Daily Archives: January 16, 2016

Lost

After my 30 year old son threw me out the day after Thanksgiving, I sat with the pain until after Christmas.  I thought the pain would fade, but it only intensified.  It was eating me up from the inside out.  I thought we had a good relationship, and then this.

So I wrote him a letter, asking what I had done to cause him to do this thing.

A couple of weeks went by.  He was kind enough to send me a note saying that he wanted to take time to sit down and write me a well-thought out letter.  I waited eagerly, hoping for a positive answer.

What I received tore my heart into even smaller shreds.

He detailed grudges that he held from childhood, that I thought had been addressed during the two years of intensive family therapy at the therapeutic boarding school I sent him to as an alternative to jail after he got arrested when he was 16.  I guess that wore off.

More grudges for things I had done unintentionally, that I did not know had bothered him, or even knew anything about.

Worst of all, he disapproves of my current lifestyle, my past lifestyle, and I got the impression (or maybe her wrote it) that he believes I am irresponsible, and worries that I will run out of money (possible, since I have given so much of it to him, in one way or another).

I waited another few weeks, went through the letter with my therapist, discussed the triggers…

Being thrown out by my own son would be bad enough.  For krissake, I wasn’t drunk or abusive or anything that would merit being shown the door.  But since my mother used to do that all the time when I came to visit her, hoping once again that I would find her transformed into the Mommy that I never had, the trigger was like a hammer brought down on my head.

And his letter, so full of judgement and criticism, triggered my childhood of constant criticism by both parents.  How can I relax if I never know whether what I’m doing will be accepted or considered wrong?  How can I trust him ever again, since he holds grudges even for things I didn’t know were wrong, in his eyes?

And who the hell does he think he is, to judge his mother?  I have never abused him: the opposite.  I have struggled ever since he was born to find ways of helping him to be happy.

As one of my first boyfriend’s Irish mother said to him when he criticized her, “Don’t you judge me!  I wiped your shitty ass!”

I wrote my son another letter, explaining that we are different people with different values, and just because someone is different doesn’t mean they’re a bad person (you’d think someone would know this by the time they’re 30, but I guess not).

I also reiterated how much his behavior had hurt me, and how my current financial situation is largely due to the more than $200,000 that ate up my retirement fund, plus having to borrow another $75,000 from my parents, who amazingly mortgaged their paid-for home to save his life.  He has never thanked any of us, nor offered to pay us back even a fraction.  I have never mentioned the money thing to him before, not wanting to lay a guilt trip on him.  But since he brought it up, and since he is behaving like an entitled brat, I let him in on the secret.

I have not heard back from him yet, and I wonder how he will take these harsh realities.

I also told him something of my health issues, both physical and mental, and that since I have no one to care for me and I refuse to go into a nursing home, at some point this life will end, either naturally or, if the pain is too severe, by assistance.

I feel that I have lost him.  This too is triggering, as I had the same feeling when he was a lying, stealing, addicted teenager, running with others of the same ilk, in and out of every kind of rehab, even a stint of involuntary hospitalization that turned out to be a nightmare.

He managed to either fake his way through the programs or get himself thrown out by fighting or otherwise flagrantly breaking the rules. 

Finally his stepmother threw him out, and he ended up in a homeless shelter, where he broke the rules and I don’t remember what happened after that because I was having my own catatonic breakdown and two hospitalizations.

During those times I felt like I had lost my son, but he was still alive, which was worse than having lost him by death in some ways.

If he had died, at least I could have grieved him and kept the good memories.  But losing him alive was unremitting torture, as it is today.

Why, all of a sudden, have I become a villain?

I think I know.

Now that he’s become known in the scientific world, he’s emulating his famous scientist dad.  He’s dressing like his dad, even talking like him.

I’m sure people ask him what his mother does, and he doesn’t know what to say.

He’s not proud of me; in fact, he’s embarrassed, because I am disabled by mental illness, I don’t work, and I don’t even have a home.

He writes that he wants me to settle down and have a real bed for him to sleep in when he visits.

Funny about that: when I did have a real home with a real guest bed, he never visited.  Of course, my real home was in Israel, and although I offered to pay his fare countless times, he always had an excuse why he couldn’t come.  But he was happy to go to Hawaii with his dad.

I told my mother, who is not the greatest role model; nevertheless I told her, and she said, “Let him go.  He’s never been a part of our family anyway.” 

That hurt me even more, and made me wish I hadn’t said anything.

Thirty years ago today, I was great with this child.  I have a photo of myself in profile, naked and glistening with oil like a wrestler.  I am very short.  I looked like I had swallowed a giant watermelon.  I was so happy.

Now, I wonder whether having him was the right thing.  He has never been happy.  He screamed constantly for years.  He started seeing a child psychologist when he was three.  My ex-husband started sleeping with him when I started my internship, because otherwise he just screamed all night.  This child drove a wedge between my former husband and I.  I’ve observed, during my 20 years practicing pediatrics, that a sick child will either cement or destroy a marriage, depending on the health of that marriage to begin with.  I consider the child to be a symptom of family dysfunction.

Usually divorce will help the stricken child; in our case, that was not to be.

Anger, and more anger, has been this child’s life.  I thought he had developed coping skills and self awareness.  I was so proud.

Now I am lost in a sea of pain.

If I had known then what I know now, I believe I would not have conceived him.


New Year’s Resolutions, Meds, and Weight Loss

I made a New Year's resolution to lose weight, so sue me!

Hello, Darkness, My Old Friend

As winter progresses, I watch this long spell of nearly-normal fade in the rear view mirror.  It’s a horrible feeling, watching that image of the real me shrink and shrink as the bipolar hitchhiker takes over the wheel.  I can feel the Vyvanse losing its grip and rolling under the tires.  I worry that I’ve forgotten how to do this—how to manage a life instead of living it.

Hello DarknessAnd, of course, all that is a story.  I’ve promised to guard against telling stories.

So, let’s just say it’s an adjustment.

There is more depression and distorted thinking, more fibromyalgia pain and insomnia, more compulsive eating and anxiety.  But, the truth is we all expected this, even while we hoped Vyvanse could beat back winter (we being my therapist, nurse practitioner/med provider, and me).

Miracle enough that an amphetamine meant to curb my eating disorder also managed to smooth out my moods for six months.  I don’t want to get greedy.  Six months of feeling joy and gratitude for my life, of sitting in the driver’s seat, can’t be minimized.  Ever.

And all is not lost yet.

Vyvanse acted like a screen door, keeping the bipolarness on the front porch.  But as soon as the drug flushed out of my system each day, the rapid cycling and mixed states poked their heads in and wanted coffee.  They’re just pushier now.  And obviously, they’ve been lifting weights this summer.

I couldn’t tell if V was helping at all the past few weeks.  I just knew I was miserable the moment I woke up and couldn’t discern any difference throughout the day.  So, I started taking V as soon as I got out of bed.  Now, by the time I finish at the Y, I can feel a lift.  The depression is still there, but quiet and more polite.  Again, this seems huge.

I’m trying to use these moderate shifts of mood to prepare for the hairier, meaner moods that will crash through the door.  I got groceries this morning and made two quiches (one to freeze).  If this pattern holds, I’ll bake a chicken/wild rice dish tomorrow and stick it in the freezer, too.  I can’t cook when I’m brain sick, so doing this feels smart and kind.  I am nurturing and being nurtured—like being my own grandma.

This is all new territory.  Mental illness tries to keep me from seeing that.  It tells me all is lost and will forever be lost.  But, that’s just a story.

The truth is—

—I’m on an Adventure.


Hello, Darkness, My Old Friend

As winter progresses, I watch this long spell of nearly-normal fade in the rear view mirror.  It’s a horrible feeling, watching that image of the real me shrink and shrink as the bipolar hitchhiker takes over the wheel.  I can feel the Vyvanse losing its grip and rolling under the tires.  I worry that I’ve forgotten how to do this—how to manage a life instead of living it.

Hello DarknessAnd, of course, all that is a story.  I’ve promised to guard against telling stories.

So, let’s just say it’s an adjustment.

There is more depression and distorted thinking, more fibromyalgia pain and insomnia, more compulsive eating and anxiety.  But, the truth is we all expected this, even while we hoped Vyvanse could beat back winter (we being my therapist, nurse practitioner/med provider, and me).

Miracle enough that an amphetamine meant to curb my eating disorder also managed to smooth out my moods for six months.  I don’t want to get greedy.  Six months of feeling joy and gratitude for my life, of sitting in the driver’s seat, can’t be minimized.  Ever.

And all is not lost yet.

Vyvanse acted like a screen door, keeping the bipolarness on the front porch.  But as soon as the drug flushed out of my system each day, the rapid cycling and mixed states poked their heads in and wanted coffee.  They’re just pushier now.  And obviously, they’ve been lifting weights this summer.

I couldn’t tell if V was helping at all the past few weeks.  I just knew I was miserable the moment I woke up and couldn’t discern any difference throughout the day.  So, I started taking V as soon as I got out of bed.  Now, by the time I finish at the Y, I can feel a lift.  The depression is still there, but quiet and more polite.  Again, this seems huge.

I’m trying to use these moderate shifts of mood to prepare for the hairier, meaner moods that will crash through the door.  I got groceries this morning and made two quiches (one to freeze).  If this pattern holds, I’ll bake a chicken/wild rice dish tomorrow and stick it in the freezer, too.  I can’t cook when I’m brain sick, so doing this feels smart and kind.  I am nurturing and being nurtured—like being my own grandma.

This is all new territory.  Mental illness tries to keep me from seeing that.  It tells me all is lost and will forever be lost.  But, that’s just a story.

The truth is—

—I’m on an Adventure.


Slow Saturday

ANd I’m trying to enjoy it as much as I can considering how busy they’re about to get.  My oldest shipped out this morning for college and the house is very quiet  Bob is reading, my middle one is doing trigonometry homework, and the y9ungest is playing in her room. I’ve been reading a book about the comic strip “Peanuts” which I am a huge fan of. How it started off, that sort of thing.  “Peanuts” started off with seven papers in 1952–by 2000, it appeared in 2,500  papers.

I’ve finally hit 6,000 views for the life of the blog.  Thanks to all of you out there who read and send me encouraging comments and such.  I know I’ve had a rough time of it lately, so I hang on by hoping that there’s someone out there I’m helping by being as honest as I can about my condition and about my ups and downs.  I so want to reach out to people with a realistic portrayal of bipolar disorder.  Hopefully one day I can compile these posts into a book and reach even more people. But that’s a dream for another day.

 

 

 


Trauma and Transness: Why I Didn’t ‘Always Know’ I Was Transgender

There are a number of transgender people who have known, from a very young age, that they were a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth. Their stories are encouraging , interesting, and important. Their stories are also not mine.

I knew as a child that I was different – but not because of my gender. I knew this because I had early onset bipolar disorder. My life, in so many ways, was consumed as I struggled to keep my head above water. While other children my age contemplated their place in the world, I contemplated hurting myself for reasons I couldn’t explain.

This disorder derailed my life – impacting my relationships, my self-esteem, and of course, my stability – until I finally started getting treatment for it when I was eighteen years old.

It’s not a coincidence that when I started receiving treatment for bipolar disorder (and anxiety, a later diagnosis), questions about my gender began bubbling to the surface. The only person who didn’t seem surprised was my therapist at the time.

“You might have had to suppress or avoid questions about your gender to focus on your survival,” she told me. “Bipolar disorder might have required all of your attention. Now it doesn’t.”

Bingo.

While every trans person with mental illness has a different story, I think that I was put in a sort of auto-pilot because of my trauma. There was no room to contemplate gender identity. I assumed the role and took the validation that came with it. I put my mental and emotional resources into surviving bipolar disorder and weathering the damage it did on a daily basis.

It’s hardly surprising that when my mental health began to rebound, I started to consider the possibility that I might be trans. As therapy and medication helped me to cope more effectively, I began to interrogate my assigned gender in ways I never had the space to before.

In this way, it’s impossible to talk about my trans identity without talking about my struggles with mental illness.

I believe that, in the face of trauma, I was unable to contemplate or comprehend my own truth (and not just about gender – mental illness made me feel less like a person and more like a body moving through physical space, aching).

There was no room to consider gender for a long time. It was deemed “non-essential” by the part of my brain that determined what I could and could not handle.

And honestly? I’m grateful for that.

Sometimes I do wish I’d started testosterone sooner, or understood my gender a little earlier on, or embarked on this journey at a younger age. But then I ask myself: Was that really possible?

I think about how much pain I suffered through earlier on in my life. I try to imagine if I could have handled a transition at the same time – the upheaval in my family, navigating social pressures and even societal violence, trying to advocate for myself and find resources in my small Midwestern suburb… all during a time when trans people were scarcely visible.

Could I have done this when I was in the throes of a mood disorder, being pulled into suicidal lows and manic highs?

I say that I’m “grateful” because I started to come into my own as a trans person at a time when my life was beginning to stabilize. It was a time when I had social support, a time when I could find other queer people, a time when I had more agency than I did as a kid. I was ready.

Not all trans people realize they are trans at a time that they’re ready to – they simply are, and they have to navigate that whether they are prepared to or not. And while I’m not suggesting that trauma is a privilege, I will say that my journey as trans could have been more difficult than it has been.

In some ways, I feel lucky that I came to know myself as transgender at a time when it was safer for me to come out. My transition could have put my mental health in further jeopardy had I begun at a time when I wasn’t mentally healthy or supported. Instead, it happened when I had full autonomy over myself and had a community rallying behind me.

When people ask me how I “knew” I was trans, the answer is much more complicated than they realize. Because while I could sift through my past and find moments that seemed to indicate the kind of discomfort or confusion they might expect, the truth is that it was the furthest thing from my conscious mind for most of my life.

Keeping myself alive in the face of mental illness was the only thing I knew for the first eighteen years. It was the only context for my pain. I had no concept of who I was or any future ahead of me – I only knew the turmoil of bipolar disorder and the trauma that I had lived through.

I’ve often said that I didn’t feel like my life truly began until I was 20 years old. Which, not-so-coincidentally, is both when my medications began to work and my transition began in earnest.

Trans people with mental illness are not a monolith, either, and I imagine many of us have different stories and trajectories. We’re all affected by our illnesses differently.

But for me, I was only able to see myself clearly when my recovery began. And I don’t think being a “late bloomer” in some respects makes me any less trans.

To say that gender is an objective, static truth that we all intrinsically understand from the moment we are born – as if it is untouched or unaffected by our trauma – erases the journeys that many trans people have been on.

It’s impossible to say who or where we would be without our trauma. But what I do know is that who I am now – both as a trans person and as bipolar – is at this intersection of everything I have endured.


Keeping Busy and Such

I have to say, there’s not a lot going on in the brainbox. I’ve just been like… doing things ‘as normal’, I guess. There has been knitting, gaming, and socialisation in percentages that suit my preferences. I have had the winter joy of will it/won’t it snow — I want it to snow but it’s not, hrmph! Even the work year is off to a good start. The only impediment there has been the smallest wanting lots of cuddles due to teething, and well… it’s hard to be mad at her for being cute and snuggly, isn’t it.

In short, there isn’t a lot to complain about. My mood wibbles around a tiny bit up and down, but it doesn’t seem to push too far into the danger zone. I could complain about Depakote making me gain a stone in weight, but like… I don’t care? I’m actually quite okay with being fat, and having developed an addition to teeturtle has me excited about buying clothing for the first time ever (even when tiny small with a banging body, I found clothing purchasing a drag… not for any self-loathing, just because I couldn’t be assed).

Of course, as I sit here, the list of things that I could complain about starts expanding out in my head, but I’m doing my best to ignore it. I’m instead choosing to focus on the happy things (which of course has me occasionally questioning whether or not I’m going hypomanic because oh hey, thanks bipolar). I live in a country that suits me better than my country of origin. I’m still very much in love with my spouse after nine years together. We have a nice house and cute kids. We have enough money that we have a goodly amount of free time (though I get the most ’cause my husband is amazing about making sure I can hole up and take care of myself).

Or maybe I just need to recount the good because depression lies and I’m under its shadow and not aware of it. It’s always a possibility, isn’t it. ¬¬ But at least I’m still deriving enjoyment from my life, the things I enjoy, and so on, so it’s prooooobably not that bad. Probably. All I can do is to just keep swimming, and to apply my own brand of self-motivation to myself that I would murder anyone else for attempting to do and wouldn’t slather anyone else with, because damn it is sunshine-y. *chuckles*

Anyways! Hope y’all are doing well out there. Back to my knitting.

<3

F### Cancer

There. I said it.

Will is NOT doing well. In fact, things are pretty awful, and now he’s going to undergo actual chemotherapy infusions to try to extend his life by…what, a few weeks? A few months? Why not? He’s already spending parts of every day throwing up, and feeling weak and miserable in the bargain. He hasn’t had a really good day since the week after we got home from our cruise. Today he hasn’t been out of his chair, except to go to the bathroom and (once) outside to smoke some of his medicine. He looks utterly dejected, and even though he still wants to fight, he’s beginning to question whether or not it’s worth the possibility of feeling even worse than he does right now.

In the meantime, I’m fighting panic on the inside while doing my best to remain composed on the outside. Thank goodness I had therapy today; I spent a good forty-five minutes bawling my eyes out, which is a luxury I can’t allow myself at other times. Unless, of course, it’s in the late hours of the night, when I beg God for the answers to why all this is happening and there are none forthcoming. I need to be strong for Will and the family, because if I lose hope, that’s the ballgame.

The trouble is, I can no longer ignore the clinical picture in front of me. I’ve seen way too many people who looked the same way Will does now, and it never ended well. This is why I sometimes wish I didn’t know as much as I do about this accursed disease and the inevitability of death when it reaches the late stages. Will has lived 2 1/2 years since he was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer; that’s 2 1/2 years we might not have had if he hadn’t had access to good medicines and care. But now even his oncologist is wearing a grim expression, and while he hasn’t given us a timeline—nor have we asked for one—the unspoken thought between all of us is that we’re in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, we’re down by two scores, and it’s third and long on our own 20-yard line.

Sorry about the football metaphors…I seem to bring those out when things look bleak. But it’s better than bursting into tears every time he vomits, which is what I feel like doing at this very moment as I hear the waves of nausea wash over him like a flood of garbage, just a room away.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that I’m depressed again. It’s mild, it’s situational, and I’m not thinking suicidal thoughts; it’s just that all this sucks big time and there is no other place for these emotions to go but inward when I’m not in the sanctuary of Kathy’s office. At the same time I am oddly agitated, and my mind races so fast even I can’t keep up with it. I know this because a couple of people have caught me in the middle of a conversation coming up with ideas that are way down the line from that point in the chat:

“Mom, does chicken Alfredo sound good for dinner tonight?”

What I think:[yesitsoundsgoodyouknowIloveyourcookingIhopeyourDadcanholditdown][ohyeahdidyouknowthey’retryingtopassalawsayingthatpeoplewithmentalhealthproblemscanbebannedfrombuyinggunsIdidn’tgiveupmySecondAmendmentrightsatthedoortomypsychiatrist’soffice!][Andbytheway…]

What I say:

“When you get back from the home show tomorrow, I need the car to go out and buy Zinnie some dog food.”

Yep, I’m a bit distracted. But then, I don’t know how to do this. I’ve never been in this place before, except in the beginning when we thought Will would die within a couple of months. And who knows, maybe the chemo won’t be as bad as we both think it’ll be, and maybe it’ll buy us a little more time.

But the anger burns, deep down inside…fuck cancer, I want my husband to live until we’re both so old we can barely see each other even with trifocals! I want the roses to bloom in his cheeks again and chase away the pallor. I want a 40th anniversary and a 50th anniversary. But I would settle for a break from the puking and the weakness, if only for a little while.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Dance Hair

Well, this year instead of a dance bun, we’re doing a dance ponytail.  I am so relieved I can hardly stand it.  I may have a chance of doing this right.  So that was tonight, learning how they wanted their hair put up and how their eyes are supposed to look for onstage makeup.  So that was my night figuring that out.

Went and celebrated Mary Jane’s birthday today with lunch out.  I gave her two writing books and hope they will lead her back into writing.  She has such a talent for it.  So we talked about how things were going and how much she hated the people at her job.  That was why I gave her the writing books, you see–to convince her to go ahead and retire and spend her time writing.  WE will see how that turns out.

My oldest daughter goes back to school tomorrow. We will miss her but she will enjoy being back.  I just hope she’s able to find someone to help her in her microbiology class. She has a meeting with the head of the Honors Program  on Tuesday and will hopefully get the support she needs to come off probation on her scholarship.

Anyway.  I have felt pretty good all this week.  I slept in today because BOb said I tossed and turned and had bad dreams.  I don’t remember that, but that’s okay.  Life is good right now.  Hopefully I can stay this optimistic and hopeful for a while.

 


I Made The News Today, Oh Boy! ;) Please Read!

I’d like to ask each of you a BIG favor…and then I’ll owe you one! Please visit this link at Huff Post Women and leave a comment, a Facebook like, a Facebook share, and whatever else the page allows you to do. If you read it, I’d be honored! ;) I’d like to thank the … Continue reading I Made The News Today, Oh Boy! ;) Please Read!