The Alchemist

 

stars

I traced your inked skin with my fingers,
studied the history of your hell,
plucked the piercings that recreated your pain,
that displayed your shame.

I could not protect you from
the Monster under the bed who,
on occasion, joined the family
at the breakfast table and sipped coffee.

Your anger poisoned the prana you breathed,
twisted into mistakes repeated.
As you free fell, you prayed the ground
would swallow you on impact.

Only you may forgive the child you were,
when the flower of emotion
became the ivy of self-loathing.
There is no outside source for self-love.

You are the Alchemist:
dross Calcinated to ash, anger Dissolved in tears,
truth Separated from belief, until
present and future Conjuncts in vision.

Allow your ego to Putrefy, Ferment
new wisdoms, vanquish old fears
that stalk you until the gold-eyed feather
grants context to your flights of horror.

Distill the lessons learned.
Coagulate a foundation upon which your
daughter will rise to peaks unexplored,
the gold of your soul reflected in her eyes.

Over seven years, seven stages of transformation
stripped you to your essence. You removed
the piercings, the ink that did not belong,
left the past behind, let your monsters rest.

©2017. I.O. Kirkwood. All Rights Reserved.

#fallingtoblack

 

Part One: How Untreated Bipolar II Presents to Those Who Love You

mental-illness-clipart-1untreated-bipolar-e1500123357157.jpg

One time, I thought I was clinically depressed and my mother cajoled me into driving an hour to her house. I hadn’t showered for several days, relying instead on a “European” bath of baby wipes and wet washcloths. I hadn’t spoken to her in weeks (!).

I stripped out of the sleep pants and tee-shirt I had worn in my bout of hiding. I showered and hated every minute of it. Even this small act exhausted me. I almost called her to cancel. Guilt and love motivated me. I couldn’t let her see me like this.

We went shopping. I spent money I didn’t have. I kept on a smiling face because her problems (cancer) were so much graver than mine. But it crumbled after lunch. I lay on her couch and watched TV (I despise TV). Like a zombie.

She called me the next day and asked me to get help. “I’ve never seen you like that before.” Oops. My mask had slipped. The one thing I didn’t want to do, worry my mother, had been done. I went to the doctor and was misdiagnosed. Again.

Your spouse might leave you. It’s a rare person who can tolerate the deleterious effect of Bipolar. A shout out to those who believe the idea of in-sickness-and-in-health. I have the utmost respect for the support and love you give to your Bipolar partner.

I know my illness helped destroy my marriage. Between financial pressures and strange bouts of activity in the middle of the night, my husband watched me become a shell of what I once was. When asked why he wouldn’t leave the woman who was “just a friend,” he told me that “she reminds me of you when we first started dating.” Ouch. They were married last December.

Your children watch as you shut yourself away in your bedroom and sleep. Chores go undone and discipline is sporadic. They are left to fend for themselves in school. They learn how to cook their own meals, do their own laundry, and nag until you do what they cannot.

Your friends expect to be disappointed. You make plans and most times, you don’t show. You make excuses. You outright lie about an emergency that came up so you can feel better about letting everyone down.

You show up for the important things like weddings, birthdays, holidays, and graduations and often are the life of the party (hypomania). Alcohol helps temporarily, but the next day you feel like complete and utter shit. Without a hangover(!).

At work, you might have outbursts of extreme irritability from time to time. Otherwise, you are perceived as bright and friendly. Every effort to appear normal is to make sure you don’t get fired. Not every sufferer is lucky enough to keep a job because it’s so damn exhausting to wear a happy face when you feel so miserable. Your employer might see a dip in productivity or a string of “no shows.”

Everything that you once enjoyed becomes a shadow that must be avoided. Your light is focused on whatever is most important to you and cannot be aimed at the reality of your illness. As I spiraled downward into the abyss, I stopped reading books(!). I stopped writing. I stopped listening to music (!). I stopped going to metal shows. All my efforts were directed to succeeding at work.

My world became so narrow and joyless that my goal was to see my children off into the world and force a sleep from which I would never wake. As I pondered this, I started arranging my affairs. I couldn’t let whatever monster was devouring me steal another joy from my life.

Antidepressants did not help completely. My anxiety disappeared but the cycling and mixed states became almost unbearable. I had a full-on mania in the middle of ritual and I was one of the lead officiants.

I scared the shit out of everyone. I was asked to leave the group with the accusation of: “You stopped taking your medication.” Which I hadn’t, but the anti-depressant made things worse instead of better.

I remember when one of the Senior Crew came to our daily coffee klatch to report that his son had committed suicide. His pain was so deep that he seemed defeated. How could he not have known that his son was so unhappy? I didn’t know what to tell him. The cause was unknown.

A few years later, a couple months after I had been diagnosed properly, I returned to the the daily coffee klatch after struggling with my own bout of illness. “I want to tell you something, but it may illuminate why your son committed suicide. You have the choice to hear it or request my silence.”

I watched him silently debate the offer but finally he nodded. “Go ahead.” Brave man.

As I explained my experience, my pain, his head lifted. His eyes widened. “That’s just like my son. He’d do great at work and then his housemates noticed he wouldn’t come up for dinner as much. When he came over for holidays, he’d lie around and watch TV. He used to be so full of life and before he left us, he was only a shell of who he had been.”

“You couldn’t have known.” I hated what I had to tell him. “Most doctors refuse to believe Bipolar is a spectrum. It wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t his fault.” I gave him a place to shift the blame with the hope that he advocates for those who suffered like his son.

I asked my sons, “Did you know I was ill?” Both nodded. “Why didn’t you tell me?” My older son shrugged. “How do you tell your mother something like that? I didn’t even know where to begin. I just knew that something was wrong because you faded over the years.”

This is what untreated Bipolar II looks like to your loved ones. They don’t understand what has happened to the person they knew. You become a stranger to them.

Mental illness is such a taboo subject that few people discuss the feelings that are trapped inside. The condition runs in families because it is a wiring in the brain, not a weakness. You can’t help this any more than someone who has a heart attack and discovers they have a disease. Sometimes it’s too late.

Don’t be ashamed. Don’t give up hope. Do the research when you have the energy. Find a doctor who specializes in mood disorders. Get help. If you need resources, hit me up in the comments or email me at iokirkwood@live.com.  Make sure to tell me where you’re from, and I’ll find possible matches with physicians.

Ultimately, it’s up to you. You can remain in hell or you can return to being the person you used to be. The people who love you will thank you for getting well.

Stay tuned for the next installment: How Treated Bipolar II Presents to Those Who Love You

©2017. I.O. Kirkwood. All Rights Reserved.

Memory

Prometheus

I dreamed your blood-stained flesh,
a wound of Promethean Shame.
The scythe of Janus haunted your days.

Dressed only in the skin
granted by the Furies,
you sought me, Mnemosyne,
the source of Redemption.

I am the whisper in your mind,
the sleep into which you fall
to escape the swallowing Dark.

I will see beyond your eyes,
the grooves that trace your mouth,
the Death that stalks closer
as we hold our breaths.

In this moment of yearning and Magic,
Remember we are born of stars.

©2017 I.O. Kirkwood. All Rights Reserved.

#fallingtoblack

Drink My Heart

Chalice-of-Magdalene

 

Take up the Grail, my Love, and drink.

A creature of stardust and broken glass,
You crawled under my skin.
You braved the labyrinth of my pain
To find the cavern of misery at the core.

The Yang of your flame conjures
a star in the Yin of my darkness,
Reveals the dormant jewel of my heart,
Reveals the sacred well no man has touched.

Take up the Grail, my Soul, and drink.

The elixir within will restore your wounded heart,
Will remove the barbs of faith denied.
If imbibed, the agony of your past will be cleansed.
You will emerge the Child lost in former years.

We will create the castle of our dreams,
Fortified against the misery of existence,
Gated iron against the jealousies of others,
Sieged not by those who stole our innocence.

In our sacred chamber, I will rend the veil
of shameful memories, bid you to gaze
into the flame of my soul, beg you to caress
the jewel of my love: virgin and pure.

Take up the Grail, my Heart, and drink.

 

©2017 I.O. Kirkwood. All Rights Reserved.

#fallingtoblack

The Hidden Illness: Bipolar II

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ab/Sad_Woman.jpg

By Jiri Hodan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I am mentally ill. That’s the official diagnosis. It’s a genetic predisposition and can’t be “cured” because the medical community is still researching the connection between genes, the wiring of the brain, and the interaction of the previous conditions with the environment. Materialism has disconnected medical “experts” from the wisdom of the ancients.

I didn’t start out ill. I started out with that different sort of wiring.

In the time of the Druids, my parents would have presented me to the Lady of Avalon. There, the wise teachers would have protected and molded me during the most important milestones of my young life. I would have embraced my gifts instead of hiding them. I would have been groomed to teach the Mysteries to other young girls.

I read the histories of objects, read and interpret the energy fields of people, and within nanoseconds I can calculate and articulate the likely outcome of a plethora of possibilities. My mouth always got me in trouble because the first thing I thought would pop out. People don’t like truth, especially when it’s spoken by an eight-year-old girl who shouldn’t know any better.

We’re not psychics, just different. People wired this way can do similar acts to a greater or lesser degree. We’re emotional savants. We’re a silent minority in a world that suppresses messy feelings.

Society brands us as “weird,” “touched,” or “crazy.” We are none of these but we are different from most people. Misunderstanding and improper handling creates walking disasters. This society does not know how to handle people like us and often abuses our sensitive natures until we are dead inside a living body.

It took over ten years for the medical community to define Bipolar (previously known as manic-depression) as a mood spectrum in the DSM-V rather than a set definition of symptoms. Either you had Bipolar or you didn’t. During those ten years, I was misdiagnosed and continued a pattern of self-destruction that was only exacerbated by the anti-depressant that was supposed to help.

Fortunately, the right medication has returned me to not only baseline but to greater health—without sacrificing my sensitive abilities.

It took twelve years for my “condition” to be diagnosed properly. During that time, I lived with the weight of the emotions and issues of others. My bright and positive disposition was snuffed by a miasma of heart-crushing depression and terrible irritability. My formerly active, even hectic, social schedule was reduced to an agoraphobia and social anxiety so severe, I couldn’t leave the house without several pep-talks. The moment I arrived wherever, I wanted to go home and hide. If I couldn’t, I’d lash out or hide in the bathroom.

This is the norm for people with a similar position on the mood spectrum, or what’s known as a hyperthymic personality. After bouts of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, our boundaries are shot full of holes.  The bombardment of technology and materialism leaves us defenseless so that we are wrapped tightly in spider silk and slowly, daily drained of our essence. We are trapped in concrete jungles, assaulted by proverbial beasts of claw and fang, and there is nowhere to hide from the cruelty of this existence.

The symptoms are many and Bipolar II is often diagnosed by its co-morbidities such as PTSD, General Anxiety Disorder, and Borderline Personality Disorder.  I have been diagnosed with all three co-morbidities in my psychiatrist’s efforts to figure out why I wasn’t responding to anti-depressants.

If your mental health provider is unable to help you and no medication seems to work the way it should, you may have this mood disorder. It is not a moral weakness, as Dr. Phelps emphasizes, but an actual condition that responds to treatment much the way diabetes responds to insulin.

I want to bring awareness to the mood spectrum and the disorders that can develop for different types of personalities. I want people crippled by this condition to find relief. I want their family members and friends to understand what happens inside a person with this condition.

Below are resources cited via hyperlink. Read up, arm yourself with knowledge, and make the world a better place so that you and those like you will thrive.

©2017 I.O. Kirkwood. All Rights Reserved.

RESOURCES/Citations

Psychiatry.org and the DSM-5

Jim Phelps, MD, leading authority on Bipolar II and author of psycheducation.org

Russ Federman, PhD, ABPP, and author of Misdiagnosis of Bipolar II article, Psychology Today

Psycom.net and Lamotrigine (home page includes mental health tests)