Dropped .5mg Klonopin three weeks ago. No, I don't mean "I did .5mg K". I do 3.5mg K daily. I used to do 4. (The median dose, I'm told, is 2mg). That combined with dropping the antipsychotics (I've done Risperdal, Seroquel and Geodon) for an old-skool antidepressant (trazodone) have lifted my spirits from the downward spiral I was stuck into. The trazodone, being a 5-HT2C antagonist, even increases the potential of the modafinil I take for ADHD.
I'm alive. Things at work I was dragging my heels for a week to do I'm doing in a four-hour day now.
So there are these holidays on wednesday and friday. In Brazil it's common to "hang" days trapped between holidays, and my workplace has consistently done that, at least to a much greater extent than most workplaces. Maybe because of our coexistence with academia in the building. But I'm told that thursday there will be work. See, I'm alive, so I can hack it. But it sucks that my first morsels of aliveness are being sucked up by work (though it might be only fair because the job has kept up with all that shit from being depressed and slacking off).
And anyway, I'm alive, but I'm not euphoric. I'm not manic. I'm even in a kind of elevated mood, but when I'm about to go electroboy something's broken and taken from me. Yes. The other day I was having a spirited conversation and tapping my fingers to the music wheezing out of the mall's ceiling evolved into doing some kind of imaginary drum solo -- but when I was about to lose control and happily, crazily march down the hall beeping on an imaginary trombone solo on my lips, something stopped me. I stood up, and couldn't go.
My name is syntaxfree, and these are the days of my bipolar life.
As I said, I'm far from depressed. I'm not even in a flat baseline state, whatever "normal" (I will never know. I'm a rapid-cycler, baby) is. I'm in a slightly elevated mood that's not impairing, and it's possible that this improved baseline state might remain for a while because of the pharmacological orchestra -- the high-dose lamotrigine and the K-pin and the sedative properties of trazodone, one of two antidepressants considered safe for rapid-cycling manic-depressives.
Yet I almost miss the depression. It gave me an excuse. It added enough brownian noise to the picture that I didn't know if I was hating my life because of the depression and low motivation or because all I did was go to work (a full time-type position with corresponding wages, even if I do four to six hours a day of office time, and that's considering all the slack-off time) and going back home and waiting for the weekend to come when I hang out with my girlfriend and watch TV series on DVD and have some sex.
Now I'm having some motivation back, or at least some energy to do things properly and fast, and have yet to really improve my life for it. I guess there are residual feelings of catching up, giving back to work the energy I failed to give back when I was depressed. Some sort of internalized yin-yang theory of manic-depression, having coped for so many years -- moreso in my years of academia, but also at work by narrowing into deadlines -- by using my hyperthymic superpowers, when they came, to cover for all the downtime while depressed. I actually wasn't narrowing out a deadline this time -- there were many people involved and all of them screwed up delivering bad work that I had to cohere. (Yes, that's a verb; I'm willing it into existence). I just finished a project yesterday. Thursday may start the race for another project, one with very narrow deadlines. And I know I can hack it because I'm hyperthymic.
I miss the excuse of being depressed. No one knows about my bipolar disorder at work (except for a buddy that I've known since he was 14 and I was 16). I miss being able to excuse myself. (I'm three kinds of Axis I insane, but they might just have to make up an Axis II category for my fucked up, guilty-into-inaction, perfectionist-into-sloppiness personality). I miss the descent into the anxiety-procrastination-low-self-esteem loop. If I'm feeling able to work and have shown myself to work nimbly, then I might just have to work.
Did I mention I hate this job? A consulting job is filled with lies held together with misapplied science, irrelevant comparisons and smooth corporate-ese writing.
Last week I came down with a bad case of the flu. I was actually waking up depressed, then going hyperthymic by the mid-day and ending the day feeling just normal. I was thinking those days that lowering my Klonopin dose had given me a mild hypomania, and was now giving me ultradian cycles and I might descend into depression again. When you are "inside" the depressive reality distortion field, you just can't take it anymore, and all I'm saying about missing the depression is in hindsight. Even those morning depressions, even after the first two days when I got to predict I was going to be well later in the day, were too much to bear. I did contemplate suicide and all that jazz.
Rapid-cycling in bipolar disorder is defined as "four episodes or more, either of depression or mania". Hell yeah I'm a rapid-cycler; just the forcings from the seasonal daylight light exposure variations are enough to define a wave over which I'm rocking like a wild horse being tamed. But ultradian cycling is very rare, even for me. Not that I haven't been there before. It happens.
So it's been just over two weeks of an elevated mood, punctuated by four or five days of the flu that disrupted my mornings (but only until 11AM or so), and most of it has been poured into work. I feel good, thought it feels like I've done nothing to improve my life. Maybe it's even that I'm so hyper-aware of the possibility of falling into depression again that I can't seem to muster the chutzpah one more time. Last year around this time I was launching two blogs, one heavy in LaTeX equations. Two years ago around this time I was taking a free-standing graduate-level course in computational geometry at a research institution. Three years ago around this time I was just wild, switching megalomanical projects twice a week. I've crashed time and again. I am in an elevated mood, but there is a very meta "why bother" thing going on.
When I was depressed back in november/december, I kept telling myself I should take acting lessons again. It did me good when I was a teenaged extreme introvert with frightening signs of a schizoid personality disorder. It would help me speak up in meetings, help me project my ideas into a clear form that doesn't require the interlocutor to know stochastic processes theory and syntaxfree-quirk-chromodynamics theory. It would occupy my time wiith some social interaction, which I don't seem to do even online. I seldom email or log into chatrooms, though I have a few of choice (Freenode's #haskell-blah; the Mattbox, er, catbox) or wherever all the IM people are. I've spent my evenings for what seems like forever with Google Reader and reddit, sucking up information. At some point around may my blogging output started to dry. Maybe it's not that my bipolar rollercoaster has gone meta. Maybe at some point in time leading to my 27th birthday, I grew old and calcified.
It's been said that bipolar mania has all the properties of an addiction, and all the people who drop their medication after the dangerous part of the craziness subsides are self-deluded and anosognosic. It's also been said that some alcoholics never derived pleasure from drinking and yet kept coming back to the bottle. I've only had one really fucking good manic episode, and a hodgepodge of not-that-major hypomanic and depressive episodes. Bipolar 1.75, I call it. Bipolar II with just a notch (one good mania and frequent mixed states) of bipolar I. Yet I might just be like those alcoholics; I might just be addicted to manic-depression.
A slightly elevated mood already feels boring even compared to the relatively bad depression I went through until some time ago. I've read about it, but still can't fathom how boring normal-normal would be.
Maybe you're angry or doubtful of my claims to being bipolar and having the kind of mood episodes I've been talking about. Certainly anyone who has been actually truly deeply depressed would never miss it, you might think. But this is the reality distortion field thing. Life seems different from inside and from outside it. Yes, I was depressed enough that I would have slit my wrists the anatomically correct way, the way that's actually likely to kill you, if I didn't have the "support network" of my parents and girlfriend, not to mention the "demand network" that made me guilt myself into taking one more step, pushing the pedal one more day.
What I'm feeling right now might actually be the ADHD sneaking in viciously against the bipolar disorder. The ADHD genie is bored, and wants to make the bipolar genie dance.
It's actually for the best that the ADHD genie is weaker than the bipolar disorder -- all the wounds from bad episodes of floating and tumbling do, after all, outweigh the boredom that wants to pick the scabs so they never heal. Sometimes -- not lately, but it's one thing I would probably be doing right now if the flu and work weren't distracting myself from the larger narrative of epic self-destruction -- just looking at the wounds can make one feel seasick.
I can be bored enough to flirt with depression, just remembering the bad old times, enough that I see a great black void and climb back frightened. (I call that "drinking from the fountain of decay", after a NIN verse). I fear that I might one day be bored enough that I jump into the void just to immerse myself in the richness of mental disease. And despite all the irreversible destructiveness of every bout with it, mental illness is a rich, exiciting fountain of decay. I think that's the main reason for there being a large subcommunity in the bipolarfolk that refuses treatment. Not the side-effects from medication. Not the "addiction to mania" and the selective memory that erases the worst moments. Not the pharmacological calvinism that tells us that one should just suck up and deal with it. Not even the pride of a head unbowed to the prognosis of insanity.
The attraction of mental illness is somewhat like that of fugu, or even playing with fire.
That's also why there even exist "wannabes", people who will pout and sigh "I'm a tad bipolar", before striking a pose for their next party pictures and carrying on with their normal, unmarred by actual impairments, mundane lives. It scratches the mundaneness a bit. It says "I'm not J. Random Gettinold". Snob was once a word (short for "sine nobilitate") that men appended to their names in the absence of nobility titles. If you can't be brilliant, you can always strive for crazy.
Actually, here's one thing I think you can't understand without having a moderate-to-severe mental illness. Everyone does self-destruction. College fratdudes getting drunk to the point they pass out in the lawn. Borderliners do it more often and with more intent, cutting themselves and ripping their hair off. Bipolars ignore treatment or try juggling metaphorical chainsaws in hopes of keeping even a mild hypomanic buzz going.
The truly epic journeys of epic self-destruction are not a simple product of mental illness, but something more akin to mental illness going meta -- the weak from illness becoming drunk and buzzed on illness. I've been on the verge of meta, but frightened and guilted back into trying to be functional. I know I'm not the only one. I've driven to the curb of depression to look at its black hole; people I know have gone to the windy fields where hypomania becomes full-blown, out-of-control mania and then interned themselves at mental hospitals. And when one is that prone to metal-hard mood episodes, madness, like the Joker said, is like gravity: all it takes is one push.
So I'm in a great mood, actually. Fitter, happier, more productive. No anxiety. Never felt more secure at work, relationships and self-worth. But I feel a creeping unease hovering over this maxi combo pack of manic-depressive relief that does require a 2000 word description. It's the pull of my statistical destiny. I'm not destined to be happy. I'm not destined to lead a fulfilling life that doesn't involve wallowing in poverty and mental hospitals, that doesn't end with suicide, in which the disease is just a financial expense and a scheduled inconvenience (never fall asleep before taking the meds). If I do eke out a good life, it will have been an accident, one that I fully intend to pursuit. It's just that now it seems I have achieved escape velocity, it now seems that I'm responsible for getting to those outcomes.
Maybe Sartre had a point, and I'm feeling the weight of freedom.