Daily Archives: April 28, 2014

Missing (Hypo)Mania

Yeah, I admit it. After all, there’s a great big beautiful spring out there, with warming temperatures and even more sunshine to come later this week…..the intoxicating aromas of flowers floating on the soft breeze…..the promise of summer just around the corner. This is one of my favorite times of year, when it’s not TOO hot and the house is still comfortable for sleeping at night, when life is kind and I’m limited only by my imagination.

And where am I in the middle of all this? Parked on the front porch steps like a bump on a log.

Well, at this particular moment in time I’m actually in front of the computer screen, but you know what I mean. This is the beginning of my first week of unemployment, and I’m getting a taste of freedom that ought to be savored before I go back to the nine-to-five grind. I’m calm, I’m not freaking out at the knowledge that we’ll have to move soon because we can’t afford our house on $360 per week in unemployment benefits, and I’m reasonably sure that I’ll be able to find some sort of job fairly soon. I just lack the get-up-and-go to do something about it.

Of all the times I could use a little hypomania, this is it. Yet it’s nowhere to be found; the sunshine does not evoke the boundless optimism of previous springs, and even the prospect of 80-degree weather later this week brings none of the usual energy that spurs me to activity. I’m not depressed; in fact I’m pretty happy given the circumstances I find myself in. It’s just that everything is pleasant, rather than exciting, and that’s just….well…..boring.

There. I said it. I miss my mania. Or rather, my hypomania…..full-blown mania is too freakish and too damned dangerous to be any real fun. What I want is the feeling of being ten feet tall and bulletproof: I want the ability to do ANYTHING, and the vim and vigor to surmount any obstacles life may put in my way. I want to hit the ground running every morning, and clean the house and work in the yard I probably won’t have much longer. I want to put on my best face and my best clothes and go knock ‘em dead at my next interview, even if it’s just Starbucks. In short, I want to feel awesome!! 

You’re probably thinking I must be crazy. I wouldn’t blame you, and part of me even agrees with you. Who but a crazy person would WANT to be in a hypomanic state, even though it provides tremendous energy at a time when it’s desperately needed? It’s taken over two years and many med changes to get to this point of relative stability…..why in the name of all that is reasonable would I be mulling over ways to manipulate my treatment so that I can get the benefits of hypomania without all the bad parts?

OK, now that I’ve worried you, let me reassure you that I’m sticking with the program, even though I am sorely tempted to cheat and kick myself into a higher gear. If you’re not bipolar, you won’t understand these urges; if you are, you know exactly what I’m saying. I’m telling you this only because it’s better to talk it out than ACT it out, and now that I’ve done so, I feel less like doing it. How about that?

And I owe it all to my audience, because you read my work and thus hold me accountable. That’s a good thing. Thanks for being here. :-)


Mornings in the Looney Bin

Morning was always an odd experience inside the locked ward at Mercy General. At first, when the mind perceived it was not exactly asleep and coming to, the sounds and […]

Mixed Mess

Last time I wrote, I decided that I wasn't having any feelings or any emotions at all. I  just felt more blank than numb, thanks to seroquel and clonopin, if that makes any sense.  Well, that didn't last too long because I got a phone call that I forgot that I was supposed to expect.

Somehow, during my wandering around on the internet a few weeks ago, I found (http://attemptsurvivors.com) on which a legit woman was trying to get in contact with people that have had experience(s) with suicide attempts, the ER treatment, mental health hospitalization treatment, involuntary or not. I thought it would be interesting to contact her and see what would happen, if anything. I didn't really expect a response. That was the phone call that I wasn't expecting that I should have expected. It was from Susan Stefan. She turned out to be "Nationally recognized mental health lawyer...began interviewing dozens of people who’ve been suicidal for an upcoming book on the subject." She's written other books in the past, and done other work related to the shit treatment of the MH system's treatment of the mentally ill.

Anyway, she went way far back to the beginning with her questions, which triggered instant trauma and tears for me, but I kept telling her my story as she asked. She was really cool, actually, treated me well, and was very familiar with the MH system in this country, of course. She really liked some of the things that I said, and asked if she could quote me on those. Of course! 

One of the questions she asked at the end was about assisted suicide. I said I believe that people with certain illnesses should have the right to that, like BP and Schizophrenia, even though there are some "high functioning" people out there with Bipolar, Schizophrenia, etc. I said that I felt my diagnoses - Bipolar in particular - was a terminal disease, and should be treated as such. It is treatable, sure, but I still suffer every single fucking day. Would people treat an animal like that, that was suffering every single day? No, they'd shoot them in the head or they'd euthanize them. They would be merciful and kind, and put them out of their misery and suffering. Why should animals be treated more kindly than people that have suffered for the majority of their life?

My illnesses will never go away, the pain is never going to go away, it's treatments have not done much for me, therefore I consider them to be terminal illnesses that are are eventually going to make me end up taking my life. I'm a ticking time bomb. I think about it every single day in one form or another. I think about finally being at peace, without pain, leaving my horrible suffering and my painful brain behind.

After the long phone chat with Ms Stefan, she said she'd be in contact with me in a couple of months again to let me know where she's at on her book, and the material she was planning on using from me for her book. So that was cool.

What wasn't cool was that after that, was that I started looking up assisted suicide law and shit all over the country, and got lost in that for hours. Somehow, I pulled myself out of that and turned to something else. I can't remember what, of course...

I did find an interesting page today...

Today the anxiety's come on even earlier than normal. Fuck! I feel like the life's been sucked out of me as well. To add to that crap, I have to see this new therapist today. I hope I don't scare her. She better impress me quickly, or I'm going to start calling around again right away. My body can not handle the treadmill.

No trip to starschmuck's today. I didn't want to grace them with my presence after the way that prick treated me the other day. I didn't want to give them my money. Only 2 cups of coffee, so no extra caffeine, but still anxiety has come on earlier than normal again. About an hour too early. I was woken up too early by the spouse's fucking alarm at 5 though, and got up, even though he didn't. I'm going to tell him to set it for later, cause I don't need to be getting up that early. Otherwise I won't be making coffee for anyone but myself. Fucker. I am bummed out/pissed that I didn't get to practice being outside.

I do not feel like getting on the treadmill or taking a shower. I will end up washing up and putting some real clothes on. I don't have far to walk, but it's going to freak me out. I hope my music can calm me - as well as my dark sunglasses. Fuck, I'll wear a hoodie too, and little or no makeup. Who cares? I just feel like shit that's been trampled on.

I'm going to go watch "Supernatural" to take my mind off of physical and mental shit... escape.
This post needs some music for those that don't watch the show.

Things are happening..I promise..

So I know I have been silent for a while, but LIFE has been kicking my butt in good and bad ways. I want to share with you all my stories, music, photos, and mental illness experiences…but in due time.

Next month is mental health month so be prepared for a B.U.L. blog overload!

Anyways….how are you??

Filed under: Ranting

Religion and my Journey

I don’t think I’ve written anything on this blog specifically about my spiritual/religious beliefs.

Just to put this out in the open (not that I’m ever much hidden about what I believe) — I’m a hard polytheist and a witch. That means I believe in many different deities and I practice magic. For me, it’s just part and parcel of who I am.

What I wanted to talk about is the thing that I’ve wondered about since I got diagnosed.

Do I tell my counselor and shrink about my religious beliefs? Not necessarily the whole thing, just that I’m spiritual by nature, and I believe in otherworldly phenomenon and spirits. I know for a fact that it could turn out badly. I’ve read the articles from people that have stated they were treated crazy for believing in anything religious. I’m not concerned about mainstream vs. unusual spiritual beliefs. I’m more concerned with my diagnosis and what will be thought if I finally admit to a counselor (when I find one) that I’m spiritual. That I believe in things I cannot objectively prove. After all…me in a hypomanic state is slightly off-kilter. I know myself well enough to know that. So I’ve always been a bit uncertain as to how spiritual beliefs get taken in the mental health community.

Mental illness is already tricky enough to deal with. I’m not sure how to take spiritual beliefs into it. I don’t think treatment should involve my beliefs, necessarily, but I know that eventually I have to admit to a counselor what I can sense and see that isn’t normal. And I’m afraid of being called even “crazier” than I already am. So I’ve always wondered what other people do about this.

I have a friend or 2 in counseling. They have mild depression (as they’ve told me themselves). So to their counselors, religion isn’t a big deal. It doesn’t alter them in any way. But with bipolar on the table, and OCD, I’m not sure what would be said about me. So I’ll admit that in something that I’m usually completely honest about, I keep back 1 big part of myself.

I wonder how other people deal with religion and mental illness. No matter what the spirituality and religion…I do wonder how it is taken by mental health professionals.

Making Hay

I met him in a cowboy bar in Lima, Ohio.  I needed a dance partner for the two-steps and waltzes.  The hostess got me Dale.  He was newly divorced and still smarting, didn’t want anything to do with women–guaranteed–but he also needed a dance partner.  I was safe.  We were married the next year.

He was a trackman on the railroad.  I was the director of a pediatric emergency department.  That gave us an interesting socioeconomic dichotomy.  I didn’t care; he was my savage gamekeeper, and I his Lady Chatterley.  ‘Nuff said.

One night a colleague at work said to me, “Don’t drive down Slabtown Road.  There’s a horse farm for sale there.  If you go down there, you’ll surely buy it so don’t go down there.

I went down there the next day.  I bought it.

When I was shit-poor, playing the banjo on the streets in Boston to make rent money, throwing rent parties when it didn’t pan out, I promised myself three things if I ever got rich:

I would have nice underwear.

I would learn to fly.

I would have a horse.

It was a 40 acre farm with two barns and a brick ranch house.  There were 32 stalls with 32 horses in them.  13 of the stalls were filled with the outgoing owner’s own horses, which would come with the deal; the other stalls were boarders.  So instead of “a” horse, I suddenly had thirteen!

It was a “turn-key operation.”  That meant the owners wanted out, Right Now, and wanted rid of the place and everything on it.  Suited me fine.

There was a wonderful 4 wheel drive John Deere tractor with a backhoe, front end loader, snow blade, brush cutter, power take off (PTO), PTO powered John Deere hay baler, a powered manure spreader (very important when you have 32 horses!), a 1949 Allis Chalmers tractor, hay mower, a couple of wheel-powered hay rakes, and everything else you’d need to manage and bale five cuttings a year of 25 acres of prime alfalfa.

That was the only time in my life I’ve ever watched TV.  If you’re going to make hay in Ohio, you’d better be adept at gauging the weather patterns from the Pacific Northwest to the Upper Midwest, during haying time.  That’s the way the jet stream flows in summer, and that’s the path the storms take.  It takes about three days for a storm system to travel from Seattle to Lima.  Like it says, you have to make hay when the sun shines!

Timing is critical when making hay.  First off, you have to know when to cut it.  The alfalfa plant is highest in protein–up to 28%–right before it blooms.  If you cut it right then, you will have soft, fragrant green hay that is loaded with protein, vitamins, and minerals, and there is little chance for toxic molds to settle in.  If you miss this tiny window of time–only a few days–what you’ll have is coarse, tough, not-very-nutritious hay, good for cows at $1 a bale but not suitable for horse feed at $5 a pop.

Now, the absolute minimum time frame for making a crop of hay is three sunny days: day one to cut, day two to turn it over and dry it on the other side, and day three to bale and put it away in the haymow.

So the art of it all was to pinpoint the exact three-day window between rain storms, coordinated with the ideal growth stage of the alfalfa.  It was exciting.  Heart-pounding.

To make it all more interesting, those three-day windows always seemed to occur when the temperature was over 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

The upshot of the torrid temperatures was that we could never manage to bribe the local high school boys who lolled around during summer break doing nothing but getting into trouble–we could never get them to help us put up hay, even for good money.  So it fell out that Dale and I did all of the cutting and raking ourselves.

He would go out first, as soon as the dew dried off the hay.  That was another obstacle–you can’t just get up with the birds and expect to go cut hay.  If you do anything to hay while it’s wet, it will do something bad to you, like turn directly into mold. And worse, if you put wet hay in your haymow, it creates so much heat in the process of fermentation that many a good barn has burned down due to hay fires, and many a good animal lost!  So you had to pat your foot and drink cup after cup of coffee until the sun had dried the standing hay.

As soon as the sun was full on, beating down like brimstone, Dale would jump on the John Deere with the mower on, and cut hay for dear life.  If we were lucky, it was so damn hot that I could give him an hour’s head start and follow right after him with the old Allis Chalmers, with a wheel-drive rake on the back.  The sun was so hot, the hay dried enough to turn over in just an hour!  So we’d get the whole 25 acres cut and turned over in a day.  But most of the time it was a two-day process before we were set to bale.  Cut the first day, and the second day I’d go out with one rake on the Chalmers and turn over the front field while he did the back field with the Deere.

Driving the Chalmers was an adventure in itself.  It had all kinds of convenient features, like a dead-man’s switch.  That’s a metal button on the floor that you have to keep your foot on at all times, otherwise it cuts the engine off.  Obviously, because it’s called a dead-man’s switch, if you died while driving tractor it would most likely cut off.  If you are five feet tall and have to drive the tractor half-standing, half hanging onto the steering wheel, it’s damned hard to keep your weight on that stupid switch.  Of course, if you fell off the tractor it would be handy to have it stop automatically, saving you from getting run over or having to run like hell to catch up with an escaped tractor.

The Allis had no brakes.

Therefore, I had to devise a strategy for what to do when I came to the corner of the field and had to make a turn.  Luckily the Allis tolerated letting the engine idle down real slow, since it only had two gears: fast, and faster.  But it would throttle down to a creeping crawl before it stalled.  That was good in another way: the starter was on the floor too, and required a good stomp to fire it up.  I must have looked like a monkey on a string hopping up and down trying to get that damn tractor started.

On the third morning, after the horses were fed and watered and the stalls mucked out, and after four or five more cups of coffee, Dale would hitch the baler to the Deere.  If we were lucky, and school was out, we’d have our two boys (his and mine) as slave labor.  When you live on a farm, there are certain realities of life, like barn chores and baling hay.  Let’s face it: none of us woke up in the morning shouting, “Yaaay!  Let’s go fry our ass, get good and sweaty and covered with itchy hay dust, and totally dehydrated because there isn’t time to stop to drink!  Yaaaay!”

Nope.  So it was on Baling Day that I drove the John Deere tractor with a baler on the PTO and a 14 foot flatbed wagon hitched behind, no automatic balers that shoot the bales into a tall stake wagon for us: we had the old-fashioned kind that plops the bales down in the field.  So Dale would horse the 60-to-70 pound bales up to the wagon, one of the boys would grab it from him, and the other boy would stack it on the wagon.  As the wagon filled up, it got harder and harder……but those boys could sometimes load that wagon five bales high.  Then we’d unhitch from the Deere and one of the boys would get the Allis, and haul the load to the barn.

Without the boys to help, it was just me driving tractor and Dale working the wagon like a madman with rabies.  I had to stop a lot to let him catch up on the stacking.  Sometimes I’d hop off the tractor and help stack, then we’d have another go at it till we were ready to put the bales in the barn.

If we hadn’t had a powered hay conveyer, I don’t know what we would have done.  This looked like a playground slide with a conveyer belt going up to the haymow.  We’d generally have the two kids (did I mention that they were ages 8 (mine) and 10 (his) when we started doing this?) up in the haymow stacking, and I’d be on the wagon heaving the bales down to Dale, who heaved them onto the conveyer.

And then we’d go out to the field and do it again, until it was done.  It was a race against the evening dew, or the coming rain, whichever came first.

Sometimes something exciting would happen: I always drove tractor with my head cocked over my left shoulder, one eye on the windrow and one ear on the baler, in case somebody got in some kind of trouble.

So when I heard shrieks coming from the direction of the wagon, I shut the whole works down and leaped out of the tractor seat.  (The dead-man’s switch on the Deere was conveniently located under the spring-loaded seat, so all you had to do was stand up and the tractor shut down.)

Son of a gun, if we hadn’t baled up a smallish rattlesnake; and before anyone noticed, it had been tossed up on the wagon, its head sticking out and snapping for all it was worth!  Dale whacked it with something or other, and threw that bale back into the field.  Reject!  We laughed over that for years.

After the last bale was put away in the mow, there was a mad rush for the Gatorade and the shower.  Then barn chores, which never wait till tomorrow.  And the blessed coolth of the evening.  Let the dew fall where it may; the hay is safe, and so are we, until time to bale again!

Postscript: although at the time my son thought he was being abused by being forced to do what all farm kids do, he now remembers those years as the best in his life.