Traps: Our Latest Bipolar Moment

Though I don’t dwell on it, I have made no secret of my affliction with mental illness. I don’t like it when people stigmatize mental illness by using it as an excuse to behave stupidly. Yet, part of my coping mechanism is to cry laugh at myself when I do. Laughter is far more effective in many instances than meds or therapy ever could be.

My husband is also bipolar, so the two of us can get into serious trouble. Even on medications. We don’t have healthy boundaries. Someone hurts our bitty feelings and we’ll be morbidly depressed for weeks. A tiny triumph and we are ready to take on the world.

I am not trying to belittle the agony mental illness can cause. I am no stranger to that either. My mother, severely depressed, committed suicide because she believed she had cursed my father’s unborn child when it was born with deformities and died. My first cousin offed herself after a manic episode in which she cashed all of her husband’s savings bonds and ran up $50,000 in credit card debt trying to redecorate and furnish her house. I worked psychiatry for years and saw families and lives ruined, slaughtered by this disorder. It is one of the most damaging and consequential disorders in the DSM-V.

This is real life heavy duty crap.

And yet I laugh.

People who know avoid you. It changes how you are perceived. People don’t want to think about it. They don’t want to talk about it. Yes, it is disturbing. It is the sad truth. People are afraid. One in four Americans is mentally ill. Those are just the ones who are officially diagnosed and treated. The other ones, who aren’t, scare me more.

Please! Tell me you can’t check off on a few of these:

Manic phase of bipolar disorder

Signs and symptoms of the manic or hypomanic phase of bipolar disorder can include:

  • Euphoria
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Poor judgment
  • Rapid speech
  • Racing thoughts
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Agitation or irritation
  • Increased physical activity
  • Risky behavior
  • Spending sprees or unwise financial choices
  • Increased drive to perform or achieve goals
  • Increased sex drive
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Easily distracted
  • Careless or dangerous use of drugs or alcohol
  • Frequent absences from work or school
  • Delusions or a break from reality (psychosis)
  • Poor performance at work or school

Depressive phase of bipolar disorder

Signs and symptoms of the depressive phase of bipolar disorder can include:

  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior
  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Sleep problems
  • Low appetite or increased appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest in activities once considered enjoyable
  • Problems concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Chronic pain without a known cause
  • Frequent absences from work or school
  • Poor performance at work or school

Anyway, if you can check off on a lot of these you should probably get yourself some help. If you already have, good for you! I did. My husband did. But there is really no way to totally avoid symptoms, so we have learned to laugh. I am happy we found each other. Now we can laugh together, and put each other in check.

What do we find to laugh about, you ask?

We laughed when we bought a cabin cruiser on first sight without a surveyor’s inspection, and one of the motors blew up on its maiden voyage.

That was a bipolar moment. We already had a boat, like we needed two. We don’t even live on the water; it’s moored 150 miles away growing barnacles.

We laughed when my husband sent $500.00 to China via Western Union for some iPads we just had to have before a vacation. No, they never came, but the rocket scientist and some guy in Beijing exchanged emails for weeks in broken English.

That was a bipolar moment.

I once painted every room in the house beige before realizing it was pink, which required a repaint of every room in the house neutral.

That was probably a bipolar moment, or two, or three.

And our latest bipolar moment: Our dog was attacked by raccoon. We think (we don’t even know). She had a seven inch gash in her chest requiring anesthesia and sutures. So we hired a trapper to come to our home to catch the varmints…for $500.00. He set out three traps with “protein” bait for three weeks.

Traps are $17.00 at Ace Hardware. Vienna sausages are less than a buck a can.

Ha, ha, ha! Could that have been a bipolar moment?

That was a week ago. Maybe the dog scared them all off. This is our haul so far:

traps 001

 

Humor is one of the most effective coping mechanisms. Let us laugh.

Yes, sometimes the meds need tweaking. Laughter really can be the best medicine.

So laugh with me.

46 thoughts on “Traps: Our Latest Bipolar Moment

  1. Bipolar is a bloody awful thing to have to deal with, but you seem to do so with grace as well as laughter, Susan.It takes courage, with as you say, the stigma still attached to mental illness, to make it public.

    I painted my house purple. Not a bipolar moment… just an economic necessity ( I had been given purple… and a big tub of white… I varied the shades…) and a determined assault on the blandness left over from a failed relationship. Call it rebellion…

    • Oh I LOVE it! A purple house! My favorite color.I promised myself when I was young that as I matured I wanted to be able to keep laughing at myself and not become a stick in the mud. I will wear the fishnet hose and the red hat, or nothing at all. A rebel with a cause! Or just a rebel because.

      Bipolar, or any mental illness really, is so very common. It’s okay to talk about dementia from Alzheimer’s, autism, Downs syndrome…but mention bipolar and people run for cover. For some reason, it is even okay to be depressed…everybody gets a little depressed now and then. But manic? Maybe it’s my lack of boundaries that is part of the disorder, but part of me just wants to scream, “Yes, I am having a manic episode, but I’m okay really!”

  2. I admire your attitude. Just like with any illness–whether it’s one of the heart, the lungs, the stomach, or the brain–a sense of humor can be invaluable. Wonderful to see yours at play. 🙂

      • It amazes me how we know so much more about the neurobiology now, and that there truly is a physiologic process in place, and yet people are still reluctant to discuss mental illness or seek treatment for it. Of course, there’s still much to learn.

  3. Well, I can’t bring myself to laugh at some of these stories, but I can see how laughter is the only way to cope with such a problem. I think I have certain OCD issues going on in the background, but they’re not hard to deal with. My wife might think differently!

  4. Humor definitely helps ease difficult situations. I’ve noticed friends and family who laugh about their mental issues can handle it better than those who don’t. I guess it simply takes the edge off.

    • It does. The rocket scientist and I laughed the first time we met because we were both very direct, open and honest about it immediately. Neither of us had found anyone we felt comfortable opening up to. I can’t recall who said what to whom first, but we ended up in an hours long conversation. It was refreshing not to feel like it was something I had to try and hide.

        • I had the same therapist from age 19 to age 36. Never gave advice. He was a really nice old guy who spoke in Tibetan Buddhist parables. He was a great sounding board for issues I was faced with raising my kids and dealing with married life/in laws.

          I tried therapy again when I was going through some difficulty with my daughter. The lady was nice, but she told me stuff I already knew, but was having trouble applying to my life situation. I can’t say it was all that helpful that time.

          It truly boils down to the question, “Are you getting support?” Friends, family, therapy…we all need somebody.

          • I’ve noticed that it sometimes takes a small search to find a therapist that works. Some people I know went through 2-3 before they found one who clicked with them. Yet, there are a few who went through every therapist in their area and never found one.

            • Finding a counselor that you click with helps. Another thing that is helpful is when not only the identified “unbalanced” person gets treatment, but those around that person receive it. We are social creatures. Frequently, it is the dynamics of the social circle that is unbalanced. Getting everybody on the same train useful.

              • Great point, which most people don’t realize. There always seems to be the thought that the person will ‘fix’ themselves alone and nothing will have to change in their social circle. Things can be easily managed with support.

                • I hate the phrase mental “illness” because illness implies sickness, and sickness implies incapable. The individual is usually very capable, but restrained by social circumstances.

                  • I’m not sure I understand the restrained by social circumstances part. Personally, I think the use of ‘illness’ helps portray the severity of such issues. We live in a country where mental issues are taboo to admit to in public or even talk about. It’s a method of mental bullshitting.

                    • When I was first diagnosed I was in nursing school, working a full-time job, trying to raise three kids, with an supportive spouse and in-laws who had unrealistic expectations. That was my social circle.

                      I was not incapable of functioning, but considering the circumstances, my brain shut down. Literally, ceased to function. I could not drive, I could not feed myself. It was not that I was incapable, but I was restrained by social circumstances. I could write a book or two on that experience. It happened more than once. It was very real. Not bullshit.

                      Chemically unbalanced. My brain was disturbed. Neuronal pathways were disturbed. I would say it was severe. “Sick” would be an argument in semantics.

  5. Well, from me you get sympathy/empathy with all sorts of mental & emotional disorders, not judgment. I could name a host of writers like Sylvia Plath who suffered and also said, “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

    But the trap caught my eye. I have a story here. In Jacksonville because of development, many critters are left homeless, including armadillos. Cliff stalked him with a 22 rifle night after night. Finally, we had to get a trapper in and the geezer was caught. Our souvenir: A highly Photo-Shopped picture of Cliff holding a 5-foot long armadillo, a photo sent to relatives in PA who gasped at the size. They didn’t know any better. HA! Yes, humor is a wonderful coping mechanism.

    • That’s too funny! Ha! That’s like the trick to making your fish look bigger is to hold it out to the camera. I lived on Lake Toho and got five foot alligators in my yard almost daily. Don’t know what I would do if I saw a five foot armadillo. Run!

    • Goodness! I hope so 🙂 You can’t be in a room with a psychiatrist and not get a label slapped on you. Pity, you can’t get insurance coverage without that…and the stigma associated with it.

  6. Okay, first of all, I feel bad now about actually catching the one pesky raccoon we had. I used peanut butter and cheese btw. Also, I think laughter is really a good form of medicine and can be very cleansing in a variety of situations. I don’t know bi-polar and I won’t claim I understand, but I do know OCD and how destructive mental disorders can be. I also take things very personally so I can sympathise there too. And finally, I just want you to know I think you are wonderful, regardless of what phase of what year of what EVER is going on in your life, or mine for that matter. also, happy birthday to the hubs:)

    • Thanks for the Happy Birthday. I will share that with him. This is the big 60 and I think he was hoping for something spectacular that did not happen. I planned to have a cake and ice cream this weekend, but maybe I’ll invite over some friends.

      Bipolar disorder saved my life. I could write a book or a blog about that. Maybe I will. Perhaps that could be my memoir. I don’t get the extremes with it anymore like I did in my late teens and twenties before I was properly medicated. I do still have moments of highs and lows. I think we all do. Unmedicated bipolar allows those to get out of hand, even up to the point of delusions and psychosis. That’s what makes it so scary.

      Thanks for coming by. Your support means the world to me. {{{HUGS}}}

  7. Laughter can really be helpful.

    You are brave to post so honestly, and you provided some great info 🙂 Mental illness is nothing to be judged and doesn’t get taken as seriously as it should.

    • My late teens and twenties were the most challenging, because we didn’t have the meds we have now. I try not to judge others because you never know their personal circumstances. If we didn’t laugh….we WOULD go insane.

  8. I’m so glad you can–and do–laugh, and that you’ve found someone who can share your laughter! I hope your dog is OK. A momma and baby raccoons took up residence in the eaves of our house a couple of years ago. Luckily, they were not actually living in our attic. The mom was brazen–I would pull up my bedroom shade, and she would be right there at the window. She didn’t even run away. We had an exterminator catch them. He said he was going to release them far away elsewhere. . .Anyway, good luck.

    • That’s part of why we spent on the trapper. To get them removed…but now, they have disappeared.

      Daisy is better. She is wearing a T-shirt to keep from scratching out her sutures and completed her antibiotics this morning. Sutures come out on the 2nd. I think she will be fine, but I don’t know how she will react if she sees another raccoon in the yard.

  9. A very raw and honest post! As for your critter dilemma, when I told my students I had a possum devouring the cat food outside, four boys immediately offered to blast the thing with their shotgun. Boys with guns around the outside of my house!? I think the possum is a safer bet!

  10. Pingback: Coming Out Of The Bipolar Closet | From guestwriters

Share your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s