Tag Archives: relationships

Finding Psychosis in Unlikely Places

Lately things have been up, up, up! A rather profound and relatively welcome change from my typical morose malaise dragging down even the most cheerful of moments. Things seemed to be going perfectly well when I hit a bit of a speed bump last week and started noticing my slightly-elevated hypomania (and general stability) being peppered with hysteria riddled buckshot.

Right now in the DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) group I am in we are learning about a skill called check the facts which involves taking time out to look at the big picture and discern if my reaction to events (or if my interpretation) might be colored by unwise reasoning (like jumping to conclusions).

I felt like I had a pretty good grasp on the skill and practiced it multiple times before that speed bump I was talking about last week. In these periods of agitation and intense depression-laced moments (lasting a couple hours at a time) I could no longer find “the facts”. It seemed like my ability to step back was totally negated, adding fear and panic to my already disoriented state.

I have always had a hard time identifying psychosis when it is happening, or at least identifying it before it has altered my psyche in a profound way. Typically the only way I have been able to pinpoint it in the past was after the fact, faced with a trail of breadcrumbs leading in several opposing directions at once.

Granted, I have experienced a few situations where the psychosis I was experiencing was something that seemed pretty easy to point out at the time. The overwhelming need I had to live with gypsies and time I thought I had become a werewolf are definitely two examples, but both occurred many years ago. Since then things have changed, and the psychosis I experience now is almost exclusively tied to fear, not euphoria or grandeur.

The fears are almost always something that could happen. Typically not things that are likely, but possible in the realm of actual life events. My boss trying to undermine me at work was a pretty infamous episode I had, but this time it was a little closer to home and my fear revolved around my boyfriend and an impending doom of our relationship.

In my mind, my boyfriend was trying to push me away to the point where I would become fed up with him and break up. Though this is not even remotely based in reality I was certain it was happening (but only for 1-2 hours 3-4 times a day) and I became terrified to speak to him. Unfortunately not speaking to him only fed into the awkward feeling I was having, making the whole thing seem more real.

For me, psychosis is typically like a real asshole lawyer. It builds a case based on tiny clues that are generally considered meaningless in our everyday lives, and when there are big pieces missing to corroborate the story, it makes them up. I’ll often find myself with memories of saying or hearing things that never actually happened, despite feeling very much like they have.

Trying to reason with someone who isn’t playing by the rules (psychosis) became relatively meaningless in my experience this last week. I felt overwhelmed by mass confusion because trying to check the facts led to so many contradictory facts that I didn’t know who or what to believe.

And that’s when my boyfriend found me.

I tried to explain why I was upset (without knowing at that point that I was even experiencing psychosis). It didn’t seem like him to be vindictive or evil, after all our relationship had always been like a slow, lazy river as opposed to the Niagara Falls of my last relationship. I blamed him for a long list of things that apparently never happened, and when trying to express my confusion I suddenly started laughing. Yep. That’s when I figured it out, the contradictory breadcrumbs were coming from many different directions and were made of several individually delicious but totally different and clashing baked goods.

[insert emergency antipsychotic here]

Things have been fine since, and while these sorts of episodes always lead me to feeling rather embarrassed and apologetic I was very lucky that I had some help in pinpointing this situation early. Being able to celebrate my birthday over the weekend without any added psychosis was huge.

Corey reminded me that this sort of thing tends to crop up for me when I am starting to get stressed. It was a good reminder to pay attention this holiday season and do my best to remain relaxed. I never want to come off as being a “Scrooge” but finding a way to celebrate the holidays without totally losing control of myself can be a big challenge. High-five to my man for being smart and compassionate!

On a final note, I am in the market for a new psychiatrist. This last one has made some comments that were more harmful than helpful, so this week I hope to switch to the next doctor on deck. Stay tuned!

My Intro to DBT, Breaking the Bucking Bronco

For just about as long as I can remember, my emotions have been akin to a bucking bronco that I was plopped on top of at an early age.

For several years the best I could do was hold on, but in the last ten I have gotten to know the bronco a little bit. Every once in a while I can feed him an apple to win his favor, and I can do a better job of riding all of the ups and downs (instead of just holding on for dear life).

It always unnerved me when people would tell me to get the bronco under control, and that the task should be relatively simple. That I could harness it and use it to ride faster and further than other people. In response to most of those people I simply sat back and, though willing, rather spitefully responded by asking, “how? If you can tell me how, I can do it.”

That is when whatever adult/therapist/boss would get flustered and I would sigh unapologetically. I didn’t need someone to teach me how to ride a bucking bronco, I already knew how to do that. I needed someone to teach me to tame it enough that I could dismount and spend some time on solid ground.

Needless to say I was pretty pleasantly surprised when my first meeting with the DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) group at my local clinic (finally!) did just that. Within two hours there was discussion on how to change from a harmful emotion to a positive one, and all I could think was, where was this group ten years ago?!?

Frankly, I am really excited to have the opportunity to try strategies for managing my bipolar and anxiety symptoms as well as work on my abilities to communicate with others because those are the biggest barriers in my life. DBT might just be the horse whisperer I have been looking for… heck, it practically came with a saddle and a bit!

I am not expecting a miracle, but being desperate for ideas and answers for quite some time I am the sort of person who will not scrimp on doing legwork to get to where I am trying to go. Ultimately I think this group will help me do some great things, and I am excited to absorb as much information as I can to implement some much needed positive changes.

The Bi[polar] Curious Blog Celebrates Turning 4!

Today is the four year anniversary of my first post here on the bi[polar] curious blog, hooray!

I know I haven’t been great at maintaining a constant stream of posts, but given all the weird and wild things I’ve had to deal with in this timeframe I am going instead focus on the fact that this blog is still alive.

What did I hope to accomplish by starting this blog? Well, I wanted to have a place where I could be honest. I wanted to be able to share what it is like living with mood swings and anxiety and the constant work involved in searching for help, support, and knowledge.

For a long time I had this nagging feeling that nobody knew much about me (you know, based on people telling me, “man, I really just don’t get you!”) but anxiety made it very difficult to present anything other than what was already out there. A general veil of “everything’s fine!” even when things clearly weren’t. I guess I did hope to some degree that writing here would allow me to collect my thoughts and present them in a way my friends and family could understand, increasing the potential for better relationships. Emmmm, it still needs a little work but overall I would consider this goal to be a success in progress.

What I didn’t expect were all of the readers that have come back time and again, the kind comments of support, and a small sense of accomplishment in finding that something I did might have helped someone understand something better, whether that was about themselves or someone else or a group of people as a community.

To be completely honest, I have been experiencing an intense spike of anxiety the last week or two and this anniversary was not even on my radar. In that regard, I feel like I ought to give a quick shout-out to wordpress.com too for sending me a reminder. I will always be grateful for anything that gets me to smile first thing in the morning!

At any rate, thank you readers for passing some time with me, thank you bloggers for writing interesting and sometimes provocative things that inspire me to consider the world around me, and thank you supporters for your generosity of spirit. Trust me, it doesn’t go unnoticed!

As Always,


Keeping The Relationship “Topped Off”


Having a relationship is a lot of work, and having a relationship that includes mental illness can be wildly tricky.

To start, I like to think of humans as being like a pitcher, or cup, or carafe… as units we are capable of pouring our affection and attention onto others, and we are also capable of storing those good feelings, they generally help power our lives.

Top me off!

As with any relationship, we take turns comforting each other or filling each other with love and good feelings when the other is running low. Being a team can be very helpful that way!

My turn!

In a healthy relationship (even one that might involve mental illness) this support system is a two way street. Needless to say, it can be very difficult to be supportive and attentive when your partner has run out of juice when you are distracted.

Still Empty...

For me, having an emotional disorder can mean feeling a constant need for love and affection, and the feeling is so profound there are times when those intense feelings distract me and I can’t see that my partner is running completely dry. This is where things become unhealthy, because he is a great guy and more than worthy of an equal share of the love and support in the relationship!


Ultimately I consider myself very lucky that my partner is very patient and supportive, but as someone who can become distracted and potentially forget to be as loving and affectionate as he deserves it is extremely important to me to try to maintain a sense of balance in our relationship. Anyone with bipolar disorder knows that balance is like a beautiful mythical creature we’re constantly chasing, and I am definitely not perfect but I do my best.

Some of the things that have helped in this endeavor include:

  • using support systems like therapy, group therapy, and friends to help express some of my more negative emotions so my partner receives a better balance of positive & negative emotions from me
  • taking on more chores when I am feeling more capable to take some of the load off from when I may have been depressed
  • encouraging (or simply being understanding) of my partner spending time with other people away from me so he has a chance to help refill his pitcher with support from friends, family, or therapy
  • expressing my affection in whatever way I feel capable of at the time, whether that is vocally, through a small gift or a treat or a favorite meal, or something as simple as a foot rub
  • remembering that times where I am not receiving as much support or affection are not typically coming from a place of punishment or vengeance but simply of the cup running dry!

When There’s No Room at the Inn… Chill in the Barn?

Sometimes I imagine the Virgin Mary showing up at the inn, hours before giving birth to Jesus, and the inn keeper simply telling her, “err, well, sorry but we just aren’t a provider in your insurance’s network. Off you go!”

I basically just had the same conversation with one of the only TMS/ECT treatment facilities in Seattle. The woman on the phone was able to make it quite clear that people like me (on Medicaid) were not accepted at their facility. In fact, she wouldn’t even give me a figure of how much the treatment would cost without insurance. I felt like I had been marked in some way, as soon as she knew my socioeconomic status I was officially cut off from the prospect of hope.

This is an example of a relatively common conversation for me, and normally I wouldn’t complain, except that this woman had the audacity to go on and tell me that none of the other facilities I had listed to her would be interested in me either and I should just give up now. I told her that was excellent advice for someone currently going through a severely suicidal period and found myself missing the days of owning a phone I could bang on the receiver to signal my frustration upon hanging up on her.

While I am still making calls to other less convenient facilities (including the one I visited in this post and another that would require inpatient hospitalization during the full course of ECT treatment (yuck)), things are looking pretty grim on my treatment front.

To get you up to speed, my depressive shift after that manic/psychotic period a few weeks ago has gone from a walk down a hill to a rapid luge course at the Olympics. The speed and ferocity at which I am encountering extremely disturbing depressive symptoms is almost kind of impressive to me. Of course, I’d be more impressed if I wasn’t also watching it crack (not just strain) my personal relationships, my ability to communicate with friends and strangers alike, and all sense of self.

Part of me is hoping that the sudden intensity of this shift will also mean a rapid rise out of the pit once things have cooled off, but I already know that my mood-swing-predictor isn’t very accurate and in the situation where that doesn’t happen… this very well may be the biggest depressive punch I will have seen in a couple years.

I have unveiled all arsenal; special happy-feeling foods (donuts, cheese), sleeping when I’d rather not be conscious during the day, cuddling with my dog probably more than is healthy, The Muppets… but the depressive symptoms are progressing so quickly that they are almost near the point where none of my usual helpful coping skills are working.

Needless to say, a very bad time to be going separate ways from my psychiatrist of 5 years and my appointment with my new psychiatrist, although not condescending or bossy, did not go as well as I had hoped. She made it clear she didn’t really want to touch me with a ten foot pole and said that if she can help keep my symptoms from getting worse it was the best I could hope for.

If there was any time that seemed like revisiting the idea of ECT was a good one, this seemed like it was it. Unfortunately, now that I finally feel like I am at a point in my life where I welcome the idea of ECT (my mood swings being in the proper spot to warrant it), I have researched it thoroughly (including doing so while I was more rational and stable-ish) and the verdict in the psychiatry world is that I have pretty much exhausted all typical medication options… I’m having a hard time getting in.

I know that I can ride this the way that I always do. Hold on. Let my sense of self be stripped away completely. Check myself into the ER when things get too sketchy. Get agitated in the hospital enough for me to want to leave. Come home and continue to ride it out. Eventually it will get better. Eventually patch things up with my friends and family who haven’t heard from me in months. Hopefully the people around me can withstand it.

At any rate, if there’s no room for me I’ll just stay in the barn. Maybe if I close my eyes and breathe deeply the sweet smell of the hay will make me forget why I’m there.

The Difficult Relationship of the Empath

I read an article today I thought I would share called The Toxic Attraction Between an Empath and a Narcissist. While I find the article to be a little rough (and I certainly don’t agree with all of the generalizations) it did make me look at the relationships I have had with people a little differently… and therefore was worth the read.

Every bipolar support group I have gone to that has brought up personality categories or alternative views on bipolar symptoms as a “mental illness” has typically led to one word: empath.

An empath is someone who can easily find themselves feeling the emotions of others, and generally has little trouble imagining themselves in someone else’s shoes.

Needless to say, when I sat in a room of people with a bipolar diagnosis and found that every single one scored the same result (empath) I wasn’t surprised. I have known for a long time that the emotional state of those around me have a huge effect on my own emotions and that I have always had a genuine desire to help others (being able to feel and see situations from their perspective), but it took me many years to learn that there were people who were interested in manipulating these traits and that I needed to protect myself by being selective of the relationships I have with others.

One of the best things I have done for myself is to keep the relationships I have with open, genuine people and discard the rest.

At any rate, an interesting read… and if you’ve found yourself drawn to people who tend to hurt you (romantically or otherwise) check it out!

Giving Someone With Bipolar Disorder Bad News Safely

I’ve had a number of people tell me lately that they don’t feel comfortable telling me bad news. The idea that people close to me are hiding serious issues from me because they are afraid of triggering my bipolar disorder is extremely frustrating; while I appreciate that people are trying to be wary of my feelings, the plan almost always backfires. Hearing bad news and that the people closest to me have been hiding it makes for an even bigger mood implosion.

The best I can do is try to convey that I realize I have trouble processing bad news, but the manner in which that news is passed on to me has a huge impact on my reaction.

When frightening or serious news is dropped in my lap suddenly (without warning) it can feel significantly more shocking; likewise if the conversation ends moments later (and I haven’t been able to ask any questions or begin to wrap my head around the news) I often find myself trapped in emotional quicksand. The more I struggle to understand on my own, the faster I sink into depression, anxiety, and irritability.

Through my experiences I have devised some tips to help ease some of the emotional reaction in situations regarding passing-on upsetting news. Personally, these things have all lent themselves to a much more safe emotional environment and a quicker recovery from intense bipolar emotional reactions.

1. Be up-front that the news might be distressing.

Letting someone know that a conversation is going to take a serious turn (instead of taking the turn suddenly) can make serious news much less jarring. There is something to be said about being able to prepare oneself mentally before receiving bad or serious news, and part of what contributes to a bad emotional reaction in my case has often been feeling blindsided and totally unprepared to hear something jarring.

Having said that, I have found even very broad, general statements like, “I have something serious to tell you,” or “can we have a serious talk?” are effective in this arena. If I know I might be at risk of having an emotional reaction, I can do a better job of containing myself than if the news is just dropped on me suddenly.

2. Bookend the bad news.

The best way I have found to receive (and give) potentially upsetting news is to bookend the serious subject matter with more lighthearted information. Starting the conversation in a casual way to ease the tension before launching into serious content can help folks feel less anxious about the upcoming serious bit. Probably more importantly (to me anyway) is ending the conversation with something more light-hearted to bring the mood back to the present can help with avoiding being caught up completely in the emotion of the serious bit.

Often hearing bad news can put us in a situation where we feel attacked or fearful, even unsafe. Being able to laugh at a bad joke or talk about a cute puppy really helps nullify that feeling of fear that can be the beginning of a big emotional spiral. In my life, being able to sidestep that fear makes for a totally different reaction to bad news and I am able to focus on counteracting my shock more than having to counteract my fear.

3. Make it a dialogue.

One of the things that really feeds into my fear when I get bad news is being unable to get answers the questions I have about what has happened/is happening. I do not want my mind uncontrollably fantasizing about all of the questions I have (and it will) so being able to ask questions and get answers that I understand makes a big difference in how my reaction will unfold. If we don’t have time to have a dialogue about the topic (and not just be subject to a monologue) then the timing probably isn’t appropriate.

4. Consider timing.

A couple days ago I received some bad news about 15 minutes before I was about to go to bed. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep that night.

Likewise, stress can be a big factor in how reactive my bipolar disorder is in any given situation. Laying some bad news on me when I am already agitated or stressed will yield worse results than providing the same information when I am relatively stable or calm. Again, even in an unstable situation, following tips 1-3 can pave the way for a better reaction.

5. Life happens.

Life is full of good news and bad news, that is just the way it goes. Unfortunately, living with bipolar disorder can make getting bad news extremely disruptive to our lives and our relationships, but pretending that bad news doesn’t exist doesn’t help us learn to cope with our reactive nature or practice living a full life.

Ultimately, I want to believe that the people in my life are genuine with me and open about their lives and their experiences. Honestly, in times where I could tell people close to me were holding back bad news it felt almost more maddening than if they had just been honest! Though this is an area that is very sensitive for many people with bipolar disorder, being gentle about the subject matter and being respectful to our situation when being open with us can mean a world of difference -not just for us, but also for our relationships.