Warning: Relapse

Honestly, I find the words evaporating before they can come into focus in my mind. I grasp at them, trying desperately to hold to just one. Please, just one to represent this. Let me have only one.

So, here I write. My first stream of consciousness entry since the very beginning of this blog.

Where to start? Is there really a starting point? The perfect place to run along the thread, coursing up and down, and through the fabric of my life. Maybe. Maybe not. I seem to get the idea that there is no beginning, and respectively, there is no end.

So, maybe I can begin with a narrative, rolling around in my mind, each time it stirs.


I am not perfect. My flaws are becoming more visible each time I look at myself. Painfully so. Everything feels so forced.

I make mistakes. I succumb to those words, the ones that usually just make a dull buzz in my head.

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In these times, the moments of darkness, it becomes louder, slower, more pronounced.

I. want. to. die.

A buried mantra, rising from dormancy.

My ears heard a beckon in my sleep. I rustled. I could sleep forever. Another summoning. In fact, I wanted to sleep forever. My eyes opened to dull grey haze, sunlight buried miles deep in cloud cover. And the words whispered to me, I want to die.

 

I had remembered my dream. It was a recurring dream, the same theme, different places, different faces. All but one. C.S.

In each dream, we are separated in some way, whether it be a wall or a world apart. We aren’t just separated, rather more like severed from one another. I am not whole. I feel that in the very depths of my shattered soul.

In this most recent recurrence, we were literally separated, not divorced, but not even living in the same place anymore. I shared an apartment with his ex-best friend. He was sick, and I took him to the hospital.

While there, I started to feel preterm labor. It was a child I hadn’t told C.S. about yet. Though we had T.D., I didn’t want him to feel obligated to stay in a marriage with me because of an unplanned pregnancy.

I just went back to the apartment. The same dingy, dark, trashed apartment that is always in my dreams. I must have done something really bad for him to discard and disregard me in such a way. I called him. I wanted nothing more than to be whole again. I needed him to come to my aid.

He refused. “Why would I want to come to that dump to see you?”

I begged. And he still refused.

I returned to the hospital, knowing that the labor would get worse. I just knew it wasn’t something that couldn’t be fixed.

Skip the labor scene. I don’t remember it, even if it did occur.

And, I went into a dark exam room, to lay on the bed with the paper sheet, in a paper gown. I saw a pad of paper sitting on an end table. I flipped through and it coldly read, “What seems to be your problem today?”

I threw it, and went to gather my belongings that were housed in a communal room, supposedly watched by a guard. Except when I went to look, they were nowhere in sight. I saw a woman sitting next to the man, holding my exact purse. I insisted it was my purse, and ripped it away from her. I pulled out my handmade keychain, looking for some proof I was who I said I was.

I got a nametag out and I had apparently been using a different last name since my separation. I went for my I’d in my wallet. A voice came from behind me.

“Her name is Em. I’m her husband.”

C.S. stood there, disappointed and disgruntled.

 

And I awoke, horrific feelings still intact. Worthlessness, abandonment, disappointment, heartache, soul-fractures, incompletely incomplete, with holes punctured through my being. I mourned that child. I mourned my broken marriage. And I wondered what lay in wait in my conscious life.

Noon. Lunch. Eggs and bacon for my son.

No excuses. Not, the infamous, “It’s five o’clock somewhere.” I poured myself a shot of Wild Turkey and nursed it. The next, I gulped. Sunday is a terrible day to drink in Pennsylvania. When you’re out, you’re out. So, I moved on to vodka.

Anything. I would do anything to erase that awful gnawing feeling. That feeling that you are being dragged into the pit, clawing and screaming as the inky blackness envelopes you, curling like vines upward, and strangling the very life from you.

I’m not going to launch into this speech about how embarrassed or downtrodden I am for my shortcomings. Not because I feel justified in my action as a result of a faulty rationalization. Because I am human. I have some permissible margin or error, right?

But, I will make certain admissions based on very stark realizations.

I was starting to get ready for work, when I realized that not all of my laundry had been returned to me. T.D. had clothes. C.S. was fine for the week. But only a few articles returned to me.

I started to get upset. Dressing for Pennsylvania weather is tricky. When the sun is shining, but it’s 30, and you know that you be out after dark later, it complicates things. Some of my classrooms are hot, and some are cold. I need layers. My sweaters were too hot.

I lost all confidence in any choice, and became flustered. T.D. screamed in the background and C.S. preached at me on the phone. I wasn’t going to make it in time. I wasn’t going to make it.

How could I even walk out of that door like this, without any guarantees that I could make it intact?

I want to die.

My parents pounded on the door. I carried T.D. down the stairs and set him down. I was shaking so badly, it caused tremors in every single electrified muscle. Halfway through the living room, my legs gave out. My whole body fell limp, and I could no longer live in my mind. I crawled to the door, and opened it.

I pulled myself onto the sofa and curled into a ball. And I cried, “I can’t do it. I can’t go to work like this.”

“Get yourself together,” my mother advised.

I wasn’t talking anymore. I was on autopilot, hyperventilating, “I can’t. I can’t. I just can’t, I have to call off.”

I did. My boss could sense the extreme distress in my voice. I lied. I told her the sitter called off because she was sick. I couldn’t bear to tell her the truth.

I’m in no mental state, because I’m having a nervous breakdown related to a recent bout of ultradian cycling that hurled me into a long awaited depression. You’re better off without me today.

And my mother asked, “Did something happen?”

“No,” I answered in a fractured voice, holding back tears, “this is just the natural course of things. This was three months in the making. Three months, almost symptom free. And now this.”

The grand herald of my depressive episode, here to announce it’s presence. And to present a list of events, in no particular, predictable order, that will push me further into this hell. This hell. This is mine. Of my own making.

And I have to face it alone. Because as of today, everyone in my life has made it abundantly clear that they are, quote, “Tired of my shit, because I’m always like this.”

That’s me. Like this. Fucking up since the mid-eighties.

This post brought to you by Tallulah, my Blackberry Bold.

Big Money, No Whammy, STOP!

What does it feel like to have 20 Grand hanging in the balance?

I ran I Bet Jekll Felt This Way past C.S. a couple of nights ago, in so many words. I rarely read directly from the page. I’ve gotten in hot water by doing that before. Sometimes, there are just some words that shouldn’t pass from my lips.

He stood across the kitchen poking through the elephant box while I sat at the table. He suggested, “Maybe it’s one of the supplements. Are you taking any new ones?”

I answered, “No, not really. I started Adrenomend again, and I’ve already been taking the Brain Energy for a few weeks now.”

“I’m going back down to bare bones. Something is causing me a problem again,” he mentioned, as he swallowed a handful of supplements.

I considered his suggestion. But, I knew that my brain can’t survive a chemical shift without shifting itself. I wasn’t about to add fuel to the fire and risk facing something scarier than this. I’m taking about a dozen supplements for various reasons. I wouldn’t be able to break something else before figuring out how to fix this.

Doctors recommend ceasing all medications / supplements when it’s impossible to discern which one is causing the problem. What about just starting the shed the most recent ones, regardless of whether they have worked in the past? There are only two potential risks. Either I take something away that causes a bad day, or I don’t take away the right one and I continue in the state of dyphoric hypomanic paranoia.

I took away the two most recent additions, Adrenomend and Brain Energy. C.S. suggested taking away Adrenomend, because he had a bad reaction in the past.

Of course, he suggested that the panic attacks were rebound anxiety from “too many benzos”. “That’s their gimmick, give you medicine that causes anxiety.” I’ve been on these for two months now. You’d think I would’ve had a reaction by now. Well, I am the woman who had a life-threatening reaction to an epidural 20-25 minutes after receiving it. *Shrug*.

So far, so good. Yesterday, I managed to handle surprise fire drill with no problem. I’m not anxiety free, but I’m panic free without my midday Xanax. I’m a little more fatigued than usual, so that indicates something was pushing me toward hypomania. The anxiety might be residual. Anxiety is like a virus in the respect that it generalizes and mutates as it takes hold.

My only hope is that those supplements were the only thing holding back the flood gates of depression. Because l know I haven’t paid the piper yet for my last hypomanic episode.

In other news, I thought I’d mentioned C.S.’s promotion we’ve been waiting on. We finally got word, and it wasn’t the one we were hoping for. The big wig at the top didn’t go for it. He’s upset about the staffing budget and put out a hiring freeze. But, C.S.’s department manager isn’t giving up on it.

We didn’t have any numbers before this. Today, I was texted a number than blew my mind. I wrote back, “Not even in my wildest dreams did I even consider that number!”. It’s $20,000 more than he’s making now. Yeah, my mouth dropped to the floor.

But now, it’s in limbo.

I bet it feels like winning a lottery, but then nobody has the money to pay up.

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?

A Peach and A Catalyst

This one was inspired by Colonial Punk’s Post.

Stress.

A one syllable word that is so commonplace in everyone’s life. When am I not stressed? I can’t answer that. It really is always something.

It’s more about how stressors are processed that produces the effects and thus, the consequences. I’m probably not a prime example of how stress is interpreted. I have been known to buckle under the weight. I am guilty of allowing my situations to become critical.

How stress manifests for me is a complicated thing. It depends on the particular stressor and the source that it is coming from. In addition, it depends on my particular mood, the emotion, and the intensity of emotion that the stressor produces at the time.
I’ve been running a little high lately. I’m out of the hypomanic episode, thanks to a virus or something. But, if I had to describe the state I’m in right now, I’d call it a 6 or 7 on the mood scale with panic attacks. (In all fairness, this started before the abnormally high stress). Honestly, I’m used to running at about a 4.

I mentioned in Just Got Served, But It Wasn’t Dinner that C.S. is being sued. That was Thursday. That comes with a whole host of problems for both him and me. We finally have the name of an attorney. Any further than that and I’m really not at liberty to publicly detail the rest. Legal problems are at least in the top 5 of my “Worst Things That Could Happen List”. (Medical is number 1. We’re getting there.)

My typically benevolent boss is coming down on me. I understand her concern. My boss has a difficult time delegating and the Winter Concert is in my hands. Her anxiety has to be off the charts. It would be absolutely embarrassing if this project flops.

The electric company has recently determined that we are financially ineligible for services. Now, we’re stuck with a budget amount of $430 a month. That’s up $200 from what we were paying on a “just making ends meet” budget.

T.D.’s Early Intervention services ended October 16th, when he turned three. This is complicated, so try to stay with me. He was supposed to have transitioned into school-aged services at this point, but it didn’t happen.

Adding fuel to the fire, C.S. isn’t sure if he wants to take this promotion on the cusp of some serious financial detriment and before the holidays.

I mentioned problems with T.D.’s pediatrician giving me some serious trouble in The Farris Wheel. I won’t go into the complete story, but I have a ton of things I have to face now with his health and development.

And I have this surgery looming.  My consult is finally scheduled in stone for October 28.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

Blah.

The reactions varied. When I saw the papers for the suit, I sprang into action. It was an insult. I was angry.

When my boss came at me, I flew. It shook the very foundation of my work experience. I’ve always considered work to be a safe zone. I became so anxious that I responded with annoyance, fear, and paranoia.

All of T.D.’s things are overwhelming. I’m treading into unknown territory and I’m not sure how to proceed. It froze me in fear to know that my child has something wrong. And I felt like the worst mother in the world.

I’ve never had a major surgery. There are a lot of unknowns. I’ve been dodging it because I don’t want to walk around blindly. Too many what if’s. How am I going to handle news that something bad has happened?

And as for the bills, what am I going to do? We can handle it, but we’re going to be on a tight budget. We might have to make some heavy sacrifices. I am upset. I can’t stand the idea of living in extreme poverty again. I am almost to the point of tantrums. I still need a couple new staple clothing items (white t-shirts), new contacts, and new glasses. When will these needs be satisfied, if at all? Rawr!

So, as you can see, stress produces a wide variety of responses. But, the end result varies. Either, I crumble into a depressive episode because of the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. Or, I go manic and power through with serious ferocity. Or, I am frozen with anxiety, and if I approach the situation, I’m overcome and retreat.

Spin the wheel. It’s hard to tell what stress will trigger with bipolar disorder.

Take two, three or four pills and call back in the morning.

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.”?