Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Irate at misinformation and ignorant characterizations of people with bipolar/borderline/mental illness!!!

It is scary how much lack of information or misinformation there is out there regarding mental illness. I think this is obvious to anyone who deals with these issues personally, but it never ceases to amaze me, no matter how much time passes. I think it’s getting worse in this age of technology. So many people post things online and anyone can access them and read them and think “Oh, this is the way it is” or “Oh, this is true.” Granted, truth is subjective in nature, depending on what you’re looking into. The “truth” of one person’s experience may not be “truth” to another person. I am all for sharing personal experiences because I think that is really how we all learn more about mental disorders and how the brain works and functions. If no one ever shared, very little would be gained. We would be subject to the interpretations (often wrong) of the doctors and authorities and those around us. That is why I think it so important for mental health patients to speak about their experiences, and to educate the public and educate doctors and clinicians as well.

I have noticed when I do research on mental health topics I find interesting, there is ALWAYS misinformation that pops up. Sometimes it is just a random opinion of someone that is inaccurate or ignorant. Sometimes it is information that is actually posted on what many consider to be REPUTABLE sites! A HUGE offender is the website “PsychCentral”. I have seen so much offensive, inaccurate, erroneous information regarding mental health on that website that frankly, it is scary.

I have also noticed several websites of private psychiatrists, psychologists and the like describing mental health afflictions like bipolar and borderline. I’ve been appalled at how many of these characterizations are over simplified or simply WRONG. I think this is due to a few things. 

A) These clinicians do not LIVE with these issues personally therefore they lack an inherent understanding of them and how they work or feel on an internal level. They use themselves as a reference point and assume that they know what all people are feeling or thinking when they don’t. They’re simply projecting their own thoughts onto others and making generalizations based on that. 

B) Their knowledge base mainly stems from what I would call “textbook knowledge” or what they learned while in graduate school. A person can have all the book knowledge in the world but without a deeper understanding and intuition into the area, they will not “get it”, they will not truly be able to piece things together on a visceral level or in a holistic way. I’ve dealt with many clinicians who even years into their profession, discussed disorders in a “textbook” way only. I liken it to male gynecolegists/obstetricians. Sure, they have some knowledge. But could they ever REALLY know what it is like to carry a child and give birth, and advise someone accordingly? Not really. Their answers will always involve “textbook” replies. They take a pre-set model (which may not even be accurate to begin with) and they then apply this model to their patients. If a patient presents differently, it is assumed it is the patient that is wrong, and not the pre-set model. I think in a way so many doctors today lack problem solving skills or critical thinking ability. They may be able to recite a long list of medications and textbook presentations of known illnesses but beyond that, they can’t really offer much. 

C) They have biases. Let’s face it. EVERYONE has biases whether they realize it or not. How we grew up, our religious (or lack of religious) views, our experiences with particular groups of people – these all influence our thoughts and opinions. The problem with bias is when it causes a person (or people) to make unfair generalizations about others. To say “People with bipolar disorder have difficulty regulating their emotions” would be accurate. I doubt anyone with bipolar would take offense to such wording. But to say “People with bipolar are angry and lack self-control” is not totally accurate. Are some people with bipolar that way? Sure. Is EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. with bipolar that way? Uh, no. People on the “outside” who are looking for information may take it as true and then THEY have a negative pre-set model in their head, if they were ever to meet such an individual. They would already have a preconceived notion and bias themselves, just because of what some random doctor said. (And while I’m at it, I just have to mention, they obviously aren’t even good doctors at all or they would know their characterizations were incorrect and lack sensitivity.)

It bothers me SO much because I think how an unknowing individual might go searching for information and what do they get? Search results with a bunch of garbage mixed in with some pertinent information or accurate/helpful insights here and there. I recall searching for information years back and being disheartened by it. It was filled with negative messages and despair about how the disorders were hard to treat, there was no cure, the people were “difficult” etc. All the horrible stigma surrounding them is actually in these cases increased by the very people who are supposed to be advocating for these people, their patients! If I read one more doctor talk about how “manipulative” BPD patients are and how they “lack empathy” I think I will reach through my screen and choke them (Oh, how BORDERLINE of me – I must be exhibiting some psychopathology by that comment! *note sarcasm*)

Characterizations like that convince me that these psychiatrists/counselors lack knowledge, understanding and even compassion, and have an inability to see their patients or anyone with a mental disorder as human beings. They are talked about as if they are mere things, like they are without feelings, consciousness or souls. And frankly, it makes me irate. Why? Because all people want to be heard and to be understood. And people who deal with mental health issues certainly don’t need people within the mental health field making them feel worse about the very things they are trying to work on or improve, or characterizing them in pompous, condescending ways. I can’t help but wonder why people get into this field if they lack that fundamental empathy and compassion for those they are supposed to help?

So, what happened to all the GOOD doctors in the world? Are there any left?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Bipolar mania, and wanting to claw my brain out

So guys, you want to know one reason why mania sucks? I will tell you. It’s having a million thoughts in your head that you know will take days/weeks to flush out sufficiently, yet wanting to complete them all RIGHT. THIS. SECOND. And not being able to! EPIC FRUSTRATION!!!!!

OH MY GOSH I feel like I want to claw my own brain out of my head. Weird description,eh? I recently returned from a family dinner and Spiderman 2 was playing and I couldn’t concentrate on the movie at all. Why? Because seeing all the flashing lights and hearing the thumping music made my mental state speed up and suddenly all these thoughts started coming to me. I began searching for information on various stuff online, and writing down all my mental notes in my phone (I do this often.) I wanted to come home and write all these blogs and make all these videos. But you know, it is 10:28 PM now and I there is no way I can write 14 blogs/make 14 videos and post them all in the next 2 hours. But I feel like I will explode mentally and physically if I don’t! Even weirder? I’m not even as elevated or altered as I have been this past week. It’s actually been much more intense than this. Here’s a look at my past week.

That is my pathetic 1 minute chart drawn with my daughters crayon because it was the closest thing to me. Hopefully it at least partially gets my current mental/mood state across to you all.

Why the steep drop? I took a low dose of some anti-psychotic meds and that brought me closer to “normal” after a couple days. I didn’t take it last night and I am halfway back up to where I began. Keep in mind, this is just an overview of the last week, nothing before that. My mental state has been erratic for awhile.

Hypersexuality and sensory seeking in bipolar mania and elevated states

I originally was going to write this blog and somehow wound up writing 6 other blogs about mania and mental health…everything BUT this. HA! There goes my wonky brain :/

I warn up front there may be some content some find offensive. However, I can’t fully address the issue without expanding on a few subjects within this idea of sex.

Many people have commented that hypersexuality must be great and they wish THEY had it! It’s funny how anything related to sex, people think is just the most amazing thing.

In reality, hypersexuality isn’t fun at all. I’ve been experiencing it to a huge degree lately and I hate it. Let me tell you why.

People envision being hypersexual as having the most or best pleasure when it actually does not bring pleasure at all.

In normal life, people can get sexual or sensual pleasure in lots of (healthy, non-morally ambiguous) ways. You can get pleasure from, say, kissing your boyfriend, or reading a risqué note from your husband. You can get pleasure from a nice body massage or receiving a “for your eyes only” photo from your wife. That’s normal sexuality, normal sexual feelings.

When you’re in a hypersexual state, the craving for pleasure is magnified hugely. And it is exactly that – a craving, at times an overwhelming, unbearable and unstoppable compulsion. Does it sound fun to have an unbearable compulsion that you don’t really want to give into but feel as if you can’t control? No. It’s horrible. It can be a super difficult battle.

I personally am a wife and mother. Granted my marriage is not great. But I am not the cheating type. I find it to be morally wrong, regardless of if my marriage is bad or any other factors. Not to mention I am also a Christian and I believe that cheating as well as sex outside of marriage (meaning, sex as a single person with another single person) is spiritually wrong. I believe we have a moral obligation to ourselves, to each other and to God to be morally upright and not slaves to sexual pleasure. As I mentioned there are plenty of healthy ways to express sexual feelings. But random sexual hookups, booty calls and inappropriate sexual behavior isn’t one of them.

So you can see how having intensely overbearing impulses to have sex with a stranger or to broadcast naked pictures or videos of yourself, or any related thing would be a huge moral conflict. Unfortunately, being in a hypersexual state is often accompanied by other cognitive dysfunction which can then lead a person to being ruled by the compulsion to act out. I can compare it to trying to restrain a wild bear with a cage made of cardboard. That bear is just itching to break out and the cardboard won’t hold indefinitely. If it somehow manages to, that cardboard will no doubt be shredded and crumpled in a heap at the end.

So it is with our sexual state when altered. Trying to bridle and restrain the compulsive sexual urges can seem impossible. It causes physical discomfort when in an extremely elevated state. The average man who goes without sex for long periods of time or becomes excited and then must stop sometimes complain about the physical discomfort of a heightened state of being aroused without getting a release. I would describe these hypersexual feelings for a woman as the female equivalent of that. It becomes physically painful to the point where a person feels they must have a release of some sort. It may be enjoyable at first to have that slight pain but after a while it is sheer torture.

Here’s the second problem. Even if you have someone to (legitimately) give you a release, most of the time, it IS NOT SATISFYING. Imagine it. That intense sexual craving, feeling that you need it or you may possibly explode, heightened to a point that will not “simmer down”. You expect you will have mind blowing sex, that you will release the tension and it will be glorious.

That’s not what happens. What happens is you have those sexual experiences and 30 minutes later…it’s as if it never happened. The horrible sexual tension and physical aching are there. What do you do?!?!? You feel like you must get it out. You need sex again…you need more of it. So you do. Annnnd….30 minutes later, the feeling is creeping up there again, tormenting you.

It is horrible, a feeling of intense need for release yet getting NO release, despite what you do, for how long or with whom. I believe this is why people with bipolar who are promiscuous behave in such a manner while elevated or altered. I personally do believe cheating is morally wrong and not acceptable to give into such desires. However, logically knowing and believing it does not stop the thoughts, feelings and compulsions. If a person DOES do something, it often leads to guilt and shame when “coming down” from the elevated state. Even if a person doesn’t do anything, there can be guilt and shame associated simply for letting the mind stray into inappropriate territory or entertaining the thoughts at all. The inability to control thoughts or feelings is a great cause of pain (emotionally), not pleasure.

In an early manic period I had, I recall the intense hypersexuality…dressing provocatively, flirting with anyone who came around, the whole deal. My husband and I had sex constantly for probably a week. Was it fun? No. It was awful. Because no matter what I did, the feeling DID NOT GO AWAY!!! I felt as if I were being slowly tortured. It reached a point where my muscles were physically sore and tired, I was raw and uncomfortable. Yet I STILL had this overbearing compulsion!!! Talk about agonizing. There was nothing good about it. Not. One. Thing.

I’ve been in a hypersexual state intermittently for a few weeks now, and much as all the times before, it is awful. I’d much rather go back to my normal state of hardly caring about sex at all to this!!! The cravings remain yet I know logically nothing I do will satiate them. In fact, a way I now try to control such compulsions is by thinking to the future. I remind myself how acting on any inappropriate sexual impulse ultimately leads to no reward. My body thinks it will, but my deep mind knows it won’t. I know the result will be: guilt, damage to relationship with spouse, damage to relationship with God, damage to self-esteem, embarrassment, a whole host of negative feelings and consequences that will last far longer than the sexual act (whether that be through text, email, video, or in person) would.

Trying to consciously fight the feelings away though is very exhausting. I have in the past few days begun taking anti-psychotic meds again because I have enough insight to realize that some compulsions I have are beyond my ability to consciously control.It just stinks.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Memory Lapses, Time Distortion and Cognitive Impairment in Bipolar/BPD & Mental Illness

As I mentioned, I’ve been in an altered state for a while, having all the multitude of things that go along with it. It’s like your world gets flipped and stretched every which way. A couple posts back I mentioned the artistic wordless video I made of what the internal feelings are like, sensory wise. The shifting colors, time speeding/slowing, blackness, erratic moods. If you’re interested, you can view it HERE.

So, I’ve been having quite a few cognitive difficulties as well as memory issues currently. This occurs with both bipolar and BPD (which I have) but also other disorders such as schizophrenia and schizoaffective.

Some might describe it as forgetfulness, which is common, but it is more than that. It’s more like a complete blank, almost like a form of amnesia. I often find myself lately walking from point A to point B and standing there without a clue as to why I am there. Just this morning I went from the kitchen to the bathroom to get something. I stood in front of my robe thinking, is this what I needed? I couldn’t figure it out. I reached in the pocket. Was it chap stick I needed? I couldn’t remember. I just stood there with a total black backdrop in my head. I couldn’t for the life of me remember at all. I decided to just go back to the kitchen. Then I remembered what I needed and went back and got it. The ironic this is, writing this now, it’s only a couple hours later and I CAN’T REMEMBER WHAT IT WAS :/ That’s how bad it is! It happens dozens of times a day, over and over and over and is incredibly frustrating.It's as if once I get to where I'm going, I have no memory or reference point at all.

Similarly related is the feeling of having time distortion. It generally goes along with the memory lapses. I know that I have had conversations with people the last few days but I don’t remember them at all or I remember just bits randomly. I just talked to someone on the phone yesterday and said “Did I already text you that?” I was sure I hadn’t. They said I did. I didn’t remember it at all even though it apparently was a few minutes prior. Later that night I thought about that conversation. I was looking through my phone, and many of the numbers I couldn’t remember even getting the calls, whether they were missed calls or had messages on them. I found the phone call of that conversation. I had thought we only talked maybe 4 or 5 minutes, just quickly in passing. The record said 19 minutes. 19 minutes? What on earth did we say for 19 minutes? I honestly don’t know. It weirds me out so much knowing there is no memory of it. I only recall maybe 2 or 3 sentences that were said. I’ve been puzzling over it but there is no answer, just a strange sort of amnesia there, like the blackness I mentioned before.

I know this all has to do with our limbic system and the complex way that structures like the amygdala and hippocampus work together. Often, outsiders (meaning people without these types of mental issues) will say things like “Oh everyone has that sometimes.” I know what they mean, because yes, everyone is forgetful at times. But not everyone has amnesia for their day to day events, and I have enough insight to realize that this is a distortion of time, place and memory, again, related to happenings within the limbic system and likely other parts of the brain as well.

People often believe that “mood disorders” like bipolar are simply emotion related, but that is untrue. They also involve, as I mentioned: sensation, perception, memory, behavior. Just goes to show how complex our brain is and how many structures interact to form what we consider “normal” or “abnormal” manifestations of behavior and consciousness.

People have mentioned that when they are altered time can seem to speed up or slow down. It is the same for me. I lose track of the day and time completely sometimes. Yesterday, the day of the above mentioned call, I know I was at home with my son for hours but can’t recall if I did anything. I know I watched him playing for a good 3 hours. But the rest of the hours somehow passed without me really being able to recall what events occurred. The things themselves become blurry or disappear and sometimes even the chronological order in which things happen seems to become muddled. I sometimes find I do not know what day it is (Monday, Wednesday, etc.) or even what month it is! I find myself looking outside puzzling over whether it’s June or October despite the fact there is snow on the ground.

The perception of things shifts. A few days back when putting my son to bed, I sat outside his room while he fell asleep (we’re working on getting him to fall asleep alone, without me sitting with him.) I was looking at the carpet and recall how it was almost like a strange hallucination. The carpet appeared to be shimmering, like someone had sprinkled glitter all over it, even though I was sitting in dim lighting. It also appeared to be shaking slightly, a light “quivering” motion like waves of static on a TV or small waves on the ocean (the motion, not the color or appearance.)

It really stinks because we all need an “anchor” to keep us rooted just in our day to day lives. Date/time/place/events, these things give us a reference point for other things. When the reference points become mixed or start disappearing it can make it difficult to make sense of anything.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Mania/Altered Mood and Compulsions in Bipolar and Mental Illness

I would definitely say that strong urges and compulsions are a part of highly altered mood. I will refer to it as altered since involves more than just elevation in a “happy” sense. The textbooks and the DSM refer to it as “impulsive behavior” but I don’t think that is entirely accurate. Impulsive, yes, it indeed can be. But an impulse is described as “an impelling action or force, driving onward or inducing motion.” while a compulsion is described as “a strong, usually irresistible impulse to perform an act, especially one that is irrational or contrary to one's will” ( So what is the difference?

I see being impulsive as simply not always looking ahead or seeing the consequences of your behavior. For example, having an impulse to eat chocolate cake when you’re on a diet might be because you’re thinking of the joy of eating it and not the consequences of gaining weight.

Compulsions, in my view, are not the same as impulses. Impulses can be controlled to an extent. Everyone has impulses to some degree. We wouldn’t eat, drink, talk to other people or in general do anything unless we had an impulse to do it.

I would say a compulsion is a very extreme form of an impulse, that is stronger in intensity and at times cannot be controlled either with mental or physical means. What I mean is, when you have a compulsion, simply telling yourself, “Don’t do it! It’s bad for you!” likely does nothing to curb the compulsion or make it go away. At times it can ruminate excessively within the mind to the point it becomes the sole focal point. If you are able to replace the compulsive thought with something else as a distraction, often the compulsion will simply return, but stronger.

With the cake example, a person can have a strong desire to eat cake but may be able to hold themselves back from the impulse to do so by telling themselves of the bad consequences. Compulsions often involve carrying out acts that a person may not even want to do yet feels compelled or pushed by some force to do so. If the person knew the cake was bad for their diet truly did not want to eat it, and tried to resist the urge to do it, yet was still overcome and ate the cake anyway, it would more likely be a compulsion rather than simply an impulse. People think of it as an issue of simple self-control. “Just don’t do it!” They say. But more is going on than that. Often the person is actively trying to control the impulse or compulsion. It’s more an inability to control the compulsion rather than a willingness to complete the act. Compulsive feelings are horrible because you do feel like you are out of control of your own body and mind, not that what you are doing is so awesome and incredible.

It seems that often compulsions are sensory in nature. In what is currently described as mania, what doctors call “impulsive behavior” generally refer to compulsions that involve sensory seeking/pleasure sensory input. The stereotypical example of a person being promiscuous is used often. However it usually is not elaborated on. I myself have never been a promiscuous person in my “normal” life. I can easily dismiss a temptation to do something wrong or what I would consider immoral in my NORMAL state. However when in an extreme altered state, I have realized that sexual compulsions begin to manifest. Many times it is unspecific – it is simply a form of sensory seeking, in any way or means available.

I believe that is why in bipolar disorder or people with extreme mood disturbance, these sexual pleasure seeking behaviors can run the gamut. A person may seek out pleasure by having a risqué conversation with a friend or stranger, they may dress provocatively to draw attention to themselves, they may have sex multiple times a day, either with their committed partner or with random partners, they may experiment with any number of things, people, or experiences. I personally have done some things that I never would have under normal circumstances. But looking back, the compulsions were like an obsessive drive that could not be curbed. And it did incite guilt for having been unable to control the compulsion.

Compulsions that result in pleasure seeking also relate to things like drugs and alcohol. I would describe it as an insane craving, much like the sexual pleasure seeking compulsion. It is another form of sensory seeking. A person may use/abuse any number of drugs or alcohol or other substances. Food can become an object of compulsion as well.

Much of this is well documented in bipolar disorder. However people seem to only discuss sexually related “impulses” or again the stereotypical “reckless driving” etc.

However, often the compulsions I have had are just random or nonsensical in nature. I would still consider them to be sensory seeking, but in a non-pleasure centered way.  They tended to center around the sensory components of taste and touch mainly, scent to a lesser degree.

For example, in my early altered periods years ago I spoke of having some very strange compulsions – the compulsion to eat garbage was particularly weird and gross when revealed to other people (thankfully I never went through with that one). I had compulsions relating to just about everything – compulsions to lick or taste things that are non-food objects (soap, engine oil, the walls of the house, etc.) Compulsions to touch things like people’s skin. I had self-harm compulsions but they weren’t purposeful self-harm (meaning, I didn’t consciously use it as a way to relieve anxiety or cope with pain). I recall walking around my backyard in a circular motion, scratching my arms repetitively with the sharp end of a cigarette lighter. This went on for awhile and my arms became red and raw in some places. It wasn’t a purposeful self-harm, but as I mentioned, a sheer compulsion, an uncontrollable urge. I felt that I needed to scratch myself and I did so continually.

I also had compulsions that involved repetition which I spoke of before. They mainly related to organizing things or movement. For example I would compulsively arrange things in rows or patterns, walk in patterns or speak in patterns. There was absolutely no sound reason for why I did this, other than the overwhelming and uncontrollable urge to do so. It served no real purpose other than to carry out the compulsion that was plaguing my mind and therefore “rid” myself of the compulsion.

However ridding myself of the compulsion only lasted a short while and it would return again, sometimes the same one, sometimes multiple or different ones. The result was, to an outsider onlooker, completely bizarre and nonsensical  behavior overall.

Only now after close to 5 years have I come to more of an insight and understanding about some of these things that I experience. I always tried to lump everything I experience under the heading of “bipolar” since my initial diagnosis. However, I currently believe that almost all mental illnesses are related. Just in this description alone one could say I had symptoms of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, autism and more. And that is just talking about the compulsive aspect of mental illness without regard to the host of other factors that occur.

In my current altered state I have been experiencing some compulsions yet again along with a whole host of other manifestations, which I plan to write about. Right now I am in a coherent enough state to describe it but later today, who knows.