Choosing me

I’m not sure when I started losing friends. Well, not losing them exactly, but having them convert from people that you see weekly to people that you may call, text, or message every six months. A lot of this is me, I’m an extreme introvert, and it is difficult for me to replace a faded friend with another. Also, I live in the small town South, and I am by their definition a “raging liberal.” Having lived in Austin, where my tepid support for the death penalty for serial killers, child sex abusers, and rapists labeled me a rabid Republican, it’s difficult to meet like-minded people.

It doesn’t help that I live in a small town South, and I am by their definition a “raging liberal.” Having lived in Austin, where my tepid support for the death penalty for serial killers, child sex abusers, and rapists labeled me a rabid Republican, it’s difficult to meet like-minded people. So, I’ve tried to connect with like-minded people online over the years and some of those friendships have been fruitful. Some have been stalker-level disasters, but most have just fizzled away to nothing.

Maybe that has always been the way that friendships have been with the relationship just ending by atrophy. Perhaps it is that one person pulls away and the other person is left wondering, what the fuck happened. Maybe it is none of those. I’m good at understanding other people, but the people in my life are a complete mystery.

Today, I did something that hurt so much that it felt like I had been punched in the gut, and I’m not sure how long that it’s going to keep hurting. I’ve been sick for so long now, and this friendship was not helping me get better. If anything it was making worse. So, I had to choose me. I had to let go. Maybe things will get better.

 

It has come to my attention that there are some people who have a poor understanding of bipolar disorder. I thought that I would take this post as an opportunity to clear things up.

Bipolar Disorder is considered a Severe Mental Illness

Bipolar Disorder, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and severe major depressive disorder are considered to be severe mental illnesses because they have  complex symptoms that require ongoing treatment and management, most often varying types and dosages of medication and therapy. They often have long  periods of remission, but medication failures are common leading to emergence of symptoms. bhevolution.org/public/severe_mental_illness.page

Bipolar Disorder is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act

In 2008, the ADA was amended to cover Bipolar Disorder  to protect people with bipolar disorder from discrimination in hiring, job assignments, promotions, firing, pay, layoffs, benefits and other employment-related activities. It states that if a disability causes impairment that “substantially limits” a person’s ability to handle “major life activities,” whether on or off the job, the employer must follow ADA rules in treating the disabled person.For ADA purposes, major life activities that may be limited by a mental health disorder could include learning, thinking, concentrating, interacting with others, caring for oneself, speaking, or performing manual tasks. Sleep also may be limited in such a way that daily activities are impaired. http://psychcentral.com/lib/bipolar-disorder-and-the-americans-with-disabilities-act/

So, we’ve established that bipolar disorder is a pretty serious illness. It’s not something within the control of the individual who has the disease. So, what can you do to help?

Helping someone in Crisis

  • Stay calm. Talk slowly and use reassuring tones.
  • Realize you may have trouble communicating with your loved one. Ask simple questions. Repeat them if necessary, using the same words each time.
  • Don’t take your loved one’s actions or hurtful words personally.
  • Say, “I’m here. I care. I want to help. How can I help you?”
  • Don’t say, “Snap out of it,” “Get over it,” or “Stop acting crazy.”
  • Don’t handle the crisis alone. Call family, friends, neighbors, people from your place of worship or people from a local support group to help you.
  • Don’t threaten to call 911 unless you intend to. When you call 911, police and/or an ambulance are likely to come to your house. This may make your loved one more upset, so use 911 only when you or someone else is in immediate danger.  http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=help_crisis

Help with Symptoms and Treatment

How can I help someone who has symptoms of depression?

Depression may cause someone to have feelings of unbearable sadness, guilt, worthlessness, and hopelessness. The person does not want to feel this way, but can’t control it. Make sure the person’s doctor knows what is happening, and ask if you can help with everyday tasks such as housekeeping, running errands, or watching children. Help your loved one try to stick to some sort of daily routine, even if he or she would rather stay in bed. Spend quiet time together at home if he or she does not feel like talking or going out. Keep reminding your loved one that you are there to offer support.

How can I help someone during a manic episode?

Remember that mania may cause a person to believe things that aren’t true, make big plans or life changes, spend money to excess, or do other things that may be dangerous. Sometimes a person might be more outgoing or enthusiastic during early stages of mania. Do your best to keep your loved one from doing things that might be harmful. Urge him or her to put off any plans to start a big project, spend a lot of money, drive a long distance, or anything that sounds dangerous to you. Keep in mind that he or she may insist that everything is under control. You may need to ask other friends, family members, or mental health professionals to intervene and help keep your loved one safe.

Encourage your loved one to see a doctor as soon as possible. Don’t make demands, threats, or ultimatums unless you are fully prepared to follow through with them. Keep yourself safe. If your loved one becomes abusive, call a friend, a family member, a mental health professional, or 911 for help.

What can I do to make sure my loved one gets good treatment?

  • Encourage your loved one to seek treatment. Explain that treatment is not personality-altering and can greatly help to relieve symptoms.
  • Help him or her prepare for health care provider appointments by putting together a list of questions. Offer to go along to health care appointments.
  • With permission, talk to your loved one’s health care provider(s) about what you can do to help.
  • Encourage or help your loved one to get a second opinion from another health care provider if needed.
  • Help him or her keep records of symptoms, treatment, progress, and setbacks—in a journal, in a printed DBSA Personal Calendar, or in the DBSA Wellness Tracker online or phone app.
  • Help him or her stick with the prescribed treatment plan. Ask if you can help by giving medication, therapy, or self-care reminders.

What if hospitalization is necessary?

Sometimes, when symptoms of depression or mania become severe, it is necessary for a person to be hospitalized. This might seem scary at first, but the safe, controlled environment of the hospital can help the person return to stability.

If you think your loved one might benefit from a hospital stay, find out all you can about local hospitals and the inpatient and outpatient services they offer. Try to do this before a crisis. Find out if his or her insurance or Medicare/Medicaid covers hospitalization, and if not, find out about community or state-run facilities.

If your loved one is open to doing so, suggest discussing the possibility of hospitalization with a doctor before the need arises, and making a list of preferred hospitals, medications, and treatment methods for use in a crisis.

While your loved one is hospitalized, be supportive by visiting frequently and bringing comforting or familiar items. Ask the staff questions; if theydon’t have the answers, find someone at the hospital who does. Don’t be afraid to be assertive about making sure your loved one receives the best treatment. Keep records of the people you talk to and when.

How can I support someone during outpatient treatment?

When your friend or family member begins seeing a doctor or therapist, show that you support the decision to seek treatment and ask how you can be most helpful. Learn about your loved one’s symptoms. Each person needs different kinds of help keeping symptoms under control. Learn about medications and what side effects to expect. Some people find it helpful to write down mania prevention and suicide prevention plans, and give copies to trusted friends and relatives. These plans should include:

  • A list of symptoms that might be signs the person is becoming manic or suicidal.
  • Things you or others can do to help when you see these symptoms.
  • A list of helpful phone numbers, including health care providers, family members, friends, and a suicide crisis line such as (800) 273-TALK.
  • A promise from your friend or family member that he or she will call you, other trusted friends or relatives, one of his or her doctors, a crisis line, or a hospital when manic or depressive symptoms become severe.
  • Encouraging words such as “My life is valuable and worthwhile, even if it doesn’t feel that way right now.”
  • Reality checks such as, “I should not make major life decisions when my thoughts are racing and I’m feeling ‘on top of the world’. I need to stop and take time to discuss these things with others before I take action.

How long will it take before the person feels better?

Some people are able to stabilize quickly after starting treatment; others take longer and need to try several treatments, medications, or medication combinations before they feel better. Talk therapy can be helpful for managing symptoms during this time. If your friend or family member is facing treatment challenges, the person needs your support and patience more than ever. Education can help you both find out all the options that are available and decide whether a second opinion is needed. Help your loved one to take medication as prescribed, and don’t assume the person is not following the treatment plan just because he or she isn’t feeling 100% better. http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=help_symptoms_treatment

Help with Relationships

Depression and bipolar disorder pose a challenge not just to our health, but to our closest relationships as well. As friends and partners struggle against the fallout of guilt, confusion, and anger, genuine affection and/or intimacy often become difficult to maintain. Below are several resources to help you better understand and navigate relationships with your loved one.

How can I let my loved one know I’m here to help?

Learning how to navigate in an ever-changing world that is still relatively new to mental health treatment can be overwhelming and sometimes isolating not only for those who live with a mood disorder, but also their friends and loved ones. The DBSA I’m here… campaign offers suggestions—for both people living with a mood disorder and those who support—on ways to open up a channel for communication and to say, “I’m here…” Listen to or read advice from other friends and family members on ways to offer help or start the conversation.http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=help_relationships

 

Walking again

Recently, I’ve noticed that I’ve felt less like I wanted to slowly shrivel up and die. That’s overly dramatic, I feel the first inklings of hope again. Aside from the almost constant migraine (thanks, weather) and feeling like the other shoe may drop, I’ve been able to approach daylight without fear.

The first thing that I noticed is that I woke up. I had been dozing the days away in a haze of tears, sorrow, and Supernatural. That is really a great show for sorrow and grief. The second thing was that I wanted to make a plan or a schedule of some sort, and I bought a daily notebook (not a planner). I wrote my goals for the next day at the top of the page and important information about that day. Then, I gave up on something that I knew would never work out and came to peace with it.

I realized that the next 5.5 months would be my best opportunity to get back into shape. I started exercising and eating better. As my week went on, I felt my backbone grow stronger and I made a promise to myself that I would no longer participate in drama. It drains me, unsettles me, and leaves me weaker and less able to take care of myself.

The doctor’s note

Earlier this week, my husband came home and informed me that a family member, let’s call them M, thought that I wasn’t sick because my doctor had not provided a note at my last visit updating my school and work that nothing had changed.

This is how I imagine that note would read:

Yes, workplace and university, she is just as broken and batshit crazy as she was two weeks ago. I changed her medication, it could cause insomnia or hypersomnia, but we won’t know that for a while. There is a good chance that she will start having one “jazz hand.” She seems to be having a difficult time finding peace and a quiet place to recover because unlike someone with say, pneumonia, people keep piling their anger and disappointment on her. That isn’t really helping the suicidal ideation, which we thought we had under control but is rearing its ugly head again.

It is in my opinion that she is not about to get her shit together at this time and should not return to school for Spring semester (see above) or see clients at work (the counselor should not be more screwed up than the client).

We’ll see each other in two weeks, and then two weeks after that until I feel assured that she’s not going to slit her wrist.

Your’s Sincerely,

My Psychiatrist

“Wait, Wait! Sir, may I have that it triplicate? I would like to scan and send it to the school and work. Then post on my front and back door.”

As for the family member who believes that their non-existent medical degree gives them the right to judge me, at the point that you would like to “prove” those mysterious illness recoveries that only happen on Tuesdays, I’ll provide you a doctor’s note. Perhaps one from my Podiatrist from 2007 explaining the cause of my plantar fascitis. I’m still upset about Byron partially eating my shoe insert.

Schizophrina trumps cancer loses to lupus

There was a time when I was ashamed of my mental illness. When I believed that it was my fault. When I believed that if I just pulled myself up by my bootstraps that I could will myself to be better. It would work for short periods of time, but it never lasted. That is because mental illness isn’t a matter of social depravity or willful disregard for others (and myself). It is a real disease that I live with, and bear consequences of for the rest of my life.

Let me ask you, would you ever say to someone with cancer that they weren’t trying hard enough if their medication stopped working? No, you would probably have a fundraiser, which I do not begrudge. But, from the perspective of someone who is holding on with failing fingers as their doctor changes medication after medication trying to determine the problem and fix it, this all seems so effing laughable. Then people in my life say things like, “you can live a normal life with medication, stop blaming Bipolar for your actions.”

And, I want to scream, “Bitch, please. I can live as normal a life as possible with medication, but it will never be normal. By the way, I’m not on the correct medications right now, my doctor doesn’t have a clue what those medications are, so I’m doing the best that I can in an unbelievably shitty situation. Some days I don’t sleep and others I can’t get out of bed. Some days, I read a whole book and write 10,000 words and others I can’t even listen to Audible.”

Instead, defeated, I say, “I’m doing the best that I can.”

 

The day with no goodbye

Thank you to my editor and co-writer of this piece

Today, I found out that a friend’s fiance died of an aneurysm while I was in the hospital. Reading about her loss backward, from when she began to heal to the first post of loss was surreal. The pain and anguish pulled at me and reminded me that we are all just moments from being unable to say goodbye.

People often seem focused on the last words said to a loved one who passes, but I find this to be slightly distasteful. What worry have you for the last words spoken if your love and relationship was strong? It would have survived cross words had they lived, so they certainly must forgive from whatever plane they pass to.

For Paula and Kate

Coping via abstention

Twenty-four hours a day is a lot of space to fill when work, school, and childcare are taken away. When the words, “you need to learn to take care of you” and “you need to learn your coping skills” are the platitudes of the day.

I find myself laughing because I have guided people through this process, and always ended with the statement that it will be their decisions what to include or exclude in the final version. I cried for 15 minutes today because I could not decide if I actually wanted to go on a walk or it was peer pressure.

So, tomorrow, I must decide where to begin filling my day and building a schedule. Luckily, there is an app for that.

In my office

In my office, there is a pewter chandelier, curtains with embroidered birds, a desk that I painted from the ugliest vanity known to man, and 1950s hutch that needed to be  reenvisioned. I sit in a big, comfortable chair that in no way goes with the room, but like my father’s 12th-grade bookshelf fits perfectly.

I rarely come in here since the Queen has been away. It feels sad and lonely without her running through. However, Saturday, I decided to take back my room. Since then, in my office, there has been written: a poem, an introduction to memoir, and this blog post.

I have to say that is not is not bad for someone who a week ago could barely get out of bed.