Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My So-Called Bipolar Life

I'm crazy and have the paperwork to prove it. No. I'm serious. I do have the paperwork. A whole lot of paperwork since November 2004 when I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, formerly known as manic-depression. It runs in my family, so on one hand it was no real surprise, but on the other, it's different living with someone with it who is unmedicated and being someone with it.  

When someone experiences mania, their brain scans light up with activity. It is called the Christmas tree brain. The most common drug people with bipolar disorder abuse is Crystal Meth because that mimics the high of mania. A bipolar person eventually comes down off their natural high. When some do, they miss that high, thus resorting to illegal substances. I joke I take drugs to prevent what others take drugs to feel.

It isn't just the euphoria. It's the other effects of all those neurons firing that defined me. There is a reason the percentage of people with mood disorders is higher in the creative fields than the general population. Let's say in a normal person neuron A and B fire. Your brain makes a connection between these things. In a bipolar person having a manic episode, neurons A and B fire, and so do J, M, T, and Y. Your brain needs to make sense of this and can come up with some whacky ideas to do this, thus fostering creativity.

The genesis for The Mark of Abel, my debut release, illustrates this. I came to writing through Buffy/Angel fan fiction. I love vampire stories and decided I wanted to write my own. That is neurons A and B firing. That makes sense to anyone. Then mania hit and all those other neurons starting speaking up. The result, Lucifer became the first vampire and the other vampires are the Grigori, the Watchers/fallen angels from Genesis. When I thought about it, vampires are demon and fallen angels are demons. According to math, if A=B and C=B then A=C.  That's what my bipolar brain came up with.

When I started taking medication,  I was terrified I'd loose this. All my amazing ideas came from my Christmas tree brain. What I was unable to see was sure I had amazing ideas, but I was unable to communicate them effectively. I wrote a lot when I was manic, but that writing wasn't readable. What I needed was to learn how to use my cycles in my writing.

Just because I'm medicated, it doesn't mean I don't cycle. It just means those cycles are more manageable. I am coming off a several week long depression. When I'm hypomanic (little manic), I am big idea girl. That's when I come up with amazing plots and do things like mind maps. Writing then isn't going to happen. Whatever I write will be garbage.  When I'm level, I can write again and flush out these amazing ideas. When I'm depressed, the world slows down and I get hypercritical. I have trouble remembering things, including words. Writing is an exercise if frustration, but I'm one heck of an editor.

Fortunately, I have an editor who understands this. She encourages me to work on the sequel, but never pressures me. So now that I'm no longer depressed, time to get working on the sequel.

Is a frustrated artist Lucifer’s ticket back to heaven or will falling in love with her reawaken the compassion that got him expelled?

Blurb/Backcover copy: 

Lucifer is fed up with humanity. He created hell to deter evil, but man’s inhumanity is only escalating. He just wants to return home to heaven, but ever since that little problem in the Garden of Eden, the Pearly Gates remain firmly shut to him. It doesn’t help that he’s the first vampire, an abomination in God’s sight.

Fortunately, two thousand years ago Lucifer’s estranged brother, Jesus, gave him a prophecy. To fulfill it, all Lucifer has to do is find the right artist, study her artwork and the path back to heaven will be revealed. The artist even bears a symbol so he knows who she is. Too bad she is murdered every time he finds her.

Janie’s a frustrated artist and college art teacher who wants two things—a guy she can show her paintings to and a night without nightmares. Each nightmare plagues her until she paints it. She doesn’t realize these paintings are key to unlocking her destiny, one that could redeem the original fallen angel.

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ChrisChat said... are amazing. In MARK OF ABEL you captured a new world. Today you've simply captured a world so very difficult to understand. And so scary for those who don't know or can't (refuse?) to understand.

Don't ever stop.



John B. Rosenman said...

Viola, a wonderful blog. Helps me to understand bipolar disorder and bipolar creativity better. I just read a book, Bipolar Victory by two friends. From reading your blog I get the strong impression that with meds, being bipolar is basically a plus for you despite the depression, though it might be a handicap for other writers depending on its severity. A wonderful article that provides strong insight.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Chris. The hardest thing about being bipolar for me isn't depression, though that sucks. It is how it affects perception. It is extremely hard to exist and know that you cannot trust your perception if you are cycling. When that happens, I rely heavily on those around me. I am fortunate to have a great support system.

Unknown said...


When I was unmedicated not only didn't I write for over a decade, I couldn't read. When I was depressed, nothing really registered. When I was manic, I couldn't sit still long enough. One of the joys when I started meds was being able to read a whole book again, like I did when I was younger. I was one of those kids who devoured the library.

Being bipolar is who I am. I can't imagine who I'd be if I didn't have way out there ideas. Even depression has its advantages in that it shows me another world. All this a big part of how I define myself. I was terrified I'd lose it when I went on meds, but I didn't. I still cycle, just not as badly. Like with anything in life, you have to learn how to manage things.

ChrisChat said...

I can only semi-relate to the cycling and perception from the view of when my social demon escapes...and vastly different than your experience.

But, that trusting of what you're thinking can be a battle so many don't understand. system is vital. And those who would say take a pill, your meds need working, snap out of it...well, they don't get it.