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.
Tuesday was a big day. The Blackberry – now dubbed BB4, because I’ve determined I’ve doomed any inanimate (and potentially animate) object I name, arrived. And I struggled at every step getting the damn information transferred.
A compulsion dragged me into two different pharmacies in town, in search of a replacement Sharpie pen. I obsessed about it. I couldn’t continue writing in my journal without it. The writing wouldn’t look right. I saw the hideous tag of $9 and change for two. And I decided that day that my sanity had a price.
I continued with my regression therapy experiment by listening to The Downward Spiral by Nine Inch Nails. The album as a whole. Still nothing but lyrics. I can’t ever remember where I put my phone and my cigarettes. But, I’ll never forget a single lyric from any of those 14 songs.
All day, obsessions. These obsessive, intrusive thoughts snagged and snapped at me.
You lose everything remotely important. Check your bag for your pens. Your cigarettes. Your phone. Check again and make sure you see it. Did you put it back in there? Check again.
The world whizzed by me. And the music blared:
C L I C K .
– – – – –
“Fine-ally!” I seriously thought my bladder was going to literally burst inside of me. I pulled myself to sitting on the beige bench seat, all the way in the back. My heavy sandal fell off of my foot and landed directly on my copy of The Downward Spiral. I plummeted at freefall speeds. And upon impact, BANG! I was fiercely sobbing, van door open to a busy, boiling hot highway.
I rustled myself out of that van, and into that rest stop. I lit up a cigarette in a stall (back when you could smoke almost everywhere), and continued to sob.
“What the hell are you causing so much fuss about?” I heard from the stall next to me, “Me and your dad will buy you a new one when we get there.”
– – – – –
My father wouldn’t let me have anything that held any value. I didn’t even carry a wallet until I was 18. I didn’t carry a purse until I was 21. Why have these things without valuables. He insisted that I’d lose it.
When I did lose something, I’d never hear the end of it. Things I’ve come to realize can be easily replaced. A pen. A hat. The trouble is that these things never were replaced. If I lost something, and I loved it, it was gone forever.
“Everyone I know, goes away, in the end.” Trent purred.
I was eager to get the key into the lock. I couldn’t remember the last time I had to go so urgently. I threw my bags on the sofa as I rushed through. I shedded my coat onto a kitchen chair and turned the corner to the bathroom. I walked up to the toilet and –
The seat was up.
Why was the seat up? I was the last one in the house.
A cloud descended upon me. A dark, nasty, vile cloud filled my head with heavy, smokey noise. It seemed a man had been in my house. And seeing as how only two men have a key to this house, and know the odd work hours I keep, that narrowed it down.
I take my father at his word. The man doesn’t lie. He would just avoid the subject.
That knocks it down to one.
“Wait! Don’t! Confronting a potential liar gets you nothing but more lies. Provoke him into exposing himself.”
I fired off a text, “Someone is busted.”
Normally, there is a lag time between fifteen minutes to three hours between texts. “I’m just so busy with everything going on! I’ll go to text you back and something will come up.”
More excuses. I don’t expect to take precedence every day. Just one day would be enough.
Immediately, a call shot to my cell. I nonchalantly answered the phone. At first, he carefully poked around. “Who? What do you mean? What happened?”
We didn’t speak while he was coming home. Unusual. He was only quiet when he was either alienating someone or plotting. I had him cornered.
When he arrived home, he put on a great show. He anxiously scoured the house looking for clues. In paranoia, he wedged himself between the fridge and the wall to boost himself above the drop ceiling. It was quite the farce.
He made a mistake. My husband, a man who is not guilty of anything and deeply crippled by anxiety, would not have given up so easily.
He was chipper when asking, “Would you like to take a walk over to the store for freezer pizza?”
I was bitter and suspicious. He hadn’t regarded me in that way in nearly a month. Each revision of behaviors became more noticeable. He eagerly set up the stroller. He made a pass of the exterior of the house for good measure. Only a pass. It was anything but thorough.
“So who do you think it could have been?” he uneasily questioned me.
“Everyone and anyone who could gain access to our house. Whether it be by force or key.”
Some more silence.
He rattled off a few very unlikely people. Forced. Any shift away from focusing on him. The insinuation was nowhere near vague. If there was something to hide, I’d find out. I made that unmistakably clear.
He trotted through the store. Suddenly, necessary items considered to be superfluous became important. I begged him for toothpaste when I had thrush. I knew it would clear faster. But, though we had just gotten paid, there was no money available.
He was overly enthusiastic about everything. At one point, he went to the Digiorno pizzas, and exclaimed what a great price they were. I had done so three months ago, and was shot down, claims they were still “too expensive'”, and returned to the same nasty, three, overcooked Tombstones.
Fake. Appeasing me. Buying my distractions.
I glared as he rushed through our taxes without complaint. We have never done our taxes so late. Never down to the wire like this.
Irresponsible. Careless. Uncharacteristic.
I fished through his cell phone for clues. He’s clever. He would have erased any tracks. He’s too paranoid to let anything revealing slip.
I have my reasons.
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.
We have nothing to fear but fear itself.
– Winston Churchill
That is an absolute, inescapable truth about chronic anxiety and anxiety disorders. While we attribute out fears, phobias, and anxiety to external factors, the fact of the matter remains. It is the fear that drives the anxiety.
Recently, I have experienced what is perhaps the longest bout of anxiety in my course of treatment. I did not realize it at first. Anxiety sees the first sparks from reasonable reaction to an external stressor.
I have an abundance of stress-inducing events and circumstances all seemingly happening at once. My grandmother’s health and mind are failing. To be frank, she is dying. I have accepted it. She is eighty-five, and has had diabetes longer than I have been alive. This is nature’s way.
Anxiety is an asexual creature in the sense that anxiety begets anxiety in itself. It feeds off of one singular thought. “What if?” It does not have to be phrased as such, but it remains constant. Anxiety breeds more anxiety in the circular logic that one anxiety attack heralds many more. Anticipatory anxiety.
I abhor change. Mostly, it is ripe with problems that multiply like mice in a cascading domino effect. Even when it is a step toward something better, that fact still remains. And in certain circumstances, it is enough to have the whole thing come crashing down. Mouse trap. Caged in one’s own folly.
If we step back, even for a moment, the entire incredible illogical reaction is laughable. Anxiety is curious in the way that it narrows one’s focus, and puts a set of blinders on it’s victims. There is no sight beyond that immediate threat, and other threats that surround it. Often, we are unable to take that step to see beyond.
Or any step, for that matter. Fight or flight? Neither. Freeze.
Some animals in the wild, when in fight or flight, often freeze. Deer in the headlights. It is an attempt to camouflage into the surroundings, as opposed to fighting a losing battle, or fleeing from a quicker predator. Anxiety often evokes the freeze mechanism. It is an enemy that we cannot see, therefore we cannot run, and we cannot fight.
Worse, is the belief that there is no place to hide.
Why so much fear in the fear itself? How could one possibly cower in the face of an invisible enemy?! It’s absurd!
Until one has been victim of that transparent, intangible foe.
- How to Overcome Being Anxious About Being Anxious (psychcentral.com)
- Panic or Anxiety attacks (liscafo.wordpress.com)
- Musings on anxiety… (beyondmeds.com)
- Battling Anxiety (definingmydash.wordpress.com)
- Three Things That Maintain Anxiety (psychologytoday.com)
- Just Breathe: Beating Anxiety at Its Own Game (quitthecure.com)
I’m in hiding.
I can’t put my finger on it. What the hell is going on with me? I feel like I’m doing laps around it. Hotter, colder, colder, hotter. No matter how hard I search, I cannot get a grasp on the object of my torment.
This has rendered me useless. Depression, as it deepens, always has a way of crippling me and all of my abilities. But, there’s more to it than just depression. There always is. I feel it, aching in my bones, coursing through my veins as molasses.
I suppose I have gone on about depression in posts prior. But, I’d like to take some time to describe the state, and then dissect the function, or lack thereof.
It’s like being fatigued, without being physically tired or exhausted. My mind is exhausted, easily overwhelmed by the overbearing world. Too bright, too loud, too – everything. It’s too much. That’s the spark for panic. I’ll come back to this.
I don’t feel like I’m here. It’s like walking in a dream state sometimes. Things are blurred around the edges, and no matter how hard I squint, it doesn’t get any clearer. Some things cannot register when I attempt to remember them. I saw it vividly, and I can almost get it. Almost.
Almost there, but not even close.
My mind cannot draw a straight line between two ideas. Everything doesn’t fragment, as much as the ties that bind loosen. Nothing sticks, I’m teflon. It all slides away into this black abyss I’m constantly staring into.
How far down do you think it is?
Even when I am able to hold something as my own, I choke on my words. I am drowning on dry land. I sputter, but it refuses to come out.
This dreadful shadow looms over me, blocking out any sunlight. No matter where I move in my attempts to come into the sun, I cannot outsmart it. I cannot evade it, and we remain bound.
Me and my shadow.
It stands, judging me. My judgment day, yesterday, today, tomorrow, and who can know how many days I will be followed by the watchful eyes? All I see are these dark, glaring eyes from far above, peering down at me. I swallow, but a lump has grown, making each gulp like choking down broken glass.
Vacuums the air right from my lung, harder than getting the wind knocked out of you. And I gasp for it, like I were attempting to breathe through a straw, filtered on the tip with cheese cloth. The air is thin and scarce. Drowning, on dry land.
My nerve endings are so frayed that they are deadened, save for a few sparks that set little fires about this paper house. Paper. It could come apart at any moment. A little wetness will dissolved the whole damn thing. A good gust will blow it over. And if anyone were to come after me, they could shred it, and simply grab me up by my collar to drag me away. I’m not even sure I have the fight in me to make one last stand.
Because gravity is holding harder than usual. Everything is heavier. I am being pulled closer, and closer to the earth. And when I fall, it will swallow me up, and I will be no longer.
I press on.
But, it watches me. It invokes a gripping fear that puts the vices on my heart. If I speak, it squeezes harder. It pushes me further. I witness the world move around me, and I beg so much to be apart of it. No matter where I am, or who I am, or what I am doing, I will always only get as close as brushing the fringes with my fingertips.
. . .
Singular thoughts, even just notions, are enough to whisper me into hiding. Four concrete walls. Buried fifteen feet into myself. Radio silence.
What is there to say anyway?
I’m faded through and through. My words, my ideas, flimsy and translucent. The focus blurs, and the letters just mesh into ink blobs.
And things start falling apart.
A few days ago, I started a project I call Blog for Mental Health 2012. I suppose, by now, the greater majority of mental health bloggers are aware of it. I am amazed by the overwhelming response to it! In this small amount of time, I have received a great deal of feedback, as well as the spread of it around the blogosphere. I am nearly in tears by the enormity of it!
Thank you to everyone who is participating. Through every writer’s participation, we are spreading awareness through our dedication. We are openly saying that we support mental health awareness and are working our hardest to erase the stigma for every person who carries a diagnosis worldwide. I am proud to carry a diagnosis today. And I hope everyone who carries this badge is proud of themselves and / or someone else, too.
In addition, I’ve decided that I wanted to keep an active blogroll open to index bloggers who support Blog for Mental Health 2012. If you would like to be on the blogroll, leave me a comment and I will be happy to add you to the list!
Currently, our participants are:
Again, if I missed a blog, please leave me a comment. If you’d like to take the pledge and display your badge proudly, just leave me a comment with a link to your pledge page.
Again, thanks to all who took the pledge and continue to put the word out there!
Blog for Mental Health 2012 Project
Clearly, I am a mental health blogger. I have been dedicated to sharing my experiences with bipolar disorder for nearly seven months now. That is my primary focus, though I have a tendency to get a little off topic from time to time. Not only is this therapeutic for me, but I hope that is can be an inspiration for others who suffer with mental health issues. This is especially the ones who do so in silence. Every voice is important, as it collects and makes our community’s voice stronger.
This is the premise for Pendulum, as written in the About This Blog page:
Many people suffering from Bipolar Disorder do so in silence. Prior to this blog, I could have included myself. This blog is meant for others to experience living with this disorder the way I, and many others, do. It is also for others to find their voice here and to know that they are not alone in their struggle. Lastly, it is to encourage dialogue and community between bipolar bloggers.
Sometimes it’s interesting. Sometimes it’s sad and at other times it sounds crazy. Grab the pendulum, and hold on for dear life. Otherwise, you just might end up in the pit.
This morning, I found myself interested in an official blogging project to raise awareness for mental health education. I sifted through Google for awhile, unable to find anything like it. And I thought, “Why don’t I start one?” It would be easy! All I would need to do is produce a graphic and some instructions.
The badge above is featured on Pendulum’s homepage, because I am dedicated to continue blogging throughout 2012 for mental health. So, here are the rules.
1.) Take the pledge by copy and pasting the following into a post featuring “Blog for Mental Health 2012”.
I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2012 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.
2.) Link back to the person who pledged you.
3.) Write a short biography of your mental health, and what this means to you.
I have been symptomatic of Bipolar Disorder and Anxiety for most of my life. I was incorrectly diagnosed with MDD in my teens, and suffered in silence. After my son was born in 2008, I went on to experience a severe relapse in symptoms considered to be postpartum psychosis. Several months later, I sought treatment and was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II.
That was almost three years ago now. Today, I am experiencing the longest stable state I’ve ever had, going on three months now. I am still hesitant to say that I am in remission.
This pledge is my opportunity to commit to mental health awareness. I can publicly display this badge to instantly tell my audience what this is all about. And, I can encourage others within the mental health community that have a Dx to do the same.
4.) Pledge five others.
I am pledging give of my fellow bloggers who have stood with me, and have proven their medal in my eyes as mental health bloggers.
- Ruby – I Was Just Thinking…
- FracturedAngel – The Mirth of Despair
- Monday – Manic Monday
- Vivien – Manic Muses
- Sarah – bi[polar] Curious
If you happen upon this without being pledged, I still pledge you. Feel free to take the pledge! Promote awareness!
Warning: This post has contents that may be hazardous to mental health. It contains strong themes of suicide, suicidal behavior, and substance abuse. Reader discretion is advised.
Have you ever had a moment where you heard the distinct and deafening sound of your own clock ticking down?
I have only heard this sound a handful of times. The first few times, it was difficult to distinguish from the other garble in my mind. But, the last time this occurred, the sound was unmistakable.
It happens when my physical state is badly threatened, but I’m not mentally aware. That is my defense mechanism that seems to be biologically programmed to protect me. It is what creates the Heath Ledger paradox.
And that’s what I experienced.
The Heath Ledger Paradox
Personally, not proudly, I have attempted suicide between a half of a dozen and a dozen times in my life. I don’t really keep score; there is no tally anywhere. In fact, in total, I have only left a handful of notes behind. They don’t always correspond to the actual attempt, though.
I am not a violent woman. My method of choice was almost always centered around substances. My very first attempt landed me in a bathtub with a belly full of pills. It was an unintentional coincidence between Sylvia Plath’s and Virgina Woolf’s suicides. I know this to be truth, because I was only in my early teens at the time. I had yet to read about these authors. And despite these attempts, even some carefully orchestrated with blatant drug interactions, I never succeeded.
What was different about me that made me a survivor of my own wretched malice? Many a person has done these things accidentally! Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Lee, Brittany Murphy, and many others are examples in our modern culture of how accidental overdose happens.
I met a guy in college that I stayed friends with. Eventually, we ended up working together. He was dismissed for failure to attend, and we all suspected he had a drug problem. A few days later, he was found dead in his apartment from a multiple-drug interaction. The guy ended his own existence with his own carelessness. How could he do it by accident and I couldn’t possibly do it on purpose?
That’s the Health Ledger Paradox. It is easier to succeed when the mind is unaware.
Last night, I accidentally set my foot onto the other side of the fence for a moment.
I still have impacted wisdom teeth on both the bottom left and right sides. These wisdom teeth have risen up partially in the back, causing skin pockets to form. Occasionally, I will get something trapped back there and a small infection will form. If I treat it immediately with a rinse and keep the pain manageable, I can usually escape a trip to the doctor and an antibiotic.
I detest going to the doctor to hear the same thing repeatedly. Yes, I know I need to have those teeth out. Though, I now have dental insurance, I do not have the money for a serious co-pay there. I just had a major surgery a month and a half ago. I don’t have the time or energy to spend in recovery. And I always feel worse on the “cillan” antibiotics than I did with the infection. Other women will feel me here. I usually end up with a worse infection in the end.
I had some Vicodin remaining from my surgery. Admittedly, I hadn’t taken many. I had a problem where the Vicodin would cancel the Temazepam out. I would be up for hours, sleepless and still aching. I decided that my body needed rest more than I needed pain relief. I had to heal. Last evening seemed like a good time to take it. I don’t know how I let the situation with my teeth go from uncomfortable to agonizing. But, it happened more quickly than my mind could have processed. So, I took the Vicodin.
I spent the rest of the night staring at the white porcelain bottom of a toilet bowl. At first, it was akin to other bad reactions I had to other narcotics. I do not respond well to Oxycontin or Percocet. And this was a similar episode. But, by the sixth hour, I knew there was something terribly wrong. My stomach had already emptied itself twice and was going for a third. This time, only water remained.
By the seventh hour, it became clear to me. I leaned forward and wretched. It felt like my stomach was turning itself inside out, in hopes to vacate an invader. I literally felt empty, as if I had evacuated every ounce of anything I’d eaten in the last 36 hours. And it dawned on me. My body was having a reaction – but why? I had taken Vicodin before with great success. I took it after my surgery and this didn’t happen.
I couldn’t muster the strength until the morning. I had only slept five hours out of fear that I’d never awaken again. I decided to refer to the almighty Medscape Mutli-Drug Interaction Checker. I thought I remembered doing this. Typically, I screen all new medications coming in. As I was trying to rattle my brain for all of my prescriptions, it occurred to me. I did do this, but I had forgotten a very important medication, Wellbutrin.
Significant – Monitor Closely
bupropion + hydrocodone
bupropion will increase the level or effect of hydrocodone by affecting hepatic enzyme CYP2D6 metabolism. Significant – Monitor Closely.
lamotrigine + acetaminophen
lamotrigine decreases levels of acetaminophen by increasing metabolism. Minor or non-significant interaction. Enhanced metabolism incr levels of hepatotoxic metabolites.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg there. That’s among four additional interactions. Those are the most important though. That’s the reason I was hugging the toilet, wondering why my sedation was outrageous and my pain relief was minimal.
And I realized, I just set foot on the other side of The Heath Ledger Paradox. If it wasn’t for that mechanism, that beautiful inborn, DNA encoded device inside me, I would have been dead. Something in me told me not to take more medication when my pain relief was marginal. And that same thing kept me safe by alerting my body that there was a dangerous toxin that needed to be rejected from my stomach. There was still a tiny bit of knowledge encoded from some source that this was life-threatening.
Not everyone has that, and most people with it can bypass the safeties with enough of a loading dose. That’s the aim in a suicide – to get past the safety, just like a gun. Except, when most people knowingly stand on that ledge and look into the void, they turn back. The point with accidental overdose is that all of that is gone. It’s like playing with a gun without knowing if it’s loaded or if the safety is on.
That gun was loaded last night. Thank the powers that be in the universe that I have a safety.
I decided on Friday that I was going to take a mini vacation from myself over the weekend.
And it was fantastic! I took my full doses of medicine and smiled. I grinned ear to ear at all of the things stretched to near transparency and the rest that’s hanging by a thread. I went grocery shopping at a local market, on a Saturday morning when it’s always packed with people, and loved every minute of it. I eagerly sampled all they had to offer and just enjoyed the flavor of something new.
Saturday was the white ponies, double rainbows, and gold dust dreams are made of. It was an easy day like Sundays are supposed to be. I was well-rested and in great company. We ended up spending about $150 on groceries that will take us through about 3 weeks. Conversations took place where not a single whisper of the lawsuit existed.
All of T.D.’s Christmas presents were purchased by C.S. and a good friend while T.D. and I napped. And later, we drove around aimlessly and found a 24 hour doughnut shop not too far from home. Any hour of the day, there are doughnuts to be purchased! How incredible is that?
Oh my, do I have a penchant for rambling!
Sunday. Well, I don’t actually believe that was the day God rested. If so, then wouldn’t that be the last day of the week in the Christian calendar?
Sidebar – A Little About Lulu v. Religion
I was brought up a good little, white, blonde, pink cheeked Episcopalian. Just like all of my Scottish ancestors before me. I was baptized, confirmed, and married in a small church in my hometown.
The church itself was built by the parishioners in 1930, with their bare hands. The diocese only lent them enough to build the church itself. Sometime in the 1940’s, the parishioners took it upon themselves to dig out an undercroft, so they may have a common area to meet. My grandfather and his brothers were among those men.
As you can see, my family is deeply rooted in the church. My aunts and mother ran the Sunday School. My grandfather was the financial officer and my grandmother headed every charity event. I was a dedicated member for my entire youth.
There are events surrounding my separation from the church that were beyond my control. I was invited back five years later. But after living in a Jewish community for awhile, my ideas of faith and religion had deviated from Episcopal practice.
Throughout the years, I have been actively involved charity events, but rarely spotted at mass. The church has been facing some serious problems, and I’ve wanted to help so much. But, C.S. isn’t much for wanting to get up early on Sunday morning.
C.S. has been the one dragging me out of bed on Sunday morning! Somewhere along the way, he’s had a change of heart. I can really only speculate – but in any case, it’s been nice.
This is where the frenzy begins. T.D. went number 2 and we didn’t bring wipes. I was ripped away from a project I didn’t know when I’d get back to.
Then, in the afternoon. It happened.
I was toying with the new Blackberry App World. I should know better. I’ve bricked dozens of computers from downloading things. PC’s aren’t anything I can’t fix. I graduated with honors from a Microsoft Certified School. But, I don’t know much more about the workings of a Blackberry than what can be pulled from Crackberry.com’s forums.
No, no, no, no, no, no, noooo!!!
Stupid 3rd party apps. I waited until we were finished with dinner and told C.S. that I had to get my phone fixed ASAP. And that required me to sit upstairs, hooked to a USB cable, silently loathing myself for the entire debacle.
I wasn’t up there ten minutes before C.S. yelled up. “What are you doing?” Even more irritating, I had to get up and go into the hallway to talk to him because he’s deaf in his left ear. “I’m trying to fix my phone.”. “Still?”..
Eye roll. Yes, still!
Another ten minutes goes by and I hear C.S. yelling at T.D. There were some crashes and T.D. crying. I flew down the stairs and demanded to know what was going on. My kid was acting up. Big surprise.
Everything was busy loading, so I stayed awhile to get them settled again. Then, I excused myself back to the Blackberry battle.
“Lulu, could you come help me?” Back down. Up and down, a dozen times in two hours for every little thing.
I helped C.S. get T.D. into the bathtub, and once again, I took my leave. Fifteen minutes elapsed and I heard a crash, bang, boom! T.D. was hysterically crying and C.S. was hollering. All while I’m jumping two and three stairs at a time screaming, “What happened?!”
I scooped my son, wet and naked, into my lap and hugged him. C.S. began explaining that he ran off and must have slipped. My boy was fine in a minute, jumped out of my lap, and ran off to do his thing.
Suddenly, I was filled with rage at the whole ridiculous, irritating, infuriating situation. I clenched my fists and ground my teeth. I grabbed the item closest to me (thankfully, a little plastic tube), and hurled it at the fireplace. C.S. stood behind me and asked, “What the hell is wrong with you?” Every muscle in my body tightened and locked. And I pounded my fist onto the floor. Repeatedly.
I snarled and screamed, “I can’t even do anything without getting interrupted by every little thing!”
He responded, “I can’t handle T.D. by myself. I just can’t do it.”
I yelled at the top of my voice, “I do it, by myself, everyday! I was doing it all by myself the day after my surgery!!!”
He went silent. I guess walking a mile in my shoes caused a few blisters. And I was left in peace to finish the repairs.
I know. My fit was absolutely outrageous. Honestly, I couldn’t stop it. It all came on so fast! I rarely have tantrums like that, but I was so overwhelmed! It was such a strong I was obligated to act.
Am I alone in the indulgence of inappropriate expression?