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So here’s a bit of levity amidst the utter darkness that have made up my previous posts. Today, was a well-rounded, totally fantastic day. As a bipolar person, I’ve learned to really take note of these because when depression does come around, it’s important to have these bright and cheerful days to hold on to.

I started the morning at 6:30, made coffee for myself and my grandparents (I like mine dark, strong to the point that even smelling it makes me feel energetic. My grandparents like hot water dyed brown). I then called my college admissions office because the goal is to go back to school (something I’ve been anxiously waiting to do for three years) in the spring. Finally, throwing caution to the wind, I joined a gym and then, in an even more extreme move, decided to actually go to the gym. Usually I tend to join gyms and then go back to watching Netflix, or perhaps raid the fridge. NOT TODAY! I drove to the gym, did two and a half miles on the elliptical and then did some chest exercises. I left feeling productive and insanely winded.

Side note: I am out of shape.

After the gym, I met my mom and sister for sushi and proceeded to praise whatever culinary genius came up with the concept. I swear, every time I eat sushi (and I’m talking about sashimi, not just the rolls) I’m surprised by how marvelous it is.

As an end to a perfect day, we went to the holiest of places, at least in my mind. We opened the doors of Barnes & Noble and spent an hour roaming the isles of books. I bought the new Dan Brown novel and then, (because they didn’t have the right edition, the one I grew up with) ordered the complete boxed paperback Harry Potter series on Amazon. I believe that now every single person in my house owns their own set. We are very dedicated Potter fanatics.

Side note #2: I know that ordering from Amazon while on Barnes & Noble wifi is a complete and utter betrayal, but nostalgia is very important to me.

I know this post isn’t poetic or full of depth, but I feel it’s important to document the good days along with the bad. My favorite movie this year was the live action Beauty & The Beast with Emma Watson. (I know, I know, it’s an extremely stereotypically gay choice.) One of the new songs, “How Does a Moment Last Forever” says, “Maybe some moments weren’t so perfect, maybe some memories not so sweet, but we have to know some bad times or our lives are incomplete.” I think it’s the same for those of us that suffer from mood disorders. But instead we must cling to the good days, the magical moments, because life can grow very dark, very fast. To quote my favorite character from my favorite series (Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban) “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” 

So, I’ll continue to remember the good days, I’ll continue to turn on the light.

Oh and as far as my admiration for Barnes & Noble goes, I’m not alone.

My father left my mother in a psychiatric facility the day before Thanksgiving. He told her that he would take custody of us and that he didn’t care where she went, but she couldn’t come home. She has just undergone multiple treatments of ECT. I was thirteen.

At fourteen I moved in with my mother after he lost the custody battle. It saved my life.  The five months living with my father had contained nothing but verbal abuse and neglect. So, at the end of the summer, when my mom asked if I’d like to live with her and my grandparents, I made the first of many tough decisions I’ve had to make in my life. I left all of my friends and a school I loved to live with a parent that would love me.

I exchanged a happy high school career for a happy family existence and I have never regretted a moment of it.

But there’s things I didn’t foresee.

I didn’t foresee being bipolar. I didn’t foresee taking over my father’s role as caregiver to my mother when she was bipolar. I didn’t foresee coming out to my father as gay and losing him for good. I didn’t foresee the constant social upheaval I would experience amongst my peers so horrific that it would leave me afraid and untrusting of the world outside my front door. Those things, I quite frankly didn’t count on.

Tonight, I am suffering from what Audrey Hepburn (or Truman Capote if you want to be literal) referred to as “The Mean Reds”. I am sad and anxious and heavy with the life I find myself waking up to. I am small. I am closed off and alone in ways I didn’t know one could be alone. I feel as if the whole world is going to swallow me up.

In the song “She Used To Be Mine” written by Sara Bareilles for the musical Waitress, are the words, “You’re not what I asked for. If I’m honest I know I would give it all back for a chance to start over and rewrite an ending or two.” Sometimes I think of all the choices I’ve made to land me in this bed typing these words; every decision that led me to a life so small and yet so exhausting. What could I have done differently? What would I give to fix it?

My father would have killed me. His disbelief of mental illness is almost as potent as his hatred of homosexuality. I can say with absolute certainty that I would no longer be here if it weren’t for my mom. Choosing her is never going to be a decision I regret. She is my best friend. She is my person, the one that never fails to understand. I suppose what I didn’t bargain for was that I would end up with just the people contained under this roof.   That I would be trapped within these four walls. I didn’t plan on this feeling of being trapped, of suffocating under a blanket of my own decisions. To quote Sara again, “It’s not easy to know that I’m not anything like I used to be. Although it’s true I was never attention’s sweet center, I still remember that [boy]… [He] is gone but [he] used to be mine…”

I’m losing my patience. My mother is going through an intense med change and I, along with my younger sister, am responsible for helping her through it. She is dealing with extreme psychosis so one of my many jobs is waking up to help her four to five times a night. Pretty much after every bad dream.

My sister has a life. That is what makes this hard. She has friends. She has people that she wants to see. I do not. So it becomes my job more than anyone else’s. I don’t fault my sister her social life, but right now it makes me angry nonetheless. I think I’m just angry in general right now. The worst part is that I can hear that anger coming through in my dealings with my mother. Questions like, “Am I safe?” are met with a very exasperated, “Yes.” followed by a long exhalation. I know I’m coming off like an asshole. But I’m tired.

I need things with to get better. I was worn out two months ago and I just can’t cope anymore. It doesn’t help that I’m bipolar as well. These long nights of caregiving mean less sleep for me. Or sleep during the day. None of it is ideal for a bipolar person. So I’m getting frustrated. And I’m exhausted. And I’m feeling a little hopeless. And I need some help or for something to change. Because I know I’m losing my mind. And an inpatient stay at a psychiatric hospital is starting to sound like a vacation.

Signed,

Horrible Person.

You can see insanity. For those of you that have not had a close relationship with someone that suffers from a mental illness, I can verify that there is a visual difference between someone that is well and someone that is experiencing symptoms.

For my mother, it is in her eyes. Her bipolar disorder radiates from them. They are either electrified with mania or, if depressed, crafted from stone. Right now they are marble. They look out of the window seeing things that only sadness can see. They look at my sister and I and see adversaries. I am trying to keep her from falling off the cliff. I am trying to keep her alive.

It doesn’t help that I too am depressed. Not so badly as as she is, but enough to cripple me when it comes to caring for her. It makes an impossible situation even more impossible.

Right now my mother and I are engaged in a dance. She speaks and I have to hastily craft the right response. If I say something that might be misconstrued into something hurtful, it will be. Her marble eyes will search out the evil in everything I say and do and if there is enough of it present, she will no longer trust me. That cannot happen. Besides her therapist and her psychiatrist, I am the person she trusts when she is ill. I am the one that tells her what is real and what isn’t. If we lose that dynamic, if I make a mistake, I lose the ability to keep her safe and in doing so, risk losing her. It is a dangerous dance indeed.

As I’ve alluded to in former posts (at least, I think I have), my mother is in the midst fighting several different medical issues all at once.

A little over nine months ago, the four lower disks in my mother’s spine reached a point of deterioration that was severe enough to cause her significant pain. At first, we thought it was part of her RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome), but after multiple visits with her primary care doctor, she found herself referred to a back specialist. The specialist then decided she needed an MRI. That was four or five months ago. A couple of weeks later he came back to us with the actual diagnosis: disk degeneration (the technical term of which I could not remember no matter how much money you offered me).

Unfortunately for us, her spine had degenerated just enough that no surgical option was available. You know you’re in trouble when you’re actually wanting surgery. Instead she was referred to a pain doctor who prescribed her pain killers that only mildly helped with the pain. The pain doctor then went on to tell her about an electronic stimulator they could implant in her back that would mask the pain completely with electric shocks. We immediately agreed. The plan was this. Wait two weeks for a psych eval, wait another two weeks for the doctor to get the results for the eval and for the insurance to approve (this is called foreshadowing by the way) and then have the trial implanted in her back. The trial would stay in her back for a week and then be taken out. After six weeks, if the trial had worked, she would receive the permanent device.

So, my mother passed the psych eval two months ago and even after seeking another pain doctor, the insurance won’t approve the procedure. My mother is now experiencing severe depression, the kind of depression that would normally be treated with an inpatient visit to a psychiatric facility. Unfortunately, no psych facility could adequately treat her pain. It can only truly be treated at home. So here we are.

Frustration is watching a family member suffer amidst a sea of specialists with no solutions. Frustration is having no where to turn to for help. Frustration is watching non-lethal chronic pain turn into lethal depression and having no course of action other than to wait and watch. That is frustration.

I hate exercising. As a gay man I am brutally aware that I am supposed to live and breathe for the gym, refining my body to perfection. First of all, I resent that fact. Acceptance into the gay community depends on your body mass index. Second of all, I blame physical education.

During my middle and high school years, P.E. was the one period of the day that I could be fairly certain bullies would zero me out and proceed to victimize me. I was quiet and shy, as well as just coming to terms with my sexuality and how that made me different from everyone else. Even without the bullying, I was constantly on edge.

There was one incident in particular that I was never able to shake off. I had just finished doing the exercises my obese gym coach (who yelled at us from a rolling chair) had demanded of us and was sitting on the bleachers trying to cool down. All of the sudden, without warning, a kid much older than I was grabbed my head and continued to grind his genitals on top of it as he said, “Do you like that faggot?” I, being me, broke down in such an extreme manner that my parents were called and a whole inquiry was pursued to no end (as far as I know.) Needless to say, the gym never seemed like a safe or welcoming place after that.

And lastly, I find the gym to be intimidating. I am out of shape. This is a fact that I am constantly and painfully aware of. So, when I go to the gym and try to do my thirty minutes on the elliptical and then proceed to try to not die as I walk to the car, I feel like a bit of a failure.

So yes, I hate exercise and I need to get around that because my lack of activity’s beginning to affect my health. Any suggestions?

I’m in Corpus Christi this weekend with my family visiting my younger sister at college. Last night we got a tour of her dorm, which in all honesty is more like a luxury resort, and had dinner with her and her roommate who also happens to be her best friend.

All signs point to my sister thriving in this environment. I can tell that while she makes claims of homesickness, she is actually where she is meant to be. She is adjusted and happy. This is what I wanted for her. I was nervous she would end up like me. Nervous and unsure to the point of collapse, eventually returning home defeated and full of self-doubt. Now I know she’s going to be just fine.

What I am is what I can best describe as morosely jealous. She is living the life I thought I was going to have; independent, making her own choices and guiding her life in a direction she chooses.

I think this is an intrinsic part of being bipolar. We feel jealous of those that are normal. We feel frustrated because while our minds our intelligent and capable of great things, our illness often betrays us, pulling us backwards just when we were about to move forwards. I try to remember this, not as a form of self-deprecation, but as a reminder that while I may not be where I want to be in my life, I am living my life to the best of my abilities.

I also remind myself that I have submitted an application to a college near my home for the spring semester. I remind myself that my disability case is beginning to make a turn for the better. I try to hold close to soul the fact that I have a constantly supportive family. In the end, on days when my mind is sound and the anxious voices grow silent, I know that I’ll eventually end up where I want to be. I just may take a different route to get there.