Author Archives: Waldo Jeffords

Recovering from someone else’s surgery

(In which I become worthless)

On Monday I drove my parents to a hospital an hour away to get my dad's battery changed that powers his deep brain stimulation for Parkinson's.  It was a minor surgery that lasted less than an hour, went off without a hitch, and he continues to make a painless recovery.


If you don't know what deep brain stimulation is (and don't want to follow the link) he basically has electrodes buried deep in his brain that are constantly stimulating a very specific area which completely stops his tremors.  The battery is underneath chest tissue (the thing called the pulse generator in the picture).


By the way, my dad's skin is not blue.

Given that everything went well, why did I become so utterly exhausted?  Most can probably relate to the experience of anticipating a loved one's surgery and the seemingly endless waiting.  You're just waiting, but it drains you.  I think it also transported my mom and I back to the original surgery which took over 13 hours.  My dad was in the hospital for 10 days afterwards.  He had aphasia and it took months for his speech to return to normal.  Even though this was nothing like that, we saw him made up for surgery and I think our minds returned to that horrible time.

I slept for almost 12 hours both Monday night and Wednesday night.  I've been under a deadline at work and had to really force myself to stay on task.  The pressure lifted yesterday afternoon.  Since then I've been listless, unmotivated, even apathetic.  For something so critical as this job to keep my family afloat, it seems reckless to be such a slacker.  I say, "I would so fire me." on a week like this.  Obviously I haven't felt like blogging much either.  I can't believe I wrote five posts in five days a while back.  That was definitely the up, and I'm definitely in the down now.  As Mary said, it feels like in Monopoly... "Do not pass Go, do not collect 200 dollars, experience depression and moodiness from December to July."

Image credit - Deep brain (public domain)

Recovering from someone else’s surgery

On Monday I drove my parents to a hospital an hour away to get my dad's battery changed that powers his deep brain stimulation for Parkinson's.  It was a minor surgery that lasted less than an hour, went off without a hitch, and he continues to make a painless recovery.  If you don't know what deep brain stimulation is (and don't want to follow the link) he basically has electrodes buried deep in his brain that are constantly stimulating a very specific area which completely stops his tremors.  The battery is underneath chest tissue (the thing called the pulse generator in the picture).  By the way, my dad's skin is not blue.

Given that everything went well, why did I become so utterly exhausted?  Most can probably relate to the experience of anticipating a loved one's surgery and the seemingly endless waiting.  You're just waiting, but it drains you.  I think it also transported my mom and I back to the original surgery which took over 13 hours.  My dad was in the hospital for 10 days afterwards.  He had aphasia and it took months for his speech to return to normal.  Even though this was nothing like that, we saw him made up for surgery and I think our minds returned to that horrible time.

I slept for almost 12 hours both Monday night and Wednesday night.  I've been under a deadline at work and had to really force myself to stay on task.  The pressure lifted yesterday afternoon.  Since then I've been listless, unmotivated, even apathetic.  For something so critical as this job to keep my family afloat, it seems reckless to be such a slacker.  I say, "I would so fire me." on a week like this.  Obviously I haven't felt like blogging much either.  I can't believe I wrote five posts in five days a while back.  That was definitely the up, and I'm definitely in the down now.  As Mary said, it feels like in Monopoly... "Do not pass Go, do not collect 200 dollars, experience depression and moodiness from December to July."

Image credit - Deep brain (public domain)

God’s not dead vs. God doesn’t exist

(In which I pretend to know something about something)

Preface/Disclaimer
I don't have much to talk about my daily life or thoughts on bipolar recently.  I also like to rant into the ether.  I picture myself foaming at the mouth shouting to the void.  So... this is a rant about the title only of the "God's Not Dead" films. Some things to note:

I am not intentionally trying to be inflammatory or attack anyone's views.  I am more irritated with the choice of the title as it seems disingenuous.

My opinions are uniformed as I have not seen the films (only the trailers).

I am biased in that I assume based on the trailers that the films contain overblown, simplistic, inaccurate depictions of liberals and their views on religion.  That's understandable, you need some conflict in the movie.  However, I think it's a strawman.

My blather is mostly unoriginal.  It's what I learned in an undergrad philosophy class and from Wikipedia.  In other words, I haven't done much of my homework and am a pseudo-intellectual here at best.

Finally, I am not an atheist nor a devout Christian.  Based on manic experiences I have feelings about the existence of God which I may share another time.

Rant
Compare the statements "Santa Claus doesn't exist" vs. "Santa Claus is dead".  NOT to say God is like Santa Claus, only to highlight the very big difference between those statements.  In one sense, if you say "God is dead", then you have implicitly said that you think God existed and was alive at one point.  That is not what any atheist thinks; they obviously believe there is no God.

However, the history and meaning of God is dead is way more complicated than that if you read the Wikipedia article (I did so now I'm an expert :P).  It was never about an actual God who exists or doesn't. Nietzsche and others are pointing out that God was supposed to be our internal highest value and provide the absolute grounding of morality.  But we have lost all morality and have thus not realized we have "murdered" this source of internal values.  With our hypocrisy we will thus sink into nihilism. 

Are atheists nihilists?  By no means is this necessarily the case.  I think many atheists try to lead a moral life and vehemently argue that religion is not necessary for morality.  Atheists and those who don't want prayer in school don't necessarily value nothing and think that "anything goes" in this world.

So not only does the title "God's not dead" misrepresent atheists, it also glosses over the complexity and history of the whole statement.  It does sound defiant and proud though, which I think Christians want to think they are.  I'm guessing they want to think of themselves as brave in the face of perceived persecution despite the fact that we live in a country with an overwhelming Christian population with no real challenges to faith.

<Gets off soapbox>

If you want to read a short piece where God is dead is said (but not said first), check out The Parable of the Madman.  

Image credit: Nietzsche is in public domain

Are we the Albert Alexander of mental illness?

Mentions suicide but not with no specific recounting of a specific incident


I saw this thing on TV once about Albert Alexander who got an infection from a cut from a rose thorn, started to get better from manufactured penicillin, but then died from the infection because they could not manufacture enough penicillin in time.  It's a tragic story of someone who is terminally ill, received a successful experimental treatment, but the treatment couldn't fully cure him.

Since I've been reading mental health blogs recently (and blogging myself) I've really been thinking about mental health and its treatments.  As my mind often does, this strange comparison came to me.  Will some of us with bipolar be sort of like a mental health version of Albert Alexander?  Bear with me as this is a rather strained comparison... but I enjoy these kind of stretches.

First off it's not a trivial thing to think of fatality because as much as one in five of those with bipolar die from suicide.  In a sense we are all at risk and the clock is ticking on effective treatments vs. us ending our own lives.  They only tried penicillin on Albert Alexander because he had little chance of surviving.  We are maybe worse off because it seems unpredictable when depression or a mixed state will push us over the edge.  Personally I feel like being complacent is dangerous.  I don't feel like I am "past" suicide, despite multiple attempts.  I fear it always looms ahead of me as a tragic and real possibility.

The difficulty in replicating a treatment is not as dramatic these days of course.  By the time a drug is in a clinical trial, the company has figured out how to mass produce it.  However, there are arguably too many treatments already.  The brain is not as simple as an infection and treatment is not as simple as penicillin.  I might be missing out right now by not trying an available drug (e.g., Latuda which would cost me $900 a month).  Or what if that drug that totally will "fit" my brain is still in a clinical trial and I don't get it?  What if a revolutionary non-medication treatment comes out twenty years from now (something like TMS or ECT but totally "nails" the problem of bipolar in the brain)?  I will have been suffering (yes I don't think that's too strong a word) for those twenty years.

So while we are not exactly like Albert Alexander... there are millions of at the whims of the forces of research funding (and thus the economy), scientific interest, corporate profitability, and regulatory agencies.  We must hope there's some treatment already here that we can afford to try that will make a dramatic difference in our lives.  We must hope that an even better treatment will arrive soon.  We must hope.

Image credit: rose thorn


Are we the Albert Alexander of mental illness?

(In which I am jealous of the possible mental health treatments available in the future)

I saw this thing on TV once about Albert Alexander who got an infection from a cut from a rose thorn, started to get better from manufactured penicillin, but then died from the infection because they could not manufacture enough penicillin in time.

It's a tragic story of someone who is terminally ill, received a successful experimental treatment, but the treatment couldn't fully cure him.
Since I've been reading mental health blogs recently (and blogging myself) I've really been thinking about mental health and its treatments.  As my mind often does, this strange comparison came to me.  Will some of us with bipolar be sort of like a mental health version of Albert Alexander?  Bear with me as this is a rather strained comparison... but I enjoy these kind of stretches.

First off it's not a trivial thing to think of fatality because as much as one in five of those with bipolar die from suicide.  In a sense we are all at risk and the clock is ticking on effective treatments vs. us ending our own lives.  They only tried penicillin on Albert Alexander because he had little chance of surviving.  We are maybe worse off because it seems unpredictable when depression or a mixed state will push us over the edge.  Personally I feel like being complacent is dangerous.  I don't feel like I am "past" suicide, despite multiple attempts.  I fear it always looms ahead of me as a tragic and real possibility.

The difficulty in replicating a treatment is not as dramatic these days of course.  By the time a drug is in a clinical trial, the company has figured out how to mass produce it.  However, there are arguably too many treatments already.  The brain is not as simple as an infection and treatment is not as simple as penicillin.  I might be missing out right now by not trying an available drug (e.g., Latuda which would cost me $900 a month).  Or what if that drug that totally will "fit" my brain is still in a clinical trial and I don't get it?  What if a revolutionary non-medication treatment comes out twenty years from now (something like TMS or ECT but totally "nails" the problem of bipolar in the brain)?  I will have been suffering (yes I don't think that's too strong a word) for those twenty years.

So while we are not exactly like Albert Alexander... there are millions of at the whims of the forces of research funding (and thus the economy), scientific interest, corporate profitability, and regulatory agencies.  We must hope there's some treatment already here that we can afford to try that will make a dramatic difference in our lives.  We must hope that an even better treatment will arrive soon.  We must hope.

Image credit: rose thorn


Target parking lot "Atmosphere"

Describes suicide ideation
This Wednesday night I had a tantrum with Mary that (in hindsight) was really juvenile.  I was exhausted after work.  I could barely keep my eyes open even sitting up straight.  It was ten minutes before Curly Jones's (my son with autism if you haven't read earlier posts) bedtime.  I started to think whether my exhaustion was due to work or whether I was at a low energy point due to mental illness.  Feelings of self-pity and entitlement flooded through me.  I thought, "How often do I really reach for help from Mary?  Don't I hold my own most of the time?  I am so exhausted I'm not sure I can even handle putting him to bed. What a help it would be if she would do it for me!"

To provide some background here, our bedtime routine for him takes all of 10 minutes.  It involves changing his diaper, brushing his teeth, tucking him in, and singing a song.  However, at that moment, it just seemed like way too much to do.  Like something I just wasn't capable of doing.

Mary: "Come on, like ten minutes before his bedtime? I really don't want to do it."
Me: "Can you please just help me? I need help."

Mary interpreted this as we were going to do it together and she was going to help.  I didn't make it very clear that I wanted her to do it all.  In a huff, I took him to and began the routine.  She came into the bedroom.

"I thought you wanted my help?"
"I don't need your help!" I hissed and shut the door, fighting her attempt to keep it open.

As soon as bedtime preparation was over, I grabbed my keys and drove off without saying anything.  I just left the house suddenly... something I've previously acknowledged is unacceptable.  Of course, as often happens, there was nowhere to go.  I had the usual thoughts of going to a hotel room and turning off my phone so she would worry.  Immediately I realized this was just punishing her and not fair.  She had misunderstood and done nothing wrong.  Nevertheless, the thoughts continued.  I drove to the Target parking lot and just sat there.  I had put my Joy Division mix in the CD player.  As I was pulling in, "Atmosphere" began playing, possibly one of my favorite songs by them.  I played it over and over.

My thoughts were dark, angry, and suicidal.  I wanted to lash out at Mary.  I felt sorry for myself.  I thought about all my responsibilities and all the pressure.  I just wanted a relief from it all.  Did I really have it in me to keep it up any longer?  The exhaustion, anxiety, and fear were just too much.  I stared down at the faint scars on my wrist and thought about buying the sharpest most expensive knife I could find at Target.  How many people go to Target and just buy a knife?  Would they know what was going through my head?  Would I try my hand or my neck this time?  I thought of how bleeding out would ruin the car.  But if I left the car somebody might see me.

As horrific as these thoughts were, I had this comforting distance from them.  I knew deep down I was not going to act on them.  They were passing me through me and I knew they would not endure.

I kept listening to the song.  And as I often do in times of crisis (and I imagine others do as well) I started to look for meaning in what was around me.  Given that Ian Curtis struggled with epilepsy, (possibly) bipolar, and killed himself, perhaps Joy Division was a bad choice.  But the lyrics resonated positively.  I wrote them all down on a napkin.  So as goofy as it might all be...
I had just walked away in silence.
The danger of suicide and the ultimate freedom to actually do it... that danger was always there.  It was never going to be gone.
And the part about 'People like you find it easy' spoke to me about those who don't have mental illness.  We all wear masks, but are theirs a mask of self-hatred?  Aren't they naked to see... unashamed... with nothing so difficult to hide?  As many difficulties as they may have, it's easy to imagine they are "walking on air" as they have relative control over their thoughts.

All in all, my angry episode lasted an hour.  I sat in that parking lot an hour... listening to the song repeatedly.  Which at four minutes a pop meant I listened to it 15 times or so.  I can do that without a song getting old.  I returned home and went to bed without speaking to Mary.  She has learned to let that happen and to indeed "let the sun go down on my anger".  Things were so much better in the morning.


Target parking lot "Atmosphere"

This Wednesday night I had a tantrum with Mary that (in hindsight) was really juvenile.  I was exhausted after work.  I could barely keep my eyes open even sitting up straight.  It was ten minutes before Phillip's (my son with autism if you haven't read earlier posts) bedtime.  I started to think whether my exhaustion was due to work or whether I was at a low energy point due to mental illness.  Feelings of self-pity and entitlement flooded through me.  I thought, "How often do I really reach for help from Mary?  Don't I hold my own most of the time?  I am so exhausted I'm not sure I can even handle putting him to bed. What a help it would be if she would do it for me!"

To provide some background here, our bedtime routine for him takes all of 10 minutes.  It involves changing his diaper, brushing his teeth, tucking him in, and singing a song.  However, at that moment, it just seemed like way too much to do.  Like something I just wasn't capable of doing.

Mary: "Come on, like ten minutes before his bedtime? I really don't want to do it."
Me: "Can you please just help me? I need help."

Mary interpreted this as we were going to do it together and she was going to help.  I didn't make it very clear that I wanted her to do it all.  In a huff, I took him to and began the routine.  She came into the bedroom.

"I thought you wanted my help?"
"I don't need your help!" I hissed and shut the door, fighting her attempt to keep it open.

As soon as bedtime preparation was over, I grabbed my keys and drove off without saying anything.  I just left the house suddenly... something I've previously acknowledged is unacceptable.  Of course, as often happens, there was nowhere to go.  I had the usual thoughts of going to a hotel room and turning off my phone so she would worry.  Immediately I realized this was just punishing her and not fair.  She had misunderstood and done nothing wrong.  Nevertheless, the thoughts continued.  I drove to the Target parking lot and just sat there.  I had put my Joy Division mix in the CD player.  As I was pulling in, "Atmosphere" began playing, possibly one of my favorite songs by them.  I played it over and over.

My thoughts were dark, angry, and suicidal.  I wanted to lash out at Mary.  I felt sorry for myself.  I thought about all my responsibilities and all the pressure.  I just wanted a relief from it all.  Did I really have it in me to keep it up any longer?  The exhaustion, anxiety, and fear were just too much.  I stared down at the faint scars on my wrist and thought about buying the sharpest most expensive knife I could find at Target.  How many people go to Target and just buy a knife?  Would they know what was going through my head?  Would I try my hand or my neck this time?  I thought of how bleeding out would ruin the car.  But if I left the car somebody might see me.

As horrific as these thoughts were, I had this comforting distance from them.  I knew deep down I was not going to act on them.  They were passing me through me and I knew they would not endure.

I kept listening to the song.  And as I often do in times of crisis (and I imagine others do as well) I started to look for meaning in what was around me.  Given that Ian Curtis struggled with epilepsy, (possibly) bipolar, and killed himself, perhaps Joy Division was a bad choice.  But the lyrics resonated positively.  I wrote them all down on a napkin.  So as goofy as it might all be...
I had just walked away in silence.
The danger of suicide and the ultimate freedom to actually do it... that danger was always there.  It was never going to be gone.
And the part about 'People like you find it easy' spoke to me about those who don't have mental illness.  We all wear masks, but are theirs a mask of self-hatred?  Aren't they naked to see... unashamed... with nothing so difficult to hide?  As many difficulties as they may have, it's easy to imagine they are "walking on air" as they have relative control over their thoughts.

All in all, my angry episode lasted an hour.  I sat in that parking lot an hour... listening to the song repeatedly.  Which at four minutes a pop meant I listened to it 15 times or so.  I can do that without a song getting old.  I returned home and went to bed without speaking to Mary.  She has learned to let that happen and to indeed "let the sun go down on my anger".  Things were so much better in the morning.

Image credit: Headstone

Why I am going to blog about my bipolar medications

(In which I act superior)

Update: I've decided I'm not really going to write about my medications.  Not specifically.

I must first say that the obvious reason I'll talk about my medications is because no one is reading this and I'm anonymous.  I have a disclaimer stating I'm an idiot, ahem, not a professional.  If you think you should learn anything from my medications you should not.

I just don't want to dance around not mentioning what they are, how they change, their side effects, whether I think they are working etc. etc.  It would just be too much effort.  If you really want to go looking for anecdotes and advice from strangers you could go over to the CrazyMeds forum... not that I advise that or anything.  Go to reputable sites, talk to your pdoc, do your own research.

Anyway, I just started reading lots of blogs starting with those on the Bipolar Blogger Network but then trying to find others.  I haven't been on the Interweb much looking for bipolar information which is understandable since I've been relatively stable.  Why go looking for trouble?  People research a runny nose and end up with thinking they have an ultra-rare form of cancer.  The Interwebs be dangerous seas matey which hypomania has only recently set me sailing upon.

So I was inevitably going to come across Natasha Tracy since she is so well known.  She irks me just a little.  Part of it is her robo-tweeting of the same blog article over and over.  More significantly is this recent post about why she doesn't publicly reveal her bipolar medication or treatment plan.  However, in an earlier post she acknowledges that she does discuss treatment plans she doesn't like.  She points out some (including me!) find it hypocritical.  It's refreshingly honest she points out the potential double standard there, but in the more recent post she does not reference it.  That makes it sound as if she's been consistent the entire time.

Her reasons for not talking about it (and why they don't apply to me)

  • People will copy it (see first paragraph, no one is going to copy me!)
  • People will judge it (see first paragraph, no one is reading so no one is going to judge!)
  • Treatment plans are individual (see first paragraph, I'm trying to say that too!)
  • In her comments she talked about how she is sort of a public figure and needs some privacy etc. to keep the haters away (see first paragraph, really, no one is listening!)
Image credit - PillsShh lips

Landscaping therapy

(In which I think about how I never exercise)

I spent most of the weekend landscaping my front yard.  As a birthday present my parents, brother, sister-in-law, and Mary's dad all pitched in Sunday morning as well.  That may have been the best birthday present I've ever received.  Today I am extremely sore.  I was using muscles I don't normally use and pushing my weak-ass body to its limits.

It feels like it's been beaten into my head that exercise is good for me and that a sedentary lifestyle can cause all sorts of health issues.  As someone with mental illness I know that there's research out there show that exercise can reduce depression.  It's one of the suggestions that always annoy me.

Me: "I think I might need to adjust my medication."
Doctor/friend/loved one/my internal critic: "You know that exercise can really help depression.  You should try that."
Me: "You should go fuck yourself."

Yes I know I should be exercising.  Yes I know it's lazy to just want to take medication and that be enough.  Yes I know I need to manage my life carefully to handle stress so I avoid mania and depression.  Yes I know that if I did all the right things maybe I wouldn't need to rely on my medication as much as I do.  Yes yes yes... I get it.  Are you running your life perfectly?

My aches and pains have prompted me to think about exercise and what it might be like to have a job where I was outside and working my body.  What if I were a professional landscaper?  Would my mental illness be less severe if I weren't a telecommuting code monkey that was indoors for days at a time?  It relates to the question of whether there are things (such as a crisis or grueling labor) that can take our minds off our mental illness to such an extent we seem "normal". I think a crisis definitely can for a limited amount of time. As long as the depression has not gotten completely debilitating, I think we manage to put ourselves on the back burner so to speak. But that can only last so long. What about all day long exposure to the outdoors with strenuous exertion?

Suppose we have two versions of me. Code monkey and landscaper. How might they react to the same kind of stress?

Telecommuting code monkeyLandscaper
Minor trigger in the morningMinor dip in moodMinor dip in mood
Stare mindlessly at computer all dayWork ass off in the sunshine
Exit home office, still at homeCommute home, transition away from work
Not physically tired, mentally drainedPhysically exhausted
Question: What is my mood now?Same or worse? Haven't been transported out of myself enough to forget the trigger?Same or better? Physical exertion helped me recover?

This is simplistic I know, yet I do wonder.  Am I in the right profession?  Rather than seeing my pdoc to adjust my meds, maybe I should change jobs?  And isn't this about life management in general?  Hey maybe it's not your illness... maybe it's the weed you're smoking, the alcohol you're drinking, the toxic relationship you're maintaining, and on and on and on.  Mental illness is like having to do life management on steroids... with the added bonus of medications.

Image credit: Flickr

Landscaping therapy

I spent most of the weekend landscaping my front yard.  As a birthday present my parents, brother, sister-in-law, and Mary's dad all pitched in Sunday morning as well.  That may have been the best birthday present I've ever received.  Today I am extremely sore.  I was using muscles I don't normally use and pushing my weak-ass body to its limits.

It feels like it's been beaten into my head that exercise is good for me and that a sedentary lifestyle can cause all sorts of health issues.  As someone with mental illness I know that there's research out there show that exercise can reduce depression.  It's one of the suggestions that always annoy me.

Me: "I think I might need to adjust my medication."
Doctor/friend/loved one/my internal critic: "You know that exercise can really help depression.  You should try that."
Me: "You should go fuck yourself."

Yes I know I should be exercising.  Yes I know it's lazy to just want to take medication and that be enough.  Yes I know I need to manage my life carefully to handle stress so I avoid mania and depression.  Yes I know that if I did all the right things maybe I wouldn't need to rely on my medication as much as I do.  Yes yes yes... I get it.  Are you running your life perfectly?

My aches and pains have prompted me to think about exercise and what it might be like to have a job where I was outside and working my body.  What if I were a professional landscaper?  Would my mental illness be less severe if I weren't a telecommuting code monkey that was indoors for days at a time?  It relates to the question of whether there are things (such as a crisis or grueling labor) that can take our minds off our mental illness to such an extent we seem "normal". I think a crisis definitely can for a limited amount of time. As long as the depression has not gotten completely debilitating, I think we manage to put ourselves on the back burner so to speak. But that can only last so long. What about all day long exposure to the outdoors with strenuous exertion?

Suppose we have two versions of me. Code monkey and landscaper. How might they react to the same kind of stress?

Telecommuting code monkeyLandscaper
Minor trigger in the morningMinor dip in moodMinor dip in mood
Stare mindlessly at computer all dayWork ass off in the sunshine
Exit home office, still at homeCommute home, transition away from work
Not physically tired, mentally drainedPhysically exhausted
Question: What is my mood now?Same or worse? Haven't been transported out of myself enough to forget the trigger?Same or better? Physical exertion helped me recover?

This is simplistic I know, yet I do wonder.  Am I in the right profession?  Rather than seeing my pdoc to adjust my meds, maybe I should change jobs?  And isn't this about life management in general?  Hey maybe it's not your illness... maybe it's the weed you're smoking, the alcohol you're drinking, the toxic relationship you're maintaining, and on and on and on.  Mental illness is like having to do life management on steroids... with the added bonus of medications.