So yesterday was exhausting but I tried to catch up with blogs in the evening. I was on the TV set for 10 hours and I was mostly naked and it was very cold. Overall it was a positive experience though and the positives definitely far outweighed the negatives and I spent most of the day pretending to eat someone’s muff. I can’t go into any more details due to the non-disclosure agreement, but it was for a show that airs on the BBC so it’s not porn or anything (sadly lol – I did meet a porn actor but he only did gay porn so had no advice about which straight/lesbian studios were any good).
Then this morning I overslept bigtime and my Dearest was left to make his own way to school. And my phone had 2 missed calls/ 2 messages so I phoned back and it was…
My projects are all finished, the tree is up, there are fairy lights adorning the walls, and while I was researching something unrelated, I found this really profound quote from the eminent phenomenologist J.D. Lewis-Williams:
“All communities are obliged to formulate definitions of consciousness, various kinds of altered consciousness and madness, whether explicitly or implicitly, for these mental conditions are inescapably part of being human. At the same time, those definitions are always a site of contestation. The resources on which Upper Palaeolithic individuals drew in the construction and transformation of acceptable and powerful social identities therefore doubtless included definitions of various kinds of consciousness. As in many societies and subcultures today, altered, or ecstatic, states of consciousness were a manipulatable resource. Indeed, any account of the past that omits consideration of altered states of consciousness is likely to be incomplete (cf. Sherratt 1991: 52). The hostility of some researchers to discussion of altered states is obscurantist.”
— J.D. Lewis-Williams, 1997, page 812.
I had the distinction of meeting Professor Lewis-Williams in a pub back in 2008 or possibly 2009, and I am sorry to say that I did not understand phenomenology in the slightest, although he explained it very patiently. Maybe that was the point of the conversation, since I started out thinking I understood phenomenology and finished the first pint of beer whilst realizing I had less comprehension than John Snow. Revisiting the whole concept this week has been enlightening, though I’m sure if I met him again I’d discover that I still don’t understand it.*
Happy beginning of December, everyone!
*Due to the Spiral Curriculum.
Lewis-Williams, J.D. (1997) “Agency, art and altered consciousness: a motif in A7 (Quercy) Upper palaeolithic parietal art”, Antiquity71. 812.
Okay, bipolar peeps; hit me up. How bad/good is olanzapine (Zyprexa)? I could finally afford to see my psych again and she is moving me onto olanzapine because the quetiapine (Seroquel)’s side effects are outweighing the benefits and she thinks it will be more stabilizing longer-term. She’s also recommending sertraline (Zoloft) for that anxiety/depression I haven’t been able to shake since August. Has anyone tried these either separately or together? What were they like? I’m mostly worried about the sedating effect which she says should be improved compared to the quetiapine (oh my God I could stand to be less sedated atm).
I’m not sure I’m in love with the idea of taking a combination of things, but at this point I’ll take whatever works!
…And then I crashed. And now the bipolar depression is literally trying to wrestle me to the ground and bang my head against a rock. Literally.
Here’s how it happened: Monday morning: Went to dentist for a filling. That turned into two fillings. Then, the second filling turned out to be much deeper than they expected, and it turned into a root canal. To get through this, because my body metabolizes shit really quickly, I had to have three lots of anaesthetic. Monday evening: I felt migraine-y. Maybe it was the anaesthetic that started it all or maybe I was already crashing. I took some painkillers and went to bed early. Tuesday morning: I still had a (much worse) migraine. I sleep with an eyemask and earplugs. This migraine was so bad that, with the curtains closed AND my eyemask on, the morning light (on a very cloudy day) was too bright and hurt my eyes.
I was supposed to be on a work placement as part of my Master’s degree. I had to email and let them know I couldn’t make it. I get migraines with aura, and that makes me partially blind and very clumsy till they go away.
I spent the morning watching quiet cartoons on Netflix. Fyi, The Swan Princess is shockingly bad (I lasted 20 mins, and I can watch Barbie movies in their entirety; the only other thing that’s ever had this effect on me was My Little Pony), but The Adventures of Sinbad (Dreamworks, 2003) was surprisingly good. I wish Michelle Pfeiffer was in more stuff, I could listen to her voice all day. I dropped two cups and a plate while trying to do simple tasks like pick up a cup. Tuesday afternoon: I had a total meltdown that Krita (the graphic design program that’s supposed to be good for drawing comics) absolutely doesn’t work with my graphics tablet, and in fact doesn’t seem to work properly anyway. All the Youtube tutorials were for another version. I got so upset over this that I started crying, and my husband took my laptop off me and downloaded The GIMP, which is basically Photoshop but free. Then I did, like, two tutorials and felt a million times better. Later in the afternoon: I tried to make dinner and got that miscommunication between brain and body that I always get with migraines. Long story short, I dropped 3 chicken breasts that had taken an hour to cook. Food was looking like it was going to end up being vegetarian, then I saved it with a bag of prawns I found out of the freezer. Some of them had freezer burn but it was still better than tofu. Then my PTSD decided to say hi, and made me have a panic attack because I dropped the chicken and my husband hadn’t told me that I *wasn’t* in trouble. My brain just assumed. So then I couldn’t eat my food so I ended up taking myself to bed early and missing my absolute favorite episode of Deep Space 9.
The migraine tablets had fooled my brain into thinking I no longer had a migraine, but I clearly did. I cried for over an hour and felt suicidal about dropping three pieces of chicken on the floor. WTF. Wednesday morning: My brain lied and said it was okay. I got out the house in spite of crushing anxiety and tried to cycle but my body wouldn’t move very fast. That’s when I knew this was definitely bipolar depression – it makes you grind to a halt and actually stop moving because it affects motor functioning, unlike regular depression. I finally got to my placement for my Master’s degree, and within minutes of getting there, my brain went, “haha just kidding, I’ve still got a migraine, stab, stab, stab.” My hands weren’t working so I couldn’t type or move the mouse very quickly, and my eyes weren’t taking things in properly so copyediting Scandinavian-language science bibliographies took five times as long as it should. Just before lunch, the lady in charge said she had a meeting after lunch so I had to go home. I was pretty glad, as I thought I shouldn’t have gotten out of bed. Wednesday afternoon: I came home, migraine aura was back and I nearly ran down three different pedestrians on my bike. They’re suicidally stupid but usually I pre-empt and avoid them. At home, I watched the second (eighth) Muppets Movie (which was great for a film which claimed at the start that it had no plot) and a 3 hour long Bollywood movie because nobody does convincing and interesting romance and compelling characters with catchy dance numbers and self-satire like Bollywood. I love it (recommendation: check out Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania on Netflix; it’s my favorite). I didn’t get to watch the end because it turned out to be dinner time. I managed to successfully cook more chicken so I got to have my Red Curry with chicken AND prawns (cos I didn’t eat it the night before, so I reheated it today). I managed to tidy the kitchen, even if the oven gloves ended up in the microwave and the kettle nearly went into the fridge (I thought that was where they lived, amirite??) I was supposed to go to a wine evening where people say “hooray you’re doing a masters degree” for three hours, but I could barely stand and couldn’t focus my eyes very well so my husband suggested I give it a miss. The rebound pain from taking so much migraine medication (it wears off, then stuff hurts that my brain usually tunes out) hit me tonight, which was unpleasant. Then I got depressed about something else. I can’t remember what it was, but it clung to me like those plants with the sticky things that stick to your clothes if you go walking across places with wild plants (<sarcasm>wow that was the smoothest metaphor I ever came up with </sarcasm>). I couldn’t take my meds until now due to the prescription fuckup so I downed some and hoped for the best. Thursday morning: Getting out of bed was impossible. Apparently I told my husband (in my sleep) that I couldn’t get up because I had to fix the roof. I remember dreaming that my stepdad was in hospital. I hope that doesn’t come true. I got my support stockings on and managed to move my ass to the sofa downstairs. Within minutes, I felt lighter and happier than I’ve felt since the loss of Blahpolar. More meds, apparently. Thursday afternoon: Tired. Tired. Tired. I have now missed an entire day of induction activities at the university. I saw my face in the mirror and it turns out I’ve now got co-codamol face – the haggard, sunken look with pallidness and dark circles that I always get after taking co-codamol more than once. It goes away in a few days, but who wants that when they’re starting university and feel out of place enough for being an older student?? I tried to cheer myself up by making an ice cream and I dropped the open tub of ice cream because my hands still aren’t working properly. I can’t eat flakes so I stabbed an entire bar of chocolate into the ice-cream cone and ate it. I was supposed to go to (another) wine and cheese evening with my husband tonight to welcome me to my college (my university has a college system). I still haven’t even managed to collect a university card, I feel like there’s just too much going on and I’m swimming against the ever-accelerating current of bipolar depression, which is like trying to swim with a 100lb lead weight attached to each of your limbs. And anyway, I can’t swim to start with because I never learned properly. This week is officially a plane wreck. Bring on more meds, and I’ll down them with vodka. On the plus side, I managed to do some half-decent editing (of my latest story) on the meds, so maybe they’re not going to make me too brain-dead to function? Tschah, and monkeys might fly out of my butt. Give them a week to build up in my system and I’ll be zombiefied again. At least it’s better than fixating on suicide, because the trouble is, I can break any fixation I have by doing the thing, but you can’t undo it if you kill yourself and change your mind. Cynical? Moi? It’s madness to take the same meds over and over and expect different results.
I’m not trying to take over from Blah, I just needed a place to dump some stuff so I could keep track of it, because I have to see a doctor this afternoon (haha no you don’t get to see psychiatrists in the UK unless you’re acutely suicidal, or you’re Stephen Fry; this is my general practitioner who knows nothing about bipolar but still saw fit to refuse to give me my repeat prescription).
The main issue is, I had a really good article on bipolar meds, but they’ve “updated” it, and now it’s not so good (it used to go through the specific pros and side effects of every bipolar medication and now it doesn’t, it just reiterates the general ones). This one is promising though. It’s the first thing I’ve read that’s explained my intense sugar craving while I take quetiapine.
Another article I’ve read before, but was worth reading again, was about the dangers of haloperidol. From the same site, this was also interesting: does mania ALWAYS mean bipolar disorder? It could have implications for the diagnoses of some people who have only had one manic episode.
The NHS have surprisingly reviewed an old, crap article and turned it into a half-decent article about bipolar meds and their pros and cons!! As well as side-effects for non-pregnant people, they even go into specific pregnancy side-effects, which is long-overdue!
Despite the number of articles entitled “Bipolar people are more creative!!!!! ZOMG!!!!!” it’s actually pretty well established that we are. And it’s pretty well established that meds kill creativity, although some people (presumably they have Regular Creativity; see below) disagree. This article explains the dangers that come with that heightened creativity – the little snippet of info about Handel was particularly interesting.
So, y’know, I know full well that taking my meds is important. But they stop me doing any and all of the things that make me… well… me! So I was looking for an answer to whether any specific meds are better than others for not killing creativity, and whether there’s anything I can do about it to get those connections rekindled. People saying that it goes away with time should probably consider whether they’ve developed a tolerance to their meds, BTW. Unfortunately, those same connections that I make to become super-creative are the ones that can also fixate me on sharp things or make the wrong connections between things. Y’know, like those people with the Illuminati Confirmed nonsense??
“Learning to find creativity after bipolar disorder”. I strongly disagree that only the Type 1’s are super-creative with their mania (I think us type-II’s can hold our own on that front, naturally), and I think the actual definition of mania is when the creativity stops making any sense and becomes a disorganised pile of dogshyte to everyone but you; but I’m not the sort of person to completely disregard something just because some of it doesn’t reflect my own world-view (unless you’re hating on Churchill being on a new banknote, like some people on my husband’s Facebook – if you hate Churchill, fuck you; for context, this would be as bad as Americans disregarding the value of Abraham Lincoln), so this article still had some mileage for me because one of my issues with my Seroquel is it stops me getting ideas, holding onto them, and turning them into workable projects, which I have recently been told is my biggest strength, so… Seroquel has failed this city (Arrow quote).
This person’s take on the bipolar/creativity question (TW in that link: suicide) also doesn’t quite resonate for me, I think they’re being disparaging of a real problem that some of us face. But (and here I’m going to offend some people) then I think there’s a difference between “regular creativity” – creating things such as an article about some photos you took, which most people can do, and (sorry to burst people’s bubbles) doesn’t actually take that much creativity, and “super-creativity” – an example of something so superbly creative would be Douglas Adams’s “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” which is clearly a lot more creative than Nora Roberts’s latest romance. I suppose a better name for “super-creativity” would be “inventiveness” and, while Regular Creativity can undisputably still be accessed when I’m on bipolar meds, it’s that Inventiveness that I lose. I’m using these as proper nouns here (with capital letters), because I don’t think the way I defined these words in this paragraph are exactly the commonly held meanings for these words.
So how do I get that Inventiveness back after going back on my meds? This article explains the problem quite well. For me, I lose the ability to make connections between things, and it makes my stories more mundane and lacking in sparkle, and it also takes me a whole lot longer to write, because the thoughts aren’t flowing right, and I run into writer’s block, because I can’t connect where I am with where I want to be. The resolution, to “work harder” to be creative, echoed by this article (sidenote, I wish articles would stop claiming Marilyn had bipolar; she clearly had BORDERLINE) might work to regain Regular Creativity – being able to blog on meds, for example, but it isn’t something I can do, though, because my Inventive creativity doesn’t actually come out if I push at it. It’s spontaneous, uncontrolled, and if I try to make it happen, it comes out all wrong, and anyway, part of the problem is that I judge and second guess myself too much when I’m on meds, so even if the ideas came, I wouldn’t be able to believe in them enough to make them into working projects.
And, offensive dumbass of the year nomination goes to this Scientific American post who says (direct quote): “This raises the question of why the genes of such devastating brain dysfunctions should persist in the human gene pool.” Yep. Someone actually said that. Until then, the article had kinda been interesting (although they had already made it clear they didn’t understand the difference between bipolar, medication, and illegal drug taking). I don’t care if they’re playing devil’s advocate to make the argument that we are permitted to exist because of our creativity. Just….. no.
I am posting this because I have researched all this before, and I will ask this same question over and over again and revisit it until I have a definitive answer, but that’s as far as I got today, and now I have to go convince my GP that I’m not being noncompliant, I’m actually taking my meds exactly how the private psychiatrist told me to. I think I’ll take my psych report, to prove it, since they never seem to read the one written by the private psychiatrist. I just don’t want to be re-referred to the Mental Health system because they’ll start the assessment process all over again and I don’t have the mental resources to dredge all the shit up again, let alone the time, given that I start a Master’s degree next week.
I don’t really have the hugest amount to say; I’m still in shock, since I only found out this morning that Blah had been killed by bipolar disorder.
I recently acquired a graphics tablet that I was going to use for my MSc, and yesterday while trying to get it to work I drew this tree, but I didn’t know why I drew it. I don’t believe in all that psychic whatnots (except when I need medicating) so I’m not going to say it’s fate, because if it was, why didn’t fate tell me about Blah’s vigil yesterday while it was still happening instead of my WordPress failing to load until today?
So anyway, I finished this picture today in memory of Blahpolar. Ulla. She was always so encouraging after she found out that I used to have a webcomic, so I thought she would like this picture, even though she can’t see it. I put the sweet on there, because I finally worked out that it’s two bipolarcoasters overlaid. Too late. I’m always too late.
You’ll have to forgive the fact that I’m not actually very good at drawing, and that this was my first attempt ever at using a graphics tablet or drawing on a computer, and that I am struggling to make Krita work properly so had to finish the picture in Microsoft Paint. But I know she wouldn’t have cared about any of that stuff because she was one of those people who really lived by “it’s the thought that counts.”
Look, I know none of that makes sense; maybe it shouldn’t do.
This was her favorite version of one of her favorite songs:
This is what I said on her last post on WordPress, just in case anyone’s curious. There’s a lot of comments on there and I expect there will be a lot more to come. I tried to read other people’s comments but there were so many that I had to stop after about twenty because I was crying too much. She meant so much to so many people. I hope her blog stays online, she deserves that:
“She was a truly awesome person. She always knew the right thing to say whether it was to take a joke one step further, keep a conversation going or just comiserate about the Great Existential Ennui. She had this amazing ability to say so much with so few words. I didn’t correspond with her via email, because I sorta had a crush on her, and that always made it a bit awkward to know what to say, but I considered her a friend and a role model in how to be a better person (and yes, I know I’m married; what’s your point). And I will miss her. Oh God I’m going to miss her.”
I don’t know what else to say, except, I love you Blah, and I am going to miss you.
Blahpolar was one of the most awesome and inspiring people I ever met. I just kept hoping the next thing she tried would be the thing that helped with the crushing depression that had got its claws into her. And nothing worked. She did all the right things, went through all the proper channels, and none of it really did anything except give her the shittiest side effects of anyone ever. In between that she gave so much of herself over to supporting the rest of us. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t still be here if she hadn’t been around last August. God I’m going to miss her so much.
Today is not simply a memorial to our fallen tribe leader, Ulla/Blahpolar. It is a day to draw attention to suicide and suicide prevention. Having said that…I’d like to go on record and state…I am so bloody sick of society’s dismissive “suicide is the easy way out” view.
No. There is NOTHING easy about suicide. Not one who falls so low they succumb to it, nor those who are left behind wondering if there was something else we could have done to make life seem worth living. To say suicide is the easy way out makes as much sense as going the long way around on a road of glass shards to get to the house next door. It’s non sensical and it’s rubbish. To reach the point where suicidal ideation becomes intent, well…It was not an easy journey.