Tag Archives: Depression

Blogging Isn’t Writing

Especially because of the pandemic we’re experiencing, I thought it would be fun to watch movies that deal with them. The first one I watched made me laugh so hard I almost choked and died (no lie). Jude Law plays a blogger/journalist [Alan Krumwiede] who wants to break the story, and LaurenceMV5BMTY3MDk5MDc3OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzAyNTg0Ng@@._V1_ Fishburne as Dr. Ellis Cheever provided me with this gem: blogging is not writing. It’s graffiti with punctuation. One of the best movie quotes about blogging of all time and space. #fightme

I tend to think of it as emotionally vomiting all over the Internet, but what do I know? 😉

The movie has an amazing cast, and held my attention. When I watch movies, they generally run in the background as I do a hundred other things, but I actually sat down for this one. I am a huge fan of both Jude Law and Matt Damon, and love it when they work together. The Talented Mr. Ripley is a masterpiece. I also love Laurence Fishburne’s voice, and I could listen to him read the phone book and be extraordinarily happy with it. The movie itself is great, but what really pushes it over the top is the actors chosen.

I am sure I will keep watching disaster movies, because they are timely and generally have great soundtracks. I am a sucker for a well-composed score….. and isn’t it interesting how life imitates art?

Speaking of which, no show in recent memory does this better than Homeland. For instance, two or three weeks ago it was about negotiating a cease fire with the Taliban. Truly, with the exception of a Bipolar I case officer, this show is the most realistic I’ve ever seen.

Why would a Bipolar I case officer be ridiculous? The CIA would never let it happen. I think it’s probably a little unfair to discriminate against mentally ill workers that don’t leave Langley- with the exception that they have to be in treatment at all times- but field work would end in disaster, and not for the reasons you think.

If a Bipolar spy was captured in a third world country, they may not even have access to your medication. If they do, how likely would it be that they would actually give it to you? It didn’t even occur to me until Carrie herself got made, and descended into madness from lack of medication after getting captured by the GRU.604px-Apple_logo_Think_Different_vectorized.svg

That being said, a Bipolar analyst might be a good thing. Mental illness isn’t fun, but you gain a tremendous amount of ability at being able to see things others don’t, because you’re always thinking outside the box. Carrie’s murder boards are absolutely insane in terms of always being spot on. She can make connections that no one else can or does. That part is amazing in terms of mental illness visibility, because she highlights all the bad and the good. The problem comes in when analysts are required to be forward-deployed. I have no idea how that would work, but it’s a balance of pros vs. cons. I don’t have an answer, I just think it’s something that might come in handy, especially when Think different. becomes a thing….. because trust me when I say no one is better at it.

There have been a lot of people saying that Homeland has gotten predicable and boring, because Carrie is brilliant and then has a breakdown every season. The producers’ response was amazingly kind (at least to those who have it). Carrie doesn’t get a break from it. Why should you?

In terms of my own mental health, Carrie and I are very different. Bipolar II does not cause such extreme variance between depression and mania. The depression is full strength, but the mania is basically the Bipolar I Diet Coke™ counterpart. There’s only one time in my life that it’s gotten out of hand, and it was so memorable that if it ever happens again, I’m locking myself in my room and air gapping my computer. I will leave you to your own devices as to what happened, but it cost me more than I’ve ever spent… in fact, it reached into my five dollar life and made change… the scary part was that I was on my medication when it happened, and I thought I was going to have to start a whole new protocol.

The reason that’s always scary is that changing your medication is often trial and error, so I could have been through the wringer several times before getting right again. But as it turned out, my doctor added Neurontin™ & Klonopin™ for anxiety and left the rest alone. It thankfully, blessedly worked miracles. That was four years ago, and I haven’t had a recurrence, mostly because I’m so afraid of it that I will go to the doctor at the drop of a hat.

Nothing has really changed in terms of always feeling better, but nothing has felt worse, either. I think my ups and downs are just life, not my brain causing them. For instance, my disorder didn’t get worse when my mother died. I just experienced grief like a normal person (or as normal as I get, anyway). I walked around dazed and confused for months, not getting out of bed unless I had to. I’m guessing that particular reaction is common for people who have lost a parent or a spouse, and not an indication of something worse. Although I knew that the grief would be bad, I truly didn’t expect a fog to settle over my brain that would make me constantly feel as if I was on a heavy sedative, forgetting what and who was around me…. such as putting ice cream in the refrigerator. I leaned heavily (and still do) on the friends who have also lost parents, because they can tell with one look how I’m doing that day.

The thing is, though, now that it’s been three years I am still grieving, but over different things… like losing the sound of my mother’s voice in my head, or forgetting things I should probably remember, like childhood memories. As I get older, my first decade fades. Grief is an interesting balance between being grateful for the years you got and being cheated out of the ones you were supposed to have. It is a totally different thing when your parents don’t die in their eighties.

And, to be frank, you get irrationally angry at people who say the wrong thing, because they don’t mean any harm. They’re trying to be supportive, they just don’t know what to say. The people that do know what to do become precious- the ones that just say “I’m sorry,” because they know there are no words in the English language that will make things better. Bonus points for hugs or an arm around your shoulder. I don’t think I got enough affection at that time, because I just didn’t have as big a support system then.

The one exception was Prianka, because it was so amazing to have my best buddy pick me up at the airport when I landed at DCA from that particular trip. It was nice to relax on the way home rather than having to struggle with my bags on the Metro as I got lost trying to find my way home because I couldn’t think properly. If I had been driving, I would have realized I was going the wrong way at about Richmond.

All that being said, it was really nice to know that I was having an objective experience rather than subjective, because my feelings were so universal. Deep grief is not a club you want to join, but there is an amazing community to receive you……..

Especially other people who also graffiti the Internet.

ADHDDB

For years there was a running gag between Argo and me, called “The Argo Daily Briefing,” or “The ADB.” I thought it was funny, and if it’s funny once, it’s funny a thousand times. The bullet points ranged from agony to ecstasy- an entire spectrum of emotion. They jumped around so much that I finally started calling them “The ADHDADB.” The reason I thought it was hilarious is because the subject line was so #dclife. Now, you’re getting the same update, it’s just that the second A is missing (don’t you hate it when your A is missing?), and don’t think I’m not sad about it. At this point, it’s neither here nor there.

Let’s move on.

A few weeks ago, I had a “coming to Jesus” meeting with myself. I’ve been ADHD all my life, but the fight within me every day, the fight where my spirit and I wrestle without keeping score, is how to get it handled. 514r9aJ33SLIt affects everything, from my relationships to taking care of myself…………………………………… poorly.

I searched Amazon for a Kindle book that might help, and I bought “Queen of Distraction” (it was free with all my digital credits). There is a seminal work on ADHD that’s recommended by most therapists called “Driven to Distraction,” by Edward M. Hallowell & John J. Ratey. If you’re ADHD or related to someone who has it, it’s the first book you ought to buy, but it’s not the last… particularly if you are or the person you know is female.

ADHD presents differently between genders. Girls and women often go undiagnosed for years on end, simply because they’re not as prone to hyperactivity. Therefore, no one notices how differently their brain works except them. The difference is that when they notice, the internal fight is not “my brain is different and I have to develop coping mechanisms.” It’s “why am I so shit at everything? Why can’t I get it together?” This is because no one has noticed that they’re ADHD and it didn’t occur to them on their own.

I realized I needed to read some more books because I refuse to live a life on Adderall,™ even though I severely need it at times (severely). If Strattera™ worked for me, I’d be golden, but it doesn’t. I need more skills and tools, because the longer you’re on stimulants, the more disastrous the side effects become. For instance, my teeth aren’t much better than someone who’s been doing crystal for five-10 years. Actually, all of my medications cause side effects, and I have to choose between tolerating them or remaining sane. I will always choose mentally well over physically sick, but it’s annoying at best.

In fact, a lot of my therapy has been about frustration over this very thing. Until they started making several different brands of generic Lamictal,™ there was only one pill and I called it “The Blue Diamond of Death.” I think Dana might have come up with it originally, but too much time has passed for joke attribution. No matter who named it, I was still so nauseous that I felt like I’d been pregnant for over a decade.

I have done a trial run with going off meds at least twice, and it has always ended in disaster. I’ve just rendered myself useless, so down I couldn’t function. I will never be able to get off of depression medication, but ADHD is this whole other thing that requires management. I have tried to go off meds for it before, and I was unwilling to admit how bad it got, even to myself. I can’t “adult” properly when I can’t find anything. I can’t work in piles as effectively as I try to convince myself I can.

I am desperately hoping that it is because I haven’t done intensive cognitive behavioral therapy, and that I can develop habits that will help. As of right this moment, I have no habits to speak of (with the exception of habitually turning my room into total chaos), and it no longer serves me. If this doesn’t work, I will resign myself to medication. I think I’ve mentioned this before, that I like to do short courses so the side effects don’t catch up with me. But after years upon years of this, I had to admit that it doesn’t work. I am truly having a last-ditch-college-try moment.

Why hasn’t it worked in the past? Well, part of the problem is that with ADHD, you really have to develop enough drive to want to get better, because your willingness to actually sit down and read the book falters. As with all things, the first chapter gets read along with promises to read the rest later…… and later never seems to happen. We’ve started another fifty projects.

In fact, one great way to tell whether you have ADHD or not is your start to completion ratio. If your TO DO list looks anything like mine, it is chock full of things that are half or mostly done.

And one of them is getting my ADHD under control. The difference is that now I know this is a top priority so that the rest of my life can sail more smoothly. Up until now, I don’t think I had a stark clarity about how much it affects me. Trying to get by pretending to be as neurotypical as possible while also suffering alone doesn’t cut it anymore. Trying to manage myself with caffeine is far less effective than I used to think it was (it was a good start, though, and doesn’t give me appetite suppression). However, any medication I would take is much cheaper than a Starbucks habit. I tend to sip on coffee all day long rather than having a huge dose of caffeine all at once. I don’t need to get wired, I just need to keep the bus from going under 50.

I’m hoping I can eventually get my house in order- both literally and figuratively- without having to change my blood type to Folgers.

Wrinkles in Time

As I have said previously, I suffer from more than one mental illness and I have cerebral palsy. I have also said that in my reading, I have learned that cerebral palsy can create mental illness, so my physical and mental maladies are most probably related…. and always have been, because my CP was caused by what doctors call “insults in the delivery room.” To me, “insults in the delivery room” is a really nice way of saying “we fucked up.” And they did, but my mom & dad were too nice to sue. I was joking with a friend a few weeks ago that the only reason I wish they had is that the hospital should at least have to pay for all my ibuprofen. 😛

Mentally, I know that it is at least a chemical imbalance even if it’s not CP-related, because there is nothing in my history that would have created these illnesses situationally. Even my emotional abuse as a teenager wasn’t the cause. I was depressed and anxious long before that, as well as clearly ADHD by the way my IQ and my grades were inversely proportional.

As with all ADHD kids, it’s not about IQ. It’s that they can rarely handle things like remembering to turn in assignments on time, take coherent notes so that they make sense later, and create habits to make it better. I mean, I bought every single school supply I thought would help and had amazing ideas for organization. But I couldn’t stick to them for more than a week. I had so many calenders that were “Anal Annie” organzed when they started and the rest completely blank.

The “taking coherent notes” part was particularly challenging for me, because in classes like Language Arts and Reading, I was much better at sitting there and listening, later able to remember with excellent recall what had been said… but my teachers couldn’t stand that I wasn’t writing anything down, thus actually hindering learning. I could not multitask listening and writing at the same time, a disaster in math because not only could I not do two things at once, I didn’t understand what was being said, so even if I did have excellent recall, it didn’t translate into “being able to solve my own problems” (little math haha for you there).

By the time I got to college, I could type as fast as I could think. Instead of trying to decide what was important, I transcribed every lecture. That way, I wasn’t really multitasking. I was writing, and then I would “go to class” later when I was reading the transcription.

Believe me when I say that this was only successful because I type between 75-80 wpm, and 100 on a very good day. You can’t do what I did if you type slower than that, because you might be able to ask a college professor to repeat something once, but not constantly.

In terms of depression and anxiety, I remember clearly the summer between fourth and fifth grade that I was chastised mightily by both parents for sleeping all day and hardly ever putting on real clothes. I’m not sure whether they knew I was depressed, or whether they thought I was acting typically for a person my age during school vacation. As a future fifth-grader, I didn’t know words like “depression.” I just knew I didn’t feel good a hundred percent of the time. I resented the hell out of literally being dragged out of bed and into real clothes, going to the library or whatever else it was that was planned for me that day. I was okay once I got there, but the will to go was non-existent.

What I Know for Sure™ is that when I am on a down, as an adult I have exactly the same symptoms. I can and do keep all the appointments in which my presence is required. With anything that is optional, I am usually in bed…. sleeping not because I am tired, but to escape. It is the easiest way for me to receive peace. In fact, I am generally not asleep in the classic sense, but wandering through my subconscience, trying to work out whatever it is that’s setting me off.

So, to put it mildly, emotional abuse didn’t cause my mental illnesses, just heightened my reaction to it. For people with mental illness, especially ADHD (I am not hyperactive, but the DSM does not differentiate anymore), sensory perception is higher than it is for neurotypicals, often to a large degree. What might have been contained in a fireplace burned down a forest.

But if I had to pick an absolute worst part of being so neurologically atypical, it would be my relationship with time. The only thing I remember with startling clarity is how long it’s been since my mother died. Everything else is malleable. It’s lucky that I was born in Texas, because I learned early that “the other day” will cover a multitude of sins. In Texas, “the other day” could have been last week or 20 years ago.

It’s not that I can’t remember dates by rote memorization. It is “how long has it been?” or “how long in the future is that?” My memories seem to be organized by how much I think about them. If something touched me/cut me deeply, it feels closer. If it wasn’t that important, it’s further away. I can easily mistake something that happened years ago for something that happened last week, and vice versa.

Things also change places in the Z-axis of my mind. If I haven’t thought about something in a while, it goes further back. Then, the memory pops back up and all of the sudden it’s like it happened yesterday.

That is the main reason I think I will never truly get over some of the things that have happened in my life, whether it was by my own hand or someone else’s. Some days, hurt is so far away, and some days, it is extremely loud and incredibly close.

Joy works the same way. Sometimes things that have made me over-the-top happy seem like it was just yesterday, when in reality, it was years ago. I am grateful for social media in this respect, because my Facebook posts and shares are all timestamped, as well as my blog entries. Timestamps are the one indelible thing that help me understand linear time.

The rest is just wrinkled.

Good & Plenty

I haven’t been writing a lot lately, and I think that’s because I haven’t been writing lately. Once so much has happened, you don’t even know where to start, so you get overwhelmed. And then you think, “I’ll blog tomorrow” ad infinitum amen.

Finally, today is the day, inspired by the candy box next to my desk.

I didn’t really become a fan of licorice until I became a singer, and then a cook. Singing because just about every throat recovery tea out there has anise in it, and cooking because roasted fennel is divine. And then I branched out into liking ouzo and Sambuca, especially good in black coffee.

Finally, finally I liked the candy, from the twisted braids to jelly beans to allsorts to the aforementioned little candy-covered bites, although I find that they are the best when they are fresh. Once the candy coating dries out, they just don’t taste the same. The best Good & Plentys have the texture of a Hot Tamale. With fresh ones, I pour a huge mouthful in so I get the maximum amount of sugar to licorice ratio. A serving is 28 pieces and I’m almost certain I’ve done it in one bite. My only wish is that they’d make them in flavors, particularly peach.

In Portland, there used to be a Greek restaurant downtown that you couldn’t miss because there was a huge purple octopus on top. Dana and I wandered in for Happy Hour, and their specialty drink was a “Greekarita,” frozen peach bellini and ouzo. It is one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth, thus my longing for peach flavoring to be added to the beauty that is the Good & Plenty sugar coating. When the restaurant closed, I tried making my own, to varying degrees of success.

But now that my cocktails are limited to every once in a while and we don’t keep (much) alcohol in the house (usually old because it’s left over from parties), I haven’t tried here. I don’t even have a martini set anymore, or even the glasses, because even though I love the classic (gin, not vodka, let’s not get stupid), I just can’t see spending the money when 100% of the time, I only get a drink when I’m out with friends, and even that is rare. I am much more likely to enjoy sugar free soda or iced tea with lemon and Splenda, plus the blessing of free refills (hey, if they’re gonna charge me over two dollars for something that costs less than a quarter to make, I’m gonna have five).

I just wish that more restaurants carried sugar free options that didn’t begin and end with Diet Coke. Not that I’m not a fan, I just wish I had more than one choice. For something a tiny bit different, I go to District Taco or Cava, because both have sugar free cola that’s a little higher-end. District Taco has Boylan’s, and Cava has Maine Root Mexicane in both regular and Splenda (if you’re not opposed to regular soda, try the blueberry…. plus, Cava has “the good ice.”). Even the ubiquitous Chipotle has both Diet Coke and Coke Zero, which is at least something.

Quick Coca-Cola fact:

The reason Diet Coke and Coke Zero taste so different is that Diet Coke is based on Tab (come on, it was 1982), and Coke Zero is based on Coke Classic.

For that reason (and now that my mother is dead and can’t wring my neck for saying so, I prefer Diet Pepsi, which she always thought tasted like moth balls and called it “that Pepsi mess.”). Of course, I have more variety at home, I just mention Diet Pepsi because that’s usually the only choice in restaurants that have Pepsi contracts (sometimes I am blessed with Diet Dew or Dr Pepper). I’m like, the one person in the world where Pepsi actually IS okay, at least in the South.

My actual favorite is Cherry Coke Zero, but you can usually only find it at the grocery/convenience stores and no one I’ve found has it on tap unless you find a restaurant with a Coca-Cola Freestyle…. but if I find one of those, I’m getting Cherry Fanta Zero).

I know this entry is starting a bit different from the usual emotional vomiting I normally do in this space, but I haven’t used my writing muscle in public very often lately, and I have to start somewhere.

The funniest thing that’s happened recently is that Facebook has added a dating app inside the regular mobile app, and since my relationship status is single, I was automatically added to it as a beta tester. So, this woman reaches out to me and in her pictures portion, there are only pictures of Jesus with writing in Spanish.

So, I sent her this message from my iPhone, and then I’ll translate:

Hablas ingles? Mi espanol es muy mal por que solamente estudio dos anos en escuela (no ~ hahahahahaha), y ahora tengo quarenta dos anos.

“Do you speak English? My Spanish is very bad because I only studied two years in school (no ~ hahahahaha), and now I have 42 years.”

Here’s why this is truly hilarious. Años in Spanish is “years.” Anos in Spanish is “asshole,” or anus if you’re not using slang.

So, what I ACTUALLY said is that I studied two assholes in school and now I have 42 assholes. The reason for this is that in English, for age you say “I am 42 years old.” In Spanish, it’s “I have 42 years.”

Really must check to see if special characters are on the emoticons keyboard……. didn’t think of it then, though.

Technically, this is not entirely true. I did study Spanish for two years in high school, but when I was a junior and senior in high school, I went on three mission trips to Reynosa, Mexico, across the border from McAllen, Texas (two between each school year and one at Christmas).

Immersion helped me more than anything else, because it’s amazing how fast you learn when you have no other choice. And while I didn’t know much Spanish, I knew more than anyone else in my group, so I became the de facto translator……………….. again, often to hilarious results, but God bless the Mexican people because they didn’t laugh at me, ever. Just gently corrected me, even when what I said should have made them laugh so hard they could have died from asphyxiation.

I enjoyed Reynosa very much, but the entire area was very, very poor and I couldn’t see myself living there because it was hard to find a proper house. Most of them were poorly put-together shacks with tin roofs…. of course, this has probably changed since I was last there, but if I did choose to relocate to Mexico, I would probably settle in Ensenada (please click on this link- it is gorgeous).

I didn’t go there on a mission trip- my stepmother took our whole familyactividades-principales_baja-california_ensenada_visita-la-bufadora_01 and all her employees on a trip that left from Long Beach, California and went to both Catalina Island and Ensenada. Though Catalina Island was extremely pretty, Ensenada was life-changing for me. It is a place that is both beautiful and practical.

Lots of restaurants and things to see (my favorite was La Bufadora, the second largest marine geyser in the world, capable of shooting water 60 feet in the air). It is also easy to speak English, because lots of Americans retire as ex-pats to Baja California when their medical costs in the United States get too high (ahem). However, I definitely would not suggest moving there speaking only English, because there are certain parts of the city where English is prevalent, and others where English will only get you a “that dumb American” look.

The weather is roughly the same as any city on the Pacific Coast. Our trip was during Spring Break, and it was in the mid-60s most of the time….. basically the Mexican Portland, Oregon. That didn’t stop us from snorkeling, though, despite a huge mass of jellyfish.

The absolute biggest thing that would keep me from really moving there is that I wouldn’t want to give up my United States citizenship (hard for me to live in a place I can’t vote).

I also believe that the United States will have universal health care eventually, and maybe even sooner than I think. Medicaid is already expanded to low-income people in some states, and either that will be broadened or the U.S. will come up with something similar and yet new.

I am all for universal health care because of my mental state. Most private insurances have no problem covering a new patient exam and 15-minute med checks with a psychiatrist, but when it comes to therapy, you usually get 13 sessions a year and then you have to start paying out of pocket. Universal health care says you can have as many medical and mental health appointments you need, rather than are allotted.

For part of the time, I was a psych major at University of Houston, then changed my major to political science because psychology changed me too much. I kept analyzing and trying to diagnose people in my head, and my speech reflected it. To put it mildly, it wasn’t pleasant for anyone, even when I was absolutely right.

I met a psychiatrist named Justin at a winery- we struck up a conversation while waiting in line for a taste. He said something so funny I will never forget it (this was almost 10 years ago). He put his finger horizontally on his lips and buzzed to indicate full-on crazy and then said, “you won’t find that in the DSM, but you know it when you see it.” It was a good thing we were just in line and not actually drinking, because either I would have choked to death or wine would have come out of my nose.

But by the time I decided to switch majors, I already had plenty enough hours for a completed minor. I bring this up because the most important thing I learned actually came from the overview class, Psych 101. It’s that medicine and therapy are two sides of the same coin, inextricably interrelated. For people with situational depression, lifting their mood will help a lot, but talking through the situation with an outside, objective person is what gives them the coping mechanisms to be able get back off the medication altogether.

For people who struggle with chronic illness, they do not have a choice. Medication is a given, because you can’t talk away a chemical imbalance. Going to therapy will not suddenly make your brain create the right amount of neurotransmitters. It’s different for everyone- for some, it’s seratonin. For others, it’s dopamine or norepinephrine.

When you have a chronic mental health problem, therapy is mostly about dealing with it, from anger that you’ll always be this way because there is only treatment, no cure, to the inevitable fallout from people with normal brains who just can’t understand why you’re so different, and why you tend to say things that make no sense in their brain and perfectly legitimate in yours. Communication is a large chasm, and you tend to beat yourself up mightily at the ones they’ll never remember and for you, it’s been four years (20?) and you still feel embarrassed. It also happens more frequently than you would think that a friendship between a neurotypical and a mentally ill person doesn’t work out, because you just don’t see eye-to-eye on what seems like everything…. or, the mentally ill person is having a rough time and is spiraling out and the neurotypical person mistakes that for how you’re going to be all day, every day, and they just can’t handle it.

You march to the beat of your own drum, because you don’t have a choice, and people are generally (but not always) terrible at making allowances because since they’ve never experienced depression/bipolar/ADHD/schizophrenia/etc. they don’t know what allowances to make, and most of the time, we don’t know exactly what it is we need, anyway… or at the very least, can’t put it into words that actually translate into action on their part.

In my case, things that are difficult for most people are easy for me, and things that are easy for neurotypicals get me overwhelmed and flustered…. for instance, creating habits that will help me take care of myself. I am not the kind of person that does well with managing laundry or finding anything. Well, actually, I am great at finding things, just not the thing I’m looking for at the time (oh, there’s the headphones I lost three months ago. Now where are my keys? I JUST had them in my hand.) Yesterday I spent a half hour looking for Bluetooth headphones that were around my neck.

Romantically, once the honeymoon period is over, I have trouble with those relationships. Being with a neurotypical person seems like a good choice because two crazy people in one relationship leads to bad patterns that feed off of each other for years on end, and neither one of you realizes that it just keeps getting worse. But “seems” is correct, because you walk on eggshells with a neurotypical trying not to let your crazy spatter drive the person away, or what’s even harder to admit, bringing them into your own dysfunction so that their normal changes, and your fucked up becomes their fucked up and there’s no one to say “this is bad. We need help.”

I don’t need or want anyone to enable the bad moods and behaviors I experience on my own, and I also don’t want to have to worry about my own mental health as well as my partner’s, because all too often, I stop taking care of myself and all my attention goes to “helping” the other person (too much of an empath for my own good)….

If you have a mental illness, the only one that can truly help you is you. Trying to lift someone else out of depression is like helping a little old lady cross the street when she doesn’t want to go, so she’s banging your head with her purse the whole time. But it’s your own fault, really, because if something needs to change, they have to want it. They can’t/won’t help themselves (depending on the level of spiral) just because YOU need/want it. The worst feeling in the world in a relationship is watching someone go through something in which you feel totally and completely helpless. The only thing you can do is keep yourself strong so that you can deal with what life is handing you, or get out of the relationship altogether because you can’t just keep living that way. You both get resentful at each other (maybe not at first. Empathy comes first.) because one person feels trapped and the other person feels nagged, because it doesn’t matter how you meant it. Perception is everything. Sometimes, your depression makes you feel so low that any suggestion that might make you feel better actually comes across as “you’re not doing enough. You are not enough. You are a bad person because you cannot do these things.” When depression is bad enough, the want to feel better goes away completely, because you just don’t care whether you live or die. Most mentally ill people do get suicidal ideation (normal, especially when embarrassed). Fewer people get to the point where they’re making plans, and even fewer get to the point where they’re invested in carrying them out and start preparing). However, those numbers are on the rise. But for the most part, mentally ill people don’t actively want to die. They just don’t care.

Whether they’re alive or dead is neither better nor worse…. keeping in mind that they are forgetting the repercussions for the people around them, only the way they feel because depression is inherently myopic. It’s acutely important to let mentally ill people know they matter to you, because depression uses the best lies:

  • No one will miss me.
  • You’re never going to get any better. Life is always going to look like this. It’s just going to be one long slog of trying to find medication that works… for a while, and then you have to do it all over.
  • Even people who do love you are also exhausted by you…. and you don’t want to be known as the burden of your family and friends your whole life, do you?
  • You are completely worthless. You bring nothing to the table.
  • You’re going to get fired because no one understands you…. that the hardest part of any job is getting there, because it’s just another day of trying to fit into a culture where everyone does everything the same way and can’t understand why you can’t “because it’s so easy anyone could do it….”

For most mentally ill people, bright ones, anyway, high level thinking is where they excel and mundane tasks are where they fall flat on their faces. They’re great with excellent ideas, not so much with the execution.

I think this is because high-level thinking is one of the few jobs that has the ability to cut through the depression, because it has positive consequences. Low-level jobs only have negative ones. People who can barely spell or add are thought of as so much smarter than you and not because they are. It’s because they can do these mundane tasks quickly and efficiently and you are the absolute dumbass who can’t.

But in any company, you start at the bottom, and by the time you get to high-level thinking, you’ve been fired long before that….. because you could possibly revolutionize or motivate or create something that would really contribute, but they hated you after six months to a year of saying, “no, we don’t do it that way.”

And in low-level jobs, the reason you’re so different is that your mind is eating you from the inside out. Rote is the enemy of depression, because lack of mental stimulation pulls you back into the drizzle of your mind. There are rarely thunderstorms, it’s just constantly overcast, with rain heavy enough to need an umbrella. You don’t care enough to find yours, and no one in any office will offer you one.

For Bipolar I & II people, coworkers don’t understand your personality…. how you can be so cheery for weeks at a time and then something will set you off and now you can barely make eye contact. So, not only do they think you’re a dumbass, most of the time they don’t even particularly like you…. but that’s okay, because you don’t really like you, either.

If you’re wondering why this entry jumps all over the place, my ADHD brain works in tangents. One topic starts a tangent, and that one branch starts ten more, all in different directions. It’s as if my brain is a tree with no trunk. I suppose it’s a good thing, because not everyone reads this site for the same reason. For instance, it is surprising just how many people visit my site when I mention Diet Coke.

And on that note, I think I’ll end here. You’ve got (good &) plenty to read by now.

 

Waking Life

I am drinking a mediocre cup of coffee; it’s my second one if I’m being honest. That probably doesn’t sound like a lot, but the mug is 16 oz. I normally drink iced green tea in the morning because DC summer has set in, so I’ve got a bit of a buzz going. Though it’s basic, I put four Splenda in it, so at least it feels like dessert going down. I normally add a plant milk- coffee tastes better with fat- but I’m out. I need to go to the grocery store, just one of the things I need to add to my growing To Do list because I’m ready to get out into the world again.

It startled me when I realized I hadn’t written anything since the end of May on this web site. I get so busy with e-mail and Facebook that I forget to be a writer in public. Facebook is easier because I can write in short snippets and it’s not a large, blank page staring back at me.

I have a different “voice” over e-mail, and I like who I am when I write them. I tend to make them weighted because I can let myself go with one person or a group of friends. It’s not so easy with my hundreds of subscribers and thousands of casual readers. It becomes intimidating when I think of it that way, so I need to go back to framing it as writing only for myself, an e-mail from me to me.

Since I’ve come back from Texas, my depression and anxiety has flared up to an enormous degree. It’s another piece of the puzzle when I think about why I haven’t been eager to write (or engage, really). It’s frustrating because with mental illness, I can’t point to where it hurts and I can’t vocalize what will make me feel better. I legitimately have no idea. I have tricks to fool myself into a brighter mood, like putting on gangsta rap with a great hook and lots of bass, or at the other end of the spectrum, ABBA or Aqua.

Today, it’s the Argo soundtrack, because I’ve been writing to it for years. It helps to go back to music that encourages body memory, the feel of typing into the night even though it’s 11:00 AM. Night is when I’m the most vulnerable, which I feel is universal. Conversations that happen when the sun go down are different than the ones had when it comes up.

For instance, during the day I am unlikely to admit what I’m really pondering. It is the barbed wire fence around my emotions, and how much I’m willing to take it down depends on the day. I get the most defensive when it comes to my lack of a love life, because I  think I have good reasons for not wanting someone to walk around in my inner landscape, but as more and more time passes since my disastrous break up with Dana, those reasons don’t seem good enough for other people. I grow weary of people asking why, as if it’s their right to know and try to the be judge and jury of my answers. I want to live life at my own pace, which is infinitely my choice. I just want to tell people, in the words of an old Texas gun safety video, “leave it alone. Don’t touch it. Call an adult.”

My reasons fall in many percentages, but the largest piece of the pie is that when two adults are in a relationship, it is codependent unless both people are strong in themselves. One of my favorite quotes from Khalil Gibran in The Prophet, paraphrased, is that couples should be like trees, not entwined at the trunks, but the branches. I am not that person yet, and I currently have no indicators as to when it will change. Because I am incredibly sapiosexual, I will be sparked eventually by the way someone thinks and interacts. It has happened three times over the last five years, but something hasn’t been right in every case, mostly timing. For instance, my admittance of feelings led to the conversation of “I’d totally be down for dating if I hadn’t just started dating someone else.”

Just to be clear, I thought I was admitting feelings to someone who was single. It wasn’t as if I knew she was with someone else and didn’t care because my ego was big enough to think she would jump at the chance to date me no matter her status. I also didn’t think of her “that way” until Samantha saw us together and said we looked cute…. and then, of course, I had to overthink about it before I said anything, and by then it was too late. This was about a year and a half ago, and since then I have been battling the up and down of depression medications, and if you’re taking them as well, you probably know what I mean. For the uninitiated, the downs mean lack of lust for life, much less anything else. However, I do enjoy being chilled out and relaxed, and that more than makes up for lack of a partner.

I also know that when someone does tilt my vision their way, it probably won’t come through searching profiles on web sites. Every date I’ve been on by doing so felt like a job interview, stiff and uncomfortable to the point of nausea. I just feel done when it comes to internet dating. I’m over it.

I am the happiest when going out alone or with close friends, those that have become as close as siblings while I wait out disinterest. When I’m alone, I am very good at chatting up strangers, so it feels like I’m meeting up with friends I haven’t met yet, as opposed to being insular. I am very much in love with my own thoughts, and I want to wait until I feel that way about someone else’s. I also feel that waiting is appropriate until I don’t feel like my crazy spatter is going to stick to their clothes. That seems like cruel & unusual punishment.

The smallest piece is not feeling ready to compromise or share. I enjoy not having to check in with anyone about where I’m going or when I’m going to be home. I don’t want a relationship to feel like an obligation instead of a joy. The woman I picture is drop dead gorgeous, smarter than I am, and has respect for the fact that we will not share everything. There is a box inside me that I will never unlock for anyone, for any reason. Lack of privacy or jealousy on her part would ruin everything.

In short, I would give my heart to the right person, but I’m not going to settle for the wrong one, even if she is a basket of hotness. More than one person has been worried I’ll be an old lady with seven cats.

Well, what in the hell is wrong with that? I wouldn’t necessarily choose it for myself, but I’d choose it every time over being irritated with someone else. As I have said before, relationships are a lot of work, but they shouldn’t feel like trying to nail a square peg into a round hole every damn day…. and those relationships are worth the wait.

As is, I hope, waiting for a new entry.

 

A Note

Ever since my mother died, I have had trouble singing. I can’t think of anything that is more loaded with emotion, mostly pain. I haven’t set foot in a church in nearly two years, also in my grief. I know damn well that this is temporary, that my love of church will return when my spirit calms. It is important to have a faith community that loves me through good times and bad, people that I can turn to in both extremes. Right now, though, when I walk into a church I don’t see comfort and joy. I see the ghost of my mother’s past. It is not peaceful for me. It is a white-knuckling, stomach churning experience of just trying to get through the service without a complete goose-honking cry of a meltdown. And the thing is, I know that would be okay, too.

It is my own fear of being that vulnerable in public that stops me. Perhaps fear is the wrong word, but anxiety. I am trying my best to keep my head above water, avoiding the things that will actively help me to stop functioning. Walking around in my mother’s inner landscape, even for a couple of hours, leads to me losing the rest of the day. I have to sleep it off in those depression and anxiety-fueled naps that last hours, even when I’m not sleepy. And even in my dreams, I’m thinking “I don’t have time for this.” The clinical term for this is “decompensating.”

According to dictionary.com, there is both a medical and psychological meaning.

Medical decompensation is “the inability of a diseased heart to compensate for its defect.”

Psychological decompensation is “a loss of ability to maintain normal or appropriate psychological defenses, sometimes resulting in depression, anxiety, or delusions.”

It is funny how incredibly close those definitions are, when you look at the heart metaphorically.

I feel that I should say for the record that I have never had a delusion, although I have come close by taking someone else’s crazy statement and believing it as fact, incorporating it into my reality to disastrous results… What turned their crazy into my crazy was not stopping for a moment to evaluate said statement for objective truth, because in a lot of ways, it was what I wanted to hear…………………

Objective reality slipped beyond my grasp, living in a reinforced bubble created by fantasy. I was living as high as one could possibly be on dopamine without taking a drug to raise it chemically.

Later, when the bubble burst, I came back down to earth. It was an amazing feeling to see life for what it was, instead of my own version. What was happening in the world around me no longer carried a malleable haze.

I present with depression and anxiety, though I’m Bipolar II, so I do get a few hypomanic days now and then. But the highs are not so high. They’re just enough to make me feel like I’m living without depression and can be extraordinarily productive, sometimes foregoing sleep to get things done. Part of this is chemical; the other part is not knowing when I’ll be hypomanic again, and trying to use that time wisely.

I am extremely lucky that my fluctuations in mood just go from not depressed to extremely depressed, and medication makes those swings even easier to manage. Whenever I feel sorry for myself, I simply think of the people who are much worse off, the people who have no trouble swinging between suicidal plans and megalomania…. or have poor impulse control akin to buying five cars in one day.

I have no doubt in my mind that I was hypomanic when I decided to audition for the Washington National Opera chorus, but again, it was just being productive. Had I been truly depressed when I learned that the auditions were in a month, self-doubt would have eaten me alive and I would have lacked the courage to sign up altogether.

Which brings me back around to church and my mom. I need to sing again. I need to be in a chorus with other great singers who will raise my own game. I’m not much of an actor, but I’ll learn. In a gargantuan way, this is all about finding a replacement for church choir while I work on my daily ups and downs during the devastation of grief. I know I will still feel it. How can I not since my sister was in the children’s chorus at Houston Grand Opera, and I have such fond memories of my mom and Lindsay “on set?”

I counter that with all the hair, costumes and makeup. If I audition and get in, I will have the chance to be someone else for a while. Lots of someone elses if I get a contract for the whole season. The operas happening after my audition are Eugene Onegin, Faust, and Tosca. The links are all to their respective Wikipedia pages, because opera is so much more accessible when you know the story before you buy the tickets.

As I was telling a friend the other day, I hope the writing that comes out of a successful audition is work that brings younger audiences to opera. It is not dead thanks to the old and the rich, but if that trend continues, opera will be less and less popular over time. Opera has such a rich history that I cannot imagine losing it. Lots of them are novels that come to life, and generally more accurate than the movies.

It’s also a great break from technology, as it is entirely immersive. You have to read the supertitles to understand the language translation, or in the case of operas in your native language, to be able to pick out the words from the music. Hard to look at your phone and comprehend at the same time…. plus, the ushers will get mad at you because of the light. If your phone actually rings, good luck. God bless. 😛

I’m not starting singing again with arias, though. Today I did some breath control exercises and sang along to Merry Christmas from the Family (the Dixie Chicks and Rosie O’Donnell version as opposed to Robert Earl Keen, because it’s in a higher key). It’s such a funny song that for the first time in years, as I was singing I felt……. merry. It reminded me of the funniest parts of being a Texan, because if you’ve ever lived there, especially in a small town, you know this family. They live two doors down. There’s a broken swing set and a rusted car on blocks in the front yard. Both have been there since you moved in, and will be long after you leave.

The backyard looks like a garage sale all year ’round. On a serious note, even though they have just short of nothing, they’ll give you the shirts off their backs and the shoes on their feet if you need them, because they know what it’s like to literally have nothing and they’ll do whatever they can to help. There is no better place to live than small town Texas, because even though you can’t take a step out of your house without all 2,000 people knowing where you’re going, that’s not a bad thing. They sniff out trouble like bloodhounds, and just rally around you until it passes.

However, if you are selfish in any way, you don’t belong there. Community comes with responsibility.

Which brings me to another important reason why I’ve dropped off the face of the earth in terms of church. I’m empty. I’m all tapped out. I have nothing to contribute because I am struggling to keep my own head above water.

And the thing is, it wouldn’t bother the church at all. They know that when I’m in a better place, I can do more for the people around me. It’s all my own “stuff” to work out, because I cannot abide showing up to a potluck without a casserole, capiche?

I have high hopes for this opera audition, even though I won’t be crushed if I don’t get in. I know for certain that I am a fourth as good as the people auditioning who’ve been singing arias for years on end (I’m not a pessimist, just a realist). The high hopes come from joining a community in a new context, without the baggage I carry when entering a church. I see the glory of God in classical music, which, to my mind, is running towards spirituality instead of away…. making my way slowly, but surely, back into the world communion.

I am surprised that this has been my reaction to grief, because for the first two or three weeks after my mother died, walking into the sanctuary made me feel as if she were right there, so close I could touch her again. Then a pointed sermon on grief made me absolutely lose my shit with anxiety, just crying and shaking as if exorcising a demon. I didn’t want to be comforted, I wanted to be invisible. I didn’t want anyone to see my grief laid that bare. On top of my anxiety, I am quite shy and introverted. If you think otherwise, it’s from years and years of practice at hiding it away. I can have entire conversations that end with you knowing nothing about me, because my go-to is deflection. I ask so many questions about your life that you don’t have a chance to get a word in edgewise to ask me about mine. In that scenario, I can be extroverted and gregarious, because I’m not revealing anything. It also cuts way down on me giving answers I think of as crazy or stupid so I don’t have anything to beat myself up with later.

Trust me, if I was weird to you 20 years ago, I still have the ability to obsess over it. It would be an absolute relief to be onstage as a character in a group, completely forgetting everything in terms of who I am and pouring everything into letting me go for a few hours a night. I am hoping it will give me enough clinical separation to see myself more objectively once the performance is over…. because then, I might be able to turn my anxiety about being vulnerable in public back into needing other people for support, and rising to the occasion of giving my own support to others.

My new copy of 24 Italian Songs and Arias is on its way. May it be the first step forward onto holy ground.

Four and a Half Brownies

I’ve been playing on my computer since I woke up, failing to realize that the clock was ticking on taking my next dose of medication. My head started to hurt in that old familiar way, and I thought, “I should write about this…. just a stream-of-consciousness entry as chemicals flood my bloodstream.”

I generally need to eat before I take any meds, particularly Lamictal. I look in the fridge and the only thing I’ve got left is four and a half brownies. I get out a paper towel and take all of them upstairs, where I proceed to inhale them like an angry Dustbuster.

I open my blog post editor and get out my pill bottles, which brings us to the present. I have just taken Lamictal, Lexapro, and Klonopin. That means, at this very moment, I feel as if I am capable of tearing out my hair. I will not, and wouldn’t even if I hadn’t taken my meds. The feeling, though, echoes from a scene in one of my favorite movies:

Distraction isn’t always a bad thing. Works every time.

Well, actually….. there’s nothing that can distract me enough from this kind of pain to just let it go. A corner of my mind will be stuck there, wondering if I am about to cry or vomit, or better yet, cry and vomit. It seems physically impossible, but I have done it on multiple occasions. The best way I’ve found to explain the type of physical pain I feel during withdrawal from my psych meds comes from the eighties. Remember those tests of the emergency broadcast system that would come on your TV, and for what seemed like eight hours but was only in reality about 20 seconds the most annoying sound on earth blared loud enough to clear your sinuses? Now, imagine this sound coming from you internally so you can’t lower the volume:

The longer I go without medication, the louder the sound gets, and the louder the sound gets, the more violent my physical reaction. When the medication kicks in, everything becomes blessedly quiet. I am grateful that it is not just a dimmer switch and I don’t have to live like this all the time. Withdrawal creates the worst physical symptoms of my mental illness, because when I remember to take everything on time, I am generally very happy and healthy. All the highs and lows are gone, so I can get on with my day and not think about being sick anymore.

But that’s not where we are right now. I haven’t even begun to feel a twinge of relief. The good news is that I don’t have to take any additional medication. My brain chemicals will sort themselves out, I don’t need a painkiller or an anti-inflammatory on top of it. Sometimes I do think of Tylenol and ibuprofen as my “dessert,” you know, just to put a cherry on top of the sundae, but it doesn’t matter. My psych meds aren’t going to kick in any faster because I took something for the headache, and because the headache is psychiatric in nature, the painkiller won’t do much. I know this because when I’ve been truly up shit creek because I’ve left the house without medication and taken painkillers and anti-inflammatories on their own, I would have had equal luck getting rid of the pain by throwing five dollars against a wall.

I swallowed the pills this time before I started shaking, so I got that goin’ for me. It’s involuntary when I’m in this much pain. My brain feels like it’s trying to pull itself apart, and my body reacts by trying to “get away from the noise.” Reminds me of one of my favorite jokes:

Q: Why do bagpipers walk when they play?
A: To get away from the noise.

or…

A. Moving targets are harder to hit.

I can tell that I’m not depressed because wit can still make an appearance. It’s just withdrawal, and that’s a relief. Managing Bipolar II is hard enough without having to deal with mood swings…. and by that, I mean it’s hard enough staving them off. I don’t have to be in depression or hypomania for Bipolar II to be a total pain in the ass.

It’s not unlike a physical disease, though. Diabetics have complicated lives without symptoms, just maintenance alone is enough. I know myself well enough that I would much rather deal with the inconvenience of maintenance than the full-blown effects of going untreated.

The way my college psychiatrist figured out I was on the bipolar rather than unipolar spectrum was that I was getting way, way, way too much sleep, and then for about three or four days a month, not able to sleep at all. My productivity level was through the floor, and on the days I couldn’t sleep, would shoot through the roof, where I would try to fit in as much activity as I could before the next wave of depression hit.

Before my Bipolar II diagnosis, I couldn’t understand why I was taking depression medication and never getting any better. My behavior changed dramatically when a mood stabilizer was added to what I was already taking. I was able to sleep normally, and the world looked quite different. It was in color all the time, instead of when the color channel decided to flip on after a series of black and white shows… but never fun ones, like I Love Lucy. Every day was akin to the worst Perry Mason rerun on repeat.

It’s been 10-15 minutes, so any time now, I will be back to my regularly scheduled program. I’m not feeling as much better by now as I thought I would, so perhaps it’s time for a hot shower.

I have brownie crumbs in my lap.