Wiped out

This week has wiped me out, mentally and physically.  I stay on a knife’s edge between functionality and nonfunction, largely with the aid of the Five Medications:  Lithium, Lamectil, Seroquel, Ambien, Ativan.

When I lived in Israel, 2007-2010, I was down to 50 mg. of Lamectil daily: practically a homeopathic dose.  I was on Lithium when I moved there, but the dry heat makes it very easy to get dehydrated, and that can be lethal on Lithium.  So my shrink had me very slowly and carefully wean off of it, since I had been very stable for several years by then.  I found that I felt no different at all without it, so I had nearly a four year vacation from Lithium.

I attribute my stability to the wonderful network of friends and advisors I had in Israel.  I have never felt so loved and cared for.  For the first time in my life I felt that I had family.  Lots of family.  Where else in the world can you walk down the street on the evening of a holiday or the Sabbath and have people you hardly know invite you to come and share their festive meals?

I had several extended visits back to the States during that period of time, for a few weeks or a month, keeping tabs on my aging parents.  I am the only child, and they are getting precariously old and poorly functioning.  Usually these visits were precipitated by some crisis or other:  my father had a stroke;  my father had surgery.  My father.

To say that my mother and I don’t get along would be a gross minimization.  The truth is, we are oil and water.  Actually we are more like gasoline and a match.  My mother knows how to devastate me with a look or a gesture.  Five seconds in her presence and I am once again a cowering child hiding under the covers hoping to become invisible to her rages.

I have lived my entire life trying to find ways to appease Mom, so that she would love me and not tear me apart with tooth and claw.  And wonder of wonders, none of it has worked more than briefly.

So each visit took its toll:  on one three week visit I became so depressed I had to go to Canada afterward for 30 rTMS (Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) treatments.  This is the best thing since sliced bread for treating major depression, PTSD, and a growing plethora of other neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders.  (I plan to write a future post about rTMS, so stay tuned.) Sliced bread or not, it’s really not what one wants to have to do in order to cope with a family visit.

In January, 2010, two months shy of my fourth anniversary of moving to Israel, I returned to the States on an open-ended visit, since my father’s health was declining rapidly and I wanted to spend as much time as possible with him before he became totally out of it.

I’m glad I did, as he is now at the stage of dementia where he is in another world most of the time.  He still recognizes people, but sleeps on and off all day, and can’t perform any tasks more complex than eating.  I am grateful that he’s still able to feed himself and do most of his activities of daily living.  I can see those decaying, too, though.  Soon he will be totally dependent on others.  It breaks my heart to watch it happening.

The price tag of my leaving my support system in Israel has been brutal.  In order to keep myself from going stark raving mad, I’ve had to work with my psychiatrist here to find a cocktail that will keep my bipolar stable while helping me to control the symptoms of PTSD that threaten to rage out of control every time my mother looks at me.

Sleep is a constant struggle.  Sleep is essential to the stabilization of bipolar disease.  In fact, one of my neuropsychiatrists treated hypomania or mixed episodes by inducing sleep for 24 hours.  It’s like hitting the reset button.  As we know, one of the huge bugaboos of PTSD is the eyes-wide-open-like-dinner-plates horrible sleep disorder.  So the combination of PTSD and BP is deadly.

Hence the addition of drugs:  more Lamectil.  Back on Lithium (hydrate, hydrate, hydrate).  Ambien for sleep, except that’s not enough to quell the PTSD horrors, so Seroquel to deliver the knockout punch.  Oh, and a benzo to keep the Mom jitters down to a dull roar.

Why do I do this to myself?

Copyright 2012 Laura P. Schulman all rights reserved

Leave a comment


  1. Laura, I feel so much for you – as you know I have bipolar and PTSD too. Although I still live with PTSD symptoms daily, they are not as bad as they have been in the past. The best treatment I had for the flashbacks was eye movement therapy. I also had some NLP at the same time. Since that treatment last year, I am mostly freed of the terrible flashbacks I was having for years.

  2. D'Alta

     /  July 6, 2012

    Laura, I hope and pray for the day when the PTSD lets loose its hold long enough for you to no longer wither and cower like a child in your mother’s presence. The most healing moment of my life came when able to see the frail, old man my father had become. Were we safer from his anger? Hospice feared the violence towards my mother that haunted the first 16 years of their marriage might return. In the last few months of his life, he was not left alone with my mother. In spite of the threat his past behavior indicated, all I saw was a frail, old man whose dementia brought visions that terrified him and kept the rest of us visiting his visions to calm him. These last few months weren’t easy for any of us. However, my siblings, their spouses, and their children still see our father as villain. I see a man haunted by hardship, growing up in the extreme poverty of The Depression, raised on bitterness and humiliation, who used alcohol and gambling to blot out his pain. He carried grudges and lived a life of spite. It was all he learned from his father; he knew no other way. These days I am saddened when I see others choosing that same path, my son among them. You saw joy, felt freedom and acceptance, experienced deep friendships and a sense of belonging in Israel. This is the well from which to draw strength. Each time you see the look that would make you cower, think of a face of love, acceptance, friendship, joy, welcome. Look on that face and see how small your mother’s own unhappiness is next to the richness of love you have received from others. There are many of us willing to offer you what you need.

    • D, thank you so much for sharing your story. What terrifying years those must have been for all of you. I have the opposite situation, where the not-entirely-perfect yet strong and gentle soul is the one in decay, while the superhuman harpy is unleashed without her balancing influence.

      He just told me that she has been leaving him in the car in store parking lots on these 100+ days. When I confront her about anything she says it’s his imagination I am of course worried that he will die from gross neglect. Right now it seems he is certainly suffering from it.

      As i’m sure you know, getting social services involved is a shreck in these small towns, especially when my mother was the so,oak worker for all the nursing homes, started the hospice there, etc etc. This one is gonna be a doozy when it his the fan.

  3. sassdelaney

     /  July 6, 2012

    Sorry to hear you’re feeling bad. I have absolutely no good advice to offer you, but am sending my best wishes.
    And as to why do you do it?!
    So I can read your blog of course 🙂
    Stay well, and take care of yourself xx

  4. Wow. I feel like I just read my own writing. It’s crazy what we have in common. Bipolar and PTSD is a god-AWEFUL combo, I know. Living it. I’m on lamictal 200 mg, abilify, and strattera for ADHD. I used to be on seroquel but thank god I’m off it I was zombified, but I’m not bashing it, it helped tremendously. My nightmares and intrusive thoughts came back full force these last few months and we tried Prozasin which was damn INCREDIBLE!! Unfortunately I have to stop taking it because it’s causing serious edema so not sure what to do about the nightmares. Never tried lithium. I was also on ambien for awhile but I don’t know if my psychotic features mixed with it but I did crazy shit in my sleep–like over dosing because I dreamt the government told me to. …crazy
    I feel for you I really do. I’m the same way with my mother. It’s like you build yourself up without her into a strong, independent woman and all that has to happen is being around her and she pulls those manipulative strings and you’re, like you said, a cowering child. Can you go back to Israel? Sounds amazing! Can I come? 🙂

  5. Did you get my comment?

    • I did. The Jewish Sabbath happens from sundown Friday night to sundown Saturday night. During the Sabbath I don’t usually blog (I say usually because occasionally it becomes impossible not to). So now it’s over, I’m permitted to Blog to my heart’s content, and I’m on my way to checking replies and answering them. Hi-ho! I will see yours soon. But I must warn that I have already taken my evening medicine, so if I catch myself being silly I will stop and do it in the morning when I’m allegedly same.


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