Ode to Beyonce

My favorite furry friend Beyoncé has passed away. I found her upon my return home from work this past Wednesday. She was a beautiful, gentle, black and white kitty. Her sister, Sage, passed a year ago. The first month without Sage Beyoncé was lost. She bellowed into our long hallway once the lights went out for the night. It was heart wrenching. But, we also had the opportunity to watch her blossom into herself. I say that because Sage pretty much ran the show at our house. With no alpha personality to share space with, Beyoncé changed from an introvert to an extrovert. She suddenly demanded my attention. Demanded when to be fed and even became a picky eater. Expected to be pet in a certain way. She was now the princess of her domain. But, honestly, she just wanted to be loved wholeheartedly.
I loved her as she would allow. We rescued her and her sister at about 2 months old. We were later told Beyonce was the “runt” of the litter. She certainly acquiesced to her domineering sister. Beyoncé was sitting on my lap once, which was rare. I mean neither of these cats enjoyed being picked up. I don’t think they experienced much socialization those first two months. Anyway, I digress. Beyoncé and I were enjoying a moment and Sage jumped up and swatted her away. Just like that B slinked off. Just so you know, I didn’t oblige Sage and swatted her away accordingly. Its not like we weren’t a happy household. We truly were as a foursome. But there seemed to be some unwritten cat rules.
As miss B gained confidence she even went outside. A big deal considering sticking her nose out the back screen door caused anxiety. Slowly, if we kept the escape door (aka backdoor) open she might venture 1-2 feet. She had to know she could go back inside at anytime. In her own time, Beyoncé came to enjoy venturing in the backyard. She sat amongst the plants in our garden. Most recently she flopped in front of the tomato plants and I called her the tomato whisperer. Like into the summer nights she would sit below the stars only coming to my call. I had a special way of calling her name. She wouldn’t come in for my husband.
Funny enough, she started to love mornings outside. Before I had to go to work. I would let her out, but not ten minutes later she wanted in. Then wanted back out. In the span of an hour I probably let her in and out 5-6 times. It was almost a game. I willingly played along. I felt she deserved it.
In the last months of her life she stopped eating much. She was thin. People would jokingly ask if I fed her. Of course I put food out everyday, she just wasn’t all that interested. She seemed okay, though had to work a little harder to breathe. We did take her to the vet and were told she had a small tumor. I hesitate to say we aren’t ones to put a kitty through testing that would only give us a timeframe, not necessarily a solution. So we brought her back home and loved her more.
Our cats have continual flea issues and I have tried to be vigilant. In an effort to relieve Beyoncé of nefarious scratching I opted to put flea medicine on her. I don’t think her system was strong enough for the medicine. This I didn’t know. I wanted her to be free from pain. Perhaps it helped in terms of fleas, but not in terms of her strength to handle the chemicals.
I left for work on Wednesday morning full of worry. I could see she was struggling. I was hoping the medicine was coursing through her system and it was a temporary reaction. I didn’t think she wouldn’t make it through the day but felt her time in my life was dwindling. She had signs and symptoms of her sisters passing. Seeing her sprawled on the floor obviously vying for her last breath was heart breaking. I wish so much I had one more day. Or even knew I had only one more day. I would have spoiled her rotten.
I am without furry friends. Unconditional love buckets. Sometimes a reason to get out of bed. A distraction from my head. Company.  I have cried.  Waves of emotion wash over me. It’s too quiet in the house.  I cleaned her area and removed food bowls, water, litter box.  I miss her only being willing to eat if I pet her at the same time.  I mean, really, I always have 5 minutes To spare. I miss calling her name as I walk through the front door…Beeeeeyonceeeeeeeeee!
We provided Sage and Beyonce a safe loving home. I know they felt that. In return I felt their love. Rest in piece my favorite furry friends.  I will forever miss you.

Home is Where the Pain Is

Sadness seems to grip me on the ride home. The vacation. The escape from reality is over. I was a guest in someone else’s world. They knew nothing of my recent manic episode or that I have bipolar disorder. There I am simply a daughter in law. Sister in law. Red hair, freckles and bubbly. 3000 miles away that’s all they have ever known.
I come home to medical bills of my ambulance ride to the ER. Remembrances of sitting in a police car more agitated and out of control than ever. Yelling, no screaming, at psych emergency services. Pacing. Pointing fingers at everyone else. Accusing my husband of collusion and conspiracy. Simply out of my mind.
I had to ask the brand new job I had yet to start to delay my hire date. My brain not able to process information. Not able to remember. Not able to form sentences at times. It didn’t seem fair to them or me to keep the original date. Shame and embarrassment filled me as I wrote the email. They politely agreed. Thank god.
Now, I need to re-enter my world. It feels like there is wreckage in the wake of the episode. Do I make amends to those I may have hurt or worried? While I don’t remember, the truth still remains I called people and told them goodbye. I upset them to the point of calling the police. They feared for me.
Worried people called worried people. My traumatic business is getting batted around through the phone lines. People care,I was told. I used to work with these people and will have to interface w them in my new role. Will there be an elephant in the room? Do I explain what happened? Do I just ignore what happened and move on?
I don’t know how to handle this situation. Then I question if there is really a situation to handle. In AA I would make amends. Is it the same with Bipolar disorder?

Lost that Lovin Feeling

I would like a friend who also has bipolar disorder in the real world. I have such a hard time figuring things out. I am always wondering if what I think or feel is akin to other bipolar folks.  I question whether some of my responses to things makes sense from a bipolar perspective.  In short, has my friend ever felt or thought the same crazy shit I do?  Oh, would that be so darn helpful.  I’m imagining it would help to ease my mind (sometimes).

The other thing I would like (I know Christmas has passed) is for a positive shift in my mood to last more than 4-5 days at a time.  It feels like forever and always I am good..then too good for a day or so, then crash.  Now on the spectrum of my disorder this is moderate.  But, I’d like a continuum of good days..you know a nice long stretch.  Yet, that just doesn’t seem to happen. Already this week I have cried my way to work. Yesterday I was on the way to an appointment which was an hour away and the tears were just flowing like a faucet. The agitation and anger is enormous.  I don’t want anyone to talk to me, look at me or pretend to look at me.  This includes my husband. I don’t want to hold his hand, tell him I love him or have him drape over me as we sleep. I need everyone to back the F up. Why? Why? Why?

I have no answers.  I really don’t have much to do at work, I know that will change. I have “free time” in the afternoon.  If I think about it, I am left alone much of the day.  My phone doesn’t ring. I don’t make any plans, because I have no one to make plans with everyone is at work. Nevermind the fact I really don’t have any friends.

This arena, friendship, has become such a source of contention with me. I find it sad really. I have a girlfriend, who is also friends with my husband. I knew her from work back in the day, and then she was in the circle of friends I had in my  late 20’S.  She lives over where my husband works.  So periodically they get together.  WITHOUT ME.  Is what I hear in my head.  My husband knows I am struggling to put myself out there more with her, actually call her, let her in my world a little more.  Here’s the thing, I can’t expect him to say no to her because of me.  I can’t expect him to suggest, hey why don’t you call the fanatic and go for a hike.  I need to do these things on my own.  But, here I sit with jealousy running through my veins. I am convinced she likes him more than me.  Tomorrow my husband is going to a going away party for an old coworker that is quitting his old agency.  Then he is going to a nice bar that has free live music with another old coworker whom I like very much.   Good for my husband, right.  Getting himself out there.  Look at him go.

Tears just stream down my face as I write this because I feel like I have lost that ability. I feel like bipolar disorder has stolen my sense of self, my self confidence, my ability to trust things as they are.  I don’t know how I fit into the world anymore.  Rather, I don’t think I do.  I don’t belong in any social circle. I don’t know how to be friends with people anymore.  I retreat, I isolate, I fall off the face of the earth too often for most people.  Then there is my evil mind reinforcing all this.  I’m no good. I’m no fun. Blah blah blah.

I have got to find a way to get some power back. I have to believe in myself. I have to believe people want to be around me.  I can’t wait around like a wall flower with my shades drawn and expect the world to come knocking. I’ve got to get up and out.  When I was hypomanic on Monday I was talking to everyone.  Smiling so big.  Laughing so loud. Cracking funny jokes.  I couldn’t wait for my husband to come home because I had so much to say. I had done so much during the day. I felt good.  How can I harness some of that?  Smile on my face, hi how ya doing kind of attitude.  Drop all this garbage I carry around.

Sometimes I think it isn’t easy to be a human being, much less one with bipolar disorder. I trudge through this life as best I can.  Some days I just get down. I want things to be better. I don’t want to be satisfied with what is.  Sitting on the couch feeling sorry for myself doesn’t get me anywhere.  I just don’t know how to start.  How do I start living my life in a new way?  How do I let the wall down and explore?

He Reached into Me

DON’T believe everything you think! My husband said to me with a hint of frustration.  My mind is a scramble right now. I keep picturing a ball of yarn. Just a mess of string coming and going every which way.  To unravel it would take great strength and patience.  This is how I would like to approach my life at this point in time.  Getting out of bed proved too much for me this morning. I couldn’t even make it to my outpatient program, which really has no expectations.  Thoughts of taking a shower, getting dressed and driving 20 min plunged me deeper into the mattress with a pillow over my head.  Facing the world in any capacity was just too much.  So I stayed in the comforts of my blankets.  Plus, when I am asleep I don’t have to think. I don’t have intrusive thoughts.

However, the countdown to work has also begun. I really can’t afford financially not to start back on Monday as my benefits will be cut up and I cannot afford mentally to sit in this house alone much longer.  I know these things. I want these things.  Yet, depression was like a ton of bricks holding my body down. I am still processing the suicide of my friend.  Rather, I think more importantly what I am doing is shutting down because I cannot handle that processing. I barely talk in group. I barely talk to my husband. I barely leave the house. I barely eat. And I haven’t worked out for 5 days straight. These are big red flags for me.

I finally got up about 11am. The only reason, and I repeat the only reason, is because my husband asked me to cook something which takes a bit of time.  I already feel like I am letting him down, so I wanted to follow through on his request.  Luckily, it’s an easy recipe and one I have made before, so not much thinking or measuring involved.  Somewhere in there I sent an email to my pdoc. I guess it was somewhat distressing. Moistly I was expressing my disdain for myself and failure as a person, wife, daughter. I don’t remember what else.  I put the lid on the pot and went back to bed.  Not 10 minutes later my phone rang from the hospital. I did not answer.  The message left for me was I am very concerned about the email you sent and if you do not respond in 10 minutes I will send the police for a welfare check.

Well that got me moving. I immediately called me case manager back, and got her voicemail.  I repeated very calmly the police did not need to be called, not check was necessary. At the same time, I was getting dressed. My inclination was to run.  If the police arrived at my house and asked me questions, and I was honest in the slightest, I would end up in the hospital for Christmas. I quickly threw on some clothes and headed to the busiest place I know: Target.

As I was outside locking my door, my case manager had called back. She thanked me for responding.  The email I sent was not even to her, it was to my pdoc. I guess she has forwarded it on. We had a 10 minute conversation where I know she was sizing me up.  She is new to me. She is just covering for my usual case manager who is on vacation. She knows me VERY well and perhaps the police threat might not have come.

I was very agitated but answered her questions. She asked if I understood why she had to make the demand. I said no the email I sent wasn’t to her and I made no threats to harm myself, I only expressed how I was feeling. I didn’t state that I had a plan.  She reminded me I wrote the previous night I went to bed with a plan, and I reminded her neither of which I followed through on..clearly stated in the email. I didn’t want to argue. I told her I was having trouble talking about my feelings, I don’t know what they are right now. I just know I feel like shit inside. I started to get emotional.  She reiterated how much they care and want to make sure I am safe.

She wanted to me to explain what the rest of the day looked like. I had looked like a long stay in bed before I got scared. I didn’t have a plan. I have kickboxing class tonite, or I know there is a group tonite. She then demanded I attend the group tonite and the outpatient program the next day. I told her it wasn’t fair to put extra pressure on me. I didn’t need the weight of letting more people down if I couldn’t get myself there.  She is still in training, not yet fully a doctor, and I knew she couldn’t order me to do things. She said she would confer with the director (who I Love) and call me back with a plan.   So, she did stating they prefer I come to the group since I missed the morning session, but it was up to me.  She emphasized she really hopes to see me tomorrow morning.

With great hesitancy I went to the evening group. I just wanted to be left alone. It was too hard and too painful to process my feelings. I didn’t know where to start or what was truly bothering me: sadness, anger, guilt.  The lead psychologist is amazing. He has known me for 7 years or so. He is so very kind, gentle and just soothing when he talks to you.  I find that he is magical.  Just when I thought for sure I would be mute and unable to speak he approached me in a way that allowed me to take my time and say what I needed to say.  He prompted me quite a bit, just resonated with me with one of his own experiences. I took tissue after tissue. I couldn’t look up at him. I felt like I was going to explode, yet I felt safe with him.  The room was quiet and his words were soft. I have always appreciated the way he works with people. He can reach anyone.  He reached me when I was so closed up and closed off I was ready to bolt for the door.

He helped me see it wasn’t my fault. It’s understandable to have survivor’s guilt, but not carry it around for too long.  I have to trust I did what was best for me at that time.  Just 3 weeks after quitting the group I entered the hospital with profound depression and psychosis. The journey has been long and almost too much to bare.  He suggested I could give in to the voices and cause another tragedy and ripple effect by taking my life OR I could move forward and just keep doing the best I can.  When I can be there for friends, I will be.  If I want to check on them more, I can. But, I need to be kind and compassionate towards myself in this moment. He always shows me I can rest my hand on my check and just hold it there for a few minutes reminding myself I am okay and I deserve love, time and attention too.

I just learned the magic psychologist is moving on. He has taken a Clinical Director job at another facility. I will miss him.  He is the heart and soul of the outpatient program.  He has such heart.  He reminds us how brave we are each and every day to face our inner battles. To look inward and want to make changes takes such strength and perseverance.  To come to a group full of strangers and air our issues and feelings takes courage.  He always made me feel warm and safe even at my lowest, even lost in psychosis.  He is a remarkable man and I will miss him.

Mankind

In the wake of the tragedy in San Bernardino I am reminded of something I wrote over the summer. I work at a Regional Center. I have been in social services working with clients with Developmental Disabilities for over 16 years.  It is scary to think such violence can happen anywhere, but when it hits a little closer to home..its really scary.  I haven’t been able to put words to it as its unfolding.  I guess this is an homage to individuals with disabilities and those of us who have big hearts…

I am losing faith in mankind. I just don’t understand this world sometimes. Not only my purpose in it, but how to live alongside ignorant, mean spirited, greedy people. Granted I am only hearing what the media throws at me, which of course is tainted with their spin. Unfortunately, I have also experienced this ignorance first hand lately.  I’m more than willing to testify that my mood often dictates my reaction.

This morning driving to a work event I really wanted to blow the world up. I was agitated and irritated and wanted nothing to do with nobody. I was angry at you and you and you. I was angry at the police officer in Texas who threw a young girl around in a bikini and then sat on her for several minutes even though she appeared calm.  I was angry at Billy Graham’s son for carrying on about same sex marriage spawned by what I considered a beautiful commercial involving adoption. I was angry at neighbors in an affluent area screaming NIMBYism at the mere thought of someone “different” moving into a house on their street. I was angry at…. Oh the injustice of it all.

People shouldn’t post pictures of themselves on facebook anymore marking an accomplishment such as running a marathon, or completing their first cross fit class. Should they do so, and gasp, more than once, they risk being deemed a narcissist. Really? Does a Facebook post really warrant pathology.  I’m not pro Facebook, but neither am I anti.  I see how it affects me sometimes and then it’s up to me to limit my relationship w good ol FB. I see my mother enjoy pictures of her grandkids who live across the country. To each his own. I used to be that person. I was very heavily involved in competitive tennis as well as an outside bootcamp fitness program. Many times I would come home from a killer workout and want to shout to the rooftops how good I felt.  How great it was to start the day at 5:30 am w a sweat session. Then I would end the day w a tennis session.  I try to think back now, why did I feel compelled to post about these “accomplishments.” Why did I want/need others to know? I THINK it was innocent. I don’t remember counting the likes I did or didn’t get. It was pure joy I wanted to express.  I was feeling good and wanted to share. I never really thought how it might affect someone else. Say someone with depression or bipolar who couldn’t get off the couch but so desperately wanted too. I didn’t consider whoever may be reading it could be put off by me. Hmmmm. But nonetheless, does that make me a narcissist?

Even more interesting, or maybe not, is I never post at this stage of my life. Since I relapsed on alcohol and fell into suicidal depression, later to be diagnosed bipolar, I hide away. It seems more now than any other time I need to shout something and I am mum.  I am angry and I say nothing. I get worked up about things and I bottle it deep. I get excited about very few things anymore and that too is held hostage.  Really. Honestly. I just don’t think anyone cares what I have to say. Why bother.

This is where I am, vacillating between wanting to blow up the world and why bother.  Neither really affects change.  Neither makes me feel good.  Remember I mentioned I was on the way to a work event when this thought process started. Well let me fill you in. I work in social services. Specifically with clients who have developmental disabilities. Today I had the privilege of talking w scared and disillusioned parents on how their son or daughter can live safely in the community.  I educated them on resources, heard and acknowledged their fear of putting their beloved child into the arms of another for care and supervision, offered them hope.  Me. I did that.  I looked them in the eye and understood their vulnerability.  I didn’t tell them what they should do. I didn’t make false promises. I just opened my mouth and shared information. I simply shared what I believe in my heart. Individuals with disabilities deserve the same rights as anyone. They deserve to live in a nice home where they have their own room, where they can make their own choices, where they feel cared for and comfortable.

I don’t necessarily have to carry a message about alcoholism or mental health, as I somehow think i do. I don’t have to shout things or long for a platform. I don’t have to prove anything. I just need to be me. I was as authentic and pure as I can hope to be today.  As a member of mankind, my faith is rekindling.