A Mixed Bag?

I am terrified of myself right now.

When I first began As the Pendulum Swings, I had started off with a post called, “To See If I Still Feel” which described a similar episode with self-injurous behavior that I blogged about recently in “Confessions of the Pain of Payment”. Soon after my original blog post, I described an incident which I thought was a mixed episode in “Shifting Gears”.  It was the first time I had ever experienced both hypomanic symptoms and depressive symptoms at the same time.

Last night, I didn’t sleep more than five hours.  I had taken three and a half milligrams of Xanax and 30mg of Temazepam.  I should have been knocked flat on my back.

My brain was buzzing, ablaze with thought and compulsions.  There was a sensation of vibration all throughout my body.  I surveyed my kitchen and drearily thought, “My house is disgusting.  It’s an absolute nasty, repulsive, filthy hut.  I wish I could burn this place to the ground.”  But that wasn’t my compulsion.  I wanted more than anything to clean.

First, I showered and scrubbed myself raw with a luffah.  Shampoo ran through my fingers and foamed as I clawed my scalp, three or more times.  My quest continued in the kitchen.  The skin on my hands was raw, red, and peeling as I ripped through the dishes.  I meticulously wiped down every surface with Clorox.

It wasn’t enough.  I gathered every piece of paperwork that had been piled up on my counter and threw it in a box.  I set it atop a large laundry basket and hauled it up the stairs.  Everything in it’s right place, everything in it’s right place, my mind’s voice frantically whispered.

I sorted through two months worth of paperwork, cleared two desks and organized their drawers, and cleared, then rearranged my dresser.  It was immaculate.  It was also 3AM.  I didn’t want to stop.  I had so much more I wanted to do.  But I feared that I would be too tired in the morning to even think about getting up.

My eyes opened in a flash when the first alarm went off.  And I didn’t even consider hitting the snooze button seventeen times this morning.  I laid in bed for a few minutes and felt the dread and dismay of my life.  Everything was still wrong.  It was all wrong.  And now, I was falling behind in my own life.

So, I sprang to action.  T.D. had Occupational Therapy at 9am.  I was compelled to clean the house some more.  I went through emails and started getting back on the horse and back into my life.  I went to work and disciplined sassy fifth graders.  I entertained Kindergarteners with new games.  And I rekindled old friendships with my third grade group.

Not once did I yawn.

I suspected that what was happening to me now was what happened three months ago.  Opening my web brower, I began my investigation into what a mixed episode is really classified as.  The NIMH states:

Bipolar II is defined by a pattern of depressive episodes shifting back and forth with hypomanic episodes, but no full-blown manic or mixed episodes.

What?

Again, I verified it. DSM-IV Criteria for Bipolar II specifically states that “There has never been a Manic Episode or a Mixed Episode”.

How is this possible?  I have never had a full-blown Manic Episode.  I don’t think, anyway, at least not diagnostically so.  But, I know that I am having feelings of despair and hopelessness while having boundless energy, racing thoughts, and pressured speech.

Bipolar II, as described by Psycheduation.org, is very fitting.  I have more depressive episodes than anything.  My episodes don’t really last longer than a few months, if even that long.  The longest hypomanic episode I ever had was for two weeks.  They usually only last about a week and then are followed by crushing depression for a few weeks to a couple of months.

What the hell is this?  I feel like I’m losing touch with reality.  At the same time, I don’t even think I want to be in touch with reality anymore.  I don’t want to take my medicine and I’d rather give in to my impulses than keep fighting this constant, tedious, exhausting battle.  I want to stay up all night and do whatever I’m compelled to do.  I want to lay in the yard in the middle of the night in the rain.  I’m being hit with all of these illogical and sometimes sinister thoughts at light speed.

I’m going downstairs to try to continue the conversation I was having with C.S. at dinner.  He asked what I cut with because he had already thrown out all of the razors.  I’m crafty, what can I say?  I’ve contended with worse than him.  I didn’t want to answer, partly because I want to hold on to my little box of lies, and partly because I didn’t think it was appropriate dinner conversation.  I asked if he rememberred to buy band-aids.  He told me that he refused to buy me band-aids because he’d rather shame me into not doing this again. He told me that he’s taking a tough love approach.

Do you know what happened the last time someone took a tough love approach with me?  I suffered while I bided my time.  I waited until I had a reliable and self-sustaining source of income.  And I ran like hell while never looking back.

I’m up to like 919 words.  If you’re still with me, please, help me with some of your insight and personal experience.  At least insight into what I’m dealing with here with this seemingly mixed episode.

Debt of Explanation

What do I say now?

I’ve written and rewritten and edited this draft for the last three days.

It originally started out with a rationalization:

Lamictal and hormonal birth control don’t play nice. When I first started Lamictal, I would take the bc placebos for that week and start exhibiting symptoms of PMDD. My Pdoc recommended that my OB/Gyn consider putting me on a continuous cycle for three packs and then have the off week. And I’ve been doing that for almost 2 years.

I have that liberty to schedule when Aunt Dot comes to visit. Risking a complete mental break down every 63 days was better than having to do it every 21. In the last year, the last couple had been pretty mild. I thought I was in the clear.

I lost track and went 5 months this time.

What person with bipolar disorder wouldn’t want to be able to blame conditions that are within their control?  I was telling myself that Monday would come, I would be back on the BC and all would be right with the world.  In the meantime, I adjusted my dosages – with no effect.  I did that a couple of days ago thinking I could put a bandaid on the situation until there was a real fix, meaning I straightened my meds out and all of this moody woman bullshit was over with.

PMS was a word invented by men to explain women’s emotional behavior.  (No offense intended to my male readers).  My husband discovered my self-inflicted injuries today.  Actually, more like he discovered the band-aid that I’ve been hiding under layers of bracelets all week.  He said, “What’s that?”  I answered in a low voice, with T.D. on my lap, “Nothing.”  I won’t lie.  I’m sick and tired of cowering in fear for someone else’s approval.  I didn’t lie to him.  It means nothing to him, but it will stay with me for a long time.

He asked again, “What is it?” And once again I replied in a murmur, “It’s nothing.”

“Every time you get your f***ing period, you have to go and cut yourself!!!”

I don’t recall being afflicted with such in my very first post, “To See If I Still Feel”. And I can honestly say that was the very last time I engaged in self-injurous behavior.

I’m starting to suspect it isn’t completely me.

Originally, I wrote:

My marriage has been on the rocks lately. My kid is raising hell. I have the crushing weight of being solely responsible for T.D., anything domestic, and work. I am expected to have time for everything. I am also expected to take all kinds of crap from everyone when something goes wrong. That is, surprisingly, with the exception of my boss and co-workers.

I have dealt with be mistreated and disrespected in my home. I have endured vicious criticism and blame. I am overwhelmed and over burdened. And anytime I speak up, not only am I wrong, I am intentionally starting trouble. Suddenly, my condition becomes a reality because it’s convenient to blame me “being a bitch” on having bipolar disorder.

I am falling apart and it’s not even at the seams. It’s from consistent strain and wear on my fabric. And when someone I let close enough to me starts taking swipes… it’s enough. It’s more than enough to come undone.

I wrote to a dear friend that I used to be able to depend on C.S.  I described all of the wonderful things he had been to me.  But now, I feel like I’m being pushed off the ledge and then kicked in the face when I finally hit the bottom.

Each morning, when I awake, I have been telling my dearest friends here that I’m doing better.  And each afternoon, I’m doing worse than the day before.  After that comment, “Every time you get your f***ing period, you have to go and cut yourself!!!”, I’m about to give it up.  I was mistaken when I said to my dear friend that I wasn’t sure that he was even aware of what he was doing to me.

We don’t get to choose our family.  Sometimes, we can’t choose who we fall in love with.  But we always have the choice to make the decision to devote ourself to each other through marriage.  How could someone who chose me, who is supposed to love me, be causing me so much hurt?

Confessions of the Pain of Payment

Warning: This post has disturbing and profane content.  Be advised that this is not for the faint of heart or anyone who might consider themselves to be unstable.  This is in no way an advocation of the content within.  Read this at your own discretion.

Small, simple, safe price.
Rise the wake and carry me with all of my regrets.
This is not a small cut that scabs, and dries, and flakes, and heals.
And I am not afraid to die.
I’m not afraid to bleed, and fuck, and fight.
I want the pain of payment.
What’s left, but a section of pigmy size cuts.
Much like a slew of a thousand unwanted fucks.
Would you be my little cut?
Would you be my thousand fucks?
And make mark leaving space for the guilt to be liquid.
To fill, and spill over, and under my thoughts.
My sad, sorry, selfish cry out to the cutter.
I’m cutting trying to picture your black broken heart.
Love is not like anything.
Especially a fucking knife.

Just look at me, look at me now.

I’M A FAKE, I’M A FAKE, I’M A FAKE.
“I’m a Fake” – The Used

I’m not a role model.  I never wanted to be one.  I only wanted to be me.  I wanted to be honest with myself at the very least. The honesty starts here and now.

Monday, I caught myself sitting at the kitchen table, alone. My sitter had called off – again. I have problems making other arrangements, as you’ve read in One Day I’m Going to Grow Wings and Spitting Fire. Stress overwhelmed me, sucking the air from my lungs. I thought again, in my still silence, about the idea of having to resign my position. My mind drifted to Zen. He’d be at my side, through it all. Tears streamed down my face. And I crumbled.

A flashback struck me. I had remembered Stacy. She noticed my bandages. So, she showed me hers. I had never encountered another cutter. We sat on the ramps one grey day, in the pale fall light pouring in from the large windows. I confessed to her in whispers; I cut again. She inspected my gashes made by a steak knife. Dismantle a shaving razor. The cuts are cleaner, easier, sharper and can be mistaken for something else.

My little box of lies was born again. When I was a teenager, I had a jewelry box I called “My Little Box of Lies. It always contained a razor, a pregnancy test, and pills I was saving. Today, it is a 1970’s Altoids tin. It only contains four tiny razors and band-aids.

I looked for areas of my skin bracelets would cover. I drew the blade against my flesh and felt numbing pain of the blade. My mind quieted as I watched the blood rush out. I made another slice. And another. I ran the razor diagonally over the gashes. It was enough. I bandaged my still bleeding wounds and carefully hid my tools of self-destruction where they would never be noticed.

Tonight, I am loaded on Xanax. It’s still not enough to purge my mind of the week. My failures at parenting mocked me. My husband’s biting words hurt my heart and soul.

I’m a lazy bitch. I’m a liar. And I’m ungrateful. Totally ungrateful for everything I have been given.

I want the pain to go away. I found myself alone in my bedroom this time. No amount of pills or lies or acts will erase this. I pulled out the blade and retraced my healing wounds. I dug deeper, gushing more and more blood. Tears rolled down my face, blurring my vision slightly.

It still wasn’t enough. I needed more pain. I needed more testaments to my suffering with fresh flesh. I pressed the blade firmly against a new patch of skin and put as much pressure as I could with such a flimsy blade. It seared through me. Again. I desired more. I needed the painful lines to pour out and release the pain inside.

I am so ashamed. I am not the Lulu with a sordid past and insights. I am Lulu, with the band-aids over her life. Lulu, the liar, the fake with a closet full of skeletons and empty words now.

The Grey Season

There’s a saying here in Pittsburgh.  “There are only two seasons, winter and construction.”  Although comedic, it is partially correct.  I say partially because winter doesn’t really accurately describe the season correctly.

When someone thinks of winter, they think of the glistening white snow.  That’s not quite the case.  When winter begins to move upon us, we don’t just know it by the chill in the air when the wind kicks up.  Suddenly, the sun is lost behind thick layers of smoke colored clouds.  There doesn’t have be precipitation, but there is an endless, dreary overcast sky.

The clouds darken when the freezing rain comes.  Eventually, it will turn to snow.  However, it is not the pristine white, untouched snow you see on the hillsides.  It is grey, dirty slush, on an concrete sidewalk, and packed against the blacktop roads. The precipitation darken the buildings, and everything is enveloped in shadows.

It’s best described in a personal journal entry below.

“February 23, 2010
‘Tomorrow, when I inspect the world outside my window in the light of the morning, it will be blanketed with snow.  A vast, endless landscape of white.  The ground, the rooftops, and even the sky will be varying shades of grey – monochrome, bitter, lifeless, and uninviting.'”

This is Pittsburgh's third season. The Gray Season.

I have felt grey over the past few days.  I can’t feel for a better word.  Something like, my flame isn’t burning as brightly. It’s a dampening effect, casting a shadow over me everywhere I go.  The vibrant colors of the world filter and leave only the grey inside of me.

I worry.  Is this the start of another depressive episode.  It doesn’t feel like depression.  It feels like blah.  It’s not as if I am despondent or lifeless. Jokes are still funny, and I still feel like getting up in the morning. I’m not crying. My world still operates normally.

It’s just as if everything has lost that little something. There’s no spring in my step. The sun is behind the clouds and only dim light filters through, both literally and figuratively. Everything is dull. I find myself becoming less enthusiastic and more disinterested.

I have ideas, but none that I am passionate about. I read things and find it difficult to find something constructive to add. Or interesting, for that matter. Moments are moving slower. Sounds are turning to whispers.

I can’t hear the rain on my roof.

I am afraid to move or speak. I don’t want to upset the balance. It is a careful balance on the scales that I work so hard to maintain. I have to shake the rain out of my hair, off my coat. I can’t stand the clouds, casting shadows onto me.

Where’s my fire? I seemed to have misplaced my fire.

I’m going to go check the medicine cabinet.

Pillbox

After working through numerous scheduling conflicts, I finally had my visit with the psychiatrist today. And I finally had a chance to express to him everything that has been going on.

His first reaction was not what I had expected. Instead of generalized anxiety disorder or a medication reaction, my doctor seems to think I’ve had underlying panic disorder. He wanted to change my antidepressant to Effexor. I very kindly reminded him that my depression had caused significant weight gain in a short time. He changed his sights to Prozac. I stopped him there.

I didn’t think it was the antidepressant that was the problem. We just changed the dosage on my Wellbutrin and there was no change. None. Not better and not worse. But we haven’t moved anything around with my mood stabilizer or my anti-anxiety meds in six months or more. I told him that irritability was always the calling card of destabilization. And I’ve been a firecracker lately.

So I have some new things to add to my pillbox. Xanax, 1 mg 3 times daily, and temazepam 30 mg once daily. C.S. added a couple of nutraceutical add-ons to help.

My daily regimen looks as such:

Morning:
300mg Wellbutrin
1 capsule Cogni-flex
1 capsule Ubiquinol
1 capsule Adrenomend
1mg Xanax
100mg Lamictal

Afternoon:
1mg Xanax

Bedtime:
1mg Xanax
30mg Temazepam
150mg Lamictal
1 tablet Orthosept
1 capsule Quell
1 capsule L-glutithione
1 capsule Seditol

As needed:
2 puffs Ventolin
1 capsule Maxalt

Note: The nutraceuticals are not all aimed at mood support. I take some for heart support, weight management, and immune support. Some psychiatric medications lower white blood cell count and leave a person susceptible to infection.

I am also aware of the potentially dangerous interactions between several of these medications. Don’t worry. Dr. Husband (with some sarcasm) has vowed to look after me. Mainly, we’re concerned with too much sedation. Orthocept increrases Xanax and Xanax and Temazepam are both benzo’s. Temazepam isn’t forever – it’s temporarily treating the insomnia until we can get things under control$

If you see something I might have missed, let me know.

Somatopsychic

Definition of PSYCHOSOMATIC

  1. 1: of, relating to, concerned with, or involving both mind and body <the psychosomatic nature of man — Herbert Ratner>
  2. 2: of, relating to, involving, or concerned with bodily symptoms caused by mental or emotional disturbance <psychosomatic symptoms> <psychosomatic medicine>

We hear it so often, especially when relating to depressive symptoms.  Depression hurts.  Ever heard that expression?  Probably.  That is, after years and years of being called a hypochondriac, lazy, dodging responsibilities, neglectful, irresponsible, neurotic, uncaring, inattentive, a complainer, and a flat out liar.  You might still be getting flack for that, right?  I sure am.

We’ve touched upon the issue of bipolar depression and it’s limitations at Dailystrength.org’s Bipolar Support Group and again in Blogging Beepers throughout various posts.  Bipolar depression literally destroys us both mentally and physically.  It’s a proven fact that bipolar depression and hypochondria  have nothing to do with one another.  The aches and pains are real.  The exhaustion and fatigue are too real for words.  The headaches are blinding and are just as real to us as they are to you “norms’.  Depression causes a variety of symptoms that aren’t just made up in our heads.  And they sure as hell aren’t made up because we’re too apathetic toward our own lives.

I’m a control freak, much like Mwam who writes “I Was Just Thinking…”.  I cannot stand the idea of someone else having to take the reigns of my life.  It is my body; it is my mind – I can do, say, think, whatever the hell I want.  Except when I cannot physically or mentally do the things that I think and want.  I don’t put the responsibility on anyone else.  I don’t throw my kid at the nearest person because I’m having a breakdown.  I don’t let the bills go unpaid and I don’t let my house get to the point where it would likely be condemned.  I wear my stylish clothes, dash on that makeup, and I don the smile that you trolls love so much.  I keep on moving at MY pace, where the “norms” like it, or not.

Which brings me to Monday.  I noticed that I had been losing pace unusually fast, and my physical health had turned for the very worst.  Unusually so.  I had made a recent, but passing mention of a physical illness in, “When it Rains, It Bleeping Hurricanes”.  And since “To See If I Still Feel”, I’ve been making multiple mentions of a lingering depressive episode.

I bring you a surprising answer.

Definition of SOMATOPSYCHIC
: of or relating to the body and the mind; especially : of, relating to, or concerned with mental symptoms caused by bodily illness >

Shortly after the accident, I contracted what I thought to be influenza.  It happens biannually.  This year, it was the stomach flu at Christmas, and the body flu in the summer.  The year before it was H1N1 (or Swine Flu) over Halloween and “viral syndrome” (AKA summer flu in doctor-speak because, they don’t seem to think anyone can catch the flu outside of flu season).  I hate it, but that seems to be the rhythm of circulating illness.

Anyhow, during this June influenza, I developed laryngitis, and as a music teacher, this is bad, bad, bad news.  As a wife of a man who has diagnosed hearing loss but is too vain for hearing aids, it was the most aggravating thing to ever happen to me.  99.9% of As the Pendulum Swings readers have never met me, seen my face, or heard my voice.  I am very careful to preserve anonymity.  (Yeah, come find me among the 1,223,348 people that live in Allegheny County, PA!)  I’ll tell you this.  I am a 5 foot 1 inch powerhouse of sound.  If I were a stereo, my speakers would be larger than I stand.  I don’t need a microphone in assembly halls, cafeterias, stages, or theaters.  Literally.  So having the mother of all sore throats that preventing me from speaking at all was a challenge.

But this continued for over a month.  I didn’t want to see a doctor because I knew I would get all fired up when they told me it was something stupid like allergies, asthma, cold, etc that could not account for these symptoms.  But they would.  Because I’m a big flippin’ hypochondriac.  And I would’ve been a whining drama-queen who blew my symptoms out of proportion just so I could go on being lazy.  Over the last week, though, I noticed that I started to lose a lot of traction.  My throat felt like there was glass in it, I had a half an octave surrounding my speaking voice, I was intermittently running a low grade fever, and I had a super sensitivity to changes in temperature.  I noticed my behavior changing.  I started letting go.  I let my kids in my classes have free periods.  I couldn’t go three hours with the dire need to sleep.  I let my kid destroy the house and hardly said a word to him.  I couldn’t.  My throat hurt so bad that I would only talk when it was absolutely necessary.  But when the shortness of breath came, I knew that wasn’t anxiety or any other psychosomatic symptom.  I literally wasn’t getting enough oxygen into my body.  And I started to feel it – HARD.

My husband pretty much reluctantly took me to the local urgent care after he got home from work yesterday.  He kept saying, “It’s up to you, it’s up to you.”  Manslation – I will take me if you tell me that I have to.  It turns out, I have (drum roll please!):

Walking Pneumonia!

Walking pneumonia with acute bronchitis complicated by history of asthma, as a secondary infection to influenza.  And do you know who invited this illness into my ecosystem?  It wasn’t the children.  It was the dirtiest, nastiest, smelliest, most abominable creature I have ever encountered – Rs (we’ll call him).  Rs is my husband’s estranged best friend who recently made reconciliation.  When this guy comes around, it never fails that someone becomes deathly ill.  One year, we thought he gave C.S. SARS because they both had respiratory infections so badly.  (Neither confirmed, nor denied.  No one had health insurance).  C.S. was almost too sick for our first Valentine’s Day.  The only person in my family Rs hasn’t gotten sick yet is T.D.  And if T.D. ends up in the hospital because of that misogynistic germ breeder, there will be hell to pay.

As my doctor is giving me this information, the light bulb goes off in C.S.’s head.  “Oh yeah, Rs had that about a month ago!”  Smooth operator there, Einstein.  You could’ve killed your wife who seemed like the only person susceptible to this illness!  And speaking of, how was I the only one who got any of these illnesses in the first place?  Oh yeah, because I don’t have an air conditioned bedroom, I sleep next to the fan, I spend at least two hours a day in the elements in my commute, I don’t sit at a desk all day to do my job, and I chase after a hyperactive toddler all day.

“This bleeper is going to get an eyeful when I get my phone back.”  Yes, I was sick enough to leave my Blackberry, which is normally an electronic appendage, at home on the desk.  The text message conversation looked a little like this:

So it turns out that for all of this time, this entire month, I have not been having an episode.  My psych meds were ineffective because they aren’t made to treat somatopsychic illnesses, like pneumonia caught by a music teacher who just so happens to have bipolar disorder.  Only the Z-pak, 60mg of prednizone, and sucking an albuterol four times a day is going to cure that.

I will never let anyone call me a hypochondriac again.  Eff you “norms”.

When It Rains, It Bleeping Hurricanes

I swear to {insert deity here}, it’s hurricane season in my life.

The Car Accident(s) and the Untimely Death of “Sebastian”

I had saved my pennies and nickles for over a year to outright buy my first car, my dream car.  It was a 2000 Volkswagen Jetta Sport Edition.  Ultimately, he cost about $10,000 after sale price, tax, title, and a few minor repairs.  I named him “Sebastian” because it was a tough sounding German name, just like my beautiful German car.

Friday, May 13th, 2011 – the one year anniversary of a drunk driver plowing into the front of my house, which was one of the biggest fears I had.  That day, Sebastian took his first hit in a gas station parking lot when a lady who was relying on her backup sensor hit the car twice.  It was mostly cosmetic damage, but the wheel well was pretty messed up and the bumper was pretty much falling off.

Three weeks later, it was June 1st.  My husband was on his way home from work.  He had me on speaker phone and the phone went dead.  I tried to call but it went straight to voicemail.  A few minutes later, my husband called back and the first words out of his mouth were, “I was in a car accident.”  I freaked.

Are you OK?

I don’t know.  Man-speak for “No”.

Where are you?

I think you need to call an ambulance.

I don’t think I can.  I don’t know where you are.  I don’t know how you’re hurt.  I don’t know what’s going on.  Where are you?  I need a location.  I’m coming.

I arrived on the scene and it was encircled by police cars and an ambulance.  I approached it, and caught sight of Sebastian.  My breath was taken right out of me.  The entire drivers side was crushed in.  I didn’t see my husband.  I panicked.  The officers and paramedics looked at me curiously, and all I could do was shout his full name.  He was there, sitting on the traffic island.  His glasses were missing.  He had a cut over his eyebrow.  His knee was swollen and cut.  But he was alive.  And lucky to be so.  He suffered a concussion and whiplash.

He was far from OK.  I stayed up all night to watch him sleep.  He yelled at me to stop coddling him.  I missed work to care for him.  He was not himself.  My husband, usually stoic and stable, was having mood swings.  His personality shifted noticeably.  He insisted on going back to work on Monday.  So, we ended up back at the hospital on Tuesday.  He had post-concussive syndrome, and there was no determining when he would return to normal.

(At this point, I’m thinking he maybe never did.)

The Blame Game

The police report came out on Tuesday, implicating my husband as having run the light and therefore causing the accident.  I know him.  He has been driving for many years and all of them without an accident.  He has never violated any traffic laws; not at least when I was in the car.  There is no way in hell that he would’ve missed a red light, and attempted to cross four lanes of traffic.  The police didn’t even take a statement from him.  It was biased and one-sided because no one else was harmed.

Neither insurance company could determine fault.  Neither paid out.  Sebastian now resides on my in-laws family property, demolished.  But thankfully, we have a loaner car from my in-laws.

Not Needy Enough

As I had mentioned, I was laid off for two weeks between the school year and the summer program.  During which time we had to fork out $392 for an electricity bill.  Why?  Because the local energy assistance program put a cap on their spending and our local electricity company placed us on our their “budget” program while neglecting to notify us.  Their solution?  Reduce your usage.  Supposedly, my bill would drop.

It was a lie.  Two weeks later, we received a bill for $400!  I called our local electricity company to report the error.  We cut our usage down by 3/4th of what it was.  I did the math.  They miscalculated my bill by any excuse they gave me.  It’s based on an average of the last 12 months.  Bull.  That would mean we would be paying about $300 or so.  It’s based on your usage and a percentage of your balance.  Bull.  That would mean they were charging us three times what our usage was.  They even swindled us on the cost of our usage.  We called the PUC.  Their answer?  They can charge you whatever they want when you’re on the budget plan.

I called every local charity service in the area.  No one would help because we just weren’t needy enough.  We were forced to fork over the money or get shut off.

All while my husband was flipping out and blaming me for all of the things I did to cause this situation.  Getting laid off.  Not being able to get charity help.  Not applying for public assistance.

Category 5

I had a bit of good fortune this week and was asked to work twice as long as usual on Wednesday of this week.  It didn’t come without some hefty costs.

I was invited to join a field trip to the zoo.  My task was to push a wheelchair for one of my students who had a broken foot.  Most of you have not been to the Pittsburgh Zoo, so I’ll break it down for you.  It is a very hilly and large place.  I was asked to perform this task because I am one of the younger staffers and likely the most physically fit.  I did so in 90 degree heat for four hours.  I welcomed it though.  I needed physical release and the extra hours were a bonus.  I felt good because I could allow one of my students to participate in the event.  It came with a physical toll of extreme exhaustion.  For the first time in a long time, I was glad to be home.  All I wanted to do was lay down in my bed for awhile.

When I arrived in my bedroom after wrangling my son, I discovered that the work crew had left blow-in insulation all over my room – six inches deep in some places.  I wanted to sit on the floor and cry.  Everything was covered in thick layers of it.  It took me the rest of the night to clean it all up.

I wasn’t in bed until midnight.

I was up again, bright and early with extreme sleep deprivation.  I had to keep my appointment with my psychiatrist.  I was out of medicine and starting to feel the real effects of it.  Then, I would have to rush home to have speech therapy for my son.  After that, I was off to work again.  Except, that didn’t happen.

Because of the holiday, my husband’s pay was delayed.  We had $8 dollars to our name.  And he made my life a living nightmare.  I didn’t get to my appointment.  I didn’t get my medicine.  I just laid on the sofa and cried.  There was nothing to drink in my house.  Nothing to eat.  No money to get to work for either of us.

Due to the generosity of family, we made ends meet.  But not without a hard, long struggle.

Overlooked Medical Problems

My medicine needs adjusted.  I’m not well, and I haven’t been well for a long time now.  (As I’m sure you’ve noticed by now).  My throat has hurt for over a month now and I still have laryngitis.  I’m pretty sure I have tonsillitis.  And I may have damaged my vocal cords permanently as a result.

I will never be the same if I did.  My career will be ruined.  But if I don’t get some medicine soon, I may end up losing control and ruining my life.

What Bender?

I don’t work Fridays.  Which meant that my Fourth of July weekend probably started earlier than others.

Can We Start, Start Over?

But my husband works Fridays, like normal folks with office jobs.  We had worked it out with my MIL to take our son for the evening so we could spend some quality time together.  When she offered to take him for the night, I was overjoyed.  I thought, “What a relaxing time we could have!  Just the two of us!”  I looked forward to it all week!

I should have gotten the point when I tried to send him cute emails from work that went unanswered an mostly unread.  It should have been pretty blunt when he started to go through all of the excuses that he could manage all week to get out of it.  But I was trying.  That was the point.  I guess I thought that if I really made the effort to be nice and romantic that we could rekindle our marriage.

I have never been so wrong.

Our son wasn’t even gone 30 minutes before my husband went into how we didn’t have any money for a date.  I said, “Remember when we were first together and very poor?  We took the neighborhood tour, sat by the trestle with a bottle of Old Crow, frequented parks and cemeteries after dark.”  It wasn’t enough.  He went into the hundreds of reasons why he didn’t want our son staying with his mother.  And I gave up.  It was clear.  He didn’t want to be alone with me.  I wasn’t going to force it.  I was done trying – I was met with too much opposition.

The Bender – Day 1

After the retrieval of our son, after dinner, after bedtime for toddlers, after dark, I took my journal and a drink out on the balcony.  I hadn’t done this in over four years; not since I was in an abusive relationship with my ex-fiance and had succumbed to alcoholism.  The plan was to get wasted.  I didn’t want to feel anymore.  My heart was broken, my illusions were shattered, and my hope was gone.  I wanted to erase everything.

It went largely unnoticed.  Not as if I was seeking the attention.  Mostly, I wanted him to leave me alone.  I wanted everyone to leave me alone.  Because “If I must be lonely, I think I’d rather be alone.”

I took precautions not to be hungover the next day.  As a previous alcoholic, I knew how to be a functional alcoholic.  Two ibuprofen, two Gatorades, and a slice of pizza always does the trick.  On the day of the second, I went about my business as usual.  Except, there was a great deal of Ativan involved.

The Bender – Day 2

The plan for this evening wasn’t to get wasted.  That wasn’t my intention.  I just wanted enough alcohol to sleep.  I couldn’t stand being conscious anymore.  But the later it got, the more I thought I needed.  Before I knew it, I was trashed.  Again.  I didn’t care.  I didn’t feel anything.  And I didn’t want to.  Not anymore.

The Bender – Day 3

More Ativan throughout the day.  More alcohol at night.  I hadn’t had a bender in over 4 years.  And I was losing control.  For once, it felt good.  No more control freak.  No more worry about things I couldn’t control.  I still cared for my son in the day.  I could function just fine.  I just didn’t care about the sham of a life I was living.  I didn’t care that my marriage was falling apart.  I stopped hating myself.  I stopped blaming myself, and mostly, I just stopped thinking.

The Bender – Day 4

By this time, it was Monday, July 4th.  More of the same.  Only this time, it was a work night.  I kept going.  I couldn’t stand it.  I couldn’t stand the idea of sobriety and finally having to face myself and what I had done and not done.  I wanted to keep living my life in a haze.  I wanted to keep the numbness going as long as I could.  Because I knew that this was the end of it.  In the morning, I’d have to return to my normal life.  I was like Cinderella and the midnight clause.  Except, it lasted until 2 am.

Returning to Normality?

Not quite.  By this time, I was in such a haze that I was slow and sluggish.  I wasn’t fatigued.  I was in a fog.  A blissful fog where I couldn’t see the problems.  I couldn’t feel the weight on my back.  And it was blissful, even if it was short lived.  I had a five day vacation from reality.

By Tuesday night, I had returned to my now typical state.  Hopeless, burdened, exhausted… depressed.  I hate even using that word anymore because it’s just so empty for me.  It can’t describe the depth of the sadness, mourning, soul-deadening emotion that I experienced.

At least I can escape at work.  Children hug me.  Adults treat me like I am valuable and human.  Co-workers respect me.  And no one even has a clue about anything underneath the surface.

They never will.

Distractionary Tactics

My son had Occupational Therapy today.  I attended.

It’s so difficult to look these professionals in the face and tell them all about my son’s accomplishments for the week.  I wonder if they can look at me and know.  Sometimes they ask how I’m doing, I guess to bait me.  And I hide under the guise that I’ve recently been ill.  That’s not a complete lie.  I had the flu last week and continue to have laryngitis into this week.  Do they still know?

My interactions with my family members have been strained.

My husband discovered my wounds.  There was much silence surrounding the issue.  I wish he could understand.  I wish that for a moment, just one moment, he could feel what I feel.  I want him to be able to connect with me, instead of ignoring my illness when it manifests itself physically.  I feel very alone.

My son is too young to understand what is going on.  I have been difficult with him, just as much as he’s been difficult with me.  Dealing with him in the terrible two’s when he has limited speech is exhausting and frustrating.  I wish every day that he would just wake up and speak to me.

I expect too much.

I dressed, covered my wounds, and went to work.

I was called back to teaching music in the summer program.  I’m glad for it.  I get stir-crazy when I’m home all day.  I can’t seem to find enough things to fill the day with.  I need the distraction.  I cannot be alone with myself for too long.  Except, I spent all weekend trying to find ways to get out of it.  I didn’t think I could do it.  I was in no shape to go teach elementary school children.  What if they could see the deep, dark sadness on my face?  I can’t explain that to kids.  And telling them that I’m sick won’t suffice.

I saw their little faces.  Some ran to hug me.  We smiled.  I was so happy to be back, despite the heaviness of my heart.  It was enough to pull me out of it.  For three hours, at least.

Rinse and repeat.  Until I’m once again alone with myself on Friday.

To See If I Still Feel

I hadn’t been dressed in over a week.

It was about then that the buzz of the accident was over and the heaviness of the real world settled on and around me.  I was still unemployed.  We still had bills to pay, and now we have more.  And I was mostly a single parent.

But none of that was really different before the accident, was it?

It’s circular logic.  Do hard life events bring on a depressive episode or does depression beget hardship?

I’ve been trying to outrun it for awhile now.  I’m well versed in the signs and signals of it’s approach.  Suddenly, I have the urge to be alone.  I have lost interest in everything I work so hard on and I have lost pleasure in all of academic and creative pursuits that I pride myself in.   I start spending more time in the house, and even more time gravitating toward the bed.  Everything is a laborious task.  Showering even seems inconvenient and exhausting.

It went above and beyond.  I started cancelling important appointments.  I didn’t want to see anyone at all.  I didn’t return any of my phone calls.  In fact, I stopped answering the phone entirely.  I didn’t have anything to say.  And I didn’t want anyone to notice my condition.

I can’t say that I didn’t try to head this off.  I still invited friends over.  And I enjoyed their company.  It was nice to put all of this in the back of my head for a minute.  Until the moment I said, “Take care!” and latched the door behind them.  Then it all came flooding back, like a tsunami of emotion with an anchor around my neck.

I’ve been a zombie.  I see the dishes pile up in the sink and can’t bring myself to do them.  And when I don’t, then the guilt and depression deepen.  I lay there and stare at the television while my son brings me toy, after toy, after toy.  He just wants his mommy to cheer up and play.  For a moment, I sit up, and smile weakly at him.  I hug him hard and try to play.  But I’m not all there.  And it’s not fair to him.

I’m taking medication but I never seem to get completely better.  I’m better for awhile and then I gradually backslide.  I’ll notice an episode here and there.  But they’re pretty short lived and not very intense.  But it grows.  The next episode is longer and suddenly I’m thinking that I might not be able to handle my life.  Until finally, I am here.

Where is here?  It’s all too familiar a place for me.  This is the deepest, darkest pit in the whole bleak and treacherous landscape of my bipolar mind.  The is where the pendulum flings me when it takes a hearty swing and I can’t hold onto it any longer.  This is the place where the shadow monsters live.  All of the bad things I’ve ever done and all of the things I never could be exist in this place.  And I’m never sure how to get out.

And in this place today, I went to the home that resembled mine.  The rooms were dark and the house was still.  I went into my drawer and took some medicine – ya know, just to take the edge off.  I went into the bathroom and stripped down to nothing but my astrological charms, my engagement ring, and my wedding ring.  I sat down in the tub with the shower pounding on my head and back as I put my head on my knees.  And I cried.

These delusions are greater than me.  “Your husband hates you.”  “You are the reason your son needs extra help.” “Your mother considers you a burden.” “Your father only loves you for your son.” “Are you going to keep killing everyone’s souls with your illness?”  Every ache from the past rose to the surface until it felt like I had better battered.

I cried for everything I cannot be, cannot have, and cannot do.

All I wanted to do was bleed.  And I pulled out a razor and went to it.  I was hoping to gauge whether I was ready to go for the vein.  Or if the blade was even up to the challenge.  I hardly broke skin – and I gave up.  For now.  I didn’t have the right tools and time was up.

Pruned-up and water-logged, I dressed and hid the evidence. I patiently waited for everyone to be in bed for their naps and I took some more medicine.  And a little more medicine.  I wanted to be out of my mind this time.  I was hoping some crazy concoction of depressants that I put into my body would be enough to do the trick.  I’d drift off and never awake again.  I found a sharper razor.  But not sharp enough.  I barely drew blood on an already open wound.  But it was just enough pain to put everything else to rest.

Alas, alack, I am here.  I just wasn’t meant to go through with it.

I need to go to the doctor.  But what use is a doctor when you’re still completely alone with this?