September 2013

One Comment

After dragging myself out of bed yesterday (which is my comfort zone) and into the shower, I finally came out into the world for a couple of days!

That’s a small victory for me because my energy level has been so low, I was worried that I’d never get out of this slump, which I’m still in, but finally fighting to get out of. My townhouse is clean and comfortable again after doing my best to get clutter under control. I’d feel o.k. if someone came by unexpectedly.

I’m still not out of the woods and I’m having what’s probably a mixed state. But I’m slowly crawling out of one of the longest depressions I’ve experienced since my mother died. And the trip to the emergency room four years ago, when I had a breakdown.

We have a family member here for four nights and although I love her dearly, I’ve got to stop and let my husband take over, when I must attend to my daily needs. It’s ok to excuse myself while I take some time to gather my whits. I can’t keep up like I used to. But who cares! Everything I do out of my bed takes effort at this point in time, but we did have a wonderful walk on the beach. And we bought goodies for our dogs at a fun dog and cat boutique. And Trader Joe’s coffee ice cream (my drug of choice these days!). Tonight, it’s dinner with a friend who is a barbecue bombshell.

My husband took a video of us on the beach and I’ll post it as soon as I learn how. (Remember? I’m a turtle).

I’m not really a morning person, so this morning, even though I wanted to have my breakfast upstairs, and work on my blog post, I bit the bullet and joined my family at the breakfast table. I did have a moment of agitation, but got over it as quickly as possible. I wasn’t embarrassed because my family tries to deal with me the best they can when these moments come. And they’ll come again. I have no illusions abut that. So I chose to create a good day instead of letting the agitation escalate. I do this by watching. The watcher in me works, when I allow it to work, and it worked out fine.

Since I’ve been living with my diagnosis for many years, I get better at not beating myself up for having a moment of what could be perceived as bitchiness to most people. But I’m with family, right now and I snapped out of my agitation, and I’m safe and they know I love them and I know they love me, so when it’s over, I don’t dwell on it. And we pick up where we left off.

Today, even though it goes against my people pleasing standards, I am honoring the limits I set for myself a while ago; to attend to the the daily maintenance of my mental illness first. And most importantly, to forgive myself and go on with my day,and really take it moment by moment when I’m in a mixed state. After all this time it’s really no big deal. If I don’t let it become one. I have the power of choice. And I choose to be happy.

It’s alright to set limits. And it’s alright to have a faux pas now and then. And then move on.

It’s alright to put me first. It’s necessary. And a little bitchiness isn’t going to spoil the day, as long as I put myself first; especially when I’m in an agitated state;and when needed apologize for it, then get back on my horse (not the magical,manic horse I mentioned in a previous blog). The gentle horse that doesn’t take me out of my mind, but grounds me to ride on, with care, in this moment.

Some days are like that.

You know what I mean?

Love to You!
Nana

One Comment

I want to be positive. Deep down, I know that I’ve survived a disorder, illness, or whatever else one wants to call it- and today, I’m still here – because I’m holding onto whatever brings me out of the dark, out of wanting to give up, wishing I was dead, or feeling my life added up to a big zero. Usually, two activities that,in certain circles, get a bad rap – prayer and meditation – (which I’ll write about some other time)- keep me on this planet. You don’t have to be religious to pray. And you don’t have to believe in a higher power, or whatever you want to call it.

To me, prayer is something I do to get good results. I’m not preaching. I haven’t even mentioned the G word, so don’t leave me yet. All I’m saying is it’s the act of praying, in my own way, that has kept me grounded and engaged in life. It keeps me positive and brings me back from the edge of the cliff that I so often teeter on.

But today, I’m not feeling positive. And I haven’t been praying. Not for a long time. And the last five months have been pretty crappy. And I know that’s what I need to do – and it only takes a minute or two to stop my buzzing brain, take a deep breath and pray, then let my mind rest, even just a minute or so. Engage in a spiritual conversation.

But,since April, when something happened out of the blue that wasn’t very pleasant, I keep finding excuses not to pray and meditate. It feels as if I’m being held back from doing what has been, up until April, the first thing I do before I get out of bed and all through the day, to right before I go to sleep.My husband encouraged me this afternoon to pray again.”Your prayers get very powerful results. So, I say, ” Today is the day, I’ll begin again.” But I don’t do it. And I’m not doing much of anything except sitting on my bed, blinds drawn, feeling lousy and stuck. It’s been since April that I sit with my computer on the bed, with my lovely canine companion, and put off doing the two things that would probably make a big difference in my state of mind and my state of affairs. That’s proof that I am mentally ill. Sitting on my bed all day and feeling that my little dog is the only one who truly understands and loves me unconditionally. (and she probably is!) Yes, prayer is definitely tops on the TO DO List! But I’m not doing it!

I’m wishing my family could understand what I go through, just to keep up with them, sometimes. How, prior to most of the family gatherings, I go through hell- getting into the shower without time to dry my hair because I’ve got agoraphobia about showering. Probably a dash of OCD, too. I can’t stand a tub that doesn’t look perfectly clean, like a decent hotel. I have a thing about those prefab tubs they put over an old one. You understand. That’s on the Top Five Reasons To Move list I’ve got on my frig – to remind me of why I can’t wait to get the hell out of this asylum they call an apartment complex. To live here, just for a week, would be to really understand.

I’ve got the Psycho thing going on when I shower alone. I mean, I do it, when I have to, but prefer to have my husband home, or I freak and wait to the last minute to get in . Everything freaks me out about showering in that bathroom. It’s not because I’ve got manic depression and anxiety that you may think I’m a bit overboard. Here’s the real reason I hate to take a shower in my home.

Black Mold. About four tenants told me recently they’ve got the same thing. And after almost five years, my health is suffering for it. So I think that anyone, diagnosed with BP1, GAD and agoraphobia, or not, would have cause for concern and start looking on Craig’s List asap. I’m not embarrassed to talk about mold. Mold is everywhere and it’s a part of life on Earth. I just don’t want to see it in my bathroom, or any other room. And my asthma prevents me from breathing in caustic substances, like bleach, which most people just throw into the tub whenever the ugly stuff appears. And we do too. I mean, my husband does, bless him.

I’m afraid of falling down in the tub because there’s nothing to hang onto, and no one will help me out if I’m alone. I find it quite amazing. The power of mold. After seeing it for the first time, while stepping into the tub, I’ve been obsessed with keeping it at bay. It feels like a monster lives in the pipes. A neighbor says she just poured bleach all over every few days,for two years. She’s moving out next week. I’m really happy for her, and jealous at the same time.

My dear uncle in Malibu, bought us a top- of- the- line air purifier that has an ozone setting, which my husband puts on when we’re out for a couple of hours. He says it blasts through the mold spores, or something like that. I’m no scientist, but I do see and smell the difference. It will help until we leave this place and all the paranoia that goes with that bathroom. (I never thought I’d be sharing something like this, but that’s the beauty of anonymity!

But let’s get back to anxiety..the social kind. The Make Sure I Have A Spare Xanax time. I never know how long I’ll be away, so I’m always prepared. I gave up drinking (or it gave me up) four years ago on Oct. 19th. It finally kicked my ass – and after many tries, and a breakdown, where my husband found me on the floor when he got back from a tour. I’m amazed and grateful. Four years ago, I spent six hours in the emergency room, sobering up. That was it. The first year was awful because I didn’t get to have my grandchild come for sleepovers until I was seven months sober. If I needed a reason to hang on – it was for my grandchild. I’d give my life for that beautiful precious person, who is now in middle school! It’s a no brainer why I stay on the wagon. And alcohol just doesn’t mix with all the psych and non-psych meds I have to take. But I still know how to have a good time and it’s really great to remember what I said and did the night before.

Trying on about five or six outfits before I feel o.k. enough to put up with looking at myself in the mirror – thinking I won’t be able to make it out the door because social anxiety has won again – cried or cursed within a whisper – took a deep breath and got into the car, knowing the chances of a panic attack were pretty high (if my husband was driving). That’s what I call a bit of a problem. That’s GAD (generalized anxiety disorder). For me. How about you?

I try to be positive, but when something is wrong – my grown kids don’t like to let me know. They think I can’t handle the stress. But they don’t understand that I have a mother’s intuition and I know when things aren’t alright. They forget that not knowing makes my thoughts of disaster fly all over the place, and they won’t settle down until I’ve been told what’s really going on. And once I know, they’re reminded that I can handle what they have to share. Alright, a good portion of the time.

Yes, you can have a mental illness and still be a good,contributing,loving and beloved parent. As long as you’re serious about putting yourself first; doing what you need to do to treat the illness, one day at a time, there is a very good chance for living an epic life. I’m talking from experience. It’s not easy, but well worth the effort. And if your family doesn’t understand, then be compassionate and don’t blame them or yourself. Blame is a big fat waste of time. You have a mental illness. And you also have your human dignity. Don’t let anyone, even your family, derail you from being your authentic self. That’s a word that’s being used a lot – along with epic. Good words!

Learn to say no when you’re going through a rough patch. And be kind to yourself. You didn’t choose to have a mental health issue. But you can choose to have a good life, in spite of it. And remember, there is no such thing as normal! Or a perfect family. Or a perfect person. We’re all flawed in some way, so relax and don’t beat yourself up. And if you feel like hurting yourself, reach out before you do it. Please. Love your body, to the best of your ability. Be a good steward to it.

Who do I think I am? Giving advice. I’m a 63 year old survivor and I want you, dear reader, to learn to love yourself. Even when you think your nothing but a piece of shit that doesn’t deserve to be here. Especially then! I don’t care if you’re male, female, androgynous, single, married, gay, straight, fat, thin, pretty or think you’re ugly, black, white, red, brown, or yellow, religious, a New Ager, an Atheist, a Goth, A skinhead, a punk rocker, Bhuddist, Shinto, Muslim, Hindu, a Rastafarian, old school, doctor, teacher, musician, artist, burger flipper, janitor, student, mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, a Christian of any demonination, a teenager, an old man or woman, a dreamer, a romantic, a realistic, a pagan, or (you fill in the blanks) whatever! You have to love yourself first! It’s the only way to love another. And if you believe in a Deity (or more), and your spiritual tradition puts the Deity first,that’s fine. Just make sure you come next. I’m just telling it like it is, the way I see it. You have your own way. Make it work for you! But I’m not Ann Landers, or Dear Abbey, so you’ve got lots of stuff to do and I wish you success on your journey!! And there will be smiles, if you let yourself smile.

I try to be positive, but when I can’t find a reason to make an attempt, sometimes faking it works, but most of the time, for me, faking is futile! Accepting my feelings, is the only thing I can do. My feelings are only for this moment. And the next moment they may change for the better. I may even feel happy. Or the dark, dreary, sad, awful melancholy may decide it wants to visit with me for a while longer. Or sometimes, quite a while longer, like recently. It seeps into my pores and lets me feel it’s presence.

Sometimes, I welcome my melancholy, with the resolve to not succumb to it. It can teach me many things, one of them is that it’s o.k. to feel it. I have my tools to use, if it gets too much to bear. The phone is always with me and I use it, when I need to. I call my friend Irene, and I know she’s got my back. She is my “Space Sistah”. We gave ourselves that name about fifteen years ago. We are both very absentminded at times, and her sense of humour can turn a pang of sadness, anxiety, despair, you name it, in minutes, I’m laughing my ass off. It won’t stay forever. I think it’s on its way out, as I write. Any moment, now – with a little help from the host! But if “faking it” works for you, then it’s an excellent thing. Go for it..find what works for YOU! You matter, get it?

My lesson learned: Nothing comes from TRYING to be positive. It’s a joke. And a bad one. An impossibility. It goes nowhere. Life isn’t like that. There is no such thing as “trying to be positive”. You either do something or you don’t.

If I want to “BE” positive, it’s by “DOING” positive, that I BECOME POSITIVE. If I can remember to DO POSITIVE THEN IN THE ACT OF DO-ING, I AM BE-ING! Being human, fully human! And it feels better than any buzz off a champagne cocktail – for me.

Maybe I’ll do a little P & M tonight.
PEACE
NANA

No Comments

I never made it out of the house to meet my friend Lauren for a walk on the beach yesterday. She has health issues and takes heavy meds for migraines, which give her debilitating side effects, so she’s very empathetic to my situation with all the medications I take, and the ups and downs that they bring. “Let’s see how you feel tomorrow. It’s more important to stabilize on the new meds. The beach isn’t going anywhere.” We were going to meet at 6PM, walk the beach, take a break at her house, then she’d walk me back to my apartment.

I’ve been put on cholesterol, thyroid, and asthma meds this week. Needless to say, my body needs time to adjust. But the people pleaser in me rose to the surface and kept whispering, “Don’t flake out on Lauren. Go for that walk, no matter how you feel.” I spent the whole day agonizing over whether I should go for the walk or not. It immobilized me. I couldn’t do a damn thing all day except obsess about a little walk on the beach.

I’ve come to a point in my life where if I don’t know myself now, then I never will. Since Tuesday, I haven’t been out of the house. It’s now Saturday, and if I didn’t have my support group (and the keys to open the room for our meeting), I’d stay in today, too. But I don’t beat myself up (at least consciously) anymore about wanting to stay home. When I’m dealing with ongoing depression for months, that’s the way I HAVE to deal with it, so I don’t go into psychosis. Once I get psychotic, it’s all over. Life gets ugly and messy. I’ve learned to avoid it at all costs. Even if it means staying home for five or six days at a time. Who cares? It’s my life, my mental illness and I do whatever I can to alleviate going to the dark side. No one else decides that for me. I do take my psychiatrists’ advice, but most of the time, he agrees with the way I handle the inevitable ups and downs of bipolar1. I’ve been doing this for thirteen years, come December. I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t,for me.

I know it’s considered unhealthy in some circles,but for me, solitude, (not to be confused with isolation) is just what I need at times. I was an only child, so I have a lot of experience with being alone. It’s not morbid for me. I usually get a lot done when I’m alone.

There is no “one size fits all” in the world of mental illness. It’s a very individual thing. And I like it that way. My brain doesn’t function like it used to; partly because of the meds, so it takes me longer to process things in my head, much longer that it used to.

So, I like to be alone a lot. For me, it’s just my nature. I’ve been to enough parties, clubs, camping trips, flown so much I can’t count. I like being in one place, undisturbed. And I’ve written since I was eight years old. Writing is a very solitary experience. It takes solitude to write.

I’m writing a lot these days. I’m doing a second revision on a book I’ve been working on, at a snails’ pace, for many years. My husband is pushing me daily to finish it. He calls it the great novel that’s going to make us millionaires. Who knows? He may be right. I like to dream big. It has worked before for me, in the past. But big dreams scare me.

I once read a few pages of my novel to a then new friend of mine. When I was done, she whipped out her checkbook and wrote me a check for $500.00. “This is for you. God wants you to write this, so make sure you finish it. Just don’t take the Lord’s name in vain. You can use the f word or shit, whatever vulgarisms you need for effect. But not the Lord’s name in vain, O.K.? And remember, you must finish it.” She didn’t give me a time frame, thank whoever.

My husband believes in my ability to tell a story and the one I’m working on is a good one. But it’s been tough to write. When you write from experience it’s soul-baring. For me, anyway. But that’s all I can do. Write what I know; what I’ve experienced – what I’ve been through. I can’t concoct some fabulous gothic fantasy, or intricate murder mystery, and I woudn’t want to. I’d suck royally at it. It’s not my thing, though I am fascinated by parallel time space scenarios, and may incorporate that into the sequel to my novel. Sequel, you ask? At the rate I’m writing, I’ll be dead before I publish anything! Again, who cares? That way I won’t have to read all the crappy reviews and keep boxes of books to sell from the trunk of my car!

I have published poetry, for magazines and newspapers. But I don’t write poetry too often anymore. I was amazed when one newspaper published the worst poem I’ve ever written. To this day, I won’t read it. I’ve stuffed a copy of it in my secretary and feel it’s time to just throw the damn thing out. That’s how much I hate it. The poem was a reaction to the O.J. Simpson trial. It’s pathetic. But, I’ve been obsessed with my ten years in the making novel. And the story isn’t about my mental illness, although it is certain that the protagonist is depressed about her lot in life, but not clinically. Not yet. That will take care of itself in the sequel. Although it is a fictionalized autobiographical novel based on my own experience during a three week period in 1972, there are only hints that something is wrong. I do mention depression but it’s not the focal point of the story.

I think my friend Lauren may have other health issues, but I don’t ask. We have fun together. She’s got a self-deprecating sense of humor and such a bubbly personality, I feel like I’m back in high school when we get together.

Lauren is a very talented, creative person. She studied architecture and is an interior decorator, as well. She and her husband own a house on the beach and I just love being there. It’s like being in a magazine, but really comfortable. She’s given lots of great dinner parties and pot lucks over the holidays. Her husband is a professional musician, like mine, and they both teach at the same music school. She and I commiserate about the pros and cons of being a musicians’ wife.

You can look out at the ocean from the front of Lauren and Phil’s house, which they open up seasonally as a vacation rental. I tell her that even though we live in the same neighborhood, we want to rent out the front of the house ourselves and pretend we’re on vacation. She gets a kick out of that. Why go anywhere else. This place has it all. I hate driving for hours anyway. Done enough of it. God, I’m getting old!

It’s pretty sad to be living in one of the most gorgeous places in the country, and not take the time to be a “tourist” once in a while. Hubby and I drove down to Big Sur for my birthday, and spent a great afternoon and evening, on a real date. We don’t get to do that much. Once in a while when he has a gig, and it’s somewhere I’d like to hang out at for a while, I go with him. Not so much anymore. I get tired of talking loud. And everyone seems to talk louder than they used to years ago. Hurts my ears. And I get hoarse.

My husband has students on Saturdays, and when he does have his days off, he needs to recharge his batteries, help me with the housework, and just hang out and try to clear his head. Even in a place like this, people get stressed out – and it can be very depressing, seeing all the tourists and people coming for the annual events. They come from all over the world. When I watch the big pro-am golf tournament at home, they show shots of our beaches and it’s quite surreal, to see on the TV screen what’s right down the street.

Unless one is wealthy, or won an all expenses paid vacation, most of us don’t get to experience all the high-end stuff that commercialization of this glorious work of nature is now providing. All the spas and 5 star hotels and restaurants have changed the atmosphere and serenity of my home. The tourists, and seasonal vacationers probably don’t notice, but if you’ve been here for decades, or, like my children, were born and raised here, you find yourself using a few choice expletives while navigating through traffic and wishing all go back to where they came from.

There isn’t even any salmon left. I was spoiled when I first came here fourty years ago. A children’s grandfather, now deceased and missed so much, used to fish every day in the bay – I can’t remember a day when he didn’t come home with at least one big, beautiful silver salmon that was divided into samlmon steaks, for us all to share. When I moved back home from LA, I went down to the wharf, and asked where the salmon was. The fisherman looked at me like I was off my rocker. “We haven’t had any salmon here for three years. You mean you don’t know? They’re coming back slowly, but we can’t get any right now. There’s not enough yet.” I was shocked and deeply disappointed. In myself.

I realized that, all the years I feasted on salmon, I took for granted that they would always be in abundance. That moment is a strong reminder to me of the fragility and impermanence of life. A reminder that I really can’t go home anymore, expecting life to be as it used to be. It took a trip down to the wharf to remind me, once again, that the only thing certain is change.

There used to be some breathing space between events here – where we natives and locals felt we had our peninsula all to ourselves,for just a little while – between the waves of humanity coming in and going out. That doesn’t happen anymore. The Jazz Festival is this weekend. And that’s one of the biggest waves. But most people who love jazz are pretty cool. We really feel the love and give it back with them. That’s music. One of the spices of life.

But writing helps. It’s always helped. It helps us all. Anyone who can read and writer, however limiting that ability may be, is a writer. It’s not something that’s given to a chosen few. Some are considered better than others. But to me, just give me a good story, and I’ll fill in whatever is missing. That’s where my imagination comes in. And it’s good to see so many people, all over the world, turning to writing. When I read the anonymous confessions of someone, there is a feeling of closeness, of opening oneself up – that has no equal. I am comforted. I’m encouraged. I’m frightened. I am enlivened! I can go on and on… I am given something to hang on to, maybe for the moment, or for today. But the power of the written word just is.

The act of writing can be the best medicine ever. We all have something to say – to write down. It’s just a part of being human. Nothing more! Each person on earth – we all have a unique perspective from which to articulate what was, what is, and what will be for us all. Now and through the ages. Writing and reading – after water,food and shelter- are two of the most important ingredients that go into the wonderful stew of life.

And my husband is a jazz musician, so this crowd includes many friends. And in my novel, the salmon are still plentiful.

One Comment

I would like to offer a sincere apology for the many punctuation and grammatical errors in my blog posts. I am on many powerful medications to stabilize my bipolar 1, GAD, and Agoraphobia. They have quite a few side effects, some more uncomfortable than others. Whatever limited skills I have as a blogger seem to be exacerbated by these side effects. My thinking isn’t as clear as it used to be. And, at 63, I’m getting on in years. My illness takes a physical toll on all my organs, not only my brain. But, hey, if you’re on psyche meds, you know!

Yesterday, my GP added Lipitor, thyroid med, & an inhaler for asthma, which has become chronic lately since I’ve been exposed to high levels of mold. We are looking forward to finding a new home that has less of a problem with mold. Black mold is extremely toxic and it’s made daily life very difficult for me.

I really hate to read my posts after I publish them. There are so many typos and grammatical errors, it’s hard to believe I was an English major in college. At my age, and with all the meds I’ve taken for nearly thirteen years (Dec. 21st is my diagnosis anniversary.), a lot has changed,especially my ability to self edit. It gets harder to express myself with the written (or typed) word, as time goes by but I’m of the belief that rules were meant to be broken, even rules of Language. My need to express myself and give hope to others who struggle with mental health issues is greater than my need to “look good” in print.

It’s also comforting to know I’m not the only one with this problem. Some of my favorite blogs have typographical and grammatical errors all over the place. Yet, its the message that matters. It’s the story, the honesty and courage to tell the world your innermost thoughts and feelings that matters. Not the misspelling of a word or the failure to use all the rules of grammar. What’s most important are the most shattering moments and deeply personal secrets that come from the experiences and hearts of incredibly fearless people, who are surviving, on a daily basis, an oftentimes unbearable mental illness. Or they are the loved one of someone with mental illness, and suffer right along with them. Nothing is more important than their story. Not their writing style or lack thereof.

So while I so appreciate the many very polished, and, in many cases, professional writers, and what they offer, I also appreciate those folks who just let it all hang out, without worrying; knowing that here,in our unique community, there is room for everyone! And there is no judgement! I really like that!

I also got a new pair of glasses, and they suck!

Love,
Nana

No Comments

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. There’s a plethora of blog posts, news articles, tweets, TV coverage, etc. about this issue which is plaguing our so called modern society.  It isn’t something anyone likes to think about too much, but if  you have a depressive illness, or you are going through, or have gone through an experience that leaves you feeling that taking your own life is the only way out, it can be impossible not to think about it.

I once felt so desperate and furious at the same time, I threatened to jump out of the car and onto the 101 Freeway. I got as far as opening the door, then my husband pulled me back. Then, instead of celebrating New Year’s Eve at a nice club down at the marina where my husband and some of  his buddies were booked to do a gig, I had a psychotic breakthrough. My sister-in-law, put me to bed in her boat and I was pulverized over spoiling the night for everyone. That was the beginning of my cry for help.

I don’t know anyone who consciously took their own life during a moment of desperation or psychosis. But I have known a lot of people who’ve made attempts or killed themselves slowly – with alcohol and/or drug addiction. Quite a few. They were all extremely sensitive people. Some were very gifted artists and musicians. A few were people who became famous and I had a chance to meet, work with, and form close friendships with, while working in the music industry and many remain my friends, years later.

The first time I met one of my teenage idols, he offered me a pipe that was passed around, in a room downstairs at his house. I asked him what was in the pipe. “The purest cocaine you can get.” I declined the pipe and had to leave because, although my dream of meeting this man came true, this great talent had descended many years prior to that night, into a nightmare of drug abuse and chronic alcoholism. It was too much of a shock. Too dark and frightening. As time went by, my client, who would soon become a friend ,cooled his behavior around me. He was my client, and somehow managed to get himself together enough to work, but as soon as we’d get home, his druggie friends were waiting for what became a pretty usual evening. This man drank and used so much he had only a third of his stomach left. The pain of his life emanated from his incredibly beautiful eyes. He was still a very attractive man, but gone was the perfect physique that any red blooded male would envy and in it’s place was a painfully thin, middle-aged man who dressed in layers to cover up the damage done.

My client was not a monster. He was raised in the MidWest, in a large, loving family and treated women with respect. He was a real pleasure to be with, when he wasn’t drinking or using. But his home became a bunker of sorts, where he was the leader, when he went off the wagon, and no one could tell him what to do then. He didn’t like to do drugs alone, so it wouldn’t be long until he invited whoever was around, and wanted to join in with him, to do so. That’s the irony. He didn’t like being alone. It didn’t take long for me to realize that my client had some serious problems. But back then, before I understood what was behind all my own addictive behaviours, I thought I might be able to help this man. But it was way too late. He tried, many times, to get clean and sober, but within weeks, he’d be back into the insanity of his addiction.

This man was a founding member of a band that had great success, worldwide acclaim – a ruggedly handsome, extremely talented singer and songwriter, who couldn’t put down the stuff that was poisoning him, and eventually poisoned him to death.

Along with his band he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and three months later he was found dead from a lethal combination of drugs and alcohol. Alone in his bed. He is just one of many. But he was my friend. I read his heart, and his heart had been broken too many times.

How many drug overdoses or alcohol poisonings were actually “accidental”? We’ll never know.

I was fortunate to meet, work with, and cultivate friendships with people who dreamed big dreams, succeeded in a cut throat business, and achieved success far beyond their wildest imaginings. They have satisfying, productive lives. They have so much money, they don’t even know exactly how much. But they learned, early in their careers that all things pass, everything changes, so they remained aware of what is really important in life. They have wonderful families. They are truly compassionate people, who are capable of looking beyond their material success and fame. They help others. In ways that sometime go below the public radar. They involve themselves with worthwhile causes, contributing their time and money to help make this world a better place. They truly give back. They are righteous people and they are close, treasured friends, who are always there for my husband and I, should we ever need their assistance and support. In any way. They are extended family and will remain so, no matter what.

But for some, the fame, the hits and the gigs eventually dried up. The problem they had wasn’t making or playing music. That was their joy, their passion, it was what they were put on earth to do.  It’s the business that’s so cruel. The two words Music and Business are, in reality, like oil and water.  And depression, anxiety, feelings of worthlessness, and hopelessness, of not being relevant anymore, wanting to end all the madness – that can grind a person down. Until they think there is nothing left to live for.

The arts and business can be a lethal combination. Brilliant Vincent Van Gogh – one of those gifted people who lived with a tortured mind and took his life. Can you imagine his suffering? To courageously blaze a new trail, in the world of Art, and never even sell one painting – in his whole life? Unfathomable!

In many cases, talent doesn’t mix well with deadlines, contracts, people who use other peoples gifts and vulnerability to further their own careers and make money off of them. But it’s not just certain segments of society that are affected by or prone to suicide. It’s a human problem. An epidemic that affects people from all corners of this earth. Each and every one of us!

I’ve shared a bit about a subject that I don’t understand. About people I met and cared about, who couldn’t cope with being a commodity or fleeting success. They couldn’t cope with life. It was heartbreaking to see them guzzle down booze or be out on some other planet, after injecting or snorting some addictive drug in a dressing room bathroom, just to get the courage to go onstage. They didn’t believe in their talent. They didn’t think they were good enough anymore. They couldn’t love themselves and couldn’t believe anyone could love them. I would bet that the majority of them suffered from severe depression and mood swings and a very desperate need to be loved. And they needed treatment and never got it. So many of them didn’t make it out of the depths. Some of them are in Halls of Fame. Most, posthumously. I had to quit doing what I thought I would love because I couldn’t bear another casualty. I believe these people committed suicide. It just took longer to die.

I have Bipolar 1, GAD, & Agoraphobia. As I write, I’m going through a tough depression. But I have to thank God that although I’ve felt, countless times, that my family, friends and the world would be better off without me, I’ve survived. I haven’t had even a sip of an alcoholic drink in years, and the only drugs I take are those prescribed to me by my psychiatrist, AS prescribed. I still have moments when I wish I could be through with this life. My mental illness has beaten me up, quite a bit, but, somehow, through grace and with faith, I keep going. And prayer. Where would I be without prayer? Dead.

I have a grandchild to live for. She has been the reason I don’t let myself go to the dark places anymore. Or at least I don’t stay too long. And with those blessings comes responsibility to pass on what has been given to me. I didn’t survive the darkness of depression on my own. And each and every day, I am inspired by all the people I’m connected to via the wonders of technology, my support group, my doctors, my therapist. It isn’t just me. I hardly know how to do anything on a computer, but if one person can benefit from what I’m sharing, that’s a miracle!

As we talk and think about how we can help prevent suicide, I’d like to also think of the many brave souls who are hanging on! I applaud you. Make no mistake, you are a hero or heroine to me! You are Survivors! Those who have learned to go on with their life, one day at a time (sorry, but it is the best way to take the ups and downs of life) and have hope to embrace it. They have tools to use, a lot to learn and stay updated with. They know what it’s like to feel hopeless. They have experienced the torture of the mind, heart, body and soul! Don’t rush them, it’s a process. Things don’t just get better overnight. And you all need to help and support each other. Don’t forget that one. There is nothing worse than the isolation a person who battles with mental illness has to endure, sometimes second by second. Give them the gift of your time and let them tell it like it is. It helps in ways you can’t imagine!

Those who “completed” their suicide aren’t around anymore. They cannot speak. They chose to silence their voice. They may have cried out, as they were slipping away, for help, but it was too late. Now, they serve as an example of the devastation that suicide leaves in its wake. We’re dealing with choice here, not judgement.

I feel deep sympathy and compassion for anyone who has endured one of life’s cruelest experiences. To all the families, friends, and loved ones of someone who has committed suicide, my thoughts and prayers are with you today and everyday. Our growing community of people who are fighting to end the stigma of mental illness are with you, as well! PLEASE AVAIL YOURSELF OF THE MANY RESOURCES AND SERVICES  THAT CAN HELP YOU,YOUR FAMILY, LOVED ONES,AND NEIGHBORS !INFORM YOURSELVES. THEN LET’S TALK ABOUT IT!!! KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!

Also, while we are thinking about suicide prevention – maybe, someday, we might remember those who have survived suicide and lived to tell the world that life is worth living, and there is hope. Maybe we can have a Suicide Survivors Day. That would be another way of never forgetting that we can choose to go on, instead of giving up.

I have a wonderful 1st cousin, who attempted suicide, at least once. He was institutionalized many times and one of his children also has a mental health issue. Mental illness runs in our family, on my father’s side.  My cousin chose treatment for his mental illness. It took many years for him to stabilize on the right combination of medication, but he’s now enjoying life more now than ever before. He learned, the hard way, that you must talk about suicide.  If he hadn’t had the courage to tell me about his attempted suicide, I might not have decided to seek help when I so desperately needed it, three years later. By sharing his experience, he planted a seed. He gave me the key that I would use, three years later, to unlock the door to the mystery that was my own mental illness!  His love and courage was instrumental in getting me back to a life of purpose.

So please, if you are able to share you experience, remember that  you are bringing a message of  love, compassion  and hope to someone.  You may be the catalyst for someone to choose to live!  What a gift!  You can make a difference! Don’t miss the opportunity! AND DON’T LET GO!

WITH SYMPATHY, EMPATHY, COMPASSION, HOPE , & LOVE,

 

Nana

No Comments

I just got through laughing my behind off! As a person with bipolar 1, every so often, something just hits me from out of the blue and I laugh until it hurts and tears are coming down so fast, I feel like I’ve been swept up in a whirlpool of emotion and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. I just have to go with the wave, like a surfer. The watcher in me, or what I also call “the observer” – that part of my brain that observes my behavior – heard the tone of my laughter and began to crack up with me. Does that sound strange? It’s the norm for me. And I love it, when it happens. Especially when I’m home and in the safe world of my bedroom. On my bed, which is my boat.
The great thing was that less than a half hour prior to the side-splitting laugh, I was bawling my eyes out about poor me and how my kids don’t understand that I’m really not such a hopeless slug of a mother. They don’t feel that way at all. It’s just rubbish that I can’t get rid of. I just can’t convince myself of that. I’m on a life-long guilt trip with that one.

I was looking at the community fan page of one of my favorite deceased musicians and came across a post where some artist fan from Scandinavia made what looked like a photo of the deceased heart throb . A picture I’d never seen of this incredibly talented and very beautiful dead person. Something was off, I thought. It was the hair. I scrolled a bit further down the page and began to read the text of the post, but my eye kept going over to the left to catch a glimpse of the picture. When I stopped reading and looked closer, I realized it wasn’t my dreamboat, but a Ken doll, with fuller lips and the same aquiline nose of my guy, but the hair – the hair and the absurdity of it all made me burst into laughter so hard, I know I gave my insides a good workout! I kept trying to read the text but it became more bizarre as she described that she created an alter ego for this musician and gave him a southern accent, so it wouldn’t be a complete ripoff of the guy. She also wrote stories based on his songs. (I’m breaking up as I type this!!) trying to get off my back! (I type on my bed) and every time I looked back at the screen it was as though some entity was knocking me back down. (here I go again!) ….I was back – on my back – with that laughter that only my manic self can roar with. I was laughing so loud at this ridiculous rendition of my late-in-life-dead-when-I-discovered-him-and-his-music crush, knowing full well that the thunderous noise coming from my mouth was booming all through our townhouse and maybe out to the street. Yet my husband didn’t come upstairs to see what the matter was. He’s been watching the History channel – a new series on mountain men, which I have to say, is a bit interesting. I guess he figured if I was having a laughing spell, it wasn’t anything to get hung up about. But in a way, I was hoping he’d come up and share my episode of little girlishness.
Sometimes, he really gets a kick out of it, while he monitors me to make sure I don’t go into full- on spin out.

This went on for a good ten minutes. It felt fantastic to have a manic belly laugh. I’ve been in what I guess is a mixed state all day – crying, then laughing. This can be cleansing, yet it takes a lot of energy out of me. But I do feel a real jolt of life coursing through me when I laugh like that. Finally, I said to hell with it and just went for it when the laughter came back again and again. I knew I was safe and the boogyman wasn’t going to take me away. And I knew I wasn’t insane. Just laughing a little hardier than most. And I wasn’t at a cocktail party or in any public place. I was home and laughing my butt off. It was O.K. I wasn’t psychotic.
I guess that’s what happens after what will be 13 years in December. That’s the anniversary of my diagnosis.
At fifty, my dear readers. Please don’t wait until you or someone you love has suffered a too long chunk of their life to help get them the help they desperately need!

I’ve been experiencing a literal bombardment of feelings, all day. And the observer in my brain reminded me that I’m one of those unfortunates (or am I fortunate?) who don’t respond to medication very well at times and this is one of those times. I can do alright for a while, but never too long to completely take the middle road, with no forks in between.

What can I say? I’m letting down after months of fighting depression, anger, mood swings and all the other uncomfortable aspects of my illness. I’ve become more of a hermit than ever. Talking to my father every day, as he lives another 24 hours of what is left of his life, from the Vet home,in Napa. I have to flip the switch of my mind every day, when he calls. Bite the bullet and do my good deed. Or as they used to say in Catechism, “Offer it up.” I feel if I don’t pick up the phone (and he does call EVERY day!) I may never forgive myself if he should die that night.I have 201 saved messages of his voice. If he dies, I’ll have his last message to me and a couple hundred more. I even took a few videos of me interviewing him, asking him questions about his life and his memories. I love it. But death is something I think about every day. It’s not suicidal ideation, just a consciousness of the wheel of life. I’m lucky in that respect. I don’t want to kill myself. But I want to be ready for the transition, like my father. I think he’s ready. He’s 95 1/2, but his brain is so sharp for his age. And he sounds like he’s in his 50’s. But he’s ready, and not in a morbid sense. He has relinquished his fear. And talking to someone who may not be here tomorrow gives me a good perspective on what I have here today.

It’s my father’s side of the family that produced three bipolar people, including myself and two cousins. Half of the time, I want to let the ringing phone go. It takes a lot out of me to have a conversation with Dad. He’s deaf as a door nail and wants to know what’s new, every day. Like I’m Walter Winchell. Most of the time, there’s not much that’s new these days, since I don’t go out much. (It will pass soon, now that summer’s on the way out.) But I usually just open my brain and let whatever is ready to jump out, come out. I can let my bipolar brain spill things out about the kids. I try to make it like a soap opera so he’ll want to tune in tomorrow for another episode. On Sunday, the Vet home is like a morgue. So that’s a way of getting out of myself and doing something good for someone. Some residents think Dad works there. He’s the only one who isn’t in bed all day or using one of those hover-rounds (electric moving chairs). And I think he’s one of a few who even talk.
We made up a long time ago. When he goes, I want to feel we had our best years, as father and daughter, in the winter of his life. Forgiveness is important to me. And I do forgive him.

One more thing. After getting myself contained enough to scroll down the page, hoping to read another fan post,instead, up comes a full page close up of the Ken on steroids doll and I’ll be damned if this artist didn’t get my Dreamboy down,almost to a tee! But what would he think if he saw this? A Ken doll, the antithesis of all he stood for. He was a guy who told his fans to turn off the TV and listen to all kinds of music and have respect for women. He didn’t believe in pop culture. And he didn’t really care about being famous. He like playing by himself in coffee shops. That’s what he did, even with a million dollar record contract. That’s why I love him. He wasn’t just a pretty face. His music is deep and meaningful. He stood for something that wasn’t about “things”. And he said in interviews that he wasn’t afraid to die. He lived life fully, even though he wasn’t here long enough for his fans. Movies are being made about him now. But there was and still is, no one like him. He’s a snowflake, like all of us. And he knew we were all snowflakes, together.

My beautiful dream boy had a mischievous side to him, so I’ll go with thinking he’d see the humor in his being Ken on Steroids. The wig was a bit off, but the bracelet with the metal spikes and the brown sweater were spot-on!. I threw myself back down on my bed and had another round of uproarious laughter.

My dead Dreamboy must surely have been laughing right along with me. I could feel it! Sometimes it feels like he’s following me around the house, wanting another cup of coffee. He loves coffee. I love him. Even as Ken on steroids. And my husband, and Dad, too.

No Comments

All I have is five minutes. Support group today. I’m not having a good day inside my head. And this is where I need to be real about what’s going on in my life.
I am having a crying spell. It has to do with some litigation that I can’t go into now, but as soon as it’s over with, I will definitely share it here. The worst is over, but for the last five months, every day, I have to push the anxiety as far into the backround as possible. Anyone who has mental health issues knows this can be impossible at times. Not only has this legal issue turned my world upside down, but my children and ex-son-in-law know about it and it’s just something I have no control over. Just putting this on the page makes me feel better. I am not a perfect person and right now, I feel like a mess. I just put on a brave face each day and try to stay as busy as possible. But it’s tiring. I’m getting to the point where my immune system is suffering because of the anxiety and stress of this litigation.
As I said, the worst is over and came out in my favor, thank Heaven, but the books won’t be closed until another six months. When it’s over, I will share this experience here because it can be a cautionary tale for anyone suffering from mental illness.
If there is any reason for someone who has mental health issues to blog, then, in my opinion, it’s to be able to share who you really are and what you are really going through. Just having a place to be really You!

Peace of Mind (I pray for) Love,
Nana

No Comments

IMG_1824

No Comments

Maybe you have some. Those shoe boxes you can buy at Michael’s or stationery stores. Actually, they’re for storing things. But you could put a pair of shoes in them. I bought twelve of them recently. They’re sitting on my dresser. They make me happy when I look at them. They have pretty designs on them. Some have French words, like Fleur and Haute Couture. Some have beautiful old tulips, peonies, or lilacs. They certainly are nicer to look at than a Nike shoe box. With even a place to put labels, like file cabinets. You can stack them, one on top of the other.  Like a stackable garden. Bear with me on this. I’m obsessed with boxes and always have been. I don’t know what this has to do with having Bipolar Disorder, but who know. That’s what writing is for me. A journey, and I never know where the destination will be.

They’re not just boxes to store things in – they’re a lifestyle statement. To me, they say – boxes full of stuff can be pretty, even inviting to check out, once in a while. They’re so pretty they have the ability to entice you into looking for those ridiculous studio portraits you were made to take each year, that you wouldn’t show to anyone. And don’t forget your 6 X 8 prom picture. Maybe yours was alright, but mine? I wrote about that years ago. Someday I’ll dredge it up and share that catastrophe with you

You can put your personal papers, photographs, letters, memorabilia, things you just can’t throw away, in them. They’re wonderful! I’ve wanted to buy them for many years, but for some reason I couldn’t break down and do it. Until a few months ago. When they went on sale. And now I want more. At least twelve more!

Like millions of others with mental health issues, getting things organized is something I don’t do well. That’s not true – sometimes, I do it well, but it’s quite painful and  the maintenance is impossible. I have to put on special music, to help me focus. It’s a daunting task that needs to be broken down into bite-sized tasks- which I’m lousy at. So, that’s why I bought the pretty boxes….

Organization can be a nasty trigger for me. At least once, when I’m in the middle of a project, I get so frustrated because I only seem to be moving things around in a circle instead of putting things into the “get rid of” or the “what to keep pile”, that I throw up my hands, say “screw it” and leave it all unfinished – usually on the floor.

I think the reason I find organizing so difficult has a lot to do with my past.  The truth is that organizing is something my mother never taught me. When everything in my closet went south, when clutter began to rule my room, she would put up a sign saying “Disaster Area” which meant I had one day to get things into shape before she did it herself. I was too busy listening to Jimi Hendrix or The Doors with my friend from across the street in our basement. And of course, the three hours of homework each night made it impossible to clean my room.

But my mom did the most exquisite job of organizing. She also dusted and cleaned my bedroom windows with vinegar and old newspaper. And I think she really got a kick out of it. I’d come home from school and everything looked all put back together with not one thing out of place. Almost like a brand new room. In about another two weeks, she’d do it all again. And that’s the way it was until I left for California at 19. No, that’s not true. By my senior year, I was the one doing most of the cleaning, and the cooking. My mother had a breakdown when she found out about my father and her best friend. Her organizing days were over. I was on my own.

It’s true that having things in order – getting rid of clutter, has a calming effect on the mind. But my mother made a big mistake besides not teaching me how to tweeze my eyebrows. She neglected to teach me the science and art of organization. I know it’s a science, but it’s also an art. And that’s the part I like – the art part.

Today, there are whole magazines devoted to the art of organization. I haven’t bought many, but I’ve saved a few. If you rifle through them, you’ll see how stylish organizing can be. If you have a lot of shoe boxes and don’t want to spend any money buying the fancy ones, you can just put your favorite wrapping paper around them, or do a collage with magazine scraps. If you put Modge Podge over it, it will last for a long time. My girlfriend and I did that with old checkbook boxes. They came out great! I have one that she made on my secretary. I put all kinds of things in it.

For me, having pretty boxes makes the whole boring, frustrating, tiring process easier to bear. And one day finish! That’s why I bought the boxes with the flowers and French words on them. And would you believe it? I actually put things in them.! I haven’t gotten to labeling yet. I’ve got to take this one step at a time.

The part that stings for me is figuring out what to put in where. Digging into the piles I shoved into my closet gives me the heebie jeebies. I’m afraid of what I might see. But I have no choice at this time because we won’t find our new home until I throw away, and/or give to charity – all the unnecessaries of my life. I truly believe that. Doesn’t that sound like a bipolar thing? If the stuff doesn’t go, the new home won’t come. Maybe it’s the Italian in me. My grandmother was superstitious and passed it down. (More about Granonni in another blog post!) But that’s the side of the family that has three bipolar people.

I also have a husband, who’s a professional musician. If anyone out there has one, you understand when I say that they come with a lot of stuff & if they’ve been on the road, literal baggage. Especially if they are multi-instrumentalists, like mine.  Three kinds of saxophones, flutes, keyboards, guitars, clarinets, old recording equipment, computers, it’s awful. And sheet music and arrangements, CD’s never opened -and miles and miles of wires. Our storage space is so jam packed with his stuff, he suffers his own stuff anxiety! Really, he doesn’t want to go and look at his stuff.

Maybe we’re all afraid to look at our stuff. Especially if we’re dealing with mental disorders. Maybe I’m wrong. I do know one thing. For me, it’s going to take days, weeks, and maybe months. I can’t help that. It’s my brain’s fault.

Somehow, sharing about my fear of organization has helped..  I already feel lighter. Thank you for the opportunity to vent!  Maybe having written about my fear of organization will help me get over it and back into it.

I have bipolar and I’m  proud. I have GAD and I’m proud. I have agoraphobia and I’m proud. I have stuff-a-phobia and I’m grateful to you for coming by, especially since you’ve got your own stuff to take care of..

Rest in Peace, dear George Carlin. You are missed.

Peace of Mind & Love to You!

Nana

P.S. would love to hear from you about your problems with stuff. Or maybe you’ve got some great advice! Would appreciate it!

My Goal

Through blogging, I want to share my story, life experiences & give hope to others struggling with mental health issues & the stigma that goes with it.

Although diagnosed late in life, and with many challenges through the years, I'm finally living life fully and gratefully, with my grandchild, family & friends! I hope to make some new friends here.

 

life-always-gives-us img_1468 img_1429 img_1441 img_1434 img_1461

Follow Me


Visit BP's profile on Pinterest.

Resources

Feeling suicidal? Please dial 911 or contact the following:

National Suicide Prevention Hotline toll free:
1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Veteran's Suicide Prevention Hotline:
1-800-273-8255

International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP)
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Psych Central
Mayo Clinic
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Disclaimer

Information presented on this blog is not a substitution for professional medical care and a treatment program. If you or a loved one has bipolar disorder or any other mental illness or mental health issue, please immediately seek the services and advise of a medical doctor for accurate diagnosis and treatment.