Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Wish Ourselves Away

"Krishna said, 'There's no time when we didn't exist and there'll be no time when we cease to exist. The only thing that changes is the body.'" 

George Harrison, on the nature of the soul

Monday, June 17, 2013


On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest, rate the following:

1) How patient is The Offbeat Drummer?


2) How understanding is The Offbeat Drummer?


3) How courteous is The Offbeat Drummer?


4) How flexible is The Offbeat Drummer?


5) How stupid is The Offbeat Drummer? Note: Last formal IQ test was 162.


6) How generous is The Offbeat Drummer?


7) How loving is The Offbeat Drummer?


8) How shameless is The Offbeat Drummer?


9) If The Offbeat Drummer wanted to find something--anything--out, how difficult would it be for her?


10) With 1 being "Yes" and 10 being "Fuck No!" Does one really, honestly want to anger The Offbeat Drummer?


11) How loyal is The Offbeat Drummer?


12) How curious is The Offbeat Drummer?


13) How good is the aim of The Offbeat Drummer's Patented Roundhouse Kick?


14) How sensitively emotional is The Offbeat Drummer?


15) How accurate is The Offbeat Drummer's Bullshit Radar?


16) How passionate is The Offbeat Drummer?


17) How trustworthy is The Offbeat Drummer?


18) With 1 being "Yes, Cut her some fucking slack!" and 10 being "Hell no, Pile it On Thicker!", has The Offbeat Drummer been through enough crap already?


19) How puzzled is the Offbeat Drummer when someone won't answer a direct question that she's repeated several times?


20) How affectionate is The Offbeat Drummer?


21) How delicate is The Offbeat Drummer's mental state?


22) With 1 being "whole radishes," 5 being "her prized musician hands" and 10 being "a gulp of maggots," with what would the Offbeat Drummer prefer to choke someone?


23) How high is the level of The Offbeat Drummer's self-esteem?


24) With 1 being "Not phased" and 10 being "Surly, Brutish, and Hyper-Protective," rate the level of potential hostile engagement enacted by The Son of The Offbeat Drummer if anyone were to hurt The Offbeat Drummer in any way, shape or form?


25)  How yo-yo'ish has been the life of The Offbeat Drummer?


26) Is The Offbeat Drummer particularly concerned with the dignity of her public persona as a relatively public figure who doesn't use a pseudonym for herself?


27) Assuming The Offbeat Drummer is bootylicious, with 1 being "vomitrotious," 5 being "meh" and 10 being  "I'd Totally Hit That," wherein lies the hangup as to why she's an utter Guy repellent?


28) How likely is it that the Offbeat Drummer would be ridiculous enough to remotely consider marriage again?


29) How many times have you found yourself apologizing to or making excuses to The Offbeat Drummer in the last 12 months for ways you've acted like a jag bag?


30) Is The Offbeat Drummer spontaneously fun?


31) How prone is The Offbeat Drummer to uncontrollably sobbing?


32) With 1 being "knitting afghans," 5 being "snorting heroin" and 10 being "sex," which would make The Offbeat Drummer the least edgy and in a better overall mood?


33) How happy is The Offbeat Drummer to simply wake up in the morning in a "Whew, eluded death AGAIN??"


34) With 1 being "amoral and a total whore" and 10 being "quotes Deuteronomy in the heat of passion," which is more like The Offbeat Drummer?


35) With 1 being "limp like a whiskey dick," 5 being "chillaxin' with the flow" and 10 being "harder to knock down than Sugar Ray Leonard," in comparison to, I don't know, God, how powerful  is The Offbeat Drummer?


36) With 1 being "Slim Pickin's," 5 being "Duh, Look at You and How Interesting You Are!" and 10 being "The Offbeat Drummer is a Gold-Digger," how likely is it that The Offbeat Drummer is invested in being associated with you?


37) How many nationally-recognized major awards have you won and how many hundreds of thousands of people have seen you play live music?


38) With 1 being "Morbid Curiosity & Trainwrecktastic Amusement," 5 being "Somebody's in troooouuuubbbllllle!" and 10 being "Well, I'm Friends With Her," why do you read "Rhythms From The Offbeat Drummer?"


39) With 1 being You, 5 being Mr. T and 10 being Wayne Coyne, who'd be more likely to be recognized randomly on the street walking with The Offbeat Drummer by passersby?


40) Upon awakening, with 1 being "Shit, Shower, Shave," 5 being "Caffeinate" and 10 being "Immediately Check For Updates or Comments on This Blog," what's your first move?


Thank you for your considerate input. If you're teetering on offering me a publishing contract, mazel tov! Call me.

If you're a friend of mine, you're very sweet to put up with my warbling and I love you.

If you're new in town, this'll be interesting.

If you owe me an apology and lengthy explanation (again) for whatever reason, I have little interest in exploiting your notorious, mere-mortal testosterone-fueled weakness for pretty punk women to those whom you report dutifully in your tepid, vanilla personal life, I was genuinely concerned about your maternal unit's well-being, which was why I asked about her like 5 times, sans the courtesy of a simple reply, which is just rude. Actually, that's not all completely true, because I'm kind of feeling bitchslapped enough TO exploit you purely out of total aggravation and you know how much I support living in the moment.

I guess after handling life and death situations for 30 years on a daily basis, you grow tough skin. Sorry, I keep forgetting that you told me some time ago that you didn't care whether or not I thought you were an asshole. You're acting like a total asshole, by the way.

Pretend you're a satellite hovering over the country of China and I'm one of the indigenous Cantonese dwellers. Comparatively, yes. I'm just a microscopic dust mite in terms of my overall significance, which is a generality pertinent to the universe entire, save for maybe like 10 people who genuinely mean what they say when they say what they feel. I realize I've myself given off a string of conflicting emotions, intentions and interests, but in all fairness, you used the "L" word first.

But it has been a colorful life, which is why I write. I can't *not* write. So I write.

So you read.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Not Father's Day Again!

No, not historically one of my favorite days of the year. I could get all gooey and sentimental in a tasteful ode to My Guardian Angel, but.....that's what someecards.com is for:

Still, all things being equal:

If you are a dad, have a great day. If you have a dad, appreciate your dad. If you lost your dad, yeah, suck it up. The day'll be over before you know it. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Wayne Coyne--Spot On.

Love, According to Wayne Coyne:

Wayne says, "your life is built on when love dies."

Wayne Coyne: "I think the reason we called the record "The Terror" is, we acknowledged to each other this dilemma that love is larger than life. I know that is absolutely true for people when they are young—you don’t want to be alive if the things that you love in your life aren’t there. Love is the thing that you pursue because it’s the thing that gives you all this life, or you believe that, anyway. Part of what we’re saying with this music is that love, it’s not a magic gravity that keeps everything up. Your life, unfortunately—and I mean this—your life is built on when love dies. There’s a lot of love in your life that will simply die. And you wish that you died with it, you know? But you don’t. And you go, oh, well, here I am.

I don’t know how if that will stay true for the rest of my life or what. But I know at the time we were making this music, it was true for us.

We wouldn’t be artists, writers, painters, musicians, if we weren’t sensitive. All the great things that I get to be curious about, see, and experience because I’m sensitive to the world, it also opens up these areas where there’s a lot of pain and suffering. You’re just aware, aware, aware. I’ll accept the pain and the suffering, because I know that in that there’s a lot of beauty, too. We don’t ever want to shut down and say, I’m afraid to go that far down the road because there’s going to be pain. There’ll be beauty, too, and if you stop here, you stop all that. The Terror refers to the sudden realization about yourself. We are all really alone. We’re isolated in our own mind. I want to know what you’re thinking, you want to know what I’m thinking. But we’re alone. In our own minds. We’re trapped in this sort of isolation. I think that’s what I mean by “the terror.” There’s a cave, we go inside of ourselves because we want to know more, and we turn this one corner and we go, Oh my god—I didn’t know that was in here. We can never go back to the way we were."


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

I Appreciate Steven Drozd Occasionally Appreciating Me.

Yippee! This talented young genius man is celebrating a birthday today.

Thank you for, like, saving me the extensive research required to remember the name of the bar on "Three's Company" after I offer you improbable suggestions as to what to do in London late at night after a show. 

And thank you for answering that whole "What's with Guy(s) and women's shoes?" crisis at like 3am Brazil time (sorry). 

Thank you for pretty much being the only person I can talk to about....Funyuns.

Thank you for the tip on how to use paper towels to dampen the tone of my drums. Worked like a charm. All of your musical suggestions work like a charm, now that I think about it.

Thank you for telling me to shut the fuck up more politely than warranted when I am annoying you with my shit.

Thank you for all the times we have mutually brow-wiped after our brushes with near-mortality (I'm way in the lead) from disease, habits and/or misadventure and for introducing me to Yin Yoga (yes, I'm trying the spine series).

Thank you for your pragmatism and unique understanding and perspective on lots of things a lot of people haven't been challenged by.

Thank you for not chastising me for listening to the "Xanadu" soundtrack.

Thank you for all of the opportunities to see you play and hug you awkwardly long.

Thank you for being so immensely, consistently critical though entertained by my soap opera relationship with a certain cardiologist who no, we still haven't figured out. Thank you for *not* pointing out that I keep pestering you about him after every time I tell you I will never mention him again.

Thank you for not tightening my straight jacket belts when I suggested opening a chain of themed restaurants called "Jeff Lynne's Chicken Shack," because I think it's a million dollar idea.

Thank you for surrounding yourself with a beautiful family.

Thank you for being so damn witty all the time!

Thank you for being one of the First Responders to all of my "Does every Guy?" Guy questions.

Thank you for not responding with "...I'd be a lot more sane if you'd go away!" when I suggested the song including the statement "God Only Knows what I'd be without you (in stereo)."

Thank you for surviving. Thank you for making really good decisions. Thank you for inspiring so many people by being such a nice person. 

I hope every dream you ever have that brings you joy comes true.

I think out of all of the pictures of you, this one is my favorite. 

Happy Birthday, Steven.


We're such cute people!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Aural Sex

I live in a tight (geographically) townhouse community. Saturday night was warm and most of the courtyard dwellers had their central air conditioners running and windows closed. Most of them. I came outside for my last cigarette of the night at around 11:30 pm. My next door neighbors had BOTH their A/C running AND their bedroom windows open. Kind of eco-unfriendly, but hey, it ain't my electric bill.

(*I'm working outside and my neighbor across the way just got home from work. Right now, he's taking a shower with the window cracked. No, I can't see him. Not my type anyway. I'll let you know if I can smell what he's cooking for dinner in an hour or so.*)

Separately, I'd given Luke my last anti-emetic pill when he came home from a no-sleep-sleepover, had eaten 4 donuts and rode his bike like 10 miles, & barfed at his buddy's house, when he came home Saturday afternoon.

I digress.

You're mostly intelligent people. Mostly.

Solve the following equation: Me + Smoking on the patio, dark and in silence + neighbors' open windows + 2 people *not* as hot as...I dunno, pick ANYONE x Sounds Similar to a Gazelle Being Chased by a Cheetah / Utterances of  "YES! GOD! YES! GOD!"  = SOLVE FOR "WHY."

(Which, please, is SO Linda Lovelace acting as a bad Linda Lovelace in a bad remake of a Linda Lovelace movie...)

It wasn't a charismatic evangelical revival of Elijah or whomever, or even Lot licking his wife for the first time in 34 years of marriage after God turned her into a pillar of salt, or angels swooping down from Heaven in a burning ark a'flame with the Powers of the Holy Ghost arm-wrestling Satan's minions, and Goliath's eyeballs weren't popping out because What's His Face nicked him with a slingshot.

It was THAT. And it was THAT which I DID NOT NEED TO HEAR. It'd have been funny had it not been such a damaging imaginary visual.

If I had any gumption, I'd have brought my laptop out and played the incidental theme from "The Omen" at full volume:

For the sake of fuck, literally! Must they bring the omnipresent/omniscient/omnigrossedout Lord into their shenaniganathon? CLOSE YOUR GODDAMN WINDOWS.

Luke was still awake, in his room, and he's not an innocent idiot. He came in my room to say goodnight and I started laughing/wretching & in very little detail simply described a vague notion of what was going on outside and soon enough, we were both rifling through the medicine bag looking for a stray Zofran. Suffice it to say, we'd have sooner eaten haggis than been exposed to THAT again.

Living with my mother DEFINITELY doesn't help my not-intimate-chances-at-no-intimacy-in-my-non-existent-lack-of-life. And, for the last time, I'm not attracted to either hipsters OR businessmen, so drop it! No pressure..... :/

Maybe I'm just hanging out with the wrong people in the wrong places. Like, I should go to the Hustler store with, like, Richard Simmons.

Yeah, I know. My lips are lonesome. As with most things which I find erred in the universe, I blame Guy.

Come on, Guy. It's not like I'm inviting you out to another NC-17 movie.

He rang me up Friday, but I was hanging out in Osco fluttering about while this guy who looked JUST LIKE Neil Peart circa '82 but even cuter was finding someone to find someone to find something for me. As I fumbled, all I heard coming out of my purse was *his* ringtone (yes, I assigned him one) and my phone saying "CALL FROM GUY. CALL FROM GUY. CALL FROM GUY." (Except it's his actual name.)

I must've missed my scheduled weekly check-in because he never phoned back. He's not a voicemailer. We both had a busy week, I'm sure, and mine was especially trying and annoying and panic-inducing; hence, Meg and I are adventuring out this week, and after our yippety-skippety at our local haunt (GAWD, I hope hockey's not on), I think we're taking The Offbeat Drummer for Something More Relaxing Actually Than a Massage: Yes, kids. Fresh ink.

Of what, pray tell? The Irish Trinity. Look, y'all, it's the closest thing to a threesome that'll ever penetrate my skin....


Interestingly, if I count back (which takes a while), I've been with 5 Irish-blooded-in-some-way men, married one of them & contributed to the breeding of another....must be an innate preference.


I'm so frustrated, I'm listening to Bowie. Never gonna fall for modern love.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Don't Ask. Don't Tell: Sourcing the Etiology of Madness

"Stop with the labels...because we are not jam jars; we are extraordinary, different, wonderful people." --Caroline Casey

It's no less valid than the curiosity as to why or how my son's eyes had been a deep ocean blue until he was in the primary grades, when they evolved into a rich green, matching my own. What in our DNA causes such profound change? Is it a mutation? Divine (ahem) miracle? Just how does genetic predisposition transfer through generations? What gives?

Why were we all bright blonds in the family as youngsters, eons of us, whose hair turned progressively dark brown (or in my ex-husband's case, red)? Why am I so gray so young, like my father, when my mother has reddish-brown, nary a gray lock, nearing 70 years old, her mother black-haired and not remotely gray until close to age 75? 

Genetics. Fascinating stuff.

I know I've either written about or spoken about it before--the 2 most ignorant questions I've been asked about my bipolar disorder: 1) "How did you catch it?" (asked by my paternal uncle's wife, to which I wanted to snarkily answer, "I ate some under-cooked chicken!") and 2) "What went wrong....what happened to make you the way you are?" (my mom's persistent query). 

Over time, I've learned to shrug off such gross inability to comprehend the etiology of mental illness in commoners ('cause I'm all educamated and shit) and while I know I've explained it biologically over and over and over again, rare is the effort I'll expend to actually, honestly respond to questions I find offensive or hurtful by replying "Your ridiculous question makes me FEEL X,Y,Z...and hurts my feelings" or, more broadly but more defensive, "It wasn't my fault. I didn't DO anything wrong. Busia Marynowski should beat you over the head from beyond with her diabetically amputated leg, which also wasn't anyone's fault!" 

Even children with a rudimentary knowledge of biology learn that psychosis is obviously not a *physically* obvious transmittable illness. It's not the common cold. No one at Adler is going to become manic-depressive by touching the door handle to the classroom after I've entered because of spores on my bipolar fingertips. 

If even Stephen Fry hadn't heard the term "bipolar" until he was 37 years old and was diagnosed as manic-depressive, I suppose it bears weight to forgive souls who...lack tact. Still, the older I grow (especially training within the profession of psychology/psychiatry) and the more I shake my head at the skeletal stigma on mental illness harbored by the Boomer Generation on backaways, the more curious I am to investigate, well, yes, frankly...how did I "catch" bipolar disorder? Is there some credence in "what went wrong?"

Oh, for God's sake, whatever you do, I mean, Jesus, *don't* even broach....ponder....Oh Christ, she uttered....hold your breath....WAS MY LATE FATHER BIPOLAR?  Or mentally ill in GENERAL? Heavens, that question gets deflected around and avoided by my immediate and extended family more quickly than a Bjorn Borg Wimbledon ace whizzed past his opponent. Because the far more plausible and respectable reason why he pickled his liver and succumbed to alcoholism at age 42 was because he was just a stinky drunk who ruined everything he touched. But I know now *why* he drank himself to death. I had a strong hypothesis, which no one in my family could or wanted to confirm. It all goes back to us wanting to avoid familial damning labels.

Going back to the last blog, I described some of the patterns of behavioral excess which hallmark manic behavior. Manic people can be, sometimes, a helluva lot of zany fun. My dad was like that. Never a mean drunk. He was charged with musical and singing ability, loved to dance, loved to pull slapstick jokes, and was (and this is not just childhood pedestal placing) SO loving and affectionate. And hell yes, it was kinda cool how we'd find increasingly more expensive cars in the driveway at least twice a year, even if we barely had a pot to piss in.

Depressive people can be seen (ahem) not getting off the couch (Dad?) for 3 weeks, "on vacation." If I were to graph out the similarities in our personal behavior, they'd be almost mirrors of one another. Substance abuse to numb or mask a mad mind. Alcohol was his only coping strategy. Alcohol and drugs--opiates and benzodiazepines, in particular, sufficiently numbed my senses of despair and inability to manage my moods until the point where, like my dad, the compulsions to acquire and use numbing substances overtook both my psyche and physiology.

But when I ask my mother if she agrees about my father being mentally ill, she disagrees. She disagrees for one or more of the following reasons: a) she is in complete denial, b) "SHH! We don't want anyone to know!" or c) "Crap, I feel pretty guilty I didn't recognize any of the symptoms, but that's kind of all Danny's fault, not mine & I'm going to spend the rest of my life projecting my self-loathing onto my bipolar daughter." I've been referred to my uncle, my dad's older and only brother for details about my father's life which I've only heard as anecdotes. He likewise denies any knowledge of or about my dad's mental condition or cognition.

My father was honorably discharged from the US Navy after only 3 months of training duty, on a 4-year enlistment, in 1959, when he 18 years old, from January-March. His time in the Navy was stationed at the Great Lakes training facility in northeast Illinois. I really wanted to know how he got out of the Navy that quickly, when the family legend was that he was "homesick." Nobody gets out of active military duty because he misses his mommy and daddy.

I found a file in a cabinet today that I don't believe I was ever supposed to see. I wanted to research the statistical prevalence of bipolar or other mental issues in first-generation offspring of the mentally ill. In the folder, my father's Navy history was contained, so puzzle pieces were quickly thrown together without me having to contact anyone on the national military level. The coding pre-1960's was difficult to find on the internet, but I found the diagnostic codes as pictured below: 1) Article C-1030, and BuPar's manual, Code 36 E.( BuPar and BuMed aren't even used these days, I believe.)

In the archive manual for the Navy, I did some reading on the codes for which he was discharged. It confirmed my belief for several years that my dad had at least *some* manifestation of mental illness. Genetics help to explain much of how I wound up bipolar. Not only did I inherit the uncontrollable behavior and depressive mood disturbances, I inherited the substance abuse gene. It's not known at this time if bipolar passes from a parent to child through direct genetics, but statistics point towards the onset of active bipolar symptoms in an offspring as quite high. The prevalence is bipolar disorder is 2 to 1 in females rather than males, but my brother is not mentally ill and I am. 

Here's the psychiatric flow chart used to assist in a differential diagnosis, from the Navy; which, if you're interested, can be found (in larger print) at: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/023253.pdf:

The flow chart, in combination of the codes I discovered, point to Section 5, letter "G" underlying my father's mental incapacity for service in the Armed Forces. 

Thus, my father had to have gone through the neuropsychatric testing and would've been honorably discharged under special circumstances. What irritates me to no end is that if, in fact, he suffered from manic-depression, WHY on earth was SUCH a stigma attached that his condition that it was necessary to keep it completely hidden or best ignored, while he struggled from early adulthood up until his untimely death. But that's just how things were back then, back in the days of "the men in little white coats."

If girls who became pregnant during high school were shipped off to special schools where they could be educated with other "troubled" girls, what was a morbidly mentally ill patient to do when a) medications hadn't been developed yet to effectively treat bipolar disorder and b) to be victim of reduced mental faculties was a scarlet letter, a shameful, closeted mark of madness?

My elder generations don't want to explain why because they're too guilty themselves of having observed and watching a man crumble, blaming it all on "bad habits." Do I believe they know exactly what happened? Yes. Will anyone own up to it in our family? I highly doubt it. 

What "went wrong to make me the way I am" is that I was, as I said before, bestowed an incredible gift for which I refuse to apologize, probably as a result of some funky DNA. From what I remember of my dad, especially during the last days of his life, he repeated and reiterated time and time again how much he loved and how crazy he was about my brother and I.  To those in my family who assign me a label of "cursed," I feel sorry for them. To the naysayers close to me who bite their nails in anticipation of my total breakdown, you're all very encouraging. Keep up the good work. To those of you who'd like to gain control of not only my financial but also medical decision making, good luck finding any committee or judge in the country who would classify me as incompetent. 

Looking through the secret file containing my dad's Navy papers, there was a list of the financial obligations he left behind for my mom to clean up after he died, and other miscellaneous paperwork. His life was incredibly messy. He made a lot of mistakes and decisions that, yes, a sane person would scratch his head over. A SANE PERSON.

Monday, June 3, 2013


The Gift of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder: The Gift

British actor/personality/genius/self-proclaimed jackass-of-all-trades Stephen Fry describes, in his documentary, “The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive,” bolting out of a local theater after receiving some mixed reviews about a play in which he was starring several years ago, grabbing a duvet, stuffing it in the crevices of his garage door, sitting in his car with his hands on the ignition for two hours, contemplative about starting the engine and suffocating himself to death. During this time, Fry describes envisioning the faces of his parents, of his family, which, to a mental health practitioner, is indicative of an acute psychotic break. Fry fails to carry out his planned suicide.

He sought to discover why he experienced periods of extraordinary creativity, incredibly heightened mood, prolific work output, grandiosity and a hell of a lot of shopping (like excessive no-one-needs-14-iPods-shopping), yet fell victim to total opposite, lengthy periods of suicidal ideation, despair and malaise. He visited a doctor who diagnosed him (properly, at that) as being bipolar, a term he’d not previously heard. It’s more widely known and accepted as being manic-depressive. Fry wanted to know how he “got it,” and whether or not it would get better or continue to spiral worse. He repeatedly refused medication (chiefly Lithium, the oldest bipolar antipsychotic used) because of its reputation of sapping patients of personality and creativity, which are certainly evidence against the use at least that drug in particular.

Second generation antipsychotics and mood stabilizers (which I take, Geodon and Lamictal, in rather high doses, incidentally) have fewer side effects, but yes, I agree with Fry inasmuch as while they even out bipolar moods, their reputation as zombieizers is certainly valid. Fry interviewed noted actors such as Richard Dreyfus and Carrie Fisher, who both struggle with the illness, and each relied on street drugs and alcohol to self-medicate before they received and were treated medically, Dreyfus finding enormous success in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s after an arrest nearly imprisoned him. Fisher, "Princess Leia" of "Star Wars" fame, of note, still struggles in heavy cycling, and, if you watch the documentary, her upward mood swings are VERY typical of someone hypomanic or manic. Across the board, it's not merely a matter of legend how many of us with bipolar disorder have self-medicated with drugs or alcohol before THE DIAGNOSIS or THE DRUGS because you know--you just know--that something is totally, majorly wrong with you, whatever it is, and you just want it to go away. Trouble is, it doesn't go away. More booze and more drugs don't solve it. And for many patients, myself included, over time, it gets worse and more difficult with which to cope. It's a blister that keeps opening and oozing, the Neosporin and Band-Aids a temporary remedy. 

In an episode of mania, EVERY idea is the BEST idea in the WORLD and you want EVERYONE to know about IT. Every thought is brilliant. Every action is over-the-top exciting. Every plan is extraordinary. Elevated moods, however, can grate on the nerves of those who love you the most. You talk, and talk and talk and talk. (My mom notices that my affect is much louder and my speech is much more rapid when I’m manic.)  Impulsivity is the rule rather than the exception. Hyper behavior manifests itself in such things as chemical excess, sexual excess, material excess, uncontrollability. Conversely, depressive episodes (depending on their severity) can completely polarize into suicidal plans, whether attempted or successful, as Fry discovers in interviews with family members of those lost to the disease as well as those involuntarily committed to mental institutions for extremes in mood and a lack of functionality, including one of a British physician. It's not unheard of to not shower for days or sleep for 72 hours straight, unfed, dehydrating and not giving a damn about body hair overgrowth or an empty belly. 

Depending on the patient’s cycling, mood shifts may last between a few days, weeks or months…fortunate is the soul who cycles only a few times a year. I, on the other hand, ultradian cycle, and my moods can switch from manic to depressive in a matter of hours. That wears me the fuck out. Fry notes and interviews a patient who’s written a book on the effect ECT treatment has had in working to ease the severity of his bipolar symptoms in the absence of any other pharmaceutical intervention...a "wit's end" solution, which categorically, does actually work, though it persists in having a dreadfully frightening reputation.

As far as the completion of Fry’s documentary, he was still unmedicated for his bipolar disorder.

For the first year and a half during which I was being treated with the aforementioned drugs, I felt strongly that I’d lost my ability to write. My blog laid untouched on the internet for quite a long time. After a breakthrough in 2011, I came to a thoughtful conclusion that I should start writing again. Fluidly, the thoughts, ideas and flair returned (with practice). I had not given myself due credit regarding my abilities, but that’s typical Annie. One subject in the Fry documentary fears that her depression is so severe that she (a gifted creative writer) may face the fact she’ll never be capable of writing again during a session of cognitive behavioral therapy, which causes her to cry in despair. I feel very similarly at times.

With much careful consideration, I came to the decision in 2010 or 2011 that my calling in life was to become a counseling psychologist. I wanted to aid, in particular, comorbid or dual-diagnosis patients who suffered from mental illness coupled with substance abuse histories. A successful summer course in the introduction to psychology afforded me an “A,” which encouraged me to pursue my study at the graduate level. After losing my job in January, 2012, after and amid nearly grave physical illnesses (chronic pancreatitis, anorexia, a hysterectomy), I took another prerequisite of abnormal psychology and again, did respectably well. After a sabbatical, during which time I wrote my blog prolifically, I applied for and was accepted to the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago for a master’s program in Counseling Psychology. I began full-time graduate study in the fall of 2012.

My first semester, I was more or less mentally stable, though faced challenges of concentration, short-term memory retention, and the more stress which was placed upon me, the mentally sicker I became though my physical health began to stabilize. I was encouraged to cut my course load in half for the spring, while still maintaining full-time status. Spring 2013 at school was incredibly difficult. I rapid cycled between mania and depression the entire term. Deadlines were graciously extended. Letters from my psychologist and psychiatrist confirmed my diagnosis and while I did not achieve formal consideration within the tenets of the Americans with Disabilities Act for the school, my professors (as well they should in a psychological school) were incredibly understanding. That being said, earning straight “A's” for Spring term glided me on a high, primarily because they were so undeservedly surprising, as I tend to view all of my achievements, which certainly must be pure happenstance and not a result of my intelligence or articulation. I felt ready to tackle the summer full-time with vim and vigor.

Not byproducts of delusionary grandiosity, I’m a self-taught drummer/percussionist who improvises very well, can’t read music and plays by ear. I know I’m a very good writer. When stable and healthy, I have a photographic memory. I’ve kept a young human being alive and thriving for 13 years, who’s a verifiable genius.

While my undergraduate grades weren’t reflective of my innate ability, I urged the Adler school during the admissions interview that THAT student in her early 20’s wasn’t the student they’d come to know in her early 40’s. I hadn’t gone to school full-time since 1995, when I received my BA in English-Writing from Knox College. That 20-year old was bipolar, psychotic and didn't *know* it. This 40-year old is being treated.

We are rounding week five of the summer term, and I’m taking 3 classes—one, a 6-hour long psychotherapy skills class and lab, the other two online (Adlerian theory and Biopsychosocial Foundations—all that funky disease and drug stuff I already know by heart because I’m a walking, breathing, living DSM). It’s going well thus far, but I already have asked for a few hours’ extension on an assignment due tomorrow, to which I simply cannot devote the effort or the concentration, which I told my professor. Literally, the 3-5 page paper is merely a regurgitation of information I’ve learned about Alfred Adler and his therapy systems over the course of the last 4 weeks. It’s busy work.

Considering I was in bed at 8:45 last night, in the middle of texting one of my BFF’s, I should’ve anticipated that a full-blown depressive episode was emerging, having gone back to sleep by 7 or 8am and awakening again at 10:30am. All day, I felt in the mood to nap, but fought it, fearful that despite potent prescription sleep aids, it’d keep me awake all night and I have a pathological aversion to insomnia. It is not unusual for me to sporadically sleep 14 or more hours a day when I’m depressive and still sleep all night.

While I may be a student at a swanky, private psychology institute, I am a patient reliant upon the Illinois state Medicaid system. Doctors and therapists at a local mental health center are paid pennies on the dollar to help me maintain my sanity, and to a certain extent, you get what you (don't) pay for. My therapist, an LCPC, is hands down, one of the most useless expulsions of oxygen I've ever encountered. She doesn't work WITH me. She doesn't deliver useful tools or solutions to my behavioral problems. A chronic time-waster, it is I (and thank God I'm armed with education) who develops treatment plans and theoretical approaches she simply handwrites on a form for submission to the State. She likes to tell me what to do but not how to do it. Put more simply, I can't fucking stand her but I'm stuck with her. The psychiatrist working with me--with whom I was afforded 15 minutes every 1-3 months, quit, and was recently replaced by a woman with whom I spoke on the phone last week regarding my medication refills, which were running low. Her first available appointment isn't until the end of June, when she'll receive approximately $4 for what a private psychiatrist would earn $125. While this upcoming appointment is more of an intake checkup, in the future, I will meet the ol' pill pusher every so often as she rattles off pieces of paper labeling my drugs whereupon I'll walk out the door with a stack to take to the pharmacy. Welcome to American Modern Psychiatric Practice.

There was something really fun and exciting I wanted to do over the weekend, which would’ve taken place at midnight either Friday or Saturday, and I invited a friend along, but he turned me down, so I didn’t go. It would’ve been a gas and a welcome diversion to spend some time with someone I care about. My personal feeling is that he bowed out due to fright and nervousness over what was a subversive sexploitation movie from 1970, not the fact that it was past his bedtime. (PS, it you haven’t seen “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,” you’re TOTALLY missing out.)

Literally, as I'm trying to iterate through this piece, my mother--my family, besides my son, Luke, who gets it, tell me I dwell too much on bipolar disorder and that if I just "don't think about it," it won't affect me. That I "blame" my behavior on my mental disorder. Sure, because I'm choosing to live like a maniac. If I muster the courage to admit I'm depressed, I'm lengthily questioned as to why, when most of the time, I don't have any idea and the explanation of "my brain chemicals are fucked up" is seen as a cop out. While still in control of my faculties, I live in fear, as a patient in Fry's documentary lived out, that a pound on the door will be met with a straight jacket, a syringe, a social worker, an MD and a trip to a mental hospital. 

I liken it to this example:  if you just *forget* that you have Crohn's Disease or cancer, your symptoms will magically disappear. No matter what illness you have--mental or physical--you can't "psyche" yourself out of it. What an absurd conclusion. My mother thinks I use it as an excuse to be crabby or hyper, neither of which is the case. It's a matter of riding the storm out, which I've done 1,000 times before (often silently) and will continue to do so. 

Fry's documentary is SO compelling because his level of frankness and detail is incredible. He's just the type of personality to bring a level of humanness and reality, with humor, to what I believe he does call a "morbid disease." He mentions at one point just not caring if he lived or died, and that apathy is something to which I can relate. Like that night I accidentally took 20 Ambien after taking one, and I just went to sleep. If I woke up, great. If I didn't, no big deal. That's different than suicidal ideation or plan. It's just life-apathy. It's during those times I surround myself staring at the people I love the most and shake myself out of it realizing the impact it'd have on all of them. Especially given my brother's recent near-fatal motorcycle accident and residual suffering and pain, and my son's idolization and deep love for me which just give me that glimmer to keep going. Fry'd laugh at me to call it divine intervention, but I honestly have no other reasonable explanation, because certainly my own strength is for naught. 

Whether lucky or unlucky, I cycle so rapidly, I anticipate that this depressive cycle will lift soon enough. Mania would be a bit useful in getting my school work done, but it's at the expense of my diurnal cycle, my physical well-being and my overall sanity. Mania for me is like 5 shots of espresso shooting in an IV ALL DAY LONG. Then BOOM. You're down for the count.

Fry's documentary made me feel less solitary in my struggle, and hearing anecdotes and treatments from people he interviewed, while they didn't lift my depression, made me feel more "normal" in what's a totally abnormal state.

The toughest thing about a depressive episode is that everything becomes so pointless, & if it was acceptable to cry without causing widespread household panic, I’d lose it, but I can hardly rouse attention in the house blowing snot out of my nose in tears, even behind closed doors, without an inquisition. So instead, I sleep. Barring sleep, I just lie there, and quite literally, I think I can feel my brain—organically—synapses firing and dousing to disintegration all at the same time, and it’s in those moments the din of the pain leads to over-medicating with sedating drugs, or thoughts of other self-harm, or just wishing away Chicago and escaping to India or somewhere there’d be peace.

But there's graduate school work. Finances. Papers. Classes. Deadlines. Busyness. Going. Going. Going. Parenting. Science fairs. Taking out garbage. Organizing. Making music. Keeping my body clean and presentable. Laundry. Jotting to-do notes, many things that were supposed to be done days or weeks ago.

People depend on me. I depend on people.

People I love are likewise suffering, though differently, some severely. Patients and clients I have yet to meet will count on me. I'm not going to bank $500k a year doing this work like a cardiologist. For all the years, all the effort, comparatively, even as a doctor, my salary will be paltry as a specialty. If I were in it for the money, it'd be the most selfish act in the world--I'd be capitalizing on my illness. I refuse to do that. I refuse to capitalize on the suffering of others who've been ON THAT LEDGE. I won't save all of them, either. But if they stumble, goddamn I'm going to help pick up the pieces. I survived to give back that much. 

Put simplistically, bipolar disorder is terrifying because IT'S TERRIFYING. If you're the God-believing type,  one whom Fry would a) laugh at and b) exchange in heated debate of existence, how can a deity of love and compassion besiege someone--let alone millions of people (4 million in the UK alone)--with a lifetime of enduring the deadliest (20% successful suicide rate) chronic, incurable mental illness? After a long period of "Why me's?" and "You expect me to hang around for THIS bullcrap?" part of the acceptance of the disease is that VERY realization (usually uttered not by you, but by someone who loves you deeply) that you have been bestowed, in a tangible but maddening means, a gift.

In the latter part of Fry’s documentary, he asks of the people he’s interviewed if they could “press a button and release their bipolarity, would they?” Out of everyone he interviewed, only two said yes. Fry, himself, said, “I wouldn’t press the button. Not for all the tea in China.” I tend to agree. That which makes me sick, and furious, and insane, and creative, and suffering and joyous to me, anyway, is sort of a messed up vision of how I wish everyone could (even in a drib) experience life. It’s never boring. The narratives in your head never stop. Your keen eye for what’s beautiful versus what’s hideous is zoned-in like a pinhole.

It’s widely known and historically significant that a great many of the world’s most prominent artistic, musical, cultural and political contributors were all manic depressives, long before the term bipolar was employed. Not all of them survived the drudgery of this disorder. But I challenge you to name one whose imprint did not transfer multi-generationally.

Individuals suffering and living with bipolar disorder are no different than you, but at the same time, completely different from you. Our lives are forcibly made a hell of a lot more complicated. We’re not asking for pity. We’re not asking for alms or mercy or an exorcist. We are asking for the respect paid to anyone else in the world, regardless if that person is ill, chronically ill or even in hospice care on his/her last breaths. Typically, illnesses we cannot see, we refuse to understand. That’s but one thing that needs to change in the medical community; particularly in the mental health community, and that’s where trainees like myself plan to turn things around.

Fry’s most powerful scene which hit me as a mother was in talking with a mother around my age (40’s), living with a partner, with 3 children—believed to be two young teens and a boy about 11-12. The woman has difficulty in explaining the effects of her bipolar disorder on how she behaves and interacts with her children. She says she feels she “Should be normal,” whereupon she lists off a string of what would *make* a mother normal—sensible, responsible, etc. Her youngest boy says, “You ARE normal.” The young teens can’t begin to imagine their mum any other way and go on to explain some of her more unusual behaviors and patterns. The mother is surprised that during the manic times, the children don’t get “fed up with it.” The youngest explains, “Everybody’s got a special voice. So this is like a special voice, but BETTER.”  Fry asks Elaine, the mother, if she’s surprised that her children consider her mental disability a “gift.” They all do, and accept that sometimes she’s up and doing a lot of things, while other times, she just needs to sleep. The adaptability of children cannot be misconstrued or not considered, for it is our children who often have more insight into their parents’ personalities than do the doctors.

Hugging and kissing my son goodnight tonight, I held his neck tightly and said, “Luke, do you promise you wouldn’t rather have any other kind of mom?” He thought the question was a little silly and obvious. “Mom. I promise,” he said, hugging me more tightly, "I love you." My mind might still be downtrodden, but my heart is warm and full.