Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Month: December 2014

PT Follow-Up #1

I had my first Physical Therapy follow-up last Tuesday. I was a bit overwhelmed after the visit, and I couldn’t concentrate well enough to write about it, so I posted something I’d written ahead of time to cover last Tuesday’s post.

I got to see the fantastic Scott Hickenlooper again (I just love his surname LOL). He was surprised I remembered his name, and I told him it was so unusual that it stuck in my head. He took me back to the same exam room and had me perform range-of-motion tests. If I remember correctly, this visit came two days after a day when my arm/shoulder had a particularly bad day, but he was still pleased with what I could do. As part of the exam, Scott gently stretched my shoulder muscle, which gave me slightly greater range of motion. He had me lay down to test the range as well, then assigned me new exercises.

The first is what the Home Exercise Program calls a Sleeper Stretch. Basically, I lay on my left side with my left arm extended before me, bend my elbow, and turn the arm down toward my feet, putting pressure on the back of my hand with my right hand, and pushing up against it, holding it for thirty seconds. I do this w times a set, 2 times a day to strengthen the arm.

Next are Side-Lying External Rotations. For this exercise, I lay on my right side and roll up a towel or something to put under my left arm. I begin the exercise with my arm bent at the elbow, hanging down across my abdomen, and raise my fist, keeping my upper arm on the rolled-up towel and my elbow bent. I bring my forearm and fist back as far as possible without pain, then lower my arm, keeping all movements slow and gentle. I do 2o of these 2 times a day.

The third exercise is Wand Flexion. For this, I need to be standing and to use my old cane, holding it with both my palms face up, hanging before me. Keeping my left arm half-relaxed, I raise my right arm so it draws the left arm up with it, to the point at which I feel pain in my left arm. 20 of these 2 times a day.

For my fourth exercise, I go to my entry hall and stand facing the area where my front, bed, and bath doors all open into with my left hand on the wall. This is Walls Slides Abduction, and as you can tell from the title, I slide my hand up on the wall until it’s stretched all the way, then slide it back down. Like the other exercises I do, I need to keep this slow and gentle. This is the exercise that hurts the most, usually when I’m sliding my hand up, but I still do my 2 sets of 20 each day.

I do my final exercise only three days a week, but I do three sets of ten each of those three days. Scott gave me an elastic band for my Elastic Band Rows, and I loop it around the bedroom-side of my bedroom door and close it with me and the ends in my entryway. Making sure my sternum is up and I pull my shoulder blades back at the same time, I begin with arms extended and pull until my elbows are bent. This is to strengthen both my arm and help with my admittedly poor posture.

I love how thorough Scott is. As I said before, I feel like he really cares and wants to see me all better. I forgot to write down or have printed by him my next appt, but I know it comes later in January.

Regarding Hatu Napor

Worldbuilding is something of a fluid process. Sometimes things happen which require changes to various worlds. Recently (like within the past week), I conceived of a new world with a new magical system, and I realized the world-name of Hatu Napor fit my new development much better. So, the world formerly known as Hatu Napor (where Degrees of Subtlety is set) will in future be known as Vrythea.

To be honest, I never felt very confident the name Hatu Napor precisely fit that world, so I’m glad to have figured out where the name fits better. I don’t expect to be changing any other worlds’ names at all in future, so don’t worry I’ll start doing major overhauls of them.

I don’t know how far this initial story for the new world I’m naming Hatu Napor will get, but I think it’s a trilogy. It’s a combination of new ideas, ideas borrowed from a friend’s concepts and twisted for my purposes, and resurrected worldbuilding from a fizzled-out project that never went anywhere and doesn’t actually fit the world I tried to place it on.

Why I Don’t Watch Television

A number of years ago, I decided to stop watching TV. This was a personal decision based on a number of factors.

1. I habitually avoided the news, whether I could get it over broadcast or cable/satellite.

2. I didn’t watch daytime TV, even when I wasn’t working (at the time, I had a job), because soaps weren’t all that compelling to me, and I lost interest in talk shows ’cause they seemed inane to me.

3. I didn’t watch sitcoms. Most US sitcoms aren’t very funny to me, and those which I did find funny were Brit sitcoms I already had the DVD sets to, so I didn’t need to try and catch the reruns on PBS.

4. Likewise to the other series shows I watched. Both were on PBS, and were available on DVD, and I’d started collecting the series to watch when I felt like it.

5. If I had cable, I perpetually used the music-player channels as opposed to watching shows, and since I have a music subscription and play music on my computer through that, using the TV for it was redundant—and expensive. (I learned this about two years ago, and canceled the TV service I’d signed up for as a result.)

6. I realized that anything I could learn through any of the number of documentaries on TV I could learn also through books, so now I buy or check out from the library the nonfiction info I need for my writing.

7. I hate sitting passively watching things and typically watched only when I was working on my crocheting, and since most of the shows I wanted to see won’t play on demand, I used my DVDs, which made having cable or satellite moot.

8. Most of the time, I had no idea what times the shows I actually wanted to watch were on. If I did know, I was generally away from the TV at those times (working—afternoon-evening shift job). I never thought to record them somehow, and eventually lost interest in keeping up with them ’cause I missed so many episodes.

9. I haven’t been strongly interested in any TV shows since the last iterations of Star Trek, and I lost interest in those back in the 90’s before they went off the air.

10. And, my priorities didn’t leave much room for TV time. What free time I had when I worked, I preferred to devote to my writing, so I did. And because shows I wanted to watch weren’t on when I was home, I read instead if I wasn’t writing. Writing has always been far more important to me than any other “leisure” activity, and I gave it the respect it deserved for being one of my priorities.

Writers’ Community

I believe it’s important for all writers, at some point, to make themselves members of a writers’ community of some sort. I don’t think this necessarily needs to be a community of other writers so much as it should be a community of people who either knowingly or not assist the writer in some way. This can mean they are readers who happen to point out issues in the writers’ works. It is by no means necessarily true that a writer’s best hopes for success lies in them becoming a member of a writers’ community which consists only of other writers; sometimes, such communities can actually hold back a writer, particularly if the person in question is advancing in some way and the rest of the members have and continue to remain pretty static in their writing.

So, as I see it*, a good writers’ community (particularly one consisting only of other writers) will:

1. Help the writer improve their writing skill. Whether this means they assist in the teaching of technical skills (spelling, grammar, etc) or in creative skills (how to worldbuild for fantasy/sf, how to insert research into a story in a creative way which isn’t overwhelming, awkward, or unnecessary), or just in giving the writer a few like-minded individuals who provide thoughtful and thought-provoking critiques which aid in the revision process, I think a good writers’ community will aid in this aspect of writing as much as possible, particularly for beginning writers. Some groups will be better at these things than others, so, if possible, a writer, especially one who needs help with these things, should do their best to find a community which can help them learn these skills.

2. Provide a supportive community. It’s important for a writer of any experience or skill level to feel supported and encouraged by their writing community. Whether it is online or in-person, if a writer feels ignored, unsupported, unencouraged, or in any other way uncomfortable with the group, they shouldn’t stick around. A group where a writer feels unwelcome or uncomfortable is in no way any kind of help. If there are a few who a writer gets along with and it’s possible, the writer should make an effort to stay in contact with those they feel to be the most helpful, welcoming, and supportive.

3. Provide a network to assist in attaining goals. This goes in some ways along with being a supportive community, but has some aspects all its own. A writers’ community which doesn’t appear to encourage goal-setting isn’t a good fit for someone who wants to do so. There are some groups whose members are writing purely for the fun of it, and they also may not care too much about helping to improve a writer’s skills or be supportive in other ways.

4. Have goals which mesh or at least somewhat align to the writer’s goals. In addition to assisting in attaining goals, the goals of other group members should in some way lean toward focusing on the same goals a writer has. For example, if a writer has a firm desire to be traditionally published (get an agent, sell rights, etc), the group should be prepared to help attain this goal. This might include, for those wishing to be traditionally published, help in writing query letters and synopses, advice on contracts and when and under what circumstances to sign them, and factual information on the path to becoming traditionally published.

5. Relates information regarding writing and whatever goals a writer has in a reasonable, informative, respectful manner without insulting the writer’s intelligence, regardless of what level of skill, experience, and intelligence the writer brings to the group.

6. Should not necessarily be focused on one type of writing, but, if it welcomes writers who specialize in different types of writing (for example, scriptwriting and fiction), should have a structure which enables whatever writers are members to relate to other writers of their type of story. This should not necessarily be exclusive, as we all can learn from one another, but it should be made clear to everyone that what works for one thing (say, scriptwriting) may not necessarily be the best advice to give/follow for someone who writes prose (or nonfiction, or poetry, or whatever) and vice-versa. And when such advice is given, there should be someone who is knowledgeable enough in those types to be able to advise on whether that particular bit of advice works for the type given.

These are things I’ve picked up over the course of my writing life. I’ve been a member of a successful, supportive online writers’ community for over ten years, and I have attempted to join a number of in-person writers’ groups, but could not stay consistent with them for various reasons, some because I lacked the transportation I needed to them, and one or two which were not a good fit for me for whatever reason. Of those which were the best, they all provided at least three of the above things for me. I imagine, however, I would have in some way outgrown all the groups that worked for me at some point. The one I have yet to outgrow is the online group; it is the most comprehensive writers’ group I’ve ever been a member of, and it has retained its flexibility, openness, and supportive aspects through changes of hands and moving the site.

*My opinion only; your mileage may vary a great deal depending on what is specifically being sought.

Transgender + Bipolar =

Statistically speaking, transgender people are much more prone to depression and suicide than the average person. I think (do NOT quote me on this), they may be more prone to depression and suicide than gay/lesbian people are as well. I do know, they’re right up there with gays and lesbians, especially as youths, in the range of high-risk of suicide and depression.

The first time another transgender person I knew made a comment about attempting suicide, it had little effect on me. I was still muddling through the fact I couldn’t hide from being transgender any more, and that was difficult enough. Recently, another transgender person I know announced the same thing, and this time it really hit me what I may be setting myself up for.

This is what popped into my head:

Transgender + Bipolar = incredible risk of suicide/depression

I discussed this with my therapist yesterday, about how I was afraid now that following this transgender path into my psyche would put me at much more increased risk of suffering a severe depressive phase at some future point. I tried to kill myself once before, when I was in my early twenties, due to a home situation I had no control over. At the time, I was spending a week or two away from home, then going to visit every other weekend, and the transition from the peaceful away-place back to the home situation with my mother and her abusive alcoholic live-in boyfriend stressed me to the point I one day swallowed every psych pill I had and crawled up onto my bunk to “die.” I didn’t die (obviously), but I did spend the next few weeks struggling psychologically (after an excellent nap, induced by the sedative effects of my antidepressant) because I couldn’t dare risk admitting I’d swallowed them all in a suicide attempt because I didn’t want to be forced back into a mental ward. I’d done that trip once already back when I was in high school during a previous period of home stress which had gotten me into psych care in the first place.

But I told my therapist I was concerned about the possibility of me going off the deep end during a bipolar depressive phase. I told her I didn’t want to risk that, and she led me around to considering a few things. I’m still concerned, but my therapist helped me figure out where I stand.

1. I’m much more aware of where I’m “standing” on a psychological level, in a general, overall sense. Right now, I’m a bit depressed; personal hygiene has been out the window unless I’m expected at some sort of social event, I’m not too concerned about my writing even though I’d like to for the mood boost, losing weight and physical fitness aren’t even on the radar most days, and housecleaning isn’t getting done unless I need to sit there or use that dish or pan. I’m at a point where if I can spend my day reading, I’ll quite contentedly do so, with a few visits to the internet and online friends every few hours and I don’t really care to go outside and do anything.

2. I’m firmly connected to a comprehensive mental health care network. If I’m not slated to see my regular therapist up at the VA, there’s a hotline the VA provides that I can call for general bipolar depression psych needs, and, if I absolutely feel I must, I can see about getting myself committed to the hospital’s inpatient psych ward. Also, if there’s a question I have, I can contact my therapist via phone or email.

3. I am on mood stabilizers, and, even more importantly, I keep up with taking them when I should each day. If I have a question or concern about my medications, I can contact my psych doc to talk about things with him—and, furthermore, if we both feel I for some reason need to change or adjust my medication regimen, I can make an appointment with him to discuss it.

4. If being trans is upsetting me somehow, there’s a new Trans Lifeline I can call if I suddenly need to discuss it right away, and I can walk the three blocks to the Pride Center and possibly see about chatting with a therapist there about how being trans is making me feel.

5. I’m regularly attending a trans support group, and that is helping me. It lifted my spirits this past week when I went because it reminded me I’m not alone in my journey, and even though I don’t have direct contact with any other members of the group between meetings, knowing we’ll be meeting more regularly in January (after the holiday season) is helping me be more patient with myself and my fears right now.

To be honest, yesterday’s therapy appointment couldn’t have been better timed for me. My mood dropped about four or five days ago, and I really needed to go, just for that. It is, I think, combining in a bad way with the fear of risk of suicide, but I’m doing okay for now. I’ve been chatting with my family and some friends on the phone—just to chat—and though I haven’t told any of my online friends where I stand emotionally right now, I know they’d be supportive and encouraging if I did decide to. I think that as long as I get out of bed each day, get dressed, and make an effort to at least get to my computer for a while and feed myself, I’ll pull through this okay. Having my therapist help me figure things out is keeping me from losing myself in the fear of what only may happen.

This is just the way things sometimes go with bipolar disorder. As long as I’m mindful of where I’m at psychologically, I should be fine. And if I’m not at some point, there are people and places I can turn to for the support and assistance I need, for which I’m extremely thankful.

From Great Escape to Positive Influence

Back in 1988, when I first began writing, I was a messed-up youth. Not lawlessly so, just emotionally and socially. Writing for me, back in 1988 and the first few years I wrote, was a great escape—even better than watching my favorite TV shows or reading were.

I found then, and still do find, a great deal of pleasure in relying on my own imagination for my entertainment. The older I get, the more I rely upon it. It’s still very much a great escape for me, and has only grown more so as I’ve grown in my writing skills.

I first branched away from my attempts at fanfic sometime after high school. Don’t get me wrong, I’d been fiddling with original fiction a bit before then, pretty much since I started writing, but most of what I wrote was based in some way on science fiction or fantasy I’d immersed myself in previously. So there was a lot of Star Trek themed stuff, and most of my fantasy worlds were ripoffs of the Forgotten Realms books I’d discovered a love for reading.

After a while, I couldn’t quite keep my worlds precisely like those I read widely in. My Star Trek fanfictions segued into original science fiction based on my own imaginings as I discovered characteristics of my original characters which didn’t seem to work well in the ST universe. My first attempt at a completely original (non-ripoff) fantasy included a Mary Sue character who was a descendant of every fairy race I created for the world I built for her, a powerful mage, and a skilled fighter, all by the age of ten—and I still have that manuscript; I can’t make it past the second page when I try reading it. LOL

No, I wasn’t ten. I just wanted to feel as accomplished as she was at that age, and writing her happened to assuage a great many doubts I had in myself at the time.

That’s what I mean about writing being a great escape. Even more than investing myself into all the characters I read about and watched on TV, often quite avidly in both pursuits, writing about characters I made up on my own enabled me to find confidence in myself.

Granted, I probably immersed myself a little unhealthily when I was younger. Writing was, however, the only true relief I had from my own real life. I needed the escape it provided. Sometimes, anticipation of writing was all that got me through the day. There has been more than one period of time when writing helped keep me from giving up completly, whether or not it was a particularly “healthy” pursuit at the time. I think, when I was in my early twenties, if I hadn’t had writing, I would have succeeded in suicide. I would have become far more antisocial—in a more unhealthy and possibly violent way—than I actually was during that time. I wouldn’t have had any hope at all. Writing was, when I was younger, quite literally all I lived for at times. Without my writing, without the escape it provided from my real life, I would have been a lot more disturbed and, as I said, probably violently so.

One thing I can appreciate now, is what writing did for me back then. It enabled me to face each day with courage and hope, but it did more than that. It also kept me from breaking the law. It gave me a pastime which kept me from getting into trouble. And, most importantly, having to view the situations I made up for my characters from sometimes several different points of view taught me how to be compassionate and open-minded. That, I think, is the most important lesson. I learned, subconsciously, through writing, how to connect my own thoughts and feelings to the results I saw in my own life, so when I had difficulties or bad things happened to me, I could somewhat predict what attitudes would best serve my goals. Because not only had I seen characters I read about going through the worst of the effects of hatred and holding onto pain, but I’d written characters who didn’t end well because of the unhappy emotions they’d clung to.

So, more than an escape, writing has also been a way for me to teach myself how to see the world. It still is a great escape for me. But I also appreciate the outlook it has given me. It’s enabled me to heal from a great deal of emotional trauma. Writing is one of the most positive influences I’ve had in my life, and the times I’ve not been able to write due to circumstance have been some of the hardest and most emotionally stressful for me to endure. Writing gives me more than an escape now. It gives me a method for understanding the world as I see it.

I’m very glad now I’ve so clung to writing, that I make it a part of my life as much as my mind’s vagarities permit. I think I’d be an unhappier person if not for my writing. And I’m afraid that if I hadn’t turned to writing back in 1998 to ease my loneliness, I would have turned out a much worse person than I care to imagine having possibly been.

How the Arm is Doing

It’s been about a week since I saw the Physical Therapist for my arm. That appointment was on the third of this month, and it went very well. The PT guy, Scott Hickenlooper, I saw was very thorough.

He noticed I tend to sit in a slouch and told me to correct it as that may be part of the problem with my shoulder, so I’ve been working on maintaining proper posture while seated at my desk. Hurts my back a little, but I’ve noticed a definite difference in a variety of things about myself with the proper posture.

When I went in, I had a pretty wide range of movement in my arm, but Scott tested my limits by having me move my arm every which way it could be moved. I of course experienced pain well before full range of motion, but he seemed pleased with the range of motion I had. He brought in a little model of a shoulder joint and explained I’d probably strained or irritated the muscle which comes in under the shoulder bone (the part which connects to the collarbone and, iirc, makes the socket of the arm joint) and over the ball of the arm joint. Our best guess is that I slept on my arm wrong, which he didn’t seem to think to be anything out of the ordinary.

So then he had me lay on my back. I should probably mention he was testing my right arm’s range of motion as well as a sort of guide to what limits my left arm had due to the pain. With me on my back, he tested my right arm’s motion by having me completely relax it so he could move it every which way. There was no problem with this.

When Scott moved my left arm, I had slightly greater range of movement and the pain wasn’t as sharp or debilitating. This however meant my shoulder now hurt. I wanted help sitting up when he told me to, but he didn’t help me ’cause he wanted to see how I managed to wrangle myself upright without complete use of my left arm, and he seemed satisfied with the care I took.

When I explained I wasn’t using the sling unless I was square dancing—to remind other dancers not to jerk my arm behind my back—Scott said he would have told me to stop using it anyway. He did approve my use of it in dancing once I explained that some of the calls we perform result in the arm being drawn back into painful range.

I also showed him the exercises the ER doc had given me to perform, and he told me he was going to give me exercises “the next level up” from those. So now I do scapular retractions—draw shoulder blades back and down; arm slides scaption—where I slide my arm out at a 45 Degree angle; arm slides flexion—where I slide my arm out in front of me; and arm slides abduction—where I slide my arm straight out from my side. Scott told me to use a foam roller to do all the arm slides with, and to perform 20 repetitions of the exercises 2 times a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.

Before I left, I asked him about his last name, Hickenlooper, because it was so unusual. He said it has something to do with his ancestors “leaping” over hedges to poach from the king’s lands, then joked that he was trying to repair the thieving reputation by going into a respectable career.

He wanted me to make an appointment to see him again in two weeks from the third, but there weren’t any available to see him until the 23rd of this month, so that’s when I’m going in, at ten again.

Fear of Finishing

When my creative mind wakes up again, the WIP I’d most like to focus on is TPOM3. I stopped working on it a while back for a few reasons: 1) I couldn’t figure out how to carry on the outline from the card where it stops; 2) my creative mind decided to focus on something else; and 3) I’m afraid to finish it.

I go through this fear at some point with all my writing. Sometimes it stalls me longer than it does other times. With some stories, I’m able to power through; this works best with my short stories, especially since I tend to enjoy seeing how they end. While I enjoy seeing how my longer works end also, I also start to balk at completing them. The longer the project, the more I balk.

Someone suggested I may be afraid of completing my longer WIPs because I’m afraid I’ll miss the characters—writing about them, that is. I don’t think this is the case with TPOM3. This is the culmination of only one particular story I want to tell about Asthané and Géta. I even already know how I want to open the next book, A Life of Note I: Antiphons.

The Power of Music is the absolute longest project I’ve ever worked on—at least, up to this point in my writing life. I expect ALON to be longer, and Melodies of War to be even longer. These are epic stories, though I don’t think they precisely follow epic fantasy’s “rules.” Quite frankly, I don’t care about whatever rules I may be breaking.

I think at least part of the reason why I’m afraid to complete TPOM3 is because it’ll mean I can succeed as a writer. This will be the first major project I’ve ever completed from any genre of writing. It also means that I’ll have to make good on the “promises” of writing ALON and MOW, and, right now, I’m not sure I can do that. There’s a part of me which cringes at the idea of completing anything more than TPOM3, even though that alone isn’t the entire story of Asthané and Géta. Géta has much more to do magically speaking, and Asthané has a lot of learning to do. I also want to see them and their Empire through the major conflict they’re going to have with Ghulia later on. They have much, much more to say than what I could possibly fit in TPOM.

I think the plot card which I stopped outlining with is a turning-point, though. Both for my story and the characters in it as well as for me. Back in November, I started to get inklings of a way to deal with the block, and those vague notions came stronger when I recently read through the plot cards I have. I’m currently in the middle of a writing downswing, but it’s been mild, and I’ve been getting clearer ideas for my MCs’ lives onward from the ending of TPOM3 than I’ve had before now.

All this is making me anxious to finish TPOM, and hopefully I’ll find the courage to do so. Maybe holding up starting on ALON will help me. Maybe this writing downswing will send me into a writing upswing which will enable me to blast through my fear to complete TPOM. I don’t know. All I do know is that I want to complete TPOM so I can start on ALON.

The Mixed State

I’m officially diagnosed as mixed-state bipolar. In case I haven’t defined it before, this means I generally present and experience symptoms of depression and mania (in my case, hypomania) at the same time. There are places online which explain what the symptoms of these mental states are, but such lists are a little cold.

Because I’m currently in a mixed-state swing, I’ll try to describe what I’m going through. I can’t promise it’ll be any less clinical, but maybe I’ll be able to add a little depth to the shallow lists.

1. I don’t care. About anything.

2. I want to do things with my writing and my e-friends. I have no idea what I’ll do with my writing . . .

3. Because I’m in what happens to have become a traditional writing downswing since Nano is over. I’m reading through all my writing though, which is good—I’ve spent the first week or two of December so sick of my writing I couldn’t bear to look at it the past few years, so this is a nice change.

4. But at the same time, I’m absolutely confident I’ll write at some point each day—which is why I get out of bed, even though thus far, most days have proven unproductive.

5. I don’t care to take showers, either.

6. But I love smelling good right now, so when I do finally drag myself into a shower, I do the works: wash hair, scrub body, use scented soap, and, when I’m done, put on lots of fresh-scented anti-perspirant and spritz perfume, cologne, or something nice-smelling on.

7. I hate going out. I don’t want to hang out with local friends. Going for groceries is a major hassle, even if I need food.

8. But I leap at opportunities to go square dancing, where I spend time with friends, get some exercise, and have a great time.

9. I want to eat. I want to eat food I cook. I enjoy cooking a great deal.

10. I hate cooking. It’s a chore.

11. The mess on my desk is getting on my nerves, so I’ll probably clean it at some point during this mixed-state episode.

12. Cleaning the rest of my house is out of the question, though. It’s all I can do to make my bed in the morning.

13. I’m extremely energetic. All-nighters are more frequent, and I have to force myself to go to bed. Staying up all night is fun, even if I’m bored to death the whole time.

14. After I do go to sleep, I don’t want to wake up. If I could burrow under the blanket and never get hungry or need to go to the bathroom, I’d be quite willing to spend all day sleeping.

15. I don’t want to associate with anyone when I’m out shopping for groceries or going to appts, or taking any walks I somehow get myself to do.

16. At the same time, I babble constantly to anyone nearby. It takes a lot of effort to keep my mouth shut when it should be so, and I’m always utterly depressed when someone who I know never cared to hear about my mood swings or whatever is brusque and gets away from me as fast as they can.

17. I’m optimistic about my plans and goals.

18. I don’t care if I don’t carry out those plans or meet my goals.

19. I want to buy everything I see.

20. But when it’s not right in front of me, I couldn’t care less about whatever is out there to be purchased, even if I happen to need it right now.

This is, in some ways, just as inadequate as those bipolar disorder symptom lists you’ll find in books and online. It’s the best way I can think of to explain my experience of my mental illness, but there are some aspects of the disorder which I cannot put into words. I have cycles like this maybe once or twice a year, and the more severe ones can be quite debilitating. On a scale of 1-10 ranking severity, I’m currently experiencing about a five or six, and I generally hover around a one, sometimes a two. My mixed-state phases aren’t usually particularly debilitating; I think I’ve gotten close to what I might call a ten only once or twice since my diagnosis and being placed on any correct medication regimen.

I also have periodic pure-mood swings. This is a non-technical term I have for when I’m experiencing my mood swings in an unmixed state. They’re rare occurrences, and I’m more likely to have a purely depressive swing than I am to have an upswing into pure hypomania. And my hypomanic “up”swings, when they occur, tend more toward making me irritable and impatient, not happy or cheerful.

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