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Rubbermaid Me Do It

I have a good memory. Actually, I have an excellent memory when you take into account all of the drugs and alcohol I’ve consumed to manage my moods over the past three hundred (or so it seems) years.

But there are times….

My significant other and I were doing a bit of purging the other day. You know, getting rid of clothes we haven’t worn in 10 years, bikes that are old and rusty, books (and more books)…things like that.

And there, sitting on the floor of one of the closets, still in the box, was a Rubbermaid Ironing organizer. In fact, the box has been sitting on the floor of that same closet for at least several years (or so it seems) right next to the ironing board that rests on the floor, and the iron, which sits on a table to the left of it.

I, in one of my bitchier moods, asked why it was still in the box and not attached to the wall as it was intended (and clearly wanted) to be. I was told that it was something that I had purchased, and then questioned as to why I hadn’t taken the initiative to install it.

Well! I would never purchase such an item. First of all, I don’t iron. I purposely by drip-dry shirts, wear sweaters even in summer, or pretend to be an aging Yuppie instead. Anyone who knows someone who has ADD and/or bipolar disorder knows that we would rather have a root canal than iron something. It’s just one of those chores (like making coffee or doing dishes) that makes us, dare I say, crazy. Or crazier.

But the truth is, the more I thought about it, I could just see myself (although I STILL don’t remember) in a frenzy at the local Bed Bath & Beyond, loading up a couple of shopping carts at once in an effort to get my life back on track, organized, simplified. I can see canisters and fussy little boxes, clip boards and pegboards, soap dispensers and paper towel racks spilling over into perhaps a third cart.

Did I purchase that odd little item? I don’t know. But what I now realize is that I shouldn’t have been so adamant about the fact that I would never have purchased such an item because when I’m in a manic state, even though I may seem, even though I may feel, lucid, it is a sort of delirium. And while I stand by the fact that 99 times out of 100, I will remember events correctly, I can’t be certain that 100 percent of the time, I didn’t do or didn’t say something that I just don’t recall doing or saying.

How is your memory?

P.S. Yes, this is my attempt at an apology.

Does Abilify Cause Weight Gain?: Weight gain is a common side effect of Abilify® (aripiprazole). In studies, the exact percentage of people that gained a significant amount of weight varied from study to study, but most studies consistently showed that people taking Abilify were more likely to gain weight than people taking a placebo (a “sugar pill” with no active ingredient).

For two and a half weeks I’ve been following the advice of Timothy Ferriss. He has after all practically guaranteed (money back?) that if I follow his plan I’ll be down to 8 percent body fat in just a few days. Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating, a little, but dammit, if I’m going to survive on a diet of lentils, kidney beans, tuna and eggs, I want results. And I want them NOW.

And doesn’t a plan for only four-hours a week of anything seem like the perfect fit for someone who’s bipolar and has ADD? In fact, it feels like it’s taken me four-hours just to write this much of the blog. Why are we so impatient? Honestly, I can handle all of the mood swings, the delirious highs and the bone crushing lows, but the boredom, the impatience, and the irritability makes me, well…crazy. Or is it the other way round?

The main reason for my frustration with Mr. Ferriss’ claims is that, not only have I not lost any weight or dropped any percentage points in body fat, I’ve actually GAINED weight and girth.

And then I had a realization. About the same time that I started the “diet” (eating plan, life style, or whatever he wants to call it,) I also started taking ABILIFY® (aripiprazole).

Now, anyone who’s read this blog before, knows full well that I don’t do drugs. Been there, done that. That was the whole purpose of this blog when it began: exploring living a bipolar life without pharmaceuticals.

But here’s the thing: I reached a low point where I just needed something, anything. And vodka, while I’ve used it judiciously in the past, wasn’t going to cut it. At least not for the long term. Of all of the hundreds of medications I’ve tried over the years, Abilify was the only one that worked, albeit for a short period of time. So, while I was hesitant to begin ingesting toxic chemicals into my bloodstream once again, when you’re on the Titanic, and the water is rushing up to your chest, you grasp at anything that resembles a floatation device.

And so it occurred to me today that it was probably the medication that was keeping the weight on in spite of my dedication to the 4-Hour Body plan, right down to the blueberry pancakes smothered in maple syrup and the half-pint of Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk on those glorious cheat days.

So here is the sad truth about being bipolar: You can’t win.

But don’t you think that with all of that running and running just to stay in place that I’d have lost at least one of those extra pounds?

I #Tweet Therefore I Am

I’m not exactly a pro at this social networking stuff, but I do it. A little. And feel somewhat obligated to, sometimes.

Attend any writer’s conference and you’ll hear at least once in every session, something about: Blogging, Tweeting, Facebook, Technorati, and the ever popular, Platform. Because apparently, if you’re not social networking, you don’t exist.

Well, I’ve been blogging and tweeting for a while now, but as I said, I’m no expert. In fact it wasn’t until last week that I learned the purpose/meaning of the hashtag (#). There are days when I want to abandon all of it and hide in my room, reading and writing. When the thought of interacting with anyone on any level is just too much.

For one reason, every interaction harbors the potential for rejection. Those of you who are writers (and who isn’t these days) understand the dynamics of that. Except for James Franco of course, who’s been granted immunity against all rejection. But for the rest of us, well, it’s no fun and it does nothing to improve our writing or our social skills.

Now, I enjoy writing this blog, but that’s because I do it for me. I write it because I’m a writer, it provides me with some structure, and it’s a place to organize my thoughts and to ponder the bigger questions. If someone happens across it and finds it interesting, great. If no one does, great. I am delighted if my words touch someone, if they have an impact, or if they simply make someone feel that they are not alone in their struggles. And I am thrilled when someone takes the time out of their day to comment and share their thoughts with me. It’s a wonderful bonus.

But Twitter is different. For one thing, unlike the blog, people (followers) will SEE my tweets, even if they don’t read them. And because of that, I feel pressured to say something of value. My comments have to be witty or smart, insightful or thought-provoking, useful or profound. And at times, I feel the need to make them all of the above, which you have to admit is pretty hard to do in a 140 characters or less.

And then there are the statistics. I rarely pay any attention to my blog stats, but my Twitters status glares at me from the upper right hand corner every time I open the site. Twitter feels compelled to provide me with frequent updates as to my popularity.

Your Tweets 122

Following 139 Followers 61

Whether or not someone “follows” me is irrelevant. It’s nothing I have any control over. And yet it’s hard not to equate that in some way with my self-worth. Which I have to admit, is really quite bizarre. I don’t ask people to follow me. And I don’t follow people hoping that they will follow me in return.

I think I would enjoy the experience a whole lot more if I had no idea whether anyone was following me or not. Today I thought I lost 4 followers. Given my meager numbers, that’s a 6.7% loss in one day. I know it shouldn’t matter. And in reality, it doesn’t. But does anyone really need to know with that much accuracy, and that frequently, how “popular” they are?

The sad part of this story is, I hadn’t opened my Twitter account on that computer in a few days, so the numbers hadn’t been updated. Truth of the matter is, I didn’t loose 4 followers, I GAINED one. And suddenly I’m Sally Field, “You like me, you really like me.

Be well, Marco

(That’s (@MarcoDante) in case you’re interested!)

Back in the Saddle

Poems

Even though the house is deeply silent

and the room, with no moon,

is perfectly dark,

even though the body is a sack of exhaustion

inert on the bed,

someone inside me will not

get off his tricycle,

will not stop tracing the same tight circle

on the same green threadbare carpet.

It makes no difference whether I lie

staring at the ceiling

or pace the living-room floor,

he keeps on making his furious rounds,

little pedaler in his frenzy,

my own worst enemy, my oldest friend.

An excerpt from: “Insomnia” By Billy Collins

 

After many sleepless nights, I am finally rested and ready to tiptoe back into the blogosphere.

“Been away so long I hardly knew the place…Gee it’s good to be back home….”

One of the reasons I haven’t been posting is inertia. Once you stop anything it can be difficult to start up again. Conversely, once you start something it can be hard to stop….

Plus, I grew weary of talking about, thinking about, writing about, reading about…Drugs, Moods, Cycles…….

I felt stuck. The best part of writing for me was connecting with people, of knowing that, just by the virtue of sharing my experience, others felt validated, and in turn, validated me.

So, I’m still drug free. Still have my ups and downs, my good days and my bad. I will confess to having moments when I want to reach for the phone and call Dr. X to request (demand, plead…) a prescription for something, anything that might eliminate the ups and downs. But then I watch television for a few minutes and I am reminded, by the inundation of pharmaceutical company commercials, that more often than not, the side effects are worse than the disease.

One thing that just occurred to me, literally as I was writing this (another reason to keep at it) is that, subconsciously, knowing that I had sworn off drugs forever, I began to accept how I am. What I mean by that is, knowing that there would never be some “quick-fix,” or any fix for that matter, I got better at managing my moods myself. You see, I think if you hold out hope for some “cure,” you never become adept at living with, or managing whatever it is that you have. If you fall off a boat in the middle of a body of water and no one else is around to save you; you’d better learn to swim. You may not like it, you may swallow a lot of water, but if you survive, you know that you did it yourself. And you realize that no matter what happens, no matter how difficult things are, you can get through it. And you’ll be stronger and more resilient because of it.

So, what does this all mean? For one thing, it speaks to the dichotomy of life, the yin & the yang, the Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde of it all. The bipolarness of life in general, for everyone. I hope that you will join me on this new, expanded journey, this new format of looking at LIFE as bipolar, not just the disease. That you will offer up your questions, suggestions, your experiences, (your rants if that’s what’s going on for you at the moment), and occasionally a shoulder to cry on. And I promise to do the same for you.

Be well, Marco

 

Many people today are infatuated with the biological determinants of things. They find compelling the idea that moods, tastes, preferences, and behaviors can be explained by genes, or by natural selection, or by brain amines (even though these explanations are almost always circular: if we do x, it must be because we have been selected to do x). People like to be able to say, I’m just an organism, and my depression is just a chemical thing, so, of the three ways of considering my condition, I choose the biological. People do say this. The question to ask them is, Who is the “I” that is making this choice? Is that your biology talking, too?” The New Yorker, March 1, 2010: HEAD CASE: Can psychiatry be a science? by Louis Menand

I seem to have been in a downward spiral for the past few months. Thus the lack of postings. Miss me?

I can blame it on a lot of things. The weather. The news. The economy. Dick Cheney. The fact that I am forced to deal with bad brain chemistry without the aid of medication.

But whatever the cause, my depression, and the cause du jour, is not a CHOICE.

Yes, the pharmaceutical companies have gone astray and led their Mercedes Benz—home in the Hamptons—trips to Paris aspiring doctors along with them.

I don’t have a problem with people taking Paxil for shyness, Xanax for anxiety, or Wellbutrin for weight loss. But I do have a problem with people assuming that whatever it is that I take (used to take, actually) is a cop-out.

The decision to handle mental conditions biologically is as moral a decision as any other. It is a time-honored one, too. Human beings have always tried to cure psychological disorders through the body. In the Hippocratic tradition, melancholics were advised to drink white wine, in order to counteract the black bile. (This remains an option.) Some people feel an instinctive aversion to treating psychological states with pills, but no one would think it inappropriate to advise a depressed or anxious person to try exercise or meditation.”

For the record, there are those of us who are treatment resistant. But even if you’re not, why would anyone assume that you would choose to take a prescription medication if you didn’t have to?

Yes, we have entered the age of pharmaceutical advertising (TV, magazines, billboards) in which even the most obscure diseases and disorders are woven into our subconscious minds. Come to think of it, my legs do tingle from time to time—maybe I should be taking something for restless leg syndrome. I’ve also noticed I’ve been a little gassy lately—I’ll just bet I’ve got me a mild case of GERD. And even though I’ve no idea what Fibromyalgia or COPD are, according to recent commercials I have a number of symptoms for both, so…yeah, I’m going to self-diagnose (since that’s what those advertisements seem to be about anyway, and it doesn’t seem all that risky when you consider that “…psychiatrists reached the same diagnosis only twenty per cent of the time…”) and demand my doctor prescribe an assortment of pills and caplets for me to ingest that may or may not work, but that will certainly cause dizziness, nausea, constipation, tremors, dry mouth, blurred vision, weight gain, diminished libido (which in all fairness, may be attributable to the weight gain) and suicidal thoughts. Yeah, give me some of that.

Exercise? Diet? Meditation? All good options. IF you can drag your sorry ass out of bed.

We seem to be living in a very strange time (but then, when haven’t we?). Scientists discovered (in many cases, accidentally) that some drugs had a positive effect, on certain psychological disorders, in a few people, under certain circumstances. And, this being America, land of opportunity and quick fixes, we of course decided to take it one step further. Why feel good when you can feel great? My girlfriend just dumped me—give me a pill. My stock portfolio is in the toilet—better take a capsule. My favorite sitcom just got canceled—better up my dosage.

You know what, that’s what cocaine is for, not Prozac. And quite frankly, cocaine (the few times I consumed it years ago) did more for me than Abilify, Prozac, Zoloft and all of the others combined. WITHOUT impinging on my libido.

For those of you who are suffering from symptoms that are far more profound and harder to treat, and find any kind of relief at all in pharmaceuticals, I am truly happy for you. Whatever relieves you from some of the horrible effects and consequences of depression or bipolar disorder, ADHD or OCD, go for it. And I promise you, even though it’s not for me, I won’t be one of those people standing on the side-lines accusing you of copping out.

“…studies show that the worse side effects a patient experiences, the more effective the drug. Patients apparently think, this drug is so strong it’s making me vomit and hate sex, so it must be strong enough to lift my depression. In clinical-trial patients who figure out they’re receiving the drug and not the inert pill, expectations soar. That matters because belief in the power of a medical treatment can be self-fulfilling (that’s the basis of the placebo effect).”

Perhaps I should explain the title of this post.

You’re all familiar with the philosophical riddle, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Well, an article in the February 8, 2010 issue of Newsweek magazine (“The Depressing News About Antidepressants,” by Sharon Begley) about antidepressants had me wondering; if a pill that is swallowed that is basically sugar, with no chemical component that might effect serotonin, works because we “believe” it works…does it “really” work?

“…scientists who study depression and the drugs that treat it are concluding…that antidepressants are basically expensive Tic Tacs.”

I’m a firm believer in the power of the mind. I’ve witnessed first hand how thinking can make it so. I do believe that, in some instances, there is such a thing as a self-fulfilling prophecy. BUT…

But, the chances of it working are about as good as your chances at the blackjack table in Vegas. Sure, sometimes you’ll draw an ace and a jack, and sometimes people get better because they believe they will, but not always. If just wishing could make it so, I’d have a brand new Maserati (GranCabrio convertible in Blu Oceano with a Sabbia interior) sitting in my driveway.

Here’s another question I had after reading the article: What happens to the placebo effect after people read an article like this one? Great! Now the pills that don’t really work, really don’t work because we’ve lost faith in them. Now what do we do?

The power of positive thinking has its place. In fact, it wouldn’t hurt to practice that in your daily life, pills or no pills. Accentuate the positive, as they say. But also, be realistic. But wait, how can you be realistic and hope to cure your depression with blind faith?

But then again…I’ll bet there are a number of Pharmaceutical sales reps out there who do have Maseratis in their garages because they visualized them. Because they held a picture of them in their mind and repeated a mantra over an over again while they fudged the test results and made promises to general practitioners that the pills couldn’t possibly deliver.

If placebos can make people better, then depression can be treated without drugs that come with serious side effects, not to mention costs.”

Hey, it’s worth a try. If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to try an experiment of my own. Here’s a photo of the car.

If you would just stare at it for a few minutes and repeat over and over, “A Maserati in Marco’s driveway,” I’ll let you know what happens. If I go out there tomorrow and there’s a blue convertible, I’ll be first in line to refill my prescription for Zoloft.

But until then, I’m remaining drug free!!!!

As long as it provides clear objectives, clear rules for action, and a way to concentrate and become involved, any goal can serve to give meaning to a person’s life.”Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience,” by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly

I am not playing the game this year.

I am not making any New Year resolutions.

I am perfect just the way I am.

You are perfect just the way you are.

I am however setting goals.

What is the difference?

To me, a resolution implies changing something that doesn’t work.

The implication is that something about me is broken and I need to fix it.

Instead, I prefer to set specific goals that I want to accomplish.

I don’t need to be fixed.  I can’t be fixed.  But I can evolve.

While striving to improve myself, my life, I will focus on the things I want to achieve.

I will not focus on the aspects of myself that I don’t like or that don’t seem to work.

We are human beings, and as such, we are works in progress.

I expect to be unhappy a certain portion of the time.

I WANT to be unhappy a certain portion of the time.

If I were satisfied with everything, with the status quo, I would be stagnant.

I would be dead.  In order to grow as human beings we need to occasionally feel discomfort.

When there are too many demands, options, challenges, we become anxious; when too few, we get bored.”

My disorder complicates my life.  My disorder is my discomfort.

But it also challenges me to search for new ways to give my life meaning, to give my life balance, to give my life substance.

If my life were perfect I would be bored.

There is no good without bad, no happy without sad.

To strive to be happy all of the time is foolish.

Perhaps, instead, we should strive to be happy/joyful once each day?

Perhaps, instead, we should strive to make someone else happy/joyful, once each day?

To that end, once again I offer up a little levity in the form of Calvin & Hobbes.

Tear up your list of resolutions for this year.

Don’t buy in to the need to change.

Instead, buy in to the desire to grow.

Maybe that seems like semantics, but to me there is a huge difference.

Resolutions are based on fixing something, and that’s negative.

Goals are positive; they are something to strive for.

What counts is not so much whether a person actually achieves what she has set out to do; rather, it matters whether effort has been expanded to reach the goal, instead of being diffused or wasted.”

Being bipolar is a daily challenge.  But it is also a blessing.

I am who I am because of it.  I mean really, who else would I want to be?

Okay, so that’s a rather long list, but it’s also beside the point.

I am who I am so I might as well make the best/most of it.

To all of you who have taken time out of your busy day to read these words I thank you.

I write them in a vacuum, but I know from the stats that they have a life beyond my keyboard.  My GOAL for the New Year is to keep writing.  To write more.  To add value to your life by sharing what I know, because you add value to my life when you share what you know.  We are all in this together.

Happy New Year!!!!!

Marco

“The good news is that there is a way out of the dark forest.  The bad news is that the way leads through hell.”

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