I Will Never Be Trusted

I lost my mind.  It sucks.  I have been fighting for the past 4 years to regain my sanity.  It was bad.  I did bad things.  I’m not proud.  I said lots of crazy shit when I was dropping my basket.  No one knew what to do with me, other than take me to the crazy hospital.  I swallowed a handful of Tylenol PM meds in an effort to go to sleep.  Not the sleep of the dead, to actually go to sleep.  The doctors didn’t believe that I hadn’t tried to kill myself.  My husband believed me, but he was, at the time, clueless to how very far I was actually gone.

I was gone.  I flew the cuckoos nest.  I did bad things.  I am not proud.

You see, the problem is that I have regained my sanity.  I am sane.  I take my meds.  I visit my doctor.  I talk about what is going on with my doctor.  I don’t see a therapist right now because my last one was full of shit and made me do workbooks, rather than talk to me.  Maybe I should find someone better, but who has time when you are working full time in construction and you have a deadline and are already a month behind on completion.

If you have been following, I am still having a hard time sleeping.  I talked to my p-doc about it and he associates it with my anxiety.  I have been fired from every job I have had since I got sick.  I actually like my job.  I don’t want to get fired.  But, being extremely sleepy doesn’t make me a good employee.  I can’t sleep at night but I’m falling asleep at my desk in the mornings.  Something isn’t right.  I will get it figured out.  Things have been improving.

But, you see, I was talking to my husband tonight about being okay and being sick, and he pretty much admitted to me that I am not ever going to be trusted for my word.  If I make a joke about something, I will receive a raised eyebrow until I explain that I was making a joke or being sarcastic, or making an observation about something that might be a little out there.  I used to be allowed to be silly and make jokes – it was part of my charm.  But that has been stifled.  I cannot make jokes when it comes to my sanity because “what if she needs to go back to the hospital.”

I will be the first person who knows if things don’t feel right and because I don’t ever want to feel as bad as I did when I dropped my basket, I will announce it to the masses.  You guys will even know.  If my meds stop working, I will be the first person to admit that I am not feeling okay and need more help.  I will gladly go check myself back into that hell hole so that I don’t end up damaging everything that I have built up since my first break.  I simply do not want to ever feel as scared as I did.

My husband and I have been through the wringer.  I cheated on him.  He forgave me and treated me like shit for about 2 years.  This is my blog, I can say that.  It came to a point that I couldn’t apologize any more, and finally things have gotten better.  But, it hurts when he says to me that he will never fully trust what I am saying when I say something a little “out there”.  Even if it was my personality prior to having my break.  I am quirky, I am silly, I used to be funny.

I am not those things anymore because I have to watch everything that I say to all the people who are closest to me.  They will always have in the back of their minds that maybe I’m losing it.  So, it’s like a chip on my shoulder that I never put in place.  I will never, ever, ever, ever be the same person that I used to be because I cannot be trusted.  I might “lose my mind” again.  I am not to be trusted.  Because even if I feel firm in my recovery and how I am feeling, I will always be questioned.

It is stifling.  Trying to get back to the person that I used to be has been my goal.  But, I am met with resistance because, “WHAT IF”.  What if I drop my basket again?  What if I cheat again?  I’m sure it will probably happen again in my lifetime (not the cheating), but I’m not doing anything to help that along.  I take my meds.  I go see my doctor.  I’m fighting to get enough sleep.  I’ll get it figured out.  The sleep thing, that is.

I should be trusted.  I should be allowed to make a joke and my sanity not be questioned.  I am a human being.  I am better.  I should be trusted.  It is just very frustrating.  I am frustrated with this road block in my recovery.  I want to be trusted.  I haven’t done anything wrong since my trip back to Texas.  (More on that soon…)

The only person who has not questioned me, to my knowledge, has been my mom.  Perhaps it’s just her encouraging spirit and fighting for her daughter, but she has trusted me.  She gave me space when I needed it back in Texas.  She gives me space now.  Our dynamics have changed, but she is truly my #1 cheerleader.  Not that my “peeps” aren’t my cheerleaders, they are just very quick to not miss anything.

They say they were too close to see what was really going on.  I suppose that is true.  They don’t want to miss anything on my journey now, because they love me and they want to help.  Bottom line, they don’t want to miss what they missed before.  So, I forgive them of their questioning – to a certain degree.

But, when it stifles my continued improvement, I get a little angry.  A little resentful.  Don’t you know me?  Don’t you know that is how I used to be?  I’m coming back!  I’m fighting and I continue to fight!  I should be trusted, but I am not fully trusted.

That makes my heart hurt.

The Following Months

After I was released from the mental hospital, my life became a complete blur.  I started seeing Dr. Teeth at his private practice, where his red-headed assistant was ever present at each of our meetings.  It was frightening because he was treating other patients that I had been with in the hospital.  I was trying to distance myself from the people and memory of my week and a half stay, but their presence at my appointments was a constant reminder.

My paranoia about the cars and church bells was slowly edging its way into my psyche, making me a shell of the person that I used to be.  I was taking handfuls of medications which only made me a zombie. I didn’t feel like I was improving, just drugged.  I had been a voracious blogger prior to my break and I tried to continue writing, but my posts came out angry and delusional.  I was trying to hold things together but I was failing miserably.

I remember one particular appointment with Dr. Teeth.  His assistant was there, of course, and I had broken down crying.  He announced to her, “She needs a hug.  Give her a hug.”  She started to hug me and I backed away, claiming that I was okay.  It was such an odd experience having someone be ordered to hug me and provide comfort.  He was so clinical and didn’t offer any supportive words, only pills.  Saying he was not the right fit for me is an understatement.

The care of our home completely fell on my husband.  I didn’t have the wherewithal to do dishes, cook, or clean.  Here he was working his butt off and having to come home and work even harder to take care of me.  We were still hanging out with our “friends”.  They tried to cheer me up and be there for me, but I was so paranoid that something so simple as watching T.V. brought out the paranoia demons in me and I had to walk away and go into the other room.  I think it was frustrating for everyone involved.

I tried finding a new job, but that was not going well.  I had no business looking for another job.  There was no way that I would have been a productive employee if I couldn’t do something so simple as washing the dirty dishes at home.  My friends tried to put business connections together for me, but when I would meet with those people in a social setting, I would talk about religion – specifically about how the Catholic church was hypocritical and oppressive to women.  Not something you talk about ever, let alone when trying to get hired for a job.

Another paranoia that had arisen was the radio.  I thought the DJ’s were talking about me and to me.  I read into all popular songs that were on the radio, thinking they were written about me.  I thought all the rappers in New Orleans were gunning for my head.  I didn’t know any rappers in New Orleans.  I just thought they were after me because of a few interactions I had with those type people long before my break.

During my increasing paranoia, even my house wasn’t safe.  We had this old security system that had been installed prior to our moving in.  In our bedroom, there was a motion detector above one of the closets that would flash a red light when you walked down the hallway or into the bedroom.  I fixated on this and thought that someone was taking pictures of my movements in the house through this device.  It got so bad that I ended up hanging a scarf over this small motion detector so they couldn’t take pictures of me.  My husband tried to reassure me that it was nothing, but I wasn’t convinced.

I remember one night in particular.  My husband had gone out to get us some food for dinner and I was left in the apartment alone with the cats.  I paced up and down our hallway calling his name and one of our other friend’s names.  I don’t know why I did this – I knew that I was alone.  But I was lost.

My mother-in-law came to stay with us at one point.  She stayed for about a week.  I slept a whole lot and talked about the church bells.  I don’t remember much from her stay with us, all I know is that she was my babysitter because my husband couldn’t watch me 24/7.  He was desperate to make me better and I think he kept on waiting for me to show signs of improvement.  But, improvement never came.  She was here to help both of us, except no amount of help could calm the demons in my head.

I actually felt like I was getting worse.  Of course, I wasn’t conscious enough to really assess that situation, but nothing was making sense and my stay in the hospital hadn’t helped any.  I was a shell of a person and everyone surrounding me was very frustrated.  Dr. Teeth had promised me that if I went to his hospital, I would spend a little time and be better.  He lied.  I came out of there with more problems than what I went in with.  I’m not saying I didn’t need to go, it’s just that my medications weren’t working…weren’t healing my brain fast enough.

I was so paranoid and stuck that I didn’t really know which end was up.  My insecure feelings had lifted a bit, but then they got worse.  I had had my mental break and subsequent hospital stays in August.  I made it until the end of October and I’d had enough.  So, it was on my husband’s and my wedding anniversary that I said we needed to go back to the hospital.

We called one of our friends that is a health care professional and she came over and talked to me.  It didn’t take much convincing, but she said that maybe it was time to go back into the mental hospital.

So, we got in the car and went back to the emergency room and waited for Dr. Teeth to be paged and come assess me.  We were there for hours, maybe 5?  It didn’t feel like that long to me, but for my husband it was excruciating.  He finally showed up.  I said I wasn’t better and he offered me another a bed in his mental hospital.  I was going back in, a little wiser as to what was going to happen.  I didn’t know what was going to happen moving forward, I just knew that I couldn’t keep dealing with the demons in my head.  I was exhausted and something had to change.

The Cars

After my stint in the mental hospital, an intense level of paranoia overcame me.  It was paralyzing.  I was overwhelmed by the chiming of the church bells and a sense that my every action and thought was being observed and calculated.  I read into the songs that were playing on the radio and what was playing on the t.v.  I couldn’t escape from these “messages” that were being sent from outside sources.

One of the biggest things that triggered my paranoia were the cars that were driving down my street and following the car that I was riding in.  The color of each car had a different meaning and had a message to my impending demise or triumph.  I would sit on our balcony enjoying the sunshine and outside, and these cars would drive past our house.  I had a birds eye view of every car passing and I thought they all were observing me and my actions.

To say it was overwhelming is an understatement.  I would run inside and lock the door if I saw a particular color of car and hide in fear.  I didn’t trust the outside world at all.  My thought process for each color of car was as follows:

BLACK – This was a government car.  The Feds or local law enforcement were observing every minute detail of my actions.

RED – This car represented an emergency.  If I had gotten out of hand with something, they were there to enforce that I stepped back in line.  STOP what you are doing.  Fire trucks were the worst.

GOLD – This color of car meant I was “golden”.  I was behaving in such a fashion that was acceptable and my “caretakers” within the community were reinforcing that I was behaving how I was supposed to behave.

WHITE – This car was a signal that I was going to die.  It was sending a message that I was not going to overcome what was ailing me and sent me into an extreme spiral that I had no control over.  A popular song on the radio at the time was Perry’s, “If I Die Young” and contained the lyrics, “Bury me in satin”.  Satin to me is the color of a wedding dress – white.  It made sense in my head, but it was terrifying.  I didn’t want to die.  I still don’t.

BLUE – Blue cars didn’t really have much meaning for me.  I own a blue car, so it was more familiar to me.  There were times that the blue seeped into the black meaning, but it was only when the windows were dark tinted.  This car was not as paralyzing as the others.

GREEN – This car represented the people I was friends with at the time.  It meant they were checking up on me and making sure I was okay.  It didn’t pose a threat and actually gave me some relief when I saw this color of car.  I didn’t see green cars very often.

YELLOW – This car color meant proceed with caution.  Much like the colors of stop lights, it meant to be careful with what you are showing to the world.

I don’t remember seeing any other car colors during this time.  I am certain I did, but the other colors aren’t as popular and if I paid attention to those colors, they don’t stick out in my memory as anything threatening.

I liked spending time outside, as it was better than being holed up in a quiet house, but something as simple as going outside to smoke a cigarette was nerve wracking.  Perhaps it was my subconscious telling me I needed to quit smoking.  However, there were so many more connotations that I made up than simply stop smoking.  It was truly overwhelming.

I remember that prior to my break, the colors of the cars were starting to affect me.  When I was fired from my 6 week stint at my “big girl job”, I saw a gold car that I thought was following me home, making sure I got home safe.  In the hospital, I didn’t have any exposure to cars driving by, so I didn’t read into that trigger.  It wasn’t until I was released that the paranoia about the cars really settled into my psyche.

It took me a really long time to get over reading into the cars watching me.  When I look at car colors now, they don’t bother me, but I am reminded of what I used to believe.  I think this will always be something that triggers me.  I’m not paranoid now, but I can see myself reading into things again if I ever stop taking my meds or they stop working for me.  I pray they don’t stop working because I’m not going to stop taking them.  The paranoia was crippling and is no way to live.

I think the only thing that helped me get over reading into the color of the cars was time.  Giving my medications time to heal the damage that was caused to my brain.  Unfortunately, when you have a disorder like I do and have such an extreme break, the only thing that helps is proper treatment and time.  There is no easy fix or magic pill.  My medications take a while to establish themselves as effective, so it is never instant relief.

The one thing I know is that I never want to feel the way I did ever again.  Proper care and awareness about current feelings has helped me to become as stable as I am.  Sure, I still have bad days, but I’m not reading into things that aren’t real.  And, that is true progress.

I Made a Huge Mistake

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Guilt that Haunts Me.”

My cursor has been blinking at me for the past 30 minutes.  I’m about to jump into a completely uncharted territory for me – I’m going to talk about my bad behavior leading up to my break.  I am not proud of this.  This is something that I will have to live with for the rest of my life.  Did I mention that I am ashamed?

My husband was working the overnight shift at his job.  That meant he was gone the entire night and I only saw him when he was either sleeping or walking out the door to go to work.  I was so lonely during this time.  Here we were, living in this vibrant city and we were not able to enjoy it together.  He was always working, making sure we had a roof over our heads and paying our bills on time.  I was angry because I felt abandoned by him.

One of the symptoms of bipolar disorder is hypersexuality.  It turns you into this version of yourself where you feel your most beautiful, most sexy, and most vibrant.  You think you are this golden unicorn that everyone wants.  I had no clue of what was to come from these feelings, but I was riding a high.  I was lonely and feeling like my best self.  A recipe for disaster.

I found him on this adult meet up site.  My husband and I were talking about the possibility of having an open marriage due to him being away so much and both of us wanting something more.  We were only talking about it, not acting on it, but I took the opportunity to run with the idea behind his back.

It started with simple messages and then a meet up in a local park.  I was nervous, but wasn’t thinking clearly about the absurdity of meeting a complete stranger for a hook up.  I didn’t know this person.  He could have been a deranged killer and I was walking into a situation I had no business being a part of.  I was supposedly happily married.  But, I was chasing a high and wanting instant gratification.  This person provided that for me.

I won’t go into the illicit details, but I started having an affair with this guy I barely knew.  It was exciting and gave me the fulfillment I was looking for, factoring in my hypersexuality and loneliness.

I wasn’t in love with this person – I was there for the sex.  It became a frequent occurrence, maybe a couple of times a week.  It was easy to participate in this situation because my husband was gone all the time.  In the cover of dark, all secrets are safe, right?

This affair lasted for months.  I don’t really remember the amount of time it actually lasted, but it was enough to know that what I was doing was wrong.  I should have never started the affair, but, I continued to participate in the illicit behavior.  I was completely disregarding the respect I had for my husband and the vows we took when we got married.  I was reckless and I didn’t really think about the consequences of my actions.

As I mentioned before, I never fell in love with this person.  He was a means to an end.  I think he might have had genuine feelings for me, but I always knew I was going to stay with my husband.  I felt dangerous, though.  I was chasing this high and it was always eluding me, no matter how bad my behavior.

Little did I know, my husband started tracking my behavior.  He watched our phone records and even left work a few times to check that I was home while he was away at work.  I don’t believe I was ever home when he came to check.  He knew what I was doing, but was biding his time until I confessed or he had enough evidence to confront me.

He finally confronted me one night when he wasn’t working.  I had been pretending that I was texting one of my friends for a while, always keeping my phone close by in case he had intercepted a text between me and the other guilty party.  He asked to see my phone.  I stupidly hadn’t erased my text conversations with this illicit person.  Perhaps it was my way of wanting to be found out.

He locked himself in the bathroom to read the texts and I melted down.  At one point, I threw a glass at the door, shattering it.  I had been found out and I didn’t know what was going to happen.  I was scared, but a part of me felt justified by my actions because I was so angry at my husband for abandoning me.  Although he hadn’t actually abandoned me, it felt like that because he was never home.  It was my way of punishing him.  We have a mark on our bathroom door where I shattered that glass.  It will forever be a reminder of the deplorable act I had committed.

Needless to say, my husband was hurt.  I don’t think the word hurt can really describe what he was feeling.  He was working so hard for us, and here I was shitting on our dream.

I don’t remember how I ended the affair.  Part of me thinks it fizzled out, but I might have said something to the effect that the situation had to end.  Regardless, the affair ended.  I was relieved.  It’s hard to maintain that level of energy when you aren’t sleeping, lying to your husband, and losing your mind.  I just didn’t realize I was losing my mind.  That was still months away.

This situation has been a heavy cloud over my recovery.  I am writing this today, with his permission, to let my truth be known and to hopefully let others know they are not alone.  I live with an amazing, committed, understanding man.  We have had to work extra hard to regain trust because of my actions.  However, he has not wavered in his love for me.  He only wants the best for us, and I still don’t understand his ability to forgive me for my transgressions.

But, we are better.  It has taken a long time, but we have a mutual trust and respect for each other that appears to be life long.  I am lucky to have married such a person.  That being said, had I not been sick, I don’t know if things would have turned out the same way in the end.  But, in the same breath, I don’t believe I would have acted in such a horrible way.

Now I know what the symptoms are leading up to a full manic episode.  If you look at the guidelines of what makes a person bipolar, I am pretty much a classic case.  I will forever be shameful of the acts that I committed, but I know that there is love on the other side.  And, I will never, ever act on these impulses again.  I simply will not let it happen and my husband won’t let it happen either.  I have a good man.  I am lucky.

The Church Bells

church bells

We live in New Orleans proper.  There are many churches that surround our home, as well as the river and the street car line.  We also have a police station near by, therefore it creates a cacophony of sounds at any given time during the day.  We hear boats, sirens, trains, and of course, church bells.  They chime every half hour and hour and chime hymns on the hour, every hour.  It is a comforting sound and I love the location in which we live.

After I was released from the mental hospital, these church bells took a dire turn for me.  They seemed overly loud and would stop me in my tracks every time I heard them.  It was overwhelming and I had no way of hiding away from them, as we have thin walls.  The thing that had given me solace and pride were turning into an obstacle in my recovery.

There was one particular hymn that the bells would play, I don’t know the actual name of the hymn, but it sounded like a demented version of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”.  It sounded like it was in the minor key and it was following me everywhere and at every hour of the day.  I couldn’t stand it.  It made me paranoid and scared.

As I wasn’t out of my psychosis upon being released from the mental hospital, this was particularly hard.  I was surrounded by this sound and it felt like the song was mocking me.  I couldn’t get away from it and it became one of the major things I focused on – the playing of this particular hymn.

It brought me back to my childhood in a weird way.  It sounded like Tim Burton had written the tune and was taking every chance he got to make my life miserable.  I would hear the church bells and announce, “They are playing ‘The Itsy Bitsy Spider’ again.”  I know it drove my husband crazy, the constant reminder that I was not well.

It is amusing looking back, but at the time the fear was real.  It felt like the church was mocking me for not being a more devout Christian and I simply did not have the capacity to deal with the noise.  Nothing could be loud at that particular time and the bells of the church hadn’t heeded that warning from my camp.  They simply chimed away each hour, chiming the same hymn over and over again.

I am not sure when it happened, but eventually, through much time and respite away, I got over the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” hymn.  I even started to joke about it being played, which made my family and friends question whether I was bothered or making light of what had once bothered me.  Many a time I received a raised eyebrow for making that statement.  My sanity was still not trusted.  I reassured them that I wasn’t still reading into the church bells, that I was only observing the sounds that had caused me such offense.  .

The church doesn’t play that hymn any more on the hour, perhaps because the season changed.  Sometimes I try and listen for it, but I am met with a new, non-threatening hymn.  Maybe part of me is trying to hold onto some of my psychosis, to reassure myself that I am not in that same frame of mind.  But, I am glad the church and I have moved on.  That was a scary time, indeed.

Shhhhh…It’s a Secret

secrets

Yesterday, after my epic post, ItalianHurricane posed the question, “You still don’t talk about your disorder, right?  Nobody knows in New Orleans?”  This made me think about how I navigate in my world with this giant, pink elephant in the room.  Part of me wants to shout it from the rooftops, but I know that would be social suicide.  Mental illness is still a very taboo subject and people get scared when they are faced with the fact that someone they know suffers.  It simply makes people uncomfortable.

This blog is not completely anonymous.  I haven’t told many people that I am writing again, but I do include my picture and have revealed enough about myself that if, by chance, someone that I know happens upon this blog, they would immediately know it is me.  I am not going to advertise this blog on Facebook and I’m not going to shout it from the rooftops that I am writing again.  This is my safe place, so far, and it is nice to have some anonymity in telling my story.  I am overwhelmed by the positive response I have received since starting this blog two weeks ago and I am going to continue to let it grow organically.

Back to ItalianHurricane’s question.  No, I don’t talk about my disorder in real life.  No one, except for a few select close people know that I have bipolar disorder.  I think that if I tell them, it will make me seem handicapped, and I am not handicapped.  I just move through my world a little differently than others – a little more anxiously, as it were.  I don’t tell my employers that I have this condition.  However, I will be applying for FMLA status with my next employer.  This will be my insurance policy so I do not lose my job if I miss work due to anxiety.  I don’t want to do it, but I need to protect myself and my income.  That means they can’t fire me because of my condition, even though I will have to reveal my big secret.  I think I am okay with that.

As we don’t really have many friends here, I don’t have anyone to tell about my diagnosis.  As I explained in my Friends post, everyone abandoned us after I got sick.  People just don’t deal well when you change your story.  My story changed in a massive way and I went from being outgoing and bubbly to depressed and drugged.  Needless to say, our social calendar is wide open.

I don’t know when the right time would be to reveal to a new friend that I have this condition.  I don’t want to lie about it, because it is such a huge part of who I am now, but I also don’t want to scare anyone away.  I guess it goes back to the idea that only those that are accepting and understanding are truly worthy of a friendship.  I’m tired of lying and hiding, but this secret is a doozy.  It’s up there with schizophrenia and if I am honest with myself, I would take having bipolar over schizophrenia any day.  I couldn’t handle the hallucinations.  However, I would never not be friends with someone because they had an illness.

Discrimination.  That is the root of all the rejection that my husband and I have experienced since my break.  That, and ignorance.  People are afraid of what they don’t understand.  If someone wanted to talk to me about my condition, I would be very open about my experiences.  I just have yet to find someone who really wants to talk about it.

Let me say this, I have a friend base that goes back to my younger years.  They have not walked away and only offer support and encouragement.  I am lucky to have them, even if I am only able to connect with them through the computer and texts.  It’s just the new friends that I have come across that are not accepting.  Maybe it’s because it is harder to make friends as an adult – you already know who you are and what you like and to bring someone into your life who is a little “off” can seem daunting.  This makes things lonely on the friend front.

My husband can’t be my everything.  I don’t expect him to be, but there is a lot of pressure on him and me, for that matter, to make each other feel fulfilled and nurtured.  That is why I am really enjoying the outreach of support I have received through this blog.  The encouraging words and compliments really push me forward to keep writing.  It’s nice to know that I haven’t lost all my writing skills and can complete a coherent statement.

So, thank you for being my virtual friends and reading what I have to say.  You are aiding in my recovery and giving me a confidence boost to head out and try to meet new people in New Orleans.  The real test will be when I reveal my big secret…

The Emergency (Part 3)

falling coconutsHere are the links to read part one and part two.

I was awoken at 6 a.m. and told to get in line for the showers.  They had these little baskets with our names on them in the day room that contained shampoo/soap, as it was a dual acting cleanser, a comb and some lotion.  We were given a towel and waited our turns to get clean.  This was not the usual beauty regimen that I had grown accustomed to.  No conditioner was given and as I had long hair, I knew it was going to be a tangled mess. The shower/bathroom was very institutional.  It was big and cold and while I had privacy, there was an aide waiting just outside the door to the bathroom.  I tried to rush because I knew others still had to take their showers, but I was thankful for privacy, even if there wasn’t a lock on the door.

We were shuffled downstairs (as many were doing the Thorazine Shuffle) into the cafeteria to eat our breakfast.  I didn’t know where to sit, so I sat down at a table with people I recognized from my unit.  I was in the adult step down unit, but there was also a geriatric unit that was in the cafeteria eating with us.  There were moans and chatter and it was all overwhelming.  I tried choking down some powdered eggs and sausage, but soon gave up and gave my leftovers to one of my table mates.  The best part of that meal was the coffee–it wasn’t good coffee, but it was coffee and felt familiar.

After the meal, we were given 15 minutes in the courtyard for outside time/smoke break.  It was sinking in that my experience was going to be like someone who was in jail.  At least, my personal white, middle class self’s prison.  I stayed to myself and enjoyed the sunshine outside in the courtyard.  It was narrow and long and overlooked a nursing home that was also owned by Dr. Teeth (my new psychiatrist who owned the hospital in which I was currently imprisoned).  It was depressing.

Speaking of the smoke breaks/outside time, these were given four times a day.  Fifteen minutes after each meal and once after the evening wrap up.  You were given one cigarette (if you wanted it) by one of the aides – I think they handed out Dorals, and you were allowed to smoke and socialize with the other people on your unit.  I was a smoker, but I hadn’t had a single cigarette during my suicide/Tylenol watch and I was not going to give them any ammunition to count against me at this new place, so I didn’t partake in the cigarettes.  I was there for the fresh air.  No one was any the wiser.

I clearly remember four people that I was with me in this hospital.  Socks, Ben, Germaine, and Brutus.  (I have changed the names to protect their privacy.)  Each person was a character and enlightened me on different aspects of what I was facing being on the inside.  This was unlike anything I had ever experienced before and I felt guilty for all the privilege and opportunities I had been given/experienced in my life thus far.

Socks: She was a firecracker and I didn’t trust her.  She was volatile and loud and demanding and was not complying with anything that the staff was telling her to do.  I was afraid of her.  At this point, I was 5’9″ and weighed 112 pounds.  I was a skeleton and all my clothes were hanging off me.  Socks was busomy and heavier and a force to be reckoned with.  At one point, she wanted me to give her my bra.  Ummm…no.  I was going to be keeping my bra.  Plus, it wouldn’t have fit her and the aides told her so, but she was determined to have my bra.  I hid in my room away from her.  She kept on trying to claim my clothing as hers.  She would ask me for XYZ and I would tell her no.  Finally, she asked for a pair of my socks.  They were blue and had colorful stripes on them.  I gave them to her when no one was looking.  She left me alone after that.

Germaine:  He was a white guy who befriended me and kind of showed me the ropes.  I’m not sure if he had been in this type of situation before, but he seemed to know what was going to happen and what was actually going on.  He wore these boots that were lace up, but they had taken his shoe laces away for safety reasons and he shuffled around as best he could in his heavy boots.  I remember thinking that he must have been very uncomfortable in his shoes.  He taught me to keep to myself and not give away my diagnosis to others.  Also, he had an understanding of the dry erase board that had a list of all the people in the unit and where they were going after their stint in the mental hospital.  I don’t know how he knew, he just knew, and reassured me that once I got out, I was going home and not to jail.  I hadn’t done anything to put me in jail, but given my fractured mental state, I was worried that I had committed some heinous crime.  He was a constant friend and I trusted him.  We had a mutual friend outside the hospital and that kind of bonded us together.  We actually became Facebook friends after my stay in the hospital, but I ended up un-friending him due to my husband’s encouragement and my extreme paranoia.  I didn’t want to be connected to anyone who knew my secret.

Ben:  He was “special”.  I don’t know if he was drugged out of his mind or he had a developmental problem or both.  He was sweet and quiet and part of me wanted to help take care of him.  He seemed really lost, but I have no idea what he was like in real life.  I remember that he had very dry skin and I was playing “Mother Goose” and encouraged him to put lotion and Vaseline on his arms because they looked like they were about to crack.  I felt really bad for him, but his mom would come visit him and that was encouraging.

Brutus:  He was a force to be reckoned with.  He was powerful and appeared to know who he was in personality and psychosis.  I have absolutely no idea why he was in the hospital with us, but I do know he was on the list that was to be arrested by the state after his release.  I singled him out as my protection.  He had the potential to be violent, yet he never was.  I befriended him by giving him my left over food and bribing him with granola bars.  I think he started to want to sit by me during meal times because it meant he would get more food.  I’m not entirely sure, but I think he might have been homeless prior to his stint in the mental institution.  I do know that I liked talking to him.  It made me feel dangerous.

There were no other women on my unit with the exception of “Socks”, and she was scary violent, so I hung out with my band of misfits.  I had eased into being a part of their group, and I felt like I was buying my protection, but it was worth it and made me feel safe.

The food was terrible and was set on a four day rotation of what was available to eat.  I remember eating tuna salad (at least I think it was tuna) sandwiches, grilled fish with canned mushy mixed vegetables and rice, and some sort of goulash.  The food was miserable.  Because I was so underweight, I was given a serving of Ensure with every meal.  I would end up drinking that and not eat the meal that was presented to me, which meant more food for my posse, but the aides quickly caught on.  They stopped giving me the Ensure during meal times, instead saving for an after lunch snack in the day room.  They watched me closely when it came to my intake of food.

Group therapy was a joke.  We were forced to sit in a circle and talk about our feelings and how we could make our lives more positive and fulfilling.  I feigned participation because my goal was getting out.  I remember having to make a vision board out of pictures we clipped out of magazines – it was stupid.  But, I knew it was one of the keys to the puzzle of getting out.  We also had group therapy with a psychologist, but I don’t believe any progress was made there.  Therapy was kind of a blur to me.

Dr. Teeth met with us for a total of ten minutes each day.  He would ask us questions that I can’t remember and up our meds.  I always asked him when I would be sent home.  He continued to adjust my medication, leaving me in a zombie state after each meeting.  I was still quite manic, though.  Drugged and manic.  It took away my danger to others.

I felt safe with my band of brothers, but I wanted to go home.  I was trying desperately to figure out Dr. Teeth’s game so he would release me, but they seemed to keep adding days to my stay.  I was always met with a, “Let’s see how you feel tomorrow”.  To this day, I have no respect for Dr. Teeth.  He is there to make money and cares little about the care of his patients.

Visitation happened every day in the evening for about an hour and a half.  My husband, mother, and sister were religious about coming to see me.  I wasn’t always very nice to them, as I was angry at them for locking me away and I was still extremely confused about the diagnosis I had been given.  I was light years away from being able to say, “I have bipolar disorder”.  I wanted to see them, but when they arrived, the visits seemed pointless.  I often sent them away before visiting time was over.  I am certain this behavior stung, but I was angry and it was easier to just be around my band of misfits.  However, I would have been even angrier if they hadn’t come to visit me.  Looking back, I am glad they were fighting for me and came to visit.  I also feel major regret for how I treated them.

I spent a total of six days at this facility.  I was still manic and didn’t entirely understand the gravity of my diagnosis.  I wasn’t better, just drugged, but I wanted to resume the life I had with my husband in New Orleans.  I was released to the care of my husband and mother.  The first thing I did after I was released was take a bath and shave my legs, as there were no razors allowed, unless you wanted an aide watching you as you showered.  I never took them up on their offer to watch me, therefore I felt like a hairy beast.  After my bath, I went for an epic walk by myself, but I wasn’t getting the same kind of work-out high that I had received prior to me being taken to the hospital.

The real work was just beginning and my extreme paranoia had yet to set in.  I was glad to be home but I didn’t realize that things were just going to get harder from here…

The Emergency (Part 2)

costume-bags

After a 72 hour hold in the hospital, I was committed to a mental institution by my husband.  You can read part one here.

During my 72 hour hold, I was introduced to a psychiatrist who promptly diagnosed me as bipolar.  I called him Dr. Teeth, because he had the largest, whitest teeth I had ever seen up close.  Of course, me being psychotic wasn’t helping my visual self any.  He brought with him a red headed assistant who stayed silent and made sympathetic faces.  Then they left and I continued on my 24 hour a day suicide watch.

Finally, I was being released from the hospital!  Yay!  I still didn’t completely understand what had happened to me, but I was excited to go home.  Then, Dr. Teeth showed up.  My husband, my mother, and Dr. Teeth ganged up on me, saying I needed to go to his (Dr. Teeth) hospital to further my treatment.  I was upset.  I was pissed.  I started to cry.

Everyone reassured me that I was going to be okay.  “They will take good care of you, and you will be home in no time.”  So I thought, okay, rip another band aid off.  I’ll take a short ride over to his hospital, kiss my family good bye and get on with things.  That’s when a stretcher pulled up outside my hospital door.

They didn’t trust me to not jump out of the car on the way to the new hospital, so I was being transported by ambulance.  I was perfectly capable of walking, but they strapped me down on a stretcher and we started moving.  It was humiliating.  I thought, “Use this for someone who actually needs the ambulance, this is not an emergency!”  I am not an emergency.  Plus, I was too drugged up at that point to even THINK about escaping a car ride to the mental hospital.

In the ambulance, there was a lady EMT.  She had a clip board and she was talking to me.  Not taking notes, just talking.  She had 2 tickets to the New Orleans Saints game clipped to her clip board and we talked about football.  For a second, I thought she was going to give me those tickets if I was good and did what I was supposed to do at this new hospital.  Ummm…did I mention I was drugged?

We finally get to the mental hospital and they wheel me out of the ambulance into the lobby, then they unstrap me and I’m told to say goodbye to my family and follow an aide to this elevator.  The lobby was very small and there was an armed guard sitting at a desk.  I say goodbye, yet I don’t remember doing so.  I am not entirely sure that happened, but I’m told it did.  They wouldn’t just lock me away without saying goodbye, would they?  I believe my husband was left in the lobby to fill out the paperwork and sign my life away to the care of these new people.  He was officially having me committed.

Once I got upstairs to my unit, I was taken to the nurses station where they asked me a bunch of questions, weighed me, and took a picture.  I am curious to see that picture now, but I’m sure it wasn’t very flattering.  I was taken to a room in the corner of a wing that contained two twin sized cot beds, a desk, a toilet and sink, and a closet to put my things.  I was then told to go to the day room and join the rest of the patients, as they were having relaxation time.  I remember not knowing what to do with myself, but I had found a box of markers and some blank paper, so I sat down and started to draw.

Looking back, it feels like I was taken back to elementary school – the coloring.  When I sat down, no one was at the table.  After a few moments, a few of the patients came over, introduced themselves, and started coloring with me.  I was terrified that someone would get up in my face and start screaming.  That didn’t happen, but at that point, I had no idea what WAS going to happen.

Dinner had already been served at that point.  I hadn’t arrived in time to eat.  No big deal, I wasn’t eating at that point anyway.  We were taken downstairs to have a smoke break/outside time and were shuffled into a courtyard.  This lasted for about 15 minutes, then we were taken back upstairs where we had a little more downtime, medication was distributed and were sent to bed.

I was so thankful that I didn’t have a roommate.  I didn’t want to have to sleep with another person in the room with me.  I put on my pajamas and went to bed, after being informed that we were to be awoken at 6 and breakfast was at 8 a.m.

I had just scratched the surface of what was to be the longest week of my life…

El Diablo

Dancing Devil

After my break, I was sent back to Texas to recover.  I spent about 5 months recuperating in the comfort of my parents home.  During that time, I read tons of books and visited with one of my favorite people in the world, J.  J accepted what had happened and really took the time to talk to me and treat me like a normal person – I will forever be in his debt.

Recovery was proving a slow process…I was seeing a psychiatrist, in therapy, and was making major strides to regain my sanity.  Hard work, but I was conquering all the paranoia that had encompassed my mind in the months after the big B.

During my stay, I needed a haircut.  As I had lived in my hometown during my graduate studies, I already had a hairstylist who I trusted with my locks and I was excited to see her again.  In all the time I had known her, she had transformed from a rebel into a hardcore, born-again Catholic.  In her eyes, Jesus Christ was the only way to live and His Word was golden.  She loved to quote scripture and attempt to convert people to her church.  As I am not religious, I tolerated these invitations because she is very talented with a pair of scissors and I liked her as a person.

I was very selective about telling people of my break and why I had moved back to the area, but I trusted her and as gals do during “hairapy” sessions, I felt that I could trust her with my big secret.  I spilled the beans about my diagnosis, but held back little tidbits of the facts to protect myself.  She immediately decided to pray over me–in Spanish.  I had no idea what she was actually saying, but appreciated the sentiment.

Then, she informed me that I should move back to Texas and give up my evil ways in New Orleans.  She had the nerve to say that I wasn’t actually sick, I was “possessed by the devil” and needed Jesus in my life to rid myself of the demons in my mind.

Needless to say, I was taken aback and a little hurt by her words.  At that point, I had three doctors whom had confirmed my diagnosis.  I was in treatment, I was taking medication and fighting quite hard to be as close to my normal self as possible.  Her statement made me question a lot, as I was still paranoid about many things.

I told a few of my most precious supporters about what she said and they told me she was full of shit.  Granted, I had dabbled in Tarot leading up to my break, but, I still don’t think it is anything more than a fun card game.  However, her statement made me question things.  At that point in time, I questioned the possibility that me dabbling in Tarot had brought about bad luck and accelerated my break, but I didn’t believe I was possessed by the devil.

New Orleans is a very spiritually dynamic city.  It is old.  When you come into the city from away, the energy in the air is palpable.  I believe the devil exists and is alive and well in New Orleans, however, there is also a lot of “white light” positivity to be had as well.

Bottom line, people who are diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder are not possessed by the devil.  It is a scientifically proven chemical imbalance in your brain and 9 times out of 10, the only way to manage it is through medication, good doctors, and therapy.  In my opinion, to imply that someone else needs to find God is rude and unwarranted.  You don’t know their life.  I believe everyone is entitled to his or her own faith, however, involving the devil into your personal, ignorant diagnosis of another person is dismissive and makes you guilty of a “holier than thou” attitude.

Don’t impose your personal faith on someone who confides in you about his or her mental illness.  Prayers and support are nice, but mental conditions are not something you can simply “pray away”.  Needless to say, I haven’t seen her since that devil of a day.

My Dream Reader

“I compare myself with my former self, not with others. Not only that, I tend to compare my current self with the best I have been, which is when I have been mildly manic. When I am my present “normal” self, I am far removed from when I have been my liveliest, most productive, most intense, most outgoing and effervescent. In sort, for myself, I am a hard act to follow.
Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

I am currently participating in the Blogging101 course offered through WordPress.com.  We have been challenged with the assignment of writing a post to our dream reader and I must admit, I am having a bit of a difficult time.  However, I am going to try my best.

My dream reader would probably have to be Kay Redfield Jamison.  Her book, An Unquiet Mind, provided me with great solace when I was first diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.  Her book spoke to me on so many different levels.  She is a true professional and has taken her diagnosis in stride, going on to serve as a professor of psychology at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

I don’t aspire to be her, given that I don’t have a PhD in psychology, however, I admire her for foraging on and not letting her diagnosis hamper her ability to live, work, and find success.  That is something with which I have been struggling–finding work and maintaining a professional career.

Perhaps my break was worse than hers, but I doubt it.  Everyone has his or her own struggles with this disorder.  I just happen to have a spotty resume, having been out of work for so long, only to have worked for a few months here and there.  I will have success eventually.  I believe this to be true.

If I can’t have Dr Jamison as my dream reader, I want my dream reader to be someone who finds solace in my words–to know that they are not alone with his or her experiences.  Someone has been there before, I have been there before.  Maybe not in the same capacity, but I know what it means to have a huge, life changing diagnosis fall into her lap.  I hope to help someone who struggles with life.

They don’t have to have Bipolar Disorder.  They don’t have to have a disorder at all.  Just someone, anyone, who can identify with my written word.  Starting a new blog has been a huge undertaking for me.  It is my platform for making sense of what actually happened to me.  Perhaps that is conceited and maybe I am writing for myself, but I am trying to keep others in mind as I write my story.  It feels good to put it out there…The response I have received in just the past week since I started Slippery Alligator Dream has been huge.

I’m glad you are here.  Whoever you are and from where ever you come.  Welcome.  And, if you are Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, I am truly humbled that you have found this small blog.  You made an impact on my recovery.