Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Garden bed adventures

I've had some fun and excitement digging up my garden beds. While digging up garden beds 1 and 5, for instance, I encountered a bag of trash, styrofoam cups (the environmentalists aren't kidding when they say they don't break down), shingles, and large chunks of concrete buried in the yard.

Garden bed 5 also produced a long metal chain, leading to a large dog collar. I found out years later the first homeowner bred pitbulls in the yard for 10 years. As a result, my soil had "unusually high" fertility, and I have a marked reluctance to grow root crops.

Garden bed 3 had the cursed pear tree. I kept cutting it off at the roots, it kept resprouting, and sending annoying invaders into beds 2 and 3. I finally dug a massive hole, crawled underneath the stump with my portable folding saw, and sawed at every root I could find. It was a horrible, messy, sloppy job. I made a blood offering to the garden when I sawed my hand by mistake. It took me years to get rid of that thing, and when I finally did I rejoiced.

However, the expansion on garden bed 1 is taking the cake. It has an impermeable layer of hardpan that was so dense, I thought I had another concrete chunk in my garden. The concrete was easier to handle! I have battled this for hours now, and currently I have a 1 foot deep by 4 foot wide hole, filled with water. I see a few bubbles now and then but that's it.

Here's a link to hardpan info:

So, what to do? The rest of my expansion went very well. I dug out the bermuda grass (I layered black plastic "contractor" garbage bags on top of the soil to solar-kill as much as possible), and threw that away. Then I dug out one layer (about a foot deep) of soil, placing it into my large wheelbarrow. I mix it up, pull out obvious offender roots (bermuda-weed), and add amendments like gypsum, greensand, a small amount of balanced organic fertilizer, and organic matter. Today, it was landscaper mix (finely shredded wood with a little bit of perlite), composted cotton burrs (oh, the STENCH!), and composted manure. Oddly enough, the cotton burrs smell worse than the manure. I mix that all up, then loosen the soil in the bed, to a depth of another 12 inches or so. This is called "double digging". I like to do it just to make sure that I don't have any concrete/shingle/dog chain surprises in the bed, too.

I add all the above amendements to the existing soil, about 2 feet down, then I add in the top layer of soil. It's nice and fluffy, rising above the edgings (love that Emerald Edge, it's the only stuff I use now). When I finish, I water it, and add a nice thick layer of mulch. When I stir up the soil, I'm also stirring up plenty of weed seeds. Why let them sprout and ruin my day with weeding?

The first 12 square feet went very well. THIS, however, wins my "most troublesome soil" award. It's a freaking swamp out there, and if I stick my hands in the water and dig at the soil, it's dry. Dry and hard as a rock.

My solution? I'm going to let the swamp percolate for a while yet, and hopefully penetrate the hardpan today. I need to break that layer, if water can't get through what about the poor plant roots?

I'm DEFINITELY adding some sand to the mix!

Monday, July 20, 2009

"Coming to terms with medication"

Today I'm not up, or down. Ron's playing James Taylor, who's also bipolar. "Fire and Rain"

Not up or down. Today, I'm baseline - babble-speak for a normal mood, as it were. Today, I realized that an average mood for me, is going to be exhausted.

I love a properly medicated mania. Housecleaning, yardwork, I'm full of energy. It all gets done. Then I get depressed or baseline and I hardly have the energy to wipe my butt.

I'm not whining today; I met a waitress who "Didn't like" what lithium "Did to her" and is now running around unmedicated. She had a pretty good mania going, I was a little envious.

Now Ron's playing "Gloria" - which we feel also describes someone with bipolar disorder. I think of the homeless guy under the overpass "They said I was bipolar, and gave me pink pills (lithium), but I didn't like them so I stopped." Now he's an alcoholic, living under an overpass, begging for beer money.

God's always giving me examples of why I need to remain medicated, if I'm ever foolish enough to forget the horrible mixed episodes, wanting to die at the same time I felt like I drank a whole pot of coffee, and literally bursting out of my skin with pain. Let's not forget the hallucinations and delusions either... really quite scary.

It's awful to feel invisible bugs on my skin, hear laughter that isn't there, or my personal hatred, the music that doesn't exist. I hear it fairly often even on the meds, but I'm not interested in increasing my doses right now.

It's a hard balancing act, when it takes four tries to spell "balancing", and keeping the moods at a reasonable level. Dull roar, kind of. I wanted to talk a lot and do a lot last time I was manic, but I didn't spend all my money. Good balance. Depressions; where I have to make myself do things I enjoy but I can still do so.

I'm not average, I'll never be average (can't spell average either today). I'm OK with that. I accept that I will have to make some significant sacrifices in order to manage my illness. I don't like it. I think it's sad, but then I've never really been able to rely on my brain anyway.

But even on a bad day, I'm going to make sure that some of the energy I've got is going to fun things that bring me joy. I deserve that, even if it means that sinkful of dishes remains unwashed.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Caregiver burnout

I just googled "caregiver burnout". The first website was a "hired help" agency. The second, also commercial in nature. It advised me to "stay involved in hobbies".

I like this site, I'll quote from it:
Providing care for a family member in need is a centuries-old act of kindness, love, and loyalty.
caregiving – if they come at all – are intangible and far off, and often there is no hope for a happy outcome.
Know your limits. Be realistic about how much of your time and yourself you can give. Set clear limits, and communicate those limits to doctors, family members, and other people involved.
Accept your feelings. Caregiving can trigger a host of difficult emotions, including anger, fear, resentment, guilt, helplessness, and grief. As long as you don’t compromise the well-being of the care receiver, allow yourself to feel what you feel.
Confide in others. Talk to people about what you feel; don’t keep your emotions bottled up. Caregiver support groups are invaluable, but trusted friends and family members can help too....
activities that give you pleasure even when you don't really feel like it. Listen to music, work in the garden, engage in a hobby…whatever it is that you enjoy.
Pamper yourself

I think it's time to find a caregiver support group.

I'm not a drug addict

I recently realized a sore point, and I decided to "get it out".

Discrimination is alive and well. I can see why so many people are so secretive about hiding their mental illness.

Imagine this scenario: You go to the hospital. You HATE hospitals. You don't fear them but you really hate everything they represent, sickness and debility... crises, expenses, death. But you feel lousy enough that you finally head on into the ER.

You're in agonizing pain. They want your medical history. You give it. Drugs taken, Lithium, etc. Medical conditions: bipolar disorder and fetal alcohol syndrome. You can almost see the switch in their head.

They get brusque. You go to the chair and wait.

Someone comes in, you're scared. They examine you and you tell them the whole meds/bipolar thing. They go away. Finally, someone comes back. They draw blood and go away. You never do see a doctor... and when you see the medical assistant they tell you "Don't worry, we'll get you your pain meds. What do you want?" What do I want? I want a diagnosis and treatment! I don't want freaking pain meds! I am at EXTREME risk of drug addiction, the LAST thing I want is dope.

They tell me (notice I'm switching from third to first person), what do you want? I tell them, I want to stop the cause of the pain. I don't want dope. They scratch their heads and look at me, then they go away.

If I'm lucky, they might actually run some diagnostic tests and send me home. If I'm not, they tell me "Go home, here's your prescription for the pain meds". I DON'T WANT DOPE!

I get very, very tired of being treated as a drug-seeking drama queen everytime I go to the hospital. Yes, I understand half of the people with bipolar disorder ALSO have drug and alcohol issues, but half of them don't.

I am ONLY mentally ill, I am not a drug addict. I have made many sacrifices to be a contributing member of society and I am tired of being stigmatized because you don't like my "label".

If fact, it's a damned good thing I DO take my pills or you'd be in trouble!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

When did I know?

Before I start this, I need to say my mood is fine; I'm just contemplating.

As I checked the mail today, I saw the sporting goods catalog. They featured a handgun, on sale.

Three years ago, almost this time, I got another catalog. I saw the shotguns were "only" about $100. First thought, I could afford that. I found the page irresistable.

That gun would make suicide so easy. I was enthralled by that gun, enchanted, and mesmerized. I couldn't stop thinking about that gun. No more pain, for the cost of gun and shells! I could end my pain - that day! I couldn't stop thinking about the gun or planning my suicide.

I battled it for about 2 weeks, and decided to see my doctor. The rest is history. I was diagnosed and eventually received proper treatment. I'm not suicidal anymore, even when I cycle depressed.

In fact, I can predict that a "basic" depression will run about 2 weeks, followed by a 1-2 week mania, then about a month of baseline mood. Currently I'm manic, just a little mixed (some depression symptoms at the same time). Today, not fun. I had hallucinations. UGH. I hate them!

Hearing music that isn't there! Trying to sleep and the music is playing and it's IN MY HEAD. Fortunately, as I tell people, they have pills for that. I took it, then I got to sleep. I hardly have any hallucinations now... no more invisible bugs crawling on my skin, just sometimes I smell BBQ smoke when I shouldn't, and I hear music rarely.

I'd probably be "better" if I took a larger dose, but I hate the thought. I don't mind a minor tremor or two, in exchange for fewer side effects and lower prescription bill. Ron would be furious if he read that, but it's true. I hate being "expensive".

So, when did I know I needed help? The glee I felt when I turned the page in the catalog "Oh, Boy! A gun!" internally, not even vocalized in my mind "That would do the job." I had it all planned out, when I wasn't plotting how to get up to "suicide overpass" which is used fairly often. It's a massive drop, that kills on impact, then the cars'll getcha too.

However, no one'll die until God wills it. Even a jump from height may not be fatal - if God says "You're not done". That was about the only thing that kept me from making a serious attempt.

In Junior High, I realized I needed help - the thought waking up another day was so unbearable, I'd rather die. I got help.

Now, things are better. I'm planning a trip to the garden center and a new expansion on my intensively planted garden bed. Even "sick", I think I still manage to have as much fun, if not more, than the average person. Thanks to my medication.

I never, ever, allow myself to forget "Before".

Friday, July 10, 2009

Message from God

I've been reading my Bible since I could read, nearly 30 years. I've been running depressed lately, I injured my dominant wrist, and feeling very unappreciated by my husband. Was it really him? The depression? Hard to say, but today he did say he wants to "repair" our relationship.

I have a couple "Read the Bible in a Year" tracts. I hand most of them out, but I kept 2 for myself. With all my programs combined, I probably read it 3-4 times a year, actually.

Occasionally I get redundancies... a chapter I read yesterday, on program 1, is on the menu for program 2 today. That happened to me this week.

First, I need to talk about the book of Job. I hate the book, actually. I find it incredibly depressing. Job was a very good man, the Bible says "He was blameless and upright, he feared (respected) God and shunned evil (Job 1:1). God and the Devil are talking, and God says "No man in the world is more devout than Job" (1:8). Satan replies, he's under your protection. Take away his things and we'll see how good he is! (1:10-11) God allows this to happen, he loses all his herds, his servants are killed, and worst of all, he loses his children.

What does he do? He tears his robe and shaves his head (signs of mourning and culturally expected for a man in his situation), and WORSHIPS God! (Job 1:21) The Lord gives, the the Lord takes away, Blessed be the name of the Lord! The next verse continues "In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong".

Wow, I wish I could be that strong! I'm not, and I admit it! It gets better. The Devil and God have another talk, and the Devil says, you never affected Job's body. I bet, if I were to torment him, he'd change his tune! "And the Lord replied, he is in your hand, but spare his life" (Job 2:6)

Bad enough he is bankrupt, bad enough he lost all his employees and his children, now he is afflicted, in the Biblical sense of the word, with horrible boils "From the sole of his foot to the crown of his head" (2:7). He looked so awful no one even recognized him.

Even his wife "left" him, saying "Curse God and die!" (2:9). Ouch. He replies "You speak as a foolish woman speaks. Shall we accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" In all this, he DID NOT SIN. (2:9-10)

He goes off to mourn, and 3 friends of his come to visit. For a whole week, they are silent, sitting on the ground. Job curses the day he was born; he wishes he were dead. Then his freinds start in on him. "If you were really a good man, God wouldn't have allowed this to happen to you." This goes on for 34 chapters, Job's rebuttals "I've done nothing wrong" and his "pals" saying, you suffer because you're a sinner! Some companions.

God finally steps in and tells Job "You're a tiny gnat in the scheme of things, you have no concept of why I've allowed this to happen". Job repents, he realizes God is in control.

Then, in a very interesting twist, God orders the "buddies" to make a sin offering, because they have offended Him greatly. It's often those who claim to be the "True Believers" who end up inflicting the most harm. He tells them, I won't accept your sin offering. You must give the offering to Job, and ask him to pray for you. If you do this, THEN I will forgive you."

Think about it. Job has already lost all of his posessions. He's lost his servants, his children. He's "lost" his wife - I'm sorry, anyone who tells you to curse God and die... Hm. His companions come by to console him, and end up making self-righteous speeches and calling him a sinner! God scolded him, and NOW... NOW... he has to make a sin offering for them (kill 21 cattle and burn them in a ritual fashion), while praying for them!

I probably would have given those guys the finger, and told God, sorry, I can't do it. However, even JESUS orders us to pray for those who persecute us... Matthew 5:44 "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." I would like to bold the last but between my wrist brace and my lousy mouse, it isn't happening.

How does Job react to this Divine order? Job 10:1 "God restored Job's losses when he prayed for his freinds. Indeed, God gave him twice as much as before!"

When we can break the cycle of hate, and pray for our enemies, God can open up the doors of heaven and rain down blessings on us. It doesn't mean He will, but He can.

I only had to read the verse a few times before I put it together. I hope you find this beneficial!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I had a lot of fun today. I drank 3 powerade zeros when I got home, during and after my shower!
Out. 97 degrees. Sunny. ack!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Price Tag

Today I got toxic. I wasn't surprised. It's been exceptionally hot (heat index in mid 100's), humid, and sunny. I've been outside quite a bit. I'm probably a bit dehydrated.

On top of that, while battling a horrendous depression, I upped my lithium. Ugh. The two circumstances collided today and I'm still reeling.

Queasy! Queasy! Belching! Cramps! Gastric issues! Ugh! Lots of sighing and groaning, lots of pepto onboard, and out came the Powerade Zero and Kitchen Basics Chicken Stock - both wonderful products. I'm resting and trying to coddle myself.

I've been drinking, and drinking, and drinking some more, because the kidneys eliminate Lithium. I need to get my levels down. The toxic and therapeutic doses run awfully close together, it would be fascinating, if one day, they could develop a portable meter like my glucometer (blood sugar meter). I could stick my finger, or pee on a stick, and see my lithium level.

However, the depression's vanquished for now. I'm hanging tough and skipping tonight's dose. I don't need it, for certain!

And like I told Ron, this is just the price tag that comes with managing my illness. It could be far worse.

10% of us end our own lives. Some cancers have a better survival rate!

What would I be willing to accept, in the way of side effects, if I had "cancer"? Well, this is just as serious.

My hair may be a bit thinner, my hands get stupid sometimes, and God knows I have a lot of nausea, but it's a price I'm willing to pay.

2 days in one, again

Yesterday was pretty uneventful.  We went to the warehouse, got our supplies, went to work and stocked.  Jack will be out of town next wee...