The Creatives’ Guide to Living With Bipolar Disorder: Living with Medication

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Brain fog is a pain in the behind. It’s a combination of the various meds I take to control my anxiety, sleep and my Bipolar Disorder and I have to plan my life to avoid it (usually by waking up at 5:3oam). If I sleep in, I turn over and dream some more, waking brain fogged some point around noon. It’s important that I get the right amount of sleep as too much/little is a mania trigger for me. I have to take them at night because of the sedating effect, except that they trigger my insomnia so I can’t get off to sleep. Oh and just to be uber-weird one night a week I have to sleep for at least thirteen hours to reset my brain, usually on a Saturday or Sunday night.

/cries.

This week I made a point of sitting down and watching Stephen Fry’s new documentary The Not So Secret Life Of The Manic Depressive: 10 Years On. The original two-parter (which I saw while manic/just about to get my autism diagnosis) is a must-watch (part one/part two) for anyone who thinks they might be bipolar/been recently diagnosed. The documentary is horrifying in the parallels where you watch it and start ticking off symptoms you share both with Stephen Fry and the various people he meets.

It took me several more years before I could see a psychiatrist and get my own diagnosis, being told that ‘there was no way’ I’d be able to see one unless I was manic. As it happened I was manic when I got diagnosed but it was change and circumstance. Plus I’m a very ‘aware’ manic, it’s a blessing from my autism where I have safe-guards others don’t share. I still spend, I still plow hours into novels and stories, skipping around like a bouncing puppy but my obsessions seem limited to things I can actually do/achieve, like getting tattoos, changing jobs and visiting foreign places.

The new documentary still made me feel sick; it covered, for example, the irrational anxiety, the manic highs where you know you’re manic but are impossible to control, it’s riding a rip-tide and hoping you survive and make it back to shore.

The documentary reminded me of several things I know. Diet is important, taking yourself out a situation (such as hiding your credit cards) is a good. My close, close friends can now identify my mania on sight and it’s that phase which is much more dangerous. At least when I’m depressive I just go to bed. It also reminded me that no medication stops the mania/depressive episodes, they just level you out so said episodes happen less often.

I had at least five manic episodes last year. Being conservative.

The big one, for me at least, is that alcohol is a bad idea (my meds say it, like, explicitly) but I still drink. I know it doesn’t help my mania, knocks my meds dead in the water and makes me cycle (which means I go from high to low rapidly, sometimes several times in one day). I have PTSD, helpfully triggered this week by my broken dishwasher, and drinking helps, as do anti-anxiety meds. I like cider so you can probably guess which method I prefer.

Oh and, of course, there are the micro-obsessions which drive me nuts. Here is, for example, a collection of my recent obsessions with notes in parentheses:

  • Buying a PS4 and Bloodborne. Oh and obsessing over the lore. (No, I can’t afford it. It can wait till I get out of debt. This is why there are playthroughs. Ditto Dark Souls III.)
  • Getting my dishwasher fixed. (A Bosch man is coming next Wednesday.)
  • Going to the gym before Zumba twice a week. (Once is perfectly okay, esp as I’ve hurt my arm.)
  • Trying to finish my back pile of short stories and sending them out to markets. When I finish a story it has to go out immediately … (I’m in a crit group; they exist for a reason, as does my submission slot.)
  • Designing a cover for “One Quiet Night”. (It’s not even going to be releasable till the middle of the year when the rights revert.)
  • Making a chocolate torte. (ARGH!)
  • Buying jewellery from my favourite and shutting down soon store. (Nope, just nope.)
  • What happens in five months when I hit the max dose for my current medication? (Yeah … because I really like playing psycho-pharmaceutical  Russian Roulette.)
  • Why am I not working on a novel???

My gods, it’s exhausting.

The medication doesn’t affect me too much, aside from making me thirsty/making my mouth taste of my fillings whenever I up the dosage. Oh and the weird sleep thing. I find tracking my moods and what I do helps a lot. Not only does it make me feel like I’m not wasting time. I also have a record as my memory, yeah okay, that’s the other side-effect. My memory is in pieces. Lists are good, they give me goals and help me remember what I need from Morrisons.

This weekend I’m trying to get a start on a novel project, get my hair cut and try not to be too ill thanks to whatever crud I’ve picked up by being around other human beings. Oh and sleeping and critting a short story. I’m hoping to take it a little easier than usual, gods know I need to.

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