Saturday, June 30, 2012

This Is No Social Crisis. Just Another Tricky Day for You.


Well, chalk Thursday up to yet another visit to Crapville, apart from getting to see The Flaming Lips streaming online as they broke the Guinness Book of World Records for the most consecutive live shows in 24 hours (8 shows, which trumped Jay Z's 7), a tour that took them through Mississippi to ultimately land at the House of Blues in New Orleans. Wayne's voice, by New Orleans, was SHOT, while Steven maintained perfect pitch. Some sets in some towns along the journey were only 15-20 minutes long, then they'd head back on the bus and travel to the next destination. Fans and friends of Steven were disappointed he didn't get more screen time on the live feed, and were aggravated that all we got to see was Wayne. After the 6th or 7th show, Steven himself was feeling a little bummed about it himself, and admitted it gets to be a drag that the rest of the band is under-represented and The Flaming Lips look like "Wayne's band." At least the House of Blues had a boom camera, so we got to see a lot more of him.  I had school Thursday, so I missed most of the daytime gigs, but did catch the grand finale. When presented with the Guinness Record certificate in a formal ceremony, Wayne's thank-you speech consisted of a simple, "Fuck yeah!"  See below!!

Get More: 
O Music Awards

After my day, going from bad to worse, getting to see my favorite band, which happens to include one of my most favorite people on the planet, sing my favorite song, wasn't a bad way to wrap things up, though I still had Luke's therapy session to attend Thursday night.

I missed a "B" on my psych exam by ONE POINT, getting a "C+." That in itself, sucked big donkey balls. If you think I flipped out over the B, you should've seen me at point C. I was beyond disappointed in myself, and in my performance, so I decided to come clean to the professor, who is offering some "alternative testing strategies" to students who aren't doing "that well" in class, which I consider a B to be, and I let her know about my slight cognitive dysfunction and short-term memory loss, and what it's from.  I told her I'm perfectly capable of being an A student, as I was in my other post-grad work thus far. The research paper's due in 2 weeks, and I still haven't decided on a topic, but am confident that I'll do exceptionally well on it. That's followed by a Power Point presentation of the paper's subject to the class, which makes me a little nervous, as I'm not that PP savvy, and I wish to God Luke had saved that vignette he filmed of me some months ago tanked out on NyQuil, because I would totally have used it (in some context).

Came home to find a letter in the mail from unemployment about my benefits ending and having to apply for extended benefits. I have to "produce" an exhaustive list of places I've "applied" for work since January. (Um....) I also have to go down to their office for a confab and to talk about job training, blah blah blah. Whatever it takes to stay on unemployment before I start my graduate work and loan out a living stipend. I'm not meeting with my grad school admissions counselor until the end of July. I need to keep scraping by until I start actual grad school. This all causes me an exhaustive amount of additional stress.

Then I've got trouble with Stosh, my primary care doc, who a) doesn't feel qualified Rx'ing my psychiatric meds and b) hasn't been getting reimbursed by Medicaid, so he said he'd only refill my meds for one more month, which leaves me scrambling to find a shrink that accepts Medicaid in the next couple of weeks. That's a bag of dicks I really don't want now, but admittedly, with as many mood fluctuations as I've had in my term without a psychiatrist's monitoring, yeah, I need one to tweak dosing. The difficult part is finding a doctor who accepts Medicaid, my former shrink being one of few who DO. Hence, an added stressor on an already full, depressive plate.

At Luke's therapy appointment Thursday night, we talked about the "you're really fucking ugly" and "you're getting fat again" comments he threw at me this week, which the therapist tried to debunk and iterate to Luke how hurtful such comments are to his mom. (Dad agreed.) The therapist tried to impress upon my son that what he thinks is funny really isn't. Claiming in hindsight that he was only kidding, the therapist told him that I take such comments to heart, and that Luke should avoid doing that at all costs.

Luke must have mentioned the word "crazy" in describing both he and myself no fewer than a dozen times, which we all tried to diffuse. I do talk about school, like at dinner, and what I'm learning, but I'm afraid it's giving Luke transference nuttiness. We talked about his gifted program, and his frustration with it, and the therapist explained that Luke's in what is probably the 99th % for intellect, whereas most of the other supposed "gifted" students are more like 70-80%. So she said, statistically, Luke won't meet a lot of other Luke-esque people in class. Like I said before, he might *not* meet other kids held to his ridiculous standards until college. I know I didn't.

I try to remember this when Luke tells me I'm fat:

I also try to remember the following regarding the pounds on the scale that unnerve me so badly:

Luke's therapist suggested we consider sending him to the Illinois Math & Science Academy for high school. He'd have to live there, which he's not going to remotely like, but we'll consider it. It's just an idea, anyway. But one to ponder between Craig and I. Oy. In the meantime, we have to continue to nurture his brand of genius as best we can. Next summer, he might be able to take some college-level courses at a university nearby, which, once his IQ test and personality/emotional tests are said and done, I have no doubt he'd qualify for.


Another grave evening of falling asleep outside at 1am, over which my mom is really, really pissed. I only vaguely recollect even coming outside for a smoke and having been up really late. Evidently, which I noticed Friday morning, I burned a big hole in my Knox sweatshirt (hail alma mater!) with one or more cigarettes, smoking half asleep. I have to believe it's something like sleepwalking, but I woke up to find a colander of lemons and tomatoes I'd put on the dryer in the basement, a piece of Swiss cheese on the kitchen floor, shit on the kitchen sink askew, but at least my room was intact and my glasses were on my desk. 

I do remember replying to another short email from Guy Friend, wishing me Godspeed given my recent mood fluctuation, in which I typo'd my way through it, then kept sending nonsensical typo'd PS's indicating that I really shouldn't type when I'm mostly asleep. I wish I could've sent him this:

In the last 1/2 session with my therapist, Erin, we discussed my "bedtime routine" and how it shouldn't include Luke or my mom. The plan is this: At 10:30pm, I go outside and smoke my last cigarette. I lock up the door and turn the light off downstairs, a mental trigger that I have to stay upstairs the rest of the night. I ready my bed early, find a book to read, or, she said, if I still feel compelled to write, I do so by handwriting in my notebook in bed, until I'm ready to go to sleep. No overly stimulating activity. She seems to think these behavioral modifications will keep me from wandering around the house at 1am, starting my sweatshirts on fire, writing nonsensical emails or attempting to blog in gibberish. Trying it out tonight.

I was pretty nonplussed with the new therapist, Erica, though we just met. She failed one simple test any hip psychologist fresh out of school should know: what NSSI stands for. (Non-suicidal self-injury.) She actually ASKED me what it meant. I explained it to her, looking oddly at Erin. Anyone who just spent 4 years studying mental health and in an internship should theoretically know what NSSI stands for. I did tell her I haven't cut in over 3 years, haven't abused narcotics in 14 years and have been sober, the NyQuil incident notwithstanding, for over 4 years. I explained my litany of psychiatric disorders in clinical terminology, and Erin weighed in: "Andrea is my smartest patient. She's also the sickest." I was a bit taken aback, but just in terms of comorbidity my case is very challenging. Erin did, at least, say I was "high functioning" and warned Erica that I'm pursuing my PsyD in Psychology, which should make my therapy sessions very interesting. I told Erica some background information on me, and included Best Male Friend and Guy Friend, and how I frequently have issues with both of them, about my parents, my son, my ex-husband and my Best Anorexic Award competition with my best friend, Kate. Stay tuned.


Well, I managed to stay inside last night, though I kept dropping my cell phone and trying to get the battery back in half asleep, which I gave up on at about midnight, I think. 

I lost 3 lbs this week! Huzzah!

Spent the evening talking to Kate, which made my WEEK, just as Steven had made my Thursday. Kate's doing better, and we got to catch up on all of our intricate life goings-on. Kate's life, dare I say, is even more spectacularly dramatic than my own at present. In a good way...

She had a theory as to why it's taken so long for Guy Friend to kiss me...3 1/2 years. It's because we lost our propinquity. I agreed and said that if Guy Friend were still working together, we'd be in a different situation than we are now, which is a stalemate. Kate also said there's the factor that Guy Friend, unlike she, I and Best Male Friend, is not a bohemian like we all are. We're all free-living artists who love without abandon, and Guy Friend is stuck in Puritanical Age and is consumed with Catholic guilt, which is ironic, given Kate was raised a strict Catholic and Best Male Friend is an atheist, and I'm lapsing Lutheran. But we're all a lot more liberal and free-thinking. We've also all lost people in our lives that we loved dearly or passionately in an untimely fashion, which gives us that seize-the-day attitude. 

Guy Friend? Kate and I agree on this, and think you should take note:

"The greatest relationships are the ones you never expected to be in, the ones that swept you off your feet and challenged every view you've had." 


Today I'm super-excited, because my best friend from high school, Christa, is coming over for dinner (and without her toddler!). I love her baby to death, but she's happy to have a weekend free, which is RARE for her, which leaves us plenty of time for girl talk, which we haven't had a chance to do sans baby since we reunited via Facebook several months ago. Then tomorrow is lunch with SuperJuls! Really looking forward to that. Between all that and the talk with Kate last night, the depressive episode seems to be resolving itself nicely. Whew! It's almost too much awesome for the Offbeat Drummer to handle in one weekend!

I've decided to challenge myself to make a mix CD of 20 songs in my iTunes library that each start out with a vocal 4-count introduction. I think I can do it. I can think of 2 right off the top of my head...alas, another project for another day. (Like the next time I'm manic.)

It's going to be a good day. "Mr. Blue Sky" by ELO shuffled on my iTunes. That almost guarantees a good day for me ahead. 

"The more attractive the woman was to the guy, the more likely he was to overestimate her interest in him, researchers found. And it turns out, the less attractive men (who believed they were better looking than the women rated them) were more likely to think beautiful women were hot for them. But the more attractive guys tended to have a more realistic assessment.
And the women? Perilloux and her coauthors found that women underestimated men’s sexual interest.
Believe it or not, this all probably makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, the scientists say. Attractiveness is linked to fertility, so if guys keep hitting on hot women, they’re bound to score occasionally and father sons who act the same way. Those attractive men don’t have to try as hard."
So guys like Best Male Friend and Guy Friend, who think they're both ugly? You're not ugly. You're both hot (to me...Best Male Friend is universally considered stunning by the masses, but Guy Friend is more unconventional in his physical adorability). Unlike Chris, who thinks he's really hot, when he's objectively quite ghastly and blech. He thinks he can land any woman on the planet because of his innate hotness. You two knuckleheads must use some kind of distorted mirrors to think you're ugly. So, so untrue. 

Meanwhile, seemingly, objectively attractive women, like Kate and I, think we're dogs and that no one thinks we're pretty, and that guys only pay attention to us because we're sick and needy, but if you think we're pretty, don't hold back on us. (Best Male Friend is actually really great about it. Guy Friend is less than forthcoming.)  A little positive reinforcement goes a long way (Kate and I talked about this.).  Also, what the study implies is that the more attracted to you YOU think we are, the more you overrate how hot we find you. Think about it and get back to me, guys.  Kate and I have a standing bet on something. Prove us wrong.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

All of a Sudden, I See Sheriff John Brown, Aiming To Shoot Me Down. So I Shot. I Shot Him Down.

Today has not been a very bitchin', sweet ass day.

The hypomania's gone, but you'll notice that quickly enough, unless you're mentally retarded, which was the subject of a handful of my Abnormal Psych test questions today. No, I don't think I did a stellar job on the exam. I am also confident enough to reason that I didn't fail. On this one, I elect to resolve myself to the depths of the average. My professor showed me my cumulative score thus far, and I've received 10/10 on every quiz except one, where I got a mere 9.5. (Throwing hands in air!) and the dreaded B on the first exam. Alas...

 I over-studied molecular genetics, had a wee bit too much knowledge about delirium (from being my own best case study), could've spent more time on anterograde amnesia (but in hindsight, I forgot, ha ha) and under-studied the statistical percentages of the chance of schizophrenia in the event I had a baby with a man who had a fraternal twin who was schizophrenic. Color me embittered yet again, but one would be amazed at the seemingly grave irony of a question as hypothetical as that on a college exam, given my withered, decaying, life-endangering uterus is, AS WE ALL KNOW, a memory in a biohazard landfill, probably making New Jersey stink more than it already did. I still do wonder, though, if inside my uterus, it said, "LUKE WAS HERE. NO TRESPASSING!" and if that was, secretly, why I had secondary infertility. That certainly would've been a more interesting conversation to have with my gynecologist than the ever-hysterical topic of douching.

(It's not that I wanted to have another child. I didn't want to because I knew I couldn't, for a very long time, though in-vitro fertilization might have had a chance when I was still married and fertility drugs failed, though we never pursued that avenue. (Craig and I sort of figured that I was psychotic enough on fertility drugs and that the idea of shooting me up with hormones or whatever to be artificially inseminated was a really, really poor plan.) I'm satisfied, blessed even, with the Mouthy Miracle lifted out of my abdomen and have zero desire to attempt to raise another small human, so no, I don't plan on adopting late in life. And frankly, my uterus was chiefly a mere source of (it got to be tri-monthly) aggravation and on those odd occasions when I remember actually having had sex, when it wasn't gravely traumatic and incomprehensibly emotionally scarring, I guess my cervix was involved, though most of that had been removed prior to the hysterectomy, likewise laden with cells that could've potentially killed me. I should think females would sympathize with the reality that, aside from my ovaries (which again, only give me acne and moodiness once a month), my reproductive system is a big ol' cavern of nothingness these days, both literally and figuratively. Fellas? Think of it this way. Your balls were cut off. End. Of. Argument.)

I honestly *do* love the fuck out of the jewel of my belly button, though it's runs in the family:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the professor said not to self-diagnose, but I either have early-stage Parkinson's or really shouldn't drink an entire 12-cup pot of coffee before I go to school. All day, I've had this twitchy tremor in my right pinky finger, and Lord knows, I shake enough as it is (some of which, I have learned, could be a side effect of my anti-psychotic). 

What'd I eat today? I had a breakfast bar & a peach at 5:30am. A cup of cereal with a hand full of blueberries and almond milk for lunch, and will have a taco when my mom makes dinner. Given my anti-psychotic is more effective when taken with "food", I'll allow approximately a liquid medicine cup full of almonds when I take my night meds. (Yes, I've abandoned the bowl of cereal night snack ritual. A pound shy of my brother? I was frightened when I weighed 113. At 116-118, I was more or less quite content. But 124? Not acceptable. It's all in my belly, too, which is super uncool. As if bikini season weren't upon us and I didn't already have abs laden with mutliple, obvious surgical scars.) That's it for today. I'm staying hydrated. And it's enough to survive on. So spare me. If it gets to the point where my son can no longer, with his brute strength, lift me 4 inches off the ground, I'm booking a liposuction appointment. 

Just as Kate says she'd be really jealous of me if she didn't love me so much, the reverse is also true. She's ten years my senior and has the bum of an 18-year old, muscular gymnast and didn't have to exercise to attain it. (She actually used to play basketball when she was young.) She's recently lost a decent amount of weight that a thyroid snafu had induced. I've got my whole family remarking about how much weight I've gained. Perhaps we both have body dysmorphic disorder, but I think we mutually agree that for the two of us, anyway, hyper-thin is the way-to-go. Kate and I now weigh the same, I believe, though I'm about 4 inches taller than she is. (Come to think of it, Kate's got me trumped on another anatomical front, a highly-sought-after-bragging right, where, up until the hysterectomy, we were proudly, triumphantly, even, and bragged about it to one another. Think about it, Kate. Get back to me. Hint? It separates the girls from the women.)

One can only actually have been diagnosed with PTSD (and have made progress in therapy towards recovery, despite *too many* dreams about it lately, which killed any aforementioned mojo I was thrilled to feel, which was firmly DENIED anyway), have been assigned a psych chapter about stress disorders, the link between depression and cardiovascular disease, how a compromised immune system plus stress fucks you up, Type A, B & D personalities (I'm a Type D, FYI, with a heart condition, who smokes, so in all likelihood, I'll keel over eventually), to finally arrive at the section actually about PTSD, only to find that the authors of my textbook spent a larger portion of the chapter explaining the difference between systolic and diastolic than they did on, specifically, women suffering from PTSD, without needing a little break.

Of the nine pages covering PTSD in the chapter, ONE paragraph of ONE page was devoted to the prevalence of PTSD in women who have been raped, tortured or repeatedly assaulted (physically, sexually or verbally) and the ramifications thereof. 8 3/4 pages were about people in the Armed Forces suffering from PTSD, with one-sentence odes to non-military service professionals like firefighters, who were depicted as men. While I don't begin to negate the devastation of PTSD and the fact that war is hell, but by first reducing rape to an acute "adjustment disorder," on the same level as "losing your job," or "getting married,"  then switching pitchers on the mound and acknowledging abused women as sufferers of PTSD in one measly paragraph? That's A) an insult to my intelligence, even more so than the great length of explaining the basics of blood pressure to a grad student, B) completely clueless and C) ignorant but consistent with contemporary American society, which is collectively still walking around in denial, wearing Puritan regalia, which, if you haven't noticed, is now khaki-colored.  For a book that is meant to educate future clinicians and destigmatize abnormal psychology, the authors do a pretty good job of stigmatizing PTSD in situations other than in the military, which is funny, given 2 people with whom I share my life closely also suffer from PTSD. Either the incidence rate is higher in this country than the book realizes, or I hang out with a delicate bunch of souls.

Regarding stress, however, my book *did* say that writing was one psychologically healthy way to find relief, so I put PTSD to rest for a while before starting my blogging and decided to hang out with Luke in his room, trying not to fall asleep on his bed while he was playing Minecraft. Day Two of his "gifted" program was only marginally less uninteresting than yesterday. At least blue fire was involved today. He had to explain what combustion was to one of his classmates, unnerved that the kid (who was probably younger than Luke) didn't know what the hell he was doing in the class called "Combustibles and Pyrotechnics" to begin with. He said, "I thought  I'd meet a bunch of other 'Lukes' there," meaning, kids more like him. "These kids are 'gifted?'" he said. "What does THAT mean?"  In other words, he's nonplussed about not only the infantile level of the work that's expected of the kids but also the personalities (or lack thereof) of his fellow little smartasses. Maybe by college, Luke will meet more Luke-like people, though NOBODY is like Luke. 

And, not unlike his mother, he's zeroed in on one or two physical characteristics of his classmates that give him, in his mind, justification as to why they're a bunch of dopes. In Luke's case, he nearly had a seizure after school describing his fellow students' a) sandal-wearing and b) thumbnails. "Yes, but were they wearing socks with their sandals?" I asked. "No, thank God!" he said. At least we agreed upon that much. Yeah, Luke can be a little fuck nuts when HE wants to be, too. I'd much rather he flip out over thumbnails than be mute, formal, stuffy, and only speak when spoken to like....his father.

Hey, now, I admit Luke's inherited not only my bold green eyes. He's also inherited (or rather, mimics?) my penchant for grossly arrogant intellectual superiority and holds himself to impossible academic standards, and simultaneously has delusions of grandeur and grossly erroneous, unrealistic self-loathing, thinking he's a loser who loses better than any of the other average losers in the world. 

But I like to think, or at least it's my impression, that my son is nothing if not frank. He calls 'em like he sees 'em, just as I do. So no, it was of no great surprise that he said I looked like I was "getting fat again" at the family dinner Sunday night, seemingly ignoring the fact that he, himself, is legitimately overweight. It was also no surprise that while I was lying on his bed trying to relax with him today, while he was playing, he happened to blurt out, "You're really fucking ugly." What? I didn't slap him across the face? No. I didn't take away his XBox? No. I didn't demand my son apologize to me or reprimand him in any fashion. What's worst, maybe? I didn't even disagree with him. I just walked out and said I was going outside. Color me apathetic and an over-lenient mother who shouldn't let her son talk to her in such a fashion, but karma's a bitch and I figure I'll wait until his therapy appointment to rat him out. 

I have to hand it to people--friends of mine--who encounter Utter Awesomeness during their average days. My heartiest chuckle today came via a college girlfriend who's husband is going in for a vasectomy. And they happen to live in New Mexico. That's not the funny part. The funny part is the doctor, totally legitimate, truthfully, he's going to have perform the operation. I did a little Googling after my friend posted a picture of the names on his office door and was praying this guy wasn't the vasectomy surgeon, and told my girlfriend that this urologist is actually listed on a web site of the "13 Most Unfortunate Personal Names for Their Jobs." See below. I swear to God. With a name like that, if you're a witty and self-deprecating enough practitioner, why the fuck *not* go into urology and end up with your picture on Jay Leno's "Headlines?" You don't believe me? Here's his office door, and his listing on the "13 Unfortunates" list:

Speaking of MD's and piss, I heard from Guy Friend via email early yesterday morning, and hastily replied to him (not that he'll read THAT for another week or two), not having fueled myself with enough caffeine yet to write with any vim or zip that is typical of my banter. Worn out from my multitude of manic-texting and assuredly fed up with me, he sent me a sequentially numbered set of sentences that referred to the topics I'd texted him about over the last several days, none of which received either an acknowledgment or a reply, though I'm used to that with him. Probably fearful of my overt instability, he thought it best to say something, albeit abbreviated. 

Guy Friend, who's used to reading medical journals, certainly is used to the abbreviation "et al." Me, being too sweet on him as usual, passed on the temptation, in my return email, to correct him and tell him that he should've used "etc." While "et al" is used to cite an abbreviation of a number of authors, i.e. (or e.g.) "Miklasz, et al.", when you're talking about exploding car radiators in addition to other replacement parts, you use "etc." You're all saying "Meh, semantics!" or "Take it easy on the poor, overwhelmed, disinterested guy who tolerates your mania slightly better than your mother!" In re-reading his sentences, after I'd responded kindly, once caffeinated and awake, I interpreted his tone as patronizing and agitated, walking-on-eggshells over land mines. Which I guess I understand, but he can't say he wasn't forewarned of my state of mind multiple times.  

And he doesn't want to go to Riot Fest with me in September! He said I "needed to find someone" to go with who'd "enjoy that musical marathon," seeing as he didn't recognize any of the other bands performing other than the headliners. Duh, neither did I. But that's part of this:

Riot Fest...definitely not the scene of Slaves of the Ordinary.  It ain't no wine and cheese party like Ravinia, pal. (I wonder if my punker ex-boyfriend's cousin is still the guy who organizes it. I also wonder if Craig'd ditch the girlfriend and let me tag along on his press pass.) I'm not so much hip and interested in all the incidental bands, but I sure as hell AM interested in seeing not only Iggy and the Stooges but more importantly, ELVIS COSTELLO. While physically shorter than Yoko Ono, Iggy Pop has a commanding stage presence and his music would probably scare Guy Friend, whereas I rather enjoy some Iggy. Elvis, on the other hand...MY memory, anyway, serves me correctly, and we had a conversation about Elvis in my alley, the night he met Best Male Friend, where he professed to be a fan. It's his loss. My guess is that if Elvis Costello had been playing at Ravinia instead of paying his punk fans their credit due at a punk festival, he'd be more hip to going. 

He must have been either rushed or pissed off, because I didn't even get his obligatory ending of "Take care." No, in emails and not for some time in person or on the phone, has he said he loves me in the last several months, which he used to with some degree of regularity. But he sure as hell said it shortly after the Elvis Costello discussion, looking me straight in the eyes. (Granted, he'd nursed 2 beers in 6 hours, and he's probably a relative lightweight when it comes to handling his booze, despite his heritage, though he didn't appear intoxicated.) "Thank you for riding with me, Ms. Miklasz. Hit the "reject" button, not the "eject" button on your way out the door." I'm left drawing the following hypotheses: a) he never loved me to begin with and had been blatantly lying all those times he did say it, why, I don't know, b) he doesn't love me anymore, or c) he loves me, but thinks it's improper to express that for some strange (probably religion-induced guilt) reason, which is utter nonsense. In this case, literally, cheer down for crissakes. 

For the record, Guy Friend didn't say anything to me about having gained weight when I saw him last week. I think he's wise enough *not* to say that to a woman and wouldn't want to suffer the wrath of such a statement. Because he knows about my roundhouse kick.

 I don't *think* Guy Friend and I are at this juncture. Because I, at least, am a pragmatically pessimistic optimist and believe that our friendship is strong enough to handle my neurotransmitter misfirings:

Best Male Friend, on the other hand, expresses his love for me in very creative ways, including songwriting, as I've said before. But he's so unapologetic about it that he actually WROTE it on one of my sneakers. Seriously. I have a pair of high-top gray glittery sneakers in my closet that, on the side of one shoe, says in black permanent marker, "I (heart symbol) YOU FOREVER!" One of the benefits of having an atheist voraciously love you, I suppose. Best Male Friend? I'll love you forever too. You too, Guy Friend, for what it's worth. I appreciate both of your patience during my neural functioning interruption.

That's the tricky motherfucker that's bipolar disorder. Sometimes it ebbs to a stable state and you carry on with your normal, daily routine. Other times, the chemicals in your mania-driven brain alter too quickly or unevenly, and you consequently wind up in a depressive episode. While my symptoms were largely hypomanic and slightly depressive at once, I've tanked to the DARK SIDE. Believe me, if I had the capacity to cry, I would. Crying, according to my professor, is also very healthy. But I'm too chemically cocktailed up to express emotion that vibrantly (part of the flat affect I talked about I don't know how many blogs ago). So I write. 

Welcome to The Depressive Episode. Please keep your hands inside the ride at all times. "I've got some bad news for you, sunshine...."

Monday, June 25, 2012

Wisdom from a Divorced Gal for You Marrying Types.

Or, as my friend,Christa, put it: 

Or sometimes you want to so badly because you know it's the only thing that will bring you any relief - just get it over with.

Legitimate statistic? If you're planning on marrying, your literal chance of remaining married til death do you part is 50/50 in contemporary society. In America, anyway, marital longevity is the exception rather than the rule these days. In other words, we'll see a lot fewer 50th anniversary celebrations than in previous decades, like when most of our grandparents were alive.

You might remember several blogs back, when I analyzed Sternberg's Triangular Theory of love. (For a refresher course with impossible-to-see graphics that I've corrected below, see It looked something like this: 

Back in that blog, I noted that I knew too many married couples who had either settled into companionate love or worse yet, who had entered into the zone of empty love, where there was commitment, but the intimacy and passion were, by most accounts, gone. (Statistically, companionate love is the most commonly reported in society in long-term relationships.) I used the illustration of the ONLY famous case of consummate love that I could muster from the last century off the top of my head, that of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who went through hell-and-gone to make things work, and did so successfully, until Lennon's murder in 1980.

It's not that I'm pro-divorce or anti-marriage. Either situation is a major life decision/change, and I've gained experience from both. Marriage can be wonderful and fulfilling, and divorce can be liberating and inherently really healthy, often in hindsight, and while painful in the moment, it's a decision most don't regret.  I know a lot of relieved, happy divorced people who are either single (like me), separated and just waiting for the much-anticipated Day, (like Christa), or in happy post-divorce relationships that don't regret their decisions to have left their spouses (like my own ex-husband). I also know divorced people who, if they had to do it all over again, would never have left in the first place. From the still-married front, I know a few couples who seem on the perpetual brink of "Can we do a trial separation?" or "I think we need some space." Still others report being "happily" married, though that group, out of my entire social circle, is the smallest by far.

Hey, if you're shitpickles/gobbldygook about one another 20-30 years into your gig, then live your lives and God bless you. You're unusual, but lucky. If you're falling asleep on the couch and figure it's best to stay there until morning, yeah, well. If you're reduced to roommates who have a joint checking account but who mumble under your breath, "Oh, Christ, if he leaves his boxers crumpled up in the corner of the bathroom ONE MORE TIME!," or secretly grumble about another Sunday dinner with the in-laws, or you've turned into, basically, just friends,  it's time to reconsider the state of your affairs at home.

What happens when you've been married for a decent span of time, you've bred children with your spouse, and then you find attracted to someone else and/or you just can't take the complacency or disinterest anymore?  You do one of several things: 1) You own up to your feelings and have a frank discussion with your spouse, and you seek counseling to figure things out. (Which doesn't usually work, as I found out in my case and in the cases of a few divorced friends and family members of mine.) 2) You decide to stay for the sake of the kids. (Another REALLY bad idea, which breeds resentment and escalates existing frustrations. Toughing it out doesn't make you a martyr. It makes you both douchebags.) 3) You engage in an affair. (Which, while a sin and disavows the sacred commitment to your spouse that you took in front of GOD, nobody ever DIED AND WENT TO HELL as a result. You might even be new-agey enough to either tell your spouse about it (as I know in one case of a friend of mine) or don't make a concerted effort to hide your other relationship and get a subscription to Polyamory Today. 4) You follow your bliss, decide to figure your life out on your own, and split (WHICH, ACCORDING TO SOME RELIGIOUS DOCTRINES, IS ALSO A HUGE SIN, but again, it's doubtful anyone was poked into the bowels of Hades purely because the scarlet letter of "D" was embroidered onto their burning, disintegrating garments. (Bottom line in any event? Don't worry about the correlation between HELL and DIVORCE, despite what my own religion advises in a few paragraphs.)

If you're considering separation/divorce and you have no kids, you're pragmatically golden. Aside from asset-dividing, real estate headaches, reassigning your life insurance beneficiaries, separating your DVD collection, figuring out who gets the toaster oven (usually the guy, unless they're whizzes in the kitchen and are aces at whipping up food other than Stouffer's French Bread Pizzas, and finding an apartment, it's not all that different than the breakup of any other romantic relationship, regardless of duration. (It's safe to say that my breakup with Chris was like a zillion times more grueling, painful, difficult and lingering than the dissolving of my marriage to Craig, and I'd been with Chris for 3 1/2 years and Craig, including dating, at total of 15 years.)

When offspring are involved, it's markedly more grievously horrible to begin the separation/divorce process, particularly when you have to have "that talk" with your children. It's better if the other spouse actually tells the kids with you, but in my case, if was all up to me.  It's easier when kids are either too young to really notice or remember that you were ever married in the first place or they're all grown up and busy leading their own lives, so they're like "Yeah, whatever, this is sad and weird but it beats you guys either fighting or ignoring one another all the time..." The worst is when they're of just enough emotional maturity to understand that the family is breaking apart and that life as they've always known it is ending, which is tantamount to a death in the family in many ways, but children take comfort in the fact that Mom and Dad BOTH still love them TONS and the adjustment to having two homes, albeit a lengthy and emotionally taxing recovery, does resolve itself eventually (as was the case with Luke). A tough key is convincing the kids that the divorce is in no way their fault, though there will be tantrums and days when the children wish to God they'd never been born in the first place, with the amount of utter crap your inability to stay married has piled upon them. Kids of a reasonable age and intellect will bitch about schlepping their belongings from house to house as per the custody agreement (if they're under 18), or if they're adults, feel pangs of guilt if it appears they're favoring one parent over the other, many of whom side with Mom regardless, unless Dad's been, categorically, the factor of stability to which they've become accustomed.

A lot of offspring see going to either Mom's or Dad's house as a staycation trip into Happy Ville. Pitted against one another, on occasion, one parent will make his/her house No Holds Barred Fun Zone, while the other parent's house is like being in prison. And kids are crafty. They like to do the pitting-against.

Something occurred to me yesterday: My wedding ceremony took longer than my divorce hearing in court, and in both cases, Craig and I shared a meal afterwards. A strange statistic, but I found it kind of ironic.

Recently, my mom and I were talking about my wedding gown being in the attic and what on Earth we're supposed to do with it. It's from 1996, en vogue back then, but not necessarily now, and it was a size 16, whereas now I'm a size 4. My mom had a dry cleaner "preserve" and box it up, you know, just in case. In case of what? I didn't breed a daughter. I don't plan on passing it down to Luke's eventual bride, and it's of no intrinsic value, other than sentimental. I divorced the guy--thus the gown is a largely-forgotten keepsake from 16 years ago.

Craig got custody of the wedding photo album  (whereas, I got Luke's baby book and photo albums), and the only picture I have of me in my aforementioned gown, as you've seen before, is with my mom. It really was a gorgeous gown, not bad for waiting until 2 months before the big day to find a dress and buying it off the rack, which I spent $900 on, which either means it's appreciated, like my wedding rings, which I *don't* have custody of, or depreciated severely, like my car:

(Another thing I found when I moved back home? Craig's tuxedo bow tie/cumberbun set from our wedding, that I kept. THAT I'm holding onto. It was a John Lennon artwork, silk, limited-edition design of his naked John/Yoko embracing in color over black. I've looked on eBay many times, and on other web sites, and have never found another one like it. Even Google image searching for it comes up blank. But hey, if some rabid Lennon fan wants to give me like $500 for it, I might reconsider. Hey, times are tough.)

Pastor Dave is knee deep in wedding season, which keeps him mighty busy. Last night at church, during our prayers, we prayed for a couple he married yesterday and their burgeoning life together, after which Dave said a prayer for "all married couples" which, when he does that, drives me insane. We never pray for the single people in church--for God to send us a partner with whom to share our lives, which I think is unfair. Singles, by and large in our church, are ignored. There is no ministry for singles, the widowed or the divorced, while there are events (like dances) and symposiums for married and otherwise paired-up people.  It's unfair that married people are looked upon as being more worthy of prayers and intercessions on their behalf than single or divorced folks are. 

In reading the by-laws of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, it explicitly says the same thing the Scriptures say, which is that divorce is a no-no and anyone who remarries is committing adultery, and that committing adultery while you're with your first spouse casts you out with the lepers, in essence. That's bullshit, I say. While not as extreme as the Catholic church, in which you can't remarry in God's house because you're a general ex-communicated scumbag, you can re-marry in a Lutheran church. Still, it's evidently a sin to get divorced according to the Lutherans too.  My church's official position is essentially this:
"Again, no exceptions are noted. The principle that to divorce one's spouse and remarry is to commit adultery is presented by the Lord. In the second half of the verse, we hear again (cf. Matt. 5:32) that for one to marry a divorced woman is to commit adultery. We repeat here the grammatical point that the participle, without the definite article, cannot be pressed to refer with absolute certainty to every divorced woman. [66] Nor does the passage address in express words the case of the remarriage of the spouse put away unjustly at another's initiative. These qualifiers, however, in no way diminish the uncompromising character of the Lord's requirement: divorce and remarriage are not in accordance with God's will that marriage remain unbroken."
 Oh, there are by-laws concerning marrying someone who isn't a Christian in the first place, which breaks more of the church's laws. Evidently, God would strongly prefer you stay in a loveless, lifeless marriage with your fellow Christian than to get a divorce and actually have the capacity of building a strong, healthy relationship with someone else. 


If and when I do remarry, which seems iffy at best at this point, I doubt highly it'd be a service held in my church again; rather, it'd be in a neutral location (like Gibraltar!) with either Pastor Dave (I'd pay to fly him in) or a judge handling the service.

All this wedding/marriage nonsense is grating on my nerves as of late. Facebook friends celebrating anniversaries will post gooey love statuses honoring their spouses, their wedding pictures from like 15 years ago, or younger people, pictures of their engagement rings, and generally rub in the face their supposed happiness to anyone who might be single, widowed or divorced. Conversely, there are plenty of pages within social media dedicated to the upside of divorce and rubbing in the freedoms and lack-of-hassle therein. I engage in those pages when I'm feeling particularly crappy about being divorced (which mainstream society pushes upon us as a sub-group). 

It's widely judged that if you're the victim of one of two groups: You were dumped or you dumped your spouse. I admittedly dumped my husband and that was a lot as a result of my chronic substance abuse and mental illness, though I wasn't happy for a long time before that, which is probably why I started drinking in the first place, when my son was in preschool. 

We should all thank our lucky stars that in most states, anyway, there's now the "no-fault" divorce. See, both of my Miklasz grandparents were married and divorced before they married one another, in the 1920's. Back then, you had to have a reason. Plus, they were both Catholic. My grandfather's wife divorced him on grounds of drunkenness (in my family? What a surprise!) and my grandmother was sued for divorce by her first husband on grounds of desertion (she just split). There was no such thing as "irreconcilable differences." And the stigma of divorce was so prevalent that it wasn't until my dad and uncle were adults that they even found out that their parents had been in first marriages, and that they had a half-sister somewhere, who was mentioned in my grandfather's will as being eligible to receive....NOTHING. (Which was really shitty...)

Divorce is certainly a very painful process for some, but for me it was liberatingly bittersweet and the resentment between my ex and I is very even-keeled at this point. He found himself a gal who'll tolerate his negative qualities even better than I did, and they seem really happy, which makes me really happy and is healthy for my son. I'm on an elective dating sabbatical, and have no plans to remarry in the next 10 years, which also makes my son happy, because no one is good enough for Mom.

I hope some of this clarifies the upside and downside of separation and divorce. It ain't easy, kids, but you'll be just fine. Someday, you too could be referred to as "(Insert Ex-Husband's first name here)'s FIRST wife." And someday, it might not bother you anymore.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Very Useful Flow Chart for My Married Men Friends

Special thanks to

Click on it and blow it up to read it, mofos! (Especially if you need or wear glasses/contacts. I had a hard time reading it.)

Never Curse Boz Scaggs Aloud in Your Car!


Today was extremely frustrating and taxing.

First of all, there was getting Luke to De Kalb where he's spending the weekend at my brother's house. Ma ha to drive, because of the threat at of me having hypoglycemic attacks on the road. Consequently, we took my mom's car and she drove through clusterfucks of congested road construction. Got Luke settled and my family went for some lunch. Came home to turn around and get in my car to go to Swedish Covenant in the city for therapy, my last full session with Erin before we "terminate' and I'm assigned a new grad student.

In De Kalb, Steve wanted to show his new motorcycle, a Honda crotch rocker that can go 125 mph. Like I said before, if he can be accused of anything, he's just a thrill-seeker who enjoys a good adrenaline rush. . My mom thinks this gets him high, a point I had to diffuse the whole way home. Ma thinks Steve is clinically, pathologically obsessed with thrill-seeking and adrenaline rushes. True, he's a daredevil, but mostly he does his stuff for fun. I emphasized to my mom that Steve's behavior, which she might interpret as extreme, is quite normal for a man of 44 years, who just divorced his wife, and that motorcyling isn't sufficient cause to clinically diagnose him with any particular disorder, unlike the late Aunt Fran, who was the paranoid schizophrenic in our family, which, on my mom's side, helps to explain why ALL of the females, statistically, suffer an exhaustive laundry list of mental illnesses, from depression to bipolar, schizophrenia, & substance abuse (on both sides of her family). 

(As per another blog entry, I hold the record in the family, in terms of the number of in clinical diagnoses per person.)

I had band tonight, where I forewarned the group that I was manic AND depressive, and that I was having some trouble concentrating, which they at least understood. 

My mind is still hypomanic, the depressive episode starting to lift. Luke's not home to "assist me." My therapist , as well as my friend from church, a young woman who had a bipolar mom, who raised herself because of her mom's incapacitation, each had a unique twist that enlightened me about my mental illness. (Her mom died from pneumonia and sepsis, after being taken to the hospital because she was a bipolar who was tanked on massive amounts of pain killers, and had Crohn's Disease. My friend's grandma is also bipolar, and is one of my FB friends. I can always tell when she's rapid cycling in mania, for she'll literally post or like or comment on every single thing on my page.  Like me, my friend's mom was addicted to narcotics and her mental health issues were self-medicated. After her mom's death, my friend and her sister were put in the care of an aunt and uncle.  Her last lucid memory of her mom was of her being delusional, and stuck her hand in big pot of stew, not realizing it was hot. She sat down on the couch, she lapsed into a coma from which she'd never recover. Then the sepsis set in, the primary cause of death, and passed away soon thereafter.)

Meanwhile, my mom and I got into a shouting match about being a threat to myself when I fall asleep outside at night, for example, and not letting her get any rest because I'm up so late, clanking around. (I had taken my laptop outside to write at 9:30 pm, but was shuffled back inside when my mom blew up at me.)  Well, it is my brain.  I might be physically exhausted but the mind perceives that as perfectly sane and there's SO much to do! My mom accused me of being a "little bitch" and said, "Don't you know your disease affects ALL of us? Do you even care what happens to ME?" she asked me. She assumed I purely don't care about HER, which is SO not true. (Because everything is about her, not me or Luke.) 

Of course I do, and Luke too, and as I said in the last blog, when symptomatic, I can be a real handful. I was overly apologetic about my illness interfering with the family dynamic and environment, but my mom was just hyper-pissed at me. (One of her habits is assigning blame to someone or something, consistently. So her not being able to sleep is directly my "fault." It's some kind of cognitive behavior mechanism/negative schema, which I haven't identified yet.)  I realize the strain my symptoms leave on my family but again, my mom's argument is "You're so smart. You're so intelligent. Can't you just behave normally and go to bed when you're supposed to?" My therapist had an idea. She said to set my alarm clock at night for whenever I want to go to bed, and when it goes off, go to bed. I think that's a practical solution, but perhaps too simplistic. We'll try it tonight.

Still in all, the task of modifying my symptoms when I'm acutely sick is extremely difficult. It's like asking someone with bronchitis, "If you're smart, can't you just decide you'll stop coughing?" It's a PHYSICAL ailment as much as a psychological one, which again, goes back to the misunderstanding and stigma of mental illness. 

Anyway, coming home from therapy at Swedish Covenant, I was in a better mood though I was listening to a CD in the car and simply couldn't tolerate hearing "Lido Shuffle" by Boz Scaggs one more time. So I said aloud in the car, "Oh, shut up, Boz Scaggs!" and hit fast forward. 

Boz Scaggs must have heard me somewhere and exacted his karmic revenge. After therapy, I stopped at Osco to pick up a couple of Rx's. For one thing, I was behind a woman who's ass crack was so overtly sticking out of her too-small shorts that I took out my phone, attempting to get a picture of it, but her like 5-year old son came running up who offered to hold my bottle of window washer fluid for me, whereupon I had to hide said camera phone away from mom, though I had every aspiration of posting the picture of her ass crack on every social media site to which I belong. The pharmacist noticed it as she walked away, and we had more than a few jollies out of the whole thing.

When I got into the car, I couldn't help but notice that the "H" on the temperature gauge had gone up REALLY high, though the car started and ran. I immediately put the A/C on, knowing that helps cool the engine, and I thought it was a fluke. The temperature gauge continued to escalate, though I made it home into my alley parking spot amid beeping and a red light flashing and the H firmly in the RED ZONE. When I stopped the car, billows of white smoke trickled out of the hood. I was, yes, praying that I'd make it home safely, and I did. 

My mechanic said not to try and drive it to the station until Saturday morning, so that the car could cool down, so that's the plan. After I parked the car, I could see a definite puddle from a leak that looked like it sprayed the undercarriage of the front of the car (which I can see since my, uh, bumper fell off a few years ago). The liquid was a clear/rusty, sort of greasy substance. The mechanic seems to think a hose (be that of the radiator, or wherever) broke, which if that's the case, is ok news to manage. I was texting Pastor Dave, who knows a lot about cars, and he said anti-freeze that's never been flushed can often look that color as opposed to the neon green it is when it's new. I have no idea if the car's EVER had it's anti-freeze flushed. (Not particularly car savvy--I go like 6 months between oil changes, though per Dave's recommendation, I AM getting my tires rotated too.) 

A stroke of luck? We took my mom's car to De Kalb today to take Luke to my brother's house . Had it been in my car, we could still be stranded on I-88 somewhere waiting for a tow truck.  (Yes, I prayed to Jesus in this instance, not Krishna, though I do know of a Hindu temple OFF of I-88.)

The moral of the story? NEVER take the name of Boz Scaggs in vain aloud while driving your car. He exacts his revenge (PS-he's still alive, FYI) insidiously and quickly. It's the sad, sad truth. The dirty lowdown.


It is indeed the radiator of my car, which needs to be replaced because it exploded. And the temperature gauge. And fluids, labor, parts, oil change, tire rotation, etc. I'm also having them investigate the clicky noise I hear when I turn the steering wheel, which has been going on for like a year, that I never had looked at. So far, it's not a major catastrophe, though I need my mom's help in paying for the damn car, which I feel guilty asking for, given how pissed she is at me in the first place. But what else can I do? At least Pastor Dave had a clue as to what was wrong, having fixed cars in the Army. I had texted Guy Friend about it and he totally blew me off, while Best male friend thought the same thing I did..that it was all because I cursed Boz Scaggs.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

But the day things turn sweet - for me won't be too soon

Sometimes even when the cell door is flung open, the prisoner chooses not to escape. ~the Tibetan book of living and dying.

Finally, an afternoon off where I don't have to study. Week 2 of Abnormal Psych is over and I am markedly less exhausted than I was at the end of last week, even though I read through an enormous amount of material. Lucky for me, but not really, I'm still hypomanic but pin-needle irritable in a mixed mood episode triggered by the enormity of studying LAST week.


Ack. Another night passed where Luke had to forcibly put me to bed. I was dog tired and really out of it, but I wanted to keep going--my mind was still racing and what seemed perfectly lucid to me was babble to my son. He wouldn't let me out of my room, told me to GET into bed and turned my light out. I fell asleep seconds later and woke up refreshed at 4:45 am, wrote for a while, got ready for and went to school. Like I've said before, that's too much responsibility to give a 12 year old, but he's got the tenacity and strong presence of a veritable, mature person, and he is physically stronger than I am, so his pushing me into my room was no great feat for Luke last night. I protest but don't resist, more often than not. My usual diatribe is "" only to wake up the next day and find that I'd, in effect, typed jibba-jabba.

It's annoying, when lingering hypomania during an episode won't allow me to shut down and just go to bed, which neither my family nor normal people can comprehend. My family will argue, "Why can't you just GO TO BED and stay there, and tell yourself you're going to sleep at a certain time?" If it were as simple as looking at a clock and saying to myself, "I'm tired. I will go to sleep now," don't you think I would, you know, DO that?  But instead, I think of all these things to do or ideas to generate, after I've taken my meds for the night (which, unless I'm out or want to stay up late, I take at 8pm specifically SO I can be ready for bed around 10-10:30pm) and have become sleepy and disoriented. Frustratingly, I couldn't find my glasses this morning, as I didn't remember where I left them last night. (I searched my whole room and almost woke Luke up to ask him if he knew where they were. Turned out they were in my bed, thankfully not-smushed.)

Over dinner last night, Luke reminded me (and I wish he wouldn't do this in the presence of my mom) of the story of the other night, when, at 10:15 pm, while he hadn't gone to bed yet, in a half-dream state, I went into his room and told him to go "back to bed" and that it "wasn't morning yet." He was like, "I haven't even GONE to bed, Mom. YOU go to bed." All of which I remember. This cycle is repeating itself at an increased rate lately, and I'm not sure what to do about it, other than to talk to my therapist about it tomorrow. Luke and my mom are exhausted over the stress of, let's call it politely, "managing" my bipolar disorder episodes with me. I'm on the right doses of all my psychiatric meds and usually perform just fine on them, as I have for 3 years, but I think external stressors (like the recent addition of school) drove me into symptomatic behavior.

In hindsight, undergrad work was no different symptomatically overall when I was in my early 20's, long before I had any idea what was wrong with my brain. Far less controlled or predictable than the typical young person's habit of "pulling an all-nighter" studying, I would have periods where I didn't attend any of my classes for days, barely made it to the cafeteria to eat or would have Craig just bring me food, and told my on-campus boss (first in the library, then in the Mac lab) that I just couldn't come into work, and slept, all symptoms of a depressive episode. Contrast that with either level-headed behavior or what was a real trip, when I was hyper-vigilant about my studies (particularly my writing courses, which I always seemed to pull A's in) and was capable, for example, of feats beyond pure necessity due to procrastination (that was Craig's problem, which had something to do with chronic depression but more so, he was honestly lazy...he still writes his record reviews and magazine pieces at the last minute).

Thus in contrast, senior year, I took this 300-level sociology elective, Media and Society, which was supposed to be a blow-off but wasn't, which I attended very sparsely, to the point where, when I *did* show up, the professor would say "Oh, the Phantom Student is here!" Our final was to write a research paper on, um, God knows what media or society criteria, but I wrote my paper on The Beatles. Using a few books from my personal library (there was no internet on which to research back then, kids), and my personal knowledge as my reference points, I composed a 35-page, double-spaced, APA-style, cited paper exclusively on the recording process of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (actually beginning with "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane," the unofficial start of the "Sgt. Pepper" sessions), the afternoon/evening before it was due, acutely manic, in 3 hours, without a break. It seemingly took longer to save the damn paper to a "floppy disc" (remember those?) and run to the Mac lab to print it out. It wasn't edited, there was no first-or-second draft process, and I handed it in the next day. I got an A on the paper and an A in the class, my many absences notwithstanding. (In stark contrast, I took Western Civilization sophomore year, went the first day and never again, and flunked, which is the setting of one of my most frequent school-related anxiety dreams even today.)

Later last night, after dinner, as I was explaining to my mom some of the possible biological theories as to why one of her aunts became a paranoid schizophrenic shortly after menopause (yesterday's topic du jour in class), my mom and I got to talking about what would happen to me if I lived alone. "How will you ever take care of yourself after you move out in a few years?" she asked. "Just fine," I answered. She looked at me with predication.

My mom, despite my usual level of functionality, has serious reservations about my capability of eventual independence. I forget the original context of my mother's statements after dinner, but she said something to the effect of "We have to tolerate the way you are." It was the word "tolerate" that I found offensive and made that known to her, who accused me of overt defensiveness and an attitude problem, while I accused her of poor word choice and told her that it's more a case of helping me "manage" my mental disorders when I'm symptomatic. She brushed the statement off as her being "bad with words," when in reality, it's a situation she needs to bring up with her own therapist, who should help her with her co-dependency, regarding my alcoholism and my mental illness. (She tries to avoid therapy as much as possible, only going every month/month and a half, and has been on the same dose of a mild anti-depressant since menopause, which has clearly plateaued and does her absolutely no good in my opinion. When I advised her some time ago to talk to her doctor about switching meds, all I got was "I don't want to have to take any more pills," which is silly, because it'd just be swapping one pill for another.)

When Luke and I *do* move out, God, he might be heading to college by the time I get my doctorate...I worry about my mother's own mental stability too, because she will then have nobody she *needs* to "take care of," which is one of her most prominent daily responsibilities/tasks now that she's effectively retired, and she suffers from depression. While she still wishes I would channel my mania into cleaning the house instead of creative pursuits, she cleans and cooks for us all the time, and we truly appreciate it. I seriously just don't have the emotional or physical carrot-and-stick impulse to be very helpful around the house, again, not out of sloth or not caring. Furthermore, the way *I* would choose to do things like clean the house would be different than her "system" and rigidity, and it wouldn't matter if I left the house sparkling MY way. It wouldn't be the *right* way and we'd both end up frustrated. Our methods are too different. (At least I do laundry for Luke and myself, and keep our rooms clean, er, as "clean" as a preteen boy's room would ever get, and I help dry and put away dishes after dinner every night unless I'm studying. I try to cook once a week but school's not making that very conducive and Fridays are my only day off.) But there will come a time, I'm afraid, when Luke and I *will* leave. She's going to have to prepare herself for that eventuality someday. It will be nothing if not bittersweet and a little scary for all parties involved. (Unless my Prince Charming rides up and swoops me away in the meantime on a hybrid horse (and please, I could be talking about any number of men I know), then hooray!)

To say that the people who love me supposedly merely "tolerate" my symptomatic behavior is, actually, a grave insult to me and makes me really sad, whether that's family or friends. My mom got really defensive herself when I said I didn't like that word associated with brain/psychiatric disorders and neurotransmitter mix-ups over which I have little control, knowing full well that the meds mellow out my symptoms MOST of the time. She asked me if I get tired of "tolerating" my own symptoms.  I told her from my perspective, I don't "tolerate" my symptoms; rather, I recognize them, acknowledge them, stay med-compliant, and go to therapy once a week. That much is all my responsibility. There is no miracle "cure" out there. Brain chemistry is complicated, delicate, and inherently imbalanced in bipolar disorder. I don't recall, when she had breast cancer and I'd take her and pick her up from chemo, that I ever said "I have to tolerate your cancer." It was an intrusion in my own routine and schedule, as is any family illness, but it was never a burden to me, nor did I ever complain. I helped her out because I loved her and that was my responsibility as her child. Cancer wasn't her fault. Mental illness isn't my fault.  Stigma-a-go-go.

I've tried to destigmatize bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, depression,  PTSD, OCD, NSSI, & situational anorexia as best I can with my family and friends, though I realize that, as my "caregivers," to those who live with me, I can be a real handful sometimes, as anyone close to me will attest. I don't define myself by my diagnoses, though I sometimes have no remedy other than to laugh at my insanity. I'm a person with lots of complicated feelings. I don't rationalize my symptomatic behavior by simply saying "Well, I'm crazy, what do you expect?" just to get preferential treatment or get out of doing chores, or bullshit like that.

This is what I'm talking about, here:

When I was living independently with Luke, after the separation/divorce but before we moved back in with my mom, I had a spotless house, a taken-care-of son, and met my obligations, though I was not yet working a job or going to school. Half of that time, I was still drinking, from March of 2007 until February of 2008, when I went off to rehab (and spent that time in the psych ward). It wasn't until the beginning of March of 2009, shortly after we finally lost our apartment, that I was properly diagnosed and medicated for my bipolar disorder & depression, and not until 2010 that I was treated for the anxiety disorder. (St. Joseph's, the hospital where I was an inpatient, referred to me not as having "co-morbidity," both DSM-IV recognized multiple psychological disorders coupled with substance abuse. Rather, they termed it "dual-diagnosis.")

I might jest about my time spent in the "loony bin," but in studying psychology and the state of mental institutions historically and even in America, 2012, the crisis of mental health treatment is still gravely under-funded, under-staffed, and generally quite poor, even in private hospitals. St. Joe's had a perfectly lovely, welcoming, enriched substance abuse center for detox/rehab called Harborview Recovery Center, overlooking Lake Michigan, downtown. At the time, I had excellent insurance, so it wasn't a matter of me being relegated to the lowest echelon of medical treatment. I called my family and a couple close friends and bid adieu for an undetermined length of time, my 8-year old confused and scared, Craig driving me to St. Joe's.  That's where I *thought* I was going, Harborview, after spending the day in the ER and doing what a social worker TOLD me to do...arrive as drunk as possible, as early in the morning as possible, and declare myself a danger to myself and others, though not necessarily homicidal or suicidal. I was neither manic nor depressive, but edgy and going into delirium tremors, for which they mildly sedated me, hooked up to a couple of banana bags of IV fluids enriched with nutrients especially for chronic drinkers whose livers were pickling, like mine.

The only glitch? Harborview didn't have any available beds, or so I was told by my intake coordinator, so I would spend my time detoxing and rehabbing in the psych ward. (Some of you have heard some of this story before.) St. Joe's psych ward was split into an East side and a West side, each housing the aggressive/violent/threatening patients vs. those who were a little less critically ill, let's say, each side locked towards the other. It was a hospital-like setting with 2 patients per room. I was stripped of anything I could use to harm myself, like my shoelaces, had to write crucial phone numbers from my cell phone down on a piece of paper to use during approved phone-time, but allowed to keep my Curious George, my eyebrow ring and they gave me a pen (which, come on, I totally could've stabbed myself with!) and blank paper, because I said I wanted to write. (Those writings are in my storage unit, and I'll pay someone like $1000 to dig through all my crap to find them, because they're GOLD. I journaled what each day was like and what I did, how I felt, etc.)

My first roommate was a delirious, elderly woman who's mental diagnosis was unclear to me. She wore a hospital gown, not clothes like me, and urinated in the garbage can next to my bed on the first night, that I remember, though I was being moderately sedated for the withdrawal the whole time. Horrified, I asked for her to be moved the next morning, and she was. My next roommate, who would stay longer than I did, was an Asian woman, I'm guessing in her early 40's, was also an alcoholic, who'd been involuntarily committed, and either so heavily sedated for withdrawal that she was incapacitated or just totally resistant to the treatment being offered.  Therapy and activities started early in the morning, after breakfast, which was bedlam, as was every other meal we ate in a cafeteria-like setting, en masse. (I joke about the food tray throwing, but at the time, it was really fucking frightening, as were the outrages of the other patients against the staff, whereupon patients would be forcefully restrained or shot up with something. Good times!)  I was all spry and hip to showering, dressing and working my program, perpetually trying to get my roommate engaged, and she stayed catatonic for the most part, until nurses physically dragged her to group therapy, where she wouldn't talk.

I fully engaged in group and individual therapy. I took all the medications without a fuss. I did the homework. My mom brought me sanctioned clothing (zippers were ok, drawstrings were not, and she brought my Uggs) and requested toiletries. I stayed in touch with everyone that mattered when it was my turn to use the phone. Chris came to visit, brought me magazines, and told me in the course of the week, he'd already slept with another woman, because that's really fucking healthy to spring on your girlfriend while she's in a psych ward. Luke and Craig were allowed a psychiatrist-supervised visit, at which, by all accounts, I seemed relatively normal to my son and not overtly "sick". I wanted to work out, but the exercise equipment was all on the dangerous side of the ward, and I was advised not to attempt going over there, or I "might get hurt."

In group therapy, there were other co-morbid patients present. In retrospect, the scars I had from cutting paled in severity from those I saw on another patient in session, who took off his shirt and had deep knife marks all over his torso and arms. Many of the other patients felt senses of doom, were delusional, suicidal, and hopeless. Many would explode in hostility when asked triggering questions. Again, I was neither manic nor depressive in the hospital, though deemed co-morbid because of past suicidal ideations, a history of anxiety/depression and multiple substance abuse. But I looked and felt like a fish out of water, comparatively. As the therapist went around the room, asking each one of us how we were doing that particular morning, I think I was the only one who would say, "I actually feel quite well, thank you." Some patients had literally been in the ward for months, reduced to robotic states of systematic compliance, either still too dangerous to be released or seemingly, if I recall, otherwise homeless. Most patients were stinky, unkempt, unshaven, or otherwise disheveled. It was very sad.

After about a week/week and a half of medical detox in the psych ward, I'd grown more than weary of the St. Joe's experience, I was physically stable and asked my assigned psychiatrist when I could go home. "How about tomorrow?" he said.  I was discharged into Chris' care under the auspice that I would complete the rest of my rehab as an outpatient the next evening, ripped off the nicotine patch and had a big, fucking smoke that nearly knocked my ass to the ground, and went for Chinese food, Chris buying me the litany of anti-alcohol medications and anti-depressants necessary for my continued care, which I would take for the next year until my personal psychiatrist deemed them no longer necessary. The efficacy of Campral for use in recovering alcoholics after one year hadn't been proven, and Antabuse, which was a really useful drug for me, gave me nearly crippling peripheral neuropathy in my feet anyway.

(8 out of 10 alcoholics in rehab relapse within the first year of sobriety. I was determined to be one of the two who would stay sober, and my case manager told me, in his estimation, that I had "about a 90% chance of making it." And I did. For 4 years straight, minus a week and a half on NyQuil, which, when I ran into my old sponsor last week and told her, she broke out in hysterical laughter, as has every other recovering alcoholic who knows about it, because it's just so fucking pathetic and was so unnecessary and such a stupid thing to do. "Not even VODKA, ANNIE?" she said, "You dummy!" Meh. I've been "sober again" since February 13th, 2012.)

That, my friends, is what "the loony bin" is actually like. It's NOT fun and I DON'T recommend it, unless you want fodder for a great book, which is, again, in my damn storage unit! I do, sometimes, wonder whatever became of my fellow patients, all of those crazy characters, who's faces I can still see in the back of my mind. Sadly, I'm afraid not all of them "made it." Some were probably discharged to the streets, others to halfway houses, or to sympathetic families or friends. Others yet may have gone on to fates far worse than that. It's not like we hold reunions or something. I was very lucky, at the time.

In reading about schizophrenia specifically this week, at least, multiple studies have shown that patients who are discharged to live alone (instead of with family members or even a spouse) are significantly less likely to relapse than those who return home, either to a spouse or to family members, who's own emotional reactions to the patient are too often heightened or overtly exaggerated, which causes the patient stress, which can result in relapse. I don't see why bipolar patients would be any less likely to experience said outcome. Sometimes I feel that living in such an emotionally-charged household is actually detrimental to my condition overall, not that I'm ungrateful to have a place to live and food to eat. I don't ever want my mom to feel she's unwanted or unloved, and we enjoy our talks together, but what 40-year old woman with an almost-teenager wouldn't want to live independently?

Being a person with bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses (plus staying sober) is no easy task. Functionality takes WORK. It takes an enormous amount of ENERGY. (Not to mention a giant amount of different kinds of DRUGS.) It's physically and emotionally taxing. Between that, school and a kid to raise, my leftover energy is in small supply, and I channel it into writing or music, or by seeing friends, not scrubbing the bathtub. It is the way it is. Lord Byron said it best:

Or maybe it was Hemingway, who was also a bipolar writer, though he was driven to suicide:

I read a case study last week about a bipolar patient who'd lost everything due to his chronic instability; including his wife, home and career, and he hadn't been diagnosed or treated until his mid 40's. When he expressed interest in finding a new job once he stabilized and was discharged from a mental hospital, now homeless and trying to get financial and medical assistance from his state, his old car his sole possession of value, he was told, "Don't worry about going back to work. People like you DON'T go back to work." (The folks at the state told him to sell his car and live off the proceeds, and to re-apply when he was truly indigent.) Stereotypical labeling, for sure. There's no valid reasoning behind a line like that. "People like you." Ouch. I joke around plenty about being insane, but is it any wonder I grow bitter of people stereotyping or assigning a stigma to conditions like mine?

After my rehabilitation, diagnosis and treatment, I *had* a job for a few years and lost it. As a matter of fact, any career endeavor I've ever attempted has ultimately tanked, but that could be due to a number of factors throughout my life. And no, it's not because I'm a loser. And we all know I'm not stupid. (Though I got a fucking B on my psych exam, which was only worth 80 out of 800 points for the course. WTF? That's totally unacceptable!!!! That said, I got B's on my tests in Intro to Psych and wound up a high A.)

While my mom hasn't expressly said so, I think she also has reservations about me achieving my career goals of getting my doctorate and practicing psychology. Had this been 1972 and not 2012, it's likely my family would've had me institutionalized for the rest of my life, instead of managing my symptoms as an outpatient, with psychotropic medications combined with psychotherapy. I'm fortunate to live in the present, on the breakthrough, latest drugs, though my mom's threatened to institutionalize me on more than one occasion when I have funky reactions to my meds or have an extended phase of mania or depression. She has absolutely no idea what a statement like that means, the threat it's perceived as, having spent time in a psych ward. Which is why I wrote this on my psych ward hospital bracelet, and had given it to Chris to hold onto, until we broke up:

All psychotropic medications have their litany of side effects, some mild and some very interfering. It can't be helped. One side effect I've learned about in school finally gives me an explanation as to why Luke frequently says that I talk in a monotone, disengaged voice. It's called mental affect, or how we express emotion. It's a typical, expected side effect of anti-psychotic drugs, like Geodon, which I take. I honestly had no prior rationale for my manner of speaking. It wasn't that I was in a depressive state, or that anything was necessarily bothering me. It's just the way I come across occasionally when I talk, and it has little, if not nothing, to do with my present mood. I hadn't noticed it and neither had my mom. (Luke pointed it out once while we were piling into Craig's van to go to Luke's therapy one night. Maybe I talk in monotone when I'm around Craig, which would explain a lot!) When I'm hypomanic or manic, though, I often am noticeably animated and sound elated. That's not a side effect of my drugs, that's a symptom of my disorder. Big difference. (Or it just could be that I'm really, really happy to talk to you.)

Virginia Woolf, who was also bipolar, left this as her suicide note, though in my mind, it's really a love letter.

The loved ones of a mentally ill patient need to be more compassionate, in my mind, of learning to accept and understand that person and also to embrace education about disorders, not merely "tolerate" them. I believe that there's a grander plan in God's mind than to simply afflict individuals with mental illness, just like any other illness, i.e. cancer. Or Crohn's Disease. Or epilepsy. My feeling is that God chose to afflict me with mental disorders specifically so that I could someday assist others with mental disorders or addictions. The "divine plan" I talked about in my last blog.

I've always had a really soft spot for The Style Council's "My Ever Changing Moods." To me, anyway, and I don't know Paul Weller's songwriting intent, I have always identified with this song as being akin to what it's like to be mentally ill, bipolar specifically, with a twist.

Daylight turns to moonlight - and I'm at my best 
Praising the way it all works - gazing upon the rest 
The cool before the warm 
The calm after the storm 
I wish to stay forever - letting this be my food 
But I'm caught up in a whirlwind and my ever changing moods 
Bitter turns to sugar - some call a passive tune 
But the day things turn sweet - for me won't be too soon 
The hush before the silence 
The winds after the blast 
I wish we'd move together - this time the bosses sued 
But we're caught up in the wilderness and an ever changing mood 
Teardrops turn to children - who've never had the time 
To commit the sins they pay for through - another's evil mind 
The love after the hate 
The love we leave too late 
I wish we'd wake up one day - an' everyone feel moved 
But we're caught up in the dailies and an ever changing mood 

Evil turns to statues - and masses form a line 
But I know which way I'd run to if the choice was mine 
The past is knowledge - the present our mistake 
And the future we always leave too late 
I wish we'd come to our senses and see there is no truth 
In those who promote the confusion for this ever changing mood