The Move

handsacrossthesea

[originally posted on Medium]

It’s a sultry soup kind of Saturday and I’m in my apartment sorting and repacking boxes for a move. The central air clicks on and off as I work; my pug chewing on a toy pug in an act of pug cannibalism. I am not wearing a bra and I feel the dampness under my breasts grow as I work. My legs feel a bit grimy and my hair is pulled into a fizzed mess on top of my head. I catch a whiff of body order and ignore it. It’s mid-afternoon and I haven’t showered yet and I’m debating if I even will.

I am tired of the packing and unpacking, the culling of my things to the point I no longer know what I own anymore. The move before this one saw another culling of trash bags full of clothes and seven boxes of books and DVDs. I am desperate for a cigarette though I haven’t smoked in ages. I survey my box kingdom and note some of the boxes have been moved so many times, varying stickers from moving companies are stacked up like little hills. As I pack, I remove the hills in some sort of shameful ritual. Each box bears a broad category name like “dvds” which are Sharpied out and rewritten to “clothes.” I develop a system to mark what boxes will go into storage and what boxes will go to my partner’s condo and inventory the contents in a spreadsheet. I eye my bookcases wearily because I don’t want to storage my Austens, graphic novels, or my Pratchetts but as I don’t plan on re-reading any of them in the near future, they will be tucked into their cardboard beds.

This is my sixth move in two years.

In the early part of the ’90s I was diagnosed as being manic / depressive which is now commonly referred to as bipolar. I am bipolar 1, which tends to run mania rather than depressive. Since that diagnosis, I’ve swam in the land of drugs only to come out on the other side stable-ish, but often exhausted. My sensitivity to most meds comes at a high cost: I cannot tolerate most common drugs after a few weeks of relief and have spent my non-drug years fighting for a drug free stability.

All of my therapists have called me “lucky” since I am so high functioning. “Self-aware” is used so often I silently grate organ parts upon hearing it and I feel that I’m being treated like an AI robot and not a person. I am told, with the severity of my illness, they are fascinated with my ability to stay high functioning without the drugs. I am told I am atypical and there is great joy watching me under a hypothetical microscope.

A comment often shuttlecocked from my various psychiatric doctors is my extraordinary ability to cope and manage my illness. “You are strong” is the cousin to “self-aware.” It is repeated over and over again I’ve handled so much this far in life I can keep going and things will get better.

My mania started to cresendo in late summer of 2014. It was a terrible year: My beloved dog died, I left my toxic job to write a book, I was sued for libel in a $1.25M lawsuit which the case has now been dismissed. (But that’s a story for another time.) My husband and I’s relationship was fraught to the point, I thought, beyond repair. Around this time a love from a decade prior came back and wooed me with what I wasn’t getting at home. Infatuated with attention, and tired of my husband constantly and mentally checking out, I left him. Six weeks later, I watched a moving truck pack up my things to cart them a thousand miles to my new home with my lover. A man I’ve spent a total of two weeks with over the course of a decade.

And it wasn’t even October.

The mania began to build for about six months prior. My triggers: massive shopping sprees (who needs six of the same dress just in different colors?), sleepless nights, and constant agitation were all there but this time I choose to pin point them on other factors such as my dog dying, being sued, and leaving my job rather than on my illness. Who wouldn’t feel that kind of life strain?

Then the downward slide began.

Caught in this middle world with no ties to either side, it is here that I started to crash.

The plan was simple: Move my things into storage, live with my new lover, and take a mental break for a few months; it had been a hell of a year. In the new year I would start looking for work, move out on my own, and create a new life with my lover.

That was the plan.

Instead of relief, I spent, it seemed, every other night sobbing in my lover’s bedroom or in the shower or when I was driving. I could not be comforted or appeased. Everything around me, even the simplest thing felt huge.

That’s when the ping ponging started. I begged to come home to my ex-husband. I promised to be good and to get back into counseling. I promised to work on finding a good drug combination, I’d do anything, ANYTHING, to be with him again. My soon to be ex-husband made plans of his own: he would get into therapy or anti-depressants or both. He would work to help save our marriage.

A week later I broke my promise.

Several weeks later I was making promises again, sitting in a hotel room writing lengthy diatribes about my luck having two men love me for ever after. After the weekend hotel stay, I’m in such crisis I use ZocDoc to find a local therapist who could see me that day. I am prescribed drugs to help with the mania, a booster for the depression, and Klonopin to help with the anxiety. I am told it’s going to take a few weeks to stabilize.

And even after the promises from the good doctor, weeks after the drugs were started, I still continued to cycle almost violently.

I choose you! I’d say to each man, alternating like laundry on laundry day. I choose you to be with and you alone. My ex-husband writes me a letter where he tells me he will change, everything will get better, and I deserve everything he had withheld from me. My lover begs for me to stay.

This back and forth goes for weeks until I leave the lover and drive a thousand miles back to my ex-husband. He has left the door open, our song is playing on the stereo, and he’s left me love notes from the door to the dining room table with a key taped to one of the notes. I am not home for 15 minutes where I tell him I have chosen my lover over him but and that I was going to change and try to stand on my own two feet.

What I did not tell him was I made it 300 or so miles before I broke down sobbing in a McDonald’s parking lot, begging to be taken back. After I arrive in town and before I had to my ex-husband’s house, I am in a parking lot still begging. The lover takes me back.

I am to stay in town, get my own apartment, stay on the drugs given to me by the doctor I found on ZocDoc (which finally started to work), attempt to write my book again, and try to form a life. Despite the drugs giving some relief, my mood continue to sway like a pendulum. I spend days in utter misery, holed up in my tiny apartment curled on the couch, often sobbing hysterically, making promises still to both men. Despite the promises to stay married, I break those promises (again), and the divorce is finalized on April 1.

Most of the summer I am back and forth between the two men and I’m rarely in my own apartment. In one of the many moves, my things are sent to my ex-husband’s condo to be put in storage. I’ve racked up nearly 15,000 miles on my car over the course of the year and tens of thousands of credit card debt. I am running out of money and the crash that started in October 2014 starts to intensify.

One summery day I am with my ex-lover and the need to leave again is growing so strong, I can barely swallow. My ex-husband owns a cabin in northern Michigan and he wants me to come home. I tell my lover I need to leave, again, under the pretense I am going to go open the cabin and he tells me he is powerless to stop me. “It’s what you do,” he says. Resignation is visible on his face and I know he’s been pulling away for months. As one of the conditions of being back with my lover is therapy, I head to therapy later that day and almost gleefully mention I have broken up with him and I felt great. I do not tell the group I am never coming back again as I’m leaving the state in the next few days.

The month at the cabin is carefree. The ex-husband and I’s relationship has returned to what it was, sans sex, in the beginning of our marriage and with the exception of the daily texts from my lover asking me when I was coming back to him, life goes on as if nothing happened. I keep pushing out the date with legitimate excuses: My ex-husbands car has died and we’re miles from nowhere. I get a terrible summer cold and I am to rest.

Then one fateful day, my lover tells me over Facebook chat, that it is over. He needs to advocate for himself and since I was with my ex-husband, the man who knows me best of all and can take of me, I’m to stay with him until I finally get my life sorted out.

The crash that had started, trickle by trickle, is now full blown. I spends days in bed, unable to move and barely able to breathe. I blame it my ex-lover dumping me but in reality my reluctance to deal with day to day life, being diligent in my drugs and therapy coupled with the promises, the lies, the ping ponging, had taken its toll. I want to blame everyone for everything that has happened. “Bad luck,” I’d say. “Rotten timing.” But even though the now ex-lover is not perfect, I cannot really blame him for leaving. Being with someone who is bipolar is a job in and of itself.

I remain in bed for weeks, barely able to move or eat. I take my drugs diligently but the depression is so smothering I feel pinned down by its existence. I start seeing a new therapist, anti-depressants are added to my regime and slowly the cloud begins to lift.

I tell myself I’m lucky because my ex-husband, now my partner once again, is standing by my side as he’s always stood by my side. It took all of this, as painful it is to say it, to realise how much I really love him. I have a small, but steady, support network and I have not ended up homeless though at times it’s been very close.

My meds have been tweaked and I am feeling the most stable I have felt in years. I mediate and do yoga daily to help with the balance. I see a therapist. The lying and pogoing have slowed and I can feel myself beginning to breathe again. And yet while the crash in October 2015 brought on strength to keep on moving forward, for which I am grateful, but I am much more sensitive to the world around me. More vulnerable. More cautious. There is hope, even in small doses, as I slowly move forward.

This will be the last time I will move, hopefully, a very long time. What’s left of my things will be placed in storage once again and only the necessities will be kept out and used. I have learned over the last two years that my things while my things don’t define me, they are a part of me. Whereas before I would get anxious at not having my books and my memories, now I know they will be safe and waiting for me just as I was waiting for myself.

janus – faced: on being bipolar

Dear Internet,

As I started prepping today’s piece, it struck me as I am also a gemini and if you’re hip to astrology, geminis are dual natured. I don’t think you could make my life any more hamfisted or obvious.

So today is World Bipolar Day! Last year, I discovered the cause a day after it occurred — which is always my luck. Since I’m so prolific about writing about my mental state of being, I thought I would take today’s entry and point out some of the resources, blogs, and books that I use to keep my brain in check.

A few disclaimers.

  1. I am not a doctor or a therapist. I cannot treat or diagnose your brain. What I write on this site is what works for me (including drugs, more of which I’ll go into in a sec), so for the love of fuck do not take my experiences as the end all, be all of being bipolar.
  2. Bipolar is, in short, a chemical imbalance in the brain. Unlike things like anxiety or borderline personality disorder, which are managed by talk therapy, it is nearly impossible to function without some kind of drug therapy, in addition to talking therapy. Yes, yes, I know people have said they manage without drug therapy (or talking therapy) and those people who are successful at managing without any type of therapy, successfully, is tiny. Like really, really, tiny.
  3. I implore you not to self-medicate.
  4. There are several different types of bipolarism. I am bipolar 1.
  5. Bipolar is typically comorbid, which means you can be bipolar AND have anxiety AND so on. I am bipolar 1 with anxiety, adhd, and borderline personality disorder.
  6. FOR THE LOVE OF FUCK DO NOT DIAGNOSE YOURSELF ON THE INTERNET AND I DON’T CARE IF YOU USED THE MAYO CLINIC / WEBMD / OR SOME OTHER KIND OF REPUTABLE SITE. You can get recommendations from your general physician, your insurance company or in Google: psychiatrist “name of your city” to get a listing of shrinks in your area. You’re going to want a medicating shrink for your drugs and a talking shrink for your talk therapy. Some doctors can do both. They will diagnose you and work out a treatment plan for you.

The below are resources / books I use or have used and found success with in my management of my brain. I am listing mainly bipolar stuff and US based sites. I have found in my searches for “bipolar” or “bipolar blogs”, up comess lots and lots of academic-y pieces on the disorder or links to sites like WebMD with explanations of the disorder but not much after that. I have also found a few sites that were more about snake oil then providing resources or information.

Which brings me to: Be weary of sites that always want to sell you something like, “How I cured Bipolar in 10 Easy Steps” and that kind of crap. If someone wants to sell you their life story on them and bipolar, that’s one thing, but the rest is mostly snake-oil.

Now the recommendations. (Amazingly, to me, the Reddit subreddit for bipolar is pretty chill.)

Mine

  • Pinterest board where I’ve started curating mental health stuff website
  • Article at MindBodyGreen, “I’ve Had Bipolar Disorder For 20 Years. Here’s How I’ve Learned To Manage It” website
  • EpbaB tags bipolar | bipolar maniamentally healthy

Reources

Blogs

Books


I am a:  LibrarianWriter. Nerd. Geek. Sassy.  Pug owner. World traveler. Pierced. Tattooed. Tall.Music and book lover. Discriminating Guinness taster. Aging, alternative hipster. Eco-conscious. Equally in love with James Bond, Jane Austen, and Doctor Who.

I am not the sum of my diagnosis.

My brain is broken but I am not.

I am more the sum of my parts and so are you.

xoxo,
Lisa

This Day in Lisa-Universe: 2013, 1999

 

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time: 1:06

Dear Internet,

When you start wiping tears off of your phone, while playing solitaire, you know shit just got real.


I don’t feel good.

Well, what does that mean exactly?

It means the following conversation with TEH, TheBassist, and Kristin (roughly the same conversation, individual times.).

“Having a hard time getting out bed, sleeping 10-12 hours a night, and barely eating.

“(Anything else going on?)  The only things that have been going on is increased stress about being homeless, jobless, moneyless.

“I thought it was related to my period but it’s not – that tends to be mania and BPD. I am just incredibly paralyzed right now and often feel sick to my stomach.

“And this isn’t throwing up sick, it’s the pit of my stomach feeling.

“This feels differently.

“I told TEH I really dont have much left in the tank. He argued I must have something since I am hustling on the (writing) job front. So I conceded I have 1/8th if a tank left. I just don’t feel emotionally any more. I just dont. I cry all the time because I need to protect myself.

“(From what?) The world.

“I cry, it gets rid of whatever feeling I have left; then I can crawl back into myself.

“(Why?) Stay safe. I protect me and me alone.

“I don’t know. I am often too tired to check. I keep my bear close. I read. Sometimes i shower and get dressed.

“All I know is I am really scared. And tired and emotionally exhausted and drained. Something has to give and I think it’s me.”

(Meds changed? No. Dietary habits, etc changed? No. Are you smoking? No (mostly). Are you drinking? No. Are you doing drugs? No.)


This has been going on for months.


I am not suicidal.


I can trace back to January, of this year, when I was hysterical on the phone with TheBassist. He calmed me down, we made plans for me to come out to the East coast, things in my brain cooled to a smolder. In February, much was the same. March was the epic road trip of 2771.7 miles in less than two weeks. Same month the #teamharpy dismissal came. I survived that; it would reckon I could survive everything.

No.

April, May, June, July, August, and now I flipped between the East coast and the south. Four weeks here. Six weeks there. When I was in Michigan, I couldn’t bear to be in my apartment alone. I couldn’t bear being apart from anyone, seemingly specifically TheBassist. I was chainsmoking (when I could) and when I was home, it was jimjam and no shower time.

I put up a pretty good facade.


I have a friend or two who live near the cabin, whom I get in touch with immediately when I get into the area. The other day we went malling and lunch, which turned out not be that great of an idea — at least for me. As we walked around the mall being basic bitches, I watched my reflection in the mirrors as we passed. My friend looked great, hair perfect, make up on point, outfit cute. I on the other hand looked frumpy, my hair was out of control (It’s not been cut or colored for months). No makeup on, even mascara. I was slumped like a semi-colon.

I felt horrible and looked even worse.

I didn’t recognize the person in the mirror.


Earlier this week someone inferred I was a hack. Boy howdy, it didn’t take much. Tonight I rocked in my bed, in my head calling myself every terrible thing even remotely possible in the English language. “Hack.” “Untalented.” “Lazy.” “Worthless.” I could go on, but I think you see the point.

When will this ever end?


Malling friend said I put so much shit up on the Internet, I am asking for comment. I could see her point and I think I even agreed with her. But now? No. I create this space to navel gaze, operate, and exorcise my life. I make it public because I’m not ashamed of who I am and I’ve never been one for keeping things bottled up. So what if I keep regurgitating the same #content. When was the last time your life was picked neat and clean? Yeah, I thought so.


I climbed into bed about midnight and it’s going on six. I spent most of the night/morning playing solitaire with the requisite tears and staring at the slant of the A-frames ceiling. I cried some and sniffled, then cried some more.


These are not big fat ugly tears, this are small baby tears that just keep leaking from my eyes. Talking to TheExHusband was painful because my eyes immediately welled up as soon as I opened my mouth. He said it was good I was doing that, I was letting my emotions open up and be honest. I felt like a fraud standing there because nothing seems to be real anymore.

I felt the same talking to TheBassist. To Kristin. To anyone who asked.


I’ve meditate for 79 straight days. When I could be arsed to put clothes on and go outside, I walk. I am happy for a few months and it all comes crashing down. Again.


Will this ever end? I hope so. But honestly? I have no idea. All I do know is that I’m having an attack of The Sads.

And I want my teddy bear.

Lisa