bad knees

Fishrobber Classic – December 2012:

If a guy had bad knees but ran marathons, then collapsed in tears at the end of each race, and had to go lay down and do nothing so he could rest before the next race … people would talk about his courageousness, toughness, dedication, strength.

If he was forced to run the race to earn his family’s only source of income, and had no time or energy for other hobbies or friends, they would talk about his selflessness to provide for his family while sacrificing his own body and happiness.

If people found out the runner took drugs to help his body recover, he would be ridiculed as a fraud, a cheater, a less honorable person for having resorted to chemistry to perform better. People might question whether he should run at all.

How is this different from the functioning bipolar person? My mind is my knees, the marathon is daily life. My strength is a show for everyone while I feel weak inside; I sacrifice the happiness I don’t feel I deserve. I have no time or energy for hobbies or friends because I collapse at the end of each day, but my selflessness is really a sham concealing a dark desire to run away from this life and be free from its responsibility. People would treat me differently if they found out I was constantly medicated.

I wonder what happens when I can no longer run the race every day.

hectic

There has been a lot going on at the homestead recently. We talked to a realtor to prepare for listing our house for sale; we started a massive clean-up program in preparation for showing the house; I had a psychiatrist appointment; we had a yard sale that failed miserably; and my mother is coming to visit this weekend.

Short recap for those who don’t know: I was given for adoption at birth and raised by a single woman, a part-time-functional alcoholic with mental health problems; she died when I was 21, leaving me without a family; after searching off and on for several years I made contact with my birth-mom in 2007; due to my issues our relationship did not start well; and in recent years we have become closer to what an adult mother-son relationship might look like, if I knew how to do that. She wants to be “Mom”, and I’m a little distant, even 10 years later. I don’t feel good about that, I’m just wired that way.

Anyway, b-mom is coming to visit us in Ohio for the first time since the 2007 visit. I have been to Georgia twice, and she stayed with us last year in NC for a few days. I have stuff planned to do together, and we going to the farm to visit the goat family in-laws (who are working hard at their farming). B-mom was/is an alcoholic (maybe 27 years sober?), so I will take her to visit the locations where AA got started. We might visit Amish country, we might do a ball game, we might do other stuff, but hopefully she has a good time. I’m good at being a travel agent, even if I’m not that good at relationships. Let’s fill the time with activity to avoid relating on a personal level.

ultraviolet

The vacation was overall pretty good. Nicole started to freak out a little by the 2nd night, as I thought she would. She was getting anxious sharing a small space with us, and she wanted a hotel room of her own (which of course could not happen financially). We solved the problem by changing hotels and finding a two-room suite for slightly higher price than what we had reserved. She was able to have her own space, and her anxiety calmed down a lot. We went to the beach, we saw museums and the aquarium, we visited with Dan a few times, and Nicole got to go to the anime convention. I wrote “PLEH” on the sand in honor of Joey.

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The ugly part of the trip started on the beach. I slathered up with sunscreen on the exposed parts of my upper half, then changed from pants to shorts, and forgot to put sunscreen on my legs. I got a severe sunburn in about 2 hours due to simple stupidity on my part. Being so fair skinned you would think I could remember, but it just slipped my mind. The pain really kicked in on the 2nd day, the liquid-filled oozing blisters appeared on the 3rd day, and the remainder of the trip was spent doing first aid on myself. I still have sore spots that have not healed, but now mostly just dry, damaged skin. I don’t know how long it will take to heal, and I may have increased my chances for cancer. I would post pictures, but I don’t think you want to see that.

Next time we visit, whenever that may be, we will rent a house on the beach or stay in a beachfront hotel. It wasn’t as much fun driving back and forth from the city as it would be if we were right there, having the freedom to go outside whenever you want.

southbound

We will be headed down to North Carolina again tomorrow. The plan is to spend a few days at the beach, a few days visiting with our son Dan, and drive home next Sunday.

I don’t know if everything will go according to plan.

Nicole has been a little unstable the past week, not dangerously so, but just enough that all of us have noticed it. My prediction is that the first few days at the beach will go fine, but when we get to Raleigh she will start being first agitated, then depressed, then in tears. She will be out of her comfort zone, she will miss her cats, and not even the anime convention will make her want to stay. She will be further upset because (I also predict) that Dan will not have much time to hang out with her because he will prefer to hang out with his friends at the anime convention. I bet that we end up going home one or two days early, and everyone will be stressed out.

It is tough to plan anything due to Nicole’s illness. She sleeps at random times, she changes her mind about going places, and she resists keeping appointments with doctors. She won’t wake up when she needs to, but she gets mildly angry when she misses out on something. She chooses to not go out for dinner, but she insists we bring home food for her. It gets frustrating and stressful for Mrs. Fish and I to arrange our lives around her mental state.

Unfortunately, we are staying in a hotel near the beach instead of like last year when we rented a house on the beach. I don’t think it will be quite as enjoyable or relaxing this time, but a little beach time is better than no beach time at all.

tidepools

I saw your picture on Fakebook, loooking slightly windblown in a sweatshirt and jeans, braving the Mendocino weather. You were leaning on a smooth bleached log in the sand, surrounded by friends, enjoying the moment.

That was supposed to be my picture.

I took you and our friends camping on the beach. I showed you the creatures in the tidepools; you got pinched by a crab, and I kissed your hand to make it feel better. We walked up the beach for an hour, and returned closer than before. The group drank and played games by the fire, and I told you this had been the best day we ever spent together. Your deep brown eyes hinted at something more, and later that night we broke through the “friend barrier”. I cooked everyone breakfast, and you surprised the group by giving me a long, full tender kiss; in response to everyone’s stares, you smiled and said “thanks for breakfast.” Best campout ever.

I saw your picture on Fakebook, and but for a twist of fate, I would have been the one behind the lens.

Of course the world moved on, as did our lives, and here we are years later in separate worlds. As tidepools are abandoned by the receding tide, so do the feelings of love, sadness, and missed opportunity become more isolated over time … until one photo brings the flood of memories back again.

before and after

I have read a few posts lately about how being diagnosed with bipolar disorder changed someone’s life. In my experience, really changed is my awareness of my mental health, my understanding of my past, and my expectations for the future.

Before my diagnosis, I understood that there was something fundamentally wrong with me, even though I didn’t have a name for it. Even as far back as high school, I had a little understanding about my mood swings and my odd and risky behavior at times. I knew I had problems, and I knew I had depression at times, but I also thought mental illness was for the weak; I was stronger than that, I could break free from it, I could make myself better. I was able to fight it when I was younger, but it became more difficult with time. After years of increasingly severe ups and downs, I finally decided I couldn’t handle it on my own. I went to the doctor for depression, and thought everything would be okay again. However the anti-depressants made my mood swings worse to the point I was put in the hospital, then diagnosed with bipolar.

After the diagnosis, I felt I finally had a name for the problems I had since childhood. I felt like I understood why I had those behaviors and mood swings and mind-shattering depression over the years. Being a geek, I studied everything I could in the library and on the internet. I wanted to have a good understanding of my condition so I could manage it and beat it.

What I came to realize is that there is no beating bipolar disorder. The right medication helps you manage it, although finding that combination has been difficult in the past. I was very much disappointed by this, and there have been times I really gave up hope that I would be able to have a life that was anything close to normal. I have finally arrived at a place where I feel it is a losing battle, and I only have a limited amount of time to make the most of my life before it wins.

That sounds defeatist, but it also gives me a little incentive to keep fighting for life. Nothing with bipolar is easy, and I accept that it will always be more difficult for me than “normal people” to reach goals and improve my quality of life. Part of that quality is to increase chances for happiness and contentment, and decrease the things that bring me down. If that means a vacation I can’t afford, I might take it anyway. In some cases it means allowing my anxieties to win sometimes, and stay away from situations that cause me stress.

Bipolar has changed my outlook for the future, but not hopelessly so.

see the light

I’m a little better the last two days. This was a rough week.

In addition to a deep depression swing, my headaches have become strong again. I have always had sinus problems, and I have always had headaches since I can remember. But the sinus headache seems to trigger a stronger migraine, and my sensitivity to light aggravates those migraines. Any kind of light is bothersome, especially fluorescents and bright cloudy days. I have been wearing sunglasses inside at home, I bought a sleep mask, and I have been taking non-prescription pain pills constantly. I need to talk to my doctor about this, because it has become very difficult to function. Maybe I will end up wearing colored glasses all the time, like Bono.

fake

I’m holding my head in my hands while trying to work. I can pretend I have a headache. I can fake that.

I’m close to weeping at my desk. I can pretend my allergies are bothering me. I can fake that.

I go home and want to crawl in bed and just be alone. I can pretend I have a migraine. I can fake that.

I am tempted to put my real feelings on Fakebook, but instead I make a witty observation or post a funny picture. I can pretend to be my old self. I can fake that.

I don’t want to live being hopelessly depressed all the time. I wish I would suddenly just cease to live.

I don’t know how to fake that.

vulnerable

I am sinking. I feel vulnerable and fragile. It scares me that anyone could walk up to me and say something that would damage me to the core, and I seemingly have no defense at the moment. I’m afraid that I will let that vulnerability show.

I tend to isolate myself when I feel this way, like a wounded animal that hides while they regain their strength. I feel wounded, but I don’t feel like hiding will help me. It’s not like I can hide anyway, because I have to put on my mask and go to work every day.

I’m trapped between the need for income and insurance on one side, and my own unmet needs on the other. It has always been this way; reading back through 12 years of blogging reminds me that I have always had this conflict between what I need for myself and what I need to be for everyone else.

I don’t know how to solve this dilemma. I read advice that tells me I need to take little breaks and do things just for me. The reality is I want escape, and no amount of temporary respite will give me what I need. I don’t want a break. I just want to leave it all behind.

These are the type of thoughts that lead one to believe it is okay to put an end to it all. It makes the most sense logically, if you really consider it. The problem is that I don’t want to die just yet.