Daily Archives: November 23, 2014

The Half Hearted Misanthrope

I’ve noticed I’ve gotten fewer views since posting “Fresh Hell Begins With Human Contact”. I never began this blog for views or comments. Popularity is not my concern. But at the same time, it was never my desire to offend or alienate. While I thought my post was clear as to human contact being a trigger for some of my issues, maybe it came off as misanthropic and a “fuck you” to others. My bad, if that is the case.

Truth is, I am a half hearted misanthrope. I’ve been hurt enough by so many people that it is this power keg for me. Sometimes, I thrive on human contact. And sometimes, I feel like it makes my soul malnourished and my spirit overdrawn. And when I feel threatened, intimidated, hurt, or in danger of being hurt…I get misanthropic. It’s only half hearted. There are good people out there. I just haven’t encountered a plethora.

Anyway… My mood has been up. My anxiety is still high but with holiday and financial stress, it’s not a puzzler. The big thing is, I am doing ok. Last year at this time I was three quarters the way down the depression rabbit hole. I like this place I am in now. The prozac seems to be combining well with the other meds and while I do have low points, they aren’t as severe and the light at the end of the tunnel seems to dim and brighten much like the sun. I can live with that.

Today..I swallowed the bitterest pill of all. And it may seem asinine but it was this big thing for me. I let my child attend Sunday school. I didn’t really have any problem with it as long as I wasn’t required to attend. And the church even arranged transportation for her. This kindly older couple picked her up and brought her home. She had fun and can’t wait to go back. I am happy about that. She needs to experience things for herself and eventually arrive at her own conclusions about her beliefs.
It’s scary to let go that way, as a parent, and as the person I am.
But I did it.
And the people who transported her were so kind. They did not seem judgmental at all. So good people exist.

So do bad people.

I don’t want to be naive, but I also don’t want to be entirely misanthropic. It’s certainly not what I want to teach her. (Though she’s been under my care and influence for five years now and she has always been a super friendly extroverted child so maybe nurture isn’t everything).

I guess at this point, as the meds work properly to clear my mind of the clatter, I am able to see more clearly.
There’s bad in this world.
There’s also good.
Finding the balance is tough but you have to work at it.
It helps when your brain isn’t sending the wrong messages.
It helps when you don’t let your emotional baggage taint everything.

I feel…content.
With cyclothymia, this is huge.
Progress.
It’s a good thing.


Unlikely Sign of Depression

I was depressed last year from June/July 2013 until May 2014. The insomnia was perhaps the worst part. I couldn't fall asleep. When I did fall asleep, I couldn't stay asleep as I woke frequently throughout the night. And on top of that, I woke up early. Like 3am or 4am early. The other big problem was the empty feeling. I didn't feel sad. In fact, I didn't feel anything. I was really worried that I'd feel empty forever. I thought my newfound numbness was my new default emotion.

But beyond the insomnia and the empty feeling, I also noticed a change in my handwriting. I recently found this article, "Are You Depressed?", on a handwriting website. Just as you can tell a person's mood from their behavior (are they smiling? are they moping around? are they irritable?), handwriting also signals a person's mood.

When grading my students' essays last year, I could barely read the feedback I'd written on their papers. At the time, I noticed the change, but I did not attribute it to my depression. I tried to compensate. I started writing slower so I could concentrate more on writing out each word. I don't recall if this actually worked or not. But no student ever came to me to tell me that they couldn't make out my writing.

My depression ended in June 2014. Since then my handwriting has gone back to normal. I thought the above article was an interesting read. I would not have made the connection between my mood and my handwriting. It's interesting how our moods control so much of our thoughts and behaviors.



Unlikely Sign of Depression

I was depressed last year from June/July 2013 until May 2014. The insomnia was perhaps the worst part. I couldn't fall asleep. When I did fall asleep, I couldn't stay asleep as I woke frequently throughout the night. And on top of that, I woke up early. Like 3am or 4am early. The other big problem was the empty feeling. I didn't feel sad. In fact, I didn't feel anything. I was really worried that I'd feel empty forever. I thought my newfound numbness was my new default emotion.

But beyond the insomnia and the empty feeling, I also noticed a change in my handwriting. I recently found this article, "Are You Depressed?", on a handwriting website. Just as you can tell a person's mood from their behavior (are they smiling? are they moping around? are they irritable?), handwriting also signals a person's mood.

When grading my students' essays last year, I could barely read the feedback I'd written on their papers. At the time, I noticed the change, but I did not attribute it to my depression. I tried to compensate. I started writing slower so I could concentrate more on writing out each word. I don't recall if this actually worked or not. But no student ever came to me to tell me that they couldn't make out my writing.

My depression ended in June 2014. Since then my handwriting has gone back to normal. I thought the above article was an interesting read. I would not have made the connection between my mood and my handwriting. It's interesting how our moods control so much of our thoughts and behaviors.



Haven’t Felt Much Like Writing…..Thanks To Whoever Created The “Meme”

Filed under: Bipolar Disorder

Missing Friends

Last week I wrote about the controversial subject of self-harm. In my post, I said:

One of my dearest friends once said that if he ever found out I was a cutter, I would never hear from him again. Except for his publicly mocking me for being so stupid.

Naturally, this sort of reaction, though common, is not helpful. I didn’t tell him (or practically anyone else). And I didn’t tell him that at least two other people he knew – one fairly intimately – were also cutters.

Anyway, Tom, if you’re reading this and still feel the same, I guess this is goodbye – just not the long goodbye. I would rather skip the public mocking, though. I’ll just assume you’ve done it while I wasn’t there, mm-kay?

Finally, I got tired of wondering, withholding a part of my past from someone with whom I have practically no secrets, sometimes to the point of TMI.

So I called him and asked, “Are we OK?” At first he didn’t know what I meant, since he hadn’t read the post, but after a brief nudge I could tell he knew exactly what I was referring to.

Just as a (very rational) mutual friend had predicted, Tom chalked it up to the hyperbole of his callow youth and reassured me that we were fine.

Still.

I had lived with the fear of losing that important relationship (and being publicly mocked) for over 20 years. I had never dared mention it to any people in our circle either.

And, let’s face it, I have lost other friends and can attribute at least some of these losses to my bipolar disorder. It harms me, but it also harms those around me, and especially relationships.

I have shot my mouth off and driven away friends and colleagues with bitterness and sarcasm but without realizing how I sounded.

I have ratted out a friend to his therapist and his wife when he was suicidal, which he found unforgivable.

I have turned down invitations to go out or agreed to and then backed out one too many times. My friend gave up the effort since I wasn’t responding.

I have abused the hospitality of friends. When I was at my still functioning moderately well, I would visit and we would enjoy activities, food, conversation, and music. When I was near or at the depths, I would invite myself to visit and turn into an uncommunicative, disengaged, immobilized lump. I was a mooch and a leech, and a real downer generally. I didn’t like spending time with myself, so it’s no wonder they didn’t either.

And I miss every single one of them. I wish I hadn’t driven them away. I wish I could make things right again, now that I’m functioning at a higher level. But I can’t. And that hurts.

In some cases, I’ve tried – sent brief notes of apology. They have been acknowledged with cold politeness that does not invite more contact. I don’t know what else I can do.

Bipolar is a cyclical illness and, though I’m much improved, I can’t promise that I will never sink that low, be that inconsiderate, offend those I deeply care about again. And I can’t blame them for not wanting to deal with that. I don’t want to deal with it.

But I have no choice in the matter. And that hurts too.

Fortunately, there’s one friend I cannot lose, no matter what – my husband. He’s ridden the roller coaster with me, put up with the huge mood swings, ignored the irrational remarks, offered to help in any way, encouraged me to go out but understands when I can’t, and dispensed hugs on a regular basis. He respects alone time and is there when I need company or distraction. If things are really bad, he gets me to eat and helps me shower and takes care of the pets and picks up my refills and does whatever else needs doing.

He’s a man who takes “in sickness and in health” seriously. I wouldn’t have made it this far without him. And I won’t ever lose him, till death do us part.


This Bipolar Parenting Gig

540

I’ve been quietly contemplative lately – thinking about my son and being a parent. I know everyone says it, but time really has gone by so fast. I can’t believe my baby will be four next year.

Master D was “easy” from the moment he was born. He slotted into our life and our routine with minimal fuss. He ate well, slept well. He never had long spells of crying. He has always been healthy and happy. He has a knack for accepting change and deviations from his routine. He will sleep at anyone’s house, eat anyone’s food, and remains remarkably cavalier during situations that would stress even the best of us out, (I’m looking at you – 24 hour plane journey). I’m not saying he’s an angel child. He certainly has his moments, just like every child does. But for the most part he has just been….easy.

Master D isn’t the difficult part of parenting. It’s me. I’M the difficult part of parenting.

I’m the one who ends up in hospital, who counts pills every night, who deals with mania and depression and everything in between. I’m the one who catches every single frigging cold and virus that goes around because my immune system is too busy fighting itself to actually do it’s job. I’m the kind of unpredictable crack in the family. I’m the trouble.

I’m determined to be a “good” parent (whatever that is). It’s all I want. If  I never finish my PhD, I never clean the house, I never cook, I never travel, I never do anything else. I want to be the best parent I can to my son.  Ultimately, I want us to have a good relationship throughout his life.

What I don’t want is for him to end up sitting in some therapists chair one day talking about how I was never there for him because I was always in and out of hospital, or dealing with my own issues. I don’t want him, as an adult, to have to deal with my episodes. I don’t want him to grow up and think “Why did I get stuck with this crazy mother?”

It’s a current balancing act, and it can be really hard. I hate taking my sleeping pills at night, because I know I won’t wake up if he cries. But if I don’t sleep I can slip into mania. I hate the fact that I spent five months away from him this year. I wasn’t there for HIM when he needed me. But I needed that inpatient care to recover. I hate how doing the best thing for myself is not always the best thing for my son.

I feel, as a parent with a serious mental illness, I need to over perform to be seen as an acceptable parent. I constantly feel guilty over my parenting. I constantly feel the need to prove myself.  Whether the people I encounter actually see me as a “bad” mother because of my diagnosis doesn’t really matter. It’s self stigma. It’s irrelevant.

And I know that as a advocate for mental illness, and as a researcher looking into stigma reduction I shouldn’t self stigmatise. But it’s not because I am personally ashamed of myself. It’s because I know what society thinks of mental illness. And I’m scared that people think that way of me.

I feel like I can never, EVER, ask for help. Sometimes, on the difficult days, I want to ask Hubster to help me with him – to get him dressed, give him a shower (which he often does without asking – he is a fantastic father and husband). But the words get caught in my throat. Because Husbter did that solo for nearly half a year. Hubster is working full time, studying part time and renovating a house. It’s time for me to step up to the plate. I’m Master D’s mother. I need to do it. I need to prove that I can do it.

I have no idea how to tell Master D that I have Bipolar disorder. How do I know when the best age is to start bringing that kind of stuff up is? I mean, he knows I am sick, he knows I was in hospital, he knows I take medicine. But we told him that I had a sore tummy. Because I did, and three year olds understand what a sore tummy is. They don’t understand the intricacies of mental illness. How do I even begin to explain Bipolar to him?

I don’t want to hide my illness from him. I don’t want it to become this big family secret. I don’t want to feed stigma.  I’m not ashamed of having bipolar disorder, and I don’t want him to grow up thinking it is something to be ashamed of. Besides, he needs to know, because there is a possibility he may inherit it.

This bipolar parenting gig is hard. Damn hard. But no one ever said being a parent, bipolar or otherwise, was easy did they?


Goodbye Lithium

Hello Lamotrigine.

The Queen of Denial

An online friend of mine named Sarah, who blogs over at bi [polar] curious, once wrote a post called “The Denial Relapse”, about why we BPs tend to be so resistant to accepting the fact of our illness and how we end up in trouble because of that. Every so often I go back and re-read that post, which I have bookmarked for easy reference, and now that I’ve had the game-changing hospital stay and new diagnosis, it holds a different meaning for me.

I can look back at several instances when denying my bipolar-ness either led to or exacerbated mood episodes. Oh, I knew intellectually that I had a problem that was not going away, but somehow I always found a way to attribute it to something else, like an existential crisis or seasonal affective disorder. I talked a lot about having/being bipolar, but some small part of me resisted the label right up until that night in the hospital, when I sat at the nurses’ station reading my online chart and saw the words bipolar I disorder with depression.

It was as if all the cosmic tumblers clicked into place at that moment. If I’d been a cartoon character, you would’ve seen a light bulb come on over my head. I will never know why it took those words to break through what remained of my denial, but it was just like that defining meeting in AA years ago when a fellow member asked me what it took for me to get a “buzz”. I told her about half a case of beer. She said, “Good God, Maria, what do you consider a ‘buzz’!?” and at that instant I realized that I really was an alcoholic and not just a problem drinker.

I’ve never had another drink. I’ve been sorely tempted to many times, and there was that one time that I overdosed on Ativan, which was pretty much the same thing; but not one drop of alcohol has touched my lips in almost 23 years. Not even Communion wine. So how come it’s taken me almost three years—and five words—to fully internalize the fact that I have this illness too?

I don’t know. I may never know. And it probably doesn’t matter. A friend of mine tells me I need to re-frame my thoughts so I can turn what I perceive as a negative into a positive, e.g. OK, I’m not working, but look, I don’t have to commute and put in 10-hour days anymore. Of course, in a sense it’s just another type of denial, but it sure makes me feel better when I do it.

Now, there’s no guarantee that accepting, and even embracing, my diagnosis will preclude going back into denial mode. Sarah says it happens to a lot of people, where they think they’ve got their disease under such good control that they’re fooled into believing it no longer exists…..or that they never had it to begin with. That’s been my downfall, too. And there’s nothing like a challenge to make me think I can shake off my illness—particularly if there’s a chance it may benefit me financially.

For now, however, I’m borrowing a page from AA’s Big Book and taking things one day at a time. I can’t look ahead any farther than that. And that’s OK.


How My Father Outlived Death

In case any of you are new to BPFL, or happened to miss it, my father died on October 2nd.

It was an expected event, as I will explain; and although I miss him, I am glad his long suffering is over.

You may be thinking, but she said in her title that he outlived death.

He did.

Let me explain.

I have written before, somewhere or other, of the nights when I would come to visit him, from undergraduate school or medical school or work somewhere out West, and we would sit up long after my mother had said her good-nights in her short thin nightgowns that make me blush.  I have never liked to expose my body parts, not out of religious prudery but from sheer terror of exposure.  But I digress.

Dad and I had a lot to discuss in those days.  He called it “talking philosophy,” but it was really his way of being my teacher, guiding me through the process of critical thinking, of Devil’s Advocacy, hypotheticals–he would have made a good lawyer, except that he had a conscience and that was problematic.

Truth be known, he had always secretly wanted to be a medical doctor, so he lived that part of his life vicariously through me.

Our late-night philosophy-fests always featured a liquor bottle: either Dickel (Tennessee corn likker) or Dewar’s Scotch, depending on our taste and what there was.

One night waxed into three A.M. and we were both high as kites, and he says,

“Promise me something.  I mean, really promise me something.”

“Promise you what, Dad?”

“Promise me, and I mean really promise me, that if I get to where I can’t wipe my own ass, that you will shoot me and put me out of my misery.”

He did not own a gun “because if I had one I might use it,” he would say with a darkly suggestive rise of the left eyebrow.  I was never quite sure whether he would be tempted to use it on my mother or himself, but the situation was moot because he did not have a gun.

I, on the other hand, had a couple of guns at the time, a .22 caliber Ruger assassination pistol, which I still own, and a lovely child’s shotgun.  The latter always made me squirm, to think that a century ago and even more recently, people taught their 10-and-12-year-old children to shoot a highly destructive weapon like a shotgun.

I was caught between a rock and a hard place, Psylla and Charybdis, all of those really tight spots, you know, and I was, of course, obliged to tell him yes even though I fervently meant no.  This was no drunken demand.  He really meant it.  The part about not wanting to live if someone else had to wipe his ass.

We all thought he was doomed to perish in the course of his work as a ceramic artist: so many ways to keel over face first in the spinning clay, or burn up in the heat of the kiln and make an ash of himself.

None of that happened.  Instead he got about ten years of his brain and body being whittled away, subtly at first, then galloping along with each day reaching inexorable claws and ripping out some other vital function.  It wasn’t long before indeed he could not wipe his own ass.

Always the teacher, he accepted this new indignity with much more grace than I would have had.

He was about 88 when this happened.  Things tumbled down from there.  Eating became problematic because his hands had ceased to function, so he had to be fed a lot of the time; or else I had to guide his utensil to his mouth, and he might get half of it in if we were working well together.

As you can see, I never did shoot him.

He did make some inquiries regarding how much of his insulin it would take to kill himself, and also about what would happen if he just stopped taking his insulin.  But in the end he did not really want to die by his own hand, or else he was too afraid.  In any case he managed to live until he died.

He outwitted death by about two miserable, agonizing, humiliating years.  He lived right up until the moment that he died.

And wouldn’t you know it, his last request was for something I absolutely cannot do.  He made me promise, though.  Promise me you’ll….

Well, I think he knows what I can truly promise, and what I can’t.

But as far as he and I are concerned, he cheated certain death by two years, and that’s something.

 


For Everybody Who Uses Public Transit

Filed under: society, Transportation Tagged: Amusing, Public Transit, society