Trying

Sometimes people write to me.

“Just checking to see if you’re OK…you haven’t been posting on your blog…”

I really appreciate it! I know as well as you do what it can mean when a generally motor-mouth blogger goes silent.

You’re right. I feel terrible. I can’t think. My imagination, usually fertile, is…somewhere. I don’t know where. I don’t know anything. I’m in The Pit. At the bottom. At least I hope it’s the bottom. I certainly can’t see daylight. If I go any deeper it will be the La Brea Tarpits.

In fact, that’s what depression feels like: black and impossibly thick and sticky. The harder I struggle against it, the more stuck I feel.

I tell you, if my dear Doggess did not need me….but she does. She is dying, very very slowly, but very surely. Each day brings some new sign of it. And there is nothing to do but to swing with it…and I don’t feel like swinging.

Brings back bittersweet memories of my father’s lonnnnnng descent. Years of enjoying him while he slowly faded, then the horror of the final months.

So I spent some time researching the latest treatments, beyond the drugs that have never worked or had side effects that laid me flat. And I found something I’d never tried before: ketamine.

Now, ketamine is a drug I’ve never had the slightest inclination to try. I saw plenty of its effects when, as a medical student in the 1980s, I had the unpleasant task of sitting with babies as they emerged from ketamine anesthesia. My job was to keep them from eating parts of their own bodies. For some reason, ketamine does that to infant brains: makes them try to gnaw their paws off, like an animal caught in a leghold trap. So my impression of the drug was somewhat colored.

Likewise, I’ve had my share of human teenagers stoked up on K in the emergency room. Not a pretty sight. I have not yet figured out what the draw is.

But I’m so damn tired of being depressed, I’ll try anything. There’s a ketamine infusion center in Tucson. I read up on the stuff and its use in depression treatment. It looked hopeful. I called.

The intake process took a week. I liked that. It wasn’t like, Oh yes, come on in, we’ll hook you up and take your money. I had to take numerous inventories: depression, of course, and personality, and a screen to rule out psychotic illnesses. Three different interviews. And in the meantime I went on Medline and read the handful of papers I found. I asked my questions, was satisfied with the answers I got.

And yesterday I had my first ketamine infusion.

I was petrified, but I’m so sick of being depressed that anything else, no matter how bizarre, felt like a good idea. I can’t be dead right now, because I can’t do that to my Doggess. So I marched into the infusion center and allowed myself to be hooked up to an IV pump full of the evil drug. I resigned myself: at least I’m Doing Something. If nothing else.

They put me in a comfy recliner in front of a TV screen that played continuous, seamless nature films. It reminded me of the endless loop of bird videos a friend of mine plays for her cat when she goes out. I synced my phone with a Bluetooth speaker and cued up a playlist I’d made for the purpose: dreamy Sikh chants. If I’m going to trip out, I want it to be holy.

The stuff flowed into my veins and I breathed, wondering what was going to become of me. I held no expectations. How could I, when I had no idea what to expect? I hoped that they would watch closely and not let me gnaw my paws off.

A warm, cocoon-y feeling enveloped me. That was all right. It was comfortable, safe, relaxing. OK, I can go with this. They asked me how I was feeling; I told them this. They turned up the rate.

The nature films flew over the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Monument Valley…all places dear to my heart, and right here in Arizona. The holy music spoke of beauty. The nurse (a man) wondered how I had chosen just the right music for the film….really.

My reptile brain flashed back to 1970, such a year full of terror and beauty, flashing like the red cherry on top of a police cruiser. The many trips on LSD, mescaline, psilocybin, peyote. “Wasted on a 16-year-old,” I observed. The nurse chuckled.

It went on forever, which turned out to be 90 minutes. 90 minutes’ worth of Eternity. I hope Eternity turns out to be something like it. Incredible beauty. No pain, not from the body and not from the brain. The best vacation I’ve had in a long time.

The dose of ketamine for this kind of vacay is 0.5 mg/kg, which for my weight turned out to be 29 mg. For comparison, the anesthetic dose is 3.0 mg/kg. Yep, that would knock you out. On the brain-pain dose, I could, with extreme effort and advance planning, make purposeful movements and even speak, after a fashion. Standing up was out of the question. At about 45 minutes into the trip I needed to pee. They turned off the infusion and, after a couple of minutes, helped me/dragged me to the bathroom, where I made use of the generous handrails to navigate to the pot. Getting my clothes down was an exercise in logic. Peeing felt incredibly great. Afterward, somehow empowered by this, I enjoyed the remainder of my ketamine+ music+ visuals treat even more.

Will it work? Is there some kind of durability to the brain reset? I don’t know, and at this point I’m withholding hope/expectation for the future. The protocol at this center is four initial treatments at every-other-day intervals, followed by another one ten days out, and reevaluate after that. I’m OK to roll with it. It’s an expensive vacation, at $500 per treatment, but I can’t use the money if I’m dead, and that’s where things are headed if I don’t do Something. I sold my Walmart stock to pay for it. That’s what money is for, right? Living.

I’m trying.

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

Earth Day is the unhappiest day of the year

April 22md approcheth, and with it the brooding sense of dread that accompanies it every year.  I have written hundreds of pages about it.  It’s the centerpiece of my memoir, since my life changed profoundly on that day.

I don’t know what to do with any of this.  On one hand, I feel that it would be good to share it: perhaps one person might be helped, might not feel so all alone.  On the other hand, I don’t want to contribute to the gross sensationalism that feeds off of any seeming misfortune, if it is shocking enough.

The extremely short version:  on April 22, 1970, which was the very first Earth Day, I was drugged, abducted, and brutally raped in a dark basement by an older man whom I knew slightly.  I was sixteen, and a virgin.

I never told anyone.  The physical damage required two surgeries to repair.  The damage to my soul is much more complicated.

I ran away from home shortly afterward, and lived the life of a vagrant.  Pretty sixteen year old girls who live on the streets get raped a lot, so that was part of the unpleasant bargain.  I soon learned to leave my body when it happened.  That was a good survival strategy then, but as one might imagine, it wasn’t a very good thing once I got off the street and began having consensual relationships.

Writing helps.  After the first 20 years of denial, after my first marriage failed, I started writing like my life depended on it.  And in large part it does.  Writing has been the keystone in my recovery process from the monster case of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) that I had acquired. 

But what to do with the hundreds, maybe thousands by now, of pages that reside on my hard drive, my notebooks, and in every digital device I own?  Every resource on publishing tells me that I need to have a completed manuscript before I approach an agent.  So I need to get my life together, literally.

This coming Earth Day, I hope to spend some time organizing, going through chapters, beginning to take control and make some order in my life of the page.  I feel that what I need is to control “it,” rather than “it”  controlling me.  What do you think?

Copyright 2012 Laura P. Schulman all rights reserved