Being bipolar feels a lot like an extended family of gerbils moved into to your head, set up a condo and are having a non-stop party. There are some days that I can stay reasonable focused on one task at a time, but those days are few and far between. Most days I have the attention span of a gnat. “Oh look at the sky, I’m hungry, I want to go see X movie…right now, squirrel, need to do laundry, where did I leave my collection of paint brushes? And where the hell is that painting I’ve been working on? I have too many shoes again, where is that book I was just reading? Oh, the deposit slip I was using as a book mark is dated March 2011, so I guess I wasn’t just reading after all. I guess I’ll start over and read it from the beginning.
Get it? There is never ending bedlam going on in my head along with a running commentary on what I “should” be doing, or even what I should “want” to do. It takes practice and fortitude to come to grips with the fact that something I was absolutely obsessed with last week holds not even the slightest bit of interest to me today. I may go back to being obsessed with it next week or never be interested again, there’s just no telling how it’s going to play out.
I can go from crocheting granny squares for a blanket that will be complete in about 2025 to planning the rest of my life on an Excel spreadsheet in the blink of an eye. The good thing about both of these activities is that they are both works in progress and can sit and wait, happily ignored, for me to come back to them when I get around to it.
Sometimes I worry that living basically in the lap of luxury is one cause of my lack of focus. There is nothing that I must do or else…have no water to drink, no food, no shelter, children to care for, etc. Mr. Husband makes a decent living and pays the bills. I can pretty much do exactly as I please any time of the day or night. I found myself being rather embarrassed lately when a friend asked me how much our electricity was every month and I had to admit that I didn’t know. Hubman takes care of all that and I never even see the bills. He talks to me about the family business and seems to value my advice, so I’m sort of an impromptu consultant, but that is the extent of my participation
God Lord, am I living in my own private funny farm? That’s a scary thought. Will I end up sitting around all day weaving baskets and gluing macaroni to paper plates? Am I turning into some kind of sheltered old biddy who doesn’t even know how to gas up her own car? It’s something to think about.
After I come out of a funk brought on by familial wackiness I have this tendency to go on a major personal improvement campaign. But I stopped myself short a little while ago and thought “hey, what the hell are you doing? You can’t fix them, so you’re going to wear yourself out trying to fix yourself?” Well guess what? I’m not broken! Yeah, I may have a bit of wear and tear in a few places, but so what.
What I’ve decided to do now is have a stay-cation. I officially declare myself on vacation in my own house. It’s a great place to hang out when I let myself. Got beer and food in the fridge and a nice patio with a smoking area. I can play in sprinklers or run around naked in the back yard if the mood hits me. It’s the dog days of summer here in North Texas and the thermometer is going to pass the hundred degrees mark today.
Thanks to Mr. Husband’s collecting habits we have more Blu rays than a video store so I can do a 3 day marathon of Sci Fi or whatever my little heart desires. I get so caught up in the melodrama that I forget to stop, step back and realize my wonderful surroundings. Maybe I’ll go to Walmart and get myself a kiddy pool and vegetate in it while drinking margaritas. Yeah, now we’re talking! I tend to forget that I’m retired and therefore can do anything I want to do…or nothing at all 🙂 I’ll let all my calls go to voice mail and chillax in grand fashion.
Our Chick Trip 2013 turned out to be even more wonderful than I had hoped for. There only just 3 women this time. (last year were 5 of us) It turned out to be a magic number and a good personality mix. Every day we slept late, snacked around until the noonish hour and then hit the beach.
One gal made her fabulous signature peach Jello shots and we hauled those down to the beach with us. I also brought along a small personal cooler for my stash of elixir of life, also know as beer. We parked our chairs right at the water’s edge so we could cool our feet in the ocean.
We gossiped, baked in the sun, and sad awful catty things about the people who wandered by. The usual parade of ginormous bellies and banana hammocks were on display, of course. It really reminded me of the obesity epidemic in America. I am old enough to remember when large persons where the exception at the beach, rather than the rule. But everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, so it’s all good.
The variety of tattoos we viewed was rather amazing. And not all of them were even remotely attractive. We spent the better part of an hour at the pool one day going back and forth between Jello shots and speculating as to what the large tattoo was on the calf of one woman. We couldn’t decide if it was supposed to be Jerry Garcia or Charles Manson. We didn’t have the nerve to ask.
Last year we all brought one piece bathing suits because we did not want to inflict our middle-aged bodies on fellow sun worshipers. It only took one afternoon of staring at beached whales to make us decide if that if they could get away with it then so could we. We went shopping, bought 2 pieces and flopped in the sand in all our glory. At the tender age of 58 I have a bit of cellulite here and there. So what? I tanned it anyway!
In the evening we sat out on the balcony and watched the beautiful sunset over the water. It’s so peaceful, you forget that there was ever anything to be stressed about.
Was sitting around in some sort of fugue state a few days ago. Sighing, internal whining, woe is me, I don’t feel like doing anything. But there was a pile of dishes 8 miles high in the kitchen. My laundry was backed up to the point where I was wearing clothes that I wouldn’t even donate to the Salvation Army.
An epiphany occurred. With my particular mental iffy mental state complicated by meds that cause sedation, if I wait until I “feel” like doing something to do it, I may just sit around on ever my ever-increasing back side for days or weeks on end. Taking meds with weight gain as a side effect and impersonating a 2 toed sloth will do that to a woman.
Husband also helped motivate me to get up and about by getting sick. I couldn’t get my ass in gear for myself, but I did manage to get it together enough to try to care for him because I love the big Lug. Bring him a soda or some chicken broth, whatever his little heart desired.
What happened then was a statement came to mind that I used to use on children and then later on employees. “You don’t have to want to do it, like doing it, or feel like doing it, you just have to do it, period, end of discussion.”
For most activities the result will be satisfactory. Maybe not the best ever, but good enough for now. Who ever came up with that slogan “just do it!” (I think it was Nike, but don’t quote me on this) was really on to something. It can just really be that simple.
Don’t wanna get out of bed, well do it anyway. Don’t have to plan the whole day, just stand up. Once your up and staggering around, chances are your limbic brain will head towards the kitchen looking for coffee. Don’t feel like getting dressed, well do it anyway, tough noogies. When already dressed, it’s much less daunting to move on to more ambitious goals like leaving the house, getting behind the wheel of a car, running errands, going shopping.
For me not wanting to go shopping is a warning sign of trouble around the next curve as glaring as another person’s decision to paint a mural on the living room wall using eye makeup. I actually did that when I was a kid. My Mom laughs about it now….
Another thing I did as a kid was decorate the fenders of Mom’s car with stick on daisies. The kind that people used to glue on the shower floor to prevent slipping. I thought it was cool. Guess I’ve always tended to the eccentric artistic side, even as a young child. She decided to leave the flowers there and went tooling around South Miami in the 60’s in a flower power car. Hee Hee. Impulse control is not one of my strong suites.
As an adult I’ve stifled those urges to the point where they rarely come out. I know logically that it’s probably not a good idea to paint a mural on or in someone’s house without their prior consent. But hey, what about my house? Bleh, Hubman would have a stroke if I did that. Sometimes being an adult just plain bites! I could do it on a wall in my office? Wow, that would be way fun. And a renewable canvas, just paint over it and start again.
Back to the do it anyway even when I don’t feel like it. For the past few days I’ve gotten out of bed when I woke up, made the bed, made coffee, got dressed, put on make up, wrote on my book for an hour, and actually left the house for no other reason than I wanted some new spring colored eye shadow. I didn’t wait until it was an emergency to leave the house. How cool is that? May sound like nothing to a functioning person, but for me this is a huge step towards getting back in the game.
I’m also making plans to travel again. I want to go visit my relatives in New Orleans before it gets too hot. My Mom is not into air conditioning so a visit to her in the high on summer time is a rather sweaty business. I need to get right on this as soon as possible. Will start packing today!
In the Middle Ages, it was called melancholia. In the early 1900s, it was known as neurasthenia. From the 1930s to about 1970, it was known as a nervous breakdown. “Nervous breakdown” is a term that the public uses to characterize a range of mental illnesses, but generally it describes the experience of “snapping” under immense pressure, mental collapse or mental and physical exhaustion.
My lovely daughter once dropped a quote that I thought was pretty funny at the time; “Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” Now I think back on it, she was acting as a prophetess.
I’ll always remember the winter of 2012 as that pesky time when I lost my freaking mild altogether. Losing one’s mind is way more inconvenient thank losing one’s cell phone for example. You can always call yourself from the house phone and follow the ring to where the darned phone is hiding…this time. If you haven’t silenced the ringer – then you have to turn off everything in the house and listen for the vibration.
Checking all your coat pockets and purses you’ve used recently doesn’t help much either. A lost mind tends to lurk around in the shadows and pounce on you at inconvenient moments. Say, just long enough for you to put 2 & 2 together and realize that your answer, 42, is not quite right.
It’s really weird to be on the inside of a mental meltdown. Part of you decides to play the part of spectator and stands off on the sidelines, cheering and wincing. “Come on Girl, you can do it. Just put your pants on one leg at time, it’s not that hard once you get started.” Or “Oh, I can’t believe she said that, that’s going to be hard to explain.” Or “Oh crap, she’s never gonna live THAT down.”
I spent the majority of December 2012 and January 2012 feeling like my brain got put into a food processor and spun around on high until I ended up with a bizarre brain puree not suitable for consumption by anyone.
The whole meltdown thing started innocently enough. I began to display evidence of losing my aplomb. Minor incidents were suddenly earth shatteringly serious. I went from being annoyed by the self-destructive antics of friends and loved ones to being annoyed by their very existence on the planet.
I think one of the things that saved me from total chaos is that I can type really fast, almost fast enough to keep up with my thoughts when they are raging in a manic episode. I can sit down with a cup or 2 of coffee and bang out a novella on the outrages of using a poorly constructed can opener, 8 to 10 thousand words easy – no problem. And it all makes sense, at the time. I’ve saved a few of the crazier ones for a private look back guide to tell when I starting to careen off the rails. I just wish I could channel some of this energy into the book I’m writing. Sometimes I can.
Well, all of this nonsense ended up in an enormous train wreck from my perspective. I spent a lot of time being profoundly grateful that I was retired and didn’t have to suffer the humiliation of melting down on the job.
I saw it happen to a work friend and it was not a pretty sight. She was suffering from “forced speech” that frequently accompanies a manic episode. This meant that she couldn’t sit down in her cube and couldn’t shut up no matter what. She took to walking around wearing a blood pressure cuff as a bracelet and updated everyone on her stats on a continuous basis, about every 15 minutes.
This went on for 2 days in a row. Being the one responsible for keeping track of employees at that time, I had to be the one to have HR call her husband to come get her. Actually I was relieved that he came and quietly spirited her away. We spoke for a few minutes and I thanked him for coming to get his wife. He thanked me for doing something instead of just ignoring her. I felt terrible that she went through that. The company ended up giving her a generous retirement package and we never saw her again.
I heard through a mutual friend a year or so later and she had received treatment and was feeling much better. She was working part time in a low stress, small grocery store owned by a family member. She was able to get out of the house, and a huge benefit was that they were kind and patient with her when she had “one of those days” and was unable to handle being in the store.
I’m grateful for my beloved husband for bearing with me during this episode. I don’t know how he stood it really. I couldn’t even stand myself. It must be incredibly challenging to face someone who switches from “I’m pissed that you left the toilet seat up, please don’t do that” – to – “I’m pissed that you left the toilet seat up, therefore I’m leaving and moving to Brazil!’ in the blink of an eye.