Sorting It Out

I have always felt like I had a “base mood”, which is the state I’m in. Depressive, hypomanic, stable. I noticed that there was kind of an “atmospheric mood”, which was a wispy, temporary mood state that would come through. I’ve always characterized this as weather.

This emotional weather is just about as predictable as meteorological weather. Forecasts can go out based on current information and predictable outcomes. But, things can change quickly, and suddenly, storms crop up. Unfortunately, they don’t make an emotional barometer. There are no external instruments to sound an alarm on the emotional accuweather forecast.

I considered the weather to be just regular “moods”. I know one thing that is difficult for all people who have bipolar disorder is to draw the line between typical and symptomatic. It becomes a nearly impossible task when a person is actually symptomatic. That’s why it’s considered a disorder.

Over the last three years, I’ve become pretty familiar with episodic behavior. I cannot always identify it straight away. But, eventually, I tease it out. What I encountered in January was genuine symptoms, starting with an ultradian cycle I wasn’t even aware of until I reviewed my logs.

What I started to experience toward the end of that depressive episode was uncharacteristic. I hadn’t experienced those types of symptoms in some time. It didn’t look as if it was a coincidence that my mood chart started jumping at the same time my marriage got thrown on the rocks. And now, two months later, I’ve seem to hit some semblance of a period of stability coinciding with the start of my husband’s admissions and treatment.

He broke the silence. Now, I’m breaking it too.

Criteria 1: Fear of abandonment:
My fear of abandonment isn’t typically characterized, because of the keen awareness of the consequences. My fear is very real. The frantic efforts are a little unusual. It’s not outwardly frantic, because I know that behavior actually drives people away. Instead, I take huge strides to make myself more appealing. That feeds into the destabilization of self-image.

There’s a hidden switch, though. At some point, when I’m overloaded with anxiety, I shut down. I will shut down on a person, and it will be over. It will be difficult for me to feel anything for them until they have been out of my life for awhile, or they take a big leap of faith to me.

This disrupts my ability to make friends. I keep everyone at a distance, because I know that I will drive them away. I know that I am intense and strange. And I know that most people are passing ships in my life.

Criteria 2: Unstable Relationships and intense relationships:
I’ve been in a serious relationship with two different psychopaths, one diagnosed (Avi, the abusive one), and I’m now in a marriage with a man with MI. I always swore that these men found me. I think it was a little bit of both.

But, the catch about my marriage is however intense it is, it is stable. Go outside my romantic relationships. Looking at the intense dysfunction between my parents and me tells the tale.

Those people hurt me. And yet, I still love them. I hate them for everything, but I still vacillate between pandering for their affections and shutting them out. I know that they had their hand in this. And still, I blame it exclusively on myself.

Criteria 3: Identity Disturbance:
I used to dye my hair everytime I had a serious mood shift. When my first ex and I broke up, it shattered my whole world. And I said “F*ck the world.” At that point, I let go of everything. It was at that point in time that I started partying my life away.

That wasn’t me. I was a control freak. I always wanted control of my reality. I wanted control of the direction of my life and was always goal oriented.

My ex, Avi, was the worst agitation. I let him tell me who I was, what I should and shouldn’t be doing, and how I should live my life. I let him victimize me, because he told me I was a victim.

C.S. helped me find my way back to me. The me that I liked and was used to. The me that read, wrote, played music, and enjoyed artistic expression, not mindless video games. He helped me find my way back to goal-orientation and showed me that he could love me. That was the only reason I could even be me. Because that’s what he loved.

Criteria 4: Impulsivity:
After I had experienced sexual assault for the first time, I had come to the conclusion that I was a slut. So, I started to act like a slut by having sex with any man who looked at me sideways. I wanted to convince myself that I was at least good for something.

I have alcoholism. It is mostly controlled now. That’s no secret.

Now, here’s the big secret. I likely have an eating disorder. In times of serious distress, I deny myself food. I don’t deserve to eat. I’m a fatass. No one loves a fatass.

I have pindged and purged. It’s not often. In times of depression and self-depreciating behavior, I will binge to feel good. And then I’ll purge, because I worry about my weight. But worse than that. I’ll purge, because getting rid of that overstuffed feeling feels good. There is no better feeling than an empty belly.

I would excessively spend. But, you can’t spend without money in the bank. As a teen, I used to shoplift. And I got caught and got in the worst trouble of my life with my parents. I get the impulse now and again, but the fear and embarrassment is enough to keep me from doing it.

Criteria 5: Recurrent Suicidal / Self-Injurious Behavior:
Admittedly, as a teen, I was more satisfied with cutting with a steak knife than a razor. A razor was too easy, and the cuts were always thin, sleek, and healed without incident. The serrated knife left jagged cuts that never healed right.

I used to pick at the scabs. I only recently started scraping them with a luffa.

I take scalding showers for two reasons. First, there is the whole germ part. But, secondly, sensitive skin burns easily. Scrub it with a luffa, and it flakes and peels. It hurts so nicely, I can’t think about anything else.

I don’t ever threaten. I warn. Because I know certain stressors will set it off.

I used to attempt suicide. I have probably a dozen serious attempts under my belt. I probably have about a dozen more half-assed attempts where I hoped I’d die of alcohol poisoning. Or, if I let an infection go long enough, I’d cause organ failure. (I almost did that with my kidneys that started as a UTI).

I don’t anymore. It’s pointless. I have never come close to succeeding. And I’m convinced that there is a reason for that. Besides, I’m not so cruel as to leave my husband and son like that. Not now. My son is old enough to remember me. My husband might actually go down with me, although he’s never indicated as much.

Criteria 6: Affective Instability
Rage. I’m almost always irritable. I’ve always thought that irritability and reactivity were hallmarks of bipolar disorder. I was wrong.

I have bouts of intense anxiety. Especially when I feel like I’m not in control. It is expressed in OCD-like symptoms when it goes critical. I start hoarding. Or purging items. I check constantly. I do mental checks. I fear contamination.

Dysphoric moods. It’s always been suicidal ideation in the past. It’s only recently that I’ve had homicidal ideation, and it’s enough to scare me. But, I don’t imagine harming loved ones. No, I imagine harming people who are a perceived threat to my family and me.

That emotional weather, that was affective instability. When it produces serious storms, it becomes separate from bipolar disorder completely. Layered moods.

Criteria 7: Chronic Feelings of Emptiness:
Curiously, I don’t have the typical definition of this. Most of the time, I feel too full. I’m full of emotion, turmoil, life. I’m bursting at the seams.

But, if you examine the criteria a little closer, it can be characterized by never feeling good enough. I’m bad. I have never achieved anything noteworthy. No one really loves me. I feel as if I am worthless, rather than empty.

Criteria 8: Inappropriate Anger / Difficulty Controlling Anger
Sometimes, yes. I have a temper. I try to be careful at expressing this anger. It’s usually restricted to times when I am alone. I scream. I break things.

I don’t want to scare my family. I don’t want the shame and guilt I would suffer from such impulsive, inappropriate behavior. I don’t want anyone to leave me, because they fear me. I try so hard to practice restraint. I’m not always very successful.

Criteria 9: Transient, Stress-related paranoid ideation, delusions, or severe dissociation symptoms
This was the key to finally prove the potential for BPD to me. I’ve always had delusions. I’ve always had the berating voice. But, my paranoia has always turned out to be justified in the end.

When C.S. and I were very rocky, I was convinced that a man, who I would never otherwise suspect, was cheating on me. The voice separated into a an auditory hallucination, free of any rational mind, feeding me horrible things. I had my first real break from reality.

But, it was in fits that never lasted longer than a few hours to maybe a few days. And it could be broken by immediate distraction.

I’m nowhere near as volatile as I used to be. Medication has tamed my symptoms, and nearly domesticated me. There are a lot of behaviors that I don’t engage in anymore.

But, I am a far cry from ridding myself of all of them. And if I keep going on this course of alienating people, disabling my supports, and self-sabatoging, I’m going to end up in a very bad place.

So, I made an impulsive move yesterday morning. Finally, a good one. I called and made an appointment to start meeting with a qualified professional with an objective eye. I could’ve gotten in today, but my hours are restricted right now due to work.

So, next Thursday. In one week, I will take my first baby steps back into the world of therapy. Honestly, I don’t have high hopes. Thankfully, I have a number of therapists to choose from. And if it doesn’t work out, at least I gave it a try.

I want to keep trying and not get discouraged. But, I’m so picky about my professionals. I know there has to be some hope for recovery.

Working Up To It

I have always thought of myself as a pretty open book. I don’t flat out lie. If I am asked a question, I will always try to answer it honestly and to the best of my ability. Any misinformation is either from a miscommunication or an accidental omission.

I have been having symptoms far enough outside of the scope of BP II that it made me start challenging my diagnosis.

A diagnosis is a label. A label is just a label, and it shouldn’t make much of a difference, right? The point is that I’m gulping down pills of every color that should apply to every disorder under the sun.

Wrong.

At first, I didn’t want to question it, and I prayed that the extreme symptoms would subside. I had hoped they were circumstantial and as soon as the situation was resolved, the symptoms would resolve. Somehow, I forgot a key element of disorder. It doesn’t resolve when a situation resolves. That’s why it’s termed “disorder” instead of “moodiness”.

C.S’s appointment came and went without change. No relief came for either of us. In fact, we were both more distraught than ever with the news that we would be waiting another five weeks until there was a definitive diagnosis. And even then, that’s just the start a treatment. It could be years before things start to turn around.

In the meantime, I’ve found myself in agony, like a person huddled in a cold cave, waiting out the storm. I have always been in the habit of putting others first, because they rely on me in times of need. I know what it’s like to have the rug pulled out from under me when I’m in the most desperate of need. I’d never leave a person near and dear to me to fend for themselves. Especially when they have explicitly asked for my help.

Things get better. Things get worse. It is rollercoaster of daily twists and turns, ups and downs. And I couldn’t understand why my mood and behavior were so unstable. The medication works when I’m not particularly sensitive to external stressors. The inner turmoil doesn’t exist without it. But once a person has stirred the pot, it puts things in motion.

I started my excavation. I started reading old journals, some as far back as twelve years ago. Certain recurring symptoms emerged, and these were exactly the ones plaguing me now. The ones I find exist somewhere outside of BP II.

I examined my mood chart that I began in the tail end of my most recent depressive episode. Consistently low scores. And then, suddenly, the points were very high one day, and very low the next. I am careful to chart at the same time each day, so that the scores can be considered consistent.

When I noticed the trend as it was happening, I termed it “dysphoric hypomania”. The lows weren’t sadness, it was rage and anxiety. That was, until it went beyond the definition of “hypomania”.

Energetic despair. That’s the only way I can describe it in retrospect. I started running to burn off some energy, anxiety, and emotion. I clung so hard to anger, because I couldn’t cry. And when I did cry, it was in unpredictable bouts. I would start, and everything would come flooding out.

Then, there were the fits of rage. I would find myself beyond irritable – extremely agitated is closer to the term. I became more obsessive than usual. Things had to be a certain way. My anxiety was so far through the roof that I found myself trembling at times. Chunks of memory started to fall away, and I began frequently misplacing important items. It was a recipe for recurring explosions and tantrums.

Then, I began terming what I was seeing as a “mixed episode”. Impossible for BP II, right? So, BP I? It shouldn’t matter.

The question plagued me again. Why has my medicine afforded me shorter episodes and longer stability if I’m “getting worse”? Why all of a sudden?

It didn’t add up. Obsessions and compulsions, as they were happening, were not within the criteria for anything on the BP spectrum. I started having full-blown psychotic episodes in short bursts. But, I still didn’t quite meet the criteria for a full blown “manic” episode, required in a mixed state.

As things became rockier between C.S. and I, old, very painful memories started emerging. I’d feel the pang of the emotional reaction to a situation that was “familiar”, and then I’d have the flashback. But, the flash wasn’t always strong enough for me to pin it down completely. For a millisecond, I was in that moment in my past. Not always long enough to identify it.

But, they were plaguing me at times unprovoked. Times that I allowed my mind to wander. Awful feelings would come out of acts that hardly pinged me in the past. But then again, I had been drunk and numb.

That’s not BP anything. Not even close.

I had been wanting so desperately to solve this on my own. There are so many things I can’t imagine speaking out loud to anyone. Even harboring the flicker of the memory and the attached emotion is hard enough.

I took some inventories online. I started to put labels on things.

OCD – for the obsessions, the thoughts that kept recurring, the compulsive need to check, wash, count, have certain items on my person, etc.

PTSD – for all of the flickers and flashes of things in that dark closet. For all of the things rattling the inside of the Pandora’s box that has been dormant for so long. For all of the hurt, neglect, and abuse I had never spoken a word to any professional about.

BP I – to cover the “mixed” behavior and paranoid delusions, and auditory hallucinations.

Then, there was a label for the jar that shocked me.

Borderline Personality Disorder???? What?

Sensory Integration Dysfunction and Mental Disorder

Most of my research in the past has been centered around affective disorders, theories surrounding the causation of dysfunction, and the cognition / behaviors that sustain it. I am broadening my horizons to include many mental health disorders and developmental disorder, particularly autism.

I have had a theory for awhile that hinged almost completely on curious connections I’ve made between bipolar disorder and autism spectrum disorder. Doctors ruminated on the potential for my father and bipolar disorder. By the way my parents describe his mother, it didn’t seem surprising.

We’ve always assumed that my “affective disorder” (assumed Major Depressive Disorder in my teens) was a result of my father. Assumptions are changing around parents house in light of serious mental health symptoms popping up on my mother’s side of the family. My grandmother has “dementia”, politely termed to describe her psychosis. And my aunt who cares for her has developed paranoid delusions. She has isolated herself, because she is sure that the family is “against” her and consorting with one another behind her back.

These things don’t come out of nowhere. They become present after certain events happen, whether they are biochemical or a result of external stressors.

So, why is it that two parents with suspected “affective” disorders bear one child with moderately severe classical autism and another with bipolar disorder? Another generation passes. Two parents, one with an affective disorder and another with a mental health disorder, both with psychotic features, bear a child with mild Autism Spectrum Disorder : Pervasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified?

I’m not at liberty to speak in detail about my husband’s disorder. I have determined that it is up to him; it is his own business, and it is best for his mental health to know that I am only vaguely referring to it as a “disorder”. I will leave it at that.

We have actually been speaking now, sometimes at great length concerning symptoms, dysfunction, and identifying with one another. Many of these symptoms seem to revolve around sensory disturbances. For me, I’ve gone to great length to describe times of sensory overload caused by a removal of a “sensory filter”. It’s a chicken and the egg conundrum. Does the emotional disturbance make me more susceptible to the sensory integration and processing dysfunction or vice versa?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a great deal of literature on sensory integration dysfunction and mental health disorders. However, there is a wealth of it, as it is considered a component of Autism Spectrum Disorders.

It is thought that the main feature, besides pervasive behaviors, is sensory integration dysfunction / disorder. It is observed that children with ASD fall into categories of sensory “seekers” or “avoiders”. Seekers are thought to have dampeners on sensory imput. Avoiders are opposite and have a sensory overload. But, in most cases, there is usually a combination of the two. Some seeking and some avoidance. Unfortunately, avoidance is considered the most recognized behavior, as it is considered the most dysfunctional.

I can only speak for me. In episodes of hypomania, I become a seeker. One would think there should be an avoidance, but in hypomania, I cannot get enough. My brain eats it at hyperspeed and processes it just as fast.

However, mania is a different story. Often, sensory stimuli overloads an overly active mind. It makes manic symptoms worse. Sometimes, the racing thoughts become fragmented and my thinking becomes disordered. My speech becomes disrupted and incoherent, because the intergation of external stimuli cannot be effectively integrated. And an overload occurs.

In psychotic states, the sensory stimuli becomes confused and distorted. Places and people may become foreign and strange. Hallucinations can occur, distorting sensory stimuli even further. And delusions are fed by misinterpreted stimuli.

Mixed states are the worst. As everyone knows, a mixed state is probably the most unstable a person with bipolar disorder can get. Sensory stimuli is integrated, but poorly. The cognitive associations are often misinterpreted and can spark even worse symptoms.

A sensory overload is common in this state. The internal struggle is enough to shy away from anything stimulating, because of the cognitive inability to process it properly.

I’m still working on interpreting mixed states, the dysfunction, and how I experience it. The problem I face is that many new symptoms I did not expect surfaced at the same time.

Moving to depressive states. I find that I am often very easily overstimulated, though my mental state is dulled. My mind suffers a certain retardation of congitive and physical function. The problem the occurs is the foggy state makes the processing of stimuli difficult. It deepens emotional distress when presented with too much. I simply do not have the processing speed.

So, there are several functions that cause the dysfunction. There are a few facts that remain. I am an auditory avoider when I am unable to process external stimuli due to aggitated or foggy states. I am a tactile seeker in these states, with the explicit exception of psychosis. In (hypo)manic states, I am a motion seeker, as it calms. In depressive states, I am a motion avoider, but a visual seeker. Contrastingly, I am a visual avoider in (hypo)manic and psychotic states.

I could go on from there, but I won’t. I am more inclined to seek input from others. Examine your behaviors of seeking and avoidance. What do you find?

For Now, Not Farewell

First, and foremost, I wanted to let all of my wonderful blogging friends know that I am alright.  The gaps between posts keep getting larger, and I worry that others are worrying.  I will make you a promise now that if something serious happens and there is a critical situation, I will not hesitate to inform everyone.

There are a lot of things that are happening in my life right now.  Many personal matters need attending to.  I’m probably getting laid off in three weeks, although my boss doesn’t seem like she wants to drop that bomb on me.  Personally, I find that incredibly irresponsible.  I could have been looking for other work.  Well, in any usual situation.

Still, it creates a serious blow to my self-esteem at a time when it is not well received.  I know everyone has been passed over for a job and has suffered layoffs before.  It’s really unpleasant, to say the least about it.  Then, there’s entire summer, twelve weeks ahead of me, where I have to sit on my hands and wonder if I’m getting recalled for the school year.  Something tells me that I’m not.

There are an increased number of incidents that have been happening on my watch.  I see my faults and flaws as a teacher, though I have little help on my end establishing my role and developing my skills.  I feel as if I am not well accepted or even really respected at my job. I feel undervalued and underutilized.  Each project I have suggested has been shot down.  And, each time I volunteer for something, I am assured that my assistance is not needed.

I realize this could be the ever present paranoia that has been occurring where I get this idea that I am being persecuted in my life (including at my job).  This includes ideas what someone / something is out to get me.  Or, it could be the subconscious vibes I get from others.  My immediate employees that are on the outer circle of the program seem to be unaware.

However, those on the internal circle are treating me as if I am a ghost.  They mumble a sort of hello as I walk by, hardly acknowledging my presence.  No one is keen on engaging me in conversation.  And those that are my higher-ups have taken to lambasting me at every chance they get for things that aren’t entirely my doing.

I’ve always kept Xanax on my person at all times, in case I encounter a situation that flares the anxiety.  Typically, this is an unexpectedly crowded area.  Lately, Xanax has become part of my diet.  I can’t fathom the idea of going back there.  And I tick the days off of my calendar.  Twenty-two left before I am unemployed.  Twenty-two left before leaving my house becomes optional.

(I’m exhausted this morning and not very inspired.  Please forgive the bland post.)

I had told my husband at one point, “I feel as if there are many things that have gone neglected in my personal life, especially my home life that other things are interfering with.  Maybe it’s for the best.”  I believe that there is a rhyme and a reason to everything, whether it is God or just the pattern of the universe.  Choose whichever suits you.

My husband agreed.  I’ve mentioned that he needs tended to more now than ever.  I’m not the only one who thinks so.  His best friend has been sending check-in messages, noting that C.S. “hasn’t been himself for awhile.” I am very focused on keeping my resolve so that I can be a part of his treatment.  It’s difficult.  He has always been my rock, the stable touchstone that I could rely on to keep me in check.  Now, it seems, the tables have turned.

Six more days until the appointment.  I’m checking the days off of my calendar, holding onto the wild ride as hard as I can to get us there.

Then, there is the matter of my son.  Though he has made significant gains without therapy in the last six months, he still requires it.  He still remains behind his peer group in terms of speaking and social interaction.  And because of everything that has happened with his parents in the last six months, I have been unable to navigate the labyrinth of services.

That is something that takes a lot of time.  I recall from the first time we had to go through this.  There were a lot of evaluations in places that were at least a half an hour’s drive from here.  Even the ones in home took an hour at the least.  There were meetings with counselors, social workers, specialists, and all manner of people.  It took a great deal of time, effort, focus, and all of the things I’m sorely lacking in my position right now.

My lack of initiative makes me feel like a bad parent.  It makes me feel as if I’ve robbed him of crucial developmental time.  My self-absorption in my illness makes me feel as if I have precipitated and then ignored serious signs and symptoms in my husband.  I find that I am destabilizing to the point where I don’t want to return to work.  And the paranoia and the anxiety it produces when I think of all of this are too much to handle.

I’ve determined that I need a break.  Please, don’t take this as I am self-isolating.  I have been feeling this way for months now, starting in my depressive state.  I wasn’t sure if it was the trickery of depression, or if it was a genuine need to crawl inside my shell for solace.  My emotional reserves are tapped, and I’m really running on empty.  My support system is crumbling, and I feel like I can’t run my life anymore.

I have even made the consideration to file for disability.  Making the admission that I might not be of sound mind enough to work with any stability is very difficult for me.  It’s difficult to think that I am having such a hard time managing my personal life.  I do understand that things are unusual in the way of stress and function (or lack thereof).  However, I seem to think that others who aren’t quite as affected may stand a better chance against life’s little upheavals.

For myself, to collect my own emotional fortitude, and to prioritize what little there is left to go around, I must limit my writing.  This is so that I may stabilize my personal life, and have reflections that may be useful to those in my immediate vicinity.  I would like to focus primarily on my personal journal at the moment, in order to keep a solid documentation of what is going on, free of any flare or censorship (yes, sadly, there is a little that happens here).

I adore each and every one of you.  I am always available via email at tallulahlulustark@gmail.com  If you’d like to touch base with me, or just need to talk about something, I am always available and always willing.

Just for now.  This is not a farewell.

Theories on the Development of Disorder

When something, an emotion, an urge, an impulse, is so severely suppressed that a person becomes oppressed, we can often observe extreme opposite reactions. This is consistent with the laws of physics and the universe, “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” Except, one thing. I believe when it comes to emotions and behaviors, the opposing reaction is more like equal plus. The plus being an x-value holding place for a value with the meaning “a little more.” Determining that exact value in numerical terms may be difficult, since there is no numerical value for emotions.

It basically conveys the message that the situation perpetuates itself. Any potential absence of behavior or action can still be perceived as a positive value. Inaction can still be considered an action in this case, because there isn’t really such a thing as a complete absence of behavior.

This is potentially a huge factor in mental illness. Obviously, we are aware of the psychological damage abuse and neglect in childhood can cause, even throughout adulthood. It is thought to manifest in anxiety disorders, particularly Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. However, that does not account for people who did not experience what is typically considered childhood trauma.

Even as adults, we are susceptible to psychological damage. This is a fact that is well established through research involving war veteran and victims of sexual assault. However, we only consider extreme forms of trauma as something qualifies as such. Such is also true of childhood trauma.

Other qualifying trauma often happens over a period of time, and goes consciously unrecognized. This does not mean that it is also subconsciously unrecognized as well. In fact, the subconscious is likely keenly aware, but unable to translate to the conscious mind.

Once the conscious mind becomes aware that there is something amiss, the traumatizing behavior seems commonplace. The person has likely become desensitized to what was once a subtle, but generally constant external stressor. By then, it becomes internalized and often mistaken as an internal stressor.

Those are the seeds for maladaptive behaviors in both children and adults. At this point, unhealthy coping mechanisms have already been adopted as part of a person’s behavioral repertoire. This is directly the result of an extreme reaction to the accumulation of what may be considered subtle long term stressor(s).

The maladaptive behaviors are recognized as such, and perpetuate trauma through mistreatment of oneself. It can be behaviorally observed by an unusual response to certain unpleasant stimuli. Unfortunately, the subject is often unaware that their responses are abnormal. By the time it is either pointed out or realized by oneself, the original cause is well buried under layers of self-abuse / neglect.

The result of this is much larger than anxiety disorders. It reaches out to grab behaviors typical of a variety of psychological disorders. Behavior repertoires are often observed in personality disorders and mood disorders. it would stand to reason this is true, due to the nature of long-term external stressors, particularly subtle abuse and neglect.

The Mapril Curse

For years, the end of March and the beginning of April have always been rather catastrophic times for me.  Since before I can really remember, this has been a terrible time of year.  As I grew older, I started to notice certain patterns.

Some of the worst things that happened in my life have always happened during this time of year.

As a child, I recall my father was often hospitalized at this time. For a long time, I didn’t understand what my father was so sick with that he’d be gone in the hospital for weeks at a time. It scared me. I was scared he’d never come back. That he would die there.

Our worst fights happened at this time. It didn’t help that my final progress report for the year would come in.

Standardized tests always rattled my nerves. I knew that these tests didn’t affect my grades. It was just implied that these tests prove how smart a person was. I knew a bad score would label me an idiot. The only thing I had going for me, intelligence, would be wiped off the slate. I’d be nothing, and regarded as more of a child than I was already treated.

Then there was Easter break. For me, there was always something disturbing and disappointing about Easter. First, Easter is not exactly a pleasant holiday in the Christian religion. Yeah, I know, it is about celebrating the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

But, before that was good Friday. The day that Jesus died on the cross, after a gruesome and vividly detailed crucifixion. I don’t even know how the church justifies recounting this horrific story to children.

I know this one thing. Because of an exercise we did in Sunday School, peppermints are now revolting. I will spare you.

The closest friend I’ve ever had betrayed me in late March. She told my parents about a shoplifting incident that happened in January, complete with a fine that I was trying to pay off. She sabotaged my friendships with everyone else. As if it wasn’t bad enough that she had made it a very public falling out. She humiliated me.

And my father went off the deep end. No door on my room. Indefinitely grounded. No phone. No computer. No pager. No one in. And for a week, there was no school, and limited freedom within the house.

My ex Beck used my trip to Florida as time to gather support from our friends to backstab me, and destroy life as I knew it. April 1st, he dumped me. April 2nd, he moved his new girlfriend in.

April 8th, my ex Avi and I started dating. The following year, April 1st, we took what was a regrettable step into a year long lease together. A contract that legally obligated is to live together, in a small one bedroom apartment, in the worst of conflicts.

A year after that? We lost the apartment. We went flat broke and had to move into my house, which was then a complete shit shack. We ran a power cord over and lived in one room. Electricity in one room, and still living out of boxes and bags.

In late March, almost a year later, he made the admission that he cheated on me a year and a half ago. It consumed me so much that I was a woman possessed. It was all I could think about. I poured over the details. The emotion of anger, betrayal, guilt, and resentment was so much that it felt like it bled from every pore.

And on April 9th, three years after that first date, I decided that I wanted out. But, I was trapped.

Late March, before my wedding, I was tormented by my family. “You gained 5lbs!”

“Of course. I’m pregnant, right?”

“We can’t afford more alterations and it’s too late! We spent so much money on this, and you have to go and get knocked up! How irresponsible can you possibly be?”

After I had my son, this is the point in time where I started to show aggression and become violent. I was scared of myself. It was at this point that I knew I needed mental help.

A year after that, I started to have significant problems at my job. Even the thought of going there was agonizing.

Last year? The stress of putting together a children’s musical sent me flying into the ER with severe migraines. After that, I had a serious hypomanic episode. The first serious one I can remember.

And this year? Depression. Serious depression and self-harm. Marital issues. A lawsuit. A whole mishmash of events and looming threats that heap into a twitching shadow of depression and dreadful anxiety.

I have been reading references to research that has linked the turn of the season with mental health issues. March has the highest admissions into hospitals for those with mental illness. Different researchers have drawn different conclusions.

Today, I cracked it.

Today was my Pappap’s birthday when he was among the living. If he were with us today, we’d be celebrating his 96th birthday.

He has long since passed, almost 16 years ago. I was still young. He had been fighting a losing battle against prostate cancer for ten years. I was lucky to have had him in my life at all. When he was diagnosed, they only gave him a year.

My father was in and out of the VA hospital a lot when I was a child. My Pappap really stood up to be my father figure. And was he!

He was an amazing man. As a strapping young man, he and his brothers helped my church dig out their undercroft, by hand. It was the 40’s and wartime. Many men were called out to duty. My Pappap couldn’t go, on account of his severe hearing loss. It was mostly a result of working on the railroad. So, he, and other remaining parishioners took their shovels, and created a place where they could meet after mass.

He was always a man you could ask for help. He’d deny no one. And he was a jack of all trades. Plumbing, heating, electrical, building, anything. And if he didn’t know how to do it, he’d figure it out.

He had so many friends. Everyone who had ever spent any time with him was deeply touched by him. He treated everyone like family, and he treated his family like gold.

In times of need, he had offered everything he could to his extended family. Various family members had lived with him throughout his life. He was a faithful and dedicated man. My grandmother was his wife for fifty years before his passing.

He visited my mother every morning at 10AM for coffee after his morning walk. He knew that she needed him most. She was mostly alone with a severely autistic son and a deeply troubled husband, scarred by the war.

He came to every one of my school functions. I remember riding in the back of his station wagon. The only thing that ever made him angry were bad drivers. He always gave me $2 bills for my good report cards, and bragged to everyone about how smart and beautiful his granddaughter was.

I remember the first time I got a card from him with a $2 bill in it. He liked to tease people, so I thought it was fake. I got really mad at him. And he showed me his whole collection of $2 bills. And then he joked that I was a “brat kid” for disbelieving him.

I’d go to church every week, just to see him. He was an usher, and took collection. My Pappap was a devout Episcopalian, and so was I. He threw me a party when I reached my First Holy Communion.

We were very poor growing up. He often volunteered at charity events. The church had a flea market, and I fell in love with this little purple bunny. I was four, and the bunny warmed my heart. She made me happy and safe. He bought it for me, even after my mother lambasted me for begging for the bunny, as if I was trying to embarrass her in front of the other parishioners.

I named her Furry. Some kids had imaginary friends. I had her. She was imaginary in some ways. We talked. She always made me feel better. We shared a bed, and talked late into the night. I was less scared of life with her.

She still exists, and lives on shelf in my bedroom. She has been well loved, with patches of fur missing, dingy ears, paint chipped eyes, and a few obvious seams where she was sewn. Most of the time, I forget she’s there. She’s a relic, the only thing that survived my childhood. But, sometimes, I know she’s watching over me.

I remember the year that followed my Pappap’s death. We celebrated my uncle’s birthday, but it was somber. They shared a party every year. And he wasn’t there anymore.

Really, nothing was the same. Christmas. My birthday. Anytime I got a report card. My mother had removed the dining room table entirely. That’s the same dining room table in my house now. The same one I sit with during meals with my family. The very same that my friends gather around.

And, I never made the connection. I have only started considering a connection between a childhood amnesia and his passing. I never realized that it could have such a profound subconscious affect on my life as an adult.

I miss him. And most of all, I believe I mourn the time we missed most. I mourn the loss of the role in my life he could have taken.

When I joined the showband, I knew he’d be thrilled. His own granddaughter, so talented in music that she would be invited to travel the country each year to compete. I knew he’d be even more proud when I joined choir. All of those years watching me sing in church paid off in solos and special choir assignments.

When I graduated high school, I wondered if he’d be proud of me. I graduated with honors. The choir needed me and a friend so badly at graduation that we actually had to run back and forth from the stage to the other stage!

What would he think of my husband? I know he’d adore my son. My son loves cars and trains, just like him. They’d play with his model train sets all day.

If I ever do have a daughter, she’d be the light of his life. He cherished his girls most of all. He had always told me that girls were God’s gift to the world, and children were life’s best blessing.

He’d just be tickled about my job. He always believed in public service, and thought the people who did it were saints in disguise as ordinary people. Yes, he was a little bigoted, so he might have made a remark or two about it being in a city neighborhood. But, anyone in need – it didn’t matter who they were. He always believed that people were people. No less, no more.

He’d make a joke about me getting a report card. And I’d tell him that I do, every year in May. And he’d probably still slip me a card with some odd currency in there. A JFK silver half dollar. Oh god, a couple of Saqaguia’s! How he would have been so tickled by that!

He played piano. My parents both sing. I know where the talent came from.

Would he have said anything about the bipolar disorder? Maybe one thing. “You were always sensitive and moody. It’s a sign that you’re human.” That would have been that. I am who I am, and that’s more than special to him.

If he were alive, I’d join him and my mother for coffee in the morning, even if I don’t drink coffee. I know he’d pick up my prescriptions if I asked. He might poke fun and call them “crazy meds”. Just for a giggle.

He was the light in my chaotic childhood. He was the rock in my life. He was the father my dad could not be at the time. I was lucky to have my Pappap at all.

I do hope he rests peacefully and happily. And I hope he knows, that even after all of these years, and although I was young, I still remember him and everything he was to me.