Monthly Archives: November 2014

Santa Baby

Pictures 121Pictures 116Pictures 122santaExcuse the blurry header. I am working on that. As my friends and family will tell you, I am really technologically challenged. This blog is pretty anonymous so none of them (except one) read it. I seriously think the rest of them think I am lying when I say I write a blog. They don’t think I know how to type on the computer. (They’re sort of correct.)

So it is November 30th and I am exhausted. Woke up about 3 am with a migraine and took an Imitrex. So I now have that Imitrex “high”. Decided not to go to church as the Imitrex high often causes me to want to lie down wherever I am. And the pews might look very tempting. We do have our Christmas Angel gifts all ready but they aren’t due till next Sunday. So we are under control there.

Thanksgiving. Whew! We wound up with 17 eaters and 2 more who blew in late for food and dessert. The table looked great. I mean it looked like something you’d see in a magazine. (Well, I thought so anyway.) This was all thanks to garage sales and deep discounts at Hobby Lobby. The food was also good. My brother-in-law made short work of carving the turkey. My husband said a nice prayer. And the conversation was good. The kids actually helped. I got up after dinner and started on the dishes and the kids dried. I washed most everything but the serving dishes which I filled to soak. My dearest middle son did the silverware. And my husband happily entertained the guests in the living room with trivia games, etc.

I never made it to the trivia games. I took off my shoes during the dishes and when I finished my part I plopped down in the den. A few people wandered in and we had some good chats. I think everyone had a good time.

I collapsed in bed that night with some mess still in the kitchen. I figured…no problem…we can finish that in the morning. It wasn’t dirty dishes, just a few pans soaking and some stuff strewn around. Plus, we had the tables and chairs to take down.

The kicker to all this is that I had made arrangements for two good friends, Dianna and Arlene, to come over at one to help decorate the house for Christmas. So my husband and I and wonderful middle son got up and got to work on the kitchen. Daughter and other son wandered in to help also. (They were good helpers but were missing the holiday spirit. Well, so was I at this point.) We FINALLY got that kitchen done and the guys got to work on Christmas.

Step one for Christmas at our house involved moving a hoard of containers from the garage to the entry. Somewhere in there is our tree. It’s a big tree as we have a pretty tall ceiling right where it goes. I like to put it right in front in the big window so people can see it when they drive by. (I always like looking at other trees in windows. I get a big kick out of that.) So my boys put the tree up and we starting fluffing up those smashed branches. And that was all we needed to do before our help arrived.

And arrive they did. Both of them have downsized into apartments in the last year or two so they don’t decorate much. Fortified with mimosas and the Christmas radio channel, they have a good time at my house. Dianna provides the artistic eye, while Arlene and I provide the labor.

Yes, my bipolar self was getting tired at this point. But not depressed a bit. That was nice.

So Dianna decides we are going with a Christmas red, green, silver, gold, and white color scheme. No blues, purples, pinks, or limes, etc. unless they were handmade ornaments made by the kids. I can’t tell you how good it felt to weed all these weird colors out. I plopped them in a box and am giving them away. I even threw some in there that were just plain ugly. And the tree looks spectacular! We added white and red poinsettias in the branches and some “picks” of different things. (I hope to get a pic of the tree on here….maybe will ask one of my techno kids how.) The tree isn’t quite like those fancy ones you see in stores but for the money we spent on it, it looks darn good. (Again, lots of garage sale stuff.)

Dianna also opened all the containers and put up all of the wreaths and nativity sets and houses and all the little junk. We tried to stay with the Christmas reds and greens but this was harder as there was more sentimental stuff floating around. I did give a pile away that was burgundy, blue, or teal. These colors are all great, but I have to admit it looks a lot better when you stick with a color theme. Prior to this my house looked like a “bad potpourri of color”. (This from my youngest son.)

The last stop was wiring the heavy garland on the banisters. This looks just fantastic. Really nice. The ladies left and my husband took over with putting all of the empty containers away. He and my youngest also started putting lights out front.

Now we just put lights on bushes and around trees, etc. To crawl up on our roof is a major thing. But the guys did a nice job. The whole thing looks tasteful.

The rooms in the house all need a good pick up and sweeping. Lots of fake pine needles, extension cords, old newspaper, etc. But I am incredibly relieved the tree and lights are up. I feel like I am ahead of the game. If I feel crappy from here on in, at least it looks like I made a great effort.

Hopefully, Santa will stop by.

Happy Humbug

It’s a truism that holidays are difficult, not to say hazardous, for those of us with mental disorders. But there are a variety of reasons and a variety of reactions and – dare I say it – a variety of coping mechanisms.

First, let me say, that despite the fact that I was already depressed or bipolar as a child, the holidays were marvelous. Our granny, maiden aunt, and uncle lived a few hours away and we spent Every Holiday there. (My uncle drank, but not when we were kids.)

On Thanksgiving, we’d arrive, the adults would eat themselves into a coma, and then nap while we kids were sent of to the movies.

Christmas was similar, except that we’d get up, open presents from our parents (and “Santa” for the biggies), pile into the car, and head to granny’s. The adults would eat themselves into a coma, and then nap while we kids were sent of to the movies. (I specifically remember The Sting and The Andromeda Strain, during which I saw my first picture of a naked male butt.)

There was no tension involved – no grand dining table, no fancy dress, no distant relatives, no formal manners. We’d simply fill a plate with home cooking, perch on a sofa (which was called the davenport) or chair, and chow down.

My birthday falls between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but poised well enough between the two that it was never combined with either one. Back then, birthdays were simple – cake and frosting from box mixes, four to six neighbor kids, presents (no gift bags), and maybe a couple of party games. (It was at someone else’s birthday party that I was traumatized during a game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey.)

How could anything in later life measure up to those?

Well, it couldn’t. My first Thanksgiving away from home was when I was at college, and we ate lasagna, not turkey. I believe it was the first time I had lasagna. Ever.

Since then all the holidays have gone downhill, or I have.

Any more, they’re a chore, a relentlass gray blob from November through January. (Halloween starts it off. I can’t get with that either.)

For years, I kept up some of the traditions for my parents’ sake. My mother in particular loved everything to do with Christmas – the Macy’s parade, the tree with my father’s favorite old smudge-faced angel on top, crocheted holiday sweaters and snowflakes and handmade ornaments from her foreign penpals and neighbors and church friends.


My first Christmas in my own apartment, I had a small fake tree. When I got married my husband and I tried to get into the spirit with surprise gifts and selecting and decorating my mother’s tree and inviting a divorced friend to dinner with us.

But I was sinking rapidly. At various places I worked, all the ladies sported store-bought Christmas sweaters and sweatshirts (Halloween ones, too) that I thought were just awful. But one year, in a desperate attempt to fit in, I bought holiday sweaters on sale in January to wear the next year. Of course, by then I had lost the job.

Dan and I continued the tradition of dining with our friend John, but our venue changed to Chinese restaurants, where we were kept company by Jews, pagans, atheists, and, no doubt, other depressives and bipolars.

One year Dan was visiting his mother and I was on my own. I tried. I really did. I trotted out a festive holiday sweater and little wrapped-present earrings, and went out to a buffet that offered turkey and beef and ham. But I sat by myself and listened surreptitiously to my iPod. And not holiday music, either. By then about all I could stand was the Christmas jazz from the Charlie Brown TV show.

This year, we ate out on Thanksgiving – but not at the swanky hotel buffet we sometimes took my mother to, or any of the other mega-buffets. We went to a diner that John used to love. I had pork chops and lemon pie. On Christmas I’m likely to be by myself again and may just get festive with a Stouffer’s mac-n-cheese.

Comfort food seems appropriate, and the cats like to lick the dish. Then for dessert – Zoloft and Ativan and Lamictal and Abilify and Ambien. Yum. Visions of psychotropics dance in my head.


P.S. I wrote about a Thanksgiving with John on my other blog. If you’d like to see it, go to

And if you’d like to see my rant about the “War on Christmas,” go to




Bipolar Disorder: I am One who has an altered mind.

For about a month, I’ve driven to Des Moines on Sundays to attend the Unitarian Church there.  I love the facility—an eco-friendly building nestled in the woods with a wooden footbridge from the parking lot that crosses a burbling stream.  Every week, I’ve met interesting, like-minded people with amazing stories to tell.  The messages are uplifting, and I get to sing. I feel very welcome and comfortable there.

But, the biggest surprise was the load of activities and classes that the community offers.  This one caught my attention immediately:

Wednesdays, 7 – 8:30 pm
11/12, 11/19, 12/3 & 12/10

SoulCollage® is a creative process in which we make our own deck of collaged cards for the purpose of self exploration and self acceptance. Images are intuitively selected and cards are created in a manner that accesses your deeper self and facilitates a journey to wholeness. Created by Seena Frost, SoulCollage® allows you to create a deck that is the “Story of You.” This is a fun, intuitive process that requires no artistic experience but allows every one to becomes their own artist. The four-week class will include information about SoulCollage®, making of the cards, and working with the cards to understand their meaning. 

I couldn’t imagine a class more tailor-made for me!  I had to go.

I loved it from the moment I walked into the room.  Native American drum music in the background, chairs set in a circle, simple instructions.

Don’t think.  Pick three images that either attract or repulse you.

There were hundreds of images culled from magazines and who-knew-where-else laid out on tables.  We silently walked around, looking at them all, then took the ones that called to us.  I consciously kept my brain from rushing ahead to what it might mean, what I would collage with it, blahblahblah.  The point was to follow our intuition.


The Captive: I am One who is blind to the assistance in front of me.

The way we introduced ourselves to the class was to pick one of the images and speak from it, starting with “I am One who…”  This image would be the base for our first card, a part of our selves that made its presence known.

Since I was a little manic at the time, I immersed myself in the process, sent away for the book and supplies (dang cheap, I may add), and started making cards at home.  I’ve been collecting images my whole life with no idea what to do with them except keep them safe.  A lot of the images I use in my collage and mixed-media art, but many are too weird or personal to be appropriate for pieces meant to appeal to others.  So, I pulled out my huge stash of images to see if any of them spoke to me the SoulCollage® way.  The clouds parted.  Angels sang.

This process is a little like making your own personal Tarot deck.  There are Suits as in Tarot, but these Suits are a bit different.  The Committee Suit are cards that depict parts of one’s personality, while the Community Suit picture actual people, places, pets, significant events in one’s life.  The Companion Suit is comprised of animal guides connected to the seven chakras, and the Council Suit collects the archetypal energies (much like the Major Arcana in Tarot).  This is Play that could last a lifetime.

Our class didn’t meet this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, but our facilitator invited us to a card-making gathering she was having at her office on Friday (Not surprisingly, Maureen is a psychotherapist specializing in PTSD).  I went, bringing some of my images and using some of hers.  I love the silence of doing the work, then the community aspect when we speak from the cards and process what they mean for us.  I fully intend to participate in any workshops Maureen holds, especially the one on The Companion Suit.  It seems like a little guidance and meditation might be in order to “find” these special animal guides.

The Observer: I am One who sees Reality without judgement.

I love turning off my brain and just letting the cards form.  I never know what’s going to happen or what images will demand to be put together.  It’s alchemy.  And deep Play.  And manic or not, I love it.  Because it’s an adventure, and I’m all about that.

Sunday Blah

I love this quote, but I don’t believe it in the slightest:

‘Redemption – that’s when you buy back all your bad karma – so you can steal heaven.’ – Carol O’Connell

Took the dogs to the beach at 6 this morning, got to get into a routine of doing it early over the holiday season. Came home and had some raspberries and yoghurt … I really am a ton better. Yesterday I gardened and cleaned windows. It’s completely out of character for me btw.

‘Rinpoche. I do not have the strength not to hope.’
‘I wonder about you sometimes,’ Choje said. ‘I worry that you are too hard a seeker.’
Shan nodded sadly. ‘I do not know how not to seek.’
– Eliot Pattison

The only fly in the ointment is wakeful agitation at night. My sleep hygiene is good, so it ain’t that. If I distract myself by reading it’s ok, but jeeeeez I have to read a lot to avoid the intrusive thoughts (maybe flight of ideas too). As much as I love reading, I’d love to get some more sleep. I’m not good enough at meditating to avoid my own mind when it’s revving so high. Worry, anger, grief – bangbangbang through my head like  underground trains. I’m seeing my psychiatrist later in the week though, so there’s no panic attached.

A note for myself, 4 months after diagnosis:

Meds recap:
Cipramil, Seroquel
Cipramil, Lithium
Serdep, Lithium
Serdep, Lithium, Wellbutrin
Serdep, Wellbutrin, Lamotrigine

Bacon defrosts faster if you glare angrily at it, right?

A Relaxing Sunday on a Saturdaysubn

Today has felt so much like Sunday. Long afternoon nap, watching the series Grimm with hubby and just basically relaxing.

There hasn’t been to much tension today and my tummy is feeling slightly better. I still have heartburn from hell but it will pass, it always does.

Even went out to the house and just sort of hanged around a bit. It makes the time pass a little faster. Also makes daydreaming about what it will look like when it is done.

Also drove around looking at Christmas decorations. They are always so beautiful. Maybe I won’t get sad this Christmas. I got hubby some cool gifts and making him happy makes me happy.

I think I am finally getting over my depression.. fingers crossed.

Break It Down

The work of breaking down a household—not to mention sifting through the memories of a place where a good portion of our lives happened—continues as our time here grows short. We have one week before we have to be out, and we aren’t going to make that deadline even though we’re getting help from our son and his girlfriend. There’s just too much stuff. We’ve thrown away massive amounts of it, and boxed up more still to be taken to Goodwill. But the sheer volume of our possessions still makes moving it all seem insurmountable, even though we really have accomplished a lot.

Moodwise, I’m pretty stable given the stresses of moving and STILL not knowing where we’re going to go. It’s depressing and I am anxious as hell, but while I was inpatient, I learned the difference between being depressed over my circumstances and being clinically depressed. Not to say that situational depression can’t turn into clinical depression–it can, and did—but this time I’m experiencing sadness, disappointment, grief, and even anger. All normal emotions given what’s happening in my life right now.

We did get a bit of good news today: we’ve been approved for food stamps, which aren’t “stamps” anymore but a debit card which makes using the benefits a little more discreet (and thus more dignified). I just keep reminding myself that we paid taxes into the system for years and if there was any way to avoid needing help, we would have done it. We have also applied for medical assistance through our state’s health plan—we can’t afford insurance through the so-called “Affordable Care Act”—which should lower my prescription costs considerably and assuage our guilt over being unable to pay our ever-increasing medical bills. They go back three months from the date one applies, which would take care of my hospital stay (and boy, I’d hate to see the numbers from that episode!) as well as a couple of Will’s major expenses.

To say this is all a big relief is an understatement. Now, if we can just find someplace to stay for awhile, life will definitely be on an upswing. It’s just a shame I’ve had to lose so much in order to appreciate what I have left. Maybe that’s the purpose of all this…..maybe I needed a celestial boot in the backside so I could reconnect with what’s really important in life. I know I said earlier in the year that I wanted out of the rat race; well, not only did I get kicked out of the rat race, I discovered that as hard as life has become I still want to live it, and I want to live it authentically.

So goes my thinking on a cold Saturday afternoon as we prepare to go to my daughter’s home for dinner, which is always a treat. She is as authentic as they come, and I should be taking lessons from her. There is no pretense, no keeping up with the Joneses, no bullshit in the way she and her family live; and as a result, theirs is the happiest home I’ve ever been in. There’s nothing better than family, and no place like home.

Now, if we can just find one…..







Skip In The Record

For those of us who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s or those who are retro…The concept of vinyl records is known. Vinyl. I miss it sometimes. CDs have better sound quality but vinyl, wow. It was so raw, so real.
But like everything, it had its flaws. It got worn and warped and scratched.
There was nothing as irritating as your favorite record having a skip etched into one spot, usually during your favorite song, and the only way to get past it was to bump the needle a smidge.

My brain, today, is like a vinyl record with a skip in it, only I have no needle to bump and make the song progress. It’s just the same series of thoughts and searing emotions in an endless loop. I can’t distract myself from it. It’s stewing and simmer and brewing and it won’t stop. I feel helpless and hopeless, like it has taken me hostage. I try to distract, to move onto something else.
But the skip remains and the churning thoughts of futility keep going.

I recognize this obsessive compulsive thought pattern as one of my flaws, a glitch in my programming that usually drives me to react impulsively, in a volatile manner, because otherwise, I am going to implode.
Xanax will dull the edges, but for the most part…I am at the mercy of this shit until it passes. There is no true trigger that makes it pass. Much like the bipolar mood cycles, it just takes on a life of its own and will fade out the same way. Fizzle. Eventually.
Until then…
I feel like I am bound in chains, at the cruel mercy of my own twisted mind, and no logical argument with myself changes a thing. I feel weak and powerless, and those are not emotions I tolerate well. If anything, it turns me into a cornered feral animal. My strength and tenacity are all I have ever had. To be stripped of that and placed in this position of my own mind torturing me with feelings that might not even be there a few hours from now…It’s living hell.
It chisels away at you. It leaves you vacant and hostile and basically, a powder keg.

I am learning, slowly, how to isolate myself from anything that might trigger that powder keg to explode.
Unfortunately, I am a mom and there is the constant trigger of my child who literally loves the sound of her own voice and never stops talking. Never.
It’s like nails on a chalkboard when you’re in this mental place.
I need quiet. I need calm. I need to breathe.I can’t even have a clear thought because it’s halted with “Mommy” every thirty seconds. Literally. I have never known a child who talks this much.
And this one’s not just me being irritable and edgy. It’s been witnessed by others who find it pushes them to the edge as well.

So not only am I being flogged by my own brain, my kid is on rapid Uzi fire mode and I can’t think clearly or even take a deep breath.

Proof that even when the moods don’t get you…
Something else will.

It’s easy to understand how people go clinically insane. How it hasn’t yet happened to me is a mystery. Sometimes, I wish it would happen. Lock me up, give me drugs, tell me what to do every minute of the day so I don’t have to make any decisions…
And a day later I would be shrieking and kicking to get free and take control again.
I am an enigma, even to myself.
I know what I am.
I’m just not sure why I am this way.

And it doesn’t matter because figuring out what caused the damage doesn’t make the damage diminish a bit.

It doesn’t even really offer clarity. It just makes me wonder why I’ve bothered and fought so hard trying to fix myself when every single person around me remains the same and clings to their own dysfunction to the detriment of others without even a flicker of awareness or conscience.
Maybe I just don’t want to be them.
Maybe all the therapy just made me more fucked up because frankly, ignorance is bliss and I was at least partially happy accepting myself as a kookoo flake as opposed to constant self analysis of every personality quirk.

I want to break free from it all.
It’s imprisonment. Life sentence.
And no one told me what crime I committed to be sentenced to this.

The record needle skips in the groove, again and again, and no peace is to be found.

Such is mental illness and emotional baggage.


It is amazing how many words get wasted when all that they’re saying is advance planning can be helpful if you’re bipolar.

I was pleased to see the following quote:

However, there are people who get lower levels of depression or manic symptoms which are persistent and different from normal mood, who are able to keep relatively normal life going. Where to draw the line between who is bipolar and who is getting normal mood changes is not easy, which is why you may need to see an expert.

… in a piece called the truth about bipolar, because that early and instant reaction we all seem to get, of people saying oh don’t worry bipolar is totally manageable, has begun to get up my damn schnozz. The correct statement would be remission is possible.

Bipolar & Sex is a decent op ed written by a woman who once dated a bipolar man. The title is enough to get you clicking, right? I don’t need to give you details. It’s a well balanced piece.

I learned a new word (yay):

Sociotropy is characterized by the need for social reassurance, approval and contact.

I found it in an article about bipolar and comorbidity.

It wouldn’t be media-sexy to report that any bipolar people died of cancer or old age or ebola or something. Here’s the latest assortment:

Becca Campbell – accidental shooting
Janet L. Sims – hypothermia after release from prison
Andrea Christine Bartmess – murdered
Tanesha Anderson – head slammed on to concrete repeatedly by cops
Edward Wayne Logan – a Maori, shot by cops
Joshua Fransisco – suicide in prison

Rest in peace. And there, but for the grace of society and our psychiatrists, go many more of us.

Here’s a 4 part series about cops shooting mentally ill people. It will (and should) make you rant.

Cool article on Miriam Toews & All My Puny Sorrows.

Book review Literchoor is My Beat about publisher (and bipolar) James Laughlin.

Shit that bipolar etc people suffer in Kashmir.

Why I Dislike Children

Most of the time honestly it’s the parenting. The parents allow the children to run all over the place and just do whatever they like. It’s not true for all kids of course but it seems to be a growing trend. If I behaved the way the kids do nowadays I would have gotten my ass whooped. Kids aren’t afraid of consequences for their bad behaviour now.

Another reason I donlt like children is they are walking talking bundles of ick. Carrying around multiple illnesses just waiting to pass it on to the next person. My immune system is shitty since I am not exposed to most things most people are. That’s what happens when you don’t socialize with the public very often. Yet every single bug my nieces and nephews picks up ends up here at home since my MIL watches them every day.

Right now it is a 24 hour bug that has everyone spewing fluids from both ends and just generally having the worse heartburn you’ve ever had. My MIL was up all night with it and today I just feel like I am on the edge of it. I have the heartburn from hell and what feels like a giant air bubble filling my insides but luckily everything has remained far. If it is going to get worse I hope that it does it sooner rather than later. Spending the day in bed just waiting for something to happen sucks.

I know it’s not a hangover because I sobered up before bed and drank a ton of water, so now I just have to wait and see what happens. I swear I spend my whole life waiting for everything, how mundane.

Anyhow that is just some reasons I dislike children. I’m super glad I have dogs, even if they do chew my pillows and piss on the floor.

NAMI Advocacy Update

Received this NAMI Advocacy Update email on November 25, 2014:

Congress Begins Post-Election “Lame Duck” Session Congress has returned for a post-election “lame duck” session. Their main task is to complete work on 2015 spending bills before the Dec. 11th expiration of the current continuing resolution (a temporary funding measure that is keeping the government open until a full-year “omnibus appropriations” can be enacted).Another major issue is whether or not Congress will enact that omnibus appropriations bill authorizing funding for the remaining months of FY 2015 (which actually began back onOct. 1) or whether Congress will instead pass a continuing resolution or CR that would keep current FY 2014 funding levels in place through Sep. 30, 2015.This decision willhave a significant impact for a number of importantNAMI priorities. For example, a CR wouldpreserve the current FY 2014 budget  at $1.41 billion for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and would stop Congress from enacting the $23 million increase requested by the President. In addition, the President’s BRAIN Initiative (unveiled in April 2013) would NOT receive a proposed $40 million boost, up to $100 million.Action Needed on Funding for Supportive Housing 

During this lame duck session, Congress has one last opportunity to include increases for permanent supportive housing programs targeted to people living with serious mental illness that experience chronic homelessness or are living in restrictive settings. NAMI is urging Congress to support specific increases proposed by President Obama for FY 2015 including:

  1. $25 million for the HUD Section 811 Project-Based Rental Assistance (PRA) program, boosting funding to $160 million, and
  2. $301 million for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, boosting funding to $2.406 million and placing the program back on track to end chronic homeless in 2017.

Write your member of Congress to support these important programs today!

The Health Insurance Marketplace is Open

If you don’t have health insurance or are looking for more affordable health insurance and haven’t looked at the Health Insurance Marketplace―open enrollment is the time to look. Health insurance can be complicated. If you or your family member needs help understanding your options, can help.

The Kaiser Family Foundation also put together some great resources including a videoexplaining health insurance and a calculator you can use to figure out about how much health insurance will cost for you if you buy it through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

It is important that people living with mental illness enroll in the right level of coverage. Enrollment assisters need information to help people identify health plans that cover the person’s providers and therapies. The National Disability Navigator Resource Collaborative has developed a guide, fact sheets and state specific information to help individuals with disabilities-including mental illness- get a health plan that covers their needs.

Bright Spot: NAMI California

NAMI California has built a network of people living near the state capitol―the Capitol Coalition― to advocate on mental health issues by giving testimony before the legislature, attending policy meetings, and following regulatory agencies. This network uses the NAMI Smarts for Advocacy training to shape their personal narrative so their stories are articulate, brief and compelling. In response to this highly successful network, legislative staff said that NAMI California’s footprint grows with each passing opportunity, and that the Capitol Coalition are relied upon for their clear and certain perspective.

Cheers to these wonderful California mental health advocates!

Read NAMI California’s Briefing Book that helps inform the Capitol Coalition.

(Above: Some of the NAMI California Capitol Coalition.)

Filed under: Mental Health, NAMI Tagged: Health Insurance, NAMI, public policy advocacy