stories yet to be told

My bipolar has been relatively quiet; as usual I feel a little down most of the time, but with some minor mood swings either way. I welcome the energy of the mild positive swings, and I try to survive the downward phases without oversleeping and overeating. At my new doctor’s suggestion, I have been working my way up to the maximum dosage on the Topomax to see if that helps to suppress my appetite a little. I haven’t noticed much change yet, but we will see in the next two weeks. In the meantime, I haven’t noticed any other side effects, so that’s a good thing.

Lately I have been in a mood for reminiscing rather than discussing bipolar. Anytime I sit down to start writing something about my present condition, it seems lame and meaningless, while stories from the past seem to be more powerful for me. Even the bad poetry has dried up for now, and I much more enjoy spending time rewriting and recycling old stories in the hope that someday I can let the family see them. Maybe it will explain so much more than I can in person.

I realize that stories from Fishrobber’s Life History is not likely to gain any new readers, and may alienate the few people that do actually read this site. If you care about my day-to-day life, I appreciate it, and I would love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail me if you are interested in talking one-on-one about bipolar, life, Giants baseball, or anything at all. I will gladly answer. Contact info is at the top right of the page.

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fledgling

A-mom drove to Reno, following me over the mountains as I was about to start college. Boxes had been carried, small talk finished, and it was time for her to head home alone. It was my first time living away from home, and she was predictably emotional. She was not ready for me to leave home, and I’m sure there were some leftover feelings of abandonment, the jealousy of one survivor over the other’s departure. Maybe some of the tears were brought on by my lack of reaction. I had prepared myself for this, rehearsing how to respond and reduce the amount of histrionics to a minimum. More than that, I had prepared myself to not feel the same sense of separation. I blocked those feelings out, forcing myself to move onward despite any silly emotions I may have had about leaving home. When it was time to say good-byes in the parking lot of Nye Hall, A-mom struggled to accept the new state of things, but I had already neatly wrapped up those feelings and packed them in the mental attic.

In my mind, I had already said goodbye to her, to home, to a chapter of life. Little did I know that this next chapter would be eventful but short, and I would be returning home sooner than expected.

cheerleader

All parents are cheerleaders for their kids to a certain extent, but my A-mom was the whole squad. As I got older it became somewhat embarrassing when she would tell people how smart I was, or how good a singer or musician I was, or how skilled at baseball I was. Even if I was proven to not be the best in some of those categories, she would stubbornly hold on to the belief that I was better than anyone else. She would complain to the coach when I didn’t get enough playing time, and she would tell the choir director that I deserved a solo when I really didn’t. I was her precious genius with superpowers, and she mollycoddled me to the point of smothering.

Despite her being a cheerleader for me to the rest of the world, she never seemed to encourage me very much at home. She never sat down and said “you can make it through college, you’re smart enough.” I felt like my motivation to succeed at my education came from myself, partly to escape poverty and avoid being white trash, and partly to prove wrong the people who told me I wouldn’t amount to anything.

I wonder if she didn’t feel like she could help me anymore once we escaped the abuse in Treetown. Maybe she felt like I was grown up at that point, which was far from the truth. I wish I had had someone to help me through the transition from high school to college, but the reality is I did it all by myself. I don’t think she wanted me to leave home, and she was secretly happy when my first attempt at freedom failed and I moved back home.

I don’t want to be unfair to her. We were poor, and we didn’t the financial opportunity to take advantage of special tutoring or coaching or music lessons. In addition, we were recovering from years of abuse at the hands of the Old Bitch, and we were both still in a raw emotional state, trying to figure out how to live a normal life. We needed therapy more than we needed music lessons, but we had the mistaken belief that Jesus would help us more than psychiatrists.

doctor, doctor

My previous psychiatrist left his practice with very little warning last December, so I had to find a new one. This week I had my first appointment with the new p-doc, and I think it went very well. After the obligatory paperwork, I was interviewed by an intake nurse who asked me a lot of wide-ranging questions about my symptoms and my life in general. She seemed very organized, and made plenty of notes in the computer.

I was sent back to the waiting room for about 15 minutes, then they brought me in to see the doctor. We talked about my current and past symptoms, and how they have changed over time with the medication. I felt like I had to make a case that I still have bipolar, and he seemed to agree that even though I have been relatively stable with the meds I would be in trouble without them. We also discussed the weight gain with Abilify, and he started me on Topomax, an anti-seizure drug with a major side effect of appetite suppression and weight loss. He said several patients have had success with this combination. Finally, he gave me a little bit of Ativan to take as needed on days when my anxiety is problematic.

I was nervous the entire time, but I think I covered everything I wanted to during the appointment. I had prepared by writing up a list of symptoms, a timeline, a list of meds, etc., which helped me lay things out in an organized manner when responding to questions.

I got the impression from the conversation that he was much more friendly and personable than my previous doc. I also believe he is much more inclined to listen and be interactive, working as a partner in my mental health goals rather than just ordering me to do what he says.

god of bisquick

Me: … They talk to me, and I answer their call. I am The Creator, and I made them what they are. I am The Creator, but I am also The Destroyer. I gave them their existence, and I will end it as well. They will burn in the ovens of hell, then be devoured with gnashing of teeth! I am all powerful! MWWAAH-HA-HA-HAAAA.

Mrs. Fish: … get over yourself, they’re just biscuits.

===

Once upon a time in the south I was in a McDonalds looking for breakfast. They did not have any breakfast sandwiches with bagels, only biscuits. You can’t avoid biscuits in the south.

Once upon a time I was in a Hardees looking for breakfast. There was an older woman in the back making biscuits from scratch, just like they advertise. She reminded me of a school cafeteria lady, kind of matronly with a white apron and a dour expression, and nearly covered in flour.

Once upon a time I was in a Bob Evans looking for breakfast. Their biscuits are baked in a hexagonal shape, and they are very tasty. I asked for a biscuit and a cup of sausage gravy, but the waitress returned with two biscuits and a soup bowl of gravy. I was ecstatic, but I had to take some home.

I’m hungry now.

morbidly awkward

Following up on something in a previous post: my severe lack of self-esteem makes it difficult to socialize on a normal level.

I don’t feel like I have anything to give another person, whether as a friend or a casual acquaintance. I don’t think other people are interested in being around me, and if I try I feel like they are actually repulsed somehow by my attempt to interact with them. I am not interesting, I lose track of conversations, I have a hard time listening, and when I do say something it usually comes out wrong, and I feel stupid as a result. This effect gets worse in proportion to how much I would like to have a conversation with someone (which is rarely the case, but it happens).

I am terribly awkward at making conversation because I am overwhelmed while the other person is talking; my brain is working on so many different levels that I find it hard to keep up. I am trying to figure out something to say while wondering if I look ignorant, or I’m thinking about the stain on my shirt, or remembering the idiotic thing I said last time I talked to the person. In the meantime I have lost track of what the person was actually saying, then I feel stupid for not paying attention to the other person. This reinforces my fear of social interaction, and the next time is no better.

I dread interacting with people at the store or at restaurants, because people are only being friendly because it is required by their job. I loathe buying something where you have to talk to a salesperson, because I know I will get overwhelmed no matter how much I have prepared beforehand; internet shopping and the drive-thru window were made for me. I hate having to call people and talk to them for any personal or office business, because I am self-conscious about my voice and I always seem to stumble over my words. I could be dying and on the phone with 911, and I would be worried more about my side of the conversation than about the compound fracture in my leg.

The end result of all this is that I try to avoid dealing with people whenever possible. Talking to people exhausts me, not because I don’t like people (and I don’t like most people), but because I don’t really value myself. My negativity gets in the way of being an equal participant in social interactions. This gets worse as I get older and I become less confident in my ability to relate to people.

The only exception to this rule is at work, on the rare occasions where I really know what I am talking about, and I find that I can contribute intelligently to the conversation. This doesn’t happen often, but sometimes it surprises me. Last week I had a snap meeting which I unexpectedly was in charge of, and had no time to prepare for, but everything worked out okay. I answered everyone’s questions reasonably well, and I didn’t feel like a failure afterward.

what stress?

I had a very stressful year in 1991. I was 21, and working my way through college, when this happened. I:

– broke up with the not-quite-girlfriend
– met a new girl, my future wife
– lost my b-mom to pneumonia
– sold a house and part of a business
– finished the semester at college
– bought a car
– moved to a new rental
– rented out my old house
– got married
– sold 2 cars
– moved again
– transferred to a new college
– got a new job
– lost my dog, then found him again.

Sometime in 1992, I saw a magazine article telling me I needed to reduce stress, and there was a scorecard to tell me if there was stress in my life. Almost every event that had happened in the past year was on the scorecard, and the result suggested that I should be in therapy. Imagine that.

wallflower

I have the ability to disappear in a group of people who are supposedly my “work-friends”. I have been talking to one or two people about something, then suddenly someone else appears who becomes the center of attention. They appear, and like magic, I disappear. In the past I have tried to stay in the room and appear like I was still relevant, but lately I have just given up and walked away from the conversation with my head down.

I’m not the guy that everyone likes to have around, and I rarely get invited to join the group. Nobody gives me a jovial nickname, and I’ll never be the person everyone wants to say hi to. It’s just kind of an obligation for people to greet me because I am standing there, but I get the sense they don’t care if I am there or not. Don’t worry, the feeling is mutual.

I’m never the glue that holds a circle of people together, I’m always on the fringe. Sometimes I appear to be the common link between two groups of people, like a single electron that forms a bond between two molecules. Then the bond is broken, and the molecule goes spinning off without me. Does that make me a free radical, or just pathetic? It makes me not want to try to be part of the group next time, therefore I isolate myself further.

I want to make more friends, but two things prevent me. One is the social anxiety that makes me fear being around people; being forced to interact with others drains me and sucks all the energy from my soul. The second, closely related factor is a deep lack of self-esteem that makes me feel inferior and inadequate in nearly every situation. I don’t feel like I have anything worthwhile to give another person, so why would they want to be friends with me?

If I just had bipolar disorder, but had an otherwise normal personality, I would be fine. I would trade everything to have a different personality, but as a wise philosopher once said, “I yam what I yam, and that’s all that I yam.”

poems in the night

I have been posting to my poetry blog under my real name. Some of the work is new, and some is from the past. I have a lot of material, both good and bad, from the days when I was on the road driving the 18-wheeler (10-4 good buddy). Some things were posted in this blog in the past. Most things are written at night, but sometimes I will take a 15-minute break at work and write something on a sticky note.

I’ve been posting links to the site on Fakebook for my friends to read and maybe give feedback. I don’t think more than a few people see my posts, however, and even fewer people give me any indication they like or dislike my work. I don’t understand how Fakebook promotes shares and links for stupid shit and hides links to original content. I’m disappointed by the lack of reaction from friends and family, but I do get likes and follows from strangers, which makes me happy.

If you are interested, here is the link. I will continue to post more in the future. Let me know what you like and what you don’t.

bowling for katy

A short story about teenage drama.

Junior year at Goldville High School, 1987: I had a huge crush for three years running on Katy, a clarinet player who wore too much makeup. One time I tried to show her how much I liked her by giving her a frog leg. From biology class. Left in her locker on top of a book. Oh, the screaming.

Anyway, one day she sidles over to me with a twinkle in her eye, and I’m feeling lucky. She gives me a folded note and says “open it later”, and keeps walking. Of course, I open it immediately. “Our church is having an all-night bowling party Saturday. Would you like to go? ___Y ___N ___ I’m indecisive.”

YES! A church thing is almost like a date, right? An hour later I drop my answer in her clarinet case. “I guess so … are you going?” She turns around and gives me a look and a smile, as I peek over my music stand at her.

Saturday evening: I arrive at her church and scan the parking lot. I see another girl from the band, Tina, and we start talking. I told her why I was there, but she looked dubious. “I really don’t think this is a date,” she said. Moments later, Katy walked up and gave me a little punch on the chest, and we talked for a few minutes. Not a bad start, I’m thinking.

Another moment later, this sassy dude with spiky hair ambles over … and starts sucking face with Katy.

I’m stunned, and Tina is beside me trying to control spasms of laughter. After Katy pulls her tongue out of this dickhead’s tonsils, she says “hey Rob, this is my boyfriend Lee.” Clearly, this would have been good information previously, but it was now useless. Lee and I look at each other and give the typical male “whassup?” as I reluctantly shake his extended hand. Tina is now pretending to cough to cover her laughing, and I am uncomfortably stuck in an awkward situation until the chaperones tell us to get on the church bus.

Tina and I sat together, leaving Katy and Lee to swap fluids several rows back. Tina and I ended up spending the rest of the evening hanging out together, chatting in between bowling very poorly. On the bus ride back, Tina leaned over on me and went to sleep, but not before warning me not to try any “funny stuff”. I promised, and we slept for a little while. As the sun rose, I realized I had lost a potential girlfriend but gained a new friend. Not a bad night.

Of course my other friends had a good laugh, but it all worked out for the best. Years later I find out on Fakebook that Katy became an ultra-religious conservative and attended a racist bible college.