Peace Be With You

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A Warrior Woman has left this world.

She slew her Dragon.

Let us celebrate her life.
Let us celebrate her release from its tortures.
Let us celebrate her beauty.
Let us celebrate her release from prison.

“I hope my death is peaceful,
And I hope never to return.”
–Frida Kalho

Talking Shop

I don’t know whether you’ve noticed, but I’ve noticed, that I haven’t been posting.

Lord knows I’ve wanted to.

Blogging serves many purposes for me, as I’m sure it does for you: catharsis, self-expression, connection, community, dialogue, intellectual challenge, exercise and sharpening of one’s writers’ craft teeth, etc.

But: things around here have been less than peachy.

Dad had another stroke a week ago, was in a coma for a couple of days.  Then he began his struggle back into This World.  He’s not quite as “with it” as he was before–and he wasn’t too “with it” then either–but sometimes he knows where he is.  Thankfully he still knows who I am.

While we thought he was dying or about to die, there was a certain amount of drama (really?!) on the part of my mother, who actually hugged me and wept on my shoulder for an uncomfortable while.  I do feel sorry for her, but not that sorry.  But it’s not as if I would push my mother away while she’s having a dramatic sad moment, or a sadly dramatic moment, being about to lose her husband of sixty-six years.

Life is now a patchwork of caregivers and nurses coming in and out of the house.  That’s good, because I cannot help with physical needs other than the food-related ones.  I can prepare food, and help him eat it; and if he’s too “out of it” to get his food into his mouth, I can feed him.  Some days he’s able to feed himself, and some days he’s just too exhausted.  He’s hungry, but he just can’t manage the eating part.  I never realized how complex the act of eating is, until this experience of watching Dad’s stepwise loss of the mechanical ability to manipulate food, even with his hands, let alone utensils.

Once it’s in his mouth he can usually chew it up and swallow, but sometimes he needs his food “blenderized” and sometimes he just can’t eat at all.  I know that’s part of dying.  And sometimes he absolutely refuses to eat, and that’s part of dying too.

We try to keep him hydrated, at least.  He’s on a medicine that decreases the fluid in his blood, taking some stress off his heart, which does make him feel better but causes increased urination, so getting the fluids into him is important.  I know, it seems paradoxical: on one hand, taking the fluids out, on the other, shoving them in.

The other day we were sitting alone together, watching the afternoon coming in through the brilliant greens of the forest canopy, and he said:  “You and I need to go up into the woods and talk shop.”

I know what he meant.

We have always been best buddies, even when times weren’t so good, even though he served as my own private “Flying Monkey” who tried to explain away my mother’s evil ways.  I always came back, for my dad.  Here I am!

Just about every night, starting from…when?  Maybe after I got back off the road, when I was seventeen–every night when I was visiting and would be staying over, my dad and I would sit up late drinking whiskey and “talking shop.”  We would solve the world’s problems, solve problems for worlds that were entirely theoretical at the time but in fact exist now, and dig deep into authors, poetry, philosophical genres, the nature of human existence, art (of course), artists (same), relationships of all sorts….and now and then my mother would stick her head down the stairway to ask us to please “keep it down.”

I do salute her for allowing us those times together and not throwing a monkey-wrench into things, which she is quite capable of doing.  She knew that those late-night rap sessions were sacred.

The only time my dad and I ever got into a shouting match was oh, around 3 am when we were both three sheets to the wind, and somehow or other we fell into the topic: “Does God have a sense of humor?”

He staunchly and solidly maintained that God does NOT have a sense of humor.  The Holocaust.

I equally stubbornly held that God DOES have a sense of humor, because WE exist and that is the ridiculous proof!

Neither of us would budge, and having put a good dent in a fifth of Bourbon whiskey, the volume worked its way up until we were actually shouting at each other in earnest.  Luckily my mother yelled down the stairs for us to “knock it off down there.”  We sheepishly toasted “to Life” and stumbled off to our respective beds.  We never did resolve that point.

So, we need to go up into the woods and talk shop.  Some more.  Soon.

To My Readers

Dearest Readers, how can I ever hope to express my gratitude for the love and support you have given me during these hard times?  Truly, I don’t know what I would do without you.  Your words of comfort and encouragement have soothed my soul.  The stories of your own experiences with your aged parents have encouraged and strengthened me.

May you all be blessed with healing according to your needs, peace of mind, and good friends–whether “in the flesh” or here, in our wonderful Mental Health Blogger community (and everybody else too)!

Much love,

Laura

 

I have HAD It With Stalkers!

I’ve HAD it.  HAD IT with lurkers from my past who read my blogs and either comment, knowing I will delete them (but I’ve fixed that now), or don’t comment and then private email me because they’ve figured out they’ve been blocked.  Or try to Facebook me, which results in my blocking them there too.  Don’t they GET it?  I don’t WANT certain people from my private life, whom I have already banned from my private life, stalking my blog.  I mean, didn’t I JUST write a post about that very thing???  You people from my private life (NOT my Bloggie Friends), get out of my blog and leave me alone.

One of the truly wonderfully comforting things about our welcoming and supportive community of bloggers here in this corner of the Blogosphere is that we choose each other, because we are people we want to share with.  We share deeply, honestly, openly.  It’s a world of trust that I don’t have “in real life,” so I really treasure it here.  We are “family of choice.”

I’ve considered doing a blogroll, but there are so many of you whose blogs I love that it would take much more sidebar space than is allotted to get you all in.  And that’s not even including those of you whom I read and don’t comment, usually late at night when my brain isn’t so functional anyway.  There, you see, I am a lurker too, I admit it 😉

What I’m trying to say here is that our ever-growing Bloggie Community, and especially our Mental Health bloggers, are my trusted family.  And I don’t want to have it in the back of my mind that some creepy person that I used to date, or some other people with whom I’ve gone No Contact, are reading my words–because in this blog, I don’t hold back.  It’s straight from the gut.  Yes, sometimes I write anecdotes or amusing stories for comic relief, but then I often follow those up with exactly what’s going down for me now.

And I really love and appreciate all of you amazing friends who support me with your wonderful comments.  It’s such a comfort to know that you are there, each and every one of you.  I wish we could have a party.  Hey, wouldn’t that be fun?  A bunch of us could all get on at the same time and hop from one person’s blog to another….I’m sure that’s not an original idea but it sounds good to me right now!

I’m slowly recovering from Thursday night’s attack of mania or whatever it was.  One of my shrink-o-matics thinks that I have nocturnal seizures.  I think I agree with him, at least this time, because after making some food for myself Friday afternoon, I fell into bed at 7 pm and slept until 12:30 Saturday afternoon.  And woke up with a headache that has lasted till now, Saturday evening.  I even put my carbon monoxide monitors into service, just in case, and they said zero so it’s not that.

Even now, I don’t feel like the sharpest knife in the drawer.  It might take a while to recover from that one.

So I think I’m going to wind up this day with our usual 5 minutes of obedience training (my dog Noga and I) followed by her Tooth Cleaning Treat, my Tooth Cleaning Ritual, a dose of Cod-Acamol, which is a wonderful Israeli concoction of 10 mg codeine and 500 mg acetominophen, just enough codeine to get a run-of-the-mill headache gone, and a large dose of Bedtime.

‘Night, y’all, and thanks for listening.

Stigma or Witticism? You Decide.

Dearest Readers, I am in a bit of a quandary and I need your help.  As some of you know, I live under a rock and rarely come out.  On top of being Bipolar, I have lots of Aspergerian features and don’t play well with others.  (I haven’t run with scissors since second grade, though).  And on top of that, or maybe because of that, I have a lot of social anxiety and tend to run like hell when I see another human being sauntering in my general direction.  I live in a building on the side of a cliff overlooking a river, with a small dog for company.  For entertainment I see my therapist once a week.

I don’t own a TV and I don’t listen to the radio, so my only exposure to the “world at large” comes by way of social media, which I skim over, much like a gull will skim over a beach looking for edible bits.  Therefore, a lot of stuff takes me by surprise and causes me confusion, since I don’t know the social vocabulary of the television-movie-talk radio.  So I think I might have run into something from this world that I need your help parsing out, so that I can stop being upset by it.  I’m hoping that’s all it is, anyway.

When people “like” one of my posts, or follow my blog, I usually head over to their blog and graze a bit, and usually leave a “like” or a comment, because I believe that is the right thing to do and it’s a great way to find new “bloggie” friends (thanks PAZ).  So somebody recently did that, and I did that, and as I was browsing through their recent posts I found a post called “Bipolar blog.”  Wow, I got excited!  So I clicked on that one, hoping to find a new “Bipolar Bloggie” with whom I could share Bipolarness and Blogginess together.  Bleeah, I was disappointed.  What this person was talking about (and I am purposely NOT linking to her blog here because I feel it would be childish and nasty to “out” a person just because I disagree with them) is that her blog has grown SO fast and now has SO many followers, that since she tends to blog on two different subjects, she is thinking of splitting her blog into two different ones.  Thus the “bipolar blog.”  For some reason, probably because of having been stigmatized as being “crazy” all of my life on account of my bipolar illness, that really rubbed me the wrong way.

So dear readers, help me out here.  Am I just being hypersensitive to an expression that is thrown around in popular culture and has become a cliché?  I feel silly asking this, because I don’t know what popular culture is throwing around just now, but I need to get a clue whether I have reason to be upset by this person in particular or by society in general, if indeed this is a societal insensitivity rather than an individual one.  Or, alternatively, maybe it’s a clue that I just need to crawl back under my rock and work on my novel and ignore everything else.

I mean, let’s think about it another way.  Let’s say that my blog is getting really black-and-white in its thinking.  It might, since I do tend to descend into black-and-white, good-or-bad thinking.  I learned that in DBT and I’m frequently, but not frequently enough, on the watch for it.

Let’s say I’m indulging in black-and-white thinking, so what if I were to say, “listen dear readers, this blog is getting biracial, so I’m thinking of splitting it into a black blog and a white blog.”  Would that go over very well with biracial readers?  I think not.  Even though I might have intended it to be a little funny, it still is not funny, because biracial people are PEOPLE, not turns of speech, and most certainly not clichés.  Do you see where I’m coming from here?

I hope people will comment like crazy here, because I want to know what other people think about this issue that has my hackles up.

Blog For Mental Health 2013!

I am proud and humbled to have been pledged by Ruby Tuesday of A Canvas of the Minds as a Mental Health Blogger for 2013.  It’s not an award, but a commitment to keep on blogging with the aim of erasing stigma and creating community among those of us who live with mental illness.  Our Mental Health Blogger community is a place where people living with mental illness as well as their families and loved ones can come together in mutual acceptance and support.  It’s awesome!  So here’s the pledge:

I pledge my commitment to the Blog For Mental Health 2013 Project.  I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others.  By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health.  I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.

Here is where I’m supposed to write a short summary of my own journey with mental illness.  Where to begin?  I’ve had issues all of my life with PTSD and dissociation.  Likewise, I cannot remember a time when I was not depressed.  I ran away from home, permanently, when I was 16 and only by the grace of G-d did not die or end up trafficked to Mexico, although there were some close calls.  I didn’t know I had a mental illness till I was in college and desperate to make money.  There was an ad in the student newspaper: take drugs and get paid!  No, really, it was a study that the Psychiatry part of the medical school was doing.  So I went and applied, and had to take a whole day’s worth of psychological testing before they would give me the drugs.  Some guy called me the next day and said, “You have to go to Student Mental Health right now!  Your testing shows you are Severely Depressed.”  Humph.  I didn’t feel any different than I always felt, but if I had to go to Student Mental Health in order to get my drugs, that’s the way it was.  I went.  There was a nice lady behind the desk in a cozy room.  She smiled beneficently and asked, “Why are you depressed?”  “I’m not depressed,” I said. “Then why are you here?” she asked.  “The Psych Drug Study made me come,” I said.  She shuffled through my slim chart and said, “Your testing shows you are severely depressed.”  She looked up at me with that saintly smile and said, “You get good grades.  You have a good job.  You’re good looking.  So why are you depressed?”  I stood up, thanked the lady, and walked out.

The next time I got an inkling that I might be depressed came when I was in medical school, married, with a baby who never slept.  I adored him, and many years later I still adore him, but the fact is, he never slept through the night until he was five.  So at that time I think he was maybe ten months old, and I had not slept since he was born.  I was in the middle of my Cardiology clinical rotation.  Everyone had gone to lunch, but as usual I had no appetite and was uninterested in hanging out with people, so I was sitting in a study carrel reading EKGs.  My Cardiology attending came over and said, “Aren’t you going to go get some lunch?”  And I said, “No thanks, I’m not hungry,” avoiding eye contact by studying the EKG.  “Look at me,” he said, and I did, mechanically.  “You’re depressed,” he said.  “I want you to go home and get some help.  You need to see a psychiatrist.  Please call me tomorrow and tell me what you have done about this.”  And head hanging, I went home.  My ex-husband came home and said, “What are you doing home so early?” since I usually stayed late studying.  “I’m depressed,” I said.  He turned on his heel and walked out.  “Let me know when you’re better,” he said on his way out the door.  I called somebody at the medical school whom I trusted, and told him the situation.  Five minutes later I got a call from a psychiatrist, who gently demanded that my (ex) husband accompany me to an appointment on the following day.  He did.  The shrink explained to him that I was physically incapable of doing what I was doing, taking care of our son all night and being a medical student all day (and sometimes all night too).  He explained how to give the baby a bottle.

He also gave me my first psych drug, imipramine, which not only knocked me completely out, but gave me a horrible itchy rash from head to toe.  Then he gave me antihistamines for the rash.  I dimly remember lying on the cool hardwood floor wishing I was dead but having no control over my body and therefore being unable to act on it, which was good.  After I got over that, he gave me some other drug, which allowed me to make it through med school in one piece.

Then I got to my residency in Pediatrics, where the standard work week was 120 hours.  More sleep deprivation.  And still with the non-sleeping child, who, bless his heart, sleeps like a baby now that he’s in his 20’s.  And then there was the husband who needed attention too.  So I went to a shrink and got Wellbutrin, which is very good for some people, but me it tipped over into hypomania.  Only nobody in the medical world in which I lived seemed to know about Depression and Mania and those kinds of nervous system brain sorts of things.  They only knew about Show Up For Work And Keep Your Mouth Shut.  I had this private joke: if one of us residents died, they wouldn’t give us time off to go to our own funeral.

As it happened, three of us residents DID die, and another one got taken out of service for accidentally giving someone the wrong medicine, which caused their death; so instead of every third night call, we had every other night, and sometimes “every every” night, which meant we didn’t get to go home much.  I really don’t know how the program directors thought that flesh and blood human beings could tolerate that for three years and not kill themselves or die in car accidents falling asleep on the way home, both of which things did happen in our little corner of Hell.

Anyway.  Fast forward from the late 1980’s-early 1990’s when all this shit was going down, to Y2K.  That’s right, the nearly infamous Year 2000.  Well, it WAS infamous for me, because a whole conflagration of disasters hit me that knocked my pins right out from under me and I ended up in the hospital.  And I became disabled, just like I am now.  The only good thing was that some shrink finally noticed that I’m bipolar, and put me on Lithium.  But by then my medical practice was in ruins, my family life in tatters, my finances non-existent, and worst of all, I had lost my identity.

I’ve wandered around some more since then, and although I’ve just been declared permanently and totally disabled by a Federal Social Security judge (and that feels pretty rough), I’m writing more than I ever have.  I’m blogging, and have become part of this wonderful community that is centered around A Canvas of The Minds.  I’m FINALLY writing my book, having used NaNoWriMo for the past two years to give me the kick-start I’ve needed to get two of the volumes well into progress.  I’m slowly redefining myself, and even though I still have attacks of  “the mentals,” I’m bumping along, and that’s OK.

Oh all right, that was not short.  I am Incapable Of Writing Anything Short.

Now comes the part where I am supposed to pledge five other Mental Health Bloggers.  OMG.  How am I supposed to choose????  I’ll just start, and when I get to five I’ll stop.  Maybe.

PAZ, of Melancholically Manic Mouse

Lunch, of Lunch Sketch

Nicolas, of Puncture Repair Kit

bpshielsy at The Pipolar Place

survivor55 at Bipolar and Breastless

I hereby pledge to remember to let all of the above know I’ve pledged them.

Lastly:  I am supposed to remember not to forget to link back to Canvas, so here it is.  I think I’ve linked back to Canvas about six times in this post, but I’m feeling kind of wacky today so if I’ve messed up in some of this stuff I hope everyone will forgive me.  And feel free to let me know!

Love to everybody and sending good juju for staying healthy this winter, and looking forward to another wonderful year of Mental Health blogging together!

Soul Survivor

Yuletide Fright

Christmas Eve, when I am in the States, means one thing: my friend G_’s party.  Now, I hate parties, and you won’t catch me at one, except for G_’s Christmas party, which I always attend.  I do it because she’s my friend and I love her a lot, and I know it makes her happy that I show up.

I generally find some out-of-the-way yet still polite place to stand with the Single Malt that G_ has pulled out of the cupboard especially for me, the other Scotch drinkers in the crowd being relegated to Dewar’s.  I make polite conversation with whomever approaches me; generally, I do not know them because, as the Social Security Administration judge’s summary of my disability disposition notes, I am a recluse.

This time I got stuck in an hour-and-a-half one-sided conversation with a World War II veteran submariner.  He is quite a spry fellow, and I suspect he thought he was chatting me up; but I felt my fight-or-flight mechanism rising, and panic setting in, as he was standing between me and the only exit. Then a woman broke in, introduced by another guest whom I did not know, and said she knew who I was and absolutely had to meet me.  Black spots appeared before my eyes.  The submariner was still going on about diesel smoke at 10,000 feet below the ocean’s surface, but his voice sounded like it was coming out of a long metal tube.

Then the woman told me why she wanted to meet me, and my most feared monster surfaced:

dinosaur fright

 

“My grandson, who has some “problems,” lives with me.  Your blog helps me so much!”

Dive, dive, shouted my inner submarine.  A local person reads my blog!  She knows who I am! She also knows my mother!  I am found out, exposed, and all hell will break loose, maybe even tonight, and if not tonight, tomorrow, because she just came from the same party my parents were attending!

My mind capsized.  All I could hear through the roaring in my ears was, “Oh, (insert my mother’s name here), your daughter’s blog has helped me so much,”  says my paranoid self, impersonating this well-meaning lady, which this time could very well be right.  (And if you are reading this, dear lady, please forgive my reaction to your well-intentioned thanks; I think you know what I’m talking about, and I really am grateful that you told me.)

And then (prates my paranoia) my mother, who is computer savvy, looks up my blog and sees all the honest, yet horrible, things I have written about her.  My ass is grass.  I will be slowly flayed with red-hot forks and pincers.  Perhaps she will throw me out again, as she has done so many times before, and I will be homeless yet again.  Monsters, nameless monsters, are attacking me, and I have no weapons to defend myself.

You see, although I am very glad that my blog has helped someone, it does not mitigate the mind-numbing, cold-sweat fear of my mother that persists even to this day, fifty-nine years later.

Some wounds never heal.

NaNoWriMo is strong medicine

This year I pledged to myself that I would take my fictionalized autobiography into a different direction on NaNoWriMo.  True, I’m painstakingly writing a different version of it on my “secret” blog.  I wanted to know what would happen if, instead of lingering, crafting each sentence, scene, scenario, if instead, I just launch into it as a form of automatic writing and just see what comes out.

 

In a word, it’s amazing.  NOT filtering has opened up hitherto locked and dusty rooms in my brain, and all this moldy old furniture comes tumbling out.  I’m very happy to be doing it, even though I write through tears a lot and my sleeves end up slimy with snot because I can’t stop to get more tissues.  The triggers come non-stop and I’m trembling most of the time; yet I keep moving through it.  It’s like watching a horror movie: horribly uncomfortable, yet riveting.

 

Blogging, especially my “secret blog,” is taking a back seat, to some degree.  But oddly enough, I’m having to take time out from NaNo-ing to write sketches of other things that have especially impacted my life.

 

I guess I’m doing NaNo-therapy!

On loving, and having a Beloved, and being a bipolar blogger

The very first thing that I must mention here is that my Beloved and I are in a tough spot.  You see, if I tell him what I’m going to be writing about in my next blog post, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle sets in:  according to Heisenberg, nothing exists unless it is observed; and the mere fact of being observed changes observed phenomena. (I would like to add the link here to the International Physics Society article about Heisenberg, but my handheld won’t let me. I hope to add it later.)

So if I tell him, “today I am going to blog about how we interact as a couple when one of us is bipolar,” then he will certainly wish to discuss it (like the good Beloved he is), and then my post will not be anything like my original conception.  Which, sometimes, might be a good thing;  but since the purpose of this blog is to express and explore my raw, uncut, unprocessed feelings about my experience of bipolar-ness, it rather thwarts that purpose to process things prior to publication.

I must say here that having a Beloved who actually wants–not merely wants, but is eager to–process my experience with me is a dear delightful thing, one which I have never before in my life experienced.  So it does pain me a bit to forgo his proffered gift, and go ahead and write my piece, and discuss it afterward.

He did extract a promise from me, that I would send him a link to each piece as it is published.  And I did invite him to subscribe, which would ensure that he is notified maybe even faster.  I don’t know if he did or not, finding myself suddenly shy about asking.  I send him the links anyway, unless I forget.

I am used to writing all the time.  It is a need, like eating–no, more like going to the bathroom, if the truth be known.  I have no control whatsoever over when a piece will hit me and demand to be let out.  Two in the afternoon, three in the morning, the Sabbath (on which it is forbidden to write, so I guess I will be spending time in the Jewish version of hell. Maybe I will get to meet Spinoza.)

Writing is old hat to me.  Having a Beloved, on the other hand, is an entirely new style dance.  Not that I have not had lovers before:  let us not begin to count them.  I’ve been married.  Twice.  But a really truly Beloved?  Not till now.

What this does for me is: it puts sharing into an entirely new perspective.  Yes, I now have someone who actually cares how I feel, and wants very much to participate in my process.  For my part, I have lived my life quite alone, even when in relationship, so transitioning into sharing sometimes leaves me feeling confused and clueless.  I’m hoping that time and practice will smooth the way.  I desperately hope that he’ll be patient with me.

And a big–no, big is not big enough: think of a better word–challenge for me is to be both aware of the Uncertainty Principle, that simply observing a phenomenon changes it, and yet resist living my life in fear that this or that thing I write might offend my Beloved, or anyone else who has a stake in how I feel. I must evolve a new, functional version of the self-edit. I do not know what that might look like, since I have never had one.

Having grown up in a house where “children are meant to be seen and not heard,” where displeasing the ruling tyrants reliably lead to being squashed like a bug, it’s hard for me to navigate the waters of any relationship, let alone a real and genuine one where people express their feelings and opinions openly, and sometimes get passionate about them. My Inner Protector Alarm goes off more frequently than I’d like it to: “Danger, danger! Raised voices! Dive, dive!” (Submarine alarm sound from movies)

This includes both real and imagined threats, arising from both internal and external sources. The good news here is that I’m becoming more aware of the sound of the dive alarms, whereas previously I would find myself at the bottom of the ocean having not a clue how I had arrived there.

This is just the tip of this particular iceberg. I hope to see myself opening up here and writing my heart out, quite literally, without self-censorship and without fear.

Copyright 2012 Laura P. Schulman all rights reserved

Don’t touch that dial, folks….

In my last post I told-all about April 22 and its loathesome significance for me.  Thanks to the support and encouragement of many of you, my dear readers, I have decided to take the plunge and start a new, separate blog as a platform for writing the story of my years as a teenage runaway, homeless child, sex object to predators, survivor of serial rape and survival prostitution, abortion, and witness to countless acts of violence.  Gee, do you think I might have PTSD?

The new blog platform will need to be under nomme De plume, as the stories are intimately bound with my family, who are still deeply entrenched in their own fairy tales about what happened, and I don’t want to get into that right now.  I just want to write the story and thereby accomplish step number one:  break the silence.

The jury is still or on the blog title.   When I  get that figured out I will cross post the first post from the new Blog on here.  I will continue to post my bipolar stuff on here, and move my teenage saga to its own safe place.

As always, I am happy to hear your suggestions, so suggest away!

Copyright 2012 Laura P. Schulman all rights reserved