stable but unwell

My bipolar seems to be in a stable phase lately, however that stability is still not feeling well.

I have had depression phases, but until lately I think they were related to outside events rather than developing on their own. I have had no hypomania phases for at least a year, maybe more. The medication, especially the Abilify, takes the edge off so that I rarely get those highs anymore. I miss the highs a little bit, then I remember that I usually have an agitated mixed state rather than a happy hypomanic state.

This time I seem to be in a real depression. I worry constantly, my OCD is there all the time, I exhibit social anxiety symptoms every day, I try to avoid contact with people, and I have the added stress of maintaining the constant mask that keeps people from seeing how I really feel. Physically I don’t feel well, I am tired all the time despite getting good sleep, and my weight has ballooned. I have no motivation or energy to do anything, and getting the house ready to sell seems like an overwhelming task at this time. When I am overwhelmed, I give up, and that makes me depressed, and the vicious cycle continues.

I don’t know if any changes to my meds are warranted, but I will ask him if I can do anything else. The p-doc says I am maxed out on the Lamictal, and the Abilify is doing nothing for my depression or anxiety. The social anxiety is probably a behavioral issue rather than medical, and changing the meds won’t affect that. There is no magic formula to make me change the kind of person I am, and I don’t believe any amount of therapy can give me confidence or self-esteem, or take away the insecurities I have had since childhood.

I guess the theory behind the medicine is that if they can fix your brain chemistry so that you’re not depressed all the time, you will be able to make changes and make progress necessary to improve your life. Nicole and I were discussing that with respect to her illness, and I was telling her that it seems like she is just stagnating, standing in place, choosing not do to do things to make progress toward independence and rejoining the world of the living. I think I am stagnating as well, but I have the added stress of being forced to play the role of worker and provider and all-around good guy for everyone who needs me.

Fuck bipolar.

karma and punishment

My daughter Nicole and I were talking about karma, revenge, and punishment the other day. She thinks it is wrong that our society’s need for “justice” revolves around revenge for the aggrieved or their family. I told her this concept has been around for thousands of years. Some Eastern cultures specified revenge punishments for certain crimes, and that carried over into the biblical/Western society as well.

She thinks that the purpose of prison should be to keep dangerous people away from society, and that non-violent criminals should not have to go to prison. I tend to agree with this, but right or wrong, I have been indoctrinated in a culture that says crimes must be punished. It would be difficult for me to advocate forgiveness for non-violent crimes, but perhaps there are better ways for punishment to be given: halfway houses, extended probation, and monetary fines for those who can afford it.

I don’t really believe in the concept of karma and the universe taking care of itself. I constantly see bad things happen to good people, and bad people (i.e. those who offend my value system) seem to get ahead in life. Whatever karma is, it doesn’t have the ability to right the wrongs in the world. If there were justice in the universe, I would be there to see vile, disgusting people get what they deserve.

Maybe this is wrong, but I wish bad things to happen to distasteful people. [The subject of the “yearbook” post comes to mind.] I want punishment for bad deeds and offensive behavior. But Nicole asks if I would be happy to see something truly tragic happen, like the death of a loved one, or a debilitating disease, or being paralyzed in a crash. That’s not what I want; it’s apples and oranges. For me, justice is proportionate to the crime being committed. When someone cuts me off on a snowy freeway, I would love to see them spin out and slide into a ditch, but I don’t want them to be injured. Likewise, when someone is a bully, I want to see them get bullied or humiliated, but I don’t wish them bodily harm.

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Twenty years ago I was badly injured in a car crash caused by a habitual drunk driver with a revoked license. He had several prior convictions, but this charge of aggravated vehicular assault was the most serious. It was a slam dunk case, and he was quickly convicted. Under Oregon law the penalty was a mandatory 6 years in prison. The judge asked his family to speak, and they said something to the effect that he was a good person who made mistakes, and that sending him to prison would be a loss for their family. I was asked to speak, and I said something like: my family almost lost me for good, and he should be punished, but I hoped he could get treatment while in prison.

I still have a bad taste in my mouth from what happened at the time. I think the driver deserved to be punished, but was it a violent offense? Maybe the sentence was just in that society was protected from his drunk driving for 6 years, but hard time in prison may be too much when a low-security residential institution may have been more appropriate. I thought at the time I wanted him to get treatment for his alcoholism, but I have seen cases where treatment didn’t work, and the drunk slips back into the same behavior. Maybe this was his last chance, and I was the unlucky one. I know this event changed my life forever, and I’m sure it changed his life forever as well.

freedom ’17

After 76 trying days, the goat family has moved out. I was getting very depressed toward the end of the co-habitation, my wife’s anxiety was building, and something had to change soon. Fortunately we made it through without harsh words or hurt feelings, but it was close.

They bought a farm an hour away, so they may visit from time to time, but they won’t be here too much. They will also be too busy to be causing havoc everywhere they go. They farm includes a horse boarding business, with a built-in group of customers whose horses keep eating and pooping every day, so they will jump into the farm life with both feet.

In the meantime, Annie and I are slowly decompressing and enjoying our regained freedom. We can talk about things without being interrogated. I don’t have to find excuses to be away from the house. We can choose not to cook dinner if we want to scrounge in the pantry. I can sit in my spot on the couch. The cats are happy to not have dogs in the house. The refrigerator handle will not be sticky all the time.

yearbook

At the end of the high school year, there was always the ritual of signing other people’s yearbooks. Mostly these were pithy little notes like “it’s been awesome knowing you” and “hope you have a great life”. Here’s what I wish I had written in one particular yearbook:

Congratulations, you lumbering dolt, for escaping high school at the bottom of the class. You’ve been a dick to me for the past 12 years, so go fuck yourself. Sincerely, Fishrobber. P.S. I made your mother squeal last night.

day 75

The house papers have not yet been signed. I’m getting nervous. However they have the kids enrolled in school starting Monday, and they plan on moving stuff this weekend. We shall see.

When they are gone, I will celebrate by eating Chinese take-out, then rolling on the floor. I’m not joking, it’s a family tradition when we move in a new house. This will be like getting our house back, so I think it’s still appropriate.

fly, fly away

In the meantime, the former man-child-turned-adult has moved out on his own. Rather than moving to a new place nearby, he chose to move to North Carolina. I helped him move his stuff into a storage locker this past weekend. He has a job but no apartment yet, but he is working on that while staying with a friend.

I worry of course, what if things go wrong, what if he loses his job or his car breaks down, we’re too far away to help, etc. I am very good at worrying, and not very good at letting him fly on his own. There is so much I wish I could tell him, but he prefers to figure things out on his own. He needs better social skills, and I’m afraid he will be sheltered and without love.

I really hope this works well for him, but I hope this is not a bad omen. His first act as a North Carolinian was to lock his keys in the car.

day 59

Hover-in-law said to the dogs: “Kitty needs her space, but you doggies keep invading it.” He did not see the irony in this statement.

The end is near. The sale will close on or about March 1st, and they will get to move in about a week afterward. I will gladly help them move their stuff into the new house.

In return for the favor of staying here nearly 3 months, they will help us fix up the bathroom so we can show our house this summer. I suppose that is a fair trade, despite the trouble this experience has been for me.

I am positive that I am the one who’s being unreasonable. I have an unrealistic space bubble which is the size of a football field. I sometimes choose to not be good at socializing. I need lots of down time, more than most people. But when necessary, you suck it up for family, because they would do the same for me.

Except I would never ask unless the zombie apocalypse occurred.

day 32

Nothing good comes from discussing politics with family. The same is true with religion. Just avoid the conversation for another 6 weeks.

The in-laws talked to Mrs. Fish about if we were okay with staying here until March. This conversation happens weeks too late, but whatever. My wife told them as nicely as she could that we are both introverts who need quiet time to recharge and relax. He tries to accept that, but after a couple of days he goes back to being the helicopter brother-in-law. He hovers and tries too hard to make things okay in return for occupying my spot on the couch for 9 weeks.

Then there is the whole third-rail conversation we can’t have. I am so fucking pissed off at America right now, and the in-laws are part of the problem. They use social services, but they vote for people who will restrict or take those services away. They don’t have much money, but they vote for people who plan to redistribute wealth from the middle class to the wealthy. They have been on and off health insurance, and their kids have mental health issues, but they vote for people who will allow the insurance companies to take coverage away.

Then they ask me if everything is okay when I get home, and can’t understand why I hide in the bedroom for hours at a time.

day 18

The relatives are still in our house. They are not working with the landlord to make the rental house livable, so they remain here. They have put an offer on a house, and I can only hope for a short escrow period. Even so, they may be here until March. FML.

I miss my quiet time. I am staying up way past my normal bedtime because I enjoy time to think without the barrage of words. So. Many. Words. I have seen my wife’s eyes glaze over, and I’m sure I do the same thing, because I simply can’t listen for long, uninterrupted stretches of time. I thought Sunday’s football game would be a good distraction to fill the space, but he talked throughout the entire game, sometimes about the game but often not.

The goats, in the meantime, have found a nice cozy home to share with a few horses in a nearby barn. I don’t know how the horses feel about this; maybe they can relate to my situation.