So, this is it? Really? I can’t quite believe it. I keep asking myself over and over…is this it?
There have been a few days where I got really close to replying to that question with, ‘No, this will not be it.’ and it’s those days that are the worst, as I look for a way out.
The past few months have been insane. Literally. I feel like such a failure as a mother. As a wife. As a proponent of mental health. As a human being. I’ve struggled so hard and fierce, using every, single muscle trying to hold on to reality and then given up, fallen back and tried to accept what reality is and let it fold over what I keep trying to make it.
Reality is that for the rest of my life I’ll be on some kind of medication. Reality is that even though I went through therapy for years and years and then integrated and then brushed the dust off my hands, thinking I was done with the diagnosing and drugs and really hard parts, I will never be done. There is no such thing as done for me when it comes to brain disorders. I will continually have new and fun streaks and variations come out that will need attending to. Drug cocktails that will need adjustment. More weight to gain. More side effects to wade through.
Reality is that I should never, ever try to have any more children. It would be irresponsible to do so. Reality is that my kids have it so much better than they even know. Maybe they do know. After all, they chose the life they have now, not living with me. They must have had some internal compass that told them to stay the course at their dad’s. And, good, because life with me is not much of a life. Reality is that my feelings about that, about them and towards them are so huge that they threaten to splinter my mind again and I have a gray area lurking in the background that needs addressing and months and months of work to repair.
Reality is that my husband will be working with me and trying to help keep me stable for the rest of our life together. I have good spots, to be sure. I do some things that are fun, creative, and not always crazy. But more likely than not, those things do intersect with the crazy. And sometimes getting out the Dyson for a long-overdue vacuuming party is preferred to a new project’s birth.
Reality is that my life is hell and I make it hell for those close to me.
I don’t think I’m conveying how disappointed I am accurately. Your emails and letters have been sweet and I do appreciate them. Very much. But not one comes in that I don’t think, ‘They don’t really know who I am.’ If you did, you wouldn’t say the things you do. I am not the person that I thought I was and that I led you all to believe I was. I’m not healed. I’m not better. I’m no authority on anything, least of all mental health. I’m just one more person trying to figure out how to make it another day. One more person just like everyone else in the entire world that struggles with mental disorders. And to all of you? Wow. You inspire me with your getting up every day and trying again. Because I don’t know how long I can do this.
I’ve gone to the psychiatrist and a couple of therapists in the past few weeks and tomorrow I have another one. At one point three weeks ago, I was ready to go to Seattle. That is where Dr. Clancy lives. Dr. Clancy was the one who integrated me and the thought of trying to find someone else here was too daunting. My sister told me to get on a plane immediately. I made plans with a company up there to take a position. But Dr. Clancy’s first opening was mid-November and somehow, no one thought it was a good idea for me to go up there and wait that long. I mean, what good is a job at a great company if you’re crazy? So then it was off to our couple-counselor who suggested some people here in the area and made me promise to call if I started feeling suicidal. As did the other therapist, the psychiatrist and Joe. Which is kind of a joke since if I was really going to kill myself, I wouldn’t call them or anyone. But I couldn’t kill myself, anyway, because no matter how you slice it, it would hurt the kids and that is the last thing I want to do. There is no accident I could contrive that at some point wouldn’t fall apart and prove to be self-inflicted. I’ve thought it through. And, I’ve seen way too many episodes of Law and Order and Without A Trace to think otherwise.
I’m baking. And cooking. This weekend alone I’ve made fish chowder, beef stew, corn bread, butternut and spaghetti squash, apple crisp and Boston Cream pie besides all the normal meals. I’ve made thousands of lists in my head with all the things I need to do. These lists include things like wipe the downstairs bathroom counter, change out the mousetraps, find the canvases in the garage and make tomato sauce and that is four things on a list of a few hundred things. I’ve drawn a million shapes from the television, over and over and over while sitting in front of it, to the lines on the road and the clouds and the mailboxes and the trees when I make a trip to the store for butter. I’ve crocheted hats. Many hats.
One night, I had a dream about the egg sandwiches I was going to make the next day at lunch. It was very vivid and included the print on the paper towel that I used to hold the shells until I threw them out. I dreamed I peeled all the eggs, rinsed them and then separated the yolks from the whites, placing them in two bowls on the counter. Then I carefully took the whites, two at a time, and put them in the small canister for the Bullet. I pushed the cup down quickly, twice, and then dumped the perfectly chopped whites into the bowl with the yolks. I didn’t comment out loud in my dream, but in my mind I was remarking on how perfectly shaped the whites were and how two was the perfect number for everything.
The next afternoon, in real life, Joe was helping me peel the eggs. I got out the Bullet canister and two bowls and started separating the whites and the yolks just like in my dream. He looked at me, first sidelong and then full-on. As he asked what I was doing, I was ashamed. So embarrassed. But I couldn’t stop doing it the way I saw it. I pushed the canister down twice and then dumped the contents in the bowl. They were not chopped perfectly. Far from it. Half of them were mush and the other half were hardly chopped at all. But I kept doing it. And Joe kept trying to be helpful by suggesting ways to load the whites and how about we don’t use that thing at all and just do it the way we always do it? I finally told him that I dreamed about doing it this way and so I was trying it. I did two more whites and then realized it was not going to get any better and that I had to STOP. So I took a spoon and scraped out the mushy whites at the bottom. I turned to Joe and said, ‘You know what’s funny? What’s funny is that I thought doing something the way I dreamed it would be the right way to do it! I listened to something in my dreams!‘ And then I laughed. Hard. Manic. Harsh. And then I started bawling and it took everything I had to pull it together, not get tears or snot in the egg salad and keep making the sandwiches.
The kids were here for the weekend. Their dad went out of town and for some reason, they agreed to come over here instead of having someone in their dad’s family come up and stay with them at their home like they’ve done in the past. It was wonderful to have them here. Truly wonderful. And just around every corner I was about to lose it. I hope they didn’t know, but hell, I think it’s been established that my kids know much more than I give them credit for. It’s not at all impossible that they were very aware that mom was barely there some times. That mom’s face is red because she just got done crying in the bathroom. That mom is so busy in the kitchen because she has no idea what to say to anyone and sitting down for 2 minutes in the living room was just not in the realm of practical. That mom accidentally fell asleep on the couch in the afternoon and is sleeping in until 11am every morning because she is on new drugs that make her so, so tired.
I’m taking Invega for now. The Effexor, which was the sixth mood stabilizer I tried and the only one to work, and Wellbutrin, an antidepressant, are soon to follow. Do you know what Invega is? It’s for schizophrenia. It’s a paliperidone derivative and when the dose is halved, it’s supposedly good for Bipolar. It’s an anti-psychotic drug.
I’ve been diagnosed with Bipolar twice before and once I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. The former I never took seriously because the first time it was called Manic-Depressive Disorder and I knew I was not depressed all the time! So it could not be true! Oh, how much I sometimes miss my former mental health naiveté. The latter diagnosis scared the hell out of me and was given to me mere days before my first mental hospital stay. However, once I was diagnosed with DDNOS, there was no more reason to even look at that one because the dissociative disorder was well enough to keep everyone very, very busy.
Now I don’t even care. Honestly, who cares what the diagnosis is? I’m fucked up and always will be. The End. And that is what I have to accept. But I can’t.
The first night I took my new drugs was so hard. I thought about it all afternoon and evening and the closer it got to bedtime the more out of control I became. I couldn’t stop crying. I cleaned up dinner and bawled. I showered and bawled. I brushed my teeth and bawled. It would have been funny if it wasn’t so awful. And by the time I crawled in bed next to Joe I was a complete mess. I tried to tell him what was so awful about taking the new meds but I don’t think he could understand much of what I said between my gulps for air and wiping the snot off my face. And really, it’s not anything I can explain very well. It is just really, really hard. It represents the rest of my life. It says that I understand that there is no other way, that this is the ONLY WAY to get my brain under control. No amount of coping skills, positive talk, shaping my Universe, affirmations and prayer will change anything. This is it. This is me. This is the rest of my life and I don’t want to be here.
I was also crying because I was petrified. Anti-psychotics are well known for some really tantalizing side-effects like confusion, dizziness, weight gain and ticks/muscle spams, just to name a few. Being known as my kids’ crazy mom is one thing. Being known as their drooling, morbidly obese, dumb as a stick, spasmatic mom who is house-bound and afraid to drive in case she forgets how to get home is something else.
So far, I can tell I’m gaining weight around the middle. All my shirts are tight. I’m slightly dizzy most of the day and so, so tired. I get headaches about once per day. I see odd things out of the corner of my eyes. I’m absent minded and do things like load the coffee maker with the very last coffee in the house which I have just lovingly ground, turn it on and then forget to put the carafe under the spout. Guess what happens when you do that? You get an overflow and coffee grounds all over the counter, down the side of the oven where you can’t really reach and mud all over the floor. And no coffee that morning. I still cry. I still want to do a million things at once. Pretty much the only thing that has changed is that my mind races a little bit less and I’m too apathetic to kill myself. Or, too lazy because I can’t think of a good plan. (DO YOU HAVE A PLAN??) (That’s a joke for anyone who’s ever had suicidal ideation and talked to an authority figure.)
Wow, this post got really long.
Belinda’s husband Alex left a comment on my post on Real Mental the other night where I talked about getting back on drugs. Insights like his, from people who struggle with mental disorders, like all the good people that write me emails and send me letters and frequent Real Mental, are so inspiring. And I know at different times in my life I’ve given some not-too-horrible advice to people. But at the moment? I can’t find any of it. I can’t hear it. I can’t remember it. I feel frustrated and angry and like something was stolen from me. And I know what it was. It was the dream of being well. The story I told myself for so long where I was well, happy and a great mother to my kids. That has been irrevocably taken away from me and there is no way to get it back. All there is left is to accept it.
These past five years have been great and awful. Great because I had this dream to keep me alive and to work towards. It made everything hard worthwhile. I woke up telling myself how great it would be at some point in the future when the kids lived with me half the time or some of the time and how I would get to be their mom. I went to bed telling myself the same story. And every afternoon I told it again. And every hour in between. I feel like I should expound on this for a few more paragraphs just so it’s clear how much this was a part of my life. But, basically, that is all there is – I wanted to be a great mom. And the awful? well, the awful is, because that was my complete focus, I have nothing as a backup plan. My universe literally cracked in half and I don’t know what is next. And this is where the disordered thinking comes in – not only should I have had at least one back up plan, but I should have had some kind of maintenance program going with interval therapy going on and reality checks. But, I’ve been to so much therapy! I know what they’d say! I’ll just tell myself and it’s the same thing, right? Right?? Wrong. If you think you know everything, there is nothing left to learn and no one can tell you anything. If I had been on some kind of program, monthly, bi-monthly, hell, even quarterly and there would have been someone there to tell me WHAT IF then maybe I wouldn’t find myself in dire straits. And if I wouldn’t have taken off right after I was integrated and stayed with Dr. Clancy for a few more months like he wanted me to five years ago, maybe things would be different. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Or maybe things would be just the same. I’ve put off looking at this closely because it was easy to blame all this stuff on other things, like my thyroid. Avoidance and confusion.
I haven’t self-harmed in years. Since right before my last mental hospital stay. But it crosses my mind every five minutes. I won’t do it but it’s there. Instead of allowing myself to think of it, I obsess about getting a new tattoo. Where will I put it? What will it look like? Can I just cover up one that I have with a new design? What would that look like after? And then I draw it in my mind for hours.
I obsess about smoking again. About not smoking again. The last time I smoked was at a friend’s home during the summer and my kids saw and that was just a few days before my kids told me that they didn’t want to live with me ever. Never. What if that was the reason they don’t want to? What if I do smoke again and they say to themselves, yep! We knew it. Good thing we picked our dad. But I’ve got to keep my hands busy and I can make only so many hats before I have yarn coming out of my ears and I throw it at the wall and then can’t stop pacing like a caged animal that can’t get out. But, there is no where to go that is away from me.
The mania is so stealthy sometimes. I’ll be feeling so good, like I finally have it together for the morning and I can breathe a little easier and then I realize that I’ve been standing still, staring at the toothpaste in the little basket for who knows how long and wondering why it isn’t moved two inches to the left because THAT IS WHERE IT GOES. And if the toothpaste isn’t right, nothing can be right. And then when I get downstairs, there is a load of laundry from last night still in the washer. This of course means that Joe doesn’t love me because if he did love me, he would have moved it to the dryer so it didn’t go sour and then make me smell it when I go to check it. The sour actually assaults my nose and makes me cry. It’s that harsh to my nose. And it’s so awful, so HUGE that I can’t even think it or explain it. I just cry and then try to figure out how to make it through this god-awful day. Somewhere around lunchtime I’ve decided I have no friends. None. Not a single one. The people I know from high school are nice when I call them but let’s be honest, if I’m always the one calling them first to talk and catch up, if I’m always the one to make first contact and they never do, and they could just keep going years without hearing from me, then who’s friends with who? And who cares and who doesn’t? And why should I call them first anyhow? If they don’t care about me at all. And the same goes for anyone I’ve know in the past five years since I’ve been Healed (just thought I’d capitalize it now that I’m making fun of it) because none of them ever call me first. Why am I always making the extra effort to check in or stop in? Am I that needy? Why am I that needy? No one likes me. And by the time Joe gets home from work I’ve thought of about a million reasons why our relationship will never work out and how we should get divorced immediately and how I’m friendless and no one will ever consider me their best friend in the world. I might as well be dead. Now THAT is fun to come home to. Quite a treat.
A few weeks later, I’ll feel completely opposite. Everyone loves me, or would, if they knew me. I start awesome new projects like writing groups and reading groups and artist groups and mental health groups. Time sometimes eludes me. I’ll feel like it’s been 3 hours but it’s only been long enough for one song on the radio to finish. I’ve just thought of THAT MANY THINGS. Because I’m so awesome. See? Can’t you see how awesome I am? I could travel the world and interview everyone that interests me. I could go overseas and write a travel log. It would sell. Of course it would sell. Why wouldn’t it? I am AWESOME. Sadly, by the time some of the groups come around to needing me to actually do something like be in charge of a meeting, I’ve cycled back down to not feeling worthy of grime on the side of a quarter and I can’t function. I just can’t do it. Everyone will be looking at me and wanting me to say something. You know, because I am in charge.
Finding a job is never easy but in this new reality that I’m living in, I’m well aware that my options are limited. The regular 9-5 job does not work for me. In the years I’ve done it, it’s all I can do. I don’t do anything else besides commute, work and sleep because I can’t factor anything else into the equation. And then after about a year straight of it, I’m burned up and sick and have to quit. I can only ignore it for so long before it demands that I pay attention. And this sucks for many reasons, not the least of which is financial and probably making Joe feel alone and stressed and working 3 jobs so we can survive. I’ve written so much down in this blog over the years that any potential employer will find it and immediately throw my resume in the garbage. I couldn’t change that if I wanted to. But I don’t think I want to. I just have to have some kind of hope that a flexible position exists out there where I will fit in. Where I can make enough money to contribute to my well-being and take some weight off my partner. And if I can’t and that doesn’t happen, that is so unfair. And here we go on the downward slope again on the unfairness of life and how Joe is trapped and will never have a good life.
So, I don’t know how to answer all of your heartfelt questions. I’m fine? Maybe? But not really and never will be? But thanks for caring enough to send me your warm thoughts and wishes and I wish I was fine and could be different for you. And be the person you thought I was. But I’m not. And I don’t know how much I’ll be updating this blog for awhile still. It’s so hard to write the truth right now and I just can’t get into lying on purpose and saying I’m fine or alternately, revealing all the grisly details of the suckage. Instead, go here to see a photo of my bird, Bird, that Alison has made insanely, fiercely awesome to show the true spirit inside him.