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Hello! I'm a writer from central New York who has bipolar disorder. Among other topics, I write about mental illness and writing. I have short stories published in Lynx Eye, Lost Coast Review, The Outrider Review, Sliver of Stone Magazine, The Mondegreen, The Linnet's Wings, Cobalt Review, Breath & Shadow, The Round Up, Postscripts to Darkness, Masque & Spectacle, and several other journals. I have a poem in The Poeming Pigeon, essays about mental illness in The Ram Boutique and Amygdala Literary Magazine, and an essay in Parts Unbound: Narratives of Mental Illness & Health, a book that was published by Lime Hawk Literary Arts Collective. My story "Santa Lucia" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. I've written three novels entitled Purple Loosestrife, Hoping It Might Be So, and Dark and Bright, all of which are as yet unpublished. I'm working on a memoir about my experiences with bipolar disorder. I have a B.A. in English from SUNY Buffalo and an M.A. in English from SUNY College at Brockport. I hope you enjoy your visit to my blog!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Grief and Bipolar Disorder

These first two months of 2016 have been difficult. In January, I lost a dear longtime friend to non-smokers lung cancer. And this month of February, I lost my uncle (he was also my godfather) to complications from bladder cancer. My heart is broken over these losses. I've included in this post a picture of my friend Lori from college, where we met, and a picture of my Uncle Bob at his beloved Honeoye Lake, one of New York's Finger Lakes.

Depression is, of course, a part of bipolar disorder. It's been a big part of my bipolar disorder as I tend to experience depression more frequently than mania. I've had severe manic episodes and hypomania, but I've had more depressive episodes and, if not full-out episodes, less intense feelings of depression--the sadness, apathy, fatigue, anxiety.

Grief causes similar feelings--sadness indeed, but also, for me at least, anxiety. As I feel grief over the loss of my friend as well as a close, intense grief over the loss of my uncle, I have to ask myself, is this depression? Have I crossed over from grief into depression?

I think the answer is generally no, though I have to keep track of how I feel to make sure that I haven't become depressed. I think there have been times when I have. When Lori first died, I experienced about a week of what seemed to become depression more than grief. I obsessed about life after death and where Lori went. I thought about my own death and what will happen to me and where I'll go, if anywhere. Then I started to have deluded thinking about snakes getting into my house. I didn't experience hallucinations of snakes, but I felt that it was a very real possibility that one might get into the house. I called my psychiatrist, and for a few days, she had me increase the anti-psychotic I take. It helped, and talking to her helped as well.

Since talking to my doctor when my friend died, I feel I've stayed within the realm of grief over my uncle's death. I've had days here and there on which I feel depressed, but I haven't had deluded thinking, and I haven't experienced irrational fears or much obsessional thinking. I must emphasize much obsessional thinking, because I have had some. All my life, I've tended to get into ruts of thinking about life after death, or if there is life after death, or what the purpose of life is and fearing that there's no purpose at all in the end. I think of these thoughts as my "go to" anxiety and depression thoughts.

Through it all, I've realized that grief feels a lot like depression, but it's different because it has a reason for being. And I've realized that it's okay to feel grief and that, if I keep in touch with my doctor, use my skills, take my medication, and keep careful watch over myself, I can prevent grief from turning into depression. It's difficult--grief is difficult--but one can be a person with bipolar disorder who's grieving, and that's just what I am right now.

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