The great experiment, Day 12

Not much to report in the great lithium experiment, which is interesting. And a little disappointing, in that if the goal was to regain the voices, it seems less and less likely. Again, lithium isn’t an anti-psychotic, but rather a simple but powerful mood stabilizer. It would be reasonable to expect a noticable mood swing at least beginning if the lithium was enforcing anything or offering any benefit. I remain constant in my belief that lithium, like all the other psych drugs, offered nothing but a host of side effects. But I’m still willing to admit I’m wrong – we’re not even 2 weeks into this.

Maybe it’s best at this point to define some terms. There’s the range of normal human emotion, and then there’s the infamous “rapid cycle bipolar” (aka PMDD) mood swings. Under the terms of normal human emotions, I’m allowed to be snarky, cranky, optimistic, idealistic, enthusiastic, pissed off, creative, annoyed etc. It’s a matter of scale – everyone does it, and it’s allowed.

I know it seems odd to say that, but it’s important. Because people who have subjected the people around them to the severe mood swings associated with PMDD are dealing with the walking wounded. Anyone who is gutsy enough to stick through this with you are understandably wary – the Beast doesn’t have a body. Just teeth and claws and is far too eager to use them.

Who’s the Beast? The Beast isn’t a fully defined alternate personality. It’s THE DISEASE. The manifistation of this disease being emotional, it almost seems a Jeckle and Hyde scenario. But the Beast isn’t an individual. It’s the set of actions performed by emotions out of control which the rational part of you has to account for in more lucid moments. And I’m pretty sure that’s gibberish if you haven’t been through it. Anyway…

A PMDD mood swing is instant and unpredictable. There are predictable triggers – namely disagreeing with anything the beast says thinks or feels. The Beast. The Beast will consider this nullification of opinion an attack, and will react by becoming irrationally afraid. This fear (at least in me) translates into uncontrollable anger, lashing out in any direction which frightens it. And of course if anyone reacts in a negative way to this act of lashing out, it simply reinforces the Beast’s fear, compounding the reaction. That is the anatomy of the PMDD emotional response, in a nutshell. But only if in the “manic style” phase. In the “depressive style” phase, the Beast turns those claws inward, just as happy to destroy the host as anyone on the outside. The depression caused by these attacks manifests in a mind numbing paralysis, accompanied by acute physical pain. There is massive guilt associated with all this, of course, because somewhere inside the patient is a rational mind. And it’s desperately trying to figure out why this is happening, at the same time dealing with the guilt caused by the anger. Since there’s no rational way to explain the actions provoked by the fear / anger / manic phase, the depression only deepens and reinforces itself, until the anger resurfaces in a defensive “who the hell are you to judge me anyway” sort of posture. Repeat every single month.

Every time I lose my temper these days, I can see the reaction of the walking wounded around me. Their response is a bit disproportinate, because they’re so used to being victimized by The Beast’s tireless claws. So even though normal human anger is acceptable in all individuals, I do my best to temper my responses these days. It’s not easy, because I never learned how. But I’m doing my best. In fact, I think what really manifests most these days are manic episodes. I still talk too fast about things that don’t make sense, trailing off in the middle because I can’t remember what I was saying, or even that I was speaking at all. I know I do this because weeks later I’ll remember the fragment of conversation, sometimes, and remember it was really interesting, but that it was never finished. Or I’ll get too excited about an idea, confirming it over and over in a desperate bid for validation. And it’s annoying as hell to anyone around me. I annoy myself, truth be told. But it’s mild compared to the blazing anger of previous years.

After all that, can you possibly wonder why I think my support network should be nominated for sainthood? Seriously. These people define “unconditional love”. Amazing, amazing, amazing people.

Anyway. For now the Beast seems to be sleeping still. It’s easy to know when it stirs from its slumber. Feeling angry and depressed about Prop 8, for example, is normal. A feeling of sad defeat this morning is understandable. Trying to kill the television, then hurling the remote at the smoking remains, because it showed a story about Prop 8 – that’s the Beast. Very typical Beast.

As of this morning, my TV is still intact.