December 2013

No Comments

We’re getting to the end. It’s almost here. Tonight’s the night. I’ll be at the Hilton Hyatt Hotel. Again, I will raise my glass of cranberry juice on the rocks with a twist of lime, to welcome a new year. My husband and a few other pros who live here, some on a break from the road, and a colorful assortment of locals will play through the night and sing Auld Lang Syne at midnight. The place will be packed, and I’ll see a lot of familiar faces. I’ll get and give a lot of hugs and smiles.

Everyone will be talking way too loud for my ears to endure any longer than a bit past the magic hour of midnight. That’s why I bring earplugs. But I WILL get through it because I’ll have the option of leaving whenever it gets to be too much. Always plan B. For me, that’s one of the advantages of abstaining from alcohol these days. And my Xanax will be with me to calm down the sometimes excruciating social anxiety that seems to rear its head this time of year.

I realize that,for many,it’s just the day after the day before. There may be a good amount of sentiment, but generally, many people are capable of feeling just lighthearted and happy. What is still known, in some circles, as” normal”. But my brain, along with many other brains I’m sure, seems to get an inordinate rush of endorphins when the countdown starts, which increases in intensity as the seconds tick away, getting to the literal end of the present year. How amazing! How powerful those last ten seconds are. How we all come together,like little kids waiting for the bell to ring, so we can get out of school.

Then the noisemakers and cheers, the band playing Auld Lang Syne while confetti flutters down and balloons bounce and explode and we shout above the din, “Happy New Year!” How can anyone resist? I can’t help but feel like taking it all the way, through the roof?! New Years Eve is truly a big bipolar moment for me. It just is!

I’m the kind of person who gets a kick out of all that silly stuff; corny music, stupid little hats, balloons popping over my head, those ridiculous noise makers and all the drunks spilling their champagne over anyone they come into contact with, while tripping over themselves. The absolute hilarity of it all! And it’s nice to know that this hilarity is happening in countless places, all over the world!

I will toast the new year with a sense of hope and anticipation. Renewed determination. And perhaps, a bit of dread, depending upon my state of mind. It’s been a roller coaster for my family this year and I know, without a doubt, that this weary world, along with the people who inhabit it, is suffering in ways we humans should be ashamed of. A big hope of mine is that, in 2014, we will take better care of each other and this terribly violated, beautiful planet.

Since mindfulness is a word that’s been popping up around the blogosphere and the media, I hope we can all give it a try this coming year. It’s a good thing. I practiced it years ago, and I’m ready to bring it back into my daily life. A good resolution. Life is just better when we practice mindfulness. It just works. And I’m in the process of learning all I can about BPD because I have a close family member who seems to meet the criteria. I can’t diagnose, but I can inform myself. We’re doing this as a family, which feels really good! It’s got to start there. Mental health issues are a family thing. So, iff you visit my Twitter page, you’ll see a lot of BPD stuff there. As I said before, I don’t just do Bipolar. There is so much to learn. I don’t want to miss any of it. We owe it to each other. And none of us know how much time we have.

I wish I could put down in words,here in my blog, all that I and my family have been through in 2013, but some things must remain off the page. One of my children knows I have this blog, and I really have to respect their privacy. Things don’t happen overnight. But I think, in the not so distant future, I’ll be able to take off my sunglasses and hats. My kids are proud of how far I’ve come since my diagnosis thirteen years ago. I may get brave this year and add some videos of me making a quick appearance, sans the props. Hey, it’s a New Year. And I can always wear a wig!

I’ve been around long enough to realize it’s all about NOW. And as someone whose been on this planet a while, hear me out. THE TIME IS NOW.

I’ve got plenty of black to choose from in my closet. And lots of colorful scarves to brighten me up. And a new travel size makeup kit that comes with its own silver zippered case! Everything, all in one spot, when I feel the need to rush to the powder room and see if my face is still on. Or, if my lips have disappeared, refresh them with lipgloss. Or I may need a good splash of cold water to relieve the agony of the noise, the bodies bumping into each other, keeping up conversation, and all the stuff that goes with generalized anxiety and New Years Eve. I can even refresh my makeup in the stall because there’s a mirror in the silver case, so I don’t have to go through the unbearable act of looking at myself in the mirror, while another female is looking at me looking at myself!

So, that’s what my New Years Eve celebration is going to look and probably feel like.

I want to thank everyone who stopped by my Twitter page and blog these past six months, and I TRULY feel welcomed and a part of this marvelous group of human beings who are working hard to fight the stigma of mental illness. And a humble thanks for the TWIMAward for Best New Blog. How did that happen? I think others deserved it more, but I gratefully accept it.

Here’s a toast to all and a resolution to continue this fight for a very important cause. We can do it! Let’s kill the damn monster of stigma!! Together!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
P.S. I decided to stay home and finish reading “Stop Walking On Eggshells” Choices are good!

PEACE OF MIND AND LOVE TO YOU!
Nana

No Comments

2013 has been a most difficult year for so many people around the world, and I can’t wait to be done with it! A lot of sadness, disappointment, life threatening diagnosis for two family members, the death of two great musician friends within a month, and tremendous anxiety came to visit this year. I’ve done my best to roll with it. Now I just need to get through the holidays with as much grace as I can muster.

All I can do is step into the New Year with renewed determination to walk on and work hard to fight stigma and prejudice. That is worth living for. That is worth fighting for.

December 27, 2013

P.S. Congratulations to all the 2013 winners and runner-up champs of the TWIMAwards!!

I was absolutely stunned and grateful to receive (by public vote!) the honor of Best New Blog 2013 from TWIMAwards! A humble and heartfelt thanks for the nomination (which,in itself, is an honor!) from My Crazy Bipolar Life (and also with congratulations for her second Award!) to the kind people who voted for me, and most importantly, all my fellow bloggers (and Jonny Benjamin, our first TWIMAward winning Vlogger!) who have inspired me to speak up for the millions of us suffering from the demon of stigma. We are all in this struggle together and everyone who is fighting stigma deserves an award! So I dedicate mine to you!

May the coming New Year bring about enlightenment, compassion, and a renewed dedication to continue the fight to eliminate stigma for good!!

Giving up? Not an option.

Love,
Nana xx

No Comments

TRIGGER WARNING!!!!!THIS POST CONTAINS REFERENCES TO ALCOHOL AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

December 18, 2013

I’m sitting on my bed and my husband is snoring next to me. Our little cha-weiner dog, Sammie, is lying quietly between us. I’m trying to get a song out of my head. There is always a song in my head. I think it’s a common thing but my “song loops” get annoying. Like right now. Sometimes the same song goes on for days. It’s the fourth or fifth day of a certain song. Sometimes it’s just the chord progression. Or just the melody. I discovered a new one a couple of weeks ago and put it in my video collection on my Twitter page. The person who wrote and sang it is in the first and last scenes. He has debilitating anxiety and panic attacks, but he’s making a lot of videos lately and performing at small venues, and he’s developed a cult following. You can hear the pain in his voice. He’s a visual artist and poet, as well. I like him because he’s real. He said in an interview he’d never go on Twitter. I can understand. But I’m twittering for a worthwhile cause, not myself. And that’s o.k.

I’m a musical person, play a bit of guitar, danced for many years, so I tend to dissect music and become familiar with all the parts, every instrument, all the colors,the emotions and nuances, until it’s embedded in me, in my body, as well as my brain. That’s what music does. To everyone, I hope. Whether we’re conscious of it, or not. Music is meant to be listened to. To be brought into our lives and our hearts. It’s one of the most incredible gifts of life that we can choose to be alone with or share with others. Or create, simply or sumptuously. You don’t have to make a living at it, or even read music. Most of us don’t, but music needs ears to hear it. Without someone to listen, what’s the point?

Music is ever-present in my life. The backdrop, so to speak. Has been since I was born. My mother sang professionally and paid the mortgage, gave me ballet lessons, bought me good clothes. Music has put the bread and butter on the table. It’s done so, all my life and for the seventeen years my husband and I have been together. It’s taken me to places I dreamed of visiting. Some to return to, again and again.

London. – The West End, a month at a time, three years in a row.. God, I loved it! I love the streets of London. And traveling? You get really good at packing and waking up for a lobby call at 4AM, with only two hours sleep, when you’re in one country one day, and have to catch a flight to be at the next soundcheck, in another country, some hours later. You spend a lot of idle time in airports. But you see a lot, if you look closely. I never tired of it. Meeting people from all over the planet, seeing old friends, and making new ones. Waking up in Tuscany, or Bremen, or Vienna, or The Dominican Republic, or Tokyo. Yes, I’ve been lucky.

Many times, while traveling, I would have painful panic attacks and social anxiety. During my days on the road, and at home in California, I’d have a couple of nips to loosen me up, then have one or two or three more at the venue, while watching my husband perform with whomever he was gigging with. If I had time, I’d find a liquor store and buy a small bottle of vodka to hide in my purse. Of course, I’d get a buzz when I took my Klonopin or Xanax. It worked for a long time. Then it stopped.

I’ve been writing about my mental disorders, which include alcohol abuse, and it’s helping me to remember where I’ve been and where I am now. On a daily basis, to keep myself balanced as best I can, I do remind myself. I see the road I’ve taken, and where I stand now, in the present. I can’t help but remind myself. In doing so, maybe it will help someone to seek treatment and change their life for the better. Because, it REALLY does get better! If you do the work. And it’s so worth it to do the work. I’m worth it. You’re worth it!!

The way I addressed my disorders in the past and the way I deal with them now are two completely different chapters of my life. They have both affected my life in the most profound way. My disorders are at the forefront of my daily life. They come before music. They come before anything and anyone. They MUST be managed on a DAILY basis, sometimes minute by minute. A balancing act,that so many people in my special community can relate to.

So many times, in a given day, I fall off the wire. Thankfully, I choose to get back on! Writing is a good reminder to do all I can to stay on the wire;holding my umbrella of tools to help me maintain the sometimes delicate balance..

My husband and I do two things every Christmas. He plays piano and we sing Christmas carols, just the two of us. It’s hilarious! We always laugh our butts off! Then we watch “Scrooge”, the old one, a British production made in the fifties, black and white. Jolly good fun!

Quite a few years ago, when asked what I wanted for Christmas, I couldn’t come up with anything. That remains to this day. It’s turned into “What I Don’t Want For Christmas”.

What I don’t want for Christmas, and hopefully, for the rest of my life, is to forget what I went through, where I had to go, and what I had to do, with the help of so many wonderful people-to get to where I am NOW.

We’ll be spending Christmas Eve with my children. My granddaughter is making lemon cupcakes! That’s what I DO want for Christmas!

I wish us all a Happy and Very Merry Christmas!!

No Comments

After two and a half years with my first psychiatrist, during what would turn out to be our last face to face meeting, she said, “My bag of tricks is empty. There’s nothing more that I can do for you.”

She fired me. But she scribbled down the names of three doctors to check out. She said she would keep treating me until I found another psychiatrist to replace her.

I took it pretty hard. It felt like I failed the “good patient test”. She didn’t want me anymore. She gave me the slip. By the time I got home, she became the bitch that I didn’t want in my life anymore!

All the cocktails, tweaks and side effects of psychotropic drugs left me exhausted and more depressed than ever. It was time to set my own course and beat this monster by myself. I would use my bipolar whits to come up with something that worked. Without the damn drugs.

Since I was only on Lithium to stabilize my moods and Xanax for anxiety, I decided to immediately stop Lithium, and keep taking the Xanax because it worked well, so why not keep it going? I only took Xanax as needed anyway.

My soon to be ex-psychiatrist gave me a script for three refills of both meds and that was it. Never again, would I step into that little home she turned into her office. It looked like a lived-in home, except the porch was turned into a waiting room. It was tastefully decorated with various objects from her extensive travels around the world with her husband. At times, I found it hard to concentrate on looking her in the eye because when we talked about my medications, their side effects, and how was I was doing mood-wise, I was getting decorating ideas as well. She DID have a flair for glamour and placement and would have made a great interior designer! She reminded me of a blonde Mary Tyler Moore. But when I woke up in a mixed state, after a fitful nap, along with terrifying anxiety,and called her, she began screaming at me to never call the number she gave me to use, in case of an emergency!!! Maybe that’s why she fired me, I thought. She lost her cool with a patient. She screamed at a patient! Maybe she needed a shrink more than I did!

That’s when I realized that we weren’t a good fit. And I had every right to move on. It was up to me to manage my illness. But where was I to start? I decided to start with myself. I needed to do some homework.

I searched the library and the internet and found some articles about diets that worked for some people with mental disorders, and decided to try to manage my illness with a natural approach. Food as medicine. And fish oil for omega-3’s. In the past, I’d been on macrobiotics, juiced (way before it became mainstream), and stayed away from red meat, and too much dairy. In the past, when I watched what I ate, I felt pretty good. But I was twenty something, not fifty-three. Would it work this time? Would I be able to find that elusive balance for my brain that I so longed for?

I decided to eliminate dairy altogether. Within two weeks, I was back on cottage cheese and crackers.

Then I tried just brown rice and vegetables, with papaya, avocado and apples. The brain fog lifted. I went a month, then broke down and bought a rib eye, and a box of donuts. My “diet” became a series of failed attempts to manage my illness. I started to have, let’s say, elimination problems. Spent a lot of time in the bathroom.

I gave up trying to discipline myself, ate whatever I wanted and didn’t lose a pound. And again, I wouldn’t give up drinking. I read about portions. Don’t eat any animal protein that’s bigger than the palm of your hand. I cut down on my portions and lost ten pounds. It became apparent to me that it was all about portions. I could eat whatever I wanted. I just had to keep the portions down! And I cut down on the alcohol.

After losing ten pounds, I was one third of the way to ridding my exhausted body of all the weight I’d gained since going on meds. I also credited the weight loss to switching from hard alcohol to wine. I read that it was good to have a glass of red wine every day. So why not two, or three? Or a half glass in the middle of the night, from the stash I kept on my side of the bedroom closet. I started buying two bottles at a time. One for the kitchen, and one to hide so my husband wouldn’t know exactly how much I was really consuming. Always hiding.

Then came the mania! I plowed through the house, cleaning every surface I could find, dusted into delirium, and organized my kitchen with an actual place for everything! I was proud of myself. I wrote letters to old friends from high school, walked a couple of miles a day, made regular trips to the hair salon, kept my eyebrows immaculate,and my nails manicured. I journaled until I had a whole shopping bag full of little notebooks. I was functioning on three hours of sleep every night. I started wearing makeup again,even when I wasn’t going anywhere, even when I went to bed. I talked nonstop to anyone who would listen. I felt fantastic!

Then I crashed. Hard!

My father came to live with us a year after my diagnosis and within a few days I knew it wasn’t going to work. Living with him was hell. He had no one else in the world. The lady friend he had lived with for twelve years put her house up for sale and moved to an assisted living home in Florida. He had no other family that he was on speaking terms with, and I was an only child, so that was it. I thought I would be able to handle living with the 86 year old man who cheated on my mother and abandoned me, but it wasn’t working. And he wouldn’t go to the VA home because he had a really nice setup with us and wasn’t going to go quietly.

I’ll save my stories about Dad for another time.

Shortly after Dad moved in with us, we realized we needed more room so we found a nice two bedroom, two bath condo over the hill from Malibu. It still wasn’t big enough for the three of us.

After three months without a mood stabilizer, gaining back the weight I’d lost,countless mixed states, and a few incidents of psychosis, my husband had had enough. The dishes were disappearing again. Smashing them against the wall was what I did to ease the rage. It worked well. Living with my father was a royal pain, but living with a wife who was nuts again? My husband was at the breaking point. He told me he knew I wasn’t taking my medication and ordered me to find another doctor.

I found the referral list which was tucked in my secretary and made an appointment. I knew that I had the right to refuse medication, but maybe another psychiatrist would give me what I wanted.

And he did.

I told this very nice young man, who specialized in adult disorders, that I wanted to try some alternative to medication.
“Well, there is a diet you could try.”
“Yes!”
“O.K.. but it’s pretty restricted, and you’ll need to take fish oil and some other supplements.”
“Whatever you say, doctor! I’m just not ready to take meds again. I can’t stand the side effects.”
“No problem. Let’s see if this helps.”

I floated out of his office, feeling like I’d grabbed the gold ring on a carousel..this guy was going to work with me! Once again, no meds, just a diet, but maybe I’d have luck this time. There was a variety of foods to eat, and a number of those I couldn’t, but this time, I’d be under psychiatric care! I was extremely optimistic. (Probably because I was still extremely manic!). I’d have to see him every two weeks for a couple of months, but he was willing to try! And I still had health insurance, so I didn’t have to worry about the cost for seeing him twice a month.

I worked hard, slipped a few times, but I did feel better. For a while. About three months. I even weaned myself off the booze! Again, my husband had evidence that I wasn’t an alcoholic. I just went through phases and when I really put my mind to it, I was victorious!

But six weeks was all I could do. I found myself slipping into the abyss again. I spent most of my time in bed, crying uncontrollably or just feeling like a failure. I’d go days without a shower, stopped the manicures, the makeup, going out. I just gave up.

I started using my father as a target for my uncontrollable temper. All he had to do was look at me sometimes and I’d go into a tirade.

Food as medicine? I tried, but failed. And I was falling fast. I knew I was a loser. I’d fought a battle, on my own terms, and lost. Holding up my white flag, I told my psychiatrist that it was time to write the scripts. I hit a wall, and it hurt too much…

Hello Depakote, hello Ambien. Let’s see if we can do something together….

No Comments

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS MATERIAL THAT MAY TRIGGER SOMEONE WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES AND DRUG AND ALCOHOL PROBLEMS OR ADDICTIONS!!!!

After the humiliating experience of being “fired” by my first psychiatrist, I decided that I was through with some doctor giving me a script for powerful drugs that did nothing except make my life worse than ever.

I was going to find my own way out of the muck and mire by myself. It’s my life and my body. And no one has the right to tell me I should be shoving a bunch of pills down my throat that did nothing but screw up my life, more than I ever could ever have imagined! I vowed to be the captain of my own ship.

There was a problem. I couldn’t tell my husband I was going off my meds because even though the side effects of the drugs,(especially the weight and Lithium tremens), were challenging and extremely uncomfortable at times, I wasn’t having manic episodes or rapid cycling anymore. I didn’t scream or lie in bed in a fetal position when psychosis came to pull me apart.

I was miserable with all the negatives, but my husband was extremely happy to have a wife who wasn’t climbing the walls or spewing expletives while throwing things at him, at all hours of the day and night. He appreciated having a full set of dishes in the cupboard once again because I was done with throwing plates against the wall! Or calling up my friends at 2AM. All that crazy behavior disappeared because of those wondrous little pills!

Yet, empty liquor bottles continued to surface. As time went by, my husband began to see a pattern. How could he not? One can only go so long, finding half empty pints, empty half pints, empty beer bottles, tiny 1.99 bottles of vodka,in the most ridiculous places and not think that there is a problem! If I heard his car coming into the garage, wherever I happened to be in the house, on the porch, or God forbid, in the garage with a bottle in my hand, as the electric door started to rise, the bottles sometimes went flying out of my hands, landing, hopefully in or behind something where it wouldn’t be noticed.

Naturally, there was evidence everywhere. I’d go through closets, cupboards, troll the garage, to find the damn bottles and put them in the large trash bin outside, on a weekly basis, because I knew he was onto something. The confrontation was coming. It was inevitable.

Going off Lithium was easier than I thought it would be. Within the first week, I notice a bit of a weight loss, which brought me hope in getting my figure back. With Seroquel out of the picture, I felt the pounds should be dropping off at steady pace. And they did.

I didn’t notice any change in my mood swings. But I did have a good amount of physical energy and soon the house began to look like it had before my diagnosis. Clean and organized. I even got back into the habit of buying fresh flowers for the dining room table and plucking roses for our bedroom.

Walking my sweet spaniel became a daily, enjoyable routine again. And my husband never caught on. I kept the bottle of Lithium on my bed, making sure to throw away one pill a day, so he wouldn’t suspect anything.

END OF PART IV

No Comments

WARNING: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN TRIGGERS FOR THOSE WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES, DRUG USE AND ALCOHOLISM!!!!.

After nine years of taking powerful medications for Bipolar Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Agoraphobia, I continued drinking alcoholically, (with a couple of years of smoking pot thrown into the mix), I’m sometimes amazed that I’m still here. I can only give The Almighty credit. That’s one of the mysteries of life. You just don’t know how you’re still walking this planet after killing yourself a little each day.

I continued to drink on pretty much a daily basis. But jet lag sometimes got in the way. I had the great opportunity of going on the road, seeing the world with my husband,for three years, with some special people who made me a part of their “family”. When we came home for a break, I was still able to keep up a good front for my grown children whenever we went north to visit them. I began to love staying in good hotels and spending time in places I only dreamed I’d see. I became a bipolar gypsy and drank my way around the world!

I don’t know what I’d have done without my anxiety medication because I never knew when a panic attack was coming. It became a regular practice – take an anxiety pill before getting on a plane. When I went on tour with my husband, we flew a lot, especially in Europe. I have no idea how many times I’ve been on a plane. I’d have to look through the old itineraries and passports.

Except for my first flight to Florida, at age six, where I got to pass out gum to all the passengers before touchdown, I couldn’t fly without “help”; without some form of sedation. I had Severe Fear Of Flying. If I was flying cross-country, I’d have to have at least two, maybe three cocktails, along with my anxiety med to make it without freaking out. If I was flying to Japan, I had plenty of time to drink, eat, watch a movie, sleep, eat and drink again! Time went out the window on a ten hour plane ride. I got to love traveling so much, I even lost my fear of flying! I had the magic recipe to calm all my fears… as long as I had Xanax and a drink, everything was A, O.K.!

I had a breakthrough episode on New Year’s Eve, 2001, and spoiled a night out with my in-laws at a club in Marina Del Rey. I was so out of control, on the way to my in-laws boat, I opened the door on the 101 and threatened to jump out. It was humiliating to have my sister-in-law put me to bed on the boat, while my husband went to the club without us. We were supposed to be at the marina, welcoming the New Year as a family but I ruined it. That was the first of many manic episodes, mixed states, and absolute psychosis that would go on for years. My husband never knew what he was coming home to. And when I was home alone, we’d most likely have conversations over the phone that turned into heated arguments. I wan’t a happy drunk. I was a bitchy drunk who became a downright mean drunk. A dangerous combination. Active drunk. Severe mental illness. Dangerous.

I will share a couple of incidents before moving on…..

My husband and a great band of L.A. and Brazilian professionals got together to provide music for the wedding of a sound engineer and his fiancé in Malibu. It was a gorgeous day, and the handsome couple were taking their vows out in the open air. The reception would take place right afterwards, with my husband and a number of other really fabulous players performing (and jamming!), as a gift to the bride and groom.

There was a bar set up at one end of the venue. Of course that’s the first thing I looked for. Forget the floral arrangements, and the trellis of white roses that made a canopy for the bride and groom to stand under, face to face, while they became man and wife. All I cared about was the party afterwards!

When the short ceremony was over, I made a quick trot to the bar and ordered a vodka with cranberry juice. After who knows how many refills, my husband came over and ordered an iced tea. He could see I was getting smashed and called me on it. I became belligerent, and he had no choice but to leave the wedding, drive almost twenty miles to take me home, then go back and do his job with the band. When I woke up the next day, there was a huge basket of beautiful flowers on the dining room table and a thank you card attached for us. It had been placed on the table that was reserved for us at the reception. It hurt to think I wasn’t able to keep my cool anymore – that I couldn’t even hold it together for my husband and for my friends, at their wedding. (As I read this post to my husband, he reminded me to include that on the way home, I also broke the windshield of our car with my angry foot. By that time, I was in a blackout.

Even though none of our friends ever mentioned my drinking,(remember, alcohol and weed were just a given in our circles) I knew that I couldn’t trust myself anymore. It was a wakeup call. I became afraid of myself, but I couldn’t stop the booze. It was my crutch. I couldn’t put it down. I’d have to get myself in the right frame of mind. If I just stayed off the road. If I would try, one more time, to control my drinking. If I could just give it up for a while. If I could find the right therapist. If my husband would stay home. If I could… If I could… If I could….

I was on Lithium for two and a half years. I hated the tremens. I hated the way it affected my walking downstairs. I hated the weight. I hated myself. I knew that Seroquel wasn’t helping in the weight department and if I had to give up the drink or it, drink won out. I remember trying a few other meds. Geodon, Trazadone, Serzone, but the “zones”, they did nothing. My psychiatrist told me that she had “used every trick in her bag” for me and perhaps I should find another doctor.

I was pulverized. I WAS FIRED BY MY SHRINK! I was shocked and humiliated. I was stunned when she told me that she specialized in child psychiatry! I never thought to ask her. I didn’t have a clue about psychiatrists specializing in a particular age group! I never thought about “interviewing” my prospective physician, finding out where they were at – what they specialized in.

She gave me three references and told me she’d still treat me until I made the transition to a new psychiatrist. I got into my car and told myself I’d had enough of psychiatry. I was going to tackle this manic depression by myself. I decided to go off my mood stabilizer first, then wean myself off Xanax. Then I’d stop drinking…

Looking back, I’m pretty sure my first psychiatrist knew I was an alcoholic. I just never admitted it. And I wasn’t done yet…

END OF PART III

No Comments

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SUICIDAL IDEATION: DISCRETION IS ADVISED!!!!!!

DUAL DIAGNOSIS, MY BALANCING ACT, PART II

After six months on psych meds, I felt sentenced to a life of darkness and brooding over what could have been, had I not been so unlucky in the crap game of life. What was the point of taking pills for my brain when the rest of my body was turning into something I couldn’t stand to be carrying around anymore? The extra thirty pounds I’d gained made it hard on my heart and the first time I got chest pains scared the hell out of me. And every month or so, I would have another one. I was sure I was going to have a heart attack at some point in time and imagined what it would be like. What would it feel like? Painful, of course! Would I survive? Would my husband and kids take care of me? Or would I be alone and just die.

I still felt that the pills were doing me much more harm than good, so at my monthly appointment I asked my psychiatrist if I could try another anxiety med (before I gave up altogether). She kept me on Lithium, but substituted Klonopin with Xanax. I was glad I had the presence of mind to realize that if I went off the meds, things would definitely get worse, and it would be o.k. to try something different and see what happened. So, out with Klonopin and in with Xanax. At least if one thing didn’t work, I could try something else. Xanax definitely worked better than Klonopin, which made me too lethargic. And Xanax gave me a nice little buzz with only one glass of wine or a shot of vodka, which meant I’d be drinking less. Maybe this was the combination that would work!

Morning used to be my favorite time of day, but since my diagnosis and the meds that went with it, getting out of bed was a real chore, and making coffee and cooking a nice breakfast was no longer enjoyable. My husband always loved whatever I cooked for him and never failed to compliment me, even on the presentation. But it wasn’t long before I just wanted to withdraw from life. Let him fend for himself in the kitchen. Even taking my sweet cocker spaniel for a walk around the block seemed like a daunting task.

As the months went by, I finally admitted to myself that it might not be just the meds that were making my life so miserable. Maybe it was the booze I was pouring into my body on a daily basis. Up until that point, I never gave a second thought to the possibility that my growing habit of ingesting a good amount of alcohol might affect the way the meds were working (or in my case, not working!). I’d had bouts with my drinking in the past, and even went to AA for a while and stayed sober for six months. I had the willpower to stop, if I wanted to. If I wanted to stop, I could. Or, if I just didn’t have it around the house or in my purse.

I decided to take alcohol out of the equation. For three or four days, I was a mess. I knew I was going through withdrawal, and became irritable and agitated. I’d pick on my poor husband for the slightest things.

He wasn’t educated. My poor husband didn’t have a clue. For years, he saw me go on and off with drinking and he believed I just got out of control once in a while. Being a musician, he was around people who drank all the time. It was part of his professional life. And almost every dressing room had whatever the performer wanted. But he never drank on the job and only had an occasional glass of wine or beer. Maybe once or twice a year.

When my husband couldn’t take anymore of my temper and outbursts, he sat me down and asked what was wrong. Why was I bitching about every little thing – taunting him into arguments; acting more insane than I was before my diagnosis.
“Don’t you understand? I’ve stopped drinking!”
“Why did you do that?”
“I thought it would help me feel better. But it’s obviously not working.”
“Well, you’re not an alcoholic. I’ve only seen you out of it a couple of times. Then you stopped. If you can stop, you’re not an alcoholic. Right?” He was so naive.
“Right!”
“So, just have one drink, with dinner.”

I tried having one drink a night, but one was never enough, so I very quickly descended into what became a daily ritual: taking meds as prescribed, with a growing amount of alcohol. I drank my “one drink with dinner”, then proceed to “closet drink” through the night. My husband never caught on. As I’d crawl into bed, obviously loopy, he thought it was just the meds. He was in the middle of writing, getting charts ready, and recording. It never occurred to him that perhaps the reason why my meds weren’t working was because I was drinking increasing amounts of alcohol. Denial. Denial. Denial. What a beast!

Vodka would eventually become my liquid drug of choice. Even though I hated the taste and the way it burned on its way down, it worked fast. In fact, I didn’t like the taste of ANY alcoholic beverage, except champagne. I would order champagne cocktails when I accompanied my husband to one of his L.A club gigs, but always made sure to have a stash of vodka at the ready. It worked faster,and besides, I could fit a pint in my purse. I even went out and bought a bunch of handbags equipped with not one, but many different sizes of zippered pouches. I would buy the tiny $1.99 bottles and they were so easy to store if I just wanted to have a shot in a social situation. Exusing myself and going to the ladies room to have a quick nip became a regular thing. I didn’t think twice about it. A couple of mints, and my husband never knew. Nobody knew. They were all drinking, too.

Pretty soon, I had empty bottles all over the house. My husband would find one, show it to me, and say,
“Look what I found in the garage, next to the washing machine.” Or a box of books. Or the linen closet!
He was in a state of denial that, at times, made me laugh just thinking about it! I was a good con artist!

And he never called me on all the empty bottles. I told myself I just needed to be more careful about where I dumped them. My husband was, what some call a “normie”. He could take or leave a drink. Most of the time, he left it.

I’d carefully bag the empty bottles before putting them in the big trash can outside. Or wrap them in newspaper, or just dump them in the garbage pail, under the kitchen sink, making sure they were covered with something on top – usually more garbage!

I knew in my heart I had crossed the line with my drinking many years ago. But I couldn’t admit that I was an alcoholic. Usually, I was pretty good at faking it, so no one noticed. And most of the people I hung out with were drinkers, too. They liked to party, and so did I. Even though my drinking would get out of hand for a while, depending on the circumstances of my life, I’d eventually get back into control. But I was lying to myself. I couldn’t accept the fact that those days were gone.

I began spending more and more time running out to get bottles of wine, three sizes of vodka, a six-pack of beer, then dash home to put the small bottles in my various purses, find different hiding places for the pints and half pints, and the big bottle of vodka went under the mattress, on my side of the bed. My drinking began costing a lot of time, money, and my health. And my sanity. And the sanity of the person I loved so dearly. My husband. Neither of us could sit down and confront the awful reality that became just another part of our life. We both just skirted around the truth because it would be too painful to do otherwise. And alcohol did take the pain away. But for only a while. I was on a treadmill and I couldn’t get off.

Around the first anniversary of my diagnosis, I started having suicidal ideation. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate way of getting out of my pain? And wouldn’t my kids and my husband be better off without me?

But I didn’t stop taking my meds.

END OF PART II

No Comments

DUAL DIAGNOSIS: MY BALANCING ACT, PART I

Dual diagnosis. I guess the best way to begin is to go back to December 21, 2000, when I heard the psychiatrist say, “I think you have Bipolar Disorder.” This may sound strange, but after she said those words, I imagined pink champagne bubbles floating down over my head and into my body. Like it did when I stood, two years earlier, over Charles Dickens’ tomb at Westmiinster Abbey. Only, with Mr. Dickens, the champagne bubbles came up through my feet! A great sensation.

I remember smiling and crying, at the same time. I remember the sun coming through the window, making me squint, and I felt a sense of relief. REAL relief! The same thing one of my cousins was diagnosed with! I was grateful to my cousin for having shared this very personal information with me. A few years before, when I’d been told, in conversation, with another family member, something about them attempting suicide, after the death of a parent, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that someone so happy and vibrant, such a fun-loving person, who always seemed to be REALLY enjoying life, would attempt to end it.

During long distance phone calls, my cousin would try to describe the symptoms. What it was like to be in a psych ward for a month, 5150s, the various cocktails of meds, the cops coming to take them away. And I must have put the information somewhere,in the back of my mind – because when I finally crashed ,from a manic high of I don’t know how many days, I looked at my husband, totally defeated, and told him I needed help. And I was scared. But I was finally able to admit that it was over. No more pretending. The elephant was going to have to leave the room.

So, I began my meds. Lithium, Seroquel, Klonipine. I was so knocked out by my first experience with psych meds, I slept for three days, while they went to work on my central nervous system.

I gained thirty pounds in three months, which was a first for me. I’d always been slim, even skinny. Too skinny at times. For the first time in my life, people would look at me and see me as overweight. I had a new body, and I didn’t like it. I had to buy a whole new wardrobe to go with it. And I made sure everything was black. I even dyed my hair black. My world turned black.

I couldn’t take the hormonal changes of menopause, which began in my late forties, so I’d been treating the side effects with herbs, which worked for a while, then went on synthetic hormones for almost two years. It was my gynecologist who gave me my new psychiatrist’s number. After four months, it became obvious that the combination of the hormones and the psych meds was not a good one. So, I let the hormones go. Back came the hot flashes that had me flying into the kitchen in the middle of the night, to open the freezer and stick my head in. The night sweats, and all the other things that made menopause, for me anyway, a real pain in the pratt. A very uncomfortable transition.

For the first time in my life, I felt ugly. I couldn’t stand to look at myself in a mirror. And the Lithium tremens were embarrassing and frightening. My handwriting, which used to bring compliments, turned into a strange scrawl, from my unsteady hand. I could barely decipher what I scribbled. Life wasn’t too fun anymore.

I began having visual hallucinations from the meds. Bubbles (different from the pretty ones that made me feel good). They came around the corners of my eyes and floated all around, most of the time – making it impossible to see without my reading glasses from the drug store. And a silhouette of a Victorian -era lady with a hug feathered hat, on a train, leaving a station, slowly became a daily visitor. The same little snippet of film. The same loop. The same stuff, every day. I felt like a freak. Like I was descending further down into a madness that was going to take the life out of me. I couldn’t walk downstairs anymore without putting two feet on each stair and holding on tight to a railing, if I was lucky enough to have one. Everything was out of control. I began wishing I’d never gone to the doctor. If I was insane before the meds, I felt more unhinged than ever – with them.

I wanted to stop taking medication for what was a hopeless daily scenario. I’d done a good deal of reading about Bipolar Disorder and came across the disturbing comment about some people being medication-resistant. That was me. They were talking about me.

There was no relief. No time during the day, while I was awake, or at night, with tortured attempts at sleeping a full eight hours – to feel that life was going to get better.

I became aware that life, as I’d known it, would never be the same. And it would take years before it would get better.

END OF PART I

No Comments

THANKSGIVING DAY, 2:30PM

After realizing that my MacBook Pro was left behind at the hotel where we spent the night on Thanksgiving Eve, my husband immediately called and told the front desk person to send someone up to our room to see if it was left behind.

“It should be there,” my husband said, almost yelling. I wanted to start using the F word, but I stopped myself. Hubby went upstairs, waiting for the front desk person to come back. And make distance from me, should I begin to go into a tirade.

I heard him yell, “Describe it? It’s a black bag and there’s a computer inside, with a power unit!” I went upstairs and stood in the hallway for a moment, then went in and sat on the bed. My husband put his hand over the phone and said, “They’ve found the bag, but the computer’s gone! I knew it! It’s my fault. I should have done a dummy check before we left, Dammit!”

I have what I like to call a quirk. I don’t know if it’s a bipolar thing, but sometimes, when an anxiety- provoking moment comes and someone’s getting upset and freaking out, I usually remain calm. A kind of numbness comes over me. Maybe it’s a way to prevent a panic attack. Maybe, after all these years, my body intuitively knows what to do. To wait a bit before releasing all that Cortisol into my system, when someone may be in need of assistance. Or maybe it comes from being a parent, and all the experience one gleans from calming down a frightened, boo-booed, or sleepy child who is is crying uncontrollably and needs Mommy to be a calming presence.

Again, my husband put his hand over the phone. “It’s gone, dammit! It’s my fault! I was in a hurry to get the hell out of there and forgot to check!!”
He started pacing the floor.
“Well, if it’s not in the case, it’s been stolen!”

In my state of numbness, I still had the presence of mind to backtrack.
“Tell them to look under the chair,” I said calmly.
“Under the chair?”
“Or under the mattress.”
He looked at me with a “Dah” expression on his face.
“When I went out for dinner last night, I hid it under the chair. And when we went to breakfast this morning, I stuck it under the mattress.”

He told the front desk guy to look under the chair and mattress. It was under the mattress.

“What would you like us to do, sir?”
“What do I want you to do? Keep it in your lost and found.”
“Would you like us to send it to you?”
“No, I’m going to come and get it now.”

He slammed down the phone. We put on our coats and marched downstairs, without saying a word until we got on the freeway. When we moved into the fast lane on the 101, I felt I’d done a awful thing. we were going to miss Thanksgiving dinner. My son-in-law, who has been through an awful year with health issues had worked all day to make his incredible turkey, with a secret family recipe. My side of the family is my two daughters, two sons in law and my granddaughter. I called Daughter#1 before leaving the condo and told her I was going back to Oakland with her stepfather to get my computer.
“Can’t you have them mail it? You can insure it.”
“No, G. doesn’t want them to ship it. He wants to pick it up now”
“Do you want us to wait?”

I knew she had invited a few friends, and told her not to wait, and that we’d come by as soon as possible. It was 2:45, and even with no heavy traffic, we wouldn’t make it back until after 4:30.

Again, traffic was light, and we got to Oakland in a little over an hour and a half. Within minutes, we were back in the car.

My husband was exhausted from driving to LA and back, the show in Oakland the night before, and then back again. When we got back to the condo, he collapsed on the couch and said he didn’t feel well and would it be alright if he stayed home. He’s been dealing with an ailment that, so far has eluded a diagnosis, so I called D#1, and told her I’d be coming alone. They’d just finished dinner.

When I got to D#1’s, I felt glad that I hadn’t let my husband go alone. He was right in insisting that I go with him. He knows what my triggers are and Thanksgiving Day is one of the biggest. For me, and millions of others. I could list the reasons why, but thinking about them to long can trigger me, even after all these years.

It wasn’t until I walked through the door that I realized how exhausted my daughters and son in law were. They tried not to show their disappointment, but I felt it. My granddaughter was very happy to see her Nana, and she sat at the table with me beaming. She’s growing up so fast. She’s not even 12 yet, and she’s as tall as I am. Just looking at her beautiful face with those incredible aquamarine eyes, calmed me down. There was no trace of the underlying tension I usually feel around the holidays. I was calm and intended to stay that way, no matter what. And it felt good. So, I savored it.

An assortment of irresistible desserts was placed on the table. D#1 kissed me, as did D#2 (mother of my granddaughter), then my beautiful, almost 12 year old grandchild kissed me and hugged me the way she used to, when she was smaller. Pieces of pumkin, pecan, apple & cherry pie, French pastries, and even a pumpkin bunt cake with creamy icing were plated and passed around. D#1 made up two plates of turkey and all the fixings to take home. I couldn’t figure out which dessert to try first. Then D#1 told me my son in law made the pecan pie. God, it was good!

So, I started my Thanksgiving dinner backwards! Dessert first (lots of it!), with the rest packed and ready to take home to my poor,stressed out,exhausted husband.

Then came the guilt. The awful, heavy guilt that always accompanies my not doing things for my girls, my granddaughter,for my family, perfectly. I want whatever I do for and with them, to be perfect. For most mothers, it’s not unusual. Unfortunately, perfection is only a dream ,in this life.

In the last four years, one month, and five days, I’ve worked very hard to stay sober, (which I’ve done!) take my meds as prescribed, do my therapy, stay involved with the wonderful friends in my support group;keep my word, and whenever plans are made, to suit up and show up. I like being dependable but it can be very difficult with Bipolar1, GAD, and Agoraphobia. It’s a juggling act! And I dropped a few this Thanksgiving.

This year, I made a choice. And it was difficult. And it felt awful.

When D#1 went outside to take a break, I felt there was some explaining to do. I knew she was disappointed and I’d let her down. I wasn’t there for her. But I had to do what was ultimately best for everyone. It would have been terrible if I went into a mixed state at dinner. When I explained to my daughter about the manuscripts that were stored and the videos my granddaughter made that were irreplaceable and in that machine, she said she understood. But guilt is guilt and even if it’s my ego paying visit, that’s the way it goes. I let my girls down. Granddaughter, she understood.

During my conversation with D#1, I told her that someday, what is stored on this computer will be something she and her sister and her niece will be grateful to have.

It wasn’t for me that I went to Oakland, it was for my family. For memories, and for my work, and most importantly, for my sanity. My stories? I want to hand down to my family. It’s part of my legacy. What I’m going to leave behind for them.

Even though I blew it by not making it to dinner, I still found myself feeling thankful. It pushed its way through the concrete of guilt and made me smile.

Before leaving, I discreetly handed D#1 an envelope with a sizable monetary contribution to the feast.(I’d already talked to son in law, and told him, in lieu of one of one of my never- too- memorable side dishes, I’d bring bucks.)

I’m not all that fond of Thanksgiving because it may be a celebration for a lot of folks, but for many of us, there can be great suffering at this time of year.

I also remind myself that it is a day of mourning for Native Americans. I made sure to pause and remember them in a prayer for peace.

What I am most thankful for is the best,long,and loving goodbye hug, from my darling of a grandchild, before I left. We rocked back and forth in an embrace I’ll remember all my life. It’s a special connection only a grandmother and grandchild can have. It’s a loving club, no one else can join! All you grandmothers out there- you understand!!

I was filled up with love, and went to bed tired but happy. And had my Thanksgiving dinner for breakfast!

And I forgave myself.

Peace of Mind & Love To You!
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.

 

img_1477 img_1494 life-always-gives-us img_1474 img_1468 img_1488

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.