Tired

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This blurry picture was taken with my ancient cell phone minutes before The Stinging occurred this afternoon

 

I’m tired.

Being around grief is draining. My husband’s only brother has been gone for less than two weeks, so his death is still very recent and shocking. I’m profoundly thankful that I’m not the one in deep grief, but it’s still challenging being around it. It’s not just tough on me; it’s hard on our two young girls, but the cliche “children are resilient” seems to ring true with them. They’ve been through far worse during the many times I was incapacitated with bipolar depression and when I was away in the hospital seven times for bipolar disorder. They’re keeping busy with school, ballet, The SpongeBob Lama and lest we forget, My Little Pony. (They’ll deny watching that, but they can’t resist watching those freaky, perky ponies prance about.)

Apart from the sadness, the fall is my absolute favorite time of year. I love autumn, and I love Halloween! (It’s my favorite holiday.) October is a powerful, weird, symbolic time as I was married in October of 2001 and I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in October, 2007. I just read on Therese Borchard’s blog Beyond Blue that fall can create excessive anxiety for people and that made me pause…it seems to be a very activating time in many kinds of ways, both good and yuck.

Speaking of anxiety, I experienced some of it this afternoon while relaxing on the deck with Lucy. This wacky collie (who has the one of the thickest coats you can imagine – it’s layer-upon-layer of softness) loves sitting in the sun whether it’s a mild 65 degrees or last week’s heat wave of 101+!  

I saw a bee flying around her and I gently waved it away, thinking nothing of it. We don’t have that many bees around here and I thought the bee flew off on its merry way. I proceeded to pet Lucy’s fluffy side and BOOYA!

Unbeknownst to me, the bee returned to burrow in Lucy’s honey-colored coat and it stung the side of my right hand. I thought I had a fairly high toleration for pain, but damn, it hurt! This was one big bee. I hadn’t been stung since I was a kid. Luckily I’m not allergic to bee stings or else it could have been a very scary situation. One of the first books I ever read was about a child who dies from a bee sting – talk about giving one a bee phobia, which is technically called melissophobia. I put ice on the swollen spot, which helped a lot, and then I followed up with calamine lotion. 

That was my excitement for the day!

Unfortunately this post isn’t too exciting, but I like to check in once a week on Thursdays or Fridays. I feel really off if I don’t post 1X/week. I even get a bit paranoid that if I start skipping my habit I’ll get lax about blogging and give it up. Ye olde black and white thinking! Perish that thought!

It’s okay if posts aren’t always Fresh Pressed-caliber, right? 😉 (By the way, I’m losing respect for F.P. – I can write about that another time, but for now let me just state for there record that I was shocked and disappointed that WordPress editors didn’t publish anything about World Suicide Prevention Day/suicide-related! Like we really need another post about paleo nutrition instead. Shameful!)

On a separate note, I want to apologize to some of you who commented on my last post about skipping my brother-in-law’s memorial and feeling hugely guilty about that. I wasn’t able to reply to everyone, and I took down the post to honor Craig’s wishes – he never read it because he never reads this blog, but a few nights ago he asked me if I wrote about his brother’s death. Before he could even finish his sentence I blurted out “I did write about it and I’ll take it down.” I didn’t want to make him uncomfortable, and I could tell he wanted me to refrain from posting lots of Don-related stuff. I had absolutely no problem taking it down, but I didn’t get a chance to reply to Just Plain ‘Ol Vic, Kitt O’Malley, Blahpolar and Socialworker Angela

Thanks again for your wonderful comments – they really, really helped me because, as you know, I felt like shit about the whole thing. It was a wonderful case of the blogosphere coming to me at my time of need. I only had that post up for less than a day and I got immediate, high-quality support. That, my friends, is what I love about blogging. To have bloggers who take the time to share their insights and encouragement makes me want to stay connected with the blogosphere forever. 

I’m going to go drag my sorry butt to my elliptical machine because it really does help keep my evil bipolar depression at bay. I still have the Seroquel spider belly, but as soon as I stop inhaling a pint of gelato every day and drink more water, it’ll start to shrink.  I’ll keep you posted on that. 🙂

I wish you a wonderful week ahead!

XOXOXO

Dyane

Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (author of the acclaimed Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth) will be published by Post Hill Press next year.

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My Brother-in-Law Died Today

 

This Crowded House song, one of my all-time favorites, is for my brother-in-law of seventeen years. He died at his home earlier this morning, surrounded by his family. He was too young to go. He’ll never hold his first grandchild.

My husband is in shock, as are my children. And me. 

I dedicate the Crowded House song “How Will You Go”, one of my all-time favorite songs, to Don.

 

“How Will You Go”

written by Neil and Tim Finn, performed by Crowded House

Escape is on your mind again
Escape to a far away land
At times it seems there is no end
To long, hard nights of drinking
How will you go?
How will you go?
Drive through the wind and the rain
Cover it up
Cover it up
I’ll find you a shelter to sleep in
I fell over on the couch again
But you know not all sleep is wasted
The dreams are alcohol inspired
I can’t find a better way to face itHow will you go?
How will you go?
Drive through the wind and the rain
Cover it up
Cover it up
I’ll find you a shelter to sleep in

And you know I’ll be fine
Just don’t ask me how it’s going
Gimme time, gimme time
‘Cause I want you to see
‘Round the world, ’round the world
Is a tangled up necklace of pearls

How will you go?
How will you go?
Drive through the wind and the rain
Cover it up
Cover it up
I’ll find you a shelter to sleep in

How will you go?
How will you go?
Drive through the wind and the rain
Cover it up
Cover it up
I’ll find you a shelter to sleep in

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just When Life’s Getting Better, Here Comes Death!

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Recently the incredible Marie Abanga, a friend of mine, joked that my WordPress tags section could make a blog post of its own. And she’s right! A lot is going on, which is reflected in the tags. Too much is going on. 

I hesitated to write about these recent events for fear that I’ll hurt someone’s feelings, but all the parties involved don’t read my blog. 

Just before I attended the Catamaran Writers Conference on August 12, my husband received alarming news. His close family member had been admitted to the hospital for severe jaundice/dehydration. I immediately knew the cause for this ER admission: full-blown alcoholism.

Selfish me. My first thought was, “Don’t let him die now. I want to go to this fucking conference! I worked so hard to get this scholarship.”

Add to that, I have issues with alcoholism. Mine are deep-seated, festering pustules full of rage and resentment. My father was an alcoholic. The red wine he guzzled each night turned him into someone I no longer recognized; someone who I feared for good reason. I believe my Dad was desperately trying to crush out the demons caused by his bipolar disorder and the abuse he suffered as a child.

As a result of seeing how alcohol affected my father and our family, I despised alcohol for most of my life. At 37 I received a postpartum bipolar disorder diagnosis. My mental illness was treatment-resistant and at my wit’s end I became an alcoholic, finally understanding to some extent why my father drank.

Red wine and tequila became my daily meals. “Unhappy Meals” without clowns, if you will. I knew I had a serious problem when I switched from evening to daytime drinking, as early as  10:00 a.m. On Monday through Friday I filled a large coffee tumbler with red wine and downed every drop, hating the taste but wanting the buzz of oblivion. I was passively suicidal during those years.

My former psychiatrist, the one who talked behind my back to Craig about how I was such a frustrating patient because no medication was working, the one who complained to me about his hatred of his ex-wife and his myriad problems with his four children, the one who was put on probation for overprescribing meds, wasn’t much help.

Ever since I started drinking heavily, I’ve considered myself an alcoholic. On November 18th, 2013 I gave up alcohol cold-turkey. That was the day I took my first pink-colored Parnate pill, a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) in addition to lithium.

Parnate is known as the “last-resort” medication for bipolar depression; it’s old-school and has been used since the 1950’s. Parnate has been shown to be most effective when used with lithium. There are rules when taking the older MAOI’s which consist of dietary restrictions and no alcohol if you want to avoid having a stroke.

I didn’t want to stroke out, so I stopped the booze.

Parnate and lithium gave me my life back. The dietary sacrifices, the giving up the booze were 1000% worth it.

It occurs to me that in writing about alcoholism, I’ll come across as a hypocrite. Even so, I’m willing to share with you about how flawed I am – I learn from reading about other flawed souls, so I hope this might help one or two of you in some way.

My current psychiatrist Dr. D. has been such a useful sounding board. His specialty is addiction medicine. I didn’t know he had a specialty when I decided to work with him, but of all the specialties he could have, this one would prove to be extremely helpful.

Ironically I learned about Dr. D. at my neighborhood liquor store during a chat with the owner. I was there posting a flyer promoting my “Women with Mood Disorders” support group, and the owner started telling me about his wife who had OCD. He said, “I’ve found her a great shrink!”  As we spoke surrounded by vodka, the owner added emphatically, “Dr. D. helped my wife so much!” and he handed me the psychiatrist’s business card. Even though I still met with my misogynistic psychiatrist, something told me to take that card.

When I met with Dr. D yesterday for my routine appointment, I told him what was happening with my hospitalized family member. He had plenty of insights. Something that stuck in my mind was this: he explained that if both parents are alcoholic, then each child has a 70% chance of becoming alcoholic. I was clueless about that statistic, but it made complete sense. I’m relieved I no longer drink nor does my husband. Our kids have suffered enough hellish shit with my bipolar disorder; they certainly don’t need two alcoholics “raising” them.

Alcoholism, like bipolar disorder, runs in families. My mother-in-law died from it, and I witnessed her death firsthand. I was manic at the time, and I was strangely numb to the grief surrounding me. The hospice team told me how “great” I was dealing with my husband’s grief. It was all a ruse. My mania took away 99% of death’s sting; I only felt bad when I saw my usually stoic husband break down in sobs.

When I was alone in her hospital room, I told my mother-in-law that it was okay to die. Giving someone permission to die was not something I’d have been able to do when I was my usual, deeply depressed self. She passed away shortly after I spoke with her.

Today I’m not manic. I’m raw – I’m susceptible to others’ grief, especially when I sleep with the person who’s grieving. And I’m scared.

I don’t do death “well”. Does anyone?

I’m always worried that I’ll relapse if presented with an extremely tough situation. I haven’t “overcome” bipolar. I’m not a fucking warrior. Far the fuck from it. 

At least I’m a realist. I examine my personal history, I see what happened, and because of what occurred it makes sense why I fear death so much now.

Here are three more examples of my “getting an F in Death”:

When my father died, I was so devastated that I became suicidal. I asked to be hospitalized and Craig threw the girls into the car and drove me to the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula (CHOMP). While there I begged for my first round of ECT. They gave it to me. ECT helped immensely to mitigate my acute suicidal impulses.  While I no longer wished to kill myself, I was still severely depressed. 

I missed my father’s memorial service, which is probably the biggest regret of my life apart from all the traumatic, crazy shit I pulled on my little girls and husband during my bipolar episodes.

When my grandmother died a gruesome death from lung cancer, I went into a clinical depression for which I should have been diagnosed/medicated, but no one recognized it at the time.

This happened was when I was 27, ten years before my bipolar diagnosis. When Granny died I felt frozen, hopeless, inhuman. I took time off from my job working as a certified personal trainer and flew with my family to New York. We buried her in upstate New York.

While in New York I remained frozen. I didn’t want to go explore New York City with my family. They didn’t seem nearly as fucked up as I was. I wanted to disappear

When I had my fifteen-year-old American Eskimo Shera euthanized in my arms, I plummeted into an evil darkness within a day. 

Granted, these people who died were hugely significant in my life. My beloved dog Shera was a family member too – she went to my wedding and accompanied us on our honeymoon. She loved me through so many of my depressed-filled years.

What I’m about to write is harsh. Please don’t go off on me in the comments. This particular death by alcoholism enrages me. Our family member has been drinking heavily for years. I don’t know the specifics of the nuclear family dynamics – what I mean by that is I’m ignorant whether or not anyone tried to do an intervention. I have never been close to them. None of them visited/called/contacted me during my 7 hospitalizations.

The last thing I want to do is visit this jaundiced, bloated, tubed-up, dying person in the hospital. I have hospital PTSD from my seven psych unit hospitalizations. Hospital PTSD is an honest-to-God condition, and unless you’ve suffered in this way, it’s hard, if not impossible to understand it. My therapist believes I have it, yet she implored to me during our last session that I need to work through it in this particular case. She suggested that I visit the family member to support my husband, to say goodbye and to be ethical. I’m forcing myself to do it.

If I was still drinking, I’d drink to get through such a thing. If I still took benzodiazepines, I’d have a few. Or smoke pot if that would help me – it doesn’t do a thing except make me tired and relieve nausea.  All I can do to get through this hospital visit is to try anxiety-reduction techniques, use some Rescue Remedy, and inhale essential oils such as lavender & orange, two of my favorites.

And keep the visit short.

 At the Catamaran Conference the renowned poet Ellen Bass read a poem called “Relax” that resonated with me deeply in light of what has just happened in our family.  Bass, the co-author along with Laura Davis of the bestselling The Courage to Heal, wrote something so real. I loved how she recited “Relax” to us in the campus chapel – her rather deadpan tone did her poem justice. You can hear Ellen Bass recite it at the link listed below.

I  joked with a Jewish classmate sitting next to me that the poem should be called “Jewish” instead. (We Jews worry about everything….)

At almost 2000 words, and having been all over the place, I wonder if any of you are still reading this post. It’s more like a novella, but sometimes I can’t stick to the much-more-readable length of 200-400 words. Please forgive me. Brevity is the soul of wit, but I’m not feeling so witty today.

Love to each of you,

Dyane

Visit this link to hear Ellen Bass read “Relax”:

http://www.ellenbass.com/books/like-a-beggar/relax/

Relax

Bad things are going to happen.
Your tomatoes will grow a fungus
and your cat will get run over.
Someone will leave the bag with the ice cream
melting in the car and throw
your blue cashmere sweater in the drier.
Your husband will sleep
with a girl your daughter’s age, her breasts spilling
out of her blouse. Or your wife
will remember she’s a lesbian
and leave you for the woman next door. The other cat–
the one you never really liked–will contract a disease
that requires you to pry open its feverish mouth
every four hours. Your parents will die.
No matter how many vitamins you take,
how much Pilates, you’ll lose your keys,
your hair and your memory. If your daughter
doesn’t plug her heart
into every live socket she passes,
you’ll come home to find your son has emptied
the refrigerator, dragged it to the curb,
and called the used appliance store for a pick up–drug money.
There’s a Buddhist story of a woman chased by a tiger.
When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine
and climbs half way down. But there’s also a tiger below.
And two mice–one white, one black–scurry out
and begin to gnaw at the vine. At this point
she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.
She looks up, down, at the mice.
Then she eats the strawberry.
So here’s the view, the breeze, the pulse
in your throat. Your wallet will be stolen, you’ll get fat,
slip on the bathroom tiles of a foreign hotel
and crack your hip. You’ll be lonely.
Oh taste how sweet and tart
the red juice is, how the tiny seeds
crunch between your teeth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bye Bye Benzos, Bye Bye Booze

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This isn’t going to be one of the most politically correct posts that I’ve written.  I hope what I share doesn’t come back to haunt me, and I hope it doesn’t haunt you either!  I’ve found that when I’ve blogged about my deep, disturbing secrets, it has been a positive catharsis.  I also know that I prefer reading about others’ messy lives and how they made it through the chaos, rather than read overly sanitized posts.

What matters most is that I learned from my horrific-sounding experiences, I really did.  I had an enormous wake-up call that I will vividly remember the rest of my life.  These wake-up calls affected me so deeply that I made significant changes in my lifestyle…

It’s common for people with bipolar disorder to become addicted to unhealthy substances/behaviors in order to cope with bipolar’s awful symptoms.  I never truly understood that concept before my diagnosis, but my understanding of addiction changed dramatically after bipolar ravaged my life.

While growing up I abhorred alcoholism and drug addiction.  My father, who had bipolar disorder, was alcoholic, and my first boyfriend became a drug addict before my very eyes.  Dad and Mark were both my personal cautionary tales, but I threw caution aside when my anxiety soared sky high and my depression hit rock bottom.  I looked for something, anything, that would take the edge off my extreme anxiety after bipolar disorder entered my life.

I asked my psychiatrist if I could take an anti-anxiety medication, and he prescribed Xanax.  Up to that point, I never thought I’d take a benzodiazepine.  I was well aware that class of drugs was addictive.  But I had become consumed by anxiety so badly that I couldn’t function, and I felt desperate.  The Xanax did reduce my anxiety, but it didn’t completely wipe it out by any means.  While it helped me, one massive drawback was that Xanax affected my judgement and my driving to a dangerous degree.  I caused two separate car accidents, one minor and one much more serious, due to Xanax.

The first car accident didn’t involve anyone else but me, thank God.  It happened in a church parking lot.  I found it ironic that the lot was where my accident took place because I was there to meet with the minister.  He had generously offered me the use of their meeting room for a women’s bipolar disorder support group I created.  Because of Xanax, my depth perception was off, and I gently hit the fence bordering the parking lot.  My car bumper knocked down a couple planks of wood.  When I told the minister I hit his church’s fence, I was humiliated –  it wasn’t the ideal way to start our meeting.  I was relieved that he was gracious about the small damage.  (I didn’t breathe a word about why I hit the fence.)   No one questioned me about my little “tap”, and my husband fixed the fence a few days later.

My next car accident was a total nightmare which could have been disastrous.  I had taken Xanax that morning, as usual.  I was driving with my four-year-old daughter in the back seat. I waited at a stoplight and I thought the light had turned green, so I entered the intersection.  But the light had not turned green.  A SUV sped towards me, hitting the front of my car on my side, missing me and my daughter by inches.

An angel must have been looking out for us all because no one was hurt.  The SUV pulled over into a lot by side of the road, as did I.  An elderly husband and wife got out of the car and I stepped out of mine, with Rilla safely locked into her car seat watching all the commotion. I was in shock and I lost control of my emotions.  I started bawling because I knew what I had done was grossly wrong.  Even though I was at fault, the man looked guilty as well and he admitted to me he had been speeding. He hurriedly said that they were on their way for his wife’s surgery appointment, and they were already late. He didn’t even ask me for any insurance information – I suggested it.  My crying distracted the couple, and by the looks on their faces, it was evident they felt sorry for me.   I wrote my name and phone number on a slip of paper, gave it to him, and off they went to the hospital.

After this accident happened, I knew without a doubt I needed to taper off Xanax and I tapered successfully over a period of months.  Quitting a benzo was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done, but after I almost killed myself and my child, and knowing that I could have killed others too, I couldn’t deny the gravity of my problem.

Regarding alcohol, I never got into an alcohol-related car accident, but my dependency upon it grew worse as a couple years passed by.  Trading one addiction for another, I became a daytime drinker.  I hated the taste of alcohol, and I literally wouldn’t taste the red wine that I gulped in my oversize coffee mug.  I felt gross.   I had gone from being a health-conscious, certified personal trainer who only drank water (before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder) to an overweight, depressed, anxious alcoholic who had bipolar disorder.

A blessing in disguise took place thanks to a medication called tranylcypromine, also known as Parnate. Parnate is in the MAOI/monoamine oxidase inhibitor class.  After I tried over twenty drugs for bipolar disorder, my psychiatrist suggested the MAOI Parnate.  I didn’t realize that Parnate was known as the “last-resort” antidepressant used for bipolar depression.  Not a single one of my numerous other psychiatrists thought to suggest this old-school medication to me.

MAOI’s are controversial because they require a fair amount of food and beverage restrictions.  One of these no-no’s is alcohol.  If you drink alcohol while on a MAOI you could potentially die, so it’s a very convincing way to give up alcohol. When I took my first Parnate pill, I relinquished alcohol cold turkey. I haven’t had a drop of alcohol since because the Parnate (in combination with lithium and Seroquel) worked to lift my depression.

The fact that medications finally worked for me was nothing short of a miracle.  While I do miss the numbing qualities of benzodiazepines and alcohol, I don’t obsess about them anymore.  I am back to exercising regularly again.  I’m researching holistic methods for anxiety such as meditation and flower essences (as long as they are compatible with my meds).  I belong to mental health crusader Meagan Barnes’s Facebook page and website called  “Anxiety Angel – Women Conquering Anxiety”. (http://anxietyangel.com/).  I take advantage of the great resources Meagan shares with her many followers – she really is an angel on Earth!

I know how lucky I am that I got several “second chances”.  All it takes to remember what I could have lost is a glance at my two daughters’ faces.  I’ve become much stronger in knowing I’ve been able to “just say no” to the benzos and booze.  If you are struggling with either of these addictions, or both simultaneously, please remember that if I can do it, you can do it too.

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