Bipolar/Depression

SHOVELING SNOW

On a cold and rainy Sunday morning, and feeling restless, I drive to the park to shoot some photographs. Most times, I try to capture certain images, but usually find that nature has other plans. She can’t be controlled or predicted, but she’s always generous.

Today I hope to photograph the birds, and although they are teasing me with their joyful songs, they are shy and hiding.

But I am gifted other images in their stead:

“View through the Railing of a Bridge”.

great PAGOTA SHORE THRU BRIDGE

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“Fragile Life”. So precious, tentative, and beautifully vulnerable.

GREAT BERRIES SNOW

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“Tender Heart”.  The grey is pretty, but also serves to amplify the brightness and warmth of the sun.

greatRAIN DROP ON BRANCH

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As I’m leaving, something washes over me, overtaking me like a craving or a hunger pain, or nausea, or vertigo. It is Sadness. Acute. Profound. Demanding. It consumes me, pulsates through me, leaves me breathless, and finally rests on my chest.

I drive home, crying.

Christmas week comes and I am quiet. I will not be that person who schedules her grieving for the holidays. I will not be that person who is determined to dwell on everyone who isn’t here. I will not fault those who are blessed with family and festivities. I will stay home and be still. And I will give my grief the space that it needs for just this time. And not one inch more.

The day after Christmas, I awake restless and lonely. And although it’s unpopular to admit such frailty, today it’s filling more of me. I feel the largeness of my emptiness. Who would think that absence could take up so much room?

I cannot sit on the sofa and suffer. I must do something, so I drive to my parent’s house for snow shoveling therapy.

I shovel my parent’s corner lot.

And their Police Officer-next-door-neighbor’s lot.

And the house next to his.

And the one after that.

And the one after that.

I am proof that a cranky, grieving, obsessive, manically driven 54 year old woman can shovel an entire city block of snow by taking it one cement-sidewalk-square at a time.

As I smoothly push forward, I keep catching on the uneven parts of the cement. I am finding those spots where the sidewalk is cracked and lifted and I have jammed my shovel into them, jarring my momentum and hurting myself, as all of my force is unexpectedly and abruptly halted.

It gets me thinking about how we all expect life to be easier.

And how we are surprised when bad things happen. We feel betrayed when our bodies fail us or become diseased; we are dismayed when economies crash, unemployment flourishes, and daily life is a struggle; and we are overwhelmed and grief stricken when someone dies.

I think that life is like this stubborn, long-ass city sidewalk that I’m shoveling. Every couple of squares, some cement will rise up and stop us right in our tracks. We trip over it, we jam our shovels into it, and we cuss at it, wanting it to be smooth.

But we should expect things to be difficult, and inconsistent, and even tragic, and anything else . . . everything joyous, beautiful, or easy . . .  is a gift.

Once we accept that our journey will never be an easy one, it’s just a matter of learning to adjust and maneuver.

I am not performing good deeds today. I am thinking firstly of myself and working off this twisted emptiness. And although I enjoy knowing that someone will be surprised, it is a secondary, happy consequence.  Later though, I will remember and wonder if anyone is curious about who has favored them with this act. Or maybe they will mistakenly think better of their other neighbors for gifting them this labor of love? I hope so.

The best deeds are the ones you can’t be thanked for.

I complete my task, feeling calmer, and go home and put on my sweats and my grungy old greyish-white CVS bathrobe, and pour a cup of coffee.

Now, as I sit here writing, the muscles in my back begin to tighten . . . really, like . . . A LOT. I half-chuckle and open the blinds to let the light in.

It has begun to snow.

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“The Woman, The Warrior.”

SHOES ZOOMD ME  ME BOOTS ICEa

Categories: Bipolar/Depression, Grief/Healing, Holidays/Birthdays, Photography | Tags: , , , , | 14 Comments

CONTRADICTION IS CONFUSING

I have bipolar disorder, and if you are like me and suffer with a mental or physical condition that wreaks havoc on the inside without showing on the outside, then you know that its invisibility can cause issues; because people can’t see what we’re talking about.

As much as we try to explain, they will forget, misunderstand, and doubt. Sometimes, they will even judge.

What they seldom do . . . is ask.

So why do we want to talk about it all the time?

Imagine that we’re walking in the woods and you step on a stick that cuts through the bottom of your shoe and impales your foot.

“Omg! This stick just impaled my foot! This is so painful!” you scream.

“Oh, come on, you big baby, keep up.” I casually reply and keep walking.

“NO! STOP AND LOOK AT THIS!” you shriek.

And when I stop and see your mangled, blood-gushing foot with its protruding stick, I realize the gravity of your situation and the level of your pain. My expectations change. And so does my judgment.

Therein lays the problem. We can’t point to anything and show you our pain.

We have only our words.

So we talk.

We need you to know that we can function on some days, but not others, and we’re not hypochondriacs or whiney, and we’re not exaggerating, attention-seeking, or lazy and making excuses; no, we have a big sharp-ass stick in our foot that no one else can see.

The symptoms come and go, but the stick doesn’t. It is permanently lodged. We never know which days will hurt, so our entire lives we “play it by ear”.

“But you seem so normal”.

“What do you think, I’m going to meet you for coffee when I haven’t showered for a week and I can’t stop sobbing?”

Those of us suffering “invisibly” seem normal because you only sporadically and briefly see us at our best. At our worst, we stay home and isolate. You don’t know our endless struggles. And you can’t see when we lose hope.

How could you?

We’ve learned to hide it, fake it, and adjust to it in ways you’d never imagine.

When you see us looking confident and physically fit, it’s hard to reconcile what we say, with what you see.

With me, you’ll likely see the confident, positive, jokester with a passion for life, but rarely my depressed and troubled mind. When my symptoms are unmanageable, I stay home and ride it out for however long it takes.

It’s a double life.

We have the good life that people see; where we’re attending events and looking healthy and self-assured; and we have the other one, where we suffer secluded and controlled by symptoms that leave us helpless and homebound.

I never know which life I’m going to awaken to, so when it’s the good one, I will grab hold of it like a wet dishrag and wring it dry.

It’s no wonder folks get confused.

I say that I live a tormented and isolated life, but then you see me out in the world meeting people, blogging about shows, and posting photographs of parks and sunrises.

You don’t know that my attendance anywhere is rare and that I’m usually at home on my sofa; or that photography provides the only semblance of focus or peace, and is often my only saving grace from my own mind.

I say that I have issues with large groups of people, but then you see me at a class reunion, baby shower, or art show. You don’t know that being with a group of 12 causes more anxiety than the anonymity of being with 100; or that my ever-present camera acts as a protective shield against exposure to others and helps navigate my environment so that I’m challenged with fewer inquiries and intimate interactions.

This new realization came when a friend gently and bravely inquired about the contradiction . . . and inspired this blog. That’s when I realized that understanding invisibility isn’t always so easy and that conversation enlightens everyone.

Remember the last time you smacked your head and got a big nasty lump on it, and how you made your friends feel the lump even though they didn’t want to? You needed them to fully comprehend the measure of your pain; that lump was your proof of pain.

I have only my words.

I have bipolar disorder and this is how it feels.

***

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” Antoine de Saint Exupéry, ‘The Little Prince’.

(Read, “About Me & My Journey”: http://wp.me/p2ckKM-tM, “Being Bipolar”: http://wp.me/p2ckKM-hF, and “Sensitive Steel”: http://wp.me/p2ckKM-vY).

 

Categories: Bipolar/Depression | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

SENSITIVE STEEL

I have bipolar disorder.

I am constantly challenged by my own intense emotions.

I feel everything you feel . . . times a thousand.

The good, the bad, and the ugly . . . times a thousand.

The loneliness and depression can be devastating, and the endless and exhausting struggle to cope, pure torture.

The statistics confirm it. One out of every five people afflicted with bipolar disorder successfully takes their own life.

My life consists of agitated anxious thinking and tormented isolation, with brief intermittent bursts of joy.

Even the happiness is heartbreaking. So erratic. And fleeting.

When I feel a joyous moment, I try to grab hold of it and capture it like a lightning bug in a jar. I embrace it. I consume it and feed it to my hungry heart. I am a quiet little hoarder of happiness.

Because I don’t know when I’ll see another lightning bug again.

Maybe never.

When most of you meet new people, you get to know them and then you judge whether or not to trust them and let them into your heart.

I do the opposite.

I take people at face value, and after a quick scan of my instincts, I pretty much let everyone in. And then I judge, as they prove dramatic, unstable, or hurtful, which ones are unhealthy for me.

It’s an awful way to live, but I’ve tried being careful and guarded, and it’s just not my nature.

I love quickly and with a wide open heart.

I view everyone as being unique and magnificent, and I let them come in, and I celebrate them loudly. That’s how I am.

But I forget.

I forget that people don’t always say what they mean. And sometimes they’ll say what they mean all day long until you need them to, and then they won’t. People are funny like that.

I also forget that people misuse the word “love”, and when they hug me and say it, they mean it casually like, “It’s been nice to see you”. They don’t really love me.

And I forget that people don’t feel as intensely as I do.

And when I am reminded, it breaks my heart.

I am a constant victim . . . of my own brain.

So I strive to make better choices about people. Who I let in. Who I believe. And trust. And love.

And when I get hurt, as surely I will, because I will always love quickly and hugely, I will take the hit to my heart, lick my wounds, adjust, and then get right back out into the world.

But I will remember this pain.

For a little while anyway.

And then I’ll forget again.

Because that’s just my nature.

I love quickly. And I have a terrible memory. Sheesh.

The irony is, that as sensitive as I am . . .

I am as strong as you are . . .  times a thousand.

We bipolars are funny that way.

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(Read, “Being Bipolar” at: http://wp.me/p2ckKM-hF).

Categories: Bipolar/Depression, Friends, Inspiration/Motivation, Kindness & Compassion, Mental Health, Suicide | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

WALK OUT OF THE DARKNESS

Please read this and consider sharing it on your blog or on Facebook or Twitter. Because everyone matters. Thank you.

WALK OUT OF THE DARKNESS.

Categories: Bipolar/Depression, Downriver/Detroit, Michigan, Suicide | Leave a comment

ABOUT ME & MY JOURNEY

In this blog I bear my soul. I’ve suffered some rather traumatic family losses in my lifetime and have overcome some rough stuff: the loss of my only child; an infant son, a 40-year dysfunctional, (but comfortable), relationship with grief, suicide and drug addiction in the family, and everything from quitting a 35 yr smoking habit, to overcoming prescription drug addiction, to my challenges with bipolar disorder. smiling glasses allieGOOD

Now, at the age of 54, I’m facing a whole new world through clear eyes! Everything is fresh and exciting, and challenging and scary . . . and I’m embracing it all!

In this blog, I share (purge) my past experiences, however painful, raw, or revealing. And I share new adventures . . . both emotionally and physically out in the world. I take you into the world of bipolar disorder . . . or maybe to the local cancer center to meet cancer patients who heal through their art, or to an art gallery exhibition, to the local park to snap pics, or maybe downtown to our wonderful City of Detroit!

I’m on the cusp . . . of change.

I believe in celebrating the people and places around me. I will seldom vent, rant, or approach something in a negative way. If I don’t enjoy an art show, or a new business, or a new artist, I simply won’t blog about it. Anything else is just too easy. I look for the good, the funny, the kind, the loving, and the inspirational things; and they are EVERYWHERE! I hope to make you laugh, or cry, or maybe even think about things a bit differently.

So, please, join me on this beautiful, incredible, painful, and amazing journey called life. And please, share your thoughts with me by leaving a comment on my blog! Also, to “Follow” me on my journey, just enter your email address in the “Follow” box and you will be notified by email each time I post a new blog entry.

Thanks for visiting! Be safe. Be careful. And please . . . remember to be kind. xoxoJulia

*Blog content & photographs © 2013 by Julia Kovach, unless otherwise noted.

Categories: Addiction, Bipolar/Depression, Downriver/Detroit, Michigan, Humor, Inspiration/Motivation, Kindness & Compassion, Mental Health, Suicide | Tags: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

BEING BIPOLAR

BEING BIPOLAR.

Categories: Bipolar/Depression, Friends, Inspiration/Motivation, Mental Health, Suicide | Leave a comment

THE OTHER SISTER

There were four daughters born to my parents. The eldest died of lung cancer at the age of 52. The second eldest took her own life at the age of 39. Then there is me. And then comes my youngest sister who, although very much alive, has always seemed fragile and unreliable.

I was the strong one, the confident, unshakeable, unafraid, independent middle child and the fixer of all things unacceptable or unjustified. And I proudly wore that label for most of my life.

Until it caught up with me.

Until all of that self-imposed responsibility chipped away at my boulder-like core and I began to diminish . . . one small piece at a time, until finally crumbling, when I was needed most.

I am great in a crisis. No kidding. Point me towards an explosion and within minutes, I will assess the situation, determine the damages, and map out a plan of action. Because that is what I do. I fix things.

And I expected no less from myself when my Mom recently suffered some sudden and very serious health issues.

The moment she arrived at the hospital, I went into work mode. I made inquiries, recited the millions of memorized bits detailing her medical history, confirmed information, and ensured that the greatly appreciated hospital staff was doing their jobs.

I did not know it, but that was the easy part.

What I did not anticipate was the change in Mom’s behavior. It was due to hospital psychosis, a temporary psychiatric condition that affects many older patients who become hospitalized. I learned that it is an elderly patient’s involuntary negative reaction to the overstimulation, confusion, and unfamiliarity of a new and hectic environment, coupled with the debilitating effects of their physical ailments. Its symptoms present in irrational and sometimes violent behavior such as hallucinations, depression, attempts to climb out of bed, removal of intravenous tubing or other devices, paranoia, fear, or a demand to return home.

And Mom delivered it all . . . full blast. And man, was I unprepared. And ill equipped. Even though I knew that this new condition was not her fault, I reacted badly.

I suffer from bipolar disorder. (Read, “Being Bipolar” at: http://wp.me/p2ckKM-hF ). I am hypersensitive to sounds, my brain obsesses, races, and rarely stops, I’m over-emotional and often prickly and annoyed. Hospitals, grocery stores, and nightclubs are three of my most difficult environments, in terms of sounds and the frustrations and difficulties of interacting with the public.

Now, take the unique ingredient of hospital ambiance: the bright, harsh lights, the steady barrage of sounds – like beeping machines, sounding alarms, blasting intercoms, and the boisterous staff who assume that everyone has a hearing deficiency, and add to that the challenges of having bipolar disorder, and then add to that the stress of a critically ill family member who now suddenly seems out of her mind . . . and what you have is the perfect recipe for a mental breakdown.

Mine.

I am not kidding. I am terrified that I will awaken one morning in unfamiliar and padded accommodations and not know how I got there. I’m pretty sure that’s how it happens – you just awaken in that room. I don’t think you feel it coming on. And if so, it probably feels something like this.

I remember standing, trembling, in the doorway of Mom’s hospital room. She was on a ventilator and could not be sedated because of her dangerously low blood pressure. She was highly agitated and was trying to remove the vent. She was still irrational the day after its removal and was demanding to leave.

Everything negative and bipolar triggered in me. Even though I knew that Mom could NOT help it, I was angry with her for being difficult and for struggling. I was horrified at the tubing, the fluids, and the sound of the ventilator and her gurgling. I felt tortured by the alarms that went off each time she tried to sit up. I resented that she had not taken better care of herself. Hell, I even resented her for being old. And then I really saw her . . . looking so thin, frail, and helpless, and I hated myself for feeling as I had. The guilt was overwhelming. I wanted to run away and hide. Or to just die.

I watched Brenda, my remaining sister, the younger less competent one, as she stood at Mom’s bedside and gently held her shoulders down while explaining to her why she could not leave. She stroked her hair and lovingly whispered her reassurances. And Mom quieted.

Hysterical and unable to bear it, I went home and cried myself to sleep.

But Brenda stayed at Mom’s side and calmed her down, over and over again, throughout the entire long night.

The next morning, I arrived early to find my sister exhausted, but still there.

I hugged her and began to cry.

“All this time . . . I thought I was the strong one. But I was wrong. You are. I have never given you any credit for anything. I have always criticized you and judged your choices. I am so sorry. I was wrong. I didn’t know.” I said.

In the days since then, Brenda and I have talked more and have become closer. We know that when it comes to the medical care and daily living assistance now required by my reluctant, stubborn, and sometimes selfish parents, we both have different strengths. I am the one who remembers every single medical detail, handles the quick decisions, and ensures a plan of action; and Brenda is the one who is patient and compassionate. She is the understanding and calming force, the one that gets my parents to listen and to accept. After all, none of my action serves any good if they will not listen or receive our help.

I was the fixer for way too long. It was impossible for me to learn anything new because I already knew it all; I had the answers to everything. My ears were not listening and my mind was not open. Nor was my heart.

But I have corrected that.

Mom is currently, somewhat stable. But she is not well and she is not out of the woods yet. We have a long journey of unknowns before us.

And I am suspecting that along with bipolar disorder that I may be suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder. I have seen first-hand, too many dead bodies, sat with too many dying ones, and witnessed too many collapses and injuries. The images flash through my mind. I jump out of my seat if someone twitches. My heart races if the phone rings. And I cry the moment I open my eyes in the morning. I do not know how long this level of anxiety can be sustained or this constant stream of adrenaline can be tolerated before something in me just . . . goes.

But I am trying to take care of myself. I have an upcoming appointment with my therapist, and meanwhile, I have learned to say a few things I have never said before:

  • “I have a mental illness. I am bipolar. I can’t handle someone else’s instability.”
  • “No, I am sorry, but I can’t do that”.
  • “Please, help me”.

And I am not alone anymore.

I have some really terrific friends who love and accept me, keep me in check, and sometimes can even make me laugh; they are good medicine .

And I have a really wonderful and compassionate little sister who steps up to the plate and accomplishes what I cannot.

Her name is Brenda.

She is the strong one.

Categories: Bipolar/Depression, Family, Inspiration/Motivation, Kindness & Compassion, Mental Health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 41 Comments

I’M GUEST BLOGGING!

Hey Friends!

On Monday, November 26th,  at 8:00 a.m. I’m guest blogging!

Cruise on over to LE CLOWN’S, “BLACK BOX WARNINGS”, at: http://wp.me/p2qxmy-do and pay us a visit!

I’ve reposted “Being Bipolar”,  and it’s been updated with TONS of additional pics, so please read it, repost it on your Fb page, and share it with everyone you know. Maybe it will help you to undertand an afflicted family member or friend. Or if that person is you, please know that you are not alone. There is help. And there is hope.

I wrote this right after the above piece:

THIS BIPOLAR’S FRIENDS

“My greatest blessings are my friends. They are priceless. They don’t walk on eggshells, and they aren’t saints who always understand exactly how I feel. My friends are brave. Although I may be cause for concern at times, they love me anyway. They don’t give me exemptions; they give me allowances, just as I do for them.

I have found that the most secure people I know are also the ones who are the most patient and compassionate. Maybe with the others, my unstable-ness scares their unstable-ness.” – Julia Kovach

NOTE:  While you are visiting LE CLOWN’S, “BLACK BOX WARNINGS”, at: http://wp.me/p2qxmy-do , please take a few minutes to check it out! Read some of his past posts and those of his talented guests. You will find them to be relevant, honest, and potent.

A special note to Monsieur Le Clown:  Thank you for allowing me a visit to your space! The information you share on your blog is beyond important; it not only informs, but can serve as an actual lifeline to those suffering silently and alone with mental illness.  You’re a real prince, dude! Blessings to you and those you love! xoJulia

Categories: Bipolar/Depression, Mental Health, Suicide | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

WALK OUT OF THE DARKNESS

This poem was inspired by last year’s experience at the “Out of The Darkness Community Walk”, which benefits The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, (see my blog: http://wp.me/p2ckKM-gC). FOR INFORMATION ABOUT THIS YEAR’S WALK (OCT 13th, 2013) OR TO MAKE A DONATION, PLEASE VISIT: http://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.event&eventID=2358. Thank you.

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You’re hurt and bruised, feeling empty and used

You think you’re lost and you know you’re confused

Your problems are different from mine

But if you need it, I’ll give you my time.

*

You’ve found your voice, but you don’t know the words

You’re screaming for help, but you still feel unheard

You just want your pain to end

Come take my hand, my friend.

*

And Out of The Darkness together we’ll walk

I’ll be the listener who hears when you talk

We’ll reach out for comfort and learn how to cope

We’ll walk Out of The Darkness . . . and into the hope.

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For more information on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, or the Out of the Darkness Community Walk, or to make a donation, visit: http://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.event&eventID=2358.

GERRI ASAM TRAGER, AFSP Board Member, AFSP Community Outreach Volunteer, Metro Detroit/Ann Arbor Chapter, Phone: 810-229-4266. The American Foundation For Suicide Prevention: www.afsp.org . Also see: www.outofthedarkness.org and survivoroutreachMI@gmail.

If you have lost someone you love to suicide: www.afsp.org/survivingsuicideloss

*IF YOU ARE IN SUICIDAL CRISIS, PLEASE CALL 1-800-273-TALK (8255)*

Because everyone matters.

Categories: Bipolar/Depression, Downriver/Detroit, Michigan, Grief/Healing, Inspiration/Motivation, Kindness & Compassion, Mental Health, Photography, Poetry, Suicide | Tags: , , , , , | 13 Comments

THIS BIPOLAR’S FRIENDS

My greatest blessings are my friends. They are priceless.

They don’t walk on eggshells, and they aren’t saints who always understand exactly how I feel.

My friends are brave.

Although I may be cause for concern at times, they love me anyway.

They don’t give me exemptions; they give me allowances, just as I do for them.

I have found that the most secure people I know are also the ones who are the most patient and compassionate.

Maybe with the others, my unstable-ness scares their unstable-ness.

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(This was edited out of my piece, “Being Bipolar” a few weeks ago; please read it, if you haven’t already. And feel free to share it or post it on Facebook. It contains some information that you or others may find useful).

Categories: Bipolar/Depression, Friends, Kindness & Compassion, Mental Health | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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