Tag Archive: sleep


Patterns


My good friend B has been helping me with my memoir.  She was telling me that I need to make it more personal in places, and suggested there needs to be a section where I talk about myself and how I deal with the world: what my patterns are that help me cope with things.

Well, I have a pattern of retreating when things get too intense.  I had too much input when I was growing up, and now I just can’t tolerate too much of it.  I don’t do well in large crowds unless it’s something I’m really into, like a Rush show or a fireworks display.  Even then I might need pharmaceutical assistance to deal with the intensity of it all.  If life in general is stressing me out, bed is my retreat.  I’ll head there as soon as I can to read or watch television, and have a hard time getting out of it in the morning.

Another part of retreating is getting angry, because it pushes people away, increasing the space around me.  Sometimes that’s the only way to get the space I need.  I suffer from the strange dichotomy of being a lovable hermit, which means people like me and want to be around me a lot, but I don’t necessarily reciprocate the feeling.  Not as often as they do, anyway.  I can tell my nine-year-old daughter that I need space to myself, but since she’s nine, she’s self-centered and doesn’t always listen.  Sometimes the only way I can get what I need is to get angry with her when she’s not respecting my boundaries.

Another pattern I have is being controlling of my environment.  I need things to be particular ways in order to feel comfortable and happy.  Things need to be in certain places.  Things need to be organized in specific ways.  Calendars have to be kept certain ways.  I have my systems, and they must be followed.  It’s the only way I feel like I have some sort of control over my world, even if that control is an illusion.

That’s another coping pattern: I’m totally willing to submit to a fantasy or an illusion to maintain my sanity.  I may know intellectually that what I’m doing is ridiculous or pointless, but if it’s serving some purpose in the moment and isn’t hurting anyone, I’m down with it.

Perhaps my biggest coping pattern, or tool, is music.  I would have gone insane long ago without music.  I cannot work in silence, and if forced to do so will quickly get wired up into a ball so tense I can’t do anything.  Every tiny tic of noise will stand out in my ears, distracting me from my work.  Music can distract me from any mood I’m in except for the very darkest, which nothing will quell.

There are other patterns I would like to instill into my life that would make me a happier person.  Exercise is one.  Exercise and sleep are the two things a bipolar sufferer can do that will do the most to mitigate their illness without the use of medication.  I’ll always need the latter, but it won’t be as effective without the first two things.  Fortunately, better exercise leads to better sleep, so I really only need to work on one of those things.  Like most people, though, I find it extraordinarily difficult to get any kind of exercise routine going.  I enjoy it (mostly) while I’m doing it, but making the time to do it seems to be a huge problem I can never get around.  If I knew why, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing about it and would be making millions of dollars getting lazy Americans off their asses.

I have to figure out a way, though.  I’m at the end of where pharmaceuticals will help my disease.  If I want it to get any better, and it still needs help, I have to get it the rest of the way myself.

Meditation is another pattern that would do me a world of good, although the thought of sitting alone with my thoughts makes me want to crawl out of my skin.  That doesn’t sound peaceful or calming at all.  I keep getting it from all sides, though: meditate and you’ll feel better.  There must be some truth to it, too, because my mind resists meditating more than it resists exercising.  Anything I resist must be good for me, it seems.

The third pattern I’d like to instill is yoga.  It’s a combination of exercise and meditation, and I suppose if I were to pick just one thing to work on, it would be this since it encompasses everything.  Yoga doesn’t give me hard exercise, though, and that’s what I need: an hour or more of breathing hard and sweating hard.  There are types of yoga that will give me that, but I’m not balanced or coordinated enough for them yet.  Still, a good yoga practice would be awesome.  The times that I’ve managed to go to yoga even twice a week have been peaceful times in my life.  I can’t imagine how I’d feel if I went every day.

If I imagined my ideal life, it would be like this.  I’d get up at 6:30 every day with my family and get my daughter off to school, and then I’d spend the first part of the morning in meditation and enjoying tea.  Afterwards I’d either exercise or do yoga, then get myself cleaned up for the day.  The middle part of the day would be spent working, either at my job at the dojo, or at home on my book or other project.  In the afternoon, I’d pick up my daughter from school, then prep for dinner while she did her homework.

Here’s where the day gets tricky and always gets screwed up.  Both of our karate classes are in the late afternoon and early evening, but that’s smack in the middle of dinnertime.  The only way I can think of to work things is for me to prep dinner things, take us to class while my husband makes dinner, and then have him come to pick up our daughter from class so I can go to mine.  That means the two of us have to eat a snack or drink smoothies before our classes.  It also means they don’t eat until at least 7pm and I don’t eat until at least 8pm, which I suppose is fine as long as everyone has had a snack beforehand to prevent The Crankies, which will ruin a nice day faster than anything.

After dinner would have to be kitchen cleanup, which is another area where we always fail.  We both detest washing dishes, and we don’t have a dishwasher so it all has to be done by hand.  No one wants to do chores after dinner, either, so it sits there until the next day, ruining the next day’s dinnertime because we can’t cook in our tiny, dirty kitchen.  So we eat out, which ruins the budget.  All of these little things connect to one another to either make a well-run machine, or a freaking mess.  So far, we’re a freaking mess, and I can’t seem to get the well-run machine going.

I worry about this not just because of my own life, but because we’re teaching our daughter to be an undisciplined slob.  She has no routines of her own and I know it’s our fault: she has none to emulate.

I’m worried I’m too old to instill new patterns into my life.  I’m worried I’ll be stuck in these unsatisfying patterns for the rest of my life, or that it will take something potentially life-threatening to make me change them.  Of course, I worry about a lot of things these days.  That would probably be the best pattern of all to instill into my life: stop worrying so much.

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Up Yours, Universe


I’m really not enjoying life right now.  Around the time that the cat died two weeks ago, I started having a recurrence of a strange breathing issue I have from time to time.  It basically keeps me from being able to take a deep breath whenever I want to.  It has its origins partially in my allergies, and partially in anxiety.  I start having trouble because of the allergies, which makes me anxious, which makes the problem worse.  I haven’t figured out how to make it go away yet.  It just happens spontaneously.

Consequently, I’m getting really shitty sleep right now since I pretty much can’t lay down to sleep.  Whatever this fuckuppery my lungs likes to play on me gets worse when I’m reclining.  I’ve largely slept either in a recliner or on the couch the last two nights.

I don’t imagine the anxiety component is made any better by the fact that I’m on deathwatch with yet another cat.  This time it’s YinYang’s mother, Babalon.  Obviously, she’s a bit older than he was when he died a couple of weeks ago.  She also looks much worse.  She’s been sick for at least two years, is nothing but fur and bones, and looks like she has at least two paws in the grave.  Her condition has grown much worse in the past few days and I’m fairly certain I’ll be sending another pet on its way to the Great Catnip Field in the Sky sooner rather than later.  Because what I really need right now is to dig another hole in my back yard.

So between the dead and dying cats, my allergies, and my anxiety, my sleep is suffering.  I believe the appropriate word to use to describe my current demeanor would be “punchy”.  I really want nothing more than 8-12 hours of uninterrupted sleep.  I would particularly like it to be uninterrupted by the need to suddenly sit upright to alleviate the sensation of suffocating.  I’d love to induce sleep pharmaceutically, but my supply of appropriate meds is quite low due to the last dying cat incident and due to my psych nurse adjusting my scrip down without really discussing it with me (which is the first time he’s done something to annoy me).

All of which will be discussed at my appointment later today, along with the apparent necessity that I take a drug that costs $13 a pill (just my fucking luck: dozens of psychiatric medications at my disposal, and the one that works is the most recent in a new string of horribly expensive drugs that unfortunately do their job really well).  I’ll be spending some time delving into the world of online pharmacies.

So no, I’m really not enjoying life at the moment.  I want my cat back, and I want to breathe properly.

Itchy


*scratches madly at legs* I seem to have my first ever case of chigger bites. OMG. I thought fire ants were bad. Well, they are, but in a different way. And not nearly this itchy. Holy crap. According to the internet, I have another week or so of this. Oh joy. Nature’s gift to me for standing outside whacking limbs out of a tree gone crazy for two hours straight without any bug repellent. At dusk. In Central Texas. Not the brightest of my ideas. I think I’m misfiring in a number of ways this week, though.

Not the least of which is in the cranky department. Just because I get a bug up my butt about something doesn’t mean I get to be rude to people, least of all people I actually like. Not even if I’m right. I’m better about this than I used to be, but graceful debating skills don’t come easy to someone used to a more below-the-belt style of arguing. Which was often a with-the-belt style of arguing. Not nearly as much fun as just being in a bad mood and stepping on someone’s toes, which is much more easily fixed.

Note to self: Before I sit down to do my words each day, I need to read over the previous day’s words to make sure I’m not repeating myself.

This week’s big stress is the car, which recently rolled over 100,000 miles. Go Tethys! Tethys is the ancient Greek Titan of the sea. Before and bigger than Poseidon. Yeah. Anyway, all of our cars have been silver, green, or blue, so we started naming them Tethys. We’re on Tethys III at the moment. Well, Tethys needed a new pair of soles for her shoes (that’s new brakes in modern parlance), particularly since they were making a most horrible squealing noise. The report from the mechanic is always either much more or much less than you were expecting to spend. In this case, it was the former. Luckily we could split the work in half and take care of the rest later, but it still left us a little tight.

So what? We’d be totally screwed if I hadn’t actually been saving money for the last few paychecks for the express purpose of taking care of old car and old cat related emergencies, that’s what. And while I keep trying to get on myself for already depleting the savings account, the rest of me tries to remind the anxiety-ridden side that we’re using it for it’s intended purpose. That is the very definition of “emergency fund”. Well done! *pats head* And it didn’t take all that long to get it to where it was; it won’t take that long to get it back there again, either. I just need to hold off on any more emergencies for a little while.

Here at home, I still haven’t planted my ‘three sisters’ garden bed yet. I’m not sure what I’m waiting for, if not a convenient time window. If I were more of a morning person, I’d take care of these things then. Which is when one is *supposed* to garden here in Central Texas. Unless you *want* heatstroke. Actually, I am trying to be more of a morning person. My daughter loves it when I get up in the morning with she and her father, even if I’m mostly just a tea-drinking lump. On a more practical level, I should get up with the rest of the family so I can take our daughter to school instead of him: I have more time and don’t have to dodge rush hour traffic. I would also have a lot more time to do things that I’m always complaining about not having enough time to do.

I’d have to sacrifice my entire evening routine. That means no more late-night tv watching, or at least reserved for special evenings and my favorite shows. If I’m watching a series on Netflix, I’m going to have to set a weekly limit as to how many episodes I’m allowed to watch. Otherwise I’ll do what I did recently: watch all seven seasons of Star Trek: Voyager in just over a month. That’s 168 episodes over what was once seven years. That’s a lot of tv. I need to break the extraordinarily bad habit of falling asleep while watching the telly. Reading would be much better. Just turning the damn light off at a pre-appointed time would probably also help. I imagine it would mean several days of weird sleep while my body tried to adjust, but I would hope that my internal clocks would settle in after a time. Seeing as how it’s already 10:37pm, I don’t think the night to start that is going to be tonight.

Hot Hot Hot


“I tried not to think about the words SEARING.FLESH.” – Fight Club

It has been blazingly hot lately.  On Tuesday, I measured a temperature of 110F on my back porch.  Some people get SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)  in the winter.  I get it in the summer.  After all, there’s not much going outside.  Not if you don’t want to spontaneously burst into flames.  And it’s depressing.  Everything is dead and brown.  I hate it.

Seriously though, I have taken up jogging with my friends.  We don’t go until the sun is nearly down, but I’m going.  This is remarkable for someone who used to laugh at joggers and runners for doing so without being chased.  And it does somehow make the heat more bearable, because it’s not going to rain for another month at least.  *cries*

On the plus side, my headmeat seems to have stabilized, but not until after a really unpleasant episode a couple of months ago during which I learned I really can’t fuck with my sleep.  That’s the trouble with having bipolar.  The only way to know your meds aren’t working is to feel like shit.  Ah well.  I have a small army of pharmacy bottles to take from each day, and a basket full of vitamins and supplements to counteract the side effects (mostly muscle twitches).  Two mood stabilizers, one antidepressant, one sleep aid, two antianxiety agents, and one thyroid med to counteract what one of the mood stabilizers does.

A calcium-magnesium-potassium supplement is crucial to stave off the muscle twitches, which aren’t nearly as bad as the ones trazodone gave me.  I don’t take that anymore, thank the gods: akathisia really, really sucks.  B-vitamins, fish oil, and a host of others.  Obviously, I found a headmeat doc (nurse, really) that does me a lot of good and is on tap via smartphone virtually any time.  Plus, he’s really funny.

Everything else I have allowed to sliiiiiiide.  I haven’t been to the Buddhist center in two months.  I haven’t done yoga in quite some time.  The only thing I’ve done is karate, which I will probably do more now that I know I don’t need that many more classes to get my next ranking.  I’ve gone to the gym more, though.  I have to adjust my diet, though, or those 20 pounds are never going to come off.

Obviously due to the heat wave, I’ve done no gardening.  It’s crispy out there.  I allowed my community garden plot to slide: who wants to put in community hours when it’s over 100 outside?  I hate the politics anyway.

Some things are good though, or at least better.  I’m enjoying things a little bit more.  I got the henna out for a friend last week and I was very pleased I haven’t lost my touch.  I haven’t had to lie to anyone about how I’m feeling, which also pleased me.  My memory is for shit, though, which my headmeat caretaker assures me will improve the happier I get.  I haven’t taken care of all that death paperwork to collect my grandmother’s ancient life insurance policy, but I actually want to, along with some remaining boxes that her friends in California were interested in.  I mean, it’s only been three years.  *sigh*

Other ways I know I’m better: I’m not murderously angry about the non-stop machinery I can hear from my house for the last, oh, year and a half?  I don’t feel like killing every asshat driver in South Austin (trust me, that’s remarkable, we have a high asshat density down here).  I’m a bit annoyed about the massive fence the neighbor behind us put up, but I haven’t thrown anything at it.  😀

There are other things that still need improving, but I’m hoping that they improve with more sleep and exercise and with an abatement of the heat.  It’s like a freakin’ blast furnace out there.

Anhedonia


Cover of "The Wall"

Cover of The Wall

From the Greek ‘an-‘ meaning against or not, and ‘-hedone’, meaning pleasure.  Therefore, a lack of pleasure.  One of the hallmarks of depression.  Not to mention something I’ve been suffering from to one degree or another for months (years?) now.  Really, I can’t tell how long anymore.  When was the last time I was truly happy and enjoying my life?  I don’t know.

I define happiness as an overall contentment that makes a person pleased when they wake up in the morning and eager to get out of bed to meet the day’s challenges, whatever they may be.  Those challenges are not met with anxiety but with fervor and gusto.  Episodes of unhappiness or down feelings are fleeting and do not last long, unless something big like a death has occurred.  A happy person has things that they work on that make them feel fulfilled, whether it’s their job or their home or doing the New York Times crossword puzzle for the day.  It doesn’t matter what it is.

I’m missing these things, and I can’t tell anymore if it’s because of my brain chemistry or because the inherent elements of my life are no longer fulfilling or pleasing.  Worse, it’s entirely possible that my brain chemistry causes me to think that the inherent elements of my life are no longer fulfilling or pleasing.  Like a horrible trick is being played on me from inside my head.

Then the shoulds come marching in, like Pink Floyd’s hammers in The Wall.  I understand that double-album so intimately now, from end to end.  I get it in a way I really wish I didn’t.  But there they are, those hammer-like shoulds.  You should be happy because you have a beautiful family.  You should be happy because you live in a great city.  You should be happy because you have great friends.  You should be happy because you have so much freedom.  You should be happy because your husband takes such good care of you and makes sure you have what you need.  You should be happy for a billion reasons that you must be ignoring or else you’d be happy, and therefore you should feel bad because you are not happy.

The shoulds spiral around in an ever-tightening circle that inevitably leads back to me, laying the blame of everything in my life that should make me happy but doesn’t at my weary mental feet.  Guilt, shame, and blame: the staunch guardians left over from a childhood of watching the hammers beat down the other people surrounding me.

I would give anything to want to get up in the morning and to greet the day with enthusiasm about what it may bring, rather than weariness or fear.
I would give anything to go through my day with ease and contentment, addressing each task in a relaxed way that did not tense my body and mind.
I would give anything to deal with my family with a serenity that did not treat every problem as though it may be earth-shattering.
I would give anything to lay my head upon my pillow each night feeling good about the day, knowing that there was another one on the other side of my dreams.

I would give anything to be freed of this demon that has followed me for so many years and has only relented when I’ve been able to travel, have been in school, or have been in a position to have goals, dreams, and hopes bigger than myself.  Perhaps I have these things and I just can’t see them for whatever reason, and need to clean those shit-colored glasses I seem to find myself wearing so often.  Is this one of those places where it’s difficult to tell where I stop and where my illness begins?  If so, I truly hope the answer is found soon, as my tolerance for the medication dance is already wearing thin.  “Nope, that didn’t work, let’s try another one!”  This can go on for years for some people.  I’m not sure if I have the stamina for that.

In the meantime, I wait and tell the appropriate people when I’m feeling particular ways and try not to do too much damage along the way, to myself or anyone else.  And hope that I am bigger, stronger, and more patient than anhedonia.


Part of me feels I should apologize for my last blog post.  However, it’s my blog and no one’s being forced to read it, and I’m trying to figure out something really complicated, so I’m not going to worry about it too much.

Incidentally, I feel much better at the moment than I did over the weekend.  Almost spookily so.  Enough to joltingly remind me of the nature of what’s wrong with my brainmeats.  Enough to feel silly when I finally got a doctor’s appointment to review some of my more unpleasant behaviors and thought patterns.  Something tells me that’s the hallmark of being bipolar: the neverending sensation that whatever it was that you recently experienced must not have been real, or might not have been as severe or debilitating or frightening as it really was.  I imagine it’s this same sensation that makes a lot of bipolars go off their meds.  I have firsthand experience how terrible this is for the people around them: my mother went off her various meds many, many times while I was growing up.  If I have any wishes for myself, not to mention my family, it’s that I entirely skip my mother’s madness of stopping her meds and finding another doctor who would tell her something completely different because they weren’t hip to her bullshit yet.

Meanwhile, everything around her, the family included, would crumble to bits and the only sane person in the house (me) would be heavily leaned upon to maintain the family structure.  I wonder how much of having to put up with that has to do with what’s up with me today.  I hope it’s a lot, because it means my daughter has a much lower chance of having a brain that short circuits on her in her late teens or early twenties.  I along with my husband have somehow managed to (largely) provide an environment that has produced a pretty goddamned normal almost 8-year-old.  I look at her and think how I’m really looking at the person *I* should have been at that age.  Even at her tender age, she has a really good bead on who she is and where she’s going.

I wish I could say the same for myself, at the age of 39.  I’ve spent the better part of my life trying to figure out who I am.  I’m certainly not where I thought I would be at this age, but I was also the victim of our culture’s mandate that one have their entire life planned out by the age of 18, much to the detriment of my self-esteem as that plan failed to unfold.  Now I have an entirely new set of identity crises to deal with.  Namely, how do I know which of my moods are really “mine” and which ones are products of being bipolar?  When should I stop having a good time laughing and start being concerned that I’m being too funny?  When should I stop moping and start worrying that I’m in a serious depression?  Just what exactly should I define as “normal” or “happy” or “sad”?  Or should I define moods by what they are not? I know it’s unhealthy to have suicidal, hostile, or violent thoughts: does that mean that any bad or sad mood that doesn’t include those qualities should be deemed “normal” or “healthy”?

It’s such a strange thing to have to self-analyze in this way.  Fortunately, I’m really good at analyzing things in general.  To a degree sometimes that I wish I could stop, because I understand the world in a way that most others do not, and that all by itself makes me a little nutty sometimes.  I feel pompous and conceited when I feel this way.  I mean, who wants to talk with someone who claims to really understand things like how far it is to the Moon and back?  That’s not an abstraction to me the way it is for a lot of people who gaze up into the night sky at the white orb that keeps our planet in perfect 23.5 degree balance.  That’s 350,000 kilometers, roughly.  And I grok every single one of them.  In fact, I’ve made a concerted effort to grok things like that.  Partly because feeling small and tiny is one of the things that feels comforting to me here on Earth.  That makes some people feel frightened, but not me.  Feeling puny in relation to the rest of the Universe gives me hope and comfort that the beauty of the Universe will continue on, no matter how many Neocons get elected to office or how few rich people really control the world or how many dogs and cats are unnecessarily euthanized.  In that way, the Universe, everything in it, and the way it all operates is my God.

Whoops, little segue there.  It’s things like that paragraph that make me curious: which part is me, and which part is the bipolar?  Are the separable?  If they are, which parts should I keep?  Of course, these are largely questions of philosophy, not psychology, or at the very least, live in the DMZ between the two.  I do know this: there are no hard lines in the Universe.  Absolutely none.  There is no place and no philosophy where a person can point and KNOW that This is where This ends and This is where This begins.  There is overlap everywhere.  I think our little blue marble 93 million miles from the Sun would function a lot better if people could figure that out.

And this is where my brain is today: on a good day, wondering how long it will last and when my mood will take a downturn to something merely melancholy or hatefully hostile.  I’m still doing a lot of reading about bipolar, and from what I’ve read, it can take months to recover from a full-blown up, down, or mixed episode.  I’ve had several of all three in the last couple of months.  I wonder what the fuck THAT means.  Again, is that the illness?  Or is that just ME?

I essentially have to treat my life as an experiment with rigid conditions in which there are very few uncontrolled variables.  If screwy sleep patterns set me off, then I have to establish rigid sleeping schedules and actually stick to them, regardless of how tired I am (allowing for naps when possible: the schedule is what’s important).  If low blood sugar sets me off, then I have to establish rigid eating habits and keep things around that I’ll actually want to eat.  If reading the news on Facebook sets me off, then I have to cut out what I shouldn’t read.  If a lack of exercise leads to weight gain and depression, then I have to make sure that I exercise every day, and give myself several options in case I don’t feel like doing one of them that day.  I am the scientist AND the rat in this maze!  Only by keeping that degree of control over certain things can I know how my moods interact with my life, and vice versa.

I also have to do something else that has heretofore been extremely difficult and the lack of which has led to a bit of surprise on the part of people who’ve known me for many years upon finding out the kind of trouble I’ve had since my late teens.  I have to talk to people and open up to them.  I have to ask them to let me know if I’m “off”.  Maybe that is the best way of all to answer the existential questions that I have.  Who am I?  The people who’ve been around me for the last 15-20 years ought to be able to tell me, or at the very least give their impressions.  And I know most of them love and care for me enough that I’m pretty sure they’d tell me if I wasn’t being “myself”.

I imagine there will be no small amount of adjustment and transition as I slowly figure out things like when I’m just being happy and in a good humor and when I’m being too funny or too happy or too depressed (and make no mistake, I AM a somewhat morbid and morose person with a very dark sense of humor, and I can only hope it’s obvious when I’ve switched from being amusing to being disturbing).  I hope the psychiatric nurse I’m seeing next week can help me answer some of these questions, or some of the books that I’ve been reading.  And I must leave the possibility open that there are no answers to those questions, because perhaps only I can answer “who am I?”


It’s taken me four days just to start writing this post, though it’s had a title for that entire time.  My posts to date have been more upbeat, or at least introspective without being too depressing.  For whatever reason, I decided I needed to keep the truly depressing and frightening posts to myself or to a very select group of readers over at Livejournal, where I have kept a semi-private blog since 2001.  After unleashing a black spew over there this morning, I decided to edit it somewhat.  Submitted for your approval, then: a look into the bleaker corners of my mind.

Bleaker?!  Did she say bleaker?  Good gods, I better get my emo hipwaders on.

While there has been some improvement in my mood since I began the bipolar journey about 5 weeks ago, it has been with growing dismay that I’ve descended into some deep, dark holes of late.  Some are merely depressing.  Some are very angry.  And yet a few more are just downright destructive and filled with nothing but hate.  Illogical, unfocused, unfiltered hate for whatever and whomever is unlucky enough to tweak my brain’s nerve cells in just the wrong way at that particular moment.

I.hate.it.  Ihateitsomuch.  The irony of hating my hate is not lost on me, but we have gone way past the land where logic and reason are the rulers.  Here, they are just words.

It’s a weird state of mind that thinking about death puts people in. That book I now consider my bipolar bible, “An Unquiet Mind“, talks about it quite extensively. The author and a friend of hers, on a good night, made a deal with each other to call the other one and let them take them wherever for a week before they killed themselves, if they indeed still felt like doing so. Each was to give the other a week of reasons not to do it, to go back on their meds, to call their doctor, etc. Despite this deal, the author’s friend didn’t keep their end of the bargain, with predictable results. Neither did the author on several occasions that she was feeling suicidal. She admits that in those darkest of hours, the thought of calling anyone else just didn’t occur to her. Which doesn’t surprise me. Logic changes its rules in the mind of a suicidal person. What makes sense to everyone else doesn’t make sense to someone who wants to die, or is at least thinking it might be better.

I dislike having this kind of knowledge about humanity, and about myself. I don’t like knowing how the dark clock ticks in the minds of the disturbed. It has many hands and many chimes, most of them as loud as a klaxon horn, blaring one’s misery in cacophanous tones that are unignorable. Interspersed are the rings of guilt, which serve to amplify all of the others.

What’s wrong with you? How can you possibly feel this way? You’re broken. You’re bad. You should be punished for feeling this way because it doesn’t make any sense, you whiny fucking baby.

A hundred years ago, you’d find someone crouched in a corner with their hands over their ears screaming, “SHUTUP!” Today, you find them like me: parked in front of the television watching Doctor Who for as many hours as it takes to dull the sharp bite of a monster I *know* is meaningless and powerless. Then trying and failing to stay asleep as anxiety attacks set in *during* sleep, making me feel as though I’m suffocating. When sleep does come, it’s punctuated by very strange dreams that always involve swimming in dirty water and being at risk of being eaten by large industrial machinery, also underwater. Talk about waking up with the heebie fuckin’ jeebies. Let’s add a sprinkle of the constant doctor search anxiety, too, just for flavor.

*headdesk*

I *am* getting things done today, though. I’ve already made a few necessary phone calls, and now I’m doing what is probably the most important task for the day: “write down analysis of moods for last 2-6 weeks, and further if possible“. Really I should analyze back to getting on lithium and trazodone, then back to quitting smoking, then back to getting rid of the IUD. These things all come to bear and I feel it’s crucial to figure out how and when and in what way they interact. For instance, obviously a hormonal IUD was doing some good stabilizing things to my mood, but wasn’t fixing the problem since I felt vaguely PMS-y pretty much constantly, and some of my worst episodes happened while I had it. So obviously that’s not the only issue. Then there’s the quitting smoking, which I feel had a much more deleterious effect on my mind than getting rid of the IUD. Indeed, on my bad mental days, I still feel a super strong urge to smoke that I feel is indicative of far more than a mind dumping nicotine receptors, and I have felt very unstable since I quit. Those who have been supportive of my effort to quit smoking really have no idea of the Herculean effort it has taken not to smoke again, because I know it will make me feel better mentally.  My mouth and brain ache with desire to smoke sometimes.

Then there’s the last 5 weeks, which is how long it’s been since I took myself to the psychiatric ER after the mother of all PMS episodes. According to my reading, it’s completely possible for one’s worst episodes to occur during PMS time, but for them not to be directly attributable to hormonal influences. Everything gets ranked in terms of primary, secondary, and tertiary effects. The PMS is just secondary for me, with the supposed bipolar disorder being primary (although I’m beginning to question if that’s really my problem, or if I’m on the right meds, or if I’m on *enough* of them). I definitely have some unaddressed symptoms, though, which I would very much like to go away right about now, thanks very fucking much. I do not enjoy having a head filled with suicidal and otherwise violent thoughts (which had gone away for a while but have returned). I do not enjoy having to construct my day so that I avoid certain kinds of stimulus, or else I’ll lose my temper. I do not enjoy not knowing which days these things will occur on. There’s a whole lot about this ride that I really don’t like, and if I had my druthers, I’d have a bottle of PRN Haldol sitting around for when I’m feeling just a wee too crazy. Or something like it. Let’s kick it old school with Thorazine! I’ll pass on the modern atypical antipsychotics that give you horrible weight gain, diabetes, or high cholesterol, though. No thanks.

I’ve been doing a shitload of reading, though. I may very well have bipolar disorder, but I’m pretty damn sure there are some others glommed on there too. PTSD from growing up in such a fucked up house and never, ever having a childhood, for starters. The two parents dead of suicide don’t help that one, either (you should have seen the looks people at the clinic gave me when I told them that). I’m not sure if my OCD-like tendencies are actual OCD or if that’s just how hypomania and mania manifest in my life, because it’s certainly not in the stereotypical “I’m awesome, let’s shop and fuck!” sort of way many manics manifest that phase. I would really like to be tested for adult ADD or plain old high-functioning autism given my complete inability to look at anyone in the eyes, along with some other behaviors (don’t move my shit. really, don’t move my shit). Hell, I’d even take the epic-length MMPI if it would figure out what’s wrong with my brainmeats. I took that once for a grad student friend who needed volunteers to finish her degree. My results were apparently……strange. She asked her professor what she would do with the results: “Hit her with a battery of tests.” Maybe it’s time for the battery, so to speak. I don’t care what the answer is, I just want to KNOW so I can take care of it.

*sigh* Some of the websites are nice enough to admit that it may be several weeks before anyone bothers to get back to me due to the high demand for psychiatrists (maybe *that’s* what I should major in at UT, if I ever go back: people are like cellophane to me, they’re so transparent – perhaps it’s my karmic duty to use this knowledge and ability to help other poor crazed individuals like myself). I’mma keep on callin’, though. *sigh* I should really get paid for this shit, it’s a lot harder than most people’s jobs, and it’s certainly a lot less enjoyable.

Today, though, hopefully my GP and/or his nurse will call back and either schedule an appointment for me or just call in something to help me feel less hostile and like breaking things. I love my family and I really do love the world, but right now it’s all buried under a burning pile of hate and dissatisfaction that doesn’t listen to logic or reason, it just wants to destroy and it’s on a very unpredictable hair trigger. My other option is going back to PES and going inpatient in a building that looks, sounds, smells, and feels like every hospital Mom ever stayed in. I don’t think that’s the right place for me. I think just being around that shade of green for more than a few hours would send me right over the edge.  The view is frightening enough, thanks: I don’t need to ride that merry-go-round.

Starting Over


I’ve learned an awful lot about myself and my new chronic illness over the last couple of weeks.  It feels much longer than that.  Here are some of the things I’ve learned.

1. I have a disease that has a 1 in 5 chance of killing me.  Rather, a disease that gives me a 1 in 5 chance of killing myself.  I’m not an expert on chronic illness, but something tells me those odds are kind of high, whether death is self-induced or not.  Good thing I made a pact with myself a long time ago not to do that.  I know what it does to everyone else left behind.  It certainly explains some of my thought patterns, though.

2. The medicine I’m taking (lithium carbonate) may only be good for 3-5 years, depending on what it does to my kidney function.  Though if my kidneys aren’t unhappy, I may be able to take it for the rest of my life.  I hope so.  Lithium is still the best treatment for bipolar illness, not to mention the simplest and cheapest.  In the meantime, it makes me ravenously hungry 4-5 times a day, particularly for protein.  Something tells me I’ll have to up my exercise.  For now, I’m tolerating what is in essence a poison salt fairly well.  Aside from the odd hand tremor, everything’s good.

3. The hunger: if I don’t pay attention to it, bad things happen to my brainpan.  Low blood sugar seems to be one of the absolute worst things I can do to myself.  I’m finding this to be the most annoying aspect of my journey so far.  I’m terrible at paying attention to my diet, which seems to be something I have to change immediately, particularly if I don’t want to completely pork out.  I’m already twenty pounds heavier than I was a month ago, something that all by itself just about makes me suicidal.  I’ve struggled with my weight my whole life, and to be where I am now makes me incredibly sad.  A year and a half of work, completely ruined.  😦

4. Sleep is the other thing that, if unbalanced, will send me spinning very quickly.  If it was just depression, or just mania, that would be one thing, but since I get mixed episodes, I have to stave that shit off as best I can.  Mixed episodes are a peculiarly nutty generation of the human mind that makes someone depressed and manic at the same time.  That’s all kinds of fun, lemme tellya.

5. People are going to be insensitive and rude on occasion when they find out I’m bipolar (which means I’m probably just going to keep that to myself for the most part).  It’s only been two weeks and it’s already happened once.  They probably didn’t even realize they were being rude.  I imagine it’s something that anyone with a chronic illness has to deal with sometimes.  I just have to get really good at identifying such people and saying, “You’re bad for me, go away.”

6. Waiting for my meds to settle in and even out is not fun.  I’ve missed several hours of work because of it, but if I can’t think, then I can’t work (or worse, I can’t work if I’m sitting sobbing at my desk).  I won’t be done with this dance for at least a couple of months and not until after several blood tests and possibly dosage changes.  I have to tell myself it’s all temporary and that better things will be on the other side.

7. Apparently I have to be hypervigilant about staying hydrated.  Lithium is one row above sodium in the periodic table and as such can screw with the body’s sodium and water levels because it has the same valence (aka charge: gosh I’m glad I was paying attention in chemistry class).  Which means if I’m exercising and get dehydrated, my serum lithium levels can get too high, aka TOXIC.  Which means a trip to the ER, two days of no lithium, and treatment with a lot of salt and water.  No thank you.

8. Caffeine is no longer my friend, mostly because of #7.  Caffeine is a diuretic, and its stimulant properties can bring on mania, in sufficient amounts of course.  It doesn’t meant I can’t ever drink caffeine again, but I have to do so in moderation.

It’s hard not to be discouraged by the list of things I can’t or shouldn’t do anymore.  On the other hand, there are a lot of things that are better now that I’m taking proper medication, and have stopped taking birth control pills.  My skin is clear again, I sleep relatively well and regularly, violent/suicidal thoughts came to a screeching halt, mood is about 60% stabilized, anger is down about 40-50%, I’m getting more done, taking much better care of myself, I’m less anxious/more calm, more in tune with mental boundaries (i.e. what I can and can’t do without “triggering”), more thirsty, and more hungry.

Then there are the more nebulous effects.  The ones that make me think I may have had this disease since my late teens, because that was the last time I remember experiencing life with the vividness that I have lately.  Colors and sounds are just a bit MORE, feelings are sharper, my brain seems more HERE.  At first I thought I was feeling nostalgia, but it’s not that: it’s just been that long since I felt life this way.  I do think of things that I haven’t thought of for a long time, but they’re neither good nor bad.  Just experiential, like the way my mother’s apartment looked, or the way Lucia’s Garden, a store in Houston, smells.

I wonder how long I’ve been “asleep”.

Then there are the philosophical implications of it all.  Where do I stop?  Where does the illness begin?  Is there a difference?  If not, how do we judge which of my behaviors are “normal” and which ones are not?  Psychiatry has been asking these questions for over a century, and there are some who believe that all psychiatric “illness” is created as a way to pathologize anyone not conforming to the current standards of “normal”.  I disagree.  I believe someone goes from being eccentric to being diseased when they can no longer function in life, or they become a danger to themselves or someone else.

I’m sure I’ll be asking myself these questions for a looooooong time to come along with a lot of others.  In the meantime, I keep trying to Zen-ify my life.  It really does need to be as simple as getting good sleep, eating good food, getting a lot of exercise, doing things that make me happy (gardening, karate, yoga, cooking), and staying as stress-free as possible.  I imagine that means some things and perhaps people will have to be pared away, but perhaps for the first time in my life, I am the most important person in my life, and when I am done taking care of myself, then and only then will I make room for others.  Obviously there has to be some leniency when it comes to the husband and daughter, and we’ll all need help through this transition, but after 39 years, I’m done being second fiddle to anyone.  It’s a pity that it took a near mental breakdown to get here, but I’m finding an awful lot of silver linings in this black cloud, and I feel as though the Universe is watching over me for the moment.


I took care of a very, very old problem last week.  One that I had been avoiding for about 15 years.  I finally went to a psychiatrist after spending what must have been nearly two months trying to keep a lid on rising, chronic anxiety and agitation that I am fully convinced is related to having quit smoking (nicotine is a seriously deviant neurochemical).  Really, it’s been years that I’ve kept a lid on those things, but this time they were lasting longer than they had before and I was starting to frighten myself a bit, so I went to get some help.

I had avoided doing so for so long for a lot of reasons.  I had a fear and distrust of the psychiatric community in general after spending the first seventeen years of my life watching my mother go in and out of hospitals and take virtually every type of medication available, to no avail.  That probably wasn’t psychiatry’s fault, it was probably Mom’s.  Drugs don’t make psychiatric disorders disappear, they just make them easier to manage and if someone wants to be truly better, they still have to do a lot of personal work.  Personal work that Mom was never willing to do.  She was just too selfish, or too deep in her own denial, or something.

I also had a fear of the medication dance that so many who suffer from psychiatric disorders seem to have to do, as well as the myriad side effects that those medications often saddle their takers with.  Weight gain is often a primary side effect of many psychiatric drugs for some reason, and as someone who has always struggled with their weight, I was reluctant to even entertain taking something that would make me even heavier potentially.  Also, for many years I feared the sexual side effects that often come with psychiatric medications, but over the years, my illness itself along with leftover trauma from childhood sexual abuse has conspired to essentially make me mostly dead from the waist down anyway, so I didn’t really have anything to lose in that department.

Perhaps most importantly, I had to get over my own pride and individuality.  Everyone tells themselves they want to be different from their parents.  It’s how progress is made over the generations.  In a healthy family, people are different in action but not in fundamentals, because they had loving families that bonded together.  Unhealthy families don’t bond like that because there’s nothing desirable to mimic.  Over the years, in my efforts to be different from people who were unhealthy, I set myself up for a game of denial when it came to my own mental health.  Sure, there are some aspects of it that are the result of the environment that I grew up in and can be corrected with therapy.  The rest, though, that’s all genetics.  I can escape that no more than I can escape my family’s cardiovascular health history.

Hopefully it’s easy to see how something no less medical in nature than, say, diabetes can easily become horribly stigmatized if you’ve made a lifelong effort not to be that way.  I told myself that it was something I could deal with on my own.  That combined with my distrust of Western medicine in general led to fifteen years of essentially self-treatment using herbs, meditation, yoga, exercise, and karate.  Which actually are fairly effective, but they require hypermanagement of one’s lifestyle that is nearly untenable in modern society if you’re doing anything more than going to school or holding down a stress-free job (is there any such thing?).

Fortunately, I was going to school for a while, and when I wasn’t, I didn’t have to work, so it was easy for me to live a life that avoided triggering unpleasant episodes or allowed me to hermit when they did.  Then I had a baby and whatever control I had over my life disappeared.  I hadn’t realized how carefully managed my life was until my daughter was born and I could no longer do things the way I had been.  I quickly slipped into a deep postpartum depression, one that was practically prepared for me by a nearly 48-hour labor and delivery that ended in a C-section and failed anesthesia.

About a year and a half after Zoe was born, I had a serious mental crash when we had too many stressors all at once in the form of unrelated medical issues and a car wreck that very easily could have killed both my husband as well as Zoe.  At that point I was put on Zoloft, Buspar, and Ambien.  I was in a depressed state so it was assumed antidepressants would help me.  They didn’t and I wound up on two more drugs, Seroquel and Valium, to try and address untreated symptoms.  I did that for about a year and a half and then stopped.  I’m glad I have pictures of that period of time or else I wouldn’t really remember it.

Finally, I stopped breastfeeding Zoe when she was about 3 and miraculously my mental health as well as my metabolism improved greatly.  I felt better and started losing that baby weight, finally!  I hear that breastfeeding is supposed to make mothers feel happy and help them lose weight, but in retrospect, for my own health, I should have stopped nursing Zoe when she was no more than a year old.  It obviously did bad things for my neurochemistry, for whatever reason.

So did bad life stressors.  That year I let my brother and his wife stay here while they had their baby and found a place to live.  I’ll spare you the gory details, but it turned out very badly.  What was supposed to be three months turned into eight.  It was miserably hot that summer, everyone was out of work, and there were four adults and two children living in a house of less than a thousand square feet.  In a strange quirk of fate, my brother and his family moved out and my husband got a job all within five days of each other.  Suddenly, for the first time since my daughter had been born, it was just the two of us.  My husband had worked from home for her entire life to date, and now he had to take a job out of the house.  Not long after everyone left the house, I had myself a little breakdown.

I tried to get help, but by then the health insurance industry had made it nearly impossible to get treated for anything mental unless you were actively suicidal, and then they would only pay for whatever the bare minimum was to get you back at home.  So unless I wanted to kill myself, my insurance wouldn’t cover a psychiatrist or even a GP visit if it was mentally related.  It was going to be cheaper to make the four hour drive to Mexico and buy drugs there than it was going to be to actually get the help that I needed.  I decided it was easier to just hunker down and wait until the mental storm had passed.  It was a crime that I had to do that.  I and my entire family suffered needlessly because of it.

It was then that I decided that I was probably bipolar and not just depressive.  I had checked out some books from the library about women, anger, mental illness, and other topics, including a couple of books by Kay Redfield Jamison, author of An Unquiet Mind.  She’s a psychologist and she details her own experiences with bipolar illness.  Her descriptions of her own mental states resonated strongly with me.  Still, I was too traumatized by trying to get help and by the possibility of it taking a long time to figure out what was wrong and how to treat it, so I continued to just wait.

I got better, that time anyway, and tried to manage my moods as best as I could.  Yoga helped in that regard immensely, and yoga will remain a part of what I do to make myself feel better, even if I do require medication for the rest of my life.  Karate also helped a great deal.  It requires a focus that is soothing, calming, and quieting to my mind.  I tried meditation, but I found it to be even more agitating than just my normal mindset.  I would figure out why later.

Last year I had to go mucking with my hormones, and I immediately began to feel worse than I had in several years.  I had always had trouble with bad PMS, and it was returning, despite my doctor’s insistence that the pills I was on were essentially identical to what I had been doing.  A couple of months after that, I quit smoking, which meant that I could try other kinds of pills (birth control pills are dangerous for smokers over thirty-five) to try and alleviate the PMS and other symptoms I was experiencing.

That was three weeks ago.  Over the next two weeks, while I felt better in some ways, I felt much, much worse in others.  I hadn’t felt this unstable since I found myself with an empty house save for a 3-year-old a few years before.  A week and a half ago, I tried to get a doctor’s appointment because I was feeling dangerously agitated, but the office I had gotten my new pills from wouldn’t let me speak to the doctor: they just made an appointment for the following Monday, four days later.  O_o  I was too agitated to sit in an ER: that would have made me worse.  So I called upon the people who never fail to come to my aid: my friends.  They brought me what I needed to get through the weekend, which included a summer camp fair for work which I doubt I could have tolerated, given the size and noise level of the room I was in.

I avoided as much stimulus as possible over the weekend, and stopped taking the offending pills.  On Monday, after taking my aging cat to the vet, I went back to the doctor and began a day that involved a lot of kleenex, two doctor’s offices, and at least four different healthcare workers of varying flavors.  Not to mention a busted car fender due to an elderly neighbor who shouldn’t be driving anymore.  I will spare you the day’s details, but suffice it to say that the fine people at Austin’s emergency psychiatric office must have agreed that I needed assistance because I made it through all of their hurdles in less than four hours.  In case you didn’t know, that’s nearly unheard of.

To make an already long story a little shorter, I have been indeed diagnosed as bipolar, type I.  The nice Indian doctor prescribed me some lithium to stabilize my moods and some trazodone so I can sleep.  He told me to read up about bipolar disorder, which I didn’t really have to after so long of trying to convince myself I didn’t have it.

“I’m not listening, I’m not listening!” – Gollum, The Two Towers

Near as I can tell, I’m one of those unlucky people who gets to enjoy mixed episodes: up and down at the same time.  It’s about as crazy as it sounds and feels worse.  I also suspect I’m a rapid cycler, or even ultra-rapid: more than one cycle a year, perhaps more than one in a day.  I try to avoid contact with humans on those days.  Not much has really changed.  I just have names and labels for what’s wrong sometimes, and I don’t have to beat myself up over feeling or behaving a certain way.  I can just identify it, remedy it, and move on, or stay in my room if that’s necessary.  I’m sure I have more than a few friends whom upon hearing my diagnosis have gone, “Aaahh, so that’s what’s wrong with her sometimes.”

It does mean that I now have the label of “chronic illness”.  I must take my medication: there is no alternative, just as a diabetic has to take their insulin or they can die.  Diabetes is actually my favorite non-mental chronic illness to compare to, because diabetics can exhibit some seriously aberrant and even violent behavior if their insulin and blood sugar levels get too wonky.  No one thinks diabetics are “crazy”: they just have to maintain their blood sugar properly.  I feel the same way about most mental illness that can be treated with medication.  Mother Nature forgot to wire our brains quite right so humankind has to fill in.  The only thing to be ashamed about is when I fail to do what I need to do to stay healthy, which is a lot.

It is now super-important for me to keep regular, healthy routines.  Now is the time that I should make a super effort to get that meditation practice going, especially now that I’m taking something that will shut off the hamsterwheel in my head that has always made meditation so frustrating for me.  Everyone gets the hamsterwheel when they meditate, but mine never, ever goes away.  Consequently, I just don’t meditate, or I haven’t been anyway.  Now it will be easier and that will help more than anything else in alleviating what is still an ongoing anxiety and inability to truly relax.  It’s getting better, I can tell, even after only a week on a relatively low dose of lithium.  I hope it continues to improve, because I would give anything to just be able to sit and relax and not feel like I have to get up and do something.  Yay, mania.  *sigh*  I also have to make sure I eat and not let my blood sugar get too low, which will also disaffect my mood.  Same with sleep.  Everything has to be kept in equilibrium, an ironic task for someone medically diagnosed as being out of equilibrium.

I’m trying to take an attitude of permissiveness rather than dictatorship.  After all, I’ve essentially been given permission to do as much yoga, karate, and meditation and communing with nature as I can possibly get.  Doctor’s orders!  😀  This is also a huge red flag for me to really work on incorporating Buddhism into as much of my life as possible.  Only a whole lot of acceptance, love, compassion, understanding, and metta is going to get me through the rest of my life.  I do admit, and had to admit to the doctors, that while I am not actively suicidal, I am sometimes filled with the sense that I shouldn’t be here, that I’m a mistake, that I shouldn’t have been born, and I don’t know if that’s the result of my disease or the result of the terrible environment that I had to grow up in.  Whatever the case, I’m going to have to make friends with those thoughts and figure out how to banish them, or make them ineffective, because they get worse the older I get.  Seems like a lot of love is the way to go on that one, and the only place I feel that love from is my family, and my friends, and the Buddha.

I was so grateful for my friends and family the day I was at the doctor all day.  Thanks to modern technology, I had my Android phone with me so I was able to stay in touch via Facebook and Twitter and email all day long, which was incredibly helpful to me.  All day long, I had little messages of love and support from everyone and it meant so much to me.  I have something that my mother never had, which is unconditional acceptance and support from a fairly large circle of friends and a husband who really loves and cares about me.  I would be just as lost and crazy as she was without these people in my life.  That’s far more powerful than any bottle of medication.

Insomnia


I hate insomnia.  It’s one of those perks I get as a woman with bad PMS which is probably bad enough to qualify as PMDD (premenstrual dysphoria disorder: not just irritable at “that time of the month”, downright psychotic on occasion).  Hence the fairly dour tone of my post.  Move along if you’re not in the mood.  I know I’m not.

Actually, I’ve had trouble sleeping since I was a child.  I remember asking my mother when I was about six who I needed to write to to add more hours to the day.  Too bad it’s not that easy.  Now, if I could figure out who to write to to just move the Sun about 8 hours, that would be fabulous.  Because I also have delayed sleep phase disorder.  Which is Western medicine‘s fancy term for a night owl who really can’t help it.  Really, I function best on a schedule that lets me go to sleep around 2-3am and get up around 10-11am.  It doesn’t matter if I get those same 8 hours of sleep at another time of day or night, I don’t feel as rested or feel like I have as much useful time during the day.  Such is my life.

Unfortunately, our world doesn’t work on this schedule, and is fairly harsh to anyone who can’t adopt the standard 8-5 routine that our culture and society demands of us.  When I had a child in 2003, it became painfully evident how out of sync I am with the rest of the world.  If you have a baby, every activity you can take the tot to happens at 9am, almost without fail.  Certainly not after lunchtime, when you should be putting your baby down for a nap like a good mama.  I’m sorry, did I drip some sarcasm on your shoes there?  My apologies, let me clean that up.

Buddhism has helped me somewhat in the acceptance department.  I can either bellyache continually about being off sync with the society I was born into, or I can try to accept it and do as much as I can about it myself.  I’d rather not take sleeping pills continually, mostly because, well, I like them too damn much.  I’m also just as likely to wander around my house finding ridiculous projects to work on in an OCD haze under the influence of things like Ambien as I am to do what I’m supposed to do, which is lay down and try to calm myself.  A love of mind-altering chemicals is one of those things I regrettably inherited from my parents and I learned long ago, and blessedly without becoming addicted to anything other than cigarettes, that I should just stay away from certain things.

Besides, long-term, they don’t work.  Not for me anyway.  Not just sleeping pills, but any kind of psychiatric medication.  I suffered from fairly severe postpartum depression after my daughter was born, for about three years.  The last year and a half of that I spent heavily medicated, largely as a result of trying to counteract the various side effects I had from the various drugs.  First it was Zoloft, which did indeed lend some “loft” to my mood and helped me lose some weight, but kept me from sleeping.  It also did nothing to address my anxiety.  Enter Buspar, which is marketed as a “safe” tranquilizer/sedative but which fucked me up far more than any benzodiazepine I had ever taken.  It took me two years to realize that it was the Buspar that prevented me from driving for a year and a half, not the other suspect: Seroquel.

Now, Seroquel is for psychotic manic depressives and schizophrenics/schizotypals.  Why on Earth my idiotic GP decided that was a good antidote to what was bothering me with the Zoloft, I will never know, though I suspect it had a lot to do with Seroquel being a new drug that its maker really wanted the doctors to ferret out to their patients (don’t get me going on the evils of our disease care system, I’ll set your ears on fire).  Seroquel turned me into a zombified eating machine.  Sure, I could sleep, but I was utterly compelled to eat in the evenings.  I literally could not stop myself from going into the kitchen and engaging in the worst kind of munchies possible, switching between sweet and salty until I finally passed out for the evening.  I put on 40 pounds in a month on that horrible stuff.  I’d probably kill myself before taking that drug again.

The worst part?  I lost a year and a half of my life while I was taking Zoloft, Buspar, Seroquel, Ambien, and Valium (the last two tacked on to address lingering anxiety and sleep issues).  A year and a half of my baby’s life.  It’s all a blur that makes me incredibly sad when I think about it too much and I’m really grateful that I was at least taking pictures of that time of her life.  Otherwise, I might not remember a goddamned thing about her from the time she was 18 months old to the time she was 3.  Yay for Western medicine!  *eyeroll*

So, yeah, homegirl’s not too hip on the Western brain meds anymore, not between my own experiences and watching doctors try to treat my mother’s mental illness to no avail.  Hence my deep and abiding interest in Buddhism, Buddhist psychology, mindfulness, meditation, and the other things I’ve taken up in the last three or four years to counteract my lifelong headmeat troubles, which thankfully pale in comparison to those of my parents’.  I still believe that awareness is the most powerful tool available to anyone suffering from mental difficulties (though I certainly don’t condone going off one’s meds without some deep introspection and guidance from a qualified health practitioner, nor do I believe that meds are unnecessary for everyone).  I’ve also come to appreciate the places that my brain will take me when it’s insomniac and too tired for its own good.  It’s almost trancelike in its quality, and if I just follow the meandering path that it’s on, I’ll usually learn something very interesting.

For the other bad spots my life hits from time to time, I’ve learned the value of a good cry and just being with my feelings.

Hey there, anger, how’s it going?  Not well, I can see.  What pissed you off?  Can you fix it?  Work on that tomorrow.  Or just accept that you can’t.  Let’s just sit here and feel how much this sucks for a little while.  And remember, this moment sucks, NOT you.

And when I do that, it doesn’t last nearly as long as it does when I try to put on my bravest face and just pluck through life the way we’re taught we’re supposed to.

See?  Insomnia takes me strange places.  Now it is 3am and I should really go and sit on a pillow and stare at a candle or something until I get tired enough to fall asleep.  Mother Nature will turn my cycle soon enough and I’ll be able to slumber normally.  And think normally.  Mostly.  🙂

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