My Sojourn through Bipolar Illness – Airports Then and Now (reposted)

Follows Fear of Flying post

As you may understand, for years if not decades after this event at the airport (see Fear of Flying post) , I have had an intense fear of flying.  Every time I go to the airport I feel the original anxiety of that day in February 1985.  The intercom voice announcements seem to echo off the walls and the floors in some surreal fashion.  The lack of windows to the outside leaves me feeling claustrophobic always.  In the early years, this meant I had to be escorted by family to the runway gate if I were traveling alone.  (This was before the days of post 9/11 security checks.)   Years later even if I am traveling with family, I tend to be hyper aware of safety issues at all times when I am at an airport. My thoughts become more elevated and I am prone to high anxiety.  Strangely (or logically) enough these fears largely take place at the airport itself and seldom revolve around safety issues pre-flight or mid-flight while on the plane.  I am not very fearful once I am on the airplane or in flight.  The anxiety is almost always associated with being in the airport and feeling unsafe.  Gladly, my husband is also not fond of flying, so we tend to make marathon drives for our summer and family vacations. 

As a side note on airports and airport travel, I tend to have a very hard time with changing time zones when I am flying.  When I am traveling by car or by train this is not so much the case as the time change is gradual.  Because of this time zone change difficulty, I largely avoided flying to Europe for almost thirty plus years.  Even a flight from Baltimore to San Francisco was difficult in that I would experience a three-hour time change and all the difficulties associated with that, particularly impacts on sleeping.  In the last few years, I have progressed through my fears and my sleep issues of changing time zones and have traveled to Europe twice – once was for a conference in Zurich, Switzerland in July 2012 and once was for a wedding and a conference in the United Kingdom in July 2013.  Thanks to Melatonin as prescribed by my psycho-pharmacologist, I was able to make these trips with relative ease in the area of jet lag and adjusting sleep cycles.

I am very thankful that my psycho-pharmacologist as an MD was open to prescribing a relatively non-traditional form of medicine for jet lag.  This option worked beautifully for me and has given me hope that overseas travel is no longer a huge worry or huge hurdle to overcome.  In general, I am very blessed to have care givers for my bipolar illness who bridge traditional medicines and their prescription with alternative medicines such as Melatonin. 

My Sojourn through Bipolar Illness – Smelling like a Dog (reposted)

The idea of paranormal thought and healing was referenced in a book suggested to me by a friend from college, also a Medical Doctor, about twenty years ago.  The book called The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot [1] suggests that paranormal thought and healing may be more common than we realize.  This is a tricky insight, but I think one that is worth exploring.

Consider thought as if it were on a continuum from normal logical thought on one extreme to paranoid thought on the other extreme.  Where would we place the thoughts of autistic people who are on the spectrum and able to compute incredible math equations or know any date in time without any degree of difficulty?   What if every person with bipolar illness or a behavioral health disorder has or had an autistic or quasi-autistic child within?  What might be needed to give room to this quasi-autistic child within to develop and gain confidence to move forward in life with the accompanying adult?  What if the adult with bipolar illness or a behavioral health challenge could regain health by honoring this quasi-autistic child and his/her inherent fragility?  Perhaps if the quasi-autistic child within had an audience who listened to these fragile thoughts, communication exchange might be able to occur before thoughts reach the other end of the spectrum at paranoia? Perhaps if the child within is acknowledged for having some extra set of insights, care givers might recognize those abilities and acknowledge them, perhaps stopping the paranoid thought process before it occurs. This is a hugely large question and one that requires behavioral health scientists to review and explore and evaluate.

I talk about this “paranormal thought” in terms of a dog’s abilities to smell or to hear because we readily accept that a dog can smell and hear things that we don’t smell and hear.  However, it is much more difficult for us to believe that some of us humans may see or hear things beyond that of a “regular” person or differently from a “regular” person much like a blind person may have a corresponding enhanced musical ability.  For every disability might there be a corresponding ability? The paranormal thought process may also be linked to the age of my inner child who for these purposes may be about six years old – more discussion on that later.

Shortly after reading The Holographic Universe, I wrote a letter to physicist David Bohm requesting that a study be performed that looked at human perceptions of time, including circular time (the world of dreams) and linear time (the world of events).   I had no idea that David Bohm was deceased when I wrote that letter to him in the mid-1990s but have felt and continue to feel over the years that work in quantum physics and work in paranormal thought are somehow intrinsically linked.  Matter and anti-matter may correlate loosely to real time and to dream time.  

Recently in the past few years I have come to understand my six-year-old child within through these lenses.  I feel that I must learn to listen to what this child has to say or what she is feeling.  I feel that by listening to this child I may be able to connect to the child and the vulnerability before my thoughts have migrated to full-blown paranoia.  This is an extremely important but difficult path.  There is a huge amount of research out there about honoring the child within.  However, there is not a lot of research out there about how honoring extra-sensory perceptions or thought patterns may help quell or disperse or render neutral paranoid thoughts and paranoid perceptions. In addition to dispersing paranoid thought before it begins, this approach may potentially shed light on some insights that are down the scale from logical thought but not at the other end of paranoid thought either.

During the past few years as I have been locating and holding up that six-year-old child, I have felt extraordinarily vulnerable, prone to having extreme bouts of tears as past fears have come unglued.  During this time of elevating this child of six, I have sought more frequent meetings with my therapist in terms of translating this new dynamic of an elevated inner child to everyday realities of a job search, getting a healthy dinner on the table, taking and managing meds, getting an exercise regime established and managing moods in general.

Quite late in my own emotional development, I have concluded that this six-year-old child may have certain insights beyond normal sensory perception.  The challenge now is to find the means and wherewithal to listen to that child within rather than minimize that child’s “doglike” abilities.  The impetus in this world is to discount any sort of extra sensory perceptions we may have (that that child may have) in preference for logic and all things explainable through reason in this world.  So far, it is clear that as a society we value perceptions that are logical and shun perceptions that may arise through intuition or some alternate form of perception not related to logic. 

I call this type of intuition or perception “unknowledge” or “illogical communication” or “ecological communication.”  We don’t expect nature or feelings to follow the linear laws of logic.  We expect nature to follow cycles and courses of development that are multi-dimensional and cyclical.  It follows that some of us, perhaps those with a bipolar or other mood disorder diagnoses, have trains of thought that are ecologically informed rather than logically informed.  Perhaps a lack of reason may not necessarily be a bad thing if we can tease out the dangerous components that are correlated with paranoia before they can even exist or present. Perhaps if we catch illogical and ecological thought at the onset before connections to paranoid perceptions, this illogical and ecological thought can provide insights and awareness that the logical mind cannot perceive.


[1] Talbot, Michael,  The Holographic Universe, copyright 1991 by Michael Talbot (Harper Collins Publishers: New York, NY). “Chapter 6: Seeing Holographically:” pp 162-193.

If I can do it, you can do it!

I recently have gotten back into a physical exercise regime, what I have not done for about 15 to 18 years. I have been keeping a log of my walks and my yoga. So far it has been five weeks since I started. I have kept the log each day and include any comments like what yoga positions were difficult (code for I could not complete….) or whether the walk was long or short. I also include a day of rest each week.

In my prior life, I was an exercise fanatic, sometimes going on runs twice a day. Later after running I was an aerobics enthusiast and actually taught classes in college and later after I graduated in clubs. Later in life but still before meeting my husband, I was a self-taught dancer. I always considered myself to be very fit, but after my lovely daughter was born, I slipped into a not-so-fit lifestyle. I gave up on exercise and succumbed to the idea that meds cause weight gain.

I also succumbed to stress eating and snacking particularly at night before bed. This is not good for weight control and not so good for being at risk for Type II diabetes either.

I share my recent success with getting into a yoga and walk routine because I am proud to say this is the longest duration in forever that I have kept up such an exercise regime. I also want you to know that if you are on the fence about exercising, motivation can happen for you! If it happened for me, it can surely happen for you, too!

I am also proud to report that I have lost ten pounds and have kept it off over the last two to three months. I still am having my evening treat which I hope soon to discontinue or to substitute with a price of fruit. While ten pounds off is a good initial accomplishment for me, I would like to update that goal with an additional ten pounds more to lose. We’ll see if that’s doable.

Although I have known about the connection between exercise and stress management all my life, I still have been somehow unwilling to get back into the routine of things. This last month has reminded me how crucial exercise is to helping with mental health — especially anxiety management which is one of my biggest challenges.

I keep a basic log in WORD and write down a daily account of my walks and my yoga. I write down what was particularly difficult in yoga and what I did as an alternative pose. There is no room for judgement or for feeling bad if I cannot do a certain pose. I simply do what I can and modify the pose if it is too difficult for me. Whether I complete the class doing all the work or some of the work, I still benefit from a good bit of stress and anxiety reduction.

Anyway, I wanted to share my start back to a successful exercise schedule. Hopefully this will help keep me motivated. Also, I hope if you too are experiencing trouble getting going in this area, you will use the idea of my simple log to help you start your version of the same sort of regimen.

Dear Reader,

Dear reader I am writing to ask you a question. What happens after a person has had some reconciliation of the fact that he/she was very much abused as a small child? If this doesn’t pertain to you, please disregard this post.

I have just undergone gut-wrenching and extensive therapy since December 2020 which for me had its origins in treatment I received as a small child of about 6.

I have been clinging to the earth these last few weeks so as not to slip again into the abyss where for some extended period of time a portion of my psyche had been living.

According to my own assessment, I have successfully crawled and clawed my way out of a 100 foot deep pit with slippery mud sides.

Now that I am completely out of the pit ( I hope), I am wondering what to do with myself, what to work on, what to avoid, what to learn, what to enjoy. Take a shower and wash off the mud? Take into account exactly where the pit is so as not to fall into it again? Designate this exit from the abyss as my new “rock bottom” and be thankful for hitting it so as to get the $%^&* out of there? Allow myself to tell myself, I deserve happiness? I deserve good health and fitness?

As fodder for knowing I have exited the abyss, for the first time in 20 years I have been able to stick to an exercise routine composed of mostly yoga and some walking in the neighborhood. I have recorded a log which is two weeks long and growing which for me is super progress. In my youth I was very, very fit, so getting back to that place with mindfulness is huge for me.

So if anyone here or there has also climbed out of their own pit of abuse or anxiety or depression, I would love to hear your story as to what you decided to do next once you found yourself alongside the edge of that pit but no longer in it.

Of course I will talk my therapist about it, but I thought I would ask you dear reader in the meantime.

My Sojourn through Bipolar Illness – Imprinting (reposted and a continuation from prior post)

What I took away from this first break experience during my Senior winter at Ivy College is that being mentally ill meant I was first a criminal and second a person. I know that first responders were doing their jobs to watch out for the safety of all those who were boarding the plane and/or in the airport. But that experience told me: “You are a criminal. You were trying to bomb the plane. You are guilty of anything and everything until proven innocent. You need to be handcuffed. You do not have the right to have fears much less to express them. You do not have the right to have perceptions that are not 100 percent clear. You are a danger to others around you and you need to be locked up.”

My first episode imprinted me for the rest of my life. For years, I would try to escape the label of criminal that had been imposed on me by circumstance and happenstance. But try as I might, I still felt like I was a criminal every time I had a subsequent break-through episode no matter how big or how small.

In hindsight, things could have unfolded quite differently. I could have reported to the school clinic that I was having anxiety about traveling to Chicago and had been having some trouble sleeping. I could have gone into the clinic for a routine evaluation and perhaps been put on lithium or some other drug for bipolar. But sadly, that is not the way my first episode and subsequent diagnosis of bipolar went. I remember to this day looking at those pictures on the wall in the police station and thinking they must be looking for me as “most wanted.” Being mentally ill simply meant I was a criminal.

I will talk later on about stigma and first responders — including the importance of training first responders how to recognize the signs if a person is a danger to him or herself or whether the person is also a danger to those around him or her. But that discussion about stigma and first responder training is for another day.

My Sojourn through Bipolar Illness – Fear of Flying (reposted)

I am reposting chapters of the book I wrote a few years ago in hopes of catching some more recent readers. Thank you in advance for your readership. These posts provide a graphic account of a life with bipolar illness. Please avoid these posts if that is a trigger for you.

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Note – several names and places have been changed throughout this text in order to keep my story somewhat private. Thanks for understanding that need.

Although I had had no prior fear of flying, my first episode of bipolar illness was in a tiny airport near my Ivy League college (hereafter known as Ivy College).  While I was waiting for the plane to get ready to taxi off the runway and take me to my first interview for a job after college in advertising, I was consumed by runaway thoughts.  My thoughts were anywhere but on my interview for an Account Executive position at Chicago Avenue Advertisers.  I had no specific directions for my fears but I took out some papers I was working on for my undergraduate thesis at Ivy College and was writing and writing furiously in and around the margins of the pages of the papers I previously had written.  The thoughts seemed to co-mingle with the characters in the fiction as well as characters or people I knew in real life.  The writing was fast and furious until I finally heard the flight that I was to take to Chicago on the puddle-jumper called.

For some reason I did not feel safe in myself enough to board the plane once the flight was called and I came to the conclusion that the plane was going to crash.  I did not communicate this fear with anyone.  Instead I determined that I did not want to get on a plane that was going to crash, so I got my suitcase together and asked the airplane attendant if I could check my bags on the plane but not board the plane myself.  For some unknown reason, the contents of my suitcase were of paramount importance.  I recall a navy suit that I had packed and feeling like that suit should reach a friend who I was going to see in Chicago.   The label on the suit became extremely important at the time – it was an Evan Picone double-breasted navy wool suit.  The airport personnel immediately got suspicious and asked me why I was putting my suitcase on the plan and asked me to move away from the plane with them.  When I refused, the safety patrol man exerted more force and tried to get me to go with him.  In my fears, I turned to run down the runway away from the scene of the fears and ran completely down the airport runway up into a stand of pines, one shoe flying off in the process and resting in the snowy runway.  I recall exactly what I was wearing – a plaid pleated wool skirt in muted tones, a long sleeve silk blouse and a double breasted woolen gray or taupe sweater.  I don’t recall a coat or over-coat.   The safety patrolmen at the airport followed me into the woods with snow all around and made a chair with their arms for me to sit on.  I was in some stage of delirium and thought they were providing me some sort of throne to safety. 

Instead the next thing I knew I was being handcuffed to the backseat of a patrol car with the patrol lights flashing blue and white and was being escorted to the police station down the road.  When I arrived at the police station I kept telling the police that I was a Senior and straight A student at Ivy College and they must have made some mistake.  On the walls there were pictures of wanted criminals – I kept trying to figure out what the pictures meant.  There were three pictures:  a young woman who I thought looked like Ayn Rand, a man with a long beard who looked in my state to be like a long-haired Jesus and one other picture of a youngish man whose face I cannot recall.  What I do recall is feeling like a criminal and being treated like a criminal until a kind policeman named Michael started to ask me questions.  Once I started to talk with Michael I began to calm down.

After what felt like days of swirling and runaway thoughts and a myriad of questions, the police finally called my family and called the school clinic and I was escorted there.  Soon after, several of my college roommates arrived to be with me while the admission process continued.  After talking briefly with the clinic staff, I was transferred to the local hospital’s Psychiatric Unit. 

Within the next few hours my parents arrived in town and tried to begin to make sense of what had happened.  I recall my parents visiting me in the hospital mostly my Dad whose anxiety I could sense was through the roof.  Within a couple of days, we made arrangements to go back home to Augusta, Georgia.  I unenrolled from classes and moved back home to live with my parents for the spring and summer of 1985.  No one was sure yet if this was a temporary reaction to stress as a Senior and as a Senior thesis writer or the beginning of a lifelong behavioral health diagnosis and challenge.

There is a pervading sense of calm

There is a pervading sense of calm coming from the United States White House in my little world. There are still many things to do and many things to be done and undone. However, the general feel I get is that experts are in charge of their various areas of expertise and will approach the work in front of them with commitment and passion and compassion. There is no longer a sense of fear and trepidation about what might happen in the future at the White House. There is an emphasis on what can be done and what will be done despite the obstacles.

What is beauty anyway? Gray hair and all?

Please do not read this post if you feel it will trigger any issues or concerns you may have with eating disorders or body image or body weight. This is a blogpost dedicated to thinking about body image. It brings up questions about eating disorders. This is not a professional opinion but one person’s exploration into body image.

I am wondering if anybody would like to comment on the relationship between body image issues and eating disorders. Over the years, as I have gained a good bit of weight largely due to specific meds and comfort/stress eating, particularly after the birth of my daughter. I am now overweight but have lost about ten pounds since the fall.

I feel at the crux of my comfort/stress eating is a real grappling with media coverage for people (mostly women but maybe not more recently men?) with model figures including actresses/actors in Hollywood. I grew up in my twenties in the 1980s when eating disorders were just becoming much of “a thing.” I feel that I suffer from unrealistic expectations of what beauty is for women especially beauty for women post-menopause with graying hair and changing hormones.

Over the last six months of COVID, I have begun growing out my hair and leaving it to return to gray rather than dyeing and highlighting it. I feel good about embracing my natural beauty and not fretting about my roots showing up every 6 to 8 weeks or so. It is liberating!

Also as a note, it does seem now in my daughter’s generation, that body image issues are being addressed more fairly than in my day. The idea of body shaming and the need to refrain from that is front and center in my daughter’s vocabulary. This is echoed by an openness about gender identity which did not occur in my youth or within my generation growing up.

Although I have never been diagnosed with an eating disorder, I do think I have body image issues. I need to be satisfied with a weight and an image of myself that befits a 57 year-old woman who takes life-sustaining meds associated with weight gain. I need to be OK with the fact that my meds cause weight gain. I need to be OK with the understanding that a model’s weight and a model’s figure is representative of .5 percent (I am guessing) of the population. It is an unrealistic goal to attain. Beauty is found from within rather than on the outside or in tandem to images that have been enhanced to make make-up models have flawless skin and no wrinkles. And so on and so on.

Another component to this puzzle is the role of exercise. I used to “work out” on a much more rigorous schedule than I do now. I find it difficult to motivate myself on a daily basis because for years I took working out as a measure of my success, trying to keep up with that model’s figure. Now I seek to exercise more for health than for vanity but it is still something that alludes me on a regular basis or over an extended period of time.

How do you feel about body image issues? Do you see that as synonymous with eating disorders? Or occurring sometimes simultaneously and sometimes not? What is the role of the media and the role of health leaders and every day people in providing healthy body image thoughts and pictures in the mind?