One Year Ago

I’ve made it through January.  I did a lot of reflecting over what’s happened to me, my relationships, and my health over the past twelve months.  I realized I have made a lot of progress despite not reaching all of the personal goals I set for myself.  The biggest improvement in the past year is getting treatment for my pinched nerve.  I never talked about the bad things about being stuck in bed for months.  Thinking about them brings back awful memories and I am thankful for my mother and spouse for putting up with me.  I think it is important for me to discuss the bad things because I know no matter how bad things (true or not) may be for me right now, I have been through rougher times.

I specifically remember the first week without help from my mom was hell.  It’s not that my spouse wasn’t supportive, but he’s never been a good “nurse,” and I’m fine with that.  I was hungry and there wasn’t much food in the house so he went next door to find that Burger King had closed unexpectedly.  He then called me from the grocery store so I could name things that would be easy for me to make while he was at work.  Surprise: I couldn’t even get strength to boil water for the ramen cups.

For nearly four months, my mom took my place and did everything around the house.  She cooked, cleaned, drove my spouse to and from work, shopped for food.  She also did a lot of the embarrassing things that I once assisted people with.  I was reluctant to use the bathroom because sitting was painful and her constant reminders to get up possibly prevented a ton of UTIs.  I couldn’t wipe myself properly after using the bathroom.  Thank the heavens for Mirena because I wouldn’t want to deal with my super long and heavy periods.  I couldn’t bathe or brush my teeth over a sink.  The only decent shower(s) I had was (were) just before surgery dates and even though the feeling afterwards felt amazing, the experience itself was not.  Since I never sat up, my hair turned into a huge rat’s nest.  My mom wasn’t great at keeping up with my hair.  That wasn’t her fault.  I remember she was de-tangling my hair and she was about ready to give up.  I looked at myself in the mirror and was ready to say goodbye to my hair.  That is, until she was able to de-tangle it successfully.

I had little choice in what to eat or drink.  I lost at least 40 pounds in muscle mass.  My mom made sure I was taking my medication and tried to keep me pacified and drugged up by doctor’s orders as best as she could.  (I’m happy to say I haven’t had any opioids since late April.)  The only social interaction I had was with a former friend.  (Please don’t ask me about this; I don’t want to talk about it right now.)  I spent all day, every day, binge watching TV on the iPad because I couldn’t see the TV in bed while maintaining a comfortable position.  (It’s only been a few months since I’ve been able to get back to my normal sleeping position without the need for six pillows.)  My sleep schedule was all over the place.  My spouse was forced to sleep on the couch for weeks, possibly months.  I can’t even remember at this point.

I had a lot of shame.  Interesting, really.  I had a distorted view because somehow I was too young or not disabled enough to not require help, even though I desperately needed it.

Fast forward to today.  What good comes from this self-discussion?  I got through that shit and know I can overcome it again should it happen again.  I was un-medicated, mentally, during that time.  I had a plan to exit this world.  I’m glad I didn’t because I’ve finally found a purpose in life.  It was in front of me this entire time and I didn’t realize it until a few weeks ago.  It feels strange to be nearly back to normal life schedule, with a few changes made so I can reach my personal goals.  When I was on the couch and got up and was in excruciating pain, I freaked out.  It was the worst pain I’ve been in since I had relief and all the bad memories started coming back, I started to panic.  I hopped to the bed and laid down.  Thankfully the pain went away after a few minutes and I’ve decided the couch is no longer a friendly place for me to sit or lie down.

The other day my friend asks me what I think of the new abortion law in New York.  I haven’t been keeping up with the news so I asked him to tell me about it.  To make a long story short, this very random question, out of the blue, lead to something I didn’t even know I needed — an “intelligent” discussion.  This was much more than an “agree to disagree,” conversation.  We spent about two hours talking about politics and more importantly, how each of us has had a profound influence on each other.  Something seen as trivial to an outsider is monumental to each of us.  That’s when I said I was dealing with my own problem and I was given suggestions on how to handle the situation.  Sometimes the best solution to a problem is very simple, to do absolutely nothing, but the majority of the time discussion and communication is the solution.

Friends?

I have been neglecting my personal relationships as of late.  I caught up with a friend I haven’t spoken with in a few weeks.  We ended up trading a few baking recipes and discussing what brought us together, our mental health.  She inspired me to do some baking so I cheated and put some cookie dough in the oven.  During our long chat, I explained that my mind has been telling me one thing but my ability to actually do what I brain says has been diminished.  I’ve had a severe lack of motivation.  One thing I was able to do was apply for a job, but I decided it wasn’t for me because I know I’m not capable of working three 12-hour days back to back.  Especially not for minimum wage.  I was told to reapply in the future if I was interested.

I’ve started to open up to a few new people.  One of these people asked me how I am doing, mentally, and that made me feel happy since this person has been listening to what I’ve been saying.  The others gave me helpful advice when I asked.  And then there are a few people where I’m asking myself, “why bother?”  I’m constantly finding myself reaching out and they don’t want anything to do with me.  At least respond to my Skype messages and texts?  This person has known me for years and has fallen off the face of the earth.  I’m also close to losing two more friends because I’m tired of wasting time on nourishing friendships that seem to die.  The feeling is familiar.  Sometimes the gut knows what’s coming but the mind isn’t capable of telling me to stop caring and let go.

My spouse and I went out for dinner last Friday to celebrate our tenth anniversary, late.  I had French onion soup, crab cakes, and grilled shrimp.  The two of us shared mashed potatoes and garlic green beans.  We shared a mini cheesecake for dessert and I enjoyed the fresh berries that were on top.  The experience was different and I felt out of place.  I have no intention of going back there unless we’re given another gift card.

I realized that my journals were tossed in the trash because my spouse thought they were notes.  I should have paid attention to what was being done, but I was fatigued and ended up sleeping the entire day away.  I’m extremely upset with myself for not keeping my journal with “my belongings.”  I discussed this with my therapist and he assured me that I don’t need them if the sole purpose is to look back to see how much progress I’ve made.

He’s Fired and I Re-Hired

Last Wednesday I saw my psychiatrist, the one I’ve been meaning to fire. I went in and new exactly what I was going to say: treat my depression or else, and take me off a medication that puts me at higher risk for cardiac events.  Things do not start off well.  He asks me how I’m doing and I tell him that I’m not well.  He says I can’t be that bad since I’m smiling and that’s the first time he’s seen me smiling.  (Depressed people don’t smile?)  I told him I’ve been “faking it until I make it.”  He didn’t understand.  What isn’t there to understand?  I put on a happy face so I don’t look so sad and grumpy when out in public.  I then got as specific as I could.  I wanted things to stop.  I didn’t want to die, I just wanted everything in the world and everything around me to stop.  It was hard for me to give an example, but I gave the one that’s been bothering me most.  Physical pain.  When I said this, I was again dismissed and was told I’m not depressed due to bipolar depression, I am depressed because my pain is making me depressed.  I always thought my pain increased while being depressed, and I’m being ignored.

I’m asking for help and I wasn’t getting it.  I was told I needed to go on pain medications (opiates) because an antidepressant medication wouldn’t help me.  I explained why I didn’t want to be on medication for pain and my reasons were dismissed.  Besides side effects of constipation and lethargy, I was addicted to them years ago.  I haven’t had any since April, and for the first four months of this year, I was taking them constantly.  I went from 5mg every 8 hours to 10mg every 4 hours.  I became dependent on them.  I hated how they made me feel.  My mom would “feed” them to me to make me shut up.  I would fall asleep.  Even recently, I’ve wanted to take one.  I have a strong support system and when I had that feeling and I was desperate to take the pain away, I talked to my support system and they reminded me why “one” would be a bad idea.

I was being dismissed.  Great.  I didn’t think I would get the treatment I needed, which is why I came into the appointment knowing that it would be my last, effectively “firing” my psychiatrist.  I talked about how even though my mania has been managed very well, I didn’t want to be on a medication that put me at higher risk for cardiovascular events.  He said this wasn’t true, but I’m going to believe a pharmacist and the black box warning on the medication over this doctor who seems to be clueless.  He asked me what I proposed.  I told him.  He obliged, to my surprise, to FINALLY put me on my treatment plan that had been working well for me before the whole “stuck in bed” period of time.

YES.  It’s about damn time.

Before the appointment was over I let it slip that I moved and would be making my follow-up appointment with the other clinic, seeing a different doctor.  My psychiatrist said he would be sad to not see me any longer.  He said he’s seen a great improvement in my mood (??) and would miss dealing with a strong individual who goes after what they want.  Well, yes.  I’ve been doing that for the past few months and I guess it took that long for him to take me seriously?  I’ve been asking for this treatment since day one and have been given every excuse why he wouldn’t help me.

Don’t back down.  Pick your battles.  (There have been many of them.)  It’s why I thank my mom for teaching me such a great life lesson.