Category Archives: Sanity & Lack Thereof – Blog
I’ve been hit by another storm.
It started with bronchitis and a sinus infection. Still coughing and barely off the antibiotics, I got the stomach flu. Not just the stomach flu, a 6-day stomach flu that turned into a 12-day stomach flu because of my lithium levels.
Right about the time I could finally eat a normal meal, my thyroid decided to get hyper. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s in my 20’s and I’ve never experienced hyperthyroidism.
I lost 20 pounds and started having psychotic episodes. Did I mention I also have bipolar type 1?
I had to stop taking 3 antidepressants cold turkey, 2 of which I’ve been taking for over 3 years, and started taking an antipsychotic medication.
The last time I took an antipsychotic I lost my ability to eat and sleep, I chewed the inside of my cheek bloody and I ended up on a locked-down psych ward, so I was a little nervous about hopping back on that bandwagon.
But I did it. My son went with my family up North for 2 weeks because I was unable to care for him. I even missed a week of work, (which never happens). The antipsychotic side effects have mostly been major weight gain and sucking on my tongue and roof of my mouth (but not eating my cheek – huzzah!).
These are all natural parts of a storm. I know this now, and I accept it.
I’ve been in this storm for 4 months. I could be in it another 4 months. Or longer. And I’m actually cool with it.
All it took was a shift from OMIGODWHYISTHISHAPPENINGTOME into acceptance.
A few months before this storm hit, I realized that my life operates in 2 stages: smooth sailing seas or waves-slamming-against-rock storms. This is how my life has been for 44 years and I will never find peace if I can’t accept that this is how my life is.
And I don’t have to waste my energy trying to find a reason anymore.
I used to feel that God* was punishing me when the storms wouldn’t let up become I believed the storm was happening for a reason. After barely surviving 4 brutal years of postpartum depression, I no longer believe that everything happens for a reason. But I can find meaning in it.
After the storm has calmed.
When I’m in the storm, my job is to weather it. To accept it, to be in it, not to run from it, but to know it will eventually pass. My job is not to analyze it or try to figure out the big picture meaning of every fucking raindrop.
I have no control over the timetable of a storm; last time I checked I’m not God. It’s not a personal attack. It’s just the weather.
And there is a beginning, middle and end to every storm.
*This is me using a universal term out of pure laziness. God to me is just something bigger the my finite self. Animal playing a drum solo, the waves of the ocean crashing ashore, magical belly button lint. Whatevs – just not me.
I wasn’t going to go, but I didn’t know how to take care of myself yet. Then there I was, November 27, 2014, in a beautiful house full of mostly strangers, taking care of my 3-year-old while my husband had fun with his co-workers.
I was jumping out of my skin. Every minute was an hour. All I could think of was death.
The day before, I had finally made the decision to overdose myself into final sleep. I was done. I couldn’t take one more day, one more minute, in my body – in my mind – in my life.
I got in my car and headed toward death. The relief I felt was so great that I laughed out loud, which was a mindfuck in itself. Knowing I was going to die made me feel alive.
Then I saw it. The fucking Christmas tree lot setting up at our local community college. All at once the weight of 3+ years of postpartum depression, triggered PTSD, perimenopause and mismanaged Hashimoto’s came crashing back into my for-a-split-second-in-time light body.
The weight was unbearable. I stopped eating a few months prior because an antipsychotic had taken away my appetite completely. My body was so frail I feared my bones would crumble from the weight of the returning depression.
You will ruin every holiday for him for the rest of his life.
That was the crushing truth. My plans for freedom were destroyed. I had to stay here.
So I dragged my weak and sick body to Thanksgiving. For my husband. For my son.
The next day, November 28, 2014, I made the hardest decision of my life. I left my husband and son so I could get better.
My big sister bought me an airline ticket back home to Reno. Two of my dear friends came over, packed my bags and drove me to LAX. I was so weak, I don’t know how I got on that plane.
But I did. My sister picked me up at the airport. I had black circles under my eyes and all of my ribs and spine showed through my skin.
The next day, I was hospitalized for the second time that year. After I got out, I stayed with my sister and mom and they made sure I ate three meals a day.
I stayed for 5 weeks. My husband was considering divorce. I missed Christmas with my son. So many people were mad at me. I didn’t know how I would ever be a mom again.
But I was going to stay alive and be the best mom I could be.
My plan was to get an apartment. I was going to try TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Therapy) and if that didn’t work, I was going to try ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) and long-term residential treatment.
Even if my son had a permanently hospitalized mentally ill mom, he would have an alive mom.
I’m going back to that beautiful house tonight for Thanksgiving for the first time since 2014. I’m finally well enough to return. My husband and I have been married 14 years and we’re best friends. My son is 6 and in kindergarten.
And I’m a great mom.
To say I’m grateful today isn’t even skimming the surface. I’m not supposed to be here. I’ve been given another chance at life.
I’ll probably get triggered tonight, but I have the tools to walk through the feelings and have a good time. And I can always leave if I’m miserable. No one is responsible for taking care of me, but me.
And that’s true freedom. Happy Thanksgiving to you all whatever headspace you’re in. I love you.
I was really fucking angry yesterday and Thursday. I wanted to hurt people. I wanted to punch and kick and make people cry. For those of you who know me, I’m all about peace and love. So this feeling is fundamentally against everything I believe in.
I acted on this feeling a little bit and I owe an amends. I used to get violent before I stopped drinking 20 years ago and I never made amends for the wrongs I did during my rages. There has been a lot of improvement in this area.
At first, I assumed the few things in my life were not going the way I think they ought to was the cause of my anger, but then I started my period Friday morning. I rarely have had periods in the past few years, but when I do, they’re brutal.
See, I entered the lovely world of perimenopause at the young age of 39. Perimenopause is so misunderstood that spell-check doesn’t even recognize it. Basically it’s around 5-10 years of hell, (Scary Mommy describes it much better than I do), until we finally hit menopause, which means we haven’t bled for an entire year.
And then that’s a whole different joyride, by the way.
Some women don’t experience perimenopause symptoms at all. Some women die by suicide because it’s so unbearable. The rest of us are overweight, angry and randomly hairy.
I take low estrogen birth control pills to regulate my hormones. I took bioidentical hormones for a few years, but found synthetic hormones to be less activating to my depression and mania since I have bipolar disorder.
I also have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis which is another huge factor in this whole hormone game and should not be a side note, because it’s no joke.
Yeah, and I also have PTSD, which is by far the largest mental challenge of my life and I’ve never written about it, but I will. I promise.
Thankfully, I rarely experienced PMS or gnarly period symptoms for most of my life. But the second I was pregnant, my bipolar, Hashimoto’s and PTSD did not play well with my hormones. It took four years of painful trial and error before a balance of synthetic hormones, psych meds, DBSA meetings and TMS finally got me stable again.
And I stay stable by working my butt off in therapy and an entirely new 12-step program. And routine: going to bed and waking at the same time (almost), taking my meds at the same time (good friends are very aware of my 10am lithium alarm) and taking care of myself when I am not okay.
And I’m still not okay sometimes even while doing all this maintenance. Sometimes my thyroid is being funky. Sometimes my PTSD gets triggered. And sometimes my hormones attack me.
I experience manageable mania, depression and fatigue on a somewhat regular basis, but I don’t experience anger very often.
I used to love my anger. I mistook it for strength. It was an emotion I could handle.
Thursday night I was so angry I wanted to cry. And scream. And go on Facebook (nooooo!).
But I can’t cry. I wish I could – the release of a good cry heals. But I can’t – mostly due to my psych meds and disassociation from my childhood trauma.
I just get to the point where I really want to cry, but I can’t. It’s like crying blue balls.
When I was sick those four years, I cried a lot. The problem was when I started crying, I couldn’t stop. I’ve cried for three days before – I literally had to take breaks at work so I could go to the bathroom and bawl. I thought it would never end.
And yes, it feels like my body and brain chemistry are out to get me, but that thinking pattern is only going to lead me to self-pity and even more anger.
So this is how I stopped myself from going down the rabbit hole of rage (that would be a great band name) and doing some real damage to anyone within my screaming range:
- I paused. I admitted to myself that my body and mind are sick right now.
- I stopped the Facebook rampage I was about to go on that would only make me much more angry and would hurt people.
- I texted my husband and let him know what was going on.
- I happened to have a tattoo session scheduled so I showed up and am honest about where I am.
- And as the pain of the needle into my skin began, I thanked the Universe for putting me in the right place at the right time. I focused on moving the pain in my heart to the pain of the art.
- I asked her to stop after two hours because when I could no longer take the pain.
- I ate a healthy dinner and watched HBO with my husband.
- I went to bed on time. I took my night meds on time. I got a great night of sleep.
- I made amends to my friend who I hurt.
This morning I was woken up by my 6-year-old son and we’ve laid around in bed the whole morning, him playing on his iPad, me writing. I haven’t given in to the perfect mother in my head who knows too much screen time is bad for him because so is a screaming mother.
I still feel the anger lurking around me, but it’s not in me. I’m about to publish this blog that is way too long, but if you’ve read this far, comment “I LOVE CARROTS” and I will send huge love rays your way.
I feel release.
I know the rage is right there, waiting for me to get tired or frustrated, so I asked my husband to take our 6-year-old for the afternoon so I can take a big nap.
And that’s it for now. I love you with all of my heart. Thanks for reading.
November 15, 1997 was my first day without a drink. I haven’t had a drink since.
There will be no celebrations. No cake. No friends singing. No applause.
See, I’ve relapsed twice on drugs. At 9 months, I did a whip-it. It was a knee-jerk reaction to seeing my roommate’s can of glorious Reddi Wip in the fridge.
(I still can’t have a can of whipped cream in my house as I don’t trust myself with it. I blame my first job at Dairy Queen. More on that later.)
My last relapse was at 15 years sober on a hit of pot. Yes, just one hit, but that one hit gave me a yearlong obsession to drink again.
And I was suicidal at the time so I know I wouldn’t have survived a drink.
That’s hilarious. I’ve never had a drink. My goal was always four. Just have four and leave the bar.
I succeeded maybe twice.
People ask me if I can have just a glass of wine. I see no point. That would be like waiting in line for a roller coaster for two hours and then going down a kiddy slide instead.
I want to ride the roller coaster. And once I’m done, I want to ride it again. And after that – well why stop at two? And then I don’t know where my clothes are and why my boyfriend just broke up with me.
I’m a member of a 12-step program – it’s how I got and continue to stay sober. I’m very grateful for the program. But a lot of members are very wrapped up in “sober time.” As in how many days, weeks, years IN A ROW you’ve been sober.
I was proud of my years. My friends threw a huge 10 year party for me. My mom came into town. It was a big fucking deal.
By the time I turned 15, I was so depressed I could only stand for 5-minutes. There was still cake, less friends and celebration.
The problem was I became more impressed by the years than grateful for the days.
And the only amount of time any of us have is today.
And that’s how I live my life now. My sobriety date is the same as any day sober, but I reflect on where I was mentally, physically and spiritually however many years ago the decision to live (yet again) was made.
And the reflection brings gratitude, as it should. But here’s the flip – now it brings humility of how powerful alcoholism is in my life instead of a feeling of accomplishment.
I’m not proud of my sobriety. I’m fucking grateful and humbled by it.
That was NOT my attitude when I had many years sober. (Even saying “I had years” sounds weird to me now. I have today. I don’t “have” yesterday or the guarantee of a tomorrow. It just seems cocky to “have time.”)
Remaining sober for many years made me cocky and complacent. I believed all those the years “I had” were a safeguard against relapse. Alcoholism is very patient and it waits for us to think we’re safe, immune or above a relapse.
I thought I was safe because the most common reasons people relapse are:
1. They stop working with other alcoholics.
2. They stop taking commitments at meetings and then stop going to meetings.
3. They think they no longer have alcoholism.
Here’s why I was totally fine:
1. I was sponsoring four women and had a sponsor. And a grandsponsor. And so on and so forth.
2. I went to four committed meetings a week (all while I had a baby at home).
3. I have never, ever – for the past 20 years – ever thought I didn’t have alcoholism. I’m so clear that my body and brain chemistry does some funky shit when I ingest alcohol. And that ending up naked and peeing in public is not what normal drinkers do after a glass of wine.
Why did I relapse then? I was in year three of a four year battle with crippling postpartum depression and I wanted relief from the pain. Every waking moment was pure torture mentally and physically and I was at my breaking point.
I ended up taking the wrong medicine for my ailment. And it wasn’t prescribed to me.
But I didn’t drink. And I wanted to with every molecule of my body. And I wanted to die. All of the time.
What I didn’t know was that I didn’t want to drink or die – I just wanted relief. For me, when my pain gets so great for so long, I want out.
I am celebrating quietly today. With every breath. Because I’m alive. I have today. It’s all I have and I’m so grateful for it.
Because we all just have today. If we’re lucky.
I turned 44-years-old today and it hit me. I’m still here.
I’m. Still. Here.
After three hospitals, an outpatient program, the countless support groups, the alcoholism, the bone-crushing depression, the grandiose manias, the coma fatigue, the suicide plans, the suicide plans, THE SUICIDE PLANS, the deaths of so many I love, that fucking childhood, the trauma on repeat… on repeat.. on repeat, the rapes, the molests, the bullying, the drugs, the alcohol, the sex – I’m still here.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Lindsay isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Shaila isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Diane isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Dan isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Liz isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Dorothy isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Doug isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Guy isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Linda isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Amy isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Steve isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Eric isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Greg isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Stan isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Tony isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and my own father isn’t.
But I do know I’m not here to hide. I’m not here to be quiet. I’m not here to be inauthentic, pandering or afraid.
This year I’m more fearless than I’ve ever been. I’m finishing my tattoo. I’m being an awesome mom to my son. And I’m auditioning for America’s Got Talent not because I want to be famous, but because I want to tell my story of hope to as many people as possible and be as helpful as possible to those suffering with invisible illnesses like mine.
Oh, and I will make you laugh. I will definitely make you laugh.
And I’m going to keep laughing. And not just chuckling, doubled-over-crying-maybe-even-peeing-a-little-bit laughing.
I will not become who I think I need to pretend to be to further my career. I will bow to no one. And no, I won’t suck your dick.
I am showing up for my life because guess what?
I’m still here.