Saturday, July 12, 2008

From Up to Down in 10m Flat

Jb and I go out driving, one of the things we do almost every weekend since we've so little money. Usually, it's just what I need: time out of the house, good tunes, time with Jb away from the tv and the computer. Today, it's fine for an hour and a half. Then we end up at a lighthouse surrounded by a barbed wire fence that makes the shabby attraction look like a prison yard with the Chesapeake just beyond the fence, a concrete divide between the haves and have nots: those who can afford to be out boating on the lake and those who stand, locked away from the private beach. It's hot, depressing, and we're an hour and a half from home. I'm restless to get gone, and snappish by the time we're back in the car. The second half of the drive is full of crap music, silence, and then a song comes on and starts triggering me. I'm suddenly desperate for home, missing my family, my childhood, thoughts full of the last ten years, the knowledge that I'm already 32, almost 33, knowing the likelihood that I'll be anything come 40 enough to make me tear up, and there I am, crying behind my sunglasses, trying not to let Jb see, even when he's asking what's wrong. And what is there to say? I'm sick of always saying: I don't know. I just went from fine to depressed in 10 minutes, and I'm so pissed at myself that the disgust is thick. I'm tired of this. Jb must be tired of this. I can't ride these crests and dips. I know, there, in the car, that I need someone to talk to. I need to find myself a therapist. And soon. Because I am not dealing. I am not dealing with this up and down, this here and there, and the guilt of my mood always affecting the people around me that I love is strong. I'm so frightened that they'll suddenly see, suddenly see me, and throw their hands up in frustration, wash their hands of me. I can hardly blame them when I feel like doing the same myself sometimes. I'm even convinced, sometimes, that it'd be better for everyone involved if I lived my own life, away from everyone else's.

Friday, July 11, 2008

And Away She Rides

I'm soaring right now. It's 11:53pm and my eyes want sleep, but inside, inside I'm wired. I've been like this most of the day, neither here nor there, not able to concentrate on any one thing. Spurts of productivity followed by spurts of a scatter shot mind. Tonight's trigger is Carbon Leaf, "Under the Wire," "Love, Loss, Hope, Repeat" and "The Girl and Her Horse." When Dar Williams used to send me flying with songs like "The Ocean" and "Iowa," I used to wonder if certain chords triggered certain states. If there was a correlation between sound and mood. If songs in the key of G were the ones most likely to set me galloping, and maybe those in the key of E, maybe those were the ones that sunk me. Sure, stress, seasonal change, major life changes, these are all triggers, but I swear that my daily triggers are much smaller: music, poetry, books, writing, ideas. I'm two for two today. I'm reading the kind of good, effortless writing that kills, sets the characters off in my head, until I'm doing as much fantasizing about the book as I am reading it. Ten pages read, twenty minute intersessions, lost in make believe and a vast inner world that's all too easy to slip into. And music, if it strikes me, I listen to over, and over, and over, ad nauseum. I can't get enough of the high it sends me on, of the thought of an open road, an open window, wind whipping fresh in my face. It's the runaways, and they're worse at night. Night drives are as much a trigger as the result of a trigger. They're my great escape, my run for the border. Something has to fill me up inside, freedom, miles, lights. And I want one tonight, but Jb can't keep up with me tonight. So I'll lie in bed, good and sweet, and my mind will go 'round and 'round, setting up scenarios, letting characters come to the fore, focusing on phrases, the repetition of words, until words are only sound, and the sounds become foreign, and I keep repeating them, repetition bringing them back 'round to meaning. But there's no sleep in that, not until my body simply gives way, or my mind runs out.

About Damn Time

Finally sat down and wrote the prologue to a three-book series I've plotted out. About damn time. I'm almost somewhat happy with it.

Couple pages down. Couple hundred more to go.


I'm anxious. I just got up to open the door and look outside. I'm pacing around the apartment. Can't play WoW. Can't play Fable. Can't watch tv. Can't read Nora Roberts, and dammit if Blood Brothers isn't a compelling read. But none of it's sticking. Ten minutes here, ten minutes there, too much thinking. I'm feeling that itching beneath the skin, the one you can't scratch, the one that makes you jittery, like you've had too much caffeine. I feel like there's something I'm missing. I know there's something I'm not doing. I'm not writing. I should be writing. I have the first two scenes clear as day in my head, have had them since last week, and they're not down on paper yet. What's the problem? Why the fear? Who cares if they come out good or bad. What's the harm in writing them. But I'm not. And I know I should be. And so I'm caged, between want and fear.


Forgot my meds again last night. Waking up groggy as hell. Having problems falling asleep and sleeping through the night. Up a couple times a night, sleeping until 10ish. My whole sleep schedule is screwed. Can't blame it on the Wellbutrin, as this had started before they upped my dose, and from what I understand, Wellbutrin acts as more of stimulant than a depressant.

Also, might have forgotten a psych appointment today, which, to be honest, is fine. I haven't even been on the higher dose of Wellbutrin for a week now. Can't imagine why they'd want me back so soon, except that, yes, they think I'm still unstable. Haven't heard back from the therapist I called. Should call another one. Everything is such a hassle, truly.

Back to sleeping, dreams are vivid, very vivid, but gone almost completely on waking. Struggle to focus on waking, as if I'd rather stay in the dream world.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


In researching bi-polar, you read some interesting things. Lithium for mood swings, though it leaves your speech slurred, your hands shaky, and causes possible rash. Lamictal, rash. Drug-resistant bi-polar. People who've been on the merry-go-round of drug after drug after drug with little to no real relief. And that's when you start reading about marijuana use and bipolar.

A study out of New Zealand swears marijuana use puts users at a 200% greater risk of developing bipolar. But what does it do for those who already suffer from it? Most message boards are filled with long-term pot users who claim marijuana is one of the few things that keep them straight. The other half of the forums are filled with people calling the marijuana users potheads. I decided to see what all the fuss was about.

A co-worked gave Jb some pot she had in her car yesterday. It was probably under a gram. Not very much at all. He brought it home, rolled it up in a cigarette paper, and we toked up in the bathroom. Three hits each. It was a little like the scene with Craig Ferguson and Brenda Blethyn in Saving Grace, in which, to quote IMDB, "a small-town English widow, facing financial troubles after her husband's suicide, turns to agriculture of an illegal kind." Fantastic little movie if you've never seen it. But there's a scene where Brenda and Craig are up at the bluffs because Brenda's character insists on smoking a joint if she's going to be growing marijuana. There's that 15-20 minute period of, "Is that it? Honestly, what's all the fuss about? I don't feel anything." Jb said he knew that's when it was going to hit me.

It all started with a bit of lightheadedness, which I get as a side effect from my medication anyway, then the giggles kicked in. It creeps up on you slowly, but once it does, it feels like you've just stepped out of the best massage, sauna and whirlpool treatment you've ever had. You are utterly, completely relaxed. So relaxed that for the first time you realize how stressed and anxious you had been. For anxiety, it's ten times better than Klonopin. I had been in a depressive funk all yesterday, asleep when Jb got home, emotionally inaccessible. But as soon as the marijuana hit, I felt like me again. I could laugh. I could feel. I could interact with Jb. For the first time in a long while, we really connected, had fun together, participated in a relationship that had gone somewhat dry with the extent of my mood swings. Three hits kicked me right out of depression, and I still feel fine today, the day after. There's no mixed mood: no depression, no anger, no racing thoughts, no irritation. There was only the feeling that, for a couple hours, I didn't have to deal with the constant mood swings. I felt relieved, relaxed, revived.

This isn't to say that I necessarily agree with self-medication. Nor that I think becoming a pothead is the way to go. I wouldn't want to do it all the time, but I genuinely understand the recreational use of pot. And, having done it, it felt a little like the first time I had sex. People try to scare you, guilt you, warn you off of it, but once you're adult enough to responsibly handle the decision to indulge in your first time, you're left wondering afterwards: "What was all the fuss?" It feels good, it hurts no one, and as long as you're responsible, why not?

I can't tell what sort of long-term effects marijuana use might have on bi-polar patients. I understand enough that it could affect the effectiveness of your medication. But then, most bipolar marijuana users seem to suggest they use it as an alternative to medication. And that I could understand. Because all too often, the side effects are worse than the disease, and they're almost never as effective as your psych would lead you to believe. I've been on a med cocktail since March, nearly four months now, and I'm still in this half-life, neither sick enough for hospital, nor well enough for the real world. But last night, I slept the best sleep I've had all week.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Afternoon Check-In

Jb's sandal's on the floor; I pulled it out of a box because it was, like me, lost. The cat's in the window. I'm in my chair in front of the computer. My stomach hurts. I'm hungry. But I can't be buggered to fix something. I am riding this ache inside me, somewhere near my heart, that yearns for my family and friends in IL. What it really yearns for is connection, and I never feel the freedom of connection and contentment except when I'm driving in the car with Jb, the windows down, the music up, chain smoking the miles away. My hand rides the air outside the car window, and something in me breaks up, breaks free, and the world fills me up--not people--the world. It's the only place I feel like myself anymore. So on the weekends we take long ass drives to wherever, to Sykesville, Columbia, almost always north, though I think Jb has plans to head east this weekend, toward the water. I'd like that. I'd like anything that meant speed and wind and words and music. It's as if you can outrun depression until the only reason to run is the running.


The depression is still with me this morning. Coming up from sleep is like coming up from deep water, and I'm confused and off-balance when I wake. I realize I didn't take my meds last night. I am up at 1am, 3am, 4:50am, 8:30am, 9:40am. Something in me is empty, and it registers as hunger, so I eat two South Beach granola bars at odd times during the night. I feel nothing but this plateau of emotion that walks a straight line, never rising above the depression, or dipping below it. It's like the static buzz of white noise in the background, constant, consistent. When I am depressed, the only things I seem able to do are the passive things. I can read. I can watch movies. I can--without effort--fall into someone else's story, someone else's life, and subsume my own. In fact, I want to. I don't want to think about myself, or I how I feel (or how I do not feel, which is more accurate).

I know why everyone prefers mania, in whichever way it manifests itself. Because then, you're active. You may be crawling out of your skin, your brain may never stop, but you're productive. You can pretend normalcy. You can achieve things. Sometimes. When it isn't too bad. Yesterday, I accomplished so much, so much more than I had in days. But that night, I was left feeling depressed and bodily tired, while my mind wouldn't let up. It kept going and going and going, despite my body's inability to keep up, but that never shut my brain down. And so I laid in bed, anxious and restless, and unable to stop thinking, but heavy and leaden feeling, depressed at the core.

This is when I'm unsure of this "bipolar" diagnosis. In the past, yes, I've had full weeks, even months, of depression, or mania-like symptoms. But these days, nothing lasts. I don't have hypo/mania for more than four days. It's usually for a day, even an afternoon, then down into some anxious, irritable mixed mood, and further into depression--all within two days. The downs last longer. I'm almost positive of that. Or maybe I was feeling fine, happy, wanting to get out of the apartment, do things this weekend, and then, like a punishment, several days later, the depression hits. And it is like a punishment--for having too much normalcy. Always, it is: this too shall pass. And it does. The good and the bad. Round and round in an unbreakable cycle.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Just like that. I'm standing at the kitchen sink, shelling shrimp, lost in despair, and singing Roseanne Cash's "Bells and Roses" in my head:

Everything was mine
But it's long stripped away
Will you love me if I'm naked
Or as silent as a grave.

If you see who I really am
Will you still wanna stay
There's a danger in this love
And I want to be that brave.

Bells and roses
A sign of departure
But I love them just the same
Bells and roses
A sign of survival
On the door into this pain.
Jb comes home in a dark, snappish mood. Suddenly, I'm seven again, and my mother is raging at me, and there's no perfection I could ever achieve that would ease her pain. Because, like me, she's mentally unstable. And when Jb lashes out at me, I curl inward, go quiet, and the same thoughts play over and over: Maybe if I were sane, maybe if I were beautiful, maybe if I were the right size, the right shape, the tv girlfriend, the perfect girlfriend. Maybe then, he'd be happy with me. Maybe I would do something right, and I wouldn't be repeating stanzas of songs over and over and over while the water runs in the sink:

Now I'll go in if you say I must
But I'd rather let it go
There are people I will never trust
And things that I can't know

Kiss you 'til we turn to stone
Or fight you 'til we're blind
But you love me when you're left alone
And it makes me wanna die

Bells and roses
Wake up the senses
To remind me who I am.
And I'm reminded: I am flawed. I am broken. The trigger is like a switch, my mood like night and day. And I can't let the pain or the fight go.


Today, I am uber productive. I have called the unemployment, um, place and been told it's best to wait for my job to dismiss me, which I doubt they'll do. I see myself forever trailing on in this unpaid leave of absence state, arm thrown across my eyes like a melodramatic actress

On a yay note, my medical assistance determination went through, and I'm eligible for Healthchoice, which provides free doctor, dentist, ophthalmologist, psychiatrist and therapist visits, as well as cheap pharmacy costs. Jackpot! Whew. I can waive my right to insurance through JHU now and feel safe in knowing that I can get the help I need.

On an anxiety-producing note, I'm under review for food stamps, and other county programs, no doubt, on the 14th. Jb's making more money than he was, but we're still so strapped for cash. I don't know how this is going to affect their decisions. Also, I'm not sure how getting into Medicaid will affect the money I'm getting for Temporary Disability Assistance.

Both my PCP and my psych is in the managed care organization I enrolled in as well, which makes it easy to continue treatment without having to start over with someone new. I've even left a voice mail with a therapist. Now I just have to wait for her to call me back. As always, the waiting is the hardest part, to quote Tom Petty. But it's also anxiety-producing. I worry about this or that, going through every scenario in my mind, obsessing about worse-case scenarios.

Regardless, I went through all my bills, got all my medical bills sorted and ready to show my case worker. Everything else should already be on file, except for Jb's pay stubs, the new rent, and a bank statement. I'll have to talk Jb into going to get that, which he won't like. And I have to remember to tell the guy that what Jb makes annually includes a 2 1/2 - 3 month lay off period due to seasonal work. Because that makes a huge difference in whether we qualify or not.

Lot of time spent on the phone. Now, it's the waiting. And despite it all, I feel good. I have that stupid assurance that I'm fine, everything's fine, and all this medical stuff is useless. I feel like I'm fine, I don't need my meds, that going to my psych isn't necessary, that I've nothing to talk to a therapist about. Truly, I feel ... good. But put me in a situation where I'm required to do something, put me in a doctor's office, and I'm a blubbering mess of emotions. I still can't sleep at night, and I even woke up several times last night: 1am, 3am, 4:45am. I'm restless. Maybe it's the increase in the Wellbutrin. I have this "do something right now" energy and restlessness, but my eyes are so tired, my brain is tired. It feels very strange. Like part of me is sedated and part of me can't stop thinking, doing, planning, worrying, typing, on and on and on.

Monday, July 7, 2008


I always go into the week determined to do better, do more, feel better. The past several nights I've had problems getting to sleep, staying up as late as 3am. Not surprisingly, I'm sleeping later in the mornings--until almost 11am. When I wake up, I'm still groggy for several hours. I've read more than one article in the past that directly links insomnia and hypersomnia to episodes of depression and mania, so I think it's important to be noting this change in my sleeping habits. For example, right now, I could really use a nap. I slept until 11am, and at 3pm, I'm already tired.

Having said that, I started off on the right foot for once on a Monday. I spent much of the morning fleshing out characterizations for the series I'd like to write. I think I've done enough characterization to actually start writing. On a side note, one of the reasons I think I'm staying up later is the books. For some reason, at night, once the lights are out and the tv quiet, I start hashing over the plot and characters in my head, imagining scenes, narrating them to myself. It's an important process, though, and I hate the idea of curbing it, as these characters are real to me, and they talk to me and reveal themselves to me during these times.

I have also found the paper for the printer and envelopes. That means I can begin typing up a letter to HR telling them to shove it, as they've given me no further documentation of my unpaid leave of absence, a bill for the amount they overpaid me while on FMLA, information about Cobra, or a copy of my file, all of which I asked for back on May 9th. Cutting all ties makes me nervous, though, as I'm still able to get insurance with them for roughly $100 a month. I'm terrified of not having insurance, of being unable to pay for my prescriptions or the necessary doctor visits. Hopefully, unemployment and Cobra will help with that. I also plan to send in an application to the county for their adult pharmacy care program.

On top of that, management is bringing in inspectors to check out the apartments tomorrow. Ours is really fairly clean. I need to do dishes, pick up some trash. But overall, far more clean than our old apartment. I attribute this to the fact that we've actually tried to keep the place clean and to the fact that we now have hardwood floors. With Jb's dirty, outside work, there was no hope for keeping a carpet clean, add to that a sick cat, and well, good luck. Our new cat, however, is so low-maintenance, we're stunned. She leaves no mess, except right around her litter box. But that's very manageable.

I am, I admit, starting to feel a little overwhelmed by all the things I need to do. And the anxiety and IBS is there in spades. I'm due for another appointment with my PCP for blood work and with my gastro doc for a check-in. I really don't want to do either. And I've an appointment with the county to reassess my need for county assistance on the 14th. And a class on bankruptcy at the end of the month. In the meantime, we get by as best we can, and Kat Eggleston's "One More Step" is my theme song:

So you walk like you've never faltered
So you move like you still had faith
Head down and a turned up collar
Through a string of long, hard days
Walking through the darkest passage
Though you saw no light ahead
And your greatest act of courage
Was in taking one more step.

So you raise your voice in sorrow
'Til you heard no other sound
Saw nothing but your own shadow
With your eyes turned toward the ground
And when at last some kindness found you
Then it was as though you had slept
And the crowd in the dark around you
Were all taking one more step.

Oh, the warmest of standing water
It may some day come to freeze
So you'll tell your sons and your daughters
How to live with times like these
Tell them when their hearts are frozen
To trust their feet instead
When there is nothing left but motion
And taking one more step.

When we find that we are laughing
And we're running in the sun
Then we know that we still are breathing
And the longest night is done
And finally resting from the battle
Wondering where our feet have led
Amazed at how we traveled
By taking one more step.