Thursday, January 1, 2009

Susan-An Introduction

I have a lot of new readers coming in so I thought I would post an old article I wrote back in 02 explaining who I am= Enjoy.

I could feel my blue eyes opening, and the light was harsh. I shielded them with my palm, trying to wake. I gradually accustomed myself, and noticed, this was a twin size bed I was in, not my normal full size. My beloved cat was not nestling besides me, nor did I have the teddy that served as a sentinel since I was four. I thought for a moment, I was back in time, back in Graduate School, where life was good, and I shared a house in my state’s capital with four other young women. But as I tried to move, I noticed I couldn’t move. There was an IV attached to my arm, and one of those heart monitors like you would see on ER. And I was strapped down to the bed. It was the present, 1994, and I had been out of school for seven years. I could hear the doctors and nurses running by me, ignoring me. I had no idea where I was, I figured it was in the emergency room of Princeton Hospital. I asked the nurse what day it was as she ran by me. It was a Sunday morning, at four or five in the morning, and I wondered what the heck had I done again, since I took all those pills on Friday night? and why in Heaven’s name, couldn’t I succeed in killing myself?

I am a manic-depressive. I was one of those people, first misdiagnosed in my early twenties as depressive, then a month later diagnosed as bipolar. But this hospitalization in my early thirties, would evaluate me as bipolar, with a difference, I was an ultra rapid cycler with schizoaffective features.

This was not my first suicide attempt. This was one of many, starting with all the sturm und drang of adolescence. This would be my second to last serious attempt. I cannot begin to count all the times I have wanted to "shuffle off this mortal coil", as Hamlet said. I have tried pills, more times waking up to be Exorcist sick. I tried to use a hose to my car’s exhaust, not realizing I had a catalytic converter, which went on before I could fall asleep. I have thought of throwing myself off the Empire State Building, but I am deathly afraid of heights and have vertigo. And I have tried to slit my wrists, but could not get the razor blade out of that pink plastic Gillette razor. (Curse you Gillette!)

And I have been blessed with the mania, suffering for three years straight without crashing to anything other than mild depression. I was gifted then, doing two masters degrees and holding down three part time jobs. I had poems professionally published. Looking back they were nothing but masterful Sylvia Plath imitations. I was the belle of the English department, their golden girl about to go on for a PhD. And I was correct for the longest time. And then, just like the all time perfect day, it ended. It had to. A person cannot be manic for three years without illegal drugs, one has to crash eventually.

And I crashed. And what I learned was the same lesson every other manic-depressive or bipolar has learned. There is a hard side with genius. It is almost like what the ancient Greeks believed that the Gods give us unique things and talent with a huge price attached. And one of the prices that have affected every sufferer of this disease is both the mercurial aspect and the melancholy. Yes some of the greatest pieces of literature, art, music, and philosophy have been done by people who have suffered from this. And on the other hand, how many of us have looked at our wrists and wished you could put a razor blade or a box cutter on the vein, and allow your pain and heartache to ebb out, along with your life? And how many of us have had medication or alcohol to try to calm down the beasts in our head, leaving us comfortably numb?

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Susan I am a manic depressive, living on the East Coast of the US. I when I wrote this piece , I had full-time job, and make a good living. I am in my late thirties, never married. No children by choice, I can’t see myself passing on this illness to a child of mine. Something that I know I am most fortunate to do, considering my hospitalizations, and treatments, This breaks my heart because my biggest wish in life is to be a wife and mother. The only thing worse than my manic depression is my stubbornness, which I am convinced I can show everyone who thinks I should be institutionalized for the rest of my life, that I can be a productive citizen.

As I write this I just got out of a four-day depression. That was four days of my life where getting out of bed was painful, so I didn’t except to use the toilet and feed my cat. It was too painful to get dressed. I looked at the pile of laundry and its too difficult to do that. It’s been too difficult to do anything, even thinking. Instead I sit in bed, hyper sleeping and listing to talk radio as white noise. And think about how I wish I had an exacto knife so I could slit my wrists and end it. And not having the energy to do it. And cursing myself now, because tomorrow I have to go to work. I have one clean outfit left, because I was too depressed to get out of bed, and did not go to the laundromat. and right now, I am so sad I don’t want to be around anyone, I want to be a hermit. I don’t want to feel anything , no emotions, nothing. Instead I have to put on a smiley face and make believe that all is well, when I feel it isn’t. And I sit here now, typing and wishing I could go into manic phrase, because I need it. I want it. And the guilt that I have spent four days of my life, which I can never get back, thanks to this horrible curse or blessing in my genes, depending on your viewpoint. To me it is neither a curse or a blessing. It's my entire life. And I wish, yes I wish I was normal.

Perhaps that is why I don’t take medication. I tried them all, they made me sick. And frankly, there is something about taking those little pills that numbs your creativity. You lose that perceived edge. You want to be normal, the lithium makes your skin crawl and you can’t keep food down. I have spent days in a fetal position on the bathroom floor waiting for lithium to get into my bloodstream. Depakote makes you fat. And Depakote takes away the highs and the lows. And without the highs and the lows you would be human. Just human. Not invincible. Just a regular guy. I would love to be a regular guy. But I find when the Depakote normalizes into my bloodstream, I cannot think. I become like a stroke victim - unable to think clearly. I forget things. I cannot dream. I have no creativity. And I cannot function. I do not like living like a puppet or a small child with people telling me what to do and what not to do. And that is how I get on meds.

So to the chagrin of my shrink, I am med free. I have a suicide number here when it gets bad. I know to call 911 and tell them to take me to the hospital. My shrink thinks I am a walking time bomb, but in fact I may just be one a very small minority who cannot take meds. I know there are some. And I look at other people who can take them and live full lives. Unfortunately, I find these people few and far between.(Authors note: After I wrote this piece in 2002 I went back to meds in 2003.At present I am trying to wean down to the lowest dose possible).

I have just found out about my birth family. I have always known I have been adopted, but I never saw the medical records. And now I have. I learned for the first time my maternal grandmother suffered from this illness. A great great grandmother was institutionalized and lobotomized because of this. A great grandfather killed himself. I come from a long line of alcoholics, and several of my uncles as well as 2 grandparents suffered from this. Alcohol and manic depression go hand in hand. If you want proof, look at John Berryman. If he didn’t kill himself, his liver would have given out.

But the thoughts race. I do not like that. The doctor prescribed Ritalin. I felt a huge surge of energy and rode my bike for 20 some miles before I stopped. I felt sick. I went to a police station and they called my folks to pick me up. And called my shrink who said I was having a toxic reaction to Ritalin, very rare. So when the thoughts race, I feel as if I am possessed.

Suicide scares me. I know how easy it would be to take a razor and watch my life ebb out. I think about it constantly. I know if I screw up, I will wind up in the hospital. I do not want to wind up there again. So I have made a pact with myself, not to do it unless it gets so bad because if I miscalculate- the consequences is worse than death. The guy who wrote "Suicide is Painless", the theme song from MASH, had it wrong. It is painful.

I once had my stomach pumped. That was hell. No one said it hurts. On TV an overdose is treated as something glamorous. It does not hurt. Bullsheetrock. It hurts. Or if they cannot pump your stomach, they give you ipac- and you vomit for hours. Eventually you have nothing left in your system and you are still vomiting. For days afterwards with an OD you cannot eat. So they have you on an IV drip. And you cannot sleep because every 15 minutes a nurse comes by and pokes you and checks your eyes to make sure you are still with us. You have a heart monitor on. And the worst thing is, the doctors ignore you. They think you are selfish for doing what you did. You are taking up their valuable time when they can be helping someone else. And I cannot say I blame them. I feel ashamed and unclean by my stigma, by my illness. I know it's an imbalance on the brain, but I did not ask for it.

I wish I was normal. I look at friends and colleagues at work. They have spouses and children, and I have no one. I am going to grow old by myself. I am scared of that. That in itself is enough to make me wish to take my life.

But I know my moods will be hard for someone to live with. I know if I was a man, it would be easier for someone to put up with me, but in this society, men do not want to be caregivers. A man is not going to understand why I can write for 36 hours straight, breaking only to refill the glass of water by my right hand or to use the toilet. A man is not going to understand the urge I get at four in the morning to clean. Or worse, bake, or ride my bike. And someone, anyone will not understand the depression, the mind numbing, aching when its too painful to get out of the bed, to get dressed or talk. All you can do is cry. Fortunately the depression does not happen often, but when it does, its hard. Who wants to be around someone like that?
I don’t even know if I would want to be around me when this happens.

So here I am. A study in conflicts. On one hand, I hold down a professional, responsible job. I know if the company I worked for found out about this aliment, I could be sacked. I am a published author on the side. And on the other hand, right now I am acutely suicidal. I know I will not act on it , or I tell myself this. This aliment has caused me to be the black sheep of the family, I am not invited to any family events , weddings, funerals, etc because I was hospitalized. I was cut out of the family will on my second suicide attempt. This is all ignorance. I do not like people who are ignorant. What I have is no different than being a juvenile diabetic. It was something I was born with. I cannot change it.

All I can hope is there will be a med that I can use, so I can live a tolerant life. I want to be like everyone else.

And I want whoever should read this to know, you are not alone.

(Since I wrote this piece I lost my job, and have been ill from meds- as they try to find the right cocktail. I hope it will happen soon and I can get back to work).


Anonymous said...

Susan, keep fighting. I have been following your blog, and I want you to know that you have given me the impetus to start to share my story. There is hope. You are suffering because of your genetic background, just like so many of us. I truly believe this after so many years in the psychiatric field and my own struggle with depression. You are a great writer and an inspiration to many. I have every hope for you that the right medication balance will get you on your feet. If all it took was personal strength and courage, you would already be standing. Go easy. Hang in. I am rooting for you.

susan said...

Laine, I tried to leave a comment on your blog but you turned the comments off. I hope you can see this.

I am speechless that I started someone on their blogging, I know how special the three people who inspired me are to me. I feel very humbled. I added you to my feeds and look forward to reading you.


Andy Alt said...

Susan, reading your story inspired me to write a very large comment: It's at Discard bad genes, useless ideas, and harmful hypnosis

Anonymous said...

Thank you for reminding me why I need to be more tolerant, more loving, more understanding, and endlessly patient with my severely bipolar sister. It's so easy to forget sometimes how hard it is for her to just get through the day and so easy for me to get caught up in how difficult it is sometimes to live with her.

kimmyk said...

wow. what a story susan.
thanks for sharing this. we had a long talk at work yesterday about people "choosing" to be depressed.

i dont think anyone would choose the life you have described here that's for sure.

are you working now? and how is your med control?

keep your chin up....this was very insightful to say the least.

Dan said...

Believing I'm soradically bipolar somehow, I've composed the following that you might find some of which informative:

Information Regarding Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar Disorder (manic-depressive illness), if a disorder at all, has been defined as a major affective mood disorder in which one alternates between the mental states of deep and brutal depression and inflated elation- with the depressive episodes occurring more frequently. The disorder affects one’s cognition, emotions, perceptions, and behavior- along with psychosomatic presentations (such as pain with depressive episodes, for example). It is thought to be due to a physiological dysfunctional brain in one affected with bipolar disorder, yet Information Regarding Bipolar Disorder
The etiology for biopolar, while speculated on such things as genetic predisposition, still remains entirely unknown.
It is also believed that bipolar disorder presents itself when the affected one is between the ages of 15 and 25 years old. The disorder was entered in the psychiatrists’ bible, the DSM, in 1980. Also, bipolar disorder is thought to be correlated with creativity and accelerated growth of neurons if one is affected by it.
Research has determined that as many as 15 to over 30 percent of bipolar disorder patients commit suicide if they are untreated. Also, as many as half of those affected with bipolar disorder also have at times severe substance abuse issues along with this disorder as well. Bipolar patients are also often experiencing anxiety issues that vary, and are treated often as such. The disorder varies as far as severity goes- with some bipolar disorder patients being more affected than others. In fact, there are at least 6 classifications of bipolar disorder, according to the DSM.
Bipolar patients are thought to be symptomatic half of their lives- with depressive episodes occurring more frequently than manic ones. When symptomatic, bipolar patients are thought to be rather disabled, according to some. As many as half of those suspected as having a bipolar disorder are thought to have at least one parent with some sort of mood disorder, which suggests a genetic predisposition to the disorder.
The diagnosis has become more frequent recently. In one decade, the assigned diagnosis of bipolar disorder rose from being about 25 per 100 thousand people to being 1000 per 100,000 people. Most diagnosed with bipolar disorder are not diagnosed based on solid, comprehensive, or psychiatric review that is often absent of valid or standard diagnostic methods. Some believe as many as 5 percent of the human population may be affected by bipolar disorder- which includes as many as 12 million people in the United States.
A subjective questionnaire called the Mental Status Examination is often utilized when diagnosing one suspected has having bipolar disorder. Many believe the diagnosis has increased recently due to the progressive treatment options now available. It is an argument of increased awareness versus over-diagnosis.
Yet the diagnosis is vague, as children and adolescents are often absent in research with bipolar disorder. Many younger than 18 years of age are prescribed atypical anti-psychotics as first line treatment, which is largely not recommended as treatment options. In fact, close to half a million of those younger than 18 years of age are prescribed the atypical anti-psychotic Risperdal alone, it has been determined. The class of medications overall is thought to be prescribed to about 10 percent of those non-adults thought to have bipolar disorder.
While not recommended, one half of all those assessed as being bipolar are prescribed antidepressants, such as SSRIs, as first line treatment. It has been suggested that this class of drugs has decreased the risk of suicide attempts compared with other classes of antidepressants for close to 20 years. Yet tricyclic antidepressants have been determined to be efficacious in over half of those diagnosed with bipolar disorder- with a greater amount of research behind this class of drugs. Yet, entirely recognized treatments for bipolar disorder long term are lithium or lamictal- along with an anti-convulsant. Sugar intake is thought to vex the symptoms of one with a bipolar disorder as well.
Atypical anti-psychotics have been prescribed for bipolar disorder, which change some aspects of the brain, physiologically, as does the disease itself. In fact, one may argue the brain becomes more efficient due to both the disorder and the treatment with the atypical anti-psychotics. Yet many recommend the utilization of this class of drugs with bipolar disorder only if psychosis is present as well. As many as 15 percent of bipolar disorder patients diagnosed as such are prescribed an atypical presently. This class of medications may be particularly beneficial for those women who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder who are pregnant, however.
Lithium, which is essentially a very light metal with low density in which the salts are obtained for medicinal treatment, and an anti-convulsant are believed to be standard bipolar treatment, pharmacologically, studies have shown. This is due to Dr. John Cade and his examination with lithium and its benefits with those who have psychotic excitement close to 60 years ago. Lithium is believed to be both neuro-protective as well as having an anti-suicidal affect in those believed to be bipolar- and is viewed as a mainstay as far as treatment for bipolar goes with many who treat the disorder. Lithium is thought to regulate the calcium molecule in the brain, so this and valporate are historically the medicinal treatment options preferred for those with bipolar disorder.
Bipolar is difficult to detect, and is often diagnosed as major depression with many affected by this disorder. There is no objective criteria protocol available to utilize when assessing any patient believed to be suffering from any mental disorder. So such mental disorders that are diagnosed are ambiguous, yet that does not conclude that such disorders do not exist, such as the case with bipolar disorder.
Yet perhaps a health care provider should be very thorough and knowledgeable when assessing a patient believed to have a mental condition such as bipolar disorder,

Dan Abshear

Anonymous said...

Nice article you have their. I'm so grateful that i have this kind of attitude wherein i can divert my depression into a acceptable progress like instead of staring at the ceiling the whole , I can use it by writing songs and other stuff like that. Still you have a inspiring post.

Unknown said...

You know Susan, you are not alone.
You are an incredible writer and you should never give up on life.
I know it must have been extremely difficult for you but I read a few of your posts and you know what I see there?
I see HOPE. There is this light of hope in you. Just keep it ignited.
I do not share the same suffering as you but I feel connected to you in so many ways!
Keep on going and never look back at things that don't matter anymore. Everyday brings something new with it.
And, whenever we feel that darkness has swept all over, we know that the sun is going to rise soon.
Love and Blessings!
-Niyati :)

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