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!

Being Miserable is Easy

Maybe you’re stuck in a terrible job.  Maybe your relationship is toxic.  Maybe you just got dumped.  Maybe you’ve suffered the loss of a loved one.

Whatever the reason(s), your life sucks. 

Yep.

So why don’t you make it better?

Well, you may be suffering from a phenomenon known as learned helplessness.  What is that?

The TLDR version is this: when things have been crappy for a long time, or you’ve been unable to improve things, you just stop trying.

This is one of the soul-crushing forces that stops you from improving your life actually a fascinating topic, and there’s some good science on the matter.  If you’re interested, I’ll let you read a bit more about it on your own; as with a lot of things, the Wikipedia article is a good place to start.  Fair warning, it revolves around a totally-not-unethical experiment involving electrocuting dogs.  Weren’t the 60’s great?

Yes. Really.

Now yes, some things you can’t change, I’ll admit.  And no, I’m not trying to trivialize your very real problems.  No, you can’t bring people you love back from the dead, and no, you’re not suddenly going to cure your mental illness.  You may be going through things that I can’t even fathom, and I hope you get the help and relief you need.

What I am talking about is the stuff that you can do something about.  A lot of the time we’ve trained ourselves that there’s nothing we can do to make our lives better, when really there is.

Take this for example: You hate your job.  You’ve spent the last 10 years climbing up a career ladder that you’d much rather kick over and light on fire.  Now you’re stuck… or are you?

Could you find another job?  Could you go back to college?  Could you start a business with the skills you’ve learned?  Can you transfer positions within your company?  There’s probably something you can do.

The problem is that these things are really hard; isn’t it easier to not do those things?

And that brings us to the title of this post, which I acknowledge may be controversial:

Being miserable is easy.

Now bear with me for a minute…

It’s easy to look at all the crap in your life and say, “you know, things suck, but there’s really nothing I can do about it.”  And now, just like that, you’re done.  You’ve just passed off the responsibility you have to yourself to make things better, and now you can go sit back in your misery chair (probably eating taco bell and drinking a fifth of whiskey… not that I know about these things…)

It’s hard improving your life.  I mean, I’m overweight.  It makes me unhappy.  I’d love to lose weight.  But you know what?  I’d have to stop eating taco bell, and I’d have to start exercising more than not-at-all, and I don’t want to do that because it’s hard!  So I’m just going to sit in this chair and complain about being a fat person on the internet instead.

I’ve got a helpful illustration for this.  Once upon a time I was a chemist, and believe it or not there’s actually a useful analogy to be found in chemistry for what I’m talking about.  I’ll try to keep this light because I don’t remember anything from college because I was drunk the whole time I don’t want to bore you.

Let’s talk a little about chemical reactions and a little concept called activation energy. 

Here’s a basic illustration:

activation energy example
This will be on the exam.

 

So this may be intimidating if you have no exposure to science, but it’s actually quite easy if you take a minute to think about it.

In plain English, this just means if you take THING A + THING B and add the energy required, you’ll get THING C and release the amount of energy indicated.  The solid orange line shows the energy of the system during the course of the reaction.

To make your life easier, you can take THING A THING B + a catalyst and add a lesser amount of energy to get the same THING C and release the amount of energy indicated (The green dotted line indicates less energy is required for this reaction to occur).

OK, so now that nobody’s confused, let’s apply this to your life:

activation energy and you
Science!

At the start, is YOU NOW.  It takes a lot of effort just to get through your day.  If you don’t change anything, it’ll keep taking a lot of effort to get through your day.

But you can change; the downside is that for a short amount of time, it will take even more effort.  Maybe you’re going back to college, or maybe you’re sobering up.  Whatever the case, this is the hill you’ve got to get over.

Maybe you have a friend, maybe you have someone who can help you make that hill just a little bit smaller.  I hope you have this help, but if not, you’re not alone!  Just look at this page!  There are more people just like you and I!

There will come a point when you’re reaching maximum effort; you may be unsure you can go on.  But stick with it and…

BAM!

The reaction completes.  The transformation happens, and your life improves.  You breathe that gigantic sigh of relief, and now it takes less effort just to get through the day.

You made your life better.

But it took energy, it took effort, it was hard.  Being miserable is easy, being happy takes work!

But it’s worth it!

Parenting and Mania: 5 Tips to Keep Your Head On Straight

Parenting is hard enough as it is, but parenting with bipolar disorder introduces its own set of unique challenges.

We all know little kids are certifiably insane energetic.  They’re excited all the time!  And why not?  Everything is new to them, everything’s an opportunity to learn!  We have so much to do, and we have to do it right now!  

Childhood really is kind of like mania… but unlike you and me, kids don’t really have the ability to completely destroy their lives.  Ah, the good old days!

I mean, I guess your kid could do this too.

But look, when you yourself are going through a manic episode, it’s hard enough to concentrate on 1 of 1000 things running through your head.  Add in some little kids running around, screaming, demanding your attention, and well… it’s enough to make you lose it.

But since losing it is generally undesirable, expensive, and you know… potentially marriage ending, it behooves us to keep it together.

So here’s 5 things I try whenever I feel a hard-core, mania-fueled, child-ignited, explosion of a freak-out session coming on.  And by the way, these 5 tips apply just as equally to those who aren’t suffering from bipolar depression.

 

#1. Drink.

 

 

#2. Get in the Car and Just Start Driving for a While.

 

 

#3. Freak-out just a little.  You know, scream into a pillow and then sob quietly in the closet.

 

 

#4. Maybe gamble a little… like a few hundred bucks… to start…

 

 

#5. Start that brewery!

 

#6: Buy a motorcycle.  #7: Grow a beard.  #8: Get in a high speed police chase and run from the cops?

 

OK, don’t do any of those things.  Seriously, try this instead:

#1. Keep a Schedule.

It’s easier to get through the day if you know it’s going to end.  If the kids go to bed at 8 or 9, then there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.  Set a time, then divide and conquer.

Here’s what I mean: say your kids are driving you to drink enjoying the innocence of childhood, and it’s… stressful.  Don’t think this is endless.  Think, I just need to get through the next 30 minutes.  Then another 30 minutes.  Then 1 more hour and it’s bedtime and I can get some sanity time to myself.

#2. Set Me Time.

So I said put the kids to bed at a decent time.  How about after that you stay up for an hour or two?  Make sure you have some you time.  Chances are your mind’s racing, and there’s a bunch of stuff you need to get out.  Well that’s no good if you don’t have any time dedicated to you.

I’m not saying sleep isn’t important, of course it is.  I’m just saying, get that me time (Also known by my family as “F-You Time”… as in, “F-you, I’m doing what I want to do”).

I know this one seems obvious but it can be really hard.  I’m too busy I can almost hear you saying; or I don’t have the time.  But chances are you just aren’t making the time.  Or maybe you feel guilty making the time?  I have to catch up on whatever chore, or maybe I have to spend every waking second with my significant other. 

Again, not saying you shouldn’t spend time with your significant other… and maybe that’s exactly how you want to spend your free time, and if so that’s great.  But you shouldn’t feel guilty carving an hour or two out of the day for just yourself to do what you want to do.

Besides, you want the time you spend with your partner to be quality time… and it’s not going to be quality time if your manic hyper-brain is making you trace patterns on the brick wall, or if you’re counting bumps in the ceiling, or if you just noticed the floor board joints make a pattern if you look at them from the right angle; or if you’re trying to write a blog post… oh wait.  Hold on honey, yeah, yeah I know, I just need a couple hours to finish this post.  Also, I’m taking the van this weekend, I’m going to Jimmy’s place on the lake… no, no, it’s just a dude thing, you can’t come.  Oh come on, don’t be like that, you’re so unreasonable.

#3. Get a Sitter.

It takes a village.

Ever hear that?  Well it does.

Don’t try to raise these kids by yourself.  You’ll die trying.  My wife and I were too proud to ask for help for the first 6 months of the life of our first daughter.  You know what happened?

Get some help.  Hire a sitter.  Call in a favor with that friend.  Get the grandparents involved.  They’ll love seeing your kids.  And then when things get hard for them?  They can leave!  And by the time you get back you’ll be ready to go again!  2 hours out on the town is like 2 months in parent-years.

#4. Get your kids into something interesting.

I’m not saying take your son whose clearly more into dancing than football and have him try out for the squad.  Don’t force your kids do do something they don’t wan’t to do, or be something they don’t want to be.  Don’t impose the same paternal inferiority complex on your kid that your father imposed on you.  Break the chain!

It looks cute to us – but that kid is devastated.  He’ll remember that forever.  This is how super-villains are made.

Get your kids into something they enjoy, and something you enjoy.  Get them, and by extension you, off the couch.  Make the time you’re going to spend with them no matter what fulfilling and interesting and you’ll both benefit.  You’ll get some of that manic energy out along the way.

But I’m a dude, you say, and I have daughters.  I don’t want to get into dance.  Well whatever dude, your loss.  Get over that toxic masculinity and start living the best life you can.

Get creative.  Go out of your comfort zone.  Don’t you want your kids to do those things?  Well set the example.  And make yourself better, and scratch that manic-itch to learn something new.

#5. When it gets hairy – take a minute.  Or ten.

You’ve been pushed to your breaking point.  Your kid is inconsolable.  You feel stressed.  You feel helpless.  And then you feel angry.  I do everything for you, you have everything you need, why are you still crying?!

What happens next isn’t going to be pretty.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is my kid safe?
  2. Are their basic needs satisfied?  i.e., are they clothed, dry, warm, clean, fed?

If the answer to the above is yes, and you feel yourself crossing that threshold into anger, then walk away.  Put the baby in the crib, make sure the toddler can’t get into anything, and walk out of the room.  I’m not saying leave the house.  I mean, you have to stay in the house, pretty sure it’s a crime if you leave (definitely is).

But you can walk out of the room for a minute.  Collect yourself.  Don’t feel bad, it’s OK!  Really!  Sometimes you have to chill.  We all do.  That’s completely understandable.  You might have to do this everyday!  You’re still a good parent, this is really hard man!  Your kids will forgive you… hell, they probably won’t even notice.  You need to forgive yourself.

What’s not good is freaking out in front of the kids, hurting them, or hurting yourself.  Or punching the drywall.  Or kicking the dog.

So that’s it friends!  What helps you?  Let me know below!  Follow me for more!

 

 

 

4 Things You Can Do To Curb Your Manic Symptoms

Your mind is racing, you’re not sleeping, you just maxed out your third credit card, and you’ve started scoping out properties for that brewery you’ve been planning (We’re going to be rich honey, I swear!).  Uh oh, it’s obvious- you’re manic as hell!

It starts young.

Alright, but your wife told you that you can’t quit your job to start that brewery, so what now?  Well, here are four tips I use when trying to quell that loud mind:

…(Oh, and obviously, listen to your doctor and take any prescribed medications).

#1: Put the Drink Down

This one’s tough.  It’s very common for people like you and me who suffer with bipolar disorder to self-medicate with alcohol.  Trust me, I know.

The thing is, you really shouldn’t.

I’m not going to pretend to be holier than thou; this is one I struggle with in particular.  There’s a reason I listed it as number one.

But of course you shouldn’t drink alcohol in excess if you suffer from bipolar disorder (or really at all). It’s a depressant drug that has a significant effect on mood.  This one’s obvious.

So why are you drinking then?

Well, let’s be honest, it’s hard not to drink.  I mean, it’s the end of a shitty day at work.  You and your colleagues just got over the hump.  What do we do now?  Drink.  

Happy birthday!  How do we celebrate?  Drink.

Happy Friday!  Drink.

But it becomes a problem when:

“Hi Daddy!  Can we… – ” Drink.

I’ve found that the urge to drink often passes like a wave.  When experiencing the intense urge to drink, maybe instead you could:

  • Go for a walk.
  • Call you parents, or another loved one.
  • Read a book.
  • Play video games.
  • Take a bath.
  • Drink some tea.
  • Tell your friends you’re cutting down on drinking.  Or if you’re too proud…
  • Tell your friends you’re on some crazy diet (that your wife’s making you do… ugh!) and you’re not allowed to drink.  For some reason we’re not allowed to talk about alcoholism or mental illness, but you can definitely talk about whatever diet craze you’re dabbling in.

Another one that works great for me is:

#2: Better Yourself – Learn Something New

Your thoughts are racing, you’re not sleeping, your brain is on overdrive.  If you can, focus that, and use it to your advantage.  Learn something new!

Personally, when I’m experiencing a period of mania, I like to use that energy to obtain new knowledge, or a new skill.

It’s the 21st century.  There’s no excuse for not knowing anything.  They call this the information era for a reason; you can learn anything online!  Why not use your overclocked mind to your advantage.

Yes, I understand that this is not a silver-bullet for everybody, and it comes with its own drawbacks.  But it’s better than a lot of other things you could be doing.  And honestly, what better use for your time, what surer investment, than increasing your own knowledge?

#3: Spend Time With Loved Ones – Do Something Different

If you have young kids then congratulations!  You’re not the only one with an inordinate amount of excess energy needing to be burned off.  Why not do something with them?

Go somewhere new.  Try something new.  Go out to eat.  Go for a walk.  Switch it up a bit!

No kids?  Do something with friends, your wife, your girlfriend or boyfriend, whatever.  Just don’t spend all your time alone trying to keep it on the rails by yourself.

And lastly…

#4: Talk it Out, Sleep On It

This one applies if you’re thinking about doing something… well, something stupid.  Like buying that BMW right now.  Or quitting your job today.

Talk about what you’re wanting to do with someone you trust.

I find talking to my wife helps when I’m thinking of doing something particularly rash.  Sometimes just saying it out loud will make me realize that quitting my job and moving out of state to start selling bicycle parts out of the back of my mini-van is probably a very terrible idea.  Otherwise, if I don’t reach that conclusion myself she’ll help me find the right path.

Being patient, sleeping on it (if you’re sleeping) can help too.  Anything that slows you down and makes you think through a big decision is important – especially if you identify that you’re experiencing a manic or hypomanic episode.

In conclusion…

These are things that help me.  Your mileage may vary.

What helps you?

 

 

 

 

 

Mania: My Superpower

You know, mania might be considered a kind of superpower.  Just check out some of these benefits!

  • Learn much faster than the average person.
  • Full energy with just a couple hours of sleep.
  • Suppressed appetite.
  • Accelerated weight-loss.
  • Greatly enhanced productivity, critical-thinking, and innovation leading to promotions and financial rewards.
  • A suddenly outgoing personality.
  • and so much more!

What’s not to like?  This superpower has enabled me to become more successful in 5 years than most people will be in their entire careers.  I’ve learned more things than a lot of people will learn in a lifetime.

My other superpower.

Here’s the thing though:

I’d give it up in a heartbeat if I could.

The truth is I’m sick of manic-me leaving depressed-me hung out to dry.  Manic-me promises greatness and elevates me above mere mortals, only to abandon me, and make me watch as it all crumbles like a house of cards.

No, not that house of cards.  And damn you Kevin Spacey.
That’s better.

Manic-me got a great job that depressed-me has absolutely no interest in doing.  I can barely get out of bed each day knowing the job that lies ahead of me.  Now what?

Manic-me tempted me with the joys of countless hobbies and skills from brewing beer, to programming video games, to playing the piano.  Each time I was abandoned on the cusp of discovering joy… on the cusp of growing a curiosity into a passion.  Each time I have been deceived by mania’s lies, then forced to watch as an all-consuming pursuit decays into nothing; it’s like watching a loved one waste away before your eyes, and I know it will happen again and again.

I’m reminded of the Greek myth of Tantalus, who was made to suffer for eternity by standing in a pool of water below a low hanging fruit tree.  Each time he reached for the fruit, the branches would recoil such that he could never satisfy his hunger.  Each time he bent down to drink, the water would drain away such that it was always just out of reach.

tantalus
Image not altered in any way.

I am a modern day Tantalus, constantly denied the fruit of a true, sustainable passion or purpose – forced to decay for eternity, just beyond the reach of what could sustain me.

If you have bipolar disorder I urge you to please not fool yourself.  Mania is not a superpower.  It’s a purveyor of false hopes, and a truly devastating partner to the destruction that depression already wreaks.

A Definitely-Not-Made-Up Study: Responses to Common Questions From People Suffering From Bipolar Disorder

A definitely-scientific study was conducted while heavily intoxicated using definitely-not-made-up techniques to determine the most common responses of the manic, bi-polar author bipolar individuals to common questions and situations.

The following results were compiled using definitely-not-bullshit scientific analysis of a single bipolar person’s a statistically significant sub-section of the population suffering from Bipolar Disorder.

The results detail responses to common questions as a function of mood.

How are you?

Mood Answer
Very Depressed Good.
Depressed Good.
Neutral Good.
Manic Good, how are you?
Fucking Nuts WOOOOO!!!! What a day to be alive!

Would you like fries with that?

Mood Answer
Very Depressed I want all the fries you have.
Depressed Yes.
Neutral No.
Manic No.
Fucking Nuts I want all the fries you have!

How was work today?

Mood Answer
Very Depressed Fine.
Depressed Fine.
Neutral Fine.
Manic Fine.
Fucking Nuts I QUIT LIKE 3 DAYS AGO, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?

What are you doing this weekend?

Mood Answer
Very Depressed I’m busy doing stuff… and things… way too busy to make plans…
Depressed Nothing.
Neutral Not much, what’re you doing?
Manic Nothing, wanna hang out?
Fucking Nuts I’m starting a micro-brewery!  What?  No I don’t know the first thing about brewing, but I’m an alcoholic so what else do I need to know?

Do you have a minute to talk about your cable provider?

Mood Answer
Very Depressed No.
Depressed No.
Neutral No.
Manic No.
Fucking Nuts No.

The author of this completely-real-and-not-made-up study is currently unavailable for comment.  He’ll definitely have your money by Friday – or next Monday at the latest!  Once this brewery takes off we’ll all be rich!  Stop calling me, Rocco!