I Can Sense the Next Bipolar Spike is About to Begin

When my mind starts to really wander into metaphysical, philosophical and quantum mechanics areas of thinking at all times of day, I know that either a bipolar high or a bipolar low is about to make an appearance. I’ve made the decision to track some of these thoughts over the next few years so I can see if there are any trends in the content of the thoughts so I can predict which way things are going to go.

I tried to explain this to a woman at rehab once. I know people get songs caught in their head. That happens to me all the time, but a lot of the time it’s as if they are songs that aren’t in a language I can understand. It’s just background noise, like when you leave a fan running at night so the room isn’t quiet.

The best way I can describe this is as getting a really complex – yet utterly pointless – song caught in your head, and then getting like two or three songs caught at the same time. It’s like I’ve stumbled across an idea and I can’t just let it go. If you’ve ever binged at something, whether it’s a TV show or video game or something else, you might also understand this. For instance, when Tetris first came out 30 years ago for the Nintendo Gameboy, I played it so much that I was rotating blocks and hearing 8-bit classical music even in my sleep.

 

Here are a few examples of these things that get stuck in my head…

 

Almost every religious text references the end of the world. I was flipping through the TV channels the other night and one of the religious channels had a guy preaching that the coronavirus was the signal of “end times.”

Then, I was driving in the car and the song “In the Year 2525” by Zager and Evans came on the radio. It basically talks about mankind moving toward an unknown future and considering it was written in 1968, it probably makes more sense now than then. It got me wondering if mankind will still be around in 5,000 years.

Let’s say we do something stupid and we’re not around in 5,000 years. I think that’s entirely possible. Our ability to develop technology far outstrips our ability to recognizes consequences. Disregarding our similar, yet different, relatives, the modern human has been on Earth for 200,000 years.

If we have less than 5,000 years to go, we are 39/40ths of the way to extinction. If you’re on vacation for 40 days, don’t you consider the 39th day the end of the vacation?

Maybe end times aren’t coming. Maybe we’re living in them now.

Is the head technically a body part? The head is a collection of body parts, but is it a part itself? Is it more of just a concept? Can a part be a collection of other parts?

You could say that the ear is part of the head, but the ear is just a collection of other parts – the eardrum, the tiny bones, etc., so is the ear truly a part? I’ll admit I know nothing about the eardrum, and it’s too early to go researching, but it’s possible that’s made up of other parts.

So let’s say, yes the head is a body part. Does that make the body itself a body part because it encapsulates everything or does it stop being a part because it’s a whole? If I am in an accident and lose a finger, my body is still a whole…or is it?

If you take a piece of pie, the rest of the pie is still the pie. But when there is less than half the pie left, we talk about it in the past tense, “How much of the pie is left?” It was once a whole but is now less than that. If it’s less than a whole, it should be a part.

In this same vein, what would it take to officially exhume the Titanic and not just parts of it? At what point would we say we have the boat from the ocean floor? A lot of stuff has just rotted away and is gone. How much of the boat had to come to the surface of what’s still left to be considered saving “the boat” and not just pieces?

But, if things like head, pie and boat are concepts just as much as they are actual things, what isn’t a concept. Aren’t words just concepts used to codify and identify things? If that’s true, why dwell on this?

 

Anyway, that’s just a tony look at the kind of stuff that’s clouding my head right now. I’m also thinking a lot about the fact that every person I see has a complete, complex life and if there are any types of ranking systems to determine what a good life or bad life would be.

Sometimes my head doesn’t buzz with this kind of nonsense and other times it feels almost debilitating. It’s kind of exhausting, which I guess is why I’m drinking more caffeine than I have had in a while. I’m also sleeping a lot, which makes me think things are on a downward slope, but there’s nothing concrete signaling depression on its way.

I’ve been like this forever and I know that part of my addiction was not just to cope with trauma, but to escape this kind of thinking that is just loud random chatter happening in my head. I’ve talked to doctors and shrinks about it and none of them seem too considered, so I won’t be either. The addictions helped slow my mind. I know there are things like meditation that is supposed to help, but I can’t get there. I’ve tried many times. Meditation is either me going deeper into these crazy thoughts, or falling asleep altogether.

Don’t worry about me. I can cope with this stuff. I just wonder if anybody else has stuff like this happen.

 

Think Addiction and Bipolar Disorder aren’t Connected? Think Again.

Quite often when I’m doing interviews, I’m asked about the connection between my bipolar disorder and my alcoholism and pornography addiction. I’ve always felt like there was some link between the two, but I finally did a little research to confirm it. As it turns out, there’s a huge link.

Bipolar disorder, which has made it onto the list of most self-diagnosed conditions (migraines continues to top that chart), actually only occurs in between 1.5 and 2.5 percent of the population according to one 2018 study. Another said that it was 4.4%, so I guess you have to believe the one you want.

I was diagnosed at age 26, although I can recognize episodes of mania and depression going back to my mid-teens, not-so-coincidentally when my addictions first began to surface. Ironically, the average age for onset of bipolar disorder is 25, but I know I had it long before that.

Unfortunately, there is not a lot of research yet on the likelihood of someone with behavioral addictions like sex/porn addiction, gambling addiction or video game addiction also suffering from bipolar disorder, but based on what we know with substance addictions, I think it’s safe to say there’s a link.

To the unaware, bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic depression) is essentially a psychiatric disorder characterized by unstable moods, depression or mixed manic and depressive episodes that are accompanied by drastic changes in sleep patterns and energy levels. Erratic, irrational decision-making can also be a sign of untreated bipolar disorder.

Back when I went untreated, manic was my norm. It was the bouts of depression that indicated to me something was wrong. I’m not going to give my entire history here, but if you’d like to see an article I wrote for my magazine way back in the day where I essentially confessed to the community I had bipolar disorder, click here. It’s a long read, but a good one.

I’m going to try not to turn this into an academic paper, so if you want sources for my statistics, just let me know and I’ll provide them, but I’d rather these be an easier read.

In the US population, roughly 15% of the population are tobacco smokers. Among those with bipolar disorder, anywhere from 60% to 80% either were or are currently tobacco smokers. I was among those in early 20s, but I quit a two-pack-a-week habit in my mid-20s. I took it up again shortly after I was arrested (ironically in rehab) in 2014 and kept it up for about 9 months before quitting again.

In the US, about 1-in-8 people, or 12.5% or the population can be classified as alcoholics. Among those who have bipolar disorder, it’s closer to 42% to 44%, depending on which study you use. I was firmly in this group as well.

As for drugs, someone with bipolar is 14 times more likely to have a substance use disorder than a person without. In fact, over half the people with bipolar disorder (56%) have a history of illegal drug use. One study I saw said that number could be as high as 70%. Although I experimented a little bit, I never embraced illegal drugs the way I did alcohol or pornography.

There is information out there that also links bipolar disorder to populations who report much higher than average anxiety, ADHD and eating disorders.

It’s important to note that it’s just not higher rates of addiction among people with bipolar disorder. You’ll find higher rates of homelessness, violence (both committed by and against), crime and suicide in this population.

There is no known cause for bipolar disorder, addiction, or co-occurrence. It’s just as important to highlight that addiction does not cause bipolar disorder and while the numbers clearly indicate those with bipolar disorder have a much, much higher likelihood of a co-occurring disorder, it is not guaranteed. Researchers believe a combination of factors, such as environment, genetics, biology, etc., are believed to play a role in both bipolar disorder and addiction. Reading between the lines, that seems code for, “We still have no idea.”

When I was at rehab, it felt like two-out-of-three people claimed they had bipolar disorder. I thought they were way overstating it, but as it turns out, maybe those numbers were right on the money.

I hope that the scientists who conduct the kinds of studies and surveys that I referenced above are studying behavioral addictions look to establish a connection between them and bipolar disorder as they’ve done with substance addictions. Anecdotally, based on the sex and porn addicts I’ve known, I think you’ll see very big numbers.

Is It a Good Thing I’m Writing So Many Blog Entries Lately? I’m Not So Sure…

This will be my 15th day of posting in a row, and 25th post in 29 days. That’s not much for some, but considering I posted 25 times between January and August this year, it is very much out of the norm for me. My priority in the morning when I wake up is to write something and post it by 1 p.m. EST. It feels like something I have to do, and I’m trying to figure out exactly why.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I believe I’m dealing with a bout of mania. It’s nothing like my “I think I’d like to go to Europe tonight so I’ll pack a bag and drive to the airport” mania of my early 20s, but I can recognize when the usual 6 hours of sleep I need dips down to 4 or 5. Trying to sleep is also rough as I feel like I’ve got three endless loops of thoughts cascading through my head. You know when you get a song stuck in your head? It’s like having several playing at the same time.

Some days – heck, some weeks – I struggle to come up with a topic to write about. Not lately. It’s more about debating which topic is the one for the day. I think this is from the increased speed of my thinking.

I also think I’m avoiding my real work to a degree. I’m in a very slow time of year, so I don’t have to work at break-neck speed to get things done. I like break-neck speed, or at least I like to know that I can fill 4-5 hours a day. In the 10 weeks before I left on my trip in August, I wrote three 25,000-word books and nineteen 500- to 700-word blogs for my clients. I was writing six or seven hours a day, which is a lot. Now, I’m adding about 5,000 words to one of those books and have 4 blogs to write before the end of October. I feel no sense of urgency and the current projects aren’t exactly engrossing. By the way, if anybody has ever wanted to write a book, needs a book edited, wants a book ghostwritten for them, let me know. I’ve written books for a lot of professionals who don’t have the time, like self-help gurus, psychologists, CEOs, etc. Also, short (15,000-25,000 words) biographies are great records of your life to leave behind with your family after you’re gone, and it’s important to get them on paper before your mind starts to slow down. Contact me if you’re interested.

I tell myself that because I have a new book coming out, I’m trying to build my following on here, but really, I think I’ve added 30 new people in the last 6 weeks, and I’ll be lucky if one buys the book. I get a respectable amount of hits based on what I’ve heard from a few bloggers, but people are still hesitant to follow, like and comment on a pornography addiction website. I get it. I probably would have been that way 10 years ago.

My final theory is that I’m just going through a phase where I want a lot of attention. I’ve been wrestling with this idea lately, especially with the new book coming out soon. I struggle to make sense of the crossroads where ego, education, commerce and exploitation meet.

I genuinely have an inner feeling that I’m supposed to not only be sharing my story with people, but also educating them with real data about pornography addiction and lately, I feel a need to spread the message that you can turn your life around. This feels natural to me and feels like a real purpose.

This is why I wrote the first book and why I’ve co-written the second. I didn’t make very much money on the first book. It probably took 200-250 hours to write and edit, then another 50-100 hours to promote it. We are talking about half of minimum wage when it’s all figured out, and because of a dispute I won’t get into here, I didn’t get the bulk of that money. Logically, I know if I wanted money I should drop this porn addiction education thing and focus on finding more freelance work. In fact, the other day, my mother said to me, “You’ve never done anything for the money.” I don’t think it was a compliment, just more of an observation, but it made me feel like even when I make bad choices, I’m not doing it for the almighty dollar.

But, I know enough about this direction I’m heading in to know that the real money isn’t usually made in books, it’s made other ways, like giving speeches and creating betterment programs. Let’s be honest for a second: I’ve got a unique story, I’m willing to share it, I’m good at sharing it and thus far, there has been a willing, if not yet paying, audience to hear it. If I continue to do what I’m doing and if the second book leads to a third and fourth, I continually improve my chances of being able to segue this part of my life into a more professional endeavor. Would I like to do this full-time and make some real money? Of course.

It’s that “of course” answer that then leads me to question myself if I’m approaching the line, or could possibly approach the line of exploiting myself. The reality is, I made poor choices, got very ill, made some horrendous choices, got in serious trouble, then turned my life around and started to try doing good. Just because I’m trying to do good, does that negate the illness, choices and trouble? I have a unique story to share because I did something uniquely horrible. I’m not sure if turning it around makes it uniquely wonderful. And, as an extension of potentially exploiting myself, am I exploiting my victims, or the family and friends who stood by me, or even those who abandoned me?

Buy my new book. Buy my old book. Hire me to write a book, or to give a speech. I just won’t wear a silly hat. That would just be exploitive. I think I’ve covered my bases. See you tomorrow.

 

Hello manic phase of my bipolar disorder, I remember you

For those people who don’t have bipolar disorder or simply aren’t familiar enough with it, there is a misconception that medication completely takes care of your highs and lows. It doesn’t. It can mask it for a while, but I’ve recognized I’m currently experiencing a manic phase.

The role of the medication is to not make the highs too high or the lows too low. What used to be a minor manic episode, like the one I’m going through now, is about as bad as it gets these days. While it may rank a 7 on my 1-to-10 scale now, it would have been a 2 or 3 back when my bipolar disorder went untreated. Earlier this year, I had my worst depressive/anxiety episode I’ve had in over a decade. It was an easy 10 by today’s standards, but would have been average when I was in my early 20s.

The one drawback I find to the medicine is that years ago, I could see the manic or depressive episode coming on. It was like a freight train at night in that there was no stopping it, but I could see it from a mile away. Now, I don’t realize if I’m up or down until I’m well into it.

There are a few things that indicate to me I’m in a manic cycle:

I’m writing/journaling/blogging at all hours of the day – There are weeks where I find it challenging to put up one post a week here. The past 10 days, I’m finding it challenging not to post twice every day. I started writing this around 7 a.m. and I never blog that early. The piece I posted last night about intimacy and jail was written in the early evening, and I never write for this blog that late.

The upside is that I think it’s healthier than a lot of things I could be doing. I’ve got a powder keg of thoughts and feelings going off in my head right now and the way I’ve learned to deal with them is to get them down on paper. Of course, me being me, I need an audience and this blog serves that beast.

Lack of sleep – I should qualify the word lack more by saying “Lack of a need.” Back in the day, during a manic phase, I could go 60 hours without sleeping, or I could go a week catching a daily three-hour nap. I’m not at those staggering levels anymore, but I can get by on five hours of sleep during a manic phase.

Fortunately, lack of sleep now means just watching a lot more TV, reading or playing games on my phone. Instead of drinking or looking at porn, it seems like you can find Everybody Loves Raymond or Two and a Half Men somewhere on television 24 hours a day. Who would have ever thought that Charlie Sheen would be my answer to not watching porn?

Trouble working – While it’s ironic that I can sit here and write my thoughts on a continual loop, when it comes to getting my actual freelance writing done, it’s like tredging through molasses. Lately, my main source of income has been ghostwriting professional or empowerment blogs for clients. Those usually run 500 to 700 words and take 90-to-120 minutes to write, depending on what kind of research is needed. Now it’s taking me 3-4 hours.

A lot of that is because I’m distracted. I can pound out 1,000 words for a blog in 15 minutes, but I can’t put three sentences together with my work without going and checking e-mail or reading news sites or playing with my dogs. I still mostly ignore politics and bad news, but during manic phases I suddenly seem to care about celebrity and science news.

Trying something new – I left social media the day I was arrested and haven’t been back. It wasn’t exactly my choice. I was banned from social media while out on bail and while on probation. That was more than five years. Then, a few days ago, I started a Facebook page for the porn addiction education component to my life. I figured with my new book on pre-order and coming out soon, it would be a good idea to utilize it for promotion purposes. I’m going to write more about this experience later today or tomorrow, but let’s just say it didn’t go well and the page is now gone.

I’ve also launched a LinkedIn page. Why? Good question. I’m not sure, but it can’t end as badly as the Facebook thing did. But I’m sure it can end badly. Guess we’ll have to wait and see. My hope is that I can play both the professional writer and porn addiction educator at the same time and connect with people who might want my services for both. I haven’t tried LinkedIn to this point. It may not be a good idea – and that’s the thought I have when I know I’m in a manic phase but try things anyway. Thankfully the things I try now (like rejoining social media, or learning to cook, or getting another dog without telling anyone) pale compared to the dumb shit I did when I drank or looked at porn and was riding a manic phase.

If this goes on for too many more days or gets worse, I’ll call the doctor, like I did when I was going through my depressive episode earlier this year and see if the meds need tweaking. The nice thing is that I can manage everything now because I’m vigilant about my mental health. The combination of addiction with my mental health issues was often too much to handle in the past. But now, I know it’s a cycle and that things will change. I also know that I won’t do the kind of damage to myself I did in the past when I was unmedicated, in active addiction, unwilling to talk to people about it and frankly, not doing anything about it.

Bipolar disorder can be a burden, but we’ve all got crosses to bear, so I’m not looking for any sympathy. I just want the non-affected folks out there to understand that kicking your addictions or being on a usually very effective cocktail of medications doesn’t make it go away.

 

 

Bipolar Disorder + Alcoholism & Porn Addiction = Recipe for Disaster

I feel like I often gloss over the role that bipolar disorder played in my life as I contended with my addictions. I know being the guy who’s open about his porn addiction is what makes me more unique than most addicts in the public’s eyes, but I often feel like I’m leaving out a big factor in my story when I don’t explain the nuances of bipolar disorder.

I believe that all addiction stems from three areas: Your DNA, your environment/upbringing and your own faulty choices. I think most of us who are addicts have different percentages of each that make up our individual formulas, but few addicts – be it alcohol, porn, food, drugs, etc. – have told me it wasn’t some combination of the three.

I’m not going to go into long definitions or scientific explanations of bipolar disorder or even a “greatest hits” of my experiences. If you’d like to read a story I wrote for the magazine I once owned, you can find it HERE. It’s a long read, but it will get into my entire personal story. Ironically, it was also written in January 2013, just before my addictions got to the critical point that eventually took me down.

Many people who have to deal with bipolar disorder express similar side effects, with one of the most common being the desire to pull yourself off of your medication. It’s a hard thing to explain. I think it’s a combination of remembering through the lens of nostalgia what the mania felt like and reaching a conclusion that the medication did its trick and now you’re better.

I know one of the only reasons I was able to maneuver myself into a position as a publisher of a magazine at 34 was because of the hard work I did at 18 or 22 or 25. My willingness to get fully engulfed at whatever job in journalism or publishing I had at the time opened doors that led me to this high-ranking position 15-20 years earlier than most.

That hard work was fueled by the manic side of the bipolar disorder. I recall after quitting college (the first time) that there were many days I worked at the local daily newspaper office writing stories between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., then I’d have a break for an hour and come back at 5 p.m. to design pages until 1 a.m. I’d go home, fall asleep around 4 a.m., wake up at 7:30 a.m. and repeat the process without an ounce of fatigue.

For those of you who are addicts, but not manic, I think you may understand mania best in terms of your addiction. Take that great dopamine hit your addiction gave you and halve it. Then, replace the other half with the rush caffeine gives you after a couple strong cups of coffee.

I recall this as a never-ending supply of positive energy, but I know I’m romanticizing it. It was that way most of the time, but about 20% of the time, it was the opposite. It was crippling depression. It was like wearing a wet fur coat on a stiflingly hot day. It was about forcing myself to stay awake and do my job because I needed money to live, despite the fact I didn’t want to on most days. When I was flying high, I told myself the depressive episodes were the trade-off.

I know there is some controversy over the medications used to treat bipolar disorder and how and why they exactly work, not to mention the long-term side effects. The most effective drug I was on, nefazodone (marketed as Serzone in the US), was pulled when it was found to destroy a lot of users’ livers. The drugs worked for me. Once banned, it took a while to find the right cocktail and we still need to change things up every 3-4 years, but they worked.

In early 2013, the magazine started showing signs of weakness. We had been operating for four years at that point and while costs rose, revenue stalled, then slowly decreased. I think this was half my fault and half market conditions I couldn’t adapt to…maybe that means it’s all my fault.

I don’t remember the moment I decided to stop taking my meds. I don’t know if it was like a light switch, or if I realized I’d forgot for a few days and happened to be feeling good that day and drew a correlation. Somehow, the idea that if I stopped taking my meds I would increase the likelihood of saving the business seemed to make sense.

When I talk about taking responsibility for what I did, I think it starts here. While I couldn’t control many of my thoughts and actions while in the deepest throes of addiction, in deciding that avoiding medicating was a good move, I made the decision to live with the consequences. I just didn’t have the consequences I was hoping for. I think it’s like driving my car off a cliff. It’s not my fault gravity will pull it down and the impact will likely kill me…that’s just nature. It’s my fault for driving off the cliff in the first place.

I believe the bipolar diagnosis may have hid the addictions because it gave my sometimes erratic behavior a plausible explanation. I could be flat-out drunk, do something stupid, but explain it away as a bipolar episode…and everyone else bought it. Crazy behavior in Amsterdam or Japan had to do with the bipolar was the story I told people for years…and they agreed. I did for a long time, too.

I almost always end these articles by telling people to seek help for their addictions if they need it, but I also want to urge anybody who feels off a lot, or feels like their highs and lows are a little more pronounced than most people appear to be to please get yourself checked out. It’s a curse that has been just as important, just as debilitating and just as much in need of constant attention as my addictions.