Bipolar ThoughtsPersonal History

This is just a short little update. Everyone is busy these next couple weeks so why not keep this short?

I have pretty much eliminated drinking from my life.

I haven’t quit by any means, but I have gotten to the point where I am able to have one or two and stop.

I only drank heavily one day this year, at my best friend’s bachelor party. That’s all, in all of 2017.

There was a time or two in addition to that where I had more than I would allow myself to have now. But I am still proud of that.

Drinking became a pretty difficult thing for me to manage. I realized long before I stopped that the consequences of alcohol were often severe for me. It took me awhile to have the strength to take that knowledge and act on it.

I would never say I had a real problem with alcohol. But I would say that is just isn’t a good choice for me. It was something that often played poorly into my life and I needed greater control of that.

So, for now, it is out, at least any large quantity.

And if I ever feel that I get to a point where I feel out of control with having just one or two, then I will move to limit it more drastically. But so far this year, I think it has gone really well. And I am looking forward to keeping that going throughout the holidays and into next year.

Bipolar ThoughtsDepressionPersonal HistoryPersonal RelationshipsSuicide

So, I have both been avoiding this essay, and also chomping at the bit to publish it. This one is a difficult one, and I think suicide attempt survivors are united both in our visceral reaction to this story, and our opinion of what happened.

You have probably all heard about this, but if you haven’t, you need to look it up. A 20 year old woman named Michelle Carter was just found guilty of manslaughter for encouraging the suicide of her friend, Conrad Roy III, almost entirely through text messages and a single phone call. The suicide happened on July 12, 2014.

I have no desire to get into the legal talk about the case or the verdict. Frankly, I don’t care. I have an uneducated opinion that I won’t share here. But I thought this would be a good opportunity to talk about how significant an influence a person’s words can be, and how important timing is in that scenario.

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“Perhaps [ideas] are, for instance, like some big salmon or trout. They are not born fully grown; they are not even born in the sea or water where they normally live. They are born hundreds of miles away from their home grounds, where the rivers narrow to tiny streams. Just as it takes time for a speck of fish spawn to mature into a fully-grown fish, so we need time for everything that develops and crystallizes in our world of ideas.”

“Nothing is as dangerous in architecture as dealing with separated problems. If we split life into separated problems we split the possibilities to make good building art.”

-Alvar Aalto

Aalto is one of my favorite architects/ furniture designers. Most architects I know consider him one of their favorites. I won’t get into anything about his architecture, but you should look him up if you like architecture or design. He was amazing.

Like most of the biggest architects throughout history, he was also a pretty incredible thinker and philosopher. He always spoke of big ideas in relation to architecture, but many of the things he had to say have impact in most areas of life.

Bipolar ThoughtsPersonal HistoryTherapy

There is a really fascinating phenomenon with the brain where once you understand how to solve a problem, the solution is inherently visible to you when faced with the same problem again.

This is applicable in a myriad of things. This is how we go from seeing the silhouetted faces to the wine glass or the bird and the old lady back and forth once we are aware of the optical illusion, despite only being able to see one or the other upon the first viewing. This is how we can “learn” to increase our IQ or our SAT scores by repeated test taking. This is how we become more adept at puzzles and games, and why you’re no longer play Sudoku.

There is an evil twin sibling of this phenomenon called confirmation bias. And this means that when we believe we are solving a problem we have already learned to solve, we will find clues that helped us solve previous puzzles that might no longer be applicable. This is why you never finished the “expert” level Sudoku book.

AnxietyBipolar ThoughtsDepressionManiaObsessionsPersonal History

I think people might get confused a bit when I say things like “I’m symptom free” or use the word “remission”.

The truth is those things don’t exist. I am never totally ok.

I haven’t experienced the crushing extremes of bipolar in about 10 months. But just a couple days ago I was reminded that exactly a year ago right now I was in a crippling depression and was avoiding people and drinking heavily. And, truth be told, I avoided people and felt depressed at times during this summer as well.

I still have the mood swings, even the extreme ones. I still experience anxiety, insomnia, irritability. I still find my mind racing, or find it difficult to get out of bed.

AnxietyBipolar ThoughtsDepressionManiaPersonal History

So, it has been almost two months since I have posted anything to this website.

For a good part of my time off I was still writing some, but absolutely nothing since my son was born. I’ll get into that later.

For now, this is what you need to know: I am symptom free, including all depression and most anxiety. I am drug free, I am not taking any medication, and I’m also not drinking much. I am not seeing any doctors, not a shrink, not a therapist.

I am doing almost none of the things that I did to work on being healthy. Not eating well or exercising, not sleeping on a good schedule or even much at all, not reading or writing much, not working on anything much at all.

But, I feel perfectly fine. Normal ups and down, nothing serious, barely any anxiety, a good amount of insomnia that I have been constantly dealing with since high school.

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I very distinctly remember the first time a girl took off my pants.

At the time I wore Bullhead jeans exclusively, and Bullhead always put a little colored tag on the inside of the fly to demarcate the cut. Well when the girl in question unbuttoned my pants and unzipped my fly the first thing she said was “Oh I didn’t know there was a tag there” as a way to cut the tension mounting in the room.

She must have noticed that I was dying. My heart was pounding so hard it was making my voice quiver. I wasn’t excited, I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t any of the things I thought I would be based on my many viewings of the movies “Animal House” and “Porky’s”. All I wanted was to tell her to stop, to zip me back up and to go back to hanging out and watch a movie and make out or something.

We didn’t do any of those things. She moved forward with her plans to disrobe me and eventually I enjoyed my evening, even though I felt terrified the entire time. By the second time with her I was completely ready and willing, it was just that first encounter.

It happened like that with a few other women in my life too. In fact, I was told a number of times long after the fact that I could’ve had a much broader and more developed sex life if I hadn’t been so scared to dive in.

I guess in a lot of ways I’ve been like that with a lot of things. Too nervous to jam with some musicians, too nervous to join a softball team, too nervous to fix things around my house, too nervous to do what I really wanted with my life.

I think I’ve always wanted to preserve an image of myself as really good at whatever I try. I always wanted to be a “talented person” in many regards instead of so few. People hear that you’ve played guitar since you were 12, you must be pretty damn good, guess again. People hear you love baseball, you must be pretty good at softball, not this time. People hear you lived on honor roll and dean’s list your whole life, you should make something of yourself, keep trying.

Maybe it isn’t lack of talent that kills the masses; it’s the consumption of self by fear, just like a girl unzipped your pants for the first time.

Bipolar ThoughtsObsessionsPersonal History

I’m approaching 30 years old.

For whatever reason this has been a major deal to me for the last several years. I have been trying to stop time so I can wade in my 20’s forever.

I think it is the end of an era for me. My 20’s were awesome. I had a lot of fun. I attended college and had more fun learning more things than I ever dreamed. I was in the best band I was ever in, even though it was short lived. I had the most fulfilling job of my life. I closed down a lot of bars, had a lot of laughs, and danced my ass off. Not to mention I met my wife and got married. A lot of my friends got married. I love weddings!

I had my downs as well. I had a major bipolar episodes when I was 22 and again at 28, which I’m still recovering from.

One difficult thing for me is that I remember how close my friends and I were when we were 19, and how much we’ve drifted over the past decade. What will the next decade bring? Balancing family and friends is hard, and it takes concerted effort to make it work.

Another difficulty of mine is something that will be explored more deeply in another blog post, is the idea of a lack of success on my part. I thought I would be running the world by now. Every teacher I ever had told me I was built for something special, but it turns out I was standard protocol.

Bipolar ThoughtsPersonal History

For a long time I thought that rapid thoughts, agitation, sleepless nights, obsessions, massive spending, deep depression, and near constant suicidal thoughts were, if not common, at least somewhat normal. I remember having at least some of these symptoms as early as 9 years old. I sort of white knuckled through the teenage angst that is high school until my first suicide attempt at the age of 16.

I was hospitalized and diagnosed with Bipolar Type II and put on some medications and sent to a therapist. The therapy was nothing new, I had been seeing a therapist for a long time to cope with anger problems I had as a child, but the meds were new and unwanted. I stayed on the meds for a couple of years before I stopped them on my own in college.

Once I was in college, I was forced to be creative on a daily basis and exercising regularly, and my Bipolar seemed to go into a remission. Sure, I would get depressed from time to time but nothing serious. I felt then and I still feel now that creativity is the best outlet for Bipolar mania, which is why I’m doing this blog. At the end of college I hit another rut and despite graduating I nearly drank myself to death while I was pretending to look for a job.

My depression at the end of college lasted a solid 9 months, consisted of drinking half a fifth a night and barely sleeping. I was able to work nights at a hospital and still be good at my job, but everything about my social life was falling apart.

I ended up making the choice, aided by my sister, who doubled as my roommate, to stop drinking and I pulled out of it just in time to meet the woman that would become my wife. And this began the second period of remission, and longest lasting. I exercised daily and felt great, even though I was not being creative. I got really heavy into playing my guitar and I suppose that was a good outlet for me.

This lasted until the day I was registering for my wedding. I was attacked by sharp pains in my chest that I thought was an arrhythmia. I went to the doctor who found nothing but noted it might be a panic attack, something I had never had before. I went back to my old therapist from high school who suggested another psychiatrist. Another Bipolar diagnosis came my way, this time Type I, with more serious meds. Lithium, Zyprexa, Klonopin, Xanax, Ambien, Trazadone, Latuda , are all I have taken to solve this latest round of mood changes. I wound up in the hospital again after another failed suicide attempt. I was off work for a total of nine months and it ended up costing me my last architecture job I will probably ever have.

I’m still recovering from this bout. Some days better, some worse. But I can still tell things aren’t right. I wonder if they ever will be again or if this is simply the hand I have been dealt for the rest of my life. My goal is remission. And hopefully meds and therapy will get me there, if not, who knows.