Sunday, June 19, 2016

My Name Is Josh Kelly And I Am Bipolar

Hi,

My name is Josh Kelly and I am bipolar.

On June 9th I finally saw a psychiatrist for the first time and was diagnosed with what is called Bipolar II.

If you aren't familiar with Bipolar II, it isn't really all that different than Bipolar 1 - which you might associate most with the term "bipolar". There are some differences here and there, but the major factor distinguishing the two disorders is that I have hypomanic episodes instead of reaching full mania. Because of that, Bipolar II is sometimes referred to as a "milder" form of bipolar. But that isn't entirely accurate. The lows that come with the depression side of things, or some of the other symptoms, can be just as bad or worse than the lows someone with Bipolar I experiences.

I believe in transparency. Though some people may believe that a diagnosis such as this is a personal matter and prefer to keep it to themselves, I don't share that sentiment on a personal level. I would wager most people feel that way, and that's perfectly fine. Please do whatever helps you best manage your life. I just know that word will slowly spread eventually, and I don't want it to be a matter of secrecy. If it comes up in conversation, so be it. If it allows my wife to talk about it with others and better cope, I want the whole world to know. It is because of a friend being open about his disorder than I was able to come to him when diagnosed and in need. So, if I can be even a small measure of help to anyone, I will bare my soul.

I'm lousy at commitments, but because there is so much to this and this particular post will already be long, I intend to post at least a few blogs on the topic. I'm new to the diagnosis and I'm still diving in researching everything I can about it.

What really is bipolar disorder?

Now, that is a loaded question. Bipolar disorder is really a spectrum of disorders. So it isn't something I can concisely describe. Even within Bipolar II, it varies between each person. I can only tell you from my personal experience and what you can learn from a google search.

To be clear, I'm not a psychiatrist. I don't have a medical degree or a PHD. My only foray into the field was Psychology 100 in college, in which I did receive an A (though, to be fair, all the questions on the tests were multiple choice). I'm not a licensed therapist. So nothing I say should be taken as professional advice. I'm just sharing my life.

Until recently, I simply thought of bipolar disorder as something twofold. Someone would alternate between bouts of depression and an inflated sense of self. I noticed this in my own life for years and often suspected that I might possibly be bipolar, but I wasn't scared of that diagnosis.

Those things are kind of true. But there is much more to it. Oh so much more.

Yes, there is definitely depression involved. Someone with Bipolar II, and many other bipolar disorders, will often spend a majority of their time in a depressed state. There is a reason it is also referred to as manic depression. I've struggled with depression as far back as my conscious memory goes. Most people are at least vaguely familiar with the idea of clinical depression, so I'm not going to spend too much time with it right now.

On the flip side is mania or hypomania. To make things more complicated, there are two types:

Euphoric hypomania feels great. I'll be honest, I like this kind. I feel like I own the world. I can do anything and everything. I am the coolest kid on the block. I feel that the world is finally full of potential. I have energy for the first time in forever. Ideas and motivation are coming back.

Now, while some of us enjoy this while it lasts, it can lead to some bad situations. Spending sprees are common, and it's never good when you're spending money you don't have - especially on things you don't need. A reoccurring theme I see is an out of control sex drive. I you're married that could lead to affairs, or you might find yourself being more promiscuous or dangerous in your sex life (STDs, pregnancy, etc.). You could also find yourself saying or doing things to people in your life that you regret. Sometimes I overestimate my abilities to get something done in a certain amount of time. There are a million different negative possibilities resulting from a hypomanic episode.

Then there's dysphoric hypomania. I never heard of this until being diagnosed. It can be a very agitated state. Angry all the time and/or over small things. Often this is a mixed episode. It's like if you take your depression and put it on hyperdrive. It sucks for everyone all the time.

Okay, so that kind of briefly covers the general idea of the twofold understanding of bipolar disorder. Let's add a little bit too it.

Many of us on the bipolar spectrum suffer from severe anxiety. I have personally been diagnosed with panic disorder. I can only speak on a personal level, but what most people wouldn't guess is that this might very well be the symptom that is most difficult for me. I worry about things that no one else even thinks about, and I worry about them in ways sometimes that make no practical sense. There's a constant whirling of of thoughts in my head. I overthink everything.

People who are bipolar often struggle to finish college (I didn't finish).

People who are bipolar often have a hard time holding down a job (I'm fortunate to have the opportunity to fashion my life so I don't have to, but it is difficult when I do pick up a job).

People who are bipolar often have trouble being able to go out and see people or do things. Even people we like or things we would really enjoy doing (I definitely fall into this group face first).

People who are bipolar often find themselves pushing people away and isolating themselves (yep).

People who are bipolar often feel very alone. Unless you've experienced it, it really is quite impossible for people in your life to fully empathize.

Bipolar disorder is hard on the spouse or significant other. For some of us, that just makes us feel even worse (check).

About 20% of people with bipolar disorder kill themselves. Roughly 50% attempt suicide. (I think about ending my life more days than not.)

When I was wrapping up my hour long session with my psychiatrist, he quickly gave me the diagnosis. I think he's a great doctor, so I don't hold this against him, but he didn't really elaborate or give me any indication that it was a serious diagnosis. I didn't think much about it until I started reading into it as much as I could later on that day. Suddenly so much of my life made sense. I had a cause for so many of my struggles, finally a name to give it.

But I also became scared. Terrified. The more I learned, the bleaker my life looked. Not to be overly dramatic, but it felt like I was giving a diagnosis of cancer or another terminal illness. My quality of life will get worse and I might end up dead.

I've had to focus my attention on the positive side of the diagnosis. Now I can properly treat it. I can take the correct medications and start therapy. I know what to look out for in my behavior and am better equipped to address it.

I was on an SSRI for a few years to treat my depression and anxiety. I've come to learn that antidepressants, especially by themselves, can actually exacerbate the bipolar symptoms. So if you're even a little bit concerned you might have a bipolar disorder, I encourage you to see a psychiatrist. As great as your regular physician may be, they probably haven't dedicated as many years of their life focusing on the brain.

If you are also bipolar, I hope this didn't make you feel any worse. Truly not my intention. At the very least, I genuinely wish this gives you some sense of solidarity. If you're a friend or family member, I'm not looking for pity or anything of the sort. I just ask for understanding. If you'd like a book recommendation or two to help understand me, I'm happy to offer them. For everyone, I simply want to make you aware of this disorder and its true nature.

Thanks,
Josh Kelly

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Above And Beyond

Hi,

My MacBook Pro from Christmas of 2011 wouldn't boot up last Sunday. Tried everything I could find online and, when I had absolutely no success with anything, I gave up hope. At the suggestion of a friend, I called Apple's tech support and they helped me trouble shoot it. Long story short, we discovered that it was a graphics card issue. My computer was obviously long outside the 1 year warranty, but I guess there was a known issue with the graphic cards manufactured during that time and they had a program in place for free. I made an appointment for the genius bar. They confirmed it the problem and told me they'd have it fixed in three to five days. Three days later, it's ready to be picked up. They repaired it completely free of charge. In fact, they fixed an issue they found with my charging port that I didn't even know I had.

I'm a lover of all things coffee. Give me some nice Four Barrel coffee beans with a Kenyan origin and brew that with a V60 pour over, I'm in temporary heaven. If I have a bit of a sweet tooth, an Irish Cream latte always hits the spot. I have the consumer model of the Toddy cold brew system, so I can make some deliciously smooth cold brew coffee for the warmer days. From April through September, I was working as a barista at the lovely coffee shop - A Cup Of Common Wealth. I learned a crap ton, and my obsession with that silly bean only grew larger.

I'm ramping up my home coffee game and now concentrating on making good espresso and espresso drinks. I ordered a ton of stuff the other day and the first shipment arrived today. Unfortunately, the two shot glasses I ordered were broken in transit. I gave Barista Pro Shop a call. A very sweet lady answered the phone and she made it right with no questions asked. Didn't require any proof, didn't need any money from me, just immediately put in an order to replace them. They shipped about an hour later and will be here tomorrow. They also threw in a full sized bottle of Irish Cream syrup for my trouble, no cost. Didn't even mention it, I only know about it from the shipping confirmation email I received.

I'm a big believer in good customer service being beneficial to your business. These two instances that just happened this week were examples of great customer service. You can be assured that I will be doing business with these companies as much as possible in the future because they took care of me. Not only that, but they went above and beyond. I would have been perfectly content if they simply fixed my initial issues. They hit it out of the park by doing more than necessary. I didn't major in business, but I have a firm grasp on people, and I think that's a great business model. Make sure your customers aren't just happy, make them swoon. I wonder if there might be a life lesson in there somewhere?

Thanks,
Josh Kelly

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Hello

Hi,

2015 has been and will continue to be quite a big year for me.

I'll admit, it's been hard. I've struggled many times to simply stay afloat. Running my own business and starting a second one, then picking up a part time job, as well as staying busy with other aspects of life - I've overworked myself. I do my best not to complain, so please don't look at this as me searching for pity. I'm just telling it as it is.

In about a month we will be packing up in our car with our two dogs, maybe our 6 foot plush giraffe, and some personal belongings and we will embark on our journey across the country for our move to California. Los Angeles has been calling our names for several years, this November we're finally answering. We're going to take it slow for our pups and for my own sanity, but also making it a more pleasurable extended trip visiting several cities on our way out there.

I've started a few different blogs over the years and occasionally I'll get nostalgic and go back to read them. It's a really interesting and unique way to get inside the head space I was in at the time. Instead of picking up where another blog left off, I've decided to start a new one. I've changed a lot over the past couple years. I dare say that I'm a different person. Time for something different.

This is a season of change. I want to keep some record of what's going on and what's going through my mind.

I'm not necessarily writing this for anyone else. This space is mostly for myself. I'm going to add a little bit to the noise on the internet. I haven't really ever been one for a person journal, but I do like the idea, so I figured if there's a chance that my words might reach someone else I might be able to motivate myself to write. I haven't actually written anything in years. I used to write blogs, movie scripts, songs, and poems. Not in a long time. Maybe if I can get in the practice of using the written word I might find myself finding themes impactful to me that could find there way into creative work.

I imagine that these words will largely be stream of consciousness and unfiltered expression of thought. It probably wont be tidy. I'll try to not make it habit, but there might be some language, so I wont be offended if you don't come back if that isn't your thing. If I get political or theological, I'm sure a plenty of people will disagree and that's fine. I promise to keep it civil and keep an open mind. Always on a journey and trying to figure everything out. I'll try to keep it more personal than anything else. No promises, but I hope to include many photos along the way. Let's see where this goes.

Thanks,
Josh Kelly