Triggered Once Again…

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A photo from the hospital’s website…my room looked nothing like this.  

The words “dreary”, “desolate”, and “sterile” sum up my room’s decor.   

It was eight months ago when I was last locked up in the loony bin for bipolar depression/suicidal ideation.  The relapse occurred during my tapering off lithium, and it was so nightmarish that I asked for bilateral electroconvulsive (ECT) treatments.  The ECT worked in tandem with a new medication combination, and I was incredibly fortunate to have minimal side effects.  While I’m not cured by any means, I’m 360-degrees better.

I know that “loony bin” is derogatory; I’ll use the euphemistically named “Garden Pavilion” at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula instead.  I suppose I should wipe the snide tone out of my words at the get-go, and give this hospital much more credit.  C.H.O.M.P.’s confines and staff did help to save my life.  But the way in which that was done left much to be desired.

For one thing, I was cooped up worse than our three chickens.  We allow them to “free range” every day in our yard, and they truly seem more tranquil after these excursions.  During my lengthy time at the hospital I wasn’t taken outside once with staff for a breath of fresh air and natural sunlight.  As small a thing as that may sound, I believe that staying in an ugly, uninspiring, yucky-smelling, bleak unit 24/7 prolonged my recovery, and worsened my depression.  I’ve always loved nature, and during my deepest depressions getting out in nature gave me moments of comfort and hope.

A few months after my hospital release, I made some calls to Bay Area hospitals out of curiosity .  I learned that numerous mental health units with the same population as C.H.O.M.P. take their patients out for walks or even field trips.  Why C.H.O.M.P. couldn’t do that, I don’t know.  I called the unit about it and I couldn’t get a clear answer.

And then there is the cost of hospitalization.  I manage our bills, and we’re going to be paying C.H.O.M.P. for a very long time.  My hospital visit cost TONS of money not covered by Medicare.  I could have bought several new cards for what my hospitalization cost.  Again, I realize that I sound ungrateful and that my life is worth any exorbitant medical bill, but it still, for want of a better word, sucks.  I would have rather saved up all that money for my children’s college education.

The truth of the matter is that I feel triggered this afternoon..  My husband and daughter left for Los Angeles this morning.  Craig’s acclaimed book Quest for Flight – John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West is being honored for winning the Regional Literature Award by the Great Southwest Book Festival in Hollywood.  I could have accompanied them, but I chose to stay home to write and relax. The tedious eight-hour-long drive to L.A. and and eight-hour-long drive back for only a three-day-long visit didn’t appeal to me.  (Flying there was too expensive.)  Fortunately Craig is so easygoing that he didn’t mind my staying home in the slightest.  He’s even making time to visit my Mom while there, and she’s thrilled she’ll see her eldest granddaughter.

It’s just that I haven’t been away from either Craig nor Avi since I was hospitalized and that makes me feel nervous and sad.  Memories of prior separations (I’ve had seven lengthy hospitalizations since 2007) are surfacing that I don’t want to dwell upon.  I have no concrete reason to be nervous or sad – I’m in good physical health, way better mental health than I’ve enjoyed in years, and I’ve set up plans for a few fun activities to do while they are out of town.

I am lucky to have my other daughter with me.  Rilla deserves to have me be in relatively good spirits during this one-on-one time.  So what I’ll do to get in a better frame of mind is:

1) Work out on the elliptical – this always puts me in a better mental state 

2) Plan a couple fun, special things to do with Rilla (Our big splurge is going to the famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, which she has been begging me to do for ages.)

3) Use my Sunbox (I use this bright light for thirty minutes in the morning when I write or surf the internet. It helps me keep depression at bay)

4) Write 

5) Invest in some good quality chocolate!

and lastly…

6) Don’t be a recluse.  When I stay in the house all day long, it’s very bad for my mood.  Even getting out for a little while makes a big difference.

Time flies by so quickly that the three days will pass by in a heart beat anyway.

I can’t help but have a Pollyanna moment after sharing these thoughts.   I’d rather be home, freaked out, than back in that cold, scary hospital.  All I have to do to feel better is look out my window at beautiful redwood trees and the clucking trio of chickens.  It’s a pretty damn good life.  So I’ll just take the myriad of hospital bills in stride, and I’ll deal with my Garden Pavilion memories that come and thankfully go.  I have my life back in my own hands, and that’s what matters now.

I dedicate this Crowded House song “Better Be Home Soon” to Craig & Avonlea; the lyrics have a different meaning than my situation, but it’s a classic song!

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!