Category Archives: Psychology

Go Ask Alice

When you go chasing rabbits, things appear somewhat changed in the movement of people and objects are brighter but not shinier.   There is a difference. Visually people’s movements chase along.  One or two times.  Voices can have an echo effect and a multiple of sounds rise into a crescendo.  These experiences rise and recede as you move through the experience. One minute you feel lost and can get on edge then quickly you become grounded. More firmly planted then you have ever felt in your life.  They come and go.  One minute you are and next minute you are not, but ultimately, you are here, now.  You just have to hold on.

On the walk home during the evening,  I passed by parked cars and buildings with the streets lights glowing on them.   The outlines of everything around me had a black sharpie marker outline like a graphic novel.  I was now in a graphic novel and asked my friend if she was in a graphic novel too, but she was not.  I placed my hands in front of my face and turned them from palm to back of hand.  The black sharpie outline curved with my fingertips and held the color of my hands in place.  I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and observed everything around me, and the sharpie black marker outlined the bushes, trees, street lamps, cars and people.  I no longer had a sense of navigation and new not where on planet earth I stood.  Just that I was standing there in the middle of a sidewalk.  

We made it to the apartment and after a long night were ready for bed.  I was crashing on my friend’s couch for the evening.  The graphic novel effect had disappeared.  Now, I was on the couch but could not sleep.  I lie in the dark with a restless mind.  The sensation of elation started to climb and my mind was trying to keep up with it.  I could not control nor did I know where the elation was going to take me, but had an unsettling feeling that my mind could not and would not keep up with it.  I lay on the couch in the dark and my mind kept going higher to a place I did not know.  Then I became fearful, and felt the two would separate.  My mind was moving. Woah. Would this mean my death?

The elation continued, and I struggled to mentally keep up but could not.  One man on the chessboard got up and told me where to go.  Out of fear I let go.  The sensation of exploding into a billion atoms engulfed me.  I had become atomized.  I could feel life’s experiences in each and every atom.  This is what death must feel like I thought.  I let the atoms take me and floated through them.  I was them and they were me.  It was equinamity; I had never felt it before.  Everything about my life was shown to me in these billions of atoms.  I had answers about the past and learned the answers of tomorrow.  I am Alice.  First, I was big, 10 feet tall, and now I am small.  I learned that there was never and will never be anything to fear. “A hookah smoking character had given me the call.”

{Author’s note: Alice in Wonderland has always been my favorite children’s story.  References are from Jefferson Airplane’s song “White Rabbit”}




Barrio Rules

Barrio rules take care of you, when for whatever reason, you not able to care for yourself. Perhaps you caught up in a heated relationship, partying too hard and cannot think clearly, gambling too much and out of control or just not taking good care of yourself.  Your being.  These type of passionate ways that set you off the rails.  Off the rails in a good way and sometimes bad.   It foolish to not listen to the barrio rules.  There is gratitude for the existence of such rules because ultimately they give comfort, when comfort cannot be found, and set you right when you run aground.

I was raised in one of the oldest neighborhoods in El Paso, Texas, where Spanish was the first language.  A huge white Catholic church was at the end of the street.  I use to walk to church every Sunday  with my Tia Ramona and cousins.  The corner bodega had a mural of Guadalupe with flowers laid at her feet.  The statues were omnipresent in front of houses, inside the homes, and in the stores.  I was raised in a neighborhood where generational gangs like Los Fatherless dominated the night.  It was a poor area with multiple generations of families inhabiting the homes. The people came from humble beginnings. Most were immigrants and still had family members working in the fields.  My father was not a US citizen.  You do not have to be a particular race. Just live in the barrio; a place where barrio rules reigned supreme.  This was my world.  I no longer live in the barrio…I have come a long way.

Barrio rule #1 is that I have your back.  It means through all the grit of existence I will not do anything that will make you feel uncomfortable.  I will be there for you.  That whatever agreement we are in is safe with me. It not an agreement of homage.   I can still disagree with you, but in the end,  I will not burn you for those who have done something personally and intentionally negative against you.   Each person had stricter forms of rule #1 and this was known up front.  You could bow out of the agreement and still stay friends, but do not be surprised when rule #1 does not apply. Everyone had a different degree that worked for them.  The tougher agreements meant if your friend got jumped and you had nothing to do with it, you still had to jump in. I have upheld barrio rule #1 to this degree a few times.  It realist politics played out in the street.

Barrio rule #2 is that you have my back.  It the same like #1 but the other way.  In the reverse it was the agreement of what made me comfortable or the things I did not want you to do or expected you to do.  Again, I expect you to not burn me for someone who did something intentionally bad against me.  In the extreme agreement, it came in handy when I got jumped for being too pretty or unintentionally taking the affections of another guy.  I have seen barrio rule #2 in the extreme applied a few times. I have been jumped twice, and one of these times was by three cholas at once.  I held my own until barrio rule #2 kicked in.  Literally.  Barrio rules can save your life.

There were no surprises.  That what made the barrio rules so comforting.  Expectation management is what we call it in non barrio world.  Depending on the relationship, more barrio rules applied.  Expectations always vocalized in the beginnings of a relationship.  An understanding and agreement between two humans.  They were intimate.  I apply barrio rules with my lovers.  They still form the basis of my oldest friendships from El Paso.  We even discuss the difficulties in life with, “what about barrio rule # whatever it was?”  When in need and discussing life with my old friends, and they know I cannot think straight their words of the barrio rules will permeate the air.  As if to say, we understand life’s constant changes, and we understand but remember the few constants.  A reminder of the simpler times in life. The strength in simple is that it can forge a constant in chaos.  It gives you a grip.

We rarely change from our base no matter what life hands us.  The barrio rules know this.







To Die Like Mildred

No one has personally taught me a more important lesson in life then Mildred. Mildred taught me how to face death.  Everyone else has taught me to run.  She taught me how to look at death and adjust my collar and fix my hair ever just right in death’s presence.  How to look at death and invite her in for tea.  How to look at her and smile from the knowing that we will be together one day.

I worked as an in-home caregiver and Mildred was one of my clients for 14 months. She was a 96 year old lady who had been born in North Dakota long ago.  She graduated from college and then made her way to Colorado where she earned her Master’s in education.  For most of her life she had been a middle school teacher in home economics.  She had been a trailblazer in her younger years.  Not many women had achieved their graduate degree, but Mildred did.

When she met me, she liked me right away.  I was very hands off and did not talk to her in that sing songy voice that people like to use with very old people.  I spoke to her using an even tone and with great respect.  Mildred had been firing caregivers because she felt they treated her like a child.  Upon my visit, she could have sent me on my way; instead, she told me she looked forward to seeing me the next day.

Mildred was a very old human with the aches and pains that come with achieving such a privilege.  Most people die in their 80s.  Here was Mildred moving through life still and still looking beautiful.  She was about 5 feet 6 inches with good posture.  Her hair was curly and solid white.  It had the wiry texture of an old person.  She kept it neat and combed.  Her skin complexion was very pale white and full of deep wrinkles.  Her white skin and hair set off her transluscent light blue eyes.  She was beautiful.  Her voice was confident.

Mildred did not want to live anymore.  She felt she had lived long enough.  It worried her that she came from a long line of women who lived to reach 100 years old.  She could not bear the idea.  She was ready to move on.  We talked to her family about her wishes and they agreed to let Mildred move on with her life into the other.  Transition.  That is what we call in in hospice care when we want to be clinical.

However, she could not be considered for hospice since she was not terminal, but Mildred said her age and with it the aches and pains made her terminal.  The doctor told her the terminal window was within six months.  Mildred decided with the Doctor’s supervision that she would stop taking her thyroid medication and all her vitamins and supplements.  She did.  As her health deteriorated, Mildred and I continued to live our lives as all people do.  I prepared her meals and tea.  We kept her home clean and read the paper.  We did not listen to music or watch television because they made her agitated.  She felt like she had heard and watched all she wanted.  These types of arts no longer soothed her.  She missed gardening, hiking and driving.

During the last month of her life, my care for her intensified.  She was approved for in-home hospice care which meant that when death was near, her morphine would be delivered.  I moved in full time to care for her.  To her satisfaction, she was getting weaker.  All was going according to her plan.  I have never seen anyone mentally preparing for death like this before.  I bathed her and kept her hair groomed.  She always looked neat.  Our conversations changed to her experiences and the good life she lived with her children, husband and friends.  She was not lonely for her young life.  She spoke about them with laughter as stories of long ago.

One day, I stopped by my work office to fill out forms for other clients and had a discussion with the more seasoned  hospice workers about dying.  They told me that a sign that means she is close to dying is when she starts talking about her parents.  She had never talked about them before.

One week before her death, Mildred told me about the dreams she was having about her father and all the goods memories of him.  Right then, I new death was among us, and it was an honor to be around her.  Mildred taught me that death is part of life.  It is the Ying to the Yang.  It is not to be feared when it whispers, “Let it go.”

Later on that week Mildred started to experience excruciating pain in her back, and I would massage her through the night until she fell asleep.  She would wake up through out the night and call for me.  I wanted to be sure I was there for her so I slept on the floor right up against her bed holding her hand.  One night, she woke and sat up again.  She had been doing this every hour for a few days and was wearing me ragged.  Yet, I never complained.  Whatever she needed, I was there.

She sat up frustrated that her back hurt and that the pain would not go away.  Again, I sat on her bed and massaged her back in the dark with moonlight coming in through the window. I had bags under my eyes and my hair was knotted up like a bird’s nest.  She was moaning in pain out loud.  She said, “oooh I can not sleep!” and I answered in the dark, “ok, scoot over, and I will sleep in your bed” and she laughed uproariously.  There we were in the dark laughing together at death.

Later on that week, with the help of morphine,  Mildred moved on.  I packed up my belongings and walked out to my truck.  The heels of my boots clicked on the cold cement of the sidewalk that echoed solitude in the grey winter day.  The trees were bare of their beautiful leaves which were brown and scattered around the sidewalk and all clumped up in the snow.  It a shame I thought, that the leaves were not able to die like Mildred.

{the image is my favorite of the Angel of Death from American Horror Story}

There is no “I” in “Loneliness”

A discussion I had a few weeks ago with my psychiatrist came to the forefront of my mind.  This was not an intrusive thought or episodic depression breaking through.  Not dysphoria. I can tell the difference now that I am on medication treatment.  It is something that I am  working through, which is about the emotion of feeling “lonely.”  I realized I have never experienced it.  Even if I ever did, it is not an emotion I can remember.  When did it secretly depart? This realization lingered in my mind.

After the first week on my new med, I experienced the emotion of “loneliness.”  I was in my apartment relaxing as usual.  My life is somewhat effortless.  I have it made.  On one particular evening as I worked on a short story, a new feeling pulled at me in a disconcerting manner.  I did not like it and was unfamiliar with it.  My apartment was cozy, and I had my things around me.  I had my freedom.  My friends and family were all fine and available; however, this feeling of something I knew not what trailed after me.  It was subtle.  It barely showed its face and whispered its name–loneliness.  It was hollow.

At my next therapy session, I discussed this with my psychiatrist.  Our session was moving along as usual in her white clinical office with the bright lights of a surgical room.  Perhaps the lights helped her search for the darkest corners within me.  She asked me how loneliness felt, and I replied that it was unpleasant.  It tugs at things.

My psychiatrist said that I would experience a lot of new emotions and moods on my med. My med would clear a path for them like a pathfinder. That it would take time to learn how to manage them.  Manage is the clinical word for feeling an emotion in a more balanced way.  Being the curator of my emotions, I was dismayed that I had not noticed that loneliness had been missing from my collection.  What I was uncertain of was whether it was stranger to never have felt loneliness or to never have realized it. Perhaps both are equally puzzling.

Surely, I watched it play out on TV, read about it in books, and provided a shoulder for my friends to cry on after their most heartbreaking breakups where they expressed the depths of their loneliness. All those times, I thought I was relating to them, but really, I had not been at all.  I had been understanding their loneliness by knowing the definition but not because I was drawing from experience.  In order to relate to my world, I substituted the feeling of “longing” because I knew how that felt. However, longing means a yearning desire which is completely different from loneliness.  All my life, I had existed in a way where there was no “I” in”loneliness.”

As a person who exists in hypomania, the feeling of loneliness is nonexistent.  At least not in my spectrum. Some people would wonder, “What had gone wrong?” or maybe even “What had gone so right?”  Because loneliness is such a negative emotion, who would care to feel it? However, loneliness can cause people to form and hold on to attachments to others.  The consequences of not feeling it are much greater than I am able to understand at this time.  Again, I am working through it. I am fortunate to have a good friend to discuss this with because I trust him implicitly.  It is good to have a strong person’s view on these new emotions of mine.  His responses in words and facial expressions are my carpenter’s level.

It would seem that hypomania would be a wonderful place to exist in because it is a devil may care feeling.  The world is conquerable, but a more important statement that effects practical efforts of daily life, is that everything and I mean everything is possible. This sets me apart from most people.  Therefore, my feeling of loneliness is one of the three definitions that pertains to place and defined by Google as, “(of a place) unfrequented and remote.”




Oil running


Along a smooth surface

All things

You mean restless is like agitation?


Liquid carrying


No place

Water flowing

In unity as one

On the move

Nowhere to go

You mean restless is like agitation?


Ebb and flow

On the go


You mean restless is like agitation?


Restless is fluid

Agitation is grating




The Brightest Red

I make my way through the streets of my city driving to my psychiatrist appointment. As usual, the weather is beautiful in my lovely Californian town.  It is considered a Mediterranean type of weather here which evokes temperate warmth, sun and cool breeze of the nearby ocean.  I turn right then left and always have to remember to go straight through the intersection and not turn left as I have done a few times on previous visits.  Visit.  A nice word to use when seeing not a friend but my doctor who is the leader of my mental health team.  My team consists of a psychiatrist and counselor.  They are my guides who navigate me through my wants, needs, feelings, and moods with the effects of my medication.  They are an imperative part of my life now, and I am getting use to this.  There is a comfort in this arrangement.

I bring my truck to a stop in front of the building.  The parking lot is emptier than normal since my appointment is after lunch.  It is quiet here today.  My hand grabs the key from the ignition, and I pause in my seat. A deep breathe pushes out from my between my lips, and I mentally settle in for today’s discussion of how my new med is working out for me.  The inside of my truck is tan as my handbag.  My hand slips into my purse reaching for my favorite red lipstick. It is the brightest red. I adjust the rearview mirror to get a good look of my face in order to adjust my makeup.

My face is an olive canvas of the finest material, and I enjoy wearing a lot of makeup as a sort of fine painting.  My eyeliner is particularly black with sometimes two coats of smudge coal running along the top and bottom of my eyes.  For dramatic affect, I wing the black out to the sides like an Egyptian goddess, but I am not Egyptian.  My eyeliner is smudged more than it should be, and with my finger tips, I clean it up ever so gently.  In the reflection of the mirror, I look into my eyes and see that I am aging and that is quiet alright.  The wrinkles of time have started to slightly show from a life of moods and emotions.  Finally,  I open my red lipstick and generously apply it to my full lips and fix up the outlines.  I take another pensive breath.

The waiting room is completely empty which makes the pale white walls and sparse decor even more austere.  I sit quietly with my hands in my lap and admire the fine lines starting to appear on them.  I can remember what they looked like as a young woman.  A young woman who had no idea what lie ahead.  How vast my possibilities were in those days.  I certainly did not ever think I would end up here in a psychiatrist office treating bipolar disorder.  However, I am thankful for the treatment.  As fearful as I was at the beginning of it and the great unknown it posed, I feel deep inside that it is what is best for me, my child, my family and friends.  It is a necessity of my life as much a necessity as my emotions and raw passions.  I hold them all dear and want to do the best to balance them all so I can live a colorful life.  As colorful as the brightest red.

As the minutes tick by on the clock on the wall, I reach into my purse and pull out my mirror and check my lipstick one last time.  This is a habit of mine.  I use to love watching old movies where the ladies would always pull out their finest compact and apply their lipstick ever so properly or seductively.  The waiting room is very quiet and lights gleam off the pale white floors.  All the seats are tan like the inside of my truck and have a blonde wood framing them.  In my mirror, my lips appear the brightest red like the petals of a red rose arranged gently against my soft olive skin.  I try to recall all the effects of my new med so I can relay them to my doctor.  Some memories are heavy with hurt and discomfort.  Other memories are champion good stories of how I believe my treatment is going well.  A long sigh draws out from my rose petal lips

The door into the doctor’s office opens and my name is called.  My psychiatrist appears and greets me with a smile.  I return her greeting and follow her down the hall.  “I love your lipstick,” she says, and I respond politely, “Thank you.  It’s the brightest red.”



The Hurt

When I start a new medication to treat bipolar disorder, there is a learning curve of the primary side effects.  This holds true for any medication; however, bipolar medications directly cross the blood-brain barrier and target the brain.

In the beginning with a new med, I am learning to be cautious in order to learn how and when it affects me the most.  In the case with my new med, I opted to stay indoors for the first two weeks and take advantage of my new way of experiencing my moods. It was a carefully forced situation where I turned down parties and hanging out with friends.  I had become somewhat reclusive but was content in my cocoon for now.  Safety and certainty permeated my surroundings.

In my apartment, I am surrounded by my art supplies, books on philosophy, political theory, art, and the rise and fall of nations and civilizations. On my new med, I can read for leisure again. I am changing.  Art and reading these books were all things I had loved but had lost during my years of rapid cycling.  At any given time, my friends reached out to me through text and phone calls with their constant invitations of going out to parties.  Sometimes, they would visit.

One evening, I decided to join a friend for her birthday.  What could go wrong? Well…I am a fun-loving type of woman and see the bright in everything.  I am not the type to stay home and fawn over tall tales and love stories.  I live them.  I write them. That is what can go wrong.

The evening started with a beautiful full moon covered by wispy clouds.  The weather was warm for this time of year, and the wind felt good on my face as I drove with the window down. The road opened up, and we played the music loudly, talked and laughed the whole way to our first place.  We went to a bar and instantly hit it off with the patrons. When they learned of my friend’s birthday, drinks were sent our way.

There was no reason, at this point of the early evening, to think about my med.  I felt great. Laughter filled the bar.  The evening ended in a wonderful restaurant with good food and much celebration.  My friend offered to continue the party, but I realized it was past my med time.  I had not brought it with me because I did not want to be sedated while out on the town.  We ended the evening at 10:30 pm, and I returned home at 11:00 pm with my med at the forefront of my mind.  See how this is playing out? So carefree at first.

My med time is at 8:00 pm, and sedation lasts for two hours until bedtime at 10:00 pm, but here, it was 11:00 pm.   Even though I am sedated for the first two hours after taking my med, I cannot sleep at all because I am mentally alert but sedated at the same time.  It is a restless mind.  Next morning was going to start early at 6:30 am so I had to sleep.  I thought about not sleeping in order to ensure I would be awake on time like many times during my more hypomanic periods in the past.  But, this was not the past, I was here, now, in my new treatment, which had to be taken seriously.  I just did not think going to dinner and drinking was going to end up so late and screw me up.

At 1:00 am, I finally fell asleep.  It felt like as soon as I fell asleep my alarm went off at 6:30 in the morning.  I opened my eyes and thought, “ouch” and “no, no, no this cannot be happening.”  I just laid there and stared at the ceiling.   Boy, was I out of it. I tried to fall asleep for a few more minutes but was restless–this is a side effect.  I need at least 12 hours to feel the med wear off from my brain.  Here I was, at barely over seven hours.

Slowly, I got out of bed and started my morning routine.  My shoulder hit the armoire, I tripped over the rug, walked into the wall, made it out of my bedroom, and then held onto the bathroom counter to get a fucking grip.  A moan escaped my lips.  I pouted and whimpered. This hurt. What does hurt mean? It is not a sharp pain kind of hurt or a headache type of hurt.

It is a hurt I have experienced before and know well but not from a med.  The closest thing I can compare it to is how I mentally felt during my times in the Army when I had to stay up physically exerting myself for 48 hours or more with only four hours of sleep–we are talking complete physical and mental exhaustion.  Where my mind was forced to stay alert and perform but was numb from exhaustion.  Numb, agitation,  buzz, narrow, focus and intense are all good words to describe that sensation.  My med on the other hand lacked focus and intensity and my thoughts sounded like sounds in a sound proof room.  It felt bizarre and mentally agonizing. The hurt.

Yet, the experience in the Army was a mind and body unison of hurt, and I could see why I hurt. I could make connections from what I was putting myself through to the hurt. That connection gave me focus.  The med on the other hand was invisible and my body did not hurt. It was isolated to just my mind.  My body and mind seemed disconnected.  For 16 years, the Army taught me how to push through pain. I knew how to will myself through the hurt.

My will is not a mood.  I think it comes from my Amygdala and is more an emotional reaction.  My honed response. A force.  However, my will is not a match against the affective mood changes such as hypomania, mania, and mixed state or this med or I would will myself through this entire disorder.  I can use my will to push through a moment.  It is a reserve stored for moments such as this.  It gets used up by one moment against this disorder and then takes awhile to become strong enough for another time.

I managed to arrive at work, which was actually at a different location than my office. Let us not even go into the details of the drive to work except know that everything was white from the sun.

All week, I was in a training class to learn new things.  I just met the instructor and barely new my other colleagues.  The class was eight hours long of lecture in a room with an echo.  The room was large with windows that looked out to the sky blue and manicured garden, but I sat in my chair and blankly stared ahead.  I could not understand the instructor because I was too busy trying to focus.  My brain has never felt so restless in my life, but you could not tell.  My body was still, and I was not jittery or anything like that.  My mind was obdurant and would not think, I could not receive transmission. Everything, including his words stopped at my eyes.  It was complete torture.

After the longest ten minutes of my life and thinking I could go stark raving mad if I sat for one more minute, I quietly stood up and and walked out. Now, this is my profession, and I have to be in the class.  What was I to do?  I realized I needed a few more hours to let the med wear off so I went back to my SUV, jumped in the back seat, stretched out and fell asleep in the parking lot. This is why I bought my SUV in the first place–to have a place to sleep in between classes during graduate school six years ago. After one hour, my alarm went off, and I went back to class.  It did not matter, my mind was still reacting to the med, but now, I also felt mentally worn out.

Again, I just could not sit in that class.  After five minutes, I left.  I did not care how I appeared because I was dealing with the hurt.  I returned to my SUV and rolled down the window for air.  This time I threw caution to the wind and stretched out in the back more. I laid on my back with my boots out the side door window in the parking lot. There, I fell into a deep slumber for more than an hour.

My alarm went off, and this time I opened my eyes feeling alert.  The hurt was gone.  I walked back to class with my long hair knotted up in the back, my make up smeared, and lipstick gone.  As I walked across the parking lot, I looked back at my SUV and imagined someone seeing my boots hanging out of the window and how ridiculous that probably looked.  With the sun in my face and a pep in my step, I continued to the building and thought, “yippee ki-yay mother fucker” to the hurt.




Psychosis is a special word isn’t it?  It certainly conjures up scary images of insanity. Like bipolar disorder, psychosis exists on a spectrum.  I am either a little psychotic or a lot of psychotic.  Either way, it is a definitive state that is disconnected from time and space; meaning, I have been disconnected from reality.  I have experienced psychosis in two episodes–one last summer and another just last month.  My clinical diagnosis is Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (NOS) with Psychotic Features. (Read my first post titled, “Rattlesnake, Dreamer, Child and King”)

Being told I had psychotic features, sent me quickly into denial.  I mean, basically telling me I had Bipolar Disorder for rest of my life was hard enough to handle, but to tell me I had psychotic features was another twist. Of my mind.  The word itself “Psychotic” sounds well… like the center of all things insane.  Bipolar Disorder is a mood disorder and psychosis is another realm of the mind.  “Psychotic” each syllable sounds surgical and succinct.  Like a drill.  I have spent many nights researching the word Psychosis.   Psychotic means having psychosis.  Medline plus defines it as

“Psychosis occurs when a person loses contact with reality. The person may:

  • Have false beliefs about what is taking place, or who one is (delusions).
  • See or hear things that are not there (hallucinations).”1

What I learned is that psychosis occurs from a chemical imbalance in the brain and not from an internal disposition.  Studies have shown cause and effect with an imbalance of dopamine and serotonin.  That’s why anti-psychotics are used for it. They balance the dopamine and serotonin.  Medication treatment is the only way to not experience psychosis.  No herbal remedies, sleep, yoga or meditation can prevent psychosis from occurring.  However, my psychosis is triggered from mania–I have to be in mania for psychosis to occur.  I have not experienced it in the reverse order.  All the stars have to be completely fucked up and misaligned.

So what does psychosis feel like?  I can assure you that when I experienced it,  I knew to be terrified by the disconnect from time and space.  Terror becomes the basis for my irrational behavior.  It swallows me up whole.  Psychosis is an intruder.  It is an invader that enters and quickly removes the ropes that keep me firmly tied to time and space–reality.   I cannot tell when it starts happening because the ropes are released all at once.  All this while I’m in the throes of mania.

At the time, I am not able to say, “okay, I need to chill cause I’ve disconnected from time and space” and then go lie down or stay quiet.  However, as I lose grasp, I will scream at you “What is real?” or “Is this real?” or ask if what you are doing “Is it real?” The first psychotic episode this past summer, I thought I was back in Iraq and thought it was 2008; but really, I was laying on my carpet in the middle of my living room and crying.  These behaviors are my cry for help and indicators that the ropes have unraveled.  I am in great distress as it happens.

I have not experienced auditory or visual hallucinations or maybe I did and that is why I believed I was in Iraq.  I am not quiet sure because I cannot remember.  My manic response to the delusions in psychosis is paranoia.  The two start working together to assault my understanding of my “self.”  My being.  My identity.  The worst part is that they play off each other like dominoes slamming down next to each other.  I think I know I have lost a grip with reality and that explains why I am terrified.  I must feel like there is nothing to hold on to but not for certain because I cannot remember.  I cannot stop it and probably feel like I’ve fallen into worse than an abyss–an unknown.

Each episode ended because my good friend was there to somehow help me out of it. In a psychotic mania, I can be dark, abusive, delusional and irrational.  I have not been physically violent and have not felt an inclination for it.

The second time, he was a godsend at at our expense, but his presence and words also perpetuated it too.  Anyone’s presence and help would perpetuate it.  It gets tricky to help me.  During this episode, he gently took my hand, and my psychosis ended in the snap of a finger.  Like the ropes instantly tied me back to reality again.   I have come out of each episode not understanding what I’ve just said or done. Out of sorts. Confused.  Tired.  Later on, I had flashbacks of what happened during the psychosis, and that is how I start to remember these episodes and a little of how I felt–through flashbacks.

The first time I think I was in psychosis for less than an hour, but the second time I was in psychosis for one hour.  After each episode, as I sifted through the insanity of what I said or felt, there can be no doubt that I felt terrified.  Mania with psychotic feature is an assault of the mind on the “self.” On my beautiful, hypomanic, joyful self.



The Poop Story and Other Tales of Love

During my last manic episode,  I was in another city for a business training event. A 5-day long business training event.  My mania had started on a Thursday evening, I left for the business trip on Sunday morning out of LAX.  Why did I go?  Wasn’t I in mania?  Yes, I was but not a complete breakdown.  I had experienced the complete breakdown with loss of time and space-known as psychosis-on Friday morning and emotionally hurt someone very dear.  I recklessly tossed my meds out the window a few months earlier which is how I ended up in this situation.

During the weekend, I was in what is called acute mania.  Not like the one you think of from TV where the person is frantic, screaming or doing full paint body art on the walls with their bodies or being hospitalized.  However, my moods and energy were quickly over days becoming more manic.  I was gradually being swallowed hole.  Ultimately, I would have ended up in the hospital had it not been for The Poop Story and Other Tales of Love.

During the weekend before my trip, I was home where I live on my own.  The following day after my psychotic episode, I puttered around my home and kept busy.  I laid in bed for 4 hours and tried to read, but I couldn’t because I couldn’t focus on the words or thoughts of the authors.  I tried magazines but focus eluded me.  It feels like the words and pictures stop right at my eyes but are denied entry by my mind.  For some reason, in acute mania, the mind only wants to consider things from within.  I ended up laying in bed, staring at the ceiling and the walls.  It’s a nice feeling by the way.  It’s not like I’m laying there getting pummeled by thoughts.  My thoughts can be intrusive but not consistently.   They become worrisome when the negative ones start to have their way.  The rest of the day just passed, but I didn’t go to sleep or eat. 24 hours.

I finally made the trip to Utah to attend my business training event while I was in acute mania. I felt agitated, helpless, hyper and exhausted from a mental marathon but still maintained my grip on time and space.  The rest of the day just passed, but I didn’t go to sleep and only drank coffee, water and 400 calories of snacks.  48 hours.

I attended my first day and appeared presentable.  However, during an initial professional discussion with my new group, I spoke with confidence, but what I said did not make sense.  It happened to the first man I spoke to.  I saw the perplexed look on his face so I stopped talking.  Then I tried again to the man next to him, but I spoke in an expansive manner.  A few sentences of gibberish pushed out of my lips.  He too looked perplexed.  I stopped and realized that I was using the lexicon, but my expansiveness was making my reasoning loosely related to what we were discussing; thus, making me unintelligible.  I was able to casually laugh, and said I was kidding.  They relaxed, and I sat there feeling like I was being defeated.  This disorder. This thing.

I went to my hotel room and laid in bed and stared at the ceiling and walls.  As evening fell, I started crying and became incredibly agitated and felt lost.  I was slowly losing my grip on time and space which meant I was becoming psychotic.  I could tell because of my agitation and also my intrusive thoughts were increasingly involving  thoughts of persecution and paranoia.  I hadn’t slept and ate 800 calories in 60 hours.  So I called my best friend and cried for her to help me.  She recommended I take a Benadryl to knock me out, but I wouldn’t drive to the store to buy it.  Because, who knows what I would do if I drove off in a car at this moment in the night.  It was 10 degrees fahrenheit outside.  So I stayed safely in place.  I was still able to make safe judgement calls.  It truly is a battle within the mind.  One mood allowing me to remain planted firmly holding on to safety, and the manic mood tugging, pulling, pushing for the other to fall over and make way.

My best friend and I knew that I hadn’t slept for 60 hours, and we both knew without speaking what that meant.  That I had to sleep.  If I didn’t……..That mania would take total control and then what would happen to me?  So she told me to get in bed because she was going to talk me through the night to put me to sleep.  She said she would talk to me for however long it would take–hours, days, years–until I fell asleep.  What ever it took.  So I turned out the lights and got in bed.  I laid my head down and covered up.  In the dark, I heard her say.  “okay…..where should I start?……Would you like to hear a poop story?”  I smiled and we laughed.

She and I have been best friends over 30 years, and we have this thing where we share stories of our and others’ poop.  I don’t know when we started it, but it was because she use to talk about her poop to make me uncomfortable when I was much younger.  As time passed over the years, I joined her in her game. Our poop stories.

Through the night, she told me our tales of young and old. Our tales of bright and dark. Our tales of come and go.  Our tales of love.

I fell asleep.