Are we having fun yet?

I have spent a good bit more than half of my life dealing with a bipolar disorder diagnosis. Thanks to modern science I have been on a drug called clozapine since 2008 which treats treatment-resistant bipolar illness. Since taking the medicine I have been hospitalization free for almost 13 years.

While that is an accomplishment for me, I would like to raise a subject that often alludes me – having fun. It feels like most of my energy is wrapped up in getting things done, handling things in my life and my family’s life and staying symptom-free or almost.

What is completely missing from my life however is the element of having fun. What is fun anyway? Is it laughing aloud with family or friends? Is it listening to music I knew before I was diagnosed at age 22 that feels like letting go? Is it cooking a meal with my daughter — not so much full of laughs but full of good times?

In general, I feel like my illness has made me a doer. As long as I am doing this or that and fulfilling obligations of wife and mother and daughter I give myself a grade of doing OK. But still, it feels like something is missing – that illusive idea of having fun.

Does anybody have a bucket list for laughter that they’d like to share? I will be working on a new list soon – a list that includes things that don’t just need to get done but also includes whether or not I am enjoying myself. I know it’s hard to fathom having fun when you are depressed or even when you are manic since that’s not the fun I am talking about. I am talking about fun that is centered in a centered self.

Does anybody want to help get the having fun list together? I think we all could benefit from reading it and/or trying to help create it?

Safety, Society, Stigma, Stability: the Sound Phenomenon (repost)

Back around 1998, when I wrote the letter to physicist David Bohm in the UK, as mentioned in a prior post, I did not know he was already deceased.  The topic of the letter was something I call “the sound phenomenon.” This refers to statements I hear that may be jumbled from reality.  This poor hearing may date back to loss of hearing and perhaps brain damage associated with strong prescription medication use in the 1980s.  Or it may be a form of ecological or illogical communication. 

In any case as an example, someone may utter a statement like “I am going to the restroom.”   What I may hear is “There is no restroom….”  So either due to damage in my hearing capabilities or due to some form of “hearing voices,” I hear the statement that has been uttered or better said perceived in a non-logical light.  I call this event “the sound phenomenon” and also attribute it to ecological versus logical thought. 

The letter to David Bohm in 1998 asked for the development of a double-blind study in which “the sound phenomenon” would be studied.  In the letter, I also described a dream I had involving Einstein in which he and I were arguing about a topic (potentially time) and that I felt very self-assured in my opinion and in challenging him.  I also talked in the letter to David Bohm about my thoughts about linear time versus circular time.  In my view at the time, linear time is the time of chronological events.  Circular time is the time of dreams and of the subconscious.  Somehow this differentiation is associated with matter and anti-matter.

Understanding “the sound phenomenon” is something that continues to occupy my thoughts some 20 years later after writing the letter to David Bohm.  I continue to try to listen to what is said but not give it too much credence in linear time if it does not “make sense.”  I tend to think of utterances in “the sound phenomenon” as similar to a Freudian slip where the world of circular time may be butting into the world of linear time.  Yet, I have no real explanation as of yet for whether this is an accurate assessment of “the sound phenomenon.” 

I don’t believe “the sound phenomenon” is the same as hearing voices though it might be. I have had that experience early on in my mental health history. In that case, what was or is heard is typically something that is not grounded in reality at all but is discernible to the ear. With “the sound phenomenon” I hear maybe half of the idea communicated directly with the other half miscommunicated or garbled into nonsense and rather not discernible to the ear.

I find that “the sound phenomenon” occurs in any number of places – out in public, in the home, at church, watching TV – which logically might indicate that these occurrences are due to hearing failures on my part due to inadvertently or potentially “over-using” anti-psychotic medications in my twenties.  I really do not know the answer and have accepted to date that I really don’t know the explanation for these events.  What I have added to my behavior is asking the person who said what I perceive of as an illogical statement to repeat him or herself.  Usually that involves clearing up the hearing “mistake” and a repeat of a more logical statement.  I find that asking the person talking to repeat him or herself makes me realize that this is either a hearing fault on my part or some sort of temporal miscommunication like a Freudian slip.

My Sojourn through Bipolar Illness – Clothing then and now (reposted)

As a note before this repost, I have successfully maneuvered getting 10 to 13 pounds off (and stayed off) in the last several months. This has largely been due to introducing daily exercise into my day – walking and/or yoga. This is the first time I have been able to stick to such a routine in 17 years. Oddly, my evening snacking has not made the weight gain disappear but it does tell me that I could get another 7 to 10 pounds off if I could just stop the snacking / stress eating in the evening after dinner. The repost is below:

I have continued to have some sort of fixation with clothes and clothing – not only the color in which they appear but also the “privacy” of the label.  Sometimes this label is not private and is emblazoned on the back pocket of the jeans as in Calvin Klein jeans from the 1970’s or even the Levi’s name tag on that ever so timeless brand of clothing.  I am unsure what this fixation on clothing entails exactly.  I do know that it is tied with some body image issues that get complicated because of my need to take regular meds for my bipolar condition. 

Throughout high school and college I remained a size 6 to 8 when I perhaps should have been a size ten.  After meds were introduced in my life I was almost always a size 8 to 10.  After bearing a child and substantially increasing my meds, I have been more a size 12 to 14.  My goal at this juncture in life is to be back at that size 12.  Perhaps my obsession with clothing is in parallel to my own body image issues, perhaps not. 

In any case, the preoccupation with clothing seems to have something also to so with pattern recognition.  If four people out of ten wear red to the office that day, I notice it.   If black was worn by person A on day one and by persons B, C, D, and E, I notice it. Not that I really ever did anything with the information, it was just a layer of the type of perceptions I would have – extraneous and meaningless maybe or maybe not.  Definitely with a focus on color patterns and patterning.

In my teens, I spent hours shopping for the right clothing.  Today, I abhor shopping for clothes largely because I am two sizes bigger than I would like to be.  The preoccupation with clothes at an early age is probably all wrapped up in image.  I have very little to say in that regard today as Ego is largely drained from my daily events.  I tend today to wear the same make of clothes all the time and often repeat the same outfit once a week.  In fact, I do not care about clothing at all.  It is a chore to buy clothes and it is a chore to pick out clothes for any given day.

While being diagnosed with an eating disorder is something I have considered as relevant to my mental health, I feel that my weight gain issues center more on body image issues and medication use.  For years, I bought into the fashion magazine mindset that you were not beautiful unless you were a size 6 or size 8.  For years throughout high school and college and into my twenties, I ate and exercised in order to maintain a size 6 or a size 8 figure.  Often this meant running three to five miles several times a week and counting caloric intake to be about 1000 calories a day.  When I became pregnant at age 38 I was about a size ten. After giving birth to my daughter, I have stayed at a size twelve if not a size fourteen.  I currently have very little discipline in the food and exercise realm largely in my own view because I feel I am reacting to years of over-exercising and over-dieting. 

So it is that my size in clothes has moved from a size 6 in high school to a size 14 in married life and after child-birth.  This continues to be a goal of mine to return again to size 12 through a combination of exercise and food monitoring.  However, it is something admittedly that until quite recently has fallen off the radar screen.  Some of this frustration and back-pedaling about eating and exercise may include the fact that meds are often associated with weight gain.  In my mind, I tell myself it is better to have an extra twenty pounds on while taking medicine than it is to be a at a model’s weight with little or no mental stability.  This is particularly true when I start to be honest with myself that fasting from breakfast time through lunchtime is associated with mood issues since blood sugar levels are not being addressed.

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.