Fast-Forward to Showtime!

It is a stressful and moderately sleepless period of time for me. It always is before a show.

My official job title is Music Director. Any and all things musically related go through me. This includes the winter and spring musicals. In fact, the explicit purpose of hiring me was 1.) To serve as a musical director for all productions and 2.) To fulfill a Keystone Stars Requirement.

Since, my duties have expanded exponentially. I am a substitute for general education. I have taken all things surrounding fine arts. I am partially a drama teacher. I do some office jockeying. And now, I’ve taken on graphic media and design.

I wish I could post my latest masterpiece, but I’d out myself so fast. It would be one thing if someone else stumbled upon this, as it is. There is still a considerable shadow of a doubt. There are dozens of programs like mine in the city. I could be anyone. Even as I watch Lulu and Em bounce off of each other, there is still no overlap. Not yet, and hopefully I won’t ever have to worry about it.

And this flash in my mind is among the scattered puzzle pieces that leaves a hint: At this point, so what if anyone made the connection? Puh. Yeah, I’m so sure that will be my thought while I’m watching my life go up in flames.

I spent my entire Monday night slaving over that program. I spent all of Tuesday fiddling with the format, stapling the prints, and making handwritten corrections on all 100 copies. Meanwhile, I was lugging a stapler the size of a tripod with me, and two hundred pages of paper.

My mind and my body should be spent.

My hands and my arms hurt like hell. I’m sucking down Ibuprofin and benzos. And yet, I find myself taking on more, and more projects!

In fact, in the last week, I’ve taken on more than I have in the last six months.

I interviewed for a second job on Friday. That went amazingly well. A new grocery store chain is opening up, and I wanted to try to get in on the ground floor. I have a cumulative three years in retail, two and a half in two competing grocery stores. I know my way up, down, and sideways – from registers to stock to pricing. I never thought it would amount to anything, because I’ve always been at the bottom of the food chain. But, this manager wanted me bad. “I could use a person with your experience and education.” Who knew?

I am now officially a Sunday School teacher again. My aunt is having surgery and passed the torch.

I’ve been marketing for a second-hand shop.

And today, I’ve taken on advising and web administration of a fledgling music site of a friend.

Hypomania? Again?

Atypical at best. Overly ambitious. Check. Social. Check. Sexual. Check. Sleepless? No. I was so done last night that I apologized to C.S. for checking out so early.

I can’t make heads or tails of it. And I’m anxious at the thought of exploiting this.

Also, I want to offer my profound apologies to anyone or anything I’ve neglected. And an explanation to go along with it.

In Bricked, I detailed how Tallulah, my Blackberry Curve 9300, took a dive. It required me to completely wipe the device and reinstall.

What a pain in my thumbs! I’ve had to reinstall all of my apps. Everything was going fine until I went to install the Gmail app. Apparently, they stopped offering it in October!

What’s the problem? – you may ask. Well, I lead a double-life of sorts. More like a triple-life really. I have two personal emails and a work email that have always been hooked up to Tallulah. Lulu was through the Gmail App. It made everything very accessible and clean. Now, I’ve had to hook Lulu up to Tallulah, and divert it to a different folder with different alerts. (I get a lot of emails in a day).

In hooking it up to my device, I have only received new emails since Sunday evening. I have a lot of loose ends. Apologies if you are currently under the rug. I’ll get it taken care of throughout the rest of the week.

Marginally Clear

Thanksgiving will hopefully be a day of thanks. It marks two weeks since the LEEP procedure. Since it falls on a holiday, my doctor’s office was kind enough to squeeze me in on Wednesday, Nov. 23. I’m sure the scheduling nurse I spoke with was aware that I’d have a Sword of Damocles hanging over my holiday table. It was kind of her to be so considerate. (Note to self: Be thankful for considerate, compassionate people).

The Healing Process

I was briefed after the surgery about care and restrictions. No worries – this is not going to get graphic. I’ll admit, it was not quite as I expected it. They likened it to a colposcopy with a biopsy. I know there is a huge difference between the two. One is a little snip and the other is more akin to taking a sizable section. Like trimming the hedges versus pruning a tree.

They under-exaggerate when they describe the more unpleasant parts of post-op care. I was in nearly constant, serious pain for the first four days. I would wake up in the morning in severe pain, because a full bladder likely pressed against the area. The more I moved, the more the pain increased.

Mothers will especially stand this next part. It is more akin to the physical sensations to about a week after labor and delivery. My bottom half was sore. It was pain like a T, across my hips through me, and into my back.

They don’t tell you the real story on a lot of it, although they are still defined within the parameters of “typical healing”. To sat the least, it was a lot more intense than I predicted.

The healing time takes longer than I predicted too. The doctors assured me that I’d be back on my feet, doing my daily activities in a few days. But, those activities are not to include any aerobic / strenuous activity. I haven’t been able to do any housework. No stairs, so I have to limit my use of them at home. It’s frustrating to leave something on a different floor.

I’m still not quite back to normal. I always feel like the doctors overreact when they give you restrictions. Possibly, it is because they know patients will not follow them to the letter. But, they weren’t kidding here. I’m moving better, but I am still in pain. I need extended time sitting. I’m tired.

The biggest thing they don’t tell you is the emotional rollercoaster that follows. I don’t know if it’s hormonal, but I have been completely out of whack. I described some of it in With This Pill. Manic Monday touched upon the subject in 2.5.

This is a conversation C.S. and I had on Friday.

I swear. A lot.

I thought I was on the cusp of a depressive episode. Mobility is difficult. It is irritating and frustrating to be at the mercy of others. I am a control freak. I like things done my way, and I like to be an active participant at all times. But right now, I feel like a useless invalid watching life pass as I’m bound immobile, as much as possible.

I feel useless. I can’t take charge of classes because I have to meet them in their classrooms. I must have children assist me in classes by passing out lyric sheets and retrieving items for me from across the room. I hate asking people for help. Then, I start to feel like an inconvenience, a burden, if you will.

Tomorrow’s Follow-up
I was under the impression that they were going to poke in there and assess my healing.  Then, they were going to report how much had to be excised, and what my chances of having more children is going to look like.  What they failed to mention is that tomorrow is also the delivery of the results from the sample they took.  What I thought was going to be a completely benign appointment turned malignant fast.

What the doctor is looking for is are Clear Margins.  Essentially, if the tissue they collected has both the cancerous cells and a margin surrounding it of healthy tissue, then we can be assured that all of the cancerous cells were excised.  However, if the margins are not clear, then cancerous cells still remain and pose a possible threat.

The course of action after that is typically to wait until the results from the follow up Pap smear come back.  If they are positive, then we visit colposcopy land to see how bad it is.  And, there is a possibility of yet another procedure.

You guessed it.  This poses a greater threat to my future pregnancies.  The more cervix that is removed, the higher the risk of miscarriage and pre-term labor.  I have a plan, but I need to get C.S. on board.  If the issue is forced, I want to make the Hail Mary pass in order to conceive another child before I would have another surgery.  We have two months to make a decision, because after that, it’s do or die.

I really do want another child, even if it’s not at a great time.  If I have to do it and take some risks, I’m willing to do that.  However, C.S. has not expressed a great deal of enthusiasm about another child.  I don’t want to come to blows over this.  But, if there is a serious disagreement, I know it’s going to turn into a serious problem.

One bridge at a time, Lulu.  One bridge at a time.

I Bet Jekyll Felt This Way

I’ve mentioned this in recent posts. But now, it’s gotten to a point where I’m not even sure what is going on anymore.

In case any readers aren’t up to date, I’ll summarize with some links. This all began with my last cutting episode. We determined that the mixed emotions I was going through was dysphoric hypomania. It lasted 16 days and I though it was over when I got sick. I thought I went from hypomanic to panic. But, I’m not sure that’s the case.

Yesterday, I was hit with panic earlier in the day. My mind started drifting and I got this urge to call off of work. I had this strong feeling like something was very wrong. However, since I’ve been in the throws of panic lately, I figured it was anxiety. That was that.

I started feeling very bad at work. I’ve been feeling ill – unsettled stomach, puffiness, etc. At work, it was magnified. I became nauseated with a throbbing head and a terrible stomach.

I wasn’t right in my head to handle kids today. I let them pretty much do what they pleased, within certain boundaries. I snapped out at my 3rd grade class because their behavior was atrocious. More than anything it was agitating because of the extreme annoyance. Children don’t typically annoy me. This was a clear sign that there was something very wrong.

Later, one of my co-workers pointed out a mistake I had made. I took it very personally. I became inexplicably angry that he would dare correct me although I knew I had made the mistake. I wanted to jump down his throat and tear him a new one.

But, I feared that he would put me up on the chopping block. I became paranoid, thinking he was the unidentified source who reported concerns to my boss about my performance. He had it out for me. He secretly didn’t like me and wanted me eliminated.

At that point, I had the mother of all panic attacks. I sat still, far in a corner of the room. I was trying to plan an escape route without anyone becoming suspicious. I had to get out. I couldn’t get it out of my head. But, if I left early, then someone would be upset. I’d be giving them even more reason to send me away.

I couldn’t wait to get home. Home, the only safe place left. And yet, just three months ago, I would’ve said that about work.

Here’s the question. Am I hostile at work because I’m feeling threatened because I’ve been having panic attacks at work that are making me delusional? Or, am I actually still in a now dysphoric mania with serious paranoia and delusions?

Construction Zone – Self Improvement in Progress

Per Brandon who writes The Daily Bipolar, I’ve been inspired by his post Too Much At Once?.  In his post, he was examining goals for himself and prioritizing.

Obviously, I seriously have a problem with that.  I’m often stuck in the here and now situation.  I tend to focus on the most pressing problem of the moment instead of continually striving for the bigger picture.  It wasn’t always like this.  I’ve really lost faith in my ability to carry a plan all the way through.  And worse, I have been neglecting responsibilities through extreme procrastination.  In order to reorganize my priorities and get back on track, I’m going to make a list of the things that are most important to me, instead of the most pressing issues.

Make Appointments and Keep Them:  I have difficulty keeping appointments.  Typically, this is because of the pressing issue at hand.  If I am deep into a depressive episode, I’m not motivated to go.  Especially if I know that it’s going to be bad news.  Even so, I’m still fearing the bad news that is coming my way and the challenges that are ahead of me.

Since when did I start living my life in fear?  I’m not sure how that happened.

Quit Smoking For Good: I made what started out to be a very successful attempt to quit smoking between last April and last June.  I was down to between five and seven cigarettes a day.  That’s quite a record drop from 12 to 14.  I was so close to being able to throw out all of my ashtrays.  (Except the Kennywood one.  My mother bought that for me.  I was going to turn it into a hard candy dish).  Smoking is literally killing me.  My doctor and I have concluded smoking is the reason the cervical dysplasia continues to return.  My asthma is getting worse.  It’s bad for my heart which is already having problems.  And more than anything, I want to be a good role model for my kid and the children I teach.  How can I possibly tell them smoking is bad when I wait until I’m in Downtown to jump off the bus and light up?

Return to Journalling: I have been severely neglecting my journal.  It’s not really on purpose.  I had a few Pendulum posts that I wanted to include in it.  However, I do not have a printer, so I’ve had to transpose them by hand.  It was taking much longer than anticipated.  I’m really behind now, although I do leave post-it’s of important thing I want to talk about within it.  I really need to spend some time catching up and make the concious effort to spend at least one hour a night working at it again.  I was doing a lot better when I was keeping a constant log to work out my emotions.

Regulating My Biological Cycles: I am having some difficulty regulating my sleeping and eating cycles due to mood changes and, of course, stress.  I have to make a real effort to sleep and eat when I know that I need to.  It’s unhealthy and obviously is a trigger for disaster.

Start Taking Time for Myself:  I don’t care if anyone around me thinks that it is selfish.  I am starting to realize that it is perfectly reasonable and absolutely necessary.  I think that a number of factors went into my most recent episode(s?).  One of those was being over-extended.  I was performing duties that I was pressured into doing in the here-and-now.  After that, there was no time for me.  Obviously, I’m burnt out, and I’m not taking it well.  I’m holding it together, but there are some serious cracks in the walls.  I don’t want to crumble.  And I don’t want to start over.  Not after I’ve worked this hard to get it all built up again.  If I have to take this time by force, I will.

Become More Focused: Obviously.  But, in order to do accomplish that, I have to continue to keep a set of goals in tangible form.

Appreciate the Pretty Things: I wrote a blog post called All the Pretty Things back in July when I faced the possibility of another surgery.  I need to refer back to the pretty things and update that list frequently.

Start Confronting My Emotions: Talk is cheap.  I could probably go on eternally about the things that are currently upsetting my emotional state.  Sometimes, I do.  What I need to do more than anything, no matter how painful it is, is start conflict resolution.  I must grow the chutzpuh in order to confront situations and people that are harming me.  Action is what gets things done.

Most of all, like it has been pointed out to me, I don’t have to take on the mountain in a day.  This didn’t begin in a day, and it’s not going to be resolved in a day.  It took God six days to create the universe.  Why should I expect to do the same?

I am not God.  I am Lulu.  That’s it.  And I will have respect for myself in knowing that I am capable of doing anything I want to do.

Am I a 10?

I like to apply the 1 in 10 rule to everything.  1 in 10 people…

Those are the words from a man we call Fireman Dave.  Fireman Dave was at work yesterday to give us two DPW required seminars, blood borne pathogens and fire safety.  He is a truly entertaining man.  He began his presentation with the quote above.  And he did apply the 1 in 10 rule to many things.

With blood borne pathogens, he said, “1 in 10 people have something you don’t want to catch.” Sure, there is logic in that.  I know I’m part of that 1 in 10.  I have HPV.  I know it’s contagious in a sexual setting, so it doesn’t apply.  But it still makes me one of those 10’s that someone wouldn’t knowingly have sex with.  No big deal; I’m married.  So it doesn’t apply there either.

“1 in 10 people will catch something they don’t want because they aren’t educated about health and safety.” I’m a 10 – I had never even heard of HPV until I had it. We talked about all of the things that you can contract from contact with blood. Did you know that Hepatitis B can live in dried blood for up to 7 days? Scary.

He told us a story about a woman who called 911 because her husband had been stabbed. The police had told Fireman Dave (who is also a paramedic) that the scene was secure, so he rushed in to help the man. He was leaning over the man and checking his vitals. He hardly had time to look up in the mirror in front of him to see the woman stab him in the butt.

“1 in 10 people are truly wacky.

We all laughed. After he said it, I joked, “Yeah, that’s me!” Haha! “Nah, I’m just kidding!

He continued on with his presentation filled with humorous anecdotes. I made an off color comment about one of them. I heard a mumble in the crowd, “Oh yeah, she’s a 10.” and everyone roared. I smiled, shrugged, and said, “I told you!”

I may have seemed jovial on the outside. But the anxiety was welling up like a balloon being inflated from the churning in my stomach to get lodged in my windpipe. “Breathe, just keep breathing… keep… breathing., I repeated in my head. I was more still than a statue and closed my eyes for more than a moment. I hoped that when I opened my eyes, I would be out of the spotlight. When I opened them, the fluorescent lights seemed to be brighter and the room much quieter. Fireman Dave went on, but was the spotlight really off of me?

“Am I really a 10?”

Fireman Dave described 10’s as being Richard Baumhammers, Richard Poplawski, or George Sodini (three notorious murderers in Pittsburgh). I’ve actually read “Crazy George” Sodini’s blog before authorities shut it down. Although it was both homicidal and suicidal, it was very much like catching a mental health blogger on a bad day. Except, this was every day for a long time.

I’m not homicidal. I’ve never been homicidal once in my life. I’ve only ever wished death upon two people, and I never even considered that it could be by my hand. My moral compass has always been finely tuned upon a sturdy foundation of values. But, if George Sodini could have a blog that I could understand, could I be a George Sodini? Am I that 10?

Maybe not. But, the 1 in 10 rule is relative. It states that “1 in 10 people that you encounter…”.

Mental health and development issues are very commonplace in my life. My family has something or another, whether they want to admit it or not. So, my threshold for slapping a 10 on someone is probably way higher than a “norm’s” would be. I consider serial killers and child molesters to be 10’s. Does that mean the “norms” consider me a 10?

What do you think?

Fluent in Ebonics

Yesterday was my first day back to work, and I couldn’t be happier, despite the unpleasantness that morning. That school has such a profoundly positive effect on me. I take two busses there, and the alone time is relaxing. But the second I walk through that door, I feel the love and community there. Everyone is so pleasant and happy. My co-workers respect me and my boss appreciates me. The kids are always so glad to see me and are always telling me that they like my class the best. It’s one of the most wonderful parts of my life.

This week consists of educator’s professional development seminars and training.  I sat at a table with some of my favorite co-workers, the art teacher, the 3rd grade group leader, and the 4th grade group leader.  It’s my second school year there, and I’m becoming closer to the staff as time passes.  We were divided in groups based on our tables for our group activities.

The first activity was called “Number Knockout”.  You are given a 5 by 5 grid of random numbers.  The instructions are to use those numbers by addition, subtraction, multiplication, and / or division to get a predetermined number.  I am terrible at math.  It was up to the group to come up with as many number combinations as they could.  The mood in the room was light; everyone was joking and conversing.  When they were determining who won, I said, “Hey, we were at a serious disadvantage!  We have two fine arts teachers at the same table!”  Everyone laughed.

The next activity was called “Shorthand Code”.  The objective was to come up with as many phrases using only netcode – like CUL8R and B4UGO.  I hate using that.  I don’t use it in text, blogs, emails, or anything.  I am a person who seeks to preserve the correct use of the English language, instead of letting it disintegrate into grammatically incorrect, misspelled garble.  I thought it was going to be challenging.  But as soon as I got into it, I was unstoppable.  I kept churning them out.  And because of that, my group voted me as the one to present it, in front of everyone.  Yeah, you know I have anxiety.  But we were deemed the winners.

This led to the first racial joke I’ve encountered at work.  See, I work in an inner-city youth program in a predominantly African American community.  When I was hired, I was concerned that race may be an issue.  I’m one of four white people who work there.  It never has been.  They are an incredible, accepting community.  There, you are what you are.  If I seem quirky, they don’t care.  It’s just part of who I am.  They don’t suspect anything is wrong with me.  I’m T.M.  They always see the best in me.  I am enthusiastic, warm-hearted, friendly woman who is passionate about what I do.  I love it.

The point of the exercise was to help us understand the importance of positive, clear communication with our students.  This includes establishing expectations and providing clear instruction.  Which lead to a mention of Ebonics.  The presenter said, “T.M. seems to be fluent in Ebonics.  No clue how!”  Everyone roared with laugher, including me.  It seemed so, but I’m really not.  I am the whitest girl you’d ever meet.  My skin could rival Casper the Friendly Ghost, and I have white blonde hair.  I grew up in the suburbs, attended a school that was lucky to have 10 ethnic people in a graduating class of 247, and participated in extracurricular activities that did not include any participation from minority students.  Hell, I only knew one African American man in college!

I guess I can be proud.  I am not only a decent writer, a good musician, an excellent vocalist, I am also fluent in Ebonics. Ha!

I hope today is as great as yesterday!

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.

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.”?