Taming The Bipolar Beast

I don’t talk about it much, but I should. I casually mentioned being bipolar in a recent video I put up on YouTube. Anytime I do, I tend to get messages/comments/emails asking me questions. Like the message that prompted me to write this post! 🙂

Hi Casey, love your vids – very animated (and very helpful). I noticed you were bipolar, as am I, and was wondering if you could make a vid or post something on your blog about the ways in which you managed to “tame the beast”. You seem so active and full of life (though still have your days, no doubt) – that you would have some valuable information to give for the people who live with the same thing. If you have already posted something elsewhere (your blog is massive), would you please direct me where to go.

Much respect,
Sam.

Thanks for the message Sam. The timing was perfect to get me to blog about it. Here’s the last video I made about being bipolar “Bipolar A Search for the “Cure”: Games and Introduction”. Since I didn’t have a good blog post to direct you (or anyone) to, I thought I’d make this one the one. FIRST my story…

You’re Going To Have This Sickness For The Rest Of Your Life

Note: FUCK AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC “DOCTORS”! They don’t know DICK. Now… Let us begin. 🙂

I’ve been “active and full of life” pretty much my whole life. It’s gotten me in a lot of “trouble” with teachers and stuff, but I’ve always had fun. Had I been born 10 years later I probably would have been diagnosed with ADHD or something (fuck most doctors, they can suck a…). Anyhow, my path to being labeled bipolar started with an interest in the limits of my mind and body. I started reading books about using 100% of your brain. I wondered how long a person could go without food or sleep. Things like this. I had the internet at the time, but it wasn’t as awesome as it is now, so I couldn’t JFGI. Even if I could have isn’t it better to experience things on ones own?

The Experiment

I can’t remember exactly what I was reading or what was on my mind when I did it, but I started experimenting with fasting AND sleep deprivation at the same time. I could write a book JUST about the things I experienced over the course of the 4 days (or so) with no food, sleep and little water, but lets just say it was VERY interesting. 😀

It ultimately led to me freaking out in downtown Milwaukee terrorizing people in a grocery store and eventually getting tackled by like 4 cops. After passing out in a paddy wagon, I “woke up” in the ER. I put woke up in quotes because, although I can remember things from the ER, in my mind I wasn’t in the ER. Essentially I was still sleeping (but awake 😛 ).

After the ER I was moved to Milwaukee’s mental health clinic where it was determined that I was some kind of crazy so they gave me haldol and ran their own experiments (mental health doctors don’t know what the fuck they’re doing, they just get paid a lot of money to pretend they do.)

After I got out, got stable and had to have regular visits with mental doctors I was told “You’re sick and going to have to take medication for the rest of your life.” (At that point I made mental note saying FUCK THAT!)

On A Mission To Stop Taking Medication

While everyone else my age was trying to find work or finish school, I only had one goal in life. To stop taking medication. So one of the first things I did when I got out of the hospital was… stopped taking my medication! That’s when I learned the hard way that you can’t just stop taking medication, it has to be gradual (because I flipped out and ended up right where I didn’t want to be. 😛 )

I was writing this, only thinking about my other bipolar brethren, but I realized I should answer a question “Why would someone with bipolar disorder want to stop taking medication? Doesn’t it help?” Let me start with, yes, with the right doses it can help. The reason we want to stop taking medication is because we lose out former self. Bipolar people are SUPER smart. The world will be is run by us. The problem with medication is that although it might make us calm, managed improperly it makes us TOO calm. So calm we’re like “where the fuck did our smarts go?” Anyhow, back to the story…

My dates and times are messed up, but essentially I had 3 major episodes. The first two I count as one (that’s when I learned I can’t quit cold turkey). The second one happened about a year after the first. Once I got out and stable I thought I learned how to prevent a third episode so I eventually stopped taking medication again. I lasted for another year and a half and traveled half-way across the globe to experience the third…

Taiwan And My Wife Saved My Life

I am thoroughly convinced that Taiwan and my ex-wife saved my life. Without my wife I never would have made it to Taiwan and never would have had the comfortable environment I was given to recover in. Without Taiwan I never probably would not have met a doctor that didn’t suck (I can statistically prove that most mental health doctors in the US suck big ol’ fat and sweaty donkey balls). Had I stayed in the US and tried to battle this illness I too may have been driven to do something crazy like bust into a hospital and shoot up a bunch of donkey ball sucking mental health doctors that cause more strife than fix (ah… This post is obviously healing some old issues I have with doctors… lol)

So… I had my third episode while living in Taiwan. The details of this episode could fill another book, but this isn’t about the experience, it’s about taming the beast. After waking up from my 1 month stay in a Taiwanese mental institute (that’s another book 😉 ) I realized that there actually might be something different about me. Something people have labeled “bipolar.” I was still determined to beat this thing without medication, but I also knew that what I had done in the past wasn’t working. I needed to come up with a new plan. Lucky for me that’s what the doctor I met specialized in… (Note: My wife did tons of research and found one of the best doctors in the land for me to see.)

I’ll never forget what that doctor told me on my second or third visit. Where every doctor in America told me I had a sickness that I’d have to take medication to control for the rest of my life, the Taiwanese doctor told me (and my eyes tear up a little thinking about it… manly kind of tearing up 😉 ) “Take the medication for a year or two and we’ll see where you’re at after that. Maybe you can stop.” What he gave me that no one else had for the 4 years before that was hope. Now instead of looking at the medication as some thing I needed to break away from as soon as possible, I saw it as a crutch to get me stable enough to quit. This doctor also stressed the importance of healthy living (sleeping early, tea time, good food, etc.)

This doctor also worked me down to a level where I felt like myself. The medication didn’t feel like a huge monkey that I had to get off of my back. The funny thing is that two years into taking medication I didn’t want to stop. Things were so good it was kind of like “If it aint broke, don’t fix it.”

Eat, Sleep, Exercise And Other Tools Of The Bipolar Trade

I learned a lot about managing my “bipolar” during those two years after my Taiwan episode. The first year I didn’t work AT ALL (my wife wouldn’t let me because the doctor told us I should take my time going back to work). It was then that I learned how to manage free time. Not working is REALLY hard work at first! You have to organize your day’s activities by yourself! Once I had every one of my whole days to myself, I slowly got into my own personal rhythm of doing things. I also learned how important sleep, eating and exercise is, because it was during that year (with nothing else to stress me out) that I learned how much my mood was effected by these things. Anytime my mood started getting caught in a downward spiral I would pause and say “Wait a minute… Eating? Check. Exercise? Check. Sleep… Ah!”

I think that was my greatest “discovery.” 🙂 Later on I learned that keeping a journal helped keep my mind clear for sleeping. I also found out how important it is to make people around you comfortable with your condition. That’s when I came up with the idea for a “bipolar protocol sheet.” This document was something that would be typed up and given to people close to you. In the event of you getting sick it would have the medications that work, doctors to call, people to call (like my mom), etc. I never fully finished mine, but I know that it made people feel a lot better just KNOWING that I was thinking about being ready (as opposed to telling them, and myself, that I was cured).

My blogging mojo is starting to dwindle, but I’ll end with this. It’s the journey, not the destination. The “cure” is the journey, not something to attain. It’s about living a balanced life, having a good relationship with family and friends, etc. Oh! I almost forgot the most important bit. I best rev my mojo juices back up…

Mission Impossible

I stopped taking medication again in October 2007. I was taking medication for 3 years before that. I stopped for a couple reasons. One reason was the cost of medication here in the US when you don’t have insurance. I was about to order some from Canada but… I knew myself. I didn’t want to run out of medication unplanned. The second reason was I felt ready. I was really good at monitoring my mood. I had a good level of support. So I went for it.

I already knew I was eventually going to stop taking medication again so I took a shot. It was far from being the “optimal” situation but… I didn’t have a lot of options. I no longer feel so strongly negative about medication. It can be a useful crutch to get yourself to a point where you’re able to wean yourself off. Like my doctor in Taiwan said “Medication or not, you don’t want to be back here again and you’ll have to figure out how to prevent that.” He also stressed the importance of living a good life.

Don’t read this blog post and decide to stop taking medication the next day. When you do decide to stop taking, make a solid plan for yourself. If possible, do it with the help of family and friends. I, unfortunately, did the first month or so alone. It’s unnecessarily scary that way. It’s understandably hard to garner support from even friends and family members when you want to stop taking medication. Movies, news, TV, radio and stories all talk about the person that stops taking their medication and murders 20 people. Rarely do they talk about the kid that stops taking medication and transforms a city (they will though 😉 ). It’s like this because, like the gays (what’s the PC term? Sexually challenged? lol 😉 ) of the past we tend to be forced to stay in the shadows. Otherwise we’ll lose our jobs, business opportunities, etc.

Anyhoo… All blogged out! 🙂

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7 Responses to Taming The Bipolar Beast

  1. Mario says:

    wow man, such a long post… but very informative and really interesting about your life and bipolarity, pretty dure will help many suffering the same, kudos!

  2. James Lick says:

    I’ve been meaning to ask but which Taiwan doctor did you go to that was teh awesome?

    My wife has been trying to get me into vitamins for treatment (or as they call them, ‘Neutraceuticals’). I’m a bit skeptical about this but I do know that the Calcium/Magnesium/D vitamins I take sure help me sleep well. Also taking a B multi, C, and an anti-oxidant combo.

  3. Sam says:

    Thought I might post my reply here too. It might get some of that mojo flowing in the comments section.

    “Thanks for doing this; I found the post very insightful (and amusing). I could relate to a lot of things you said, quitting medication and whatnot – after the first week of taking them I just went “fuck this, I don’t need some arrogant turd of a doctor to tell me what I need” – bad decision. Not that doctors aren’t arrogant turds though :D. They spend their whole lives studying textbooks, and don’t even consider the fact that textbooks are worthless pieces of shit when treating some conditions. Because that would be silly, wouldn’t it? Textbooks know everything! (Sarcasm is good, venting is healthy).

    I also found changing my lifestyle habits helped a lot. Meditation and exercise in particular. In fact, they are pretty much necessary if I want any sense of clarity and stability in my life. But I must admit I still need to work on my sleeping habits. I just have some mental block when it comes to going to sleep. I find myself staying up late into the night (as in, morning) for no apparent reason. I seem to be most creative during that time too. But I mean, who really wants to spend a third of their life sleeping anyway? I also like the idea of using a diary (or similar) as a tool to get all my thoughts and ideas down, so they don’t all build up and do my head in. I like how you are always using checklists.

    I think it’s great people are being more open about conditions like this, it helps people understand us better. There is a stereotype that bipolars are crazy motherfukin’ lunatics who should be avoided at all costs if your life is valued to any appreciable extent. Whereas thats not true (in 99% of cases, given that we actually look after ourselves) – we’re actually pretty fucking awesome. I’m not ashamed of it anymore; I’ve just accepted it as who I am. I’m special 😛

    Thanks again,

    Sam.”

  4. miltownmom says:

    Just got around to checking in–glad to see your bipolar post. Didn’t your Mother have something to do with suggesting a protocol sheet?……I thought I did anyway 🙂 You need to check out some of the other mental health professionals who share your way of thinking. Check out the ICSPP Newsletter (International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology). Also check out the journal Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry. I think you will find there are mental health professionals who share your criticism of the mental health system in the US.

  5. miltownmom says:

    Grandma wants to know where you went to college. She thought you used one adjective way too much. 🙂

  6. mdmouse says:

    This was a really good post. There are probably thousands of people stuck in the “you will have this for the rest of your life” place. You should speak more on the topic.

    Oh yeah…..maybe we should finish that protocol sheet 🙂

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