Tag Archives: mental health

So then, who the hell am I?

I promise I will return to writing the hospital series once I feel up to it. But today’s blog will focus on the head trip that bipolar episodes bring on.

August of this year was great. I knew who I was. I was confident, happy, and I had people around me. So much of my life I’ve been alone.

September of this year put my emotions to the test. I grew even further, but was full of conflicting confidence and disappointment.

Somewhere around the end of September the mania started. The person who I thought I was was still there, but he was magnified 1000%. Who knows who triggered it? Another one of my medications, school, all the mental energy I was putting into auditions that only ever said no? And the “no”s confused me because all the feedback was good, excellent, even. So maybe a big ball of conflicting emotions was one part of it.

Then, somewhere around the middle of October, I crashed into depression. That’s usually what happens to me when I have a manic episode. It’s followed by a depression. Sometimes not so severe but this one was very severe. On the 22nd I was hospitalized. I got out yesterday.

And I find myself wondering who the hell I am?

Was that content, confident, exuberant, even, guy that I was last August really me?

Is it possible for me to have exuberance without having mania?

Will I have to give up natural excitement and exuberance in order to keep from getting sick?

I liked manic Jay before it got too far and I started with the delusions of grandeur. But that’s not who I am… that’s what the disease makes me.

Depressed Jay is not me. I have too much love for things to be reduced to that.

So is post-hospital Jay really me? I don’t feel depressed, but I don’t feel happy. Everything is just kind of ehh. I can find pleasure in things if I try hard enough.

My doctor would say that the levels of medication in my blood are just starting to get to a therapeutic level, and that I should wait, hold on, whatever.

So say the medication starts working. THEN who will I be?

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The Hospital Series: Part 1

If you read my last post, you know I was going down fast. Here’s the thing about bipolar depression – it gets bad very quickly. On October 22nd, at 9 in the morning, I saw my psychiatrist and she admitted me to the hospital.

There were no beds available yet, though, so I curled up in the fetal position in the corner of an empty office to wait for them to find a place for me. Finally at 3 in the afternoon I was escorted to the hospital and admitted to the psychiatric ward.

There’s something that always happens to me when I get admitted – for the first little while, there is just RELIEF that people are watching me and keeping me safe from the things I could do to myself. I remember friends visiting my first night, and I almost felt normal, like we were hanging out. Not like someone who had been composing music for his own funeral the night before.

But then, the relief passed, I realized that I still felt like my body was filled with lead, and I pretty much didn’t get out of bed for a couple of days. I really have trouble remembering some of this hospitalization, because I was SO depressed.

I’m going to talk about the hospital in short snippets, because it’s too much all at once.

Some Psych Hospital Survival Tips:
Stockpile towels. The nurses are always busy when you want to take a shower.
Don’t eat the chicken pot pie.
I will talk about Asperger’s sensitivities and psych hospitals later, but BRING EARPLUGS.
Sweatpants are a better choice then jeans because they might take away your belt and then your jeans will fall down.
You will have days where you feel great and can exercise, go to groups, do laundry, socialize…and then you will have days where you stay in bed all day.

I’m still in the hospital, but have gotten to the point where I can come home for a few hours. More blog posts are forthcoming, hopefully better ones… my brain is still too fried to be prolific.

World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day. I don’t know the stats for every country, but here in Canada, 1 in 5 people will experience a mental health disorder in their lifetime. So for two reasons, I am going to expand the scope of this blog.

The first is because mental health advocacy is important. A lot of people have misconceptions about or don’t understand mental illness. This misunderstanding leads to hurt. Families are hurt. Sufferers are hurt.

The second is because I just went through something profound, and god damnit I need to talk about it.

In addition to having Asperger’s Syndrome, I also have bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed when I was 24, in 2008. A manic episode led to a hospitalization, which led to eventual depression. While I was hospitalized, quite a few doctors consulted and the consensus was Bipolar I. There are two types of bipolar diagnoses, I and II. II is more mild, and usually doesn’t include manic episodes, only hypomanic ones. Hypomanic means sub-manic. In the extremes of Bipolar I, the diagnosis can also include psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations. I am one of those statistics.

I was diagnosed when I was 24. I’m 28 now. That’s 4 years of learning to deal. I’ve gone from being a hospital patient to actually functioning at university. And for the last 2 years, I’ve been completely stable. Not a single episode of mania or depression. Until the beginning of October.

There is usually a build up to a manic episode. There were signs I missed. I started exploding with poetry. I got a tattoo, which was a little impulsive. I was confident and happy but happy is ok and happy is good so it’s hard to miss the line where happy turns into HAPPY!!! and all of the sudden you’re superman.

So things really started slipping on Sunday the 30th of September. I barely slept that night. As Monday wore on, my energy levels kept climbing. I still wasn’t sleeping. I started writing lots of music. At first, it was good music. I took a string quartet assignment that we were basically assumed to add a second violin part to and choose which part to double, but instead I rewrote the entire thing and added running eighth notes everywhere to sound like rain falling. I actually thought I could do better than Handel. Like I said, at first, it was good music. I just got that assignment back and got 100%.

The energy levels of someone in a manic episode are insane. I wasn’t sleeping, but I felt like I could run a marathon or two. I am usually pretty shy but suddenly I was talking to everyone. EVERYONE, whether I knew them or not. I was talking fast. I was intense. My attention span eventually dwindled until I couldn’t spend more than 5 minutes on something.

The only thing I COULD focus on was a string quartet I had started writing. I had based it on the interval of the perfect fifth, and I was convinced that there was some secret in that interval and if I figured it out I could write a piece that would revolutionize music as we know it. This string quartet kept getting more and more complex. I need to bring the sheet music to my prof so we can make sure a human being could still play it.

So I wasn’t sleeping, I was barely eating, I was talkative, I was writing music, I was obsessing over intervals. That idea that I needed to figure out the secret of the perfect fifth? That happens in mania. It’s a delusion of grandeur. But it got worse.

Eventually by Friday, I knew I was approaching that line. Bipolar people will understand the line, the line where on one side you know you’re acting abnormally and probably need help, and on the other side you’re blindly unaware that you’re totally insane. But I’m in Canada and it was Thanksgiving weekend, so I couldn’t see my psychiatrist. Instead, I decided to see if the hospital could give me something to help me keep a lid on it until I could see my psychiatrist. By this point, the mania had ramped up so much that I COULD NOT SIT DOWN. I waited for the bus while pacing, waited in the hospital waiting room while pacing (after telling the admitting person EVERY THOUGHT IN MY HEAD EVER), and eventually whipped out some manuscript paper so I could keep working on the perfect fifth secret. I’ve read over all the music I wrote on Friday night, and it is unintelligible. My brain was churning out insanely fast thoughts, and they just didn’t make sense. And the delusion was deepening. After seeing all of the sick and hurting people in the hospital, I was ABSOLUTELY SURE that I needed to figure out the fifth secret so I could heal everyone’s pain. I personally felt their pain and felt even more driven to figure out the secret so I could help them.

Eventually a psychiatrist saw me and within 5 minutes told me I was manic. I explained about the fifth thing to him and he said it was part of the mania. He made sure I was going to see my psychiatrist ASAP and prescribed me something until then.

And today is the first day I’ve really felt normal again. Normal is subjective, and it’s pretty hard to define, especially when you’ve been manic for more than a week. I still have trouble concentrating, I’m still a little distractable, but I don’t feel like I’m going to explode. I also don’t feel like I’ve been personally chosen to save the world.

But why am I going so public with this story? I know that some people who know me personally read this blog. I think I’m doing it because people need to realize that EVERYONE has a secret story. I am lucky that the worst of this happened during Thanksgiving weekend and I was largely alone and there were not very many people around to alienate, but during the week before, when things were ramping up, nobody even knew that this was something more than just me being hyper.

EVERYONE has a secret story. There are so many things, especially when it comes to mental health, that people don’t want to talk about. If you’ve read all of this and want to write me off as a crazy person, go ahead. But I bet that if you know me, you’d never have guessed I have this story to tell.

Please, PLEASE, don’t be afraid when it comes to mental health. Talk to someone. Talk to everyone. Get these issues out of the dark so that people don’t have to suffer in silence any more. I am not afraid.