Sunday, March 29, 2015

My manic diary, March 2015

Still, VOICE
March 21, 2015 at 5:07am. As I've said before, I don't experience much endogenous depression anymore; and when I do I usually don't even recognize it until it's almost over. I am sure I was depressed (I remembered feeling subdued and fatigued) from about Valentine's Day until the end of February. I am sure because my Chinatown post was February 20th and I can only write that well when I'm depressed. When I am well, I will turn these into spoken word videos and put them on my Writing While Manic Youtube page. 

February 20 at 8:13 a.m.  CHINATOWN. I am not naturally sad - as a child, despite bad bouts of depression, I had completely clarity about what a free mind feels like. Then along came adolescence and gradually, that clarity blurred more and more with every depressive cycle.

When I was in my mid-twenties, I was depressed for close to a year and a half. I lost my clarity, but not the memory of it.

I get affect, I really do. I think that's why by my thirties, I knew and developed the habit of reminding myself as often as necessary of the difference between myself and depression, myself and my voice, and, eventually, the difference between myself and mania's bizarre effects. By my thirties, I also had begun to remember better what a free mind feels like. But that was not clarity; and because I am not naturally a sad person, I decided to try to find out whether it was possible to regain my free mind.

Sure enough, by my forties, I was able, whenever I wanted to, to time travel back to the exact moment when I was eight years old watching the sunset over the Rocky Mountains and knowing exactly what a free mind feels like.

It takes a long time - for me, apparently, about 50 years - to turn a moment of clarity into just the way you live. It takes allowing your freedom of mind to turn your insides out so that you truly experience life with presence, engagement and consciousness.

And that is how I turned sad and angry for a year because I was suddenly not distracted by my struggle with myself, my environment and Society anymore. I was suddenly in the moment of being aware of the work-for-pay career that I'm sure I never would have entered if I had not lost my clarity. I was suddenly in the moment of being surrounded by people that I mostly do not understand and do not want to understand. I was suddenly wide awake. That's all there is to it. And it took a year for my eight year old's clarity to grow up. It was very painful.

But I am not a naturally sad person and now it is easy and simple for me to feel joy - easier than an eight year old could even imagine.

I have been trying for several months to write about an experience I had in December of going to a lab in Chinatown early in the morning for bloodwork. After almost 15 years of not having a period, I woke up with what can only be described as a menstrual migraine. If you know anything about migraine, the kind that throb all over your body and make you feel seasick, not like you're on the sea but like you accidentally swallowed the sea, and now it's trying to get out, surging up and down, zigzagging, rolling, jerking, pounding. If you don't know about migraine, you might be surprised to know that once you expel the surging sea inside you, the real pain of the headache begins and that provides relief. But first you have hold vigil on the nausea, figure out which pain reliever to take (the wrong one at the wrong moment will just make things worse), and you have to a work up the courage to vomit.

In this instance of this particular migraine, even though my instincts told me that I had a brief window in which Tylenol might make dent and would not make me sicker like it usually does, since I was having a fasting blood screen done, I was unsure whether the coating on the pill would throw off my cholesterol test. Yes, pain had made me insane and in zapping my sense of reality into surreality, made a wonderful experience possible that I did not understand and could not put into words until this morning - several months later after having to repeat the test so my doctor will know whether she wants to put me on an old lady diet.

The lab is in that part of Chinatown where I am a head taller than half the men and all of the women, and where, as I would in Paris or Mexico or India, or even Canada, I always fall back on the manners everyone learns about how to behave in a stranger's home. This is the part of Chinatown where people take their time. This is a good place to learn the habits of an old person who has clarity.

The lab is usually not very busy and the first time I went there, the 35ish lab tech was very talkative and chattered and fussed to me like he would any of the other old aunties who come to the lab. It made me feel welcome. The second time, he seemed genuinely glad to see me and I was pretty sure why, because I could hear the man he was waiting on behind the closed door complaining about the lab, the building, the slow elevator, Chinatown, everything, the whole time.

Once I was in the chair behind the closed door, the lab tech fussed and chattered to me again, but this time like he really needed someone to be nice to him and understand. And I left feeling not like I'd been listening to someone complain, but like somebody had trusted me just because he remembered he could do that.

A year ago, I would not have understood that. His trust gave me simple joy in spite of the pain of knowing I made a mistake in my career choice, of knowing I will have another horrible headache and I will be even older when it happens, of knowing my young doctor will not understand that I know what not-going-to-live-forever feels like and there are changes I will not make to try to defy that reality, of knowing that as much as I hate my career choice I will have grief and separation anxiety when I leave it, of knowing that in 130 days my weekdays will never be the same again and I will have to make the big adjustment to free time, which all the experts warn is not as easy as it sounds.

February 28 at 3:57 a.m. I don't know about you, but when I start scrubbing my floors before I go to Dayjob in the morning, it's a sign of clinical depression. (Long story about what one can and can't control in downward affect.)

So, yesterday morning after scrubbing the hallway and kitchen in my birthday suit while sobbing (another classically red flag), as 1. they have always had difficulty medicating my depression and 2. this is bipolar season and I'm likely to bounce up into a hypomanic bitch in about 10 days (for which there is just no cure, i.e., naked sobbing floor scrubbing), I have seen the writing on the wall and told my boss he needs to start advertising for my replacement.

In LESS than 122 days, I will finally be a real artist.

February 28 at 12:50 p.m. Total bounce up from depression this morning. Taking my Benadryl and ibuprofen cocktail and drinking tons of water. Watching family friendly TV in a shaded room. I will see you all once the neurochemical nonsense has simmered down.

Heigh-o Silver.

Still,  TYFTB (thank you from the bottom)
March 1 at 5:35 a.m. Being open about being mentally ill is very important to me and has been for a very long time. In the past year, my opinions about mental illness were radically affected by hearing my homeless neighbor and his voices raging sometimes all night every night. My opinions have changed so much and go so much against what I was taught as a peer, I have been concerned whether I would be irresponsible as a peer to express my new beliefs.

Listening to my neighbor chatter and rage, I began to question why it was wrong for him to be that way except that he was disturbing the sleep of everyone on the block. If he and his voices, Robert and sometimes David, spoke quietly or silently all night and he cleaned up the doorway (as he always does) where he so often sleeps, nobody would care what goes on inside his head. Nobody would yell out the window. Nobody would wait for him to show up and bully him away from the doorway. Nobody would call the cops. No peer missionaries like me would tell him the next morning that he was kind of loud lately and he might get into trouble if he kept making so much noise. Nobody would care because he wouldn't disrupt society.

I do not believe in being a peer missionary anymore. I believe society should get a fucking grip on the fact that everyone has mental health. It is not merely the mentally ill and mental illness itself that is stigmatized - it is mental health that is stigmatized.

This is my bipolar season - the time of year when I worry most about whether I still have stashes of risperadol somewhere. Today is a day I will take Benadryl all day and try to nap as much as possible. Why? Because I have to go back out into society tomorrow - a place where most people don't know they have mental health.

That is the reason I took down my Writing While Manic page - trying to save the world one diagnosis at a time is ridiculous. I don't need saving. Neither does my neighbor. We already know we have mental health.

March 1 at 11:20 p.m. Had delightful dinner guests. It was worth staying in bed all day in the dark doped up on Benadryl and antiinflammatories to be able to make an excellent risotto and enjoy all the laughter and good stories without feeling like my manic brain was in a race for its life.

March 3 at 8:11 a.m. Quiet while manic, a koan by Sylvia Toy.

March 3 at 4:30 p.m. Keep it human, honey. Bad affect is temporary.

March 5 at 2:46 a.m. Almost forgot to beep this! Thrilled that I chilled my mania enough to make my first audition in two years and do a halfway decent job. And now that I am about to return to my "real" life, I will be frequently reminding myself: It's not about getting one gig. It's about people seeing your work and making them remember you. Big picture.

March 5 at 4:50 p.m. Almost normal affect. So much better to be glass-half-full than cup-runneth-over-and-spilleth.

Still, Auto Hold
March 6 at 6:06 a.m. Why do I even bother to watch TV?

Dreamed that Mike and I had just gotten married again - apparently, it was something we kept repeating. Every time we got married we moved to a different city. No explanation for that. And every time we got married again and moved to a new town again, first we visited home and relatives, who in this dream, lived someplace that looked a lot like Chicago.

Apparently, we always stayed in hotel when we went home. I don't know what Mike's job was (I, since this was a dream, made my living off acting [with sculpture as an apparently lucrative sideline - more about that later], but Mike's job was a combination of hotel inspector/artist/secret agent (I kid you not). While we were on our tenth (or so) honeymoon in a hotel in Lincoln NE aka Chicago, we got word that Grandpa was very ill. (This would have meant that he and not that lady in Japan was the oldest person on the planet.)

As there were all sorts of things wrong with the hotel, we were keeping a record (I guess I was between acting jobs at this point and acting as Mike's assistant.) But we felt it was important for Mike to go see Grandpa. Before he left, we realized somebody had sabotaged our room so nothing worked right. Mike realized it was plot against himself and that's when he revealed to me that he was a retired secret agent and there was a bitter old spy named Ivan who wanted to kill him. As soon as he told me that, he had to leave and gave me a long list of how to be careful and what to watch out for so Ivan couldn't get me, I could document all the things wrong with the hotel and then I could go see Grandpa.

Talked about but never seen Ivan in the meantime had broken my cellphone (of course) which I did not find out until I discovered that Ivan's being a spy/assassin was none other than a cover for his being an international master art thief, which I found out trying to find a working restroom in the hotel and instead opening the door on a cavernous, miles deep closet full of sculptures, including two of mine (which is when I remembered I used to be a sculptor). Sad to say that I forgot about being mad that Ivan wanted to kill my husband because I was so mad that he had stolen my sculptures. And that's when I found out my cellphone was smashed to bits. So, naturally I started to find a way out of the hotel so I could go look for a Verizon store to get a new phone so I could call Mike and tell him Ivan was really an art thief.

On my way out of the hotel, I wound up having to walk through a cafeteria where Mike was on line with all twenty male relatives I'd never seen before, all of them bearded with long blond hair like Mike. As soon as I saw him, I was totally hysterical complaining about everything being broken and not being able to call him and Ivan stealing my sculpture. And then it struck me all these male relatives who look alike and what about Grandpa. Mike was just about to tell me about Grandpa and how Ivan had been captured when I woke up.


March 10 at 4:40 a.m. It is really frustrating to realize that I am still manic and likely to be so at least through March. But after forcing sleep on myself the first week of the last few episodes since July 2013 and 'holding vigil,' as it were, I have less fear and anxiety around it, and I am able to enjoy the rest of life just like my doctor told me I could learn to do six years ago. It seems like a miracle to feel human while manic. I owe, I owe.

March 14 at 12:23 p.m. Manic. On the one hand, I feel like I'm floating above Hayes Valley. On the other hand - well, when I can focus long enough to FIND the other hand, I'll let you know.

March 14 at 5:30 p.m. Note to self: The day after you spend 4.5 hours before dayjob submitting a movie to Amazon - including proofing the source file, making an ISO, writing a description, creating a cover, making and proofing a trailer and SEOing (adding the movie to your LinkedIn profile, blogging it, uploading it to your FB page as well as Vimeo; ALL BETWEEN 3:03 AM AND 8:00 AM; and the movie is approved by 10:15 AM - on the same day you get a cool part in a very cool movie right before you retire from dayjob after your first audition process in 2 years ... it is not rocket science that if you are in the middle of a manic episode, the day after all that awesomeness you will feel like you are floating above Hayes Valley.

Class dismissed!

March 15 at 8:51 a.m. Yesterday was rough and I have just had the kind of dreams you would expect after being manic all day; watching Night of the Iguana, Lord of the Ring: Two Towers and Kagemusha; and finishing a shotlist for an atmospheric, revisionist, feminist movie about slavery. Watching epics and writing one while flying manic above the neighborhood. Sometimes, you are so manic that nothing will calm your mind. And you just have plow through it, staying indoors if you can so as not to 'affect' anyone else and getting your work done as best you can. And don't stop reminding yourself that it's just chemicals and THAT's not your fault - but if you act like an asshole while flying manic THAT is your fault.

March 17 at 5:50 a.m. The noise inside my head is really unbelievable this morning. I can understand why adults going manic or hypomanic for the first time panic and f*ck themselves up.

Still, running out
At moments it is like torture. I am having to constantly remind myself to be aware of my anxiety level as the worse my anxiety level, the worse the noise. Wave after wave of nausea also this episode. Talk about "throwback": I could never be nostalgic about my twenties because I had such long periods of nausea laden depression, and probably mania also a good deal of the time. I think I have often confused this nausea with depression (biliousness, I called it to myself as a kid after reading Dickens; and come to think of it, I also think about mutton a lot in a negative way when I am this biliously and noisily episodic). 

I remember my twenties as me doing everything to the extreme; being either way too tedious and careful or reckless. There was only black and white - no gray (gray is too messy when you're trying to find your own edges during a mixed state). I imagine I drove people crazier than I was - plenty of boys told me so, now that I recall. One of them told me nobody would ever marry me. Little bugger!

Back to my point. I can understand painters, dancers, FILMMAKERS! and certainly actors living this way and sometimes even using it as rocket fuel. But it is boggling that there have been so many bipolar and schizophrenic poets and composers. How can anyone hear all that music through the noise inside his head?

It is time to make the coffee. More rocket fuel. Thanks for listening. An hour ago I thought I'd probably have to call in sick today. But then, it is just so fascinating to go through the motions of the workday wondering whether anyone can see the wire & rig as I float by?

March 18 at 3:40 p.m. A migraine this morning, not the worst ever but bad enough that I didn't know whether I was still manic until I stepped outdoors and felt quite giddy like I was walking on cotton. The voice is mercifully less intense, but the air around me seemed to be slicing itself into segments as I floated through it. Not the worst kaleidoscoping of reality, but weird enough when you feel like any moment you might slip in the invisible cotton and lose your balance.

Still, VOICE
So, today, I caved to my internal pressure. I felt I had to because I do not crash anymore - I go a little bit down into mixed state (I can always tell when it starts because all of a sudden I feel like I shouldn't even be alive.) I would rather walk on cotton than deal with suicidality - the last time, August 2013, it lasted 10 days and I kept wishing I'd crash further into depression. I did not. I bounced back up for about a week and then went to normal for a wonderfully long time.

Today, this migraine being the last straw, I told my boss I can only do dayjob for two more days. I feel guilty that I can't make it another week. But, believe me if you've never been there, suicidality is something you never get used to - it is horrible every damn time - and if I can keep my mania stress and anxiety-free, perhaps I can avoid crashing into those awful soul-wrenching thoughts that it completely goes against logic I would have for any other reason than a toxic cocktail of neurochemicals.

Hey! Bring on more cotton. Perhaps it can cushion my fall.

March 19 at 8:24 a.m. This morning, rocket science: the reason my psychiatrist was able to guide me towards managing better while manic was because I have been managing my life while manic since I was 10.

I made this brilliant discovery this morning when I remembered how often, usually late spring or summer but sometimes October, I was relieved when I got a migraine like the one I woke up with yesterday. I was relieved because I felt less jumpy - and what I called "high creative" - and less likely to say or do something flashily out of character that I would regret and obsess about for weeks and weeks and weeks afterward. Trust me on this - there's a lot I had to practice letting go of and forgetting.

Still, VOICE
I think it is not likely that migraine cures mania (especially since I feel way too happy and carefree this morning). But I believe that anything that requires sober concentration - irresolvable pain, a family crisis, an emergency at dayjob - is often a life raft for me when I am manic or depressed. In fact, I can recall feeling guilty that somebody else's problem helped me feel better. I will have a paleo breakfast (long digestion as opposed to short digestion) and perhaps wear a hat as it's only 8:20 and it seems too bright with the blinds closed; and I will try to tread softly and stay in my body today.

March 20 at 5:30 a.m. One of my annual Labor Day weekend trips to Lewis Lodge (aka my parents' in-law home in the mountains outside Las Vegas. We flew Southwest on a late evening flight so we could be in time for late night prime rib at Ellis Island (family tradition). Not only were the passengers raucous, but the flight attendants acted like mischievous teenaged summer camp counselors who were revving us up for Vegas. It is not a long trip from San Francisco to Las Vegas and by the time you get your air legs, the plane starts descending. On this particular landing, the plane's landing gear touched down so lightly that we all cheered and applauded the pilot. And then came a long time of taxiing to a stop.

I woke up this morning to the very loud sound inside my head but without feeling like there was an emergency. I seem see a little better - for some reason my vision is distorted when I'm manic and when I first have horrible sound inside my head and wake up feeling like I must have fallen asleep while driving a locomotive, words sometimes seem to float and change position or change into another word. You can probably imagine what an adventure that is for a dysgraphic secretary with senior memory.

It is easier for me to stop thinking about things that I don't want to think about!!!!!

Still, Voice
This is the first episode in a long time that I haven't had a lot of guilt feelings while manic. Manics do and say such stupid things, break dishes, cause traffic accidents (yes, sad to say I've never had an accident myself but because of manic panic I twice have been the inciting incident for one car rear ending another). Manics hurt themselves bumping into things and tripping (I tend to, at any rate, partly because kaleidoscoping reality absolutely destroys my depth perception, which is another reason that it's a miracle I never had a traffic accident), have kitchen mishaps (finger slicing, hair singing, hand and arm scorching), and come to think of it, I avoid ironing expensive clothes and clothes I really like while I'm manic. The noise inside my head is getting a little louder now that I've been awake for a while and my skin is doing that tingling thing (and I am bracing myself like a vampire for when the sun comes out), but I am still not cranky and mean and feeling like a speeding bullet while at the same time wishing I was dead.

March 21 at 6:19 a.m. So scattered this morning. I will not go outside today. I am worried about being discombobulated by my sudden freedom and bouncing further up. Perhaps set up a calendar or to do list for the next while? Thoughts will be appreciated.

March 21 at 8:31 a.m. Don't worry be happy does not apply to manics. But gallows humor is okay. 

March 22 at 12:37 p.m. Two days of retirement and I swear my face looks plumped out this morning (left side). Even manic I'm less jumpy knowing going to work tomorrow morning will be creating a special effect for a hearth and shopping for old dresses to build my mute slave character Lali's girl-cave.

March 23 at 3:45 a.m. MESHES OF THE AFTERNOON. I watched movies like this, new wave and European auteur classics almost exclusively, along with reading most if not all of the existentialist and absurdist plays exclusively (and for two or three years Beckett exclusively) between ages 19 and 26.

And then my boyfriend took me to Star Wars. He was a complete asshole, but that happened right as I was coming out of 3 or 4 years of having depression most of the time. Star Wars was an intellectual life raft. (Yes. Depression is that big a mess.)

I wonder how old I will be when I have the epiphany that explains why, now that I'm happy again in spite of the persistent neurochemical bipolar nonsense I would still rather watch a strange, depressing little flick like this any day or middle of the night than any movie by most contemporary filmmakers (Malick & Jarmusch excepted); and in fact have watched it 3 times in the past year.

March 24 at 8:45 a.m. It has been 25 days and this morning I overslept and woke up without hitting a wall of chaos inside my head. I think I may be getting well.

Sylvia Toy St. Louis
March 26 at 4:21 a.m. Still noisy in my head. And this taxiing of my mania so slowly home is frustrating. But it's the little things - have not had heart flutters since Sunday, I am not too cranky this morning and I still have not wished I was dead.

March 27 at 4 a.m. The noise inside my head is so much less intense and frantic this morning. I am very grateful. And there is such a big difference between way-too-happy and glad-to-be-alive.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Blogging a movie: VOICE, Experiment 3

Friday, February 20, 2015

Blogging a Movie: VOICE, a Sci Fi Performance Art Movie

VOICE is an arthouse science fiction movie in progress about a woman whose voice, to which she is inextricably attached at her hindbrain, makes it possible for her travel in outer space while manic. Meanwhile, the woman in her depressed state (nicknamed La Depressa by her manic self) tries to pull herself together and back to earth.

This test scene shows the protagonist (La Depressa) in the "real" world of the therapy session as her Voice leads her manic self on a stroll into outer space.

I used feathering to blend the two scenes. I tried splitting the frame in half and it looked great but felt wrong. Blending them is not only my once upon a time a painter's preference, but also, I think, a stronger storytelling choice since the point of the story is La Depressa's struggle to get back the stray entities that represent her mental illness and put them back in a better place in her mind.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Affect, a movie in progress: The Trailer

Monday, February 2, 2015

Affect: a video cutting of improvised therapy sessions

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

VOICE: Labile (rehearsal)

I have been working out this idea inside my head for days. I am very pleased with this first pass at it.

Post by Sylviatoyindustries.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Dime Novel Snippets: Pigeons come home to roost