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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Lithium, Part 2

Am now at the start of my third week on lithium carbonate, better known in the common vernacular as plain old "lithium".

Lithium has been a funny drug for me.  On one hand it has worked wonders with the depression: something which I've had to endure a particularly excruciating bout with during the past month.  The thoughts of wanting to be dead - really the thoughts of not wanting to "be here" anymore as opposed to seriously wanting to be dead - are no longer actively present.  Not "gone", but not impacting my daily life right now.  I don't want those thoughts to ever be truly gone.  If they were, I wouldn't remember what that depth of depression is like.  If I don't remember, there is nothing of the pain from which to learn and to grow from.

On the other hand lithium has accelerated my awareness of the world around me, and in some ways to almost as debilitating a degree as I was without it.  I'm unclear as to whether it's because I'm still getting used to the medication or because it's been longer than I can remember since I had this clear a perception of the world absent either the mania or the depression.  (AUTHOR'S NOTE:  Do NOT go off lithium cold-turkey if you have the same experience with this drug.  Talk to your doctor before making any changes to your drug schedule.)

I want to believe that one of the reasons God has made me have bipolar and especially the depression part of it is so I can help those who are also suffering from this.  Perhaps that's not really for me to ascribe purpose to, but it's one of the things which I cling to.  I have to believe that there is some meaning behind this.  That God doesn't let things happen for no reason, and this especially.

Anyway, I'm now well into my regimen of lithium.  I'm due for bloodwork soon, because lithium is something which needs consistent monitoring: making sure that it's being absorbed in the proper amount, both for its effects and also so that its more deleterious effects are avoided (namely with the liver).  As for how it's been working...

Like I said, the suicidal thoughts are being readily suppressed.  The depression isn't gone completely but neither am I curled up on the sofa with numbed thoughts racing through my head and making me unable to work... and I do need my work.  But to work I have to overcome the paralyzing thoughts of nullility (I made that word up).  Some might think it's ridiculous to hear that one is unable to compel his own mind to think.  For me it's not ridiculous, it's only too real.  I'm regaining an ability to think and to write.

It's time which I'm putting to good use, because I am writing a book about my life with bipolar disorder.  Lord only knows if it will ever be published.  If nothing else I'll be able to honestly say that I've written a book.  It's going to be about everything pertaining to being bipolar: the manic phases and what they drove me to do, the depression, the costs of bipolar in terms of friendships and marriage and career opportunities, the drugs, and also some surprisingly positive aspects of bipolar.  Along with a few other... well, things not normally associated with mental illness.  I think it will all make sense though.  It will also be as brutally honest as anything posted on this blog.  More so, even.

To write that we've had to adjust my medication slightly, including the lithium, because it's worked well.  It's worked too well!  My awareness has been drastically heightened.  So much so that even going outside to walk Tammy (my miniature dachshund) became overwhelming in terms of sight and sound.  The "easy" choices are to either be manic and have my creativity run rampant, or to be in depression and then my thoughts be empty, vacuous, numb to all stimuli.  It hearkens back to the hell curve which I wrote about a few years ago.

Other effects of my personal usage of lithium have included a change in taste perception and a lessened appetite.  My taste buds seem to have adjusted in recent days: at least the pizza from Papa John's seemed perfectly normal.  In regard to appetite, I've lost a number of pounds already.  Maybe that's compensation for the craziness I went through with Seroquel.  Friends and family have told me in the past few weeks that I'm already looking the best I have in a number of years.  Maybe it'll keep up... but not too much!

So, lithium has me closer to that mark of perfect equilibrium.  I doubt I will ever hit the mark right on target, and if I do I know it won't be long staying there.  And it will always be a struggle to some degree to hover around that sweet spot between mania and depression.  But for now, I'm enjoying a measure of peace.  Like an island in the eye of a hurricane.

That's all for now.  Back to writing this book.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Forget not in the light what has been learned in the darkness.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Started lithium yesterday.

Have never been on lithium before. Had I been on it 15 years ago my life would have turned out completely different, no doubt. But there's no good to come speculating on what might have been. I could have accomplished some things, but missed doing a lot of other good ones.

I'm feeling rather intoxicated at the moment. I could write anything. But it's not "drunk" per se. My mind hasn't been this free from struggling against itself in at least ten years. The core of my being isn't used to this.

It probably won't last forever. I'm not counting on it. As with everything else with having bipolar there are good days where everything clicks and there are bad days when nothing works. But for the time being I am immensely thankful for this little season of rest.

Should I write about how tempted I was to take my own life last week? I guess I just did. That's okay. It's common. People with mental illness who have suicidal ideations aren't "bad" at all. You have to have this to understand the kind of pain that it is. And it's a deep, DEEP pain. Pain that is extremely difficult to endure. Suicide is a horrible tragedy, but it's not a flaw in a person's character. I've been there. I hope nobody will judge me for harboring that kind of pain and thoughts about wanting it to stop.

Lithium is documented to severely reduce the risk of suicide. I'm beginning to understand why. The depression has been unbelievably absent during the past several days. But I can't credit medication for that. I've had a LOT of wonderful friends and family who have held me up in their prayers and I can't doubt that God has been with me during this time. All the thanks must go to Him and to them.

And I'm working on a project about being bipolar that might be... I dunno, "interesting"? It's something that I'm not holding back on anything. What it's like to have bipolar, the hurt I've felt, the hurt I've inflicted on others (especially family and friends), the drugs I've taken. But also some other things not directly related to mental illness. We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Well, so it begins

I still don't know what I'm supposed to be writing lately.

But I feel like I need to post something more than the running train of my current consciousness.  All that's missing are exotic pharmaceuticals like what Hunter S. Thompson used with his own.

So for what it's worth, here is what might be the very first "spy" photo from the filming of Star Wars Episode VII, somewhere in the desert of Abu Dhabi...

Speculation is that it's anything from part of a moisture farm, to the foot of an AT-AT walker.  Maybe the Jawas scavenged Imperial hardware in the decades following the Empire's defeat?

The new Star Wars movie begins primary filming next month.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Years ago, as a student at Elon, I became... well, I still don't know the best word for it. "Active", "associated", "affiliated with", "hung around"...

Well like I said, I still don't know.

It was InterVarsity Christian Fellowship that I became a part of, in whatever insignificant capacity. Truth be known, that was a strange period in my life and there are times when I'm not exactly sure what was going on. Maybe I shouldn't look too hard for answers there?

I do know that it was my friends in IV who were the ones who helped me most to break free from years of guilt, shame and regret and to at last come into a real relationship with God. It was something that looking back, I realize that I had always wanted it but for one reason or another felt inadequate and unworthy. God used them and worked through them to show me a peace and a joy that I had never known before, or even knew could be.

The years since have in too many ways, not been kind. I'm sure some would say all of this could have been better, that I could have gained more, if I had not tried so much to serve God since then. And I will be the very first to admit: I have fallen and failed many more times than I have succeeded.

To serve Him is a choice that once made, I truly could never, ever turn my back on. Despite all the loss I've suffered, regardless of the situations I've gone through, no matter the hell of mental illness that I have had to endure... though all of that and so much more, I can not and would not want to go back to the person I was before at last finding Christ.

Why am I writing all of this?

There was a song that the praise team at IV used to play, one of many that we all sang to. Most of those songs wound up recorded on tape and several years ago I used my copy to make MP3s of them. I now have the entire collection of tracks on my iPad and iPod. Even after all this time, Elon IV's praise and worship songs are something I turn to when I need encouragement.

This song, from the time I first remember hearing it I thought it was the most beautiful, hope-filled, most inspiring of the entire set of songs that they used.

And in recent days and weeks, months even, it has become a song that I have especially clung to. When I was in a behavioral health center in December for extreme depression, I would sing this to myself late at night, asking God to please grant a peaceful rest.

It is a song that has come to mean more to me than I can possibly convey with words. The best I can muster is that it is a precious link to happier times, a comfort today, and a beautiful hint at things still to come.

I don't know who wrote this song. Maybe someone out there does and will tell me. I would love to know.

Lately I've used my iPad to play the "album" very softly as I go to sleep. It helps to quiet my mind, turn it over to God and let Him grant that rest. And this is the one I love listening to the most.

Maybe there is someone out there who, even if it's just the lyrics, they can find a measure of peace and assurance too...

We Will Fly

I want to sing something beautiful
To Jesus, Lord of my life
To give an offering of my heart
In a song that he’s never before

And then we will fly,
The Lord Jesus and I
And all my fears will fade into the night
And my praise will ring
As up to the heavens I sing
Of the love of God through Jesus Christ
Oh that the love that dwells in my heart
Would emerge from me undefiled
To go forth in purity, touching those I see
With the sweetness of the presence of Christ

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dear readers of this blog,

Two nights ago I very nearly made the greatest mistake of my life.

Had it succeeded, another mistake, which I take full responsibility for, would have been the second greatest mistake of my life instead.

I don't know what I'm doing. I thought I did.

There are things which I cannot possibly be forgiven for and I wonder if my capacity as a writer and especially as a Christian writer is now irredeemably destroyed.

I would do anything to take back what I have done. More than I would do anything to change having, well, this.

My heart groans to be free of this world. My spirit longs to at last be unshackled and to fly away home.

I have lost loved ones and I don't know how to ever gain them again.

There are people who are going to laugh and gloat that I am saying these things. I couldn't care less. My heart lied one time too many to one friend. It will not lie here.

I don't know what I'm doing. And God is so very distant now, I cannot hear Him. Could I have heard Him at all? The times I thought I heard God, was that nothing but my disease playing with my thoughts?

I don't know.

I know nothing.

I wanted to be a father. I would have been a good father.

I wanted to be known as a good man. I wanted to be a good man, through and through.

I create nothing. I destroy everything.

I am become Death, shatterer of worlds. My own has not been spared.

I don't know what I'm supposed to do.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Why are people so cruel and spiteful to each other?

Why do people who have better minds than mine choose to be like that?

The love of most has grown cold.

The world is going to hell.

There is no more rule of law.  None at all.

We deserve everything that is coming toward us.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Putin's prize: The Second Rome

Vladimir Putin may have come from the KGB.  But there arguably exists aspirations which are far away and removed from anything the Soviet Union set out to achieve.

Allow me to paint a picture...

Very soon, Russia's invasion of Ukraine will commence.  Complete control of Ukraine is not Putin's objective, but neither will it stop there.

There are even now reports of the Russian army stationed in Moldava beginning maneuvers.  It is altogether possible that Ukraine could be faced with invasion along two fronts.

Or not.

Ukraine is needed not to solidify Russia's annexation of Crimea, but to establish an uncontested highway for troops and materiel to be transported to the south and west.  Poland?  Likely it has barely figured into Putin's strategy.  Poland will not be a factor.  Putin is aiming for something far more than re-establishing the borders of Soviet domination during the Cold War.

The Russian army now has free and clear dominion across the north and northwest of the Black Sea.  Next on the agenda: Romania.  Which may or may not acquiesce to Russia's military movements.  When Putin's goals are made clear (perhaps by diplomatic channels) Romania will gladly afford the Russian army to pass through what could be called the "Carpathian Corridor".

And so too might Bulgaria, and then Greece, quickly rally to give passage to the Russian armed forces.  Political boundaries will yield to common cultural ties.  The entire region along the western Aegean Sea is now firmly under Russian control.

It will not be very long before entire divisions of soldiers, tanks, supply lines and reserves are sitting along the border of Thrace.

Ukraine?  Putin is aiming far higher than that.  Ukraine just happens to be in the way.

Because Russia has now positioned itself to take the true prize.  The prize that has been the ultimate goal of Russia - and Orthodoxy in general - for nearly half a millennium:


The city once known as Constantinople.  The shining jewel of Orthodoxy, until it was conquered by Ottoman Turks led by Sultan Mehmed II in 1453.

Putin knows that he must act soon.  Even now it is being actively discussed in Ankara that Haggia Sophia be turned once again into a Muslim mosque.  Haggia Sophia, which until the fall of Constantinople was the crowning architectural achievement of Orthodoxy as well as it's spiritual focal point in the earthly realm

Haggia Sophia is now a museum.  But to make it a mosque anew?

The Russian - and Greek - Orthodox will NEVER tolerate it.

And then Putin makes the final play of his long game: the re-taking of Constantinople. Russian Orthodoxy's long-dreamt re-conquest of Constantinople from the heirs of the hated Ottomans. The restoration of Haggia Sophia as a church.

It has long been said in Russia that Rome was the first, Constantinople is the second Rome. Moscow is the third. "A fourth there shall not be."

The Third Rome, after more than four and a half centuries, is readying itself to retake the Second. 

Vladimir Putin could very well deem himself the man who is destined to achieve Russia's longest, most lusted-after goal.

It is almost certainly a thought that Putin has seriously contemplated during the past several months and years.  For sure, it has been at least a lingering thought these past few weeks.

Think that western Europe will try to intervene?  In the two and a half decades since the fall of communism, Russia has come to control more than 1/3rd of natural gas and petroleum products throughout the European Union.  Putin merely has to threaten to shut down the pipelines and most of Europe will not be in a position to negotiate with him.

Meanwhile, the troops and tanks are set to roll across the border of westernmost Turkey.

And then they do.

The Second Siege of Constantinople has begun.

It has now gone from clear provocation to full-scale war between Russia and Turkey.

In addition to Istanbul itself, Russia and Turkey especially fight for control of the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits.  The Dardanelles will likely be the secondary objective after entering Thrace.  If Russia succeeds in taking Istanbul - and it most certainly will - Putin will have effective control over the entire Black Sea region apart from northern Turkey.

All to reclaim Constantinople.  To at long last punish the Turks for the desecration of Haggia Sophia.

It could be the single largest open conflict between Christendom and Islam in hundreds of years.

This is the scenario that I have seen could possibly unfold.

Time will tell.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Bipolar Disorder: Research proves that... it wasn't a choice

Note:  This blog hasn't been the same lately.  I don't know if I should keep going or not.  What do you think?

The night before...
The recent state of this blog is reflecting my personal life, and it has nothing to do with just turning 40.

40 is the biblical number of completion.  Moses was 40 when he fled Egypt and it was 40 years later when he returned to lead his people to freedom.  It was 40 years after that when the children of Israel arose to take the land promised them.

Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days, fasting and being tempted by Satan.  Only after that did He begin His ministry.  Noah and his family endured rain for 40 days and 40 nights.  No doubt there are other examples.

(I haven't seen the Noah movie.  I don't plan to either.  When I heard there were Ents in it, and Noah tries to kill his granddaughter, I knew it wouldn't get my hard-earned money.)

Many people would turn 40 with dread.  It didn't even register with me.  I guess one of the reasons is that I'm just happy to have survived my 30s: a decade that very nearly killed me.  I'm not kidding.  It certainly did see my life almost destroyed in too many other ways.

For the past few months things have gone very horrible in my personal life and I'm struggling to understand the whys and the hows of it.  I'm no closer to understanding.  God isn't providing any wisdom, but I guess He doesn't have to to begin with, does He?

Last week though, He did provide something that, well... it has come as both a great relief and a saddening understanding.

It was a friend with a far more brilliant mind than most who passed along the news to me.  I'm glad she did.  In the week since I've studied everything I can about these findings and more than I can express in words, I have felt a tremendous burden lifted from my heart and soul.

Last week new research was published by a team at the University of Michigan, having to do with bipolar disorder.  Which has been the biggest bane of my existence, for far longer than I initially realized.  My bipolar intensified severely beginning more than ten years ago and if it hadn't been for counseling and coming across the right combination of medication, I would probably be dead.

The researchers at University of Michigan took skin samples from volunteers who did not have bipolar, and an equal number from those who are afflicted with bipolar.  Those skin cells were induced to become stem cells and with further coaxing, made to develop into neural tissue (something that never ceases to amaze me).  For the first time, the behavior and function of bipolar disorder neural cells could be examined at length.

Neurons of Bipolar Disorder individual
(photo credit: Univesity of Michigan)

The findings were extraordinary.  The neurons of those with bipolar disorder were found to function radically different from those of "normal" people.  For one thing, they communicate with each other drastically different from mainstream neurons: at times uncontrollably.  Signals can often spin out of control.  There are more genes which express themselves into receptors for calcium ions, needed by cells to send signals to each other.  There are far more synapses and dentrites present than those of non-bipolar individuals.  It is now believed that bipolar neurons are already activated at the embryonic stage and continue to affect brain development throughout an individual's life, manifesting especially in the early years and young adult phase.  Additionally, the researchers discovered how lithium "calms" the neural activity down, though its effectiveness can differ from individual to individual.

Another group of researchers a few weeks earlier announced that 3 genes have been found which are associated with bipolar disorder.  Between that and the study of bipolar neurons, it is truly an exciting time for bipolar disorder research.

It's stuff like this that makes me thankful for modern medical research.  And this is only the beginning.  At last, science is starting to have an understanding of bipolar disorder and how it may be treated.  In the future, treatment may be possible for those with bipolar on an individual basis, instead of trying one drug cocktail after another attempting to control it.

But even so... I have a mixed reaction to all of this.

Because now I know that there wasn't a choice. There was never a choice.  None at all.

I was going to have bipolar disorder.  I was going to have bipolar disorder.

For those in the future, there may well be effective treatment for bipolar disorder.  But for me, it is too late.

From before I was ever born, the chromosomes were poisoning the well.  The neurons were working their mischief.  Subtly altering how my brain was developing.  Making seemingly inconsequential shifts in my brain's structure.  Setting up a time bomb set to explode years down the road.

It was going to happen no matter what.  We know without any doubt now.

My grandmother, we are now certain, had bipolar disorder.  Her father before her suffered mental illness and we also now believe it was bipolar.  My grandmother had two children and each of those have two children.  Neither my father or aunt have bipolar.  Nor do my sister or my two cousins have bipolar.  Instead the genetic roulette wheel landed on your friend and humble narrator, Robert Christopher Knight.

I guess if it had to be someone, I should be glad that it was on me.  Bipolar disorder is something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.  If somebody had to lose the dice roll, I would volunteer myself rather than see anyone else suffer.

I have bipolar disorder and from the earliest possible point, it was something I was doomed to be hit with.  There is a sense of relief and vindication (as one commenter on this blog put it) in knowing at last that this wasn't a "character flaw".  One of the things that being bipolar has taught me is that the mind and soul are two VERY separate things.  There is the flesh, there is the mind, and there is the soul.

My heart and soul are untouchable by bipolar.  But this fallen world can - and has - done plenty of damage to my body and mind.

It was a disability that was poised to strike without my having a say in the matter.  Another thing that bipolar disorder has taught me is to have a much deeper humility and appreciation for those things that I do have, because there are many people who are worse off than I will probably ever be.  You can't understand a disability until you yourself have one... and I pray that nobody else would have to suffer a disability.  Especially this one.

I am relieved.  I am thankful for the new research.  And at the same time I have a sense of grief.

Bipolar disorder, I see now, has always been there and making me "different" from others.  Bipolar disorder has destroyed opportunities which I regret were missed.  It has cost me friendships.  It cost me my marriage.  And lately it has come very close to completely derailing my freelance writing career.

And apart from a regimen of medication (which sometimes is not completely effective) and regular counseling, I never stood a chance to not lose all of those things.  Things that were very precious and dear to me.  And still are.

But again, if a person, especially a person in my family, had to be hit with bipolar and suffer the consequences of everything associated with it, I would rather it have been me and not them.

And yet, I can't bring myself to rail against God for any of that.

Have I cried out to Him before because of this?  Absolutely.  But this is something that I just can't find a reason to charge Him with anything.

Because if He knows that I have this and was always going to have bipolar disorder, then I have to trust that He understands completely, and even better than I possibly could.

I have to trust that God didn't allow this to happen without some purpose.  What that purpose is, I have no idea.  I may never have any understanding of it.

I trust that God knows all of this, and that in His own time He brings healing.  He brings restoration.  He brings wisdom.

And He brings hope.

I have a hope now that those yet to come will never have to go through what I have because of bipolar disorder.  If I can play any part in that, however small, then I will consider that to be the greatest honor that one can have in this life.  I may have had no choice in being hit with bipolar disorder, but I can and do choose to do what I can to help others who have this devastating mental illness.

Actually, come to think of it... that isn't really a choice at all, either.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

If we can't pray to God for wisdom and strength when we think times are going well, don't expect Him to grant wisdom and strength when we pray to Him when times are woefully desperate!