Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Storm

There comes a time when despite your best efforts to avoid further chaos in your life, you are faced with a crisis.  Regardless of your emotional state, you have to find a way to maintain your sanity and weather the storm.  In my case, it just so happens that this crisis involved my father.  He will be turning 85 on September 20th.  As far as someone who is 84 is concerned, he is in good health.  However, he does suffer with terrible memory loss, and has occasionally been known to pass out.  A few weeks ago, for a reason that is unclear, he proceeded down to the basement in his house, lost his balance, and fell.  The floor in the basement is essentially concrete.  By the time I heard about it, he was in the ER at the hospital nearby, and was just a mess. 

Ever since my mom passed away, and I was institutionalized, I find it extremely difficult to set foot in any hospital.  Let alone the one that had me committed.  Walking into that place brought back every unpleasant feeling that I had been trying to avoid.  On top of those feelings of sheer terror, and the burning in my stomach, you can add the fear that I was also going to lose my dad.  I’m just not ready for that.  I know nobody is ever ready to lose a loved one, but since I still haven’t recovered from losing my mom and my brother, I am even less likely to recover from the loss of my father. 

Thankfully, when I entered the ER where he was being treated, I knew that he was awake and fairly aware.  He was confused, and kept talking about strange things.  However, judging by the enormous cut on his head, and his torn up little body, this was no shock to me.  I so wanted to stay with him, and talk him through this.  Yet, I so needed to get out of there.  It’s a horrible, horrible feeling.  Knowing that you can’t be there for someone 100% because you are so lost in the maze of your own fears. 

Since that day, my dad has been moved a couple of times, and has had surgery on his neck.  They removed 4 sections of his neck and replaced them with metal rods.  Had he not had the surgery, and he fell again, he would have been paralyzed.  His current status is that he has physical therapy every day.  He is in a neck brace, his right hand is broken, and his left hand still hasn’t returned to a functional state. 

Every time we go see him, he recalls a letter that I wrote him this year for Father’s Day.  I decided that I wasn’t going to get him a card, I was going to write him a heartfelt letter.  Apparently, he had forgotten about it, and discovered it on his desk a few days before his accident.  He cries every time he recalls my words.  He said to me, “Boy, you’re a real writer.  I didn’t know you felt that way.  I feel the same way about you”.   Despite myself, I had to smile.  I knew that now he was truly aware of my feelings for him.  The best part?  I knew that he was proud of me, and now looked at me in a new way, because he knows I have writing skills.  What an amazing gift to receive through such a tragedy. 

I still have tremendous difficulty going to see him.  It’s very hard to see the one person that has always been your Superman, in that state.  Not to mention, I have to deal with the possibility of seeing family members that I have severed ties with.  If I can’t get there to see him, we call him and one of the nurses holds the phone up to his ear.  We are hoping he is released before his birthday.  I am working through my fear, and with the support of my husband, I hope to come to terms with the situation.  I love my father, and I am grateful that he now knows without a shadow of a doubt how much. 

True strength is not necessarily found where you would hope.  It is found in the subtle nuances of your daily life.  Every day that you wake up, and summon the energy to live, you are finding strength.  Now that you have lived through another catastrophe, you can breathe a sigh of relief. 

 

Dedicated to the memory of

Robin Williams

And

Joan Rivers

Thank you for the laughter.  You will be missed.

 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Mood Swings


Sometimes I feel like I am on the playground swinging back and forth on the swing set.  Up and I feel alright, down and I am thoroughly depressed.  It’s almost as if my body has a physical reaction to my mood swings now.  I’ve become so accustomed to them over the years.  One minute, all could appear to be right with the world, and the next minute all I can think about is what is wrong with my world. 

We have these strange days occasionally here in the summer, where it will be raining and the sun will be shining at the same time.  In speaking about this earlier today, it occurred to me that days like this are very much like a metaphor for depression.  The sun may be shining, but in my world it’s still raining. 

I’ve been dealing with writer’s block for a while now, and it was only until today….just in the last hour, when I felt my mood shifting, that I knew what to write about.  It starts with an overwhelming exhaustion, loss of concentration, and a need to escape.  Why take everyone around me down with me? 

Lately, I have been feeling a painful sense of being abandoned whenever I am feeling down.  I am grateful to those that have stuck by me through the worst of times, but still angry at those that could only handle the best of times.  Why was I the one that was called selfish?  Why not those that took off because they couldn’t handle the sadness, the pain, the depression?  That feels much more selfish to me than someone who can’t possibly control a chemical imbalance in their brain. 

I always thought I had a select group of friends and family members that I could count on when I needed them.  In the last year, that group has been completely decimated and reformed again.  Maybe from now on, I should call my depression Yoko.  Yoko strikes again.  I can’t blame her entirely though.  I know I am far too ready to call a spade a spade, even when perhaps that spade was a queen of hearts.  I am prone to overreacting, but I have noticed that trait also comes and goes like the mood swings.  So, essentially, I am just a delightful basket of what comes next?

Even now, it’s hard for me to focus.  Hard to find the words.  I keep reaching for my sarcasm to get me through, because if I didn’t I would probably dissolve into tears and curl up in the fetal position.  Moments like this terrify me, and here you are enjoying the fruits of my terror.  Rain is falling outside, and that couldn’t be more apt.

As you can see, my thoughts are scattered.  It’s a battle just to keep my fingers moving across the keyboard.  I want to give this minor crisis in my life a voice.  Perhaps I will learn something about myself.  Perhaps you will learn something about yourself.  When I am down, I am so far down it seems as if there is no return.  All I have the strength to do is sleep.  Of course, when I need it most, it so rarely comes because my brain is stuck on repeat.  It’s moments like this that have me questioning, why?  Why me?  Why now? 

I genuinely wish there was an answer.  Why do some of us carry this burden, while others have glorious, happy lives and do marvelous things without even a moment of sadness?  Yes, that may be an exaggeration of sorts, but you get the idea.  I get it, ok?  I understand that only the strong survive, but if I could trade happiness for strength, would that be a fair trade?  Would I be happy with that decision?  I would love to test the theory, just for a day. 

As I glance out the window and see that now the sun shines amidst the raindrops, I know I will come out of this.  It will be ok.  The trick is not to expect too much too soon.  This weight in my chest will get lighter, and these crazy, racing thoughts will dissipate.  I’ve got 20+ years of experience on my side. 

I can do it.  You can too.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The OK Day




There are times when you are Bipolar that you can literally and physically stop yourself, flip through the pages of your mind, and come to a conclusion.  I am OK.  Right now, at this moment, I have all I need, and I feel good.  You put away all of the what if thinking that has you worried what tomorrow will bring.  You live in that moment, and damn….it’s a good feeling. 

 
My OK Day was yesterday.  I stopped for a moment and remembered how completely in love I am in with my husband, and that through everything, I will forever be grateful for his presence in my life.  He had just left the house to run an errand, and I needed him to know that I was OK.  I sent him a text thanking him for being my knight in shining armor.  That is what he is to me, and he is my everything. 

 
So, now that you have found your moment of bliss, the next thing you or your loved ones say is, “Let’s hope it lasts a little while.”  It’s a normal reaction.  It would be phenomenal if the path to a happy life was paved with hope.  Once that statement is made, the tiny little bit of logic I have resting somewhere in my brain reminds me to stop.  Don’t hope for more.  Live with what you have right now.

 
I learned a long time ago that one of the biggest traits that my depression brings out in me is the fear of failure.  One thing goes wrong, and that’s it….I failed…..AGAIN. 
So, I say to myself when I am fortunate enough to realize I am on that path, don’t hope.  Ironically enough, most people reach out and hold onto hope like it’s their life line.  I cannot.  What happens if I don’t have another good day tomorrow?  What if I spent my one good opportunity just hoping for the next?

 
It creeps up on me slowly, but it’s always there.  The F word.  You failed.  Another hope, dream, goal, and plan for your future is unattainable because you let your depression steal it from you.  And whether this makes sense to the average person or not, our brains will turn this into our biggest failure yet. 

 
Regret and guilt will soon follow, and you wonder if you were ever really happy at all.  I know how “crazy” it all sounds.  When I say crazy, I mean silly, odd, strange, and even peculiar.  Not mentally ill.  Even as I write this, I wonder who will truly understand. 

 
Everything I write has a purpose, and because of that, I feel like everything I write has an audience.  Even if this blog reaches ONE person who has felt as I have, I’ve succeeded in what I was trying to do. 
 
And for that reason, and many others, I finally had my OK Day. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Deadlines



All too often, we put deadlines and restrictions on our lives, not even realizing that we are setting ourselves up to fail. We will make a to-do list 5 pages long and wonder why we feel no sense of accomplishment at even taking on 2 or 3 of the tasks.  Take a step back and think for just a minute about what you are doing. 

Have you spent so much of your life expecting yourself to fail, that you barely know what it is to succeed anymore?  What if that list had 1 single item on it?  You would feel guilty, wouldn’t you?  Worthless somehow.  I know those feelings all too well. 

Let me tell you a little story about a moment in time in my life.  Everything had seemed to spiral out of control for me.  My family life, my finances, my health, and especially my depression symptoms.  Those of you that know me well know that I am a clean person.  I generally clean my house every single day, and nobody is allowed in here if it isn’t.  OCD?  Yes…..probably, but we’ll save that for another day. 

About 6 days passed and I hadn’t cleaned the house not once.  I didn’t vacuum a room, I didn’t dust, and I barely even stacked the dishes in the sink.  You know what happened?  NOTHING.  Absolutely nothing.  My world didn’t come crashing down around me, my husband didn’t leave me, I didn’t develop a bug infestation, and life as we know it went on just as if I had been tending to those things all along.

It was like an epiphany for me.  Would I want it to go any longer than that?  Good lord no, but the fact still remained that all of these impossible deadlines I put on myself were causing me more heart ache and pain than they were causing me to feel a sense of accomplishment.  I have come to the realization that I can say to myself, OK…today is Tuesday.  Today, you will try to recuperate.  You will try to find your center and dig deep down for the energy you are so lacking right now, and the first thing you will do, is wash the dishes.  That’s it.  No more, no less. 

Should Wednesday roll around and I still do not feel as if I can get out of that bed and find the momentum I need, then I need a smaller goal.  We’ll reduce it to just getting out of bed.  There will be no guilt, there will be no one standing over you telling you that you are not good enough….that you are not enough, period. 

I can’t promise you that the blogs that I write will help everyone.  I am not a professional, I have no formal schooling, but what I can tell you is how each experience has worked on me, my own personal guinea pig. 

Do yourself a favor, until you feel stronger and more confident, throw the lists right out the window.  As I said at the beginning, you are setting yourself up for failure, and an even longer bout with depression.  Just give it a try. 


Friday, July 18, 2014

Pain




For many years, the phrase, “I have a headache” was just a comical excuse to get out of sex with your significant other.  It was most often used by women, so I don’t think most men truly comprehend the impact that headaches can have on your quality of life.  In my experience, many women can’t grasp the concept either, because they are fortunate enough to not ever have had to deal with a true migraine headache, and the aftermath. 

 
Mine started when I was about 12.  I had a math teacher who would let me go sit in a dark room adjacent to his classroom if it got really bad.  His wife had them too, so he understood.  Coincidentally, I also had just recently gotten braces, so I always wondered if there was a correlation.

 
My teens were not excruciating as far as migraines went, but once I hit my 20’s, they doubled in length, intensity, and frequency. By the time I turned 28, and I was about to get married, I was getting probably 5-10 a month.  It seemed like each year they got worse in one way or another. 
We moved in 2002, and after that I would get these marathon migraines that would last for 4-5 days, and I always ended up in the ER. 

 
I had been complaining about these issues since I was 12, but no doctor was ever able to offer the correct advice.  I’ve been on many medications, stopped taking aspirin, only to have the headaches quadruple, and been to the ER so many times I can’t even count anymore. Not to mention, tried several different types of eyeglasses.  For a while there, I was taking a medication that worked about 85% of the time, which was a wonderful thing for me.  Eventually, it started producing crippling side effects that I just couldn’t deal with anymore, so here I am, back at square one. 

 
The last time I was placed in the psychiatric “hospital” I spoke with a nurse practitioner there that had spent a great deal of time working with a neurologist.  I looked at her and I told her that no one could figure out why this kept happening.  She looked at me as serious as anyone ever has and said, “Honey, there is no reason for you to keep getting these migraines.  You have MIGRAINE BRAIN.  You were born with it, and it’s never going to go away”. 

 
I guess in the back of my mind, I always knew that was the case.  I mean when you’re in the ER on Morphine and your head still hurts, you’re probably up the proverbial creek without a paddle.  So, this is why I get aggravated when people give me all of their wonderful herbal remedies, or the number of the best doctor ever, or suggest some new medication.  It’s a give and take, I guess.  As sick as they are of hearing about my headaches, is probably pretty close to how sick I am of hearing about their miracle cures. 

 
This is just something I am going to have to manage, just like my depression.  It’s going to mess things up, cause me a lot of pain, and probably piss a lot of people off, but I don’t have time to worry about that anymore.  I have to worry about having some type of life despite all of the obstacles placed in front of me. 

 
So, there you have it.  When I say I have a headache, I’m not screwing around trying to be funny.  I am probably in horrible, excruciating, blinding pain with no end in sight.  It’s OK for you to say, I hope you feel better.  Just please don’t tell me what your best friend’s cousin twice removed that is related to a doctor told her to do and it worked this one time.  I don’t care.  Not to be an ass, but it’s the truth.  I just don’t.  What I care about is working through it, like I always do, and coming out on the other end pain free.  Yes, at this point I am at about 10-12 headaches per month, but guess what?  That’s down from 15, so I guess I’ll take that as a sign of good things to come. 

 
It’s like I’ve said before, you can’t possibly walk a mile in my shoes, or anyone else’s.  They don’t fit, and you would be bitching to get them off in about a minute and a half, so don’t even try.  Just be there to understand, and maybe once in a while check in and see how that person is doing.  None of us is asking you to FIX it.  We just want to be understood.  

 

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Past




As children, we are always told to keep looking ahead to the future!  Your future is so bright, you have the world at your feet.  As adults, we find ourselves mired in the days of yester-year when things seemed so simple, and the biggest hurdle we had to overcome was whether or not we got to have our best friend spend the night. 

 

I often find myself wondering if we had known more about Bipolar disorder, or even just depression as a whole, would I have been able to prepare myself for what lie ahead.  Or would we have just done the easy thing, and swept it under the rug, comfortable in our denial of anything painful. 

 

I see myself now at 41 years old, and I have trouble looking back at my childhood.  Not because it was necessarily painful, but because I mourn for that smaller, happier, care-free version of myself.  We’ve always been told that being an adult isn’t easy, and believe me when I tell you that being an adult that is Bipolar is even harder.  I’m not asking for the easy way out of life, or special treatment, I am just looking for some kindness and consideration. 

 

If babies are born into this world with everyone standing around them oohing and aahing about how “perfect” they are, why on earth do we spend the rest of our days beating them down to have complete and utter lack of self-esteem, confidence, or any idea of what they could have become, had the world not gotten to them first?

 

As an adult, I still long for the summer time.  It reminds me of the days of no school, but you got up at 9:00 am anyway, and you didn’t care because all the other kids on the street were up too.  You went outside with your agenda for the day, whether it was soccer, or slip and slide, or playing Star Wars in your friends basement.  Those days were so long and blissfully happy. 

 

Suddenly, the world became a cruel and unkind place, because you were unlike the status quo.  You had a few extra pounds, and were larger than other kids your age, and because of that difference, you no longer fit into that happy go lucky, cookie cutter mold.  The irony of those days is that, while you spend the rest of your life living in shame because of those differences, you would give anything to go back to the days where you were just a few pounds heavier than the other kids.  What you’ve become is so much worse.  Perhaps you could have lived with yourself just fine, until people started to take notice that you weren’t as thin as the captain of the cheerleaders, or you didn’t have the same expensive clothes as the popular kids. 

 

I will always long for those days that started first thing in the morning, and didn’t end until the sun went down and the mosquitos came out.  I had a happy, memorable childhood, with a few exceptions here and there.  Now, I find life quite the opposite…..with a few exceptions here and there. 

 

 It’s an odd feeling looking back on your life with a sense of joy as tears roll down your cheeks.  I don’t blame anyone for these negative feelings I have towards myself.  I am the biggest part of the problem, quite literally.  I do however, wish someone would have sat down with me when the warning signs began, and said, “Look, your life is going to be a mess….quite frankly a living hell, until you get it through your thick skull that the path you are on, is the path of least resistance, and it will NOT work for you.” 

 

Perhaps I wouldn’t have understood it right then, but there would have been that A-HA moment in my life where those words meant everything in the world to me, and I would have just known.  What to change and what I needed to do to become the me I long for today. 

 

If I could sit down with little me, I would tell her, “You’re nuts.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you anything different.  You are absolutely insane, but there are people out there that will love you despite that.  You are smart, even though sometimes you won’t feel that way, you are beautiful, but I’m telling you right now, all that matters is that you think you are, not anyone else in the world…..but, do yourself a favor and eat more salads and exercise more.  Don’t ask, just do it.  And when you find that adorable, sweet, funny, kind, and good hearted man that will sweep you off your feet in his own little way, never, never, never let him go.” 

 

 


I bet I would have listened. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Bitterness and the Struggle Within


It’s been about a year since I left that “hospital”, and I use the term loosely.  I have been struggling with writing this blog for several weeks.  A lot of things have happened in a year’s time that have changed me for the good, and some have not changed me for the better.

I wish I could say it was all sunshine and roses, but it wouldn’t be realistic and it wouldn’t be true.  The other day, I sat down and wrote something, that I hoped would be cathartic and get things straight in my head.  It doesn’t really fit in to any one category on this blog, except to explain part of what lead me to do what I did, and what I have been going through since. I hope you will keep an open mind, this is a bit different for me.
 

 

I laid down on the mattress, and could almost fill the very same spot where my mother once laid, stricken with cancer.  Lung cancer of all things, after she hadn’t smoked in 21 years.  From June of the year before, until the following January, I cared for my ailing mother.  Perhaps I wasn’t the best caregiver, but I put every ounce of energy into it, when no one else but my father would. 

 
I sat in the corner in a chair every single day, ready to spring into action and bring my mother anything she might need at any moment.  Eventually, I began to realize that I had no medical training, and all of the love in the world wasn’t going to be a substitute for that.  She needed to go to the hospital to at least get some fluids.  Little did any of us know that would be the last time my mom ever saw her own room. 

 
I called an ambulance to take her to the hospital, but the closest hospital couldn’t handle any more patients, so we were directed to one farther away.  It was just me and my mom, no one followed, or even seemed that concerned.  Denial is a very destructive thing. 

 
I yelled from the front seat, “I am right here, Mom”. 

 
I got back a meek, “Ok”, and that was one of the last things she ever said.  We got her to the hospital, and a doctor that possesses no bedside manner whatsoever, looked at me, a young woman that was in tears already, “Your mom is a very sick lady” and walked away.  They let me see her one last time before they put that thing down her throat.  The one thing she was most afraid of.  I looked at her, and I was sobbing.  She looked up at me and said, “It’s OK…..it’s OK”.  I never heard my mother speak again after that.  We brought her in on a Thursday and Saturday at 7:00 PM, she was pronounced dead.  Each member of our family stood around her bed, holding on to a small piece of her. 

 
I will never forget that day.  I relive it like it was yesterday all the time.  That was in 2008 and I still cannot come to terms with it.  Not only was it the end of my beloved mother’s life, but it was the end of life as we all knew it to be.  As a family, we always had ups and downs, and when I consider what I have been through since her death, all I can say is that she was a saint. 

 
I had no idea that my siblings could be so cruel, callous, and heartless.  It wasn’t long before the mysterious death of my brother took place, ironically on my birthday.  The details are still up in the air, but let’s just say he was a lifelong addict.  I wasn’t doing a very good job of keeping the family together, as I promised my mom that I would on her death bed.  Now I realize it was just too big of a task for me to take on.  These people are not children that need their hand held through everything. 

They are grown adults with a good upbringing and there’s no reason for them to treat me, or my mom’s memory the way that they do. 

 
Am I still angry?  Yes, of course.  It’s only been a month or so, since I severed ties with almost my entire family.  It wasn’t bad enough that they treated me like dirt, but they went to my father without me present to attempt to, I suppose “stage an intervention” because I was a big meanie.  They insinuated I no longer went to the doctor or took my medications.  I see the doctor every 3 months, and I would literally die from withdrawal without my medication every day.  Oh, and by the way, would it kill you to thank me for taking care of mom for 7 months when none of you could find it in your schedule?

 
It may seem as if I am just writing this to air my dirty laundry.  Believe me, if I wanted to do that, people would not remain nameless, and there would be a lot more detail.  What these people have put me, my husband, and my father through is unforgivable. 

 
I’m sorry, I try not to be this bitter, and I always try to find the silver lining when I blog, and for now it will just have to be that I no longer have to deal with the pain, sadness, hurt, anger, and the expectations I could never live up to as long as I lived.  I am free of harassing text messages and emails, and I have to say, I haven’t felt like I have been able to relax up until now.  Thanks for listening, and please feel free to share your stories in the comments.  I love to get feedback from my readers. 

 

Be well, my friends.