MISDIAGNOSED (Or, Letting the Feelings Out: Part Three)

Yesterday I spoke with my psychiatrist.

Today I spoke with my psychologist.

I told them all the reasons that have led me to believe that I am not bipolar, that I have been MISDIAGNOSED, and neither one disagreed with me. How did this happen?

For me, it all began with a cocky doctor at an Arkansas mental hospital. He didn’t do his homework with me. The very minute I emerged from the thick cloud of delusions, he stamped me with a label. My first response: “How do you know?”

To which he immediately listed all of the signs of bipolar type 1 disorder that had been CLEARLY evident from my psychosis over the past few days. Missing from his confident psychiatric prattle? A clinical depression lasting around two weeks and corresponding to my psychosis in intensity, among other things, which he would have known had he asked.

In his mind, grandiose and disordered thought=manic episode=bipolar.

Ahem. It’s my turn now to list the facts.

Fact: Lisa’s feelings do not go up and down without a corresponding external reason. In fact, her emotions are one of the most functional things about her as a person.

Fact: Lisa has never experienced a clinical depression lasting two or more weeks.

Fact: A euphoric high did not accompany either of Lisa’s psychotic breakdowns. No euphoria=no mania.

Fact: A period of psychosis may also be triggered by extreme stress or loss, which was exactly the case for both of Lisa’s psychotic episodes.

If you have been diagnosed with a mental illness, pretend that I’m sitting across from you and looking you in the eye.

If I believed, even for a second, that my bipolar diagnosis was a useful tool for achieving greater mental health, I would use it. Whatever it takes to move forward in life, that is what I want to be doing. 

But you better believe that I will not go quietly into the night if I have compelling evidence pointing toward misdiagnosis.

So here I am. Just Lisa. Maybe I have a diagnosable mental illness, and maybe I don’t. But I’m not really concerned either way. All I want is to rescue my consistently healthy emotions from a box that has done them more harm than good. 

I have strong feelings and strong thoughts. I see the world differently than most people. I love solving problems and finding metaphors, equally. Sometimes I solve the problem and then find the metaphor, and sometimes I find the metaphor and then solve the problem. I understand and empathize with stay-at-home moms and engineers, writers and businessmen, professors and students. I’m an AND not an OR kind of person.

I walk between the worlds, armed with intellect, feeling, and some hard-won discernment. I have my limits, but they are not what I thought they were.

I am not bipolar. I am Lisa. God made me this way, and I will not let anyone tell me otherwise, even if they are a doctor.

-Lisa Kristine

I Woke Up This Morning, I Triumphed (Or, Letting the Feelings Out: Part Two)

Today, I woke up to my alarm.

If you have a snooze habit and/or tend to be a heavy sleeper, you know the struggle. What I achieved this morning was nothing short of a personal miracle. Here’s how I did it.

Yesterday morning six alarms sounded next to my bed: two trumpet alarms, two heavy duty vibrating alarms, and two especially annoying alarms that alternated on continuous 5-minute snooze.

I snoozed soundly in the intervals between 5 second bursts of noise from 6:30 to 8:00 am. It was my roommate knocking on the door at 8:15 am that finally woke me up, and by then I was already late to work. I wish I could say that work tardiness does not characterize me. Instead, let me express how grateful I am to have a gracious boss.

But when I arrived at work yesterday morning, I knew that it was time to deal with my inability to wake up, even with six obnoxious alarms, two of them being on continuous snooze. Clearly, I have a problem.

So, I turned to the Internet. First, I researched alternative alarm clocks. Then I realized that the problem was not the technology. I had already tried all kinds of alarm sounds and buzzers–to no avail.

At that point, I started asking why.

Why am I such a heavy sleeper? Why don’t I want to wake up in the morning? I had been blaming my bipolar medications for my heavy sleeping, but yesterday I finally started to think that the reason was deeper.

During this thought process, I ran across an extremely helpful article (link below). As I thought my way through it, I realized that there was a part of me that didn’t want to be waking up to this version of my story.

The one where my last boyfriend emotionally abused me.

The one where I got labelled bipolar by a doctor who never, not even once, sat down to know me in my right mind.

The one where my brain fails me given the right emotional triggers.

The one where Peter Pan exists but is no where to be found, just loved always from the galaxy of a different star.

Yes, this story that is mine is hard to face squarely, with open eyes not dreaming. 

Once I understood my emotional reluctance to encounter each morning, then I was able to finish reading the article. It advised me to choose an alarm tone that would wake me up gradually and to plan a rewarding morning that did not involve getting out of bed right away.

Simple, really.

Understanding the difficulty I’ve been having facing my own story gave me an idea. Why not wake up to somebody else’s? So I started a new Korean drama. The episodes last about an hour, giving me the perfect reason to wake up an hour before I have to leave. It worked.

This morning I woke up gradually to lovely violin music at 6:50 am. My laptop was open and the show was on by 7:00 am. At 7:30 am, I moved into the bathroom to get ready and finished watching the second half of the episode. I was in the office on time at 8:30 am, and my coworker commented on my improved morning mood.

Wins all around.

Am I confident that I can keep this up? Yes. Do I wish that I could enjoy waking up to my own story instead of relying on a surrogate? Yes. Am I doing everything in my power to write a better story for myself? You bet! And will I share it with you once I’ve written it? Of course.

If you would like to read the practical guide that helped me make this change, click here.

Here’s to happy mornings!

-Lisa Kristine

 

Letting The Feelings Out: Part One

Welcome to my new writing series documenting my progress as I get in touch with my squirrelly feelings. It’s been years since I allowed them to scamper freely. Especially since my bipolar diagnosis three years ago, I have done my best to capture each feeling inside a logical cage.

However, letting out my feelings through writing for my childhood friend (who may as well have been my genetic twin brother as the person who knew me and could communicate with me better than anyone) was the emotional equivalent of releasing an army of rodents into the impeccably clean rooms of my house, including the logically stocked pantry to ward against emergencies.

It’s been a mess.

Instead of trying to restore order using the same obsessive method of caging each feeling, I’m contemplating the necessity of a new way of living with myself–one which allows thoughts and feelings equal standing. I just can’t live with suppressed emotions any longer.

When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I assumed that any and all of my moods could be linked to a chemical imbalance of the brain and therefore were unreliable. Practically speaking, I’ve been living as less than a whole person. The impact on my life is hard to measure, although I probably stayed in my last relationship (which was emotionally abusive) four months too long because I wasn’t paying proper attention to how he made me feel.

So my solution to my thought/feeling divide is to write it away. If I write about my feelings in a thoughtful manner, I can give them proper room to express themselves without train wrecking into psychosis. I’m looking forward to this journey into the unknown.

I feel a bit like Bilbo Baggins. I’m venturing outside the safe confines of my mental hobbit hole in the wake of unwelcome houseguests who wreaked havoc on my standard of living. The adventure calls to me, and there’s no telling where I will be swept off to…

–Lisa Kristine–

New Beginning

Today marks the dawn of a new personal era, and I feel like being dramatic about it. Down with the reign of Peter Pan in Never, Neverland!

Wendy is a grown-up now, and she can finally tell her story.

A little context if you didn’t read my last post: I found a way to tell the most important story of my life. It all began by recognizing that the boy I’ve been in love with for fifteen years chose to never grow up. He is honestly afraid of getting old.

We once had a conversation during college about what we consider to be the prime of life. His opinion? 26 years old, and then everything goes downhill after that. I thought that was WAY too young. My opinion was, and still is, that 50 is the ideal age (hopefully before the body begins to really break down and after acquiring years of wisdom).

No wonder he doesn’t want to get any older.

He and I could not have a more different approach to the passage of time. I see everything as an opportunity to learn, change, and take on new challenges. I want to be a life-long learner. And, well, I’ve watched him hang back as much as he can. It’s such a shame because I know him, and I know how smart he is.

That’s why I have to call him Peter Pan. It’s such a powerful thing to be able to finally put a name to the problem after 7 years of wondering why we weren’t continuing to grow up together. I’ve been missing my partner in crime for a long time. He used to be my closest friend when we were young, and now we could not be more distant.

But back to the dawn of a new personal era.

There is so much relief in my heart, and healing from the pain of being torn apart inside is finally possible. It wasn’t my fault for facing adult changes head on and charging into fray. I’m a steady fighter, and I know that if I can’t solve something right away, I should sleep on it and try again tomorrow. I don’t think or act like a girl anymore, even as I recognize the continuity between my past and my present.

I’m in the process of becoming whole again, by satisfying the little girl inside with the answer to her deepest question and by giving my grown up self the chance to start anew. I’m not as complicated as I thought I was.

I was broken apart into pieces, and now the puzzle has been put back together again. 

I thank God that this was finally possible.

Also, I’m ready to write under my real name. Before, I hid behind the pseudonyms of “June Skye” and “Wendy Darling.”

But now I’m ready to be myself.

–Lisa Kristine–

An Open Letter from the One Who Got Away

Sand kicked backwards while ecstasy gripped my toes and flung me forward with each step–leaving my pursuer to eat my dust. It was The Game, also known as Tag. My ten-year-old self was awkward, with extra long limbs and ill-fitting clothes. But being faster than the IT kid didn’t require cute outfits, just longer, stronger legs and a cunning mind from years of experience. And I was poised to out-smart and out-run any of the kids in that church playground with literally flying colors.

Except for maybe that boy with the blond curly hair. He was a grade behind me, which put him at a disadvantage, but he was tall for his age and determined looking–definitely a competitor. He let one of the smaller kids tag him, we locked eyes, and then it was on!

Any normal kid would have given up on me after 10 or so unsuccessful seconds, but not him. I listened to his labored breathing, just two maddening steps behind, while he chased me all over that playground. But I was just out of reach.

Right in the middle of the chase, I experienced an unfamiliar feeling–the longing to be caught by him. But I couldn’t and wouldn’t, under any circumstance, just slow down. That would compromise the validity of The Game. And I was a deep respecter of The Game. So I ran faster and hoped that he would find within himself some burst of speed.

Which he didn’t, and then after a while the rest of the kids began to clamor for him to tag someone else, even purposefully running into him, and eventually he caved. But I perceived his reluctance to admit defeat. If it had been just the two of us in that playground, he would have chased me right into the next grade.

His name was Peter.

That playground game was the first of many, many run-ins over the next decade or so. We grew up homeschooled in the same church from the end of elementary into high school, and I have more memories of Peter than anybody else in my life.

Wearing a blue turtleneck to match my eyes and meeting him and his family at the zoo. Going to the library and coming out with piles of books–Peter carrying my pile and his with alacrity. Swinging higher than him and jumping off the swing to land farther than him. Outrunning him in countless games at church, and then being outrun by him as the years favored his height and averaged mine. Shooting hoops, just the two of us. Sitting next to each other in the church van and picking up on our conversation from two weeks ago. Communicating a single thought with a facial expression across a busy, crowded room. Bossing around the smaller kids. We became king and queen of the playground: Peter and me, me and Peter.

And then, I grew up. I went away to college, left town, left that church, dated other people, experienced my first and second manic episode, made student loan payments, bought a car, and landed a job in real estate.

Somehow, he stayed behind. I tried staying in touch, but he just grew more and more distant as time went on. There were rumors flying around that he still liked me, but he never admitted to it. I got away from him after all.

I’m sorry, Peter Pan, but I couldn’t stay in Neverland. I left that window open for years, but you stopped coming as I got older. And there was only so much pixie dust to carry me back to you. I kept hoping that you would show up at my door a man, ready to go on a grown-up adventure together to take on the world.

Now, I’m closing the window and latching it tight. Nobody can take from me the sweetness and innocence of a childhood spent in Neverland, but I’m too old now for games with lost boys.

I will always love you, Peter Pan, even though all the pixie dust is gone and all that’s left are stories.

Once upon a time, there was a boy and a girl, and they loved each other very much, as only two children can, in the playground known as Neverland.

Sincerely,

Wendy Darling

Please Read This Short, Refreshing Post from My Favorite Fellow Blogger, Hannah Brencher

I’ve told this story a few times before. It happened in November 2014. It was the week of Thanksgiving and I was on the verge of a 4-month battle with severe depression. I say “verge” because, even though the depression had technically set in, those first few weeks were nothing compared to the rock-bottom I […]

via The fight to keep your “normal.” — hannah brencher

Dear June: Advice on How to Conquer Writer’s Block

June, stop.

Don’t try to name the color of your thoughts.

Don’t call them grey or blue or orange-hued.

Don’t you know? 

Your Words are tied up in pending litigation at the courthouse,

While your Creative Juices were jailed downtown (no word on why but we suspect they started a fight)

And Stress is pounding at your door, prepared to drink all your milk, eat all your cookies, and otherwise occupy your time.

And once you’ve let him in, his cousin Overwhelmed will soon show.

Between Stress and Overwhelmed, you will run around baking cookies and pouring milk, trying to be so busy that you can’t hear a word they say.

You will fail of course. And their words will be all you can think of, all you can write. Obviously, you need some back up.

My advice?

Abandon your milk and cookie post and run downtown. Tell your Words to drop the case against your ex-boyfriend. He’s not worth it.

Then haul your Words to the police station and pay the bail to bring your Creative Juices home.

So with Words and Creative Juices at your side, go back home and have them holler at Stress and Overwhelmed for eating all your cookies

and wasting your time. 

They won’t leave right way, but that should shut them up long enough for you to sit down and write all about that Orange Page you discovered, 

the new one, 

colored with fun,

colored with change.

Sincerely, 

Your Brain, Ready for Some Peace and Quiet and Trying to Help