Emotion vs. Logic

I am often of two minds about a lot of things.

I call these “Emotion Brain” and “Logic Brain”.

They are quite often at odds.

My first pdoc told me that I was smart, I knew all the right things to do, and if I just listened to my mind instead of my heart I’d be just fine.

That flies in the face of all my spiritual training, which is all about “following your instincts” and “letting your heart guide you.”
But as I came to accept the bipolar diagnosis, I also had to accept that my emotions are totally fucked up and divorced from reality.
Logic Brain must reassert itself. Logic Brain must be in charge.
I realized last night that my emotions were running away with me, and I was allowing myself to just ride the tide.
But I can’t allow that to happen.
That way lies madness and I know it. That direction leads to unhealthy obsession and stupid decisions.
And much like what happened earlier in the year with my obsessive fantasies about J, I have to let go of the scenarios running in my head about M. 
I know that the reason I can’t be friends with J is that I can’t talk to him or anything without wanting to be with him. 
I’m hoping that I can reach a point where M and I are friends, or rather that I can just let a friendship happen without feeling the pressure of “what might have been?”. We knew each other when we were both emotionally vulnerable and just starting to figure out who we were. So, we have a real bond. It’s just not the magical, mystical, unreal “soul mate” bond I once thought it was.
It’s good to have friends that knew you then, or that knew a side of you that you no longer display to the world.
Much like talking to my BFF from high school, or Jerry, can help give me a better perspective on who I was, being friends with M could help me figure out who I want to be.
So, I did some journal writing last night, and some meditation, trying to inform Emotional Brain what Logic Brain has come up with. That usually takes awhile, though; Emotional Brain needs a lot of time to accept things.

About that, um, yeah. . .

So, I’m still talking to this ex, M, from when we were 18.

And I have no idea how I’m feeling about it.

It’s strange.

On the one hand, maybe I was a bit hasty in saying I’m completely over him.

No, I didn’t have the strong reaction that I had to the one in the spring, but as we’ve been talking, things have come up.

Something is there, though I don’t know how to define it.

We always had chemistry, explosive chemistry.

We didn’t always have good communication.

Once I got over being angry at rehashing the same old shit, we started talking about stuff we had NOT discussed before.

And I discovered that he did not have a critical piece of information about the beginning of our relationship.

I swear I told him this thing, more than once, at the beginning, but if he really didn’t know this, it puts some of his behavior in a different (better) light.

We started talking about meeting up “someday” in the amorphous future.

Which, as always with us, led to discussion of sex.

So now that’s in my head. And like I said, we always had chemistry, and that is still there. And now I can’t get it out of my head – an indication of my obsessive nature.

There are a million little reasons and a few big ones why rekindling a relationship with him would be a bad idea, and I’m self-aware enough to know it.

But I also know that we never gave each other a real chance – there was always something hanging over our heads. My issues, his issues, other relationships getting in the way. . .Always something. And we were 18/19/20 and had to make everything 10 times more dramatic than it needed to be.

I know that he’s showing more maturity and introspection than he has in the past. And I’m enjoying talking to him. And I’m looking forward to the possibility of seeing him next year.

I’m trying to not think beyond that (but my obsessive nature is making that difficult).

Out of the woodwork. . .

Apparently, this is a year for reminiscing.

Another ex has popped up.

The one in the spring was my #1 most influential relationship. This one is #2.

And he’s writing a book.

About most of the women in his life.

And I play a prominent role, I guess.

And he wanted a few of my memories to add to the book.

Um, yeah.

So, we’re talking, via email, and he tip-toes around a couple of the big issues. But he hones in on issues I thought we’d resolved ages ago. We have talked several times over the years. After our last encounter, where I literally told him he shouldn’t be looking up old girlfriends when his wife was about to have a baby, I pretty much was done with him. I think I got as much resolution as I was ever going to have with that relationship.

But what he wants is for me to just write, randomly, about some of my memories.

And I don’t want to.

So, I tell him I’ll answer specific questions, but not randomly write.

And the things he brings up are things we talked about back in 92 and 2004. I’ve apologized for the things I did wrong, and told him some of the things he could work on for future relationships.

In fact, I went back and found some posts on the Fool from when he contacted me back in 2004 and verified that we did indeed talk about this shit before.

Anyway, there was a point in my life when I thought I’d never get over this one and now, I’m thinking, “Thank the Gods that we didn’t stay together!” We probably would have killed each other.

To the good, this is not sending me on the roller-coaster that the other one sent me on. Just pissing me off a bit.

Some books on Mental Illness

In keeping with Mental Illness Awareness Week, here are some books and a blog that have information for the lay person about various illnesses.

Kay Redfield Jamison’s An Unquiet Mind is considered a definitive work on Bipolar (which she still calls manic-depressive illness). The author is a psychologist who also has the disorder. I read this shortly after I was diagnosed, and I feel like maybe I should read it again now, since my perspective may have changed. 

The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness by Elyn R. Saks is on my list of books to read (no, I haven’t read it yet). Saks is a law professor who has schizophrenia.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (a.k.a The Bloggess) is a very funny (and fast) read. While it isn’t about mental illness directly, Ms. Lawson suffers from depression and severe social anxiety, which made doing a book tour and other related things very difficult. And if you aren’t familiar with The Bloggess, check out her blog. Some things to make sure you don’t miss:

Beyonce the 6 foot metal chicken
Wil Wheaton collating paper
The video ad for the book (featuring several big name stars)
The traveling red dress revisited (and read all the links)
A confession about depression and self-harm (insert trigger warning here)

I’ll post more tomorrow.

Mental Health Awareness Week

October 7-13 is national Mental Health Awareness Week, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health.

I sometimes casually mention being depressed or having volatile moods or taking medication, but I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk about it more in-depth.

I have bipolar 2 disorder.

One of the best places to find out about the differences between “classic” manic/depressive bipolar (or bipolar 1) and bipolar 2 is PsychEducation.org. The author of that page is a researcher in the field and an advocate for helping people with bipolar 2.

The best visualization I’ve seen for defining mood disorders comes from the PsychEducation website. Dr. Phelps sees bipolar and mood disorders as a spectrum disorder (much like autism). While his opinion is not expressed in the DSM-IV (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association), his descriptions fit so well with my experience, I tend to go with it.

“Unipolar” refers to unipolar depression – clinical depression, major depression. Point A refers to people with depression who respond well to traditional medication. Point B is a point where:

 there is some sort of threshold where these approaches are no longer completely or continuously effective: either they don’t work at all, offer only partial relief, or help for a while then “stop working” (which may account for some or much of “Prozac poop-out”, now regarded as a “soft sign” of bipolar disorder, described below).  

 BP NOS is “bipolar not otherwise specified”. 

The main difference between bipolar 1 and bipolar 2 is the level of mania.

A person with bipolar 1 has had at least one fully manic episode. Mania is defined as:

manic episode is defined by a distinct period of persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood lasting at least one week (or less if hospitalization is required). The mood is also accompanied by additional symptoms, such as inflated self-esteem or grandiosity, a decreased need for sleep, pressured speech, flight of ideas, distractibility, increased involvement in goal-directed activities or psychomotor agitation, and excessive involvement in pleasurable and high-risk activities. from http://www.manicdepressive.org/dsm.html    

People with bipolar 2 have “hypomania” (aka “little” mania) with the elevated mood, grandiosity, pressured speech, flight of ideas, and many of the manic symptoms, but only lasting a few days (4-7) and  is “not severe enough to cause marked impairment in social or occupational functioning or to require hospitalization.”

Except that for me, it can cause problems. I’m too impulsive at work, or I can’t stop saying what I really think, which can get me into trouble with friends and bosses.

As I’m beginning to write this, on October 5 at about 1:30 a.m., I’m hypomanic. I’m doing all kinds of making plans and organizing. I downloaded multiple “blogging plan” pages and set up a binder. I bought new binders and other office supplies (that I WANT but don’t need and should be spending my money elsewhere). I’ve been reading blogs that have tips on making better blogs. Like, I swear, I read over 40 entries at Problogger tonight alone. I wrote posts for two of my other blogs, after almost a month of not writing at all.

It’s now the 5th at 6:30 a.m. I slept for about 4 hours and now I’m wide awake. I’ve opened about 15 tabs on Chrome looking for inspiration to start jotting down notes for my blogs, while watching a show on Hulu.

It’s really hard to hold onto a job when this happens. On the one hand, I’m more productive than ever, but on the other, I can’t concentrate on one thing for more than a couple of minutes. While I’m writing this, I’m thinking about the knitting I want to do, writing patterns, how to make my math blog better, how to get more money coming in, helping my daughter with a Greek costume for homecoming spirit week, and how the heck we’re going to finish making this dress she wants to make by tomorrow night (homecoming dance) and a few other things that keep escaping before I can get them written down.

While this state is much preferable to a state where I’m so depressed I can’t do ANYTHING for weeks or months at a time, it feels like I try to live my life in the brief few days of these hypomanic episodes, because I spend so much of my life depressed and unable to function.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 2.6 percent of Americans have bipolar disorder – that’s about 5.7 million adults.

There’s a lot of us out there, and many are functioning well in society. You may know someone with this problem, but not even know it.

Because there is still a strong stigma about mental disorders, the person you know may never tell you. Like people with unipolar depression, they suffer in silence. But as we do more research on the brain with PET scans and the like and we begin to figure out how brain chemicals work, it becomes clear that there is a physical component to this and other “mental illnesses”.

For me, one of the things that is important about Mental Illness Awareness is about accepting that there should be no difference in how we treat “mental” illnesses and how we treat “physical” ones.

Do you know someone with a mental illness? Do YOU have a mental illness? How does it affect your/their ability to hold a job? To maintain relationships? To “have a life”?