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Dirty Laundry

February 11, 2019

I’ve never been one to discuss the details of family problems in this blog, and I don’t intend to this time either. Suffice it to say that things have been about as tense as can be around here, and I’m doing my best not to lose my shit. I was depressed before all this started, but now I’m both depressed AND anxious…and I have to postpone my Wednesday appointment with Dr. Goodenough because I’ve got no way to get there. The timing couldn’t possibly be worse—I need him to help me sort things out and give me a new script for Klonopin—but other than renting a car for the day, which I can’t afford to do, I’m just going to have to bite the bullet and reschedule.

Now don’t get too worried about me: I’m taking my meds exactly as prescribed, and I’m not having any sort of dark thoughts. In fact, I can even hear the ever-so-gentle whisper of March Madness in the background; like Shelley’s confused daffodils which are already flowering in some spots, my brain isn’t sure which direction it’s supposed to go. It’s not a mixed episode, at least I don’t think it is, but it’s been so long since I’ve had one that maybe I’m not recognizing it. But I certainly don’t have the energy that usually comes with it; I spend my days on the sofa with the computer and Netflix, as the TV is out of commission (long story) and bestir myself occasionally to do the dishes and clean up the kitchen. Otherwise the only activity I get is walking from the sofa to the kitchen to the bathroom, and then to the bedroom at night. My primary care provider would be so thrilled. NOT.

I also have laundry that I just can’t seem to do anything about. It’s sitting in a pile on my bedroom floor—all I have to do is pick it up, dump it in the washer, toss in a Tide Pod, and turn on the machine. Why is that so difficult? I have trouble showering too, but at least I can do that a couple times a week without it being sheer torture. Now I’ve got to get that laundry done because I’m running out of underwear and leggings…but it still sits there in front of my closet, judging me.

Speaking of leggings: I live in the things. I swore I’d never wear them because of my size, but Clint talked me into trying a pair, and I’ve never worn anything so comfortable in my life. I wear them and a T-shirt to bed and change them when I shower; no pajamas necessary. They are form-fitting, but that’s good because they hold in my sagging thighs and butt. Now I own like 12 pairs and I haven’t worn jeans in a year. The only place I go where I don’t find leggings appropriate is church, but then I haven’t even been there in two weeks. My church attendance has also been dicey for awhile…sometimes I just canNOT drag my sorry ass out of bed. Did I ever tell you I hate winter?

So no, I am not having a good time. I believe things will get better and life won’t always be like this; even though I’m depressed, I know this too shall pass. And somehow, somewhere, I’ve got to conjure up the energy to get that pile of laundry done!

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The Winter Blues

January 31, 2019

Well, now that I’ve landed safely on the other side of 60, it’s time for the winter blues to hit, and they have. The mantle of depression has settled softly on my shoulders like a dusting of snow, and I find myself alternately wistful and sad, and determined not to let it get in the way of everyday life. I also find it more difficult to shower and do laundry, self-care tasks that I move through slowly, like I’m wading through peanut butter. Everything takes so much effort that it’s almost not worth throwing myself against that wall to make myself do it.

On the other hand, I’m able to enjoy things and appreciate what’s good in life. I’ve been in a mild funk since the holidays actually, but I’ve been able to keep up appearances for the most part, and I think I’m doing a good job of not taking my angst out on my loved ones. I haven’t even talked to Ben or Clint about the depression; it’s just not all that important. I’m in no danger whatsoever, if I think of suicide at all it’s just to marvel at how much I DON’T want to harm myself. I know without a doubt that life is worth living, and mine isn’t over by a long shot.

Strangely enough, I like to analyze my depression like this. I always learn from it, and I’m thankful to be self-aware enough to know that it will pass. It’s just part of being bipolar. I was explaining this to my sister the other day, because she (understandably) worries whenever I’m in a mood swing, but this one is nothing to be concerned about. It’s only worthy of discussion because it’s mid-winter, a time of year I absolutely hate with a purple passion, and these things are as inevitable as the tide. I can take meds and use my HappyLight and dream of lying on a beach all day, but I can’t quite get past the fact that it IS winter and the only cure for that is time. January has like 793 days in it, and February’s only saving grace is that it’s short. Though it’s been relatively mild and dry for an Oregon winter and we’re gaining daylight every day, it’s just not enough to stave off the blues.

The companion animal to my depression is, of course, anxiety. I often wake up in the mornings with a jerk, thinking I’ve got to tend to something urgently, only to realize that I’m just anxious over NOTHING. I have my insecurities, but this goes beyond them…this is just aimless anxiety, with no purpose other than to make me feel even more insecure. I worry over the damnedest things, like cooking dinner (a Herculean task when I’m down), or whether someone is angry with me, or even what to write here. It’s literally crazy-making. Today our TV has been off all day due to an outage somewhere, and here I am already getting frazzled because what if it’s still out on Sunday, when the Super Bowl is on? I guess I could just go to the bar and watch it there, but that involves dealing with a gazillion people who are drinking heavily and getting obnoxious before the game is half over, etc., etc., etc.

See how I made a problem out of something that hasn’t even happened yet? That’s depression.

But it’s good to compare and contrast this with past depressive episodes I’ve had. I still have a sense of humor about all this despite my sorry state; at other times, I’ve had to fight hard just to get out of bed in the morning. I sleep more than I probably should and definitely am doing some emotional eating, but that’s better than feeling like I want to do a swan-dive off a hotel balcony. I have the energy of a slug and it takes an act of God to get me off the sofa, but I can still go out and enjoy a good meal and conversation.

I see Dr. Goodenough next month and of course will mention this; it’s not distressing enough to require a med adjustment or an extra appointment. Besides, it’s only going to be a couple more months until March Madness sets in, and this will all be in the past. Haha!

The Last Day of My 50s

January 18, 2019

Well, folks, this is it—the eve of my 60th birthday. I’m going out tonight with family and friends to celebrate a mutual birthday with another family friend, and tomorrow…well, that’s up to Ben and Clint.

Strangely enough, I’m not dreading the 60s, even though everything in/on your body basically falls apart. (It’s been doing that all through my 50s anyway, so whatever.) I like the idea of being wiser, even if no one takes advantage of my wisdom because they’re too busy making their own mistakes and they don’t listen. There’s so much I know now that I didn’t know even when I was 50 and thought I’d reached the pinnacle of sagacity. Like, I’m never gonna know everything. I’m never gonna come CLOSE to knowing everything. But at least now I know what I don’t know, and that’s a big advantage when you’re still trying to figure stuff out.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have all my shit together. I have yet to decide what to do with whatever time is left to me, and if I stay on my meds and do what my doctor tells me to do I should have at least another 15-20 years in me. That’s a long time to sit around waiting to die. So I need to get serious about my writing career, even though I’m absolutely terrified of putting myself out there. I mean, I do that with this blog, but bipolar blogs are a niche-market thing that almost nobody reads except for other people with bipolar disorder and maybe their friends and families (plus the occasional mental health professional).

I’ve dipped my toe into the waters over at Allnurses.com, the nursing website where I’m a longtime member. I used to write for them years ago when I was still a working nurse, but I rather thought my usefulness as a nurse-writer ended along with my career. Not so, said the top administrator, and she gave me some ideas for articles. I seized upon one of them and dashed off a 700-word piece in like an hour. It felt good to write a nursing story and flex my author muscles in a different direction. And I get paid for these…I guess I just needed a boot in the backside to give me a start.

So wish me luck as I head into a new decade, and if you’re a praying person please throw one in for me. If you listen to my son and son-in-law, they’ll tell you that we “old people” need all the prayers and good thoughts we can get so we can plague them for many years to come. Haha!

This Is It

January 14, 2019

My nursing career is officially over.

It was time to renew my license, which of course I had no intention of doing because I haven’t worked since 2014. You have to have 960 practice hours in the past five years to be able to renew without taking a refresher course, and I don’t. So it was time to apply for either Inactive or Retired status, and I chose the latter because it allows me to retain the title of RN as long as I put “Retired” behind it.

I cried a little as I filled out the form. I’ve known for years that I would likely never work as a nurse again, but this drove the point home because it means my career is irrevocably over. Stick a fork in me, I’m done. And unbidden, an old anger washed over me as I signed the form and popped it into an envelope. Bipolar disorder did this to me, I said to myself. It killed my career and then it almost killed me. Fuck you, bipolar!!

I haven’t really thought much about my illness in awhile. Even my blog posts are usually about other things going on in my life and I may feel fleetingly depressed for a few days because it’s winter, but it’s been some time since the BP has been a major focus. There’s just too much going on in my head to worry about it much. This is a good thing. It was years into my diagnosis before I stopped allowing the illness to consume me, so to have the old feelings return with a vengeance was disappointing. I don’t want to think about bipolar. I’ve gotten so much better and other than the mild hypomania I had last spring and summer, I’ve been stable.

But the truth hurts, and the truth is, I feel like I’ve been robbed. I should have been able to work till I’m 70. I shouldn’t have had to go on disability when I did. I look back on the last few years, and I never expected to be where I am today. Yes, it could be much worse—I’m sane, I have a place to live and family and a great support system. But five years ago I was a nurse-surveyor for the State, making great money, and living the good life in our beloved house in the woods with my husband, dog, and our three cats. I know I’m idealizing it now because if you go back and read my blog posts from 2014, you’ll see how much I actually hated the rat race. I wanted a simpler life with fewer demands on my time; wanted a smaller house with a yard I could keep up; wanted a JOB, not a career.

I never found what I was looking for, but then I never did during my career either. I was always searching for my “forever” job, and it eluded me to the very end. Part of my trouble with hanging onto jobs was the restlessness that comes with bipolar disorder, but it wasn’t just that…I simply never found a place for myself in the working world. Oh, there were plenty of times I thought I had, and sometimes I’d go as long as a couple of years thinking I’d finally landed in a sweet spot, but I’d either grow restless and bored and quit, or I’d become depressed or irritable and be shown the door. It wasn’t that I didn’t have a work ethic; I just never learned how to be consistent. Being a good nurse isn’t the same as being a good employee.

And I was a good nurse. I loved taking care of people and helping them solve problems. If that’s all there was to nursing, I’d have worked till I dropped dead. But it’s not. It’s short-staffing and impossible workloads and politics. It’s nurses eating their young and managers bullying those lower on the food chain. It’s slogging through a 12-hour shift lifting 400-lb. patients and not having the time to eat or even pee sometimes. And of course, the documentation was ridiculous, and from what my nurse friends tell me it’s only gotten worse in the years since I left.

Still, it about broke my heart to sign a paper saying I will never practice again…and as I’ve learned to my sorrow, “never” is a very long time.

What It Was, Was Football

January 7, 2019
tags:

And now, a few words about football.

I have to admit, it’s the nearest occasion of sin: I didn’t even go to Mass yesterday because a game I’ve been looking forward to literally all year was on. My team, the San Diego–oops, Los Angeles–Chargers were playing in their first playoff game in years, and even though I had a bad feeling about the outcome, I was most pleasantly surprised when we held on to win it, 23-17.

I like to coach them from my perch on the edge of the sofa. I also do a LOT of cussing during a football game, mostly at the bad calls made by the refs, but I tend to yell quite a bit about stupid plays on offense when my opinion differs from that of the head coach. When I used to smoke and drink years ago, I’d go through an entire pack of cigarettes and a pitcher’s worth of beer during a game.

The Chargers and I go way back to the 1970s; in fact, I’ve pretty much lived and died with this team every fall and winter since then. We’ve only been to the Super Bowl once in all that time, but every season starts out like “THIS is the year!” Any of you who know anything about football knows about this optimism which is built into us fans, no matter how bad our team sucked last year. I have a friend who goes for the Arizona Cardinals, which is an incredibly poor team that went 3-13 this season. But even bad teams have their moments, and each game is like a robin with one end of a ten-foot worm in its beak: a little nibble, like a touchdown here and there, keeps you trying.

Now, not everyone loves football the way I do; in fact, my family thinks it’s stupid and can’t understand why a reasonably intelligent woman wants to watch a bunch of burly guys in tight suits run around a big green pasture with a pigskin. (Of course, part of the attraction IS a bunch of burly guys in tight suits.) But football is nothing if not a game of strategy, and that’s what draws my interest…and if that isn’t intelligent, what is?

So, that’s my little spiel about the game of football. In the meantime, I’m eagerly anticipating the next one between the Chargers and the Patriots, as well as the other games this coming weekend. I don’t even have to have a dog in the fight–I love it all.

First and 10!

All Is Merry and Bright

December 27, 2018

…well, not really. Two different people have told me I seemed depressed in the past two days, and the way I felt when I woke up this morning confirmed their suspicions. It’s not at all bad, but I’d better start using my HappyLight so it doesn’t get worse.

Funny how the holidays can bring out both the best and the worst in people. I was disappointed that there were to be no gifts this year, but I don’t need more stuff, and there’s not even a whole lot I want. (Oh, it would be nice to have my own car and an iPad, but those certainly aren’t necessities.) No, I’m just sad that not one thing about Christmas went according to my family traditions, and every year that passes I miss those traditions even more than the year before.

Now, I’ve had a few stern conversations with myself about this, and I realize that it’s not necessarily a bad thing to develop new traditions and put the old ones in the past, along with the family and friends who shared them with us but have since passed on. But the older I get—and I’m turning 60 in about 3 1/2 weeks—I appreciate the past more and more, and part of me desperately longs to return to the days when my kids were young…and even further back to the days when was young. I think of my parents, who weren’t exactly the greatest in the world, but who made Christmastime special every year. I think of my grandmother who loaded up her Rambler with tons of wrapped gifts and came to our house on Christmas Eve. And then I think of Will and how much fun we used to have getting ready for the holidays…well, he cursed when he inevitably fell off the ladder trying to hang up the outdoor Christmas lights, but the spirit was on him and he always finished the job with a smile on his face.

I miss him so much, and never more than at holiday time. This year it seems to be a little harder for some reason. It makes sense in a way because the path of grief recovery is twisted and long, and just about the time you think you’re done with it, it does a hairpin turn and you regress some. I’m not sure if I really have some underlying depression that I just haven’t acknowledged or what, but I’m keenly sensitive to others’ moods these days and tend to jump to the conclusion that they’re angry or depressed themselves. They call that projection, and I’m a pro at it.

But you know, this is where self-awareness comes in, and I’m damn glad I have some. This is the darkest, dreariest time of the year, and we all know my history of “winter blues” goes back decades. Dr. Goodenough doesn’t call it seasonal affective disorder, but he is VERY aware of how easily influenced I am by the dark and the wretched weather. I hibernate (I hate the cold), I sleep more, I eat way too much rich food, and carbohydrates especially. No wonder people think I’m depressed. I’ve probably been this way for a couple of weeks, but now that family is noticing it, it’s time for me to recognize it and act on it. I don’t want to slip so far down that I get to doing some stinkin’ thinkin’ about how the world would be better off if I wasn’t in it.

OK, I know what to do. I’ll start the HappyLight tomorrow, and if that doesn’t help I’ll call Dr. G and let him sort things out. In the meantime, I’ll try to get up a little earlier than 11 in the morning and see about eliminating some of those carbs I love so much. It’s hard to believe that in only a few months I’ll probably be fighting to keep my mood from swinging the other way…but that’s bipolar disorder for you.

It may not always be merry and bright, but it’s life, and sometimes it rear-ends you even when you’re looking in your mirrors and driving carefully. I’ll be OK.

 

Christmas Time Is Here

December 8, 2018

…and I’m feeling pretty darn nostalgic.

It happens every year. The tree goes up, the lights are lit, and carols from long, long ago are playing on my CD player (thank God I made several CDs from an old collection of albums I used to have). I watch the same beloved holiday specials I’ve been watching for over 50 years. Fact is, I’m racking up quite a few Christmases, and the older I get, the more I appreciate them.

I can’t believe this is my 60th Christmas. It’s beginning to dawn on me that I really am getting up there and I don’t think I’m quite ready for it. Not that I have a choice, of course, unless you consider the alternative and I refuse to. I’m not leaving this world a minute sooner than I absolutely have to. Life has become very precious to me since Will passed away, and sometimes I wonder whatever possessed me to think I wanted out. I’ve lost the love of my life and my reality is that I’m an aging single woman, but what matters is what’s in my heart and soul…and memory.

Yes, there is a wistfulness that accompanies the holidays, and having so much time to myself allows me to indulge in it to a point that may or may not be healthy. I listen to Christmas music from my childhood and think of the magical holidays I had growing up; I also reminisce about the Christmases with my own children and Will, which somehow always turned out well even when we were as poor as Job’s turkey.

I remember one year where we had no money for presents and had no idea what we were going to tell the kids about Santa Claus (most of them were still young enough to believe still); but between our church, a community organization, and the kids’ school—which “adopted” us as one of the families it chose to help with food and gifts—it was a holiday miracle. I still smile when I think of the looks on their little faces when they saw all the presents under the tree on Christmas morning.

I remember the tradition we had of driving around town looking at the lights, then going home to Will’s hot cocoa and watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation on the VCR. (This WAS a long time ago.) We also went to the Family Mass on Christmas Eve when there must’ve been 500 little kids running around yelling, crying, and wiping their snotty little noses on everything and everyone around them. Getting them together to do the Nativity scene was like herding cats, but the sweet church ladies always managed to corral them and avert disaster when seven-year-old “Mary” tentatively laid the infant Jesus—always played by one of the new babies—in the manger. Then we’d go back home and open one present each, set out some cookies and milk for Santa (even though by that time, the kids were all well past the age of belief), and send them to bed so we could fill the stockings and wrap some last-minute gifts before we ourselves fell exhausted into our recliners.

Now all of that is nothing more than memories. But I treasure them, because they really happened and they were wonderful times; and even the kids, now long grown, enjoy talking about them. After all, these are their memories too. And while we don’t really have any set way to celebrate the holidays in the house where I live now, I get to look back on 60 Christmases with love and laughter, and embrace the new traditions the best way I know how.

Merry Christmas.