The Adventures of Bipolar Girl

Comfort for the Neurotic in All of Us

Author Archive

1:45 and All Was NOT Well

Pacing at 1:45 am was not exactly what I had on my personal agenda…

…many are the plans of a man’s heart, but the Lord determines his steps.

Evidently, God wanted my steps to be in the dark. When I woke up my hand hurt. It was swollen when I went to sleep and ice hadn’t helped. My new doctor wants to do some x-rays to see if I have osteoporosis since the vitaminosis A and the hypercalcemia don’t seem the be the cause of the bone pain and weakness that just seems to be getting worse. All my joints are hurting and there are times when I can barely move my fingers. I hurt my hand yesterday doing something that shouldn’t have injured my hand, but it did. Nothing helped the swelling and the Tylenol didn’t help the pain.

So when I rolled over on it in the night, the pain woke me up. Then the fact that I could literally feel my heart beating in my chest, heavy and insistent convinced me to get out  my bed to “prace.” I cannot kneel because  of the pain, so when I’m worried about something I walk in a big circle in my living room pracing (praying + pacing). Yes, I’m worrying, but God knows I’m doing it anyway… so why not be real, at least with him. I praced about all the stuff that’s got my knickers in a bunch and then I praced for other people’s needs.  Then I almost ran into a chair because I was so sleep deprived.There I was in the dark going around and around in my living room. I could not do this if I had a roommate. I’d just have to wallow in my stress. As I prayed, I knew the next step. I felt like I should take a nitroglycerine pill for the chest pains and stop worrying about having a heart attack. I felt like I should wrap my hand in an ace bandage that I was able to locate in the dark and then I tried to sleep. I didn’t have a plan for how to deal with the latest wrinkle: I might get evicted, but I didn’t need to have a plan for that at 1:45 in the morning.  The landlord just evicted another tenant and the wind seems to be blowing in this direction, but who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

I love my home. It has been a safe place for me to just be still and be me. Yes, my landlord has been the source of drama since day one… but I knew this. The man’s a a rat bag. I even got a bunch of friends to come over to do a blessing over my home when I first moved in. And I have been well and truly blessed here. I know it was the prayer that has protected me from some of the more bizarre things that my landlord has done to other tenants. I have been oblivious in my own little bubble safe to work out my many physical and mental health issues. I have come a LONG way in the past three years here. But I knew I couldn’t stay here indefinitely. God made that clear a long while ago. This place was to be temporary and I shouldn’t hold on too tightly. Guess I was holding on a might tight.

I didn’t realize it this morning at 1:45, but I was laying the prayer foundation for a plan. I just knew when I finally got out of bed that I needed to talk to my boss and keep him in the loop. He told me to do whatever I needed to do to stay healthy. He encouraged me to take time off when and if I needed it. He reaffirmed why I needed to have “reasonable accommodations” at work because of my disability.

And I left his office able to do my job.

In the past, with this much stress and this little sleep, a meltdown would have been inevitable. I was on edge before I talked to him. I felt better afterwards. Then I ran into two girls from the bible study. I asked them if they would pray for me. One asked me if she could pray in her language and I said, “Sure.” Micronesian dialects sounds like speaking in tongues to me. Personally, that’s what I think all tongues are: speaking in languages that are actually known on earth, just not known to the speaker. (Read Acts and see if that doesn’t make sense).

I had a GOOD day today. My hand hurt like a bitch, but then God knew that that’s what I was thinking every time I hit it on something. There were no meltdowns in Mudville. I put one foot in front of the other and followed the course that God had laid out for me. I cannot control if I get evicted. I’ve actually accepted that it’s time to go. My home cannot be in a location. My home is where God wants me and the cloud is leaving. It would behoove me to follow. When I got home I searched craigslist which only served to freak me out. The housing market on Maui sucks right now. If I’m not careful, I could end up homeless. Possible, but not likely. When the depression clouds started to roll in I knew it was time to stop. I could search again tomorrow. I might also want to search in the morning before going to work so I’m not stressing myself out at days end.

Once I settled down, I had the urge to start packing. That’s how I know it time to go. I’ve experienced this urge many times throughout the years. My mind would not stop planning, so I started throwing out stuff I don’t use and won’t ever use. I started my Salvation Army box. I started  mentally  packing and down sizing because when God says, “Go,” I don’t want a bunch of possessions weighing me down. I travel lightly through life. I always have. I’ve moved around so much I’ve lost count of where I’ve laid my head. Only this time I won’t be in crisis and I will be mentally stable.

Going without knowing…?? The bible is full of stories where God tells people to “go” but he doesn’t tell them where. I’ve lived through stories like this. Can’t say I actually like it, but I’ve never been forced to live on the street. God WILL guide my steps. God WILL make a way for me. He always has. As I wind down and get ready to go to bed, I hope that my mind is still enough to actually sleep. I pray that the pain in mmy hand won’t wake me and that I won’t feel the urge to prace. Sure, it’s the best way for me to cope with my stress in the night, but I’d rather be sleeping. Tonight?  I hope that God determines that my feet should stay in bed.

 

 

Lord, I Will Follow

More “bad” news
after a really bad
and stressful day
preceded by a long
and dream-filled night.
But Lord, I will follow you.

Tonight it feels as if the ground
beneath me is shifting
like so many grains of sand.
I do not know what to feel.
I don’t know how to feel it.
I just know that I do
(feel I mean)
But Lord, I will follow you.

Feelings are not bad.
Not in and of themselves
And having them doesn’t
make me any less faithful.
I do not like today
and all the slings and
arrows that outrageous
people flung at me…
but…

Lord, I will follow you.
Though my heart is heavy…
and the bones in my body ache.
though I feel my heart beating in
my ears and in my limbs
threatening
to overflow the confines
of my chest…

Lord, I will follow you.
because I know you aren’t just
with me.
You are in this.

You knew everything thing
that would ever
happen to me
before I even
breathed a
breath.

So this day
this week...
this string of
seemingly endless
stress…
will not be the end of me.

I do not see you.
I do not hear you.
I do not know where I am going.
But I love you
and I know you
and, Lord, I will follow you.

 

One Small Step

There has been a lot on my mind
in the last few days.
Lots of changes…
some very embraceable (like my new car)
and others...
well, let’s just say,
that some changes happened
this week that didn’t make
me want to go up and hug ’em, 
but I accepted what was over the rainbow.

Today?
The only thing I see
outside my window
is grey.
I’m not being all metaphorical.
Tropical Storm Darby
is leaving a lot of rain in
its wake and my town is
shrouded in a grey
cocoon.

 

It’s difficult to look beyond the grey
to see the wide world outside,
but I had cause to see the rainbow
despite the clouds: this morning I sat up.
Aside from it being a reminder
that God is not through with me
yet, so still I live,
I did something I haven’t been able to do
since 2009.

With my 2010 hysterectomy
came the adhesions
that altered my entire way of living…
and for six years I wondered when God
would heal me.

I’ve had to struggle with pain and mobility
issues. I’ve had two surgeries and a bunch of tests.
Nothing helped. I resigned myself to walking like
a feeble old woman, much older than I actually was.

People could see me hobbling about,
but most people assumed it was my knees
and everybody has knee problems.
I didn’t want to talk about the hysterectomy
and explaining adhesions seemed to go over
most people’s head.

Things that I had taken for granted
I couldn’t do anymore:
Gone were my long walks on the beach.
I live on an island. This was torture for me.
I couldn’t bend down to pick up things or tie my shoes.
I couldn’t push my own grocery cart.
Going up stairs was painful.
Standing too long meant days of pain.
Reaching for things on cupboard shelves was painful.
And I was getting more bitter and more resentful
as new health problems piled on top of all of that.

My thoughts were going into those dark places
where I cannot see a future for me.
I was in my 40’s.
I couldn’t see me spending the rest of my life
like that. And if God wasn’t going to fix me…

I’d been prayed for, near, over, about..
you name the prepositional phrase
and people prayed it for me…
and still I was not healed.
I had to accept the fact that
God might not heal me
this side of heaven.

I hate when people insist that God will heal.
The death rate of Christians around the world,
proves that he doesn’t always.
Deliverance might only come after death.
Saying that doesn’t make him any less God.
And it doesn’t make me any less faithful
to understand and accept that.
It was accepting this that made me stop
feeling bitter and resentful.
I was in my own fiery furnace,
and determined that I would follow God
no matter what the outcome.

And then
God sent me to the most
unexpected place:
A quirky woman
who did therapeutic massage.
She wasn’t a Christian
and didn’t want to be.
She does some obscure
specialty massage where
she manipulates your
internal organs.
At first it hurt,
and I wondered what God was doing,
but over the months that I worked
with her, I started to feel some changes.
I could walk without most of the pain.
I could cross my legs.
I could bend down and pick up stuff.
The list of “I coulds” was growing.

That was over a year ago.
I stopped seeing her because
a)She was expensive
and
b) I wanted to see how the dust settled.

I still experienced a lot of pain,
but everybody around me
was remarking on my ability to walk
minus my labored
and halting shuffle.
They joked about how
I was now “Flo Jo” whereas
before I used to be “Slow Jo.”

I was just happy to be able to walk.
I still had pain but it was bearable.
People can’t see the pain,
so they often expect
me to be able to do more
than I sometimes
can.
Other times
the pain
affects my mood
and I’m short with people…
because it’s hard to be happy and chirpy
when everything
hurts.

A month ago I decided
to go see her again.
I believe by faith
that God has healed me through
this woman when modern medicine
failed me.
I believe that he is  healing me through her
even though she, herself, does not believe.

A week ago I told her
that I still couldn’t sit up.
I haven’t been able to sit up since 2009.
I can’t go from sitting to lying down either.
Lying flat on my back I just cannot sit up
at all unless I roll over and push off with my legs
or grab the blankets with both hands and make fists
before I pull myself up.
It’s all really painful,
uncomfortable,
and awkward.

I was afraid
that this would never
change, but I went back
because I still had hope.
I saw her for a couple weeks but
I’ve finished my sessions with her
for now because:
a) She’s still really expensive.
b) I wanted to see how the dust would settle
c) New stuff had started to hurt, so I knew it was time
to stop, be still, and see what God would do.

This morning
I saw what God would do:
when I woke up
the pain was negligible. Ok,
maybe not at first,
but by the time I was thawed
out enough to try getting up,
I realized
that something
was different.
Something
had changed.

Without twisting or
turning
or pushing off with my legs…
I sat up.
For the the first time
in nearly
seven
years.

Just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming...
I laid back down again and sat up a few
more times for good measure.
I would have jumped for joy,
only jumping is still something
I can’t do yet…
but who knows??
A year from now
I have absolutely
no idea
what my next
step will be…

The Next Step: Over the Rainbow

I have never had a student die before.
Given that I’ve been teaching over
twenty years that in and of itself
is a blessing.
We went to the hospital to see her even
if she didn’t know we were there.
but as much as I like
blogging about important things
so that I can remember,
this is one thing
I don’t think I will ever
forget.

I wasn’t sure how I’d react.
Bipolar Girl can be a wild card
I didn’t want to have a meltdown
and be a burden to the family…
but I KNEW that I was supposed to go.
I was supposed to be there
in that dimly lit sterile room
full of strangers
crying my eyes out
because God had planned
my next step.
God wanted me to
be there to pray for her parents.

I didn’t know whether or not she was a believer.
Quite frankly, I was anxious about
what to say to her parents if she wasn’t….
or if they weren’t…
But they were
and they knew, without doubt, that their
daughter was merely sleeping and would
be awakened by Jesus.

Oddly enough,
now that my initial grief
has passed,
I am not sad.
My student’s nickname
was “Rainbow”
because she was such a
upbeat and loving person.
After a time we left them
to be alone with her.
I happened to look out the window
and saw the beginning of a rainbow
forming from the ground and reaching
up to the heavens.
It was as if God was giving me the
assurance that I so desperately
needed. My fear for her eternity
turned to joy because her pain
and suffering were over and God
was gracious enough to let me know that
His precious little rainbow had come home.

When You Don’t Like What Comes Next

I got some really bad news today
about somebody I care about.
I think I’ve gone through all
the stages of grieving
in one day.
A perk of having Bipolar…?
when I feel
I really feel.

I didn’t have to wait
for anything to “hit” me.
It hit me quickly
and I began to wonder
the whys…?

So many whys
(like those long forgotten
roads that all lead to Rome)…
my “whys” lead me to God.
Why God?
Why this?
Why now?
Why her?

In the end
I had to get my Bible
because I wanted to see
God’s take on all of this.
It doesn’t matter what happens
in life.
It matters what you do with it.
Do you shake your fist
and revile God?
Do you drown your sorrows
in things that can’t possibly save…?
Heiniken never saved anybody
neither did meth, elicit sex, or chocolate.

The overwhelming wave of grief
could have knocked me over
if I had let it.
Instead, I looked to the One
who saves.
I started combing the
scriptures for words
of life and of healing.

I categorically
DO NOT like  what has happened.
I hate it
with an intense passion
with every fiber of my being…
but I trust the Judge who judges justly.
I may never get any answers to my
whys or wherefores…
but that’s ok.
I found words of truth
that are building a bridge
beneath my heavy heart.

I have come upon a gap in the
road where I don’t like the next step.
So what do you do when
“Whatever’s next”
comes
and it’s not very  pretty?
In the past I would’ve morphed
into Bipolar Girl.
Tonight I’m accepting that
no matter what comes “next”
God still knows where I’m going
and he will see me through.

When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future. ~Ecclesiastes 7:14.

Maybe I need to just stop worrying about “whatever’s next” and just trust God with it.

Next Stop

When God led me to my current job
I knew I was supposed to be there.
Only thing
is that I didn’t want to
be there, I mean.

I’d shaken the dust of
teaching off my shoes
and I swore
that I’d never teach again.

“Again”
turned out to be relative.
God let me pursue my
dream of writing,
but when the reality
of needing to eat
interrupted my
fluffy cloud fantasy,
God opened a door
and nudged me towards it.
Again.

There I was
back in the classroom.
After teaching children
for ten years of my
very tumultuous life
I found myself
once again
in a classroom
facing a sea of faces.
Only this time
the faces were brown
like mine…
and their eyes
were a older
and a bit more jaded
like mine.

It was scary teaching
people when some of them were
bigger than I was.
You can tell a nine year old
to take a time out…
and they’ll do it just because
you said so…
but young adults who are
flexing their muscles for the first
time
away from home for the first time
eager to say, “No” and really mean it
it for the first time…

This induced fear in me.
And into my haze of fear
God told me to do a bible study.
All the reasons why I couldn’t
POSSIBLY
be the right person for the job
wouldn’t dissuade him.

For whatever reason
God had sent me.
And I did what all cowards do:
I asked somebody else to do it
with me…
but what I REALLY meant
was for me.
I took God’s plan and put my own
spin on it because I didn’t have faith enough
to believe that he could use me.
And I ended up with an Ishmael.

Right idea.
Wrong execution.
That study,
while of the best intentions,
was not what God had called
me to do
and it felt like I was wearing
somebody else’s underwear.
(I’ve always maintained that
as believers we are free to do anything
even wear somebody else’s underwear.
But the thing about doing that
is while you CAN do it…
the real question is
WHY? )

“We stopped doing that study because
it just didn’t feel right.
I was wearing somebody else’s underwear
and it didn’t fit me.
It made me feel like I was the absolute
worst person for the job and
I determined to never do it again.

Funny thing about never?
God doesn’t let us camp there.
The thought of doing a bible study at work
kept nagging at me.
Year after year.
Six long years
where God kept whispering to me.
And as my health issues
began to be resolved
I no longer had any excuses.
Yes, I was afraid,
but I now accepted that the first
study hadn’t failed because I wasn’t
good enough.
It failed because I was afraid.
I had to have all of these beeps and whistles
to attract the students
because I felt like I had nothing to
convince them of the truth.
Instead of letting the truth
speak for itself.
My life was a train wreck.
Why would any of them  listen to me?
I fell into the trap of thinking that Jesus
needed me to do his PR and
if my life wasn’t squeaky clean
I needed to sit in a corner and shut up.

When all I really needed to do was to
stand up and our Site Meeting
and invite people to a Bible study.
I needed to unlock my classroom door.
I needed to have copies of the scriptures.
I needed to be there and welcome
anybody who came.

There was no room for fear.
Just a certainty that this was what God
had meant the first time.
He wasn’t calling me and somebody else.
He was calling me.
He didn’t need me to put on some
dog and pony show.
Or to act like I had it all dialed in.

So that’s what I did
last Monday and today.
I stood up in our  Site Meeting
and invited the entire room to come.
I’m not trying to convert anybody
I just want to introduce people to Jesus.
(What they do once they meet him is their business).
And after I invited them
I went to my classroom and unlocked the door…
pulled out the copies of the scriptures
that I’d made this morning; opened the waited;
and as people started to come,
I was there to welcome them…
because that’s what God had intended the first time
and it’s what he’d have me do next.

For What Comes Next

I got a new car today.

Pretty much looks my old, old car.

Except for that one had suicide doors…

Although WHY a woman with Bipolar Disorder
would get suicide doors on her car
is beyond me.
Can we say, “Subliminal Messages?”

The car between the two blue ones?

Served its purpose…
but it was kinda bland.
Like white bread.
Very, very white bread.
I figured I’d pay it off in
two more years and then sell it.
So how did I end up driving
a new blue one off the lot today?
So much went into my decision
to make this change now.
Change.

It is a comin’ and I best
be embracing it. My reasons were many:

  1. My landlord upped my rent and I needed to cut expenses. (I love my home. I’m not yet ready to exit the Bipolar Bubble. Leasing to own would give me cheaper monthly payments)
  2. I hate my current car. LONG story. It involves vomiting, a speeding ticket, road rage, and a fear of tipping over. Needless to say,
    this was one change that I was more than ready to make.

Actually, now that I think about it… that pretty much sums it up. I’m tired and don’t really want to write much, but I do want to remember this. There is a sense of having come full circle with my car buying skills. There may even be some applicable take home lessons about God if I sit still long enough to actually be still.

In the long run, I’m saving enough money to keep my home;
I got rid of a car I could never quite come to like;
and I feel like I’ve been reunited with an old friend….
a shiny, blue metal one… but still a friend.
This car is just the first step on the road to
whatever comes next.
And this time, I’ll get there without
the suicide doors.
Saturn used to have a series of commercials
about the transitional nature of the stages of our lives…
I loved the tag line: For whatever’s next.
I am in transition
and I am ready
For whatever comes next…

Damn Straight

I had a really good post in the making until I hit a button and lost it. Made me not want to post anything, but I want to remember today, so I didn’t give up in frustration. Today? It went SO much better than I could have expected and way better than I could have hoped.

Yesterday, after I blogged I linked the last post to Facebook. I generally don’t do that because I love my friends, but I don’t want to air my dirty laundry in front of them. It took me years to learn the meaning of “TMI,” and I had to learn it the hard way. Not everybody understands mental illness. I understand and accept that now. I’m done trying to justify why I do what I do. If I don’t overshare, I remove the temptation for people to try to “fix” me.

Since I usually don’t link “The Adventures” to FB, I figured the compulsion I felt must’ve been a God thing. Y’know... something that GOD would have me do that wasn’t my own personal first choice of action. It shouldn’t have surprised me when I got an email in response to my blog from somebody with unsolicited advice.

What did surprise me was the sender: a former student. When I taught her, she was a precocious fourth grader who wasn’t sure about all this Jesus business even though she attended a Christian school. She wasn’t one to take pat answers and wouldn’t say she believed something when she didn’t. I haven’t seen her since she advanced out of my class, but in that time she became a believer and in High School she was diagnosed with Bipolar. She did not have an easy go of it. Compared to her I think I’ve had “Bipolar Lite.” So when she emailed me and told me that she was taking Abilify and that it had helped her, I wasn’t offended. This was somebody who hadn’t just “walked a mile in my shoes,” she’d done it wearing lead anchors attached to her feet. She told me not to worry and to trust God. The precocious fourth grader has grown up to be a talented and compassionate young woman. I think she’s 18, but she’s one of those “wise beyond her years” kinda people. I am glad she reached out to me. Not glad enough to give Abilify a try, but enough to feel comfortable in my decision not to take it.

Which is what I told the therapist when I met her… and she accepted my reasons without any kind of hard sale. Take that Big Pharma. We had a really good discussion for the hour long session where she asked about my history without overstepping and raking open old wounds. She explained things in a way that I could understand. She listened to my concerns and presented me with options. She did not rush in to write a prescription and was quick to tell me that they now practice integrated medicine where she would be talking, not only with my primary care physician, but also with the cardiologist to find the best possible medication for me. She recommended that I drop my lithium dosage even further as I research these new meds. I’m going to stay on it until January. That will give me time to research the other meds, but also to see how a lower dosage will make me feel. I walked out smiling. I had advocated for myself in a way that I have never been able to. I wasn’t in crisis and I wasn’t over-medicated. My mental health care treatment wasn’t something that was being done to me as it’s been in the past because I wasn’t fully capable of managing my care. Today I was an active participant and it felt good. Damn good.

That alone would have been a good day, but it got even better.

I drove to my mentor’s home, which may not seem like a big deal, but I’m known for getting lost and then freaking out when I drive. And subdivisions are the worst because all the houses look the same. The first time I drove to her house I got lost and drove around aimlessly in a panic. I had a meltdown that effectively wrecked the rest of my day. Today I drove there without incident and our time was a godsend. Having a Christian mentor to help me in my career really is helping me in my career. I used to hate teaching so much, but she is helping me understand my job and the role God has for me in it. We prayed before I left and it was good. Damn good.

That alone would have been a good day, but it got even better.

I had to go to WalMart, which may not seem like a big deal to you, but I can’t shop during normal people hours. I normally go to WM around 6:30 on Saturday mornings and I try to only go every three months. Shopping freaks me out and I do whatever I can to avoid having meltdowns in the middle of busy stores. I didn’t want to go before my doctor’s appointment for that reason. What if I went to WM at 6:30 and between the shopping and the driving (driving freaks me out)… what if I had a meltdown and had to see the new doctor for the first time looking like a wild eyed crazy woman?? Forget about taking me off of the Lithium, she would want to rethink upping the dosage.

Most times I hire a student to go shopping with me. I’m the only 47 year old woman that I know who needs a babysitter to go shopping. That gets expensive. Students are $10 hour. That’s $40 that I could be spending on food. I’ve recently discovered that if I wear headphones, I don’t weird out when I shop, so I had my had phones on when I noticed out of the corner of my eye that a woman was aiming her cart at me!  She got right next too me. Close enough to reach out and punch her. Talk about Wonder Twin Powers activating. I could feel me getting mad when I looked up and she was smiling with a huge grin. She was ANOTHER one of my former students. Last time I say her she was another one of those precocious nine year olds. She’s all of 19 and she’s heading off to the military. We talked for the longest time and it was just loverly. She said that I was her absolute most favorite teacher and does anybody ever grow tired of hearing that? As much as I hated teaching elementary school, there were a lot of students along the way that made up for the fact that a noisy elementary  school classroom was not the most hospitable place for a woman with a mental illness. Seeing her mad WalMart fun. It was soo good to see her. Damn good. 

That alone would have been a good day, but it got even better.

I’m having to downsize because my landlord is raising my rent. I’m trading my car in to save money, but since I have hated it for the past three years, I’m happy to be free of it. I’m also happy to be stable enough to be doing this myself. I bought it when I was in crisis. That’s worse than impulse buying, but I was not mentally capable of doing due diligence… and I’ve  lived to regret it every time I put the key in the ignition. This time I’ve been emailing the very nice (and very cute) salesman. I refuse to even test drive anything before I’ve had a chance to research it. I’ve been sending him long blog worthy emails with all my questions and he’s been answering them. Today I went in and he sat down with me and spelled everything out without talking down to me. I understand how trade ins work and I am now considering leasing rather than buying. This would actually work for me and my driving habits. He gave me a few print out with specs of cars that I could research and wasn’t trying to heavy sell me. My car buying history has been the very definition of Bipolar, but this time it felt good. Damn good.

That alone would have been a good day, but it got better.

I’d taken the day off to do my appointments, but I planned to go back to work in time for the 4:00 Site Meeting that we have every Monday. Today I was starting up my old Bible Study for the students. I’d c0-lead one years ago, but stopped doing because I thought that train wrecks shouldn’t be leading bible studies. But the nagging thought was always there. I was supposed to be doing a study, I was just too afraid. There were other reasons, valid reasons, but the bottom line was that I was afraid. Well not today. I announced during Site Meeting that I was having a bible study and anybody who wanted to come was invited. I explained why I was doing it and what it wasn’t going to be. I wasn’t sure how many people would show up, if any, but I was ready and my door was open. Every seat at the table was full. We read the first two chapters of Mark and it was good. Two young women stayed after the others left to go eat dinner. We continued reading and the discussion just took off. The prayer at the end was especially sweet.

What most people take for granted was an immense blessing for me. Unfortunately, I am not always the most functional crayon in the box. Today I got to be normal doing things that “normal” people do every day not realizing that for some people, every day tasks aren’t normal. I haven’t been able to do this much stuff in one day for years whether it was because of my mental health issues or my myriad of physical health problems. It gave me a glimpse of what my life could look like if my mental health were under control….

I’m sure God was looking at what he’d done in and through me today. He saw how far I had come and he knew how far I’d be going… and it was good.

Damn good.

The Day the Music Died

 

Tomorrow I have an appointment with a therapist. I know I said I’d accept change, but the closer I get to this appointment the more ambiguous my feelings get. I haven’t seen a therapist since 2006, but before that I’d spent most of my adult life in therapy. My thoughts on therapy are mixed. I quit doing it because I felt like it had outlived its usefulness. If modern therapy could fix me, I should be fixed by now.

Back in 2006 I hit a fork in the road where secular counseling contradicted my Christian faith. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those snake handling nutjobs who think that modern medicine is “of the devil.” I do not think that all I need to fix what ails me is faith. I once had somebody tell me that I needed to do was “plead the blood of Jesus” but I opted to continue taking my lithium. Even in Jesus’ day people went to the doctor. Jesus made doctors for a reason. Yet, I also think that there are some things that modern medicine just can’t cure… some things that require more than taking two pills and calling somebody in the morning.

I have been taking lithium since 1997. I’d had to leave the mission field because my life had completely fallen apart. I kept crying out to God and instead of just doing some mojo on me and healing me overnight, he sent me to Daly City, California to the North County Mental Health Center. I KNOW God sent me there. His guidance was so evident it might as well have been written on the wall. When they diagnosed me as having Bipolar it was as if somebody had turned a light on in my darkness. A doctor might have prescribed the meds, but it was God who turned on the light.

Lithium wasn’t easy. I was underweight due to the trauma of the mission field, but when I went on the lithium my weight ballooned from 138lbs to 215. I had severe hand tremors and my coordination was off. I was dizzy when I walked and things just seemed off. It affected my menstrual cycle — I bled non-stop from February to July. Heavy. I was weak and had an unbelievable craving for red meat. After work I’d stop off at the restaurant near my house and order steak. Turns out the lithium had affected my thyroid which was the cause of the bleeding. I didn’t immediately find out because I hated going to the doctor and I was too embarrassed. All that bleeding surely meant I was dying. My friend forced me to go to the doctor and they put me on a thyroid medication. The bleedin’ thing settled down and the weight dropped a bit, but over the years I’ve still been dealing with lithium side effects.

I wouldn’t be seeing the therapist tomorrow if it weren’t for the latest round of side effects. When they found out that I had high blood pressure my doctor put me on some new meds. Immediately I felt horrible and wanted to stop, but he encouraged me to tough it out. It got to the point that I couldn’t function well enough to drive to work that I decided to take myself off the meds. Not the wisest thing to do, I know… but nobody should voluntarily have to feel that bad. At first, I was driving to work impaired until I found out, if stopped, it would be the equivalent of a DUI. A week after going off the meds and I felt better. Turns out the new meds caused my lithium levels to spike. After a trip to the emergency room and a bunch of drama my lithium dose was lowered and I was taken off of one of the meds.

Things appeared to be fine until I started having chest pains a few months ago. Even when I thought I might be having a heart attack I didn’t want to go to the doctor. I got my notebook out and hand wrote my will and then I prayed. God knows that despite all my years of suicidal episodes, I don’t really want to die. I never have. I especially didn’t want to die of a heart attack. Knowing this, God had already made an appointment for me with my new doctor. I had one scheduled for two days later for an unrelated matter. I wouldn’t have gone in for the chest pains, but when I mentioned them to her they took center stage. I ended up hooked up to all kinds of machines and given nitroglycerine pills. She scheduled a stress test where they found and irregularity. I hadn’t had a heart attack, but after consulting with a cardiologist, they said that my long term lithium use was creating heart problems for me that should go away once I stopped taking the lithium.

Change.

As troublesome as lithium has been over the years, it changed my life. It has been that safety net to catch me when nothing and nobody could. I have had so many well meaning people try to diagnose what is wrong with me… telling me that all I need to do is have more faith or joy or trust or hope… none of which come in pill form. I do believe, without doubt, that without the lithium I’d be dead now. So going off it, while necessary, isn’t easy. I knew back in September of last year that I needed to go off it, but I wasn’t ready.

Tomorrow I need to advocate for myself so that I don’t end up another casualty of Big Pharma. I do not support taking meds just for the sake of taking medication. There are some things that only God can heal. There are some things that ail me that are the result of cognitive dissonance — when you’re doing things that contradict what you truly believe. You can throw all the meds you want at those problems but they aren’t going to go away until you line your life up with your beliefs.

This new doctor, without even meeting me, told me in our first phone conversation after my stress test irregularity that I could switch over to Abilify,  without knowing my history or even why I was on the lithium. I said that I wasn’t ready. Since the next open appointment would be two months later, I had time to think.

Two months is up tomorrow. I’ve read up on Abilify and I do not like what I read. All those side effects I just got over dealing with? Are all side effects of Abilify. I just left all of that. I am not willingly going back. When we talked she did lower my lithium to the lowest level I’ve ever been on and, ironically, I feel better than I ever have even with all of my physical health problems. I know long term lithium use is bad for my heart. I know that I have to get off this medication, but I will not be pressured into taking something that is already making me uneasy. God has lead me this far. I’m ok with this change. I just need better alternatives. For the first time I’m not going into a counseling appointment in crisis. It will not be easy to hard sell me on this popular, much-prescribed drug.

I always feared that lithium would rob me of my creativity. My writing would suffer if I took this jagged little pill. In the beginning I didn’t want to take it. Now that it looks like I’ve reached another fork in the road, it will be interesting what God puts on my heart to write. Maybe the meds made it creativity quiet down a bit over the years, but the music in me has not died. I know this post sounds like I might be a heathen… but I really would appreciate prayer for this appointment and that God’s will would prevail.

Change According to Bipolar Girl

There are some people who thrive on change. The latest hairstyle… pair of pants…  a new flavor of mocchacino… if things aren’t in a constant flux for these folks they feel as if the world as they know it is ending. Me? I’m not one of those people. Change happens slowly in Bipolar World. In fact, “change” in Bipolar World is the equivalent of watching paint dry on the walls of the Bipolar Bubble. And if that’s not fast enough for you… then try watching bipolar grass grow. It can’t decide which direction to grow in – left or right? Up or down?? So growth almost never happens.

In order for the citizen of Bipolar World to be happy and stable, things have to stay the same. Unfortunately, the rest of the world doesn’t play by my rules. Not only that… but nobody even knows my rules exist. People are constantly bumping into the walls of the bubble and aren’t aware of the catastrophically seismic events they create.

A few years back I got a job at a place where we were told to “embrace change,” which, when translated into Bipolarese roughly means, “Embrace that which is going to cause your doom.” Change… any and all change cause my innards to tighten up and my guts to seize. My chest tightens and I can’t breathe. The haze of colors that cloud my vision would be pretty if they weren’t making it impossible to see what the rest of the world sees: that change is inevitable and generally won’t kill you… unless it well… actually does. Over the years there have been plenty of changes that could kill people  which I won’t list here.

A short list of the changes that won’t kill you:
Technology, in and of itself, won’t kill you. Yet, technology  hasn’t advanced in Bipolar World for years. When you are struggling with yourself for your own life on a regular basis, things like smartphones, instagram, and Dvrs don’t register on your radar. It took me years to get a smartphone and I still don’t use it. My students laugh because my Galaxy 3 is old school, but  I still miss my push button fliptop. And Instagram? DVR? I still have no idea what they are. So if I could live this long without them… I guess a few more decades without them won’t hurt me. Politics changed when I wasn’t looking. Television ain’t like it used to be. When did MTV stop showing real music videos?

To a certain degree, my job has helped me learn to cope with change a little bit better. I’m not yet “embracing” it, but it isn’t getting me into a choke hold anymore.  Change. It’s a comin’ whether I like it or not.  Much like the Berlin Wall, the Bipolar Bubble must come down. I don’t want it to. It’s safer for me in here… but life as you know it is passing me by. I am not in step with the world that you live in.  In an attempt to protect myself from change and the stress it creates, I’ve done the equivalent of hermetically sealing myself up inside the Bipolar Bubble.

Recently, one of the pillars of Bipolar World took a direct hit. The lithium that I’ve been taking for over 20 years started to react with my new medication for high blood pressure. I started having chest pains on top of a bunch of other gnarly symptoms. After a bunch of test and hours spent hooked up to machines, I found out that I wasn’t having a heart attack… long term lithium use was causing these side effects in me: one of which was the chest pains. It was time to stop taking the lithium.  At first, I panicked, after all this time it had become my security blanket,  but I couldn’t ignore the facts or the truth: it was time for a change.

They have been weaning me off the lithium for a few months now and oddly enough, I feel great. So many of the symptoms that I’d struggled with for years that they couldn’t diagnose were actually results of long term lithium use. My doctor had been looking for disease where there was none. My doctor retired and I got a new doctor. I thought I would hate it, but this new doc found out what was wrong with me. Change. A simple change in the level of medication has made a lifetime’s worth of difference for me. Change. I meet with a new psychiatrist soon to discuss dropping the lithium altogether and going on a new medication. I’m afraid of new side effects, but there’s no way to avoid this change.

Change? It has to happen… just don’t expect me to run out and get a new cellphone; sign up for Instagram; and vote for Donald Trump while I’m trying to read the directions for the DVR. Change will come, and I will accept it, but if Change wants me to embrace it… then there better be dinner and a movie first.

 

Post Navigation

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 95 other followers

%d bloggers like this: