I Can’t Forgive Those Who Abandoned Me During 7 Hospitalizations

 

TW/Trigger Warning: brief mention of suicide

Today’s post consists of my non-politically correct, extremely angry feelings which were stirred up last night. That’s when, sweaty from a 45-minute-long elliptical workout, I found out a family friend is being hospitalized for alcoholism-related illness. 

My hard-won endorphins didn’t assuage my rage or my trauma. 

I knew the compassionate, laudable thing to do would be to visit her, but after mulling it over during the wee hours of the morning, I realized I can’t do it.

Due to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from multiple hospitalizations, I’m unable to enter a hospital unless it’s to visit an immediate family member or close friend.

I feel guilty about my inability to “get over” my hospital aversion. But it’s not simply an aversion. PTSD is real. My PTSD was even verified by a PTSD expert. I know in my heart that if this was my child who felt the way I do, I’d lovingly reassure her that she has the right to make her own choice about the hospital visit situation without any guilt.

The family friend I mention didn’t contact me during my seven hospitalizations, so why the hell am I feeling guilty? She has family support literally by her side in her hospital room- that’s a helluva a lot more than I did. So fuck it. Fuck my Jewish guilt that I’ve had festering since I was in utero. I’m sick of it.

Whenever I think of my hospitalizations, the same script plays in my head.

Here’s some of how it goes:

“To my relatives/friends who didn’t visit me, call/leave a message with the front desk staff, or send a card during my seven hospitalizations, I want nothing to do with you.

That’s right.

Nothing. Buh-bye.

Dyane”

For those who suggest, due to these non-politically correct thoughts I’m revealing, that I change my meds, step up the therapy, call my psychiatrist, start meditating, do yoga, CBT, DBT, chant, use medical marijuana, etc. to overcome such “unhealthy/abnormal” anger I have this to say:

It’s best that you stay out of my life. 

Unless you’ve been through my Hell – unless you almost hung yourself with your bathrobe belt with your baby and toddler in the house – unless you spent weeks and weeks and even more endless weeks of your life locked up with fellow crazies – just stay the fuck away from me, okay? 

You might be thinking,

Dyane, shouldn’t you be able to forgive all these people by now?  Shouldn’t you release your anger, especially if you’re “stable” and a “mental health advocate”?

You know, my honest answer is that I wish I could forgive these people, but I can’t.

Not yet.

Don’t Dream It’s Over (My Postpartum Progress Update)

 

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The decision could have gone either way and frankly I was prepared for the worst:

To be ignored…

To be shunned…

To have my deepest concerns minimized…

Some of you who read My Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder Gets No Respect Part One and Part Two know that I contacted Postpartum Progress to ask if they’d include information about postpartum bipolar disorder (now termed “bipolar disorder with peripartum onset” in the DSM-5) on their ginormously popular website.

Postpartum Progress is one of the largest, most influential U.S. nonprofits that assists women living with postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD’s) aside from Postpartum Support International. Both PP and PSI are amazing organizations which provide information, encouragement and networking for women living with postpartum mood disorders.

In 2014 Postpartum Progress published my article edited by Cristi Comes about postpartum bipolar disorder. After this article went live, postpartum bipolar disorder was included in a list of PMAD’s on Postpartum Progress’ fundraiser Climb Out of the Darkness page.  

However, postpartum bipolar disorder wasn’t mentioned on the most important website pages defining each PMAD. Some of these page titles include “PMAD’s We Think You Need to Know About”and “FAQ’s” – the very pages that anxious, possibly mentally ill moms scan when they’re in crisis. This information could help mothers  who might have this lesser-known disorder but not be aware of its symptoms.

I had a big problem with this omission and I couldn’t let it go – and believe me, I wanted to forget about it. The way I saw it was this: if you’re going to run a nonprofit for mothers with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, then you need to include every single PMAD in your information pages. It’s not enough to list PPBD in one paragraph and publish my article about it (which is buried among the hundreds of other articles) yet otherwise ignore its existence.

A couple days ago I decided to send a second email to Postpartum Progress as I had sent it almost a month ago but hadn’t heard back. Today I got great news in my email’s in-box from Postpartum Progress founder Katherine Stone. She apologized for not getting back to me sooner, explained they have an extremely small staff (which I knew) and wrote that if I write up something about bipolar disorder, peripartum onset, she’ll be glad to include it on the site. She also mentioned they’re redoing their “Warrior Mom” badges this fall (I explain this in my “Respect” posts) and she promises me there will be a badge for bipolar disorder, peripartum onset! 

(I like the sound of postpartum bipolar disorder better but I need to go with the DSM-5 terminology for Postpartum Progress. )

I was so happy to get Katherine’s email. I knew she was busy as their big Warrior Moms conference had just ended a few days before I sent my first email, and I wrote her that I understood that she or another staffer would need time to get back to me.

BUT…

I had to go with my gut and be a pain in the ass, hence email #2. 

Frankly, I might not have been so caught up with nagging Postpartum Progress to mention PPBD if I wasn’t constantly reminded that my perinatal mood and anxiety disorder doesn’t exist by almost everyone. It gets old real fast! I was pleased and stunned for a minute when I read BP Magazine editor Elizabeth Forbes’ article “Your Particular Slice of Bipolar” in the Summer 2015 issue – she included a “bipolar disorder, peripartum onset” definition. Oh joy!

Sure, I’m writing my book to educate people about postpartum bipolar, but we all know that almost everyone is writing a book these days, including my hound Lucy.

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As much as I’ll promote Birth of a New Brain (and at that point I’m probably going to lose my Seroquel belly from all the effort) it’s likely to get lost in the shuffle of the tribble-like profusion of books published every day. 

Those who can make the biggest impact to educate others about PPBD are established perinatal mental health nonprofits, doctors, hospitals etc. through the internet and other channels. After my book is published and promoted, I’d like to start a nonprofit for mothers with postpartum bipolar disorder.  I’ve worked for no less than three nonprofits and I know a thing or two about the good, the bad and the ugly. I’d really love to do this and we shall see!

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Moving on…(if you want a direct, concise “brevity is the soul of wit”-style post, this blog is not for you! 😉 I’ve noticed some women, including me, rarely get the assistance they deserve unless they get angry at the customer service representative or doctors or what have you. It’s bizarre.

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I’ve fired off emails that are sweet-as-pie and never get a response, but when I’ve sent emails with a subject title such as “I’m extremely disappointed”, “An unhappy fan”, or “I’m furious!” I got a speedy reply! It shouldn’t be like that, but it often is. So I’m glad I didn’t have to get angry (not “bipolar angry”, but simply angry) in this particular situation. I don’t like playing that game one bit. 

I’ve saved the end of this post for my Crowded House Don’t Dream It’s Over speech. If there’s something important to you that you want to do (but you keep putting it off) PLEASE don’t give up. Maybe you’ve attempted this difficult task a few times to no avail. I’m giving you permission this very moment to go easy on yourself about the whole matter, but give whatever it is one more chance. I want you to have your Postpartum Progress moment! Take to heart the words of the great Neil Finn:

“Hey now, hey now
Don’t dream it’s over
Hey now, hey now
When the world comes in
They come, they come
To build a wall between us
We know they won’t win”

 

Thanks for reading, my friends – have a great ‘n groovy weekend!

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Artwork by blogger extraordinaire Blahpolar Diaries – I actually thought this was a coffee mug at first! Can I blame the meds?

Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth) will be, fingers and eyes crossed, published by Post Hill Press in Fall, 2016

“I’m Not A Mess” (Except When I’m A Mess)

 

 

“I’m Not A Mess” by Dyane

Trigger Warning:

A touch of profanity and silly, embarrassing neck movements 

 

Last Friday I was inspired by the writing of Dr. Walker Karraa, founder of Stigmama.com and author of the bestselling book Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth.  

Dr. Karraa wrote about how the media only portrays women with postpartum mood disorders (PPMD’s) as sad. The reality is that I, along with most women with PPMD’s, use the full range of our emotions.  Many of us don’t walk around 24/7 with gloom and doom expressions.  I came up with my ditty “I’m Not a Mess”, and I felt pretty spunky when I recorded my tune.  Little did I know that I’d become a major mess over the weekend.

Valentine’s Day was beautiful and sunny, but I woke up out of sorts.  The previous night I read a Freshly Pressed post that deeply affected me: Asher’s “Bipolar as Unexpected Gift” on My Beautiful Machine.   In a nutshell, I allowed Asher’s post title to trigger me.  I wrote a complaint to WordPress letting them know why I wasn’t thrilled with their selection.

Next, I wrote my own blog post about Asher’s post.  I broke my stringent rule of not waiting a minimum of twenty-four hours to review and publish any post.  Instead, as soon as I finished typing “Do YOU think bipolar is a gift?”, I pressed the blue “Publish” button.  Shazam! I had no idea what I was about to stir up.  

I received more comments about “Do YOU think bipolar is a gift?” than any of the other 257 posts I’ve written. (Speaking of comments, I apologize for not having responded to comments yet. I will! My apologies!)

If I could re-do Valentine’s weekend, I would have put my energy into doing something else than writing about Asher’s post.  It’s so easy to look back at such events and think, “Hmmmm – that wasn’t good for me, as much as I wanted to hop on my soapbox and pontificate!”   I should have given stinky Lucy a lavender and mint-scented bath instead, or hang out with the girls, or God forbid, work on my book. But nooooooooooo!

Ironically, Asher and I wound up getting in touch with one another after I published my post. He took the high road instead of becoming defensive. I thought he had every right to be huffy, so I was pleasantly surprised by his positive attitude. We both agreed on how much we love the blogosphere, and it was nice to interact with a blogger who could take my criticism with a grain of salt and a cup of compassion.  Asher was willing to re-examine different perceptions of bipolar as gift, as evil incarnate, or somewhere in between…  (You all know how I feel about that! 😉  I was grateful to him.

Moving on….

Then, Saturday evening I became The Devil.  

Valentine’s Day is always weird for me.  For years I’ve pretended that I’m low-maintenance and claimed that I don’t need a mushy card, flowers, high-end chocolate, a nice dinner, and so on. But that has been a blatant lie, and like a volcano, I’ve kept my bubbling, lava-like anger inside of me until I finally burst. 

I didn’t communicate with my husband about my expectations – my first big mistake.  When Valentine’s Day came round, my husband gave me a card, but that was it.  When Craig and I turned in for the night, I made a caustic remark that irritated him more than I thought it would.  He became an ice cube and fell asleep instantly.

Meanwhile, yours truly fumed. I even started crying – it was unusual for me to cry over a rebuff like that, but I felt so hurt and disappointed.  I wanted our evening to be special, or at least have some affection, but there was no hug or kiss goodnight.  Nada.

I couldn’t sleep.

That became a BIG problem.

I took an extra 25 mg of my Seroquel.  I read a book. Still, no sleep in sight.

I fumed some more.  Then I did something extremely rare.  I woke up Craig from his enviable deep sleep.  I told him that I couldn’t sleep.  He didn’t hear my snorts and sniffles; instead he rolled over and he went back to sleep within seconds.

I woke him up again.  The same pattern took place.

I barely slept the rest of the night, and my history has shown that’s disastrous.  Even one night’s lack of sleep messes me up big-time!  The following day I was a zombie and despite another beautiful, sunny day, I stayed in bed. I was exhausted, I was still bottled up with anger  and what was worse was that I felt depressed.  That scared the sh*t out of me, as I hadn’t felt that down in a long time.

I tried taking a nap, but it wasn’t happening.  The only thing that brought me comfort aside from Lucy licking away my tears was watching the sixth season of “Nurse Jackie”.

In the afternoon Craig inadvertently made some noise as I tried in vain to nap. I got out of the bed and met him in the hallway, unable to look him in the eye.

Our girls were at a playdate, and so I let loose like Mt. Vesuvius.  I slammed the door several times, screaming all the while like a banshee about every wrong he ever did me for the past seventeen years of our relationship, and I screeched other things that should only be thought about, but never said out loud in anger.  

I told him that he should have woken up when he heard  me say that I couldn’t sleep, and he should have helped me somehow.  

Ever since my bipolar one kicked in (which, aside from a genetic predisposition to bipolar, was mainly caused by no sleep due to labor), without proper sleep, I become the biggest mess of all time.

My tantrum was so awful that afterwards my throat was bloody.  That evening I took extra Seroquel PRN per my psychiatrist. (Coincidentally PRN stands for the Latin phrase pro re nata, which means “as the situation demands.”) I’m allowed to use Seroquel PRN when faced with acute insomnia.  Thank God I slept through the night.

Craig and I made peace the next morning, and I explained to him that in the future,  if I ever wake him up and indicate I can’t sleep, it’s imperative that I need his assistance.  I should have taken extra Seroquel at the first sign that my insomnia was much worse than usual, but rage and sorrow clouded my judgement.  If Craig had urged me to take the medicine, I could have nipped the cycle in the bud.

This is no rocket science-like realization, but it took our having that kind of argument to realize that as someone with bipolar one, we can’t screw up even one night of my sleep if we can help it.  And yes, it needs to be a “we”.  

The best valentine I could ask for from my husband, bar none, is mental health support. When it’s obvious that I’m emotionally disturbed at bedtime (a precarious time because if I’m upset, I don’t sleep…) I need him to pay close attention, even if he’s tired and/or mad at me.  I need him to check in with me, and suggest I take extra medication if I haven’t done so already.

We learned a sober lesson from this Valentine’s Day.  Next year I’ll remember to ask for what I want instead of repress my feelings. I don’t expect a diamond ring or roses, but I do expect communication, kindness and proactiveness from my partner.

 

Literally right after I finished writing this post, I spotted an International Bipolar Foundation Facebook announcement of a new app called “Aware” creating awareness for people living with bipolar disorder.  Check out what it does below…

http://www.meganharley.com/#!aware/c1u5g

 

Aware is a wristband worn at night. It is unique in the sense that it is specifically aimed at people living with bipolar disorder, providing a way to measure, monitor and manage their sleep to ultimately become aware before a possible relapse as sleep acts as a prominent bio-marker in people with bipolar disorder.

 ‘Aware’ is about exactly what the title suggests, creating awareness for people living with bipolar disorder with sleep being a prominent bio-marker in terms of managing the disorder ” After many intense interviews and observations it was apparent that sleep has a major effect on bipolar disorder relapses and eventual hospitalization.

 This then led to the influential design ‘Aware’ which is a wristband worn at night, enabling a method to measure,monitor and manage their sleep to become aware of a possible relapse and aim to prevent it from happening.

 

 

 

 

Sweating Buckets Over S/M/L Stuff

At the ripe age of forty-four, I thought I wouldn’t let petty things get to me quite as much as they did when I was younger.  Unfortunately I do let petty things  (and sometimes not-so-petty things – see items #2 & #5 below) bug me so much that I turn into Satan. 

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What kinds of petty/non-petty stuff raises my blood pressure?

1) People who don’t return my emails 

2) People who pull dangerous, rude moves while driving our curvy mountain highway

3) Gross spammers (I wish spammers would get a life! They should start doing volunteer work instead of sending me emails about increasing my damn penis size???  And here’s a newsflash to them all: I DON’T HAVE A PENIS!!!)

4) People who won’t pick up their dog’s poop, especially in well-travelled areas

5) People who make clueless remarks about mental illness 

6) People who I’ve helped on and off for years, but when I need their help, they become mysteriously unavailable

I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you.  Well, maybe.  

All this stuff drains me, to say the least.  How I wish I could become impervious to at least half of the items on my list, but realistically that’s not going to happen anytime soon.  

I could start meditating to help me deal better with life’s indignities; meditation has been suggested to me over and over again by well-meaning professionals.  But I’d rather have my teeth cleaned than meditate.  (I hate getting my teeth cleaned and hearing that squeaky sucking sound!)

I’ve been told by vibrant, semi-enlightened souls how much a yoga practice will transform my life.  I’m happy for their yoga love, but I’d rather scrub my (very dirty) toilet.  I’ve tried different forms of yoga, but I simply don’t feel called to it.  I’d rather sweat heavily on a run, a hike, or on my elliptical machine.  (I *love* to sweat!  The more drips the better!)  Speaking of sweat, yes, I tried a Bikram “hot yoga” class years ago, and while I liked it more than the other kinds of yoga I tried, it didn’t float my boat.

While yes, I’m venting and whining up a storm, please believe me when I say that I know how damn lucky I am.  All I have to do is read an update about my neighbor who’s battling Stage IV cancer.  I’m reminded of how good I have it while reading profiles of my fellow nominees for the WEGO Health Activist Award.  Most of these incredible folks live with serious chronic illness. Each of their stories helps me appreciate the fact that while yeah, I have bipolar, thank God I don’t have debilitating migraines forcing me to live on my couch, or exist without an entire upper intestine and rectum. (Yes.)  

Ever since I was a child, my beloved Granny would often tell me in her New York-inflected accent, “Dyanu, it could always be worse!”  (Dyanu was one of her nicknames for me.)

My wise Granny was right.  It can always be worse.  I was very close to Granny as a teenager and young adult.  Lung cancer caused her to die a ghastly death ten years before my diagnosis.  While I was devastated that I lost her, I’m glad that Granny didn’t live long enough to see how “worse” it became for me after I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  Although Granny was a valiant fighter throughout her life, I know that my struggles with mental illness would have torn her apart.

So here I am.  My sweat has evaporated both literally (I worked out an hour ago) and figuratively. (I’m not sweating over any of my pet peeves at the moment.) 

Tomorrow will inevitably bring its aggravations, but maybe I can sweat just a little bit less over them.  Who cares if that mean person doesn’t email me back? I can direct my attention upon more fulfilling things.  The rude, dangerous drivers will always pique my road rage, but maybe I can try using an essential oil spray to help me chill out in the car instead of flipping the bird or screaming out a very vile word.  

If I make a little progress with a few of my pet peeves, hopefully my feelings of accomplishment can make me a little less reactionary overall.  

And maybe I’ll get my first tattoo on a highly visible place (i.e. my hand, or perhaps my forehead, Maori-style) to remind me:  

“It could always be worse!”

 

*You can endorse me for the WEGO Health Activist Award (I was nominated by the bestselling writer Wendy K. Williamson!) until January 31st, 2015 at :

https://awards.wegohealth.com/nominees/4811

Endorsing me takes just 15 seconds and I’d be very grateful to you!

Anger

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Yep, gonna lose some followers.  I wish them well, and I completely understand if my foul mouth isn’t their cup of tea.  To be honest, “fuck this shit” is a phrase I have said many times, and cursing is a big part of who I am.  I swear like a sailor when the kids aren’t around; well most of the time I make sure they aren’t around.  Unsavory language has gotten me through numerous dicey moments, and it has prevented me from exhibiting dangerous road rage. There have even been impressive studies conducted showing the benefits of swearing! (I’m too lazy to cite them, however, but I believe it!;)

Some of you will be familiar with the famous poem “Children Learn What They Live“.  I grew up with a poster of that poem on the wall in our house.  Over the years I’ve found that Children Learn What They Live  is truer than true.  Both my parents cursed openly, and they were my primary teachers when it came to cussology.  

Last year I listened to a cassette tape that recorded my father playing his violin.  My Dad was a brilliant violinist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic/Fulbright Award Winner/Juilliard graduate.  While listening to the beginning of the tape I heard him tune up before playing a magnificent composition.  Imagine my reaction when I heard him muttering “Testing, 123, fuck you! Testing, 123, fuck you!” just before launching into a complex masterpiece on his Stradivarius.  Talk about a contrast from one sound to another!

Dad would have definitely liked the profane image of the serene guy flipping the bird gracing the top of this post.  The photo certainly made me laugh.  It felt good to chuckle, and I hope you giggle a bit over it too.  Life is serious enough as it is, and it’s healthy to make light of certain things now and then.

And now, moving right along, I’d like to write a bit about ANGER.

If you’re familiar with my writing, I’m sure you’ve noticed that many of my posts have been fueled by my intense anger. I was brought up by a rage-a-holic and an alcoholic.  Ever since I was a baby, I was around physical violence (which I observed; I was not physically abused, thank God.) and I grew up with verbal abuse.  

It makes sense that I too became a rager, and I was verbally abusive to people I loved, although I’ve come a long way in that area.  I’ve rarely been physically violent; the only time I can remember hitting someone happened when I was manic.  I’m surprised I haven’t been more violent considering all the fights I witnessed.  No wonder I have an anxiety problem! 

Anyway, despite some people thinking I’m “so nice”, I’m a very angry person and my anger grew much worse after I was diagnosed with bipolar one disorder in 2007.  Writing about my anger helps me.  

The addition of my Lucy puppy has been so good for me – she helps me to diffuse my anger in her magical canine way.  She mellows me out.  My daily workouts on my elliptical, in which I sweat so much I create a giant “butterfly” pattern of sweat on my ratty tank tops, levels out my anger too, but exercise is a temporary solution to a deep-seated problem.  

I’ve examined  my anger with my therapist Tara, but to quote Karen Carpenter, “We’ve only just begun!”  I need to discuss anger more with Tara because it continues to be a dominant part of my personality and I hate it!  (That’s a kind of oxymoron, I know!)

I realize that anger is a normal and healthy part of one’s makeup.  I can’t expect to eradicate anger from my brain.  I just need to bring this rage down a few notches…most likely even more than a few.

When I was young I learned that anger can be a positive trait in one of my all-time favorite books: Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time.  The protagonist Meg Murry is one very angry teenager.  Her scientist father has mysteriously disappeared and there is “talk” in her village about him.  She’s unattractive compared to her stunner of a genius mom.  To add to the mix, Meg’s little brother won’t talk in school and he’s bullied by a bunch of his classmates.  

While on a search to find her father in another galaxy, Meg is instructed by three pivotal characters to use her anger as a “gift” when she faces the evil IT on the planet of Camazotz. Interestingly, Meg utilizes her anger in a unique, powerful way to overcome evil. 

I wish I could be more Meg-like when it comes to anger management!

What am I so angry about? you may be wondering at this point.  I have a hell of a lot to be grateful for, starting with you, my faithful reader.  I have my health, my family, a roof over my head, ice cream in the freezer.  (A lot of ice cream!)  Since I have all these fantastic blessings, why all the damn anger?

It’s a good question.  

When a person is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, she sometimes feels anger at God for “giving” her the illness, and/or anger at a parent for passing along the genetic predisposition.  I went through a phase in which I was angry at God, but I no longer feel that way.  I believe the reason I relinquished that particular anger is because I’ve reached the beginnings of my recovery over the past year. 

But despite my blessings, the anger still festers.  

It’s based on the fact that most of my family members and friends totally bailed out on me when I relapsed with bipolar depression exactly one year ago.  There’s a lot more to it than that single sentence, of course.  But that’s the gist of it.

In July, 2013, I was hospitalized forty minutes away from home for almost three weeks.  I had slowly, methodically tapered off my bipolar medications for over twelve months prior to my relapse.  At first I was manic, and then I became depressed/suicidal, hence my admission to the hospital’s mental unit.  It was euphemistically named the “Garden Pavilion”.  (Ha!  There was no garden to be seen there – not even a single nice plant or window overlooking a garden!)

In that hospital, I was forgotten.

The thing is…I needed visitors at that hellhole more than anything.  I was the only patient who didn’t have visitors apart from my husband and children.  My sibling, who lives just minutes away from me, didn’t visit me.  My mother didn’t visit me.  My husband’s family didn’t visit me.  My closest friends didn’t visit me.  I didn’t receive any cards, plants, flowers, chocolate, books, phone calls you-name-it.  

I can’t tell you how much this unit sucked. To top things off, I was never taken out into daylight the entire time I was there.  That in itself is enough to make any sane person a little batshit crazy.

Now, some in my circle will totally disagree with me about my perspective about what happened last summer.  In part, I blame our society for its lack of mental health education for people staying the hell away from me.  But I remain baffled about what took place last July.  If I had cancer you can bet your ass I would have had visitors.  

So you can see I’m still really pissed off – my counselor believes I have PTSD from that ordeal – she doesn’t use that term lightly, and I totally agree with her on that point!

The first word that comes to my mind in this moment is “forgiveness”.  

I have to let it go (dammit, “Frozen” ruined that phrase for me!) and forgive my family and friends, but it’s reallllllly hard to let that all go.  I am hoping that time serves as a panacea to this dilemma.

If you were in a loony bin for three weeks and no one visited you or called/sent you a card except your partner, how would you feel?

 

 

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Being Nice vs. Being A Bee-yotch!

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Yesterday I kicked back with my new book Anne’s World: A New Century of Anne of  Green Gables co-edited by L. M. Montgomery expert Irene Gammel.  I read Gammel’s chapter about Montgomery’s classic Anne of Green Gables and bibliotherapy.  The chapter was comprehensive in its analysis.  I mean absolutely no disrespect to Gammel, who is a fine writer (see her book Looking for Anne if you enjoy L.M. Montgomery books) but most of her findings went over my head.  I need to read the chapter one more time.  In any case, I’m more of a bibliotherapy believer, as Gammel cited studies proving that books helped readers deal better with life issues, and lessened or even alleviated their depression.

 

While I don’t feel capable to analyze bibliotherapy today, I am fired up to discuss how Anne of Green Gables influenced me to be nice, and how I’ve also been the Anne-Ti-Christ.

In Anne of Green Gables, heroine Anne Shirley always wants to be loving towards others.  She is the antithesis of the bitch prototype.  I always admired her for being so genuinely nice.

In Anne of Avonlea, during Anne’s first year of teaching grade school, her disciplinary philosophy is against corporal punishment. She tells her teacher friends that she would rather win her students over with kindness.  In one memorable scene, Anne completely loses it with her most challenging student Anthony Pye.  One day Anthony pushes her too far with his insolence, and Anne uses a hardwood pointer to whip him.    Anne is utterly disgusted with herself.  She feels she has lost all hopes of getting through to Anthony.  To her shock, Anthony offers to carry her books the next day.  He actually respects her for dishing out physical punishment.  I was totally surprised when I first read this scene years ago because Anne acted so out of character.

In another pivotal moment in Anne of Avonlea Anne upsets her new neighbor Mr. Harrison by accidentally selling his cow.  To try to smooth matters over with him, she brings him a yummy walnut cake.  This is typical Anne behavior, and it works.  They begin a close friendship.  In reading this, I learned that one attracts good things with gifts and a sweet disposition.  I knew I was capable of being “Anneish” like that, but I also was aware I had a very dark side as well.  Anne’s dark side wasn’t nearly as bad as mine.  I felt the worst thing she did was get mad when her classmate Gilbert Blythe called her red hair “carrots”.  (She broke her slate over his head.)  Eventually they wind up getting married, so it all works out in the end!   

I knew I had a special force of anger within me in elementary school.  In sixth grade I attended Coliseum Street School in Inglewood. A professional theater production company came to Coliseum to produce a modern-day version of “Taming of the Shrew”.  There was plenty of excitement about the auditions.  I figured I’d get some small role at best, and I didn’t obsess over it.  The day arrived for our auditions, and I was given the lines of “Kate” to read in which she becomes quite angry.  I performed the scene and gave it my all, erupting into a state of anger I didn’t even know I possessed.  When I finished, the room was absolutely silent.  I felt a shift occur.

I won the lead of Kate.  

I grew up with a mother who earned her prestigious university’s first television acting award.  She moved to Los Angeles to act, and she had real talent, but acting wasn’t for her.   While Mom shifted into another career, she never lost her ability to deeply embody the character of any role she wished to play.  Her rage was fierce, to say the least.  

From time to time, I observed her getting angry with customer service personnel.  I noticed that when Mom got furious, she was usually treated with more respect rather than less.  It was easy for her to shift into the anger role, but it was not easy for me to display my outrage…at first.  These days whenever I lose my temper, I feel terrible afterwards, and it takes a long time for me to release my anger.  I feel hung over because at my core I am a good person and I don’t like to hurt people.  As I get older, I have less frequent temper tantrums, but when my hissy fits emerge, I advise you to run away if you’re anywhere around me!  

I am stable right now on meds, and I have my anger in check most of the time.  Even so, I can lose control of my mood very quickly. Road rage is one of my weaknesses (I do nothing dangerous, mind you) and leaving livid voicemail messages when I’m frustrated is another of my failings.  

I grew up around a lot of anger, and children really do “learn what they live” in the words of Dr. Dorothy Nolte, who wrote the famous piece “Children Learn What They Live”.  Add to the fact that I am a natural drama queen, my mother has acting in her blood, and oh yeah, I have bipolar, and what results is a perfect storm of a potential freak fest.  I want to get a grip on this dilemma not only for myself, but for my husband and children’s sakes as well.  As much as I’d like to emulate Anne Shirley’s even temperament, I don’t think I can.  In Montgomery’s books, Anne is truly, consistently nice.  She could never be a bee-yotch.  That’s why these books appeal from generation to generation.

Anne Shirley will be one of my role models for the rest of my life.  I hope my girls will read the Anne books (they should since they are named for characters/places in them!) and learn from Anne’s good nature.  It’s important to express anger, but there’s a civil way to do it and a crazy way to do it.  Believe me, I know how to be civil and how to be crazy, and I prefer to be the former.  I’m always looking for pointers on how to calm down in the midst of an emotional storm, so let me know what works for you!

 

Triggered

fire angerYes, it’s Fireface.  I’m back and I’m bad!

Today was not one of my finest days.  It was a mess.  I had my two little girls unexpectedly home with me.  While I love them more than anything else, they were going stir-crazy the livelong day.  I almost wasn’t going to write as I was worn out, but I knew that if I made the feeblest of efforts at my computer, it would be worthwhile.  Here I am at the end of the day, and it feels good to have the luxury of solo time in front of my laptop.

After my four-day-long New Zealand blogging sojourn, I’m back to brainstorming topics to write about each day.  Sometimes that’s so easy for me to do, but today I had ye olde writer’s block.  However, something happened that suddenly fired me up to write and so I’m going to expound on the topic here.  If you are offended by foul language, please skip today’s blog.  Tomorrow I shall write from a more virtuous place, I promise.  I usually refrain from writing pottymouth-style, because, as you know my dear readers, whatever we write on the internet can come back to haunt us in all sorts of ways.  And speaking of the internet and feeling haunted by it…

I am a Facebooker.  I really do love using this form of social media.  I think that utilizing Facebook in moderation is a sign of good mental health.  Through Facebook I discovered an acclaimed research organization called CREST Bipolar Disorder.  CREST consists of cutting-edge researchers located worldwide, and I’m currently participating in a survey they are conducting on bipolar called Delphi.  The Delphi study focuses on exploring and sharing wellness strategies for bipolar disorder and that’s all very well and good.  I’m glad to be taking part in it; hopefully they won’t kick me out. (Read on.)

Yesterday I became very enthused when I read on CREST’s Facebook page about EXACTLY what I am writing about: postpartum mania. Here’s the blurb they posted:

“The perinatal period is a time of increased risk for all women to experience mental health problems; those with a history of mental illness are at particularly high risk. This study looks into postpartum mania, about which relatively little is known. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00737-013-0408-1#page-1

I bookmarked the link’s study and I plan to contact the principals involved when I reach that point for my book’s research.  In my excitement I commented underneath the CREST post,  “I was diagnosed with postpartum mania/postpartum bipolar and I even experienced hypergraphia. (compulsive writing) I’m writing a book about PPBD titled: “Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar”…Thank you for sharing this valuable link – my goal is to help other mothers who have experienced postpartum mania etc. feel less alone and to give them resources as well. My book includes interviews with experts in the postpartum mental health field.”

I was the only person who commented in response to CREST’s post.  I added one more brief question – I just couldn’t help myself!

CREST.Bipolar Disorder – could you refer me to any experts on postpartum bipolar? I am participating in your Delphi survey. I’d be grateful to hear from you.”

These CREST folks love to post lots of items on their Facebook page, but after examining it, I noticed barely anyone even “likes” any of the posts or contributes any comments.  I didn’t receive a response to my question by their staff yet, which is disappointing, but I had a feeling not to get my hopes up.  I forgot about that issue for the time being, and I moved on with my day.

Later I checked my Facebook newsfeed and I spotted that CREST was sponsoring a webinar today on the positives of bipolar.

They posted “46% of survey participants w/ #bipolar would not ‘push a button’ to rid themselves of condition.”

Now, I’m grossly ignorant of what a hashtag represents; all I know is that “#” is connected with Twitter, yes?  No one “liked” that post or commented.  Quelle surprise!  Anyway, that’s all besides the point…

I allowed myself to be mega-triggered reading that post.  My heart started to beat faster, blood rushed to my face, I started holding my breath and I was MAD.  Steam should have been blowing out of my ears, cartoon-style!  I started typing furiously in response to the “button” statement, but I erased it as soon as I completed it.  Here’s the gist of what I wrote:

That’s great if you have bipolar and that you wouldn’t want to change your diagnosis even if you could.  I could actually begin to stomach that concept personally if I didn’t have children.  But I did have a baby, and right after I had that baby, bipolar kicked in. It not only f*cked me up beyond what any human being should endure, it affected my baby and my two-year-old and my husband adversely to the 1000th degree. Bipolar literally robbed me of months away from my family when I was stuck in loony bins.  Bipolar also stole me away from them when I was a foot away from their loving faces.  The fact that I was suicidal more times than I could count adds to the fact that if there was a “button” I could press to undo bipolar in my life, well, hell yeah, I’d press that button so hard it would break into bits.

Anyone who says “Oh, I wouldn’t change having bipolar because then I wouldn’t be the person I am!” strikes me as being selfish.  Do you think maybe, just maybe your kids and partner and your dog might feel differently there?  Or your other family members and friends and law enforcement personnel?  Don’t you think your kids would rather not have had their mom carted away in handcuffs if they had that choice?  I just don’t get it.

It’s okay to say “If I had a choice, I wouldn’t want to have bipolar”.  I think that those of us with this mental illness would still be pretty damn awesome even if we weren’t “touched with fire” or whatever the f*ck you want to call it.

GOD.

I guess it’s a good thing I did not participate in the CREST webinar.  My misguided rage would have engulfed me.  I probably would have started to speak in tongues and grown two heads.

The bottom line is that I was a groovy person before bipolar kicked in.  I was a “contender” for all kinds of cool things.  And now that I have the Scarlet B on my chest, I am still a groovy person.  I am still a contender, and I’m going to fulfill some of my dreams that were deferred due to bipolar.

If I had participated in that webinar today, I might have asked them, “Well then, if bipolar is such an awesome benefit, would you want your child to have it?”

Really.

Would you want your child to hate life, to want to die?  To loathe every single moment of every single day?  To be so fatigued from med side effects that she couldn’t stand up?

Would you want your sweet baby to feel so desperate that she’d try all kinds of drugs with soul-sucking side effects and then finally have her brain zapped numerous times, all just to survive?

Probably not, eh?

I don’t think so.

Blessed with bipolar?  I think not!  I am blessed with Dyane, and bipolar (give me manic depression any day, but that’s a topic for another blog) is going to start to take more of a backseat in my self-identity.

I’m still going to blog about bipolar, and I’m still writing my book about it, and I’ll be working with the International Bipolar Foundation’s Consumer Advisory Board.  But, I’m going to make an effort to develop the non-bipolar-related elements in my life and I’ll write about those as well.   I’ll keep you posted.

And, as always, thanks for reading!