Full moon, empty brain

The moon is glorious tonight.  I watched it rising over the ridge opposite my little cabin, clearing the cluster of dwellings wherein lie the miniature dachshund family, the hound dog puppy that is growing bigger and louder every day, the chicken lady and her chickens, many fewer roosters than there used to be because they shot (yes, shot) and ate a bunch of them (they had 8 roosters, far too many), the guinea fowl that shriek like banshees…in short, the small village full of critters and the people who take care of them, that live in the little hollow across the road from me.

I have been attempting to jump-start my brain tonight.  It doesn’t want to kick into gear.  I try to think about something, and the next thing I know, I’m not thinking of anything at all.  I start a task, and what seems like moments later I find myself doing something entirely different, and it’s two hours later.

How does this happen?

One advantage is that I can’t seem to get too upset about it, because my brain can’t stay on task long enough for even that.  Well, that’s a blessing, I suppose.  I have to thank G-d for that, because otherwise I’d just go from being insane to being crazy.

Speaking of labels, I’m astounded by the level of stigma that still exists out there.  I see it everywhere in the media.  Maybe I’m just paranoid.  “Just” paranoid?  No.  It’s real.  It exists.  As real as the nose on my face.

The other day a family friend visited us.  This friend had a cancerous lesion on his nose and his ear, and he had to have quite radical surgery to remove the cancer.  He has subsequently had numerous surgeries to reconstruct his face.

His surgery team did a great job.  You really can’t see any sign of the reconstruction unless he’s in direct light.  Then you can see the “seams” where they put him back together.

But he’s hyperaware of the difference between his face now and his face before the cancer.  He feels like people stare at him.  His wife shared a story about some rude lady who did notice his scars and said, “What happened to your FACE?”  Isn’t that everybody’s worst nightmare?  To have your face look wierd, and have people notice it?

I feel that way about my brain.  If people could only see the way my brain feels to me, they’d say, “What happened to your BRAIN?”   And I find myself wondering, “Can they tell?  Do they know how weird my thinking is right now?   Can they see my Face, the one with all the scars?   But that scarred Face is  on the inside.  The one on the outside seems to look perfectly “normal.”

In a way, it heightens my connection with my dad, who has dementia as a result of his 50-plus year dance with diabetes.  Unlike people with Alzheimer’s-type dementia, Dad is very much aware of the malfunctioning of his brain.  It causes him great distress.  Dad is a brilliant man with a broken brain, and he knows it.

We spend every Wednesday together:  it’s Mom’s day off.  Dad and I very much enjoy our Wednesdays.  Some days are better than others, of course.  And that depends entirely on how both of our brains are functioning.

This past Wednesday we had our little moments, when neither of us understood the other at all.  This led to a bit of mental scuffling, as we each tried to wrap our warped brain around both our own thoughts and the other’s.  But we got it worked out.  It was all because I had to get Dad to take a shower and get dressed, ideally before Mom got home, because they were invited out that night.  And I only had five hours in which to get that accomplished.

It was a little like steering a boat in a quarter sea.  The boat pitched to and fro, and side to side, and my job was to keep it going straight, on course.  Well, we did get there.  Not exactly on time, but close enough for jazz.

Dad used to give me a very hard time about why I wasn’t “doing something with my life.”  Before he got sick himself, he just didn’t understand.  He thought that I had somehow turned lazy, content to do nothing and “live on the dole.”

Unfortunately, now he knows all too well why I never seem to get anything done.

Leave a comment


  1. Laura, I love your posts. It seems like we have so much in common, although I know there has to be a significant age difference. It’s wonderful. I read your posts and I say aloud, “Yeah, I thought that too!”

    “Isn’t that everybody’s worst nightmare? To have your face look wierd, and have people notice it?”, you said. A person would be a complete liar if they denied that fear. I think I’d put that above death and mental impairment due to an accident. (Think MR severe enough to be a disability, but not enough that I don’t recall what I was like before the accident).

    I am not a great example of a bipolar woman in today’s world. I am a teacher, and I feel that it is absolutely necessary to hide that truth about me. But, I do try to act a little more eccentric, so people are aware that I am different. How different is up to their own perceptions of me. I would liken it to a visible scar, and I am utilizing the best makeup I have access to.

    But, you could embrace it like Charlie Sheen does. I’m not sure that he ever denied having bipolar disorder. But he did say this: “I’m bi-winning!” Every day that I make it through, I consider myself to be bi-winning. He asserts that his brain is unique and, therefore, better. I like to think of it that way sometimes. i wasn’t “miswired” and I’m not “malfunctioning”. I function differently. Is that a crime?

    May I ask, does your father have Lewy Body Dementia? My grandmother was recently diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia resulting from a long battle with diabetes. You can tell that she is aware that her mental state is deteriorating because she said to people, “I’m not crazy. I worked in an institution in my youth and I’ve seen crazy. I’m not crazy.” Now, she hardly speaks at all. They have her very heavily medicated because of severe psychosis. It’s really sad.

    Worse, I think she believe that people perceive her as “crazy” because I carry a diagnosis. I am the only person in her genetic line to carry a diagnosis.

  2. I take comfort that if anyone ever got into my brain, in less than five seconds they would be far too confused to form as simple a question as “What happened?”

    Though I’m glad your father understands you better, I wish he didn’t (you know what I mean, right?). I’ve always thought that when people suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia, at least they don’t realize it. Not only does my heart break for your father, but it makes me wonder how accurate that thought is. Who says they don’t realize it? Who lives in their minds but them? Maybe they do have a sense of what they’re losing, but they just can’t articulate that fact.

    That’s pretty much how I feel most of the time.

  3. Kimberly Urysz-Valade

     /  October 23, 2012

    Thank you for teaching me more about bi-polar dissorder. I was diagnosed in 2007 and still have not really gotten a grasp on it. I am still learning about what is the illness and what is me and what I will be doing with the rest of my life….I go to Bipolar Babe woman’s group and it is really helpful with Andrea Pauquette….I went on here tonight hoping to get information on Bipolar and empty brain…sometimes my friend (who is also bipolar) and I feel that we have nothing to say and that our brains are empty. I was wondering if that is the illness or the meds. Would appreciate a reply 🙂

    • Hi Kimberly,

      First of all I want to tell you how glad I am that you are taking charge of your illness, going to a group, openly dialoguing about it, and seeking more information. You are using your resources and building your toolbox, and this is what will stand you in good stead, in days and nights to come. Keep it going!

      About emptyheadedness: due to illness, due med side effects, combination of both? Hard to tell. Some things, in fact many things with this aggravating condition, are impossible to pinpoint. I guess one positive point in being bipolar is that you have to learn to shrug your shoulders and go “Eh? How important is this, in the long run?” And then really listen to your inner self telling you the answer. If it turns out to be really important, you might bring it up in your group, or ask your therapist about it (I’m assuming you have one, because you will be needing one), or journal about it, blog about it, sit and meditate about it: whatever works for you as a tool for looking inside yourself and gaining insight.

      My own toolbox contains blogging, because not only do I get to express myself in writing (read: pour out my guts in a public forum!), but I also get feedback from the wonderful Bipolar blogging community on the Web.

      So I haven’t really answered your question in a concrete way…

      • kimberly uryszvalade

         /  October 23, 2012

        Thank you for your input. I really appreciate all the help. Kim

  4. Kimberly Urysz-Valade

     /  October 23, 2012

    Thank you for your reply. I really appreciate the input and will put it to use. I also now have an appreciation for blogging.

  5. Nancy Pace

     /  June 30, 2015

    Re: I find myself wondering, “Can they tell? Do they know how weird my thinking is right now?” I hate explaining myself. I imagine I’m supposed to always be at my best, and hate it when I’m not, and too often feel like I have to apologize for not being the me I presented (perhaps persuasively) in the past. I feel like a phony and dishonest unless I explain myself, which is impossible, especially with people who don’t know much about me. So I try to give myself permission to just go through the courteous motions, which sometimes works. I hate explaining myself to my (very understanding) husband too, because I feel so sorry for him for having a (choose one: boring, sad, weird, angry, avoidant, silent) wife when he married a pretty bright perky enthusiastic sexy accomplished one. He says I had my moods back then too, but I remember myself as (struggling to be) “perfect.”

    Re: “why I wasn’t “doing something with my life.” I’m 68 and retired, so instead of acting retired, I beat myself up for not doing more, making up for past lacks of achievement, etc. I also have RA, anxiety too. The RA keeps me from most exercise and I’m not disciplined enough (inconsistent re: moods) to do much. I also can’t quite see myself spending the next ten years exercising and recovering from exercising and sweating out the RA repercussions just so I can not go downhill too fast. I’m writing this Laura just to cheer you up. And to whine. Any suggestions to whip myself into doing more might be considered…. 🙂 Thank you for your wonderful blog. I’m reading it backwards, starting at the beginning. As I said last time, it makes me feel peaceful.

    On the other hand, my husband discourages my interactions with the bp/mental illness community because he’s afraid I will wallow in it instead of “just do stuff I enjoy.” (I do have a good psychiatrist, but only see him monthly.) I’m tired of trying to find a simpatico/helpful psychologist. My RA meds (and condition) make me tired. It’s not really too disfiguring/bad/painful, just constraining. My brain is my big problem. Lithium and lexapro…. Enough for now. Thank you Laura for your blog. I love reading it and learn a lot from it. I think the peaceful feeling comes from knowing that a wonderful talented honest good funny interesting accomplished person like you struggles as I do and still chooses life. 🙂

    • Hi Nancy,

      You certainly did get more than your share dumped on you. I think it’s amazing you manage to do as much as you do! As far as “wallowing” goes, I see our sharing as a very low-pressure form of group therapy. We share each others’ experiences. We piss and moan if we need to. We shout for joy at our victories, even if our victories consist of walking to the mailbox and actually making it back to the couch. It’s very lonely if you don’t have someone who genuinely understands the challenges you face. Especially combined with physical illness and all the garbage that goes with it–good grief, it’s a triumph to just get out of bed, take a shower…did I tell you what a challenge it is for me to take a shower??? I used to take them twice a day, back when I was relatively young and athletic. Now I’m relatively not young, and apathetic. But still alive, anyway.

      • Nancy Pace

         /  July 1, 2015

        Thx as always, Laura. Part of my brain still believes it’s all a character issue, that I choose to allow negative patterns, bad habits, etc. run me. But even if that were true, that I’d created my own problems through my own (choose one: laziness, rebellion, avoidance, bad judgment, bad choices, whatever) I still don’t feel so great, and I still need to find some way to get through the next (again: moments, days, months, years.) There is MUCH good in my life. I am very fortunate in many ways and circumstances. (“So quit whining!” I say to myself.) I do learn. I do feel better at times. I do things that make me proud and sometimes enjoy being around people, especially when I’m helping in some way I’m good at. I just hate the feeling-bad part. It really gets old. I hate fighting a negative attitude all the time, feeling hopeless and out of control. And glum at best about the future. I do hope someone nice invents something wonderful for folk who struggle as we do. OK, enuf said. Now I have to go do something that will make me feel better, I hope. And keep doing it, and things like it, more often. I feel for your struggle, Laura. I think you’re doing a good, amazing thing. w/love, N.


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