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about mental illness

I think it is important to talk about mental illness because it is nothing to be ashamed of -- no more so than other physical illnesses like breast cancer or anything else.

I have bipolar disorder, which is what people used to call "manic-depressive". I was taking Depakote for it, but am temporarily off meds UNDER MY DOCTOR'S SUPERVISION during my quest to get pregnant. Fortunately for me, I don't have it nearly as bad as some people in my support group. My depressions are not suicidal or homicidal. Which is a key factor in deciding whether you can go without drugs. I urge anyone reading this, if you ever feel like you might kill yourself or hurt anyone else DO NOT GO WITHOUT MEDICATION! I am doing this ONLY under the care and advice of my psychiatrist.

When I'm depressed I sleep most of the day, have zero ambition, feel terribly insecure, fear Mona will leave me, etc. But I never think I should be dead, which is pretty good for depression. (See this journal entry for a pretty typical example of what this is like.)

When I'm "hypomanic" (which, medically speaking is different frm "manic") I have tons of energy, but very poor judgment. Sometimes I do great things like artwork or writing, but sometimes I decide that the wallpaper I painstakingly put on last week is completely wrong and that I should start stripping it again RIGHT NOW.

It's not a good idea for me to drive when I'm manic, but I don't think so at the time.

I suppose I should add that I also have a number of compulsive behaviors, one of which is the need to write all this stuff I write on this public space. Of course I really doubt if many people read this except people I know in Real Life -- and they all know this stuff about me -- but there is something about the potential of it being read by zillions of people across the world that feeds some strange exhibitionistic compulsion of mine.

And then there are the panic attacks, but I rarely get those anymore. And occasionally I am a bit agoraphobic and just don't leave home.That's about it. Other than the above I am comPLETEly normal!

I'm the youngest of five girls, but was always the odd one. My sisters were all honor students and everybody assumed I would be too -- but I wasn't. In elementary school the teachers kept saying I didn't pay attention in class, or that I was disruptive or talked too much -- which I'm sure was true. My current shrink sez I was probably ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) which is much more common in boys and often goes undiagnosed in girls.

In high school I had what they euphemistically call "uneven" grades. Very uneven. I got radiant 'A's on lots of projects and reports, and then 'F's on tests and some other projects. I would blitz thru a test, getting everything right and turning it in before anyone else -- but I'd overlook a whole page.

I did not fit into any clique but drifted in and out of several of them. The popular girls found that I was impervious to being hurt by snubs or catty comments or even by vicious rumors. But I didn't let them see me weak. I missed a lot of school when I was depressed, but when I was manic, baby, bullets bounced right off of me. Plus, I have always had the ability to make just about ANYone laugh. (There are a few exceptions including a current one, but I don't want to get into THAT here). So I ended up being kinda popular anyways, even tho I was mostly in the Freaks-and-Hippies caste, and happy there.

People always assumed I was a doper, but my dopinenss was natural. I was an "organic hippie" -- meaning someone who did not need drugs to be high.

In college I had somewhat outgrown the ADHD but it was turning into bipolar disorder, which is related. I still had wonderful periods of creative, sleepless mania (including much of my original Jack period). But my depressions got worse and I started having panic attacks. I had a bad one at an outdoor concert and I made Jack leave just as the show was starting.

A couple years later when I had sorta dropped out of college for a while I started getting worse in terms of the mania. I was out of control and finally one night I wrecked my car, totaled it around a tree. I remember I was driving down a twisty road and was completely convinced that I could drive that car as fast as it could possibly go and handle every twist in the road gracefully. And I did pretty good too, until I hit that tree. Oddly, I was probably lucky I wasn't wearing a seat belt and it was a convertible cuz I was thrown cleanly from the car and landed in a corn field -- completely uninjured except for some scratches and a cut to my head that would need a few stitches. I was completely alone and got lost inside the corn field for a while. I was crying and my head was bleeding and I knew for certain that I was crazy. That was probably the scariest thing I felt that night -- that I was insane.


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