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Chad and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Brain

Bipolar Disorder is a moving target. Its effects vary from episode to episode, and a treatment that might be effective for months or even years can suddenly stop working. Treating it is a challenge. Staying stable is a challenge. Accomplishing anything, no matter how small, is a victory.

And it’s a victory I haven’t enjoyed very much in the past couple of years.

Before about seven years ago, I would have bouts of hypomania. Hypomania is awesome. I would be full of energy, whole novels would dump themselves into my head in a single afternoon, I felt like I could do anything. I could go without sleep and not feel the effects. I would think fast, and talk fast. If I was a little incomprehensible to people around me, who cares? I was on a higher plane than they were. I could do anything.

Eventually, though, that would turn toxic and I would crash into a depression. No energy, little coherent thought, getting through the day was a challenge. I would obsess about various ways I could kill myself, but lacked the wherewithal to do anything about it. If anything, this just made me feel worse, like I was a failure even at this.

I rode this cycle until about seven years ago, when the cycle of hypomania and depression stopped, and I began instead to go between stages or normal and mixed episodes. Mixed episodes are awful. You have all the energy of mania, with all the negative thoughts and anxiety of depression. In hypomania, you want to climb a mountain. In a mixed episode you want to climb a mountain so you can throw yourself off it.

Back in 2008, when I was in the middle of one of these mixed episodes, I went to my GP. He consulted some kind of web app, looked up Bipolar Disorder, and put me on Abilify.

If anything, this was worse. I was a zombie. Walking across the room was a struggle. My wife saw I was struggling and planned a family trip, hoping to cheer me up. It was a really great trip, but I don’t remember much of it. It was hard to even stay awake. I stopped taking the Abilify, but was still having the crushing anxiety and elevated anger of the mixed episode.

So we found a specialist. He diagnosed me officially with bipolar disorder, and put me on a mood stabilizer. I wasn’t fixed, but it was better.

All through this time I was trying to write. in 2007 I finished a novel, and in early 2008, before the mixed episode, I started another one. Then, with all of the cycles, writing became difficult. Hypomania gone, I found my ideas just weren’t coming anymore. The prose was bland. I hated everything I wrote. I managed to get past it and write anyway, and even sold a couple of stories, but I wasn’t happy with it. I came to the place where I thought I might now write anything good again.

This continued for several years. I got out of the habit of writing every day. I worked on editing my first novel, but had to admit it just wasn’t working and abandoned it. This only made me feel worse. I used to love this, why couldn’t I do it anymore. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I had always defined myself as a writer. What was I going to do if I didn’t have that any more. More years passed. I wrote a couple of short stories, but they didn’t sell.

Last year, I decided to pull out the novel I started in 2008. As I read it, I got excited. It wasn’t perfect, but It was pretty good. The voice was entertaining and the plot, which I had written by the seat of my pants, actually hung together pretty well. I loved the characters. If I had once been capable of this, might I be capable again. I just needed to make myself do it.

So in July of last year I signed up for camp Nano. This is like NaNoWriMo except you set your own goal. I set mine for 30,000 words. Doable, I thought. I was fine for the first three weeks, then the fourth week an episode hit and I got nothing done. I ended up writing only 20,000 words, which wasn’t bad for a month’s output, but I didn’t meet my goal.

I read what I’d written and I hated it. I put my writing away for several months. Eventually, I wrote another short story, which didn’t sell. For a year I was pretty stable, but was accomplishing nothing. I wasn’t falling into mixed episodes, but wasn’t able to get much done.

I also gained about forty pounds, which only made things worse.

This summer I finally talked to my specialist about. He decided to try an anti-depressant long with my mood stabilizers. After a few weeks, I started to feel better. I wasn’t writing, but I was able to get stuff done during my day and had more energy. I got sick of looking at myself in the mirror and decided to start running again, hoping this would help me continue to balance out. I set myself for running in the 5k color run coming up in October.

In August I looked at all I had written so far on the novel, and I had to admit, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. It was definitely salvageable. I decided I had worked on it long enough that it was time to finish it. It had been since 2007 since I’d finished something long form, and that was just unacceptable. I set myself another goal. I would have this book done by my birthday in January. In September I started writing again setting myself a goal of writing 1000 words a day, five days a week.

If I was going to do this, I needed a plan. Even on all my meds, organizing my day is hard for me, and I often come to the end finding I hadn’t accomplished mush. This had to stop. So, I got myself a notebook, wrote out a schedule and a to-do list for each day, and tried my best to stick with it.

It worked! I was meeting my writing goals, continuing to run, and (mostly) keeping up with all the housework and laundry.

So with the combination of mood stabilizers, anti-depressants, and exercise I feel like I’m functioning again. I’ve been in a better mood. The book is 2/3 of the way done, and none of the pets have died.

I don’t know how long it’s going to last. Like I said, it’s a moving target.  But for now, I’ll take it.

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Posted by on September 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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What’s Happening (now)

It has been so long since I posted that I was afraid that I had forgotten the password to log in and was going to have to start a new blog entirely. But I remembered, obviously, which means I am reusing passwords and will soon be hacked at all sites I log into.

I probably shouldn’t have typed that out loud. Just…a…sec…Never mind, I have changed all of my passwords.

The last year has been a strange one, lots of standing in place while events move around me, like I’m the main character in a badly plotted novel.

I put my writing on hold for a while, not on purpose but because I just wasn’t in the headspace to do it. The novel is still there, between drafts, waiting for me to come back to it. I have the characters and the setting, but the plot needs work. And the plot is kind of an important element here.

I have worked on a couple of short stories. I actually have three of them sitting around right now, and one that’s almost ready. Two of these have been sent out and rejected once without being sent out again. I am bad at submitting and that’s kind of an important step in all of this, I know. It’s not that I’m afraid of rejection, per se. I know I’m going to get rejected. lots. It’s more like I have trouble letting the stories be what they are and go out there into the world without feeling the need to tweak them just one more time. 

My mental state has been mixed. I’ve had no major mixed episodes, a few minor ones. I had a few days last week where all I wanted to do was sleep and brood, and the brooding was related to nothing that was actually going on. But there’s been nothing like the incident two years ago when I had to be babysat to avoid being hospitalized.

This year has been really hard financially, but things are looking up in that department, freeing me to treat writing like it’s an actual job, which is what I intend to do going forward.

But that’s what’s happening now. I plan to blog more, aiming for two posts a week, depending on if I have something to say or not. I imagine I will, if twitter is any indication.

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2013 in life, writing

 

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Catching up …

Just a few notes to play catch-up.

The work continues. My new Novel, The New Maps of Hell (working title, no one freak out, although I rather like it. Yes, I know it’s borrowed from one of the early works of science fiction criticism, but it works for the situation. And I should end these parentheses before the entire post is all parentheses and no content.) now has a word count posted at the bottom of the page. That’s why I changed themes, to be able to use widgets, although I really liked the black and white Hemingway. I may get into the html and change it around later if I get the time.

And I can do that now. My tech classes are over for the semester and I’m ready to take the certification exam in January. This will, hopefully, lead to gainful employment in the field I love, and my teaching career can become a distant, unpleasant memory.

And I’m undergoing a little bit of a spiritual renaissance, thanks to podcasts from Jay Bakker’s Revolution Church in NYC. I won’t get into this a lot, but I was raised in a really strict religious tradition, became Catholic as an adult, and still love Catholic forms of worship even if I’m kind of parting ways with some of that dogma, specifically the church’s belief in it’s own infallibility, their stand against Gay Marriage, and the apocalyptic way the priest pederasty was handled. It’s nice to feel like this can be a part of my life again in some way, though I am, if still a christian to any degree, one of those liberal, out there christians, and that’s just fine with me.

Just don’t call me religious, those are fighting words.

And in the middle of several household crises this week, I received a rejection notice. It was one I expected, because it would have been just an amazing thing to have won WOTF the first time I entered, and now I can shop the story around some more. And, hey, they sent me a cool bookmark, so … win?

So as the year winds down, things are looking up, at least a little. I feel like my time in the wilderness may be ending, or at least transitioning into something else, a place where I might be able to start doing real  people some actual good. It’s been a hard journey, and I don’t want to get into specifics too much, but I’ve battled something for years and finally been diagnosed and properly treated. It feels good to be in control of how I’m feeling.

Screw it. I wouldn’t want anyone else in my position to feel ashamed, so I’m not going to either. I’ve battled bipolar disorder without knowing what it was, exactly, for about eight years. Now I know. Now I’m me again. I’m not the me I was before because that person hadn’t gone through what I’ve gone through. And, you know, to steal the old quote, “I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.”

I’d better wind this up because, as I was writing, I think my kids put the cat in the bathtub. Tiberius = not happy.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2008 in life, writing

 

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