1825 Days

Tomorrow marks 5 years since my relationship with my ex-fiancee started. It was truly a beautiful start and we had so much promise. He was my best friend, my champion, my greatest supporter. I was so looking forward to spending the rest of my life with him, only to be irreparably broken.

There is no way to explain the way I felt about him. Saying I loved him is too tame a phrase. I felt him in every fiber of my being, and looking at him made my heart swell. I would have followed him to the ends of the Earth (which essentially I did).

I also don’t have words to describe the pain I have felt in the years since we split. I am not the same person I was. I think about all the experiences I had with him, both good and bad, and I am a different person as a result.

How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand… there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep, that have taken hold.” Frodo Baggins, Return of the King
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Crocheting, Coffee and Self Imposed Exile

In the interest of self-care and being in the middle of a rather deep depressive episode, I have stayed home from work for the last 2 days. Part of me just cannot handle going in right now. My self care is in the toilet and I worry about what the call offs will do to both my work record and my check book. But I have to push that aside and recognize that I am at a dangerously low point, one I need to safely get through.

Despite a love/hate relationship with my employer (which I think everyone can relate to) I must say I am blessed to have great health benefits and a wealth of resources for improving my physical and emotional well being. My employer offers a “disease management” program in which they provide additional care and coverage for people suffering from various chronic conditions. It covers everything from diabetes to ALS to depression. Essentially if you follow the care plan they set up and stay compliant on your medications, they reimburse you the cost of office visit copays and drug costs. Needless to say, with my financial situation being a disaster, I was all about signing up for the program. It’s a great relief to know that I can now go back to a more regular therapy schedule and still be able to pay for groceries.

Also, I was able to schedule an appointment with a therapist. I have to wait a bit longer than I’d like to see her, but knowing I have an appointment coming up is a big relief. I spent a lot of the last few days in relative quiet, crocheting, drinking coffee and snuggled up with my cat. I am not over the hurdle yet as far as my depression goes, but I have at least taken steps in the right direction. I want to thank my friends and family, and especially my internet family: Dyane, Kitt, Jen, Jenna and Kat. You all reached out despite your own struggles and knowing you’re all rooting for me certainly helps.

Tomorrow I am going to work, and it’s going to be hard but it’s time to emerge from my exile and try to be a functioning human again.

 

Comparison and Busyness

For a very long time, too long, really, I have been comparing myself to someone. They pray at the shrine of busyness and, as far as I know, do not suffer from mental illness. They love attention and networking. Why I would compare myself to someone I have so little in common with is beyond me. But the depressed mind brings out all the ugly thoughts, all your flaws both internal and external are highlighted. All the things you haven’t done, haven’t succeeded at and things you fear are thrust in your face, filling your mind with inescapable negativity. I am feeling quite paralyzed  by depression at present.

I’d love to be writing another how to post or showcasing a new DIY. There are plenty of coffees I’ve enjoyed that merit a review, but my mind has little light in it right now. All I can see is the dark. I have friends and family I can reach out to, but even that is difficult, I don’t want to be a burden. Mostly I don’t want to admit to myself how far down I am right now. I don’t want to think about hospitalization or more frequent therapy sessions. Even though I know of plenty of free resources available to me to use via NAMI.org, I can’t make myself go through with it. All I want to do is sleep. People tell me to stop comparing myself to others, to stop dwelling on negative thoughts. But my brain isn’t wired like theirs is. I cannot turn off the thoughts, much as I would like to.

So I again reach out to the people reading, my interwebs family. You all understand what I’m going through so well and I appreciate your encouragement.

Making Sense of Suicide

*Trigger Warning. This post contains content that some people may find disturbing*

 

I have only been affected by suicide twice, personally. In my freshman year of high school, one of my classmates committed suicide. We had a large class, so I really didn’t know him much more than passing him in the halls, so I wasn’t profoundly affected. Two days ago, a young girl was brought in by an ambulance. She had committed suicide, but her mother discovered her and called 911 anyways. We exercised all the appropriate measures, but honestly there was nothing to be done. I am surprised by how much this young girl’s death has affected me. I didn’t know her, I simply recognized her as a human being going through insurmountable anguish. To truly put a human face to the enigma that is suicide is startling and powerful. I have been thinking about the young lady most of the weekend.

A fellow bipolar blogger has been suffering for some time. A family illness, inability to keep a job due to her bipolar disorder and financial troubles have her feeling desperate. Fortunately, she made the brave decision to check herself into the hospital and she’s feeling much better. For those who do not suffer from mental illness, suicide seems so selfish, so impossible to understand. There’s no one reason why people contemplate suicide, the reasons are as varied as the person.

As any of you who regularly read my blog know, save my “real life” identity, I am quite open about my struggles with mental illness. I’ve always sought to break down barriers and reduce stigma, to help people feel less alone. In that vein, I am going to share with you one of the most painful experiences of my life, to help explain what can drive a person to suicidal thoughts. I find that open and honest discussion about things can lead to understanding and change, so…here goes:

My ex fiancee and I had broken up.  I will not divulge what set me off because I like not being sued for libel, but it was bad.  The day I found out I came home and exploded. I screamed at the top of my lungs, my face on fire and tears streaming down my face. I have never felt such pure rage. Things got physical and I packed a bag and called a coworker to see if I could spend the night at her house. I went out to the car without telling my ex I was leaving and drove to my coworkers house. I was still crying, still enraged, shaking and nauseated. I was having a hard time finding my coworker’s apartment and that’s when I heard my phone ringing. It was my ex fiancee, looking for me. I refused to answer. I pulled over to get my bearings and was idling not far from a telephone pole. At that moment, there was a crystalline calm as I stared at the telephone pole. I remember thinking I could just slam my car into it. The pain would stop, the embarrassment would end. No more pain. My ex was still calling. I picked up the phone and told him I wanted to die. I hung up and finished driving to my co worker’s house. With her support, I made it through the night safely. There were other very dark nights, but none matched the breathless desperation of that night.

I wish I could say that I have gotten over that pain, that I don’t have dark thoughts every now and again, but I do. I wish I could make my ex understand that I wanted to kill myself. This wasn’t some run of the mill relationship to me, he was in every breath I took and my life will never, ever be the same. I honestly hope that it was worth it to them. I hope maybe that crosses his mind when he’s  having a tender moment with his current girl, that that tender moment nearly came at the cost of my life. Is that mean? Petty and bitter? Probably. But depression spares me no miserable thoughts, so why should I spare them?

What gets me through the dark times is mostly the reminder that the dark times, like everything else, is transitory. Life is a cycle, with ebbs and flows and the light will come back eventually. There are too many things I want to do, too much coffee to drink, too much life to experience to end it. My life’s mantra is “the only way out is through” and I believe there is a reward for all suffering. If you are feeling suicidal, please seek help. There are countless resources available to help you. Stay strong and don’t believe the lies depression tells you.

The Cost of a Migraine

Every little girl has a dream of what she wants to be when she grows up. For many, it’s a lifelong goal and they actually get to do what they want, or at least come very close. For others, our dreams change as we get older and for still others, the dreams never culminate in anything more than that- dreams.

I’ve always been different, never really went with the norm. If you asked me in the 8th grade what I wanted to do, I would tell you in all my 13 year old wisdom that I wanted to be a journalist. I wrote for the school newsletter and fully intended on working on my high school paper, as well. Recalling the fervor with which I believed I could change the world with a scathing article over why we didn’t get lunches when our parents paid tuition embarrasses me now. Then I realized I didn’t want such a passive job, I wanted in on the action, not just to observe and report. I could feel my ideals shifting but it wasn’t clear where I was heading. I would figure it out in time, but my dreams never came to fruition due to one reason. Not my bipolar or depression, not my heart murmur or my thick glasses or my skinny ankles but my migraines.

I got my first migraine when I was 9 years old. I was in school and I asked the teacher if I could use the restroom. The bell dismissing us for the day was about to ring, so she told me I could hold it till then. I was miserably nauseated and I honestly thought my head was going to explode. After the teacher told me to go sit down, I did. And promptly emptied the contents of my stomach onto my desk, the floor, everywhere. Ironically, the teacher who refused to let me go to the bathroom had to clean it up. I stayed home the next day, mortified and sure people would pick on me for the rest of my life and that “puked on desk” would go on My Permanent Record, you know, the record the teachers warned you was on file and would follow you for all eternity. From that point on, I would get migraines every Monday or every first day back at school after a holiday. We only had one bathroom in my house and I recall having to throw up in the basement wash basin because someone else was using the restroom, and always after Monday night dinner.  Fortunately, with time, the nausea went away, but I would still get frequent migraines. Once I got to high school, they were a lot better and I attributed the bad spate of headaches with the stress I felt in junior high from being bullied.

I started working full time right after high school and went to community college part time, not really having a major or any specific goal in mind. Not long after I started working more hours, my migraines increased again. Taking 4 classes at college while working dropped down to just 2 classes and I was getting frustrated. Somewhere in the course of going to school at night after work, I finally figured out what I wanted to do and it surprised me. I wanted to be a firefighter. The college I was at had a fire sciences program, and I was looking at all the requirements, started working out to be up for the physical challenges of the job as well. My parents were surprised but supportive and I decided in fall I would apply for the fire sciences program. Then my migraines launched the worst attack I had ever had in my entire life (until now that is). I would wake up, go to work, sleep immediately when I got home, shower and go back to bed. I barely ate, I dropped to one class at college. It was so bad I used to sneak into a quiet room at my job and sleep for 20 minutes in the hope of reducing the intensity of the migraine. I went to the doctor and the first battery of tests began. I got my wisdom teeth pulled to see if that was contributing. I had allergy testing done, I had a CT scan. I was put on a new medication every 4 weeks and the neurologist simply said he could find no cause. Finally, I had to drop out of college. The next several years of my life involved new medicines, doctor’s visits, counseling and tears.

Years down the road, I found a medicine that worked and it helped me for nearly five years before I had to stop using it due to damage it caused my kidneys. Subsequent medicines proved less effective, but I am here at that desperate place again, hoping my new medicine will be “the one”.  I have accepted that my employer will never give me a perfect attendance award. I have accepted that I will miss out on family get togethers and fun nights out with friends due to my migraines. I have accepted that having a romantic relationship is very difficult both due to my migraines and being bipolar- it’s no fun to be with someone who is always napping, hurting or just miserable. I have never accepted the betrayal of my own body costing me my dream, however.  When a fire engine goes speeding past me, I feel just like Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynamite, that sadness of your dream passing you by and you’ll never catch it.  Last year, I did get to pretend, though. One of the fire squads that works with my hospital offered to let me ride along for a shift. It was exciting and fun. But it helped cement the finality of it, as well.  Migraines have cost me more than I ever thought they could. I won’t stop fighting them, though. I owe my dream that much, at least- to fight the migraines as bravely as I would have fought a fire.

HyperBrain

No, I’m not manic or even hypomanic, but my mind has been spinning since last week. Everything from coming to terms with the death of my coworker to ideas on how to get back on track with my diet to post ideas. I’m also still in the midst of trying to solve the problem of my intractable migraines. I underwent a home sleep study to determine if I have sleep apnea, which my doctor believes may be contributing to my migraines. I never really thought I snored, and it’s not like I can really call my ex-fiancee and ask him if I snore, but the sleep study showed I do, in fact, have trouble breathing. The test results were deemed inconclusive, however, and now I have to go through a monitored sleep study. At least it’s not painful, but you certainly don’t rest too easily with all kinds of wires attached to you.

As far as post ideas are concerned, I have a few ideas knocking around my head, still really trying to flesh them out. I try to write about all kinds of things, but sometimes the ideas become too big or elaborate and they get away from me. I have been reading the amazing writing of Esme Weijun Wang (www.esmewang.com) and her fluid, nearly poetic style always gets me jazzed about writing more. I encourage you to read her blog and take note of the photos she uses that showcase normal daily objects and scenes yet they somehow look otherworldly.

My emotional overeating has plateaued, triggered by stress at work. One unfortunate side effect of my medications is that I have gained weight. It’s not much, maybe 4 or 5 lbs, but I don’t want it to get out of control. I was starting to really beat myself up over it and then I decided to cut myself some slack. True, I need to get the emotional eating under control, but berating myself might trigger another episode, or worse yet, an episode of self harm.

Finally, as autumn truly arrives, I find myself feeling nostalgic and sentimental. I long to spend time with family, to have a refresher course on crocheting with my grandmother, to hike with my aunt, to watch endless hours of football on the reclining couch with my dad. I know this sentimentality/nostalgia partly stems from the death of my coworker. You remember how precious life is, and tangible items, things you can see and hold and feel take on a special and nearly mystical meaning. Sometimes the sentimental feeling makes you realize all you’ve lost and other times it helps you embrace all you still have. I hope to write more about this later, but I need to do a little picture taking first.

As always, please feel free to comment and thank you for reading!

On Loss

Today, I stayed home from work due to another bad migraine with accompanying nausea. I was in bed most of the day, largely unaware of anything going on in the world around me. Right about dinner time, my best friend called me. It’s unusual for her to call, we see each other at work just about everyday and text nonstop, so I knew something was up. She told me, through tears, that a coworker of ours had been found dead in his apartment. He was only 25 and leaves behind a 4 year old daughter. There were no obvious signs of suicide or foul play, so until an autopsy is performed, we have no idea why he is gone. To be honest, I didn’t always get along with my now deceased coworker. But over the last few months, as I got to know him more, we were certainly becoming friends. I think that’s what is hurting me the most right now, not the suddenness of his passing or anything, it’s the reality of all the things he will never be able to do. Watch his daughter grow up, finish his degree, live a nice long life full of helping other people. I said a prayer for my coworker and admitted to God that I really don’t understand this.

As most of you know, I work in a hospital in the emergency room. We deal with life and death on a minute by minute basis. With time, you learn to compartmentalize your feelings, as it’s absolutely essential in an environment like that. It’s how you’re able to go from assisting on a full arrest to taking care of the patient with a resolvable illness. You learn to keep yourself mostly detached from the emotional experience so that you can do your job. That’s not to say you have no feelings or that you’re insensitive, but that you put the emotions of your patient above your own, and deal with your feelings later. We go through training on helping people in all aspects- the body, heart, mind and spirit. We have policies and procedures galore on everything from what we wear to what medications we use to how to use our equipment and so on. But there is no procedure on this. There is no way to handle being told someone you work with on a daily basis is gone and that his sweet little girl no longer has her daddy.

The only way out is through- that motto is more or less the mantra of my life. And I suppose it’s the motto my workplace will be living for the next few months.