Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hypomania Goes To A Blog Party


The American Psychological Association is throwing a blog party.  Today!!  Why didn't anybody tell me about it until today?!  Maybe because they have heard about me and parties?

I didn't know about me and parties.  I didn't figure it out until I discovered I have bipolar II.  -- Not bipolar I.  Everybody knows about that kind of crazy.  Bipolar II is -- well, you never know what you're going to get.  Sometimes what you get makes you the life of the party.  Sometimes in a good way.  Sometimes it makes you crazy productive and successful at work.  That is why it years and years to get a bipolar II diagnosis.  Nobody goes to the doctor because they feel great, are having fun, and are the apple of the boss's eye.

Sometimes the family member knows about the evil twin.  But chances are, the doctor doesn't ask the family member.


If you have recurrent depression, if antidepressants make you crazy, if they just don't work, if you are tired of the roller coaster, here is an instrument  to help discover if there is more to this beast of yours than depression.  Ask somebody who knows you really well to fill it out for you, as well.    Bipolar manifests in changes over time.  And when the dark cloud descends, you generally can't recognize that it ever wasn't there and what you were like when it wasn't.  I got my diagnosis when my wife went to the doctor visit with me.

The American Psychological Association's Blog Party - May 16, 2012

So.  The question of the day is How can you help people recognize the importance of good mental health, overcome stigma, and seek out professional mental health when needed?  Excuse me, that's question stacking.  And you gave me just one day on this little pop quiz.  Wow.

My first paragraphs are for Part C.

Part B -- well, Prozac Monologues and stigma go way back.  Check it out here.

And Part A, the importance of good mental health -- my short answer is, So people will still invite you to parties, and it will be safe for you to go.  I happen to have one in the barrel on that one.  From:

September 30, 2010: Hypomania -- A Day in the Life of Bipolar II

President Sally Mason of the University of Iowa invited my wife, a University employee, to her house for a reception.  Spouses were invited, too.  Helen likes to show me off, because I am good at parties, can talk with anybody, good social skills.  And I am cute.

So I checked my mood chart.  It was time, past time for the suicidal stage to check out and the better part of the cycle to makes its return.  The better part usually means mild depression, with a few flights into actually feeling good.  The signs were favorable.

I got cuted up and skipped the afternoon dose of valium, anticipating there would be wine.  All my meds make me dizzy, and I wanted to remain on my feet.  Like I said, good social skills.

President Mason is a wonderful hostess.  Not only did she greet us at the door with more than a handshake, but she went around the house later and engaged her guests in more meaningful conversations.  She caught up to us standing next to her bookshelf.  A perfect spot for a meaningful conversation.

First the preliminary chitchat.  There are more books upstairs.  These are the ones they unpacked first.  Translation: they already owned these before they moved to Iowa, their own choices, their own tastes.  Not for show.

But some were written by Iowa Writer's Workshop authors.  We were standing next to books that lots of people have read.  That should have been a conversational advantage, because I have read them, too.


The University of Iowa is insanely and rightly proud of the Iowa Writer's Workshop.  Over the course of seventy years, it has produced seventeen Pulitzer Prize winners, including Robert Penn Warren, Jane Smiley and Marilynne Robinson.  Its faculty have included ZZ Packer, Kurt Vonnegut and Robert Lowell.

Helen commented we could tell their books had been read.  You know, the bent spines.  The President smiled and agreed.

That is when the evil twin version of my hypomania made her appearance.

Pointing to one of those Pulitzer Prize winning books, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, the evil twin said, and I quote, Boring.  Boring, boring, boring.  Good hostess that she is, Mason responded softly, It's a difficult book to read.  Robinson, besides being a graduate of the program, has also been a recent faculty member.  She probably visited the President's residence and inscribed it.

I could have redeemed myself by saying that it was difficult for me, too, because I know so many depressed clergy in small towns across Iowa (the first person narrator of the book), have been one myself, and also have worked with the demoralized congregations these depressed clergy leave behind.  The clergy in our diocese all read Gilead, and discussed the difficult issues it raises at one of our continuing education conferences.

Now, there is nothing wrong with a strong opinion.  But it was a missed opportunity.  The three of us could have talked about the economic, social and cultural forces that these small towns experience, and the ambivalence with which they send the brightest and best of their children off to the University of Iowa, knowing they will not return.  You know, a stimulating conversation that includes Mason's sphere.  Those good social skills of mine.

But no.  The evil twin moved on to the next book, At Home In Mitford by Jan Karon, another Iowa Writer's Workshop grad.  If only we hadn't been standing in the Iowa Writer's Workshop section of this bookshelf.

This time I said, I hate this book.  So do all my fellow clergy.  Our congregations love it.  It's like, So this is what they want us to be.

This time she said, I really like mysteries.  The Mitford series are mysteries.

Awareness was beinning to dawn.  A glimmer on the horizon.

I did see P.D. James, and could have gone there, my literary love affair with Lord Peter Wimsey.  Or the mystery authors I am following lately.  But no, the bright social hypomanic animal was desperate and jumped at the closest at hand, Fried Green Tomatoesby Fannie Flagg.  Fannie Flagg is not a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop.  Fried Green Tomatoes is not a mystery.

President Mason said, for the second time, that she really needed to move on to her other guests.

Actually, that was the good twin all along, albeit with some recently acquired cognitive deficits.  The evil twin is just as vocal, only irritable and likely to enter Facebook arguments.

Bipolar Meds

If I tell this story to my psychiatrist at next week's appointment, she will say this part of my disease could be addressed by the meds I keep refusing.  But those meds would give me a flat affect, facial tics and forty pounds.  Helen would have no reason to let me out of the house at all.  I would no longer even be cute.

Psychiatrists say that bipolars go off our meds because we miss our highs.  An hour of feeling good at a party, in exchange for a day of regret.  I don't think so.

That is hypomania.

Bipolar means always having to say you're sorry.

logo from the American Psychological Association, used by permission
flair from facebook.com
photo by Bill Whittaker and in the public domain
Writer's Workshop logo from the University of Iowa
Goofy from Facebook flair

5 comments:

  1. The evil twin has the worst timing

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  2. I would like to know if anyone has read or herd of this. I read on another med site that they were asking people to try eating cashue nuts inplace of taking Prozac. Has anyone else herd this?

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  3. The thing I don't remember reading about the nuts is, were the rosted,salted or unsalted. I didn't bookmark the page and lost it.

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  4. Michelle, there are all kinds of foods that contain some single ingredient that affects neurological functioning. The problem with any of these single bullet solutions, whether cashews or prozac, is that you get more than what you bargained for. I don't know the specific reference. But if you ate enough cashews to cure your illness, you would have overloaded your body's ability to process all the fat.

    Balance is the key here. Pay attention to your nutrition in general -- the whole plate. My review of Terry Wahls, Minding My Mitochondria, explains the science behind the proper care of your neurons: http://prozacmonologues.blogspot.com/2011/06/minding-my-mitochondria-review.html Now Wahls has her hobby horse, too, 9 cups of vegetables and fruits a day. But that hobby horse has a wider saddle, i.e., not 9 cups of any one thing. And the book rounds that out with an intelligent approach to nutrition and why it matters.

    Best wishes for better health!

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  5. This blog is so interesting thanks for sharing :)

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