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?

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.

Overdrive Mode

For those of you familiar with the Final Fantasy video game series, then you already get the reference.  Otherwise, I will take a moment to explain it to you.

Overdrive mode is the mode that helps fill the overdrive meter, where when the meter is filled, the character has the ability to perform a special move.  Typically, most players have this function set to stoic, where when their character takes damage, it fills the meter.  The more damage they take, the closer you get to filling your meter and having the ability to use a special move that causes the enemy to take significant damage.

Right now, I’m taking the damage throughout these little earthquakes.  And I’m pretty sure I’ve reached maximum overdrive.  (No reference to the movie.)  However, I haven’t figured out my special move yet.  So, I’m stuck with this overfilled meter and waning HP, (or hit points), and nothing to defend myself.  Either, I need a heal or this player is going down.

Away from metaphors, this has been another one in the series of bad weeks.  I wish I could report something back to readers that is inspiring and uplifting.  Perhaps, the fact that I’m still standing, waking up in the morning, caring for my son, and going to work is enough.

Testing the Teacher

I am a music teacher for a local youth program.  And, as many of you are aware, part-time teachers typically get laid off without pay in the summertime.  Thankfully, I was invited back to teach in the summer program.

This was my second week back with about a 50% population of students that I am unfamiliar with.  The other 50% remembers me from the after school program and of that 50%, probably about 10-20% worked with me on the musical production.  That means, only a select number of students interacted with me daily, and know how I operate.

I am not a strict teacher.  I find that loosening up the rules a little allows children to bring out their best creativity.  But, that also means that children who are unfamiliar with me could come to think that I am a push-over.  I am certainly not.  They still had to push me to my limits this week, which incurred the wrath of Ms. Lulu.  My behavioral management consists of a booming voice, followed by quiet time, and if that doesn’t cut it, then there is writing involved.  Nothing like a good old pain in your hand to remind you to keep in line.

It didn’t come without repercussions.  Did I mention that I contracted some kind of virus at the beginning of the month that produced flu-like symptoms?  It also claimed my voice as a victim.  As a music teacher, this is bad news.  I never had it treated because of the giant discouragement to see a doctor.  Every time I have to raise my voice, it goes away again.  Losing my voice is depressing.  I’ve always enjoyed singing.  Now, I can hardly talk.

Worse, I have managed to make at least one kid cry in every class I’ve had this week.  I had to go as far as to walk one of them to the water fountain down the hall so he could get a drink and calm down before he went to his next class.  The poor kid is only five years old.  Whenever children cry, I cry a little inside.  There’s nothing worse than feeling like you hurt a child.

ASD – What it Means to Me

I’ve always said that nothing in life prepares you to be a parent like being a parent.  Truly.  In my youth, I’ve helped to raise so many people’s babies and toddlers, but it was nothing like becoming a mother myself.  Sure, I had the care basics down, but that’s not even scratching the surface.

So therefore, nothing can prepare you for a professional telling you there is something wrong with your child.  Not even if you suspect it yourself.

My son has been in Early Intervention for about four months or so.  I noticed sometime around 18 months that he wasn’t really progressing like other children.  But, the gap became noticeably wide after his second birthday.  There were peculiar behaviors like refusing to participate in activities unless it was on his own terms, lack of eye contact, hyperactivity, intense temper tantrums, and more than occasional unresponsiveness when his name was called.  At his first evaluation, he scored as almost having a total global delay.  It was heartbreaking, but I wasn’t convinced.  His second evaluation was at the Child Development Unit at our local children’s hospital.  And at that time, the doctor suggested Autism Spectrum Disorder, but he was too young to diagnose.  She wanted to see what his progress was in three months of early intervention, and then she’d make a final determination.

I went into this with some denial.  My brother has autism, and my son and my brother are not the same.  My son’s occupational therapist and developmental therapist suggested that he had Sensory Integration Disorder or, as it is sometimes referred to as, Sensory Processing Disorder.  As time passed, I started to see the things that the therapists and psychologists were seeing.  Repetitive motor behaviors, lack of pointing, sensory seeking and self-stimulation, delayed verbal and nonverbal communication, etc.  I suspected it.  His therapists suspected it.  I thought I prepared myself before I walked into that office.  I mean, my son had come so far in three months!

Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified – she said.  Autism Spectrum Disorder – she said.

WHAT DID I DO WRONG?! – my brain screamed at me.  Did I do anything wrong when I was pregnant?  Did I do something wrong when he was a baby?  Is it my fault?  Maybe it’s because I have Bipolar Disorder – he can’t develop normally because I’m so screwed up.  I’m a terrible parent.

Until Death Do Us Part?

I’ve been married for three years and two months now.  Nine months of that was spectacular.  The other 29 months have been generally rocky.  I blame some of that on untreated, and even treated bipolar disorder.  I blame another part of it on the economic collapse in 2008, which caused chronic layoffs and underemployment in our household for 23 of those months.  But the rest?

Don’t get the wrong idea.  Here’s some backstory to his “love” story.  I met my husband nine years ago when an ex-boyfriend introduced us.  Throughout this nine years, we have been best friends.  My husband saw me through four break-ups, two being engagements, two ex-fiances’ domestically abuse me, my party years, my resulting alcoholism, five years of untreated bipolar disorder, and being a roommate twice before we were even in a relationship.  This man watched me destroy my ex’s bedroom in a drunken rage because someone let it slip at a party that my ex had cheated on me while we were together.  And he even covered it up to make it look like I didn’t do it!  So, I can safely say that he has seen me at my very best, and at my deepest, darkest worst.

So, how is it that he couldn’t accept the bipolar diagnosis when it occurred during our marriage and all of the resulting symptoms that surrounded it?

It doesn’t stop there.  He refused to accept our son’s diagnosis too.

The divorce rate when one person in a marriage has bipolar disorder is cited as being as high as 90% in some studies.

The divorce rate when a couple has a special needs child is cited as being as high as 80% in some studies.

Our marriage isn’t on life support yet.  But it hasn’t left it’s sick bed in awhile.  So where the hell does this leave us?  A 170% chance of divorce?

Anytime there is a hiccup in our life, and there are many, we fight.  Fiercely.  Can’t pay the bills?  Go for the throat.  Someone (usually me) is accused of not carrying their weight in their job / domestic duties / parenting / managing finances / etc?  Rip ’em a new one and make it hurt.  I’m not playing the victim here.  I give it back.  If domestic abuse taught me anything is that you don’t deal with that BS.  But if I start a fire, it’s not like I mean to.  However, that’s not the case with my counterpart, who is perfectly happy to pretend like nothing happened after I’m shredded like paper.  And he’s even more befuddled when I’m hiding, curled up in a ball, sobbing my head off.  The best he could do?  Sigh – Why are you crying, again?

You should know why I’m crying.  Again.

On Board or Not – STOP Rocking the Boat!

After the rant my husband went on about how my son’s psychologist is an idiot, how his therapists are idiots (the same people who have made substantial progress with him), and everyone who even remotely thinks that he has PDD-NOS is a ridiculous moron, I told him this.  You may or may not want to accept his diagnosis, but you can’t focus on the label.  It does not change who he is or the way we feel about him.  The services that they’re offering cannot hurt, even if PDD-NOS ends up being misdiagnosed at the end.  We can agree that he has special needs.  So we can agree that he needs services.

This isn’t about how you feel or what you think.  This is about our son.  Either you’re in, or you’re out.

But what I meant to say more than anything is either you’re in or you’re out – for the both of us.

Adding It Up

The Chicken or The Egg

I’ve had this talk with my psychiatrist before. What begets what, exactly? Does the episode precipitate certain events based on behaviors or does the environment spark the episode?

There’s really no clear cut answer. My largest concern has been what seems like constant fatigue and body aches. Yes, those are symptomatic of a depressive episode, of which I am especially prone to. The doctor asked me, “Well, you tell me that you are a mother, you work, you go to school, you are a wife, and you are responsible for domestic duties. Consider the amount of stress you are under and your lifestyle in general.”

I have considered those things.

Breaking It Down
Let’s take a tour through my average day. I wake up and am solely responsible for getting my son out of bed, dressed, fed, and ready for the day. Three days a week, we have either Occupational Therapy, Developmental Therapy, or Speech Therapy. My son has Sensory Processing Disorder and likely Pervasive Development Disorder. But he’s too young to have a definitive Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis.

We do that, get him off to the babysitter, and then I have to make the mad dash to get ready and out the door for the hour commute to work. Then, there’s the whole matter of navigating Port Authority, Pittsburgh’s “premiere” public transportation system. For those of you who live in or near the city, I’m sure you’ve had at least one memorable encounter. Like when the bus was especially early or incredibly late. We all know this doesn’t work when there’s a connection in town. And in most cases, there is. It’s always a nightmare.

Honestly, work is the most enjoyable experience in my day. It’s mostly stress free. There are usually two or three teachers per classroom, which makes behavior management so much easier. Most of my students come in focused, enthusiastic, and ready to learn. And all of them are loving and affectionate toward me, much like I am toward them. My boss is great. She’s a very hands off boss who trusts her employees to run their own classrooms. My co-workers are hilarious and warm. Everything about that place feels like home and family.

This is not to say there aren’t problems. My students still have behavioral difficulties. Sometimes, I do have co-workers that rub me the wrong way or interfere in my lesson more than they should. New policies are implemented that I don’t like. And my boss doesn’t always give me gold stars. It’s just like any other workplace. The only exception is that I like what I do, the people I do it with, and where I do it. Makes it a little easier to bear.

Another hour to an hour and forty-five minutes to get to the babysitter’s. We go home and I get to cleaning and cooking. My husband comes home, we eat, and then the rest of the night, it’s up to me to care for our son.

And that’s my day. I usually have a couple of hours to fight sleep because that is the only time available for me to unwind. Sometimes, I just pass out from exhaustion.

Doesn’t sound like much to some of you, huh? I’m sure there are a decent number of readers that will scoff and say, “I do waaaay more than that in a day.” Yes, you likely do. And that is the core to this.

Adding It Back Up
Bipolar Disorder or too stressful of a lifestyle? Or both? Could it be possible that I take on more than I, personally, can?

Which brings me to the core of this. I get a lot of flack for not living up to expectations, or what others perceive to be “laziness”. And I think to myself, “Why can’t I do it? Why can’t I take on everything without having a breakdown?” Sometimes I can, and sometimes I can’t.

What I exampled above it only scratching the surface. I’m not going to go into a novel sized, pity-party sounding recount of every single snag in my life. Just add in all of the incidentals. A large unexpected bill, a tough toddler day, a rough patch in my marriage, a hard day at work, family troubles, financial difficulty, etc, etc. You can draw from your own experiences and know that there is much, much more.

Honestly, why can’t I perform all of the tasks and duties required of me? It doesn’t sound very complicated. Although, to me, it is. So I push myself harder. I medicate myself more, because I am convinced that my lacking is a result of my dysfunction.

In Reality?
Which is which? Can people without disorder handle everything? Or is this deficit actually a result of dysfunction? And if it is, can medication actually resolve that?

Or is it the reverse? The dysfunction is caused by overload and can only be resolved by reduction in responsibility and stress through delegation. And how do you go about telling people, “I need help. I can’t handle my life.”?