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works and words from...

Ed Caldwell (Bear)

Canton, GA, USA

ed@eds-art.net

 

Photo credit: Phoebe Chen

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Hello!

My name is Edward (Ed) Caldwell AKA Bear. I was born in 1951 (no correlation but coincindentally the same year that the movie The Day the Earth Stood Still came out. It's a movie about a space alien visiting Earth for the first time... well... maybe there's a little correlation). I'm married and we have two married beautiful daughters, the cutest and smartest granddaughter on the planet plus more than one cat.
 

I have a distant background as a professional artist and a less distant background as an electronics technician. I'm now retired. My last job before retiring was circuit board design, the computer aided design (CAD) part of an engineering team that produced electronic circuit board assemblies. For the last nineteen years of my third career most of my work was centered on circuit boards that help make the internet operate. Prior to that I worked in the defense industry for sixteen years. My first career job was nine years as a graphic design artist in the graphic arts industry. During my younger years I worked many odd jobs beginning with a newspaper route at age nine.
 

Now that I'm retired I'm thinking of starting a band. We'll play Geriatric Rock and call ourselves "Freedom's Elation" after my favorite retirement emotion. It'll be rock and rollover but I can't get up!
 

This www.eds-art.net web project is just a means of sharing a little of what God has given me with you.
 

Email to: ed@eds-art.net

Clear Air Turbulence

This is a picture of me with another family member. I'm the one with both eyes closed.

Enlightenings

 

if the moon were to speak

would it not be humbling...
all our howling
rebounding

 

I have bipolar disorder, the modern day name for what was professionally referred to as manic-depressive disorder until 1980. Great strides occurred towards the end of the twentieth century in the successful treatment of this condition. New drugs became available that proved to control the emotional extremes over time. Unfortunately, many people with bipolar died from the effects of the disorder before this happened.

 

The bipolar condition is not always readily apparent to people that surround someone with the disorder. And unfortunately, not every person with bipolar responds well even to the modern medications that science has provided. Treatment is trial and error and depends a great deal on the bipolar individual to communicate honestly with their doctor to set a proper dosage of proper medications. Even then, there is no guarantee that the medications will work over a lifetime. Adjustments may need to be made from time to time to keep emotions in check. Fortunately, there are several options for doctors and patients to pursue. It is possible to lead a successful life with this condition. 

 

My purpose in writing this is to share a little of my experience and hopefully help and inspire anyone with bipolar to realize that they can manage a relatively normal existence without the extreme polarizing effects. Diligently taking proper medications and a cautious lifestyle are the two main ingredients for my success. I learned over time how to coach my thinking to an extent that allows me to function around my more manageable symptoms. I'm not saying it's been easy, I've had my share of hospital constraint and recovery.

 

must confess that I enjoyed the exhilarating feeling that came with certain aspects of the manic phase. But diminishing the intoxicating manic phase with medication is a small tradeoff compared to how the mania can run out of control. And polarizing depression can at its worse include suicidal thoughts requiring supervision and medication to help overcome the debilitating effects. It's all a matter of discipline and taking proper medication similar to managing diabetes. I must take the medications and coordinate honestly with medical professionals to set an acceptable dosage level toward achieving subsequent safe and appropriate behavior.

 

Working with a doctor and their support group along with activities that do not represent episode “triggers” is fundamental. It is important to learn to recognize the mood triggers and avoid them where possible. There are some good books that help too, such as Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder by Julie Fast and Dr. John Preston. If you know someone that is bipolar I recommend giving the book a read, it's designed to help family and friends also.

 

life is sometimes like abandonment of reason focusing beyond what can be seen yet somehow from within the confines of this evolving universe... it's like climbing a tree looking for what can be found... and finding the reality fleeting and conditional... many times i wish for perfect vision... that illusive venue into the why and how and what is what should never be...

Engagings

 

what actor knows

what the actor shows
well-being... (torment)
(anguish)... contentment
melting as it grows
from stealth to prose
disclose not sanity's gage
yet revealed on earth's lighted stage

 

Manic Depression - 1978 Pen and Ink (continued from the Beginnings webpage) - I had not been diagnosed with manic-depressive disorder at the time and wasn't quite sure what was wrong with me when I created this drawing. The drawing was inspired by the emotional extremes I had been experiencing for a long time. I was hospitalized in 1977 after a mental breakdown but was not properly diagnosed... at the time the doctor believed I had taken LSD which was not true... all I knew was that I was not in control of my brain. This pen and ink drawing is explained below. It wasn't until 2003 after another mental breakdown which required hospitalization that I was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder.

 
After my 2003 breakdown and being diagnosed with bipolar disorder the doctors tried different medications at first but we finally settled on carbamazepine and risperidone for the mania and ultimately fluoxetine for the depression. Early on in my treatment after several months of feeling mentally stronger, I got the idea that I no longer needed to take the medications. So with the doctor's help my nurse and I began to reduce the dosages. I didn't make it to completely eliminating the medications before I had a manic episode. I'm grateful to my doctors and especially my nurse who supervises me for that lesson as I am now diligent about taking my meds. I expect I will be taking medications for the rest of my life.
 
I'm fortunate that science was able to develop successful treatments for this complex illness. I believe my father may have been bipolar but since his episodic symptoms were of a violent nature I don't feel that the doctors at the VA hospital understood this. I remember my mother saying something about "rage treatments". I don't know what all they used to treat him but I do know from my mother that they used shock therapy to calm him. Unfortunately something ultimately seemed to have put him in an almost vegetative state over the years.
 
One of my aunts (my father's sister) was promiscuous and attempted suicide more than once. My five years older than me half brother who I lived with until he was age 17 commited suicide at age 21. They both may have had manic-depressive (bypolar) disorder but I don't know if they were ever diagnosed and treated for it.

I wanted to show the two extreme emotional differences that I experienced in a single image. So this two headed monster with one neck is the result. The lower left end of the image (an upside down caricature of a human head) represents depressed thinking. The upper right end of the image (an upside up caricature of a fire breathing dragon) represents the energetic insanity of what I eventually came to know as manic thinking. The tiny dragons inside each polarized head represents the suicidal thoughts that can accompany the two extremes. 

 

Sometimes manic thinking can be quite vivid, even extremely pleasant, making perfect sense to the individual but not usually to other people. Delusions of grandeur are common in the manic state.

 

thoughts of glory
thoughts with story 
oh wonderful feeling
keep the mind reeling
this prescription pleasure
without medicinal measure  

 

Sometimes manic thinking becomes distant. Racing thoughts can seem to have a life of their own... at its worse, it feels like someone else is controlling the brain. This can be very painful mentally as well as physically, kind of like sitting in the pilot’s seat of a jet aircraft and trying to control it with an array of external overriding remote controlling operators fighting over what direction and how fast the plane will go and each operator has a different flight plan. This extremely unpleasant condition can be horrifying and bewildering at the same time. It could be comparable to watching a suspenseful horror movie that does not make sense or provide a break in the tension. Suicidal thoughts are also possible during the manic phase. Racing thoughts can lead to a feeling of hopelessness... a feeling of drowning in thought discontinuity... drowning in the sense of being aware of the lack of thought control.

 

thoughts fly by
not blinking an eye 
the soul sees
the mind leave
is this madness
where is adeptness
i drown yet alive 
as my soul cries

 

I see depression as a wandering black hole seeking to devour life. It uses all sorts of tactics like reminding you in elaborate detail… over and over… any and all mistakes you’ve made in your lifetime. It also likes to tenderize you with thoughts of unworthiness, making you believe that you do not deserve to live. Another heart wrenching tactic is to take the joy out of the things that you love to do making you further feel inadequate unable to create and socialize. The most heinous of all is the life threatening suicidal thoughts that can occur. Life can seem too much to bear and at its worst, death appears to be relief. At extreme states, medical support and guidance from outside is usually needed.

 

I have dealt with depression on and off over decades of my life. I have used alcohol to self medicate but that creates another set of problems. I take my prescribed medication for bipolar, try to get good sleep and constantly work at controlling my thoughts. I know the black hole is starting to move closer when I begin to reflect on my history of mistakes. To combat, I tell my brain to think of something good that I did to change focus. It’s an ongoing mental battle that must be fought because the black hole wants to consume me. Writing this is an example of fighting the fight. It helps to focus on what I have learned in my experience. The most important thing is to remind myself that it DOES NOT LAST FOREVER and will subside in time. I repeat this many times in my head until I’m feeling better. Also important, is exercise and healthy eating habits including vitamins. Things I do play a big part in helping my cause.

 

I usually just tell my wife that I don’t feel good. I explain that it’s like having a virus in my brain. I let her know that thankfully my medication helps so it isn’t as bad as it could be. I’m blessed to have a loving family that cares about me. I'm blessed in so many ways. Since I take meds that actually work, the depression usually doesn’t last very long. Bipolar depression stems from malfunctioning brain chemistry so there isn’t necessarily an outside stimulus or tangible reason for it. However, there are certain triggers that help feed depressed thinking even a simple negative comment can help trigger an episode. I have lots of good reasons to be a happy person but sometimes I'm fighting a battle.

 

The simple answer is there isn't a simple answer. Dealing with depression is a battle of the bad thoughts with good thoughts AND deeds. Depression is a stubborn greedy black hole. PLEASE ask for help from outside when you first sense your depression is heading out of control. It is very important that seeking help from outside be part of your battle strategy when the black hole gets too near.

 

darkness creeps
the soul creaks
writhing wormy things bask in the dim 
i shudder, i sicken, i'm sightless
oh when will this end... 
this eclipse amidst the day
stealthy demons lurking in the shadow...
laughing insanely in its playground 
more than a thorn in the side...
a black hole slowly devouring being
i linger coveting death...
but take heart... have patience!
relief has always been time away
hold on to the rim
you know darkness seeps... 
only 'til light casts it back to the deep...
until darkness comes again

 

Currently, there's not a cure for bipolar disorder. However, science has developed several drugs that can help the brain operate without the extreme manic and depressed conditions. Having a caring and stable home life is a great advantage. Managing bipolar is difficult at times but it is more so without people around you that want to help. I also believe that trying my best to listen to God has greatly helped me with my success.

Home is where the mind can rest and the spirit can soar. (for the fortunate of us)

Porch therapy

Playhouse I built in Spring 1990 for Ash and Kate. It sports a Dutch door with a heart shaped peep window. Inside sports a fold away table built from my "Beginnings" era drawing table top. Smart phone picture taken Summer 2015.

Kids with kids... Thank you Susan for the beautiful human ones!

family is life’s music

keeping hearts beating

keeping spriits flying

family is mind's foundry

making emotions real

making creations feel

family is gift's aspiration

Blood is one thing but it’s the family you grow with that keeps you healthy.