Just because you’re paranoid…?

The good news is that my brain is working at at 1000rpm right now! Just bam bam bam! A million things going on in my head, it’s like fireworks in there. It is a very physical feeling, it’s like being high on learning.
The bad news is that it has a name and that name is hypomania. Well, crap. It is very hard to put into words, but if my brain were an engine it’s stuck in fast idle. Everything is revving up, the throttle is wide open and OH MY HOLY CRAP THE WORLD IS SHITTING RAINBOWS INTO MY SKULL AND I’M FARTING SKITTLES.
Seriously, I’m not making that up.
I’m in a very weird position here (and not just because Skittles keep falling out of my pants). Being in this state is “productive” and “energetic” and when you are depressed you would willingly trade entire portions of your body just to be even remotely productive or energetic. You sit there in a torpid stew unable to desire to want to do anything. You read about people with OCD and you think, “oh man, I’d love that! My living room would get SO VACUUMED! It would get vacuumed so hard that it would disrupt weather systems in the antipodes. Take that, other side of the world!”
Of course anyone with OCD would gladly come and slap you repeatedly (in multiples of 3) on the back of your neck and then explain to you all the ways in which their OCD is destroying them and you would have to agree that while on the surface your predicaments seem different, the reality is that you are both being crushed by the same monsters.
So, I’m a little hypomaniacal, the head’s running fast and hard and it would seem like the thing that I had hoped for, a fresh and functioning mind, had been granted to me. There are not hidden blessings here, only sandtraps and minefields.
My mind is running fast, but it’s not focusing. I have to make a herculean effort to read one paragraph after another. Line breaks cause the mind to wander. I have to pull it back in line over and over again.
Then there’s the “psychomotor agitation“. I didn’t realize it had a name, but there it was. My body will not…can not stop moving. I am rocking constantly and have been for days. I sit crosslegged most of the time and the constant rocking motion is causing my leg muscles to ache whenever I stop. My legs are shaky and weak when I try to walk because of this constant flexing and relaxing that they are subject to. The thing is, the rocking releases the dopamine, the dopamine relieves the pain AND fires the reward centers of the brain. The smack makes the junkie sick, but the reward is so very sweet, it hurts so much to come down but if you can just get another hit you’ll be good. I rock and rock and rock and my hands move and clench and seek out focused stimulation because the nerve endings are so concentrated there and if I can stimulate them enough I’ll get more dopamine.
And of course the anxiety. Where would I be without this anxiety? Actually, I’d probably just be here like always, but less anxious.
Recently, something new and tasty has popped in to visit. Captain Paranoia has been scuttling around the edges, making some headway into life.
Last week I had headed out with a little mission. Get some cash out of the ATM, pick up Anna, go grocery shopping, make delicious food. On my way to the ATM I noticed a minivan was following me. Not only following me on the road, but going so far as to follow me into the parking lot of the gas station where I stopped to get cash. Who was this man and why the hell was he following me.
More importantly, why did I think that a vehicle that happened to pull up behind me on a busy road would be ‘following’ me? If you know the Nokomis/Powderhorn neighborhood you’ll recognize when I say that I turned right onto Cedar Ave from 42nd St and that Cedar is a pretty busy thoroughfare. You will also note that going from 42nd St to the Shell Station at 34th St is 8 blocks or 2/3 of a mile. A normal and rational person would not think twice about a car behind them on a busy street for all of 8 blocks. A normal person might note that the car behind them went into the same gas station parking lot, but a normal person would also notice that a gas station is a public place of business and that people often go to these places for the same reasons any other normal person would go there, to get cash or to get gas or to buy a soda or to check the map in the glove compartment because surely they thought they’d have reached the cemetery by now? (just a few more blocks and you’ll be there, don’t worry).
Yesterday, David and I went to the neighborhood grocery. More than once the alarms rang with, “why are they following me? seriously, why?!” This is so very very hard to describe or explain. It is so hard to find the words to describe the completely irrational, especially when you have a very rational part of your brain going, “you know, this doesn’t even make sense. Why are you thinking this?”
Why am I thinking this? There are any number of completely logical and rational explanations for why I might see the same person in a little grocery store many times. And why are people looking at me? Okay, this one is kind of legit. My hair has been pink (or blue or purple or whatever) for years now, for so long that I actually forget it’s even a thing. In the same way you know you are a blond or a brunette and never think about it, I am a pink. On the other hand, pink hair is a thing to look at. If I see someone with pink or orange or whatever hair, I look. I look because it is interesting or awesome or fun. I have eyes, I see, I look. So yeah, throw some reasoning in there and it would seem that the people casting a second glance my way are not calculating my escape velocity, they’re just going, “oh…pink…hey, corndogs are on sale…” (corndogs were on sale, we got 2 boxes!)
So what the hell, why am I talking about this? Well, firstly, because I can. My blog, my topic, neener neener, also, when I type I can’t rock, but the typing motion gets just enough agitation out to allow for another dopamine release…sweet sweet dopamine. And I haven’t slept in some days and that’ll mess up your judgment big time. Today I’m sharing the secrets of my brain, tomorrow possibly the secrets of my pants. I don’t know!! Stay tuned!
I’ve mentioned this before and I do not take this lightly. I have been afforded some measure of grace, a blessing as it were. So many people suffer under the burden of these sorts of things and are completely lost within the suffering. They cannot see out. Right now I am lucky, truly lucky, I can see out. The clarity wavers at times, and everyday there is the possibility that I will open my eyes and only see in. But right now I can see the divide and that is not a thing that most people get to see.
I also have a great many friends, probably more friends than a person like me would deserve, but I have a lot of friends. Some of them suffer or struggle to some degree as I do with these issues. I write about this so that they know they are not alone. That even Auntie BubboPants has dragons to tame.
I have friends who know people who fight this. My ability to write is not something I take lightly, it is very much a part of who I am. The fact that it has been so very hard to write anything of substance lately is quite telling. What I truly hope to accomplish in some way is to make people understand how these thought processes evolve and devolve out of control. If I had a dollar for every time someone said, “but you know it’s irrational! so why do you believe it? why does it bother you?” I’d have enough to fund an eastern European olympic basketball team AND get a Ben and Jerrys flavor of my own!
What I want to show people is that even when every bit of logic and rational thinking is crystal clear and on point, you can still go mad. That this is not a choice, this is not a matter of deciding to be sane and healthy. I can make jokes about Skittles and dragons, but also I can say that this is a struggle. This is breathtakingly overwhelming. I do not want this, I do not want any of it. I do not want to be this person any more. But I am this person and if it were as simple as not wanting it then it would have been done. I do not want to be this person, this brain is an endless friction. I do not want it.
But I do have it. It is here, it is me. I cannot choose to be sane but I can choose what I do with this bug.
Today is such a beautiful day. The crabapples and lilacs are in crazy bloom. I can still recognize the beauty and you should too. Go outside, even if it makes you sneeze, go out there and look…just look at everything…
…but, um, don’t look at me or you’ll just confirm my suspicions that people are looking at me.

8 thoughts on “Just because you’re paranoid…?

  1. OMG, I’m so excited I get to be the first poster! My best friend has rocked since I’ve known her (we met in college; I’ve known her for almost 30 years). I think she probably rocks for much the same reasons you do, and she’s been able to accept it lately and hopes to be able to use it as a meditative technique (might as well use it if it’s there, right?). I WAS worried about you when we weren’t hearing from you; I knew what that probably meant, having wrestled with my own demons (though I never pooped Skittles, I think of my own hypomania as the days when I get things done (yes, that couch is SO vacuumed). I imagine it’s what other people call normal. I think the greater swings would be very tough to deal with, and it IS a grace to be given the ability to be in that head and still be enough within yourself to know what’s going on. I’m so grateful you’re back; you have one reader in Vermont (and many readers elsewhere I’m sure) who cares deeply about how you’re doing. That’s how powerful your gift (writing/being) is.

  2. Just so you know, I already know the secrets of your pants. And they are scandalous! Did you know that yesterday was Tapir Day and we neglected to celebrate it in the pants?? They may revoke our pants! button for this one.

  3. Ah yes, I know the hypomania well. It’s my friend when I actually get things done. Way cool, even if the next day I am totally physically WIPED! But sometimes it comes with anxiety over the moon, and I turn into a screaming raving bitch, complete with really loud, fast, angry, impatient pencil-tapping. Well, not tapping, more like whack-whack-whack-whack-WHACK! I’ll take the “getting things done” mode over “impatient bitch” any day. Of course, sane would be a lot better, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards these days.
    Oh yeah: I had a similar experience to your Effexor disaster over the winter. But it wasn’t the brain pills — they’re working pretty well, thank you — it was a side-effect of a cancer pill. “Mood swings,” sez the package insert. Uh … yeah … you could call it that…. Fortunately, the oncologist is human, actually listened, and understood, so he changed the med and the new one is better. Not great, mind you, but better. I’ll take what I can get.
    Better living through chemistry: ain’t it great?

  4. Thanks for writing about this. I’m thinking that you could have a Ben & Jerry’s flavor that incorporated Skittles. No need not to use them when you have them.

  5. I think you are a wonderful & marvelous person, and I believe you enrich the life of everyone who knows you. Keep fighting. It must be so tiring, so exhausting, but keep fighting.

  6. Thank you for being willing to share what many encounter daily.
    Anxiety is a foul beast; panic, so unnerving with its toothy jaws. Unfortunately, paranoia tends to be right thinking.
    After, countless times to the edge, and falling over, I am thankful to be able to rise. This is why I have rocking chairs in my classroom.

  7. Thank you for being willing to share what many encounter daily.
    Anxiety is a foul beast; panic, so unnerving with its toothy jaws. Unfortunately, paranoia tends to be right thinking.
    After countless times to the edge, and falling over, I am thankful to be able to rise. This is why I have rocking chairs in my classroom.

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