Posted by: Harold Knight | 09/25/2009

You can be a Bipolar, too

One never takes pictures of oneself when one is depressed. One has few pictures of oneself that other people have taken when one is depressed because one tends to isolate and avoid other people when one is depressed.

One also has few pictures of oneself when one is in a hypomanic state. (One is careful to distinguish between hyper and hypo in this instance:  υπέρ=above, over; hyper — υπό=under; hypo. In this case hypo does not mean not hyper; rather, it means not quite hyper.)

One is careful not to fabricate symptoms of Bipolar disorder (either I or II) and not to let one’s psychiatrists’ questions plant ideas in one’s head. Asking the question, “Do you ever have times when you are “up” (that is, your mind flies from one idea to the next or you have rapid or “pressured” speech, or you have increased energy and decreased need for sleep)? Of course. Everyone does.

1924 Fourth Avenue

1924 Fourth Avenue

Take away the van, the railing on the front steps, and the air conditioner in front window, and this house looks exactly as it did when my family lived there from 1950 to 1955.

The fact that I’m doing this is evidence of some kind of mania (not hyper, but at least hypo). I have to get this done. Whatever this is. I can’t think of much else, and I want to tell everyone in the world what it’s like to have Temporal Lobe Epilepsy and Bipolar disorder. I know that everyone who is successful knows how to work hard and be “driven” in some sense of the word. Take my friend S____. He’s in the process of opening a new business, and he’s totally unavailable. He works 20 hours a day these days. But he has a tangible goal; many people are depending on him, and he will even be famous for his work. But his is organized. It has a purpose. Mine is scattershot and has a purpose—to do it. And to try to work out this feeling of (desperation? being-out-of-control? fear? anger?)—I don’t know for sure, but if I don’t write this, if I don’t somehow make a “success” of this blog, I feel as if the tightness in my chest that has all the ear-marks of dying from lack of breath. It’s as if someone sits on my chest and I can’t breathe—except he only sits there every few moments and then gets up so I can gulp air into my lungs.

Back and back and back to Dostoevsky and The Idiot, this “[prince], who caught himself engaged in a strange occupation which he now recollected he had taken up at odd moments for the last few hours—it was looking about all around him for something, he did not know what . . . he had hardly become conscious of this curious phenomenon, when another recollection suddenly swam through his brain, interesting him for the moment, exceedingly. . . He was extremely anxious now to discover whether . . . the whole thing had been a hallucination. He felt in a very curious condition today, a condition similar to that which had preceded his fits in bygone years.”  I understand “interesting him for a moment” and being “extremely anxious now to discover whether . . . the whole thing had been a hallucination.” Certain things that happened at that house in Scottsbluff are “recollection[s that] suddenly [swim] through [my] brain.” Perhaps for everyone vivid unpleasant memories crowd out the pleasant ones. Putting my fist through the glass of the storm door on the front door. Throwing a can full of dirt off that concrete front stoop and hitting the Lotspiech girl from next door in the head. Many such memories. The memories themselves do not seem important—the feelings around them do. Anger, fear, bewilderment. Anger. Anger. Anger. Flashes of anger that to this day overwhelm me for a moment and cause me to do really stupid things. I won’t tell.

If anyone wants to know how it feels to suddenly be looking at oneself and one’s fourth grade teacher from somewhere away from where one’s body is, and watching while the teacher accidentally destroys one’s sculpture, I can tell you. Destroying the sculpture is incidental. It’s the looking on from outside one’s body that one remembers. That’s TLE with a vengeance, I think. But does all of this add up to Bipolar disorder? Were those moments of seizure-terror played out in depression? Anger? How would I know. I’m not a psychiatrist. Do I see people (my family, my late ex-wife, my three partners) explode in small but intense fits of anger that would be, if they lasted longer, frightening? Not really. Who do I know who has to hold in check—seemingly at all times—a fury that frightens him? Who, when he is bothered by a tiny inconvenience at his work, sends angry emails to his entire department? Everyone? Not that I’ve noticed. Who smashes furniture? Am I simply bad-tempered? Or does everyone feel as if there is an anger seething just below his skin that, if left unchecked for one second, would/could result in mayhem? HAS RESULTED in destruction. Let me tell you some day about Snoopy and Taffy. If you promise not to tell the ASPCA.

And I won’t even mention depression here. That’s too big a subject to deal with except in tiny bits.

Does this add up to Bipolar disorder?

“As I walked out on the streets of Laredo.
As I walked out on Laredo one day,
I spied a young cowboy all dressed in white linen,
Dressed in white linen as cold as the clay.

“I can see by your outfit that you are a cowboy.”
“I see by your outfit you are a cowboy too.”
“We see by our outfits that we are both cowboys.
If you get an outfit, you can be a cowboy too.”

If you're younger than a baby-boomer, I'll have to explain this.

If you're younger than a baby-boomer, I'll have to explain this.

You can be a Bipolar II.
(Whew! Under 1000 words today! Hypergraphia in check!)

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