February 2014

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My father will be turning 96 in a few weeks. After living with us for almost three years, in 2009, he moved up north to his final residence, spending his days, in a 24/7 assisted living building, at a VA home, which is around a three hour drive from where I live.

We talk every day. He calls me from a phone in the hall. They have no private phones. It’s pretty bare bones there. I can’t get him a computer or even show him things online on my laptop when we visit except photos because only certain staff members have online access. At times, my father gets so bored, it almost drives him mad. Today, he shared some sad news. News that happens quite a bit, in the ward that he’s on. A, man, two doors down from his room passed away. In the morning. In his bed.

“You know, honey, you get to live as long as I have, and all your friends on the outside are gone. And just when I get to know this guy, and establish a real friendship, he dies. I just can’t believe it. I just talked to him yesterday, and now he’s gone.”

I spent the next hour grabbing words that would help him. All I could do was let him know that I understand. That I have friends who have died. With no warning. That I can probably count my closest living friends on one hand.

Death is something that a lot of people with mental health issues think of every day. Those with mental illness and those who are friends and loved ones. Hearing of the passing of someone I may not have known very well, or for a long time, can still be something that brings me to my knees. It’s just that way, for me. I don’t need to describe any further how it feels. Or how we process it. It’s one of the great (and hardest to accept) mysteries of the human experience.

I’m grateful that lately, when the thought of death comes,( pretty much on a daily basis) I’m able to let it sit before me for a moment so I can acknowledge it, then it moves on. Sometimes by itself, or with a little help from a power greater than myself.

Acceptance is usually the tool I use to control my sometimes desperate fear of death. In an ironic way, acceptance keeps me from slipping back into psychosis, which hasn’t come around for almost four and a half years.

My husband and I have lost a lot of friends and some family members, all in a span of a couple of years. It hurts. I grieve, and I accept. And somehow, I keep hanging on.

Peace of Mind & Love to You,
Nana

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I thought I’d take a couple of minutes to just stream out what’s going on. Asthma back with a vengeance.
Steroids, in pill and inhaler form. I’m scared that it’s never going to go into remission. My GP said that when we find a new place, it shouldn’t have carpet. So there’s one more no-no on the list when I’m checking out a potential new place to live. I really prefer hardwood floors anyway. I like to see the dust, and sweep it away, rather than reminding myself that it’s time to get out the vacuum and make noise.

I’m also really sensitive to noise. It’s probably from all the loud music at all the concerts I had to attend, when I was working in the business. I couldn’t go out and take breaks, and I hated wearing earplugs, so I’m paying for it now.

I managed to clear out and dust my bedroom closet but there’s a growing number of boxes of things I want to take with me when we move. It’s awfully difficult to decide what to let go of and what to hang on to, but I’ve got to get rid of half of it. It’s just too much! I don’t live in a condo, I live in a warehouse!! That’s because we don’t have a garage. And the storage space we rent is jam packed already.

This chronic asthma is keeping me homebound. My daughter is dealing with her own asthma demons as well. Her ribs are sore, from coughing from bronchitis, so she’s bummed out about not taking her bi-weekly spin class. It gets me down, because there’s so much to do, and I can only do one or two things a day. Also, my insomnia is unmanageable, even with two meds that usually work. Perhaps it’s because tax time’s coming around, and we’ve got to get Obamacare going, which is ridiculously difficult to understand, and I just want to crawl under the covers and wait until it all goes away. And I’ve got a deadline for an essay I’m doing for an online mag.

It’s only been four and a half years since I got sober from alcohol, and having been diagnosed with Bipolar1, anxiety, and agoraphobia at 50, at times, I get pretty down on myself for what I call “the lost years”. I’ve had a lot of experience with alcohol, even before I starting drinking, and I don’t feel it’s out of place to give some “strong suggestions” on this matter. My higher power is telling me to go ahead and do it. So here goes, my dear ones.

For someone who is on powerful psych meds AND thinks (or knows) they have a drinking problem, try experimenting.

WARNING: I AM ONLY PRESENTING MY OWN OPINION AND SUGGESTIONS. THIS IS NOT MEANT TO TAKE THE PLACE OF THE OPINION OR DIAGNOSIS OR TREATMENT PLAN OF A PHYSICIAN OR HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONAL!!!!!

Cutting back, tapering off, or quitting altogether, or not quitting. YOUR choice. You’re the captain of your own ship, but mine kept sinking over and over until I surrendered and put the “plug in the jug”, as the twelve steppers say. And, yes, I did get sober with the help of AA and some pretty incredible people at my meetings. Movie stars, rock stars, comedians, writers, nurses, teachers, mothers, fathers, homeless, black, white, yellow, red, brown, whoever from wherever, and whatever, it doesn’t matter. They all come together to learn how to stay sober, one day at a time. And guess what? Many, and I mean MANY of them are mentally challenged as well!! And they get and STAY sober one day at a time!

I have so many friends from those rooms, those meetings, who have a mental health issue as well as substance abuse problems. They are in those rooms. It’s no big deal!!

I also belong to a 12 step program called DRA (DUAL RECOVERY ANONYMOUS). IT’S MY LIFESAVER!!! IT ADRESSES BOTH SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES. Someone from my AA group saw me at two weekly meetings, and invited me to come to a DRA meeting. She’s now my sponsor of over three years. God, it’s such a feeling!! Walking into a room and just being my Bipolar, anxiety ridden, agoraphobic, alcoholic self, and not having to explain!!!!!!! We’re an extended family. It’s my lifeline. They’re my people! If you tell them you haven’t taken a shower in four or five days, they give you that knowing smile. Been there. Me, too. Done that this week, too….

I’m only speaking from my own experience. My decision to get sober was made as I was lying on a bed in the emergency room for seven hours on October 18, 2009, after my husband came home from being on the road, and found me lying on the floor, upstairs, in and out of consciousness. The next day, I got my ass to a meeting. I haven’t looked back since. That was my last breakdown and the last time I touched a drop of alcohol. FOUR YEARS, FOUR MONTHS, AND SIX DAYS. A miracle. MY MIRACLE!!! AND GUESS WHAT, YOU CAN HAVE YOUR VERY OWN MIRACLE, TOO! BUT YOU’VE GOT TO DO A FEW THINGS FIRST. YOU’VE GOT TO LET GO!

Since October 19, 2009, I let go of the crutch that didn’t prevent me from falling and hurting myself, again and again. Over the years, I’ve hit a lot of bottoms. I’d get some time under my belt, then I’d blow it. But the longest I’ve ever gone without alcohol was two and a half years. And I wasn’t really sober. I did it out of spite. Wrong reason. Then, I was back out there for another ten years. And since I didn’t have a diagnosis yet, I was crazy. Plain crazy. Mad. Out of my mind because my mind was an awful place to be.

Now, I get through life on life’s terms (sorry for the cliche), and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Yes, Dorothy (or Don) there IS fun after admitting that one drink is too much, and that one drink can lead you to hospitals and even jails, or institutions. It isn’t fun. It’s just a slow way to the inevitable destruction of your body, mind, heart and the wreckage of your soul.

Alcohol abuse has been in my family for generations. Mental illness and alcoholism not only do a number on the person who deals with it, but the family suffers as well. In my opinion, even more. My children would have had a much different childhood had their parents not succumbed to the bottle at such a young age.

Sobriety? It’s tough, but it can be done. Staying sober? Hard but simple. I’m proof. Do you want it enough now? Or do you want to wait until you’re fifty, like me, to be diagnosed with a mental illness and kill yourself, a little every day, by taking meds AND abusing alcohol? Do you want to wait another nine years, after diagnosis, to keep getting the same results by taking both powerful psych meds AND drinking?

I’m getting a bit tired of reading on the internet about young people who go out and get drunk, while they take some pretty heavy duty meds. It’s Russian Roulette, my friend. If you want to stop such foolish behavior, then just go out and get help. Actually, you don’t have to go out, just pick up the phone and call a hotline. I’ve posted some below. Yes it’s hard, but you can do it. And you don’t have to do it alone! And eventually you’re going to love the way you will look and feel. Eventually you will learn to enjoy life without something that’s poison for your body, because that’s what it is for an alcoholic. Poison, plain and simple.

I’m lucky that things have worked out and my daughters are proud of me and demonstrate their love in many ways. But I worked and continue to work hard for my sobriety. I’m even staying sober while going through litigation I can’t talk about now, but certainly will when it’s over.

Look, we all have battles in this life, but if you reach out for help, for substance abuse help or any mental health challenge, things will change, for the better!

My husband? He’s a trooper. As time goes by, it just gets better. He really is my rock. So, I guess that’s why I still go on writing about my experiences. The problem is, I need to structure my days, by the hours.. I spend too much time online, “strongly suggesting”. But I want to share my lessons and my hope for you. And it DOES FEEL GOOD TO CONNECT AND GIVE EACH OTHER HOPE.

I’ve got to get ready for my phone session with my psychiatrist. He’s a good guy.

PEACE OF MIND & LOVE TO YOU!
NANA XX

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February begins another month of a debilitating depression that has pretty much put me in such a rut, my life is quite limited in terms of what I can and cannot do, and what I want and don’t want to do. It’s a minute by minute, footstep by footstep, walk through each day. I’m dealing with a lot of stress and anxiety. It comes from a court case that’s been dragging on for almost ten months, and will hopefully be done by the end of March. For almost a whole year, my life has been a series of stops and starts, as far as anxiety goes, and I’ve become quite OCD, as well.

After my diagnosis, in 2000, I spent four and a half years in and out of court, trying to get Social Security Disability. It really was a harrowing experience. They recorded the depositions of both myself and my psychiatrist. When it came time for me, I began to have a panic attack, and they had to stop recording, which made it even worse. And it was all for naught. A truly miserable experience.

My heart goes out to anyone who has to battle the courts to receive disability benefits. It’s an awful struggle, and to anyone who has filed a claim and is going through such a hassle, I wish you all the best and hope you win!!

I feel it’s not good to hold back the negatives. By expressing them, it tends to clear up the clutter in my mind, and helps me to accept what I can’t change, get going on what I can change, and be grateful for what I have. I also think I’m doing alright with acceptance. Accepting that when it’s a dark period, it will pass, because the one constant is change. It’s what I count on. Change. Dark and light – ebb and flow.

In order to ward off psychosis, which thankfully hasn’t come around to visit in many years, I’ve learned to express myself in what I feel are more effective ways, with my family, friends, and even people I meet in public places. We all have times when we feel that we’re not noticed, appreciated, or really loved. Life isn’t a popularity contest, and now that I’ve been around a few years, I don’t spin out about it.

After spending a lot of time alone, and online, I’ve realized that I’m pretty naive in some ways. When I’m not out and about, I forget how cruel life can be, and how I need to pay more attention to being aware of things not always being what they seem. I still have a tendency to think like a child. And I’m not talking about being childlike, which, to me, is a good thing.

Just recently, I’ve come to realize that I must work to create more effective boundaries, and keep watch over myself so I don’t get too far away from my own program of care. I can’t change the world, but I can change myself.

I have friends who pass no judgement on me, especially with my mental issues. And my support group. I can’t sing their praises enough! And I have found people here, in this mental health community who have been very kind to me. And I want to thank them for communicating with me, being who they are and doing what they do, to bring about positive changes for those affected by mental illness.

Being home day in and day out is isolating and sometimes it’s very lonely. But it all depends on my attitude. If I can just break the day down, and just do one or two things, it’s o.k.. I don’t know when I’ll be out of this phase. Hopefully, by spring.

I’ve got work to do. I’ve got to sort through everything I own, look at it, figure out if I truly need it, and if not, discard or give it away. That’s been hanging over my head (because I don’t want to do it!) for months, but I’ve finally put a big dent in it and it feels good. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it’s become a necessary thing for me to do, if I’m going to bring about a sense of balance in my life. And I’ve got to travel lighter!

Right now, some of my family members are going through many changes, which I can’t share here. But we are all doing what we can to hold each other up and get through our issues. You do what you can and keep going.

I haven’t suffered all these years, and come this far, to want to check out, which in my case, means, sitting on the sideline and drowning in my sorrow. I feel sorrow every day. But I’m so grateful I can feel it. Because that makes me human. That makes me connect. I’ve got people who love me and I need to love them back. I know, without a doubt, that I’ve got a choice.

Today, I choose love. Today, I choose life, however difficult and heart breaking it might be. Breaking it down, just to one day.

So, I’ll be grateful, in some measure, because I don’t know how I keep coming back; to be willing to show up one more day. I truly believe there is a power greater than myself. I’m just a drop of water in the sea.

I bought a chandelier, painted my furniture white, bought new white covers for my sofa. And dammit, I’m going to put that chandelier up, sit at my table with a cup of tea, look around at my new digs, and tell myself I’m doing alright, in my shabby chicness.

Once the legal issue I’m dealing with has sorted itself out, I’ll be more at peace. It’s not the end of the world.

I’ll just roll with it.

Peace of Mind & Love,
Nana

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For the first time in months, it’s been raining. It just stopped about an hour ago. I’m beginning to wonder what’s going on in the sky. Is the weather really being manipulated? All I know is that where I live, we really need rain.

It’s been years since I remember a drought, but there’s one I remember in the 80’s that was pretty surreal. We were only allowed a certain amount of gallons every day, and it really got me to thinking about how precious water is. I can’t help but think about water a lot during my waking hours, as I take quite a bit of medication these days. When my mason jar by my bed isn’t full, I rush to the kitchen to fill it.

As a kid, I’d was either swimming in water, bathing in water, or drinking water, without a thought as to what might be in it. Now, I’m totally OCD with water. Even bottled water is something that makes me nervous. There are certain types of plastic that emit gases that are supposedly so harmful, some say they can cause cancer.

Water is life. And in order to sustain life, we need water. What’s life going to be like for my grandkid in the next twenty years? I get kind of freaked out.

The rain. I love it. I love the sound, the feeling of it on my hair and skin. The smell of the ground and the flora after a good rain. All the beautiful things that come from the earth because of it.

I think I’d better go for a walk later. The ocean is only a ten minute walk from me. Here I am thinking about water and I haven’t even gone to the beach in six weeks.

Agoraphobia has got me so bad, I don’t even want to walk out the door and enjoy what’s outside. It’s sad, but it will pass. I’ll go out again.

I remember the feeling of running outside in the summer, stretching my little arms out, lifting my head and opening up my mouth to catch a drink of water.

Water is life. And I’m pretty sure it’s going to rain again.

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.

 

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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.