot it was a little television but it wasnt. He
         said I got to turn it on when I go to sleep. I said your kidding why
         shud I turn it on when Im going to sleep. Who ever herd of a thing
         like that. But he said if I want to get smart I got to do what he says. I
         told him I dint think I was going to get smart and he puts his hand
         on my sholder and said Charlie you dont know it yet but your
         getting smarter all the time. You wont notice for a while. I think he
         was just being nice to make me feel good because I dont look any

"You wont notice for a while."

         June 10 Deterioration progressing. I have become absentminded.
         Algernon died two days ago...
         ...I guess the same thing is or will soon be happening to me. Now
         that it's definite, I don't want it to happen.
            I put Algernon's body in a cheese box and buried him in the
         back yard. I cried.

"I guess the same thing is or will soon be happening to me. Now that it's definite, I don't want it to happen."

         June 21 Why can't I remember? I've got to fight. I lie in bed for
         days and I don't know who or where I am.

         June 30 A week since I dared to write again. It's slipping away like
         sand through my fingers. Most of the books I have are too hard for
         me now. I get angry with them because I know that I read and
         understood them just a few weeks ago.

         July 7 1 don't know where the week went. Todays Sunday I know
         because I can see through my window people going to church. I
         think I stayed in bed all week but I remember Mrs. Flynn bringing
         food to me a few times. I keep saying over and over Ive got to do
         something but then I forget or maybe its just easier not to do what I
         say Im going to do.

         July 28 I did a dumb thing today I forgot I wasnt in Miss Kinnians
         class at the adult center any more like I used to be. I went in and sat
         down in my old seat in the back of the room and she looked at me
         funny... I said hello Miss Kinnian Im redy for my
         lesin today only I lost my reader that we was using. She startid to cry.
         ...everybody looked at me and I saw they
         wasnt the same pepul who used to be in my class.
            Then all of a sudden I remembered some things about the
         operashun and me getting smart...

That progression - from understanding to incomprehension was Lithium for me. 
And yet Charlie was able to speak his truth, sporadically as it sometimes was, and in that sense I envy him. But he had to live with the knowledge that it was irreversible and impending doom, and that is something I do not envy at all.

That round circled pill is to deliberately choose that unnoticeable path from understanding to incomprehension for me. Can you wonder that I might shudder at even the smallest amount, and balk?

Lithium, Part Two

My inner world is one of shapes - sculptures, lines, webs, rounded squares and rectangles, a distinct landscape, colors of association flashing the connections everywhere. Knowledge is brightness, ignorance is dark - metaphorical, but very organized.

Slowly, unnoticably to me, my inner world slowed and gradually crystallized into a round-edged block of brown glass. It was inexorable, and created edges and boundaries around what had been seemingly limitless space. It was heavy, dull, and it severed and suffocated those lines of connection between thought to thought, thought to action, thought to words to action. Dull lights flashed bravely in the dark, isolated, far away, unreachable, without connection.

Blink. Stop.
Feel. Stop.
Speak. Stop.
Touch. Stop.
Stop motion without motion.

Nancy Andreasen, in Secrets of the Creative Brain (, talks about the "association cortices".
"To read, your brain... needs to forward those black letters on to association-cortex regions such as the angular gyrus, so that meaning is attached to them; and then on to language-association regions in the temporal lobes, so that the words are connected not only to one another but also to their associated memories and given richer meanings. These associated memories and meanings constitute a “verbal lexicon,” which can be accessed for reading, speaking, listening, and writing. Each person’s lexicon is a bit different, even if the words themselves are the same, because each person has different associated memories and meanings."

The brown crystallization blocked my ability to create those associations, until I could no longer function even as the blood tests reported "below therapeutic levels". My life (beyond breathing and sleeping) depended upon being able to make those connections, but my ability to make them was being crushed.

I could no longer even make the connections that Lithium was causing it. 

I could not connect the thoughts that I could stop, I needed someone to explain to me that I could, tell me I must.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Humility is oil in the engine of relationships

Wikipedia does a pretty good job of establishing the difference between humility and humiliation.

"Humility (adjectival formhumble) is variously seen as the act or posture of lowering one self in relation to others, or conversely, having a clear perspective, and therefore respect, for one's place in context.

Humility, in various interpretations, is widely seen as a virtue in many religious and philosophical traditions, often in contrast to narcissismhubris and other forms of pride.[6]

The act of imposing humility upon another person is called "humiliation"."

What I really want to point out here is this:

"having a clear perspective, and therefore respect, for one's place in context."

Pope Francis recently provided a wonderful example of this by responding, "Who am I to judge?" when asked about the status of gay priests. His humility ensured that his office didn't mean that his place in the world somehow changed him from just another sinner in God's eyes.

What it also meant at the same time was his affirmation of others' place in the world. He was saying to them, "Yes, you and I are both here, together and you have a place in this world, and it's the same place as mine." His response was a complete reversal from years of attempts to push people out of the church, to take away their place both in the world and in heaven.

Humiliation is an external pressure to try to enforce humility, so it is therefore cannot be humility which is internal.  And any attempt to externally enforce humility cannot succeed, because there is no respect both towards oneself, or toward another.

If you have humility, you don't have to be afraid of humiliation, embarrassment. You don't have to be afraid of being found out as a worthless, incapable, bad person, because you have tried to clearly assess your own flaws, weaknesses, foibles, and you remain open to the process of learning more about them.  No one can humiliate you when you have humility, because you know your place in the world, and the respect accorded to others extends to oneself.

Without humility, criticism can sound like condemnation and humiliation.

It's not always as simple and clear cut as saying, "I don't like this". Any kind of even implied criticism can feel like that. And if you are feeling condemned or humiliated, what happens? You start avoiding people and situations. And people start walking on eggshells around you and vice versa.

There are whole avenues of conversation and thought and feelings that must become off-limits in order to maintain a relationship with someone that could perceive almost anything as criticism, whether or not it was intended that way.

Without humility, apologies are perceived as capitulation to external force, rather than sincere attempts to repair and restore a relationship.

If I believe that being forced to apologize to another person means that I am acknowledging that I am a bad person and they have "beaten" me, imagine what that means when I am in a position to accept an apology? 

I might feel that because they had to apologize, I am inherently a better person. They are the ones who were bad, and by comparison I am not as bad as them. It doesn't necessarily mean that I think I am a good or great person. But at least I am not as bad as them.

Or I might feel that by asking, or even seeming to hint, that I wanted an apology for something I would necessarily be causing them humiliation, so if I saw myself as a "kind-but-proud" person I would surely try to prevent anyone from feeling that they might need to apologize. I would just swallow all bad feelings caused from hurt, because if I had to apologize for something, I would feel humiliated. This logic gets all twisted up until you can't apologize or be apologized to - there are no longer any methods to repair and restore relationships. There can be no relief from pain, and no way to provide it for someone else either.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Privilege of Ignorance

In the phase of society and culture that we have arrived in there is a lot of examination of privilege.

So I will dare to ask this question:
Is it a form of privilege to have been raised in an environment of physical non-violence? And is it okay to ask for a bit of understanding from people who have been protected from that for the damage done to those who grew up getting the shit beat out of them all the time?

I can't even believe I'm asking this question, but it's been bothering me for months now.

I understood it when people wouldn't be sensitive to it because it was so goddamn common, when it wasn't called abuse it was discipline. I also understood when it was a matter of something to be hushed up, not acknowledge it as really happening.

Because even in those situations there was a tacit understanding that yeah, kids were getting the shit kicked out of them on a regular basis. We grew up with violence being done to and around us. Some of us were protected more than others, some had no protection at all.

And in the 80's and 90's there was a cultural shift and suddenly a ton of kids were growing up in a world where beating your kids wasn't called discipline anymore, and the casual violence that reigned in so many of our homes didn't get passed down in that same way. Although I don't have statistics, I can say that I've observed that, at least, and read about it, and listened to people talk about it.

So, there is this generation of us, scared and scarred, veterans of violence from our parents, relatives, teachers, and friend's parents, and...

But there are kids growing up now who have no idea, which brings me to this incredibly strange question of privilege.
Do we assert ourselves and confront the kind of privilege that ignorance of all the damage that violence has done, become outraged when someone jokes about violence, or start crying when someone makes an unserious threat (or serious, because how the hell do we know)?

That seems like a dangerous thing to do when you grew up in a world where doing so would ensure that you got the shit kicked out of you again.

And so we do what we've learned to do when violence enters the picture again. We run and hide in the deepest, darkest place we can find a bit of protection in.

It's a lonely sad place, but at least there we can be safe.

This allows a lot of ignorant people to think that those jokes or "unserious" threats are no big deal. And maybe they aren't... to them. But they are a super big deal to anyone who understands what happens when it's very serious, very real.

Is it necessary to go so far as to call ignorance of the consequences privilege though? Is it necessary to draw lines, to set up a situation where you draw boundaries and force apologies from people who are "just joking" or "not serious"? The thing I come back to when I ask myself that question is - what are the consequences to the people who go through their life wondering when that joke is suddenly going to be not-a-joke anymore? What is happening to the people who flinch when another person makes a sudden move or shifts their weight in a sudden way?

And when you consider that it's not just the kids, it's the veterans, it's so very many people who have experienced terrible things done to them.

To stay in ignorance of the consequences of that, to not fucking care enough to try to understand how we might help each other live in less fear is, I think, a privileged dick-move.

I am super happy that there are people who do get the privilege of growing up and living a life that is safe and happy. They have lessons to teach us, ways of viewing the world to share. But wrapping themselves in an ignorance so that they carelessly will say and do anything they want and that it shouldn't matter to someone else is beyond foolish. It hurts people, which is the golden heart of what the privilege movement is about.

What you do matters to me - whether it's good or bad, it matters.