Monday, November 15, 2010

I'm on a Self-Improvement Kick, All Right?

According to the DSM, there are four basic types of bipolar disorder:
  1. Bipolar I Disorder is mainly defined by manic or mixed episodes that last at least seven days, or by manic symptoms that are so severe that the person needs immediate hospital care. Usually, the person also has depressive episodes, typically lasting at least two weeks. The symptoms of mania or depression must be a major change from the person's normal behavior.
  2. Bipolar II Disorder is defined by a pattern of depressive episodes shifting back and forth with hypomanic episodes, but no full-blown manic or mixed episodes.
  3. Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (BP-NOS) is diagnosed when a person has symptoms of the illness that do not meet diagnostic criteria for either bipolar I or II. The symptoms may not last long enough, or the person may have too few symptoms, to be diagnosed with bipolar I or II. However, the symptoms are clearly out of the person's normal range of behavior.
  4. Cyclothymic Disorder, or Cyclothymia, is a mild form of bipolar disorder. People who have cyclothymia have episodes of hypomania that shift back and forth with mild depression for at least two years. However, the symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements for any other type of bipolar disorder.* 
Some people may be diagnosed with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder. This is when a person has four or more episodes of major depression, mania, hypomania, or mixed symptoms within a year. Some people experience more than one episode in a week, or even within one day. Rapid cycling seems to be more common in people who have severe bipolar disorder and may be more common in people who have their first episode at a younger age. One study found that people with rapid cycling had their first episode about four years earlier, during mid to late teen years, than people without rapid cycling bipolar disorder. Rapid cycling affects more women than men.

We just had an incident.  My older sister spent most of today sorting through the mounds and mounds of crap that take up most of the extra space we have in our full basement.  She's attempting to create a "living space" for her and her kids so that they have some privacy and some of their own space when they are staying here half of the time.  I have about 10 boxes down there, a couch and a chair, a couple coffee tables, and my dining set, which is being used as a sewing table by my mom.  The rest of the crap down there is stuff my dad has hoarded over the years, and that my mom has whittled down to three full rooms of STUFF.  My sister has been irritable, as I get and as my mom gets whenever any of us tries to go through the things down there and get rid of things, but the difference is that when she gets irritable, she gets manic.

As I sit here right now, my mom is stalking around the house trying to find her pink fleece jacket.  We've all seen my sister walking around with it on, and it's obvious that wherever it is, it is not in the house.  As horrible as it sounds, I'm thrilled to see this "turn of events."  Something that belongs to my mom is nowhere to be found, and is more than likely currently residing in my sister's van.  I keep telling my mom to go ahead and ask for it back, so that my sister can throw a fit (literally THROW a fit - she throws things) about having to put an inordinate amount of time and effort looking for it in the trash heap she also uses as a vehicle.  Moments ago, my sister tried to walk out of the house with a coat my mom gave me last winter after she decided it didn't fit her right.  This is a nice black suede coat with a faux fur liner, and I use it as a dress coat when I need to be warm.  I saw her wearing it and I said, "I'm sorry, no," after she looked at me pleadingly.  She then ripped it off and threw it at me (it's heavy so it didn't go far) and stormed out of the house saying, "Fine, Beth, I give up!  Good night, I'll see you guys tomorrow."  My first reaction was THANK GOD she's giving up - although I know she has not nor will give up (whatever it means to her to "give up"), and good riddance!  She's pretty much made it a habit of not sleeping here at night, and we have no idea where she is sleeping, or with whom.  I asked my parents if I should just tell her that when she stops being careless and irresponsible when "borrowing" my stuff - I put "borrow" in quotes because I think she thinks that means "have, and do with what you will" - that I'll start letting her borrow it again, or if I should just keep saying no to her.  I've mostly stopped speaking to her unless it's absolutely necessary, which averages out to about one time every day. 

It annoys and pains my parents to no end to see me behaving this way towards my sister, but it is the only form of self-preservation I know.  If I allow myself to engage with her, even for a moment, I will get sucked into whatever drama she's encapsulated herself in, or I'll have a moment of weakness and allow her to use something of mine.  This cannot happen.  When I ask for my things back, she loses her shit.  When I ask her to perhaps stop putting the gross drain-hair on the side of the bathtub and instead put it in the trash can, or to put her dirty dishes in the dishwasher after her late night munchies blitz (it's not munchies for her, it's the equivalent of two meals), she loses her shit.  She's taken to bitching whenever I ask her to do something along the lines of straightening or cleaning up, only she does it in a manner befitting a 5 year-old, stomping her feet and yelling.  And in turn, I ignore her pretty much whenever she talks.  I don't want to hear about her latest sexual escapades or the fight she and her friends got in at the bar last night, or whatever trivial shit is momentarily keeping her attention, not even a little bit.  This evening, she did get upset when it became obvious to her that I wasn't listening to her, which surprised me a little.

Something that my sister has been doing her entire life is expecting to be the center of attention at all times, and refusing to take responsibility for ANYTHING.  There have been countless times since she has resumed living in this house that she has simply walked into a room, blatantly ignoring whatever is going on in the room, and started talking as though she were more important than whatever was going on before her presence.  Tonight was one of those nights.  My parents and I were sitting, eating my dad's delicious chili, which was perfect for a night like tonight, and watching the NBC nightly news, rapt on the story about how airline passengers are beginning to react more and more negatively to the TSA's screening practices, when in walks my sister, talking obnoxiously loud, and about something that has no bearing on the conversation at hand, nor to the situation.  I have absolutely no idea what she began talking about, as I said before that I ignore her most of the time, but all three of us looked at her not in the way of people becoming interested in what she was talking about, but in annoyance of her total lack of tact and her selfish assumption that we needed to hear whatever random thing she had to say.

I'm sure it's pretty obvious that I'm beyond annoyed with my sister right now.  I'm working exceptionally hard to not allow her behavior, actions and words get to me, and mostly I'm doing a decent job.  By decent, I mean that I still cannot pretend she's not here because she is my sister, the mother of my niece and nephews, and I do have some interest in her life.  I try very hard to go about my business as though I'm not exceedingly irritated at her apparent complete lack of consideration for the other people in this household.  I hate having to be so guarded in my own home, where I'm supposed to be able to relax and live comfortably.  I'm not supposed to have to hide and lock up things of value - which at this point includes whatever small amount of spare change I have - in the place where I live for fear of their theft, misuse and destruction.

I have to remind myself every day that it is illegal to murder others, and frowned upon to murder your own family members.  There's matricide, and patricide, but what is the word for killing one's sibling?  I'm sure it's a biblical term, for Cain killed Able, but whatever it is, I can't come up with it.  Every day when I have to sift through the piles of crap she leaves sitting out on the bathroom counter, including the quarter-inch thick layer of hair,  I repeat my mantra, "It is illegal to kill your sister."

Now, it sounds as though I am holier-than-thou, perfect, never leave a dirty dish in the sink, never leave things sitting on the bathroom counter, but I'm not, and that I act that way annoys the hell out of my family.  I'm overly observant and sanctimonious when it comes to the space I occupy.  I am super-organized, to the point that when I wasn't paying attention when I was popping my week's worth of birth control pills out of their foil to put in my pill organizer last Sunday, and I dropped a pill.  I forgot about it until Saturday night when I went to take my meds and noticed the absence of my little blue pill.  I remembered where I was standing when I dropped the pill, and was able to find it amongst two large laundry loads of clean clothes sitting in the basket over which I dropped the pill.  I know exactly where I keep everything, I know exactly as I left everything, down to the positions I've left things in, and so I am able to see when something has been moved or changed in some way.  Perfectionism is part of my personality, both a flaw and a strength, and I adopted the ability to remember how I left things after the first fight I had with my sister when I was 11 after she had taken things out of my room without asking.  So perhaps it is not adoption so much as adaptation to my surroundings that I developed this skill - living first with her for the first 16 years of my life, then with a boyfriend and then with a series of random roommates.  Either way, I can tell when my sister has used something of mine without asking, whether it is because it is in a different position or because it reeks of cigarette smoke.  I'm not stupid, in fact I'm exactly the opposite of stupid, and it is extraordinarily insulting that she things I am (and that my parents are) so stupid that we don't recognize when she steals, destroys, and abuses our things.

On a different note: I'm having a really hard time not wanting to stay in constant contact with my former "boyfriend."  I dreamed about him last night/this morning, and I woke up thinking about him.  Up until he contacted me a week ago, if I dreamed about him, I didn't give it much thought during the following day, but I found myself thinking quite extensively about him today.  I wanted to share the details of the dream with him, and discuss what it might have meant with him, and reminisce over our memories of the time we've spent together.  I want to hear his voice, and hear him say my name and tell me he loves me one more time.  I used to love spending a couple hours on the phone with him sorting out the details of the life we were going to build together, and what kind of ring he'd get me when he proposed, and where we'd live after we got married.  I miss him a lot, and while I felt a major loss when we stopped speaking 9 months ago, it's different from the loss I feel now.  I told him last weekend that I will always have love for him, but I was no longer in love with him, and somehow in a week's time, I find myself having love for him yet again, and I don't know what to do with it.  There are so many things that he and I share; secrets that only the two of us know, places only the two of us have been, things the two of us did together, and I so deeply miss that connection and that companionship.  I have that with no one on this earth, and I greatly fear never having that again.  And yet I know how he can make me feel; so alone, so inconsequential and so crazy.  The conflict I am experiencing is very confusing to me because of the amount of work I've done and the amount of progress I've made in learning how to value myself above other people's opinions of me.

My expansive group of friends has been extremely supportive and encouraging with regards to keeping my guard up against him.  Jonas has been especially helpful because he understands the strange attraction - almost addiction - I have to this person.  I was explaining to Jonas today how hard I'm finding it to not get sucked back into the same situation with him, and I told him that I'm trying to reason with myself this way: I mostly will not tolerate keeping people close to me if they show me any lack of respect.  If I invite someone out to do something and they say they'll be there, and then don't show up, I get upset.  If I send someone a text message that warrants a response and they don't respond, I get upset.  I find it incredibly disrespectful to be lied to or to be ignored, and if someone shows me disrespect in those manners more than once, I will not hesitate to remove them from my life.  I have made a very conscious decision to surround myself with people who not only care about me, but often show me that they care, because I am emotionally sensitive and needy.  My ex, Aaron, has repeatedly lied to and ignored me, and many times in situations when I was in dire need of his attention.  If he were any other person, I would have disconnected from him a long time ago, and for some reason I cannot easily disconnect from him, ever, under and circumstances.  What he put me through when I visited him in Hawaii is reprehensible, and if any one of my friends were to tell me that they'd experienced what I experienced, I'd be aghast if they remained in contact with the person that subjected them to such pain.  So I'm not sure why I find it acceptable to not only allow him to treat me so badly, but to consistently gravitate towards him.

It looks like I have my work cut out for me these next couple of months, both in my everyday life - figuring out my job and living situations - and for building my self-esteem back up from this experience. 

*"NIMH · How Does Bipolar Disorder Affect Someone over Time?" NIMH · Home. Web. 15 Nov. 2010. <>.

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