Daily Archives: May 16, 2015

Settling In

Now that the dust has settled from the initial euphoria of receiving my first Social Security Disability Insurance check earlier this month, I’ve begun to reflect on all that brought me to this place of (relative) peace and quiet. I can’t get over how relieved I am knowing that Will and I are going to survive…..not that we aren’t still poor, but much less so than we were on his SS alone. I honestly didn’t know how we were going to make it—we were down to our last $200 in savings—without having to give up our car insurance and/or the storage shed, which holds almost everything we own.

We don’t have to worry about that anymore. My income alone pays all the bills plus enough for food (we’ll be getting kicked off food stamps next month), while Will’s check can go for savings so we can get our own place one day. It does seem weird to be on Social Security this early in life; it fits oddly, like a dress with an irregular hem and sleeves that are a bit too tight. I’ve already learned to say “I’m a retired nurse” when asked my occupation, because saying “I’m disabled” opens up too many cans of worms and people always want to know what’s wrong. I don’t necessarily want to share that with the entire world. I know what got me here, and so do my readers.

I am amazed at how relaxed I’ve become since all this fell into place. I sometimes even wake up smiling because I no longer have to worry about finding a job, with all the attending anxiety and frustration. I busted my chops for six long months last year trying to find something I could do and applying for many jobs I couldn’t do, and I spent most of those months severely depressed. The depression itself finally lifted after we got moved in here in January and has not returned, but this is more than just not being depressed anymore…..this is called being happy.

The fact that I am still bipolar doesn’t even bother me so much anymore. Yes, this is a wonderful time for me and I know I’ll eventually cycle out of it, just as I cycled into it. I experienced a mild hypomania a few weeks ago, and of course depression always lurks in the shadowy recesses of my brain. But being so much more at ease with my life situation is doing great things for me, as is the fact that my meds are right. Finally. That last uptick in my antidepressant was the straw that broke depression’s back. I can hardly wait to see Dr. Awesomesauce on Monday and share my good news. Hey Doc, you cured me!

Now, I know better than to believe there’s a cure for my illness; but at last I’m settling in for the long haul and I’m not constantly fighting with it anymore. The med change helped that along, but not having to worry about losing everything we’ve acquired over 35 years of marriage or getting the car impounded for lack of insurance is amazingly liberating. :-)

 


The Price of Insight

I'm OK

A prominent feature of  schizophrenia and bipolar disorder is anosognosia, a sick person’s unawareness that he is sick. — Algis Valiunas, New Atlantis, Winter 2009.

No one really understands why those of us with serious mental illness struggle with insight.  Current medical theory holds that it’s actually a core feature of our neurobiology.  It’s not that we’re in denial or stubborn—we simply can’t see.

This seems ridiculous to those observing from the outside as our behavior becomes more risky and disjointed.  But those are the times when our insight is most impaired, because anosognosia is also a symptom. We lose insight just when we need it most.

Lack of insight is relative.  It fluctuates as the illness fluctuates.  When we are in remission or in a more stable state, we can often see that we were ill.

Lack of insight is listed as the leading cause of non-compliance with medication (I’m not sick, so why should I take these drugs that make me feel lousy), and in another paradox, compliance with one’s medication regime can improve insight in some cases.

Aggression and violent behavior are also linked to lack of insight.

So, if insight is so important to recovery and functionality, what can we do to foster it?  Unfortunately (and not really a surprise), the mental health delivery system has little to offer:  Take your meds.  Go to therapy.

I’ve been told by most of the professionals I’ve worked with that I have a high level of insight.  Even when my symptoms are at their worst, I retain some awareness, though it becomes harder to access and trust.  But very few of those therapists and psychiatrists ever asked me if I do anything to strengthen my awareness.  The fact is I work very hard at it.

I started meditating and working on mindfulness years before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and those practices continue to help me “wake up” in the middle of an episode.  Meditation is the only “exercise” I know that builds the muscle of insight.  And like any muscle, the more it’s worked, the stronger it becomes.  We can build insight by using insight.

It’s not for weenies, this practice.  Ask any neuro-normal who sits meditation or suddenly realizes he’s projecting his fears into the future instead of living in the Now.  Most people are asleep.  To be anything else requires dedication, courage and sweat.  It also requires forgiveness, tenderness and a willingness to observe rigid beliefs with gentle curiosity.  And then, those moments of awareness are still fleeting.

Insight is a Big Ticket item, and most people would rather spend their hard-earned psychic cash elsewhere.  I get that.  I’ve taught meditation for fifteen years, and most people don’t stick with it.  Sitting with oneself can be uncomfortable.  It can be frightening.  Why not practice golf instead?  At least that’s fun.

That’s been my experience with neuro-normals.  Now I’ve been asked to teach meditation to folks like me with serious mental illness.  I’ll introduce it gently next week, then see if anyone wants to continue.

Because these are people who will recognize the price tag.  And they might decide it’s worth it.


Back to Normal

It has been two and a half weeks since my first treatment and I finally feel back to normal. My...

The post Back to Normal appeared first on Pretending to be What We Are.

Where Ya At?

Well, it has been a long couple of weeks. I am happy to report that I am back at work...

The post Where Ya At? appeared first on Pretending to be What We Are.

blah and bruised

Another week of dish dwelling down. Combined with coming off the Latuda…I feel embalmed. Indifferent. BRUISED. Yeah, I have that a lot, where even a whisper of a fan on my skin makes it feel like I’m bruised. I can’t stand massages, at all. It’s grueling. And maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s some psychosomatic thing where I feel like life has kicked the hell out of me thus leaving me psychologically bruised and it manifests physically…Hell if I know. I know don’t like it. My kid will go to hug me a little exuberantly and it literally hurts. I don’t even know what the fuck that is other than me being hypersensitive. I’ve often linked it to the free floating anxiety, like my nerves are already on over drive and mere sensation of touch pushes it over the edge. None of my doctors have ever really acknowledged when I mention it beyond a dismissive nod. One more “non existent” issue for me, yayyy.

I did something new last night. When R beckoned, luring me with free Mangoritas…I declined, politely. And didn’t allow myself to be guilted or bullied. Spook and I were in our jammas, I was fixing my supper, and I just saw no need to upset that balance. Maybe I am pruning things, just in a way where I get to keep what benefits me and cut away what aggravates me. I always thought I saw things in shades of gray until sunshine spewing counselor informed me I see everything in black and white. I guess when it comes to how things affect me personally, I am that way. You piss me off, you are bad. You make me happy, you are good. But no one is black and white, we are all shades of gray. I guess being rejected makes me quick to reject others and vilify them. It’s something I need to work on. (And I don’t mind admitting fault and working to fix myself, I just get so fucking pissed off that everyone around me gets to be exactly the same and I’m the one who has change.)

For a brief period last night, I thought I was feeling a bit of an up spike in mood where I might not slither to the crypt and seek solace in sleep. It wasn’t to be. I was tired. Not just bone weary tired, but sleepy tired. Once that point hits, fighting it makes it worse. Time to reboot, recharge. That’s become the biggest bane of the current depression regime. I used to live for nighttime, even during my worst depressions. I’d come alive at night. Of course, then I didn’t have a kid and I could take my coma cocktail of seroquel and trazadone and sleep for twelve hours during the day thus giving me all night to function. Now the daywalker mom-and-dad-in-one gig, plus balancing all other facets of life and my disorders, has me too exhausted and dispirited to relish those hours at night where my time is mine. I once said the day I’d rather be asleep than awake doing things I love is the day I should just off myself. That day has come. Life has worn me down to the point where I crave sleep. Even if it only comes in two  hour installments.

THAT pisses me off. I don’t require a lot of sleep.I feel better the less I get, actually. But for almost four years, barely sleeping three solid hours at a time, with an active kid and all my mental issues…It’s taken a toll. I no longer have the energy to listen to my beloved music.Every moment of my day is filled with my kid’s incessant babble, barking dogs, ringing phones, yowling cats, loud motorcycles..That’s before I even leave my home. The sensory overload has cost me the very fuel that kept me alive during every other tough part of my life. Music. It got worse with that Latuda, because the anxiety ratcheted up so high there was no enjoyable noise. It was all just agonizing. I remember one day (think it was Sunday, before I quit that nasty shit) that I just got hit with this barrage of noise…my kid yapping, neighbor dogs barking, Harley’s driving through the trailer park…And I coiled up in my chair, trying to make myself small, and covered my ears with my hands because it was excrutiating. I felt like a moron doing it and yet…It was that bad.

So not only did it not help, it actually hindered and caused more problems which I now have to contend with. Forget high stakes poker. You want to really gamble, try taking some of these psych meds.

I am exhausted even though I’ve been awake barely two hours. Of course, it was a two hour journey to wakefulness with my kid deciding she wants to get up, no she wants to snuggle, no she just wants to play with the cat on my bed…And I was fading off and then suddenly she comes rushing at me MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY loud as a damned foghorn…Panic attack right out of the gate.

I have zero plans today aside from meeting the lady from her church for some personal needs pantry items. I haven’t applied in over a year and now my kid has dropped four rolls of toilet paper into the toilet this week thus putting us at a shortage…Ugh. I hate asking for things. Hate it. But it’s necessary. It means a four mile drive out of my way but…Gotta do what I gotta do. I am looking at the pile of dishes I need to wash. The laundry is piling up again. My kid has not stopped talking for a single second since she woke. Literally, she doesn’t even take a breath then complains she’s hyperventilating. I’m exhausted already.

Blah. I should do this. That. The other. But in light of the Latuda experiment from hell…I think I am going to give myself permission to do absolutely nothing today. Zone out, vegetate. I know I am supposed to pick myself up and keep busy and barf some rainbows but…That’s the new regime, I like my old counselor’s advice to set one small goal then wallow if need be. I earned some wallow time considering how many rapid cycles I’ve gone through in the last five days. I could have tapered off the Latuda but when the suicidal thoughts started…NOPE. Seriously, how fucked up is it for a drug meant to cure depression to cause you to want to die. LATARDA.

On a side note, just because it infuriated me…When I went to get my kid from my mom’s yesterday after their playdate…I got a spiel about how, “We’ve all been hungry for two days and had no food.We had nothing to feed Spook but then (roommate) ordered pizza for all of us so at least we got to eat today.”

One house. Six people. Four incomes. About six grand a month totaled. And they can’t keep food in the fridge but they can spend ten bucks on shampoo? You want me to feel guilty that you can’t manage money and prioritize? Oh, and why should I feel shitty when I don’t live there yet your roommate of 16 years does and has money and lets all of you go hungry rather than step up with some food. Seriously, the roommate is my nephew’s other grandma and she sat there that whole time with money, knowing not just everyone was hungry but her own grandson. I’m the bad guy? My mother is insane. Not to mention thirty bucks on pizza for one night would have been more wisely spent doing three days’ worth of meals. My mom says I am tight and cheap but truth is, I just prioritize. I’d rather have less than pillowy toilet paper if it means I can keep food in the fridge for a week.

It just gets old, being vilified within my own family. The support system the professionals tell me to reach out to when my mental health is fragile. Hysterical.

Now I apparently have to attend a wedding. My kid got some plastic farm animals and a collie has fallen in love with a goat and they are getting married in the barn wedding chapel. I think the llama is best man and the chicken is maid of honor.

Reception to follow at the hayride with bales of hay, bowls of kibble, and all the garbage a goat bride can eat.

 


God and Bipolar (Re-Blog) and More Fiction

 cross

There is more fiction up here : A Calling of Light

This is a post from September. I think (you may not) it is interesting to compare where I was to where I am now. Not that now is better or worse, but it was different. I think you can hear the difference in my voice.

I just spent four beautiful days in the cool mountains. It was an awesome break from the summer. My friends (who own the cabin we stayed in) are fantastic.They understand my bipolar and support me through it. It’s nice to be somewhere where you’re not ON.

So some news from my recovery activities: I was called to do another presentation on Thursday. It’s a group of nursing students. I also facilitated my support group today. (Our regular guy was out of town). I had nine people and they were great. They kept talking and the time went fast. We discussed seasonal affective disorder (SAD), building a morning routine, and coping with the holidays. On the art therapy front, I am unable to do any origami. Way too hard! So I need to find something else artistic to do. Any ideas?

So today I am going to talk about God and bipolar. I am NOT here to tell you what to believe in and that’s for sure. I support all faiths and those with no faith. If you have a mental illness, I am here for you.

In order to be in “recovery”, one component that is encouraged is a spiritual one. I know this doesn’t mean any certain faith. If you have that, it’s great. But I think this also means that whole concept of a “higher power”, similar to Alcoholics Anonymous.

So I will tell you about my faith journey, complete with the highlights and major pitfalls.

I started attending church at the age of thirteen. My best friend in high school belonged to a United Methodist church. So her parents would pick me up and take me on Sundays. I loved it…I got to be with other teenagers and got to be away from my horrible home life. I was active in the youth group, played volleyball, went to church camp, you name it.

Fast forward to college and severe depression. I rarely attended a Baptist church I could walk to from my dorm. It was tough.

When I was about 25, I was manic and joined another United Methodist church but did not really attend much. I was too busy being crazy.

So I got married and my husband and I started attending a very well-to-do United Methodist church nearby. We were incredibly active…volleyball, Marriage Encounter, Sunday School, Bible Study. There were a lot of other young mothers there and we bonded over babies. Our kids were all baptized there. We had a great pastor.

As our kids got a bit older, we started to notice how ridiculous many of the members were. We felt they were really there to show off their money and their clothes. I went manic and made a few enemies and some friends who frankly, were just confused. So we downsized to a smaller church and became fairly active there.

Years went by and I hit a serious depression. Life looked pretty dull and so did church. I was hospitalized and had a terrible experience with that. And one night at the hospital I got about as low as I have ever been. I prayed and asked God to send me a tiny sign or anything to let me know that things would get better. And you know what? Absolutely nothing. I was left down in that pit.

The rational side of me decided that God was a bunch of bunk. Now this didn’t mean I actively went around telling people I didn’t believe in God. I was pretty quiet about it. Then I just stopped going to church for 12 years. I did tell a couple of my long term church friends that God had let me down and I wasn’t sure I believed. I think they were pretty surprised.

About two years ago I started missing church. So my husband and I found a very small United Methodist church north of where we live. It is extremely friendly and has a strict policy of being “welcoming” to all. This includes same sex couples (which can be controversial at some churches), so I figured they might be flexible with the mentally ill. I like this church and the beautiful picture window it has behind the pulpit where one can reflect on the wonderful scenery outside.

Now I am STILL very confused about God. I’m not so concerned with church. Our church focuses on being good to others and the church does a lot of mission projects. I figure it doesn’t hurt to do this kind of stuff regardless of my belief in God. And I like the music.

So during this Labor Day mountain trip, we went to church with our old church friends. They had a definite old-school pastor there. He talked a lot about the judgment day and how we had better get right with God. But it was a nice service and the pastor was very friendly to us afterward. I don’t think they had many guests in that tiny town.

I have asked God for forgiveness for many things. For my crazy behavior while manic. For my neglect of my family while I was depressed. And assorted other sundry sins.

But there are a couple of things I just can’t ask forgiveness for. These are things that are against the Bible, perhaps, but are things I would do over again in a heartbeat if I had the chance. So God and I are at a bit of an impasse there.

I think I am more along the path of belief now, but it is very tentative. I have suffered long and hard at the hands of this bipolar and even more so the stigma of mental illness. I believe I could have achieved so much more in my life had I not had this curse.

But I had better figure it out. Because our good friends talked us into going on a three day weekend called  “Walk to Emmaus”. My husband will go one weekend and then I will go the next. The weekend is designed to bring one closer to God and to become more of a leader in the ministry of each church.

I do read a short devotional each morning. And the other day there was a passage that really spoke to me: “Grow strong in your weakness.Some of my children I have gifted with abundant strength and stamina. Others, like you, have received the humble gift of frailty. Your fragility is not a punishment, nor is it an indication of a lack of faith. On the contrary, weak ones like you must learn to live by faith.” Those statements really spoke to me. I DO feel fragile and frail.

Whether God exists or not, is still a question for me. I hope this weekend away in October will give me some perspective.

Regardless of your beliefs, I would encourage you to seek a spiritual side to your recovery. My involvement with things spiritual has made my recovery feel better rounded.

At least God is an easier concept than origami flowers.

hugs to you all,

lily

 

 

 

 

 

the sads

Scheduled post, by the time you read this, I’ll be in a good mood.

This, now… this is why I need to schedule posts, I have to puke a post and forget the raw intensity of the emotions behind it. If anyone said anything at all to me about it now, I’d slide a little further downhill on my arse. I need to be up in the morning, but I can’t sleep and the pills aren’t working. I’m too revved, every molecule is vibrating and there’s a massive cannonball in my gut. You can call me Melodramah Blah. Melodramblah. Headrushes and RLS and aaaaaaarrrrrrrggggghhhhh fuck fuck fuck…

//

That was last night and now it’s this afternoon (no wonder I have such a kak relationship with times and dates. Dating Time would be cool though. Where was I? I woke up feeling tons better, went for the routine morning beach walk and so on. Then I went into The Little Smoke for my first consult with a trainee psychiatrist from Uganda. It went really well, I liked her a lot. 23 free sessions to go (yes I’m a jammy bugger etc etc – it’s possible that you need to be British to understand that one idk). Between you and me, I think I like being a PhD case study.

//

Another gap in writing. Its 02h30 (ffs) and I suppose I’m too strung out for the pills to have worked. It’ll come right tomorrow, beach and sea and sky will sort it. I’m chilled now anyway. The afternoon was good for a while and then I cried and cried and cried till I felt like giving Noah a heads-up for round 2 of the flood. It’s been going on for days. I was exhausted after today’s session. Not surprising at all. So before next week I have to write a list of my problems in order of priority – I wonder what that’ll look like.

Spleen vented; i feel better already.

Walking Around (Pablo Neruda)

It so happens I am sick of being a man.
And it happens that I walk into tailor shops and movie houses
dried up, waterproof, like a swan made of felt
steering my way in a water of wombs and ashes.

The smell of barbershops makes me break into hoarse sobs.
The only thing I want is to lie still like stones or wool.
The only thing I want is to see no more stores, no gardens,
no more goods, no spectacles, no elevators.

It so happens that I am sick of my feet and my nails
and my hair and my shadow.
It so happens I am sick of being a man.

Still it would be marvellous
to terrify a law clerk with a cut lily,
or kill a nun with a blow on the ear.
It would be great
to go through the streets with a green knife
letting out yells until I died of the cold.

I don΄t want to go on being a root in the dark,
insecure, stretched out, shivering with sleep,
going on down, into the moist guts of the earth,
taking in and thinking, eating every day.

I don΄t want so much misery.
I don΄t want to go on as a root and a tomb,
alone under the ground, a warehouse with corpses,
half frozen, dying of grief.

That΄s why Monday, when it sees me coming
with my convict face, blazes up like gasoline,
and it howls on its way like a wounded wheel,
and leaves tracks full of warm blood leading toward the night.

And it pushes me into certain corners, into some moist houses,
into hospitals where the bones fly out the window,
into shoe shops that smell like vinegar,
and certain streets hideous as cracks in the skin.

There are sulphur-coloured birds, and hideous intestines
hanging over the doors of houses that I hate,
and there are false teeth forgotten in a coffeepot,
there are mirrors
that ought to have wept from shame and terror,
there are umbrellas everywhere, and venoms, and umbilical cords.

I stroll along serenely, with my eyes, my shoes,
my rage, forgetting everything,
I walk by, going through office buildings and orthopaedic shops,
and courtyards with washing hanging from the line:
underwear, towels and shirts from which slow
dirty tears are falling.

(I’m kinda having a little Neruda blog festival at the moment.)
(BRB going to terrify a clerk with a cut lily. Wonder if that’s rhyming slang…)

A Gold-Rimmed Eye: A Poetic Blog

Frequent flyer at the feeder: May 2015

Frequent flyer at the feeder: May 2015

This morning, when I stepped out into the garden, a friend was waiting on the garden wall.

I think of him as a friend.

Feeding the birds is part of what I do. And the male blackbird knows this so well, that when he saw me, he opened his beak. A clearer bit of bird to human communication is hard to imagine. As if to underline his point, he then flew onto the empty tray, left to let me fill it, then returned, to eat.

His visit reminded me of a poem I wrote earlier this month. After a long hiatus, I’m writing poetry again.

A lot of it is about birds.

A Gold-Rimmed Eye

This morning,
I poured out
chunks of suet,
the dried bodies
of mealworms,
a cheap
mix of seeds
onto a tray,
and from
a near-empty heart.

And he, Youngest
of the Celtic Eldest,
landed, ate,
and looked at me:
from an eye
rimmed with gold,
as black
as his name.

Hold onto this:
memorise this moment
with your own,
tired old hazels.

 

Shelter

Shelter: May 2015

Depression help

Bipolar1Blog:

I am reblogging this because a reader told me that they were in a suicidal depression but they didn’t do anything because this post gave them Hope! I have goosebumps from reading this and I am so glad that i wrote this post so it could inspire one person to live and breathe!

Originally posted on Bipolar1Blog:

irisIris, it means heavenly colors.

Being in a severe depression is one of the most excruciatingly psychically (and even physically) painful experiences any one can ever experience. That’s when the bottom falls out from under you, the rug is yanked out from under your feet and in either case, there is a black, terrifying bottomless abyss into which you fall. At first you claw and scratch to get out, but then as the days go by, you give up. You sit down, you stay put. All hope is gone, you have no energy to fight, your inner voice has maliciously turned against you. It tells you you are worthless, garbage, not worth saving. You don’t want to listen but you have no choice, you have no energy left to fight this. You have no hope of getting better. And anyway, are you sick or is the the way you always…

View original 464 more words