Author Archives: Catherine Godfrey

Intentions

During my recent hospitalization, the doctor expressed doubt that I am, in fact, bipolar I but that I am rather mildly bipolar II, but much more so a victim of unresolved grief and loss.  I think there is some truth to that. Therefore, it is my intention, with the help of God, to release the disappointment, resentment, and pain I have suffered in my life.  As part of that release, I am considering closing down this blog.  Dwelling on the negative in my life has done me no good.  What has done me good, however, is the sense that sharing my experiences, and trying to put a positive light on them, has done you some good.

Therefore, if you would, please indicate whether or not this blog has been a help to you.  I share from Saint Francis in that I hope to be an instrument of God's peace.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.

I know lately I have sought to be consoled.  I have not been well.  But I am taking steps (even baby steps) to shed myself of the crap of a painful life.  If I continue this blog, it is my intention to bring hope, light, joy, and peace.

Your response will help me decide what to do.

Hospitalization (Caution: mentions suicidal ideation)

Until recently, the thought of being hospitalized gave me cold chills and sweats.  My first images of hospitalization came from a 1967 movie starring Rosalind Russell as Rosie Lord who (I believe...my memory could be warped) was committed to a mental hospital by her children.  The children felt Rosie was being irresponsible (and selfish?) in spending their 'inheritance.'  Somehow, at the age of 12 or 13, I knew that this scenario was significant and scary.  There was force.  There was screaming.  Imagine Rosalind Russell without makeup, wiry hair awry, gown askew.  I imagined electric shock and straight jackets.  I still feel nauseated at the thought of being forced, held down, and injected.  I made my mother promise to never let that happen to me.

Flash forward to two years ago when I helped a family member move into a hospital mental health ward.  I was afraid but did my best to not show it.  I was supportive and positive.  I visited on visitation day and attended the group sessions that day.  I was there to take that person home when the time came.

Last Sunday, when the kids were visiting their father and grandfather on Father's Day, I found myself finalizing plans on another technique for exiting this earth.  Before actually gathering the materials and implements, I made a call to my therapist.  Bless her heart, I was interrupting her packing for a week long retreat and I got the feeling she didn't have a lot of extra time. She made some inquiries and called me back.  There were no available beds in Western North Carolina.  none.  I kept packing.

Ultimately, I drove to a nearby city, found the hospital, and checked into the ER.  All told I spent 23 hours dozing in the brightly lit ER examining room with a security guard blocking my door.  He was actually quite sweet.  Every time I turned over he would ask if I was doing ok with a thumbs up query.  Sometimes I gave him a thumbs up...sometimes the thumb was sideways.  One of the nurses apologized for my having to wait in the ER for a room to open up upstairs.  I told her it was fine; there were no painkillers, tranquilizers, or razor blades there.  All I had to do was sleep, and so I slept.

The next afternoon, I was walked upstairs by two security guards.  Not having been on the ward before myself, I didn't realize at the time that it was customary...and loving...to congregate and line the halls to see the new person on the ward.  It didn't take long to make friends and be a friend to several of the people there.  I miss them and sincerely pray for their good fortune and healing.

No one was mistreated.  No one was forced to take their meds or needed restraint.  It was a sometimes happy, orderly, serene place with caring, kind, and often funny attendants. I could look down on a peaceful garden, up into the changing sky, or out into the trees outside my room.  We talked about art, spirituality, stress reduction, wellness, and grief.  The food was even not too bad.

I have a friend who thinks fondly on his own rather lengthy stay in a hospital.  The idea disturbed me at the time he told me so.  I now know better.  Getting out was a surreal experience.  My medication has been rather drastically changed so perhaps that explains my less than perfect driving skills.  Traffic on the interstate, while orderly and reasonable, was too much stimulation for me.  But I made it home.  And I went to work putting my home in order.  I wanted to replicate the tone and feel of the hospital ward.

I want to thank those of you who were concerned for me.  That was kind and thoughtful of you.

Someone in the hospital referred to the experience as resetting their buttons.  I think that is a good way of putting it.  I think about the internet modem and router.  Occasionally, they need to be reset, and apparently, so do I.

For Chris and my friends

I'm on my way to the inpatient ward at the hospital.

later

Risky Behavior

In the past, my risky behavior consisted of over-spending and and the occasional un-protected sex with someone I hardly knew.  Now, I have speed.  No, not the drug...the car.  My little BMW Z3 M Roadster is Fast.  And I love it.  Yesterday, on a major 4-lane highway, south of town, I sat at a red light.  Behind me was an orange Mustang.  When the light turned green, I floored it.  The mustang stayed with me.  I slammed in the clutch and changed gears.  The Mustang moved over to the right lane and tried to catch up but I didn't let him.  We caught up to traffic and he sat several cars back.  He eventually moved up.  Having not done this much, I was inexperienced in the etiquette of racing...so, when he moved up beside me, I simply looked over.  The grey-haired man about my age was giving me the thumbs up.  What a thrill!  Traffic was on the move so we couldn't converse.  He yelled over, "Now, you have to let me in ahead of you."  I was already ahead of him at that point and traffic wasn't cooperating so he pulled off at the next corner.

I feel bad that I didn't do it right.  My son would have known what to do.  But I still feel good.  I hope Mr. Mustang doesn't think I snubbed him.  I just don't know what I'm doing.  We may have broken a speed limit. but we didn't endanger anyone's lives.  We had fun, which I don't ordinarily do. To Mr. Mustang...

thumbs up.

Friend

I met a friend on a mental health website.  I said we were all "wounded healers."  He said we were all looking for validation.  I had hoped we were more altruistic than that.  But this started a discussion that left the website and moved to our personal email spaces.  We discussed our histories, abuse, medication, children, ourselves as children, music, books, travels, hopes, opportunities, aspirations, limitations, and the idea that we would like to meet...one day.  1000 emails later, he is gone.

He had a manic episode that I did not know how to handle.  He was getting 'in your face' confrontational with people in his neighborhood.  I tried to calm him down and that was apparently not the thing to do.  He signed off...and that's the last I've heard from him.

So many feelings...so many reactions...so many possibilities.  I hope he's alive.  I hope he's safe.  I hope he knows I care about him deeply and would not abandon him...intentionally.

Our two months of correspondence walked me back away from a near-fatal depression last spring.  I now face the days without the dozens or more new emails titled in bright blue.  The silence roars with intensity,.and I wonder, what happened to him.

I will not think I could have been hurt...that I am better off.  In spite of his intentions to go out looking for trouble, I know he would not have hurt me.  I feel no concern for that.  I did not like the intensity of his anger and belligerence...that is why I failed to be what he needed at the time...friend.

I hurt, but I'm ok.  In one unanswered email, I said I was like a SETI technician, sending out signals in hopes that I would one day hear something back.

Walls

(addendum to previous post.)
He said that it is healthy for people to build walls and boundaries around themselves.  But it is always other people building walls around themselves to shut me out.  I didn't think I had boundary issues.  I don't think of myself as being invasive or intrusive.  But that's usually the problem:  I don't think there is a problem until it is too late.  My intuition and perception are flawed, damaged, non-functioning.  My early warning systems are dead.  All that's left is damage to clean up.

Are walls good or bad?

I’m tired of being inappropriate

I'm tired.  I'm fed up.  I say the wrong thing.  I do the wrong thing.  I live the wrong way.  I realize 'normal' people make mistakes, but I do the wrong thing all the time.  Just ask my children or my friends or my coworkers or the people I meet online.  Life will be sailing along and suddenly I'll rock the boat.  I'll step over the line.  And ruin everything.

I need asylum.  I need a place to go where I am allowed and expected to be dysfunctional, a place where I am safe and not expected to interact with others in any meaningful way...except to take pills.  It would be nice if there were azaleas and oak trees but right now I'd be content with a cardboard box.

I'm not depressed.  I'm not manic.  I'm not suicidal.  But I am tired.  I feel that if I could just stand still, not say anything, not write anything, not think or feel anything, then maybe I would do no harm.  No additional harm.  I have been so inappropriate all my life that I embarrass myself.  I am appalled at some of the things I have said and done.  Some of it is documented online, or in databases, or people's memories.  It's out there. And the darn thing is, I don't feel inappropriate when I'm doing it...just when I'm looking back on it.

Why can't I just be nice and normal?  Why did I have to be bipolar?  Or why couldn't I be so mentally ill that I don't know what I'm doing...even later.

I'm sorry, there's not much hope or encouragement in this post.  I'm afraid of what my next gaffe is going to be.

What goes up must come down

Remember that little blue car I cried about a few posts ago, well, I hemmed and hawed, listened and reasoned, listed and prayed...then I bought it.  Now I know which ones of you are dialing my number right now.  Relax.  It's going to be okay...but not without a few adjustments.  But that is not what I am here to discuss.  I bought the car yesterday and let my son drive it home.  He's quite familiar with that kind of clutch, etc.  Then this morning, I drove it with him coaching me on the finer points of braking, fast clutch work, tight steering, breaking loose the back end, and when not to do that.  We put the top down and went up on the parkway and then wound down Elk Mountain Scenic Highway.  We even took it to show my priest, who gets to drive it next week.

This afternoon, I started feeling bad.  My daughter and I had to go to the grocery store but I did not feel comfortable taking the little car.  Back from the store, I still felt bad and after putting away the groceries I climbed into the bed for a nap.  I did not sleep long.  I just lay in the bed a while until I started thinking about the car.  I thought,"Oh my God, what have I done?"  My heart started racing, my breath came quick.  What have I done?  I bought something I have wanted for a long time.  I went over my reasoning.  It is sound.  I went over my financial strategy.  It is going to work.  And my back up strategy?  That will work too.  So what is going on?  Why am I so upset?

It is simple...what goes up must come down...at least in the bipolar world.  Getting the car was exciting.  Driving the car was a thrill.  Is this a let down?  No, I do not think so.  I feel more of a responsibility to the new car, responsibility to keep it well maintained and protected.  There is still a lot more I need to learn about the car's gauges and temperatures and switches.  There is a weight to it I do not feel with my other car.  But, no, I am not let down.  I am tired and a little overwhelmed and coming down off of a high.  That is what we do.  And just like the car, I am to be well maintained and protected.  I will eat healthy, rest well, and prepare to fend off those of you who may feel justified to cluck and scold.

A Metaphor for Depression

At some point in this vacation/pilgrimage to the place of my upbringing, Charleston, I decided to walk from the motel to a very well-known restaurant that sits at the edge of the Ashley River.  I waited only a short time before I was seated at a window that looked out across the salt marsh to the river..and across the river to the city marina and downtown Charleston beyond.  The experience of sitting at that window has stayed with me...and now I know why.

I came to Charleston to reconnect with sensations I equate with happiness...sparkling water, sunshine, boats, salt marsh, sea birds, etc  In that restaurant, I had the perfect seat.  I was not in the glare of the setting sun, not yet mellowed.  I had the perfect view.  But, I was miserable.  It was TOO FREAKIN LOUD! Annoying music, dozens of conversations, tables being dragged and dropped.  People were having to scream to be heard.  And when I sought solace in the things I loved, I was met with a cold, hard piece of glass.  I could not hear the sea birds, I could not smell the salt marsh, I could not feel the soft breezes or hear the clinking of the sailboat masts.  It was all out there, but it was beyond my reach.  It was not for me.

I am coming up out of a near-fatal depression and I am trying to feel something, something happy, something other than anger, resentment, fear, and disappointment.

It is Sunday morning.  The restaurant is closed now.  I went for a walk in the early morning sunshine, skirting around the large, empty parking lot, beside the salt marsh, across in front of the restaurant (the music is still playing inside), and back along another marina.  I gazed across the water and caught my breath.  There on the opposite dock was a sailboat, painted varnished teak and blue. I'm not good at guessing lengths but she had only one mast.  It was so unexpected, almost hidden like an easter egg.

When you are in a serious depression, you do not really expect to come out.  But sometimes, something so unexpected, something so insignificant, can give you a little bit of hope.

Have you ever been surprised to find hope?


Going by home

I had this great idea.  I thought that after enduring a scary and life-changing depression, I should reconnect with things I know I love:  water, sky, clouds, boats, salt marsh, sea birds, ... Charleston, SC. and the surrounding areas.

When I was depressed, I no longer felt any affection for art, writing, photography, or even getting up and getting dressed.  I did dishes and laundry like a mantra.

Pulling out of the depression, I felt vacant and a little afraid of being interested in anything.  I thought a gentle trip home would help.

Well, first of all, it is Spring Break. There are so many people, and so much traffic, no parking, and so much noise.  Everywhere I went yesterday, there were festivals.  What do you do at festivals?  You eat and spend money and get overwhelmed by the crowds.  I do not need that...any of that.

I have seen the shimmering water, the changing light in the sky, lazy clouds, the salt marsh at high and low tides, watched the sea gulls surfing on the wind, and even caught a whiff of plough (pluff) mud.  Lithe, white sailboats are all around me.  It does not do it for me, anymore. It just makes me sad.

I grew up here.  I went to college here.  I went through several relationships while living here.  I have not been by the houses where I lived...that would be getting too close.  My childhood was painful and sad.  I would not do it again.  Since the crisis a few weeks ago, I have spent a lot of time writing and talking about memories of hard and disappointing times.  Being here brings up more...foolish financial decisions, inappropriate relationships, break-ups, mean neighborhoods, frustrations, and prolonged depressions.  At one point in my life I wanted to return and live here.  I can barely afford to live where I am much less live in Charleston.

I have been very critical and intolerant of the frustrations here and that is not like me.  I suspect the new medication I am on has some play in that.  However, while walking in the sand with my head down, yesterday, I struggled with my reaction to it all:  art, photography, salt marshes, etc. and decided I needed new material, new things, new places.  My set of standby's has too many negative memories attached.

I'm feeling a little fragile.  I will need to take it slow.

Any suggestions?