I want to unzip this thin skinned costume, take my skeletal self and step into a thick skinned, battle ready version of me. Historically the onset of fall brings on deep depression, psychosis and hospitalization. I can’t forget in 2014 I had the most intense manic episode followed by a suicide attempt. I spent Thanksgiving in the psych ward. I woke today with a heavy body. Tears hanging on my eyelashes before I was even awake. I don’t think I slept a wink. I agonized over everything and nothing. All. Night. Long.
In May, one of my two cats (they are sisters) died suddenly. She was my pal. My darling furry friend who often laid on top of me while I cried in bed. I could just look at her and she came a running to spring in my lap. She had a love of boxes. She would sit on top of them, crawl into them, somehow jam her pudgy body into every crook of cardboard. We always seemed to have a new box for Sage. She even liked old ones. Whenever I took out the recycling, and brought back in the “clean” empty box she would make a beeline. So, when she slinked into the dirty box half full of recyclables I knew something was wrong. I knew this was it. I couldn’t get her into the vet fast enough.
I tell this story because I am seeing signs in my other, remaining kitty. She has always been a little more aloof. You have to coax her to come to you. We named her Beyoncé because she seemed to dance around you. Things are very much on her terms. But, she has become my pal. I’m hard pressed to get her to sit on my lap, much less lay with me. She is who she is. So, I’m hyper aware of bizarre behavior now. I watch the way she walks, sits, responds, eats, drinks. I’m nervous.
Last night as I tried to sleep and heard her fussing, I had visions of Sage without breath alone in her box. Sadness filled my being. I got up and tried to comfort Beyoncé, she relaxed and settled a little. Back in my bed, I laid in darkness and listened to make sure my last furry friend was breathing. Morning came and we couldn’t find her in our 1200 sq foot house. She wasn’t coming to the sound of my voice. Finally I shook her bag of food and out from behind the washing machine she appeared. Bizarre behavior noted.
I feel paralyzed. Should I take her to the vet and hear the words I am afraid to hear? Spend money I don’t really have. Should I just anticipate, given her sister’s passing, Beyoncé may soon leave us. She is resting on my lap as I write this. I’m gently petting her, reminding her I love her. I just hope she knows she’s loved!
On the cusp of November, rain is falling hard on this Sunday morning. Its dark and dreary. As is my mood. I don’t feel battle ready. I feel fragile. Vulnerable. When I have the energy I’m going to seek my thick skinned replica.
I finally feel like I’m back on solid ground. I had a medical scare on Monday night, which prompted an emergency doctor’s appointment. I had an EKG, chest X-ray and probably a 15 panel blood draw. In addition I have to wear a device that is essentially a 24 HR EKG that records my heart and then a doctor can read the data. On top of this my lithium level was at 1.6. I was nauseous, vomiting, lightheaded, and disoriented for 2 days.
I’m not used to my physical health being in question. Usually, just my mental health. Its scary! My mind was quickly and easily convinced I was dying. My heart was damaged, I just knew it. I’ve spent days in the last 6 months plotting my own demise. I’ve written a suicide note, moved money from one account to another for my husband to access, and made amends where needed. I had reached a pretty resolute place. Then as it seems to do, my mood changed. But, seems to me I was in “control” of whether I stayed or if I go.
However, this week as I sat helpless waiting to hear about my test results, not feeling well or like myself, I realized (once again) I have very little power over most things. My test results trickled in and for the most part were negative. There are a few red flags I have to follow up on. I’m just going to breathe and take it one day at a time.
Fills my lonely lungs
Tempers the air
Count to four
Count to four
On a good day
The body fills
W anti anxiety potion
Racing thoughts disseminate
Find their proper place
Reality shares space
With perspective and grace
Sweet soundscape of redemption
Allows vulnerability to fill the page
Hesitation no more
My sails set toward imagination
There are many things i am painfully aware of, but have finally allowed to rest in the background. Until of course…a trigger. Its no secret I am an introvert. Masterful isolationist. Harbor secrets. Harbor despair. Have great difficulty opening up sooner rather than later. Sure, there are times I can’t fulfill my commitments. There are times that I don’t answer my phone. Long moments that crash into even longer moments where I lose my voice. Silent I sit and stare into nothingness, all the while the voice in my head is tearing me to shreds. No need to plead the fifth here. I am guilty of all the above.
i try so hard to forge friendships. I am thoughtful and kind. I’m attentive as much as I can be. I send texts just to say..thinking about you. If you had a bad day yesterday, most likely i will check to see how you are today. I try to make you laugh on any given day. I can be quite funny sometimes. I listen. I empathize. I encourage you to lean on me. So, what’s wrong with me that I have no friends? Seriously. Honestly. I have co-workers that I really like, and seem to like me inside the hours of 9-5. But, past that, I am alone. Before the point is made that my husband cares for me and is of invaluable support, i’ll just agree wholeheartedly. Without him, i wouldn’t still be here to write this.
So, today I am once again painfully aware. My husband leaves for his annual east coast trip to New York in just about 2 weeks. I gently stated to him his family causes me too much stress and I would prefer to stay home. I would be dishonest in this context not to admit that staying home alone for a week is also quite stressful for me. The obvious solution is to gather up my support network. Make plans to stay busy. Not completely isolate the entire week and either turn to booze, sleep the time away, or the worst case..swallow all my pills to just end all matters. You have to have friends to form a support network. If i understood what fatal flaw keeps me from bridging this gap, I would fix it. Are some people just meant for more of a lonely life?
My younger self had a consistent, yet small, circle of people I could call upon. I had a short stint in AA in my mid 30’s and had a sponsor and a few key characters that helped me stay sober. However, once I slipped into the land of bipolar and several subsequent hospitalizations, those people lost interest. Granted, my ability to be consistent in anyone’s life was diminished. Whatever the reason, I am no longer in touch with them. I was alone when I drank. Now I’m alone in sobriety with a cruel mental illness.
These are not new revelations. Its the truth of the situation. I care about people. I want connections. Even better if they could be meaningful. Here I sit writing anonymously to the cyber universe. Sharing what i have been unable to share thus far. Like I said, generally I can push it aside, its just that today I am painfully aware.
Hypomania had its wicked fangs in me for 3 days. I ran, skipped and jumped into conversations, meetings and projects to which I did not belong. I laughed and carried on as I fumbled, stumbled and pretty much lost sight of the English language. Words and ideas flew around my mind so fast I could not utter them coherently. No big deal really, because they were simply brilliant. My husband begged me to slow down. I shook my head. My finger. Told him he was jealous. The truth was, I couldn’t. Around 4 hours of sleep per night even w heavy sleep medications I furiously agreed to take. Klonopin in my pocket. In my purse. At my desk. Didn’t do a thing to deconstruct the madness.
I twirled around the city streets. Swiped credit cards. Dazzled strangers. Chatted up acquaintances. Bought 20 candles, set them up in a circle. Lit each one as if I were a fire princess in the Amazon. I stepped into the circle and was transformed and gifted w unseen powers. The heat from the flames sizzled my skin and I felt ecstasy not pain. I conducted a personal ceremony pardoning myself of all my sins.
It was glorious and meaningful. I had arrived. Until that next morning when darkness was blacker than black. I had no words. No thoughts. I could barely move my body. Rolling over was a heroic feat. The noise of the neighborhood, of birds chirping was piercing my brain cells. Sunshine ushered itself through my blinds threatening my insides. The light stabbed my eyeballs and I remembered what pain was. But I couldn’t move. It felt like my mind had been shattered.
Ponderosa Pine needles
stuck in my sock
Dust of the hiking trail falls
like chalk off my shoe
The magic of the mountains simultaneously
takes my breath away and
restores my ability to breathe
My pace just naturally slows.
undue pressure I constantly feel is lifted
The rat race that is my mind
is resting at the gate
Things seems simpler at 8,000 feet
Clear crystal blue lake water
Speaks to transparency of life
No secrets held here
From bottom to the top
All can be cherished for what it is
If only this fantasy could carry over
Guidiance in the notion
I too am free
to just be
I want so badly not to need medication. I play with fire and just slowly stop taking them. I’m not convinced they are truly making a difference. I arbitrarily take my lithium here and there and there are other times I have been in compliance for 6 months straight. No difference. Mood swings all over the place. Intense anxiety. Deep depression. Suicidal ideation. Mania. Doesn’t matter. My closest attempt occurred when I was taking 3 medications religiously.
I worry about my thyroid, my liver. I’ve had almost all my hair fall out and a dangerous rash. One med made me so restless and agitated I had to stop taking it. My doctor is convinced lithium is working because I’m still here. Is that the marker for success? I can be suffering non stop, but as long as I don’t jump its all good. That’s no quality of life. I wholeheartedly disagree. But, I’m running out of options. I’ve tried all the med combos, even including an antidepressant w my mood stabilizer.
I don’t know. I seem to be “okay” not taking meds right now. I do still take trazadone because I absolutely cannot sleep on my own. I worry I’m dependent on it, but without sleep I become more vulnerable to symptoms. This dance isn’t very comfortable. I tend to want to be the lead. The voice in my head tells me I may need meds but they don’t truly help me. They poison me. Maybe my body and mind are treatment resistant.
I open the small cabinet that houses my medication shelf each night. I stare in. Blue bottle tops blur together. I’m not necessarily overwhelmed as I am sad.
I don’t feel safe. In my body. In my mind. In the world. I’m operating out of fear lately and it sucks. I refused, rather chose, not to attend a huge free music festival in San Francisco because I was convinced it was the perfect bombing or shooting scenario. A hundred thousand unsuspecting people standing around in the iconic Golden Gate Park swaying to bluegrass was a recipe for disaster. I was afraid at a concert over the weekend because people were becoming animated and in turn the band was becoming even more animated. Music lovers were storming my section to enjoy the band and I was planning my escape route. Wondering if hiding under the table was kosher? Just yesterday I was in an upscale bar watching the MLB playoffs with my husband. We are not bandwagon fans and sometimes can’t get along with those that are. Fired up drunk sports fans in close quarters were starting to cause me concern. So much so I couldn’t revel in the win of “our” team. I was consumed with how I should, shouldn’t, could, couldn’t handle this situation. Again opting for an escape route.
My husband tells me I can’t live my life in fear. I can’t not go to events due to fear. Then THEY are winning. Conceptually I get this. But, if anxiety could speak its truth, explain itself eloquently I’m almost positive my husband would take back his stance. He might begin to understand the paralyzing effects it has on my thought process. I can never find the right words to explain the intensity. The restless racing thoughts that leave me speechless. Overwhelmed. More than scared. Don’t get me wrong. He is compassionate. He just doesn’t fully get it. He needs to rationalize my anxiety for his own feelings of safety. If I’m not in chaos, generally there is no chaos.
In the midst of a mild panic attack on my hour drive to my first work meeting I tried all kinds of coping tricks. Deep breaths to the count of four. Focusing on my senses..finding 5 things I see or hear or taste. Through my windshield you would think I could see a plethora of things. And I did. But, could not grab that tree or cloud or car from the landscape. It was all a blur. Not enough focus. Inability to find the present. My thoughts turned to a new suicide plan. Rather intrusively. Rather aggressively. Detail by detail. My final final escape route laid out before me promising relief.
I kept my foot on the pedal. Debating the plan. Pros and cons. My fighting Irish mind unconsciously or subconsciously..whatever..landed me at my appointment. I turned off the car. Took three of the longest breaths I could muster. Fixed my hair. Wiped my eyes. Somehow remembered to say a silent prayer. Fear infused adrenaline subsided for a few hours. Plans on hold.
I waded through the mud and the mire. I made it through the day. I sincerely hope you did too in any fashion that carried you through!
I am not a fan of the question “how are you?” I just don’t know how to answer it. My therapist asked me this as i sat on the couch clutching the pillow. On my walk to her office i was all over the place. Praising myself for actually getting out and walking. Angry I am not working out at all. Trying to notice my surroundings. Fighting back tears. Giving in to tears. Perseverating over what i want to talk about…work, parents, fears, lack of relationships, crushing loneliness. Wanting to just turn around and go home. Smiling at passersby. All the while being cradled by music that carries me down the bike path. It was a somewhat grueling 30 min jaunt.
As i struggled to find words, the right words mind you, to express the chaos i wade through on a day to day basis she sat patiently. Just 2 weeks ago i had a breakthrough session where i felt i was there for the betterment of myself, not just to combat bipolar disorder. I was “ordered” to start therapy after a suicide attempt in Nov 2014 by my husband. I finally got around to finding someone in January 2015. I figured 6 months of obligatory therapy was all I needed. Well in those initial months, as we were getting to know each other, it was more like crisis management every 2 weeks. It still is to a certain extent. But as I was saying, last time I saw my therapist i was in a space where i was ready to focus on the me who isn’t bipolar. So much focuses on that damn diagnosis. I think I focus on it much more than i realize. I mean how could i not?
I saw her on Thursday, but just the Monday before I was planning my death. I was in such a dark hole. I simply could not communicate to my husband. I sat in lone silence while my mind plotted against me. And sure enough she and I were thrust back into crisis management. Angry, frustrated, hopeless tears fell onto that pillow as I held it in my lap. I was explaining i was giving up everything. Wasn’t going to pursue life any longer. What was the point? She listened. And listened. My voice rose and fell. Rose and ultimately i fell silent…lost. She honored every one of my feelings and then played devil’s advocate.
In my perseveration, I also guess how my therapist will respond to my woes. In a previous post i discussed the idea of always being behind the camera, watching others living life. I knew she would say something along the lines of, well we can’t always be in front of the camera. Life happens. She of course didn’t use those exact words, as i can’t truly read minds. Intellectually. Conceptually i TOTALLY agree with this notion. However, emotionally and all tied up in symptoms and mood swings I can’t untangle myself in the moment to see it this way. But, it was a gentle reminder that everyone has bad days, awful days and even more awful days. Everyone at some point probably feels the pangs of loneliness. Maybe not to the degree I do, or maybe they do. Who knows.
So, here’s the best part. I unloaded all that junk i was carrying for a week in 50 minutes. I was able to receive that gentle reminder. I was also able to hear that perhaps I shouldn’t give up on pursuing life. Its okay to have my art journal sit untouched for weeks at a time. Its there when i am ready. The even better part is that I got out into the world and literally kicked up my heels and danced. As i stood before one of my favorite musicians and listened to her sing out her own pain, i moved and swayed to the rhythm. In that moment, i wasn’t carrying the burden of bipolar. I didn’t even care i was the only one standing up and dancing. I was too busy pursuing real life.