Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The 8th and 9th Step for both AA and Beepers

When I quit drinking, doing the 8th and 9th steps was easy. All the people i upset with my drinking saw me sober up abd after a year or so when I finally started this step, all of them said "No biggie". Most of them said the only amends I needed to make was to stay on the path. No one took anything from me, only to give me adivce to "Pay it forward."

They understood. My behavior was because of the grape.

With depression it's different. When I am depressed, I isolate. I take the phone off the hook and don't want the world to see me. I don't want to go to friends houses, I don't want to let anyone see me. While I isolate, it feeds on itself. It gets worse as it goes on, snowballing to something sinister. I'm not seeing anyone, why should I change my clothes? Why should I shower? Wash my hair? Brush my teeth, wash my face, moisturize? Even do my nails. Why bother? Hours turn to days, which turn to weeks.  It gets worse as I get more and more depressed, until I am hyper-sleeping and no longer eating. The last cycle lasted a month. By the time it's at it's worst, it becomes a Herculean task to shower, change clothes. Change the sheets on the bed. Move.

I have to move, keep moving. I lay in a hospital bed for 25 days last November and December when my kidneys failed and I lost the ability to walk because my muscles atrophied. I have to keep moving, I am starting to feel them atrophy. This is not good. My feet are swollen with edema from the kidney and bladder medications, and I have to wear T.E.D socks when I go to bed, so it's really important that I keep moving.

One of the things that makes it hard is because of my isolating, I've lost most of my friends in real life. "Friends" on line can only do so much for you. I know it's hard to maintain friends in real life, I've lost contact with most of my friends when the children came. I just didn't have anything in common with them anymore. And as much as I love children, being around them makes me uncomfortable, it reminds me of my own barrenness, and the dream I had  of being a mother, now lies in ashes at my feet. When my ex left me, I crumpled, part of me knew it was the best thing, and part of me knew that as much as I love being alone I needed someone in my life to keep me social. I could easily wind up being the only person on an island and love it. The sad fact of life is humans are social animals. We need other humans to survive. The ex was a social creature, he needed to be around people. I didn't, and I was often upset that he would invite people over when I just wanted to be alone.  

Like I said, the isolation adds to the depression. It feeds it. And like ice cream, you keep feeding it until you cannot stop. The depression then eventually transmogrifies into despair, then suicidal thoughts come in. If you aren't careful, you can give into their Siren voices. 

Here's where the 8th and 9th steps come in. The steps are:

  1. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  2. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
I've harmed everyone I know in real life by isolating. Not answering the phone. Not wanting to do anything but lie in bed, on the pity pot. I can apologize. 

Only this time it's not so easy. My family and friends know I do this behavior. A lot. They know there is something wrong with my wiring that I prefer to be alone than with others. They know, but don't understand, that when I am with a group of people, I am absolutely miserable, I want to be home, alone with the cat. Why should I ask forgiveness for something I know I will do again? 

So basically I'm left with this. There should be some type of 12 Step program for people with depression. I want to complete the 8th and 9th steps, but it would be in vain. Until I can beat this monster, the monster has me. Pills aren't going to cure it, but sheer will. Each episode gets worse and worse, longer and longer, and I fear the day will come, where, like Virginia Woolf's last words*, I will just exit stage right. That's not acceptable. To me or anyone else. 

*According to her suicide note,Virginia Woolf's last words were- "I feel certain that I'm going mad again. I can't go through another of those terrible times. And I shan't recover this time." 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Goodnight Irene

It seems silly to write this, but Holly the cat and I are fine. Lots of flooding in my neck of the woods, but to be honest, I've been through hurricanes Gloria and Floyd and they were worse.

It was Holly's first hurricane. She did not fair well, I am sad to report. The wind howling againt the windowpanes, upset her. Water came in through the windows, that bothered her. The thumderboomers made her cry and run around like a chicken with her head cut off, meowing pitifully.

She didn't stop until the sun came out about six am, by that time it was raining softly. She jumped on my bed, and fell asleep. It was only then I could fall asleep, every time I had tried she woke me up with her antics.

I was without power for about 18 hours. I am grateful for radios with batteries.

Now I know a lot of people are saying it was more hype than anything- that may be true. Weather models aren't 100 percent accurate, and hurricanes, can change their mind. I wouldn't be surprised if we get another one this year or next. What made this one so bad, is August was a very rainy month, the area got over 8 inches when the hurricane hit. So naturally the ground couldn't hold much more water, and hence, major property damage with many still out of electric.

In the end, I'm safe, my family is safe, as well as my neighbors and friends. I can't say that for one of Princeton's finest, Michael Kenwood, 39, a first aid responder who died in the line of duty on Saturday. My thoughts and wishes are with his family.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

On Hurricane Irene

Thank you to my online friends who are worried about Holly (and her Human), with the more than likely hit of Hurricane Irene in this area.

As  I write this, the hurricane is due to hit, the sky is gray, and there is a soft wind blowing. Holly and I have our food for 5 days- bread, peanut butter, granola, lots of bottled water and 15 pounds of dry cat food. I have batteries in my radios, and flashlights, and I'm not worried. Holly on the other hand, is a scaredy cat and dislikes Thunder Boomers.

In a worse case scenario, where I live will be flooded out, and I will loose power in a best case scenario, it's going to be flooded out with power. Personally I think my friend Anthony has it right with his blog post about the hurricane, it may be much ado over nothing.

Below is a list of numbers for anyone in NJ who needs them. I also added a NOAA widget on the front of the blog.   Please please, keep your pets indoors.

Photo curtesy of the

The Latest Psychiatric News in NJ (And My Thoughts About It)

New Jersey Hospital for the Insane, Morristown, NJ, archival photo

A lot has been happening to the psychiatric hospitals in New Jersey in the last couple of weeks. Here is a recap of what is going on.

Trenton Has the Highest Incident Rate of NJ State Hospitals.

Given the choice to close either Trenton or Hagerdorn, Governor Chris Christie announced his decision last month (July) to close Hagedorn in June 2012. An analysis by The Express-Times of state hospital data from 2005 through 2010 shows Trenton Psychiatric Hospital recorded the highest rates of violence and patient restraint compared to New Jersey's other four state psychiatric hospitals. In 2010 alone, Trenton Psychiatric had 26 patient on patient incidents with major injury, while the other four hospitals had a total of eight. Story continues here

Greystone Patients Boycott Therapy Sessions, Protest New Rules

Nearly half of the 432 patients at Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital have signed a petition or boycotted therapy sessions this month to protest new rules they say further limit their activities and force them to attend programsthat don't help in their recovery, patients and advocacy groups say. The changes at Greystone led to the petition enumerating 17 complaints ranging from "neglect of low-functioning patients to cold food to the medicating of agitated patients instead of seeking "a resolution to the problem". The report from the Newark Star Ledger is here. 

Marlboro To Recieve 3.5 Million For Improvements

Governor Christie has signed into law a piece of legislation that appropriates 3.567 million from the Clean Waters bond fund for sewerage infrastructure improvements at the former Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital. Even though the hospital is closed the sewerage treatment plant serves the New Hope facility, a new state of the art, multi million dollar addiction treatment institution. The plant's preservation will also insure the viability of any redevelopment or preservation that may happen at the site.

DMHAS Proposes To Reduce Partial Care Funding and Staff

Recent reductions in funds available to community mental health programs and to providers of Medicaid/NJ Family Care program services require reductions to existing reimbursement rates for partial care services in order to ensure that consumers can receive needed services in the most efficient and effective manner possible. Such reductions necessitate a corresponding reduction in program costs for providers of these services. Partial care programs will not receive sufficient funding to operate under current staffing ratios. Therefore, staffing adjustments must be made to ensure that the same number of consumers receive the needed services. The proposed rule is here. (As a PDF file).

My thoughts. There are five psychiatric hospitals in NJ. The worst are probably Trenton and Ancora, then Anne Klein. In a perfect world, there wouldn't be any hospitals, but if they are going to start shutting them down, Governor Christie should shut down Trenton first, and not Hagedorn.  As a resident and a paying taxpayer in NJ, I would love it if the Governor could call up some type of hearing where people who have been in these places could tell the Governor what WE THE PEOPLE, we the consumers want. Have a hearing made up with people who have been there and will talk about it. Put it on the ballot in November.  On the books it looks like closing Hagedorn is a good thing. But in reality, it's the best psychiatric hospital in the state. Close the hell holes first. Trenton is hell on earth, Hagedorn, isn't. If the Governor doesn't believe me, then take his car from Drumthwacket and do a road trip, it will take a total of twenty minutes. Then make an decision. That is my opinion, just my two cents. 

A list of the five psychiatric hospitals with adresses and numbers to call is here as a PDF file.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tales From A Therapy Cat- On Helping My Human On Depression

Meow! For those who are not regular readers of this blog- my name is Holly. I am a 12 year old tan tabby cat who lives with Susan. I am not trained as a therapy cat, but I take care of her and keep her alive. She adopted me when I was four, and considered unadoptable. I love her more than anything except when my head is in a bowl of tuna.

My human is just starting to get out of her depression. At least that is the word she uses. I don't know what it is, cats don't get depressed. We might get sad if it is a rainy day and there is no sunshine to nap in and warm our fur. We might get upset right before barfing a hair ball, or the mean doggie across the street barks at us.

All I know is my human wants to stay in bed all day. That would be fine if she was a kitty like me, but humans can't sleep all day. They have to get up and feed us, change our litter box and adore us, lest we let them forget we were once worshipped as Gods in Egypt. So I bite her arm or her leg, to get her up, and go to the kitchen. Those cans of tuna don't open themselves.

She stumbles around and feeds me, changes my water and my litter box. She makes a cup of coffee for herself. When it's ready, and she adds the sugar and cream, she sits at the table. I jump on the tabletop and look at her, staring until she pets me. She strokes my fur and I purr for her getting louder and louder. Eventually she smiles, and tells me I am the best cat in the world. She's feeling a bit better. I am happy.

When she adopted me, I did not purr. I lived in a house with a foster mother and 14 other cats. The other cats didn't like me, I spent a good deal of my time under the bed, cowering in fear. I would only eat when my foster human would walk me to the kitchen and make sure the other kitties wouldn't interrupt me. For years after mom adopted me, I would only eat when she walked into the kitchen. I still am partially like this, I need her to walk to the kitchen so I can eat, but I can eat now if she isn't with me. But I would rather eat with her in the room. It's comforting.

I bite her, not hard, on her arm or feet. Her feet are all swollen with edema, from her kidney medication. She is sad because her feet don't fit into her shoes, and she wants to wear something more than flip flops.

Usually her depressive episodes don't last more than  few days at a time. This last one lasted over a month. She just lies in bed, unable to do anything but stare at the ceiling and cry. I try to make her happy, I lie in the bed next to her, trying to snuggle, trying to get her to pet me to make me purr. I bite her softly to get her to feed me when my tummy rumbles. She doesn't get it. She won't pet me. Cats may be aloof, but we want to be petted and told we are wonderful. She doesn't want to eat, or play or do anything with me. It makes me sad. Even my cutest faces don't make her smile.

I feel bad for her. Then I purr a little louder, nudge her and meow. I bring my catnip mousie to her and plop it on her face. She moves closer to me, holds me and tells me what a good kitty I am. I follow her to the bathroom, and do my  cute dance in the bathtub. She finally gets it, and takes a bath. She feels better. I watch her clean herself off, put on clean clothes, and make her go to the kitchen. She feeds me, and changes my box. I eat some,wash the bits of food off my face and whiskers, and then run to the couch, meowing at her to sit down with me. She turns on the TV and we watch something, not really watching, but she starts grooming me, and tells me I am keeping her alive and she loves me.

She loves me. I love her. She starts to feel a bit better each day- just for a little bit, but each day the little bit lasts longer and longer, until finally this week, she's moving around on her own for most of the day, and taking care of herself without my help. That makes me happy, to see her happy. When she's happy she gives me hugs and when she goes to the store she comes back with more Fancy Feast and a brand new catnip mousie for me to shred.

I love her. She says that I keep her alive, I am her therapy cat. I don't know about that, but she also keeps me alive. She needs me as much as I need her, I love her as much as she loves me. She saved my life, I help her reclaim hers. That is all I can do as a cat.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

This time the depression is - laissez faire

(Warning, may contain triggers)

 I can see the sun rise from my bed. I can see the sun set. Other than to walk to the toilet, or feed the cat, I don't want to leave my bed. I don't want to listen to the radio. I don't want to watch TV. I don't want to talk to anyone on the phone, I don't want the sun to rise again.

I don't want anything. I've just stopped caring. There's no joy, no despair, no nothing. Just pain from my new bladder infection. I don't feel anything. I feel like one of Eliot's Hollow men- stuffed with straw, but not alive.

I don't exist. I don't care.

The cat hasn't left my side in several days. Her new thing is to lick my hair, I haven't washed it in three weeks. I haven't bathed in about 10 days. I guess it smells good to her, or she likes the texture. I don't know. I don't like it, but I can't do anything about it. She only leaves my side to bite me to feed her, water her, change her box. I make myself a cup of coffee, I want to eat but I don't care. I do it strictly out of boredom. I'm craving sugar but I don't have anything sweet.

I've had depressions before. I've had depressions where I couldn't move,  But never, ever one where I feel like I just don't care about anyone or anything. Never one where I just don't feel anything. I've felt numb before, gotten that way through alcohol or just overwhelmed by everything, I could shut myself off and power down. It's  Never like this.

I worked hard to get this blog started, it's always been my baby. When I started it, I promised I would try to explain what it's like to be bipolar- to get inside my head and really try to explain the dirty side of it. I can't write now. I can't do anything, other than sleep. It's like this is an abortion. I don't want it to die, it scares me as less people visit. I don't post every other day. I can't write. I just don't care.

Last month I got an email from someone who found the blog and said I helped them through a bad patch. It made me happy- that I was able to help someone. It gave me a kind of purpose to keep on going. The only way we can get better is to help and be helped.

Today is a good day because I got out of bed and fed the cat. I had a cup of coffee, some toast and a cigarette. The rain we have been getting had stopped and I could see the sun trying to peek out through the clouds.

Then I went back to bed. I feel like crying but my tear ducts are dry. I have nothing to cry about. Clutching my  stuffed panda bear to me, I curl up in a fetal position and feel like praying for the world to end.

Only I'm an atheist. I stopped believing in G-d when I saw things in a mental hospital. Humans don't do this to other humans. During WW II my father, 18 years old at the time was a medic assigned to help civilians at a concentration camp, after VE day. Somehow seeing that inhumanity made my father's faith stronger. Is it wrong to me to say I am jealous of my father? Or is it because not only did I *see* the dark side, I was a victim at the same time, unlike my father? He has nightmares about what he saw in the war- I have nightmares of ECT treatments and psychiatric drugs that destroyed my body, and my soul.

There's the rub. His soul stayed intact, mine was devoured. If you don't have a soul, you cannot believe in G-d. I don't believe in the kindness of strangers. I don't believe in goodness or kindness-or the other side evil. None of it exists. I don't exist. All there is here is the cat, and me, lying in bed, unable to move, watching sunrise and sunset. When my life is over it won't be measured by coffee spoons like Prufrock, it will be measured by scoops of cat shit.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Mind Freedom Alert:Free Alison Hymes from Western State Hospital

    Free Alison Hymes from Western State Hospital

       by Frank Blankenship

A short while back, Charlottesville Virginia resident Alison Hymes,
long time mental health advocate and MindFreedom member, was declared
incapacitated and committed to the psychiatric ward at the University
of Virginia, UVA 5, for 30 days. Unlike most states that would require
a court order to attain such a decision, it only takes the word of two
psychiatrists to have a person declared incapacitated in the state of

She appealed this decision to the circuit court, and on Friday July
29, 2011, at 11 o'clock A.M. she had a court hearing.

Although Alaska attorney Jim Gottstein, the director of the Center for
Psychiatric Rights out of Anchorage, offered his services as a
character witness, the judge would not allow him to testify. The
result of this hearing is that Alison Hymes has been committed to
Western State Hospital in Staunton Virginia.

Alison has been in and out of the university hospital over the last
few months while friends and supporters had managed to keep her from
being sent to the state hospital. She had received a kidney transplant
after lithium poisoning from psychiatric malpractice in the past
caused her kidneys to fail. It is feared that her health will be
further jeopardized by the kind of care she is likely to receive at
Western State Hospital.

I had spoken to Alison over the telephone on numerous occasions, and
on the latest call she sounded more in control of her faculties, and
less in need of any sort of assistance, than previously. This is
certainly no reason to send her over the mountain to Western State
Hospital. The problem is that every time she has gone to the hospital
Emergency Room with a physical complaint (kidney medicine side
effects, insomnia, bladder problems, etc.) rather than seeing these
problems for the physical problems that they are, the hospital staff
has turned her over to the psychiatric unit.

"They are not letting me see a kidney doctor, and I need Lasix", says
Alison. (Lasix is a drug used to treat fluid retention.)

Alison Hymes was once a very active and engaged member of the
psychiatric survivor and mental health consumer movement in Virginia,
and these institutionalizations have only served to dampen that spirit
of independence and resolve that she displayed.

I would like to see the old Alison back again, and this is all the
more reason to put pressure on these state officials for her return to
the community from which she has been forcibly removed.


       ACTION: Please Contact Virginia Governor and Other Officials

Alison urges friends and supporters to contact the Virginia officials
with expressions of outrage and indignation over the way she has been
mistreated and her case mishandled.

Sample message--you own words are best...

"Stop the forced psychiatric treatment of Alison Hymes at Western
State Hospital in Staunton, Virginia. She is in a fragile physical
state of health that is threatened even further by her conditions of
confinement within the hospital. What she needs is to see a
nephrologist, and not a psychiatrist. She would be better served by
treatment within her home community."



If you do one action, please phone or email the Governor of the State
of Virginia:

Governor Bob McDonnell
(804) 786-2211

web contact form:



*** Please call or write Virginia's US Senators Mark Warner and Jim
Webb. Their contact information is below:

US Senator Mark R. Warner

Phone: 202-224-2023 Washington, D.C.

US Senator Jim Webb
Phone: 202-224-4024 Washington, D. C.

*** You could also call or email the Virginia Commissioner of Mental
Health Jim Stewart

Commissioner Jim Stewart

(804) 786-3921

*** You could call or email the executive director of the Virginia
Office for Rights and Advocacy, Colleen Miller

Colleen Miller

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