Present Day, April 5th, 2020

FURLOUGH – day 6B

What is the difference between a bad person with Bipolar, and a person that Bipolar makes bad? Surely there are pitiful excuses for human beings who also happen to have a mental illness, just as well as there are people with a mental illness that turns them into a pitiful excuse for a human being. But how do I know which one I am? You know, am I an asshole at my very core who carries the added burden of being Bipolar, or does having Bipolar turn me into the asshole that I am so often perceived as?

Is there a difference? Or does it even make a difference if there is?

There is no doubt that whichever the case, we are just nine days into quarantine and I have worn out my welcome in my own home. My wife and I just completed an argument that concluded with my declaration that “this will be the end of us.” Not like a sarcastic, tongue in cheek, laugh it off because we all know we will get through this kind of declaration. More of an authentic, there does not seem to be any other way around it, things are rapidly disintegrating type of declaration. And that is because the general tone of the argument was the same as it has been for years: I am the problem. Or I have the problem. Which one it is I do not know or am unwilling to admit to myself.

There is an inherent danger with second marriages, of which this is mine. The danger is that arguments and disputes will reveal faults in you that have always existed. Behaviors, attitudes, actions that are not new to marriage number two. These revelations can ferment over time, and leave you aware that no matter how much you may have ascribed the break up of your first marriage to your spouse…you were the problem all along. You were the one with the character flaws. You were the one with the personality problems. You were the one with the issues that broke things apart. And then you are left back at the question, am I just a dick with a disease or a decent person with a disease that is causing me to behave like a dick?

Honestly, I think the answer to the question is irrelevant. People have expectations for my behavior regardless of any mitigating factors, and I suppose that is fair enough as there are only a handful of people in my life who even know I have a mental illness. They have no basis for compassion or understanding. They just see me as I am and draw their own conclusions.

But even with the people that know. Even with the people who love me. Even with them, there is a limited ability to understand what it is like to live inside my head and to act out life as a grown adult operating with this mind. There is a limited ability to differentiate the parameters of the question. To decide if I am just a “normal” person who is being unkind or someone who has lost the ability to function as a “normal” person. Even with those closest to me, there is a limit in either their choice or ability to accept that not everything that comes from me is by choice. At least, not by my choice.

So where does that leave me? I am an individual whose behavior is found to intolerable by those closest to him. I am an individual with a mental illness that is difficult at best to control and almost impossible under current circumstances. I am an individual who feels incapable of being the person I wish I could be.
Again, I think the answer is irrelevant. Because in the end, I am just the bad person. I am just the dick.

Present Day, April 1st, 2020

FURLOUGH – day 4

Today was my first “teletherapy”. Having been about a month since my last therapy appointment, and with no face-to-face therapy in sight for the foreseeable future, it was time to bite the bullet and delve into the world of technological therapy. I suppose this can take on a number of different appearances. For me, it was entering a video chat room similar to Zoom but through a physician certified site for confidentiality purposes. Both my therapist and I were on webcams, so there was visual to go along with the audio.

It felt awkward, but it should be known that for me therapy always feels awkward. It always feels like I am supposed to have some more specific agenda than surviving my mental illness when that is typically the only agenda I arrive with. It is also practically by definition a time in which I am supposed to share my feelings. This is something I am not good at, am not comfortable with, and rarely know how to even put into words.

Most of today’s session focused on the general lack of motivation I have to do anything during this time. Literally…anything. I have about the first two or three hours of the day down. I have set a time limit of 8 o’clock to be out of bed on the weekdays. Otherwise, I could easily sleep and/or lie there until noon. I either exercise first thing or have my coffee first thing. Whichever the case, Coffee, waking up, exercise, showering, checking up on the latest news and social media updates, and a household chore or such tend to get me up to about 10 a.m.

Aside from that, I have got nothing. I know there are household projects to be working on. I know there are things I could clean. I know I have a hobby I enjoy working on. Hell, even on the relaxation side there are movies I have been wanting to watch and books that I could read. But I am pretty much uninspired and paralyzed. So we talked about setting out a daily plan and trying to find the motivation to stick to it. That’s just the thing. I have no idea where this motivation is supposed to come from.

I have not found this to be an unusual challenge in my bipolar journey. It really should not be all that surprising. This is a mental illness that often lacks the desire to even be alive, let alone being productive with that life. Baby steps literally can be great accomplishments.

Take today for instance. I had set out to take a bike ride as my form of exercise. I put it off for about four hours hoping the weather would warm-up and the sun would come out. Finally, it reached the time where it was going to happen, or it was not. So I set out. A baby step. But it was a pitiful effort. Oh, I climbed the hills I intended to climb and accomplished the route I intended to accomplish but I could have ridden so much harder. But I didn’t. In fact, at one point I almost broke down in tears and had to stop. Just feeling so overwhelmed. So helpless. So hopeless.

There were other things on my agenda for today that I accomplished. All of them in fact. And yet still so much time spent just feeling lost. Unmotivated. Uninspired.

I’ll try again tomorrow. A new agenda. A new list. A new attempt to find the motivation to get out of bed, get active and get productive. It will be a struggle. Not just for me, but for so many others. A struggle we have to face one little step at a time.

Present Day, March 30th, 2020

FURLOUGH – day 2

Today is our day! It is World Bipolar Day!!!

I may sound enthusiastic about that, but the reality is that I had no idea it was until about 4:45 this afternoon. That is when it popped up in my Instagram feed and I discovered that there even was such a thing. The link above (by clicking on “World Bipolar Day”) will do it more justice than I ever could. However, it is nice to know there is a day set aside for recognizing the reality of this illness and receiving encouragement in the battle.

Instead of reading my ramblings, take a few moments to click over to BPHope.com, and find some true inspiration. And of course, stay safe and stay home.

Present Day, March 27th, 2020

 

FURLOUGH – day 1

Yesterday my workplace presented me with a furlough letter. I was officially laid off. Another financial victim of Covid-19. The company hopes to bring us all back and hopes that happens in three or so weeks. Time will tell. I think that is quite optimistic, but I am fairly heavy on the pessimistic side of the teeter-totter, so that is not saying much. 

For the immediate future what that means is that I have time on my hands. Like an amount which I have not had in quite a long time. This morning I woke up, did an exercise video, enjoyed a cup of coffee, tackled a couple of home projects, filed for unemployment, showered, and realized it was barely 10 a.m. I need goals. Daily goals. Maybe getting back to blogging should be one of those. It seems to be worth a try anyway, though I hardly remember how to do this. If it is supposed to be like riding a bike…I’m pretty sure I’m about to crash. 

As one might guess, a pandemic is difficult for everyone. And not to act like we are somehow more special than the rest of the world, but this is only exponentially compounded for people with mental illness. It is one thing to have the concerns of a disease (Coronavirus…not the Bipolar), but then on top of that, you have the concerns of a disease (Bipolar…not the Coronavirus). It is like having cancer, and then getting the flu. And if you do not think so, it is just because you are likely one of those who have yet to grasp the correlation between mental illness and physical illnesses. Yes, it is a real thing. 

I do not know where you live, but my state is currently a “stay-at-home” state. Probably would have shut down my place of employment in the immediate future anyway. At least this way I have access to income assistance. Such an order is in and of itself not totally devastating as I am not the most social of beings to begin with. Though that was a part of my 2020 goals that I was working fairly aggressively on. Well, aggressively for me. I do already miss my bi-weekly coffee gatherings with my best friend, and might even find myself missing the banter of the office before too long. 

I will not unload all of my stressors and concerns in this initial post, but I have a daughter living all alone in one of the epicenters of this whole thing. A son who lives with his girlfriend in another city. Of course I worry about them. I have a wife and two step-daughters joining me in this house for our “stay-at-home” experiment, and I think all three of them are concerned that I’m the wild card in this whole thing. A legitimate concern. Hell, I’m pretty sure that I’m the wild card in this whole thing. 

So here is what this will and will not be. It will continue to be what it has always been…a look inside the mind of someone struggling with bipolar in the midst of day-to-day life. Granted, a day-to-day life which has been radically altered over the past few days and weeks. It will not be an update on Covid-19 (well…unless I actually come down with it). There are more reliable places to obtain information on that and you are probably overloaded with it anyway. However, if you struggle with a mental illness or know someone who does, you may find this insightful. 
 
If nothing else, what else do you have to do? It seems like we all have plenty of time on our hands!
 

Present Day, March 4th, 2018

As someone with a constantly racing mind, a new found practice of mindfulness has been a welcome place of rest. It is still very much a “practice” for me, and one that I struggle to successfully achieve for as short as a 10 minute period. However, I look forward to it each and every day and feel the calmer for it on the other side. At the same time, it does cause me a significant predicament.

I think we are all wired and prone to have an acute awareness of contrast. For example, severe changes in the weather. The audio launch of a rock concert. A bite into a particularly spicy dish. From level ground to a steep incline during a forest hike. We tune into these things, and they cause a sensory response in our bodies. Be it touch, hearing, taste, or even sight and smell. Contrast is simply a part of how we differentiate and how things are set apart in our minds and feelings.

The practice of mindfulness magnifies a rather extreme contrast in my living environment. I am already rather introverted and silent. I already value solitude and quiet above the average person. And I already struggle with the, at times, lack of appreciation other people might share for these same qualities. Couple that with the “contrast” of mindfulness sessions to regular life…and I can go from a state of peace to set on edge pretty rapidly. I know, totally contrary to the whole purpose of my mindfulness practice.

In fact, just finding a peaceful and alone time or location to engage in as little as a 10-minute meditation can be a challenge on some days.

The company I work for is owned by a Japanese corporation and therefore utilizes many of their workplace ideals. One example is the open workspace. Picture Dunder Mifflin from “The Office”. No cubicle walls. No offices except for the few at the top of the food chain. It is also a bi-lingual environment. Meaning that I am often working at my desk with a full volume conversation taking place over my left shoulder in Japanese, and a full volume conversation taking place over my right in English. Mind you, neither of which involve me or are of any importance to me. This environment makes my lunchtime mindfulness session 1) invaluable and 2) often immediately forgotten upon returning back to work. The contrast can be overwhelming.

This is my predicament. The practice designed to bring me peace can highlight an overall lack of peace. The practice designed to help me with a singularity of focus can highlight an ever run amuck mind. The practice designed to calm my life can often do little more than emphasize a greater lack of calm in my moment to moment existence.

For now, I look forward to my 10 minutes a day. And work on accepting the other 23 hours and 50 minutes in all their chaos.