I’m Still Here

I know, it’s been months since my last post, and I’m surprised I still have readers (I know—I’ve checked my stats). But for someone who doesn’t have a lot to do, I’ve done a lot this summer, not the least of which was a trip to Mexico with family in early August. Now that was an experience…one none of us will ever forget.

Oh, it all started off innocently enough. We got off the plane in Puerto Vallarta and discovered our reservation at one resort had accidentally been canceled, so Ben had to find another one, FAST. We ended up at a nice hotel that had a 1930s ambiance and an unfortunate number of stairs. Seeing as how Clint’s mom and I needed wheelchairs much of the time—and Mexico does not have the Americans with Disabilities Act—there was a lot of creeping up and down said stairs with breath held and tense muscles. (There were elevators, but you had to use stairs to get to them. Go figure.)

But we managed to have a great time anyway, and we ate authentic Mexican food and sipped free tropical drinks and spent way too much time in the sun at the pool. I’m still peeling. We were about the only Americans at this resort so almost everything, including announcements, were in Spanish, but it was amazing how quickly conversational Spanish came back to me. I found myself ordering food and making small talk in the language, and I think the staff was appreciative because their English wasn’t really all that great.

It was on the voyage home that things kinda went to hell in the proverbial bushel basket. First of all, we had to fly to Chicago to catch a connecting flight to Portland (whoever came up with that itinerary should have to make that same trip when they’re tired and just want to get home). But we couldn’t land because of thunderstorms, besides which—according to the pilot—we were running low on fuel (!) and needed to gas up in Minneapolis. We finally made it back to Chicago, but by this time it was after midnight, and our connecting flight had been canceled so we were stuck there for the night.

Well, I’m here to tell you that you haven’t lived till you’ve sat out in front of O’Hare International Airport at 2 AM, waiting for a taxi to take you to a hotel 20 minutes away, and not knowing exactly when or how you’ll get home. We spent all of three hours in the hotel the airline provided for us before we had to go back to the airport. This next flight took us to Dallas/Ft. Worth, where we waited for many hours as the flight to Portland was delayed several times.We FINALLY boarded just before 9 PM and made it to Portland around midnight.

I’ve left a lot out of the preceding narrative in the interest of not boring y’all to tears, but I should mention that we had a family friend with us who somehow ruptured something in her back that kept her in a wheelchair for the last couple of days of the vacation. So there were poor Ben and Clint, with THREE women in wheelchairs and little help from the skeleton crews that run airports at night. They deserve all the credit in the world for getting us all through those harrowing days without completely losing their minds.

And we’re going back in January.

It’ll be to another part of Mexico, but we’re doing the destination vacation thing again and hopefully everyone will be a little healthier. In the meantime, I’ll keep brushing up on my Spanish and try to post more often than every 3-4 months!

A Little Bit of Everything

I know, I know, I’ve let too much time pass between blog posts, but life has been in a swirl of randomness and it’s hard to grab onto something solid to talk about. Not to worry, I remain very stable and have made it through the spring without even a hint of hypomania. But the generalized weirdness is not conducive to good writing, so please excuse me if this post is a bit odd.

I’ve been to see Dr. Young twice since my last entry, and I not only got the expected diagnosis of bipolar 1 (again), she also diagnosed me with anxiety. As a separate issue. After all these years of it being wrapped up in my BP, someone has finally taken it seriously. It doesn’t change anything, I’m still on the same meds, but now it’s real and we talk about it and I feel vindicated.

Dr. Y is also taking my complaints about memory loss to a whole new level. She gave me a test that shows I have mild cognitive impairment, and she’s sending me to a neuropsychologist for further evaluation. It’ll be awhile because they’re scheduling at least six months out., but just the fact that I’m going to find out what I’m dealing with—either bipolar brain-fade or dementia, or maybe a combination of the two—helps a lot.

It could also help me stay on disability if I’m reviewed within the next year or two; I wouldn’t mind trying to work a little just to get out of the house, but my anxiety and forgetfulness make it nearly impossible. I can’t memorize things anymore, which is the main reason I lost that last job in 2014, so anything with multi-line phones or complex computer programs is out. On top of that, I can’t stand or walk more than a few minutes at a time, and that effectively limits any kind of physical labor like being a gas jockey or a flagger for road construction.

It has, of course, occurred to me that I’m 62 and thus eligible for regular Social Security. It wouldn’t be near the amount that I’d get if I worked till age 70, but that’s not going to happen anyway. I just wonder if the amount I get now from SSDI would go down if I had to switch. I’m making it on my current payments, but that’s with me living with Ben and his family. I’d never survive on my own. Rents for a studio apartment in my area run about $900 or more a month; that’s close to 3/4 of my check. Then of course there’s the matter of keeping the lights and the heat and the water on, and forget Internet and TV, both of which I do NOT do well without. A car? Not gonna happen. Forget about eating too: I make too much to qualify for food stamps. So living alone isn’t even an option.

But I don’t feel sorry for myself. Even with all the stress going on in the household, even with so many unfulfilled wishes, I like my life. I can stay up and sleep in as late as I want (although I HAVE to be up by 1 PM so I can watch Days of Our Lives), I can eat what I want, I can talk to my kids almost anytime I want. I get to go on cruises. This year I get to go to Mexico. And it’s never boring around here!

Nine Years

Dear Readers: I’m sorry I haven’t posted recently. There’s been a lot going on, but it’s nothing I particularly needed to share (and I’ve also been really lazy). I’m happy to say that I’ve survived the winter without falling into depression, and that it’s almost silly season and there’s no hint of mania either. Huzzah!

What brings me here today is that March 7 marks nine years since I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I look back and I’m amazed at the changes that have taken place since then. What was once murky and ill-defined is now clear as a bell; my life makes sense now, even as I face situations over which I have absolutely NO control. I’ve learned that bipolar doesn’t have to manifest itself when I’m stressed out, and I won’t let myself blame it for everything that goes sideways in my life. I take my meds faithfully and no longer complain about having to take so many. It doesn’t matter if I take 1 pill or 20, I do what I have to in order to maintain my stability. I also listen to my doctor and stay up-to-date on current trends within the bipolar community.

Speaking of my psychiatrist, I got to read my notes from the last visit in my online chart, and boy, was that an experience! I have to admit, though, that the very first time in my life that I have truly felt ancient was when I read the intro: “MJL is a 62-year-old widowed white female, a retired nurse.”

Holy crap. I mean, that makes me sound like I’m just a couple of steps from the threshold of the nursing home. I’ve joked about it for years, but I never truly thought of myself as being, well, old. I turned 62 a couple of months ago, which makes me eligible for Social Security (if I weren’t already on it) and a whole bunch of cool senior discounts. It’s funny, I definitely don’t think of myself as middle-aged anymore, but technically I’m not yet elderly, so where do I fit in?

I guess it depends on who you ask. Just like with the diagnosis Dr. Y put in my record: bipolar affective disorder, manic, in full remission. I wonder what that means, exactly? Is it still bipolar 1, or is it something more nebulous? I’ll have to ask at my next visit. For years I’ve been a solid 1, and I’d just as soon not have any ambiguity; I’ve gotten used to the designation and actually don’t mind it anymore. We’ll see what Dr. Y says next week, anyway.

Once again, I want to apologize for my three-month absence from this blog. I’ve never gone anywhere near this long without posting something, and I really don’t have a good reason for it. I’m thankful for you, my readers, and I salute you for coming back after this long dry spell. And while I hope it never happens again, I also hope you’ll bear with me if it does. Welcome back!

Feeling “Stresstive”? Me Too!

Yeah, that’s a word I made up. I’m stressed out, but I feel festive too and am enjoying the holiday atmosphere that Ben has created in our house. The tree is up—my wonderful 7 1/2-foot artificial pine is finally getting some use after six years in storage—and there are lights draped over everything that’ll stand still, just like when the kids were growing up and I went balls-to-the-wall on everything Christmas. I like watching my son decorate. He enjoys it every bit as much as I did, even though he’ll bitch about tangled light strands and struggle with the staple gun. He’s never punctured himself with it (as far as I know) but I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. Like me, he is not the most graceful human ever born, although I can state in all honesty that I have never walked into a pole, and he has. On multiple occasions. In front of other people.

As for the stress factor, there’s a lot to be concerned about, only some of which is related to domestic matters. COVID-19 is spreading faster than a rumor, causing more shutdowns (thank God Clint’s salon is still operating!) and hospitals are almost at capacity. I’m probably going to have surgery on my battered left ankle, which is the one I broke last year, but I don’t want to do it until the virus is on its way out. Speaking of the ankle: now I have to wear a big, ugly brace called an AFO (ankle-foot orthotic device). It’s the kind of contraption you see on some old people, you can wear a shoe, but you can’t wear pants over it because the brace is so bulky. I still have to be fitted for the AFO, they are custom-made for the individual patient. But I hate the idea that I’ll need one of these things for the foreseeable future. I’m currently wearing the boot I got when I fractured the ankle because I need the support, but that’s only temporary; the AFO is for the long term, at least until/unless I get fusion surgery. I’m also living on large doses of Aleve and Tylenol which take the edge off the pain. I know better than to try to get narcotics from anyone in this town; besides, they’re not all that when it comes to pain relief. It still hurts, you just don’t care anymore.

Which has kind of brought me to a crossroads. I’ll be 62 next month, but I don’t feel that old, not in my mind anyway. My body, on the other hand, is decades older than my spirit, and now all the bad things I’ve done to it are coming home to roost. The ankle was really the last straw; now I’ll need to get a disabled parking permit for the car because there is no way I’m parking out in the south 40 and hobbling to the store. I need to lose weight, a lot of it, and it just isn’t happening even though I know I’m aging faster than I have to because of it. Right now it could go either way—I could drop some pounds and maybe halt this downhill slide, or I could just go on as I’m doing and let the chips fall where they may…like in my lap. I prefer BBQ chips, by the way.

Oddly enough, the only thing I’m not particularly worried about is my mood. I’m steady as a rock. There’s been no fall depression, not even after the time change, and I think winter will be OK too as long as nothing I AM worried about hits the fan. Most days I don’t feel bipolar at all, it’s like it never even happened. I no longer have to do a daily gut-check to see if I’m slipping down or ramping up. I just feel…normal. Of course, I’m on a shitload of drugs to make me this way, and I’m not going to experiment with them. I like the way I am now. It’s different from when I was “stable” before I got the full effect of the meds. I know what they are doing for me, and I’m not even tempted to cheat. (Not that anyone around here would let me…)

So, that’s how my December is going. I hope I can pull another blog post out of my head before the end of the year—I know I’ve been negligent lately and I’m sorry. There’s just so much going on and my thoughts tend to get tangled, much like Ben’s Christmas lights, and I have trouble choosing which items are worthy of sharing and which aren’t. Hopefully I’ll be able to sort it out soon. Happy Holidays!

Hello, Dr. Young. Can I Be Your Patient Forever?

I love my new psychiatrist.

We had our first meeting this morning, and I was immediately impressed with her command of my medical and psychiatric history. I could tell she’d done her homework by the questions she asked, such as whether some of my mood episodes correspond with the seasons and what I do when my anxiety flares up. We talked for almost a solid hour, and she was bright and eager and intuitive. Hereafter she will be called Dr. Young, because she might be in her early 30s…if that. But I won’t hold that against her, especially since she also treated me with the appropriate deference without making me feel ancient.

I must admit it’s a little weird having a female head doc. All of my mental healthcare providers, except for the nurse practitioner I saw for a few months several years ago, have been men. I was comfortable with that and even preferred them in this capacity. Maybe it was because males are known for fixing problems (or at least trying to fix them) and tend to be authority figures. Dr. Y isn’t heavy on the authority, but it’s clear who’s the doctor and who is not, and I like it that way. Even though it’s very early in the relationship and I’ve been stable for a long time, I feel I can trust her to take care of me when things get bad.

She also cares about a patient’s physical health. She ordered blood tests for kidney and liver function to make sure they can handle my medication burden, and even an EKG because some of the meds I’m on can cause heart rhythm problems. She urged me to check my blood pressure often and monitor my weight too, It’s funny, I don’t even know how much I weigh. All I know is that I’ve gained back most of the 100 lbs. I lost after Will died…the specifics, I don’t really WANT to know. Haha!

Best of all, she isn’t changing my medication regimen. (She didn’t change my diagnosis either, but it’s so well-documented that there wasn’t any question about it and we didn’t even discuss it.) You can’t argue with success! I’ve been in good shape for quite a while, with a few hiccups now and then, and I know my meds are the reason. Like Dr. Goodenough, she said that my medication management is complex and there are a lot of moving parts, but if it works and adds quality to my life, then we’re going to leave things exactly the way they are. (Including the Klonopin, which a lot of younger doctors don’t like prescribing.) That is, unless there are some ominous changes in my bloodwork or on my EKG. Otherwise, we’re sticking with the tried and true, and that too is very reassuring that I’m in good hands.

So, I’m once again under a psychiatrist’s care, which is a big sigh of relief. I have to admit, though, that the clinic I’ve always gone to for mental health care has done right by me even when I was between docs, like the interim MD who called me to order bloodwork for cholesterol and thyroid, and the one who backed up Dr. Awesomesauce and put me on Zyprexa a few years back when I was manic AF and didn’t know if I was coming or going. Dr. Y also mentioned that she has plenty of backup and assured me that someone would always be available to me.

I just hope I get to keep her longer than four years…

Mental Illness Awareness Week and Other Stuff

I’m actually a little late in writing this post because it’s almost over, but the first full week in October is, indeed, Mental Illness Awareness Week. (This is different from May, which is Mental Health Month.) I don’t know exactly how (or if) it should be celebrated, but for those of us who carry a mental illness diagnosis, it’s another way our voices can be heard. So much stigma is still attached to MI, but we are making progress.

Look at all the commercials we see on TV nowadays for psychiatric medications. There’s one for bipolar depression; another for bipolar 1 specifically; still another for schizophrenia. Who would have thought even 10 years ago that these illnesses would come out of the shadows under the auspices of the drug companies? I’m no fan of pharmaceutical advertising, but if it gets people talking about mental illness, so much the better. I’d like to think the American public is smart enough to know that you don’t just take a pill and get cured, but given the uncommon-ness of common sense, I’m not sure. So, I educate whenever and wherever I can; and I love it when I talk to someone about MI and their eyes are opened because I look and talk like a “normal” person. I’m not the one-eyed purple people eater many people expect when they meet a person with a mental condition (or two).

Meanwhile, I’m going to be getting a new psychiatrist soon. I’ve been wondering about that and was just about to call the office yesterday to find out where they were on getting patients in to see the new doctors. Then I got an e-mail from one of the regular ones letting me know he was going to be filling my medications while I’m waiting. That’s nice to know. I’m not in any real need of a quick appointment, but someone with bipolar 1 really should never be without meds. I used to be so resentful that I had to take so many, but now I can’t even imagine going off this cocktail. I hope the next pdoc won’t want to futz with the magic formula, because I am doing as well as I could possibly ask for. I do hear the faintest whispers of seasonal affective disorder, but that’s perfectly normal for me. At least I recognize it now and can take action to mitigate it (thank you, HappyLight) before it gets out of control. I never want to be where I was in October 2014 ever again.

Fall is definitely here. We’ve had rainy and windy, sunny and warm, foggy and dreary. We’ve had to light the pellet stove a couple of times since this month began, and I’m back to sleeping in socks. I don’t really mind sleeping in socks—when my feet get cold, I can’t sleep, and when I can’t sleep, I’m not a happy camper. I love sleep. I also love wrapping myself up in warm blankets and sitting on the sofa with a little dog or two.

Speaking of dogs: we have a new resident hound thanks to Clint’s son, who brought him along when he moved back in with us. He’s only a pup, but he weighs 50 lbs. at least and he seems to think he’s a lap dog. Next to his “dad”, he loves me almost as much and has his ways of letting me know it. One of those ways is jumping into my lap and spreading himself across my legs as he tries to lick my face. I like it that he’s so affectionate with me, but he can be rather…overwhelming, to say the least. And he’s still got some growing to do!

I also should mention that I made it through my 40th wedding anniversary on the 27th of last month. I think I was a little depressed before and during, because we always wanted a 40th wedding anniversary and I still hate it that we didn’t get it. I see old couples walking around and I’m almost angry that Will and I didn’t get to do that in our old age. He’d be almost 70 now, can you believe it? I can’t picture it, even though he’s been gone only a little over four years. I never really saw him aging, just like he never noticed that I was no longer the 21-year-old girl he married. So, I spent the day in bed, watching football and shirking my kitchen duties. It must have worked, because I felt better the next day and have not cried any more since then. I think maybe subsequent anniversaries won’t be quite so difficult.

We shall see, anyway. Thanks for checking in and reading my stuff. 🙂

The United States of Stress

If 2020 was a drink, it would be colonoscopy prep.

I’m not kidding. This year has been such a clusterf### that I don’t think there’s a person alive who isn’t feeling the stress. Covid-19, bad weather, civil unrest in the streets, and another nasty political season have us tied up in knots. There isn’t much going right this year, and once it’s over I hope no one ever mentions it again.

The hell of it is, the stress feeds on itself. I’ve been leaning on Klonopin more than I’d like, just because I hate waking up anxious over stuff I can’t do anything about. I got T-boned in a rental car a couple of weeks ago, in an accident that was not my fault. Just my luck, the other driver was uninsured. I’m fine, it just shook me up a little, but I hate the Walmart parking lot even more now. Then a week later an SUV blew through a red light and turned in front of me, and if I didn’t have good reflexes (I’m still as quick as ever) I’d have been hit again. I wonder which gods of the universe I’ve managed to piss off. I’m already a conservative driver—in fact, Ben says I drive like somebody’s grandma (well, I AM somebody’s grandma!). But now I’m even more nervous, and my driving habits display it for all the motoring world to see.

I’m tired of watching the never-ending protests and riots every night on the news. Portland is now solidly on the map as a city rife with unrest, which has even gotten the attention of the President. I understand what the protesting is about, and in younger days I would have been marching right alongside them, but this stopped being about George Floyd a long time ago. It makes me sick to see the fires and the tagging and the destruction of hard-working peoples’ livelihoods. And the police don’t seem to be able to get it right no matter what they do–they can’t do their jobs without tools, but some of them abuse those tools, which is what got us here in the first damn place.

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic ramps up stress too. Oddly enough, I’m not particularly concerned about catching it; I haven’t been physically sick in years and don’t feel I’m at high risk despite being over 60 and having underlying health conditions. But I wear my mask faithfully and my hands are bone-dry from frequent washing, because I want to protect not only my health but that of folks who may get sick much more easily than me. Some complain that mask mandates are unconstitutional, but as the saying goes, your “freedom” to breathe out nasty germs ends where my lungs begin. Or I think that’s how it goes.

The other area of life where stress really brings out the worst in me (and a helluva lot of other people) is politics. Once again, we have two Presidential candidates, neither of whom is fit for office. As a Republican, I have often leaned in favor of President Trump, but his denial in the face of Covid-19 deaths and millions of active cases is just bizarre, as are more and more of his general statements. I wish he’d STFU before he hangs himself with his own words. Then you’ve got Joe Biden, who is a decent man and thus appealing to many who are tired of the drama and downright meanness in Washington, but he almost certainly has developed some dementia and doesn’t hide it well. Besides, I personally could never vote for someone who supports abortion and illegal immigration, so I may end up writing in a non-candidate like I did the last time we went through this.

That’s just a few of the stressors that are making me grumpy and cross and anxious. What are yours?

Good-bye, Dr. Goodenough

Yes, you read that right—I am now between psychiatrists. Dear Dr. G. did exactly what I’ve been dreading since I first saw him four years ago, and retired. My last telephone visit was on Tuesday and I’m already missing him, even though I was never as close to him as I was with Dr. Awesomesauce. He was smart, compassionate, and as he said, we worked well together.

I actually found out about his impending retirement about six weeks ago. I got a call from the mental health clinic asking me to move up my September appointment to August, and even though they wouldn’t tell me why, I just knew. He sent a letter out a couple of weeks later which confirmed my suspicions, and suddenly the anxiety flared almost out of control. Who would care for me? What if I hated him/her? And oh dear God, what if I couldn’t find anyone right away and I ran out of meds? Visions of being hospitalized with a wild manic or a severe depressive episode danced in my head.

Fortunately, Dr. G outlined for me the next steps in the journey. There are two new psychiatrists starting at the clinic in a couple of months, and my care can be transferred to one of them once they get established. The office will call me when they start filling their schedules, although Dr. G said I wouldn’t be first on the list because I’ve been so stable (isn’t that nice? Yay me!), but that someone will take me on. In the interim, I can call the office for meds and in case I have a psychiatric emergency, because there are other doctors on staff who will take care of me until I get my permanent pdoc sometime this fall.

Then we did a little reminiscing about our years together. He actually apologized that my medication regimen is so “complex”, as he put it, but the simple fact is it works and I’ve got to stick with it. No argument from me; in fact, I fear the next psychiatrist will want to change the magic formula. That’s a big deal for me…for years, I resented having to take so many meds and was constantly looking for ways to cut down on the number, but somewhere in the past couple of years I came to understand that I really DON’T want to screw with bipolar disorder. My credit score and money management abilities reflect how far I’ve come, and I know I could destroy years of hard work with one manic episode. If I’m a little flat emotionally, if I lack energy and motivation, it’s a small price to pay for my sanity.

I don’t know if I would have come to that conclusion without Dr. G’s guidance. I’m stubborn, and I remember clashing with Dr. A more than once about wanting to have at least a little hypomania; but it only took a few gentle reminders from Dr. G about how necessary the meds were for me to have a decent life. Maybe I was just ready to accept it then; maybe it was that I’d finally developed the emotional maturity to see things as they were, rather than wish they were different. I don’t have many regrets in life, but taking so long to accept bipolar as a part of me is one of them. It would have gone so much easier for me if I’d realized it earlier in life and done something about it. But it’s useless to dwell on the past; far better to put those feelings to work and help other people, like I (hopefully) do with this blog.

In the meantime, I’ve got plenty of meds and I know I can get help if things go sideways, but I don’t expect them to. I’m stressed out due to some events happening at home and some days I wake up wondering when the other shoe is going to drop. But rather than losing my shit—which would do no good for anyone—I’m handling it.

Farewell, my good doctor. You might not have been my first choice, but you were always Goodenough for me.

Debbie Downer

No, I’m not depressed, at least not clinically, but I am in a situational funk and I hate it. No summer mania for me this year (not that I want it, but I could use a lift); in fact, summer is only now arriving as it’s been cool, cloudy and damp all through June and into July. Things have been difficult around here lately, and now I’m lost in memories of that terrible night four years ago when Will passed away after hours of extreme pain. Technically he died on the 13th, but it’s the night of the 12th that will always haunt me.

I’d never seen him in such pain in all the years we were together. Not even when he slid down a dirt hill and broke his ankle did he ever cry or scream, although he did cut loose with a string of profanities whenever he hurt himself. I can’t even imagine what he must have been going through that night…only that he was suffering, and I was utterly powerless to save him from it. It took too long for the hospice nurse to get some fire in the belly and arrange for his admission to the inpatient hospice facility, and the trip itself was too long. Clint sat with him in the transport van and has told me on more than one occasion that he was glad he was present with Will because he didn’t want me to see Will’s handsome face twisted in agony or hear his wails.

Thank God the hospice facility nurses were able to get his pain under control swiftly! He relaxed almost instantly as the medications coursed through his bloodstream, then he went to sleep, and basically never woke up again. Clint reminded me that I should call our priest to give Will the last rites, something I hadn’t even thought of doing. We were all so grateful that Father came that even my son William—not a believer—knelt on the floor and prayed with us.

After this, we had nothing to do but wait. Wait to see what would happen if Will woke up, wait to watch him pass away. Finally, around 2:30AM Clint and Ben decided to go home, while William, his then-wife, and I stayed at the bedside. I wouldn’t have been anywhere else. I slipped into a recliner that had been provided for me and just watched him breathe…until he stopped.

I crept around the side of his hospital bed to assess him; nurses never stop being nurses, and I was unsure of his clinical condition. But then he reached out his hand which I literally held in a death grip, he took one last hesitant breath, and it was all over. Thirty-six years of love and marriage lay lifeless in the bed, a beautiful quilt covering his body. I still have that quilt. The hospice nurses gave it to me and it has never left my bed, except to be cleaned, in all this time.

It was 3:10 AM. That was the time I gave the nurse who came in to pronounce him. It’s the time that went on the death certificate too. Ben and Clint returned to the facility since William had called them with the news, and we drove home in total silence, the warm wind in my hair and the sun beginning to think about rising in the early-morning sky. I have never felt more lost in my life. And that wasn’t the last of my worst moments: we still had to visit the funeral home that afternoon. I bawled all the way through that meeting, but we accomplished what we needed to.

Now, four years later, it seems hard to believe it’s been that long; sometimes it feels like it all happened last week. I’m actually a lot better than I was in the first couple of years after Will died, but it’s days like today that remind me that this anniversary will ALWAYS be painful, that I will ALWAYS miss him, until my own dying day…until we meet again.

I Can’t Brain Today. I Has the Dumbs.

Seriously. I just looked at my grandson Elijah as we were chatting and all of a sudden I forgot his name. Just…forgot. I was enjoying the company of someone I have loved since the first time I held him at approximately 45 minutes old, and here I was, fumbling for the right name (Zachary? Joshua?). Fortunately it took me less time to remember it than to tell the story, but it’s downright frightening to blank out on something as important as your grandchild’s name!

But that’s just another day in paradise for me and my (once-bright) mind. Ben is usually the one to catch my errors; he gives me shit about it all the time because he’s the only person in the house who A) knows what I USED to be like, and B), thinks it’s funny. I’ve always been a little unfocused and not as observant as I should be—except when I was working as a nurse—but I wasn’t outright dumb. And while there are those who would take issue with me saying that, may I remind you that there’s a big difference between dumb and stupid. Stupid is some idiot saying “Hold my beer and watch this!” and you can’t fix that. Dumb, on the other hand, is stumbling and bumbling through life, and everyone tolerates it because it’s kinda cute in its own way.

I don’t want to be cute. I want my brain back, the wonderful organ that once aced algebra courses and demanded to be stimulated and challenged every day. I don’t know what happened to its intellectual curiosity, either. I do know I don’t have dementia, but I sure act like it sometimes! I forget where the Delete key is on the computer. I forget I’ve spent money and get mad because I think it’s been stolen, which did happen in the past but hasn’t for quite some time. I’ve even been known to flub my words when out in public, which is embarrassing as hell for me and doubtless makes others uncomfortable.

I had a “telehealth” conversation this week with Dr. Goodenough, which consisted of an informal chat on the phone since I can’t figure out how to use Skype or Zoom. I don’t think he knows either. We talked about my tardive dyskinesia and of course about my bipolar brain-fade. I reiterated that I feel I would get at least SOME of my smarts back if I didn’t have to take so much medication, but I said it just for the record. I know there’s not going to be a reduction or discontinuation of any of them, not in this lifetime, because my current regimen is what works. We do not mess with this magic formula. There is room to go up as necessary, but right now that’s not an issue since I’m stable as can be. I feel like a regular person now, at least my version of what a regular person must be like, and I won’t give that up because I’m upset about being such a ditz.

But sometimes when I lie in bed at night, I remember what it was like to have intellectual conversations, to read books and talk about them, to be quick-witted and funny and full of piss and vinegar.

Oh, well…