Saturday, August 2, 2008


I was driving home from my parent's house and turned on the radio to get the weather report. Instead I got a minute of a talk show , the host on a rave about big pharma destroying our souls with their pills.

I've always thought this guy was a jerk, but every now and then someone, anyone gets it. Even a radio personality who I have never agreed with can shoot a fish in a barrel once in his lifetime.

Since I am almost off meds, just on Lithium, I can tell you honestly I am sleeping a bit better. 5 hours of sleep a night average. One night this week was nine hours and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. The humidity dropped a bit but it's still almost too hot to sleep. I want to get out of Dodge and move to Alaska, where it's cold and I might actually be able to catch some Z's.

My skin keeps acting like it's moulting. But it's not moulting, or even shedding. It itches constantly, and it's all on my back and neck. I can reach my neck, but I cannot reach the spot on my back. I've tried a back scratcher, I've rubbed up against walls, all to no avail. I've even put baby powder on it, which brings some relief until it wears off. Same with cold showers, and an exfoliating bath wash with my loofah.

On Thursday I noticed some abnormalities. After my morning shower I couldn't dress myself. It took 20 minutes to put on my bra. Now I know how adolescent boys feel trying to get these things off! Another 10 minutes to put on a pair of pants, and two minutes to zip the fly. I couldn't raise my hands to brush my hair, so I put on a baseball cap, something that took a bit of time too.

My muscles are atrophying again. I went to the gym and really worked out, skipping the stair master and treadmill, working with free weights with my arms. And I couldn't lift them. Not because I was trying to bench press 70 lbs which I could do a few days earlier.. I just couldn't raise my arms.

I've been off Haldol since the Ides of April. But again, the same symptoms are coming back.

What kills me now is the concept of schadenfreude. I never felt it personally until yesterday. I take referral calls from both my local mental health support group, and the state one. Usually they are pretty tame, when is the next meeting, how do I get there, where in NJ are the meetings, etc etc. I usually can answer the calls, or I refer them to NAMI. It's all good, NAMI refers their callers to me. Sometimes I get social workers and pdocs who are looking to get more help for their clients, and think a peer run group sounds great. Often the social workers will ask me about the types of training it takes to run a meeting, and again, I state that too.

But the woman I spoke to yesterday was different. I've spoken to many like her in the four years I have been doing this. A mother of a son in his twenties who was just diagnosed. Just started taking meds in February. He was having a hard time with side effects and developed ed. His girlfriend/fiance left him because of ed. He moved back home to his parents house, he was mopey, still grieving over the loss of what might have been and the fact that the meds were not only putting on weight, they had taken away his sexuality.

She asks if this is normal. I tell her I've seen my weight go up 50 lbs from different med cocktails since I was diagnosed back in 86. I am only 5 feet tall, so 50 lbs on me looks like 75 lbs on someone taller. I have had relationships end because of the illness. Either because I (and I am being candid here and I realize this may upset people and say you COULDN"T have been like that). I lost one boyfriend because I was hypersexual and wore him out. Yeah, it's true. I know most guys would love that , just as they wish for the four hour erections advertised on Viagra or Cialis. I've almost been engaged to someone who, finding out I was bipolar and it could be hereditary, dropped me, citing, he couldn't be responsible for a bipolar child. I've written here he said he could continue to fuck me, but marriage and relationship was off.

I can tell you it was the first time my heart was broken, and the pain hurt for months.

I can also tell you that my bipolar cost me my marriage. I don't like to talk about this in public, because I really don't believe in airring your dirty laundry in public. It takes two people to make a marriage, it should take two to end it. In my case, it didn't. While he accepted the fact I was a fellow Beeper, and embraced it!, he never could cope with it. My pdoc at the time sat down with him and told him I was one of the "sickest" bipolars he ever saw, and he didn't ever think I would be able to get off my meds and I would always suffer from things that didn't effect him ever, the hypersexuality, the suicidal ideation. He only took Depakote. I was on a med cocktail at that time of at least 4 or 5 different drugs.

I was a hero to my husband, i was working in a newsroom, doing all the grunt work for the reporters, and making a very good living at it. I was making a nice bit on the side by entertainment blogging, at one time I was considered one of the five best entertainment bloggers in the country. I was working on my third novel. He thought I would be able to keep my job, support him totally and we would live happily ever after. And at first, for the first 3 months it was fine. Every day we would ask each other if we had taken our meds. But then I started fllipping into mania, and it depressed him. Seeing him depressed depressed me, and I floated back to depression, mine worse than his because I would get suicidal ideation on top of it.

It wasn't anyone's fault, but it was a deal breaker. He could understand in theory what it was like to be bipolar, but living with one was not something he liked. He wouldn't go for marital counseling, he just felt I needed to try harder. Some days I couldn't get out of bed I was so blue, and he would get upset with me and not understand. Yet when he couldn't get out of bed, couldn't make his own writing deadlines, I would ghost write things for him, try to help him get out of the depression.

We grew apart as people do. Perhaps it was for the best, the marriage was concieved in mania and it was too fragile to last. The ironic part was when we met he was more in love with me than I him. I grew to love him more as his love for me faded. When he left I thought my world would end because at that time I loved him more than he did me.

Back to this lady. She asked how many meds I have been on and I replied I stopped counting at 30. She said she couldn't go through that with her son, is this normal? I told her I have met quite a number of people who have been on as many meds as me or more. I told her honestly, I had been in the hospital 4 times in 20 years, and have tried almost every type of therapy imaginable, Freudian, Jungian, Ericksonian, you name it I've tried it.

I've even tried ECT in a feeble attempt of living a semi normal and productive life.

"What a strong woman you are". She said. She got off the phone saying she would be there next Tuesday and could I talk to her son.

I've been hearing that a lot lately. I don't feel strong. I have done what needed to be done, but never thought it was anything remarkable. I had to learn to re use my muscles because I didn't want to wind up in a nursing home, hooked up to a catherter and unable to eat or dress myself at the ripe old age of 45. It wasn't anything wonderful or brave, it just WAS.

I take lithium because I don't want the kind of mood swings I would get if I didn't take it. It's not perfect but I would be rapid cycling and that's not livable.

I've dealt with crippling depression and suicide attempts, the last one came very close to succeeding. I am lucky. But what choice do I have? I can view my bipolar as either a blessing, a curse, or both. I don't feel extraordinary. I feel human. But I do feel like a fraud for someone to think I am inspirational, extraordinary. Maybe it's the depression talking.

All I know is last night, I couldn't sleep. I was upset about some things going on in my personal life, and kept dreaming the same dream, I was hanging from a tree, birds pecking out my eyes. I know why I was dreaming this, my last attempt, in November of 2002 was a hang, and as I lost Consciousness the rope broke. Had it not broke, I would not be here right now writing this. I know someone who has a gun, and I called him to see if I could borrow it. The old black dog had me by the short and curlies, saying he was boss of me.

I got so far as in my car to collect the gun, and tried to figure out if I would do the deed on my bed, or the couch. Would it look like a scene in Pulp Fiction? Could I really put gray matter and blood on my two favorite pictures? Over the couch hangs a framed print of Wheatfield with Crows by Van Gogh. The irony alone in that statement made me decide against it.

The painting over my bed is the famous Red Poppy print by Georgia O'Keefe, that they were selling right and left at the Met when her show was there. I always liked that print, even if it does look like a giant c**t.

I calmed down when I felt the air conditioning on my face and told myself my brain is playing tricks on me. Ignore the voices and you won't drown. You don't want to be like Prufrock, you want to be alive.

I went back to bed. Sleep did not come easy, but at least, as I counted each breath, I was grateful I didn't listen to the mermaids sing. Not this time.

Maybe I am stronger than I give myself credit for. Who knew?


Larry said...



1. I don't really think you have feelings of schadenfreude for that guy whose family you are helping on the hotline.

Rather, it brings up painful memories of your own marriage, as such stories bring up painful memories of my marriage. And I didn't even have the twist of her being bipolar (although she certainly had periodic situational depression and severe OCD).

Normal, understandable, hardly makes you a bad person -- and it may even make you a better one for having the COURAGE to process all this.

Speaking of courage ...

2. Don't sell yourself short on the hero(ine) label.

When someone survives a plane crash, even if they don't help anyone else out, we often call them a hero. They may say, rightly, they didn't do anything except for themselves -- but they usually had to display the most extraordinary survival instincts of the human species, which themselves can be inspiring to others.

We survive "plane crashes" every few years or even every few months.

And I seem to recall that a neighbor of yours just down the road, M. Night Shyamalan, did a movie years ago about a guy who could survive any kind of accident without a physical scratch (mental scratches, of course, were another story). And look what Bruce Willis turned out to be in "Unbreakable" ...

Paul said...


Drug withdrawal is insidious. You might think you're relapsing, but the drug withdrawal effects are indistinguishable in many cases. It's not an easy thing to do, and these drugs are HIGHLY addictive. Your brain has compensated for their presense and won't just let you take them away without a reaction. For some it's mild, for others not so.

Not to pontificate, but you really need a considered plan to withdraw. The longer you've been medicated, the more so. There are many resources available to help with this, but it's great if your prescriber is on-board too. I realise this is not always possible, but they can help with titration by writing scripts for lower doses or liquid forms.

It's best to think of this as a windy road. You might have to backtrack at times, but keep focused on where you want to get to. You will.

susan said...

Larry, thanks for the comments. I never thought of myself as courageous, but people have told me I am.

Maybe it just comes down to the fact it's easier to see something in someone else than yourself.

M. Night Shyamalan is a neighbor? Kewl. I do know for a fact that Tony Soprano just bought a McMansion about a quarter mile from here and will be teaching at your old stomping grounds.

Paul, you are sagacious and I thank you. There was no plan to taper down, just cold turkey on the Cymbalta. The same pdoc had me go off Geodon the same way earlier this year, and had me go off it cold turkey.

I see the pdoc on Tuesday and look forward to firing her.

The problem is I have just about exhausted every pdoc within a 60 mile radius. There has to be a decent doc out there. The law of averages demands it to be a verity.

Anonymous said...

You can take my suggestion re pdocs. It could be the answer for you like it was for h.


justana said...

I agree with Larry and Paul.
About your marriage:
I lost my husband for bipolarity.
I also don't like to talk about it.
But after 1 year of depression he went int maniac for the first time.
He got hospitalized and when he got out, although we still loved each other, it was very hard to face silly things he did.
Among other problems...
But it was bipolarity the main reason.
It was not me who wanted him to go.
I've just let him go because... I respect his feelings and... I don't know...
Life is hard!

susan said...

Thank you Ana. You really touched me with your comments.

justana said...

PS: I forgot to say that I also did silly things.
It's not your fault Susan, not your fault!

justana said...

You were there!

Marissa Miller said...


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