Author Archives: Amy Purdy
Between the recent time change and Douglas’s day off getting changed from Wednesday to Thursday, I’m a little loopy these days. To elaborate, the time change really messed up my son’s sleep schedule. He started sleeping later, not taking a nap, and not sleeping for most of the night. As much as I tried to get him up earlier and earlier to get us back on track, it seemed to only make it worse. He still wouldn’t take a nap and would end up so extremely cranky by the end of the day that we were both in tears. I tried putting him to bed earlier but this resulted in him sleeping two hours and being up the rest of the night.
Amazing what the change of one small hour can do to a toddler’s circadian rhythm.
Likewise, to the bipolar brain it’s a wild ride with no sense of direction in sight. It usually takes me at least a month to adjust, but by then the lack of sleep has triggered a manic episode and off I go, knowing I will eventually crash, just not knowing when. Not to complain, but Daylight Savings kind of sucks.
I’ve danced in and around mixed episodes and manias this past week. On the plus side, Jacen actually took a nap today so maybe, just maybe, he will be back to his regular sleep schedule soon, in which case I can try to resume mine. Only time will tell!
In the meantime, I’ve been working on changing up my schedule, because – I hate to use the misused phrase I’m so OCD, but since I actually do have OCD, I think I am allowed to do so – I am so OCD about schedules! I am constantly writing schedules for myself and the rest of my family. Not that we ever use them, but I guess it’s sort of like a hobby of mine. An intrusive, obsessive, compulsive hobby of mine. My schedules have to be perfect, only they can never truly be perfect. I want everything to go according to plan, no detours, but family life is nothing but detours. So I write another schedule. And another. Instead of writing a book about my life or a fictional character, I should just bundle up all my schedules and sell them as examples of what could but most likely won’t work for every other mom out there. There are plenty of self-help books out there about just this particular thing. I know, because I’ve read a few. There are sites galore about organizing time and setting priorities. I know, because I’ve read most of those too. And yes, it occurs to me on a daily basis that if I would just give up on the scheduling and actually enjoy my life, I would have a lot more time to get the things I’m scheduling done. But does OCD ever make sense? I think not. And these lists represent the fine strings I am trying to pull to make sure everything is safe, solid and secure for all the people I love. Between making lists and schedules, and praying The Prayer perfectly every few seconds throughout the day, I almost calm the anxiety. Not really, but I’m convinced everything and everyone I love would spontaneously combust if I stopped any of it. So. I write lists and schedules. And I pray. And I do a whole slew of other things like washing my hands and organizing things in a certain manner (that may or may not seem logical to others), but we will delve into those some other day. For now, I am going to leave you with a few feel-goods that I sincerely try to keep in mind myself, despite what my OCD tendencies tell me, and despite how time changes and bipolar disorder try to derail my efforts:
Oh me. Me and my rapid thoughts. I feel like there is a blender going full force inside my head. I have so much I want to get done, so many ideas zooming in and out…mainly focused around getting organized and resetting my schedule and making things just so in life. But when everything is coming at me so fast all at once, I just want to break down and cry from the stress. As it is, I am trying (trying!) to relax. For one thing, I am on the verge of a migraine. That’s nothing new, since I have a migraine nearly every day, but I do try to prevent them if at all possible, because I don’t have an endless supply of Relpax. I’ve resorted to stress eating again, which is something I must nip in the bud before I gain all my weight back.
I realize it probably sounds like I am manic, and in a way I am, but there’s an underlying depression, a frustration with all I can’t seem to get a hold on, so I guess this qualifies as one of my mixed episodes. Truly, the mixed episodes tend to be the most uncomfortable. Imagine having a very annoying itch that you just can’t scratch…it’s right in the center of your skull and there are a million flies swarming around it. Part of you wants to claw it out – blood, guts, whatever – but part of you just, sigh, doesn’t have the strength to try. So you sit there, itching, craving peace, craving silence. But all that swarming is loud and relentless…
Is it any wonder why there are so many suicide attempts (and successes) during mixed episodes?
Not that I am suicidal. But the noise can drive one to do unruly things. I don’t blame anyone for trying to drink this mess away. Or dope it away. Or to even try to kill it away. Not that substance abuse or suicide is the answer; of course not! But it’s understandable. Sometimes when the noise is so loud, it’s hard to believe there will ever, ever be quiet calm again.
“At times it may seem as though you and your past are one. Sometimes we fail to differentiate between what has happened to us and who we are today. If you have a hard time getting beyond that damaging mind-set let me encourage you right now. You are not your past Although you are changed and shaped by past experiences who you were yesterday does not control the person you have the potential to become tomorrow.” -Sue Augustine, When Your Past Is Hurting Your Present
The following was written in 2009, not long after my dad passed away from cancer. I thought I would share it on here in honor of his birthday; he would have turned 78 today. As hard as certain dates are for me, like the date of his death, Christmas, etc., his birthday always hits me the hardest. I don’t think the pain of losing my dad will ever go away, not completely. I have learned that it is okay to grieve forever, as long as I don’t let it hinder my living. Though my dad is gone from this earth, it is up to me to keep him alive in my heart and to make sure his grandchildren never forget how wonderful he was. Whether you lost your loved one recently or years ago, don’t ever let go of those precious memories. They are an important part of who you are, and if you regard them in the right way, the loss of that person can fuel your future, making you strive to be the best you can. I wish my dad was still here today. But five years after his passing, I can see how losing him opened my eyes to the world around me. Everything I do, I do for him. I know he can’t see the choices I make, but I like to think if he could he would be proud.
Hesitantly I take the photo album off the shelf and open it to my favorite page. It is a picture of my father and me at my fourth birthday pool party in the month of June, 1983. Someone had given me a make-up set for the occasion and he’s helping apply a thin layer of pink lipstick to my young lips.
I close the album before the tears pooling in my eyes can drop onto the pages. The best memories of my childhood are times spent with my dad, yet he passed away on February 15th of this year. I have tried to stuff these memories into a dark corner in my head, afraid that to relive them is to ache all the more for the loss of something that can never be replaced. I have tried to convince myself that it is better to let the memories die along with him, to forgo the bliss of happy times in order to ignore the pain of losing him.
But on this day I resolve to embrace what I have tried so hard in the past few months to push away. With a deep breath I close my eyes and allow myself to drift slowly to the place where fragments of memory trickle in, and then I feel a great whoosh of emotion as it all floods back to me. I brace myself and fall back in time to where a little girl’s world revolved around her Daddy…
Saturdays were when we went to town, just the two of us, leaving my mother to some peace and quiet at home. Our trips were predictable and commonplace. I would climb up into his black Ford with the red interior and we would take the scenic route from Maysville to Jefferson. As old country songs softly filled the cab I would gaze out the window at the clumps of majestic trees broken only by the patches of grassy pastures. I would point to the horses and cattle that grouped themselves here and there and he would smile in wonder of the countryside as if he were seeing it through my own tender eyes. Often he would tell me stories of his own childhood. The funny things he and his cousins would do. The tricks he would play on his sisters. His horrible fear of rabid dogs back then. Sometimes I would sing songs to him that I had made up and he would delight in my creativity to make words and music intertwine with my tunes about pets and places and people.
Among stops at the hardware store, quick browses at the small shops downtown, and payment of the electric bill at JEMC, our trips would often include visiting his parents at their home in Dry Pond. My grandfather would let me help myself to his peanut brittle and Danish cookies and Daddy would play a game of checkers with me. I always revelled in the times I won the game because he always made it a challenge and never let me win on purpose.
In the hot days of summer my favorite part of Saturdays was the stop at the old Langford store where Daddy would buy us each a cold bottled YooHoo and Mr. Langford would try to bribe me into talking to him with promise of a piece of bubble gum. I would duck my head shyly and pull close to Daddy’s side while Mr. Langford would chuckle and claim “That’s the most bashful child I’ve ever seen” and hand me the piece of bubblegum anyway. As we left I would look up at Daddy and grin. He would laugh and help me back into the truck and we would enjoy our cold drinks on the trip back home.
The best memories from my childhood revolve around Daddy. Adolescence brought more bittersweet instances, as a father tried to hold on to the child, while the child tried even harder to grow up and branch out into her own patterns. That is the way of a teenager. This made for arguments, hurt, resentment. Still, there were the happy moments. The jokes. The recollections of past years. The sense of being the same in so many ways. Despite being adopted, he never treated me like I wasn’t his own flesh and blood, and people who didn’t know otherwise would swear I looked just like him. We shared a lot of common interests, so beyond being a father to me, he was a great friend and a wise teacher. He taught me the importance of being polite and considerate of others, of working hard and saving for tomorrow. My daddy was truly a good man. Forget the bad temper and the occasional criticisms. Beyond that, he was trying to mold me into someone who could make it in this world.
I have not “made it” in this world as well as he and I had hoped. I feel like I let him down many times, though he never seemed to stop loving me. He had a hard time accepting and understanding my mental illness (as we all did), and I was ashamed of being considered “broken” to someone who meant so much to me. In my humility I distanced myself from him the last few years of his life. We still talked on the phone daily, but I rarely visited. I live to regret this now, as I wonder if he knew when he died how much I still thought the world of him. How I will never live a day on this earth not wondering what he would have me to do, what paths would make him proud. For all the times he helped me during my life, whether financially or with his wisdom and advice, I can never, ever repay.
I had the privilege of seeing his face light up every time I brought my daughters over to see him. He was such a good Pawpaw to the girls. It was the most beautiful sight in the world to see him outside playing with them. Together they would plant sunflowers, pick blackberries, and feed the birds. He would help Kayley find rocks for her collection, just as he had for me when I was that age. She and Emily would giggle in delight every time he rode them around in the wagon. Because of Daddy, my girls now have memories that mirror the ones I have.
Reliving these memories hurts. It creates a lump in the throat, a strangled intensity that will not pass. But it is important to keep these recollections alive, to never hide them in the corner, to never let them fade into useless frozen matter. These memories are my only lifeline to the greatness of my father. I will not abandon these thoughts, these feelings, these regrets, no matter how much it pains me. I will not abandon my father’s legacy, and I will do all I can to protect it.
One of my favorite genres to read is memoirs, but it is not often that I find one that moves me to the extent that Karen Lynch’s Good Cop, Bad Daughter did. Her thorough account of a difficult childhood and how it prepared her for a career in the police field is written with passion and eloquence, with just the right amount of humor woven in.
Karen learned at a very young age that survival would require her to be self-reliant and courageous. Her mother, Ann, suffered from a severe case of bipolar disorder, and while medication subdued many of her symptoms, she often stopped taking it and drank heavily instead. Her extreme manias were characterized by paranoia and irrational thoughts. This caused some very rocky relationships with the men in her life as well as a negative view of police and other authority figures. As a mother, Ann was often neglectful, and sometimes even violent toward Karen. Karen was often left alone during her mother’s erratic travels and frequent hospitalizations. If it had not been for Jim, one of Ann’s discarded boyfriends, Karen would have been homeless and may not have survived.
Pursuing what had been her mother’s dream of becoming a nurse, Karen did not feel like it was her true calling. Still, she knew she had to make something of herself and nursing seemed like a noble career. Then, one day, she saw a vision of herself being a police officer, and suddenly something just clicked. Karen knew her destiny. She just didn’t know how hard it would be to attain it.
In the late seventies, San Francisco had just recently opened up to the idea of female police officers on street patrol. Many of the older trainers that Karen performed for in the academy were still skeptical, and sometimes downright cruel, about the prospect of a woman making it in such a male-dominated role. With persistence and dedication, Karen graduated as the only woman in her class and joined the San Francisco Police Department in 1981.
I really enjoyed this book, though I had my guard up when I first began reading it. I was afraid it was going to be yet another book portraying the evil side of a “crazy” person, and at first glance perhaps it is. After all, there is nothing cute and fluffy about bipolar disorder. Even in the best of circumstances it can wreak havoc on a family, as I can firmly attest to from my own experience with the illness. It is always surreal reading about bipolar disorder from a perspective outside of the person who has the illness. We are so often painted as “the bad guys” in media, and sadly it is sometimes true. Yet, as painful as it was to read what all Karen went through with her mother, I finished the book feeling justified in my own attempts to so desperately cling to any shred of normalcy in my life that I can. I know I try so hard because I don’t want to be that kind of mother who neglects or harms her children. While I know I fail to be the most stable parent, my heart is in the right place to seek out what my children need and be there for them the best way I can. Mental illness can rob us of sentiment and rationale. I am no exception. And yet, I have learned from my highs and lows, and while I can’t completely control what happens, I have learned enough to keep myself in check, to recognize triggers and symptoms, and to trust my loved ones when they say I am getting out of hand. Ann never learned these things, or else she ignored them. I think a lot of that can be contributed to her drinking habits; then again, I know what it’s like to try to self-medicate the illness away. I also know it just doesn’t work that way.
I would recommend Good Cop, Bad Daughter to anyone who loves a good memoir. It really opened my eyes to the extent of training that our police officers go through in order to be deemed good candidates for keeping our streets safe. It also made me realize that out of seemingly hopeless circumstances, greatness can be achieved. As Karen so eloquently wrote on her closing page, “Hoping for a different life is a pointless exercise. Ultimately we must all make the best of the lives we are given.” (p.276)
I really appreciate the readers of this blog, old and new, and I am thrilled when I receive comments. I try to respond to each one personally and visit your blogs as well, so I want to apologize for not keeping up with that the past few days. I am having some major panic issues, or else I’m dying (just kidding…maybe…I hope!) It started while I was exercising Thursday evening. I was at a moderate pace when I began feeling that familiar tightness in my chest. I began slowing my workout down so that I could stop and rest because it felt like a panic attack was about to happen. Within seconds it was a fullblown attack, which feels exactly like a heart attack (from what I have read and been told). I struggled to go get some Tums (for the indigestion and nausea that comes along with the attacks) and a Klonopin (reserved for the worst ones) and worked on calming myself with my breathing exercises. I tried to imagine myself floating on air, light and careless. Usually all of these things combined ease a panic attack within 10-20 minutes, but this one just kept going. I stumbled into the bedroom to wake my fiance (not due up for another couple of hours for his night shift) so he could watch our son and try to calm me down. At this point I was beginning to worry a lot. What if this really is a heart problem? After all, I was exercising, maybe I overdid it. Maybe I am dying. Maybe I need to go to the hospital. I tried to voice my concerns to my fiance, but I can’t talk during these attacks so all I could do was softly gasp out words like “dying!” and “hospital!” Douglas has had a lot of experience seeing me like this, so he wasn’t worried at all. He just kept telling me to breathe and to remember that I am strong and I will get through this. When it was time for him to leave for work and the pain had still not eased off, he brought me the phone and told me to call if I needed him.
I gripped that phone to my chest all night, in such mental and physical agony. Why has this not stopped yet?!?!? Should I call Douglas? Should I call an ambulance? Obviously, if a “normal” person was having chest pains this severe, it would make sense to seek medical attention; it would be stupid not to! But when you are a mental health patient with a history of panic attacks, it feels more like a matter of crying wolf. I know how it goes with this sort of thing at the ER. First of all, I don’t have insurance so they wouldn’t be real gung ho about helping me anyway. Any tests they run would be cut down to a bare legal minimum, and then at the least little peep that I have a mental health condition, they would convince me it is, indeed, all in my head and send me home. Of course, I would still get a bill for thousands of dollars, a nice little award for me being scared enough to wait hours in an emergency room for nothing. Yay. That’s really what I want to go through when I am either having a panic attack (as usual) or my heart is about to explode.
So, I did not call the ambulance.
And I did not call Douglas because I knew he was working and he knew the condition I was in when he left me, and if he decided it was safe to leave me alone (well, with our sleeping child beside me in the bed) then maybe I should just trust him.
I was still in the same condition when he got home the next morning; I had wafted in and out of sleep the last two hours of the night, but had otherwise been completely awake and in pain. I finally, after 25 hours of this mess, started feeling better Friday evening. I was very thankful for this, not only because I was exhausted and tired of the pain, but I wanted to be able to enjoy having my girls home this weekend. I had to take it easy as far as physical activity and stressful situations, but fortunately they all got along very nicely this weekend, with none of the usual fights. I have felt a lot of tightness in my chest here and there, but when I laid down for a few minutes it would subside and I could resume what I was doing before. We had a lot of fun with some art projects and flying kites. It was a truly great weekend, even with the fear of a rebound attack. I am going to try to find a doctor to see me about this soon, ideally this week. In the mean time, I will attempt to keep calm and carry on.
Some days just spin me in too many directions, and this was one of them. My moods have been all over the chart and then some. I’ve had my feelings hurt. I’ve been scared. I’ve been pissed off. I’ve been deliriously happy. And soooo many hallucinations, or at least I assume I was hallucinating, unless there really is a league of white uniformed aliens outside following me around while I am trying to play with my son.
Days like this are just, ugh, no words. So out there, so all-consuming, so confusing. I kept putting my hand on my chest and feeling how hollow and soundless I am. Am I even here? Am I a ghost? But then I would tense with that drumming in my brain, the feeling feeling feeling until I wanted to scream out that I don’t want to feel anything anymore! But it will never stop. Not until death, and then, who knows…the rat-a-tat-tat may follow me for all eternity.
After a long stretch of depression (and when I say long I mean long for a rapid cycler) I began feeling really good again on Saturday and now it’s getting to that slightly hypomanic stage where I am still feeling good but the rapid thoughts are getting a little out of hand. I have accomplished a decent amount of spring cleaning, but I keep finding more and more things I want to get done, and I am having to remind myself to tone it down so I don’t get frustrated and rageful. My son has been sick with a mild cold the past few days so he is a little slower than usual. Granted, a lot grumpier, but then there are sweet moments where he wants to be held, and freeing moments where he will play quietly on his own. The grumpy screamfests have been intense, but understandable. I sometimes feel like pitching a fit when I have a stuffy nose and fever too. Right now I am enjoying a purely quiet moment while he takes a nap…ah, sweet bliss! Oh, but I miss him already. Isn’t that the way it always goes?
In my efforts to spring clean I found the file with all my mental health related articles so hopefully I can do something productive with that soon. Ideally, I would like to take one subject matter a week and post a few things pertaining to it on this here blog, but whether it actually happens will be a surprise for us all.
Hypomania likes to pump me full of grand ideas and confidence, and then she runs out on me and I’m left with a mess on my hands. The ol’ bitch. Oh well, I’m just going to accept it day to day and see what happens.