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Between “Blah” and “Yee-HAW!!”

August 29, 2014

This mild mixed episode has got to go.

It’s not anything I can’t stand. It’s not at all like those horrendous mixed moods I have every now and again that make me crazier than a shit-house rat. This is just a generalized weirdness where bouncy and amused alternates with down and irritable, and I’m sick to death of it.

I want to stay bouncy and amused. I want NOT to be down and irritable. Mostly, I want to find that sweet spot between “Blah” and “Yee-HAW!”

And then I remember what happens to me in the latter part of the summer: I get bored, restless, and a little bit depressed. You can practically set your watch by it—in late August, the angle of the sun’s light changes subtly and makes my brain go “aw, dammit, winter’s coming”. (I think I’ve already established that I loathe winter.)  Now what’s REALLY odd is that I tend to get hypomanic in the early fall, when it’s crisp and cool in the mornings and the sun is still warm in the afternoons. Right now, however, I’m experiencing a taste of both mood states, and it’s confusing the hell out of me because I don’t know from one day to the next which way my mood will swing.

Take yesterday. I was in a great frame of mind in the morning despite Will’s (very) recent setback, listening to peppy music and handing out sage advice to my fellow posters on a nursing forum. But by early evening I was questioning why I need to continue to exist because I’m no good to anyone, seeing as how I can’t work a normal 40-hour week like everyone else. (Yes, I know it’s convoluted thinking, but we’re not dealing with logic here.) I feel SO sorry for anyone who deals with ultra-rapid cycling every day of their lives…..just this little taste of it makes me yearn for the normal mood cycling I experience the rest of the time.

I’m not particularly worried about myself. This is merely unpleasant, and I want it gone NOW. I see Dr. Awesomesauce in another week and a half, and I have the feeling he’s going to ask me to try reducing the Zyprexa again. He really doesn’t want me to stay on two anti-psychotics forever, and that’s probably a good thing. I could use a little more of a boost in the energy department, although the last time I tried decreasing the Z I wound up getting seriously depressed instead of manic. Who knows….it’s a different time of year, and perhaps this time it’ll do the opposite.

Of course I know what’s driving this, and that’s my life situation, which is both distressful and confusing. Who wouldn’t be a little screwed up? I think it stands as a testament to the success of my treatment that I’m not completely out of my skull…..I’ve been made crazy by a lot less. In fact, I wouldn’t worry about this particular episode at all, if I didn’t recognize the subtler signs that it is indeed somewhat bipolar-related. Not every symptom is. I’ve gotten a lot better at discerning what’s BP versus what’s just the bullshit life serves up.

But this time, some of it IS my disease and I find myself longing for the passion and fire of hypomania. Not mania itself, because that is destructive and never ends well; I just want to feel really good again, and for longer than a day. Is that too much to ask?

 

 

 

BOHICA

August 28, 2014

For the uninitiated, that’s a military acronym for Bend Over, Here It Comes Again. And here it came all right, this time in the form of blood clots in Will’s lungs. They found them on his routine follow-up CT scan yesterday. We learned of this when his oncologist Dr. Wonderful (not to be confused with Dr. Awesomesauce, but he IS wonderful in his own way) called me at 4:45 PM and told me to take him to the ER and tell them about what had been seen on the CT, because he needed treatment right away.

Of course this struck fear into my heart, because I know about PEs (pulmonary emboli) and they are serious. They usually originate in the deep veins of the legs, and when they break off and travel to the vital organs such as the lungs, heart, or brain, they can be life-threatening. Will was out on a walk with our dog, Zinnie, so I called him on his cell phone and basically told him to get his butt home STAT. So off we went, me trying to stay cool because I was scared enough for the both of us, and they ushered him right in.

The ER physician, however, wasn’t impressed. “These have been there for awhile,” he said. “You’ll need anticoagulation (medical therapy that dissolves blood clots) but there’s no imminent danger. We’ll do an ultrasound of your legs, and if there’s no clots we’ll send you home after we start you on some blood thinners.”

Instantly, relief flooded us both. Will hadn’t wanted to admit it, but he was scared shitless and even angry at his body for betraying him again. He’s been doing fantastic lately, with plenty of energy for his projects and his daily walks with Zin, and in fact there had been GOOD news associated with yesterday’s CT—the tumors have shrunk a little more, and there are no new ones. Hurray!

But it seems like it’s always something, and I had a private moment of sadness in the ER restroom when I realized that the future is going to be filled with times like this. It was a reminder that Will is still dealing with a catastrophic disease that is eventually going to win, no matter what we throw at it. We are always going to have to be on the lookout for new problems, new aches and pains, new diagnoses. We are always going to have to guard against falls and pneumonia (he had those too earlier this year). And of course, we are always going to have to watch the cancer itself, lest it grow new tentacles and begin to take over vital organs.

Today, however, he is full of life and high spirits, despite the fact that I’m going to have to give him shots in the belly for the next few days. He’s going to his model club meeting tonight just like he always does on Thursdays, and life will go on as if nothing had happened.

I like his way of thinking. Maybe I should try it myself. :-)

Oops, I Did It Again

August 27, 2014

Well, the deed has been done. I signed the attorney papers and mailed them out this morning.

I know I must’ve come across as whiny and wishy-washy during the past couple of weeks, and I’m sorry about that. Yesterday a friend of mine suggested—in so many words—that I really needed to shit or get off the pot, and of course she was right…..I’ve just been delaying the inevitable, and making myself unhappy in the process. I look back over my posts and see what she was talking about: the endless debates, the self-recrimination, the fear of screwing up my life even more. It was definitely put-up-or-shut-up time.

So I arose this morning a woman with her mind made up. I signed and initialed every single highlighted space, sealed the envelope, and sent it off with a silent prayer that I’m doing the right thing. But the feeling isn’t all that different from what I’ve felt all summer—like I’ve stepped off a cliff not knowing how far I’m going to fall before I land. It’s getting to be a very familiar feeling. I’m no more comfortable with it than I’ve ever been, but it’s a known quantity now.

There’s even some certainty in my uncertainty; I mean, I KNOW life is going to suck for awhile. It’s already sucked for quite some time, and nothing has happened yet to make me think it’s going to change any time soon. So I’m trying to focus on the few positives, e.g. we finally got the month’s rent paid, which keeps us off the streets for a little longer, and I slept better last night, which makes me a little saner today.

Which reminds me of the fact that my mood charts have been reflecting a kinder and gentler version of the mixed mood episode. I am up and down, sometimes even within the same 24 hours, and if you asked me how I am at a given moment, I wouldn’t be able to tell you if I’m hypomanic or depressed. My mind races and I’ve got more energy than I’ve had all summer; but then, I’m also having trouble hauling my butt out of bed in the morning, and my outlook is (to say the least) less than sanguine.

Oops, I did it again—I just caught myself whining. But I’ve already written the entire post, and I really don’t want to start over. Is that OK? (laughs) I guess I shouldn’t feel too bad about it, after all this IS my blog and I get to write whatever I want…..but I also want people to read it, so it’s probably best if I don’t make it a continuous downer. And there are some things to be grateful for, like my husband Will. He had a CT done today to see if his cancer drugs are still holding off the growth of the tumors; hopefully the news will be good. In the meantime, he’s still doing well both physically and mentally, and that sustains me during these difficult days.

Now the waiting begins: for Will’s results, for Social Security, for life to get better. God alone knows how it will all turn out. I just hope He lets me in on some of His plans soon!

 

Same S#!+, Different Day

August 26, 2014

My sleep is getting screwy again. The past four nights I’ve been awake well past midnight with racing thoughts, trying to calm my mind with prayer and meditation and failing utterly. Then I can barely get out of bed in the morning because my brain does not have an OFF switch and my ruminations continue all night, even after I finally do fall asleep. I can’t win.

It’s not that I’m going to bed later. No, I’m still sticking with the script and hitting the sack by 11:30 PM; I just can’t go to sleep at a decent hour despite the ingestion of three major tranquilizers at 9 PM. I also wake up briefly at least once or twice a night, so basically I’m in bed for eight and a half hours but only getting six or seven hours of sleep. Not that I need more than that, it’s just the irregularity and the fact that I can’t seem to quiet the cacophony in my head that’s making me a little wonky.

I’m so conflicted over what to do about my life. I want to work and contribute to society as well as keep Will and myself off the streets, but in the dark of night I have to admit to myself that I don’t know what kind of work I can do anymore. I am SUCH a stress-monkey and I can’t think of a single line of work that doesn’t involve stress of some kind. I do know that I gravitate toward jobs that involve working with people and trying to solve their problems, and those are probably the worst types of jobs I could go for. But what else IS there?

I have the disability papers from my attorney. They’re still in the envelope on my desk, waiting to be signed so the process can begin. I’ve taken them out of the envelope several times, but haven’t gotten my head together enough to sign them and send them off. I don’t know exactly why I’m having such a hard time doing such a simple thing. I guess it’s just that to me, signing those papers means I’m giving up, and I’m just. not. ready.

Maybe it’s like some of my family and friends say, that I think I’m steadier than I really am. Dr. Awesomesauce also said as much at my last appointment. But while they are certainly more objective than I am—and they often see things I don’t—I can’t make myself believe that. Maybe I’m still in denial about my capabilities. Maybe I’m just stubborn. I don’t know. The only thing I know for certain is that I hate, hate, HATE this situation and I’m angry with myself because I need to do something quickly and still have no real idea of what that should be.

Same shit, different day. I’m still holding out hope for that county job, but I’m beginning to suspect that working with people and getting sucked into their dramas may not be the best idea after all. Maybe I just need to work on an assembly line someplace, like I used to do in the way-back days when I was young and restless and full of ennui. There wasn’t enough in the work itself to occupy the intellect and I got into quite a bit of trouble by pulling pranks, but the mindlessness could be exactly what I need right now.

Or, I can sign those papers and hope for the best. Maybe if I do that I’ll be able to sleep at night, knowing that I’ve at least crossed ONE thing off my to-do list. You know what they say about a journey of a thousand miles and all.

 

Hope Springs Eternal

August 24, 2014

I think by now we’ve all figured out the common theme for the past few days. The proverbial chips have been down for some time, but I’m feeling my optimism rising again even though nothing has changed on the surface. I’m like a robin with one end of a ten-foot earthworm in its beak…..a little nibble keeps me trying.

I am SO not ready to quit. I thought I was, but all it took was being invited for that job interview and I realized that surrender just isn’t an option…..not yet, anyway. I’m still filing for disability—the attorney papers are on my desk as I speak—but I can always cancel the application if I find a job I can live with, and in the meantime I feel like the paralysis has been broken.

All summer long I’ve been in a funk, unable to make more than the most basic of decisions (and sometimes not even those). Now I seem to be throwing off my lassitude and even if I still can’t decide what to do in a given situation, at least I’m considering things. I couldn’t even do that up until a couple of weeks ago…..all I was doing was over-thinking while spinning my wheels uselessly.

Granted, I’m coming close to the end of my unemployment benefits and I’m feeling the pressure; but I also suspect that talking with Dr. Awesomesauce about disability just might have lit the fire under me. I also suspect this may have been the purpose of that particular little chat—he can be manipulative like that—because he knows how I behave when my back is against a wall. I tend to come out fighting!

But I think I’m also becoming more realistic about what I can do even though I still resent my limitations, because otherwise I’d still be nursing and making good money while being overworked and hating the politics more with each passing day. At least now I have hope that I’ll find a job I can live with. When I was looking only at nursing jobs, I felt that was my only option and was secretly fearful I’d wind up in the same miserable situation that made me leave all my previous nursing jobs. I didn’t know how to get off the merry-go-round.

Now that I’ve done it, I’m really hoping for the county job I applied for. I want that one so badly I can almost taste it. Who could possibly be better to support people dealing with mental illness than somebody who has one? Of course, I probably should be careful what I pray for, but I’ve looked over the job description at least a dozen times and there’s not a single aspect of it that I couldn’t do. Yes, I’m sure it’s stressful in its own way, and I can see myself having some guilt feelings if someone I’m trying to help were to commit suicide. But holding the power of life and death in my hands as I did when I was a nurse? Not gonna happen.

So it’ll be interesting to see how all this settles out. Even though my interview on Friday didn’t go the way I’d hoped, I have the feeling that I’m close to a breakthrough…..but in the meantime, I’m going to keep looking and I’m not giving up!

 

 

 

High Hopes

August 23, 2014

So I had my job interview yesterday, and let’s just say it was an interesting experience. The people I interviewed with were very nice and I felt reasonably comfortable with them; the room we were in was small and intimate; and I didn’t even make any wrong turns in the maze that was the inner sanctum. But the questions were harder and more complex than any I’ve ever been subjected to, and they made my interviews with the State look like a cakewalk.

Bottom line: I don’t think I did very well, although I thought the same after that second State interview, and we all know how that came out. I may be a bit of a bumbler sometimes, but I’m not stupid, and when they kept coming back to why that last job didn’t work out, I figured I was sunk. If I could’ve kicked myself under the table, I would have, because all I could think of to talk about was that damnable computer program I couldn’t learn to save my life. Not that I never felt like I belonged there or that the job involved more travel than I’d been led to believe, just the difficulty of learning the software and memorizing reams of information.

However, the tone of the interview remained upbeat and positive, and they were upfront and honest about what the job entails. They also mentioned that there was a full-time nursing position open, but I told them (gasp!) that I wasn’t interested. I’m kind of proud of myself for that, because even a few weeks ago I’d probably have gone for it in spite of knowing what I know about myself and my inability to deal with that sort of stress.

The problem is, this job is going to be equally stressful, and the interviewers were brutally honest about that. There’s the multi-tasking and constantly changing priorities, and I’d have to be very detail-oriented and deal with families going through extremely difficult circumstances. NONE of which I’m good at, except the latter…..my whole career was spent taking care of people in crisis, and I did it well. The two things this position has going for it are a) it has regular hours—no overtime, no nights, no weekends—and b) I don’t think I would EVER be bored. I also wouldn’t be holding anyone’s life in my hands. But…..

AAARRRGGGHHH!!!!!

I’d had such high hopes for this job. I’ve decided that working in mental health just might be the right fit for me, but I can’t take the risk of losing my own marbles while I’m doing it. Even Will was adamant about my not accepting the job should it be offered: “No, you know you can’t do that, you’ll only end up getting sick again and this time it might be worse. Besides, you know what Dr. Awesomesauce would have to say about it.”

That’s true. I DO know what Dr. A would say about it, and I don’t want to hear it. Although I’m in a good recovery, it wouldn’t take much to upset the apple cart and I know that. My stomach is knotted up just contemplating what such an undertaking might do to me—I’ve been through it so many times already, why do I even THINK about butting my head against that wall again?

Because I’m desperate. Because I want to save my home and my way of life. Because I want to prove to myself that I’m stronger than my illness.

Is it so wrong to want to try again, even though I know what the outcome would probably be? Or am I still in denial about my limitations?

To be continued…..

 

Another Ray Of Hope

August 21, 2014

I’m almost afraid to say this because I might jinx myself, but I could be on a bit of a roll here.

While I was surfing Craigslist for jobs last night, I found one that is PERFECT. The position is with the county as a peer support specialist for people in the mental health system. It’s all about advocating for them, teaching life skills, and coordinating services. And one of the requirements is—can you believe this?—you have to self-identify as a) a person receiving mental health services, b) someone who is in recovery for a substance abuse problem, or c) a relative of someone who is.

I qualify on all three counts. Could anything possibly be better than a job where I don’t have to hide the fact that I suffer from a mental illness? I must’ve read that job description half a dozen times, unable to believe what I was seeing. I have NEVER heard of a job where MI was a bona fide occupational qualification. It almost seemed too good to be true…..but it’s a legitimate government job, and even better, it’s part-time and pays well above minimum wage.

I didn’t hesitate for a minute. Within 30 minutes I filled out the application form, attached my resume and fired it off. I don’t expect to be called for an interview anytime soon; the closing date isn’t until the third of September. But I have a good feeling about this; I think I’ll get an interview at the very least. Once again, I can see where my clinical background would be useful even though this is not a nursing position, and of course my experiences as a person living with MI are valuable because I know what mentally ill people have to deal with. The stigma. The difficulties with maintaining steady employment. The impact MI has on loved ones. The shame.

I’m afraid to get too excited, but I can’t help it. And I’ve still got the interview tomorrow at the children’s psych facility. If nothing else, this has opened up a whole new world of possibilities which I didn’t even know existed till a week or so ago. Obviously, I think I’d be good at working with other people with mental health issues, although I’d have to be careful not to over-identify and get too involved in their lives. Boundaries are a good thing! But I can’t see any other real downside to either job, with the exception being lower pay than I’m used to. It’s hard to think about scraping by on $15 an hour when you’ve been bringing home twice that much.

At this point, however, I’m much less concerned with money than I am with quality of life. Yes, money contributes to quality of life, but I’d rather have a job that doesn’t swallow me whole. And if it’s something I’m passionate about, so much the better.

Besides, if I were to start earning a big salary again, the bill collectors will be all over it like a cheap suit and I wouldn’t see much of it anyway. Having a middle-class income is overrated; the more one makes, the more it takes to live because the “needs” always seem to expand to meet (or exceed) the available funding. I mean, does anyone really NEED candles, room sprays, and air fresheners in matching seasonal scents?

Anyway, that’s my exciting news for today. We shall see what comes of it. I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

 

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