Monday, April 30, 2007

Idiotic "Fun"????

She floated like a butterfly and stung me like a bee. My first love dumped me for another boy. I will remember her as long as I live. C...... Claghorn is a name that you are not likely to forget. My introduction to infatuation began in kindergarten. "C" was one of the cutest girls that I had ever seen. Just being in the same room with her gave me babybumps. That smile, those eyes, that personality and of course, her great beauty was potent enough to cause this little boy to walk on clouds.

Infatuation led to kissing. Whoohoo! I confessed to my parents that we had kissed on the playground. My Dad said, "Stormy, you had better stop kissing that little girl, because her daddy is going to get you." I didn't care. At least, I didn't think that I did. One night, my Dad reached around behind his chair and knocked on the wall. He got up and went to the door. When I heard him say, "Well, come in Mr. Claghorn," I flew to my room and hid in the closet. Of course, my father thought that was hilarious.

Our relationship didn't end well. One day, I walked out in the hallway and saw my girlfriend kissing another boy. I was hurt and furious, so I hit him on the nose. That made me feel better. For the first time in my life, I got a charge out of violence.

My father and his own history probably had a lot to do with the way I handled disagreements with people. He came from a long line of fighters and he taught me all that he knew, which was considerable. Almost as soon as I could walk, he started teaching me how to box and wrestle. Those became two of my favorite forms of play. There was an ethic that he adhered to, though. I can hear him say, "Never start a fight, but make sure that you finish it. Don't back down from anybody, even if they are bigger than you are. Never let a bully mistreat someone who is weaker."

His ethic became my ethic. I pretty much held to those ideas until I had my last fight at age 25. He also taught me something else. "If someone starts talking about how tough he is and how he's going to knock you out, don't talk, punch." That advice helped me win a lot of fights.

It's now a shame to me, but I once counted over 50 men and boys that I had fought, from age 5 to 25. My record was pretty good. At this stage of life, though, I realize how idiotic violence is. Yet, I believe that my fist-fighting was to some degree, an expression of my bipolar manic state. I had often said that a fight left me feeling relaxed and happy and more at peace. That sounds "crazy," but it was true. It was a mood release for me. Consequently, I believe that I often "invited" someone to punch me just so I could feel "good."

I have searched the Internet looking for a connection between boxing, fighting, and bipolar disorder. It seems reasonable to me that someone who has BPD would be drawn to boxing. I know that it was a sport that appealed to me, even though I never had a chance to box. I had plenty of opportunities (?) to fight. I believe that this is an area of study that clinical psychologists should pursue. I would be interested in hearing from other men who have BPD and have a history of this type of violent behavior. If there is enough anecdotal evidence for my theory, perhaps some of the medical professionals might become interested enough to investigate this phenomena.

So, why haven't I continued to get into fist-fights? I believe that there are two very important reasons. First, probably at about age 25 I started making the transition from Type One BPD to Type Two BPD. If you have read my earlier blogs, you may remember that my doctors believe that has happened, even though it is rare. Secondly, I became a Christian and that changed my whole life. I wanted to please God, and I wanted to get in control of my anger, and I wanted to be at peace with all men in spite of their sometimes provoking behavior. The coincidence of those two events has had a radical impact on the last 33 years of my life.

Though I try to avoid the subject, sometimes my history of fighting will come up in casual conversation. I believe that one of the greatest compliments that I have ever received is when people say, "Stormy, I just can't imagine you ever fighting." That's wonderful to hear, and I pray it never changes.

Some of you may be wondering if there are any circumstances in which I might use my fists. Probably, if it was to protect another person. Possibly, if it was to protect myself. I can say with all of my heart, though, that I hope that never becomes necessary. It would deeply sadden me, and that feeling wouldn't have anything to do with my depression.

NOTE: Miss Claghorn, I want you to know that it is still over between us.

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18)."
["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."}

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


The reality of my life is that I'm often depressed. I try to write in this blog at least twice a week, but lately I've just been too down to do it. The rapid cycling doesn't allow me enough "up" time to do anything. I'm tired when I go to bed, and tired when I get up. Often a nap is a necessity.

Difficulty thinking continues to plague me. I've been working part-time at the college library, but even as simple as my duties are there, it's sometimes very difficult to go to work and function the way that I need to. The fact that my photography is going well (awards and sales), just isn't enough to boost my mood for more than a few hours. At least photography gets me out of the house and gives me a purpose for the day.

I've been asked to write a brief autobiography for my upcoming 40th class reunion, but the mental and emotional energy just isn't available. Attempting to complete that task is like dragging an anchor through the jungle. People who don't have a depressive mood disorder often don't understand that those of us who do are not guilty of procrastination, but of extreme lethargy. Our engines are always idling and often remain in "park."

Sometimes, I'm afraid that I will come across as a whiner, but I don't know how to communicate how difficult everyday tasks are without taking that risk. Even a Christian gets to the point of not asking for prayers, because that would be a continual request. A person feels very alone and lonely sometimes, even though aloneness is not a reality. There are many people who have been supportive of me and my ministry, but sometimes I can't see the crowd for the darkness.

This is me, hanging on.

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Faster Than A Speeding Bullet

"Faster than a speeding bullet." That's how quickly my moods change. This last week I concluded that I am rapid-cycling. According to my wife, I am changing mood at least twice per week. It didn't used to be that often. This is not good.

Rapid cycling, as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), is a change of mood with four or more episodes of mania or depression per year. In my case, I would be described as a person who is an ultra-rapid cycler. Ultradian cycling is when a change occurs several times a day. RCBPD occurs in about 15% of the bipolar population. Unfortunately, this type of bipolar disorder is extremely treatment-resistant. That has certainly been my experience.

Dr. William Coryell, a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Iowa, reports that patients with bipolar disorder who develop a rapid-cycling pattern suffer substantial depressive morbidity and are at high risk for suicide attempts. People with this type of bipolar disorder tend to have more depressive episodes and have poorer treatment response. The frequent shifts in mood, energy and ability to function put additional stress on the patient and also on his/her relationships.

If you have bipolar disorder and are experiencing rapid-cycling, you will need to report this to your physician or psychiatrist, so that a treatment regimen can be tailored to meet your special needs. I plan to meet with my medical professionals and discuss a possible change in my medications needed for my RCBPD. My prayers are for all of you.

Photography season is now in full-swing here in Arkansas. The grass is like blades of emeralds, the birds are in abundance, the trees are putting on their spring and summer clothing, and every week is full of photographic activities.

Monday through Wednesday I went to the lake, Thursday I went to the Buffalo River, Friday I went to a baseball game and today I attended a dog show. "I'm loving it!!!" I'm depressed, but still having fun.

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Monday, April 16, 2007

Good News???

Have you ever had mixed feelings about good news? I remember one college course that I took, and I was pretty nervous about our first exam. It was to be an essay exam, which I think are the most difficult due to their subjective nature. The next time that our class met our professor made an announcement. There had been one person who had a perfect score (100). Yep, it was me and I was a little bit embarrassed because every one turned to look at me, some raised their eyebrows, and some were perplexed. I was forty-three years old.

Well, things got worse when our instructor began to read the class my essays. I was ready to crawl under my seat. I'm just introverted enough to not want to be in the limelight. Then, it dawned on me that with a score of 100, there is only one direction to go. It was extremely improbable that I would repeat my success on every exam. So, I received that "good news" with mixed feelings.

I now want to share what might be good news for those of us who have Bipolar Disorder. You might read about this on a number of sites, but I ran across it at the Medscape Medical News website. I will now quote some excerpts from that rather lengthy article.

March 30, 2007-"According to the Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder, a large placebo-controlled trial of community-dwelling patients with bipolar depression who were receiving mood stabilizers, adjunctive antidepressant therapy did not reduce symptoms of depression, neither did it increase the risk for mania."

"One group of experts was saying, 'When you get depressed, you should add an antidepressant,' and another group of experts was saying, 'When you get depressed, if you do a really good job with a mood stabilizer, you don't need an antidepressant.' This study proved that the latter group was correct, and that it is perfectly reasonable to treat patients without the addition of an antidepressant, as long as you are doing a good job with mood stabilizers."

According to this article, though, this study is being deeply scrutinized by the medical community. Some medical professionals believe that more studies need to be done before a change is made in standard treatment for patients having Bipolar Disorder.

Personally, I'm having a mixed reaction to this "good news." I don't want to take more medication than I need, and I certainly want to avoid medications that might negatively affect my treatment. On the other hand, I am concerned that I might fall into a deeper depression than is typical, if I don't continue to take antidepressants (Wellbutrin) in addition to my mood stabilizer (Lamictal).

In previous blogs, I have warned you that taking an antidepressant, without the addition of a mood stabilizer, can increase the number of depressive episodes. That is ONLY true if you have Bipolar Disorder. Those of us who have unipolar depression should continue to take our medication, unless advised otherwise by our doctor.

I'm also concerned that some patients might think they would be better off if they didn't take any medication. I believe that would be a dangerous conclusion. Discontinuance of any medication without consulting with your doctor would be ill-advised.

One of the ongoing problems that we depressives have is non-compliance with our doctor's advice and prescribed treatment. This is one of the reasons why people who have chronic clinical depression have difficulty stabilizing. In the future, I plan to discuss the critical issue of non-compliance.

So remember, "good news" might be "bad news" in disguise.

I want to thank everyone who so kindly prayed for me during my most recent episode of deep depression. I am doing better now. I have come to the conclusion that I rapid-cycle, so I will always be riding the roller-coaster.

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Up Down

Yesterday, I woke up down. Today, I'm more deeply down than I was the day before. Tomorrow, I may be so down that I won't want to get up. The skin of my forehead is very tight, so when I lift my eyebrows, they feel as though they have been sewn to my skull. A vise is crushing my head. My energy has mutinied and when I walk, I snail along. Another episode in what feels like an eternal series. These are the kinds of times when I've said, "I've been down so long, it feels like up to me."

When the apostle Paul wrote of the depth of the Macedonian Christians' poverty (2 Corinthians 8:2), he chose the Greek word Bathos, which was commonly used to speak of extreme depth, such as the deep sea. We might readily recognize its derivative bathysphere, "a strongly built steel diving sphere used for deep-sea observation (Webster)."

Depression might be described as a "bathyspheric state of mind." That's how I'm feeling. As if I had stepped off the edge of the Mariannas Trench and I'm going down, down, down. The same brain that experienced joy last Saturday is sliding into darkness today. Why is that? How can that happen? Are the neurotransmitters in my head taking a vacation? Has Serotonin and Norepinephrine slipped into an idle mode? My brain, and what is happening in it from moment to moment, is a mystery only heaven can solve. Knowing that doesn't keep me from becoming frustrated and saddened.

I have a confession to make. I sometimes look at someone who has a physical disability and wish that I could trade. I might change my mind the moment that the trade is made, but the grass seems greener. The problem with having a mental disability is that most people can't see it. Therefore, they think that it doesn't exist. Countless times, I've had someone say to me, "You sure don't look depressed."

As people peek into the coffin of a person who has committed suicide, do they say, "He/she sure doesn't look depressed?" I had a first cousin who was 19, a straight A student, humorous, popular, and engaged to be married. One day, his fiance stopped by his apartment and found that he had shot himself. Even if they had known, people would probably have discounted his depression, because he seemed to be leading an idyllic life. According to the adage, "Looks are deceiving." Even though taken out of context, it seems that Jesus' words are still true. "Having eyes they do not see."

Sometimes the world does not see because it does not look.

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Bird Brain

How do you explain inexplicable behavior? This morning, while I was eating breakfast and watching the Today show, a robin kept trying to fly through my french-door windows. Over and over again. In the 20 minutes I watched, I would estimate conservatively that he flew into the window 50 times. Only an ornithologist would be able to explain that bird's behavior.

Type I Bipolar Disorder manic behavior is a little like the bird's. Full-blown mania is characterized by acts that are inexplicable. When someone you love becomes extremely irritable, has poor judgment, goes on wild spending sprees buying things that they could never use, has repeated and demeaning sexual encounters, continually puts their life in danger having "fun," is unreasonably aggressive, or commits crimes, it is a mind-bewildering experience. Everything that you thought you knew about the kindness and integrity of your loved one seems to have been an illusion. You wonder, "who have I been living with all of these years?"

Sadly, the consequences of that bizarre behavior are not only felt by the person with BPD, but are also shared by those who love them. All too often, the words of the apostle Paul come to mind. "A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life (Galatians 6:7f)."

I believe that the subject of manic behavior should be discussed among Bible scholars. Perhaps best studied by those who have a strong medical or scientific background. There are questions that at first seem to be easily answered from God's word, but serious and long-term reflection might say to us, "We don't know it all, and we certainly do not have all of the answers."

Whenever we see someone who has an obvious mental impairment, such as Downs Syndrome or brain damaged or chemically deficient, we might wonder to what degree God will hold them accountable for the acts of their life. The Bible says repeatedly that a person will one day stand before God and answer for their deeds, but does that suggest that the Lord will not view differently the person who, for whatever medical reason, seems to exhibit behavior that is outlandish and out of their control. To what degree might the structurally or chemically impaired brain be held accountable?

Those questions may never be answered in this life, but only in the life to come. Still, I am concerned about this theological conundrum. I've dedicated a large portion of my life to study of the Bible. I consider myself to be a pretty good scholar, one who can analyze and put all of the pieces together. Nevertheless, I am conflicted about these things. I need more prayer, study and reflection. I do realize that there are some things beyond our comprehension, and only God Himself knows what is truth. Wise king Solomon said, "No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims that he knows, he cannot really comprehend it (Ecclesiastes 8:17)."

This much I know absolutely. "The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust (Psalm 103:8-14)."

In that I take comfort and encouragement. Anyone who struggles with mental illness needs both.

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Little Things

Many of us, at one time or another, have been fascinated by little things. I guess that's reasonable, since we start out life as "little things." One of my favorite fairy tales as a child was the story of Thumbelina. Ah, a girlfriend that I could carry in my pocket!!

For much of my life, I was small. When I was a freshman in high school, I was a 114 pound wrestler. By the time that I was a senior, I was a 135 pound football player. Who would have guessed that I would one day grow up to weigh 180-190 pounds. I wish I would have had some of that weight when I played football. Now I dream of being small (smaller) again. I still get a chuckle when I remember Rachael Leigh-Cook saying, "I'm not small, I'm space-efficient."

Little things have a vital role in our lives. Often, though, their importance escapes our notice, and we fail to value them the way that we should. When I was a bus driver in Hot Springs, Arkansas, I learned an important lesson, one that I don't think I will ever forget.

As I drove my bus route, I often saw a handsome man standing by the side of the road on the edge of the cemetery grounds. Every morning he could found standing, staring at the cars and their drivers as they passed by. He would usually be dressed in Bermuda shorts, a nice casual shirt and tennis shoes. This gentleman was about 6' 4" tall, so you wouldn't drive by without noticing him. Even though he was attractive, it was obvious that he had probably suffered brain damage at some time in his life. Perhaps that was why he was so interested in watching the traffic.

Now, in Arkansas many people have the habit (a nice one, I think) of waving at each other as they pass in their cars and trucks. It doesn't matter that they are strangers and that you will probably never get acquainted, it is still customary to lift your hand or fingers as an expression of common courtesy.

For a time, I had a little 3 year old boy sitting behind my driver's seat. He watched everything that I did, often imitating my gestures or speech. One day, I met a local policeman on the road and I waved. My little friend then asked me, "Stormy, did that cop 'Hi' you?" "Yes, he did," I replied. He thought for a moment and then he said, "Well, he didn't 'Hi' me." He was a little disappointed.

The gentleman at the cemetery intrigued me. I wondered what his life was like, and what had caused his mental impairment. I wondered if he had anyone to love him and talk to him and go places with him. So, one day I waved, but he didn't "Hi" back. The next day and the next day I did the same, but still no response. Every day, I waved, and when I did, he would watch my bus as I drove two blocks to the corner and turned out of his sight. This went on for two, then three months. He never waved. I decided that he probably never would.

One day, I said to myself that this would be that last time that I waved at him. When I drove by and he saw my cowboy hat, he raised his hand pocket high. For several days, that was all that he did. Eventually, his hand went shoulder high. Not long after that, I was greeted with a hand-wave that reached over his head. My new "friend" began to be exuberant. When he saw me coming, he would smile and wave like there was no tomorrow.

This gentleman taught me that there is value and importance in the little things that we do. Sometimes, the gestures of kindness and attention and recognition are all that is needed to brighten some one's world.

Our church song leader learned that I had been depressed. He told me later that he didn't know what to say to me. At the time, what he did do was probably more important than what he might have said. Each Sunday, as he walked down the aisle to lead singing, he was squeeze or pat my shoulder as he passed by my pew. It was nothing remarkable. Just a "little thing," you might say, but he let me know that he cared, and that was enough for me.

Jesus once said to His apostles, "And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward (Matthew 10:42)." A reward from God for an act as small as a cup of water? That's amazing, isn't it? Jesus teaches us that all of the little things that we do for others are noticed by the Lord. Even something as "insignificant" as a hand wave.

I know that sometimes those of you who love someone who is depressed feel helpless. You seem unable to aid this person who is important to you. Today, I'm asking you to remember the lesson of the man in Hot Springs and the words of Jesus. Maybe, all we really need is for someone to bless us with a little thing.

This week, brighten some one's life with something small. Like a "Hi" or a smile or a pat or a cup of cold water. It will be greatly valued by those who are depressed and by the Lord who sees all that we do for others.

"Little things that you do let me know your love is true." (song by Bobby Goldsboro)

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]