Daily Archives: February 26, 2014

When I Grow Up

I’m at that place again where I ask “What do I want to do when I grow up?” I’ve been asking that question my entire life. There were day, weeks,

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Fists of Iron, Soul of Mush

In such hands of great power, lies a heart that is weak… Continue Reading →

Air Hunger


     Here is a new one for me, Air Hunger, otherwise known as Dyspnea.  Wikipedia defines it as "an uncomfortable awareness of one's breath effort."  That is my latest side effect of bipolar disorder, or the medications I take for it, or something else.  I consciously take a slow deep inhale and then a quick exhale...sort of like a 'puff.' I do this all the time, when I go to sleep, when I wake up, I do not have to think about it;  it just happens. I initially thought of it as comforting... sort of like a meditative breathing.  It is calming but I'm not having an anxiety or panic attack.

     Well, I thought it was calming until I looked up what it could be caused by:  pulmonary hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, COPD, GERD, sleep apnea,  asthma, shock, chronic heart failure, pulmonary embolism, imminent death... among other diseases I can not spell or pronounce.  Well, I think we can rule out 'imminent death.'  And I have never smoked, except for a few cigars in college, so it is likely not COPD.  It might be GERD or sleep apnea, both of which will require further exploration.  I have been tested for diabetes and do not have any chest pain.  Then again, it could just be bipolar disorder.

     There is documentation on the web about air hunger and bipolar disorder (usually related to panic and anxiety) but I have yet to find any real medical evidence.  I will keep looking.  In the meantime, I am trying an exercise to 'normalize' the oxygen and CO2 levels in my blood.  I found this on Reddit (my son's favorite website)

   "the reason why you feel air hunger is because your body has low carbon dioxide levels as a   result of stress. When under stress, you breathe in more air and exhale a greater amount of carbon dioxide. This creates a viscous (sic) cycle causing your body to inhale more and more deeply to maintain the carbon dioxide level. If you continue to do this over a prolonged period of time then your body deems your increased breathing volume as "normal" and as a result you will constantly feel short of breath unless you keep taking in big breaths.
Your goal is to break this habit and restore your oxygen/carbon dioxide levels back to a healthier level. "

     Thank you, username outlooker707 on RedditOutlooker goes on to describe steps to "break the habit."  It may take weeks or months.  By then I should know if this Air Hunger is being brought on by something more 'serious.'  In the meantime, I will be on the lookout for more information.  If you deal with Air Hunger and have some insight, please comment. In fact there is a blog devoted to Living with Air Hunger.  The author describes her condition as having been a lifelong problem, finally finds a doctor who will listen to her, and that is her last post.  I hope that is a good sign.

     Next up, Tardive Dyskinesia

The Most Interesting Man In the World

…..is doubtless lying on a Hawaiian beach right now, lazing in the sun and feeling the trade winds ruffle what little hair he has.

Swine.

Not that I really begrudge him the trip, you see. Dr. Awesomesauce has got seasonal depression as bad as the rest of us poor Pacific Northwesterners, his light box broke, and it’s late February……what’re ya gonna do? Actually, he schedules these trips almost a year in advance because he KNOWS he’s going to feel lousy in late winter, when the novelty of snow and ice has long since lost its appeal, and the trees are all still dead and it’s too cold and damp out to do anything.

I wish my moods were that easy to predict. Of course, now that he’s off somewhere on Maui working on his tan and (hopefully) shaking those wintertime blues, I wish I could get his advice on this latest wrinkle in my own situation. I’m still just this side of hypomanic, my sleep has gone to hell, and I’m in waaaaay over my head at work. I also have no idea whatsoever of what I am supposed to DO about it.

I’ve been taking the Zyprexa off and on for several weeks, although lately it’s seemed that I only take it on nights when I want to get a decent night’s rest and not be crazy the next day. But I can’t take the stuff all the time—it’s a PRN for Pete’s sake—and without Dr. A’s guidance I feel sort of adrift.

I don’t think I like relying on a doctor as much as I do this one, even if he IS the most interesting man in the world. (In my opinion, anyway—who else do I know who has been all over the world, cans his own fruits and vegetables, and calls it “cheating” when he makes his wife a birthday cake from a mix?!) I know I could talk to an on-call psychiatrist or resident and be treated very well; I’ve had to do so on a couple of occasions before when Dr. A was out of town, and they’ve been nothing but wonderful.

And I may have to yet, if I can’t overcome all this anxiety surrounding my work and the enormous amount of scrutiny I’ll be under for the foreseeable future. This is every bit as hard as clinical practicum was when I was in nursing school. I was the kind of kid who beat myself black-and-blue teaching myself how to ride a bike, never wanting anyone to even know I was trying—much less critique me—until I’d mastered it. So skills demo labs were excruciating experiences: I not only had to practice the skill with my classmates, I had to do it in front of an instructor and be graded on it.

Now here I am, relatively late in life, being faced with a similar situation and feeling VERY unsure whether I can withstand the constant watching and evaluating and criticizing. With the wisdom of fifty-five years on this planet, I understand perfectly well why it has to be done this way, and I accept it for what it is. I just don’t know if I can get through it.

However, the job has one big thing going for it besides the obvious benefits like money, health insurance, and benefits: it’s intriguing. And I love intrigue. I love to delve deep into a mystery and try to figure out all the angles. I love doing root-cause analysis and investigating occurrences to see why they happened. That’s what this job basically IS, and if I can just survive the rigors of training, it might just be worth it.

So that—even more than my recent bout with bronchitis and the endless wheezing that will undoubtedly go on until Easter—is what’s interfering with my sleep and messing with my head. I’m not sure that can be medicated away. But the fact that I have enough of my marbles left to grasp that concept tells me that I’m only running alongside the crazy train instead of riding it. That’ll be a relief to my friends and family who are already worried that the fucker’s jumped the tracks.

In the meantime, I’ll just try to focus on what I need to do to get my sleep schedule back to normal…..and who knows, maybe I’ll dream of spiriting Will away with me to a white-sand beach, where we can leave the chill behind and doze happily in the sun.

:-)

 


Losing My Religion: Why I Am No Longer a Mormon

This is the story of how I lost my faith. It’s not a beautiful story, nor will it be a popular one. I have struggled with writing it down for over a year. There are so many people I don’t want to disappoint, so many people who touched my life, so many people who loved me and supported me on my journey. I have not attended church for four years, and I no longer consider myself to have faith. I feel that by not acknowledging my lack of faith, I am lying by omission. I have grieved for my loss, and now I am ready to share.
On April 26th 2009, I was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, or the Mormons. My conversion had been fast and magical. In a short period of time, being LDS became a critical part of my identity. I had immersed myself in Church life. I made wonderful new friends and found a community that loved and supported me. I embraced my newfound identity as a daughter of God. I did my best to live a virtuous life. I was astounded by the acceptance I found within the Mormon church. I was told that the Church had great plans for me; one member even told me I was an angel. I was overwhelmed with love, and I had a strong testimony of the Church’s truth. If you are interested in reading my conversion story, it was published by New Era, the LDS magazine for youth, here.
But with my new life came moments of loneliness. My congregation served as a sort of surrogate family, and I felt distanced from my biological family. I was frustrated with their refusal to join the Church on a daily basis. I prayed each night for their conversions. At my new ministry in Berlin, I confessed my desire for an eternal family. I was advised to fast more frequently. As a struggling anorexic, I embraced this counsel. I do not hold this against those church members, but I wish they had seen the signs of my deteriorating mental health.
At my new congregation, several events occurred that led me to question the validity of the Church. Before, I assumed that the Church and all of its members were perfect. I understand that this was my own error. One issue was my rejection at my new ward. Part of this was the language barrier (services were conducted in German), but I never felt really welcome. No one offered to let me sit with them. I constantly felt awkward and out of place. I questioned why God wanted me to go somewhere for three hours each Sunday and countless hours during the week where I felt unwelcome. One time we were sewing dresses for an event and the Young Women and the leaders laughed that my dress required extra fabric because of my breast size. I cried on the bus ride home and decided not to attend any more activities. I am aware that this was a harmless joke and that it was only serious because I had an eating disorder. The deeper issue is that they didn’t know me well enough to recognize that this comment would be so painful. The second event is far more serious than extra fabric. I was being constantly harassed by a boy at school to the point where I didn’t feel comfortable going to school anymore. I explained what was happening to my bishop, and his first question was whether or not I was praying enough, and his second question was whether I was dressing appropriately. I trusted this man to be able to articulate the word of God. I am no longer angry at him. I understand that he is human, and he made a mistake. His questions prompted me to search for answers in my left arm. I felt abandoned by God.
My distance from God only increased as my mental health worsened. I didn’t understand why God would deprive me of sanity. I prayed nightly, but I only found solace in cutting. I could, to some extent, convince myself that God was testing me, but as I continued to be harassed and bullied at school, I questioned His motives. Why was He torturing me? Did He want me to kill myself? I was conflicted. I knew that suicide was a sin, but I felt like God was driving me towards death. Emptiness overpowered my will to live.
I could rationalize physical disabilities, but I could not understand why God would curse me with foul brain chemistry. Why would He affect my ability to see the world with hope? Why would He steal my capacity to experience joy? At church I was taught that He was a loving, compassionate God who cared about my sorrows and wanted to help me overcome obstacles. Church was supposed to be a source of strength. In anger and confusion, I rejected God.
When my family moved to the States, I made the decision not to go to church. Missionaries came to the door, and I tearfully asked them to respect my decision. I promised that if I changed my mind, I would return. I continued to distance myself from organized religion, and I began to identify as an atheist. I have decided that in my life, there is no God. I do not wish to damage anyone’s faith. I understand that faith, for some, is a sustaining force. I know it brings many people happiness and that religious people do a lot of good for this world. I respect their decision to worship, and I hope they respect my decision to abstain.
I write this post with eyes full of tears and a sore throat. Remembering my joyful times at church, the warmth in my heart – it pains me. I physically ache for that time. I know that by publishing this post I may lose friends, my Brothers and Sisters. I am changed by my time as Mormon. I became a more  loving person. I was introduced to a “peculiar people” who loved me and taught me valuable life lessons. They instilled in me values that will serve me the rest of my life. But now I must shed this label. I am no longer a Latter Day Saint. I am no longer a Christian. I cannot be. I do not believe in the most fundamental component of this religion: God. I feel the need to apologize to the members who treated me like a daughter and a sister. They opened their homes and their hearts to me, and I feel like I am hurting them with this post. I am so sorry.
I cannot guarantee that I will live a godless life forever. I never thought I would leave the Church, but I did. Right now I cannot see myself returning, but I do not know what the future holds. I will maintain an open mind. My current priorities do not include religion. I am focused on my health, my education, my family, and my friends. I am finding meaning in other areas of my life.
I hope that I have expressed myself clearly. If I must whittle my message down to a sentence, it is this: My experiences with mental illness and the failure of my religion to provide guidance or comfort has led me to live a secular life. There is no disrespect intended. This was a decision I needed to make for my own mental health. I request that you respect my choice.