Daily Archives: November 27, 2016

Welcome to the Show

This is a retred…I find myself wearing a mask often around the holidays.

Welcome to the masquerade ball
Where all are dressed to a tee
Lace and leather
Satin and feather
An invitation to mockery
Grand fall from grace
Faces upon faces sache
Empty emotion locked in place
Bittersweet madness captured
I search and
I search
For a sense of reality
Lost in the maze of duality
Frozen and Contorted smiles
Bright colored sadness
In a fit of desperation
I dash from mask to mask
Begging for guidance
One hand wipes away my tear
One turns a cold shoulder
I falter, scramble
Into the devil himself
Red cape smooth as silk
White gloves of evil
His finger to my lips
My Muffled screams do not echo
The picture perfect persona
Melded to my face
I am left to dance with inner turmoil
Only I can see
Round and round
The room devoid of humanity
An air of confused dignity
Heads held high in reform
It’s a new way of living
Behind the glitter and shine
One step two
Your existence but a matter
Of show
Of fools gold
Shattered pieces of self
Fall away under the fancy guise
Red stiletto heels stomping on real faces
Emotions masked
But not dulled
Pain will reign
There shall the devil be
Preying on your fragility

Relentless Holiday Cheer

a snowmanFor many of us with bipolar disorder, the holidays are hard to get through. There is stress caused by family, shopping, entertaining, and crowds. Or the celebrations of others can bring loneliness, isolation, immobility, and despair. Above all, there is the relentless, overwhelming, mandatory cheerfulness, and the expectation that we should feel that way.

As I write this, tomorrow is Thanksgiving. A bit over a week later is my birthday. Then comes Christmas. And, of course, New Year’s Eve and Day.

Every year these celebrations are a trial and a chore for me. I don’t know how you get through them, but this is what they usually look like for me.

Thanksgiving. We have no family in town, so it is just me and my husband. Actually, this is not bad, because it relieves us of the responsibility for massive cooking, anxiety-filled entertaining, and the always-dicey interactions with family. At most, it means we Skype with my mother-in-law while we all eat, which is taxing enough.

This year we are short on funds, so we’re having spaghetti instead of turkey. (I don’t like to do turkey anyway: http://wp.me/p4e9wS-2z.) Then we will indulge in our two traditions: the Thanksgiving episode of WKRP (“As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”) and the ceremonial playing of Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant.” Then we nap. That’s it.

And what am I thankful for this year? I can’t think of much, except for my husband and cats, and that my pdoc just increased my Abilify. It hasn’t kicked in yet, except to make me sleepy, but, hey, a nap is on the schedule anyway.

Birthday. This is one of the big ones, with a zero at the end. My husband has already given me my presents (a variety of shoes and slippers). I can reliably predict that there will be a day-old baked good from where he works. No singing, no candles. That’s the way I like it. I’ll count the number of greetings I get on Facebook and feel miserable no matter what it is.

(My attitude toward birthdays is colored by the fact that a traumatic childhood event happened at a birthday party, although not my own.)

Christmas. The biggie. We exchange gifts ahead of time, without wrapping them. We go to the Chinese buffet. Dan watches a movie that I can’t stand, like Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, or one I can sort of tolerate, like It’s a Wonderful Life. Or one I actually like, like Scrooged.

New Year’s Eve/Day. We used to go to a friend’s house for leftover Christmas cookies and singing “Oh, Danny Boy” on the porch (don’t ask), but she was one of the people who couldn’t put up with my bipolar isolation and tendency not to respond to invitations or to show up if I had. So that’s out now.

Dan’s family has a tradition of shaking their purses or wallets at midnight to ensure prosperity for the new year (it failed spectacularly last year). He’ll be working, so we can’t even kiss at midnight. I drink cheap champagne and go to bed early. We might have pork on New Year’s Day. Or not. But unless we have cole slaw or Dan opens a can of sauerkraut for himself, no cabbage.

If that sounds like a dreary holiday season, well, it is, but it’s all I can handle. I have tried. I really have. In years past I have bought Christmas sweaters and earrings and sent cards and entertained and done Secret Santas at work. I have had dinner with family. (Decorating is largely out, owing to the cats.) I have organized trips to fancy local buffets or restaurants. I have wrapped presents creatively (if sloppily) and even shopped off-line. I have baked spice cake and decorated sugar cookies with my friend Peggy. I have gone to community carol sings.

But no more. In many ways, like my life, my holidays have been pared down to the bare minimum. I approach them with dread and survive them with relief. They do not lift my spirits and nowadays I don’t expect them to.

It’s ironic that, though in many ways I am improving and healing and rebuilding my life, the holidays still defeat me. They are, at least for now, pieces that I can’t reclaim. I don’t think it would be much better if a bout of hypomania hit. I can just see myself buying presents for my far-flung friends, then bottoming out before I could mail them. You can’t time these things, after all.

The best I can wish for myself and for all of you is this:

Survive. Hold tight to whatever happiness you find. And please, please, get through this season any way you can.

Filed under: Mental Health Tagged: Abilify, being overwhelmed, bipolar disorder, Christmas, coping mechanisms, depression, holidays, my experiences, social skills, Thanksgiving

Updates 11/26/16

I deactivated my Facebook a few days ago. I think it’s mostly a matter of improving the signal to noise ratio rather than anything specific. And it certainly does do that. Facebook is about 98% noise, as far as I can tell. I was thinking a lot about how people are influenced by social media, and while I like to think I am fairly self-aware when it comes to these things, I had to wonder why I still used it and to weigh the pros and cons. I’ll probably reactivate at some point just because everyone on Earth seems to use it, but for the time being, everything is great.

Am I getting things done? Sometimes. It’s not like Facebook was the only place on the internet to waste hours. But it was really the only unending stream of bullshit in my life. I think I may have been on to something when I thought about deactivating most of each day and reactivating for a few hours here and there, but that’s way too much work.

I don’t like or trust their algorithms. I wouldn’t mind being more in charge of what I am looking at and reading throughout the day. I work on the computer so I am on it a lot, and when things are slow there is a temptation to waste time on Facebook. It’s easy to do, and, unlike Amazon, it usually doesn’t cause me to spend any money.

The past few months have been disastrous, health-wise, and I have worried that I’d end up in the hospital again for skin issues. Thankfully, this did not happen, but since the doctors want so badly to reduce the corticosteroids, things got pretty fucking bad before they could be convinced to do anything that would actually help things (=more corticosteroids). And I’ve been having trouble making phone calls at all, but this has improved in the past week or two. And it seems like everyone on earth is trying to take all my money, which is stressful. Also, I dislike holidays and think they often tend to bring out the worst in people.

Things aren’t especially bad, but there is always a feeling of dread of the future, I suppose. I could try to be positive but it makes me feel like a fraud, and I think I’m just programmed this way.