Twice As Nice: Britney, Bipolar and Me

So, it’s almost 2am, and I have no desire to sleep. It’s not that I don’t want to sleep. The reality is, I really do love snuggling up with my pillows and getting my shut-eye on. It’s just that every time I lay down, wrap myself in my comforters like a cocoon and lay there in darkness my mind starts to race.

I don’t have anything particular on my mind. Yes, I’m sure I’ve analyzed an ex or two, and tried to understand them before finally giving up and realizing I’m not meant to. Certainly this upcoming election has played a role in my mind, wondering if Arizona can survive another two or four or six years of political shame, failure, and disappointment. Wondering if Arizona has the guts to show we are not the bigoted and racists we have been made out to be.

Generally, I can cast all that aside when I need to sleep, and just let the sheep drag me into slumber land.

Not tonight though.

A few years ago, when Britney Spears was freaking out, shaving her head, and attacking paparazzi with umbrella’s while simultaneously going through a divorce, loosing custody of her two boys and watching her career plummet – there was an article that said she was bipolar.

At the time, I thought very little of it, but looking back, I probably should have paid more attention, because you see, just a little over a year ago, I too was diagnosed as bipolar.

Being bipolar primarily means your moods go from one incredible high, to one incredible low and so on. There can be “manic episodes” where you spend all your money, are so happy you could die, and take endless risks, to extreme lows, where you are so depressed you can’t get out of your bed, sleep 20 hours in a day, and try to kill yourself.

I’ve experienced all of that. And when talking to my doctor about this, she recommended I see a psychiatrist. With help of my doctor and my new psychiatrist (who was from Germany, and won instance brownie points for her fun accent) I was prescribed Lithium (a so-called wonder drug that Tony Soprano used in “The Soprano’s”), and a low-dose of Seroquel. Lithium is a mystery drug of sorts. Doctors don’t know how it works, they just know it balances a person’s mood. It’s like a salt, or a compound, and makes me very thirsty, testing my pea size bladder, that is so so much a pea, but a dwarf in the pea pod world.

Lithium sort-of turns down the dial if you will, reducing the volume of my emotions. While I’ll still have moments where I’m “high” and “low” those lows won’t be as low, and those highs aren’t as high. Seroquel on the other hand is an anti-psychotic that helps me sleep. The truth is, many bipolar people can go into such a “high” that it becomes a psychosis of sorts; however in my case and at my dose this drug is primarily used to bring the highs lower. It also helps with my crazy ass nightmares where I get to watch various people I love be graphically murdered.

Being too happy, or too “high” up is generally my problem. Back in my non-medicated, undiagnosed days I truly demonstrated how “high” I could get. My work on the no on proposition 107 campaign, where I didn’t sleep sometimes and tabled too often illustrated that. It did it again in 2008 with the Obama election and no on proposition 102, and simply became so obsessed to the point of skipping sleep night after night, or sleeping just a few hours. It’s all part of the “high” or the hypo-mania or full blown mania, as the professionals call it. I, like many, talk faster when “high,” I do more, of everything. I get crazy ideas and run with them, sometimes completing them, almost always not. And after a while I become irritable.

In early 2010, after taking my Lithium and Seroquel for about eight months, I stopped. I stopped therapy too. Both big no-no’s, as I now know. And by big, I mean epic no-no’s. I stopped for a few reasons. One, I didn’t have time to see my psychiatrist anymore. Work needed me. School needed me. My boyfriend needed me. Second, I flat out didn’t have the money. After awhile, a $15 co-pay every few weeks, and $30 dollars in medications every month starts to add up. I just didn’t have money for the co-pays to see my psychiatrist any more, nor to refill my prescriptions all the time. What I did have wasn’t income I was willing to part with. Third, I now felt great, obsessed and in love, and when deciding whether or not to go on a date with the man I was falling for or taking a little pink pill, I knew what the answer would be.

So I stopped.

And for months I was fine.

I was fine because of the following: 1) I had a steady home life that consisted of my boyfriend spending the night, my roommate and I getting along quite well, and lots of laughter; 2) I went to bed at a regular time and had a regular schedule; 3) I had a routine exercise pattern 4) I drank insane amounts of caffeine (a stimulate that made me “high”) while subsequently drinking a fair amount of alcohol (a depressant that made me “low”). I unintentionally self-medicated, keeping my moods somewhat balanced, or as balanced as someone who is bipolar can do without professional help. The reality here is minus part four I was doing everything a bipolar person is supposed to do. I didn’t know this then, and what you don’t know can kill you.
It does not surprise me now that Britney panicked and in a sense lost her way for a bit when everything in her life shifted so significantly. If she’s truly bipolar, then when 1-3 went astray for her, she flipped.

I did the same. I freaked out.

Like many bipolar people this happens, especially those who stop treatment. A change in the home life, like not living with your roommate who you’ve been with for two years (check), or not working where you’ve been for six years (check), or your boyfriend leaving for the summer (check), made me loose a sense of who I was.

If I hadn’t been in the hospital for five days for my appendix exploding or in there later for six days for my disgusting brown recluse, MRSA infected knee wound, or in Maui, or in New York/Pittsburgh, I probably would have flipped out and tried to kill myself sooner.

But when my Britney-style freak out finally did come, it came when it so naturally would with us bipolar folks. My relationship with my boyfriend ended in a dramatic fashion (as in being punched in the face and strangled) and immediately after I felt guilty and wanted to die. I tried to kill myself. I failed, thankfully, and finally checked myself in to a Mental Hospital.

I wouldn’t have been able to do this had I not been persuaded to by a role-model and hero of mine. A woman who out of no-where literally saved my life with her insight, compassion, and honesty. I also wouldn’t have been able to check myself in if my very ex-girlfriend, who really is the only girl that I would in all seriousness marry and be her husband as my love for her is so real and so strong and simply so unconditional, had driven me there and dealt with the outside world when I needed to escape it.
I found, though, that sometimes you have to do something for yourself, and I did check myself in. I got to talk about my feelings, get real therapy (and lots of it) without interruptions from the world, and was put back on the medications that I need to make me balanced.

The reality is, the depression I felt before going in was more than what anyone should ever experience. I hated myself after what happened. Yes, some sadness is expected. Some tears are okay. But blaming myself for his actions, enough to want to end my own life, is not okay. Hating myself is not okay. I did not get off my couch for five days straight, I cried non-stop, and slept the first forty-eight hours then none at all. Checking myself in didn’t end the self-hatred, or depression. But talking about it did help bring the sharpness of that pain to a dull blade. Turning down the overall range of my feelings did with the help of medications, did. Finding out that I am really quite an incredible person, who above all else, I love, did.

Being back on Lithium and Seroquel has it’s perks and it’s disadvantages. As I said, I generally am in hypo-mania/manic episodes. I am no longer as obsessed with anything at all campaign related. I can stay in the know, and not work endlessly. I also feel like I get more done, since I can focus on one task. Right now, I am in an episode of hypo-mania. I can’t sleep because of it, even with my sleep-aids. But I am more focused, and able to at least do what needs to be done. I am starting projects left and right and then not accomplishing anything. Instead, I start one or two, and get them done.

I also still feel sadness. I realized, five days late, that I’ve known the man I almost proposed to, the same one who broke my heart, for one year. It made me take a moment and pause and simple be able to feel sadness. But that sadness is not depression, it’s not engulfing me. Instead, it’s a health response to the end of an important relationship in my life. I simply don’t get as sad as I once did. Things that once made me break out in uncontrollable crying fits don’t any more. I can react to sad things like a human, with apathy, or sympathy, but without the uncontrollable tears.

Medication, counseling and psychiatrists do not eliminate my bipolar episodes. There is no known cure. I am still a roller-coaster. But this roller-coaster is one I can manage, one you would be okay sending your kid-sister on.

With that said, I certainly do miss being that high and happy. I miss being so happy and uncontrollably optimistic about the world. I remember one HRC at ASU meeting prior to the 2008 election where I flat out declared that we would, as a college organization, defeat proposition 102 – and the fact is, at that time I believed we would.

I also, honestly, miss being that low. I miss the powerful release of emotion that I got with crying. I used to cry at least once a week. But now, I can tell you the very last time I cried. I could tell you why and I can honestly say it was well deserved. Once, while listening to “Where Is the Love,” by Justin Timberlake and the Black Eyed Peas, I started balling. Well, that song is on now, and there’s no tears coming out of my eyes. Now, only things that truly deserve my tears, get them.

Being bipolar isn’t a bad thing. Honestly it’s an amazing blessing, a gift. I get to feel happiness and sadness in ways few others can. When I’m in love, it’s such a deep physical, overwhelming feeling that is just bliss to me. When I feel pity or am apathetic to someone, I get to feel it. I love my friends, even those I just met, more than I can I help. And when I hear of another gay teen who has decided to end their life, I can feel the utter sadness that his or her family may.

I am bipolar. It’s a fact I’ll forever have to live with. And a fact I am damn proud of.
To end this, I want to quote a song I think Britney Spears made to illustrate her own struggle with this disorder:As Britney Spears says in her song “Hot As Ice” —  “I’m cold as fire, hot as ice. If you’ve ever been to Heaven, this is twice as nice.” 

It really is.

One comment

  1. Very well said Ray. The part about starting five or six projects and not finishing, is the same thing I do. Or I will stay up all night until I get them done.

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