This is a continuation of the piece I threw out there about a month ago. This is still a work in progress. It has very rough editing. I couldn't think of a better audience to try this out with than the readers here on the bay. So, here you go.....

More Madness and Mental Illness

As the madness settles in I watch to see which way it will settle. Will I become depressed, will I become manic, or will I be stuck in that muck of a mixed state, the best of both worlds. If the depression sets in I will first show the signs of depression that the whole world is so very familiar with these daysthen it will become something more, something specialized.
Depression is the hot word in the psychology world, has been for some time now. It is also the hot word over the fences in the suburban backyards, through the phone lines of relatives, in the counselor offices of schools. It is in the news, it is in the magazines, it is the movies, the newspapers, books, we see commercials for it, we are told to watch our children for it. The word depression is thrown around like some catch all, some excuse card for so many things. It has become a chic diagnosis, how many of you know the phrase "mother's little helper"? Lot's of you know it I bet and can give me several examples of what mother's helper might be. Depression is a word, a diagnosis that has become as worn out as a taxi's carpet. Be careful how you use it, be careful of how those around you are using it. Depression can be a chemical illness or a basic emotional issue. It can be both at once.
Depression in it's basic emotional character affects everyone. The names for it are wide and varying. There is a whole genre of music named for it, where would Billie Holiday be without it or B.B. King for that matter? The baby blues (not post partum depression), feeling down, being blue, being sad, feeling low. These are all names for the same thing, basic emotional depression. We've all been there, we've all experienced the symptoms. Insomnia, loss of or increase in appetite, low sex drive, crying, low or no energy, cloudy thoughts, this is a grocery list people throughout the world know. It is something we deal with best we can when it arrives and try to wait it out like a nasty storm.
Chemical depression is a different animal. It tends to get tossed in under that cover all word depression. "Oh, my aunt was depressed" or "yeah, I was depressed for a while" or I have this and such symptoms so I am depressed, I hear this all the time. As soon as someone hears that I suffer from depression (as part of the Bipolar), they toss their depression in using that huge umbrella. I am not discrediting their suffering or their battle. What I want is a clear understanding of Depression and it's different faces. To me it is like saying the word cancer is the only word we need to describe the disease. I bet ovarian cancer survivors would argue that their cancer was certainly different from someone who suffered from pancreatic cancer and vice versa. Yes, cancer is a disease. Yes, the basic nature of the animal is the same, but look at all the different types. Each type attacks the body in a different way, it attacks different cells and different parts of the body. They each need a treatment designed for that specific type of cancer. Some cancers have a near 0% mortality rate and some have a near 100% mortality rate. Next time you hear the word depression tossed around kept this in mind.
In writing this I am referring to depression as chemical depression as it is experienced in Bipolar Disorder. With Bipolar it is part of a tag team. There is mania and there is depression. This is where that popular second name comes from - Manic Depression. There are medical articles out there that point out the fact that all emotional states have chemical ties, why else would shock be something that requires medical treatment? In shock a person's body is performing chemical preservation, in response to emotional trauma as well as physical trauma. Or think of it this way, how many times have you heard the story of the mother lifting the car off her child or any great feat of strength in an emergency situation? Our bodies are chemical powerhouses. To think that our emotions and our body chemistry are separate is naive. The fine line is approached when our body's chemistry is not working correctly. We either get too much or too little of something. When you have a moment check out the details of what your Thyroid does, if you want a good idea of how your body functions rely on chemicals.
When I am simply blue, or sad, or a little down there is a great difference between this and when I am depressed due to the chemistry in my body. The blues, this general depression is something I know I can wait out and deal with. I can use the simple tools that people have been using forever. I get exercise, I make sure I am eating healthy foods. I keep moving, I talk about it, I pray. Although, I will suffer insomnia at these times, I make sure that I am on a sleep schedule and stick to it whether I sleep or not. I get as much sunlight as possible. Overall, I just accept that I am depressed and I know that it will pass, but it won't be much fun for a while. This is the depression I believe so many people experience, but run immediately to their doctor or therapist to have it "cured". It is so much easier to have someone give you a pill (mother's little helper), tell you you are among a vast majority of people that have this same problem, and that it can be fixed medically, you don't have to do much work. It's nice to have someone validate your feelings and actions. I could go on about how much or our world has slipped down this slope, but I digress.
It is not fun and it is hard work fighting off depression, but it can be done. Isn't it odd that depression is 10 times more common in people born after 1945 than those born before? Is it the chicken and the egg question here? Was depression just as prevalent in those born before 1945? Is it that there just wasn't a name and a check list to diagnose it? Or is it that those pre 1945 just worked through it? They put up with it and did what they needed to do, they were better equipped. Have we now dulled the equipment to the point that it is nearly worthless. (For just one moment think of the lifestyle most were leading pre 1945.....they didn't have time to stop and analyze their depression and couldn't afford to either. We are talking about the Great Depression generation...doesn't it seem like that percentages should be the other way? With all of our "medical advances" and all of the medication we now have available, shouldn't the generation post '45 have the smaller percentage of depression? I don't know I am just a mid west housewife, but I can't keep my thoughts from wandering in that direction, maybe there is a medication for that. One other point, the people with mental issues so severe that they could not work through them, well, they ended up in a mental institution. So, yes there was depression and baby blues before we gave them names and medicines to "cure" them. What is categorized as needing medical treatment has changed, the problems have not.)
I will drag myself back to the main subject I am trying to address, depression with in the illness of Bipolar.
The depression experience in bipolar is your popular depression on steroids. I think the cruel part is that the when I begin to feel depressed I have to wait to see if it will continue into the black mire that is the full blown depression experienced when I am in a manic depressive cycle. In that abyssimal blackness there are no "muddled" thought, there are only scattered words that maybe used to be thoughts. There is no slow speech, there is hoping that I can speak. My ability to speak becomes challenged. Let me make sure you understand. It is not the want to speak or the lack of something to say. It is feeling that to search for a thought that can even be verbalized is too much and then to take that breath to say that word or thought will break me. I have to worry if what I might say will make sense and if I will be able to say it without crying. I will cry saying anything, not just giving an emotional response to something. I will not be just tired. My muscles will feel as if I have been working them hard for a week. I will have to will them to move. My vision becomes fuzzy. I will not be able to eat. A lot of times it will not be out of lack of interest, but for the simple fact that eating will make me nauseous. I will fight the urge to vomit most of the day. Of course there is the hallmark of emotional and mental illness, insomnia. It is as if my physical abilities begin to shut down trapping me inside myself with a terrible black nightmare.
Along with the physical symptoms there are the mental symptoms. This is where that terrible black nightmare I mentioned waits. Here is where I feel the madness pulling, wanting to snap that fine, frayed cord, my lifeline. There are dark voices, they whisper and snicker. They tell me the most horrible things, they show me dark disturbing pictures. The voices are like intruders attacking me in my most personal undefended places. I can fight someone off if they physically attack me with at weapon. I can run from them. I can see them. I close my eyes those thought will not go away. I lie down and they chase me down into any scraps of sleep I may get.
There are thoughts and there are voices, two distinctly different things to deal with. The thoughts are just that, thoughts. What makes them a problem is the way that these thoughts are not a part of my intentional stream of thought. I will be thinking of what I am going to write next and while I am forming these thoughts there are other thoughts that inject themselves to my intended train of thought. It is almost like a crawler at the bottom of a news cast. My intended and present train of thought is the main newscast, the intrusive thoughts are the crawler at the bottom. I think it wouldn't be as bad if the intrusive thoughts were as small and steady as the crawler at the bottom of the screen. I can ignore the crawler messages. I have to put forth more effort to ignore the thoughts that flash themselves across my mind.
They don't have to be a complete thought or everyday, mundane thought like "take the dog out" or "the basement lights are on". No, these are nonsense words, phrases and whole thoughts. It is kind of like having a small child shout things at you while you are having a conversation on the phone, actually anyone trying to get your attention while you are talking on the phone. Maybe you are on the phone with the bank, or having a serious conversation with a spouse and there in the background is your little one, screaming bits of different songs, or asking you to "look at me mommy, look at me". Maybe, they are asking if they can have a cookie, or maybe they are just shouting nonsense words and sounds as loud as they can all in an attempt to get your attention. During all of this you are trying to concentrate on the conversation with your bank, answer their question and ask them your own questions.
That would be the nonsense, thoughts. Then there are the random thoughts that have more substance to them. Same situation, only it is another adult in the background, a husband or wife. Your are trying to talk to this business person, give them your information and there is your partner waving their hands wanting you to ask the bank this or that. In that situation you have to half way pay attention to what the other person is trying to say. You just can't wave it off as nonsense.
One of the most recent examples of the nonsense thoughts would be a word that kept popping into my head, trying to overlay my present thought process. It was some nonsense word, a non word. It would flash as bright and as loud as it could in my mind. It was distracting because it was a nonsense word, one that my mind had made up. It wasn't disruptive though. An example of a more intrusive and disruptive thought would be the other night I was trying to talk to my husband on the phone and whole pieces of unspoken conversation would try to overlay the actual conversation I was having. Imagine being on the phone when your signal gets crossed with a neighbor's signal. There are whole conversations happening at one time. I was talking to my husband about one thing but my mind kept trying to interject a different conversation. Imagine being distracted during a conversation by trying to remind yourself to ask a certain question or that you want to tell the other person something, then multiply that by one million or more. My speech becomes halted and uncertain while I try to untangle my thoughts and hang on to what I am actually trying to say. It becomes very frustrating trying to keep myself focused. I become mentally exhausted and emotionally strained simply because of intrusive, unwanted thoughts.
Those are the thoughts, but the darker issues are the voices and the images -

Words by Jessica Rexroat
Read 1122 times
Written on 2007-04-22 at 07:12

Tags Bipolar  Illness 

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lastromantichero The PoetBay support member heart!
Jessica this is a profound and enlightening text well done for writing this it is a wonderful examination of a state of health well done rgds Michael

Phyllis J. Rhodes
You have described a gruesome reality so well. I wish I could make it all go away.