I’m really trying to be more open, honest and communicative w my husband. I start a new job in 58 days. My mind is almost constantly hurling obsessions and worries around on spin cycle. You see I have been at my current job for 17 years. 4 years ago I made the decision to switch positions within my same company..a promotion. I started in my new role on February 1st 2013. I was hospitalized April 5th after I stood on a bridge for several hours on the verge of jumping. By May, I was experiencing psychosis for the first time in my life and another round in the hospital. By June, I had a diagnosis of Bipolar I w psychotic features. To be fair, I was already being treated for major depression for several years. Delusions, hallucinations, serious suicide attempt, severe manic episode, and probably 7-8 hospitalizations later, here I am, getting ready to start a brand new job at a brand new company.
I can’t stop thinking about this tragic timeline. The safety net in that scenario was my 13 years of being a pretty damn good employee and a union. But now, I arrive w no years of service, on probation, no union. My anxiety is having a field day.
So, yesterday I unveiled my concerns. Recounted my initial descent into bipolar disorder. My husband suggested he has also been thinking about this. To which I was glad because my memory is terrible. Reaching back into history is difficult for me, especially if trying to attach it to a date. He remembered me to be drinking at this time. Did I mention I’m also an alcoholic? I didn’t think I was, but have a few relapses under my belt since my rehab stint in 2007. I honestly can’t keep it all straight. I went w his assumption alcohol was involved and therefore I was unstable and susceptible to such a breakdown. It was highly likely.
I agonized much of the night. Pushed my brain to walk back in time to 2013. I recalled going to depression in sobriety meetings. I was positive I was not imbibing at this time. I could also remember being present and able to learn things. A sign I wasn’t hungover. While this is good news, not only being able to remember something, that I was sober, but maybe it’s not. That “instability” my husband was referring to wasn’t there. Does that mean it was the stress of the new job alone was the culprit?
The wheels on this bus are going to begin to fall off if I don’t get ahold of my mind. Its a new day. Its a new year. I’ve grown. I’ve learned. I’m trying to be more open, honest and communicative…with myself…and others. Awareness is good. Reality checks are helpful. But, having some FAITH IN MYSELF is paramount.
I look down to see where my feet are. Right here. Right now. Not in 2013 and not 58 days from now.
Slashing this pale freckled skin
Tearing at my own flesh
With red speckled hands
Down to the marrow
Down to the core
Where my soul is housed
I can only hope
The sacred window into myself
Has not closed
After the mania
After the depression
After the psychosis
I have lost sight of
Who I am
Through the looking glass
I see remnants
Of a past self
Through the mirror
I see remnants
Of a current self
Through the truth of dreams
I see remnants
Of a future self
Through the chaos of the kaleidoscope
The melded remnants leave me
With no foundation to build upon
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!
My medication shelf is overwhelming. I’m on the cusp of running out of the small pills that fill BIG plastic bottles. I receive more bottles of my small pills in anticipation of running out. I am too tired to combine, at least right now, and it looks like I have a million pill bottles in my possession. So a million thoughts fill my head all at once. I capture this much:
1. I’m well taken care off
2. There are FAR too many pills for me to manage
3. I can’t possibly need this many. I’m overprescribed
4. I can always keep my stockpile of pills going for my ultimate plan
5. I could take them all and just end this now
6. Just for today I will take what I am prescribed
Struggle. Struggle to accept this is where I am. Struggle to accept its okay. Pills for sleep. Yep I so need that. Pills for mood, without question. For psychosis. For agitation/anxiety. I acquiesce. Pause. Remember the circumstances that follow my rebellion. Never good.
It ain’t pretty when I don’t take em. It’s not always rosy just because I do. I’m still here. That says a lot. The shelf itself is unmanageable. But I don’t have to solve everything right now.
It occurs to me I just have to do the next right thing. You might know this lingo. Sometimes it applies to all circumstances. Actually almost always. If you are open to it.
I often wonder about myself. And even more often I have doubts about myself. When push comes to shove I have to ask others to help me define my reality. I spin round and round like a top on a table. It’s not joy I am feeling but chaos. Intervention is typically required. Could be a gentle prompt, like breathe, or a more serious proposition such as please take some klonopin to help yourself calm down. Mostly I oblige, but, if I’m honest, I can also be a little resentful.
So in my wonderment I ask my husband if I’m a people pleaser. He replies I’m a people worrier. We laugh gingerly both knowing he is right. My heart is big and wide. I’m a helper inside and out. Seems perfect I landed in social services. It was and it is. Until it isn’t. I’m burning out. Burning up. My energy stores are depleting. As a person with bipolar disorder, I really cannot afford to give energy away. I am finding helping and caring about others is becoming a blurred line. I care about my work. I care about the people I serve. But it has to end somewhere. I am giving myself away. When my defenses are down I am subject to psychosis in both depression and mania.
Delusions tip toe around my mind. I begin to think my boss is avoiding me. No longer wants to provide support to me. She secretly wants me to fail. She is discriminating against me. She is pushing me out. I have no allies. Im not part of the team. Never mind I have been there for 17 years and she barely 2 years. Never mind I know more than she does and could be an asset. The bottom line is she wants me gone. She has the ear of those that can make it happen.
I begin to worry about the people, the clients w developmental disabilities, who need my help in creating resources for them. I begin to worry about the people I am guiding in the process of developing such precious resources. Am I letting them down? Am I not working hard enough? Do I not play well with others anymore? Everything is blurry. I am so very tired. Confused. Worried.
Where in all this do I consider I am okay. Doing the best I can. Care, but not too much. Give, but leave some for myself. Unblur.
Truth is…..I don’t know. I’ll keep asking my husband questions of wonderment and hope somewhere along the way I’ll stumble upon answers.
As a kid I was quite adventurous. I climbed trees. Climbed up to the rafters of newly framed homes in our neighborhood. Roller skated backwards over a cobble stone street. My most favorite thing to do was swing. My father built us a swing set in our backyard when I was about 7. He was quite the craftsmen back then. He made it extra sturdy because he had two rambunctious and athletic kids. We crawled all over that wooden structure. In addition, we had a sand box. My brother, 4 years younger, spent a lot of time kicking sand around. He had such a vivid imagination. Me. I got my kicks out of sensory activities. Stomping the pavement In Hop scotch, out jumping everyone on the pogo stick and feeling the wind on my face swinging.
When alone, meaning my parents were inside the house arguing somewhere, I stood up on the swing and tested my balance. I’d ride the rubber sling on my stomach til I almost lost air. I’d sit and lean back as far as possible to feel that rumble in my stomach, or if I was super brave do a backflip. Swinging brought me simple joy. Pumping my legs, finding a rhythm was soothing. I’d be out there for hours.
Unlucky for us, we lived on a corner. The street behind our house was quite busy. One night someone was speeding down the street and didn’t give himself a wide enough berth. Through our back fence he flew. His car demolishing our swing set. Everyone for weeks maybe months said, oh you are so blessed it was at night and the kids weren’t playing. No one was hurt. True, physically no one was hurt. But emotionally I felt demolished too. My number one coping mechanism was stripped from me. But no one talked about that. I wasn’t allowed to share my young thoughts on the matter. I was to feel blessed my beloved swing set was destroyed in the dark. I felt nothing of the kind.
If anyone were to tell me I would be swinging from the bipolar rafters or down below sea level later in life I probably would just smile and hang upside down from the monkey bars. But I needed some help starting in high school. I fell into hopelessness writing poems alone in my room. Or I was playing tennis for hours at a time. Other times I went to the courts late on a Friday night crouched in a corner and just cried. Big lights blaring on me. Darkness surrounding me. A level of despair I’ve never felt before took over. I would literally cry it out and return home to fulfill the role of perfect daughter.
I tried to approach my mother. Tell her I was struggling. Let her know I might be unhappy. I imagined she would wrap me up in her arms and promise it would all be okay. Instead, she was a bit angry. Her words stern. I was to buck up and appreciate the hard work of my father who gave his life to the Air Force..for me. For us. That was it. The defining moment of a young vulnerable, most likely depressed, teenager being shut down. That door slammed so loud and so hard I have yet to be able to open it. I have yet to find a way to communicate my true feelings and emotions. Except here. Through words. Where you can’t shut me down.
The pendulum can swing in a hurry as I seem to be experiencing right now. 4 days ago I was in the grips of suicidal depression and psychosis. Crack open the antipsychotic I gingerly put away in July when this last occurred. Now here I am 4 days later hypomanic. Jumping out of bed after 3 hrs of sleep, Super talkative, super social, the funniest in the land. Working in the yard, working out after that. Cleaning the house. Dancing. I’m havin me a jolly good time. Swing, swing cheerie!
After the fright of psychosis comes a bit of depression. I was wound so tight and so on edge, maybe this is my body’s way of letting go. Almost like a rag doll. I can follow you around. I can take direction. But, I cannot make a decision. I still have the nightmares. Literally jumping out of my sleep to fears of the devil seeking me. My husband corrals me and repeats I am safe. Falling limp over his chest I sob. This midnight escapade can be 2 minutes or 10 depending on how entrenched in the nightmare/terror I am. Last night I’d say 3 minutes tops.
There is no predicting it. I could lay in a bubble bath all day or have a stressful work day, doesn’t matter. I could be dead tired or wired having to take extra medication. There could be a reprieve for over a week lulling one to think they are over, only to writhe in bed with fear that next night. I’ve run to the kitchen grabbing a knife. I’ve cowered in the corner not recognizing my husband’s voice. I’ve raced to close all the windows as I feared the devil was trying to take all the air. It’s almost always the devil that is after me. Why? Why? What does that mean?
My loving, dutiful, patient husband suggests I need to look inward. Where is the discomfort coming from? I don’t know!!! I shout in my mind. I’m just trying to sleep. If I don’t sleep things get worse in my world and in turn his. It’s a big big deal to get proper sleep w bipolar disorder. I love to sleep, so it’s not for lack of trying.
I’m off work right now due to another psychotic episode. Devils and shamans this time. The symbol of shaman for me is a positive, as I have been tortured by only satanic hallucinations in the past. I still suffer through intrusive thoughts and voices telling me I don’t belong here. Suicidal ideation is a large part of my struggle.
I’m attending an outpatient program that happens to close on Thursdays. Having the whole day ahead of me on my own is daunting. I rely on structure. I typically have a full time job. I had some tasks to take care of today. Boy, did I knock them out in record fashion. Cleaned the kitchen, bathroom, folded laundry, worked out and completed a collage all by 10:30. Too early. With a full day ahead I just went back to bed. But sleep escaped me.
I filled my day with art. Something I haven’t done since the hospital. I listened to music in my headphones to help drown out the voices. I sat in the backyard w my coffee and walked around our garden foraging for “art supplies.” I pulled weeds, found bits from our pine tree, cut special words from a magazine. Feeling creative juices flowing I didn’t hold back.
Right around 3pm I found myself tearful, wanting to pull my hair out, AGITATED! How could this be? I had the most stress free day imaginable. I burst into tears. I tried to call someone on my clinical team but it seems everyone is off on Thursdays. How ludicrous. No groups and no access to someone to talk to?!
What do I do? First I bitch to my husband realizing that gets me nowhere. Then I take to typing my story. I lay it all out. I may send it into the universe. I may not. But writing, above all else, soothes me the most. I just have to sit still for it.
Nightmares, hallucinations, intrusive thoughts all claw at me. But when I choose the words I want to convey I am free. When I paint my story in type or black&white I am in control. That means the world to me.
The ripples of pain
Crash into my heart
Questions of existence
Taunt my mind
When the voices come calling
It’s not decadent
It’s not comfortable
Fueled by hate
My ears ring
Of verbal assaults
Hauled at me from the darkness
I do not belong here
This space is not mine to share
Not deserving of love and life
The visions intrude upon my psyche
Sightings of my body hanging n the wind
No more breath
Limp and alone
Swaying not out of beauty
But of demise
I sit motionless on the couch
Tears stream down my cheek
My baby blue eyes filled
But mostly lies
Is it possible
To fall through the cracks
Of your very own mind
Swept away by thoughts
Caught in a trance
Of deception and lies
It is not by chance
Nor on a whim
You wish on your last star
Or kiss someone goodbye
The plan has been in motion
Through smiles and tears
Has proven too much
Broken beyond repair
An inward collapse
An outward stumble
For me, psychosis is the scariest symptom of my bipolar diagnosis. The lies of depression are a close second. Nothing is more disturbing than realizing I have lost control of my mind. The thoughts that roam around in my brain can turn to visual hallucinations without my realizing. I am not manic. I’m not sure I’m depressed. But if I had to choose I’d say I’m more on the depressed side. The delusions and hallucinations that take up space in my psyche can be very violent, very graphic…very confusing.
Just recently I was feeling very anxious and experiencing a high volume of work stress. I knew these things to be true. I was also experiencing insomnia. One morning after just about no sleep I called my boss and let her know I would be coming in late. I usually arrive at 7:30, which is about an hour before anyone else. This allows me to get settled if my anxiety is high before I have to pretend to be normal. So, I arrived about 9:30am on this morning.
The door to my office is in our courtyard where tables and chairs are available for breaks and lunch. As I approached the courtyard I noticed a Shaman sitting at a table gesturing me over. He took a big breath in-he was smelling my essence or aura I guess. He advised my blood was not pure. My system was compromised and I was toxic. He gave me a natural prescription w called for some fasting from food and medication. I felt relieved I had a solid lab I could follow. The last thing he said was my compromised system left me prey for the devil.
I noticed while I was standing there the air was so silent. No movement of trees, no coworkers passing by. Just stillness. He had a leathery face and a grisly voice. What stood out most was he barely opened his eyes the entire time. I was not sure if he was blind or what. I quickly went inside and sent a message to my husband. Of course he called w in 5 minutes declaring this interaction I just had was not real. I heard his voice, saw his face..I rebutted. He stated the “prescription” was not healthy. He asked me to please call my doctor. I stood my ground. I knew what I saw. What I heard.
The following day I had to travel about an hour to our sister office. I saw the Shaman twice. Once, again outside of the office and once in the park. This time he didn’t seem so calm, rather was chanting and moving his body. Over and over he repeated the devil is upon you. The devil is upon you. I was very scared and began to feel this dark presence near me, but could not see anything. It was just lurking.
I managed to get through my work day. Not sure how. I think because it ended up being a low stress day. I didn’t forget about the Shaman or the devil but was present enough to get some tasks completed. It was later it all would come back to haunt me.
Later on that evening I began to believe I was on the Devils hit list. I was inherently a bad person and therefore must die. As all this was happening, 2 men from the local church knocked on my door. Asked me a couple questions and I heard I was a sinner and I was going to hell. They gave me a brochure that clearly spelled out my dissent. This further ignited the delusion the devil was out to get me. I never felt so vulnerable and alone.
What I am forgetting to tell you is that I had a therapy appointment somewhere in here. I was verbal, but distracted, scared, and scattered. She asked me about crisis residential. I said no thank you. She asked me to keep it in mind.
Home alone w my thoughts, fears, delusions and hallucinations my mind turned to suicide. I could very easily commit an act I believe would solve all these terrors. Yet there is this innate resilience that keeps me here. I don’t remember dialing the phone, but I was connected to my psychiatrist asking about crisis residential. She
started the process right away. She promised I would go somewhere safe. She wished me a peaceful weekend and hung up. All that was left to do was wait. Oh and have faith my doctor would make good on her promise.
The devil whispered in my ear
You do not belong here
The spit from his words
Still rustling the tiny hairs
I shot up like a rocket
My bedcovers in disarray
My husband quickly corralled me
So in the bed I would stay
He pulled me in tight
I nestled close
But the Devils breath
Still stinging my nose
I laid awake
while his message echoed
Suicidal chatter and I
Forever in the throes
Irony stares me in the face
So afraid you’ll pack your bag and go
Yet I in a constant state of planning
How can I leave without a trace
My intentions serve no malice
But to relieve you of my frenzied state
When the darkness enters
I reach for my armor
I try to wage war
But it always proves to much for me
I just wish for these blue eyes to close
As I can’t fight no more