Daily Archives: December 4, 2016

The Well-Trained Dog and the Living Cardinal

How much do you know about grouse hunting?

If your answer is, “What the heck is a grouse?” then you are in the vast majority of humanity.  I was you once.  Then I met my husband.  Now I’m married with a hunting dog and a coop full of training pigeons.  Life comes at you fast.

**Note** In case you care, a grouse is a bird.  It’s about the size of a chicken.  Also, since we get this question a lot, no our pigeons do not die in the course of training.  They’re homing pigeons, so once the dog finds them in a field then we launch them into the air with a pigeon launcher (yes, this is a real thing), and they fly home.  Okay.  Glad we covered the logistics.  On to my story.

Yesterday I tried to get our dog Ruby to come in from the back yard.  I called her, but she wouldn’t come.  I went outside to investigate, and she was on point.  This means she was frozen in place, pointing out a bird for a non-existent hunter to shoot.  I think it was a cardinal or something.  Definitely not a food bird.  I didn’t take a picture, but here’s what our type of dog looks like when she’s on point:


My husband wasn’t home, and I couldn’t remember what he usually says to make Ruby break point.  I tried a few things:

“At ease!”


“You’re free!”


Nothing worked.  She moved only her eyeballs to look at me like, “Hello…shoot the bird…”

She’s fifty pounds, so I wasn’t about to go pick up her frozen-in-place body and haul her inside (on second thought, it would have been hilarious if she tried to hold the pose while I was carrying her!).  Suddenly, I had the perfect idea.

I went inside and pulled out our Wild West board game called Bang.  There’s a cap gun in that game that’s really loud.  I walked back outside and tried to call Ruby in again.  She stayed on point (shocker).

I pointed the gun in the general direction of the bird and shot.  BANG!  Ruby was satisfied and immediately ran to me happily like, “Did you get it?  Wasn’t that awesome?!”  Whatever, dog.  I probably gave the poor bird a tiny heart attack.

Now our neighbors probably think we’re the nutter house.  Well, that ship probably sailed long ago.  They’re simply marking this up as one more reason to move:  “Hey, Maude! Crazy chick next door is shooting cardinals!  Did you call on that house over on the other side of town yet?”


Death to Concern Trolls

It’s cold here. But not cold enough to snow. Ergo, the cold is unconscionably rude. *nodnods* It doesn’t help that I also *have* a cold. Having a cold always makes me feel like a whiny wimp, ha ha.

I’d forgotten to mention in my last post another localised drama we had been dealing with. Someone had reported us to the GP as having a dirty home and locking our kids up, which had to be passed on anonymously to the council. So we had a multi-agency council investigation opened up on us because of it; that includes the cops, social workers, youth services, the schools, and health services. The formal investigation was closed the day after it was opened because, oh hey, nothing to hide whatsoever and wtf to whomever filed the concern-trolling. But because the youngest child’s last check-up hadn’t been put into the system yet (easily found when we pointed out the date), they were a teense concerned that she’d not been seen in awhile.

Obvs, she had, but anyways.

The end result was that a health visitor came to check in on us this week. It was a pleasant and productive enough conversation, considering that it was brought on by the worst sort of half-fabricated Chinese Whispers. I probably was way too candid about my life and times and why I wouldn’t put my children into a neglectful environment after my own childhood. Like, I came out of it feeling reassured and happy, which I certainly didn’t expect. The end result of that was getting their sleep expert to contact us to set up a date to talk ways to get the littlest to sleep on her own, but really… that is our sole ‘problem’ and has been the only ‘problem’ for some time. The tl;dr on that is that she’s a stubborn little miss and likes to sleep attached to one or both of us. We’re confident that she’ll move to sleeping on her own when she’s good and ready. In that, she’s the opposite of her sister; big sis did everything else when she was good and ready, but was an amazing sleeper from the start.

I’m annoyed because insomnia is sneaking back in. I’ve been having to dripfeed myself from my melatonin stash to try and help fight it since I got switched back to extended release Seroquel… when was that? March? Long enough that you’d think my body would quit trying to default to insomnia. Though having said that, it’s sort of resurfaced again the past week specifically, which could be a product of maybe-hypomania. I don’t feel particularly high, and I’m certainly not trying to do all (or really, any) of the things. I feel a bit rosy in the way that I associate with being ‘up’, but that’s about it — a very minor dredge of fuzzy warmth. That could feasibly be the end result of successful social interaction, happiness at catching up with my sisters recently, or just yanno, the fact I’ve got cute kids in the house.

I know, wah wah, poor Raesie has it pretty good as per relative norm. I don’t take it for granted though. I went through much too long of the baseline being shit + boozed + sleeping pilled + sleep paralysis + insecure schedule + you name it = soooooo soo not okay. If the worst that I deal with regularly is a bit of anxiety and depression on a Sunday night, I’ll take it (though I’ll admit I’d like to not have to deal with that either ¬¬).

Right, that’s enough word vom. Hopefully will continue this trying to get back into posting (and liking/commenting on peoples’ posts) more frequently habit!


Hospital Chronicles

Home in my pajamas on a Sunday morning. Steam spiraling from my favorite coffee mug. A kitty purring on my lap. Sunshine trickling into our cozy living space. I guarantee you I could neither see nor cherish such simple things last week. My mind was so muddled. My paranoia and fear so high. I was mostly convinced the voices inside the walls were plotting against me. So full of angst and so uncomfortable I could not sit for a cup of joe or hear the sounds coming from the record player.
I had to take a time out. Sign myself into a psych facility. The voices, chanting and taunting were threatening my well being. My safety. Blood shot eyes from lack of sleep, combined with a steady stream of tears made for a picture of madness. I gingerly walked into the therapists office at my outpatient program and revealed I had a plan. I could no longer tolerate the noise, the incessant chatter, anymore. If I didn’t go to the hospital today I was prepared to follow through. Of course, please sit down, let’s talk a minute she said. The rest is a blur. I waited 12 hours before being admitted.
While there, I slept a lot! Attended some groups, did some art, some exercise. The expectations were low. Which was helpful. We haggled over a medication change. For me, just the containment helps calms the voices. Take away the possibility of hurting myself and take away their power as well. The chants. The demands have no sway because there is no option.
Today, back home, I can sit in a bit of gratitude. Its never fun to go to the hospital, but it’s sometimes necessary. That was the case for me. I couldn’t think clearly, much less rationally. I couldn’t hear suggestions from my husband or therapist. All I heard was chanting from the demon that sometimes taunts me. But no more. Certainly not today. I see some hope. I felt a belly laugh or 2 in the last few days. Unconscious words of positivity gracing my lips. I walked through the city with open arms, open eyes and an open heart. I allowed the sunshine to penetrate and recharge my insides. Spent a little money. Ate a lot of food. My belly swelled w wholesomeness, not typically found in the hospital. Free from tainted recycled air I took each breath and filled it with love for myself. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before.
I made a conscious contact w a higher power. I don’t really know what that means or what it’s supposed to look like. I’m just going with it. No need to analyze. Keeping the anxiety about such things as low as possible. There is no right or wrong. Right? Just kidding. I feel good for a change. Not slogging out of bed full of dread. Is this what “living” life feels like? Not just merely existing. I’ll take another cup of that please!

Blogging While Bipolar: What I’ve Learned

Next month, this blog will be three years old, an unruly toddler of a blog with jam on its face and a sticky plush animal grasped in its fist. Except for one dry spell of about a month during the first year, I have posted every week in both this and my general purpose blog, Et Cetera, etc. (janetcobur.wordpress.com).

My husband often tells me that he’s proud that I am doing this and that I have stuck with it so long and faithfully. (He doesn’t often read my posts, but that’s another matter.)

nightblogWriting while bipolar is not always easy, but blogging has taught me a few things about myself.

Blogging is a substitute for going outside and having a social life. While it’s generally true that my disorder has abated over the years, at least from its worst, I am still unable – or perhaps unwilling is more accurate – to go outside for more than a doctor’s appointment, or a brief errand and lunch with my husband. But I am still connected to the outside world through my blog. I have friends, I have conversations, I get feedback. I have special blogging friends like Bradley, Raeyn, and Dyane. (I also live vicariously through Facebook, but that’s another story.)

I need structure, and blogging gives me that. I used to post randomly, whenever I felt like it. Pretty quickly I discovered that Sunday was the day when my blog got the most traffic, so I made that my official blog post day. Working at home as I do, I tend to lose track of where I am in any given week. Is it Tuesday? Thursday? It’s hard to tell. But having a writing schedule clears that up.

On Monday and Tuesday I pre-write – think about articles I’ve read or conversations I’ve had and jot down a few titles or ideas or URLs. On Wednesday I begin writing. My goal is to have a rough-ish draft by the end of Thursday and a nearly finished one on Friday. Friday and Saturday are for tweaking the writing, selecting a visual, and tagging. Then Sunday, I proof and post. (I also tweet a quote from my most recent post on Tuesday and a quote from an earlier post on Wednesday, plus a “coming attractions” post on Friday announcing Sunday’s topic.)

It’s a loose enough schedule that I can build in actual paying work around it.

For me, blogging and other forms of writing are better than journaling. My journaling quickly turned into whining. It was boring, even for me. I need real content to interact with, whether that be my blogs, a memoir, or the mystery novel I’m working on. Writing engages and invigorates my poor broken brain, giving it something to do other than wallow or turn to mush.

Even when I think I can’t write, I can still blog. Back when I was able to work full-time, I wrote and edited for magazines and textbooks. I used to boast that I could write 1000 words on anything. Blogging is more forgiving. I can stop at 500 words if that’s all I have to say. I can pick my own topics instead of writing to order based on someone else’s priorities. And that schedule I mentioned? It’s not an actual deadline, so I don’t have to worry about it whizzing past. When the pressure’s off, I can almost always make my Sunday goal.

Blogging validates me. I have two degrees in English (one from a pretty classy university) and worked in educational publishing for about 20 years. Then my brain broke and it all went away. Now that I’m writing regularly, I feel that in some way I’m using both my education and the skills I’ve built up.

By blogging, I prove to myself that bipolar disorder may have taken away some parts of my life, but it can’t have everything.

Filed under: Mental Health Tagged: bipolar disorder, blogging, coping mechanisms, mental health, mental illness, my experiences, working at home, writing

The Mental Health Registry Is Coming

They say it will be like the Cancer Registry: a tool for data gathering, to assist in developing and evaluating and improving treatment strategies and outcomes.

All well and good, but mental health/mental illness information is a little bit different than cancer information.  A little bit more sensitive.

Let’s take one example that’s close to my heart.

Every year when I renew my physician’s license to practice, I must answer a question regarding my mental fitness to practice.

Now we all know that I am disabled, so of course I don’t formally practice medicine.  I keep my license in case I am called upon in an emergency, like Dr. Watson, Sherlock Holmes’s esteemed companion.  

I have never had a single complaint, lawsuit, or bad outcome.  I am very careful to keep up my continuing education.

And yet, the one time I openly disclosed my psychiatric diagnoses when applying for a license in a new state, I was immediately bundled off to the “Physicians Health Program,” where I was forced to be drug tested weekly and attend a three month sham “behavioral health” program, aka “drug rehab,” even though I have never had any substance abuse issues and was not at the time using any drugs at all.  Then I was put on “probation” for a year, even though I hold unrestricted licenses in good standing in four other states.

After putting up with this garbage for several months I withdrew, chalking this one up to a very expensive experiment.  I paid the Honesty Tax.  How degrading!

I will be very much heartened if I find that this registry is exactly what it purports to be: an instrument to better coordinate the search for better treatments.

But I doubt it.  How could a centralized registry of psychiatric patients go untapped?

Let’s say I want to take a break from retirement and teach high school biology.  They do a background check (I hope), and as of now, they don’t find anything, because I have no criminal record.

But if there is such a thing as this “Mental Health Registry,” who’s to say that in five years Homeland Security doesn’t find itself good reason to insist on the identities of the patients listed–oh, it says the data is anonymous, doesn’t it?  But it also says that the registry will be a good source of patients for clinical trials.

Yes indeed, the Cancer Registry is a good place to find patients with specific cell types of specific cancers, to recruit for clinical trials of regimens for that specific cancer type.

Well and good!  But mental illness is a bit more tricky.

Once we have names and diagnoses, we have information that can be subpoenaed.  Patient information does require a subpoena.

But under the Patriot Act, will that rule of law stand?  Or will the Registry database be…leaked, perhaps?  Or simply mined by Big Brother?

Call me paranoid, but I am not at all comfortable with any computer mainframe having my psychiatric details.  Even the Pentagon gets regularly hacked by high schoolers.