the chronic

In Health and Wellness on November 18, 2014 at 8:46 pm

I was sick this weekend. Not the sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching kind that afflicts so many commercial actors and NFL players. Not the had too much fun Friday night and spent the weekend mourning my liver and wishing I could cut my head off of my body because that would hurt less. Not the XX-hour flu that tries to determine if your stomach can be turned inside out and negates the need for sit-ups for the next month. This was more like herpes.

I don’t have herpes (except the cold sore kind). But I do have bipolar and I’ve used this analogy before. I’m viscerally averse to going into details of the darkness of bipolar because, well, I hate pity. I feel strongly about not using my disease as an excuse for poor behavior, whether it’s hurting someone’s feelings or fucking up a project or hating everyone in the world once I start driving. To ensure that I’m not dismissed (or assumed inferior) because I experience the symptoms of an illness no one can see or even comprehend, I don’t talk about the lows.

But after this weekend, I am going to tell you what it’s like in the dark. There are so many people silently suffering and there are too many people who have no idea what people with mental illnesses experience and therefore dismiss or assume them inferior. The ignorance and stigma are touching all parts of society, from poverty to gun violence to the penal system and still no one talks about the elephant in the room. And so, let’s get pachyderm.

When starlets are admitted to the hospital with exhaustion and it eventually turns out they are mentally ill, they aren’t really lying. Exhaustion is the first and most overwhelming symptom. Upon waking Saturday morning, I already felt the weight on my chest. Getting out of bed and into the recliner felt like a major accomplishment worthy of a medal or at least a certificate with quality paper and color printing. Despite sleeping 9 or 10 hours, I felt like I’d been awake all night. My eyes featured the expected bags and circles associated with fatigue or a date with Chris Brown. If someone had seen me in that state, they would have just cause to believe I was a zombie and should have alerted the authorities (AMC).

The exhaustion doesn’t leave; instead, it’s joined by its partner in misery, pain. Yes, physical pain is a symptom of bipolar (and depression). It’s similar to the dull ache of the flu (in fact, I took my temperature, thinking I had waited too long on my vaccination), but tighter. My body naturally curls into the security of the fetal position and my muscles twitch like they are shaking off a spider. Stretching has the effect of getting a freshly unrolled poster to lie flat. Whatever temporary relief results from my made-up version of yoga is as delicately held as a snap bracelet. I’m wearing layers not necessarily because I’m cold, but because it feels like extra protection against the cerebral demons.

As this was a particularly difficult episode, there was the sobbing – for no particular reason. Like a toddler past her naptime, the tears are merely the manifestation of the inevitable surrender. It comes from deep in my chest, tears that don’t start at the eyes but at the gut, and there is more heaving of shoulders than shedding of tears. Dumb & Dumber is on the television but it may as well be Schindler’s List. There is only one thing left to do: go to bed.

I have to take Valium to sleep on the best days (my insomnia goes back to childhood). An extra V for a deep sleep (my psychiatrist knows every detail of my pharmaceutical usage, so don’t worry about the extra 5 milligrams) is well worth it. I don’t drift off to sleep. I plunk into it like an anchor.

The epilogue: I felt a little better on Sunday but still not well enough to leave the house (besides an unavoidable trip to the grocery). By yesterday, I was in much better shape besides some spaciness that will linger until my Ritalin dosage is adjusted. I cancelled both appointments that I had on Saturday, both of which were good and fun appointments, not the dentist or car maintenance. But as I remind myself in the lows, this too shall pass.

This post will probably surprise some people – the people who generally just see the goofy, cheerful, vivacious Dale who is as essentially me as is this weekend’s Dale. It will really surprise the people who don’t know much about mental illness. To those people, let me add: while my bipolar is severe, I am about as stable and healthy as is possible. This weekend happening 1 to 3 times per year is the best-case scenario for a person with bipolar disorder. And I am a rare bird among the flock – most struggle far more intensely and far more often. I am one of the lucky ones.

Mental illness is a chronic disease. There’s no cure. It never goes away. There is no combination of medicine and therapy and stress avoidance that will eliminate weekends like this. I often say that bipolar isn’t necessarily fatal (although it can be – it has the highest suicide rate of any mental illness), it is terminal. You will have it until you die. Just like herpes.


More quick facts about bipolar can be found here if you’re interested.

sports, feminism, and “dumb stuff”

In Uncategorized on October 10, 2014 at 8:56 pm

Men and women’s magazines hope you don’t notice all the advertising by interspersing amongst the ads some articles of advice, facts about your body that wouldn’t surprise anyone over the age of 12, a fluffy celebrity interview, and either a thoughtful and well-researched piece of journalism (men’s magazines) or a story about a woman who narrowly avoided something tragic – either by their own escape or the tragedy happened to someone close to them (women’s magazines).

Sometimes, that predictable formula catches a spark in one of its elements and sets off its own branch of reactions. John Mayer refers to the prejudice of his junk and ends up in the 21st century version of Napoleon’s Elba. Rolling Stone prints a cover where Janet Jackson’s naked “features of October awareness” are being held by her husband’s hands — which simply foretold of a Super Bowl malfunction not related to the Superdome’s circuit breakers. Recently, one of those sparks was a Men’s Health article advising men on how to talk about sports with women.

The article had already been deleted by the time I heard about it on my friend Mo’s blog. Fortunately, it was captured in its entirety (101 words) because, internet. But rather than focus on the article, I’m basing my words here on the snippets featured in all the articles about that original spark article (or “sparkticle”) and the enraged tweets and internet comments of offended women – and men – who couldn’t fathom the audacity of a men’s magazine to publish an article with a reasonable approach to a shallow but common interest gap between men and women.

I am a woman. I love sports. I love sports not in the way women love sports or men love sports. I love sports in the way that someone who knows enough about sports to host SportsCenter loves sports. I love sports in the way people love bands you’ve never heard of, complicated online role-playing games, or Breaking Bad. I love all sports – baseball, football, golf, basketball, soccer… pretty much anything where one or more people are competing for something with no real purpose, like a trophy or a ring or a crystal football. Most men don’t talk sports with me not because I need storylines but because I know so much more than they do that it’s not even interesting.

I was not offended by the article. I was offended by the misplaced outrage displayed in the reactions to it. In a country where equal pay for women is dismissed as a non-issue, blood will boil over a fluff piece that actually had substance. The article wasn’t nearly as patronizing as the football guides in every women’s magazines September issue. It has nothing on the ridiculous pink athletic apparel, as though every team has an alternate fuchsia jersey. And placed beside the NFL’s pathetic behavior in response to an epidemic of domestic abuse, it’s actually insulting to women.

This article made the preposterous suggestion that women like stories, and if the woman in your life didn’t show much enthusiasm for your favorite newspaper section, here are some ways that you could enable sharing your interest, and enjoy it together, albeit in different ways.

What on God’s green earth is wrong with that sentiment? The only truth the author missed was that men love stories too, or there would be no such thing as pro wrestling.

Are there women who don’t like sports? Yes. There are also men who don’t like sports (I usually end up dating them). There are people who think sports are the biggest waste of time and money and energy and overpriced beer since, well… concerts, movies, Comic-con, Renaissance fairs, festivals related to season or holiday or savvy marketing… well, it turns out everybody wastes time and energy and money on things. These are called “interests” or “hobbies” or what I usually refer to as “dumb stuff.” The very nature of these beasts is that they are trivial, otherwise they would be work.

All the sports-opposed men I’ve dated had some other waste of time- Magic: The Gathering; video games; movies; being in a band (that doesn’t make money, and is therefore within the realm of trivial matters). I’ve always made an effort to learn about their interests. Even if I never play Dungeons & Dragons with him, I show him I care by caring about his “dumb stuff” and if he’s a keeper, he cares about my interests/dumb stuff (sports, fashion, and foreign policy). This article was much more feminist than the accusations of misogyny.

Hey, angry people: If you want to see some real sports inequality of the sexes, compare the price of a men’s officially licensed MLB t-shirt with a most similar women’s version, and not just the prices but the price based on the amount of material used. By the time I make my 77 cents on the dollar and pay about twice as much for goods, I don’t care how a man talks to me about sports. I’m looking at my bank account and seeing red. Oh wait, no, it’s pink.

There are many things in the world worthy of rage. Injustice and inequality, war and poverty, chaos and uncertainty, and yes, domestic violence. Giving people a way to connect, whether it’s male and female, gay and straight, black and white isn’t worth even 140 characters of people’s indignation. much less manifestos denouncing the rampant woman-hate flowing through the pages of Men’s Health.

Then again, maybe arbitrary anger is their “dumb stuff.”

every. day.

In Uncategorized on October 3, 2014 at 6:56 pm

most of you know that i don’t consider myself a feminist but a humanist, and that i fucking hate jezebel and xojane and all that crap that acts like it’s feminist but they mostly condemn other women for not being the kind of feminists that suits their expectations. but whatever, that’s not my point. my point is that i am generally just considered with equality in general.

BUT: if you think that women don’t experience sexism every day, you live the kind of ignorant bliss for which i long. like people of color encounter racism every day. women encounter sexism every. day.

whatever your thoughts on domestic violence, income equality, harassment, and whatever other topic you have made your final decision that cannot be wavered by facts or logic or horror: you must at least acknowledge that women encounter sexism – maybe not on your terms, but on theirs – every day, and to ignore it is more dangerous to women than ted bundy.

i’m not asking anyone to change their mind, because people don’t like to do that. but i’m a truthteller, and that means i will try to give a voice to people who’d rather not. so, every man in the world: this is what every woman in your life would want you to know.

every. day.


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