November 2013

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THANKSGIVING, INTERRUPTED, PART I

The day after Thanksgiving can be a day of extended visits with loved ones, leftovers from the feast the day before. Or it can turn out like mine did. Asking myself, “Why don’t I like Thanksgiving Day? And the day after?”

On the day before Thanksgiving (Thanksgiving Eve?) My husband had a gig in Oakland at a really great jazz venue which also has a restaurant that serves some excellent Japanese food. I’ve been there many times but it had been about a year since my last visit. I was looking forward to seeing two of our musician friends who were performing with my husband. They live in L.A. and since we moved up north we don’t get to see many of our L.A. based friends, unless my husband has recording work or gigs there, or they come here to visit.

I was really looking forward to having some Teriyaki chicken and the wonderful spread they always give us in the dressing room, and catching up with good friends.

On the drive up,the weather was gorgeous and traffic was light. We got to Oakland in about an hour and a half. But, unbeknownst to me, my trifocal glasses were nowhere to be found. I did bring my prescription sunglasses, but they’re useless when it’s dark. Since I have a restricted drivers license, (I must be wearing my prescription glasses, or I’m breaking the law.), there is no way I can drive at night and be safe – or legal without them. I have a problem with that. You’ll understand soon. By Christmas, I promise.

We got to the hotel, and once in our room, we searched high and low for the glasses. “I left them home,” I said, feeling like an idiot. Our plan was to go to the venue, drop hubby off for soundcheck, then I would meet up with him and the rest of the group for dinner before the show. With no glasses, I had to make a choice. Go to the venue for five and a half hours, with a good chance of having a panic attack, or stay in. I chose to stay in.

I was glad that the hotel room was nice and quiet, with a balcony and a great view overlooking the shore.

I’ve mentioned, in previous posts, that I’ve been dealing with daily depression, and my anxiety and agoraphobia are chomping at the bit, as well. Although I’d miss seeing my friends, being in public for five and a half hours while each disorder is rearing its ugly head is a no-no. Been there, done that, too many times, all over the world.

Suddenly, being alone and having some quiet was alright. And I was going to make it enjoyable. My computer made it possible for me to do many things. Even self-hypnosis!

I went downstairs to the dining room and was told that they were serving a steak dinner. Nothing else. But I was so hungry, I didn’t care what was being served. After being seated at a table with a view of the sunset, I put my prescription sunglasses on and read USA Today while waiting for my dinner. I didn’t care if people thought I was weird. I enjoyed the company of a nice woman, who sat at a table next to mine. Somehow, the conversation turned to the subject of anxiety. It turned out that this woman also has issues with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and takes medication for it. Before she left she gave me her email address. It was nice to share about our mutual disorders. It’s a great feeling to share a most personal issue with someone who is battling along as well. A fellow sufferer! It’s like witnessing, I guess. I’m not ashamed to tell someone about my Bipolar1, my GAD, or my Agoraphobia when the subjects come up in conversation. It’s probably like bringing up the subject of God these days. But I’m an advocate. And so, I shared. And I take it seriously. And I made a new acquaintance, who wants to keep in touch! Bingo!

After my dinner, I went back to my room and read some mental health blogs, checked out my Pinterest boards, meditated, and had a really nice time, just being with myself.

My husband came back around ten, exhausted. We’d driven to L.A. the day before to pick up one of his instruments, which had been overhauled. We took our respective meds, chatted a while, then fell asleep.

Morning came, and we went downstairs to have breakfast before getting on the road to go home and have Thanksgiving dinner at Daughter #1’s house. I was excited to see my granddaughter, my family, and to give thanks. And eat until I couldn’t anymore.

We picked up our dog, Sammie, who was doing an overnighter with a friend, then headed home to unpack and change clothes before going to D#1’s house. As I brought my suitcase upstairs, I realized that I’d forgotten to bring my computer. I went back downstairs. It wasn’t in the living room, so I asked my husband to bring it in from the car, as he opened the door to bring his gear back up to his studio. Aboout 10 minutes later, he opened the front door with a look on his face that usually means something is wrong.

“It’s not in the car, honey,” he said. I’m extremely absented minded, so I went back upstairs and saw it wasn’t on my bed. I went downstairs again, and it took maybe thirty seconds to realize it wasn’t any where in the condo. It wasn’t in the car.

IT WAS IN OAKLAND……

END OF THANKSGIVING, INTERRUPTED, PART I

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I’m having my morning coffee in bed. My husband is kind enough to brew it, and bring it up to me. I’m not a morning person nor am I up to conversing until the first cup of java hits my brain.

I wrote a while back about moving. We thought we’d be able to rent a cottage that was on Craig’s list, but by the time someone was available to take our call, it had already been taken.

About ten months ago, a lovely guesthouse in a gated community came up for rent. A friend of ours called us up but we didn’t check out the place because, at that time, we thought the rent was too high.

Now we’ve got the means to pay more rent, but there’s so little available and you don’t get much for the money. So, here I am, waking up every morning, feeling like Bill Murray in Ground Hog Day.

I’ve mentioned before that to continue to live in this townhouse complex, and all the other issues that are racking my bipolar1 brain (like people moving in with huge dogs, when the limit is supposed to be 35lbs) isn’t easy.

I don’t want to sound like I’m lumping all pit bulls together. I’m fully aware that the majority of them are extremely loving and gentle.

That being said, one day, while walking my tiny cha-weiner by the beach, a pit bull, came out of nowhere and scared the living daylights out of me. Having generalized anxiety, I immediately went into panic attack mode, crossed the street and began running as fast as I could. The pit bull was on a large rope. No collar, just a huge rope around its neck. It’s master is a not so friendly guy who lives in an old bus with a small trailer attached to it. He can usually can be found (or shall I say his vehicle can be found) somewhere in the neighborhood. But he was nowhere to be found when his dog came at us, massive jaws open, growling like it was going to do some real harm.

Is that a good practice? And was it a humane thing to do to the poor dog? This is a public place, where lots of children ride bikes or just walk with their parents, down to the beach. Where was the owner? Not to be found. And putting a dog on a rope is, in my opinion, not a very nice thing to do.

Now, the guy down the common walkway to our townhouses has a roommate who is master to a pit bull. Because of the anxiety, I make it a point to go the opposite way when I go downstairs to my car, which is an inconvenience, but unfortunately, a necessary one. I also reported that the roommate was in violation of the rules regarding dogs. But I do like the Doberman that’s been trained to be a Bambie in dog disguise. I

My husband tells me the pit bull is a really nice, gentle, dog. That’s nice to know. But the problem is, I can’t handle big dogs, especially pit bulls. Is that considered “breedism”. I hope not. I want to love all dogs. I really do. But my anxiety, when triggered, goes through the roof.

Maybe it’s because one Christmas, sixteen years ago, my nephew got a big mixed breed dog, who was only trying to be friendly, but as I was petting hime, he jumped up and almost broke my nose. Ever since, when I see a big dog, I get the fight or flight feeling, and I go the opposite way. My husband used to ask me why I was so afraid and acted so strange whenever we came across a big dog. I’ve explained enough. He gave up trying to change my behavior. He understands; or does his best to.

I also got bit by a big dog (who knows what breed, another mix probably) when I was nine. The rabies shot wasn’t pleasant. That may have something to do with my behavior. I don’t know. I don’t try to figure it out anymore. Some things won’t change. I have to accept them.

On the other side of the complex, there used to be two Siberian huskies. They were no problem. Maybe that’s because they were like ghosts. One minute you saw them, and the next, they were gone.

It’s funny, the way my anxiety disorder affects me. But it is what it is. Too bad. Maybe someday, I’ll be able to pet a pit bull.

I have to drive to Oakland now. I’d rather stay home.

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I don’t like to complain, but yesterday, after driving home from my great dual recovery support group meeting. (which we ended by proclaiming how very strong we were to be living, surviving, and even thriving, in spite of our bipolar disorder and the other disorders and challenges that we deal with), I turned on the radio and was absolutely amazed.

They are already playing twenty-four hour, nonstop Christmas music and we haven’t even gotten to Thanksgiving yet! A week ago, in my little Victorian town, they put up the garlands on the main drag. Am I missing something?

It’s becoming customary for many of us (sorry, not me), after a day of family, friends, giving thanks, then gorging on turkey, or whatever substitutes – to get up at the un-Godly hour of 2 or 3AM and rush down to the local shopping mall, wait in the dark until they open up, then literally push (and possibly get trampled while doing so!) our way through the door, in riotous fashion. Then we continue risking bodily harm, as we make a mad dash for whatever we just have to buy because it’s on sale, and how can we resist the ridiculous savings? I can.

I understand the reasons. You’ve got your family with you, you know Christmas is just a few weeks way, you’ve already been itching to get going because it aint over til it’s over, and you want to get them what they really, really want!

What ever happened savoring the holiday,instead of making it a relay race? Can someone please tell me? I’ll never get it. The commercialization of the holidays is one of the biggest triggers for depression, whether you have a mental illness or not. And for me, it’s like the train is running and I’m not even at the station yet! It always fills my Bipolarized, General Anxietized, Agoraphobicized brain with innumerable mixed states, panic attacks, and just getting out door to go to Daughter #1’s house is an extremely daunting task! I’m just speaking for myself but I know there are plenty of you out there who feel the same way.

We all celebrate the holidays with our own traditions. This year, I’m into simplifying it. What am I saying! I’m ALWAYS into simplifying it, but for some reason, unbeknownst to me, I haven’t a clue how to do it right. To lower my chances of winding up in a psych ward. Now that my asthmas’s back, I could fake it and stay in bed when Christmas comes jingling around again. But that would be the worst thing to do. I’d rather take a couple of puffs on my inhaler than stay home on Christmas Day!

No way around it, at my age, I’ve got to show some grace and dignity. So, I am thankful for all of the wonderful, dedicated bloggers who fill my days wit their experiences, rants, raves and all the other stuff that they want to put into words. And all the mental health advocates who are fighting tirelessly to erase stigma and bring some change and compassion for those of us who deal with mental illness. You are enriching not only my life, but the lives of countless others.

And I will be happy when my tween grandchild decides to give a sort of smile…..

I wish us all a Happy Holiday season, whatever we celebrate. Peace on Earth and Peace of Mind to us all!

Love to You! Nana

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Sometimes I just stare. In my room, with the door closed usually; at the white wall where my new mirror hangs. Then I let the thoughts and feelings parade through my mind, and I pull some of them out of the march and look at them, and feel them. And then, I just stare again. I call it “brain turn-off”. Maybe you get it once in a while, too. It’s kind of like a blackout, but without the alcohol.

I’ve been going through one of the worst depressions of my life, since April. Being bi-polar, up until now, has most certainly been a roller coaster ride, and it still is, but this time, along with the mood swings, anxiety, and agoraphobia, there is a stream of depressive water that is constantly running underneath it. This hasn’t happened for years. And it’s making me feel that my bed is the only place where I can find serenity.

Blogging is a good way to let out feelings. I have a family that isn’t too educated about mental illness, so I spend a lot of time feeling misunderstood and most of the time, like a failure. And it hurts deeply. What they don’t understand is that this is a family disease that can be handed down through the generations, so it’s extremely important to take time to be informed. Of course, I don’t see that happening, but you never know. I’d just hate for anyone else in my family to have to live as long as I had to without a diagnosis. In other words, fifty wasn’t fun! But it was the beginning. I finally had a name for the son of a bitch.

I started off this blog, hoping to be a positive voice. But when I’m in the depths of depression, and every hour I’m awake, I’m in a dull pain, there is no way I can pretend that all is well. That’s not being fair to myself, nor to anyone who happens to read this. I don’t want to have to put up a front. I don’t like lying.

It’s very easy to feel sorry for myself. I’ve been doing that most of my life. I’ve been dealing with not “fitting in” for so long.

I am grateful to be alive today. To start over. To pick myself up, get to my support group meeting, and get ready for L.A. and dinner with my mother-in-law at the retirement home.

One day at a time. One hour. One minute.

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While reading as many blogs as I can in a given day, I’m finding a common thread of expression with many bloggers.

Poetry. The big P. The stuff we read when we feel like no one else can ever understand, or feel, like we feel, but the Poet.

But the Poet has disappeared. We’ve put the Poet somewhere, maybe in a box or on a shelf. Or maybe we gave the Poet away.

Perhaps we don’t know ,or we’ve forgotten that the Poet will wait, and has been waiting for us. We just haven’t been able to sit with the Poet, or we haven’t wanted to. Maybe we don’t even like the Poet anymore.

Until a while ago. Or maybe it was yesterday.

When we stumble upon some words, positioned quite unlike normal conversation. Or maybe just like conversation. Or all over the place. Or a sonnet, or lyric poem, or free verse.

Or an almost hypnotic rythymn. Or music. Or the noise of the City. Or a scream. Or passion. Or love. Or rage. Or the depths of sadness and longing. Or loss. Or despair. Or hope.

From the beginning, the Poet expressed and pointed to something you needed. Something that made you feel things in a way that can’t really be described.

Something you can’t run away from anymore. Because it’s there. On a page. So you read. Or you hear it spoken somewhere. At times, it’s like a “sound” painting with the page as a canvas and the words painted all kinds of colors and shapes. And it’s for you to interpret or feel, despise or appreciate, in your own way.

Maybe, without knowing it, the Poet gave you a gift, when you were a child, in a rhyme. Maybe you decided that it wasn’t for you anymore. You were growing up and out of the things of childhood,and felt you had to leave the Poet behind. There were more pressing things to do.

As life moved on, maybe the Poet stirred up too much emotion. When you were with the Poet, you felt too much. You’d cry too much. And you didn’t want to feel or cry too much. There wasn’t a connection anymore.

Then, sometime, somewhere, you hear a poem from the past. You remember most of the lines, and perhaps you catch yourself reciting them out loud. The Poet brings you back, just for a moment or two, to the little kid in you, that used to laugh out loud, giggle, or cry, and dream. When you had little kids’ skin and lived in the world of your childhood.

But your childhood ended. One day, you kicked off your little kids shoes for the last time. And the Poet wasn’t important anymore.

And then, you weren’t a child anymore, so you began the journey away from childhood to adulthood, and left the Poet behind. Somewhere, on some shelf or in a box in a basement. Somewhere on the road of your life. And you began to walk fast, then run, to you destiny.

And you lived your life, but something was missing.

And for some awful reason, you just weren’t able to fill up the empty place inside you. So you started doing things to fill you up.

And at some point, you realized that the faucet could be on for the rest of your life and you’d never have enough to drink. You’d never be full.

And then the mental illness unfolded. And you went into the depths of it. But you didn’t die. You got help. And you got treatment. And you did, and still do, whatever you can to keep some kind of balance. And when you fall, you pick yourself up, and go on. And maybe you pray, and do things you enjoy, each day.

But there is still something missing. Something that doesn’t come in therapy, or in a pill, or a support group. Maybe even prayer. And it doesn’t really have much to do with your brain.

That something is not about your brain. It’s about your mind, your heart, the way you feel.

Then one day, you meet up with the Poet, again. You pick up the Poet and begin wiping away the dust, from the years of neglect. And you sit with the Poet. And time slows down. And you read. And you are blessed by the Poet. In some incomprehensible way.

And It feels like a cool drink of the purest water.

And so, you find yourself coming back again.

And each time you come back, you drink the water the Poet offers you. And it nurtures you, and eventually, you open up your mind and your heart. And you find so much of yourself and life with all it’s colors, with the Poet.

And, at some point, the line between you and the Poet disappears. And You and the Poet become one.

And then, one day, or night, YOU become a poet. It’s always been inside you. The fountain of poetry. It’s inside us all. We only have to turn it on.

And you have your own unique poetry. And you have a desire to capture it, to write it down. You paint your own canvas with your own words.

And if you care to, you share your poems. And you share that place that’s been filled with the pure water of poetry. And you offer others a drink. From your fountain of poetry, if you want to.

And now, when you’re thirsty. You drink the water and experience fullness. You paint pictures again, and again with words. Pretty soon, you have a gallery of poems. And the colors, rhythms, rhymes, sounds, music is coming from you.

It was always waiting for you to come and have a drink. And you can offer others a drink, too. The Poet always waits with water.

Some things we find to be like water.

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Monday. Mundane. Mania. Maniacal.

How many times have I opened my eyes, realized it’s Monday, then realized that if I could make it through the sometimes treacherous waters that Monday can bring, I’d be alright. I really don’t like Mondays. I think we should have three day weekends, every weekend. That would be alright.

My psychiatrist upped my dosage of Lamictal and I’ve gone back on a low dose of thyroid medication. I think the thyroid is kicking in. The fog is lifting. I feel a difference. It’s good. But the nighttime increase of Lamictal has put me in limbo. I can’t move, but I’m wide awake!

My psychiatrist said, (on our quarterly phone session) “I’ve never heard you sound so sad.” Then I told him I’ve just been faking my way through all the months so I don’t go overboard. I can’t afford to do that anymore. I need to be strong for my family. For my grandchild. For my husband. They have all suffered from this damn disease of my brain. I wish I lived in an era where there were brain transplants. But wouldn’t that be scary, if the body rejected the brain, or vice versa? And then I wouldn’t be me anymore. I’m starting to think it’s all downhill from here. And in a way, it really is. No one lives in their body for ever. (I’m glad! I can’t wait until I can just get rid of the damn thing and fly all over the universe!) After the first of the year, I’ll be able to write about what happened last April. The legal process takes time. Until it’s over, I’m not myself.

But I am making a bit of progress with my posts. They’re getting shorter and shorter. I’m going to do my best to keep it down. Also, I’ve gone back a few posts and made them a two-part or even a four-part post, so you can come back later. On a blank page or screen, or even a comment bubble, I can get REALLY long-winded – especially when there’s no one to change the subject, or tell me they have to take the call that’s coming in. I’m doing it for you, and me, too. I’d like you to come back again. (And if you have time to comment, that’s so appreciated!)

It’s nice to be able to let out whatever is right or not right within the world of my mind. Right here, on this screen. I’ve got some ambient music on, so I’m even smiling, as I my fingers type away.

Even if no one reads what I’m typing, it’s o.k. It’s first and foremost, for me, that I write. And that’s o.k. Before, there was a time when it wasn’t o.k.; to think of myself first. Now, I have no choice. Since my diagnosis, and especially, in the last six months or so, things have changed. I haven’t wanted to let the world come too close. I seem to get burned easily. But I’m ready to come out a bit. I need to. That’s why, after four months, starting, hopefully, tomorrow, whoever cares to, can click the link on my Twitter page and see what I’ve written!!! What a concept! I hope someone does.. Peace of Mind, & Love to You! Nana

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My life has been full of ups and downs for many months, and my small family hasn’t spent much time together this year. My side of the family is just a branch of a much larger family on my daughters’ fathers’ side. A dinner here and there once in a great while, out to a restaurant. Both of my daughters have full-time careers with little down time. Life is very hectic and stressful..I’ve learned to text message pretty well to communicate with my daughters. Although this technology is supposed to keep us more in touch, it just seems to make them seem farther away. But it is the way it is.

I’m looking forward to tonight. As usual, I’m obsessing about what to wear. For the first time in I don’t know how many years, four generations of my granddaughters’ family will be sitting down to dinner together. We’re going down to the Wharf for seafood, and I think tonight will be something my granddaughter will look back on with a smile, in the years to come.

I divorced my grown children’s father many years ago. We are, like millions of other families, what I call a “fractured family”. For my granddaughter, there is Mom, and Dad, who divorced when she was four, Nana (me), Grandpa L.,(my husband/her step grandpa, Papa (my ex), Grammie (his present wife/stepgrandmother), GGT (my ex’s mother/my ex-mother-in-law). Great grandpa (ex’s father) passed away two years ago. Still with me?

I’m charging my iPhone for tonight because I plan to take quite a few pictures to save for the not so distant future, when a lot of my time will be spent reminiscing.

The only male attending will be my son-in-law, who is married to the Birthday Girl, my firstborn.
So, there’ll be a total of four generations, all together, having a birthday dinner. That doesn’t happen much for me, so I’m excited. I feel happy this morning. Yesterday, I was in a mixed state, which is awful.

Most in-tact families do this quite frequently and it’s pretty much family business as usual. But we, as a fractured family, quite often miss the mark, in terms of all getting together. Especially when the ex and stepmom come to town. Then it gets really complicated. Really, really complicated, sometimes!

So it’s pretty special when we can all come together and make a good memory for the youngest and most important person on our family tree. And enjoy each others’ company.

It will be Great Grandma, Mama, (possibly Dad), Auntie (Birthday girl), Uncle,and me, Nana.

Four generations, celebrating. Sometimes, it’s complicated, sometimes it’s simple. Tonight will be simple. Can’t get any better. I relish the good feeling….

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WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS MATERIAL REFERRING TO SELF HARM, WHICH MAY BE A TRIGGER FOR SOME. PLEASE USE DISCRETION.!!!!

I didn’t cut my hair. I wanted so much to just chop it off. To make a statement. To myself and everyone who knows me. My days of glamming are over. At least with my hair. I understand now why so many women cut their hair when they reach a certain age. And I also understand why a lot of women are leaving their hair long.

But my problem is, I’m a brunette with light skin, and although I have some grey, you don’t notice it unless you get real close. My best friends’ hair turned grey when she was 45. She had a ball, cutting it short, and dying it blond, then letting it grow and dying it red, then just letting it grow real long and grey. She died two years ago, and although her face and body were ravaged with cancer, her beautiful grey hair was her crowning glory.

I’m not lucky, like Lynda. God, what an awful thing to say! Absolutely terrible. But Lynda is probably laughing wherever the energy of her spirit is because her famous last words are, “It’s all a cosmic joke!”. I’ll write about Lynda, my friend from birth, and beyond death, and my soul sister, someday. Right now, I’m still coming out of the shock of her not being in the world,in the flesh, anymore. Anyone who has lost someone they love understands. We all take our own time. Her son sent me a portion of her ashes, hermetically sealed. It’s ironic that someone so “larger than life”, could be reduced to ash. If I wanted to, I could take her remains with me wherever I go. I can fit them in my purses. God, where does my mind go!! It’s got to be Lynda!!

There was no one in this world who could make me laugh like Lynda! It’s too soon to write about her. But that’s Lynda! She wants me to laugh. And so I laugh. She taught me how to REALLY laugh, from the belly. Sometimes, she’d make me laugh so hard, I’d be rolling on the floor. And that’s the best gift she gave me. And it really is The Gift That Keeps On Giving! It saves my life, when I bring out the laughter. All it takes is a split second of awareness in my bipolar1 brain and I’m in stitches. I will never be able to catch Lynda’s essence and bring it to the page. I can’t tell a joke the way she can. And she ad-libbed her way through a very difficult life and always came up smiling> Suffice it to say, she was made of light and laughter, and she was and will be with me always. END OF PART ONE.

THE DAY AFTER, PART II

My friends and even my husband still ask me if I color my hair. It’s been years, and if I only had more grey hair, I’d be in heaven. I don’t want to be a dark haired woman anymore. I want to look more grandmotherly. I want a softer look. I look too much like Anna Magnani. (I’m half Italian). If I had more grey, I could put some highlights in it or just let it be grey. I’ve colored my hair in the past and it was awful. Frosted it. After the cut and frost, I looked like The Shaggy Dog. And my hair isn’t what it used to be, because of Depakote. I have a friend who has epilepsy. When we first met, I told her how pretty her hair color was. She thanked me but blamed Depakote for losing half of her butterscotch locks. And I hate going to a hairdresser. I can’t sit in a chair that long.

And I can’t stand looking at myself in a big mirror, with someone standing next to me, looking at me, looking at myself in the mirror!!! I really can’t stand it. It’s a painful thing to do. I always apologize for not looking at the end result of sitting for far too long, letting someone do things to my hair that will make me ask myself why I ever the hell thought of doing it in the first place!! Honestly, it’s physically painful for me to look in a hairdresser’s mirror. I usually say to myself, “Why did you bother?”. It’s one of the most pulverizing things in the world for me. The stripping, the bleaching,the highlights, and, worst of all, those clunky dryers waiting to burn my ears and neck, along with stacks and stacks of glam mags waiting for me. Dryers. Don’t get me started on those things.

That’s why I don’t subscribe to woman’s magazines anymore. It’s too much. I’m through with self torture. I’m not meant to be a blonde and I don’t want to be. And the good news is that I see a small change happening. A small group of women are coming to their senses and striking out on their own journey to their authentic beauty, and respect for their bodies. And besides, I’m at an age where if I don’t know what looks good on me, I’m never going to find it in a magazine that caters to those under thirty. Besides, everything is, what I call “pornicized”. Trash, is what we women are being fed.

I wouldn’t want to be young in this time. All the mystical qualities of femininity, have been inverted, perverted, and subverted. Pun intended, stripped away. So many young woman are hypnotized into spending so much time, money, worry, self-loathing and feeling that it’s necessary to show everything you’ve got, because it’s “empowering”. Who came up with that crap? END OF PART II

THE DAY AFTER, PART III

It’s scary to think about it – where we are headed, as a species. With our brains, minds, and hearts. But I guess it’s inevitable. It seems so-called “modern society” is going in an unfathomable direction. De-evloution? I tend to think so. The “Dumbing Down of America”? You can’t stop the train now. It pulled out of the station a long time ago, with Mr. Hefner.

I think we humans are going to wipe ourselves off the face of the earth, anyway. When I was growing up, thin wasn’t emaciated. I felt cursed. It didn’t matter what I ate, I was always underweight. And in my twenties, I became really, really thin. I subscribed to Vogue, Bazaar, Elle, Glamour and inhaled it all. Then I began to hate my body. But I couldn’t help it. I had to be 105lbs, or I would become unloveable. I danced my way through adolescence, which kept the weight down, but all I ate was carbs, which isn’t a healthy thing to do. I spent the 70’s as a very depressed young woman. That’s when I started “analysis”. And the journey began.

It wasn’t until I was forty-three and started taking Provera injections for painful times of the month. (which I do Not recommend!) that I began to put on a bit of weight. Then came the Diagnosis. The Lithium, Seroquel, Xanax, Klonipine and I took off. I gained thirty pounds in three months. I had Lithium tremens, my handwriting from pretty to sometimes unintelligible, and I walked down the stairs, two feet per stair for months. It wasn’t until my cousin died and I became the administrator of his estate, that I lost a good deal of weight. Yes, I loved it. For a while. Then, I began to spiral down. Four months off my mood stabilizer, and I was toast. Where am I? All over the place. Please, let’s get me get back to hair!

It isn’t happening. I still have the racing brain of my teenage years. It’s my sick brain. I haven’t arrived yet. I’m still having growing pains because I’m not REAL OLD yet. Of course, my grandchild thinks I’m old. Yet, I’m stuck somewhere, and I don’t know where that is. I don’t know what to call it. The Senior Years. The Limbo Years. The Years I’ll wish I had back in a few years. That’s probably why I can’t watch re-runs of The Twilight Zone anymore. END OF PART III

THE DAY AFTER, PART IV (WARNING:CAUTION:SELF-HARM IS MENTIONED. PLEASE DO NOT READ IF THIS IS A POTENTIAL TRIGGER FOR YOU!

I guess I get a rush similar to what is called “self-harm”. It really feels like a release, when I grab anything, a paper cutting scissors, meat cutting scissors, whatever kind is there. And I start chopping. But when I come down (usually within a couple of hours), I crash hard. I look in the mirror and ask myself, “Why do you do this? You really are not of sound mind!”

I’m not a kid anymore. I’m not a young adult anymore. I don’t think I’m even middle aged. A fairly well preserved sixty three, with not one bit of work done to turn back the hands of time. I have a husband who is very nice looking and ten years younger, and we’re almost seventeen years together. And he’s the skinny one!!!! And he loves me. I can’t get rid of him! (and I don’t want to!).

The problem is this. My father was a lousy Dad. He was the “role model”. A REALLY LOUSY ROLE MODEL. The first “man in my life”. And he really screwed up, big time. He’s 95 and I finally decided to cut the cord (this time for good), about three weeks ago. He drove my husband and I to our whits’ end when we let him come to live with us. It was the worst two and a half years of my life. I’ve done all I could do for the man. He’s get 24/7 care at a nursing home in Napa. But his mind is finally going. But, six weeks is now six months to him. His daily phone calls from the nursing home had to stop. It got to the point where, when his number flashed on my TV screen, I’d think that if I didn’t answer it, if there really is a hell, I’d go there. He’s been slowly losing his memory over the years, and he’s now standing at dementia’s door. He’s ornery. I can’t take ornery, from him or anyone. I have a mental illness. It’s my fathers’ side of the family that has three diagnosed Bipolar1 people. Myself, a first cousin and their adult child, so, for me, without a doubt, it’s in my DNA, genetic, on Dad’s side, and a family disease. Subject closed.

And my father is trigger #1. And in order to “pull the plug”, so to speak. I had to tell him that I can’t talk on the phone to him because I couldn’t do anything about his grown grandchildren and great grandchild not calling him. He forgets that he had nothing to do with them since they were born. The only time they registered on his radar, was at Christmas and maybe a birthday. A card and a small check. A grandfather, that doth not make. Who wants to call an old man you don’t know? A really old man who never gave a damn about you? Who sent you two cards a year to ease his conscience, with a bit of change thrown in for effect. You tell me.

Doing this has been a big step. I thought I was just going to get brownie points for heaven. Some call it Catholic guilt. But it’s sanity that’s at stake. I have to choose sanity, sorry Dad. I finally believe what my psychiatrist, my therapists, my friends, and my family have been trying to tell me for years. To continue to have a relationship with the one person you should be able to trust – but can’t because they blew every chance of that ever happening. Who became the biggest trigger!! Bye Bye Daddy!!! Tough love, it’s called in some circles…

Anyway, I didn’t cut my hair. It’s still halfway down my back. My husband doesn’t want me to cut it. In many ways, I’m still a people pleaser…. but I’ll always want to cut my hair. Maybe tomorrow.

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“GRAMMAR IS A PIANO I PLAY BY EAR.” – AUTHOR JOAN DIDION

I started the day off with a smile. But as I write, I’m trying my best to keep my cool. I have to be honest. I lost my cool a couple of hours ago.

That’s the nature of Bipolar1. I guess you could say, as Forest Gumps’ mom said, “Life’s like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” That’s how it is for me and my bipolar1 disorder. I never know what’s going to happen. Add generalized anxiety disorder to it and I’ve got the makings of a perfect storm.

That’s how I’ve been feeling lately. I must be rapid cycling. No, I’m SURE I’m rapid cycling. That’s why I just took a deep breath. The guided meditation I did this morning? It was great. But two hours later, I was so far from smiling and feeling good about myself, it didn’t even remotely cross my radar.

This won’t be long. Like many other bloggers who have mental illness and all the challenges it brings, it’s just one of those days. I told my husband I was going to cut my hair. (My hair is very long – past the middle of my back.) “Are you going to do that to make a statement?”, he asked.

Yes, I want to make a statement. I won’t bore anyone with reasons why. For me, it’s a “normal” thing to do, when I’ve just about had it with my life. I remember looking in the mirror when I was eighteen, and had broken up with someone. I grabbed a pair of scissors, went into my room, locked the door, and chopped off my hair. The next day, I went to my mother’s hairdresser and told her to cut what was left into a pixyish style. That was a statement. To myself. My father told me once that he fell out of love with my mother when she cut her hair. At the time, Mia Farrow’s pixy (not to mention Twiggy’s too) was very popular, so I felt o.k. about it for a while. And it helped me to get out all the garbage about my parents breakup, Dad having an affair with Mom’s best friend, losing our beautiful home that I watched go up, from the pouring of the foundation, to the last bit of roof. And having to give up the one constant and loving companion and precious reminder of the three best (and worst) years of my young life – my dog, Heidi.

I guess when you go through big changes, your hair is a good place to take out your frustrations, and express how deeply you feel the loss. It’s a lot less painful, physically, I guess.

I haven’t done it yet. But who knows? The day isn’t over..

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GRACE PART 1

It’s 6:17 in the morning. The clocks have “fallen forward” and autumn has blown its way to the coastal town where I live. The climate here is moderate. Most homes don’t have air conditioning. You never know when the fog is coming in or a sharp drop in temperature can happen, so we dress in layers. Sweaters,coats,hats and scarves are always at the ready. A long time ago, I wasn’t ready and caught walking pneumonia. So, it’s not uncommon to see someone wearing a knitted cap on their head, a scarf wrapped around their neck or a hoodie up here in July or August while southern California is sweltering. I am much more suited to living here. I’m not cut out for the way they do summer in L.A.. I don’t know how I got through all those years. It must have been the alcohol, which should have killed me because I drank, smoked weed, and took psych meds for years. And I’m not proud of it. Just grateful to be alive. If I could go back in time, with what I know and have lived through, I’d be living as I am today. Sober (four years last month, pot free six years). I just chose to kill myself slowly. I strongly suggest not taking the road I traveled. It’s not worth one minute. Save yourself time, money and ultimate misery, please! (Note: I am not against medical marijuana. In fact, I voted for Arnold for governor of California, just to go forward for decriminalization. So, I fully support legalization.)

Our time in the townhouse we’ve been renting for almost five years is coming to an end. The complex is literally collapsing, pipes have burst, sending four apartment dwellers to motels while the damage is repaired. The worst part, is this place has turned into a hotel, even an asylum of sorts. You can lease a apartment for six months. That’s what we did. Sign a six month lease. And here we are going on five years At least we don’t have a lease to try and get out of anymore. We’ve been bopping along, month to month and I can’t wait to get the hell out! Even though we haven’t found a place yet, I’m already boxing things up. I’m Bipolar 1- I’ve got to start now, or I’ll never get out of here!.

I came back to my home town because my grown daughters from my first marriage, born and raised here, wanted us all to be close, and so did I. But the most wonderful reason to move back home was my granddaughter. Anyone who is a grandparent and wants to be active in their grandchilds’ life can relate. And the most important reason is that my soon- to- be twelve year old granddaughter, whose parents are divorced, needs all the love and support from our family that she can get. Middle school is a complete change! With parents working full-time, it takes a family, (then maybe a village) to raise a child.

My granddaughter is the most important person in our family circle, as she should be. I would give my life for her. Like many other children in America, she is suffering from burnout. Burnout from the ridiculous curricula at her middle school, the Math tutoring, four Ballet classes a week (two back to back), rehearsals for the annual Nutcracker Ballet that she’s had a part in since she was five. And, yes, all the extra curricular stuff that is making Monday through Friday a merry-go-round, for kids and parents alike. It’s awful. There’s no time to just live, just be a kid, just be a Mom or Dad. And a grandparent can only say so much. You understand. It’s run, run, run, from here to there and do it all again tomorrow. Very sad.

In other words, my grandchild is one of the millions of kids in this country who are being taught in a system where the focus is on standardized test scores. Not the imparting of knowledge and discovering the unique talents and abilities of each child. Then, guiding and assisting that child,in the development of those gifts. We all have to be involved in preparing these kids for that journey to young adulthood and all the challenges, decisions, discipline, and social interaction that journey will bring.

What is also desperately needed is for a child to understand that the road to success is paved with potholes of failure; and, more importantly, not everyone is going to be a rock star, the CEO in their chosen profession, nor a gazillionaire. And it’s O.K.! Life will still be beautiful, if they want it to be.

Having a mental illness derailed me from being the perfect grandmother. I suffered a severe breakdown four years ago, and it took about seven months before my grandchild came back for sleepovers. The day after I went to the emergency room, I sat on my hands for four hours, then went to a twelve step meeting. Again. After decades of on and off the wagon, this is the longest time I’ve abstained from alcohol. Booze busted me. I squandered an inheritance because I agreed, against my gut, to refinance a house that was already paid for, that needed nothing. And a nice nest egg to keep me from the cold also went out the window. The condo in New England? I wanted to keep it until I died, so I’d always have a place of my own to go to. My cousin gave me everything he had. But four years ago, I was literally beaten by alcohol, depression, delusion, rage, and al the other stuff that goes when people let their life spin out of control. down. I resolve, each day, one day at time to stay sober, so I can stay sane, so I can still be Nana to my precious girl. So I can live a life of purpose and meaning and be remembered by my family as someone who loved and did her best.

Life isn’t easy for any of us. But I keep working at peeling away the layers and accepting life for what it is, not what I wish in vain that it could be. I have a program of recovery. I also go to a support group for dual diagnosis, modeled after the original twelve step program. DRA (Dual Recovery Anonymous). It’s a program for people who have a dual diagnosis of mental or emotional illness and substance abuse. The program addresses both issues and gives a person with a dual diagnosis the kind of caring and acceptance that isn’t found elsewhere. Time spent with my fellow DRA members has been a godsend for me. I look for to seeing the people who keep coming back, week after week. (If you’d like to learn more about DRA, look it up on the internet.) When I walk into a meeting room, I’m in a room with people I have so much in common with, and I am accepted as I am. And after three years I have a circle of friends I can call anytime, day or night, if I need someone to listen to without having to explain much, without prejudice, without stigma, for sure! I have made friendships that I plan to keep for life. Whenever one of us is in crisis, someone is there to comfort and give us a hand to hold onto. We are comfortable and free. No judgement. It’s amazing!

Although it was best that I concentrated on my recovery, I couldn’t help thinking that I’d failed at the one role I felt destined to excel at. I wanted the Grandmother of The Century Award and I blew it with a pitiful episode of self-loathing, booze and rage.

I’ve decided to divide this ridiculously long post into parts. I will end Part 1 here. It’s for you, dear reader that I do this, as I see, from reading this post, I must be in some kind of transition in my bipolar brain,and don’t know where this is going. Please, stop here and come back later. I would….

GRACE PART 2

And what about a class in Etiquette? No, I’m bipolar, but I’m not crazy. Brought up to date, of course, but kids need to know that when they get that part-time job, it’s nice to stop blabbing about nothing to your fellow employee and give your customer the service and politeness they deserve. I can’t believe how rude some kids are. And grownups, too. It’s like you’re not even there. Maybe it’s because you’re not on a screen. You’re just a boring real human that they don’t know from Adam. We don’t know how good we still have it here in America. In some countries, they’d be kicked out on their asses for that kind of behavior. Every so often, I take a young person aside, and politely tell them that they need to give their full attention to me and all the other people standing in line and to respect their job. It’s a step on their ladder. Their rehearsal for their starring role in the play called “My Success and How I Got It”. And they thank me. I do it because I care about them.

Burnout at age 11. This is something that every parent has to deal with. Parents are burned out too. Between my granddaughter saying, “Nana, I’m exhausted!” and her mother lamenting, “Mom, I’ve got no time for myself,”I know we are not the only family that has hardly any time to sit down together for a meal, to even have a chat Who has time to chat? The parent who is late in getting the laundry done for the next day, baking cupcakes for the next Parent/Teacher meeting, getting lunch packed for the next morning? Mothers and fathers are burned out, just as much as their kids.

And whatever happened to Family Night Out? Millions of families can’t afford to go out for a pizza anymore or to a diner. Even my wacky parents knew the importance of a night out, away from home to eat and just be a family. But today, that isn’t the case. For many, it’s too damn expensive.

Think back, you sixty-six someones (I know there are a few of you out there). Don’t you remember when it was cheaper to go have a grilled cheese sandwich with fries and a milkshake, than buying the ingredients to make it at home? Or a special of the day dinner at the local diner? Now, when I add up how much it cost to make dinner, it’s usually much cheaper per person than a Grand Slam at Denny’ or a Happy Meal at McDonalds. Have you seen the prices at Denny’s? McDonald’s? I know it’s junk and unhealthy but things must be bad when I compute in my head that the chicken dinner I’m making for my husband is, per person, cheaper than a takeout meal. It’s getting more and more expensive just to put food on the table, let alone taking the family out, or getting Chinese takeout, which is my favorite. And don’t get me started on Starbucks, or the price of a gallon of milk, which continues to soar!

We’re all so busy on our computers, working. When we’re not working, a lot of us are playing games. On the computers that we work on. You know which ones you play. I’m not into games, but I went crazy with Pinterest for a couple of weeks. And in a way, it’s a game, too. (I almost got seriously addicted to that one!) Then, one day last week, I woke up and thought, “This has got to stop. This is an ugly way to live.” I’ve got no Grace.

GRACE PART 3
Even this blogsite, which is a way to contribute to the movement: to fight the stigma against those of us with mental illness, their families and loved ones- hasn’t turned out the way I want it. Why? Because I’m distracted. I’m not focused, I’m exhausted beyond imagination. In other words, I, myself am suffering from Burnout! And I’ve lost my Grace.

I don’t know how to do anything but type this and press one or two buttons. I also live in a small community where everyone knows everyone and my husband is a public person. It’s still a no-no here to discuss mental illness out in the open. I stay anonymous, not for myself, but because my family has suffered enough and I won’t make them poster children for something they aren’t into stepping on a soapbox for. When my granddaughter turns 18, I can come out. Until then, it’s my choice, and I’m not alone with it.

So, I can’t invite all my Facebook friends on my personal Facebook page to “like” my Bipolar Nana page because then, I’ll blow my cover, so I’m stuck with 1 like. (Unless whoever takes the time to read this long-winded post also goes to my Facebook page and presses Like). It feels like life is becoming cut and paste. I don’t fit in. But, like so many, I’ve never fit in. Depression got me when I was a very little girl and I don’t think it’s going to cut me loose any time soon. So I pop my pills, like a good girl. But where’s my Grace?

What I want to do now is get back my Grace..

GRACE PART 4

In language, grace has many meanings. It can be used to describe the movements of a good dancer, or the way a person walks down the street, or makes gestures. It can be used to describe someone’s ability to navigate their interactions with others in a smooth and positive way.

I studied Ballet for many years,training for a professional career. I had and still have a dancer’s grace. It’s embedded within me. But Grace with a capital G is what I need now.The Big Gift. The Gift that I keep losing track of.

The kind that is a way of living which gives life a sense of purpose, integrity and beauty. It can permeate life and give, even the smallest things, the seemingly least important interaction between human beings, or an act of kindness – a sense of importance they so rightly deserve. The moments we encounter and react to with awe; the splendor of nature, the beauty of music and art, and the sciences. The dishes, emptying the trash, burning the toast, cleaning the toilet, vacuuming the carpet. It can all be infused with Grace. Grace elevates all the so-called mundane moments that can pass us by; Grace illuminates them – provides nourishment to our souls for our very short stay on this planet. A way of connecting to it all.

To live a life of Grace is, in my opinion, impossible without silence, prayer and meditation. And if you can’t find the time, make the time. If you don’t have it, ask for it. Pray for it. It will come, I know that for sure. Not on our watch, but it will come.

GRACE PART 5

For a long time, I was so into the ritualistic prayers of the religion I was brought up in. But then something happened. With all the distractions, I didn’t allow time for that kind of prayer. I used to pray, morning and night and in between. Things go well when I pray. I pray for others, too and they get really good results. Friends call me quite often, and ask me to pray for them or someone I don’t know because I had a good connection. But saying those prayers took time and energy. You don’t just say a prayer, You Feel A Prayer. But I decided to pull the plug on that connection. Why? I was angry at The Almighty. And I was burned-out…

I do well, when I pray. Life is easier to bear, when I pray. I’ve just ignored prayer. Purposely. Like my father did when he and my mother had a fight. They didn’t speak once for three weeks. I just didn’t want to do it. I lost faith in prayer. Then I lost my health, and my bearings. I almost had another breakdown. But I still wouldn’t pray. I couldn’t pray. I burned out. I gave up..and Grace disappeared.

Two nights ago, I was grappling with a family situation that has kept me up crying, many nights, for the last five months. I was so worn down by this situation, I thought it was going to kill me, drama queen that I am. I stood at the top of the stairs, looked up at the ceiling and said, in a very quiet voice, “Help”. That was my prayer. The next morning, my prayer was answered. Just one word. Voila! Incredible. Three text messages in a row, brought an end to what was torturing me since April. Just one word was needed, not a litany.

I could go on and on about how my life in the twenty first century is lacking in so many ways- but it’s no one’s fault. It’s my own and I cop to it. I have to be the one to take the Grace I’ve been given and do something good with it. Every day, in every way possible. It’s my job, not someone else’s.

I’m weaning myself off of TV, with exception of some classic shows from the sixties, Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, and PBS. I’m doing pretty well. It’s making a difference because now I’m beginning to smile and enjoy the quiet. I am making room for prayer, meditation, and Silence. I’ve forgotten how much I love and need it. Not the dark, tortured, unbearable silence of loneliness that an episode of depression brings. I mean the kind that gives you back to yourself.

GRACE PART 6

Have you noticed how loud people are talking these days? I think it’s because the TV or the radio is on so many hours, and we have to talk over the commercials (which, by the way are much louder than the actual program you’re watching). It’s been going on for years. It’s a way to literally keep your attention so they can seduce you. The people who come up with these commercials are like dope peddlers. They make us feel like we need all this stuff to make us feel more beautiful, get the guy or gal of our dreams, have a spotless, grand house with spotless children, the whitest teeth, the best body, etc. ad infinitum. It’s all bullshit. Then on the sixties’ re-run station, they have commercials that are “targeted” for my supposed age group. I don’t want to hear about catheters, adult diapers, reverse mortgages, what new drug I should ask my doctor about. That’s what they call demographics. They don’t know me, the bastards! I don’t use any of those things and don’t want to be reminded of them. That’s not entertainment. That’s insulting. But that’s why I need to keep Grace going in my life. There isn’t much of it on TV. I’m talking about the shows, not the commercials. All I have to do is mute all that trash, then get back to Mary Tyler Moore or Rhoda.

The other media stuff I really enjoy is Youtube, Vimeo,iTunes and, of course,the blogs,from my fellow mental health activists. It’s hard to come to terms with but I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time on my laptop, for too much time, day in, day out, enjoying each and every blog I read, commenting and receiving nice replies. And I haven’t given up Pinterest. Just cutting back. So, I’m in need of Grace. Lots of It. If I don’t have Grace in my life, I’ll never be able to get over this mountain of neglect to other things that are equally important, and in some cases, more important.

I’m not proud to say I haven’t touched my almost finished writing project, which must get done for me to move on to the next writing project, which has been sketched out, but just sits in a file, possibly forever (if I don’t get off my butt and quit distracting myself with media. Which means I have to stop reading so many blogs. But how much is so many?

I’m a 60 something woman who has the spirit of a 30 something. That’s all well and good, but I have a mental illness which needs daily maintenance, proper doses of medication, and therapy, and Grace. With a big G.

Help….

Love,
Nana

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.

 

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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.