A Weirdly (nearly) Wordless, (bordering on) Bipolar Week


I’m having a weird week–not wanting to write, not wanting to look back–a relatively wordless week, compared to most–a week without much in the way of memoir work, a week with fewer than usual over-the-shoulder glances.

In all honesty, I’ve had some break-through bipolar symptoms–ones that penetrate the protective barrier medication erects between me and my  manic-depressive illness.

Sara says I’ve been manic.  Though I’ve not noticed that exactly, I have felt like I was floating, like I’m hovering high inside my own head–the bulk of me shoved up above my left eye.  I know that likely sounds strange but the physical sensation is nearly always the same–floating–hovering up and to the left.

My only wish is that this mania would bring with it the creative energy I used to have when my mood was on its way up.

It used to be, when I was ill, creating felt effortless, as automatic as breathing, and I did it with the urgency and abandon of falling in love, deeply and maddeningly in love.  I could no more not create than I could not now eat or sleep or dream of waking up tomorrow in a world with less poverty, less hunger, more rights for the mentally ill and anyone living near the edge, far from the center of the bell curve that is middle American comfort.

This week creativity has taken effort.  It’s been labor-intensive and even exhausting.  This week it’s required industry and diligence, determination, duty, drive.

But it’s better than it was when in the early ‘90s I began taking antipsychotic medication and the only ones around were things like Haldol and Navane, the older generation of drugs that made me feel even less like myself than I do now.  Those drugs made me feel lethargic, zombied, and at times even, down-right dead.  They made me feel thick-headed—like I had to swim through a fog to interact with the world.  I had to fight to stay awake—to keep my eyes open—to carry on a conversation—to process language.

Then friendship felt nearly impossible–too much work to talk, to articulate, to move my mouth to form the words.  The drugs blunted everything human about me—made me lose everything and anything I loved about myself, a woman with passion, a woman who cared intensely about the world and the people around her.

All that was gone—or at least out of reach—beyond the fog I couldn’t fight or navigate my way through–the fog that was dense, thick, terrible and deep.

But the newer drugs of the 21st-century are better. The medicated me of this decade is more alive and energized than the me of 10 or 20 years ago.  Most of the time, I no longer fight the fog that separates me from the world.

Now I only fight an internal fog that keeps me, as it has this week, from the deepest and most creative places inside, from the art-making place in the center of my psyche.  This week writing has meant managing this mist, hacking through the haze between me and the vibrant, secret center where the creative Kathy waits.

a creative place in the center of my psyche

But she’s still there.  And maybe next week she’ll be easier to find.  Maybe then the two-faced, creative me–monstrous and magnificent, hideous and holy–maybe she won’t hide so deep inside.

64 thoughts on “A Weirdly (nearly) Wordless, (bordering on) Bipolar Week

  1. Kathy,
    Be kind to yourself. Perhaps the creative you needs to lie fallow for a while, and that is okay. I know that what you struggle with is beyond pat answers, but I believe in you, your friendship, and your creativity. Give yourself a break and time, and the flow will come again I’m sure.

    ❤ Lisa

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  2. Thank you for writing this, Kathy. I have an older brother who burdens with the same illness but he refuses medication. He alters between bright and articulate and then inflationary and despondent. I’s so hard to witness. His refuge is our 81 year old Mom. I’m so thankful you have a loving soul partner to recognize and authenticate your symptoms. Hugs to you … and please take care,
    MJ

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    • I’m sorry to hear your brother has the same illness, MJ. I sometimes think that illnesses like mine might be hardest on the families of those afflicted, as brothers, sisters, parents might feel to helpless.

      But you are right. Sara makes a massive difference in my life, as she can see things beginning to change in me, even before I feel them. She’s like having an early warning system. Thank God for her. If only more people had a Sara in their lives!

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      • It is difficult; he doesn’t mean to but the effects of the illness on his personality generally makes family times strained. My mother’s carried the biggest load and while she’s done so willingly, it’s not been without a price. I worry about who he’ll have when she’s gone one day; other relationships are fractured and dissipated. If only he’d stay on medications (he has, but as soon as he feels better he goes off again .. argh … ) then there might be different results. His life would be been so different had he had a Sara in his corner, too. Give her a big hug for me, will ya?
        😉 MJ

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      • Sorry to hear your brother stops the meds as soon as he begins to feel better. Once I found a cocktail of drugs that actually worked for me (and it took years) I never wanted to go off, for fear the symptoms would come back. Maybe that’s why I have stayed on them–I went for so long with no relief.

        I will, indeed, hug Sara for you, my friend. Hugs to you, as well!

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  3. Kathy, I feel for you. While I don’t have your illness, I do know what it’s like to suffer through something that only our brain controls and feel so helpless to do anything about the symptoms. For me, when I’m depressed and my medication isn’t helping, not creating almost makes it worse because it’s so much a part of who I am. I imagine it’s the same for you. I hope you feel better soon.

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    • Absolutely, Miranda. Not creating does make me feel worse usually, because I then begin to fear I’ve lost the ability to create. I don’t know why I feel that way, but it’s often my first thought. Great reminder, Sista! Hugs, my friend————

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      • I have the same fear on my bad days. Like the mayhem in my brain is going to annihilate the ability to soothe myself, and let’s face it, that is what our creative ventures do, soothe us. I’ve gotten into funks where I didn’t write, draw or sew for almost a year. It was terrible because all I could do was watch my materials gather dust while I seemed unable to even touch them. Keep your chin up, Sista. Hopefully, it will soon pass.

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      • Yes, I, too, have gone for a year or more with little, if not, no creativity. It’s maddening. I think that may have been the worst time of my life. Thank God, however, that I’m feeling better. I think I had just a bit of a scare. Hugs—————–

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  4. You’re ability to put words to your symptoms is amazing to me. I love reading from your perspective as my brother struggled with bi-polar disorder for years… and was absolutely unwilling to articulate what he was feeling most of the time. Often times when my brother was feeling manic Mom would send him to my house to help with the kids and never ending chores and from his perspective Mom just needed some alone time. I miss his goofiness so much. (:

    That art (is it pastel?) is gorgeous. I love it!

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    • Gosh, I’m so sorry about your brother. It’s true that when folks are manic they have LOTS of energy. How great that your brother could put it to work helping you. It sounds like you lost him, and if so, I’m very sad for your loss. It’s huge. Sometimes the bigger the persoanlity, the bigger the loss, if that makes sense.

      Actually, the drawing is color pencil. So glad you like it.

      Thanks so much for your comment! Great to hear from you.

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  5. I must say for someone suffering immensely, you’re impressively articulate. If I suffered your illness I would probably just stare at a spot on the wall slack-jawed, drooling and as for writing, all I could likely muster is the signing of my name with my thumb print — kinda close to my actual signature only with dotted “i’s”. I hope your energy and inspiration return soon.

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    • Actually, I wouldn’t say I’m suffering, “immensely” today. I’ve been struggling, but NOTHING like I used to. Back then, I pretty much did exactly what you describe! So glad I wouldn’t have been the only one. And at least you would keep us laughing. Right?

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  6. If this post is any indication, you’re fighting the fog very well.

    It makes me so sad to know that there were days when your meds put you in a place so far away from the world. Really sad. I’ve known days, even stretches of days when I’ve felt quiet, inside myself, removed, sad. And it’s hard to be creative when I’m feeling like that. But nothing that compares to what you’ve described.

    Hugs, my friend. Hang in there.

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  7. I’m glad you’re feeling a bit better today, I see from the comments. It’s amazing how self aware you are even in the throes of an illness breakthrough. Another myth I held shattered.
    Be well, friend, and continue to reach for the stars.

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    • Thanks, Jackie. It truly is better here today–not completely–but significantly. Sometimes we see most clearly in the dark, actually. And we see differently. We see things we might not otherwise. In this regard I’m grateful.

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    • Thanks for the hug, Laurel. Hope you are enjoying the snow. Didn’t realize you all were now getting ice. That could be bad for the power lines. If you go dark, we’ll know what happened. Right? Nothing like ice to knock out the electricity.

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  8. Oh Kathy, I am sorry to hear that you are suffering! I remember those dreadfully awful days when I suffered postpartum depression and I felt like how you are describing. I’d go from high to low and then have these intense, anxiety attacks that left me helpless, scared and alone. Although I’ve mostly recovered from my days of PPD, occasionally I may get a few days of unexplained anxiety and sadness. They usually come once or twice a year and when they come I just ride it out. I always know that they will go away and it will be better. But I know how you feel. It is terrible when you are in the “funk” and don’t know when you’ll come out. For me, I try to be easy on myself and also get out of the house more and do things different from my routine. Usually it passes. I also got a sunlight and started taking more vitamin D which has helped me a lot since I am a sunshine person and winter can have a toll on my mental health. Hang in there Kathy and maybe instead of writing, create art? Maybe that will help it flow for you!

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    • Gosh, Nicole, I had forgotten that you had had PPD. I think that must be really hard, especially when you have a new baby to care for and feel so badly at the same time. Really bad combination?

      It sucks that sometime these symptons still surface. However, today had been better than earlier in the week, and I’m grateful for that. These symptoms have always passed from me in recent years, as well. But, yes, one never knows how long it will take.

      Thanks for reading, Nicole. Great to hear from you today! Hugs—————

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    • What an amazing statement, Sandy! I am creating ME! God, what a revelation that is. I can’t even begin to tell you. Wow–what a wonderful, stunningly beautiful thought! Thank you, my friend! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

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  9. Some people would pay good money to experience that floating high feeling.

    Hopefully you can overcome your creative block and get back to work entertaining us. Yes, that’s right – it’s all about us!

    OK, not really. Hope you feel better and more yourself soon, Kathy.

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  10. I was going to say, your frustration wasn’t beautiful, but your description of it sure was. Then I decided that description was a result of your frustration, so it has it’s own beauty after all.

    I am so glad to read that you are feeling better and hope that you’re right back up to snuff soon. All in good time. I hope you know (for once, because I’m not good at expressing it) that my warmth is radiating quite seriously in your direction. Drink a cup of tea and you’ll feel it for sure.

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    • I’m happy to report that I feel well-snuffed this morning. Just finished working out–ready for another day. And isn’t that true– There a few things a nice cup of tea won’t fix! Gotta have it! Hugs, my friend!

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  11. I’m late here, but I hope you are doing a little better now Kathy. *hugs*

    I had a friend in college who was bipolar. She hated the meds and was using biofeedback to control the worst of it. Sometimes we’d come home from running errands and she’d be working in our flower beds … she loved to garden but didn’t have a yard of her own.

    I’m also thinking that other factors may be exacerbating things for you. There is a lot of wonky energy floating around right now and almost everyone I know has been affected by it somehow.

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    • I sure am feeling wonky. Thursday and Friday were good. Today (Saturday) I am feeling the “wonky” energy big time. And I am so damn irritable. Don’t know that I’m much fit for human company today. I feel bad for Sara.

      Thanks for reading, D.

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      • Does that mean it should get better? That we will be more tolerable to live with? I suppose I should only speak for us, but right about now Sara’s looking like a saint. At any rate–you give us both hope here in Kentucky, my friend! Hugs—————–

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  12. Blessings, Kathy. I’m sorry it’s been a rough week. Like dragonfae up above, I’m coming here late, so maybe the energy is shifting for you now. (Oh just read your comment up above hers, looks like you are well-snuffed. So glad! Hoping it was a temporary glitch. And I like what Sandy Sue said about creating yourself. The most important work of creativity ever. And there are times when silence serves us more than sharing.)

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    • Hope your weekend is going well, Kathy. Thanks for reading. Yeah, I was feeling well-snuffed yesterday. Today, I don’t feel so great. Maybe part of it is just the yuck of January. Hope you have a great trip, my friend!

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  13. I’m also late to the commenting party for this post, Kathy, so I hope that a few days of being with your mist and fog have enabled a “breakthrough” for you.

    As much as I wish I could be creative and ‘on’ all the time (or at least way more ‘on’ than I’m ‘off’), I’ve also come to realize that the dormant periods of creative hibernation are necessary, too. Don’t feel too badly that this week has felt like a struggle for you. I’m sure that your creativity is just charging and will shine brightly again very soon! 🙂

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  14. PS: This post was a dazzling display of creativity, despite it being about frustration and a perceived lack of creative energy. I really enjoyed reading it!

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  15. Hang in there Kathy, and continue to weather the blahs of January (that are far-reaching, indeed). Hopefully the sun will shine on you next week, and breathe life into your current fog (which you articulate so well).
    If any consolation, I feel in the midst of a funk myself. Aimless, wandering, restless. No matter how hard the wind is howling and the rain is gusting, I make a point of getting fresh air and exercise, which always makes me feel better, however reluctant I may be to begin with. I know you are dealing with a different ball of wax, but just in case it helps the tiniest bit…

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    • Sorry to hear you, too, are suffering from the January blahs. However, it does, help to know I’m not the only one. And, actually, I keep forgetting that a lot of this could be the time of year. It’s ugly outside, isn’t it? Hope you are feeling better, as well, my friend.

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  16. For some reason I thought of the seasons as I read this, of how winter usually is a time to go inside and how in this society we fight it with manic actions at times because of that Puritan work ethic of needing to be productive.

    I hope that doesn’t come out sounding as if I’m trivializing bipolar disorder. I’m not. It’s just that I wonder if even with the meds, the ups and downs of the seasons are still in place.

    *Hugs* and I hope you are feeling better now. I’m so far behind in keeping up with blogs lately that you may have taken a trip around the world by now. 🙂

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  17. I think maybe your recent journey has gotten you close to lands that fill you with … well if not fear maybe a sense of unsafe footing. Even a gymnast will feel insecure when walking in an earthquake. As your creative self begins merging with your emotional self, friction may develop between the two. This can be unsettling for anyone, but when you are still in the process of determining who exactly you are it can be quite the struggle. And it does not help to have drugs that are messing with the boundaries. But they will find a middle ground to work with, and eventually might actually find they fit together. I have faith in this, and look forward to the resultant creations!

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    • Actually, the medication is not what I blame for the problem. I’ve been taking the same drugs for years. I think the memoir writing is somehow threatening to me–at least on some level. I’m not as aware of this consciously, but I would guess that’s a lot of it.

      Thanks for reading, Steve.

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  18. I found your blog by way of Kana Tyler’s blog (by a comment you left over there) … not even sure why I clicked over here, but now it kinda makes sense … the mob connection, manic depression, exploding creativity, and also that I have a particular affinity for wanting to say out loud that I support same sex unions, because I’m just fed up and tired of hearing all that close minded crap where people throw their bibles at your head and want to use it as a weapon against decent people who have found love and laughter and a safe and secure place to live together, no matter with whom, or in what combination of male-female.

    Sorry, didn’t mean to travel down the rabbit hole of a mini-rant. My father was also connected, (although I very rarely talk about it), I also happen to be manic depressive, (as well as DID and PTSD, cause apparently I like LOTS of letters), and I happened to have also written a bookie story, but mine, I’ll caution you, is nothing at all like yours. Mine is dark, and for adult eyes only. If your curiosity gets the best of you, my bookie story is dated 02-18-12 and is titled Erasing Bad Debt. But again I’ll caution you … not for the feint of heart.

    I didn’t come here to go fishing for new readers. I just wanted to poke my head in and say “hi there … I see you … I like the way you write … how ironic that the convoluted trail of blog hopping allowed our paths to cross”. Love the pics you shared of your home on another post, and I wish (wish, wish, wish) that I could unleash my creativity in some way that would rival your own creativity. I absolutely adore viewing and observing and appreciating creativity, but I’ve squelched so many things about myself in my life journey, that I fear I may have strangled my creativity so effectively, that it may never get a chance to explode. But that doesn’t mean I can’t clap my hands in glee when I see creativity in someone else.

    Bye for now … have subscribed (what was I thinking???? I already don’t have enough time to read all those wonderful blogs out there). Hope to cross paths with you again … if nothing else, will be keeping my eye open for splashes of beauty.

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    • How great to meet you! I’m happy to have found you or for your to have found me. Sounds like we have a huge amount in common. I definitely want to read your bookie piece. Is it fiction, or does it have something to do with your father? At any rate, I won’t say more here. Want to see if I can find the post you refer to. I’ll be in touch. GREAT to meet you! Really great! Thanks for this wonderful comment. I like you already!

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      • nope, not fiction
        and yes, has to do with my father

        It does sound like we have a lot in common, but one difference that stood out to me immediately was that you’ve done lots of traveling, (and I have not, other than some domestically), but still, I could tell by checking out some of your posts that you are the kind of person that lives out loud, and I gotta love that … always appreciate when I see someone being an example of who I think, (maybe?), I was intended to be … it’s a bit like being somewhat of a voyeur, and yet, at the same time, trying to figure out how to integrate your example into my existence.

        did that make sense?

        anyway, glad to meet you, too! 🙂

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      • Oh, you are a sweetie. I read your post. I know it’s true, very true, tragically true. So, so sorry for you.

        Yes, I live out loud. Sometimes it drives my poor partner nuts–“Do you always have to say exactly what you feel?” Bless her heart. However, she has been a huge blessing in my life–a remarkable anchor–a source of sanity and truth.

        At the same time–it sounds to me like you do live “out loud.” Maybe I’ll have more to learn from watching your example. I think most of us learn best by watching others. I totally understand.

        Hang in there–hugs————

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      • Thanks for your kind words … I hope that now you’ll shake off what you’ve read today on my blog, and not let it color your day. I like to see people exercising their creativity, so if nothing else, throw some color out there in defiance of the sorrow, and splash some yellow and orange and lime green around, and just keep living out loud. Thanks again, and it was really nice to meet you today. 🙂

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