Mental chaos half across the world (Part 2 of 3)

Hong Kong skyscrapers mountain
Hong Kong

Click here to see this story’s part 1 of 3 set in Taichung, Taiwan

When I made the decision to up and leave everything in Taiwan I must have been approaching a moderate to high level of hypomania. I was impulsive, but with still some ability to put on the brakes. But, once hypomania is triggered, it can grow to a full blown mania in people with bipolar disorder. The following part of my Asian adventure shows one such a transition.

My first stop outside of Taiwan was Hong Kong. I chose it because I had a little hankering for a bit of a Western flavor after six months in a very different cultural environment. Hong Kong being still under British rule at the time had that modern cosmopolitan atmosphere I missed in Taiwanese cities. I could see how spectacular the city was straight from my plane window on the approach. Hong Kong International Airport (the now closed Kai Tak Airport) was perfectly situated with a view of Hong Kong’s splendid skyscrapers, mountains to the north, and Victoria Harbour at the end of the runway. The approach to the airport afforded all of these amazing views. The landing was also a dramatic experience, and was known to be technically demanding for pilots.

Hostel exampleOnce I disembarked from the plane, I headed to a cheap youth hostel that was listed in a guidebook I purchased in Taiwan. There, I booked a $6 per night bed in a room that had at least eight bunks. It was mixed men and women, something I didn’t mind at all from past experience. I chained my suitcase to the bunk, secured with a lock and headed out with my backpack. From that point on, I have only select memories of my time in this wonderful city. Memory problems are pretty common side-effects of manic episodes, but here are some of the things I do remember.

hong-kong boat in harbourI think the first thing I did was board a ferry to the modern part of the city. The air blowing through my hair was intoxicating and the harbor had a fragrant smell about it (Hong Kong means “fragrant harbor” in Chinese, after all). Unlike Taiwanese cities, parts of Hong Kong have scores of beautiful modern skyscrapers. Architectural treasures. Many Taiwanese buildings look more like communist block housing, though they’re not.

Hong Kong skylineWhen I arrived in the modern city I wove through the skyscrapers stretching my neck backwards at each block. Some were even more remarkable than those in San Francisco. Then suddenly I stumbled upon a hidden treasure; a beautiful green park full of paths surrounded by tall green trees and flowering bushes of types I had never seen before. I climbed the steepening paths to the top and recall a glorious view of the city. I was high up and high mentally, feeling like I was floating above the world, and strangely I was all alone and in what seemed like silence.

Hong Kong night street scene Kowloon
Kowloon district at night

The next day, I visited Hong Kong’s popular Kowloon district, a much more typically “Chinese” looking section of the city. I zipped around town exploring what seemed like every hustling street. Then I stumbled upon what seemed to be an electronics row, with one shop after another selling cameras, TVs, watches, and everything else that moved. The area itself was fast moving, bustling with people, just as my mind and body was moving, and moving fast. What normally could have been sensory overload was a sensory symphony. A mix of Chinese opera and Beethoven somehow combined into a perfect harmony.

Hong Kong recordsI remember being impressed by more numerous and more modern CD stores than I had ever even seen in the U.S. This one shop I entered had headphones where you could listen to any of the CDs for sale. I know, it later became common when CD stores still existed, but that was a new thing in the mid-1990s. Exciting! I remember hearing Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill album for the first time, freshly released, and discovering a band called Oasis. New sounds. If they were popular in the U.S., I hadn’t heard of them.

During my exploration I hooked up with a number of people. When you’re a lone traveler, that’s what you do. The first people I met were three Australians. One of them, a guy maybe 25 years my senior seemed to consider himself a winner finding me, and even asked me to join him for a movie nearby after a lunch. In the movie theater, he started to get a little fresh with me, so I excused myself to go to the bathroom. He said I could leave my backpack with him when I went. Yeah, right! I told him I needed something from it, and high-tailed it out of there.

The next day, I met an Israeli guy in my youth hostel. He was in Hong Kong with a young Korean girlfriend he met in China P.R.C., while studying Chinese. They told me that the girl’s parents didn’t know about the relationship and that they would have forbidden it, if they did. I ended up hanging out with the guy three times total. The first time just for a walk around town with his girlfriend. The second time was just with him in the hostel. He invited me to see his private room. It was 10 times more comfortable than my barracks-like situation, and included just one queen-sized bed with a private bathroom. He propositioned me for sex, but despite my elevated mood I refused, reminding him of his girlfriend. But, that didn’t keep me from hanging out some more with the two of them. He was a blast to talk to, and seemed riveted to every word I said, laughing at every joke. Such people are extra stimulating to a manic person.

Hong Kong street food
I usually ate street food

The Israeli guy invited me to join him and his girlfriend for dinner that night. We walked around a bit and he listened to my profuse rambling like a puppy dog. His young girlfriend was obviously not very happy about it, but I wasn’t concerned. He asked where I (not she) wanted to eat and I picked a fancy looking Szechuan restaurant in a nice part of Kowloon. Mmm, I hadn’t had anything but street food in ages. My mouth was watering and I felt I deserved some luxury.

I had heard that Hong Kong cuisine was extraordinarily delicious and he was immediately excited about my restaurant suggestion. We went in, sat down and ordered several yummy sounding dishes from the menu. The Israeli guy and I were talking together, but then suddenly his girlfriend started to cry and yell at him and me hysterically. I recall her shouting “We can’t afford this! Why are we here?! Only because of her! Tell her to go away! Tell her to go away!”

People in the restaurant were staring at us, but I was shocked. I guess I was living only in my own world at the time, but it nevertheless occurred to me that I’d better scat. A major fight was brewing. I put down a good chunk of money quickly and left mid-meal. I laughed the whole way down the street, hysterically. After that, I don’t remember what happened. I eventually went back to my hostel, checked my luggage (thank god, nothing stolen), and decided maybe it was best for me to move on to Bangkok. I don’t remember booking the ticket or even flying to Thailand, but somehow I ended up there.

Stay tuned for part 3 of 3 in Thailand

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Mental chaos half across the world (Part 1 of 3)

Taichung street scene motor scooter
Taichung, Taiwan R.O.C.
The following three-part post series is based on true events that happened to me in my youth. At the time, I was not yet formally diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 1. I didn’t receive a formal diagnosis until I was 32 years old. I had, however, sought help earlier in my youth for depression, anxiety and what I now know were bipolar mixed episodes. This series of posts describes rapid cycling bipolar disorder half across the world.

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Pregnant Walk in the Park

This is my favorite photograph in the world. No, it’s not the most visually stunning plein-air masterpiece, competing with those of Stieglitz, Sudek, or Ansel Adams. It tells a seemingly straightforward story, but on a closer look, it’s pregnant with the unseen and unknowable. What we see, is a photographer, his head hidden under a […]

via Pregnant Walk in the Park — Raising My Eyebrow

Please find the whole post by clicking the link above. If you like this post or wish to comment, please do so in Raising My Eyebrow’s blog by clicking the link above. I’m really excited about this new blogger, so have reposted his post “Pregnant Walk in the Park” here.

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We’re not that old! Somewhat similar reactions with similar reasons.

clock notepad

I have a doctor that I have seen frequently over the last 12 years. We know each other well. We’ve become familiar enough with each other that we’ve teased each other on occasion. We even have a mild crush on each other, something my husband knows (actually hubby says it’s a “major crush”), so this is not some major confession here. But there was one time when my doctor and I really pushed each other’s buttons on something.

I guess it was maybe four years or more ago when we had a major “disagreement” on the topic of our ages. My doctor was probably 68 or 69 years old at the time. I was around 42. I have absolutely no recollection of what had been said to motivate the debate, but my doctor was the one that started it. Almost out of the blue, he looked at me and with a teasing declaration said “C, you’re old enough to be a grandmother!”

Boom! A look of shock covered my face, then a few seconds of silence as my mind whirled. “What? A grandmother?!” I exclaimed. Then I thought about it briefly again and said, more calmly, “Well, I guess if I do the math it’s certainly possible.” [Why did he say such a thing? Keep in mind that I don’t have children and never really thought about having children.] Then with a burst of playful revenge I pointed straight at him (full arm out) and loudly said “Well, you’re old enough to be a great grandfather!”

“No!” he barked gruffly.

“YES!” I retorted, pointing at him again with full are outstretched.

“That’s not possible”, he said in a more normal tone.

“What do you mean it’s not possible?” I asked in disbelief.

“My grandchildren are too young to have kids.”

“Well, I don’t even have kids!” I countered.

Then silence again broke and that seemed to end the conversation. Honestly, it was quite peculiar. The session ended and I went home, and obviously played the conversation in my head a few times. I wondered if maybe he did too. Later I would learn that he did.

I saw this doctor again maybe two to three weeks later. When we both sat down we had shit eating grins on our faces. We went through the standard procedure of me describing my health situation and him asking questions.  Then with great mischief, I started it up again.

“Dr. Y, I’m sorry about what I said last time. You don’t even seem old enough to be a grandfather, in my opinion.”

“No”, he said with a wink. “Actually, if you really do the math I guess it is even possible for me to be a great great grandfather, if I was really young, and my kids were young, you know.”

I chuckled at that. “I guess that is true, Dr. Y. But know that I’m still only old enough to be a grandmother.” Big Cheshire grin.

The above was the end of that conversation about age, and was yet another sign that we both had some transference and counter-transference issues to work through. But he is a professional and ethical man. He and I have only had a couple of flirtatious encounters (lie), but I continue having my sweet little affection for him (true), but I hold my tongue (for the most part). Now, we just get to the patient-doctor business at hand, but usually with a sweet smile for each other.

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Dr. Sigmund Freud

My doctor is an amazingly caring and sweet man. His handsomeness and charm must affect many of his female patients. He’s a towering figure at almost 6’7” tall. He listens to me carefully with great interest. He has helped me feel well after years of struggle. I believe he is the Bee’s Knees, and he definitely still knows it. And surely likes it. Again, I imagine I’m not the only one with a crush on him, but perhaps I’m among the younger ones. [Hmm? Actually, I don’t know that for sure. Maybe some are even younger!] Transference and counter-transference in patient-doctor relationships are common, both positive and negative types. Dr. Sigmund Freud described it in many writings and wasn’t immune from it himself.

From fully transparent to partially opaque

free expression

“I realized in the early days I just didn’t edit at all. But I think you become a little more cagey with your lyrics when you know more people are going to hear them and make assumptions about you as a person. Realizing that, you want to be a little more opaque.” – Eddie Vedder (of the band Pearl Jam)

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Jolts causing rapid emotional or psychological switches

lightening major

I think we’ve all experienced emotional jolts at times in our lives. Imagine one moment we feel happy and positive, and then during a conversation someone says something that brings on a sudden feeling of fear, self-consciousness, fury, or the like. Or imagine that you go to your living room and discover your beloved pet is seriously ill, and are later told that he/she needs to be put down.

funny joltPowerful emotional jolts can also work in the opposite ways, as well. Continue reading

MC, Day 5: Beethoven’s flight of ideas

Thanks go to Robert Matthew Goldstein of Art by Rob Goldstein for nominating me for the Five-Day Music challenge. I had a wonderful time writing these posts. To read my whole series of five day music challenge posts go to this first post. Links to the other posts follow.

Several months ago my husband and I received the annual music program from the local university in my town. We are very lucky that we live in a town with a university that attracts some of the best classical musicians and other artists in the world. This year the main focus was on Beethoven String […]

via Beethoven’s musical flight of ideas — Bird Flight

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MC, Day 3: Surprise song playing in my head

Joshua tree night sky

At 15 years old, I experienced the first major mental breakdown of my life. I won’t go into it in detail here, but I will say that it was bad enough that my public school recommended that my parents switch me to a nearby alternative private school. I had gone through the gamut in terms of major mood fluctuation, a somewhat traumatic event. I was pressured to quit ballet after years of serious study. The love of my teenage life! Now without the rigors and routine of ballet classes I felt that I lost my identity and lost my way. Continue reading

Unraveling the mystery of my past brain quirks

via Daily Prompt: Unravel

avalanche

About 12 years ago, one “thread” of my brain’s tapestry got pulled hard, and some of the rest started to quickly unravel. It wasn’t just the blue threads, but the red, yellow, and purple threads seem to unravel too. The image of stability and mental wellness started to disappear. Doctors of various sorts, and numerous therapists, tried to weave my brain back to before, but the various colored “threads” became misaligned at times and the image was sometimes unrecognizable and disturbing. Continue reading