Well, this one is really the 501st, but WordPress just notified me of this milestone yesterday and I can hardly believe it. Five hundred posts, most of which are about my life with bipolar disorder (will I ever run out of stories to tell about that?) but there are also some about my family and friends, doctors, pets, faith, and football. Who knew that entering a blogging contest on a dare would turn into something that I’m still doing on a semi-regular basis almost two years later?
I’m frankly amazed that I’ve been able to sustain interest in it for this long. I have a notoriously short attention span and I have a lot of trouble completing tasks I’ve started. Sometimes it takes me half a day to write a post because I get distracted and have to leave it for a while, which of course does nothing for the continuity of that post. If you’ve been a reader for any length of time, you can probably tell when I’m getting manic because my writing becomes disjointed, like I wrote pieces of the post at different times and then tried to string them together…..which is exactly what happens sometimes.
In the meantime, Will and I are still house-sitting for our son and son-in-law, who are on vacation in the Caribbean as I write this. The mouse is still with us, and the snake is shedding its skin…..yuck. I hope I don’t have to watch when it finally gets hungry and decides to stop playing with him. I know it’s the way nature works, and I don’t like mice any more than I do snakes if truth be told, but I can’t help hoping this one will make it till after we leave.
For their part, the dogs are settling down and not peeing or pooping in the house as much as they did at first. They’ve gotten used to us, and they follow us around the house as devotedly as they do their owners. Then there’s meal time, when even though we feed them at the same time we eat, we have five pairs of hopeful, pleading eyes on us as we finish our food. Still, I miss Rufus, our landlady’s old mutt, and I think Zinnie does too. He’s just as nosy when we’re eating, but at least he doesn’t beg…..just sits on the kitchen floor and looks at us with big brown eyes as if to say “I wouldn’t mind if you dropped that chicken leg on the floor”.
We’ll be here through the 1st, which means I’ll be blogging a little more often because I don’t have to type out posts on my phone like I do at home. This computer is very slow, but it’s still better than the phone. Plus, it keeps my mind off wishing I was on Ethan’s cruise ship!
Today was my Social Security physical exam. I was up way too early and so heavily caffeinated that my blood pressure soared into the 160s, and on top of it I was nervous. Not because of the physical itself—I’ve had three of them since my hospital stay—but because I was afraid the doctor would be gruff and accuse me of malingering. This exam may very well make the difference between being approved or denied…..I figured it would be tough and possibly traumatic.
I needn’t have worried. The doctor was maybe 30, easy on the eyes, and very nice. As he put me through my paces, he didn’t make me do anything that hurt or that I knew I couldn’t do. I did the best I could at what I was asked to do—no faking pain when there was none, no exaggerating it when range of motion tests did hurt. I have no idea what his determination will be, but the honest truth is, I really can’t do very much. Between my back pain and all the joints with arthritis, any sort of physical labor is out, and of course we all know what my mental illness has done to my ability to handle professional-level work.
However…..I’ve begun to doubt the actual seriousness of it just a bit. Maybe that bipolar 1 diagnosis was a knee-jerk reaction to what the attending psychiatrist found in Dr. Awesomesauce’s notes, or maybe the fact that I “saw” cats in the ER prompted him to think I was crazier than I really am. I’ve read so many stories about people with BP 1 having these huge manic episodes in which they thought they were God or royalty, or hopped on a plane bound for Europe at the drop of a hat, or stripped off their clothes in the middle of a busy street. I’ve never done anything like that. How is it that I came to be lumped in with the really psychotic folks?
The fact that I am indeed bipolar is not in question. EVERYBODY agrees with that diagnosis. And obviously it’s much more important to treat the symptoms than a label (and Heaven knows I’m on a buttload of meds). But now that it’s been a few months since I was hospitalized—and time has blurred the memories of those days somewhat—the BP 1 designation seems a bit overblown, especially since it’s splashed indelibly all over my medical records,
Of course, someone will come along and tell me I’m in denial again, and who knows, I might be. I’ve been on a little upswing of late and the rose-colored glasses look pretty good on this late-middle-aged face. In fact, I feel more optimistic now than I have in over a year. It’s Spring, after all…..time for life to burst forth and make all things new. Maybe even me!
Sharing a house with four little dogs who bark at everything that moves and eliminate wherever they please takes some getting used to. Actually, it’s five dogs when you count my Zinnie, and six if you count the bird that barks just as well (and just as often) as the dogs do.
Then there’s the snake, an ugly green thing that does nothing but ooze around the twigs in its cage and eye its soon-to-be dinner, a little grey mouse I’ve come to feel very sorry for. He keeps scurrying around his glass prison, trying to find an escape hatch, but I don’t think he quite realizes the danger he’s in; every now and again he runs up the branch where the snake is and sniffs at it. This brings the critter out of its lazy sleep and causes it to strike out. It obviously isn’t hungry yet or the mouse would’ve been devoured….and as I watch the little guy race around the enclosure, I find myself rooting for him.
For their part, the mini-pins are very affectionate, even the one I have to inject twice a day with insulin. Good thing I’m fast with a needle or I’d have been bitten multiple times, but she always forgives me quickly and two minutes later she’s nuzzling me with her long nose.
The Pomeranians, on the other hand, are rather snooty, although they too love cuddles and will lick you to death if you let them. They bullied my dog Zinnie from the start—probably because she came too close to their new puppies—but seem to have lightened up a bit, because she’s no longer hiding under the desk near my feet or under the blankets on the big sectional sofa.
In the meantime, my son Ethan has been calling on a regular basis to see how things are going here. He won’t be able to once the ship sails, which will be the end of all phone contact for eight days. I can’t even imagine being out of range for that long…..but then, I can’t imagine being on an eight-day cruise either, even though it’s on my bucket list along with seeing the birthplace of Jesus and staying at one of those little stick houses in the shallow ocean water in Bora Bora. (Actually, I just want to live there.) Next life: straighter hair, better metabolism, more money…..and of course, no bipolar. Woo-hoo!
So here are Will and I, house-sitting for our son and son-in-law while they’re off on a cruise vacation for the next couple of weeks, with a large house full of food and conveniences at our disposal. Just like in the old days when we had plenty of everything! They also have a trash compactor, a Keurig coffeemaker, and Netflix, none of which we had in our past life. And TV…..oh Lord, how much I’ve missed TV. I didn’t even know there was a new season of Dancing With The Stars, but we were able to catch it live. Don’t get me wrong, I like our new home and am grateful beyond words that we have a roof over our heads, but it is nice to spread out a little.
The fun part so far has been figuring out how things work, including the computer I’m typing this post on. It has this wireless mouse that you literally have to bend in the middle to make it work. Weird. I also have access to my son’s laptop if I want it. In the meantime there’s the keyless deadbolt that scared me half to death this morning when I locked it and then couldn’t unlock it again for a few minutes. I could just imagine calling Ethan—he’s in Houston waiting for his connecting flight to Florida as of this writing—like he could do anything but give me the passcode again. I STILL have trouble remembering stuff like that. I did manage to unlock it after a few frantic attempts, but you can bet I used the old-fashioned door lock when we left for Will’s doctor appointment later.
The downside to all of this is, we are also dog-sitting. And fish-sitting. And snake-sitting. (Thank God we don’t actually have to DO anything with them.) One of the dogs is diabetic and we have to give her insulin shots, which is an adventure all in itself. It’s a two-person operation—you need one to hold the dog and distract her with a treat, while the other grabs her by the scruff of her neck and pokes the needle in before she can turn around and bite. We get to perform this trick twice a day. Dogs are not the easiest of patients, so this ought to be interesting to say the least.
But we can’t knock it—in a way it’s like a “stay-cation” for us, and we’re even getting paid for it. What could be better? Well, a Caribbean cruise…..:-)
Yes, that’s right—thanks to my new status as a lowly Medicaid patient, it looks like I’m going to have to get all my mental health care from the county. To say I’m sick about it is an understatement; Dr. Awesomesauce has seen me through crisis after crisis and been my port in the storm that is my life with bipolar disorder. Whatever will I do without him?
From what the paperwork says, I can appeal by talking to the powers that be, and of course I will because I’ve been working with the man for three years and needed some pretty intensive management for most of that time. I’m also in the middle of a Social Security disability case and don’t want to change horses in mid-stream. Maybe it will be enough to tip the scales in my favor and maybe not, but it’s the only chance I have of hanging onto my doctor.
Of course, I could stay with him if I could afford to pay for sessions myself, but if that were the case we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. So unless I can convince the bureaucrats of the necessity of maintaining the status quo, I’m SOL. And that makes me incredibly sad.
Everyone who reads this blog know what Dr. A has meant to me. He literally saved my life last fall, and I can’t even imagine it without his guidance, wisdom, humor, and nagging. I wonder how I’ll fare without a regular psychiatrist who knows me like he does. I’m pretty high-maintenance and my treatment is tricky. It’s taken three years and a zillion adjustments to get to where I am now—dear God, what if they want to mess with my meds?
I think what I’ll do is keep my appointment in May; there needs to be good-byes and a sense of closure. In the meantime I’m going to try to get used to the idea of handling yet another major upheaval in my life; I guess I got too long of a break from the festivities and have to suffer for it. Crap.
Sorry I haven’t been around much this past week or so, but I’ve been doing the tango with pre-hypomania and having some difficulties with focus. I refer to dancing because I’ve been able to stay away from the edge of that precipice; thank God for meds or I’d be jitterbugging on the moon right now. Although it’s still technically winter, the weather in my part of the United States has been uncharacteristically springlike, and the cherry blossoms were in full bloom before the end of February.
Accordingly, my mood has risen with the temperature. It’s been upwards of 70 degrees the last couple of days, so I’ve been pretty energetic even though I haven’t really been able to channel it constructively. If it were a little later in the year, I could be outside tending to a garden, but if I tried to plant anything now it would die immediately because the soil is still too cold. Plus the danger of frost is very much an issue, and will be until May.
As it is, physical activity is limited because my knees and back have been aching ferociously. It does not, however, stop me from doing my happy-feet thing and shakin’ it to Bon Jovi and Def Leppard on the radio. I found this awesome FM station thats plays nothing but pure rock and roll from the ’60s to the ’90s, some of which I haven’t heard since those decades. There’s nothing quite like trying to compose a blog post while the Stones are doing “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”!
Strange as it may seem,I have a habit of marking the dates of all kinds of occasions, not just cheery events like weddings and birthdays. Such is the case with today being the day I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Three years, countless med changes and a hospitalization later, I’m on much firmer footing than I was when I met Dr. Awesomesauce…..but what an odyssey it’s been!
Even during the decade or so preceding the diagnosis, when I quietly suspected I had bipolar, I never dreamed what an impact the illness would have on my life. It’s influenced everything from my work to the kinds of food I eat, and it has also been instrumental in the way I look at the world.
But it’s also made me a better person in many ways. Not only have some of my less attractive traits been beaten into submission by medication, but I’ve developed more compassion for my fellow humans. My road rage is all but gone. I try to look at issues from the viewpoint of the opposite side. I don’t even look down on street people anymore, for I know what it’s like to be mentally ill and desperate for help. The only difference between us is I had more resources to draw from. That’s it.
However, I think the best thing that’s happened during my journey is this: I no longer have time for drama. My new mantra is “not my circus, not my monkeys”. I’m learning to pull away from people and things that suck the life out of me and leave me feeling drained. Even losing my job, home, and social status was a blessing in disguise, because it stripped away a lot of the bullshit involved in maintaining that lifestyle. Now that I don’t have anyone to kiss up or bow down to, I feel positively liberated.
I might not have discovered all of this had I not been brought to my knees by bipolar disorder back in 2012. Since it’s obviously never going to go away, I hope to keep on growing from it and using it to become wiser…..even if it makes me crazy sometimes. :-)