The Shot-Gun Blast

Joe Montagna, Criminal Minds, Dave RossiOne of the weirder things about bipolar disorder for me is that I forget how an episode operates once I’m through it.  I forget all the different ways an episode can manifest, the different markers of behavior and thought that can indicate which Path to Crazy we’re traveling on this time around.  For this reason, I started mapping some of those indicators, and refer back to them when my internal world gets wonky.

I had forgotten about The Shot-Gun Blast until it happened again this week.  This form of rapid cycling is the sudden onset of an intense mixed state that lasts for several hours, then either snaps into straight depression or mania, or drains into a fairly stable state.  When the characters on Criminal Minds talk about “a blitz attack,” this is what I imagine—violence that jumps out of the dark and takes you hostage.

There’s no time to pull out any tools, nothing but hysteria and a wild scramble to keep from drowning.  The part of the brain that wants to live calls up basic survival skills.  The best I could do was hit the video store and hole up in my apartment until the shooting stopped.  In about six hours the episode passed, leaving a sort of hangover that continues days later—fatigue, body pain and slow, muddled thinking.

I haven’t experienced a Shot-Gun Blast in quite a while, and it’s hard not to attach meaning to its appearance now.  Is it some kind of indicator?  After three months or more of rapid cycling, is something changing?  I don’t have any data to tell me one way or the other.  So, I’ll mark it on my Brain Map to see if there’s any pattern to be found.

Criminal MindsIn the interim, I’ve decided to take it as a good sign—the tea leaves of my brain chemistry portending good times ahead.  I may just be whistling in the dark, but that seems more productive than freezing in fear.  My BAU team would want me to keep whistling, if ever so quietly.

No Shame Whatsoever

I’ve posted the first chapters of a couple more stories.  I won’t be working on these until I finish Callinda, but I got a bug to put out what I have on these two.

13 is another Star Trek Enterprise story featuring the character of Trip Tucker.  October Roads is my Criminal Minds opus, or it will be.

Once again, thanks for indulging me.

To access the stories, click on the imbedded links here, or roll your cursor over “Heaving Bosoms” in the banner headline above.  Roll to “D Cups” and the stories will pop out.  Individual chapters will appear when you roll over each story.

Training Checklist: Secure Down Time

The thing about warriors is that they never look very happy.  Saving the world from imminent destruction can make a girl cranky.  Being in constant Fight or Flight status will sap the adrenals and keep a Bad-Ass from staying frosty.  Smart warriors know how to play in between battles.

So, while training to be a Bipolar Bad-Ass, I also need to use this time between episodes to relax and nurture myself.  I need to take time to enjoy feeling good again.  I need to laugh loud and hard, weak bladder be damned.

My body takes a beating during bipolar episodes—insomnia, lack of exercise, poor diet, and physical damage the sense of loneliness can cause (more on that in my next post).  As a person living alone, I miss being touched and touching others.  I’m a natural hugger, but there are social edicts about that.  Getting a massage is the next best thing.  Not only does massage work the toxins out of my soft tissues, untie the knots in my muscles and increase circulation, it also gives me a socially acceptable way to feel the warmth and caring in another human being’s touch. When it has been too long since my last massage, you can find me window shopping for services on sites like all night long, I then go to bed too late and the cycle continues.

Money being the constant monkey on my back, I can seldom afford a massage.  But my friend, Nancy, has offered to exchange a massage for artwork, which is a glorious gift in so many ways.  I’m so grateful that during this breather between episodes I’ll be able to nurture my body this way.

I also fill my spiritual well.  Most media Bad-Asses don’t worry much about this, but the real life ones do  (Tell me the Dalai Lama doesn’t kick serious butt!).  Depending on my cash flow, I try to get to my weekly meditation group or to the Unitarian Universalist Church a half hour away.  I reach out to my fellow seekers and my spiritual teacher.

Spending time with the people I love, when I’m not scary-crazy, is also required.  But, I’ll do a whole post on that soon.

Then, there are those other people I love.

It may seem contradictory to advocate watching my favorite TV shows when I know TV can liquefy my brain and encourage me eat everything in the apartment.  I could be in deep denial here.  But, there are a couple of shows on TV that simply make my heart sing.  I love the characters.  I love the writing.  I love the camera work and special effects.  These shows make me happy, a rare and precious commodity, so I’m including them (and only them) in my downtime.

It’s easy to get caught up in too many shows.  I can feel the straw reaching out from my set, trying to suck up my gray matter (a red straw, matter of fact, just like Walter’s in the picture above).  I’ve figured out that following three TV shows is my limit, the maximum I can watch without my viewing turning into clinical distraction.  My current three are Fringe, Criminal Minds and the various Star Trek reruns on the SyFy channel.

I’ve discovered that training to be a Bipolar Bad-Ass is as challenging as the illness itself.  I don’t know where the dedication, focus and determination are coming from.  No warrior does, I suppose.  Circumstances conspire to shove those qualities to the forefront.  Sarah Connor was just a perky waitress before the Governator blew her world apart.  Ripley just pushed cargo around outer space.  Once Life brings out the Bad-Ass, there’s no turning back, no unknowing what is now known.  But the constant rigors of training, sandwiched between battles with the Bipolar Bad Guys can wear a girl down.  And even though a warrior can’t go back to being a mere bystander, sometimes a little R and R is in order.

Insanity, Creativity and Living in the Now

When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I thought my life had ended.  And in a very real sense, it did.  Parts of my life fell off like flesh off a zombie–my home, my job, my friends, my ability to support myself, my ability to live independently.  In the months and years that followed, the lessons of living in the NOW and letting go of attachments kept repeating.  Living with bipolar disorder (BP) was like living in a constant fire.  It burned away everything I thought I knew about myself and how the world works.  But with fire comes new growth that could never happen otherwise.  I’m finding that to be true in my life as well.

While I always considered myself a writer, I also became an artist because of BP.  I needed a way to express the chaos I felt and the wild shifts from despair to joy and back again.  My study of the world’s religions deepened.  I explored the science and metaphysics of the brain.  I also fell in love with “Criminal Minds” and “Fringe.”

I invite you to journey with me into the overlapping realms of mental illness, creativity and spirituality.  There will be fire and ice, but also miracles.

Of that I’m certain.

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