Sunday, September 26, 2010

schadenfreude? Rewritten. Revised

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 150 mg of 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.

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, CBT,DBT, 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?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Walking To California- Rerun

(Susan's note- I have 3 outside writing projects due by Friday. This is one of my favorite pieces, especially right after the anniversary of September 11 - It's worth a rerun. I hope you enjoy!)

This is too much. One month ago, I was sent home from work, on a leave of absence. The company said they would let me be out for up to six months , no worries.

I was Working for a company based in Manhattan, on Wall Street, that lost employees in the Trade Center, has been beneficial to some degree. Sometimes out of the most horrid of situations, a small, good thing, can happen, like the story with that title by Ray Carver. Being a rapid-cycler, even if there are no offices, and everyone is out in the open is ok, if someone walks by my desk and sees tears rolling down my eyes, as I stare into one of the 6 computer monitors on my screen, watching news wires from all over the world. People cry now. It is acceptable. It is blamed on 9/11 fall out.

It is March and Manhattan is healing. The stores and restaurants near Ground Zero are opening again. The new Mayor has been doing a great job of taking over the reigns left by his magnificent. predecessor. Only the stream of tourists demanding to see the site, the once majestic skyline now looking like a beautiful woman who has had her front teeth punched out, reminds us, as well as a daily report in the tabloids of another victim, being pulled out of what was once the World Trade Center. Time heals all wounds, and the part of me that was born in this great city, is amazed that is has become stronger, more unified from this.

I wish I could say the same thing for me. In some ways, I am stronger, in some ways not.

I have not been to work for a month. I did not plan on this, I went to the HR dept to complain about my new boss, and ask to be assigned to another department. Their response was to put me on a leave of absence.

The first few days were fun. I slept till nine instead of waking up at five. The employee assistance program was calling me daily to check up on me. I was hooked up with a new shrink, who seemed to be nice, an older man who strongly resembled the author John Updike. He listened to me, heard my story, and put me on a dose of Lithobid. And for a week it was fine. Then he would discuss raising the medication doubling the Lithobid and adding Wellbutrin to the mix. I started getting physically ill. But I was home, and that was great. I could stay in my pajamas all day on the days I did not have therapy and write. And as anyone who knows me , either from here, or in real life, my raison d’etre is writing.

I found myself rising and falling, going from very mild mania to very mild depression, but it was all good. I didn’t mind. I was coping. The depression wasn’t low, the mania, nothing more than what would happen to someone after a double latte at Starbucks.

Then it fell. Old suicidal feelings took over me. I haunt the train station here, waiting for a train to jump under. Too many people. I take the train into the city, and sit by the platform, waiting with the homeless, the prostitutes and the alcoholics. I talk to them. Maybe I don’t have things so bad. I have a roof over my head, and despite bad genes towards alcoholism, I have been sober for six years. I see all types go by, the businessmen and women rushing, always rushing in their 300-dollar suits and pristine leather briefcases. The traders, the lawyers, the vice presidents who are too low on the company totem pole to get a car service and take the train. The commuters from Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut.

My medication is adjusted, blood is drawn to be evaluated. I get on a first name basis with the lab technician who does this. I find out that she and I share a love for “The Simpsons”, and we discuss the philosophy of Homer (Simpson) while she draws blood 2 times a week. The lithium goes up again, that is not working, and yet a third medication, another mood stablizer is thrown in for good measure.

I get manic. I go to the doctor, in a manic state. He is surprised. Instead of coming in sweats and keds like I have been doing, I come in with a pair of linen pants and a silk blouse. My hair is perfect, and he has never seen me wearing makeup, or shoes, or even jewelry. I sit down, on the couch, crossing my legs, in a determined manner. All this is new to him, these are not the moves I make when I am depressed. And I start talking. And instantly he knows, I am not better. I am worse. I am higher than a kite.

I find myself calling a lot of old friends during this state. One night, I decide to call a very good friend of mine, who lives on the opposite coast. The next morning when I call him, I am witty, I am humorous. I am flirty. And I proposition him. He and I are good enough friends he knows something is wrong, the last thing you could ever say about me is I would do something like that. And although he is flattered, he tells me no, and talks to me. But I am off laughing, nothing can go wrong. Everything is lovely. I feel good. Every part of me feels great, it's like I am a Christmas Tree, all lit up and beautiful and I want to show everyone how bright and pretty I am.

The next time I see the shrink, he asks what I am going to do, and I tell him I am going to go to California to visit friends. That is ok, he says, but how are you getting there. Plane? How long do you plan on staying? Are you sure you want to fly out for what would only be a day or two?

I am going to walk. It’s only 3000 miles. It shouldn’t take more than a couple of days.

Uh oh. Warning.

“Susan, you know you can’t walk from New Jersey to California”.

I laugh. The doctor is sooo stupid! Of course you can. You can do anything when you set your mind to it.

“Susan, have you written anything lately”,

No. I cannot sit still long. Even sitting on the couch, I cross and uncross my legs rapidly, tapping my toes. I meet my parents for lunch later that day, I can’t sit still. I am ravenous, inhaling the food like I was a teenager.

I decide to clean the apartment, do redecorating. I wash the car. Finally one afternoon, after several days of only sleeping maybe two to three hours a night, I lie down for a nap. I am suddenly tired. I realize with all the extra exercise my muscles suddenly ache, and I start to count each aching one as I nod off to sleep. It is roughly four in the afternoon.

I wake up and it says six. It is still light out. Hmm. That shouldn’t be. I go to the kitchen, rummage in the fridge and see a school bus drive by. Huh? Six thirty ? In the sunlight?

I realize I just slept 14 hours. The thought saddens me, but I shrug it off, I was tired. I go to the kitchen table, glass of OJ in hand, and turn on my laptop. I have 40 some pieces of e mail. Wow, I have been asleep. I feel like I should write, and try to. But the thought of writing becomes insurmountable. Instead, I turn the button off, move the screen down, and decide, let me sit in the bed for a bit, and read. I have a doctors appointment soon, so let me just kill a few hours before I go.

I pick up a mystery by an author I like and start to read. I doze off, the phone rings. It is my doctor. I missed the appointment.
The thing is he calls me again, “Susan?” I don’t know anyone with that name. I look at my cat, and don’t recognize her. My head hurts. I’ve done it again. I crashed. The pendulum has gone back and forth, mania to depression. Always depression. Within minutes of my awakening, it goes back to that existential bleakness that becomes suicidal despair.

And during this time, I realize one thing. This time is going to be bad. Indeed, it is. Meds are readjusted, levels raised. I stop eating, and faint from it. I have to take a taxi to the doctor, and am admitted to the emergency room to get hydrated again. I beg the intern, please stop it. Give me something to make it better, or take me outside and shoot me. The intern is tired. There are real sick people here, not just some stupid person who cannot take care of herself.

Can’t they see that I am just as sick? True, I am not about to give birth, have not been maimed in a car accident, or bar room brawl.

I have not worked now for four years. I want to work!!

My heart is sick, my soul is sick. In the long run, bruises heal, stitches fade, bones mend.

A soul that is torn asunder by a chemical imbalance in my brain I did not ask for, does not heal as quickly, and the scars will be much deeper to assuage.

When will people understand?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Depression Like Peaches? Or To Drink or Not To Drink?

The last two months have been almost unbearable, impossible to write. Impossible to breathe, impossible to do anything other than sleep. Just sleep. But even in sleep there is no refuge. I dream of nothing but peaches. Peaches are in season. I smell them, I can taste them, I crave them. Yet I have no energy to get out of the bed, I am afraid to leave the apartment to purchase them. And yet, this is the only thought I have. I want peaches.

I know how to get them. There is a farm near me, that was featured on an episode of Kitchen Nightmares that is famous for it's apples and peaches. I can drive there and get a bucket. And eat peaches at home, dribbling peach juice down my neck, chest, have it on my fingers, in my hair, all over me. I long for this.

What is it about a peach? It is the title a wicked record by the Allman brothers. If you cut one open it looks like a Georgia O'Keefe painting of something that reminds you of a woman's privates, and is done absolutely beautifully. No doubt if a peach tree had been growing in the  Garden of Eden instead of an Apple tree, Eve would have bit that.

What really got me going this depression was the drinking issue. September 26 is my 14th anniversary. I have a little widget on my computer that tells me how many days, and hours, minutes and seconds it's been since my last drink. It's a wonderful little thing that helps ground me and keep me in the moment, and the few times where I did feel like slipping and I couldn't get to a meeting, I would go to the widget, and look in amazement. Today I am sober for exactly 5101 days. See? Amazing. Who wants to destroy that record?

Lying in bed, I dream of Peach Schnapps. Oh, I loved drinking that, as a shot, or in a drink. I would even add it to water and make ice cubes out of it. I want to drink worse than I ever had. And I know, if I get out of the bed, I will get dressed and walk across the street to the liquor store. I won't leave til I have a bottle of Peach Schnapps in my hand. Then it's home, pour a glass on ice, and get comfortably numb.

There is a saying in AA that your last drink will take you back to where you were when you stopped drinking. My last drink had me in a state hospital, tied to a bed for two days on a plastic sheet while I had the DT's and during that time my roommate took the blanket off my bed and tried to hang herself from the exposed pipe coming out of the ceiling.

I don't want to drink, but I can taste it. I can feel it, I can smell it.  I dream of it. It's the only thing I desire, an ice cold glass straight up on the rocks.  Somehow, somehow, I have to get to a meeting, but if I go outside, I will want to go to the liquor store. So I go into the living room bookshelf, grab the Big Book, and take it to bed with me. Read. I find a few AA forums and lurk in a few of them. And make myself a big glass of Peach tea, on ice. It gets me through. A miracle. It was the closest I've been to picking up since my first 30 days.

Miracle indeed. Going to meetings now, twice a week. It's not a lot, but it's all I can handle being in a group of people. It's my old home group. It's a good group, I would say 90 percent of the people in there have less than 1 year sobriety. I do not have a sponsor at the moment. I am looking.  In the end, one year, one day, 14 years, it's all the same. One day at a time.

I still dream of peaches. But now it's the fruit. And yes, I am eating one or two a day while they are in season, along with my beloved peach ice tea.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Watching TV, Family and other Musings

I have to admit when I am blue some things just cheer me up. The little things that remind me of childhood. Watching half an hour of Spongebob Square Pants in my bunny slippers. A cup of hot chocolate in the wintertime, with little marshmallows. Playing in the snow. I really love this time of year.

One of my guilty TV pleasures is a British Comedy called 
“Red Dwarf”, and another is an Adam Sandler comedy movies. Both these things take me away for a bit out of the present and into a funny place where I can laugh and feel safe. 

So this weekend I rented an Adam Sandler movie, "Click",  on DVD.  I had wanted to see it when it came out in theatres, but never got around to it. The story in a nutshell is nothing new, stressed man gets a universal remote control that makes him fast forward the boring parts of his life. Unfortunately, he also used it to fast forward the good parts of life, like the entire weekend, so he could work on a project and get that promotion. So while he is working in real time on the promotion, he is living his life on fast forward. Stick with me, the movie does work! 

Of course there is the standard epiphany, straight out of something an angel like Clarence would give- Adam Sandler realizes he has fast forwarded 30 or 40 years of his adult life up to the moment when he dies. (you cannot fast forward that!). And he realizes he has missed out on his children growing up, his wife becoming dissatisfied and subsequently divorcing him. (In hindsight, maybe it’s a GOOD thing not to recall your divorce!). 

His dying words to his son, who has become just like him, another work-aholic, is “Family comes first”.

Of course, there is a twist, and I don’t want to ruin this for anyone, but this movie, much like my favorite holiday movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”, is that something happens to you to show you that you really do have a good life and are valuable. 

But believing it is another thing. And realizing that your family does come first again, is another thing. 

Over the years I have whinged at psychiatrists, therapists and support groups that I wish I had an angel like Clarence who would show me I had a wonderful life. That every time I was on the brink of ending it all, Clarence would say “Susan, don’t! You have a wonderful life!”

Have I? 

This illness has robbed me of one thing- parts of my life. Like the Adam Sandler movie, I have chosen to fast forward when my life has gotten to hard for me to handle. My fast forward is called SLEEP. I have been guilty of hyper sleep, and when I don’t know what to do, I will seek the comfort of a good 4-hour nap. And by doing this, I believe I have slept more than the standard 1/3rd of my life away. I think I am up to a higher fraction. Maybe 40-45 percent. Life I cannot get back, life I have lost by not living it. Time I did not spend with my parents. Time I could have been doing volunteer work, going for walks to loose weight, reading or taking adult ed courses to keep my brain active. Even a second job when the money was tight. I chose the easy way out, by sleeping. 

Don’t get me wrong. Sleep is important. But not when you don’t need it, not as a mean as escaping, not when it is taken over spending time with your family because you don’t want to. 

One of the things  someone I use to know said, that once we feel better we need to take control of our lives, then we MUST work on recovery. We cannot think the meds, whether you take them or not,  are going to do all the work.  I am a member of AA- with a 14th anniversary sobriety date as of this past September. I know every day I must work at this, and recovery from my bipolar is just the same. I cannot wait for Clarence to stop me and say I have a wonderful life. I have to eliminate the middleman, and live it myself. It's hard. I just want, I just want Clarence at the end to tell me I did have a wonderful life.  But you know, in the end, Clarence isn't going to tell me that. The only one that will tell me that is me. I have to believe I am wonderful again. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Suicide Prevention Day, In Memoriam

September 10 is World Wide Suicide Prevention Day. Anyone who has read my blog knows I have attempted five times. It is by sheer serendipity that I am here, each method I picked was very lethal and it's just a matter of luck I was found in time or miscalculated horribly.

I've known and lost many friends to suicide, the two that haunt me is my friend Kevin who I have dedicated this blog to, and Kenny Baker, who I never had the honor to meet, but I feel I know through his wonderful mom and dad.

Both of these men died at the same place and both of them were far to young to die. Both of them suffered from terrible bouts of depression, yet were so alive they did so much living in their 26 and 18 years respectively. And both left huge holes in the hearts of those that loved them.

If you are suicidal, try to see if you can talk to someone. Be with someone.
Or call   1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

My bottom with depression. I've hit it.

From a personal letter sent this morning to a very good friend.

I tried yesterday and this morning to get rid of the fruit flies that came from not taking the trash out for 3 days during the heat. I cleaned and sprayed and sprayed again but they are still there. I don't know what to do. They don't bite or anything but they are annoying.

Going back to bed. I should go to Stop and Shop but I can't. There is no food in the house other than a pint of ice tea.

I don't know what to do. I've got to get dressed but I have no energy. I've hit bottom. I cannot go into details, I fear a 51-50 or what ever the equivalent  is in my state. I need to figure out how to start living again but I cannot get out of bed. I put out two bowls of food for the cat, two litter boxes. My sheets are soiled, I need to go to the Laundromat to clean them, but I have no energy. It's rock bottom. It's my lowest I have ever been with depression, and I have two choices left. To top myself off, which I fear because I don't want to die, and I know I would wind up a in a coma, or get better. I hit bottom 14 years ago in September with drinking and it's been easy to quit and get better.

Now it's time to do that with depression. It's going to be a lot harder. But I guess I needed to hit rock bottom and this is it. If it continues I will loose what ever family I have, what ever friends I still have left, my cat, my freedom.  My life. Everything. The price is too high. I just can't seem to get out of bed to do the first step.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I'm still here. Back to writing full force next week

I'm still here. It's been a rough month for me, family issues, and an extreme bout of suicidal despair the worst I have had since December 02. Back then I had ECT. This time I kept to myself, not telling anyone how badly I felt and purposely stayed off the internet not to write about my despair. I was too depressed to write.

The end of August is also a rough time for me, something horrible happened to me once apon a time the night before my birthday and to get to my birthday is always tricky.

I made it. Today is my birthday. I had a wonderful Chinese/Japanese luncheon with my parents and brought home a piece of sushi for the cat. Tonight I am going to sit on the couch and try to write and watch some TV. And try to start writing again.

Oh as you can see, I have a very big cake here, ya all feel free to stop on by for a cyber slice.
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