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The Interview

October 28, 2017

So I just got off the phone after talking with an East Coast graduate student for almost an hour about my bipolar disorder. She is with a group doing research for the University of Virginia, part of which is reaching out to people with the illness and asking them a lot of questions about how it affects them. I found out about the study from a reputable source and thought I’d participate for the fun of it. I also get a $20 Walmart gift card for my trouble, but that’s not the reason I did the interview. I did it because I am passionate about mental health and I want to do whatever I can to further understanding of brain disorders…mine in particular.

I was asked first about when and how I came to be diagnosed with bipolar NOS, and why it changed to bipolar 1 a couple of years later. How did that feel? Well, gobsmacked was the first word that came to mind, and I said as much. Then it was relief that there was a name for what ailed me and a way to treat it, even though it was incurable. Then came the denial, which I still fight even today, because I’ve felt so good for so long that I forget how bad things really were in the past. It’s a good thing I have this blog to remind me of how it used to be when my illness was raging out of control, and it was even worse before I got help.

She asked me about my medications, and what I call my love/hate relationship with them. I think I’ve finally gotten over the temptation to tinker with them, but I had to admit I still hate having to take so many for just this one reason. (We won’t even talk about the blood-pressure meds or all the supplements I take for various health concerns…suffice it to say that I’m on a hell of a lot of pills.) I think she was actually impressed with the quantity because she let slip a “Wow” while I was giving her my  statistics.

We also discussed in depth the impact that BP has had on my life. I don’t think I’ve ever really put it all together before, but it boiled down to this: in the short term, the disease  ruined me. I used to be a high-functioning, employed, successful nurse holding down a very responsible job, maintaining a household, and participating in society. Now I’m on disability, unable to even imagine going back to nursing, relying on my family to help support me. At first glance, my life looks terribly depressing…and yet, there is incredible optimism in my heart.

After all, I’ve learned to appreciate my many blessings, like my current stability, the aforementioned family and the fact that I have a safe place to lay my head at night. My husband is gone, but I am used to it now and while I will always love and miss him tremendously, I know he wouldn’t want me to mope around feeling sorry for myself and crying for him (well, I still do that on occasion, but I think he understands). I have friends, both online and in real life. I have four little dogs to love and play with who tend to bark at unfortunate times, like during this interview. (She got a kick out of that.) My blog is doing well and I’m getting a lot of page views these days. I even get to go on nice vacations like the one coming up in December. What’s not to love about my life?

This all came tumbling out as we neared the end of the survey. I don’t know how useful my story will be to the research project, but to me it was worth the 45 minutes out of my day. I think she thought so too; “awesome” was the word she used.

I’m encouraged. 🙂





October 16, 2017

(A warning to my kids: Do not read further. I repeat, do not read further. You don’t want to know.)

ADIDAS. No, not the tennis shoe—it’s an acronym for All Day I Dream About Sex. 

Well, I do. There, I said it. I dream about it at night, too. And I confess that I miss it like crazy. There wasn’t a whole lot of it in the last few years of Will’s life, but what there was, was magical. We were very compatible in that arena from the start of our relationship; while I wasn’t a virgin when I met him, he introduced me to new ways of lovemaking that showed me some of the possibilities of life and now that he’s gone, I wonder if I will ever experience anything like it again.

For the first year after he died, I couldn’t imagine even wanting to meet another man. Even now, I don’t really want to, or if I did, I’d want one in my life—not in my house. There’s no real likelihood that I’ll ever meet someone I’d want to co-habitate with, let alone marry; I have too much baggage (both literally and figuratively) and of course, there’s always the bipolar. No one with the sense God gave a goat would want to deal with that. Hell, I don’t want to deal with it. Besides, no man could ever take Will’s place—why would I go for hamburger when I had filet mignon for thirty-six years?

So when you get down to where the cheese binds, all I want is someone to have a good time with. Is that disloyal?

Part of me says very definitely Yes. Will was my husband, my life; how can I even THINK about being with anybody else? But then, if the situation were reversed and I were the one who passed away, I wouldn’t want him to be lonely forever, and I’m sure he’d feel the same way about me. I’m too young to go through the rest of my life without enjoying the gift of lovemaking ever again. I just don’t want complications or drama. I’ve been out of the dating scene for almost four decades…I don’t even know how it’s done these days. In a perfect world, I could simply hire a hot 30-year-old who can scratch that itch without romantic entanglements. (Like I can afford a male escort on my fixed income. Know any more jokes?)

Yes, I am aware that there are more realistic (not to mention efficient) ways to, well, release all that pent-up energy, but it’s not the same. There is nothing more seductive than the male body in all its glory. A friend of mine introduced me to a Facebook site called Cougar Prey, which is loaded with photos of gorgeous men in different states of undress without revealing absolutely everything, and I go there often just to drool. I hate the term “cougar” and don’t want to think of myself as one, but I’m sure not fantasizing about 60-year-old guys with a double chin and a beer belly. Haha!



The Dumb Question of the Year

October 5, 2017

Yesterday was my every-other-month appointment with Dr. Goodenough, and I’m still amazed at how much we cover during the course of 30 minutes. He always encourages me to talk about Will, and it all comes tumbling out without permission from my brain. I get to talking and I can’t shut up! Not that I mind talking about him…in fact, I love to reminisce about the good times, which is what I’m remembering more and more instead of the sad times. Last week, on the 27th, it would have been our 37th wedding anniversary, and while the day itself was very difficult, I recovered within a short time and am back to normal.

Anyway, I’d noticed that on my last visit to Dr. G, he’d changed my diagnosis to—of all things—Grief. Hmmm. The health system that governs the mental health clinic I go to has a patient portal which, among other things, provides brief notes about office visits; I like to check it when I go to Dr. G or get services such as labs and other tests. I was curious about this new diagnosis and asked him if that was in the DSM.

“Yes”, he replied, smiling. “It’s a legitimate diagnosis. Don’t worry, it’s not pathological, we just make note of it because it’s important in mental health.”

And then it slipped out: the dumb question of the year. “So that means I’m not bipolar one anymore?”

Dr. G’s facial expressions are generally inscrutable when he’s not smiling, but it was clear he was struggling not to laugh. He composed himself quickly, however, and said “No, not at all. It’s just that grief complicates bipolar, as you know.” In the meantime, I was kicking myself on the inside for being so stupid. I didn’t want him to think I was stupid. I’ve always been very professional in my discussions with him—I don’t even swear in session—and here I’d gone and said something really, really ridiculous even though I know better.

The good news is, I’m very stable and I don’t have to go in for four months. Of course I’m to call if something goes sideways during that stretch, but unless my brain totally shits the bed I expect life to go on as it has for the past 15 months. I’ve got my HappyLight ready to go if I start slipping into SAD, which hasn’t happened yet because our early fall weather has been spectacular for the most part. I even organized my room the other day for the first time after Will died, which makes it much more pleasant to be in. It wasn’t dirty, just cluttered with crap all over the dresser, the nightstands, the table. I also had about 15 items of clothing draped over his recliner.

Speaking of clothing…it’s time to get rid of Will’s things. I’ve felt that coming on for some time. I’ve also taken off my wedding band and only wear the anniversary ring now; the wedding ring is too big for my finger and I’ve almost lost it several times. Besides, I’m not ready yet to advertise my single status. I may never be. It doesn’t matter right now. Today is a day to rejoice in beautiful blue skies and changing leaves, to enjoy my family and my life. And not to ask dumb questions. Haha!




It’s All On the Inside

September 20, 2017

I’m ramping up.

Fortunately, the only person who can tell is me. I still sit at the computer throughout much of the day, I don’t talk any faster than usual, and I haven’t been spending large amounts of money (well, I’ve been spending a little too much, but it’s for fun things like items for the trip and eating out). My room needs to be cleaned and there’s laundry to be done. But inside my head, there is boundless energy and my thoughts race constantly, making it difficult to go to sleep at night or concentrate on writing during the day. I feel like I could jog all the way to Texas and back…it’s my body that says “Nope”.

This is what a friend of mine calls “medicated mania”, and it’s totally normal for me at this time of the year. (Which is why I’m not worried about it—it almost always resolves on its own.) Early fall is optimistic; the leaves are turning to red and orange and yellow; there are Halloween decorations in the stores; days are still golden with sun and blue skies but there’s a nip in the morning air that wasn’t there a week ago. I notice the sharp decrease in the angle of the light, but it only makes me want to nest instead of causing me to feel depressed. I haven’t even started light therapy yet, even though it’s been cloudy and rainy for the past couple of days and this usually plunges me into a funk immediately.

Not that I’ll be shocked if/when my SAD does kick in, of course. That’s almost inevitable in the late fall and winter months. Thank God my family and I have a wonderful trip coming up in the middle of December. We have been waiting for it since August of last year, and now it’s only 84 days till the start of our vacation. Time is passing very quickly; it seems to me that the last four months of a given year go by as if it were four weeks. We can hardly wait!

Then there’s the fact that my second wedding anniversary without Will is coming up in a week. I am NOT looking forward to it, for obvious reasons. But this year, I’m remembering the good things…how exciting it was to be his bride, anticipating our wedding and being so in love it almost hurt. We were married in a public park, but I wore the traditional white dress and veil, and he wore a blue tuxedo (well, it was the beginning of the ’80s, what can I say?). Our minister was a good friend of ours who had a mail-order divinity degree and whom we paid in marijuana for performing the ceremony. The cake was homemade and looked it, we had people visiting the park who crashed the wedding, and even the tape recording our vows got tangled up in the middle of it and we lost the whole thing.

And it was the best. wedding. ever.

These are the good times I’m remembering now, instead of the sadness of the last few months of Will’s life and the brutality of his final hours. I’ve come to terms with the fact that he is gone and I’ve stopped looking for him around every corner. I still hate it that he isn’t here to celebrate our 37th anniversary. But I’ve come to accept it, and for my own peace of mind it’s better that way.

So here I am, with my mind saying GO while the body says NO. It’s OK though. What the heck, I’m enjoying life, and I know he would want that.



World Suicide Prevention Day

September 10, 2017

Today, Sunday, September 10, 2017 is World Suicide Prevention Day. Started in 2003, this day is meant to educate the public about causes of suicide and how to help prevent it. Every year some 40,000 Americans take their own lives, and there are up to 25 times as many who attempt suicide or are overcome with suicidal thoughts to the point that they seek medical attention.

I was one of the latter. Those of you who have read my blog for a few years will remember how close I came to ending my life in the fall of 2014. I had lost my job, my  place in the community, and I was in the process of becoming homeless as well. I got to the point where I couldn’t face the wreck of my life anymore; I felt responsible for the suffering my husband was going through along with me. I also came to believe I was a burden to my family and friends, and that they would be better off if they didn’t have to worry about me anymore.

One morning I locked myself in the bathroom while Will was running errands in town, and I was ready to do it right then—the only thing that held me back was which method to use. I had enough pills to kill me three times over, and then there was the .38 in my dresser drawer. I knew the gun would be quicker, but where to place the shot? I imagined myself caressing my temple with it, then pointing it directly at my heart. On the other hand, I was afraid I’d screw it up somehow and live—probably spending years existing in a nursing home bed, unable to feed myself or use the bathroom on my own. And, if truth be told, I didn’t want Will to come home and find a mess.

Somehow I made it through that day. But the next day was even worse, and I finally told him how I was feeling. “I want to hurt myself,” I remember saying. His reaction was typical of a person who’s well-meaning but doesn’t know how to help: “No you don’t! Don’t say that!” But then he urged me to call my psychiatrist and said he would do it if I refused to; at this point I was so worn out and so defeated that I agreed to go to the hospital. To this day, I remain convinced that if I hadn’t been admitted, I wouldn’t be here to tell the story. That hospitalization saved my life.

Now, in spite of all I’ve been through the past 14 months, I am far from being the desperately ill woman I was then. I have not been suicidal for so much as a minute since Will passed away; as much as I miss him, I’m in no hurry to join him. There’s still a lot to be experienced here in this life. And while there’s certainly no guarantee that I’ll never fall into a serious depression again, I live with a son who knows what to look for and a son-in law who’s not afraid to tell me what he sees. I also have a few very special friends who know how to help me.

My sincere hope on this World Suicide Prevention Day is that people all over the world will make the effort to learn how to help someone in danger of dying by their own hand. Forty thousand suicides per year is forty thousand too many. But sometimes all it takes to prevent one is for you to reach out and ask someone you think might be in distress if they’re OK. And if you yourself are in trouble, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or use the Crisis Text Line and text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the U.S. to talk to a person who is trained to help you. Don’t become a statistic!


Mama’s Got Ink!

August 31, 2017

Well, I did it—I finally got my semicolon tattoo! Almost 60 years old and I feel a little bit like a rebel, getting my first one (and it really is addictive like my family members and friends with tattoos say, because I’m already planning my next) at an advanced age. It’s on the inside of my right forearm, where it can be hidden with long sleeves if absolutely necessary. But I’m wearing it proudly as a symbol of my promise to my late husband that I would do as he asked and stay alive…no matter what life throws at me.

For those of you who haven’t heard of the semicolon except as an example of punctuation, it’s a metaphor for life as a person who has considered or attempted suicide. You know how the semicolon is used to connect thoughts in a sentence; the author could have ended the sentence at any point with a period, but instead decided to continue it. (See what I did there?) The author is you, and the sentence is your life.

The tattoo is more common than you might think. Several years ago a young woman named Amy Bleuel started Project Semicolon to honor her father, who died by suicide as a result of severe depression. It started out with people drawing semicolons on themselves with Sharpie markers, then caught on among the mental health community, many of whom wanted something more permanent. So the semicolon tattoo was born.

Sadly, Ms. Bleuel herself suffered from serious mental illness, and in March of this year she ended her own life at the age of only 31.

But for those of us who have looked into the face of death and lived to tell about it, our story is NOT over. We are warriors, survivors; while I personally have never attempted suicide, I know in my heart that if I had been sent home that day I checked myself into the ER for suicidal ideation and intent, I wouldn’t be here. You see, I knew where the pills were, and where the gun was…and it still scares me that I came so close to ending it all. In fact, the only reason I didn’t was that I didn’t want Will to find my body.

I don’t have him to keep me honest anymore, but I have many other reasons not to end my sentence. This tattoo will remind me of that every day for the rest of my life. My story isn’t over.




August 20, 2017

Just about the time I think I’m over all this bipolar business, something happens to remind me that my stability can evaporate very quickly if something goes seriously sideways in my life.

It almost did yesterday. While I won’t go into the reasons for the scare, I will say that my feeling of safety and security was majorly threatened, and I’m still shaken up even though things got better rapidly after all was said and done. I haven’t felt fear like this since 2014 when Will and I almost became homeless. I even had to pop a Klonopin to calm myself down, and I NEVER use it for anxiety, only sleep.

In the meantime, my thoughts were racing, my heart was pounding, and I felt as though I was tipping over into a mixed episode. My butt was glued to the park bench at my grandson’s birthday party, but my brain was on fire and I wanted to run as fast as my feet could fly (which admittedly isn’t very fast). I barely ate; my stomach was tied up in knots, and I was suddenly so irritable that it was all I could do not to yell at the kids who played nearby.

Some might say that my reaction to the stress was normal and completely  understandable given the circumstances, and they would be right. I’m talking about the feeling that I was spiraling out of control, which I haven’t encountered in nearly three years. I’d forgotten what that was like. I was so uncomfortable I even took my nighttime meds a little early, and I welcomed the calm that stole over me as they began to take effect.

Today, after a night filled with strange dreams, I feel like the worst is over. I’ve been assured that my place in the world is safe and I needn’t worry, although it’s going to be awhile before I can trust again. You know how it is when the scales fall from your eyes; there is no going back to innocence once a security breach has occurred. And although I know I’m loved, I have to remember that unconditional love is rare, and I will probably never experience it in the flesh again.

This afternoon, life is back to normal as if nothing ever happened. However, I rose up this morning on guard and more protective of my stability. I hope it won’t be threatened again for a long, long time (preferably never), but I’m not taking it for granted. I’ve worked too damned hard and too damned long for it. In spite of everything that’s happened in the past 13 months, I love my life and don’t wish it to be any different… except maybe for a bigger bedroom and my own bathroom. That’s supposed to happen when we move to Texas. Last night we all sat out on the deck talking about our future and making plans for the move, and it felt good to be part of that discussion.

I can’t wait. 🙂