Monday, June 17, 2013

Bipolar dilemnas

Now, I don't have bipolar disorder. I have my own demons, but not this one, Thank Gd! That said, I've lived with a bi-polar girl for three years and have come to recognize that tactlessness is often a two way street. So, here:

8 things not to say to someone who's bipolar:

  1. "So in the morning you'll be fine, right?" Yes. No. Maybe. See, once my mood's gone off the rails, anything can happen. It's possible that I'll raise the dose of something or add something in for a night and wake up in the morning feeling perfectly fine, but it's also possible that recovery will take weeks, especially if my meds weren't adjusted properly to begin with. Alternatively, I might wake up the next morning in a normal mood but feel like a zombie because of the medication's side effects.
  2. "Have you tried antidepressants?" No, I haven't, or if I have, bad things happened. See, when you give bipolar people antidepressants, they go manic. Imagine that in your brain there's a chemical switch. In depressed people it has 2 settings, depressed and normal. In bipolar people it has 3 settings, depressed, normal, and manic. Antidepressants flip that switch from the lowest to the highest setting, regardless of what you intended "highest" to be.
  3. "Have you tried [insert alternative/additional therapy here]?" Just to clarify: bipolar disorder is a chronic biochemical imbalance in the brain. If what you're pushing makes some kind of sense, I might consider it, but the best it will do is make me feel slightly better or give me a coping mechanism. It won't make the problem actually go away; only medicine and psychotherapy can do that. Yes, prayer is wonderful, and God is a great listener, but doctors are His healing hands.
  4. "This is happening to you because you [insert vice(s) here]. If you'd just [insert virtuous thing(s) here], you'd be fine." If you're lecturing me about getting enough sleep, you are likely correct. If you're lecturing me about anything else, then yes, I will feel better overall, but it won't stop me from having random biochemical blips that make my mood go nuts. Oh, and have I mentioned that you sound obnoxiously self-righteous?
  5. "I have no idea what to do with you." There's a very simple solution: ASK! I will probably know what I need from you, and if I don't, that's my problem not yours. If what you mean is more along the lines of "You need more help than I can give you" or "I don't have the energy to deal with you all the time," then you should have said so, albeit gently.
  6.  "When's the last time you took your meds?" in response to a strong emotional reaction. I am a human being with the same basic emotional responses as everyone else. Please do not pathologize my feelings and/or brush off an outburst as the product of a diseased mind until you have talked to me and tried to understand what I'm reacting to and why. If you're still concerned, watch for other signs of an altered mood, and let me know if you see them.
  7. "OMG I feel so bad I didn't know what life is like for you I'm so sorry that I reacted like that!" or "I feel so useless that I can't help you!" Odds are that you said this in reaction to my explaining how being bipolar can make my life hell and/or how it changes things even when I'm not actually cycling. Odds are that when I explained this to you, I was looking for support. You have just turned the tables and made it about you and how you're a bad friend, thereby forcing me to expend energy that I may not have had in order to reassure you that it's ok. Fail.
  8. "You're crazy." This is the worst thing you can say to someone who's bipolar, especially one who's crashing. If I'm having constant crazy mood swings, I already feel like I'm losing my mind and am scared of winding up in a psych ward. The last thing I need is for you to validate my fears. 
8 things someone with bipolar disorder canNOT say unless they want to be confronted with items on the above list:

  1. "I'm just going through a manic phase right now/I just went through a phase, but I'll be good now." Look, I appreciate the update, but the stuff you did when you weren't thinking straight is still stuff you did. Excuse me for hoping you'll apologize, try to pick up the pieces, or come back to normal and deal with your stuff ASAP.
  2. "I'm trying new meds right now. I'll be a bit loopy for the next few days." Look, you probably meant to give me a heads up and explain that until your meds are stabilized you're not going to have a lot of control over your behavior. But keep in mind that if you're going to clue me in on your cycle of meds and how they aren't working and how therefore you're going to be acting in strange and hurtful ways, you open yourself up to comments and criticism about them. Would you rather I criticized the effects of your medication or yourself?
  3. "My meds aren't really working. My psychiatrist is thinking of trying something new." At this point, yes, I will suggest alternative methods of handling yourself or developing coping mechanisms because what you're trying isn't working and the hardest thing you can ask me to do, as a friend, is to sit back and watch you hurt yourself and those around you.
  4. "I just didn't feel like eating today/ wanted to stay up until 3:00 am reading and have to be up at 7 am tomorrow/ so I'm too tired to manage things." At this point, if I'm stuck doing all the dishes AGAIN, because you felt too tired to do them, then yes, you probably will get a request to take better care of yourself.
  5. "Hey, can I talk to you about x, y, z, a, b, fact, can you just listen to my whole alphabet of problems that I will do very little to solve, but the kvetching will make me feel better? Every day or so?" At that point, I will be frustrated. If you're having difficulties and not trying to fix these problems - what's the point of my listening? 
  6.  "Oops, I did that because I was manic/depressed/skipped meds." If I'm told that strange and hurtful reactions are the result of mismanaged medications, then "When's the last time you took your meds?" is my checking that you just pulled something because of a chemical reaction that you cannot help instead of a deliberate attempt to be hurtful. 
  7.  Saying, "you have no idea what I deal with," then going on to explain it, is likely to get me to agree with you. In such a case, then, how would you like your apology?
  8. "I'm having constant mood swings and I'm doing stuff that's hurting you, but it's not my fault because I can't control myself."  Sweetheart, I have to ask: in that case, what do you define as crazy?
You are now probably wondering what the correct responses are, particularly to someone who's crashing. So I give you, in no particular order... 
10 things TO say to someone who's in a bipolar cycle:
  1. "I'm there for you."
  2. "What can I do to help you?"
  3. "I've noticed you doing x, y, and z, and I know that those can be signs of an altered mood. Are you ok?"
  4. "Let's make a plan for how you're going to get through this."
  5. "I know that you're having a hard time right now and can't perform normally. Normally I would ask you to do x, y and z. How much of that is actually reasonable to ask of you right now?"
  6. "You know I'll always be there for you, but I'm not a substitute for a therapist. When are you seeing your therapist next?/How about we look into options for finding you counseling?"
  7. "You know I want to be there for you, but I can't do it 24/7. Why don't we make a list of other friends you can confide in?"
  8. "I know things look impossible right now, but I promise you that you can do this. You will come out the other side and feel normal again. It may take time, but it will happen."
  9. "The voices telling you [insert negative things here]? Those are the bipolar demons talking. They're liars who sit there and mock you. Don't listen to them."
  10. "I can't make the demons go away, but maybe I can help you quiet them down for a little while."

And sometimes, the best response of all: No words, just a hug and a listening ear.

At the same time, having a mental disorder is no excuse for some of the stuff that gets pulled "because you just couldn't help it."
At the end of the day - I don't know. It's a hard topic. It's hard for the people suffering, and it's hard for those around them as well.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tra la la...

I think I'm in love again. I've got that giddy feeling. Every time we meet, I end up anticipating more.
Even better, the more delivers.

What boys?

I've found a new fantasy series to curl up with. Each one of the (so far) fourteen books just keeps getting better. The characters are more sharply developed. The writing is clearer and more incisive. The humor has gone from making me chuckle quietly to the occasional belly laughs.


Urban fantasy/mystery. It's good. It will make you laugh out loud, grab unsuspecting victims so you can explain why you laughed out loud - and then sucker punch you so hard you want to cry. It's that good.

The series is called "The Dresden Files," and it's by Jim Butcher. The first three books are a bit mediocre, but entertaining. Starting with book four, the series really takes off. It stars a snarky wizard who earns a living as a detective in Chicago.

One of the other key reasons I love this series are the heroes. The main character really is a hero. The minor protagonists are also Good People. This is a series I can turn to during moments when I lose my sense of trust and hope in the people around me.
Maybe another post a bit later on about what it means to be a hero?

Why are you still here? Go track some of these books down before Shabbat!

Be well,


Monday, June 3, 2013

Abercrombie and Fat

So, I should probably start by reposting old posts. However, I thought this was a pretty interesting development in the greater world, even if it isn't quite current events anymore. I'd love to know what you guys think.

A bunch of articles and opinions on the subject are featured below. Here is a quick overview of the story:
The CEO of the clothing store Abercrombie & Fitch, Mike Jeffries, stated that his store/brand refused to carry large sizes (XL and XXL) since the store was aimed at "attractive, all-American kids"  and intentionally excluded everyone else.
This infuriated a fair number of American female bloggers (bloggeuses? bloggettes? 'Blogger' just seems like a masculine-gendered noun to me.).
Reactions ensued.
One bloggess created a series of images starring a fat woman and a skinny man, seen here. (Not quite tznius)
Reactions ensued
One man, Greg Karber, began giving A&F's clothing away to homeless people, as explained in this video.
Reactions ensued.
Here are some of my reactions, in no particular order.

  • A&F wants to carve out a marketing niche and is doing so through generating outrage. It's like when a particular celebrity claims to be x, knowing that it will provoke a reaction. So why is everyone (including me) giving them this reaction?
  • Why can't I shop at stores like Torrid or Lane Bryant? Why can't I generate some outrage on behalf of my lack of shopping options? Y'know, 'cause us skinny folks feel excluded from the stores aimed at plus sized people.
  • Pretty is power. Pretty women are treated very differently than plain ones. Do the most vehement objections come from the women who feel excluded?
  • A&F doesn't care about the skinny people. All they care about is making money. They said it themselves. 
  • Why are fat people getting mad? Why aren't they changing their diet/exercise program? I get that losing weight is difficult, frustrating, and just plain old hard. I've done it. 
  • Take a look around the next time you're out in public in America. Skinny is dying. Most people nowadays are, at the least, comfortably padded. A size "small" today is comparable to a former "medium."  So...who can AF target? 
  • Do these shoppers have no other option? They don't need to shop there. At least, I hope not. It's a pretty expensive store. 
  • Why should A&F cater to you, you special widdle snowflake? You don't like them? Then don't give them your money! Why are you entitled to demand that a store, which admits to catering to a certain demographic, however tastelessly expressed, should consider you a part of their demographic? Go shop at a competing brand's store. Hit up your friendly local thrift shop. Learn to sew.
  • The homeless only matter if you're making a point? Nothing in society is lower than a homeless person? That, right there, that is real consideration for the value of human dignity. I hope that Mike Jeffries is proud of himself. I am appalled. 
  • A&F's target demographic is actually young men. Aside from Karber, where is the collectively blogged outrage of the menfolk? Buehler? Buehler...?
  • Why is the countering photography campaign just a picture of a fat woman and a skinny man? Why not an overweight gentleman and a svelte dame? Oh right, "Family Guy" is already on television.
  • I've never shopped there. Entering a dimly lit hallway, under the gaze of a half-dressed young man - my mama raised me better than that. ;) Actually, I just think that their clothes are severely overpriced, and those photos at the entrance scare me. 

How does something like this get more of a reaction than, say, nuclear developments in North Korea and/or Iran? Or the plight of the homeless in general? Or the chemicals in our food and cosmetics?


I've started off with this because this is a fairly current event, and I think it says a lot. What do you all think?

Sheker hachen, hevel hayofi...

Be well,




The original story:
Some of the reactions:

On the plus size bloggeree:
Karber's Campaign:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A time to be born...

a time to die.

I'm currently rethinking the direction of this blog, and what, exactly, I want to post. This blog isn't dead, but I'm formally pronouncing it to be on hiatus while I think this through. Old posts will become drafts so I can evaluate them fully.

I will repost the ones which I think ought to be kept.

Be well,


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bribing God

Awhile back, I received an e-mail from a friend of mine. In it, she pointed out that we were both single, and she had a plan to fix this. The plan?
To spend some time regularly studying the laws of Lashon Hara, pledging to spend two hours a day not speaking Lashon Hara, in hopes that this would be a segulah to get us married. Then, as a group, the group devotes two weeks to devoting the merit of this learning to that person.

My reaction?

Wait, I'm supposed to try to manipulate my Creator through promising to do something I should be doing already? No, thank you.

Now, I think the whole learning the halachot of Lashon Hara is a great idea. It is something I plan to start doing.
The promise? Too difficult to make a promise about unless I make this promise between the hours of 3:00 through to 5:00 a.m.

Giving tzedaka is a time honored method for bribing God. But this? This makes me sad. Both because it seems to speak of an attitude where God can be bribed and because it seems as though my friend is really desperate about her single state.

Now, however, we're about to hit Tisha b'Av. I think that these Halachot, and those of dealing with others should be learned. Not, because we should try to manipulate or bribe the one who is our Father and King (Dad, I'll do the dishes for a month if I can just...) but because if we cannot treat each other well, then what is the point of this fasting? 

Amos: 5: 21 I hate, I despise your feasts, and I will take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22 Yea, though ye offer me burnt-offerings and your meal-offerings, I will not accept them; neither will I regard the peace-offerings of your fat beasts. 23 Take thou away from Me the noise of thy songs; and let Me not hear the melody of thy psalteries. 24 But let justice well up as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.

Monday, July 9, 2012

In defense of camping

So you can all understand why I say: this stuff is awesome! Specific experiences for another post.

Camping is one of the highlights of my summer. I love getting out, even with ticks and bears and other guests. I have to admit that it is true, some stuff can go wrong. Look out for hazards in any dangerous place.  Like pigeons, muggers, street singers, other cars, rogue bicyclists and bad pizza.  Now that you've been warned about the hazards, onto the fun stuff!

Having the chance to really get out and away from the city into the forest or by the ocean, breathing real air, enjoying the sun (with sunscreen) and getting a good look at the world around you is amazing. In the forest, you can look for flowers, mushrooms and raspberries, climb trees, look for songbirds and other critters.

By the ocean, look for beach grasses, beach plums and roses, horseshoe crabs, hermit crabs, sea stars, terns, gulls, willetts, splash through tidepools and build sandcastles.

Out in the more grassy areas, look for butterflies and bumblebees, field sparrows, wrens, larks, and little critters. By a lake? Dragonflies, blueberries, some fish, and at twilight look for deer and other animals. I once saw a pheasant!

Always, always look up! That's where you'll see the hawks and falcons, crows and vultures who seem to soar higher than Incarus.  You can see crows lurking, sparrows gossiping, seagulls looking for something to eat. Try to catch a hawk soaring, or the way the falcon glories in its flight. See if you can spot a crane or heron, standing still as still. Maybe an egret, if you're lucky. There's so much to explore and enjoy.

For instance, stars. Down in your suburb or city, you can see a few if you're lucky. Go out to the forest or by a lake one night, and stake out a clearing. Come back an hour after sunset (with a flashlight).
Turn off the flashlight. Look up. Lie on your back on the ground. You'll see so much more than the little dipper and Orion's belt.  It'll look like someone tipped a whole bucket of diamonds across the sky. Absolutely beautiful.

Listen to what's going on around you. You can hear so many different birdsongs that blend together in a kind of orchestra. So the forest sounds more classical and the ocean is more of a punk rock band. The lake is an in betweener, reminding me of the big band jazz orchestras. Forests have the trees for woodwinds, and more songbirds as the brass, while little animals play percussion. The brash sounds of seabirds and waves crashing on the beach are the jazz band, while the lake has the low lapping of its waters, and the harsh calls of the ducks and mockery of the crows. Look around. Look up. Listen.

Smells are stale in people centers. You get smells you'd never find in the choking hot fumes of your city, or the harsh exhaust of suburbia traffic. There's the fresh, salty tang of sea air, the cool freshness of a forest with the lush undertones of its undergrowth. You can scent the ripening green liveliness of a marsh, and the cool nuances of lake or river. Everything seems so much more alive.

Lounge around the campsite itself. Your space is fairly private because there are trees and shrubs separating you from your neighbor in the good campsites. (How goodly are your tents...) There's shade, and space to set up your chairs. A lot of them offer nature hikes, where you can walk with a ranger who will teach you exactly what it is you're looking at.

As far as the bugs go? Crouch down and take a proper look at one sometime. Hashem made some rare wonders. Look past the butterflies. Beetles come in so many colors!Sparrow, don't they bite?
Bite back!

Take a minute to stop going eww, and take a closer look instead. I just saw a beetle in the grass with the weirdest looking antennae. Its carapace was brown with a softly mottled pattern. So cool and the pattern on its back would make a beautiful scarf.
No, I can't stand cockroaches.
Why do you ask? ;)

There's something deeply healing about taking time out in the wonders God created. Stay inside? You'll miss it. Nature is both God's work of art and the ultimate playground. Go play.

- Sparrow

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I just feel it, man

I recently ran across an article on Masculine Jew's blog, and then the comment by Frum Single Female, which got me thinking.

Let's take the mitzvah of davening. You have two people, Reuven and Shimon.

Reuven says, "I love davening! It's one of the best ways to connect with Hashem and feel His presence. I know what all of the words mean. It's a fantastic mitzvah! What's that? Minyan today? Well, I really want to come. I want to daven and it means so much to me. But somehow I just never get to it. But I love davening."

Shimon says, "Well, I don't know what everything means. I just show up three times a day for minyan and daven."

Or take another example. You have two friends, Rachel and Leah.

You really care about Rachel. She's such an amazing person. But you only found out last week that she had a new baby a month ago. It's hard to keep in touch when you're far away, but you really care about her.
Then, Leah. You're carpooling with Leah so you get to hear about her life every day. Sometimes you call her up, just to check up on her. You wouldn't say she's your best friend, but you spend so much time with her.
But you adore your friend Rachel, you really do.

To some extent, I can understand this prioritization of feeling over action. Why? It allows us to separate the sinner from the sin. But at what point does the man who steals every day or make a living stealing get called a thief? Even though he really wishes he could get a job. Even though his parents trained him to be a thief and his uncle deeply hurt him.

Are we defined by our desires or our behavior? Who is responsible for these actions?  Which matters more, feeling or action? Which shows more clearly at what level you're at? What demonstrates your character more clearly?

 - Sparrow