Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bipolar Disorder and the Obsessive Life

I've been ruminating all day on the fact that someone out there really does not like me and how badly I want to argue them around to seeing things my way.  I realize how stupid and neurotic this is.  It's all part of the mental illness, I know, but you'd think by now I'd have come up with some cognitive skills to deal with this type of thing.  Plus, if you're going to write personal stuff and put it on the internet, you've got to expect that there are going to be people who just do not understand and want to hurt you by saying really mean things about you.

One of the things I've always told my children is that no one is ever going to love them the way their mother does.  I know this is true.  So why do I feel such an obsessive need to have everyone I come across like me?  What is it that makes me so damned needy?

Here's a good reason why you should never pick at a bipolar person.  If you continuously whittle away at what little self confidence we have, you stand a really good chance of putting us into a very severe depression.  I'm smart enough about my illness now to realize when this is happening and to force myself to get over it, but there doesn't seem to be anything I can do about the obsessive nature of my thoughts and my need to have closure with whoever it is.

When we first moved to this neighborhood, back in 2005, we ended up in the second house we had looked at.  The first one, we decided, simply had too many stairs that went straight from top floor to middle floor and it was going to be a train wreck for me because of how clumsy I am.  Either that or one of the younger children was going to fall and seriously hurt himself.  So, we settled on a house further up the street with a staircase that is split into two with a landing.  I've still slipped and caught myself on the railing more times than I care to count and have suffered numerous bruises and jammed shoulder muscles and the like.  But it's a good thing that the flight doesn't go all the way to the bottom and it's a good thing we didn't buy that first house.

Here's a good example why it's bad to continuously antagonize a person who is mentally ill and unstable.  The house we looked at first ended up being right next door to a neighborhood feud that turned incredibly ugly.  The one neighbor told a friend of ours down the street on the day she moved in that she liked to make trouble and "stir things up."  She wasn't kidding.  The guy who bought the house next to her was a convicted felon with a mental illness.  He had been convicted several years back because he lost his temper with his mother and pushed her, resulting in a broken wrist and a trip to jail.  He was out on probation and under strict orders to behave himself.  The other neighbor, being the bully she is, simply couldn't resist the opening.

From the day she moved in, the sheriff's department was repeatedly called on this guy.  If he came out of his front door, she had the phone in hand and inevitably a deputy would be swinging down our street to take her complaint.  They went to court numerous times and tried to drag the neighbors into their arguments.  They took pictures of each other throwing trash over the property line and there were allegations that he was throwing potatoes into their yard.  Yes, potatoes.  She just couldn't leave him alone.  She had discovered he had been to jail and she did not want him living anywhere near her.

The whole street just wanted to be left in peace, but she kept up her constant effort to get him to move by filing complaint after complaint.  She made him so miserable that he finally went around the bend and, one day when the guy who bought the house we originally looked at came home, this man was sitting on his porch with a gun, intent on blowing away the entire family just to get some peace.  Am I saying this was a good idea?  Oh my God, no!  Our neighbor was able to convince him to give up the gun and the one who couldn't leave him alone ended up getting a restraining order that meant he was going to have to move.  Which just sent him further over the edge.

After moving to another town with his wife and daughter to live with his parents, the guy was so distraught that he took his daughter and grandmother hostage in a standoff that lasted with police for six hours.  He ended up in jail with his probation revoked because he had a firearm (plus, well, you know, the hostage thing).

Let me be perfectly clear here.  People with mental illnesses like bipolar disorder should not have access to firearms.  Ever.  I wouldn't have a gun in the house.  They scare me and not just because of the kids.  I don't trust myself and my own mental state enough to really believe that I wouldn't be so manic and out of control at some point that I would not impulsively shoot myself.  Hence, no firearms for us.  I'm a firm believer in the right to bear arms, but I am also a firm believer in being practical and knowing when having a gun just is not a good idea.

After our neighbor went to jail, someone ratted him out.  He had offered the "snitch" some stupid amount of money he didn't have (because he was unable to hold a job) to kill off the other neighbor's entire family.  He later claimed in court that the whole thing got out of control and he really just wanted to vandalize her property until she was forced to move so he could have his house back.  Talk about a mental illness getting away from you.  The newspaper article that was printed after he was sentenced to 8 years for attempted murder said he had been diagnosed bipolar.

Okay, it's people like this that give this illness such a bad name.  But here's the thing.  Because of his mental illness, he couldn't stop obsessing about this woman and the woman was playing off of it to torment him.  In some sick way, she was getting off on the guy being miserable.  This is what I don't understand.  If you know the guy is unstable, what on earth would ever possess you to antagonize him?  I'd love to ask her that question, but she won't talk to anyone on the street anymore because they didn't support her in her incessant quest to remove him from the neighborhood simply because he had a past.

How does this relate to me?  Well, in all honesty, I feel bad for the guy.  Yes, he did some really stupid things and I don't condone either threatening your neighbors with a firearm or taking your relatives hostage at gunpoint.  But the thing is that he should have been able to get help.  I don't know why he didn't and I suspect his parents, who wouldn't admit to the fact that he was mentally ill, had a lot to do with that.  Enabling is only a good thing up to a point.  They had bought the house for him and then they had to deal with his actions and the consequences of them because they owned the house.

It's completely possible for people with mental illnesses to go undetected if they really don't want you to know.  I did it for years.  My parents had absolutely no idea how depressed I was until I downed two bottles of sleeping pills and ended up getting my stomach pumped at the age of 19.  Then the light went on and I started getting help.  But it still took until I was 34 to get the diagnosis correct and the proper treatment.  And I still struggle.  Daily.

I put myself our here on this blog because I hope that sharing my struggle with mental illness and my willingness to talk about it will either help someone who might not have asked for help or at least let other mentally ill people know they are not alone.  I want to share the benefit of what I have learned through counseling and help those who are unable to ask for it.  I am not an expert, nor do I claim to be.  The only thing I am an expert at is my own life.  And I admit to being a complete and utter train wreck.

Writing about these issues is hard and it's even harder to put them out there for public consumption.  But the fact is that if someone is willing to open up and let you into their world and that world is a little skewed, it's going to be extremely unhelpful to make nasty remarks repeatedly in an effort to get a rise out of them.

Theoretically, I know that I should just let these things go.  Being able to is a completely different matter.  And that's all part of the illness that I am dealing with.

At the end of the day, I know that I have tried my very best to be honest and open about what I go through every time I get out of that bed.  I write from the heart and yes, it really hurts when someone criticizes what I am doing.  But I know that I will have to be a little bit tougher if I am going to keep putting it out there on the internet, because there are always going to be people who don't like you online.  I'm going to say things that people don't like and I know that no one ever agrees with all of your opinions (which, by the way, is all I'm writing about).


  1. Again, I'm so glad I've found these articles, I've been diagnosed bipolar and I can relate to the obsessive thoughts, and when I try to explain myself or I bring them up, everyone always says that I worry too much about what people think of me when I KNOW that it's not quite the same's like my mind locks on to one thing that should be trivial enough but ends up living in my head rent free for aaages :/

    Thank you so much, reading this has made such a difference to me, it makes me feel good to see experiences similar to mine written down in front of me when I'm in a place where my thoughts are all jumbled and expressing myself is pretty much an upward mission...I feel less like my mind is running away with me now :)

    1. I'm so glad that what I've written has helped you. It's amazing how much less alone we feel when someone else we can relate to is willing to talk about the fact that they are going through the same thing.

      I haven't written much lately about my illness. Maybe it's time for an update. Please feel free to write me anytime. Having bipolar can be incredibly lonely when you don't know anyone else with the illness. Or, more likely, you know people who have it, but they are too ashamed to talk about it.



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