Release me from your fall. Push me away. Push me all.
In an instant, these feelings overwhelm me and tug at my sensibilities. Tug at my reality and distort it. I’m not pulled up to great heights and let go to fall freely. I’m not pulled down flat against the surfaces. I’m pulled sideways. It distorts things in a way that unnerves me. I question what is good for me versus what is bad for me but don’t know the answer. I can’t tell the difference. I question if this is all that there is in my life. Is this enough and if there is more–what and where is it? It’s an impatient feeling–this sideways feeling. The skin on my face tugs sideways and my lips drag across my face like ice cream dripping sideways on a cone. My long hair moves upward and forms into licorice spirals then fans out and goes sideways along with the direction of my face. My clothes flutter and pull on me, tug me, tug at my skin that is oozing along sideways outside of its boundaries and wrapped in clothes, sweat and body heat. Sideways to no particular place just moving there and won’t stop going. My skeleton creaks and tugs sideways following its attachments. My mind is well on its way going sideways and leading this distasteful delicacy. Sideways is a place my mind is always unfamiliar with but has no fear to go. It goes there and stays awhile in this unfamiliar, sideways place putting thoughts in my mind that make no nevermind sense. Senses aflutter and thoughts aclutter going to a place called ‘sideways’. Where all thoughts become skewed and unmatched in their perplexity. Not even my meds can stop this sideways complexity. Hope keeps me afloat as I tip toe above it and watch helplessly from above and then crawl down to observe it from below. Sideways is a middle kind of place. A lonely kind of place. Tryin’ to make it stop or change direction to a more familiar perception instead of sideways which is an undesirable confection.
Having an affair is a package filled with good, loving times but wrapped in rejection.
One of the strongest indicators of being in hypomania and feeling it grow stronger is the sudden inability to sleep. Routine sleep is critical for those with bipolar disorder, and I make every effort to keep a regular schedule. I take my medication at 8pm and it kicks in around 10pm. Once, I lie down, it takes about 30 minutes to sleep. However, when hypomania appears the sandman leaves. When the sandman leaves, I stay awake until the sun rises. Since I am in hypomania and not mania, I do not spend my evening painting or writing; rather, I just lie in the dark. Thoughts of the day run through my mind and other hours I just lie in bed with a quiet mind. I keep my eyes close, but sometimes I open them and look at my hands in the dark. Stare off in the veil of darkness that cocoons my room safe and warm. I do not know how I lie in bed for hours til dawn. I just do. I suspect I do go into a light sleep, but in the morning, I wake exhausted for a few hours. The exhaustion passes and I become alert again.
I did not sleep last night and suspect tonight I will stay awake. I feel very alert right now. This is the other indicator. I am not dragging at all, but I do make it a practice to lie in the dark to allow my body to rest. When the morning comes, I have to go to work. When I go to work, but do not sleep, I can function at work, but I can not exercise afterwards because it seems to daunting. Tomorrow, I had planned to play against a tennis wall, but I do not think I will have the energy. I come home and try to stay calm and peaceful since I know I am in hypomania. Back in the day, I would have gone out and drank alcohol. Nowadays, I am more disciplined in my self care. Human interaction can become intense, and I am able to maintain a calm distance and protect myself until the hypomania wanes. It crashes into me in waves even on my low dose medication treatment.
Tonight, was different. I ended up pleasantly talking on the phone with my boyfriend until we started discussing politics and the recent debate. It became very uncomfortable and intense. We disagreed on the presidential nominees and voiced our opinions strongly. I kept saying “let us agree to disagree,” but he would not let it go. I felt negatively judged and really bad for how I was thinking. It was horrible. I came crashing down left in shock. My eyes felt like the size of giant saucers making the lights brighter. My mouth went dry and I lost my appetite. I was in a kind of shock. Hypervigilant and uneasy was how I was left. This is what happens when you lose sight of how your mood is affecting you. I knew I had not been sleeping and should have immediately and politely hung up or changed the divert with some levity. These are lessons learned. I had not been sleeping and new I was vulnerable. It is during these times that I really have to not say much or engage in charged topics. During these phases, I have to stay vigilant but not hypervigilant which causes mayhem too. It is a delicate balance, but I do know when I do not sleep, I have to lie low.
After I hung up, I cried and then sat staring at the TV. Just feeling so bad about a conversation that went so wrong. I could not eat nor drink. I just sat there. Now, I cannot sleep. My blogging is a nice escape. I am not concerned with destabilizing because of my med, but I am in distress. For the rest of the evening, I will listen to my favorite comedian Bill Burr podcast and hope my words for this blog will flow. I have many thoughts running over and over in my mind about what we said about people who do not even matter. The shock. Tonight, I will not lie in the dark. I will allow my shock and hypomania to engulf me and stay busy, but I will not drink alcohol.
It had been a long day in the office and my morning started off fair enough until it ended with my colleague’s forgetfulness about a meeting. The meeting was very important, and I had left on time for it. I walked for 20 minutes down the street to the location and entered the modern building. It had a grey, spacious interior that made you feel physically small amidst the soaring walls. I checked in with the receptionist and stated the name of the meeting I was attending. She looked through her list and informed me that my meeting wasn’t on the list and asked if I would like to walk through the meeting rooms and check. Against the loud “NO” in my mind, I entered anyway because I’m trying to not be isolated and live outside my comfort zone. One thing that triggers anxiety for me is being lost. It becomes a tidal wave of discomfort and panic if I’m not careful. I entered the hallway feeling lost but keeping it under control by telling myself that I was ok and taking deep easy breathes. I cleared my mind as I walked aimlessly down the hallway checking in on rooms where meetings were starting to take place. After not finding my meeting, I left. Relief filled me up as I left that hallway and then quickly escaped the building. I was outside in the fresh air and relaxed as I headed back to my office. Another 20 minute walk which was quite ok because I was outside and free.
I returned to my office and asked my colleague about the meeting and he casually said, “oh, that was cancelled. Didn’t I tell you? I guess I forgot to forward you the email.” I pushed my irritation down and tried not to dwell on it. I casually responded, “oh, that’s ok.” But it wasn’t ok. The anxiety that I had to experience due to his laziness was almost unforgivable. Oh, the work place – a functioning mental ward of the uninspired.
I met my boyfriend after work, and we walked out of work together and there was still a chill in the air. I was wearing my favorite faux fur coat and walking with the man I love. It was a wonderful. It always wonderful to be with him, and I have to pinch myself everyctime we are together. Our chit chat, as we walked to the car, masked the fact that I was irritated by my colleagues oversight. People passed by and the sound of traffic grew louder as we got closer to the intersection. The loudness of the traffic triggered me to be more irritable at the thought of the cancelled meeting. My chatter continued about my work day all the way to the car. Comfortably enclosed in our space, I explained exactly how I walked to the building only to find out that it had been cancelled. Then I explained that my colleague “That MotherFucker forgot to tell me. My boyfriend is opposite of the more fiery me. He does not curse and uses a tamer language to express himself. “That MotherFucker forgot to tell me the meeting was cancelled,” I blurted out as we drove down the freeway. He said, “Well…. that doesn’t make him a “motherfucker.” I mean that word is used for a more serious situation.” “No!” I declared. The word completely describes my colleague “He’s, a motherfucker.” My boyfriend said, “You use that word if someone attacks you and you pull out a knife and stab him in the face and then you yell “You motherfucker!”” I said, “If I were to wait to use Motherfucker like that then I would never get to use it, and it’s a great word. It describes my colleague – that Motherfucker!”
I have been on my med for six months and have managed to attain stability through many trial and error. Since I am not heavily dosed, a recent hypomanic episode can be felt simmering under my surface and does not float away with the steam. Although the shower no longer screams, and the freezer no longer plans warfare against me, I can still feel the other physical effects. Over a week ago, I stopped sleeping regularly for three days in a row but managed to rest and sleep a few hours each night. I became intimate with the dark. My appetite is reduced to Ramen and beer. Things become shiny and then fade. My periphery waves hello and then fades goodbye.
My med keeps me anchored so I do not float away. I flicker. I flicker. I flicker ever brighter and dim with the sunset. It is times like these that my med seems like something I can live without because the hypomanic feeling of invincibility taunts me. I take the pill from my pillbox and stare at it wondering out loud if I still really need it. Of course, I need it and continue to take it. It is times like these that the reality of a bad decision is at the forefront of my mind.
The alarm clock sounds off like reveille across a field. It calls for me to wake up and start my day. Through groggy eyes, I look for my alarm and shut if off. A sigh escapes my lips and my head returns gently to my pillow. It sinks into the comfort and warmth. I am awake and become aware of my warm body under the warm sheets I stretch like a cat and roll onto my side. I look at my clock in frustration as if its the clock’s fault that I have to wake up. Why can I not wake up perky and bouncy like I use to, but the answer is always there — my med. Fortunately, my med does not effect my libido in the morning. Through the sleepy leepies I still want to play. To feel.
How did I end up self admitting into a psychiatric institution for the first time? I can still clearly see myself signing my rights away. I remember the ilegible scrawl that scratched from the pen, which represented my signature, as I signed the official documents. I remember how at that moment in the emergency room, I felt surprised and oddly interested that for someone with beautiful penmanship, my messy signature was unrecognizable. I was losing control of my mind and my body, and I was slowly losing the will to combat this insipid side effect called Akathisia.
To give some background, I had unknowingly lived with untreated bipolar for quite a number of years. I barely sought medical treatment in September 2015 because the mania was swallowing me up one day at a time. I was medically diagnosed and entered the realm of antipsychotic medication and therapy. When I was prescribed 80mg of Geodon — 40mg in day and 40mg at night, I refused the prescription because I wanted to start at the lowest dose possible before moving on. It is the way I think. I wanted to titrate up and watch all the changes. I wanted control. So I refused the day med and only took 40mg at night. I continued on 40mg at night for two and a half months. This dosing only at night caused my side effect. Apparently, some doctors believe Geodon should be taken two times a day; otherwise, one dose is spiking your brain.
Taking Geodon one time at night caused a side effect called Akathisia which caused me to end up in a psychiatric institution. The horror of it all still lingers. A memory that has yet to fade. I watched myself lose a grip on reality over a three day period. It was not like experiencing psychosis. It was different because it did not hit me like a ton of bricks like psychosis where you cross a line and cannot see where you came from. When I experienced Akathisia I could see my mind crossing a sanity versus insanity line that I could not control and then return back to me. Each time was more powerful, and the restlessness, that it is known for, occurs in waves. It rolls through your body. You cannot stop the urge to move, to fidget, to walk, walk faster and then to run. You cannot settle your mind. You just want to move faster than your mind is capable of doing. The mind and body are disconnected.
At the time, I did not know what was happening to me and this occurred over a three day period. I survived three days of Akathisia and two minor episodes before this. When I experienced it before, I called it “The Hurt” and I wrote about it in my blog in a short story titled, “The Hurt.” The episodes that occurred on the first two days started two hours after I took Geodon and lasted one hour. I dealt with it by putting myself to sleep with Benadryl. I did not know it was Akathisia until the third day of my episodes when it started at 8:00 in the morning during work. I googled my symptoms and came to the conclusion that this was what I was feeling in addition to the wretched anxiety that presented mortality to me in ways that I never thought of before. In ways only those who are terminal or in the gallows probably feel. The anxiety was smothering me a little at a time and left me gasping for air. For mercy. It lasted a few minute but then returned for longer and longer periods. It dragged me through a dark, chasm of helplessness. I wanted to jump out of my skin and run full speed down the street away from it. I realized that I could possibly end up running down the street – screaming. I was convinced this would be my outcome if I did not get help. These three days were no longer ‘The Hurt.’ They had become ‘The Wicked.’
Akathisia causes a distressful restlessness of the mind and body. In the third day, as it progressively got worse, it made me walk circles around my office, around my building and then outside the building. I got up and walked every 30 minutes for 15 minutes for eight hours on the third day. I was worried that the security guards would notice me and this caused me to change my pattern of walking so that I was not so obviously and oddly walking the building.
So you see, I could still think things through. I even read my crises plan that I had in my phone. My doctor asked me to photograph the crises plan we wrote together, and it was in my iphone. The photo was a list of things to do in crises and one item read “go to the emergency room if in psychosis.” Although I was not in psychosis, the words “emergency room” jumped out at me. I just knew then… I just knew this was my safe haven.
After work, my boyfriend was driving me home and as calmly and as rationally as I could through the waves of Akathisia rolling through my body, I told him that I was not well. At the same time, I was willing myself not to jump out of the moving car. Like in a major way. He said we would go home, and he would take care of me. I came to the conclusion in front of him that this episode was bigger then the both of us. We were entering unchartered territory – the emergency room for a mental health crises. When the ER Psych doctor asked me why I was admitting myself, I told him because I knew that when I started running out the door screaming, they would stop me. With that, my first formal admission to a psychiatric institution was complete.
*I stayed in a psychiatric ward for six days while adjusting my medication. My final treatment plan was Geodon 20mg day and 20mg night. In order to stop the acute Akathisia, I was given Cogentin 1 mg which worked. I titrated off Cogentin after one month and the Akathisia stopped. I am still take Geodon.
Here are funny things I heard while in a Psychiatric Institution adjusting my meds with 32 other detox and/or adult psychiatric:
- “How do you lose a cane up in this bitch?” – One patient wondering out loud how the old man misplaced his cane in the milieu.
- “Hello babycakes” – what some of the detox patients called me.
- “I’m not staying here. I’m going to escape” said my roommate as she tapered off the bottom of her pants while the other roommate was helping her escape by shoving personal items down her pants.
- “I shaved my head because my boyfriend broke up with me. I was in mania” me:”that makes sense”; her: “the problem is it makes sense to us in here but not to people out there.”
- okitee dokitee – a form of okay
- “come here baby. I’ll talk to you and your teddy bear”
- “Come here baby. Let me wipe off that little bit of soap off your face”