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Out Of Sorts

January 15, 2017

I’m feeling decidedly off-kilter these days, so please forgive me if this post reflects that. But I have stories to tell, and I hope you’ll read them. That’s why I write this blog—not only to help myself sort out my life, but to educate and hopefully entertain you, the reader. (At least sometimes.)

I’m still having trouble with excessive irritability. I bite my lips almost until they bleed in order to avoid yelling at people indiscriminately, knowing it’s no one’s fault I’m in this state of mind. Besides which, the family is doing their best to support me at this challenging time (for which I’m eternally grateful!), as I’m all at sea trying to process this stage of grief. I’ll be damned if I know what stage it is—depression? Anger?—but I know I’m in one of them…probably the anger part.

My grief counselor came by on Friday, which was terrific timing given the fact that it was the six-month anniversary of Will’s passing. She is a licensed professional counselor who knows my difficulties and helps me suss out what is my illness from what is simply emotional suffering. Even though I’m very good at that under ordinary circumstances, I’m more than a little confused these days because I’m definitely feeling a stirring underneath all the emotions that reminds me of past episodes…mixed episodes. And that is no bueno. Nothing good has ever come from a mixed episode. Those are the kind I fear most of all, and if things go any further down that road I’m going to call Dr. Goodenough. I’d rather deal with depression.

This is a bad time for all this shit (not that there’s ever a good time for it). My birthday is this coming Thursday, and I’m trying to be happy about it. I’m turning 58. Might as well be 60, Lord knows I’m getting close enough. But my son-in-law Clark has already spoiled me rotten by buying me my first honest piece of luggage, a beautiful London Fog carry-on bag with wheels for our next trip. He also got me a dressy top (only a 2x!! I was too big for 4x just a few months ago) and a tiny purse that was outrageously expensive, but with 70% off it wasn’t too bad. That’s for Disney World, where I won’t want to carry around a big bag. Clark says, “You deserve nice things”. I’ve only heard that from one other person in my life, and that, of course, was Will.

Oh yeah, I renewed my nursing license for one final time. I had enough practice hours in the last five years to qualify, so I went ahead and renewed just for the hell of it. I can’t see any situation that would enable me to use it, except maybe for volunteer work, but there’s something so satisfying in calling myself an RN. I’m proud of it.

Once again, I had to disclose the fact that I have “well-managed bipolar 1” and am not practicing at this time, but I had no trouble with the Board of Nursing. Sometimes they can be stinky about nurses with mental illnesses and tend to lump us in with addicts and alcoholics; I’ve been lucky twice in not being mandated to enter a so-called “rehabilitation” program. I don’t even want to go into detail about how horrible these programs are, especially for nurses who have only MI and don’t deserve to be placed in one. Suffice it to say that I’m in the clear, and though I’ll have to give it up the next time my license comes up for renewal, I should be able to apply for RN Emeritus status and be officially retired.

So, that’s my verbal incontinence for the day. Lot of words in this one. If you’re a praying person, I ask you to put in a good word for me with the Lord that I can get past this whatever-it-is, and continue to mourn my husband without my illness complicating things. If not, positive energies and good vibrations will do. Thank you.




Whine & Cheese

January 10, 2017

This is a vent post, so if you don’t want to read further, I’ll understand. I didn’t really want to write it either. But there’s some stuff I need to get off my chest, and it’s far better for me to do it here than take it out on the people I love, who are innocent of any wrongdoing. It’s just me.

First complaint: Wonky sleep. This is NEVER a good thing. I’m having trouble falling asleep again, and I’m waking up during the night as well. The hours between seven and 10 AM provide the best sleep of the night, and I often end up not emerging from my room till after 11 because I’m so reluctant to leave the comfort of my warm blankets. (Well, and I use my light for 30 minutes every morning so I have to include that time in the equation.)

This makes me appear lazy, and to some extent I am. What nobody really knows is how late I’m up at night…most of the time, I’m not ready for sleep till two or three in the morning. I take my meds at the same time every night, but they don’t kick in for hours. Maybe I need to take Klonopin for a little while to help kick the insomnia; it’s right handy at making me sleep. I just hate the idea of getting back into the habit (if only for a short time) because it took some doing to get off of it, and I’m proud of myself for that.

Second complaint: I’m irritable and bitchy. Ordinary sounds bother me; more intense noises, such as video games, make me crazy; and neither TV nor music drowns them out. I don’t mean to be such a grouch, but almost everything bugs me these days and I am apt to go off. I even started an argument with my sister-in-law over something totally stupid, like a magazine I wasn’t done with that she’d accidentally tossed in the recycle bin. I’ve been really uptight lately about my things being moved around, and I sort of lost my shit. (No screaming fits though.)

It’s OK now, we kissed and made up so to speak, but I wish I’d kept my freaking mouth shut. It’s all I can do not to scream when there’s two or three teenagers going in and out, in and out, all day and half the night, but one of them lives here and has the right to have friends over. Again, nothing against anyone else, it’s just me.

Gripe number three: my weight is in freefall, and so is my hair. I won’t shed any tears about the 60+ pounds I’ve dropped since Will passed away, but it seems to go hand-in-glove with the hair loss. Even my son-in-law Clark is officially worried, because the stuff is coming out by the fistful to the point that we both wonder how it is that I am not bald. I can’t blame it on thyroid problems; my recent test showed normal function. Nor is it due to malnutrition—my labs came back fine in that department as well. That leaves only stress as a potential cause, and unfortunately it makes sense. Stress? What stress? I’m only a widow of six months who’s lost her mate and a good portion of her independence. I don’t even have my own car anymore, thanks to the wreck I had in November. Not that I go many places by myself…I just wish I had the option.

So that’s my little pity party. I have to admit I feel a little better after whining for a bit. Now if I can only get a couple of nights’ decent sleep, who knows, the irritability might go away and all will be well. And by the way: if you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading!


2016: Good-bye And Good Riddance

December 31, 2016

This has not been my favorite year. Other than my cruise vacation in November and the fact that tonight marks 25 years since I stopped drinking, it’s basically sucked and I’m glad it’s over. Not that the flip of a calendar page will make everything OK again…but it sure makes one feel like it will, at least temporarily. There’s nothing like a fresh start.

I have always thought that fresh start should be in the spring, however. It seems to me like ringing in a new year in the winter is counter-productive; after all, January has little to recommend it (except for the fact that I was born in it). The glitz of the holidays is gone, everybody’s broke, and the weather is dreadful.  Of course, I don’t like winter anyway, so I’d rather begin the year when everything is made new.

In the meantime, I get to celebrate my sobriety birthday tonight. A quarter-century since I took my last drink. To this day, I accept the fact that I am an alcoholic and not just a problem drinker. Which makes me wonder why it’s so difficult for me to believe that I really have bipolar disorder and will have it for the rest of my life, just like alcoholism. I go back and forth with it, and I wonder what it’s going to take to convince me once and for all: another hospitalization? A suicide attempt? A manic episode which destroys my life?

Lord, I hope not. It’s taken so much work to bring my illness under control. I keep forgetting that it’s the treatment that makes it possible for me to question my diagnosis. There are times when I get discouraged and tired of taking pills, but I don’t dare experiment with them because of the potential for dire consequences. Besides, I don’t want to disappoint Dr. Goodenough, just like I didn’t want to disappoint Dr. Awesomesauce. He’s a good guy and knows a lot about bipolar, and he’s already helped me a great deal. The light box is definitely working to keep me out of depression, and I’m sure the amber glasses I’m going to try this spring will help prevent the annual hypo/manic festivities.

Going back to the original topic, I am really looking forward to watching the ball drop at midnight. Any year in which you lose the love of your life is an ugly one, and between that and saying good-bye to so many bright and talented people—two of whom were amazing mental health advocates—the impact is staggering.

Good riddance to a lousy year, and welcome to 2017. May it be your best year ever!


Losing Carrie

December 30, 2016

As everyone but the proverbial three-toed sloth knows by now, actress and mental health advocate Carrie Fisher has died at the age of (only) 60. From the early reports from sources close to the dramatic events that occurred aboard her plane, I knew she was probably not going to make it; few people survive cardiac arrest outside the hospital. But of course I hoped she’d pull through, and for a couple of days I thought she might defy the odds. She was nothing if not resilient.

Alas, it was not to be. Now that she’s gone, she has left a gaping hole where a champion once stood. Carrie’s acting career was long and profitable, and her writings have been widely read. But what really made her shine was her support of the mental health community. “I am mentally ill,” she said once. “I can say that. I’m not ashamed of that. I’ve survived it, but bring it on. Better me than you.” She and Patty Duke talked about bipolar disorder long before most people were even ready to acknowledge there was such a thing. They truly were pioneers in that they faced down stigma and shame, and basically told the world to go to hell if it didn’t like what they had to say.

Carrie’s life wasn’t only about her bipolar, however. She battled alcohol and drug problems as well, giving hope to those of us who struggle with substance abuse issues. She had a wry sense of humor that kept her going through bad patches, showing people that living with serious mental illness didn’t ALWAYS have to be serious. She shared the most personal aspects of her life with us, even though being in the public eye couldn’t have been easy for her.

A few years back she had a manic episode while on vacation, and there was all kinds of speculation as to whether she had gone back to drugs and booze. I would have been mortified, but Carrie just went on with life, continuing to be a voice for the mentally ill, and especially the bipolar community.

She is a hero who will be greatly missed.

May the Force be with you, Carrie Fisher.

Happy Holidays…I Think

December 25, 2016

As Christmas arrives, I’m definitely struggling to keep up appearances. This is supposed to be the happiest time of the year; it’s not anyone else’s fault that I’m sad. But I did lose it with my son-in-law this afternoon, and cried into his sleeve for what seemed like an hour. Thank Heaven for him, he always seems to be there with strong arms at my worst moments and even though he doesn’t know exactly how I feel, he gets it somehow, and he is an amazing source of comfort. So Clark, if you’re reading this, God bless you!

It also reminded me of how incredibly fortunate I am to be surrounded by family, not only at Christmas but all through the year. I don’t always hear from some of my children as often as I’d like, but I know they still care about me even though their father is gone. And despite missing my home—and the holidays we spent there—I’m actually glad I’m not rattling around there all by myself. The last Christmas in that house, without lights or trees or decorations, was the worst one of my life and I don’t think I’d do well if I were faced with a similar situation now.

I have so many wonderful memories of Christmases past. That’s why it’s so hard to accept that Christmas has changed, and that I have to change with it. But those memories are something that no one, and no circumstances, can ever take away from me…and now it’s time to make new ones.

To my readers: Thanks for hanging in there with me through good times and bad, thick and thin, manic and depressed. May your holiday season be merry and bright, and may the New Year bring you all good things. 🙂

Grief and the Holidays

December 22, 2016

I’m out of the depression. I have no idea why, but I’m happy to see it go. I started feeling better a few days ago, and it seems to be holding so I’m taking advantage of it, knowing the post-holiday letdown will probably drop-kick me. It’s still not that I’m looking forward to Christmas and New Year’s, but for now, it’s enough to be sane and not unhappy.

I have begun to suspect that I’m better because I’m allowing myself to indulge in my grief again. I’ve reached the point where I’ve realized that Will really isn’t coming back, and it hurts, dammit! But my mood always improves after I’ve cried things out, and it gives me strength to face life again.

Last night after everyone went to bed, I deliberately played some music from his funeral, plus some other sad songs, and I sobbed like a toddler having a meltdown. Strange as it might sound, it felt GREAT, even as I wiped my eyes and blew my nose repeatedly. I know it seems like a form of self-torture, but the tears it produced were cleansing, and when it was over I was calmer than I’ve been in quite a while.

The one thing I can’t do is bawl in front of people. As I’ve said before, I have a great family and support system, any of whom would let me cry on their shoulders anytime, but I just have to wait until everyone is out of the house or in bed for the night. It’s a dignity thing. And I don’t want to bum anyone out, especially at holiday time. Everyone has their own burden to carry; they’ve all lost a beloved family member too, and I know they miss him almost as much as I do. I wonder sometimes how they’re really doing on the inside; I remember my own parents’ deaths and how hard it was for me in the early months afterwards. Occasionally I even ask the kids how they’re holding up, and the answer is always an unenthusiastic “OK”. So I’m sure I’m not the only one who has their private moments of grief, even though their lives are very full with work, school, raising children and so forth.

In the meantime, I’m using my HappyLight regularly and I continue to think it’s keeping the worst of the winter blues away. Our weather has been horrible for the past couple of weeks; first we had snow and ice that hung around for far too long, then high winds and rain that literally came in sideways, and now low clouds, fog and temps only in the 30s. The trees are all bare now, which does nothing to improve the scenery. But you know, today is the winter solstice, which means that the days are going to start getting longer again, and that’s good news for all of us who love the light. Life does go on, after all, and before we know it, it’ll be spring…when all things are made new. Including me.







The Twelve Days of Bipolar

December 17, 2016

One of my favorite things to do is make up new lyrics to old familiar songs. Especially Christmas music. Sometimes I’m wildly creative, sometimes not, but I always seem to come up with something fun. Here for your enjoyment (I hope) is this year’s version of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

On the 12th day of Christmas, bipolar gave to me:

12 monthly med checks

11 therapy sessions

10 pounds of weight gain

9 pills at bedtime

8 weeks of depression

7 days of mania

6 hours in the ER

5 mg Zyprexa

4 side effects

3 mood swings

2 new prescriptions

and a Happy Light thrown in for free!