vacation from life

We are leaving for a week at the beach in North Carolina. We spent our entertainment budget on a beachfront rental house in a quiet area away from the crowds. We will be doing a lot of relaxing for the first few days, then maybe visit some stuff in the area. I’m not going in the shark’s house, but I might dip my foot in the warm water. My birth-mom will drive up from Georgia to visit during the second half of the week, so we will get a chance to discuss some family history.

Nicole is going with us, and I hope she will be okay being away from home for a whole week. She has had a problem with being away from her “safe zone” (her bedroom) for long periods of time. I asked her about this, and she said as long as she can be connected over the interwebs she will be okay. I really hope that she doesn’t start having problems in the last few days of the trip, missing her cats and being away from home. We will let her have as much space as she wants during the trip.

I will be trying not to think about stuff at home, but you know how I worry about stuff. What if the indoor cat gets out, what if a tree falls on the house, what if we have problems during the trip … so many things that could go wrong. I really hope my fears are unfounded. We need a week to stop thinking about all the negatives in life right now.

10 Things Bipolar People DON’T Want You To Know

I don’t often reblog, but I felt compelled to share this. This post by Michelle really captures the feelings of bipolar people who don’t want to scare away everyone else. We never tell our loved ones the whole truth because of the fear it might be too much for them to handle. Michelle writes some of the things we want to keep secret from everyone.

To Be an Equal

I can’t count the number of articles I’ve come across with the title # Things Bipolar People Want/Wish You Knew or the List Of Things People With Mental Illnesses Wish People Understood. And for the most part, they’re pretty spot on. But I want to come at it from a different angle. I’ve done my best to keep it pretty similar in format, but if you feel I got something wrong, or missed a key point, drop me a comment! (Images thanks to Google-I own nothing.)

  1. We’re scared of our symptoms too.

bp2There’s nothing quite like the dive between (hypo)mania and depression when you feel like you can see the world crumbling around you. Or the emptiness that makes you feel like a dead (wo)man walking-no cares, no love, nothing. Or the darkest parts of depression when it hurts to cry because you’re trying not to wake anyone, so you…

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on the rocks

One time in Reno I was in a manic mood, so I kind of broke up with my girlfriend and went climbing on dangerous rocks at Donner Pass. I was clambering over the granite outcrops in the light of a nearly-full moon, in the middle of the night, and I was wearing flip-flops. I could have slipped and fallen and died, and someone would have found me with crows pecking out my eyeballs.

My first rock concert was when I saw Rush in Sacramento. I had just started dating the future Mrs. Fish, but I had previously promised my formerly-not-quite-girlfriend Lisa that I would take her. Lisa and I went with another couple, who were somewhat confused about our relationship status. We had a great time, but we were a little scared of a bear-like, drunk Rush fan who started screaming the lyrics to “The Trees” as we were walking by. I made it up to Mrs. Fish by taking her to a Rush concert two years later; she merely tolerated it.

When I was young, and playing outside to hide from everyone, I used to throw rocks. I threw a lot of rocks. One of my favorite targets was a dead tree in the forest, and I would throw rocks at one particular branch trying to break it off. I hit the branch numerous times, but I never could break it. I also threw rocks at an electrical transformer right in front of our house. I wanted to hit the insulator and break it so the power line would come into contact with the metal transformer and explode it, I guess. Explosions are awesome.

During the Manic Las Vegas road trip of 2004, I wanted to find obsidian. I found a place called Obsidian Dome in the Inyo National Forest, and collected some fine samples. I tried to break the rock to make a sharp edge for hunting like the Native Americans, but all I did is smash my finger. I still have the rocks, in a box in the garage.

I was at work early Saturday morning. To make the time go faster, I was listening to some progressive rock/metal on Youtube. It was a band called Magic Pie out of Norway. Great music, but you have to like that style.

One of the best times when I was a kid was when we made homemade ice cream. You mix the cream in the center pail, then pour ice and rock salt in the tub, then start turning the crank for a half hour. Pineapple was my absolute favorite, but one of A-mom’s friends always ruined my idea by suggesting we use walnuts or maple flavor. Later, I found out there were ice-cream makers with electric motors, which did not require manual labor to earn the treat.

There is this dopey guy at work who has about a dozen cliché phrases he says all the time. One of my (least) favorites is “Let’s rock it out, bro!” He also says things like “kegger, baby, double kegger” and “I’m livin’ the dream, baby.” Sometimes he even howls, as in “owwoooo!” This is a forty-something professional in an office environment, and he acts like a 19-year-old frat boy. Very irritating.

Finally: my picture of Lembert Dome, a very large outcrop of granite in the Tuolumne Meadows area of Yosemite National Park. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, it’s at 37.880435, -119.348982.

lembert dome tuolumne meadows

another rain poem

Rain, relentlessly falling down
turning fall colors sullen brown
washing dreams to the ground

Clouds, entombing the world in gloom
streetlights glow as early darkness looms
people complain, and find well-lit rooms

Sleet, tumbling around my feet
as I sit, drained and weary from defeat
yet looking up, I remain in my seat

Snow, buries the hills and the town below
stranding people with nowhere to go
they huddle together, shuffling slow

Rain, painting the world in monochrome grey
keeping puppies and children from their play
there’s nothing the weatherman can say

Water, eroding the soil away
but I am a rock with plans to stay
I have to show my strength today

how soon we forget

Recently I was copying our old wedding video to DVD. I was really awkward at the time, and it seems painfully so in retrospect. We both were very camera-shy, and it makes it difficult for me to watch.

I have forgotten so many things from those days, and looking back it looks like someone else’s life until I see myself on tape, being sarcastic and smart-assed and dorky. I see my friends on the tape, and I almost have no idea who those people are. I have lost touch with all of them, regardless of how close they were at the time.

Anyway, throughout the video I kept wondering where A-mom was the whole time. I knew she didn’t shoot the video, but I didn’t see her anywhere. Had she managed to avoid the camera the entire time?

Then I finally remembered why she had not appeared. She had died 6 months before the wedding.

It’s amazing how much you lose when you try to edit out entire blocks of your life from memory.

unprepared

I have learned to deal with my mental health issues. Even though it seems overwhelming sometimes, I know I will survive as long as I take my meds and sleep. Dealing with the depression during waking hours means that I focus on myself, selfishly at times, but always with the goal of keeping myself sane for my family.

I don’t know how to deal with Nicole’s worsening illness. It is difficult to have the right amount of empathy when I don’t fully understand what she is going through. It is hard to deal with her total lack of motivation to fight her illness rather than just giving in. I understand the thoughts of fantasy, because I was in a “functional fantasy land” on a few occasions, but I was never fully consumed by it.

I don’t know how to be a caregiver. I’m not trained for this. I’m too self-oriented, and not good at giving comfort to others. Her illness is more difficult for me than my own, and I don’t know what to do about that.

the latest challenge

Another meeting with Nicole’s doctor, and another new twist. It turns out that the new diagnosis is schizoaffective disorder – all the fun of recurring depression with some symptoms of schizophrenia mixed in, and possible comorbid conditions such as anxiety disorder. I am now trying to learn as much as I can about this new label, and what it means for Nicole.

I won’t list the symptoms here, as they can be found on several websites. The consensus is that medication probably should include antipsychotics like Invega or Risperdal, however the doctor has not prescribed either of those. Mood stabilizers and anti-depressants can be mixed in as appropriate. Right now she is taking the mood stabilizer Lamictal; an antidepressant, Zoloft; and an atypical antipsychotic, Abilify. Apparently it is possible for anti-depressants to increase the risk of psychosis in some people. I would like to find out what the doctor plans on changing, if anything, and why.

All the websites say that long-term treatment will be required, and should include talk therapy, group therapy, and possibly work training. Thanks to another blogger’s comment (sorry, I’ve forgotten who), I’ve come to realize that for the near future Nicole will need regular input from a support system that includes professional help. Obviously we will help her as much as we can, or as much as she allows us, but I think she sometimes sees us as only nagging harpies who don’t really care about what is in her head. I want her to believe that is not true.

The Mayo Clinic website says “Untreated, people with schizoaffective disorder may lead lonely lives and have trouble holding down a job or attending school. Or, they may rely heavily on family” to survive. WebMD says that schizoaffective disorder is “a lifelong illness that can impact all areas of daily living, including work or school, social contacts, and relationships.” The Wikipedia article stated that statistically, “social problems such as long-term unemployment, poverty and homelessness are common”, and “The average life expectancy … is shorter … due to increased physical health problems from an absence of health promoting behaviors including a sedentary lifestyle, and a higher suicide rate.”

In other words, this is serious shit. I have stated before how worried I was for Nicole’s future, and reading about this illness is not giving me any encouragement. But I think she has a good doctor, and she has time to grow and mature to deal with her illness, even though it may be at a slower pace than I would hope for.

fear wins again

This, from a comment on the recent post “around the world”:

The problem I have with support groups is that I’m afraid to go in the first place. My social anxiety wins almost every time. Even with a group of people who could understand me better than anyone else on the planet, I am still afraid of their judgment. I have the irrational fear of being hurt by these strangers who probably would like to be helpful and compassionate … I’m not going to get any benefit from the group when I can’t take down my defensive walls or when I am so anxious I can’t think straight. One time I went to a group, loitered in the doorway of an adjoining room, then left before anyone noticed me. How lame is that? FML.

This time I only made it to the parking lot.

I had planned on going to the group meeting two weeks ago, but that time I made excuses and just went home. This time I was ready, I had psyched myself up for doing something which might benefit me, and I had no reason not to go … until I started thinking about it.

I wrote down things I might say to the question “why are you here?” (I sometimes rehearse my social interactions by writing them out beforehand … sad, I know). Then I started thinking that some of the potential responses sounded corny or rehearsed (which they were). Then I realized I would be stammering and shaking the entire time. How would I not sound like an idiot trying to answer simple questions? I could imagine the other people staring at me, wondering how bad my problems were, and feeling like I was the center of attention. If I felt that badly I wouldn’t get any benefit anyway, so why should I go?

By this time in the thought process my pulse was racing, I could feel my blood pressure rising, and a building pressure inside me … not a panic attack, but headed in that direction. I sat in the parking lot debating whether to go inside, but the starting time came and went, and I definitely would not go into a room of strangers late and have them all watching me. The decision was easy at this point, and I drove away.

When I got home, the reception was hardly one of empathy or understanding. Mrs. Fish was curious until I told her I didn’t go, then she just gave me an “I’m not surprised” look. Later Nicole asked me how I liked it, then she said “what do you mean, you didn’t go?” I said “are you shaming me?”, and she said no, but then let it go.

Thanks for the encouragement. I feel like I have let them down somehow, trying to do something positive but not trying at all, and failing again. I’m angry with myself for being this way, and for bailing out before trying, but I’m also sad and emotionally drained.

I won’t try this again. For now, it’s back to survival mode. Forget about healing at all, just make it through another day.

dream stew

I had a disturbing dream several nights ago that I am still trying to understand.

I was on my way for blood tests, and Anne’s mom took me there. She went in with me and sat in the waiting room. I told her to wait a minute, I would be right back. I went to the car and drove away, but the driving soon became flying in the sky, circles, loops, floating and diving. I returned after what felt like an hour or less. She was waiting on the same bench, but now it was dark and everyone had gone home. She said I had been missing for over a year.

The dream shifts to a room with a sofa, where Anne’s sister sat nursing a newborn baby I didn’t know about. When they get ready to take me home, they tell me that Anne also has a new baby, a child that I have no memory of. I felt this crushing feeling of despair as they talked to me, realizing that I had missed so much during this episode, and that I remembered nothing except the flying.

Is this what a psychotic episode feels like when it ends and you return to reality, or is it much darker and frightening? Maybe this is about my worry over Nicole’s condition. Maybe this is about the feelings of loss regarding all the time with my family I can’t remember due to dealing with my bipolar and the associated memory loss.

Or was it just a dream, just a stirring of the subconscious soup? I never can tell.