Kiss5Tigers

The 5 Tigers represent the big things in life. This blog is about facing them.


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I am not alone

I know I’m not alone in my disorder. I actually know of at least 6 other bipolar people who are in my current or past circle of friends. I’m not the only one.

But sometimes it feels like it.

So as an American how am I handling it? I’m looking for a support group.

Do you have any idea how many support groups there are for functional bipolar people? Surprisingly few. I guess folks figure we don’t need support.

I am running into two difficulties. Well, no, one difficulty that presents two ways: timing.

I work during the day, so no I cannot attend your 10:00 am group. I need my job. That’s how I have health insurance and pay my rent. I can’t blow off the job for your group, even though I need to hear from people who get what I’m going through. I also can’t go to your group that meets at 7:30 pm. I get up for work about 5:00 in the morning, I need to be home in bed by 9:00 or so, not saying good night and thinking about driving.

Of course the driving after dark is a whole ‘nother issue, as you might recall from my issue with fog.

There are no weekend groups, at least not that I’ve found for adults. And there are very few evening groups so they seem to be competing. Why are they all on Thursday? If you know the DBSA has a regular Thursday evening group, why is the MHA starting another one on the same night? Surely it would make more sense to meet on a different night. Some people might even go to both, you never know.

But I need to be able to talk about what it’s like to struggle with this disorder, with other people who are also facing it. So I will soon make a decision and we’ll see what happens.


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Yay, Fog

I left the house early Friday morning to drive to work. I leave before the sun comes up, which already is not my favorite time to drive. But that day, there was fog. Not mist, not haziness, actual fog. I couldn’t see the house across the street. The streetlight at the end of the street appeared suspended like the moon in the sky; it did not illuminate the area like usual.

I tried to drive, but I wasn’t out of the neighborhood before I realized I couldn’t do it. I went home and waited a half hour before trying again.

Now let me be clear. I am not a fan of horror movies so this isn’t like I believed monsters were going to get me. I felt like I could not see well enough through the fog to be safe. I didn’t want to hit anyone and I didn’t trust my reflexes due to the early hour.

At the second attempt, there was fog the way most people think of fog. I got on the highway, creeping along at 50 mph, feeling like I was going too fast for what I could see. However, other drivers felt that 65 or 70 was a better speed. I realized I was a hazard and pulled over, waiting until the sun was fully up.

I called my employee assistance program and they talked me down, I was so freaked out. I wanted to cry. I was unprepared to be so afraid of driving in less than sunny weather.

Of course I was late for work, which is a different problem, but still a factor.

After work, I went to my doctor. I would have gone to the psychiatrist but he is closed on Fridays. I was shaking and upset. I actually did cry in his office because I am so frustrated by this situation. I just want to go to work, nothing unusual.

Doctor asked if I thought this would happen again. Well, we are coming up on 2 weeks of bad weather, so yes it very much could happen again. He prescribed me some rescue meds to take the edge off. Catch 22: they may make me too sleepy to drive. So I have meds to take to calm down during stressful driving that could stop me from driving at all. I hope that doesn’t happen because I can choose not to drive without taking meds if it comes to that. I want to drive and get on with normal life.

So I have put new tires on the car and during the bad weather, I’m taking the train to work.

I just want to live life without freaking out over things.


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A Different Rabbit Hole

Here it is, spring, and I’m entering a down cycle. No fun, this. All I want to do is sleep or maybe go shopping. Only I have no money or transportation for shopping, so sleep it is.

I want to get out. I want to get out of my skin and escape and sleep and fly. It makes no sense, just up and down, contradictory feelings. I want an adventure. I have one coming up in a month but I want one now.

I bought canvases but I don’t know what to paint. Hey, 8 for $20, then 30% off, they were less than $2 each, very cool. I have 3 that need a topcoat, then I’d like to take them down to Cafe Brazil and see if they’ll post them for sale. Right now they have a matte finish and I think gloss will be better, it gives the brown tissue more depth.

I have no focus. I feel like I’m struggling with basic things like homework and filling my day. I can’t stay on task. A month ago I had SO MUCH to do, now I don’t even want to check my email.

I just hope I can make it through work tomorrow. I don’t feel like I’m doing well and I don’t know how to fix it. Hopefully this downshift will be speedy then heading back up again.


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What Is Identity?

Lately one of the family history websites has been running a series of ads about finding your “true” ethnicity by sending them a DNA sample.  The one I remember best is a man in lederhosen talking about how he was raised believing he was German but DNA testing showed his heritage was more Scottish, so he traded in his lederhosen for a kilt.

Part of me says, both are non-pants ethnic costumes, not a big change.  Part of me says, Celts settled in Germany and France as well as Ireland, so not such a leap considering that there has to be a common base culture underlying it all.  At least the Romans thought so.

And part of me wonders, how did it turn out that he “thought” he was German but he’s “really” Scottish?  Are we now supposed to worry that the culture we thought our family embodied is somehow wrong because it doesn’t match our genes?  Doesn’t this sound a lot like the eugenics that are fundamental to Nazism?   If someone moves to another country, are the children the ethnicity of their parents or of the adopted country?  

But what interests me here is the idea that ethnicity can change.  Just like that, you’re not Black Irish, you’re actually Spanish.  Which is historically accurate, since the Black Irish are descended from the remnants of the Spanish Armada.  So trade in your whiskey, shamrocks and St Patrick for sangria, bull fights and St Anthony.  Because somehow you are wrong about who you are.

So for me, as I’m dealing with this new diagnosis, the question has been whether I am still me.  Which is silly because of course I am the same me I have always been, or at least the same me I was before the diagnosis changed.  My internal process isn’t any difference.  My values have not changed.  I love the same people, enjoy the same activities, face the same dilemmas.  Nothing changed except a label, and those change all the time anyway.

Labels change.  I am no longer anyone’s daughter, since both my parents are deceased.  I am also no longer a wife, since I am a divorced person.  Don’t call me Mrs. because I used my father’s last name not my ex-husband’s.  Labels can tell us something about a person but therein lies the risk of stereotyping.

Stereotyping is a slippery thing.  In some ways, it’s useful because it allows our lazy brains to categorize people in ways that can be surprisingly accurate.  However, it is also limiting and it can be very wrong.

Story about that:  I was at a party where there were people of various ethnicity present.  Several black people were comparing notes on their childhoods:  “Do you remember eating beans and rice for dinner and going to the food pantry?  Did you ever go to school with your sneakers taped up because they were coming apart but you couldn’t afford new ones?  And what about hand-me-downs?”  Their point was that black Americans live in a very different country than white Americans do, and the larger context was white privilege.  (Black experience is different from white experience, and I’m not saying white privilege is or isn’t real.)

The hostess, who passes for white but recently discovered she very much embodies her Native American heritage, overheard their conversation.  “I remember those things,” she said, “but I thought that was because we were poor.  I didn’t know I was black.”  (And of course in American there is a huge wealth/class divide that breaks along lines of race, but that also isn’t my point here.)

So I have a new label now:  bipolar.  (Hey!  Earth and I have something in common, we both have two opposing poles!  *eye roll, cuz I know I’m a dork*)

It does tell you something about me.  It says I can have big changes in my mood and ability to handle life.  It tells you I can be obsessed today and listless tomorrow.  It tells you I might be a good listener because I have nothing to say or a bad listener because I keep interrupting you.  It tells you I can be changeable.

But it can also cause you to stereotype me.  I am not suicidal, nor do I get that high euphoria and sense of invulnerability that they tell me mania can cause.  I have times when I feel like I might be able to be successful if I just keep at it, and other times when I can’t find the energy to get out of bed let alone get dressed or eat something.

Labels give the illusion of understanding, but really we don’t understand as well as we like to believe.

So I have a new label and it makes me wonder if I’m any different.  And it reminds me that a label doesn’t capture the full reality of something, just an aspect.

I am not just my label.

I am still me.

 

 

 


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Define Normal

I have been having a hard time getting myself together the last several weeks.  It’s hard to talk about because there isn’t always a specific reason.

I did have stomach pain for several days which resulted in a call to a specialist, but it seems like it has resolved itself without much input from him.  Or at least, I moved my tummy meds from morning to bedtime so I don’t wake up with pain.  I have a follow up with him tomorrow.  To me, it feels like this is legit, it’s something actually wrong.

Other stuff doesn’t feel like it should be such a big deal, but it is.

Sometimes the hardest thing is just to get going in the morning.  The alarm goes off and I hit snooze.  It only snoozes 3 times, so I actually have multiple alarms set 15 minutes apart.  It shouldn’t be that hard to wake up when you need to, but for me it is.  It’s uphill the whole way.  Most of the time I just kind of power through it but every now and then I can’t.

And I feel like a failure when that happens.

Starting about a week ago, I’ve been having issues with getting to work.  One time I actually got to the train stop but my ears were ringing and I was just all freaked out.  I actually rode past my stop and called in sick that day.  The ringing stopped after I passed work again on the way back from the end of the line.  I don’t like that.  I don’t know why I couldn’t just get off the train and go to work.

I also saw my psychiatrist again.  I told him about a day when I tried to run a simple bank errand and ended up shopping.  I had to call my daughter to come get me, just to interrupt myself.  I didn’t need to spend that money.  I can still pay my bills, don’t get me wrong, but it was money that should have been saved not spent.

I told him about the first night I was housesitting for a friend.  I couldn’t sleep at all that night even though I tried.  I went to work expecting to be extremely tired at some point and never did.  I went to bed at a more normal time that day and slept just fine.  I also told him about the day I spent just laying in bed.  That was the day my stomach hurt the worst.  Just taking my morning meds and vitamins made me nauseous.  I didn’t eat that day.  I laid in bed with the cats napping on me, didn’t get on the computer, didn’t watch any videos or work on art, no shower, just laid there in my pajamas.

And you know, I could do either one of those right now.  I could get interested in something and stay up all hours to pursue it, or I could get into bed and lay there for 12 or 14 hours.  The obsessive part seems saner than the doing nothing part, but either one seems feasible at the moment.

The doctor changed my diagnosis.  I am no longer having bad pms, I now have bipolar disorder.

I feel like he told me, I’m no longer in the range of things that are normal, I’m actually crazy.

The day I went shopping, I actually felt crazy.  I felt out of control of myself,  My therapist tells me that’s the manic part but I thought there was supposed to be an element of euphoria in mania, and I certainly didn’t feel euphoric.  I didn’t feel bad either.  I felt like it was okay to buy a few things that I want, that I deserve to spend some of my money having fun.  Maybe that’s not true.  Maybe I don’t deserve to enjoy having a little cash.  Maybe it should be all paying bills.  I don’t know.  What do normal people do?  Do they spend money when they want things, or do they just suck it up that there’s nothing left after necessities?  I’m not normal any more so I don’t know.

I feel like my whole life is now up for grabs.  Everything is analyzed and second-guessed and reconsidered.  I’m playing a video game and I get caught up in it and lose track of time.  Do normal people do that?  Do they realize what’s going on after an hour, or after 3 hours?  Why do I feel like I have the energy to visit a friend but not the energy to do laundry?  Is that normal?  Do normal people struggle with daily tasks?

The game is to pass as normal.  We changed my meds, and it makes me less normal.  I sleep through my alarm clock now.  I am late leaving for work and my roommates ask  how I’m doing.  Kinda crappy, thank you.  I’m doing my best and I can’t pull it together.  Everything is big and overwhelming and I am alone.  I want it to be okay to be overwhelmed, and it’s not.  It’s not because it affects work and accomplishment and motivation.  People get bothered when I don’t act like other people.  Folks who are inclined to help me start to feel like I’m taking advantage of them.

What it looks like from the outside is not how it feels from the inside.

Give yourself grace, says my therapist.  Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Really?  The people I live with are freaked out that I’m there at 8:30 in the morning because my shift starts at 7:45 and I need to be out the door between 5:30 and 6:00 in the morning to get there in time.  Only apparently I woke up enough to turn off the alarm – which I don’t remember – then slept until 7:30.  The new meds do this to me.  What they don’t do is make me look normal with only 1 or 2 doses.  They take time to build up.

My next step is to call HR and see if we can change my shift.  Right now I work 4 10-hour days and when you add in lunch (which my employer does not count as part of my day) and the 2-hour commute each way to work, well, I’m often out of the house 15 hours at a time.  I come home, eat, and go to bed.  I need enough time in the morning to get dressed etc.  I don’t sleep 8 hours most work nights, more like 5 or 6.  So maybe I can get HR to shift me to another position or at least another shift that isn’t quite so early and is 5 8-hour days instead.  It’s a big company, there are other jobs.  But I don’t want to say too much to them either and have it used against me.  See, there’s the second guessing part.

Give myself grace.  I’m crazy, what does that even mean?  That it’s okay to be crazy?  My crazy freaks people out, why would I want to give that grace?  I feel like I’m going to end up a street person, because I don’t make enough money to get by on my own but I don’t know if other people can live with my crazy.

I need to tidy my room.  That will help.  It won’t resolve anything, but tidy looks more normal and I do need to find my winter clothes so that’s a good excuse.  Tear it apart and put it back together.  Wash the sheets that are covered in black cat hair.  I don’t know how that cat does that, I believe there is more cat hair in my bed than on the cat.

And I need to make art.  Making art feels normal to me.  Making art makes my heart happy and my soul shine.  It seems to eat up the crazy and make all things possible.  Make the room tidy so I have a place to make art.  That’s a decent goal for tomorrow.  That and seeing the doctor again.

One day at a time, just get though today and have a plan for tomorrow.  It’s all I can do anyway.