Close to Home

Friday, March 30, 2012

We all have things that "hit close to home." There are experiences in this world that we all have. Often they are difficulties that we face, or friends of ours have faced, or family. Obviously my biggest trigger is "Bipolar Disorder." But cancer, ALS, depression, death of a family member, dropping out of college- all of those things make me shiver when they're mentioned by someone else. For me, it's all of the blood draining out of my face and this hot hot heat that feels like it's radiating from my arms and torso. I wrote earlier this month about a tv show where the victim was depressed. Lo and behold, it appears to be common, because the victim on this show was depressed and had cancer. (I do promise that I watch more than crime shows, but How I Met Your Mother just makes me laugh- not write blog posts.)  More and more people are telling me that they also struggle with depression or Bipolar Disorder or anxiety or any number of things. It appears that I am not the only one who may feel this way when society and media make us wonder at the credibility of people who have mental disorders/problems/complications/whatnot. We are also lucky, in the States, to live in a society where legally this cannot be held against us.

But often it is held against us, in a non-legal, but certainly not any less hurtful way. There's a community of people like me, who live with labels on charts and giant manila file folders of previously tried medications. Another community close-by of people who perhaps haven't discovered by doctor their label, but know something isn't right. Then a circle around us of people who love and live with or know those that have those files or labels. And then there are those who hear "Depression" or "Bipolar Disorder" and don't really feel anything. Maybe not because they don't care- perhaps because they don't know anyone. And there are people who don't care.

We are judged and labeled constantly. Often, as I have come to realize, without knowing it. While I know that judgement happens, it's much more difficult when it comes to your face. As someone who has had this for a long time, I've become well aware of the stigma that drags in my wake. I've gotten older and bolder and often I simply refuse to deal with that. I blaze forth and know that this happens and that there are people out there who think that I'm making this up, or that it's not really a big deal, or that I'm over medicated- whatever. That's often what I think- you know, whatever. So what. Who cares about them? Because sometimes that's the only way to cope with the stigma: to ignore it. But someone says something judgmental, belittles your existence in some way, and it becomes harder to ignore. And depending on where you are in your own head- you can choose to give a stigma to that person or not. You can lash out and become totally convinced that no one knows what you feel, that not a soul has ever gone through what you are going through now, and that no way, no how will anyone ever understand. I've done that before. For a while I became so convinced that no one was ever going to understand me that I purposefully shut people out. I shut almost everyone out. The friends and family who stuck by me then are the ones whom I truly love. Katherine Mansfield said, "I always felt that the great high privilege, relief, and comfort of friendship was that one had to explain nothing." That is so true of my best friends and family. Sometimes, when you move past giving a stigma to everyone and begin to share your pain, you do feel like you have to explain. Because to me, explanation is a form of apology. To me, writing some things in this blog, to some people, say, "I'm sorry that I act funny and can't fully function all the time. This is why."

"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that gives value to survival." -C.S. Lewis

Interestingly enough, that's when I get apologies in return. I got one yesterday. I was diagnosed as Bipolar in December of 2008 at the end of my second semester of my sophomore year of college. My grandmother died of cancer two months before. 2008 was probably one of the worst years of my life. To be diagnosed as Bipolar you have to be "under observation" by a psychiatrist for a year. The ups and the downs were hyper intense. When Namie (grandmother) died, I could barely handle myself. When I got the diagnosis all I could do was wish she was there. One of my biggest obstacles in those early years was myself. I am stubborn to the core. I put things on my plate, too many things, and then had to learn the hard way when I was forced to give them up. There were many responsibilities and jobs I had taken on in college that I shouldn't have. Some had endings I had no way of knowing about. Bipolar Disorder often lies in wait, like a crocodile, and then pops out, snarling, when you least want it too. I had to quit a lot of things when I was pushed to the edge. Those things often left other people with more work. I didn't want to. I so didn't want to leave. To quit. Whatever it was that bothered you.

My way of apologizing, these writings and ramblings, for things I did intentionally or unintentionally for my health has given way to apologies in reply. To all of them I say, you are forgiven. For whatever you think you did wrong, what you did wrong, for what you said or thought that has done me harm, you are forgiven. So I will continue to write my long-winded apology, my epic plea for understanding, my ode to Bipolar Disorder, my online journal, my love for God and prayers to him, so that you may get out of it what you will. If you seek community, find it here. If you seek understanding, may I hope to give you some. If you look for love, I will love you for who you are. If you search for faith, may you come to believe that God is good even if your circumstances are not.

**Though I may write only about Depression and Bipolar Disorder and anxiety, I do recognize that there are many, many, many more mental health conditions far and beyond what I write about. I write about those three things because they are what I have experienced. I strive to educate people about what I know. I try not to impose my thoughts on the ones I know less about. For more information about the disorders I write about and those that I don't, please visit The National Institute for Mental Health at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/

Thrilling things lie ahead

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

There are several life events (and other plain events) that I just have to tell you about because I am way too excited.

1. I have a Viking sewing machine in my possession. OH MY GOSH. It's beautiful. And heavy. I think it weighs as much as Moby does, if he were denser and plastic and metal. My craft life is now golden. And it means that I have no excuses left (other than to learn how to work it) to hinder any project.
2. Thomas and I gave up the house hunt and decided to live on base when our lease runs out in June. That is such a relief! We visited a few today and feel confident that is the best move (pun unintended).
3. I am working on 2 blogs! One should be moving forward soon, and the other has quite a bit of work left to do!
4. Thomas and I have started planning our honeymoon. We've decided on Italy! We have a guidebook on our kitchen counter right now. 
5. I am going to be a child advocate for Berkeley County! Also known as a guardian ad litem, I will be trained for 6 weeks and then be a friend and advocate on behalf of the child I'm assigned to. This is a really important volunteer position and I am very excited to be working with them.
6. I am also doing some volunteer work with the MUSC Children's Hospital and I have a interview for another volunteer position in May. All in all, I am shaping up to be one very busy girl. 

I've been praying a lot about what I'm supposed to do, what I'm meant to do, and what I haven't been able to accomplish so far. Perhaps I shall write it down tomorrow afternoon. For now, It's 3 am.

Be of good cheer!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

ReadingOlive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. 
God is Not a Christian: and other provocations by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. --What a brilliant man! His thoughts are so concise, well worded and I think if I had another person on the planet whose thoughts on religion were most closely aligned with my own, I would pick him. I'll probably post about that.
Buying: Not much, sticking to a budget. But now that spring has sprung here in Charleston, I am buying seeds, potting soil, planters, plant food. Also milk, wedding prints for thank you notes.
Dreams: Too vivid for comfort again. Horrible dreams that too closely mirror life events that have gone terribly wrong. 
Wearing: Jeans, Clemson t shirt, and the best sweater in the world. It was a relaxed day. I get to dress up in my wedding dress tomorrow for some more beautiful pictures. Fun!
Mad at: Not really anyone I can think of at the moment. I am blessed with beautiful people who let me lead a lovely life.
Don't: Try and clean the vacuum cleaner when the dog is present. Bad bad bad bad idea for his digestion, the carpet I just cleaned, and my sanity.
Thought for the day: "You can get this love to permeate through everything that you write once you truly understand that this love (God’s, yours, mine) is already in everything that you do, and everything that you are. When you live it, you will write it. When you love, you will be love... It is a changing and moving part of life and you will grow with love." -Me
Quote for the day: "Be of good cheer." –Homer
Scripture for the day: "He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?" – Micah 6:8. I love Micah. It's so simple. Justice, mercy, a relationship with the Lord. That's all.
MovieThe Holiday. An old standby that is good for so many reasons. 
TV Show: Numb3rs
Songs: "Still the One" by Orleans; "Count on Me" by Bruno Mars
Time: to go to bed.

Oh, just livin' the Bipolar life

Sunday, March 18, 2012

I just finished my usual Sunday night routine. I filled my pill case. I have one of those really big ones- the granny pill cases, I call them. The print telling me "SUN, MON, TUE..." is very large. Easy, pop-open tabs. Giant compartments. Grand assortment of meds filling them. After getting married and changing my insurance to Tricare, I've refilled all of them by now. It feels like I take new medicine every week. Between the changing colors of my birth control to indicate a different week, the antibiotic I have for an infection, Lunesta, and the 2 generics I'm on, it really does feel like a new medley.

Here's something you may not know about generics. Let's take lamotrigine (brand name Lamictal). I've always been on the generic but it changes frequently. Last month it was blue and diamond shaped, this month it is white, round and a big divide down the middle. Every pharmacy stocks the generic from a different company, and if they run out, they may not order from the same company again. Taking generics of mood stabilizers or antidepressants (head meds, you could say) is very risky business. It's not at all like taking Advil versus the Target brand. You have to tread carefully when getting on all of this in the first place. Each pill has side effects and studies are done (for YEARS) on each brand, giving a careful listing of them when the drug is released to the public. But a generic of a head med is not the same. It can have completely different side effects. This is what really gets my goat when I go to the pharmacy. It's less the pharmacy and more the insurance. The insurance company obviously wants to pay the least amount of money, so generics are favored. The problem is that you can get very dicey results if you switch rapidly from a brand to generic- they are not the same thing. Not at all.

I'm sorry, but I need to vent. I am currently taking about 425 milligrams of medication every night, not including my antibiotic. Here are all of my side effects: blurred or double vision, constipation, diarrhea (hehe from the same pill!), dizziness, decreased coordination, drowsiness, headache, nausea, painful menstrual periods, runny or stuffy nose, stomach upset and pain, tiredness, trouble sleeping, vomiting, weakness, and weight loss. Did I say all? Whoops, those are just for the lamotirigine! I can also have from my other meds consitpation, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, increased appetite, joint pain, light-headedness, stomach upset, stuffy nose, tiredness, weight gain, anxiety, decrease in sexual desire, difficulty with coordination, dizziness (again!), dry mouth, headache, indigestion (taking these meds is not good for the stomach, trust me), nervousness, vomiting, unpleasant taste, cough, increased saliva production, loss of coordination, tiredness. Isn't that all fun?

A few days ago a flight attendant went on a "rant" while giving the general instructions to passengers. Apparently she said some things about crashing and 9/11 and other things that caused so much discomfort to passengers that two of them had to subdue her. She was then taken to a hospital. It came out that she was Bipolar and hadn't taken her medication that day.

Oh, where do I begin?! Shall I talk about how I just want to hang my head because mental disorders, my mental disorder, to be specific, just took another nose dive in the public ratings? Can I talk about how my skin gets really hot and my hair stands on end when I hear a phrase like "they should make people like that take their meds." "Danger to society" starts rolling around. Do I shrug and agree that, yeah, she should have been on her medicine while working? Then, my friends, where does it end? Because while I agree that ranting about planes crashing really shouldn't be done by flight attendants before takeoff to passengers, neither you nor I have any sort of authority to say that being Bipolar was a part of that or that she should have to take her medicine. The list of side effects I gave you should tell you that I put quite a bit of myself at risk every day in order to control my brain.

Have I mentioned that I keep losing weight? Yep. I'm 120 soaking wet and 5'9". That makes my BMI 17.7. Underweight. Very much so. A size 2 in pants is generally a little loose. I'm eating more fat and more protein, but it doesn't seem to be doing much. I have extremely low blood pressure- normally a great thing, not so great when you factor it in with everything else. So I'm sorry guys, but I can't agree that anyone should have to stay on their medication, no matter their job. I put this medicine in voluntarily and sometimes the effects are enough to make me wonder if it's worth it. In the end, I know it is. I know what it's like to not have them. Even being on them isn't a sure bet that I'll be fine (see blog post from a few days ago).

But most days I deal with it. I try and eat more, I deal with going to bed very late, I do the laundry, I make dinner, and I live my life. Just remember when you think of yourself or anyone else that I'm on a calculated group of medications that took years to figure out. Pumping someone full of something isn't going to help them necessarily. I will also be the first to advocate and have people remember that the adverse effects of being on these head meds can be life threatening and if you feel like you are going to harm yourself or someone else, you stop taking them and go see your doctor immediately. ER if you need to. Medicine can be great and wonderful and it can also be the bane of your existence. If you are Bipolar/Depressed/etc, I can offer this advice. A. Work carefully and honestly with your doctor- if it doesn't feel right, try something else. Be honest about your side effects- even if you think they aren't related, they might be. B. Tell your doctor if you want to stop taking it- and why. The flip side of that is to stop immediately if you feel like it could do irreparable harm and then go to the doctor. C. Have faith. It will work out eventually.

So that's my soap box for the night. Have a good one, and I'm going to go find something to eat...

Psalm 33:12-22

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord, 
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage.

The Lord looks down from heaven;
he sees all humankind.
From where he sits enthroned he watches
all the inhabitants of the earth
he who fashions the hearts of them all,
and observes all their deeds.
A king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
The war horse is a vain hope for victory,
and by its great might it cannot save.

Truly the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,

on those who hope in his steadfast love,
to deliver their soul from death,
and to keep them alive in famine.

Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and shield.
Our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you. 

Tangled, tripping, slamming, crashing

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I threw off the covers so fast I got my feet tangled in the sheets. I don't know what I tripped over on my way out- what is it that I'm keeping beside my bed? I don't remember. I flung open the door, slammed it shut again. When I turned on the light in the living room, Moby's head was up, giant ears pushed forward, looking at me intently. By the time I got to his crate, the tears were spurting out like a disposal that hadn't been turned on, bubbling forth sporadically. I pushed the latches back and Moby's nose was wet on my already damp hands. When the door opened (never soon enough for a dog), he spilled into my lap. He didn't run around me to play. He knew something was wrong and immediately licked my legs, face, chin, and hands because to Moby, saliva and love are the answers. His giant, long head pushed me, nudged me, and he let me sob against him. Because that's what he does. I'm on the couch, his dog bed next to me and after a quick relief outside, he has been there beside me as I type this. Even though it's 3:29 and he's normally crashed, this 6 month old knows something is not right, so he sits, watching the room to check and see if there might be something I missed through my curtain of tears. Occasionally, he looks back at me to check and make sure I'm okay. Okay enough.

Okay enough even though my heart is pounding. Even though I can't remember the last time I went to bed and fell asleep before 11 in a matter of minutes. Even though my dreams are horrible nightmares. I dreamt I got laughed off the Clemson campus when I returned to study because everyone there knew I was a failure. (Worst of that ordeal, I got laughed out of the football stadium. Truly terrible if you know Clemson.) I keep coming up with scenarios where I save the day. Where I volunteer for the perfect project or get hired for the best job or am able to deposit a check to help out. What I keep hoping is that someone will see something in me- something that I accomplish, some reservoir of capability deep inside me, waiting to get out when the opportunity brings it forth. (Yeah, one of the worst things about all of this is that I know exactly why this is happening, psychologically speaking.) But I don't go anywhere near those probabilities in my life. I can't fall asleep so I stay up late. By body is so tired from the staying up that once it crashes, it stays crashed for hours on end. My immune system stinks. I grocery shop, pick up toiletries, keep the house clean, write thank you notes and generally feel like I'm not living up to something. I just don't know what that something is.

All I do know is that my "should be simple" life is not simple. I deal with ferocious battles of emotion that leave me exhausted in the aftermath. I'm trying to be patient as Thomas and I await orders. He graduates from his current schooling March 31, but we should know where he's going sooner. We could stay here. I'm trying to be open to all options, but I know full well that deciding is not a luxury I am afforded. So what caused this outpouring of emotion at this hour? A tv show where the victim of the crime was on antidepressants for a long time and characters just kept throwing that around in a well-how-stable-could-she-really-be manner. Is that what people think I am? Is my credibility diminished because I am bipolar If something ever happened, would they look at this blog and wonder how "vulnerable" I am, how "susceptible" to crime and victimization I am. It's not fair. Not fair for others to think I'm loony. But the sad thing is, at the moment, I agree with them.

I feel totally nuts. Who else is blogging about bipolar disorder and crying to their dog at 4 am? Me. This is my life. Not too fond of it right now. Going to attempt sleeping again, if Thomas hasn't hogged the whole bed by now. Hopefully I'm so tired after 20 hours of being awake, I'll just pass out. Here's to hoping. Oh and don't even get me started on God and prayer. That's another late night sessionl

Growing Tired

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The road has made me weary.
Events remind me of things, rather than creating new memories.
Circumstances I remember are mostly filled with
regret
loss
sadness
wistfulness
and other things that may not always be painful
but they are not always happy.
Years burden you.
People say to
anyone
of any age
you're too young to think of such things.
you don't remember what it was like.
Santa heartache loss moving gains.
Monumental events are in the eye of the beholder.
Don't judge another
on what they've been through.
A different person, perspective, emotion,
a way of processing.
Empathy is nice. Pain is pain.
You can't stop a brain from recalling.
It calls from the depths.
And all of the sudden
you're right there.
SMACK
in the middle
of a place you don't want to be.
Where you haven't been for years,
where no one else is recalling those memories.
Standing in a crowd, looking at yourself, watching the events unfold
because you can't stop them yourself.
You know how it turns out.
It's not always pretty. It's not always bad.
But you don't need that memory.
It's a luxury you don't want.
Like fur. Houses that are too big. 900 channels.
And in my perfect world, I am left on an island
every now and then
an island of my own creation that I didn't want to create.
Moored to an impression that's anchored to a memory.
Sometimes impressions are your own reality.
Then I jump to present day.
I burrow into Thomas and choose again
to anchor myself to what will become a new memory
that I'll go back to one day.
And a smell will wrench me back to Thomas
and his feel and his smell.
Contentment will rise instead of discomfort...
back to life I will go.
Because what is life if it is not the constant
remembrance and fabrication
of what you will be tugged back to
one day in the future?
 
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