Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Communication Part I: Bipolar Fallout Shelter

Crazy pill count:
AM 1.5 Ativan, 90 Cymbalta,10 Viibryd, 25 Lamictal
afternoon 1 Ativan
PM 1 Ativan, 5 Zyprexa

A post brought to you by The You're Awesome Topic Request Survey:
What are some tips in communicating with bipolar people? Bipolar people are not always rational, by definition, so I need some help here.

You guys just never quit asking difficult questions. But then again, we crazy kids, never quit being difficult to communicate with. Although this is a tricky question it is such an important one. I will break this request down into a few different posts as not to make this post too long.

I thought I would choose this topic, today, because I have been especially difficult to communicate with these past forty-eight hours. Hubs, I dedicate this post to you.

It's as if I've ordered an emergency lockdown - I have shut myself up in the guest bedroom blaring sad music and writing bad poetry like my teen years.

"Face the Sad Music" by Elliot

Except now that I'm thirty-three it's the band Sleeping at Last, instead of The Cure, and I'm writing haiku's about being crazy, instead of couplets about heartbreak. I'm not answering my phone. I'm not leaving the house. But worst of all, I'm not having conversations with the hubs.

Crack open The Joy of Being Bipolar: Everyday moods that destroy your day, flip to Chapter 21: To Talk or Not to Talk? and you'll find my sad, little, tear-stained face in the guest bedroom "bipolar fallout shelter."

But why you may be wondering?
I think it might be helpful to explain the process of why before I try to advice on the how.

Depression. Yuck. What an disgusting word.
Akathesia. Eeek. What a horrifying word.

This will now be my third experience with akathesia in the past year. In case you have not read my posts about akathesia, and are curious as to what it is and would like to read about it, you can read about my experience with Geodon and akathesia here and my experience with generic Zyprexa and akathesia here.

In case you don't feel like reading old posts, I will give you a very brief breakdown:

Akathesia makes you feel certain you have gone completely mad. Your insides are on the verge of exploding, and you are in a state of complete, intolerable desperation because you can't. make. it. stop. It is an inner restlessness that is so severe, stillness is an impossibility. It is an agonizing need to move, yet no movement or action brings any relief.

My akathesia is being caused by Abilify and it won't go away, can't go away, until the Abilify is out of my system. Unfortunately, for me, until yesterday I had still been building up my dosage of Abilify and so it will be quite some time until it is out of my system. That leaves me with the option of taking lots of Ativan to try to relieve the discomfort/torture while I wait - wait for my ability to function to return. Wait for my insides to surrender the war. Wait for my swirling, thundering, failing mind to reclaim peace.

"White Flag: Victory in My Surrender" by Sing Zion Sing

What has made this experience with akathesia unique for me is the dark depression that is accompanying it. The deep aching pain has come to life, like a horror movie, with it's own restless, physical sensations. It feels like there is an angry gremlin doing competitive gymnastics in my gut, an over caffeinated hamster relentlessly running on his wheel in my chest, and something...something sad and desperate twenty-times-over trying to claw it's way out.

All this...and all I know how to do is withdraw - to burrow under the blankets in my guest bedroom "bipolar fallout shelter" and cry. I don't know how to talk with so much turmoil happening inside. To survive, all I know how to do is shutdown.

But there is a problem with this method. There are other people in my life, like the hubs, who want to communicate with me. And there are people who want to communicate with you too.

So back to the question:
What are some tips in communicating with bipolar people?

I can't speak for everyone. And every situation is also different.
But in the situation where your crazy loved one is withdrawing, a great thing to do is simply ask:

"Do you want me to give you some space today?" 

And if they do, make plans outside of the house. Go to a coffee shop, or the movies, or the bookstore, or whatever floats your boat. You can even go float a boat. Do whatever activity you like to do outside of the house.

When we are withdrawing it is not necessarily "a cry for help." It can honestly just be a need for some alone time where we don't have to talk about how we feel, or talk about anything at all for that matter. It can be the desire to just quietly exist.

On the flip side, we might be withdrawing because we don't know how to reach out even though we may really need to. In that case, the greatest gift you can give us is simply asking:

"How can I be here for you? 
I might not know the right thing to say, but I'd love to listen."

Sometimes having someone to really listen helps. Sometimes being silently alone helps. I know you can't read our minds. Honestly, we don't always even know what we need when we're lost in the dark. But asking those few simple questions can really be an amazing amount of support. And a truly beautiful gift.

I hope that was at least a little helpful in answering your question.
Thank you for loving us and caring enough to ask this question in the first place.


Part Two (tips for communicating during mania and mixed episodes) coming soon.

Until next time...


  1. If I could, I'd come over and give you a hug(and a massage if you feel like it!) Since I can't, here's a virtual hug! :)

  2. "....or whatever floats your boat. You can even go float a boat." I seriously laughed out load at this. How are you doing? Hugs you. Hope you're feeling better. :)

    1. Not better yet but soon I 'm sure. Maybe I should try floating a boat. ;)
      Hope you are on the mend yourself!

  3. When I got back from our beach trip, I had an allergic reaction to all the sand flea bites I got. I experienced the most agonizing itching I have ever in my life felt. I thought I would claw myself to pieces, and I really just wanted to knock myself out with a two-by-four. This went on for days and days. I can imagine that this is what it feels like to be experiencing akathesia - you truly have my deepest sympathy. And to feel the crushing weight of depression on top of that is just too much - you deserve fourteen purple hearts. I wish I could take away some of your burden, dear friend. I know you know you will come out of the dark wood. I hope it's soon. Lots of love.

    1. Thank you always, for your supportive words. I made it out of the dark!!!! And those damn sand flea bites - OMG - I was going crazy nuts too! For an entire week. I would have loved to have been clubbed by a two-by-four!
      But that sunrise with you was worth it... :)
      Big Hug!