Saturday, February 21, 2009

Friday, February 20, 2009

Not a day goes by...

Tonight my husband and I had an argument. I raised my voice at him, and he accused me of being manic. I found it funny, but I didn't laugh in his face. During the whole argument, I remained relatively calm, stated my gripes, raised my voice a few times to make a point (mainly STOP INTERRUPTING), and told him to please leave me alone.

If you've ever known an angry, unmedicated person with bipolar disorder, it doesn't work that way. That's why I had a hard time restraining my mirth. Either I'd be sobbing hysterically, screaming invective, battling a ferocious urge to smack him, hitting below the belt verbally, throwing all his past mistakes in his face, not acting like a Christian, or all of the above. Overall I think Jesus was OK with my behavior, especially when I cut off the argument rather than have it escalate.

Sometimes, when you've got 2 people with brain damage, nobody's happy. He hates accomodating my disability, resents it bitterly, and lets me know so in detail. I'm resigned to his attitude and feel he takes more than he gives. He'd say he shouldn't have to, that God screwed up when He stuck Ron with a brain damaged, defective.. uh. You get the idea. I say, it hurts me when you're always complaining about how I'm "not enough" for you and how I don't "measure up", can you please keep it to yourself? No, he can't, apparently. If I could change one thing about him, that would be it. But that's not happening and if it does, it'll because God moved on him. It won't happen because I hollered the "right thing" at the "right time". [laugh] That's the other way I know I'm "OK" - I can actually see the humor in what's been a very bitter, painful, and ongoing issue.

As I undressed for my shower tonight - lots of gardening today, I saw a violently purple and yellow bruise on my hip. Apparently I ran into something. My spatial awareness is pretty goofy to begin with, and my medication only makes that worse. It's not uncommon for me to run into things. I see them, I just don't process them in time to avoid a crash. And that, dear friends, is why I don't drive!

I'm queasy. It's either the depression or the lithium. I feel pretty good so I think it's just a little stomach irritation from the lithium. Recently, I had a spell with no nausea. It scared me to death, I had a very hard time adjusting to the sensation of well-being. Sadly, it didn't last long.

I'm tired. It's 8:30. I had an hours-long nap today. I only worked a few hours. But, it's my lot. Things are better than ever for me, and I don't plan to change that. I love my life. Nausea, clumsiness, slow typing, poor spelling, and all.

When I can't share my pot roast with my husband because he can't handle the hearty meat flavor (due to neuropathy), when he can't admire my neatly planted garden because he's blind, and his idea of a good day is working a few hours a coming home straight to bed, I don't complain. I signed up for this. I accept it. I regret that he's ill, and I regret that I can't share parts of my life with him.

I think, what it comes down to, is that I don't resent him for his limitations. He's got plenty. I've got limitations too, but I don't know that he takes them as seriously as he should. "Why can't you?" he demanded tonight. "Because I can't!" He used to get totally disgusted with me at the times I felt he truly grasped my limits. "I can't handle this".

When he does seem to grasp them, he resents them bitterly. He'll tell me I deserve better. I tell him, if that was supposed to make me feel better it just made me feel worse. I've never known anything else, I'm used to being the way I am. I work very hard at being the best Heather I can be, whether that's doing something I'm afraid of (going back to riding the bus), or controlling my temper when my husband is being a butt.

I wish I could convince him not to complain so bitterly about my limitations, to my face. It only hurts me. He can't grasp that. Perhaps he sees it as I'm trying to control him. That I'm telling him what to feel.

"It's not you I'm mad at, it's your brain!" Why be angry at my brain? He's angry at my brain damage but why? He's known me like this for 16 years, why must he constantly remind me I don't "measure up"? I resent him sometimes, but it's mainly due to that ugly attitude!

I tried to tell him tonight, how would you feel if I constantly complained about how difficult it is to live with a blind man? How would you feel? He changed the subject and shouted something at me.

Not a day goes by that I don't accomodate him and all his limitations with good cheer and a loving heart. I wish he could at least do it without the bitterness and complaining.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

It's better than being sick

I'm pretty sensitive to my moods; I understand what can set me off, and when I'm going up or down. It took me a day or two to figure out that the nausea I was experiencing actually meant I was "getting sick" as I view it. I have digestive issues when I'm running depressed.

The schedule change, physical, and emotional stress brought on by my gallbladder attacks and emergency room visits made me cycle. I got a mixed episode, up and down at the same time. The up part was a whole lot of talking and wanting to do things. The down part would have been a hideous depression, but was only a little lethargy, fatigue, and general emotional weariness. One warning sign for me, other than an upset stomach, is the fact that taking a shower seems tougher than running a marathon. When I begin to feel that way, it's time to increase my medication.

I whacked it with an extra lithium a day, and I went up on my antidepressant one day. It worked. I'm back to normal. I got a little goofy today from all the lithium, which is my signal to scale back, but Ron was very understanding. As I tell him, it's better than being sick.

I know of two people who share my illness. I'll try to use a delicate touch, and preserve confidentiality. One guy has been diagnosed. He refuses to take mood stabilizers, and instead takes illegal sedatives. His life is a mess, and his wife has left him.

The second person actually boasts about not "needing" medication, but last night stated that she was going to take a whole bottle of muscle relaxers and drink 2 bottles of wine, hoping not to wake up. It doesn't sound like her illness is very well controlled with diet, does it?

I understand. I do. Many people don't want to admit they are ill, especially mental illness. There's a terrible finality in filing that prescription, and picking it up. You have to admit you're "Crazy". There's the realization, eventually, that you'll have to keep taking these pills until your dead. Even if they are taking their meds, many times someone starts to feel better. OK, I'm better now. I don't need the pills! They throw the pills out.

The thought horrifies me. I truly believe that God allowed my illness to become so awful as a motivation for keeping me on my medication. When I was asked what I wanted for lunch today, it took me a good 10 minutes to come up with an answer (Burger King). I was very foggy.

I have a constant dry mouth, and I always need to pee. I battle fatigue.

But it's better than being sick. I knew something was wrong, my entire life. I couldn't get a name, and I couldn't get a treatment. When I found out "it" had a name, I thanked God and swore I'd do whatever it took to manage it. When my doctor first gave me my medication, I literally took the pills right there in his office. It was a harbinger of our relationship - I am totally committed to taking my pills.

Apparently, I'm somewhat unusual. I think people like my friends above are far more common, and that's sad for several reasons. Firstly, they give those of us who do manage our illness a bad reputation. "John" could very well wreck his car driving under the influence, and "Mary" needs to be in a hospital. "Oh, it's because they're bipolar".

NO, it isn't. It's because they don't take their pills.

Secondly, they're not getting the quality of life they deserve. They have no idea how wonderful life can be. How glorious it is to know that you can depend on your brain. It's a daily joy to me. I'm not at the mercy of my brain any more. I control my brain, it does not control me. I was such a miserable slave to my illness for decades, why would I want to continue to suffer?

And when my side effects are nasty, when I'm dizzy, and when I'm tired after I just slept 9 hours, I recall issue #3, my loved ones. The people I know and love deserve to have me at my best. My best means I'm taking my pills, and I will do so for them AND myself. Everyone deserves to have me well. They have suffered just as much as I have, if not worse. They persevered and forgave me when I was at my worst. They love me. I cannot disparage that gift by refusing to be my best.

I have bipolar disorder and fetal alcohol syndrome. I'm going to be taking my medication until I'm dead. My life is only good as long as I take my pills. Without my pills, I'll be dead, badly maimed by my own hand, or worse. I need the medication, in order to have any kind of life.

I accept that. It's a tough path, but it's the one God has laid for me. I'm going to take my pills, because it's better than being sick.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

I have a lot to be grateful for

Yesterday, I spent a lovely 19-hour stint in the County hospital. I had horrible gallbladder pain and some other symptoms that merited checking out.

I had to wait 8 hours, some little kid beat me up (laugh), I was queasy, I had to sit on the floor it got so crowded, I got stuck with a needle, etc. You'd think, a lot to complain about.

But I like to focus on the POSITIVE. So, here goes. All the good things I learned from yesterday:

  1. I did a great job of packing for my trip to the hospital. 3 paperbacks was actually a few short of what I needed, though. The knitting was good when I felt OK, until I got the IV started. Overall, I give myself a solid "A" on packing well.
  2. I was smart to bring my ID card and write out my medical history. I didn't feel so hot at times, and I get quiet when I'm hurting. Most people I meet seem to be a little hearing impaired so that's not good. Copying info off a card? No problem.
  3. I had a good friend who WOULD take me to the hospital. Some people don't.
  4. I got there before it was too busy.
  5. When the fretful toddler started hitting tender me during a tantrum, I moved to another seat rather than have a negative "interchange" with the mother.
  6. I inadvertendly stole an old man's wheelchair, trying to help another old man with a bad diabetic foot. But my heart was in the right place and only about 50 people watched me try to borrow it, get shouted at, and put it back. It's funny now. A nurse DID get the other guy his own chair.
  7. Not funny at all - I saw 2 guys with diabetic foot problems. Thank you JESUS I am not diabetic.
  8. Everyone at this hospital was awesome about the bipolar, once a few questions were asked (I was not suicidal or delusional). Those questions were only asked once.
  9. They were happy to comply with my request for no narcotics.
  10. The vending machine did not rip me off!
  11. Awesome nurses!
  12. Very kind doctor, who explained things.
  13. Nice "roomies" in the 5-room area where I "hung" for 11 hours. Everyone was quiet and polite. I got a few "chatty" ladies next to me who enjoyed the photo book I brought.
  14. Very compotent and throrough care. I've never gotten better, and I am completely honest about that.
  15. I am actually excited about applying for a "Gold Card" if it means all the facilities are like that, even if they aren't I'd want to go back if I were injured or ill.
  16. According to my test results, NO GALLSTONES! I have passed them all.
  17. My gallbladder ought to be fine if I give it a little break. I intend to eat lower-fat for a bit, still very low carb, to give it some rest.
  18. I didn't gain any weight - even with eating low-fat chips out of the vending machine and such.
  19. I slept GREAT when I got home, and I got a good nap in the ER (about an hour).
  20. I brought my TUNES and had a great time listening to my favorites.
  21. My gallbladder doesn't hurt when I eat the delicious smoked turkey meat I have in the fridge, so they're right about the "colic".
  22. I shared my books after reading them.
  23. I shared my sugar-free breath mints.
  24. I said please and thank you.
  25. Although originally disappointed with my diagnosis, I was NOT bitter or sarcastic.
  26. They didn't mind repeating things to me.
  27. I got a cab ride quickly, with a very nice and professional cab driver. LBJ hospital is not in a good area and we called for a cab around 5 AM.
  28. I got to come home to my husband and sleep in MY bed with MY cats.
  29. I could sleep in, everyone was quiet.
  30. I woke up fresh after 5 hour's sleep.
  31. I still get to the garden center, tomorrow (that was the original plan for Saturday).
  32. Ron was awesome. Calling him periodically as he stayed at home worked well. He took care of himself just fine.
  33. It's a sunny day and I'm not hurting!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Plant

I've had this post rattling around in my head for a while. I thought you might enjoy it.

I'm a plant lover. I've always been a plant lover, since childhood. I have happy memories of helping "Mommy" (adoptive) in the garden. Plants were my little friends and I took very good care of them. I even considered a career in horticulture.

I also attended a Presbyterian church, with incredibly boring sermons. To keep me quiet, Dad used to stuff a Bible in my hands when the sermon started and tell me to read it. I loved reading, so it wasn't a hardship. It was a lot more interesting than the sermons, and probably a major factor in my getting "saved" at age 8.

So, I'm a born-again Christian and a plant lover. I also have a very difficult time relating to others. I don't read social cues properly and I have mangled many interpersonal "transactions". I was beginning to get pretty bitter. It's just You and me, and the plants, Lord. Nothing else is worth loving.

Until one day when I actually read the book of Jonah. Jonah didn't want to preach to the Ninevites. He knew they would repent and he hated them. That's why he ran away and the whole fish thing happened. He repented, and God released him to go preach. He preached, the Ninevites repented, and Jonah started yelling at God:

Jonah, Chapter 4:
verse 2.
He prayed to the LORD and said, "Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.
"Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life."
The LORD said, "Do you have good reason to be angry?"
Then Jonah went out from the city and sat east of it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city.
So the LORD God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant.
But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered.
When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah's head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, "Death is better to me than life."
Then God said to Jonah, "Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?" And he said, "I have good reason to be angry, even to death."
Then the LORD said, "You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight.
"Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?"

Wow, talk about a shot to the heart!

I think the chapter said it all, huh?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


My gallbladder acted up again, severely, on Monday. It was pretty ghastly. I went to Northeast; my care was abysmal and they kicked me out, still in agony. Their attitude seemed to be: we offered you narcotics, that's what you really want.

I kept telling them no narcotics. They gave me some anyway. I wasn't happy, and got a horrible headache the next day. One reason I hate narcotics, they give me headaches.

I was diagnosed with my first gallstone at age 18. It followed a soon-to-be-predictable pattern. Agonizing pain in the upper right abdomen for hours, gradually fading. They'd come and go over the years. If I went to the ER, they never said the word "gallstone" but they'd tell me to go home, and take it easy. It wasn't going to kill me and I'd be fine. I believed them. It was true at the time.

Fast-forward to last year. I've lost 55 pounds on a low-carb diet. I've had quite a bit of emotional stress last year, too. Here come the gallstones again. Except they're increasing in frequency, longer duration, and more intense pain.

I hate going to the hospital; especially since my husband got sick. I'd rather suffer at home for hours than go to a hospital, even if the pain is agonizing. If I'm at the hospital, the pain is a good "8" on a 1-10.

Monday at work I am literally doubled over with pain. The pain is a "9" on a 1-10. I didn't want to go to the hospital. I delayed it as long as possible, helping my husband. This was probably very foolish but I've mentioned I hate hospitals.

I get flashbacks to all the horrible health crises he's had. I hate it.

Finally, someone drags me off to the hospital. I figured "Northeast" would be good. They are part of a non-profit chain of hospitals that claim to provide excellent care. Nonprofit means no monster bill for Heather and Ron.

I got one vital signs check, one palpation abdominal exam, multiple offers of pain pills, couldn't pick my nurse out of a lineup, never saw a real doctor, and was refused tests that I have now determined are vital for someone in my condition. Ghastly.

About 8 years ago, my husband had agonizing groin pain. He went to Ben Taub, aka "County". He had a very long wait in the waiting room, but when he got a bed he had not one, but 3 doctors come in and examine him. It's a teaching hospital. I love the idea of helping to educate people.

Ron had multiple "male" exams, got his blood drawn, had a urology consult. The urologist came in late on a weekend night and spent a lot of time with us, discussing the possibilities. Ron was given an ultrasound and the urologist came back. We didn't leave until they were certain they had done everything they could for him. Ron had an infection. It cleared up with the antibiotics they prescribed. Looking back, it was excellent care.

I'm sure that's why God allowed Monday, as I'm thinking of it, to happen. The best care for Heather B may not be at the fancy hospital, but the down-in-the-trenches county hospital.

Being a foolish and stubborn woman, though, I'm going to wait until I'm half dead before I go.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Why do I do it?

Why do I bother to tell people I have bipolar disorder? Many people are ignorant idiots. They freak out over any kind of "crazy" and make hateful comments, jokes, or worse, dismiss legitmate anger or concerts with a flippant "Oh, she's nuts, that's why".

Grr. Why would I bother opening myself up to those kinds of problems?

Information and education. I suffered for years, with an illness I didn't understand. It almost killed me. Bad thoughts ate my brain. It was horrible. No one ever explained what I had, no one could.

I remember confiding in a high school friend about the turmoil in my mind. "Maybe it's PMS" he suggested. Maybe it is.

When I was finally diagnosed, I scoured the bookstores and internet for information until I had a good grasp of my illness. OK, I am bipolar type one. I have manias and depressions. I have pretty acute manias. I go "up" very high - "Like I'm high on drugs", I'll explain.

I have mixed episodes. I can be up and down at the same time. I can be suicidal, and very anxious and angry at the same time.

I have psychotic features, because I hallucinate sounds, sights, smells, and touch. I'd see people who weren't there and hear music that doesn't exist. For a while recently, I'd smell a very strong, bitter herbal smell at odd times. If I asked people no one else smelled it, so it must have been a "Psychotic Feature".

I have a family history of mental illness, and my mother did respond to lithium. Therefore, I was able to deduce that Lithium might help. It did. It's a mainstay of my medication cocktail.

I told everyone. Why? Well, they saw me sick and I thought they had a right to know why I'd been so ill. Some days you couldn't shut me up with a cattle prod a duct tape, other days everyone pissed me off. Sometimes I was so depressed all I did was sit on a milk crate in the stockroom while my husband filled the vending machines.

Of course, it backfires. Recently a business associate cost my husband $90 because he signed for something we never got. I was upset. The associate basically blew off my "righteous" indignation by going into this whole "Boy, you're really losing it, Heather" routine I found far more insulting than the actual loss of money. All I had said was, I know how to read an invoice and your guy cost us $90. Did he major in Accounting with a 3.2 GPA? No, well then give me credit for knowing we got screwed.

I never did get that credit, and he went on for almost a month about how "I needed to see my doctor because I really lost it." This is a man, who, in a similar dispute when he felt he'd been screwed, screamed at me, trapped me in a hall, raving, and shoved me angrily. And I lost it because I said "I know how to read an invoice"?

Well, I had it coming because I admit to my mental illness. Obviously, a man who gets so angry at a business associate over the price of a granola bar has a few issues of his own, huh?

But, I figure for every butthead, I reach people who really need to know about it. I've met a couple of people who have family members with bipolar disorder, people who are truly baffled by the behavior.

I tell them things like: I'm a little bit of a zombie, but it's better than being sick. Don't drink - it messes with the medication. Don't stop the medication when you feel better - you only feel better because of the medication. You need to take medication forever. I am a better person now for taking my medication. I explain side effects and cycling, up and down. That talking constantly and spending lots of money are completely normal, manic, behaviors. That being angry can be a symptom of depression in men. That someone being restless doesn't make them bipolar, it just means they are restless. Someone can have ADD and Bipolar at the same time, and both can be managed with careful medication.

I also talk about FAS, even though I've gotten such vitrol in response my husband's convinced the "Haters" must have boozed while pregnant. I'm not sorry I'm trying to inform people, but it can certainly put me in the line of fire!

Again, I do it to inform. I suffer with FAS and it can be miserable. 80% of female FAS victims end up addicted to drugs or alcohol, and many attempt suicide. Most of the men do at least some time in jail for impulsive acts commited under the influcence of a damaged brain. Most of us need some kind of "supported living" situation, where someone can help make sure we keep the lights on. And employment? I believe that statistic said 90% had major problems retaining a job. We can't live up to our potential, and people don't know why.

That's why I talk about it. Also, unlike bipolar disorder, FAS is completely preventable! I know in my heart, no mother, knowing the horrors of FAS, would willingly curse her child with a damaged brain.

But we seem so normal, the curse of my life. I seem too good to be so broken. People are consistently shocked at the fact that I'm unable to drive, but I can't.

I'm blessed with a good life, loving husband, and supportive family. If I can make other lives better through blogging and talking about my "ailments", then I'll do it.

You can't shut me up with a cattle prod!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Bipolar Adjective

It happened again. I'm on the computer. I'm nauseous because I took my lithium. I had just checked my blood sugar, which was OK. I have to watch my sugars now because my medication has made me prediabetic, and I'm sick to my stomach because lithium can have some brutal side effects.

There it was. A humorous "joke". Ha. The weather in Texas is hot and cold. Hot and cold. It must be bipolar.

First emotion. Anger.
Second emotion. Pain.
Third emotion, hopelessness.
Fourth emotion: despair.

People just don't get it. Even my own husband doesn't understand how hurtful those comments can be. Nobody's making jokes about HIS disabilities, but mental illness is always fair game.

Even my husband, who I think understands me pretty well, thinks it's "fine" although a bit tasteless. I just need to get tougher, he implies.

There's nothing wrong in comparing my illness to capricious weather. Even though I've made major sacrifices to be as stable and boring as possible.

I'm nauseous. I need a nap every day. I need at least 8 hours of sleep every night, in addition to my nap. I have to take my blood sugars because I'm prediabetic. Sticking myself on a regular basis is not fun.

Why do I do it all? So idiots like the one I read tonight don't see me acting "bipolar". Sometimes I don't think it's worth it.

If my illness didn't involve so much personal pain, I swear, sometimes I would go off the meds. I get no compassion, no understanding, just idiot buttheads to tell me to throw away my pills, fast and pray. I'm not better because I don't trust God enough. I must like the label.

I suffer through absolutely miserable side effects just because I'm a masochist. Oh, and I enjoy spending hundreds of dollars a month on the medication that gives me so much joy. I get to savor the fun of my husband's annoyance when I'm foggy and can't think.

Oh, yeah. I love it. Especially when people always use it as a derogatory adjective.

Let me tell you 'bout cats in cribs

Some idiots ( are saying that cats in cribs are a bad idea. Dangerous, even. My husband wisely says, some cats are dangerous. I know of one woman who had to put her cat down because it was defecating in the baby's crib - with the baby in it.

Let me tell you about cats and cribs. My experience is unusual.

My mother was bipolar. She self-medicated by drinking. It was a very bad combination, especially combined with some terrible personal tragedies. She was unable to cope.

She was unable to mother. One of my earliest memories, crying and crying in my crib. Filthy diaper. Hungry. Waiting. Watching the sun climb across the wall, waiting and waiting, crying, snotty nose, miserable and so alone. A prisoner, in my crib.

Waiting to hear the door open, and someone's home. Someone who can love me and care for me. I remember trembling with every fiber of my being, waiting to hear that door.

I have another memory. Crying and miserable in my crib. I felt so forsaken. I just trembled with misery. And then... "Nanny".

My parents adopted Nanny when I was about a year and a half old. I never learned to walk until I was almost 2, but after we got Nanny I had motivation. One of the happiest memories of my early life is chasing her across the floor, screeching her name. Trip, splat, get up, chase cat! Oh, joy.

This particular time, Nanny came into my room, saw I was miserable, and jumped into my crib. She nosed up against me, allowing me to maul her, and began cleaning herself. I could feel the rumble of her purr. It was so soothing. Lick, lick, purr, purrrrr.

I remember watching her clean herself and feeling her purr down to my bones. The sun was warm on my skin, and I drifted off to sleep feeling very loved.

On particularly bad days, when my mother was insensitate for some reason or another, Nanny would come and visit. Sometimes she'd get into my crib, sometimes she'd climb on something nearby where I could see her.

Thank God for cats in cribs. I owe all cats a debt of gratitude I can never repay. That cat was a better mother than my own.

My parents eventually divorced. Nanny, a casualty of a cat-hating father, was "rehomed". My sister tells me she was happy.

My Dad still dislikes cats. I have 2. My mother had a very difficult life, but she gave me the gift of lithium. I was able to discover that lithium worked for her when she was sober. I don't drink, lithium is a fantastic drug for me.

I had a happy ending. Thanks to that cat in my crib.

I don't doubt that some cats and infants are a terrible combination, but I'd have no problem "allowing" either of my cats to climb into a crib containing my infant. I'm sure they'd take good care of my baby.

Thank you, big pharm

I can be a little forgetful at times. Tonight, I was eating dinner and watching TV. I ate my salad, ate my cooked veggie and smoked turkey. I drank my soda (diet).

An ad came on "Bipolar disorder can be a challenging illness...."

OH CRAP! I had forgotten to take my lithium! I quickly took it.


A visit with the parents

So, my Dad's in town.  Along with my adoptive Mom.  Say what you will, she did raise me.  I slept pretty well last night - no noise.  ...