‘Valkyrie’ Kerry Kelly is a multi-graduate, wife and mum of five. She lives in Mayo, Ireland and writing is her passion. She is a philanthropist and philosopher and does not shy away from expressing both exceptional beauty and deep controversy. Kerry has had poetry published in Peeking Cat, TigerShark, Plum Tree Tavern, Eskimo Pie, Love Letters, Wicked Words and 19,751 Words. Her short stories have appeared in Paragraph Planet, Entropy Squared and Short Break Fiction. Kerry’s debut as an editor proved highly successful with Stan and Ellen’s Grand Opus reaching Number One in the Chapbook Charts.
Bipolar Blog 11: Conflicting Thoughts
Good Moaning Halloween Fans,
There I was struck by a rather unpleasant bout of insomnia when a stream of largely conflicting ideas hit me. Remember I said previously that Bipolar is tinged with a heap of ideas, well what I meant to depict was a shower of thoughts where every drop of rain is an individual idea. I presume people without bipolar have maybe 2 or 3 thoughts at a time, which is nice and comfortable. Bipolar survivors can have an absolute monsoon of wondrous ideas ranging from bizarre interior design schemes to obscure art projects. On occasion the pre-dominant ideas may happen to be binary opposites and therefore create great mental conflict, this is somewhat less comforting.
Let me explain my meaning through an example, John (an entirely fictitious person hence the unimaginative name) decides after leaving school that he wants to be an electrical engineer. John equally decides that he des not want to be an electrical engineer instead he would rather take up animal care. Two full time course are offered locally and the time-tabling means that he can only take one. John wants to take both, but this is not an option. On a simpler level Jane (yes a false name again) wants to go to the Chinese for dinner at 6pm, she also wants to go to the pub with her friends at 6pm. Now, these are very simple decisions and I have made them this way for the purpose of understanding my meaning. In reality the bipolar survivor often deals with much more complex ideas.
How should John and Jane proceed? Well a multi-faceted, multi-tasking and manic survivor would usually find a way to fulfil both options; dinner early, pub after or combining part-time and full time courses. This is grand right up to the moment they reach complete burn out. The more complex conflicting ideas often require a decision or result in stagnation, not progressing on either front. This leads to obsessive thoughts and the consequent anxiety and the question remains, how can two conflicting ideas or intentions be solved?
In the first instance the rapid stream of changing thoughts can result in both ideas being eliminated in the face of a third option, however the bipolar mind does like to bounce backwards and forwards so it may return to obsessing over the initial ideas at a later date. My first suggestion would be not to act impulsively on either idea, impulsiveness is a symptom of the illness because of these rapid fire ideas. Resist the urge to act impulsively and sleep on the ideas, take time to mull them over. Further, create a pros and cons table and way up the outcomes of any conflicting choices to see which is more suitable.
It is also worth speaking to those within your inner circle, gain some objective input from a number of people who are happy to speak honestly and candidly. Consider taking a general consensus, what statistically appears to be the better choice to onlookers. Their insight may not be shrouded in bipolar fogginess. Compare this to the pros and cons list and then make a decision. Again sleep on it as an alternative solution may present itself. Remember to research ideas as research may also present additional solutions that may not have sprung to mind. Consider also whether either of the ideas are realistic in the current circumstances. Sometimes the bipolar mind likes to take a walk off of the proverbial map and float off into unchartered territories. In the bipolar world, on a particularly imaginative day the mind may be conflicted about retiring on the moon or in Antarctica. Neither are really a viable option, so perhaps a realignment in thinking is in order. Remember that pros and cons list, these two choices will be weighed down in favour of the cons.
The same constant flux of ideas also interferes with existing projects, leaving an unfinished trail of debris behind the survivor. In order to be successful the survivor must try to complete one project before allowing that storm of brilliant ideas to bog down the brain. There is no harm in jotting down realistic ideas and returning to them at a later date, this helps keep those ideas alive and gives the mind time to plan whilst completing existing projects. It will be hard to resist those ideas, so lay down a rule that a new project cannot be started until the current one is complete. This in itself can provide motivation to bring jobs to completion.
Through comparing the Buddhist and Christian scriptures Dr Kelly identifies a common moral code that can be used to positively enrich one’s life.
Dr Kelly’s academic interests concern spiritual psychology. Her early work focused on near death experiences and her study led to publication in ‘Soul Searchers Paranormal Magazine’ and work published by NDERF. Her book ‘Promises of an Afterlife’ has a five-star rating. ‘Similarities in the Counselling of Jesus and Buddha’ identifies a common moral code to both religions and demonstrates that interfaith dialogue is possible showing how to live positively according to both faiths.
Tears streamed from Charlotte’s blue eyes. Her protective Doberman ‘Sid’ had died. Even her job as a vet did not help. The cancer had spread.
Two weeks after Sid’s sad demise Charlotte tied her brown locks into a bun and returned to saving other pets’ lives. She accepted only token payments to cover her lonely expenses.
One moonlit evening whilst withdrawing takeaway cash a scuffle ensued. Police arrested a crook from the off license nearby. As he was dragged away the thief shouted back,
‘Lady, you’re lucky you had a big dog watching you, I was gonna rob you first!’
OK, Halloween Fans, I have not disappeared. I am completing one of my current novels. I am fortunate enough to have a publisher (picked one with best stats, accepted first time BECAUSE THAT’S HOW WE ROLL) and am assuming that they would like a manuscript. So, here I am waiting for Ashley to clean the laptop fan so I can get finishing, editing and polishing. His solution of standing the laptop on it’s spine and hanging upside down like a bat to work really was not practical. Anyways, I’m going to reblog and share some poems in the interim.
Bipolar Blog 10: The Grief Trigger
Let me paint a picture for you Halloween Fans. A good friend and family member suddenly dies. I purchase Declan a suit and dress in extremely conservative clothes, I offer support to the family and write for our late loved ones funeral. At no time do I show grief publicly, nor behave outside of the right parameters for the occasion. Unlike many I do not drink alcohol at that time, nor cry. I show the correct courtesies and follow what I believe to be the correct etiquette. Appearances would suggest that I am not affected by the loss. This is far from the truth. My behaviour is the result of experience and belief in respect for those lost and for those left behind. Inside I can be absolutely burning up with grief, but I cannot show it, dare not show it because the minute the flood gates open I know that I will lose control.
Death is inevitable, people live and they die. Loss is a sadness that everyone experiences and cannot be avoided. My mum knows how I feel about death and funerals as does my husband. The rest of the world only see what I let them see, so as you may imagine this particular entry is extremely hard. Bipolar survivors are terribly sensitive, especially when it comes to death. Ironically survivors also have a tendency to be hyper-religious. Nothing is done by halves, not where bipolar disorder is concerned. Consequently survivors tend to have vast and complicated spiritual beliefs that are constantly in flux. I remember being at school and I was late to my religious studies class, largely because I had got off the train and wandered around the town sauntering in to school via the longest possible route. I would have been about 15 and already had a head full of ideas. The class were talking about reincarnation and one thing I loved about religious studies was the seminar-like nature of the class. I proposed that time is irrelevant to the spirit, Einstein suggested time is curved in which case there is a possibility of two points in time meeting. I proposed that time was much more complex and posited also that there were different dimensions and alternative realities and as such if reincarnation were a fact then it is likely that another life could be either in the future or in the past and not necessarily in this dimension. No one grasped my idea so I drew a diagram on the board to explain what I meant; a tesseract. I didn’t know it was a tesseract back then, it just seemed to exhibit my ideas. I think everyone was quite bemused.
I have had, and continue to have a vast array of spiritual ideas. My first non-fiction book was called ‘Promises of an Afterlife’ and examined some case studies in Near Death Experience. I have just completed another piece comparing Buddhism and Christianity. Now, I have wandered off topic a little bit here, but the point that I am making is that survivors tend to believe in something beyond this life. This does not, however, prevent or thwart the feeling of grief. Indeed quite the opposite, you see even though there is something beyond this life, this does not detract from that fact that within this life the lost friend will not be seen again, will not share their company againand are gone for the foreseeable future. It is also a firm and constant reminder of our own insignificance and mortality.
My first experience of loss happened at a very early age, it was very upsetting and still sits deeply with me. I think I became introverted for a year or so. I don’t really want to go into detail at this time on that matter as it is still very difficult. I will say that one close loss resulted in me spiralling into a full blown manic episode many years later. I think, looking back, that that was my way of coping. It also helped diagnosis and led to some introspection and consideration of how to handle grief. I wont lie to you, on a bad day I still get upset over one loss or another. Perhaps that spiritual quest is a way of confirming that the loss is not forever.
I have written poems for those that I have lost, people have responded very emotionally to my words. However, I have no magical cure for grief, no ideas as to how to stop the hurt. I can only propose that you celebrate the memory of someone’s life rather than mourn their death. It is a pain that s universally felt, so in this we are all together and not alone.
Bipolar Blog 9: Mums on the Meds Again!
I would love to say good morning Halloween Fans, but I have not been to sleep yet! After a semi-successful experiment in withdrawal went spectacularly bad, I decided to go back on my medication. Bipolar is an unusual illness in that survivors do tend to take themselves off of their meds. Now, everyone understands that bipolar is allegedly a mental or psychological illness, but some of the symptoms are physical. These symptoms range from joint pain, fatigue and headaches to muzzy perception and confused vision. Everything seems messy and blurry. So, coming off of the medication will create the onset of both these symptoms and the psychological symptoms and, wait for it, medication withdrawal symptoms.
When you first start taking medication the prescribing physician will neglect to discuss the withdrawal symptoms, and they are bad; nausea, sleep disturbances, tremors and shaking are just a few. The absolute worst symptoms are brain zaps, lightening bolts of electricity that shoot through the body and out of the extremities. It is a nasty business. Readers may wonder why a survivor would even attempt to withdraw from desperately needed medication, after all diabetics cannot just decide to stop taking their insulin! To understand the reasons consider why medication is necessary in the first place and what that medication does. Bipolar survivors experience deep, complex and continuous emotions, the medication stabilises and seems to numb these emotions, but bipolar moods can be euphoric and creative, so survivors try to withdraw to feel those sensations, to alleviate the pharmacological numbness.
Throughout my blog I have offered ideas in managing mood disorders, but I cannot stress enough the importance of medication. Ask me in two years time however and I may say quite the contrary. This is the nature of a mood disorder. The fact is I will most likely be on (and on occasion off) medication for the entirety of my life. That is part of managing the illness. I came off the medication in January, my rationale was that it would give my writing a nice creative boost, and it did. Unfortunately, over time I started to look and feel washed out. I passed the nasty brain zaps and I got a ton of work done. I am pleased with that. However, I found an old nervous twitch was returning, my sleep pattern fell into disarray and I was becoming easily stressed. So, after talking to my inner circle at length I decided to go back on the medication. I am taking a smaller dosage than before and monitoring my progress. As said, I have had many years of trying to objectively deal with this condition. I would not recommend that anyone stopped their meds.
My biggest concern is that my work will suffer without the creative wallop of the illness. That is why I am trying a smaller dose, finding a balance or as Buddha would say ‘a middle way.’ I must stress that I have a strong inner circle and plenty of social support, so any concerns will be raised with me without worry. If you glance back to yesterday’s blog you will notice that I was in an irritable mood, triggered by sounds and people entering my personal space. It is certainly easier to feel crowded off the meds or, as my mum pointed out, I can deal better with nonsense on the meds. In case anyone is wondering I take Lexapro and Lamictal. Another day I was in a hurry and I got stuck behind a lady in the queue who decided to pay for a trolley load of shopping with coupons and shrapnel. I could feel a certain agitation in that situation, especially when towards the end she decided to buy some more bits and pieces and pay with a separate section of money. She should have done a full house and ordered twenty lotto tickets and insisted on scratching them there and then.
Anyway, once again I digress to make my point. Whilst thinking about writing this blog I realised that I had missed an important factor in yesterday’s blog. That is that some sounds can trigger the illness through association. For example, a certain song playing may remind the survivor of memories with someone who sadly died. This would bring those memories to life and with those memories a sense of deep loss. This would of course trigger the sadness the underlies depression. I have a number of trigger songs, some create positive sensations and some negative sensations. I am not in a position right now to share those particular songs, having just kick-started the meds. I hope to talk about them at some stage, but as you may imagine this particular topic is very, very hard for any survivor.
In addition to meds some survivors have one to one counselling, psychotherapy or behavioural therapy. I have had counselling, but did not find it as effective as the medication. I have studied psychology since I was sixteen so have an understanding of the processes. I think because of that, for me, it is like experiencing Christmas when you know the secret about Santa. Counselling proved effective for Declan and has proved effective for many people. I think my poems were a form of journaling therapy, and I found an outlet in that process.
Anyway, survivors, carers and family make sure that medication does not lapse and I look forward to chatting again soon.
Love as always,
Bipolar Blog 8: Symptoms- Those Annoying Sounds
The clacking of heels, muttering whispers, banging cutlery on plates and snorting. These are just some of the sounds that drive the bipolar ear up the wall. From discussions in online forums I understand the same affects not only other mood disorders, but also people on the autistic spectrum. Is it any wonder, Halloween Fans, that irritability is a symptom in such a noisy world. Most people do not realise how noisy our world is because they have been born into it or desensitized by the constant influx of sound. I would envisage that if a medieval man travelled forward in time and found himself in any modern city the noise alone would send him into fits.
So, there I was in Tescos today rummaging through the sausages when a family decided to stand right in my personal space, as large as the store was and as empty as the store was they had to stand on top of me. Personal space is a great healer, where as over crowding, especially when it is unnecessary and intrusive is quite the opposite. I remained where I was until the snorting, muttering, shuffling and clacking started. We had cheese rolls instead of sausage rolls this evening. Why though? Why do certain sounds agitate a sensitive mind? I think it is sounds that represent conformist behaviours, behaviours that are alien to the emotional brain. Repetitive ritual rather than genuine interaction.
Last week Declan and I went to a restaurant, initially we were the only patrons which suited both of us fine. Then, a woman and three children come in and they were possibly one of the most miserable families that I have ever seen. The two lads were arguing, with the younger dictating to the older lad. The children asked for orange and got water for ‘Lent.’ They looked washed out and totally unhappy. The mother asked the ritual question ‘What did you do at school today?’ and the little girl answered only to be interrupted with ‘Mmm hmm that’s nice isn’t it?’ By this time I was irritable, if she didn’t want to know, then why ask? Conformist behaviour. She could have just let her children speak, but she didn’t, they barely looked at each other whilst walloping cutlery on their plates and then were told that they couldn’t have dessert because again it was ‘Lent.’ Poor children. I understood that one thing was given up for Lent as a personal, spiritual decision. These children were forced into giving up pretty much everything to conform. Ridiculous.
Now, I don’t usually moan about other people as I believe in live and let live, but the sounds of conformity were irritating. They weren’t just irritating me, but the children in this family. You could plainly see it. Anyway, that is one take on why certain sounds are annoying. The other reason may be to do with too much stimulus, an overwhelming activation of the senses, which can be likened to overcrowding, being crushed by multitudes of people. The noise becomes unbearable and overwhelming resulting in irritability.
One of my children has Aspergers syndrome, I am not saying which one as this is not my place. The child with Aspergers cannot stand loud noises, singing or repetition. S/he grabs his/her ears and repeatedly says it hurts. Again, I think that this is caused by over-stimulation of the senses. S/he simply cannot cope with the influx of stimulus. It is unbearable, and I can relate to that feeling as that is how I feel. However, some sounds are intensely pleasing; powerful and emotional music can be extremely soothing, especially when the rest of the world is shut out. One of the ways that I deal with the irritability caused by over-stimulation is to remove all sensation. I run a hot bath and lay in the dark with my head under the water. This gives me time to relax, meditate and let go of thoughts and stressors. It is extremely rejuvenating and refreshing. I may follow up with a quiet read and add some aromatherapy oils to the water.
There isn’t a lot more that I can say on this subject. It is a tricky one, especially for me as I was born deaf. I did not have a good hearing ability until I was 8, so perhaps I am extra sensitive to sound. I certainly know that it is a trait or symptom shared across many disorders. I do believe the two grounds for agitation are; over stimulation and fake conformist behaviours. Now, I suggest that the reader runs a hot bath and lets go of the world and all of it’s noise and nonsense.