The Justice League—Bipolar Style

Merely AgogI’ve been in trouble for a while now, mental health-wise.  The amnesia that comes with severe symptoms keeps me from remembering that this is normal.  My brain yammers that I’m getting worse, that my social skills are devolving, that all my tools are useless, and that, maybe, by brain is starting to liquify.  But, the reality is I’ve been here before.

One of the many vital roles my therapist assumes is that of Archivist.  She starts a sentence by saying, “When you’ve been like this before…” and suddenly I can breathe again.  I spend so much energy and attention on navigating the whip-quick changes of the rapid cycling aspect of my illness, it’s very hard to pull focus and take in the larger picture.  Shifts happen in the slow time of seasons.  My Richter Scale rarely registers a catastrophic event, but like earthquakes, the tension builds over time to an inevitable break.

Recovering this broader perspective helps.  I’ve survived 8.9 quakes before, so how do I do that again?  Before, I would check into Mercy Hospital’s Out-Patient program (day-care for the neuro-diverse), but like so many other mental health care programs and hospitals in Iowa, it no longer exists.  The programs that are left focus on folks who need functional help.  I don’t need help doing my laundry (usually).

My Integrated Health Caseworker said something like this yesterday, “You’re so high-functioning, you fall through the cracks.”

It’s a Catch-22, being a Bipolar Bad-Ass.

img_0977Friday, I went early to my therapy appointment.  I brought my wheely cart of art supplies and camped out at their little corner table in the waiting room.  They thought that was a brilliant idea, and invited me back whenever I felt the need.  So, I went again yesterday and stayed all day.

There’s no therapy, no expectation of interaction beyond a quick hello, but it’s a safe place that’s quiet and welcoming.  Sorta like going to a coffee shop, except the baristas love and understand me.  I call it “Out-Out-Patient Care.”

My therapist and I are also exploring alternatives.  What about a Mindfulness class that would provide structure and an emphasis on Doing The Work?  What about some sort of retreat?  These things cost money, so we pulled in my caseworker to help hunt for grants.

I am grateful everyday that I function as well as I do.  AND it’s hard work to find services that fit me.  AND it’s hard to think outside the box when thinking is most difficult. But, I have an actual team helping me now—my own little Mental Health Justice League.  I’m not feeling much like Wonder Woman at the moment, but with a little help, I might be able to find that lasso.


27 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Roessler, Karen
    Sep 20, 2016 @ 12:24:40

    I love you, you High-functioning Bipolar Bad-Ass. You are my Wonder Woman EVERY day; your talent, compassion, and depth put me in awe.
    Much love, Karen


  2. hototheflow
    Sep 20, 2016 @ 12:51:36

    I like it . . . art is therapy . . . therapy is an art . . . . you float all our boats



  3. pegoleg
    Sep 20, 2016 @ 12:56:01

    Love the card – “agog” is such a great word, which one rarely gets to use.

    I’m sorry you’re going through this extended cycling period again, and totally in awe at your bad-ass coping skills.


    • Sandy Sue
      Sep 20, 2016 @ 17:30:22

      Thanks, Peg. One of my least favorite sayings is: It is what it is. Seems heartless somehow, but heart doesn’t really come into play. This bipolar thing, like Nature, just IS.


      • pegoleg
        Sep 21, 2016 @ 17:10:21

        One of my sisters is having the crap totally kicked out of her by the treatments that are (supposedly) kicking the crap out of her breast cancer. When she can’t get off the bathroom floor because she’s vomiting so hard, has a nose bleed, vertigo and a staph infection on her face, all at the same time, “It is what it is” with an accompanying shoulder shrug is her usual response to offers of sympathy.

        That is rather heartless, but also expresses the futility of wailing at fate. Sometimes you can’t do a damn thing about “it” except hang on, right?

      • Sandy Sue
        Sep 22, 2016 @ 13:22:44

        Exactly, Peg. I’m sorry your sister is still suffering. She’s been getting the crap kicked out of her a long time.

      • pegoleg
        Sep 23, 2016 @ 12:37:40

        Thanks, Sandy. This is actually a different sister. My sister Lib who has brain cancer is doing OK, feeling OK, still living alone with some help. But after more than 5 years living with this, she is now terminal – it’s a matter of a year or so. This is another sister, Carolyn, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in the spring. Her long-term prognosis is good, but the treatments are just awful.

        I haven’t done a cancer post in a long time now because it’s just too, too painful.

      • Sandy Sue
        Sep 24, 2016 @ 07:52:20

        I understand. And I’m sorry. You’re poor family.

  4. Cheryl LaVille
    Sep 20, 2016 @ 15:05:31

    I am so sorry that you are struggling so.


  5. Cate
    Sep 20, 2016 @ 15:36:49

    What a wonderful post! If this is what a devolving brain looks like, I wish more people had your disease. And, I’m not at all sure you need a grant: Just hanging out in the safe space of your therapist’s office sounds perfect. I think that’s often what even we sub-clinically disturbed folks most need: a safe space in which to be when the dark undercurrents feel particularly strong.


  6. Bradley
    Sep 20, 2016 @ 17:03:46

    Good for you on the sitting at the table idea. I never would have thought of that. At one time I was homeless and didn’t know where my next meal was coming from, but was told I was too high functioning for assistance. I’m a lot less crazy than our health system is.

    Glad you have advocates working on your behalf. I’m sure that’s a big relief


  7. David Kanigan
    Sep 20, 2016 @ 17:56:16

    So sorry you are having difficult times. Remember that on your worst day, we think you are great.


  8. jlpiperb55416
    Sep 20, 2016 @ 19:02:00

    Love you and all that. Sorry we didn’t connect at any ’76 events last week; not hugging you left a hole in my time in the of’ hometown. Keep up that hard work doing it all. Be strong and breathe.


  9. Littlesundog
    Sep 20, 2016 @ 22:21:24

    High-functioning is such a rad phrase! And what person doesn’t want to be Bad-Ass? In my eyes, you have it goin on… and you ARE Wonder Woman to me. 🙂


  10. Alice
    Sep 26, 2016 @ 20:53:45

    I’m sorry to hear it’s been rough. Please know I am in your corner, rooting for you and for this symptom fog to lift soon!


  11. Grace
    Sep 27, 2016 @ 16:59:42

    Just stumbled upon your blog today! As one who has also been diagnosed with bipolar, I really appreciate the artfully conscious manner in which you approach our everyday challenges. It’s refreshingly unique yet painfully honest. Keep up the good work! 😀


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