Can’t Sleep? Science Has 4 Completely-Not-Made-Up Remedies For You!

Can’t sleep?  Mind running wild, holding your body hostage while you lay awake in your misery bed?  Don’t worry, Dr. Scientist Man has some advice to help you get that much needed rest; advice he has shared with me, your humble slob, lunatic, author.  Read on for more!

Dr. Scientist Man let me know this advice is perfectly applicable to you “normal” people, not just the certifiably insane those of us with especially beautiful minds.

adult-care-cure-433635
Trust me, I’m a doctor.  Kind of.

So without further ado (adoo?… uh-do?… you-do?… we-do?), here’s an exclusive sneak peak at this definitely-not-bullshit-written-at-3am-because-I-can’t-sleep research study!

(Full paper to be featured in North Korea Journal of Medicine pending peer review by expert team of 13-year-old internet trolls).

#1 Get Hammered

Yes, the classic.  Did you know science says alcohol is a central nervous system depressant?  What that means is that this shit will make you tired.  And it definitely won’t make you dance like an asshole at that party.  Or tell your great-aunt what you really think of her.  Also, Scientist Man let me know that drinking alcohol has absolutely no negative long term effects – a fact I can personally vouch for!  Did I hear miracle drug?

“Vodka’s the most efficient alcohol known to man.” – Professional alcoholic, insane person, author.

As a bonus, you can use the whole “depressant” line on that recently divorced woman at the bar who’s drowning the emotional scars inflicted on her by her douche-bag ex-husband and get punched in the face impress her with your intelligence.  Then tell her (this part is important), “Now you know.  And knowing is half the battle…”

GI JOEEEEEE!  Works like a charm.

(Dr. Scientist Man has informed me that he will be including GI Joe in his published research findings).

#2 Do Activities! 

Maybe you can’t sleep because you have too much pent up energy?  So why not burn some of that off!

Dr. Scientist Man has informed me that calories are just a unit of energy, and when you perform exercise that burns calories, you’re in fact burning energy!  Fascinating!

So extricate yourself from that human-sized burrito of sheets you’re currently entangled in and do some activities!  Yeah, it may be 2 am, but your neighbors won’t mind if you shoot some baskets for about an hour.  Then when you’re nice and sweaty, take off that comforter (you won’t need it now!), wipe up that sweat (liquid energy leaving the body – science!), throw it on the floor (someone will get that), fix that fitted sheet (one more corner and… god dammit!), and go to sleep!

Dr. Scientist Man BONUS TIP!

Combine tips #1 and #2 – do activities while hammered!

Dr. Scientist Man TOP SECRET EXCLUSIVE BONUS TIP!

Alcohol has calories, so you’ll need to limit that.  Remember science!  Calories = energy.  Vodka’s the most efficient alcohol known to man.  Cheap, low calorie, gets you drunk.  Did someone say miracle drug?

The worse the medicine tastes, the better it works – Science.

#3 Think About Something Boring

OK, you’re out of booze, and your basketball mysteriously went missing… is all lost?

Well, no, obviously.  Otherwise I wouldn’t have asked that question in a super-helpful-evidence-based advice article.  What do you think I am, a hack-fraud writer spewing falsehoods to boost his readership?

Dr. Scientist Man suggests that you focus your thoughts on something boring.  This will have a numbing effect on your mind, and eventually you will fall unconscious.

Not sure where to start?  Dr. Scientist man recommends focusing on work:

“For patients struggling to fall asleep who do not have access to booze or basketballs, I recommend focusing on the most boring thing you can to numb your brain into submission.  Statistically speaking, 99.999% of the general population finds their jobs to be the most unfulfilling, boring aspect of their lives.  For those new to this technique, thinking about their job is a safe go-to!”

Science has also demonstrated that statistically speaking, 95.7% of the time you’re actually at work, you’re thinking about anything but work (ironically, you’re probably thinking about sleeping).  By focusing on your job while laying in bed, you’ll also begin to see benefits at the work place!

3 am is also an ideal time to realize that, shit, no, I didn’t send that email I was supposed to.  And… actually, wait, I don’t think I told Susan about the electrical problem maintenance found with the copier… I think Tim mentioned something about “electrical burns.”  

This time of reflection helps you identify the things you needed need to do!  Scientist Man warns that potential side-effects include night-sweats (See tip 2 for instructions on dealing with night-sweat), increased heart-rate, an-elephant-is-standing-on-my-chest sensation, and an impending sense of doom.

#4 – Read a Blog Post

Dr. Scientist Man conducted an experiment wherein a representative group of 30 individuals selected from the comment section of the Info Wars Facebook page was given a simple task; the participants were given a laptop without internet access, and 5, 1000-word blog posts to read.  The blog posts were scientifically determined to be representative of the internet as a whole.  They were as follows:

  1. The 5 Things Your Cat Doesn’t Want You to Know.
  2. The 5 Things Your Cat Does Want You to Know.
  3. Donald Trump Did Something Reprehensible Today.
  4. The 49 Ways You Are Silently Destroying Your Children.
  5. You Are scuh an iodit and I htae evyerhintg aoubt you!!!1!

The participants were also denied access to their phones, or other electronic devices.

Out of 30 participants, 25 fell asleep within approximately 10 minutes of the start of the experiment.  The remaining 5 had to be removed from the experiment due to a physical altercation arising from an argument over former president Barrack Obama’s nation of birth.

While Dr. Scientist Man did not offer any definitive statements around the cause of the massive loss of consciousness observed, he did offer a tentative hypothesis:

“Well, to be honest, I think what we showed them was just mindless drivel.  The human mind, which is capable of going to great lengths to protect itself, simply shut down consciousness.  Further experimentation is required to validate my hypothesis.”

This sentence began exactly at the 1000th word of this blog post (a coincidence that caused the author to chuckle hysterically in an endless it’s-3am-and-my-brain-won’t-work-anymore stupor).  Statistically speaking, if you are still reading this, you are one of 17% of people whose minds are resistant to the numbing effects of meaningless internet drivel.  The rest of you are already asleep, having accomplished the mission of this article.

(The validity of this study has been called into question by some.  The 30 members of the control group, who were also selected from the comment section of the Info Wars Facebook page were disqualified from the experiment; members of law enforcement were called to the university after violence erupted when members learned Facebook had shut down the Info Wars page and banned Alex Jones from the social-media service).

If you’re still awake, and you’re still reading, then unfortunately science has nothing for you.  At this point you should just stay awake – and maybe warn Susan about that copier thing.

Dr. Scientist Man and I encourage you to click that Subscribe button over there to the left and follow LoudestMinds.com for more!  Or don’t.  It’s 3 am and I’m incapable of encouraging anybody to do anything right now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bipolar Disorder Described in a Word: Frustrating

I wrote a post on The Bipolar Writer Blog wherein I described Bipolar Disorder as engrossing.  I encourage you all to read that post, but the short version is this: One effect of hypomania or mania experienced by many people suffering from bipolar disorder is an intense desire and focus to do one thing – in short, they become completely engrossed in that one thing, sometimes to the point of having no desire or ability to do anything else.

Basically, this.

Engrossing isn’t always a terrible thing – you can get a lot done in a short amount of time if you have the time to work on that thing.  In fact, I think this is one of the best parts of bipolar disorder.  I’ve learned a lot by becoming engrossed in different things throughout my life.  The problem is that things like work, children, and… you know… eating, sleeping, and having actual relationships sort of get in the way.

And this leads us to frustration.  Ah, frustration – that thing you feel when you’re unable to achieve something you want… or what you experience when trying to open one of these:

clamshell.png
Fort Knox.

To me, frustration is one of the defining emotions of bipolar disorder.  I get so wrapped up in one single thing, and it becomes all I want to do; but life keeps getting in the way!  I still have a family.  I still have a job.  And my 4 month old doesn’t care that I have to finish this blog post or I’ll lose my mind!

This leads to anger, and the occasional shameful parenting moment; and over time it can lead to resentment.  Unfortunately these emotions are usually directed (unfairly) at the so-called “obstacles” to fulfilling the object of your manic engrossment.  This leads to some very odd, very unhealthy thoughts like: man, can’t my 3 year old just walk to preschool so I can work on this masterpiece tongue depressor bridge model that I have to finish. (side note here: It turns out tongue depressor bridge building is a thing because of course it is.  While googling it to find an image for this post I found a rich online community dedicated to it.  I love the internet…)

Frustration is a normal part of parenting, and life in general.  But it can be elevated to irrational levels for someone suffering from bipolar disorder.  Denying access to the object of a manic or hypomanic person’s engrossment is like denying an alcoholic their precious whiskey… something I also know nothing about.

In turn, the person or people who are seen as denying access can come to be seen as “enemies” – which to me is one of the most difficult and tragic parts of bipolar disorder.  Anything that has the ability to make you view your family as an “enemy” – even temporarily – is truly terrible.

And finally, bipolar disorder is frustrating when the depression returns and robs you of your will to continue pursuing your engrossment.  It’s like when you have to sneeze, and at the last moment you can’t.  Except the sneeze is your entire life’s work, and the sneeze going away is soul-crushing depression returning.

Here’s another helpful image:

Science’s best depiction of bipolar disorder.

It’s around the time the depression returns that you begin to realize you’ve probably been neglecting a lot of things you shouldn’t have – and maybe you’ve been a bit of a jerk too.  These realizations make the depression even worse, and feed into self-loathing… but that’s a topic for another post.

So that’s how I find bipolar disorder to be frustrating.  This is the second part of a series I am writing that explores various aspects of bipolar disorder, and how I experience them as someone suffering from type 2 bipolar disorder.

Follow for more!

 

No Quarter – An Alcoholic’s Recovery: Week 3 – Who Am I?

I once wrote that if you asked me to describe myself, the word Bipolar wouldn’t show up in the first 10 adjectives I used.

If you had asked me before I quit drinking I wouldn’t have used the word alcoholic either.

Now, I’m pretty sure it belongs in the top 3.

You may have heard the expression, you are what you eat (Hopefully that’s not true, because then I’ll have to start introducing myself as Reese’s Cup).  Well I’ve always thought it more accurate to say, you are what you do.

The English language seems to agree with me on this point.  Let’s say you’re an accountant.  If someone asks you what you do for a living, you don’t respond with “I do accounting.”  No, you are an accountant.

Even many family identities have their roots in what people did for work:  Smith, Carpenter, Cooper, Potter, Mason, Taylor, Miller, Baker, Spicer, Cook, Fisher, Shepherd, and on and on.  Incidentally, I’m glad this tradition has fallen away.  It’d be unseemly for my daughters to possess the not-so-proud surname of Drinker.

Sobriety has made me realize that I have no idea what I do, and therefore, I have no idea who I am.  For my entire adult life, drinking is what I did, and an alcoholic is who I was – even if I wasn’t willing to admit it.

I’d even find ways to incorporate drinking into non-drinking things.  I’m currently vacationing in Maine.  My wife’s family has a beautiful cottage on a secluded lake in a rural area of the state.  There are tons of activities available from canoeing, row boating, sailing, boccie ball, and mountain biking just to name a few.

So those all sound like healthy things to do… but a boat’s a great place to keep a six pack.  And a glass of whiskey is a really good counter balance to a smooth boccie ball roll.  And a can of beer is a great motivator to get you over that last hill on the bike.

Week three of sobriety has led me to a startling realization:

I don’t really like any of the things I thought I did.  I only like drinking.

It makes sense really.  Why did I use to get irritated doing fun things like going to a concert, or going to the state fair?  It’s because these things made drinking harder to do.

You might be irritated that it costs 10 dollars to get a crappy beer at the concert, but it really pisses me off.  How dare they?  That’s just ridiculous!  And then… I wish I had stayed home.

I bought a fancy cooler because it has what I refer to as a “smuggler’s pocket.”  It’s one of those coolers on wheels that has 15 pockets, and one extra special, extra hard to find one – perfect for sneaking beer through security checks.

10 bucks for a beer?  Ha!  I’m much smarter than that!

So now that I’m sober I’ve discovered a great emptiness where my “interests” used to be.  It’s terrifying – but if I may risk some optimism – it’s actually sort of exciting.  I might actually discover what I like doing.

And so I’ll conclude this week 3 sobriety update with my first positive update – This past weekend my wife, two daughters and I did something that I hate.  We went to the state fair.  I’ve always hated the crowds, and there’s only one goddamned beer tent!

Here’s the thing though – I LOVED IT!

My 3 year old frolicked through the pens of cows, sheep, pigs, horses – filled with the wonderment and joy of childhood.  But there I was with her, experiencing the same – filled with a joy of discovery I’ve been denying myself for an age.  As she experienced happiness, I felt it too – and I can’t remember the last time I really felt the experiences or emotions of another person.  I can’t remember the last time I was actually happy for someone, and the last time that happiness affected me.

I’ve written before about how sobriety has reduced me to the level of a child; how I lack even basic coping skills, and how my reactions to stress are not much more advanced than the reactions of my children.  But maybe I’ve been thinking about it wrong – maybe I’ve been elevated to the level of a child; capable of experiencing joy and discovery again.

So week three is in the books – maybe, just maybe, it doesn’t suck as much as I thought.

This is part 3 of a series.  The previous part can be found here.

On to week 4

 

 

The Artist in the Field – A Sonnet

If truth be told I don’t much care for art.

Perhaps not art, but artists I despise.

They’ll claim their work’s a calling of the heart,

But I can see the truth behind their lies.

Pretentious men whose minds will falsely claim,

to have some noble beauty that we lack.

They’ve no real use and yet they still earn fame,

While you and I must work and break our backs.

I am a man whose labor you’ll not note –

just one of many men who feed mankind.

Unlike your art, my art keeps life afloat,

But my reward’s not fame, just this sick mind.

But I’ve no will to make it through this harvest!

Kill me!  Resurrect me as an artist!

No Quarter – An Alcoholic’s Recovery: Week 2 – Why Am I Quitting?

Week two of sobriety is in the books.

I still hate it.

I got very close to a relapse this week.  I was blindsided by members of my family who discovered this blog and then told the rest of my family about it.  I was not ready for anybody to know about this part of my life, and that disclosure sent me into a three day tailspin that caused me to miss work, and compromised my ability to continue on this path.  It is clear to me that my family does not think of me as an adult worthy of respect and privacy, but rather as the child they remember from years past.

My family’s lack of discretion has caused me to question whether or not I should continue posting on this blog.  How can I possibly speak honestly and openly when this is a source of gossip for them?  Could you do that?  Could anyone?

But I need to keep going.  Writing here has been one of the precious few countermeasures against my urge to drink.  To stop now would jeopardize my ability to keep walking this path.  And I must walk this path.

Why Do I Have To Quit?

Drinking is an important part of my culture.  Alcohol is present at nearly every gathering of family or friends.  It would be more unusual if there wasn’t alcohol present.  Very rarely is drinking perceived as being an issue.  Sure we drink a lot, but we can keep it on the rails; well, except for me.

Drinking is not an obvious problem.  If you go to a party, chances are pretty good that everybody’s drinking.  It’s perfectly legal and accepted.  In fact, it’s usually considered weird if you aren’t drinking.  But if I went to a party and started snorting lines of cocaine, it’d be pretty obvious that I had an issue.

So what distinguishes my drinking from normal drinking?  Why do I call myself an alcoholic?  Where’s that line and how did I cross it?

This will take a little while to explain so bear with me:

During this second week of sobriety I’ve uncovered a truly crippling weakness: My ability to naturally handle stress has been completely blunted as a result of abusing alcohol for over a decade.

For years I’ve taken the easy way out.  If I was ever pushed to feel something I didn’t want to, I simply drank until the feeling went away.  If I had a stressful day at work, or a stressful day of parenting, I’d just get hammered.  Easy!

INADGraph
Repeat nearly every day for 10 years.

The crazy thing is that this actually worked for a very long time.  I’ve been able to maintain a high level of functionality by balancing my mental health and stress issues with alcoholism.  So what’s the problem?

The problem is that this balance is destined to break down at some point.  Life’s stresses have a tendency to grow as work and family responsibilities increase, and your body becomes increasingly efficient at processing alcohol.  As a result you need to drink larger quantities with increasing frequency just to achieve the same effect.  Eventually you cannot possibly drink enough, frequently enough, to manage your stress level.  This is when the scheme of the alcoholic collapses, and life begins to fall apart.

In the past three years I have been promoted three times, had two children, and moved to another state.  My responsibility has increased 10-fold, but my ability to handle it has lagged behind.  My alcoholism has intensified in the past couple years to bridge the gap, but despite my best efforts the gap keeps widening.

In the past month or two I began joking with my wife that I needed better drugs.  Maybe I needed to score some cocaine to maintain the false sense of superiority and confidence that has helped fuel my professional rise.  Maybe I could supplement alcohol’s stress relief benefits with some narcotic pain killers.

The thing is, I wasn’t joking.  I was realizing that I was at the point of collapse and I was desperate for relief.  I was no longer able to maintain all my responsibilities, my mental health, and my stress level with alcohol alone.  Either something would have to give, or I’d simply have to find more and better drugs.

For me, giving anything up was simply not an option.  The most realistic move would have been quitting my job, and finding one with lighter duties that more closely match the particular strengths and weaknesses of someone struggling with bipolar disorder.  But my pride couldn’t handle this, and I couldn’t bring myself to tell my wife that I was no longer capable of providing our family with the standard of living we had come to enjoy.

So that left better drugs as the only option.

I couldn’t really ask anybody in my personal life how to acquire these drugs – that would be a pretty obvious crack in the facade of greatness I’ve crafted.  Perhaps I could buy drugs online.  I mean, why not?  You can buy anything online, can’t you?

I began researching how to access the dark web, and how to conceal your internet activities and purchases from authorities.  I had the money, and I certainly had the motivation, I just needed to acquire the means, and I was getting closer.  Soon I’d have my relief.

Thankfully, I realized the ridiculousness of this scheme well before I acted.  I was already married to alcoholism, and I would be embarking on a path that would almost certainly lead to the destruction of my family, and probably end with me in prison.

I abandoned my ill-advised quest to get a better high and quickly fell into despair.  I couldn’t handle my job and the responsibilities of my family.  I wasn’t getting the relief I needed anymore.  The ultimate solution started creeping into my mind.

During the performance of my normal work duties there is cause for me to go up to the roof from time to time.  When I’d go up there I’d start feeling that familiar, eerie pull into oblivion.  The feeling came more and more often, eventually striking me when I wasn’t even on the roof.  Then I’d start finding reasons to go up there when really there were none.  I couldn’t stop the thoughts – I didn’t want to.  They became a strange source of comfort for me.  If all else failed I always had that one, ultimate, source of relief.

A lot of things prevented me from jumping off that building: my wife, my mom, my dad, my brother – but ultimately nothing was more compelling than the image of my 3 year old daughter asking her mom, “Where’d Dada go?”

That’s why I have to quit drinking.  I need to discover a sustainable way to cope because my life is on the line.

What’s Sobriety Like So Far?

Well, if there is one positive thing that’s come from these first two weeks of sobriety it’s the disappearance of the suicide imagery.  Mercifully, that seems to be gone.

But the rest has been very negative.  In fact, it’s been so negative that I often find myself asking why I’m even doing this.  Surely, it can’t be worth all this.

There needs to be at least one joke in here.

I find myself in an extremely precarious position.  I hold a job that I don’t think I’m capable of doing anymore now that I can’t go home and get hammered afterwards.  I have no idea what I’m going to do with all this stress, and I can barely get myself out of bed to go to work anymore.

I’m struggling at home with the kids.  When I have support, I don’t have an issue.  But when my wife is working and I’m alone with the two kids I go to pieces.

Just before finishing this post, I couldn’t get the baby to stop crying for almost 2 hours.  I’m ashamed to admit it, but two weeks ago I would have gone downstairs, drank a glass of whiskey, then returned upstairs to take care of my child; no problem!  Now, deprived of that source of relief, I simply break down.

I had to put the baby down and go downstairs to have what I can only characterize as an adult temper tantrum – throwing things, screaming into a pillow, crying, ripping my hair.  This is pathetic, weak behavior that is not unlike the reactions of my three year old when deprived of some toy.  But this is what I’ve become.

Alcohol has left me stunted in an infantile state wherein I’m incapable of processing the frustration and helplessness that comes from being unable to soothe an infant.  My ability to father our children has been compromised, and I am deeply ashamed of that.

Logically,  I know I need to push through this.  I need to develop the ability to cope with life’s stresses without resorting to alcohol; but I can’t help but think, maybe I should just keep drinking until the baby has grown up a little bit.  Maybe I should keep drinking until things are a little less stressful.  But is that really for the best?  Is there ever going to be a good time to quit?  What better time than now?

Alcohol allowed me to run away from my emotions, while maintaining a “normal” life.  Now, bereft of that relief, I find myself daydreaming about literally running away.  I catch myself thinking about quitting my job, and driving to Arizona to just disappear for a while… or maybe forever.

But my children deserve a father.  My wife deserves a husband.  My parents deserve a son.  And I deserve peace.  So really, all that’s left is to become stronger.  Become stronger, or become consumed by frustration, anger, and regret.  There is no other choice.

On to week 3

This is Part 2 of a series describing my efforts to quit drinking.  The previous post can be found here.

5 Things Your Loved One With Mental Illness Wants You To Know

You just learned that your friend, spouse, boyfriend, or whoever, is suffering from a mental illness like depression or bipolar disorder.  Now what?

Maybe you don’t know how to talk to them – so you don’t.  Or you do… but it’s really awkward.  You have no idea how to address it; do you address it?  Will you hurt their feelings if you do?   Will you hurt their feelings if you don’t?

This article hopes to give you some advice on how to proceed by sharing with you the things I, as a person with a mental illness, would like my friends and loved ones to know.  If you’re suffering from mental illness and you like what I have to say here, share this.

Now please note, I am not a mental health professional.  I am a person who suffers from Bipolar II Disorder.  My insight comes from someone experiencing an illness, and my own personal interactions with that illness.  Everybody is different.  Every illness is different.  In short, your mileage may vary depending on the individual person and the circumstances of their individual illness.  Use judgement.

With that caveat aside, here are 5 things I want people to know about me after learning I have a mental illness:

#1 – I Have Boundaries

Believe it or not, not everybody is cool with talking about themselves.  Some people have a really hard time with it actually.

Mental illness is still very taboo.  Mental health stigma is a very real thing.  Many people are not comfortable admitting they even have a mental illness.  Hell, most people probably aren’t comfortable admitting it.

Please respect the fact that people may not want to talk about it.  Take me for instance; I don’t really want to talk about it right now – at least not in person.  I’ve spent a long time building a pretty serious wall to talking about my problems and it’s going to take some time to dismantle.  So if you try to surprise me with a heart to heart about my mental illness… well… it feels sort of like this:

Nope.

I’m just going to run as fast as I possibly can away from you.  And then I won’t want to talk to you at all.  Because I’m afraid you’re going to eat me.  See?  That hasn’t really accomplished anything, has it?

Now some people will want to talk about it.  And that’s great!  People should feel like they can talk about mental illness.  If I just told you that I was diagnosed with depression, then I’ve sort of opened the door to talk about it.  But if you just heard that I have depression, and you bring that up, I’m going to feel attacked, and I’m going to put my shields up.

Now you don’t necessarily want to totally ignore it either.  This might lead someone to believe you don’t care.  So what do you do then?

Try this:

“Hi so-and-so.  I love you, and I want you to know I’m here for you if you ever want to talk about things.”  Boom!  That was great.  You obviously care, but you also respect boundaries.  Good for you!

Now there is one very important caveat to all of this.  If you think someone is about to hurt themselves or others, or is otherwise in crisis – then you should talk to that person, or hell, call the police if you think something bad is going to happen imminently.  But it has to be pretty extreme.

And lastly, for God’s sake, whatever you do, don’t go telling a bunch of people you heard so-and-so has a mental illness behind their back.  Whatever your intention is, it’s likely to be perceived by the person actually suffering as malicious and cruel, and you’re probably going to jeopardize the very existence of a relationship with that person.  This can be very traumatizing for the person suffering from mental illness, and can be detrimental to their treatment and recovery.

#2 – I’m Still Me

Ask me to describe myself and “Bipolar” does not make the top 10 list of adjectives.  I am not my mental illness.

This one is a little tricky, since you’ll often hear someone say I am depressed, or I am bipolar.  The language usage suggests that that person is that mental illness.  But really, they’re not.

And really, this is laughable on the face of it.  Think about it:

Someone has cancer.  Are they cancer?

You have the flu.  Are you the flu?

You have a rash.  Are you a rash?

No.  That all sounds ridiculous.  So yes, you’ll see me write things like I am bipolar but really, that’s just lazy English.

The point is, I’m still the same me I was before you knew I had a mental illness.  You just know a little bit more about me now.  But don’t worry, I’m still here!

Confused?  Don’t over think it.  Just look at this definitely-not-altered GIF, smile, and move on.

Feel better?

#3 – I’m Still Capable

A big reason why the mental health stigma is so real is that people fear that they’ll be perceived as less competent if it’s known they have a mental illness.  But if you’ve known someone to be competent and capable of sound decision making, then the knowledge that they have a mental illness shouldn’t change that.

I have bipolar 2 disorder.  I make decisions every day.  I have a family that I care for.  I take myself to work every day; in other words, I am completely capable of taking care of myself and living a normal life.

Do you want to know the biggest reason I don’t share my mental illness with people in my personal life?  I’m afraid I’ll lose my job – and if I don’t lose my job I’m afraid I’ll never be considered for another promotion again.  I’m afraid some jerk will think I have a defect that compromises my ability to make sound decisions.  This isn’t true, but I know a lot of people think that way.

Now I am not trying to trivialize mental illness in any way.  Many people do struggle with very real mental health issues that diminish their functionality in different ways, and these people do require help.

But if you’ve known so-and-so forever, they’ve always been highly capable, and they confide in you that they have major depressive disorder, I hope your opinion of that person does not diminish.  They’re still as intelligent as they were before.  Actually, there’s some evidence to suggest intelligent people are more at risk for mental illness.

My opinion of you wouldn’t be diminished if I learned you have cancer.  I’d want to help you in any way I could, and I hope that’s your reaction upon hearing a friend or loved one is suffering from a mental illness.

#4 – Help Helps

You may have just learned that someone you love has a mental illness.  You may be filled with an overwhelming desire to help, and that’s good!  But what do you do?  Do you smother them with kindness?  Or do you stay aloof and distant?  You’re just doing what the nice guy on the internet told you to, and respecting boundaries.

How about you listen to them, and ask what you can do to help?  If the answer is nothing, then do nothing.  If the answer is listen to them complain about their day, then do that.  If the answer is get a supersized order of fries from McDonald’s then…

The ketchup is dispensed from a fire hose.

Now sometimes you shouldn’t just wait around and wait for someone to ask for help.  Unfortunately, people who are suffering with depression often can’t see what will help them… even if it’s really obvious.  And sometimes someone will say they don’t need anything when really it’s obvious that they do.  This requires some judgement on your part, and has to be supported by your knowledge of, and relationship with that particular person.

So if there’s something really obvious that would help, like stepping on the gas when you’re being chased by a gigantic dinosaur, then go ahead and do that thing:

You don’t have to wait for an invite to hit the gas.

Just remember that a little bit of kindness can go a really long way with someone suffering from depression or bipolar disorder.

#5 – I Want You To Take Care of Yourself

So I’ve been talking about all the things you can do to help that person in your life who is suffering from a mental illness, but please don’t forget to take care of yourself too.

The person suffering wants you to be well too.  They don’t want to see you suffer, or even develop a mental illness of your own due to the stress of care giving.

Make time for yourself as well.  Make sure you set your own boundaries.  Don’t forget to help yourself too.  Don’t be a hero.

You’re no use to anybody if you get eaten.

So that’s all for now.  That should be enough to get you started at least.  There’s a lot more than just that which I’ll share in later articles, but my mania-brain has lost interest in writing, and suddenly I have an uncontrollable urge to watch Jurassic Park.

Follow for more!

Betrayal – Outed as Bipolar, Outed as an Addict

You have probably noticed by now that I post under my first name only. You see, I wish to maintain a certain degree of anonymity in order to feel safe talking about deeply personal issues.  Let me explain:

I am a very proud person. I have never been able to talk about my problems.  Hell, I’ve never been able to talk about myself at all. For over a decade I’ve hid the fact that there’s anything wrong with me.  In my personal life I maintain at all times an appearance of strength, success, and stability.

My pride has served me well. Armed with a tenuous, yet powerful sense of self-confidence, I have achieved a degree of financial success and stability for my family unusual for someone my age.  But this pride inflicts upon me a terrible price.  I’ve suffered with undiagnosed, mistreated bipolar disorder my entire life.  I’ve never sought help or treatment because treatment is weakness.

Admitting I had issues was simply not an option. There were no issues I told myself.  I did what many proud people with a problem do – I drank.  And I drank.  And I drank.  For years I drank as much as I could, and when I wasn’t drinking, I was wishing that I was.

Then children came, and children have a way of making you evaluate yourself, your past, your future, and your own upbringing. I found myself to be unworthy of the unconditional love my daughters naively bestowed upon me.  It took 3 years, but this inadequacy finally persuaded me to admit I have problems, and to seek treatment.

I started this blog for a couple reasons. First and foremost, I’m scared, and I need help.  I wanted to see if there was anybody else out there who was going through similar issues, and if there were, I wanted to connect with them.  To my great relief, I found I was not alone.  I’ve come to meet many great people suffering through similar issues in the very short time I’ve written this blog.  Communicating with you has been one of the precious few sources of help, relief, and joy I’ve found since embarking on this path.

Secondly, I realized I would need a place to deal with my thoughts as I worked through this.  Alcohol had been my constant companion for suppressing my problems for so long, and I knew if I was really going to kick the habit I’d need a healthy outlet.

This blog seemed like a good way to achieve these goals; and by remaining anonymous I could strengthen myself in safety, and one day, I’d be able to share my story with friends and family from a place of success – as someone who had already walked the path, and had returned to help others still struggling along the way.

And now with all that said we can move on to the titular betrayal.

You see, this blog has a Facebook page to help connect me to you, and you to other people who are suffering. Facebook owns Instagram.  Unbeknownst to me, Instagram suggests pages to the personal friends of the owner of the page. As a result, three people from my personal life became aware of this page, and by extension my very secret, very personal problems.

I was shocked, and more than a little terrified; I felt compromised. Naked. I was not ready to talk to these people about this.  I’m still not.

But I thought, these are people I trust, it’s OK. The wife of a great friend, who I recently really met for the first time (Hi Tess!).  A friend from home who stood at our wedding (Hi Steph!).  And lastly, my cousin.

My cousin is the perpetrator of the titular betrayal, and the person to whom this post is really addressed.

She apparently saw fit to tell my aunt about this page, who quickly told my parents. My mother called my wife, apparently filled with concern for the deeply private revelations she was reading from her son.

I wonder, how did you possibly think it was OK to share this with anybody? Did you seek to embarrass me?  Was it out of some ill-conceived attempt to help?

I identify myself with members of the LGBT community who have been outed to loved ones before they were ready to share that deeply personal, stigmatized part of their identity. Coming out is rightly viewed as an extremely difficult, emotional, and important part of someone’s life.  It is something everybody has the right to do on their terms, when they are ready; and if they’re never ready it is also their right to keep that to themselves.

The internet is filled with stories of those who were outed as gay, lesbian, or otherwise non-cis to loved ones before they were ready, and against their wishes. Tragically, many of these stories end in suicide, and now I understand why.

I feel I have been outed. I feel exposed.  I feel like a child again, denied the decency of even the most basic privacy.  A child who needs to spend hours running from home on a bicycle, just to get some moments of solitude to try to process all this shit.

Alcohol was my outlet. Now that’s gone.  This blog replaced it.  And now I feel like that’s been compromised.  This is no longer a place where I feel free to speak openly.  Now where do I turn?  To you?  Why would I ever do that now?

Upon hearing the news of my outing this morning I walked off the job. I got in my car, and the child was back again, running away, trying to find shelter.  I raged, I lost my voice, I cried, I tore my shirt, I damn near drove into a ditch.  I almost drove to the bar.

Then I did what I’m best at. I buried it, composed myself, and 15 minutes and 1 shirt change later I was standing and speaking in front of a group of 50 – none any the wiser.

It’s exhausting living like this, being bipolar, being in recovery.  I honestly don’t have any more energy to give to this post.  I’ll substitute eloquence for succinctness, and simply close with this:

Fuck. You.

-Matt Orcutt

No Quarter – An Alcoholic’s Recovery: Week 1 – Sobriety Lets Me See Me… And It’s Ugly

I’ve been sober for one week today; I absolutely hate it.

Fair warning: this post is not going to be pleasant.  There will be no sage advice or words of encouragement.  This is not a story of triumph.  There is no inspiration to be found within – just the words of an alcoholic recently deprived of his relief… a man who recently killed his best friend.  Read on at your own risk.

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why I’m writing this.  It’s like some monster is raging inside me and I have to get it out.  I don’t care how ugly it is, I don’t care how offensive, how embarrassing, how dishonorable, whatever other words you can throw at it, I just want it out.

For over ten years I’ve been making every excuse imaginable to deny that I’m an alcoholic.  I recently wrote a post for The Bipolar Writer Blog on that subject.  I don’t know exactly why, but I finally decided to do something about it; one week later I feel like I’ve made a terrible mistake.

Quitting alcohol has forced me to reflect on myself in a way I haven’t in a very long time.  I’ve very quickly discovered a great seething darkness within.  It’s as if I’ve kicked over a rock, and now I’m recoiling from the squirming mass of grotesquerie that was always lurking just underneath.

Alcoholism bestowed upon me wonderful adjectives – funny, outgoing, personable, friendly, powerful, ambitious, successful.  Now that that’s been stripped away, I’ve discovered my real adjectives – my monster:

Jealous:

I am a disgustingly jealous man.  Like most things, it started young.

I had a father for which nothing I did was ever good enough.  I never attempted a task that wasn’t criticized (often harshly), and I never uttered a sentence that wasn’t corrected.  At a very young age I learned to tread carefully lest I invoke the dissatisfaction of my father.  This seems a laughably trivial offense to an adult, but it is a crushing devastation to a child.

This seed of timidity continued to grow through childhood. I was afraid of failure and humiliation and as a consequence I did nothing, I accomplished nothing, and I was proud of nothing.

I hated who I was in middle school – a meek little kid who got picked on.  I hated who I was in high school even more. I was kind, smarter than most, and funny; but I was painfully introverted, and terrified of making mistakes.

I surrounded myself with friends who outperformed me in every aspect.  They had jobs, they did well in school, their parents got them cars, they vacationed in Europe, they had girlfriends, they starred in the high school shows, they were well liked – adored even.   I was a hanger-on; always in the wings, never on stage.

I was a good friend, at least on the surface; but I harbored a disgusting secret.  Inside me squirmed a disgusting emotion – jealousy.  I hated my friends, even as I loved them.

A moment from my childhood remains emblazoned in my mind.  I was home alone, lying on my parent’s bed.  It must have been early June; it was a beautiful, crisp, clear day – perfect except for the wind that ravaged the monstrous pine trees that framed our neighborhood.  I might have been 16.

I don’t recall what the trigger was, but I remember the reaction.  I remember when the jealousy that I always harbored within boiled over.  I broke down and cried as I have never cried before.  It was a transformative, shameful moment.  It was in that moment that despite a devout religious upbringing, I rejected God and formed a new religion dedicated to the worship and betterment of myself.  God had been silent my whole life so it was now time to take the universe into my own hands.

My mind crystallized into a single thought which has never since been broken – the first pillar of my new religion:

I must be better than them.  I will be.

A pathetic, selfish, mission statement that has helped guide my life’s actions ever since.

Pathetic

What other word do you use to describe someone who needs constant validation and flattery?  Pathetic.

I am very successful for my age.  I’m not yet 30, but I might be your boss.

Ask me what the keys to success are and I will tell you some bullshit version of how I’ve realized the american dream through a combination of hard work and intelligence.  Good old fashion bootstrapping!

In reality, I have an overwhelming, pathetic urge to please as many people as possible.  Couple that with my jealousy-fueled mission to be better than them and you get someone who chases success, a home, cars, a wife, the next big promotion, you name it, with absolute ruthlessness; my life depends on getting the next thing – on getting that validation.  Without it, this whole charade starts to crumble.  Without it, I’m just that stupid fucking kid who stood in the wings waiting for his life to happen, too afraid to make it happen.

I recall another moment from my teenage years. I couldn’t buy a date, which was cause for an increasing amount of frustration for my hormonal, teenage self.  Eventually my frustration boiled over.

I remember it was New Year’s Eve.  My parents were out at a party, and I had decided to stay home by myself.  I stole a bottle of Bacardi out of the liquor cabinet and got hammered.  I may have been 15.

I needed to escape, I needed like hell to get out of that fucking house, so I put on a coat and stumbled out into the freezing night.  I grabbed a 6-pack on the way out the door.

I proceeded to get progressively drunker, stumbling through my home town and screaming at nobody in particular.  The wind was ferocious that night but it couldn’t match my own ferocity – at least not at first.

I eventually threw up in the street as I was overcome by the booze.  I threw the remaining bottles of the 6 pack as hard as I could into the night, screaming in rage.  How dare nature oppose me?

At last I found myself depleted, and finally winter began to consume me.  I lay myself down in a snowbank to rest.  I probably would have died there had I not called the then-object-of-my-desire on my phone.  I have no recollection of the conversation that followed, but I was found, picked up by her parents, and returned safely home.

The episode was the subject of hot discussion among people who knew of it, but not of much concern.  On the contrary, it was an amusement – a worthy topic for jokes.  It was in the aftermath of this episode that the second pillar of my religion formed.

Nobody cares what you think.  Nobody cares how you feel.  People only care about themselves.

Perhaps my need for validation is a pathetic attempt to try to refute that.  Perhaps I’m hoping that if enough people think highly enough of me that they’ll care what I think; they’ll care how I feel.  But deep down I know that’s not true.

After this episode I was taken to therapy and (mis)diagnosed with and treated for depression for the first time.

Selfish

My selfishness is a frequent complaint of my wife’s, and I don’t blame her.  I can barely lift a hand to take care of myself, let alone my family.

My wife handles everything.  The bills, the babysitting, the planning, the mail, you name it.  I help with some chores, I keep the house clean, and I take care of our kids’ basic needs, but that’s it; I do the minimum.

I excuse this by pointing out that I make a ton of money at my job – therefore I deserve to be treated well.  This was accepted in the house I grew up in because my mother unfortunately didn’t have much of a choice.  She depended on my dad financially.  This is not acceptable in an age when my wife can do just fine on her own, and it never should have been acceptable in the first place.  It’s a pathetic excuse made by pathetic, fearful men.

I had an easy early childhood.  I was the younger brother, and I was babied.  My brother did the heavy lifting while I was left alone for the most part to watch the TV until my mom’s home-cooked meal hit the table.  This slowly changed as I got older, but for most of my childhood this was the case.

I grew up into an adult who is still waiting for mom to make dinner.  Did I mention I might be your boss?  That should make you feel better if you fucking hate your job; if you’ve made it this far at least you got something out of it.  Your boss might be as pathetic as the guy writing this post; cheer up!

This personality trait is the foundation for the next pillar in my religion:

I deserve better.

Selfish.

Cowardly

When you cut through it all – the bravado, the job, the family, the house, all of it… I am first and foremost a terrible coward.

There’s never been a problem I couldn’t run away from.  When the going gets tough, I get going – straight out the door.  Figuratively and also frequently literally.

Job too hard?  Get a new one.

College challenges you?  Transfer.

Don’t like the party?  Leave.

Don’t want to hang-out?  Make a bullshit excuse.

The last moment I’d like to reflect on is still fresh in my memory as it happened less than 24 hours ago.  My wife called me out on being a selfish prick.  I couldn’t take it, so I literally got in the car and just drove.  For hours.  I planned on going to Walmart and getting basic toiletries so I could stay the night somewhere until the situation just blew over.  Then I’d just reappear when it was convenient for me and pretend nothing happened.  When my wife challenged me I’d make it her fault.

This is cowardice at its worse.

Cowardice forms the last great pillar of my religion:

Never let them see you bleed, and always have an escape plan.

I guess lack of originality is another trait of mine since I stole that from The World Is Not Enough but I digress…

In Conclusion, Why I drink:

Finally, I understand why I drink.

Yesterday, I told my wife that she is the reason I drink.  That her expectations are unreasonable and that she pushes me over the edge.  That was a cruelty she does not deserve.

In reality I drink because I was a jealous, pathetic, selfish, coward of a kid who became a jealous, pathetic, selfish, coward of a man.  A man has more tools than a child though; When the reality of those weaknesses would creep up in the back of my head I had alcohol to smash them back into oblivion.

Alcohol keeps me safe from what I fear the most – my own weakness.  That kid that I hate so much.  I formed a religion to protect myself from myself; Drinking is the most necessary, sacred rite.

Without a doubt this week has driven me to my breaking point.  I’ve come face to face with the darkness within me and I feel powerless again – powerless like I did as a child.  Powerless like I did before my religion delivered me to salvation.

It’s also become clear this week that not only do I have bipolar disorder, but I am also a narcissist and an alcoholic.  Charming.

I honestly wish I could go back.  It was simpler when I could just get hammered.  I didn’t have to deal with this.  I loved me.  Now I hate me.

But now there’s no putting the monster back – it’s out.  And if I can’t hide it anymore, there’s only one option left.

I have to kill it.  No quarter.

On to week 2