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The Adventure Of A Lifetime

May 22, 2015

I’ve been keeping a secret for several weeks that I just can’t hold onto any longer: my lifelong dream of a Caribbean cruise is about to be realized. Will and I have been invited to accompany my son and son-in-law on the Carnival Magic in December! They’ve even offered to pick up our expenses on board—all we have to pay for are our tickets and air fare, which has already been done. Now we have only to get our passports and GO!

I’ve never wanted it to be December so badly in my life. This vacation will be Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries and Mother’s/Father’s Days all rolled into one. It’s the honeymoon we never had, the adventure of a lifetime. Thankfully “the boys” have been on numerous cruises, because we totally lack sophistication and will need their assistance in figuring things out. Even Dr. Awesomesauce gave me some good advice for traveling in Jamaica (“you won’t be there two minutes before someone approaches you about marijuana”) and wants me to go on the shore excursion to the turtle farm (“you’ll love it!”).

Well, I don’t know about turtles, but I’m sure looking forward to seeing the clear blue/green waters and white-sand beaches. In the Caribbean. In December. While the Northern Hemisphere shivers and drips, we’ll be in places where summer never ends. We’ll be on a huge ship that has every amenity you can think of, including live entertainment and several pools and hot tubs. They even have a water slide, and YES, I’m going to go on it. This is the first time I’ve gotten to do anything like this, and I’m not wasting a single experience…..not even if I look ridiculous doing it.

In a way though, I’m glad there’s some time before we go. I need to lose some weight and develop a little activity tolerance, which will mean low-carbing and walking at least once a day with Will and the dogs. I’m also praying he can stay reasonably healthy, because this will likely be the only time we’ll get the chance to do something magnificent together. (Although I’ve gotta say, having our children was pretty cool too.) Our 35th wedding anniversary is this year; nothing wrong with celebrating a little late.

This trip is at least as much for him as it is for me, anyway. He and I have dreamed of taking a cruise for years and never thought for a minute that it would actually happen. We’ve just never been able to put that much money all together before, and even after buying our plane tickets and the cruise itself we are still sitting on a good amount of my back pay from Social Security. We’re going to want memorabilia from the places we visit (Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and of course Jamaica) so we definitely want to save up. I learned a lot about money management when we didn’t have any, and the purse strings are going to remain tight so we can enjoy ourselves on the trip.

Of course, there’s always got to be a fly in the ointment, and that is my illness. I’ve read that it doesn’t travel particularly well across time zones. But Dr. A, true to form, has a battle plan that we’re going to work on as the departure date nears. He thinks I’ll be fine as long as I don’t let my sleep/meds schedule get too far out of whack, which will take some prior planning but isn’t impossible.

I want to think that too. And now that the biggest item on my bucket list is about to happen, ANYTHING is possible. :-)

May 19, 2015

“You look so beautiful! And you’re not manic!”

Such was the enthusiastic reception I got this afternoon from Dr. Awesomesauce as I sat down for our first appointment in three months. Damn, I didn’t realize how much I’d missed him, but I’ve been so stable I haven’t needed him—-as it should be! I think this is the first time he’s ever really seen what my “normal” looks like, and he was so pleased that he clapped his hands together like a child and complimented me again on how great I looked and how I presented myself. I guess he really did think I was a bit manic during the last couple of visits (even though I certainly didn’t). Which made me instantly grateful for the fact that I can actually be happy without being off my rocker!

Of course, I had to tell him that I got Social Security and I thanked him for the thoroughness of his documentation. He didn’t really want to take credit for it, but he was impressed with the fact that I never even had to see one of their psychiatrists, and was more than glad things had worked out for me. The only thing that worries him is if I can be careful with money now that I have some again; I reassured him that we are sitting on a pretty decent-sized chunk of the original settlement and are saving up to get a place of our own at some point going forward.

“Good for you,” he said, grinning ear-to-ear. “But if you start buying yellow toucan shirts again, you give that bank card to your hubby!”

So now that nothing’s broke, we are now going to try fixing it: e.g., we’re going down a little on the Geodon to see if we can wean me down, if not off, some of these meds. I had the choice between trying a lower dose of either that or the Zyprexa, which I swear is the glue that holds me together. Maybe someday, particularly if the Geodon titration goes well, I can try decreasing that too…..but we’re not going there yet. My tolerance for med decreases is historically poor; still, we’ve got to start trying because we’re running out of options for PRNs if something goes sideways and I need something extra to either get me off the moon or bring my out of a depression. Makes sense to me, although I am definitely a little nervous about changing anything when my mood is as stable as it’s ever going to get.

Anyway, I’ll be starting that in a couple of weeks once I get through the rest of my current prescription, and then I see him four weeks after that (assuming all is well). In the meantime, I’m happy, he’s happy, my family’s happy, and life is good.

Settling In

May 16, 2015

Now that the dust has settled from the initial euphoria of receiving my first Social Security Disability Insurance check earlier this month, I’ve begun to reflect on all that brought me to this place of (relative) peace and quiet. I can’t get over how relieved I am knowing that Will and I are going to survive…..not that we aren’t still poor, but much less so than we were on his SS alone. I honestly didn’t know how we were going to make it—we were down to our last $200 in savings—without having to give up our car insurance and/or the storage shed, which holds almost everything we own.

We don’t have to worry about that anymore. My income alone pays all the bills plus enough for food (we’ll be getting kicked off food stamps next month), while Will’s check can go for savings so we can get our own place one day. It does seem weird to be on Social Security this early in life; it fits oddly, like a dress with an irregular hem and sleeves that are a bit too tight. I’ve already learned to say “I’m a retired nurse” when asked my occupation, because saying “I’m disabled” opens up too many cans of worms and people always want to know what’s wrong. I don’t necessarily want to share that with the entire world. I know what got me here, and so do my readers.

I am amazed at how relaxed I’ve become since all this fell into place. I sometimes even wake up smiling because I no longer have to worry about finding a job, with all the attending anxiety and frustration. I busted my chops for six long months last year trying to find something I could do and applying for many jobs I couldn’t do, and I spent most of those months severely depressed. The depression itself finally lifted after we got moved in here in January and has not returned, but this is more than just not being depressed anymore…..this is called being happy.

The fact that I am still bipolar doesn’t even bother me so much anymore. Yes, this is a wonderful time for me and I know I’ll eventually cycle out of it, just as I cycled into it. I experienced a mild hypomania a few weeks ago, and of course depression always lurks in the shadowy recesses of my brain. But being so much more at ease with my life situation is doing great things for me, as is the fact that my meds are right. Finally. That last uptick in my antidepressant was the straw that broke depression’s back. I can hardly wait to see Dr. Awesomesauce on Monday and share my good news. Hey Doc, you cured me!

Now, I know better than to believe there’s a cure for my illness; but at last I’m settling in for the long haul and I’m not constantly fighting with it anymore. The med change helped that along, but not having to worry about losing everything we’ve acquired over 35 years of marriage or getting the car impounded for lack of insurance is amazingly liberating. :-)


And Now For Something Entirely Different…..

May 15, 2015

Just found out yesterday that I have a kidney stone that is so freaking big I have to have surgery to take it out. Instead of doing a nice little non-invasive lithotripsy like the last four procedures I’ve had for these things, they actually have to cut me open and extract the boulder by hand after breaking it up with a laser. This means having a tube in my back for a couple of days, a hospital stay…..and of course, lots and lots of pain.

To say the least, I am not looking forward to any of this. Kidney stone extractions of any kind are miserable experiences at best, and this one sounds like the tortures of the damned. I’ve got a pretty high pain threshold, but even I have my limits and I am NOT going to be a martyr this time—Toradol and Dilaudid will be my best friends during this process, and I will not hesitate to ask for them.

I was a good nurse. I’m not very good at being a patient, though. Not because I’m whiny and demanding—I am not—but because I don’t want to be too much work for my nurses. I know what it’s like to run those floors and I try not to bother them. This is not always beneficial. When I was in my own hospital years ago for a cardiac workup (chest pain), I decided I wasn’t going to ask for help to get to the bathroom in spite of being told I had to. “All the way” to the bathroom was twelve feet. What could go wrong?

I was halfway there when I got dizzy and started to slide to the floor. My nurse caught me just before I hit the deck. After that I was put on a bed alarm which would alert the staff if I tried getting up on my own again. How embarrassing is it to be on a bed alarm in the very same hospital where you work?

So there will be no hijinks this time. I’ll do what they tell me and try to remember that they are there to help me. Besides, I will probably be uncomfortable enough that my usual stubbornness won’t be an issue.

And speaking of medical stuff: it has been three whole months since I’ve seen Dr. Awesomesauce. I have an appointment this coming Monday, and I’m just full of good news that I’m sure he’ll like to hear. What amazes me is that this is the longest time I’ve gone without seeing him in the three years I’ve been his patient…..something I thought would never happen, the way things were during that time. But I’m well, I’m happy, and best of all, I’m stable.  Hard to believe that only six months ago I was suicidal to the point of needing hospitalization. I’ve come a long way since then!

But I’m still not looking forward to this surgery thing, which is June 10th. I have to have the tube put in my kidney the day before, which essentially means two operations for the price of one. Oh goody. I don’t know why they can’t do it all at one time, but I guess since the actual extraction process will take 3-4 hours they don’t want me under anesthesia any longer than is necessary. The tube placement is supposed to be done under conscious sedation…..oh goody again, I get to be AWAKE for this one.

But what the heck. They’ll pump me full of Versed, which is what I call my happy medicine because I get higher than a kite on it. It’s even more fun than hypomania. I have said things under the influence of Versed that I would never say in real life, and laughed my head off while doing it. Cracked up the doctors and nurses too.

I can hardly wait till it’s over, though. Summer is coming and I don’t want to feel like crap. Let’s git-r-done!

Something’s Coming, Something Good

May 10, 2015

It’s amazing what a little money and the relief from worrying about survival can do for a person. This is perhaps the most relaxed I’ve been in my entire adult life; now that I’m free to move on with it, I can lay at least some of what has happened over the past several years to rest and see what’s around the corner.

The idea of being disabled enough to merit SSDI is taking some getting used to, even though the relief that comes with it is almost palpable. I wish I really didn’t need to be on disability, but the truth is I am functional only in this rather diminished role in life…’s what I can handle at this point in time, and I’m not going to worry about trying to change it and maybe falling down the rabbit-hole again. And that is very liberating!

It doesn’t hurt that this spring is the first in years when I haven’t gone off the deep end. Yes, I’ve been in an upswing for the past several weeks, but the weather and my normal, natural love for life are what’s driving it, not my bipolar. In fact, this has so little to do with bipolar I almost feel like I should change the name of my blog. But in the back of my mind I remember that as one cycles into mood states, so one also cycles out, and I know this isn’t the end of it. After all, it was only six months ago that I had just gotten out of a mental hospital, still depressed and facing homelessness, and I could very well end up in despair again. Or in a wild state of mania where I’m dancing on the mountains of the moon.

But for now, none of that is happening. My meds are working, my moods are steady, and I’m optimistic about the future. It feels so good not to dread it! It’s like a huge weight has dropped off my shoulders and I can breathe again. Now maybe I can think about volunteering, not where I’m locked into a schedule but something I can do when I’m feeling well. I would love to start a faith-based mental health support group at my church; the only issue with that would be the time commitment and what happens when the inevitable crash occurs. How do you lead if you can’t even manage your own life?

Ah, but that is a worry for another day. Something’s coming, something good…..I can feel it on the warm wind and hear it in the sweet music of Spring.

Dude, You’re Getting A Dell!

May 8, 2015

Actually, I’m not a dude, and I already bought my Dell. Yesterday. At Costco. Now I can type my blog posts once, not twice as I did when I had no Internet access on my old computer—I was having to compose the posts in Documents and then type them into my phone. As you can imagine, that was quite a process, and more than once I nearly gave up because it was such a gold-plated pain in the ass.

But sweet are the uses of a little extra money, and thankfully I got five months’ worth of Social Security payments all at once so I had the cash to buy a new computer. It’s my very first laptop and I’m thrilled with it—it’s got all the bells and whistles I could have asked for and more besides. It’s not top of the line but I don’t need that; I just wanted a more portable computer that didn’t take up the entire desk when I set it down AND worked with my landlady’s wireless service. Which it does beautifully.

So if you don’t mind, I think I’m going to learn a little more about this marvelous piece of technology before I get back to posting my usual wit and wisdom. I’ve got a few bugs to work out in the user . See you soon!

Something To Celebrate

May 2, 2015

It seems like a weird thing to be happy about, but here it is: my first Social Security check arrived in yesterday’s mail. Approved on the first try, and in the minimum time frame, no less. I guess that bipolar 1 diagnosis and hospitalization, plus my physical issues, were enough to turn the tide in my favor. Thank the Lord!

It couldn’t have come at a better time. Will and I were within $200 of being flat broke before this miracle appeared. We were going to have to cancel our car insurance because we couldn’t afford it anymore. Now those worries are a thing of the past. Oh, don’t get me wrong—we’re still poor, just not destitute, and now we can start saving up to get our own place one day.

But more than that, getting SSDI legitimizes the impact my illness has on my ability to work. It means I’m not making it up, I’m not a malingerer, I’m not soaking the taxpayers (of course, I paid into the system for many years so it’s not like I’m on welfare). I knew all that, but it’s good to have it validated. And it means I no longer have to keep trying to find an employer that wouldn’t expect too much from me. It made me so anxious to be on the job-hunting trail, especially with my aging body and bad work history, and with nursing being completely off the table I’ve been wondering what the hell I actually COULD do.

Now that battle is over. Now I can get on with the rest of my life—as diminished as it may be—and see where it takes me now that I’m free of the need to hurl myself against brick walls. What an incredible blessing!


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