I do not whisper. I ROAR.

I do not whisper. I ROAR.

Motherhood transformed me. My identity changed. Now it changes again. I have constantly reinvented myself over my lifetime.

As a pre-med biochemistry major at UCLA, I was miserable and suicidal. Then I studied part-time at a community college, biding time to find my direction. Finding a niche as a legal studies major at UC Berkeley, I tried to reconcile my inner turmoil with very high professional aspirations.

First I worked as a legal assistant, then went to graduate school, earned a master’s in psychology and became a psychotherapist, only to crash and burn. Recovering from that breakdown, I re-entered the workforce as a temporary file clerk in the commercial real estate industry where I had ten years of success.

Trying to balance work with motherhood, I failed miserably, and ended up hospitalized in a psychiatric unit with rapid cycling and mixed symptoms of bipolar disorder. After months of partial hospitalization, I became a reluctant stay-at-home mother on disability.

What does an overeducated and reluctant stay-at-home mother with a recurring sense of calling (or a manic and delusional symptom of bipolar disorder, depending on one’s perspective) do with her mind? Why attend seminary, of course, which I did on two separate occasions and on two separate occasions had to quit due to symptoms.

Here I am writing my story again. To what end? To reinvent myself once again – not as someone who is ill, but as someone who fights and loves and writes and has hope that new chapters of her life lie ahead.

I have a voice that must be heard. I have a message to share and share it I do. I am not just my son’s mother. I am not my diagnosis. I am able. I am able to affect change. I wield power. I am a mover and a shaker. I do not whisper. I ROAR.

Hypomania, Praise, and Self-Talk

Hypomania Praise and Self-Talk
Photo thanks to Gustavo Espíndola

The praise came. Kitt loved to please. The more praise she received, the better she felt. The more she achieved, the higher she soared, until she couldn’t. Her body couldn’t keep up. She broke down, couldn’t get out of bed, and beat herself up for falling, for failing.


Talking to Yourself in the Third Person Can Help You Control Stressful Emotions

The simple act of silently talking to yourself in the third person during stressful times may help you control emotions without any additional mental effort than what you would use for first-person self-talk – the way people normally talk to themselves.


Role of Reward Sensitivity and Processing in Major Depressive and Bipolar Spectrum Disorders

blunted reward sensitivity and processing are involved in unipolar depression and heightened reward sensitivity and processing are characteristic of hypomania/mania

Walking the Line

Living with Bipolar Living with bipolar is like walking on a tightrope, trying to maintain my balance, fearful of each step I take. KittOMalley.com

Living with bipolar is like walking on a tightrope, trying to maintain my balance, fearful of each step I take.

As a young adult, I didn’t understand what triggered my highs and lows. I saw depression as a problem, but I didn’t fully understand the role of workaholism, overachievement, and perfectionism, even as I crashed over and over.

After my training as a clinician, when I finally turned to medication for help, I understood and described myself as cyclothymic (experiencing highs and lows less extreme than bipolar) even as I was diagnosed and treated for dysthymia (persistent depression).

At almost 54, I’m still learning about myself. I used to consider myself extroverted. I threw parties, loved to be on stage and the center of attention. When I look back, though, I performed at parties. I did not really feel comfortable. I danced and laughed loudly, or I shrank back into a corner, wanting to leave.

Now social stimulation overwhelms me. Sounds bombard me.

This summer, first the long days challenged me with too much sunshine. My thoughts raced at bedtime. I found it hard to sleep, had to take benzodiazepine to turn off my thoughts and allow slumber. I started to ramp, to take on more and more tasks.

Recently, I signed a three-month private trainer contract at a Pilates studio. The training itself overstimulates me. Too much social interaction. The exercise has aggravated forgotten knee and hip injuries. I know that Pilates should help, but for now, I’m in pain.

Responding to the pain, I’ve scheduled appointments with an orthopedist and a physical therapist.

Picture of sun shining through evergreen forest of coastal redwoods (I believe).

Escape is what I yearn. I want so badly to be in a less stimulating place, quieter, slower, surrounded by trees on one side to shelter me and an open vista on the other so I can look at the horizon and feel free. It’s a place I’ve had in my imagination a long time. My husband and I have been talking, but it’s not yet time to retire. Our life is here for now.

Writing to Discipline My Thoughts

Disciplining My Thoughts By Writing

This morning I attended an OC Writers’ write-in. I haven’t attended a writers’ group in a long time. Been isolating myself and focusing on my son rather than my writing, rather than myself. Today, I left him home in bed, then left the meeting early to get him to class on time. When I got back home, he was dry-heaving in bed. Crap.

Hate spending my mornings trying to wake him up to do his homework and go to school. He will be seventeen next month. Time to wake up and do homework on his own. Unfortunately, his private school is not within walking distance, nor would it be a safe bike ride, and my kid has no interest in getting his drivers’ license yet. So, I’m still driving him to and from school.

The first week of June, during my son’s summer break when I didn’t have to act as alarm clock and chauffeur, I started cleaning my house with help of my next-door neighbor. She did most of the cleaning and organizing. I chatted and did a wee bit of organizing. We tackled the kitchen, spending two hours on Monday and two hours on Friday.

The second week of June was my son’s first week of summer school, so I took the week off cleaning and organizing. He has a full schedule this summer. He attended most of his classes last week, perhaps because I offered him $10/class/day. He’s motivated by money. It costs more to reschedule his classes than it does to pay him to attend.

Hypomania Raises Its Head (Again)

Last Tuesday in therapy, I said I no longer felt hypomanic. At the time, I seemed relaxed, at ease. By Wednesday my mind was racing. At night, when it was time to fall asleep, to slow down my mind – instead of thinking in my usual monologue, as an orator narrating my life – I heard a cacophony of voices.

I wondered if, when those voices crowded my mind, I should have written them down to see if I was thinking in dialogue. Were the voices characters wanting to be heard, auditory hallucinations, or thoughts racing so fast, I could not make heads or tails of them? Most likely speeding thoughts.

When I couldn’t fall asleep, instead of writing, I medicated myself to sleep. I force sleep when it won’t come on its own.

As I wrote last week during the day, while my son attended school, I could not hear the noise. Instead, I focused on my voice and that’s what I thought. Writing disciplined my thoughts.

Diagnosing Bipolar II #DavidLeite #NotesOnABanana

Creator of the James Beard Award-Winning Website "Leite's Culinaria," David Leite, "Notes on a Banana: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Manic Depression"

“Diagnosis: Mental Lite!” — Chapter 33 of David Leite’s self-deprecating Notes on a Banana: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Manic Depression — reminded me of the two decades it took before I was diagnosed bipolar type 2.

For twenty-five years Leite was treated (unsuccessfully) for depression and anxiety. Like Leite, I was an overachiever who cyclically crashed. From eighteen to thirty-nine, I was diagnosed dysthymic (chronically depressed).  Finally as a mother of a toddler, I recognized my euphoric callings from God as symptoms of hypomania and called for help.

After seeing numerous psychiatrists since he was fourteen, Leite sought and got an accurate diagnosis of bipolar II from Neil De Senna, who at the time was a Columbia University Medical Center professor of psychiatry.

Here I excerpt as bullet points the questions Dr. De Senna asked that led to Leite’s diagnosis. Buy the book to read his life story and answers to these questions — you won’t regret it.

  • Did I ever have rapid, repetitive thinking?
  • Did I ever talk fast, sometimes so fast people couldn’t understand me?
  • Had I ever been so irritable, I shouted at people or started fights or became violent?
  • Had I ever had a decreased need for sleep? If I slept just a few hours, did I feel great?
  • Did I ever engage in risky behavior that endangered my life?
  • Had I felt unusually self-confident in myself and my abilities? Did I ever experience grandiosity?
  • Had I ever had morose, violent thoughts?
  • Had I ever contemplated suicide? Had I ever attempted it?
  • Had I ever lost interest in things because nothing gave me pleasure?
  • Were there times when I was very interested in being with people, and other times when I wanted to be alone?
  • Did I have crying jags, anxiety and panic, trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, bad feelings about myself?

Now I quote without editing, De Senna’s description of bipolar I and bipolar II:

He explained that there are two types of bipolar disorder. Bipolar I is the more severe form, what Kay Redfield Jamison, the author of An Unquiet Mind, has. In it, the manias are screechingly amped up and oftentimes dangerous. They’re emblazoned with inflated self-esteem and billowing grandiosity, a marked decrease in sleep, a pressing need to talk, sometimes with odd features such as “clanging,” where speech loses meaning and follows a pattern of rhymes or sounds. Someone suffering from full-blown mania can be grossly distracted; battle racing, looping thoughts; and engage in potentially dangerous and deadly activities, such as unchecked buying sprees, risky or anonymous sex, foolish business dealings, and reckless driving. All the while, psychosis—a disconnection from reality—can be skulking in the background, just waiting for a pause, an opening. These manias can disrupt a person’s life to such a degree that jobs are lost, relationships implode, families disintegrate. Hospitalizations usually follow.

“What you have, bipolar II,” he continued, “is a milder form of the illness.” While the depressions can be just as deep and disabling, disabling, he said, what makes the difference is the quality, degree, and length of the high times. With bipolar II, a person suffers from hypomania. Elevated, expansive moods that are seductively attractive to the sufferer and the people around him, hypomanias are a watercolor version of bright-neon manias. Through it all, life isn’t disrupted to the same degree, and there’s never a psychotic break. Hospitalizations aren’t common.

“It can be very, very difficult to diagnosis hypomania,” Neil said. “Especially in type-A people who are normally goal-oriented, high energy, and creative. Their personalities can mask the illness at times.”

By quoting from David Leite’s memoir, published by HarperCollins, I do not intend to avoid copyright law. My hope is to educate, and as an added bonus to Leite and HarperCollins, to promote a great memoir of a creative soul living with manic depression.