Monthly Archives: July 2016

We All Have At Least One Working Body Part

Ever since I can remember, my sister Cara and I have had a pretty friendly intense rivalry about…ummm…everything.  She’s my only sibling, so with only two of us in the family there was always a clear winner and loser in every situation.

Last week I taught a Human Biology class, and Cara was my assistant.  (Just to clarify once more – I was the teacher, and she was the assistant.  See? I win that one).  We studied the respiratory system, and students did a lab where they had to hold their breath.  Cara said, “Since Ms. Hazel and I are sisters, genetically we should probably be able to hold our breath close to the same amount of time.”  She turned to me.  “Want to test it?”

I don’t think her hypothesis of a genetic connection to holding breath has any credence, but I’m not one to back down from a chance to beat my sister at something.  I said sure, and we got a student to test us.  Not only did I beat Cara, but I held my breath TWICE as long.  She didn’t stand a chance.  Once I finally had to breathe, Cara looked at my time, looked annoyed, and said, “Whatever.  You run all the time, so your lungs are super healthy.”

If I had to come up with one hundred adjectives to describe myself, “healthy” would not be on it.  “Super healthy” wouldn’t even be close.  Still, when she made that comment about my lungs, I thought for a minute that she’s right.  I DO have healthy lungs.  I AM healthy enough to run a lot.  I don’t run fast, and I don’t look good  while doing it (I look about as ridiculous as the American election season), but I can run.  I should spend a lot more time being thankful for that and a lot less time focusing on the one body part (my brain) that refuses to function properly.

To be fair to myself, the brain is a pretty bad body part to have malfunction.  BUT STILL.  I can whine and complain about that, or I can look at all of the body parts I have that do work.  Do you know how many people in wheelchairs would love to run even a few yards, let alone a few miles?  I often feel resentful about the fact that I have to run to keep my brain working properly.  I swear running helps me stay sane (which is something I discovered in college and only later figured out has scientific basis).  It’s like I’m Mario in SuperMario Brothers, and running is how I get those mushrooms that make him big or even give him an extra life.  Feeling small?  POWER UP!  GO FOR A RUN! *insert mushroom power noise here*  Instead of whining that most people don’t have to run regularly to keep themselves out of a psych hospital, I should spend time being thankful that I can run.

Everyone with health problems has at least one working body part.  They actually have quite a few.  If they didn’t, they’d be in coffins.  Take some time to be thankful for what works.  Maybe it’s your brain (lucky you).  Maybe it’s your lungs.  Maybe it’s your left pinky.  For goodness sakes, maybe it’s your butt.  My grandpa has a colostomy bag – he would love a working butt.  Feel grateful next time you poop au natural.  It makes sense to pay attention to the parts that don’t work, but take time to pay attention to the parts that do.  Maybe you can start to feel a little more healthy, which is a pretty encouraging feeling.

You might be reading this and thinking, “By George, I don’t have any body parts that don’t work.  I have a pretty run-of-the-mill, somewhat boring, healthy life.”  If so, I hope you wake up every morning PRAISING GOD for your run-of-the-mill, somewhat boring, healthy life.  Lots of people would give everything they have to be in your position.  Then go buy yourself a drink and toast to your health, because I hope you keep that health for a very long time.  It’s a pretty sucky thing to lose.

It’s almost as bad as losing to my sister.

On My Own

I don’t like this widowhood business.

There are so many decisions to make. What kind of memorial service to have and how to pay for everything , what to do with Will’s model ships and airplanes, whether to make the funeral open to everyone or keep it private between family and friends. There are also things I have to learn to do for myself that he always took care of, such as dealing with bill collectors and killing spiders. So far I’m rising to the occasion…but I’m thankful I have family close by so I don’t have to do ALL of this on my own.

Oh, how I miss him! Sometimes I’ll turn and for an instant see him out of the corner of my eye, and when I talk to him I can almost hear him speak. But I can’t  touch him, and that breaks my heart. I can’t tell you how often I find myself at his desk with my arms around the wooden urn that holds his ashes, crying my eyes out and wishing I could hug and kiss him just one more time. I know I should be glad he’s out of pain and at peace, but I guess I’m selfish—I’d rather have him here.

There have been other losses as well. I had to give up my dog, Zinnie, because I could not manage her. She’d bitten me several times when I tried to leash her to go outside, while my older son had no problem with her when he was staying here that first weekend after Will died. Thank God he was able to take her, so at least she’s staying in the family and I can go visit her. Still, that first night without her AND Will was one of the toughest of my life, and I miss her as well.

Then there was the last session with Dr. Awesomesauce. He finally gave notice and is leaving the mental health clinic for good on the 5th of next month. I’m proud of him for doing what he’s wanted to do for years, but I also feel like I’ve lost a good friend. He did so much for me, and only at the end was I able to let him know how much I appreciate it. He told me he has my thank-you card on the bookshelf in his office and that he’ll never forget me. Then, in an uncharacteristic gesture he gave me a big bear hug, and there were tears in his eyes as he wished me well.

In the meantime, I’m trying to get used to the new order and family is doing their best to help me. Just having them hang out with me in the living room at night instead of going to bed early means more than they know, and Clark especially has been phenomenal in his support. I try to remember that my kids have also suffered a huge loss, and that I must stay strong for them as they are staying strong for me. No hysterics or suicidal ideation for me! In fact, I’ve realized that while I’m very, very sad, I am not depressed and I have no designs on joining my husband anytime soon. Certainly I’ll be happier when that day comes, but for now I have to carry on and LIVE. It’s what he’d want me to do.

(By the way, if you would like to help us pay for final expenses, you can go to I hate to ask for money more than almost anything, but even the simplest of funerals are very costly. Please help if you can. Thank you!)

Contentment With a Side of Panic Attacks

Life is fairly good these days.  I’m attributing it to plenty of sunshine and DBT and working hard in therapy and having more structure to my days.  There are some big changes on the horizon, like moving, and QoB *finally* retiring (maybe), but those are good changes.  While my mood has been fairly neutral, I have been having some physical symptoms that have been giving me trouble.

Physical symptoms that I decided were lithium poisoning, because that is where the problem  usually is, but when that wasn’t the answer (after a blood test) and the urgent care provider sent me to the Emergency Room, I was stunned that I hadn’t thought of this:

I was having every single one of these issues, a minimum of three separate episodes each day.  So, apparently, my anxiety (that I *knew* was high, but, um, it always is!) is manifesting into more physical problems.  Also known as, multiple panic attacks a day with very high anxiety between attacks.

So while I thought that I was mentally very healthy, because I was not feeling extremely depressed or extremely elevated, and because I was not having more than my usual amount of generalized anxiety, I misdiagnosed myself as having lithium poisoning or something wrong with my heart because it has been so long since I have had full-blown panic attacks.  I should note that these attacks almost always additionally come with gasping, sobbing, and cursing on the side.

I beat myself up that I didn’t realize my anxiety was so out of control before having this little Emergency Room epiphany, but I think that I was just so grateful to not feel extremely depressed, that I decided everything else was “fine” and that I was just “physically ill.”

I still “don’t feel good” physically and am going to need to get in to see my psychiatrist this week, but I am really not looking forward to that.  I reported increased anxiety at my last appointment, and I do have a PRN for anxiety that generally works.  It is only when the anxiety gets really blown up and into a full-on attack that seemingly nothing makes me feel any better.

I am curious.  Have any of my readers ever had something like this blow up out of nowhere?  I mean, it probably isn’t really “nowhere” and I just can’t pinpoint where it started.  Thoughts, feelings of commiseration, home cures (hahahah!!!)?


Filed under: Neuroticism Tagged: anxiety, emergency room, medical, medication, panic, panic attack, physical symptoms, PRN, psychiatrist, PTSD

Hormonal Dip

Sundays are my “ick” days. I don’t know why, I’ve just always found them rather pointless for non religious people such as myself. THIS particular Sunday I find my mood has dipped and slipped into a rather uncomfortable place. Thanks, monthly hormones, thanks a fucking lot. Cos it’s not enough to be bipolar, nooooo, let’s toss in the shit storm of hormones that make me further question my sanity.

I think it was triggered by the anxiety that presented when the devil girls knocked on the door. Don’t get me wrong, my kid is glued to me 24-7,  she even sleeps in my bed, so any break where she is being a normal kid and playing with friends is welcome for me. Problem is…THESE friends. Already had to chase them out because they ran in and out six times in five minutes and the youngest one was using my mirror to slather on her kiddie warpaint…And I said, “You need to go play outside before I lock the door on you all.” (Am I mean? Sue me.) Her older sister even told her “Morgue said to get outside” and the 8 year old says, “So what?”  Yeah, like it’s not even my fucking home.

So the anxiety of them being about followed by cramps and hormone fluctuations has me in this shit place I don’t much like. Throw in my summer allergies in which every inch of my skin itches for no apparent reason….I am pretty uncomfortable in my own skin, let alone my mind.

Try to distract myself watching my shows. Ha. 42 minute show becomes a 4 hour start and stop task with kids constantly interrupting.

I should go do dishes. I don’t see it happening with the pain in my spine.

I am so sick of the monthly cheese and whine just because my hormones go nuts.  But it’s a factor that shrinks downplay for female bipolar patients. Hormones play a huge rule in your mental state. Bipolar and hormones? It’s a wonder I haven’t killed anyone or simply gone bat shit and gotten locked down. Month after month of this shit.

And from what I have discussed with my doctors…I can’t even look forward to a break via menopause. I can’t take hormone replacement due to blood clot issues, so my crazy is likely to metastasize to Goodyear blimp size even once the monthly thing goes away.

I am so fucking jazzed. NOT.

I keep asking myself, “Could you for the love of fuck say something positive?”

The answer, of course, is , “Could, for the love of fuck, something positive actually happen to me?”

Because I am spinning out under all the upcoming stress. I have one child support check to get my kid her school clothes and supplies. My entire check is gone for rent and a “running six fans 24-7 to make up for not having AC’ power bill…My mom went and got a 2009 car for my nephew to drive once he gets his license so she can’t help with Spook’s school stuff. Dad’s whining how he hasn’t worked and he can’t help…That’s all fine, I will handle it, I know how to squeeze the pennies and get blood from a stone.

It just doesn’t help that her birthday is also the first week of August so in addition to school stuff, I have to find a way to get her a gift or two. Least she’s not demanding a big shindig.

Oh, dear, the kids are having a death match. Refereeing her social life makes me grateful not to have one of my own.

I guess that’s a point to mention to the shrink. Whatever good the Pristiq is doing…I still have less than zero desire to socialize. I mean, NONE. I don’t want to be around people. I like my quiet life of watching my shows and playing my word games. Besides…my so called friends just spend the entire time on their goddamn smart phones so why would I want to hang with them?

I think my purge is complete. Aside from the fact I haven’t slept more than ninety minutes consecutively in months despite getting 5mg melatonin…Maybe the routine of her school with help sort shit out. Or stress me out more since I have to take her and pick her up again this year, all over that tenth of a fucking mile. Least now I know I can hang back by the fence and not have to be engulfed in the massive spewage of bright colors and shrieking voices. My kid can spot me a mile away as I am pretty much the only person in town who wears all black 7 days a week.

I’m only wearing black until they invent a darker color.

Time to hit the Tylenol again, the cramps have resumed crushing my spine.

Oh and another kid is in my yard….

Have I mentioned how much I can’t fucking wait for fall and winter? Maybe the depression gets worse but at least all these heathens stay inside.

To quote my Grumpy Cat July calendar: Don’t worry, be grumpy.


Thoughts for Today

“Sorrow looks back.  Worry looks forward.  Faith looks ahead.”  ~Beatrice Fallon

How many times have you heard someone tell you if you just changed your attitude you could change your life?  I subscribe to this belief, but I also recognize that when I am experiencing a depressive episode the last thing I am going to have is a positive attitude.  

It is the nature of depression.  It steals positive thoughts and taints them with chronic cynicism.  If there is a glass to be seen it will most certainly be half empty. Negative thinking becomes strangling weeds in a patch of beautiful opportunity.

So if you identify the enemy as depression you have to figure out how to beat this enemy.  I have found no easier way than fighting it.  When I can actually pin point a symptom and give it a name I know I have a chance to catch that stink in’ think in’ thought right in its tracks.  Sure it is not easy but it is possible.  I strive very hard for all things possible.

I hold out for hope that things will keep getting better.  I seek the catalysts until it turns on in my presence and helps me to shift my thinking.  This is how I describe recovery-when a person is participating fully in life and making a contribution to her community with personal independence and freedom driving the decision making process.  Given that definition would you agree that everyone is recovering from something?

Is there a lesson or two for those who live with mental illness to be more aware of those nagging depressive thought patterns?  But I also think there is a lesson for all of us to say a gentle reminder about having a positive attitude which can be the deal maker or breaker in anything we are trying to accomplish.

To my friends who live with depression or bipolar disorder it might just take some added effort on our part to see those possibilities-but don’t give up trying they will be there when you are ready to see them.

Remember faith looks ahead.  I choose faith.  What are you choosing?

The Rebel and His Mother

The Rebel When my son was a preschooler in daycare His class had a field trip to the local In ‘N Out As we walked back to the daycare center My son held my hand We walked in pairs down…

The Comfort That Remains

Here I am, caught between reactive depression and clinical depression.

If you’ve been reading my last several posts, you know that I’ve been having a rough month. Several months. It’s been a real challenge to my hard-won quasi-stability.

3ff82b43-7ccd-4bde-8219-be5598c73452Last week, my 20+ year old cat, Louise died. The week before that, my husband’s 17+ year old cat died. So now I am trying to deal with those reactive feelings of grief and loss, without losing myself in the eternally waiting Pit of Despair that is clinical depression.

In doing that, I am trying to find things that remain to take comfort in.

I take comfort that my husband was here with me, to help me through.

That Louise had a good, long life spent in our loving care since she was a tiny kitten.

That she died peacefully, at home, in my lap, with me petting her.

That I had a chance to say goodbye to her.

That I know she loved me as much as I loved her.

That her presence and her purr helped calm me and helped me when nothing else could.

That she gave me a constant presence through a third of my life, and all of hers.

We have two cats now – Dushenka and Toby. They are young and healthy, but of course our time with them is not guaranteed. I know that, just by having them and loving them, we are inviting future grief into our lives, along with the joy. That’s just how it is.

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on animals, humans, and what we share with each other. I know this is likely to happen again, and soon, for our dog is also aged and nearly ready to go. It’s hard. Is it harder when your brain doesn’t work right and tries to tell you that sorrow doesn’t end?

I don’t know.There’s no scale by which to compare pain, and loss, and despair, and grief. We each go through it the only way we can.

I hope that soon, at least a few of the clouds will part and I can feel something besides sorrow, express something other than pain. Maybe next week’s blog will be about healing, or coping, or sharing strengths.

Those are all things I need to be doing – that we all need to be doing.

Someone remarked this week that a recent post ( was not about healing. It reflected, the commenter said, all the privileges I have – money (or those who can lend it to me), drugs I can take to help me through a crisis (too many, according to the commenter), a supportive husband. And that’s all true. I have these privileges and more besides – a home, work that I can do without leaving the house, insurance, a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist. Some of these come to me because of circumstances I don’t control, and some I have had to work very hard for, as I have worked hard for the ability to heal, a little bit at a time.

There are still things I cannot do – leave the house more than twice a month or so, shop for groceries, see the dentist without massive panic, stop taking the psychotropic meds that allow me to think, have a healthy sexual relationship. I expect that some of these will get better and others won’t.

But, no matter our symptoms or their severity, we as people with bipolar disorder are all in this together – or as the Bloggess would say, alone together. Maybe I have an easier time of it, but that’s far from saying it’s easy for me.

I still experience grief and sorrow, depression and anxiety, irrationality and immobilization, pain and despair, relief and help, struggle and hard work, love and loneliness.

And always, I look for the comfort that comes when I need it most, or expect it least, or believe I’ll never feel again. We all do.

Filed under: Mental Health Tagged: being overwhelmed, bipolar disorder, cats, coping mechanisms, depression, mental health, mental illness, mutual support, physical pain, psychological pain, support systems


Wow, it’s been a while since I updated this! Is it a case of ‘no news is good news’? Well, yes and no.

My medication seems to have been settled though a mistake on my repeat prescription indicated ordinary release Quetiapine rather than the extended release I’d been taking. I decided to stick with this mistake, if only because my eating pattern wasn’t dictated by the need to take the meds on an empty stomach.

I jiggled (is that a medical term?) the dose throughout the day to suit me further so now I take: 20mg fluoxetine and 100 mg quetiapine at breakfast time; 200mg quetiapine late afternoon; 200mg quetiapine an hour before bedtime –ish.

The quetiapine has worked well at controlling moods, especially hypomania / mixed. As for side effects, I’ve put on three-quarters of a stone in 6 months and I have chronic lower back pain and a variety of other aches. I’m always sedated to some extent though even on 500mg quetiapine I still haven’t slept through the night even once in decades.

For some reason I’ve never been able to fathom I am always – always – worse on Sundays. I assumed it was because of work on Monday but being off for 8 months recently, and now being on 6 weeks summer break, hasn’t made much difference. My anti-anxiety medication of choice (as long as it’s mid-afternoon+) is a glass or two of white wine. Well, it works.

I still have some delusions; always the same ones as I’ve been having for a few years now. I have (manageable.. so far) psychotic episodes, particularly when in a mixed mood. Anxiety and OCD go hand in hand and can be a nuisance. I have extremely intrusive instances of suicidal ideation and these are worrisome; they too generally happen in higher/mixed mood.

I returned to work in my stressful job a month or so ago and it went OK. The start of next academic year this September will dictate how I am and how I feel.


30 Days of Sandy Sue Altered: 6


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Tears are the Telescope

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Night Will Pass-Soldier

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Hold on to Yourself

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Friends for Life

Stigma & Spock: Sheffield Pride 2016

Ooo, blue, my hair's gone blue: (l to r) Anthony, me, ....

Blue, blue, my hair’s gone blue: (l to r) Anthony, me, & George

Warnings for: rainbows, poutine, an owl bag, & a giant chicken

Each Pride I attend – yesterday was my fourth – brings something new: knowledge, locations, people, even food. To be present as the LGBT community struts its stuff is a wonderful, dare I say fabulous, experience.

Always, though, there are the communities within communities. Sadly, the LGBT one has more than its fair share of people who are also part of the community of human beings with mental health problems. Yes, it’s that nasty old nemesis, stigma, once again.

Stigma happens, stigma matters, yet we humans can, and do, move beyond it. Stigma is the core of the Time to Change message, and change is its goal.

Old fart moment coming up: I’m closer to 60 than 50, and the amount of social change I’ve seen in my lifetime so far is truly breathtaking. Yes, we have a long way to go to the Star Trekian goal of the original, multicultural Enterprise crew, where the all-to-human Kirk describes the half-Vulcan Spock as his “brother”.

Peace & long life: Spock on a mug

Peace & long life: Spock on a mug


And yet to have lived vicariously through aparthiad and then the presidency of Nelson Mandela in South Africa; to see more. and more black actors in major television and film roles in the States (1); cancer going from “the big C” of my childhood, to something which can easily be talked about; the Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland …

… you get my drift. Yesterday, whilst watching several older, same sex couples walking around Sheffield Pride, I thought about how recently such relationships were classified as a crime. And I found myself thinking, “What’s the big deal?

Truly, why all the fuss? Why should anyone care if Gary and Peter, or Sue and Barbara, want to be together? Why is that a problem, as long as they care about each other? Why should that be seen as different than Gary and Sue, or Peter and Barbara?

Likewise, as long as they can and do get help, why should anyone care that the person sitting, working, or living alongside them, has mental health problems?

Mental health problem? Or a question of perspective?

Mental health problem? Or a question of perspective?

Help is out there. And yet, because of that old devil stigma, many people delay getting it, often with terrible, sometimes tragic, consequences. Consequences which knock on to the lives of their family, friends, and colleagues.

One of the most distressing conversations I had yesterday about mental health, and its horrific consequences, was in the queue for some poutine. A Canadian classic, I’m tempted to describe poutine in British terms as “cheesy chips with gravy”, but that doesn’t do it justice. Whilst queuing, I got to talking to someone about a young man who took his own life. Sadly, it was one of those all too familiar situations where the first his loved ones knew there were problems was when they learned he was dead.

Death as the consequence of stigma – of the inability, for whatever reason, to tell someone, anyone, how they were feeling. A young life ended far too early.

My first Poutine 30 07 16

My first poutine

Spock, of course. would question stigma of all kinds. How, he would ask, is it logical to treat people differently because they have health problems, or because their sexuality differs from that of the majority of the population? Despite how far we’ve come in the human tendency to put people in boxes labeled “them” and “us”, we’re still far from logical, indeed far from as loving as we all have the potential to be.

Owl bag (centre) wants to be something much, much bigger. Bless

Owl bag (centre) wants to be something much, much bigger. Bless

To succeed in love, like work, like pretty much everything in life, comes down to communication. If we don’t tell other people what we’re feeling, what we’re thinking (2), then how can they possibly know what’s going on? This is the essence of Time to Change: talking naturally, with friends and family as well as mental health professionals, about how we are. How we feel.

As Spock would say, it’s only logical to change.

A lovely bloke, with a great pledge

A lovely bloke, with a great pledge

(1) The first time I saw a black actor (Denzel Washington, I think) play the lead in a film which did not refer to his race, I was thrilled and stunned.
(2) I realise that there are thoughts – eg, an unsolicited comment such as “That dress looks awful on you!” – which are better off not shared.

Tagged: aparthiad, Cancer, community, Labels, LGBT, mental health, owl bag, poutine, Pride, sexuality, Sheffield, Sheffield Pride 2016, Spock, Star Trek, suicide, Time to Change