If you have a troubled child my heart goes out to you. I slap you a big ole high five for any day that you make it through without ripping out all your hair and making it into a noose to hang yourself with.
My daughter (40 years old) has lost her freaking mind….again. Supposedly, her neighbor across the street conspired to have her thrown in jail because he wanted her apartment. Now the FBI or some other agency is tapping her phone. She knows this because she hears coughing and laughing when she is on the phone. Logically the sounds are probably coming from the person who is being subjected to her latest bizarre tale of woe.
Next on the list is that she was supposedly pregnant and in jail they abused her so much that the baby left her womb and took up residence in one of her tubes. Uh yea, like that really happens, oookkk??? The fetus may get stuck in a Fallopian tube and not make it to the womb, and that is a life threatening situation, but they don’t turn around and go back up the tube just because you’re having a bad day.
Continuing on with the insanity, she calls me when I’m on my way home from Seattle while I’m in the line to go through the security check and informs me that she is having a miscarriage and therefore I have to buy her a new phone…not just any old phone, but an untraceable phone. Say what?? I told her I couldn’t really talk at the moment because I was in the middle of taking my shoes off, etc. So instead she hangs up and sends me 15 text messages in the space of 5 minutes. What the hell does having a new phone have to do with having a miscarriage, assuming that was what was actually happening? I swear to God that I’m not making this shit up.
It occurred to me as I was driving home from an errand today that it has literally been decades since I have believed ANYTHING she tells me. If she said the sky was blue I would walk to the window and look outside to verify that the sky was actually blue.
I know she is scared and obviously suffering, but whatever mess she is actually in, I know she brought it down on her own head. She seems determined to screw herself over in every way humanly possible. Because she is highly intelligent she finds really creative ways to do herself in on a regular basis. I don’t know what to do, so instead I just try to cram it away in a corner of my brain somewhere and not think about it.
But that doesn’t work. This morning I was drinking coffee and suddenly realized that I was grinding my teeth and was having trouble breathing. I was in the middle of a major panic attack. I had to take a magic happy calming pill that my psych doc gives me for emergencies. I’m only supposed to take them every once in a while, but when my daughter is yanking my chain I start popping them like tic tacs. I talked to my shrink about this and she said that it’s ok as long as I don’t start doing that all the time. And I don’t. Left to my own devices I don’t need them and don’t even think about them.
Another one of her favorite stunts is to call me up and tell me this long involved tale of madness and intrigue and then call another family member and tell them a completely different story. If I’ve called them before she gets to them they bust her on it. So now she gets to be mad at me for “outing” her and violating her privacy. I finally told her that I’m not going to keep secrets within the family because secrets make families sick. If she doesn’t want anyone to know then don’t tell me in the first place. I’m not going to cover for her anymore.
Ah, another day in my own personal funny farm. Her “bugged” phone supposedly ran out at midnight two days ago. I assume she is going to punish me for not buying her a phone by not telling me what her new number is. If I’m lucky I may hear from her in a month or two. If I’m really, really lucky I may not hear from her for six months or even a year. An uneasy reprieve, such is life.
I see a red door and I want it painted black
No colors anymore I want them to turn black
I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes
I have to turn my head until my darkness goes
I look inside myself and see my heart is black
I see my red door and it has been painted black
Maybe then I’ll fade away and not have to face the facts
It’s not easy facing up when your whole world is black
Paint it Black – Mick Jagger
I think Mick Jagger knows what it feels like to be depressed. This particular song referred to a funeral. But when you are depressed it feels like you’re living in a funeral. Everybody talks in hushed tones, somber colors, and the cloying smell of too many flowers.
I hate bipolar disease! I hate it, hate it, hate it! It must be really weird to live with someone with this disorder. I can’t imagine what goes on my husband’s mind. From the inside, in my head, it’s constant fear. Even when I think I’m OK. I can be sitting there drinking a cup of coffee minding my own business and get hit by a sudden emotional tidal wave.
The giant hand of God of mental illness reaches down, scoops me up and slams me against the wall…hard. A voice from on high announces “today thou shalt be depressed! I don’t care what your plans are…this is how you shall be today.” And you don’t know how long it’s going to last. It might last for hours or days or weeks or even months. No rhyme or reason to it all.
And then as suddenly as it came it’s gone. Or sometimes it happens slowly like a flower opening. One day I go an entire day without crying. That’s progress. The next day I go a whole day without crying and take a shower and get dressed. The day after that I can add cleaning the kitchen to my repertoire of mundane things I’m capable of doing.
A few days later I might even try to leave the house. That’s always tricky because I have this irrational fear that I’m going to open the front door and Sigmund Freud will be standing there with a clip board staring at me over his glasses. He’ll stare down his nose at me and ask “well little girl, what makes you think you are capable of doing anything at all? You’re sick! Leaving the house and driving a car? Get real, seriously?”
But I do it anyway, I have to. If I give up than the illness wins. I become a house bound mental case, a shut in hiding from the world. I become my own worst nightmare.
Woke up this mornin’ with the sundown shinin’ in
Found my mind in a brown paper bag again
Tripped on a cloud and fell eight miles high
Tore my mind on a jagged sky
Just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in
If you are one of the lucky ones that lives cradled in the ample bosom of “normal” family, I envy you. Get down on your knees and thank every deity that you can think of. Take a coffee break and then do it some more.
To the average family, a phone call in the middle of the night means a wrong number or somebody died. In a family riddled and tortured with mental illness it means 1) someone is off their meds…again, 2) they are drunk and/or stoned, and 3) want money and for you to feel sorry for them for whatever cliff they have driven off, yet again. You’re also required to at least pretend to believe their bull shyte version of why they are in this mess. Any hint that their actions might have caused this situation is met with extreme anger, usually coupled with tantrums and lavish desert topping of profanity.
If you have a large family and the majority of them are not even close to the bell curve called normal than you have my deepest condolences. I have a large extended family and there is not a day that goes by that someone isn’t in a crisis about something or other. If there is not a concrete crisis at the moment than manufacturing one is fair game.
There are a multitude of quacks out there to help crisis addicts along the melodrama super highway. Awww, you poor widdle dumpling, nothing bothering you at the moment? “Well sit right back my friend, let me help you remember something that happened 3 decades ago so you have something concrete to blame for every poor decision and disaster in your life since then.” We’ll focus on that instead of what you’re doing right here right now to screw up your life.
I do not intend to imply that my family is a “wretched hive of scum and villianry.” No at all. What they are is fascinating and frequently frustrating hive of highly intelligent and loving people who are much more creative than the average Joe. Unfortunately this enables them to come up with absolutely amazing and astounding explanations as to why they are in their disaster D’Jour. The one overriding theme in all the stories is that it is “not my fault.” Nothing that they did or failed ever even remotely has anything to do with the current travail.
I got a midnight call last night from a family member last night. They want to suck me in by demanding that I remember the name and location of a baby sitter from 35 years ago, so they can press charges and sue them. Say what? I don’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday. If they fail to track this person down then it will be MY fault. ***sigh*** This was not implied but I know how this goes. Been there, done it….a thousand times.
After ending the call I got out of bed and staggered around the house asking questions like “could I just divorce my family altogether?” That would be a negatory and also throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I love my family too much to do that. I slept poorly when I finally went back to bed and had nightmares.
Woke up this morning with a headache from a broken brain and filled with rage. But my body has decided to imitate a giant dead log. My legs feel like they are filled with lead. Yep I’m doing the slow-mo shuffle today.
The coping mechanism I’ve developed for times like this is straight out of the movie “The Godfather.” I go to the mattresses. What this means is that I screen my calls. I do not answer the phone period. If someone is sane enough to leave a voice mail and they sound fairly OK, then I call them back. If they can’t even do that, then they’re in such a shape that I just can’t handle it….today. Maybe tomorrow I can. I’m taking it one day at a time here. The Hubman has standing orders that I am not home. Depending on who called I will call them right back… or not.
This may sound drastic. But I have accepted the fact that I am not the Rock of Gibraltar. Enough hard waves hit me and I will crumble. It feels like failure and weakness, and it sucks. But, my job at the moment is to take care of myself and accept the fact that if I’m not emotionally stable, then I am in no condition to shoulder the burdens of others. No matter how much I love them.
Mother I tried please believe me, I’m doing the best that I can.
I’m ashamed of the things I’ve been put through, I’m ashamed of the person I am.
Isolation, isolation, isolation.
But if you could just see the beauty, these things I could never describe,
These pleasures a wayward distraction, this is my one lucky prize.
Isolation, isolation, isolation, isolation, isolation. (Ian Curtis, Joy Division)
I’m not feeling depressed or particularly sad today, just isolated and angry. How many good people have I pushed away over the course of my life? I can’t even begin to count. Part of it was a fear, an overwhelming, paralyzing, bone deep fear.
What if I get to know you and like you and then you slam me down hard? Safer to stay at a distance. Even worse, what if you get to know me and like me and then I kick you to the curb one day when I’m out of my mind with agitation. I don’t know how or why I’ve lived like this for so long. I think another part of this comes from feeling like damaged goods. “I’m a loony toon; you better stay away from me for your own good.”
I know it’s ridiculous to feel this way, but that doesn’t help much. It’s like having a broken leg, you know it is broken but it still hurts like a bitch. Every time phone rings I almost jump out of my skin and think, “Oh God, what now? What loose string have I left untied? What did I do that I need to apologize for or explain?”
Regaining a semblance of sanity and balance is a good thing. But, when I look behind me and see the of destruction I wove while in and out of my mind, it’s like looking at a aerial footage of the path of a tornado.
Yea, yea, I didn’t do as much damage as a tornado, but not by much, at least that’s what it feels like. Would it have different if I had been diagnosed with bipolar years or decades ago? How can I know that? Would I have made different decisions? Chosen a different path for my life? Hiding behind the skirts of my wackier family members it was always so easy to wave a banner and say “See, I’m the normal one, taint nuthin wrong with me!”
Some part of me knew something was not right in my brain. I guess I just wasn’t ready to face it head on. Who is to say anything would be different? Maybe it would have been worse? Maybe I would have used mental illness as a crutch to excuse myself from inexcusable behavior.
Today I go to see my physio-key-atrist. I’m expecting it to go something like this. “OK, we’ve abated the crisis and stopped the bleeding, the hypomanic mixed states, but what now? Where do I go from here?” I don’t know how or what a normal stable state feels. I feel like a blindfolded painter expected to draw a landscape I’ve never seen. I just don’t know where or what to do next.
Confusion in her eyes that says it all.
She’s lost control.
And she’s clinging to the nearest passer by,
She’s lost control.
And she gave away the secrets of her past,
And said I’ve lost control again,
And of a voice that told her when and where to act,
She said I’ve lost control again.
RIP to Songwriter Ian Curtis (1956-1980), Joy Division
So this is what normal feels like? Don’t know because I’ve never been normal. But if this what it feels like, I think I can get used to it. Maybe even grow to love it. I’m sitting here on the patio and the raging out of control thoughts are …just not …there. Where did they go? Are they gone or do these bipolar meds give me a volume control? If this is case then it is fabulous, I love it.
It also feels like if I somehow stood in the great hall of my brain and shouted hello, I would hear echoes. HELLO, hello, helloooo. But I don’t feel empty at all. I just feel …peaceful. Yeah that’s it.
I still hear all the sounds that were driving me absolutely climbing the walls crazy just a few days ago. Bird cawing, traffic in the distance, hubman blinking, a neighbor banging around her garbage cans, a barking dog, leaf blowers, the sprinklers.
The sprinklers are the best of all, they don’t sound like Niagra Falls now. I don’t have to run for my life, get in bed and put a pillow over my head to drown out the roar. The sun shining through them is making little rainbows. I have a yard full of rainbows. How cool is that? I couldn’t sit still long enough to notice that before. Looking back on the last few months I spent most of my mental time zipping around on the ceiling fan.
I hope y’all pardon me if I spend some time obsessed with this whole bipolar medical adventure and the meds that are helping me so much. Thank you Chemists every where, thank you, and thank you some more. It’s all so new to me and it’s like getting a new brain for Christmas and I do love new gadgets. And it’s a wonderful gadget, this brain. Don’t have to plug it in, it won’t short out if I spill coffee on it, can’t lose the charger cord, and the warranty won’t expire.
The absence of the constant assault on my senses, the absence of having a panic attic when asked a simple question and the ability to just BE is a gift from the Gods via modern pharmaceuticals.
The outward proof of returning to center is that I am doing “normal” things without stressing out. I don’t feel the need to upchuck from the fear of getting in the shower. I could force myself into the bathtub instead, but it was a complicated process. I would sit on the edge and put one foot in, take deep breaths try to calm down, put the foot in and calm down. It would take like 10 minutes to finally get all the way in the bathtub. The sensations were overwhelming. Then I’d start to panic and fear that I would fall asleep and drown. And standing up to get back out, shivering while reaching for a towel? I would rather go to Disney Land and ride Space Mountain. Not even close to being as scary.
I’ve always been a tactile kind of person to begin with. So with having my brain go haywire the sensation in the shower were as frightening as if someone expected me to base jump off Angle Falls in South America. Too much water, too much noise, to many sensations – hot, cold, wet, soapy, steamy, the smell of shampoo, scratchy wash cloth… GAAAaaaAAa. Head for the hills! The H2O Armageddon was coming.
Unfortunately the devil of “what ifs” is starting to knock on my door. What if I end up as dull as a hitching post? What if the meds turn off my creativity? Will I be perceived as fragile or even dangerous? One of those people who you talk softly and slowly to because they’re afraid you are going to go off on them? Will I start to shuffle along like someone in an institution. Have I donned a chemical straight jacket? I’m back to writing at least and that’s a good sign. I’ll take it.