Learning When a Friend is Bipolar – Dealing With Mental Illness

Dealing with someone who has a mental illness is a challenging experience. Throughout my life I have come across several people with various mental illnesses. My first experience with this was when I was a child. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I knew that my aunt’s behavior was irrational. She was later diagnosed as bipolar.

Here is an excerpt from my book UNHEARD, told from a child’s eyes:

“… something happened to her because she went crazy. Someone said she went to a psychic and never was the same again. I also heard she went crazy after she got beat up by her husband enough times. The worst story that went around about Aunt Nadine was that she was gang raped by a bunch of black men and that she lost a baby that they think was black. I don’t know what happened to her one way or another, but I know I didn’t like it when she wasn’t on her medication. That meant she would get really crazy – like the time we went to the shopping mall, and Aunt Nadine accused people there of stealing the boots out of her closet. Another time she accused Uncle Charlie of stealing her underwear, and Uncle Charlie laughed at her like a hyena, which really set her off. Sometimes she spit at us and started fights and talked to herself while she stomped up and down the hallway back to where the Boogey Man was. I was afraid to sleep in the house with Aunt Nadine there, because I didn’t know if she would try to kill me like the time she said she was going to kill Grandmaw and Grandpaw.”</em>

While sometimes mental illness is immediately noticeable in a person, other times it is not. I met a young woman once that shared some common interests, and we became friends. Although she’d always had some type of drama, it was when she stayed with me for a few days from out of town that I started noticing something wasn’t quite right about her. She seemed normal one minute, and the next she was unexpectedly combative. I didn’t know it at the time, but she told me later that she was bipolar. I learned it was best to keep my distance from her because I did not trust what her behavior might bring.

Sometimes staying with someone for a period of time turns on light bulbs. Years ago, I’d met a wonderful woman that helped me out during a very trying time in my life. I looked up to her – she was spiritual and intelligent and had a lot to offer in friendship. We were separated by moves but frequently kept in touch. The last time Vanessa and I saw each other was an eye opening experience for me and quite different from all of the other times.

When I flew across the country to visit Vanessa, I was exhausted. Instead of being the concerned friend I was used to her being, she talked continuously about herself and insisted that we visit all of her friends that day. Hesitantly, I obliged. During my trip I noticed little things that I hadn’t before. Vanessa said things to me or about me that were inappropriate. Her living and hygiene habits were out of the ordinary – not at all what I remembered her to be when I’d first met her. I also caught Vanessa in several outlandish lies, although I’m not sure if she understood them to be as such. How she presented herself and who she really was were two different people.

During my visit, Vanessa and I took a road trip and stayed in a hotel. So that I didn’t wake her, I quietly got up in the middle of the second night to get my own room because I was unable to sleep with her atrocious snoring. The following morning she was agitated that I had done so. Even though I tried to explain that I hadn’t slept well in three nights and it was important for my well-being to rest, Vanessa’s concern was about herself. It was clear that she was oblivious to everyone around her. Throughout the trip, she continued talking about herself – about all of her ex husbands, her family, her friends – and explaining how each of them had done her wrong. This was the gist of the entire energy-depleting four-day road trip; I surmised that Vanessa was a narcissist.

It wasn’t until I met Vanessa’s adult son that confirmed for me that she had some type of problem. Because I wasn’t sure what was truth and fiction coming from her, Vanessa’s son made it clear that her stories were half lies and the other half was her imagination. It took someone close to her to confirm for me what I’d been questioning over the past few days – but I still didn’t know if Vanessa had a true mental disorder or if she was just a narcissistic liar. After we left from visiting her son, Vanessa continued talking about herself on the long drive to her home. My tired mind could take no more, and although I pretended to be asleep in the passenger’s seat, Vanessa kept talking, this time in other voices. I couldn’t wait to return home; I no longer trusted my safety around her.

At the end of the trip, I thanked my friend for everything, we hugged goodbye, and I flew home. I was very sensitive and aware not to say something that might set her off or offend her. I chalked up her behavior to a learning experience and knew that I would never stay with her again. But the worst of everything with Vanessa happened after I arrived home.

Still physically and mentally exhausted from the trip, I received an email from Vanessa that was the most insulting thing I’d ever read. She accused me of the most outlandish things that no one in their right mind would say, of things that never happened during the trip and of not thanking her, and insulted my intelligence and spirituality. At the end of the email she said that she didn’t want to have any contact with me again, but wished me luck in life. It was completely out of the ordinary. I was extremely hurt and didn’t know where all of this was coming from. I replied to her that I was very appreciative for what she had done for me and, although heartbreaking, that I felt the same way about parting our friendship. I left it at that.

Over a period of about a year, Vanessa continued to send me random emails attacking me, accusing me of yet more outrageous things. I ignored them each time, perplexed by it all and still hurt. By then I knew that it wasn’t about anything that I did to her – that it was her – because I remembered all of those stories she’d told me about all of the people in her past that had done her wrong – and I had become one of the characters in Vanessa’s stories.

After receiving the last out-of-the-blue email, I decided to contact Vanessa’s last ex husband (the only one I’d met) to ask him if there was something mentally wrong with her. He stated that she is bipolar and that she does this to everyone. He apologized that I had to deal with the brunt of her anger because he knew we’d been such close friends. Now it all made sense to me.

Since my experience with Vanessa, whenever I recognize the same traits in other people I take a step back. Because I cannot predict their behavior, I refuse to put myself in a potentially volatile predicament.

I haven’t heard from Vanessa in over a year. I often wonder how she is, but I am also thankful that I am no longer her target of angry rants. At the same time, I am sad that I lost someone whom I considered a great friend to a disease that has no cure.

Living With Corn Allergy is a Pain in the Maize – Ingredients and Solutions

I wanted to reblog this, since it seemed to have gotten lost when I transferred everything from my other blog.

Most people don’t understand the impact that allergies can wreak on someone’s life. A few years ago I was diagnosed with a corn allergy. On one hand, knowing why I was having the health issues that were occurring was a huge relief because it gave me the choice and the power to change and control it, and I have adjusted well. On the other hand, it has made going out to eat and being a guest at places much more difficult for others because choices are limited. My biggest problem has been other people who don’t have food allergies or understand the effects they can have on a person.

How did I find out I was allergic to corn?
Everyday I brought my lunch to work – usually a turkey sandwich, carrots and dip, a snack, and Gatorade – and everyday after lunch I started to feel like I was coming down with the flu. Many other times I would eat or drink something and have an overall feeling of not feeling well. I was sick of being sick, and all of my blood tests had come back normal. There was no reason for me to be feeling so badly. I had a gut feeling that it was something I was consuming. I was given a series of allergy tests, and when the doctor said corn was a culprit, I was shocked.

Who is allergic to corn? I thought to myself. After much research, I found many others just like me.

Mixed drinks? Fuggedaboutit. Almost all drink mixes contain corn syrup.

Ingredients 

Being aware of the allergy, I knew to avoid… well uh… corn, popcorn, corn starch, corn syrup… all of which seemed to be listed on every food and/or drink label in our kitchen. A change of diet was necessary, and the next shopping trip for groceries took about twice as long as usual due to having to read every label. But that didn’t seem to solve the problem.

There were those “other” ingredients that I’d never taken a second consideration to because, like most people, I was simply uninformed. I found out the turkey in my sandwiches contained corn, and the bread I was eating contained corn. Since I couldn’t continue drinking my beloved Gatorade, my husband purchased some Crystal Lite powered packets that I could add to my water bottle at work. I enjoyed about half of my first bottle, and all of a sudden I began to cough and choke and wheeze. I knew that it was something in the drink, but we didn’t see any ingredients labeled as “corn”. That’s when Google came to the rescue.

I began Googling every single ingredient listed on the packet, and there it was – maltodextrin. I had never even heard of it before. It was corn derived. Then I learned more – dextrose is corn derived and so is just about anything with “dex” in it. It wasn’t until I had a “sugar free” Coke Zero and about choked to death that I learned the caramel in the soda is made from corn. I started doing some heavy research and found some wonderfully informative websites about the lists of ingredients to avoid, which unfortunately, seem to be in almost everything made in America.

Not only did I learn what ingredients I had to avoid, I also learned quickly how each of them affected me. Not everything with corn caused me to choke or cough or wheeze – that was mainly the maltodextrin or “dex” based products. When I accidentally drank something containing corn syrup (including the high fructose version), I found a sudden change in my overall body – almost the same feeling people get when they’re coming down with the flu, but slightly different and with a rapid heartbeat. I also noticed a sudden change in my personality – irritable, withdrawn, and I was even told my entire face changed. Even after only three sips, my body tells me something is wrong. Regular corn and popcorn made my throat itch. And worst of all, most of the allergy meds I was taking contained… you guess it – corn. No wonder I was so miserable!

How has this affected my life?
Going out to eat is almost impossible. Basically, if it’s a chain restaurant, I have to avoid it. Other people do not understand and insist there isn’t corn in the food because steak and mashed potatoes don’t contain corn, right? At my own house they don’t – that is partly correct – but the preservatives that are used are usually corn based. And you aren’t getting the best meat at chain restaurants, so what do you think they are feeding the cows before they become steak. You got it: corn. Unless the food is made with basic scratch ingredients, most restaurant food contains some derivative of corn. You know that California roll in your favorite sushi restaurant? The krab (not real crab) contains corn.

Fast food is out of the question. At first I thought I was safe with eating at Panera, especially when I specifically asked someone if their bean soup contained corn and was told no. When I started the coughing/choking after a few bites, I asked to see the ingredients. Surprisingly, contained corn oil.  Although I was never a big fan of it, I do sometimes miss a nice hot burger from BK or a Taco Bell taco… and I really, really miss Doritos and Coke. The only corn-free soda I can drink is soda water and Sprite Zero, which no restaurants bother to carry. With most breads, ketchup, and BBQ sauce containing corn syrup, eating at BBQ’s is a challenge. Since most people do not cook from scratch and are not aware of corn issues, eating at other homes is an issue for them. And don’t get me started about the movie theater – I am only safe drinking their water, as long as it’s not Dasani!

Just say no to corn chips.

Solution
How do I handle all of this? Simple. I eat the way people used to eat 100 years ago. I eat fresh foods, and I eliminate products containing corn. I cook everything from scratch. There are very few packaged products that I enjoy AND can tolerate. Amy’s Lentil Soup is one of them. I found organic ketchup that tastes exactly the same as regular ketchup but without the corn, and I use it to make my own BBQ sauce – which I take with me to BBQ’s now.

At first, I didn’t think I could live without “regular” food, but once I became used to not having all of the junk ingredients in my body, I started to feel like a new person. I am now completely aware and sensitive to anything that seems foreign to my body.

Unfortunately, corn isn’t the only food allergy I have, but it has become the most problematic because of it’s many derivatives. Hopefully food manufacturers in the U.S. will take notice of the many corn allergy sufferers in this country and find new alternatives to use. One day I dream of safe fast food to eat!

A little behind on blogging… and a writing prompt

I’ve been a little behind on blogging, as I’m sure my fans have noticed. I haven’t been feeling too well lately. Stress, busy life. I feel like house cleaning has become my life as of late. Four animals and weekend guests to clean up after will do that. I think I’m ready for a real vacation!

I mentioned a while back that I would try to do writing prompts for those who are interested in writing and don’t know where to start. So here it is:

Start with the line:

“I feel like my life is…”

And go from there.