a decade of drivel

I suddenly realize that I started blogging about 10 years ago. I’ve been a blogger for almost one-fourth of my life. (I’m still trying to write my first good post, but that’s a different problem.) I never thought that I would write so much of my life in this space. When I started, I was just looking for an outlet to get things out of my head in the hopes that things would make more sense in the open. Over the years it became a type of self-therapy, and every time I think I should quit, I find I still have more to say.

I have left some things out intentionally, but I think the blog is a pretty honest look at my life since 2004. I’ve been sometimes up and mostly down, got myself hospitalized, came close to destroying my marriage, came close to suicide, watched kids grow up, forgotten much more than I remember, quit and restarted blogging three times, bought and sold vehicles and houses, moved across the country, had several jobs come and go, and have mostly come to terms with my past life. When I look back at some of the old posts, it scares me where my mind has been at times.

I guess this is the life of bipolar disorder, the ebb and flow of constantly changing moods and feelings. It would be interesting to do a timeline where I chart positive, negative, and neutral entries over time. The resulting curve would be a representation of my moods over the past 10 years. It might be painful to do that exercise however, since it would require re-reading all the old posts.

About all those old entries … I haven’t decided whether to keep them or not. Part of me wants to close the curtain and purge that from my memory, but I don’t think I will do that. Those posts, whether written in desperation or rage or mirth, represent the most concrete part of my life during this span. I would never delete old photos I have taken because they hold (mostly) good memories. These posts are not all good memories, but they give me a road map to see where I have been. The blog helps me make sense of my recent life, and helps me remember things that otherwise would be lost.

The last question is if I sanitize the old entries and let my family read through them in the future. I don’t think this is a good idea. When Mrs. Fish discovered the blog in 2006, I was in an extremely bad place and it greatly damaged our relationship. I have written so much about my family, not all of it good, and letting those entries become public would probably cause more damage than good.

In the past, I felt like a blog had run its course and came to a natural conclusion, and it was time to reset things and start over. I don’t have that feeling now. I’m comfortable with the online persona I have, and I see no reason to run away from it. However if I get discovered by Mrs. Fish again, everything will come crashing down again.

ruled by bipolar

Some blogger said they don’t want to let their lives be ruled by bipolar. That seems like a very enlightened, positive view that I don’t really have at this time. I find it difficult to live a day or even an hour without thinking about the bipolar. It affects every part of my life, and has become as much a part of me as being smart or insecure or goofy-looking.

Most of my waking hours are spent thinking about how I can stay one step ahead. I plan life activities around whether I will feel high or low. I change who I speak to and what I say based on my mood. I wear different clothes in anticipation of feeling insecure or wanting to be invisible. I choose my music according to how I feel, or how I want to feel. Almost every decision I make takes into account how my bipolar is acting at the moment and in the near future. I hate to plan anything in advance because I never know how I will feel when that time arrives.

Despite being well-medicated, I don’t feel like I’m in control of the bipolar. Regardless of the medication, I know that sometimes it is stronger, and it will put a serious dent in any plans I had when it flexes its muscles. Sometimes I feel like it pulls me around on a leash, and only rarely can I resist its pull.

I wish the bipolar could just sit in the background and do its dirty work without being a bother, but mental illnesses are so fucking inconsiderate in that way.

cognitive impairment

I’ve been reading a little about the effect of bipolar on mental functioning, especially the effect of bipolar depression on cognition and the potential for dementia in bipolar patients as we age. The news doesn’t look promising at this time.

Cognitive impairment, in more simple terms, means your brain is less able to function normally. Studies have shown that bipolar patients do worse on standardized tests* than people without bipolar, and those cognitive deficits are worse when the subject has bipolar depression.

I used to be a fucking genius, but now I don’t feel as smart as I used to, especially related to listening skills and verbal thought processes. I have difficulty listening to people for more that a few moments, and I comprehend less of the conversation. I also find myself less able to respond quickly; I have to think a little bit before I speak, then sometimes my words come out jumbled.

I worry about the potential for these effects to become worse over time. I wondered if some of the people who have dementia became that way due to the effects of bipolar. A couple of articles seem to agree with me. Natasha Tracy writes that 19 percent of older bipolar patients had dementia, and it seems to occur earlier in life that people without bipolar.

Apparently there is nothing to prevent the slide into early dementia. In another article, she quotes a paper that says “no pharmacotherapies substantially improve cognition in bipolar disorder, although preliminary findings suggest some potential value for adjunct stimulants such as modafinil [Provigil] and novel experimental agents.”

I worry about the possibility of losing brain function as I get older. I’m not pretty, not rich, not physically active, not artistic, and not successful in social situations. My brain power is the only positive thing I have going for me. It is my source of income in an intellectual job, and it is the source of my writing and reading hobbies. It allows me to enjoy the music I love so much. It lets me enjoy tinkering with computers. It allows me to have philosophical conversations with my daughter.

My intellectual function is my reason for living. I don’t want to be a mental vegetable. I don’t want to sit and stare at the wall for hours, then in a moment of clarity think about everything I have lost. The thought of all the memories, all the thought, all the pleasures of an intellectual existence being lost in a fog … it makes me sad for my future. If I lose these things and slip into dementia, I don’t want to live.

 


More articles:

Dementia Risk for Bipolar Patients

Depression and bipolar disorder linked to an increased risk of developing dementia

Can Bipolar Disorder Cause Dementia?

 

* These tests include assessments of attention, motor speed, working memory, verbal memory, reasoning and problem solving, verbal fluency, affective interference, and emotion inhibition.

sticky memories

Remember that time when I had Whitesnake music playing in the car, and you said you were surprised I had that tape, and I said “maybe I’m full of surprises.” .. you don’t remember that, do you? Then there was the time when you made me follow you outside and sit with you in the Quad, and the librarian was playing “Stairway to Heaven” on the sound system. Do you remember that?

And what about the time we went to Sacramento on senior skip day? … and how about when you were sick, and I brought you a milkshake at lunchtime? … and what about going to the Rush concert at Arco Arena? Do you remember when you were crying over Charlie, and I held you close, wishing you were wanting me instead? Do you remember Christmas at your house?

I don’t think you remember any of those moments, but they are etched in my memory forever.

Maybe I should forget these times, but I don’t know how to let some things go. I love some of those memories, but sometimes they fuck with my brain. Maybe other people forget their memories from those days, and they are better off for it. Maybe it helps them move on.

i can’t protect you from bipolar

Nicole is going through a rough time right now with the bipolar. She has been depressed for over a week, and it seemed to reach deeper this week. She missed school Monday, again, and she is in danger of being dismissed from her vocational program due to excessive absences. She failed one class this quarter, and needs to make it up this quarter or else she will be dismissed from the program. She seems overwhelmed from trying to cope with bipolar depression and insomnia, while making an effort to stay on top of school homework and still having a little time to catch up on sleep and relax her brain. I’m worried for her right now.

I wish there was something I could do for her. My job as a parent is to protect her from everything, like stupid boys or traffic or poor teenage decision making. But bipolar is so fucking insidious, and I can’t protect her from it. I can’t save her from a lifetime of depression and mood swings and impaired judgment and mental pain. I can’t make her go to sleep at the right time so she isn’t in a fog the next day.

I know I need to help teach her strategies to deal with the bipolar. She needs to learn how to motivate herself and keep herself from falling victim to it. She needs to be responsible for her own medication. I can’t bail her out every time she fails a class, or loses a job, or ignores her friends, or sleeps her days away. I can’t keep her from spending money she doesn’t have. I can’t let her live at home forever.

But she is so young, and new to bipolar, and she is only beginning to understand what that means for the rest of her life. I’ve been doing this for 30 years now, I have experience, I usually know how to deal with it, whether through healthy strategies or not. She doesn’t have those skills yet, and I don’t know how to teach her everything she needs to know about this life-threatening disease.

I feel like I’m alone in this, because I get almost no help from Mrs. Fish in trying to help Nicole through everything. I’m don’t think I am capable of managing her illness at the same time I am being fucked over by the same affliction. I’ve been so depressed lately after that nasty manic phase. All I want is to sleep, and let the world pass by. But I can’t let her face everything by herself. She’s not ready yet.

I love her so much, and I would do anything to save her from this. I know I can’t take her bipolar away from her, but I wish I could. I would take it away and take it on myself, in a minute, even if it meant my bipolar became that much worse. It kills me that I can’t fix this for her. I know she has it worse than me, and I know it will fuck up her life, and I know she will have so many regrets when she gets to my age. Maybe she’ll ask me why I didn’t prepare her for a life of bipolar, and I’ll tell her how much I have tried, but it’s just too big. Maybe I’ll just tell her bipolar eats your dreams for lunch.

heirlooms

At work we have a company intranet, and on the home page there is a “question of the day”, then a link to responses. Someone gets paid to do this, and I don’t know why. Anyway, the question was “What is your favorite heirloom?” There were mostly the predictable things like dresses, jewelry, old bibles, paintings, and even cars and tools.

My heirloom is a lifetime of depression and anxiety, and a lack of confidence and self-esteem. I have memories of an abusive home where my emotions were something to be guarded and hidden until I could take no more, then let out when I could hide in the forest. I have a few pictures of places and people that I have no connection with other than the fact I was adopted by them.

I have done everything possible to purge the past from my life, but the feelings and memories will always remain with me.

old men at breakfast

I was out for breakfast at the local diner a couple days ago, which is a rare occasion. There were two groups of cranky, old farts discussing things in loud voices, then the two groups merged their conversations. Of course I am forced to listen in rather than getting to enjoy my brekkie in peace. For that, I shall insult you on the internet.

The topics of conversation included:

  • gas prices: I can remember when it was 29 cents a gallon.
  • housecat attacks family: jesus christ, just shoot the goddamn beast.
  • impeach Obama: can’t people see what he’s doing to this country?
  • goddamn judges: we pass laws, then they tell us they’re unconstitutional? The goddamn people wrote the constitution.
  • stupid, weird kids: all the strange hair and makeup and weird clothes.
  • washing cars: Now I can’t reach down far enough to get all the salt off the bottom of the car.
  • sales tax: It’s a bunch of crap, there’s already too many taxes.
  • Black Label vs Coors: remember when they used to truck it in from Colorado? You’ve got to keep Coors cold or else it tastes like shit. Black Label was better warm.
  • goddamn liberals: they’re ruining the country.

At least Fox “News” was not on the muted TV.

obnoxious and irritating

When I started working at the Big Gas Company, I was assigned to work with The Buzzard. My job was to sit in the next cubicle and learn whatever he knew about [insert engineering lingo here]. Fine, I said, I can do that. Someone who had previously worked in my position warned me that I wouldn’t last very long next to The Buzzard, but it has been 2 and a half years now.

The Buzzard is planning on retiring this year, and it can’t come soon enough. The other day he was being very annoying, so I made a list of all the things that piss me off about him. In no particular order:

  • He crunches snacks, loudly, all during the day. I can understand it at lunchtime or break time, but this is all fucking day. I bought a $200 iPod so I could drown out the sound of the crunching, but it doesn’t always work; in between songs, I can still hear the crunching. I can hear it in my sleep.
  • He belches constantly, incessantly, obnoxiously, all during the day; I believe there is a direct correlation between the amount of crunching and the amount of belching. He rumbles, like an elephant communicating to its herd.
  • He is a bathroom-talker; he likes to carry on a conversation while holding his crank in the bathroom.
  • He is a one-upsman; whatever someone has to say, he has something better or worse or bigger or more.
  • He joins conversations when he wasn’t invited; he butts in and takes over so it becomes about him.
  • He continues conversations long after they should have ended naturally, and he is immune to all psychic efforts to get him to shut up.
  • He knows something about everything, and absolutely has to let you know this all the fucking time.
  • He will give you 20 different options to solve a problem, but he won’t make a decision and fucking pick one already.
  • He can’t spell to save his life, even when the correct spelling is on paper in front of his eyes.
  • He has no sense of file organization or naming conventions on the computer; he habitually uses too many dashes, dots, and spaces in file names.
  • His AutoCAD files are bloated with a bunch of crap he inserts into every drawing; he never purges styles, fonts, layers, or unnecessary entities.
  • He goes on social and political rants at work; many of his rants end up by saying that some group of people (criminals, politicians, lawyers, liberals, etc.) need to be summarily executed.
  • He thinks everything was better “back in his day”, when really he has it pretty fucking good in these days.
  • He overuses cultural references (such as Soylent Green or Monty Python quotes) where they are really not appropriate; he also has a horrible fake English accent.
  • He has catchphrases that are way overused, and he expects people to respond to them every fucking day.
  • He can’t just say goodbye and leave; he has to make a big production of the getting ready to leave, then the good-byes, then the actual leaving; it’s going to be two solid weeks of good-bye when he retires.

The Buzzard is a nice old guy, but also the most fucking annoying person on the planet. I think he mistakenly believes that I like him (more deceit and acting on my part) and I’ll miss him when he retires (not a bloody chance). Just 3 months to go.

 

And in other news, I am still a petty asshole.

looking back

Nicole was, as usual, talking through her thoughts. She wondered what it would feel like to be an adult and look back at childhood, especially this time of her life as a teenager. She was trying to decide if she would remember this time as the best of her life, or if future events would make her adult life more positive.

Then she asked me what I think about when I look back at my life so far. It is a loaded question that I don’t want to answer. I said something about some good memories from high school, then college days, and watching the kids grow up. I then distracted her onto a different train of thought so I could avoid the rest of the conversation.

The truth is that when I look back at life so far, I always see the negatives first. I remember all the mistakes, regrets, failures, and stupid things I have done. I have to force myself to look through those darker memories to find some of the positives in my life.

The longer you live with bipolar, especially when untreated, the more opportunities you have to do stupid things and make poor decisions. During my recent stability, I have done fewer stupid things, but I sill think about all the negatives from the past.

Although she is only 16, Nicole already looks back a few years at her untreated days and doesn’t like what she remembers. She says she doesn’t like the person she was at that time, but I have to remind her that the uncontrolled bipolar made her that way, and that she has to watch her treatment in the future to avoid going back to that place. Sometimes I have to remind myself the same thing.

self-medicating

My anxiety has been off the charts today. It has been building in the past week, but today was really bad. I’ve been picking my fingers incessantly, I’ve been shaking and twitching, my eyes have been blinking like mad, I’m tense all over. I feel like I’m on meth.

I called the psychiatrist today to let him know. I asked the substitute receptionist to let him know I needed something to calm me down, even just on a temporary basis. No callback, nothing in the way of acknowledgment that he might be paying attention to me. I was hoping to get a prescription for Ativan or Xanax or something, but no response. Thanks, doc. I’m sure you were busy, but you could at least break off a phone call.

So I came home and did the next best thing, which is to self-medicate with alcohol. Lots of it. I have orange juice and rum, and I thought that would be kind of tropical and fruity, while helping to calm me down. Ummm, not really; the 3-4 shots worth of rum totally overpowered the OJ, and it tasted nasty. I now realize I hat cheap rum. So I slammed a beer to get the rum taste out of my mouth.

That’s 4 or 5 drinks in the space of 45 minutes, and wooo boy am I feeling it now. I’m a big guy, but I can feel how much I am affected by the alcohol. The best part is that I’m still shaking, still wound up, but also drunk at the same time. I can type 350 words per minute, but they may not make any sense.

So thanks again, doc. I would have preferred to take a pill and go nighty-night, but instead I’m going to have a hangover in the morning. Fuck you very much.

somewhere between trust and deceit

I read a line in a story the other day: “He was pleasant to everyone, but didn’t really make friends with anyone; he mostly stayed to himself every day. I don’t think anyone would be sad if he just stopped coming to work.” I instantly saw myself in the description of this anonymous character.

I’m not hopeless enough to think no one would notice my absence from work; I deal with at least a few people every day, and they would stop by my empty cubicle. They might ask The Buzzard (my farting, belching, crunching cube neighbor) if he knew my whereabouts, but if no one knew where I was the matter would probably be forgotten rather quickly. I think the work that I do would be missed; I’m fortunate enough that I can do good work (at least on the days when I can concentrate), so that void would be noticed by a few people.

They might notice my absence, but would anyone really care? I don’t think there is more than one person who would think about me after the initial news was no longer newsworthy. I hope someone would wonder if anything was wrong, but they likely wouldn’t think about it again. I have no illusions that anyone would be sad if I didn’t show up.


I know I have wrote about this before, but that doesn’t stop me from being depressed again when I think about my inability to genuinely interact with people. I can act friendly, I can appear confident, I can pretend to care, but it’s all a complex defense mechanism. After so many years of playing a role, I can usually bluff my way through the day without anyone noticing. Someone who knows me well might realize I am faking, but I don’t let people get to know me very well.

At its most basic level, these defense mechanisms are nothing more that a way to push back the fear that no one would be interested in me if I didn’t act a part. I don’t want anyone to see the sad, empty person behind the curtain who pulls the levers to make me go every day. I don’t want to open myself up to care about people, because it would deeply hurt me if I cared and they did not. I don’t want people to know that I have been deceiving them for a week, a year, a lifetime. I don’t want them to realize how little it all means to me.

There are a few friends and family who I love very much, and they love me in return, but even they would be hurt if I were to be completely honest. I still never feel like I can completely trust those closest to me, and I know they would be hurt if I told them. I don’t know what it means to totally, completely trust someone with my emotions. I don’t know how to take down the boundaries between me and everyone else.

greyhound

I was sitting in a parking lot the other night, waiting to pick the Man-child up from work. it was snowing, and the flakes floated gently downward under the bright lights. it reminded me of a night long ago, when I was still a Man-child.

It was November in Reno, the day before Thanksgiving, and the snow was moving in from the west. The grey sky suited my melancholy mood, since I had been kicked around pretty hard in the recent weeks. This was after losing my girlfriend Beth during a manic episode, then losing my car (and another girl) out of stupidity. I had been pretty depressed all semester, and those two events made it worse. I was also in danger of failing a class, which would have been devastating.

My adopted mom didn’t want me to be alone for Thanksgiving, so I took up her offer to come home for the weekend. Since I had no car and no money, what would have been an easy 3-hour drive turned out to be an adventure on the Greyhound bus. It is probably a good thing I wasn’t driving, with the snowstorm approaching over the mountains; it was a good night to leave the driving to the professionals.

I caught a ride from the college to the bus station downtown. I sat for about an hour, waiting to board the bus, looking around at the various people and wondering what circumstances had brought them to that place and time. I do the same thing at airports, but airports seem to be filled with noisy, happy people, eagerly bustling to their next destination. Bus stations are different: depressing, dirty, sometimes dangerous, with horrifying bathrooms, and inhabited by people who can’t afford to fly or drive themselves.

I was one of the first people on the bus, and I took a seat near the back. I looked out the window, and the snow had started to fall in large, heavy clumps, intent on burying the landscape as quickly as possible. As we rolled out of town I watched the snow under the glow of each street light, wondering how things had gone off track for me so quickly. I felt depressed, defeated, and now I was going home to lick my wounds for a few days. Even though I wanted to be independent, I still felt a little better because I was going home for food and love and my old bed.

We made it over the Sierras before Donner Pass closed, and drove on toward Sacramento. Beth had given me an old Genesis tape, so I listened to that on the way. I shared my seat with a guy from Palestine who ended up sleeping on my shoulder for most of the ride. He woke up with a jolt and seemed to be disoriented, as if someone was coming after him with a gun. Maybe that’s common in Palestine, I don’t know.

I switched buses and rode the rest of the way to Goldville in a cold, driving rain. A-mom picked me up, I had a good weekend visit, I saw a couple of high school friends, and I was able to drive my recently repaired car home on Sunday. Little did I know my experiment in independence would end soon, and I would be forced to leave Reno for good a month later.

death valley

I drove through Death Valley National Park during my Eastern Sierras/Vegas trip in May 2004. Of course I was on a manic high during this whole trip. I won about $250 at the casino at 1am, couldn’t get to sleep, and decided it would be a good idea to go out again at 3am, then head for home.

I was driving through the desert at dawn, and falling asleep at 65 mph. I was listening to Pink Floyd, and in the beginning of “Time” when the alarm rings, it startled me so badly I jerked the wheel, and almost ran off the road into the sagebrush. Now I was wide awake. I got to Death Valley at about 7am, and it was already 85 degrees.

These pictures are at Zabriskie Point. I suppose they are the same pictures everyone else takes from the same spot, but I enjoy them just the same.

zabriskie1

zabriskie2

Plus a Joshua tree:

joshua tree

weekend update

It is Saturday morning, which means I can write while not being bothered by anyone. The Girl and the Man-child are sleeping in, Mrs. Fish is working, and I have coffee.

I haven’t been interested in writing lately, but that’s okay. I may be mildly depressed, but that’s normal. I’ve been simply living from day-to-day, just like lots of people I suppose.

I have been looking forward to summer, because we are planning a family camping and sightseeing trip to West Virginia. The Man-child probably won’t go because he hates camping, or any other activity that takes him away from his precious computer. (I’ll save that rant for another time.)

I have a post on a sticky note about The Buzzard at work, but I’ll save that rant for another time as well. The Buzzard will retire sometime around May 1st, which is a good thing.

Work has been dull lately. I have trouble concentrating lately, probably related to a mild mood swing. I get through the morning okay, fueled by coffee and breakfast. In the afternoon however, I am soooo bored and uninterested, and I fuck around with Google Earth half the time. I have a lot to get done, so I need to stop this and try harder to concentrate on the task at hand. Also, Big Gas Co. announced the annual bonus yesterday; I thank them, and my bank account thanks them. I will probably spend the money on the money pit home maintenance.

As a result of several factors, the potential trip to the old hometown is canceled at this time. That is fine with me, I don’t want to go back there anyway. There are a few people from high school I would like to see, but it would still be awkward for me. I suppose it is inevitable we will drop in to Goldville at sometime in the future, since there are members of Anne’s extended family there, including a grandma who is 95 and in poor health. She is in the far stages of Alzheimer’s, so she wouldn’t remember Anne anyway.

Max is getting old, and I’m afraid he is slowly getting sick. He seems to need more effort to jump on the couch (yes we let him), and he is having digestive problems. It will be a very sad day when he passes on.

Anne is going to run a half-marathon later this month. I am the complete opposite, I get no exercise at all. She loses weight, and I find it. I have so little energy left after controlling the bipolar all the time, and I am to nervous to go to a gym and have my fat ass ridiculed by everyone there.

Well, this has been a lot of words about nothing at all. For Weekend Update I’m Fishrobber, good night and good riddance.