The Unknown

The night before I voluntarily head to the hospital and I can’t sleep. I guess that’s not much of a surprise. What does surprise me is the appalling lack of information on the program I am about to try to check myself into. There is not a single review, first person account, or even description of the facilities anywhere to be found. Which means, I cannot prepare myself beyond bracing myself for the unknown.

This also means that I plan to pay as much attention as I can so that I can catalog the experience here for any other person who might try to find information on this program. I’m going to wait to add any details until I’m back. But I just wanted to give whoever has been reading an explanation as to why the blog is about to go dark for a couple weeks. Maybe I’ll convince Erik to write a guest post. I doubt it.

Erik said to me earlier that he went to Air Force Basic Training to become better, even though he knew, for a variety of reasons, that it would be really hard. He said me going to the hospital is kind of like that. Even though we don’t know for sure that it will make me better, we have to hope that it will.

Well, here’s hoping.

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Cautious Optimism and Doubt

Depression Lifting

The medication I began taking on June 4th may be working. At least, my counselor thinks so. I seem different. He wasn’t very specific, but he’s my barometer when my husband and I can’t clearly see. The day to day starts to bleed together so definitively that it becomes impossible to tell whether the proportion of good days to bad days is getting better. So, we listen to my counselor. Report to psychiatrist – it’s working. We increase the dose.

The downside? The lifting stupor allows the ever insidious anxiety to not to much creep in, as explode forth into my daily life. And still I am maxed out on what they call benzodiazepines; the most common group of medications prescribed for anxiety disorders.

Anxiety Descending

The doorbell sends me running for my bedroom, carefully ducking so my shadow is not seen through the fogged window. I am terrified that someone wants something from me.

More hours than I think should pass without a phone call from Erik and I am panicking, sometimes on the verge of checking with his supervisor, calling the hospitals (I have actually done that last one). How do I know he’s okay? Accidents happen all the time. Who is to say now is not the time something is going to happen to the people I love. Statistically, I’m due.

At night, a spider crawls up the wall in my bedroom. The creature must die or I cannot sleep in that room. Nighttime is the hardest. If my house creaks and groans (as houses do) in some way I haven’t heard before, I lie awake staring at the windows, ceiling, door wondering what’s coming and if my husband will wake up coherent enough to protect me. So often I lay looking at him, his back to me as he sleeps peacefully and wish that he would come back to me from the cocoon of sleep that keeps him safe. I want him to wrap that cocoon around me. Keep me safe.

I ascribe my anxiety to two categories: fear (or relatively realistic) anxiety and situational anxiety. Fear anxiety covers arachnids and other assorted creepy crawlies, strangers, accidents, and general discomfort with my level of safety. Situational anxiety covers stress, overwhelm, and those random times when panic seems to leap at me from some corner of the ceiling. Both have gotten exponentially worse as the depression has conceded some of its ground.

The solution – an anti-convulsant called Gabapentin (generic) or Neurontin (brand) with an off label use for panic disorder. This particular medication is not significant (aside from the hope that it helps my anxiety), so much as my begrudging realization that I have purposely been keeping the names of my medications from you.

You might think I’m crazy. Heh heh.

I have tried more pharmaceuticals than is probably safe for anyone to have in their system, but my current medications are:
Klonopin (for anxiety)
Neurontin (for panic and anxiety)
Latuda or Lurasidone (for mood stabilization)
Seroquel (in very small doses for when I can’t sleep, like now. Except it still makes me very drowsy and borderline stupid the next day, so mostly I don’t take this one.)
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Klonopin
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Neurontin
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Latuda
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Seroquel

There you have it folks. My list of secrets gets shorter and shorter, and yet, I know you’ll still love me.

The Intimidation Factor: Hiding My Mental Illness

 

 

 

Despite my apparent bravery and noted eloquence on the topic of my mental illness, statistics like these make me want to crawl back into a deep, dark hole and pretend I’ve never heard of it.

In fact, I almost didn’t share this infographic* for that very reason. Reasonably speaking, this makes no sense, given that my previous posts have already shredded the bag from whence the cat came. And given that the whole point of this blog is to refuse to keep my illness in the dark regardless of how it is perceived, I have so far past regard for what future employers or clients might think of all this, that one more statistic shouldn’t make a difference. But none of that stopped the anxiety from rising within as I read this infographic and the brief accompanying article (I mean, ketamine, really? Isn’t that a horse tranquilizer?) and imagined what prospective clients and future anyone’s will think of me.

Over two months of missed work. Three times more likely to get diabetes. How much lost in annual productivity because of poor workplace performance? No wonder it isn’t legal to ask about someone’s health before you hire them. Meanwhile, here I am putting it all out there for anyone to see. What the hell was I thinking?!

Oh right. I was thinking, no one judges someone who has a physical handicap, develops cancer, has M.S., or gets sick or disabled in pretty much any other way. I was thinking, mental illness kills many more people than is entirely necessary due to a lack of understanding and poor education on the topic. I was thinking, it isn’t fair that so many people, not to mention children and teenagers, suffer in silence because they are afraid to be judged, made fun of, or looked down upon. I was thinking, sure it will be hard, but someone has to say it and I’m not doing much else, so it might as well be me.

So, here I am. Many of these statistics apply to me, but I am not only a statistic. And if you take the time to read what I write and think about what it is that I’m doing here, I am sure you will see that it (and I) have great value.

*If you can’t read the infographic, click on it and you will be brought to the original article.

 

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Seize the Day

It is the middle of the night and I cannot sleep.

This evening I finally received a book via UPS that I have been hunting for, for months. It is out of print (it took me a while to understand this), and I don’t know why I didn’t just order it online to begin with.

The book is called Love Works Like This by Lauren Slater and I have been awaiting it’s arrival with baited breath. I love Lauren Slater. I have read Lying, Welcome to My Country, and I will certainly read anything else she comes up with. She’s brilliant. And not only is she brilliant, but I identify with her in a very substantial way. She writes words straight from my head.

She firmly believes in the chemistry of mental illness – that it can be helped tremendously with psycho-pharmaceuticals and also, in not blaming her mental illness on her mother. And so, as soon as the book arrived, I cracked it open and didn’t stop reading until I got to the last chapter and realized I wasn’t ready for the book to be over yet, which meant I had to stop reading.

I have been so interested in finding Love Works Like This ever since I discovered that she wrote this book about her personal experience with pregnancy and child birth. You see, Lauren Slater has had mental illness most of her life. She describes her life as having spent a decade in the hospital. She was first hospitalized at the age of 14, the last time at the age of 24, and very nearly at the beginning of her pregnancy when she went off her meds.

Now, there is a certain amount of interest on my part, because I have always wondered about having a child. I love children, have always loved children, and have always been, if I may say so, rather good with children.

The main problem, of course, is that I have also been cursed with these genes; Mental Illness and Addiction on both sides of my family tree with deep roots in both. I have one relative that committed suicide, another that has attempted, and it would surprise me not in the least if there are more of them that have as well.

Every time I have thought of myself as a mother, I have wondered about the curse I could be laying on my child. I would not wish my mental life on anyone, not anyone. And how could I possibly roll the dice on a child? Because as much as I have loved the children in my life, I know that I would love my child so much desperately more. And I know that as much as it breaks my heart to see any person, children especially, in emotional pain, to see my own child suffer with chronic mental illness and know that my genes were the cause, would be excruciating.

But more than all that, reading Lauren Slater’s book has reminded me, at a point when I very much needed reminding, that what I want more than anything else is to live a life worth living. I want to do whatever I have to do to get better sooner rather than later, so that should I decide to have a child, I will be living a life worth living when I do.

Erik and I have been discussing the hospital for weeks. There are treatment programs all over the country, but in Albuquerque there are only crisis intervention programs. I am not an imminent threat to myself or others. This is not what we’re looking for. We are looking for something more residential, more practical – something life changing. And of course, something for which our insurance will pay. Why is this so hard?

I want to get better. So. Cart me way. Next week. Tomorrow. Right now. Take me to some place where I can face my demons once and for all; where I can learn to handle the catatonia that my doorbell induces; where I can have “down” days that don’t mean I’m looking for the closest tall ledge; where I can face the people in my life who have treated me poorly and not feel angry or abandoned or alone.

I want to seize the day, every day.

And just this moment, I don’t know how.


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Business and Illness

As I launch into my new business Social Structure Marketing and cross my name with my husband’s name and the business name, it occurs to me that my blogging activity will more than likely cause problems for our business. I could try to find a way around this – go underground with my blog, use a pseudonym for blogging, or new social media accounts, but that would completely undermine the point of Begin Anew.

Mental Illness does not make me incapable of contributing to the world and it does not reflect poorly on my husband. If anything, the fact that we are in a loving, stable relationship shows his devotion, commitment, responsibility, and integrity.

In a book of short stories called Hidden Lives: Coming Out on Mental Illness, Jill Sadowsky writes, “We turned to friends and family for support, but it appeared that although we knew Doron was ill, to most of the world he was crazy, undeserving of much attention. Our thirteen-year-old daughter summed it up: ‘If Doron’s body were hurting, people would send gifts, but because it is his mind, they throw bricks.'” (from “The Last Call”)

The point is, now that we seek to build a business, we will not hide away my problems. People with mental illness are all around you, they manage your portfolio, teach your children, fix your car, do your taxes, clean your houses, design your websites, and manage your social media presence. Being in business does not rid me of depression or anxiety and we will not pretend that it does.

For more information about our services at Social Structure Marketing, please visit our facebook page or visit our Website.

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Anxiety Ladder

Another appointment with my psychiatrist, a new medication. And this time it’s a new, new medication. Something just put on the market. Oh joy. My favorite kind. Because no one knows for sure if it will work, how it will work, what the side effects will actually be, and the drug company has rainbows coming out of its you-know-what trying to sell the damn thing.

First side effect to watch out for, drowsiness. Great, this again?

In even worse news, my psychiatrist has informed me that there is absolutely nothing else I can take to help with my anxiety, which is only getting worse. I have stepped up the ladder on anti-anxiety meds over the last two years and I have hit a very solid, not at all breakable, ceiling.

What fun.

Erik’s continued absence leaves me shaky at best. Despite the many avenues I know exist for getting me off my butt and out of my house, I have a long list of excuses not to open the door – starting with the undone chores and ending with my inability to answer the doorbell. (Which, very uncharacteristically, rang twice today.)

Here’s hoping things get better soon.

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Transference

My husband, Erik, is going away for two weeks. He is being sent off by the Air Force for an educational thingy*, during which he will be “working” approximately five hours a day and then doing whatever he wants for the rest of the day.

He will not learn new things. He will not have fun or relax or go see his family that lives nearby. He will sit in his room and be sad and lonely and contemplate buying a sewing machine and pretend that he will use it. Oh wait.

That’s me.

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*There’s a title to this thingy, and a purpose, and if you ask Erik he will tell you. If you really want to know, post a comment and I will have Erik respond, because I could only explain it if my life depended on it and really, and just this moment, it doesn’t.

**Also, I’m pretty sure I’m using “transference” incorrectly here.