Monday, June 30, 2008

Sigh, sigh

May is alive. May is here. May is pretty busy. May is learning to live with chronic physical pain, which she doesn't tolerate for extended periods of time as well as she does emotional pain.

Today, the physical therapist told me that I am the most even-keeled and well-adjusted bipolar person she has ever met or even heard of.

Of course, she never saw the before picture, only the after.

Better living through chemistry. And blogging.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


I am dehydrated. I drink a lot of water, but my lips are like a salt lick. There is a slight crust on the skin under my eyes that is gritty under my fingers. I could probably salinate an entire pond just by jumping in.

Lithium strikes again.

I have to do a two-hour presentation tonight. Maybe I'll try the beauty pageant trick of putting a thin film of vaseline on my front teeth. That should be tasty.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A raspberry to Great West Health Insurance


Great West Health Care is giving me a colossal fuckin' headache. A real one, not the figure of speech kind.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

How rumors get started

Favorite questions: How do you know? Where did you get that information? Can you send me that link? May, May, Ms. May, such a curious mind in every sense. I want to know. I want to understand. I want to know the truth.

Truth. There are so many things that start as a misunderstanding, a comment made in jest, or simply as someone's attempt at being mean. It seems plausible; let's run with it. Why do people believe everything they hear? Are we that gullible as a culture or just as a species?

Last year, I changed my email address because I couldn't stand the influx of total crap cramming my inbox. Most of what people honestly believed were dire warnings, prayer requests (wow-wrong number here), and fascinating stories or pictures were, in fact, nothing more than urban legends. It was some nonsense somebody made up, then somebody else took out of context and passed along to someone who shortened it to just the lurid part and sent it on to 200 of her closest friends. When I changed my email address, I gave the new one to only five people. I sent it with a warning stating that at the first chain letter, cloying moral tale, or heavily Photoshopped picture, the offender's name would be blocked from my inbox. I have actually done followed through on this.

Whatever happened to critical thinking? Fact verification? While composing haiku late last night, I needed to find celebrity bipolar patients whose names had the right number of syllables to fit into my poem. What I found was a handful of names where the person had actually announced his or her bipolar disorder and done so in a reputable publication. The other 30-40 names go in a loop. that is, if you Google the name and the word bipolar, you get a lot of conjecture and people quoting Websites that originally all quoted the same undocumented list.

Cheri Oteri has bipolar disorder? Where and when did she publicly admit that? Beethoven? Did he complete the Mini-Mental Evaluation? Any other assessment? How about Abe Lincoln? Peter Gabriel? Tim Burton? I could not find any Empirical evidence--no reputable place of origin for the claims made about them. People are quoting other people, but nobody has a real source.

On the other hand, if you look around, it's easy to find out that Jean-Claude VanDam does, indeed, have BP and says he takes lithium to manage the disorder. Jane Pauley, Sinead O'Connor, and Ben Stiller have spoken publicly about it--there are actual records.

I tried to train my family and former friends to use sites like, the urban legends pages at, and Google, but all to no avail. I guess it's easier to just believe and forward. Hear a rumor, spread the rumor...Have thinking and verifying gone so out of style?

Whatever it is you want the world to believe, just put it on the Internet and it will be accepted as truth. So easy and yet so revealing about mass stupidity.

The result? Masses of information-consuming, critical-thinking-eschewing idiots start rumors based on a willingness to believe and nothing more.

Friday, June 20, 2008

bipolar in five-seven-five

My cards are maxed out
I cannot tell my husband
Hypomanic fun!

Behavioral health
Is just a euphemism
For You don’t fit in.

Ninety-six hours
How can I still be awake?
Ambien is lame.

Happy, sad, happy
Rapid mood swings dizzy me
Pass the lithium

Patty Duke and Sting
Ben Stiller and Edvard Munch
Ted Turner, Axl, and me.

I am not depressed,
I just really like to sleep.
Is three weeks too long?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

1992 or thereabouts

In 1991, I moved to a small town in New York state, right on the northern New Jersey border, about an hour's drive west of Manhattan. It was a quirky town, really small, and I loved it. For a while. About a year after I moved there, I slid into one of the three deepest depressions of my life. Every time I thought I was about to snap out of it, I became irritable, and I displayed disproportionate emotional responses to trivial matters, often knowing--but unable to stop--the torrent of bad feelings shooting out of me. It reminded me of the big climax in the first Indiana Jones movie where the Nazis and the French archaeologist all have the white-hot rays of an angry god lancing their bodies and slicing through the people around them. It was harsh.

I couldn't afford therapy and I had no idea what was really going wrong in my head, so I started keeping a journal. Every day, I typed long essays about my life and myself and everything that I believed had gone wrong and would continue to unravel if I couldn't intervene on my own behalf.
In the course of six months, I wrote enough to fill a one-and-half-inch three-ring binder. And then, just as suddenly as I started writing, I stopped. I was half-way through a journal entry when I was overcome with a sense of...self-absorption. It seemed to me that I was so far inside of my head that if I didn't make a break for it right then, I might never get out. I wanted to think about other things, less painful things, far more interesting things. My heart and soul hadn't really healed, but my mood had lifted somewhat and that made it possible for me to stop beating the crap out of myself mentally, at least for a while.

I still have that notebook. It is buried in a box of files and books somewhere in my basement. It would be easy to find were I to look for it, and yet, for all of the emotional bloodletting I did for a year or more, I have never been brave enough to go back and look at what I wrote. I know it's sad. I know it will sound pathetic to me now. I am reasonably sure that my core feelings about myself haven't changed in 16 years, and that may be what I am most afraid to see.

The late Spalding Gray wrote a performance piece called, Monster in a Box. Somewhere in the essay he talks about how, after assembling his thoughts, he put all of his papers and writing into a box and refused to acknowledge or work with it for years. It loomed large and held too many painful reminders of his emotional struggles.

My three-ring binder is like that. I don't remember what I wrote, exactly, but I have a sharp clarity in remembering how I felt at the time. That kind of sadness and despair are internalized someplace so deep inside of me, it will never be eased completely.

When I have times like what I'm experiencing now, I am reminded of that notebook. I know that I am too self-absorbed to see truths beyond my own interpretation. It's not self-indulgent so much as self-centric, a necessary state that gives me insight into what I need to do next. The last time I did this, it kept me alive.

I'm not sure what the purpose of my self-absorption is right now. I might need to stare at myself a little harder and a little longer. Then I'll know. Sometimes, though, I just get sick of listening to myself.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Welcome to the Doll House

My next therapist needs to be much more up-to-speed on pop culture and media than the one I just had. It's a true necessity because of the way my mind works. I understand and explain things through analogies. When an analogy isn't immediately available, I relate all situations to either a movie, a book, a TV show, or a song.

When I started with this therapist, I got frustrated in the beginning because she just didn't understand how I put information together in my head. Granted, I was so hypomanic (mixed state, actually), I was somewhere off in the stratosphere. I talked so much and so fast, my face hurt from trying to keep up with the neurotransmitter traffic in my brain. Warp speed, Mr. Zulu! Brain eruptions aside, my therapist just hasn't seen enough movies or listened to enough lyrics or internalized enough of her TV viewing. People who claim they never watch TV or, even worse, don't own a TV irritate me on principle. I love TV. Love it.

In the past week or so when I've been feeling so goddam awful about myself, one movie keeps coming to mind: Welcome to the Dollhouse. The main character, Dawn Weiner, is as big a misfit and as just as unappreciated in her family as I was in mine. When I rented the movie, my husband said it was painful to watch a character struggle the way Dawn did. My heart ached for her. I wanted to reach out and say, "Sweetie, hang in there. They'll never love you and you'll always be more interesting than they will: Two absolute truths." It may be painful to watch, but this movie is a gem and one of the most insightful stories about being a misfit middle child ever produced. Heather Matarazzo should have gotten an Academy Award. Which isn't to say that Jessica Lange didn't kick ass in Blue Sky (I am sure her character had raging bipolar disorder). Or was that the year for Susan Sarandon in Dead Man Walking? I'm too lazy to look it up.

I digress. I never related to a movie the way I did with We,come to the Dollhouse. The only other character I totally understood and who I felt would understand me was Ugly Betty in the first season.

Both Dawn and Betty have a lot in common (other than Eric Mabius), but nothing more than their awkward, out-of-step, trying-too-hard demeanor, the work they put into trying to fit in, and their never-pretty looks. I get it, boy, do I get it. I only hope Betty meets a kinder fate than Dawn (and to find out what that is, you need to rent Palindromes).

Pretty han!

I can't boost my self-esteem overnight, nor can I lose 50 pounds that fast, but in an attempt to self-soothe without eating, I decided to get a manicure and pedicure.

The salon is just like thousands of others. It has bad decor, a little Buddhist shrine in the corner, and a massive flat-screen Hi-Def TV that is always incongruously tuned to Animal Planet. The entire staff is Vietnamese. The owner's precocious seven-year-old daughter chattered away at me about dogs--puppies, to be exact--for the duration of my pedicure. Once my toes were finished, I was able to escape motormouth and move over to the manicure station where a different tech took over.

She didn't say anything for a long time, other than, "How short?" and "Uh-oh!" upon seeing my thumbnail that had broken almost below the skin line (ouch). As she worked on my hand massage, the tech kept looking intently at my hands. She filed my nails "faw computa," and started in on an arm and hand massage with peach-scented lotion. She looked up during the massage, smiled broadly, and exclaimed, "Pri-tee han! You have very prit-tee han! So beautiful!" She smiled again and admired my hand, which she had draped over hers like a fancy glove.

So, from someone who sees hundreds of hands a week, the verdict is in: I have pretty hands. To be honest, I knew this already but it seems so inconsequential in the big picture of me--the physical package--that it's something I forget about. The nail tech's compliment took me by surprise a little bit, too. One of the side-effects of Lyrica is that it causes swelling in the hands, feet, and ankles, so I'm extra puffy right now. My fingers look fat to me, but everything is relative.

I love getting a manicure and pedicure. I only do it twice a year, but that's enough to keep me fascinated by the pretty polish colors for a week or more. At the moment, it's OPI Ultimate Ruby, SR 3K1. It's a beautiful crystalline burgundy (identical to the picture, but that's not my hand). A little Goth for summer, but I don't feel very pink these days.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Invoking the spirit of Michael Moore

OK, I know he's not dead, but it's still in the spirit of Mr. Moore that I write this post.

I hate health insurance. Don't get me wrong--even crappy insurance has value, but it seems like insurance companies go out of their way to confuse the very people who are paying hard-earned money to keep them in business. Maybe I just have more than my fair share of trouble in this area. It's not a good combination with low frustration tolerance. Glaaaaaa.

Because I have had terrible problems with health insurance in the past, I've learned to be careful and deliberate in looking over my statements and medical bills and reconciling all of them. I suggest you do the same. Part of this diligence comes from my tendency to get muddled and frustrated when I'm not feeling well. Part of it comes from three years ago when we had to change insurance companies three times in 12 months through no decision on our part--and each change brought a new deductible. I paid close to $10,000 in out-of-pocket for my medical care that year--my first year trying to actually treat BP instead of pretending I didn't have it.

In 2001, I had surgery on my right knee. Before I could have surgery, though, I needed to undergo ten weeks of physical therapy three times a week (cha-ching!). The surgery went well, but I still needed more physical therapy afterward. The bills started coming in and I found them almost impossible to decipher. It was beyond frustrating.

I ended up making a massive spreadsheet to reconcile the appointments, the bills, the insurance payments, and my co-pay. Unfortunately, the insurance company wasn't so organized. They started sending me duplicate bills, bills for procedures I didn't have done (like wrist surgery), and bills for difference between the regular bill and the student discount I was receiving as a graduate student.

For almost nine months, I cried, I lost sleep, I had maddening conversations with ignorant people at a call center somewhere in California. Nobody would look at my hard copy bills; instead, they would only refer to what was on their computer screen, which happened to be wrong and quite different from what was on the paper they had sent me. I accidentally overpaid one bill by $50 and the company just flat-out refused to return the money. I finally contacted one of the local TV consumer news reporters and once he contacted the insurance company, *poof!* I got my $50 back and all nonsensical billing ceased.

Ever since the knee surgery incident, I have been careful--very careful--to keep track of my medical bills and insurance claims. It doesn't matter. My insurance company, Great West, has been pretty good for the most part, although they, too have chronic billing problems as well as a severely disfunctional IT department. This plan year went a lot smoother than any other I've had. I almost exhaled, but then I got The Letter. Dear Ms. Voirrey, an internal audit has revealed an error in your account. Numerous claims were not applied to your deductible and this has resulted in a need to adjust your deductible. Great West will resubmit these claims. This will, unfortunately, result in a financial liability for you as you will be required to pay the difference to your service providers. Blah, blah, blah, we screwed up royally and now we're sending every single one of your bills through at 100% patient liability, and only you can figure it out because we can't add or subtract, not that we care. You're the one who has to write the checks.

This is a sizable error, or so they tell me. That isn't the scary part. The scary part is that Great West has completely stopped paying anything on any of my bills, and all of the new bills I've incurred for the last, say, two-and-a-half months, are coming directly to me, payable in full, no discount, no deductible. I have to pay the bills up front and hope I get my money back later. Nobody believes a thing I say, even though my canceled checks show I have paid hundreds of dollars in excess of the deductible. My argument falls on deaf ears, and nobody wants to see my documentation. Apparently, I know nothing and am not to be trusted because I am merely a customer/patient.

This has certainly whipped my mood down into submission. I feel somewhat defeated. I don't think I can fight another insurance fight. I asked a supervisor at Great West what went wrong. Here is the response, which I have cut and pasted from the secure email that was sent to me:
Thank you for your recent e-mail inquiry. Dana has informed me that she contacted you today updating you with the status of your claim history. We can send you a copy of the spreadsheet that was completed with a breakdown of the claims.
You brought a system error to our attention, I am sorry we can not explain a situation with our system when we don't understand what happened. I do apologize that this has been an incredibly difficult situation for you. We want you to understand the claims should have applied the deductible at the time the claims originally processed.
The providers involved will usually work to create payment arrangements that will work for you. We don't want you to cancel any medical services for conditions that are causing you pain, hopefully information below will help explain your plan further.
(At which point he proceeds to tell me what my insurance deductible and co-pay are. Very insightful.)

I hate insurance companies. Why can't they seem to get their billing right?

The sum of my parts

(Sorry--I didn't proofread. I'm actually pretty depressed right now, so grammar and spelling are not tops on my list of priorities at the moment--only unraveling the traffic in my head is front and center today.)

Where do our insecurities come from and, why, in the face of intellectual reason, can't we just talk ourselves out of having them? If we could, millions of therapists around the world would have a greatly reduced client load, I assume. If we could set our minds at ease, would we just find something new to be unhappy about?

Sometimes I feel like I'm a fish swimming through an ocean of cultural messages I don't want to believe. I internalize those messages, though, because that which is true about me appears in such stark contrast to this sea of cultural expectation. It isn't possible that I am all right when everything about me is so divergent from those waves of images washing over me whenever I open my eyes. It is difficult for me to believe I am adequate in any way given the standards we are all expected to achieve or at least aspire to on a daily basis.
For a long time, I wanted to not care what anyone thought, I wanted to pretend it didn't matter, but I couldn't do it. My mind wouldn't let me be hoodwinked by wishes when concrete evidence was everywhere telling me that people do notice and they certainly make judgements based on appearance, behavior, and interests. And on accomplishment. And on physical ability. And on material wealth.

How we acquire our feelings of inadequacy is probably a complex process. I think about myself, and I know that I grew up in a family that placed a very high value on money, beauty, and athletic achievement. I always came up short. I am the third of four siblings, the second of two girls. Statistically speaking, we were interesting in that the birth order was girl-boy-girl boy. There is no true "middle child" in our family, but I would be the closest thing to it.

I am nothing like anyone in my family. I remember one summer when I was in college, Laurel came to visit. After one day, she said, "May, how in the world did you end up in this family?" It was a fair question given my status as the family oddball.

Lynn said that we are taught to hate ourselves. I suppose we could also be taught to love ourselves, but unlearning self-loathing seems almost impossible. I am 47 years old, and I'm pretty sure that at this point, those messages about my lack of worth are so ground into my psyche as to be hard wired. Can you rewire the brain? My psychiatrist says you can't, you can only try to fool it. It took years to chip away at any self-love I may have had as a child. Instead of living as an integrated mind/body individual, I see myself as a fractured collection of parts--personality, moods, unattractive person, shameful-ugly body, defectively wired brain--and those parts do not hang together as a whole very well.

At what point should we give up on trying to fix what we believe is wrong with ourselves? Is it even possible to put self-criticism to rest? I am so self-critical that even if I try to pepper myself with affirmations, they end up sounding like hollow, ridiculous platitudes.

My therapist, as I may have mentioned, asked me why I cling so tightly to my poor self-image and why I seem so unwilling to see myself another way. Here is what I said. "I can't see myself another way. I have mirrors. I read magazines--including the healthy, age-appropriate ones like More and O. I see what I see and what I don't see is anyone who is like me.

I think that's what I'm always hoping for--to find people who are more like me. Of course, having sworn of personal relationships, I would settle for finding people like me in magazines and in advertising and in movies.

Every once in awhile, I find a little spot of comfort, and it is in the least likely place I ever expected. It's on TV, on the Learning Channel: What Not to Wear. On the surface, Stacey and Clinton seem snarky and harshly critical, but if you stay with it, you'll find that their most compassionate moments are saved for the women who have the problem figures--and the larger issues of self-image, self-loathing, and dressing poorly to camouflage both. The women featured on the show (the overweight ones) usually reach a point where they avoid the real task at hand by buying shoes and accessories in excess (guilty). They try on clothes and eventually break down in tears in the dressing room. I have been there too many times to count, and when that train gets rolling, it pulls along all of the other baggage: I'm not good enough, this is all my fault, I don't try hard enough, If I were just a better/more diligent and focused person, I wouldn't be such a loser...and then it goes downhill from there.

I can't even explain how a diagnosis of bipolar disorder twisted an already complex web of possibly distorted thinking. I have tried for so long to be so careful and not make mistakes, not be too quirky as to be weird, not show my frequent bouts of stupidity...and then, BP. I walk on eggshells trying not to draw attention to myself anymore. I wanted to be noticed for so long, it's ironic that now I don't want anyone to notice too much.

Anyone with BP who feels like I do has a compounded level of internal stress that never goes away. It is this stress of self-monitoring, comparing, and holding one's breath waiting for the tell-tale behavior to reveal itself, or for a slip of the tongue that unmasks the truth about my illness. My therapist and doctor often marvel that I do not appear to be sick because I "present well."

I have been struggling to fit in and hide my deficiencies and abnormalities my entire life. Of course I present well. I'm just trying to meet the cultural standard of normality, and I've been trying desperately to do so for thirty-some years. Maybe this is my big achievement.

Give that woman an Academy Award.

Monday, June 16, 2008

We believe what we hear

My husband and I just went through a stack of photos documenting my childhood. When my father was dying, my mother busied herself by sorting through his things and sending his family photos to us, his children. It's hard for me to look at these pictures. Despite what the pictures may tell you, I did not have a very happy childhood. Our home was full of bitter fights and harsh discipline. By the age of six I was so afraid of making a mistake, I lived in a state of constant, overwhelming anxiety. I threw up every day for almost two years, and my father mocked me for it just as often.

My brothers and sister were a mean-spirited trio. I was sure they hated me, and they certainly made an effort to bring me as much emotional discomfort as possible. In our house, the worst possible things you could ever be were fat or stupid. Or weird. There was never any concrete definition of 'weird,' though, so being tagged as such was strictly subjective. Every day for about ten years straight (no, I'm not exaggerating), one thing was relentlessly drilled into me: May, you are ugly, fat, and weird. For the most part, I was dismissed by my siblings, but I found a much better world in books. I remember reading a book called "The Gift of Magic," about three siblings who are each endowed with a talent. I desperately wanted to be a character in that book, blessed with some special talent that would prove I was not inferior among the people in my family.

Ugly. Fat. Weird. Ugly. Fat. Weird. Ugly. Fat. Weird. Ugly. Fat. Weird. Ugly. Fat. Weird. Ugly. Fat. Weird.

When I was in sixth grade, I had a friend named Jane. She was very tall and quite big boned. She was overweight. I was not, but I certainly believed I was. I was not-quite five feet tall and I weighed 99 pounds. My then 15-year-old sister was merciless in how she ripped into me about my supposed weight problem. One day after school, I headed out the door to visit Jane. My sister sneered at me and said, "Everybody knows that the only reason you're friends with her is so that you don't look so fat. Standing next to a fat person does not make you look thinner, you idiot."

In an earlier post on this blog, I talked about my nickname of Mag the Hag. Ugly. Fat. Weird. Ugly. Fat. Weird. Ugly. Fat. Weird. Eventually, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I felt increasingly sad as I looked through the pictures. I was a quirky kid in the wrong family--a family that saw nothing but mistakes in me. The pictures do not show a child who is ugly, fat, or weird. Just a kid, like any other kid.

It's funny to me

Whatever the mood, whatever the neurosis, The New Yorker has already published a cartooon about it. I save the ones I like the most. My health insurance company is torturing me this week, which reminded me of a cartoon. I hope that I do not invoke the wrath of the New Yorker copyright gods, but I just need to shuffle through my collection and smile instead of cry from frustration. To me, the cartoons represent certain aspects of myself or my life, including health insurance unpleasantries, bipolar disorder stability, my self-image issues as perceived by others, and a conversation loop I'm stuck in with my doctors.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Do you see what I see? Scary, isn't it?

The physical therapist asked me to take stock and really pin down my underlying body issues and what I don't like. She said that if I really look, I'll find what I do like. Her belief as a practitioner is that if you feel deep hostility toward your body, it is a block to healing. The truth is, then, I may never heal. The feelings I have about my body go far beyond mere embarrassment or dislike. These feelings are complex and difficult to articulate. The word 'loathing' is inaccurate. I hate my body so intensely, I wish I were invisible. It is the only cure. I am fat, I am ugly, I am a mistake of genetics on many levels. I want to believe that beauty comes from the inside, but even if it were so, I live every day of my life entrenched in a culture that blatantly eschews interest in the more intangible aspects of the self.

When I look around me in this world, I don't see anyone who looks like me, and on the rare occasion whe I do see someone who takes larger than a size zero, it's not portrayed in a positive way. TV, movies, books, magazines, advertising, demographic is invisible. What I hear is that in my culture, I am invisible. In this month;s Oprah magazine, there is an article about why women hate their bodies. The author nailed it, but left little in the way of advice. It reminded me I want to die. Maybe embarrasment can kill you. In the end the article was merely depressing to be reminded that attractive, thin people get many good things people like me never will. I have a nice voice and that's why it's better that I speak to people on the phone instead of in person.

From the time I was a little kid, I was constantly bombarded with the message that I looked different, and not in a good way. My mother loves to tell the story of how I was born with a big butt and fat thighs. It may have been cute the first year, but after that, it was pointed out to me far too many times for me to believe I looked normal. Summer swim club was the worst.

I remember one summer day sitting in the back seat of a car with my friend Susan from across the street. Susan was tall and willowy from the day she was born. There we were in the middle of summer, sitting in the back seat when I looked at Susan's thighs. They were lean and tight, like the legs you see in hosiery ads. My thighs were wide and soft and seemed to puddle around me on the seat. I wondered why Susan's legs looked so different from mine. I wasn't fat then--in fact, I was small for my age. I knew right then I wanted long, firm legs, but I was still too young to know that all the exercise in the world was never going to make that happen. I was only six years old on that day I compared Susan's legs with mine and found my own body shape to be inferior. From that point forward, I always came up short in every comparison.

My body image only deteriorated after that, and is now so embedded as to be irreversible. I have mirrors. I read magazines and watch television and I know what is valued and admired in this culture (and it's not one's lovely personality). Consequently, I know that I am simply...disgusting. So, let's take a tour head to toe and see what it is that May finds so very troubling when she looks in the mirror or shops for clothes...

Hair. I have difficult hair. The shade is hard to describe--sort of a mousy, ash brown that has acquired streaks of gray. My hair is quite fine, so it lays very flat on the top. It's hard to keep a style in it. I haven't cut my hair for ten months. I had a series of horrendous haircuts last year, so I decided to just grow it out for a year and start with a clean slate. My hair looks awful. It just always looks awful. I detest flat hair. I colored my hair starting at age 16 and my hair has been may colors since, including a few that weren't intentional. I didn't see my natural color until about two-and-a-half years ago. It's still unimpressive and problematic. All the layers in the world haven't helped the shape. I wrote about my hair issues last summer, and you can read that post here.

My brain. Seriously. Do I need to elaborate? I want a new one that isn't defective. How about no bipolar disorder. Being diagnosed gave me yet one more reason to be embarrassed to be me. Toe fungus would be easier to admit to having. There are my regular issues of inherent dorkiness, absent-mindedness, tangential speaking, talking too much, and being very blunt. Pervasive feelings of insecurity are latched onto everything I think or do. I am lazy. I don't always focus. I am finding it harder and harder to talk to people because I don't really care what they have to say and that makes me come off as rude and insincere (how ironic--I couldn't be more sincere). My memory is failing. My balance is bad (that might be pharmaceutical in nature), I'm not really that smart, not even close to as smart as most people believe I am (trust me on this one), and I am a mathematical retard (I use the word retard in the true, dictionary sense). Having gone from dorky to awkward to even dorkier and then to neurologically defective, I find very little to feel good about regarding my brain. It doesn't do any of the things I want it to do (that's another post), and it seems to have spent its life finding new ways to humiliate me. I am intimately familiar with humiliation.

Face: I have such a high forehead it looks like I have a receding hairline. This is something I have cringed at millions of times throughout my life. Like, all my life. I must always, always, always wear bangs; unfortunately, my hair always wants to part in the center and expose my big forehead.

I am told I have a nice smile. Whoopee.

Skin. I've had acne of varying degrees since I was 11. I hope this stops with menopause. My skin is just...blech. Thousands of dollars of focused attention haven't helped. I once spent $400 for a series of custom prescribed facials at the tony Lia Schorr Salon in New York City. That didn't help, either.

Blue eyes. Very bad vision. Near sighted, far sighted, astigmatism. My eyes are small, or they appear to be because they're deep set. Wearing glasses emphasis this issue. I hate wearing glasses and I always have. I can wear contacts and they're great--as long as I don't need to see anything within three feet of my body.

Blond eyelashes, very thin and fine. It looks like I don't have lashes at all. I plucked the bejezus out of my eyebrows when I was 18 and I haven't had to pluck them since. Unfortunately, I didn't do a good job when I was 18.

Nose. My nose is a weird, weird shape and it is always congested.

My face is very round. A former boss called me "moon face." It wasn't a term of endearment.

I hate my breasts, I hate my breasts, I hate my breasts. I take a bra size that doesn't exist, so I must blame my breasts for my daily discomfort. I need a large band size, but a very small cup size, and not even the swanky bra salon here could accommodate me. Not even with a special order. When I weighed 125 pounds, I didn't even need to wear a bra except I always did because...My nipples are very, very prominent. They show through everything--prominently. I use Maidenform's Petals, flower-shaped band-aid stick-on things that help, but they are very expensive. I hate my breasts so much, I would like to have them removed entirely. I am dead serious.

There is not one redeeming quality between my chin and my upper thighs. Upper knees. Feet. Whatever. My legs are disproportionately long for my height. This means that regular sizes are too long and petites are an inch too short. Pants do not fit me, but if they do, I can only buy capris or pay for hemming, which I won't do because paying for it feels like a short person's tax.

My ass is huge. My belly is big and has always had a natural protrusion my entire life. My kindergarten group dance teacher used to call me Mrs. Santa Claus. You know how you can only have an abs six-pack if you have the genetic predisposition for the muscle definition? I have whatever the exact opposite is. All the sit ups in the world ain't gonna change my gut.

My thighs are enormous. My waist and hips are two different clothing sizes. I am curvy at any weight, which is a euphemism for "I was born with big hips and a fat ass." My mother calls this a baby-making body, and I am appalled by the very thought of that. These ass-hip-thigh-belly problems are not as prominent if I weigh less, but they are still prominent, nonetheless. Is a 50- or 60-pound weight loss really so much to want out of life? I would give up many IQ points to lose 60 pounds. I'd sell my fucking soul to lose 65 pounds and be free of bipolar disorder.

My feet are oddly shaped. I can't wear shoes that are closed in the back--very interesting in winter. Also, I have a genetically inherited foot problem: I get freakishly awful calluses on my heels. If I'm not diligent about scraping, buffing, scrubbing, trimming, shaving, and applying salicylic acid and lotion...well, then the calluses split open vertically and I can't walk. This special trait iscalled heel fissure, and in my family, it is not related to being overweight. It is entirely genetic and it will always be a problem. It is aggravated by wearing open-back shoes. I don't have very nice feet.

All things considered, I just hate my body as a whole, and my weight may be what my deepest depressions are rooted in. I would get gastric bypass surgery in a minute if I could, but at 5' 1.5" and 180 pounds, I do not qualify, not even for lap-band surgery. I am too fat to be healthy, but not so unhealthy to qualify for meaningful help.

Overall, I am quite homely and that would be true at any weight. Every day I get up and start my day embarrassed. I stay that way all day. My face is scary. My body is a never-ending source of shame and reminder of my many failures and shortcomings. I've never been able to fix it, and lately I've given up trying. Futility, you know?

I'm so physically ghastly, it's a miracle I found a husband. I have long believed that my body is just a visible manifestation of the defects inside my head. When the physical therapist asked me what I thought about my body, I articulated this belief a little bit better. Here is what I wrote down:

I hate my body. I loathe and detest it. I treated it very well for a long time, but it never returned the favor. Nothing in my life has caused me as much anxiety, disgust, and sadness. It’s all wrong—completely botched—from the inside out, and nothing I do (or have ever done) seems to make any difference at all. I will never be able to like myself, let alone love myself, until my physical flaws have been eliminated.

Well, that about says it all

My horoscope for today, which could be titled: "Other people are the real reason it sucks to have bipolar disorder, but fuck them, who cares?" Otherwise, I would say that today's horoscope quite effectively sums up the greater world view of BP.

Daily extended (by
It's one thing to follow your mood, but it is quite another to be moody. People have little patience for folks whose personalities seem to change from moment to moment -- it doesn't exactly inspire confidence. So do whatever it takes to put yourself into a balanced mindset, today.

Do whatever it takes? There aren't enough medications on the planet.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Fun with current

So, I wonder if I can cure my bipolar disorder with that super-duper TENS unit? Hmmmm.

I've been a research study subject before. Maybe TENS could just gently rearrange the neurotransmitter activity in my head and make me the thoroughly mundane, middle-class, unambitious, bland-yet-pleasant person I was meant to be.

Note to self...Friday to-do list...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Time flies when you're blogging fun

I blog, therefore I exist. My thoughts are not confined to the limitations of my neural pathways.

I have been writing this blog for one year and four days. I missed my own blogaversary because it didn't seem like a year had passed. When I started this blog, I was very angry and bitter. Some of those emotional rough edges have been smoothed out a lot, but there's still work to be done.

A year ago I commented that I was relieved to be feeling so very much better and I believed I had come to the most effective place the medications could offer. I see now that I had oversimplified what the terms of recovery and stability would be. At this time, I'm functioning much better than a year ago, but "better" is a difficult term to describe.

It was a big year. I started shaking thoughts out of my head and they spun off into the blogosphere. It brought me calm. I talked about all of the stars exploding in my head, those bright, white ideas that were blinding me from the inside out. That's how I could see with perspective.

(My drugs just started kickin in, babbling nonsense to follow soon.)

Topics I covered in a year
Loathing exercise
Random facts
Tales of police encounters
Therapy, top and bottom, so to speak
Friends and why I fired them
Friends and why I don't want new ones who know where I live
Life with family
Wedding pictures
A sliced cat
Starting a Nonprofit
Suicide again
Voluntarily determined end-of-life issues.
Bipolar disorder at least once. Maybe twice.
Refugee profiles.
Self-loathing (with more to come.)

Those were the most common themes. It's possible that like a monkey in an experiment, I merely typed a lot and said nothing at all.

Humming along

Until I get my own TENS unit, I have a loaner from the physical therapist. She said this unit is the "Cadillac" of TENS units and the one I ultimately get won't be nearly as cool. Damn. I love gadgets, but especially the really cool ones.

I was just on the manufacturer's Website. I need to go back and see how to hook up the unit for shoulder/upper back pain. I want to self-treat my shingles nerve while I have the good equipment.

I'm still not convinced that something so subtle is actually doing something. The jury is still out.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

(bonnng) 3:15 and all is not well

After so much trouble with insomnia, I’ve started to understand how to function the best I can with the little sleep I actually get. Since two out of three of the newest medications I’ve been taking also cause drowsiness, I’ve finally been able to fall asleep within a reasonable amount of time and get better quality sleep even though the quantity may be lacking.

I take my sleep very seriously and I have little tolerance for anything that disrupts my slumber. Once I’ve been awakened, it’s nearly impossible to find my sleep groove for the rest of the night. There are measures in place to help me along: a sleep mask, earplugs or iPod, an empty bladder, and those wonderful Breathe-Right nose strips.

It seems that all this week there has been a disturbance in the sleep fairy’s mojo. For whatever cosmic reason, I often wake up, briefly, at exactly 3:15. It must have something to do with my meds and my sleep cycle, but it is a little weird and it doesn’t explain the goings on this week.

On Saturday night I was awakened by the sound of a cat trying to puke out a hairball the size of a small rodent. Cats are very dramatic vomiters, for sure. The sound was loud and broke through my sleep. A few seconds later, I heard what sounded like the cat gagging out volumes of kitty vomit in an undetermined location near the bed. I made a mental note to warn my husband when he got up at dawn to let the dog out so he wouldn’t walk in anything nasty on his way through the bedroom. Of course, this meant I didn’t sleep well since I was afraid I would sleep through his getting up and not be able to alert him to the possible cat-produced hazards on the floor.

Not to worry: My own alarm was still set for 5:00 from two days before when I had to get up early for a work obligation. Nothing like an alarm clock shattering your dreams at 5:00 on a Sunday morning.

Monday night turned out to be an identical repeat of Sunday night. In addition to dealing with the cat, this time my husband woke up as the cat started gagging. The cat was on the night table where he was hovering over my husband’s head like some crazed feline gargoyle who was about to spew something evil right on my husband’s head.

My husband sat up and attempted to push the cat to the floor. In response, the cat panicked, dug his claws into the table cover, and went to the floor taking the clock, lamp, and telephone with him. Yeah, that’ll smack the sleepy right out of your head. As if that weren’t bad enough, again I had forgotten about the damn alarm clock on my side of the bed and it dutifully woke me up precisely at 5:00.

Last night, we were ready. We put the cat out of the room. I made sure to adjust my alarm clock. We were tired, so we went to bed a little early. I slept. I really slept. Until the phone rang.

It was about 1:45 in the morning. My husband leaped out of bed and ran to the kitchen (because god forbid he should pick up the bedroom phone and risk answering without knowing who was calling—kitchen phone has caller ID, bedroom phone does not). We both had the same thought—one of our parents has been rushed to the hospital and we needed to fly back East immediately.

No. The caller ID indicated it was an out-of-state number with a name we didn’t recognize. My husband came back to bed and we tried to get back to sleep.

This event repeated itself three more times, with the final call coming at 3:15. My husband (who was still running to the kitchen phone each time—let’s just blame that on slumber-induced disorientation, shall we?) tried to answer the phone but just missed it. There were no voice mails. This time, I joined him in the kitchen and looked at the caller ID myself. I noted the area code, and while my husband headed back to bed, I pulled out the telephone book and flipped to the page listing state information.

The caller was in Arkansas. My best guess is that the first call came very soon after the bars closed in that part of the country. This was obviously a case of drinking and dialing. I don’t know who this guy was trying to reach, but he was quite adamant and inept about it. Since he made repeated calls, my husband and I were both awakened again and again—a particularly cruel sort of sleep deprivation.

This morning my husband announced that he had an idea. He said he’s going to get up about 1:00 in the morning tonight and repeatedly dial the Arkansas number every 25 minutes for about two hours and then go back to bed.

Today we are both profoundly grouchy. I am quasi-delirious from three nights of interrupted sleep. It looks like I even wandered out of the house and on to work without my purse. Of course. I have to drive to appointments all afternoon.

I think that after midnight, all phones should require an Interlock device so callers cannot dial while under the influence.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Hasta la vista, hon

On Friday I told my therapist I am quitting therapy. I can't afford her and the New Age Mind-Body Feldenkrais Physical Therapist. I also said that I've come as far as I think I can. There's only so much insight I can stand in the course of a week, anyway.

She took it pretty well. I think she's going to miss me more than I miss her. I'm not going to miss her. For the most part, I just don't miss people once they're out of my regular life. I'm not cold, just practical.

My therapist was there as I worked through the emotional trauma of my diagnosis and then again as I tried to sort out the personal issues related to bipolar disorder. I ditched my friends, I stopped thinking in back and white, and I came to terms with the fact that I have an illness that I can never discuss outside of this blog. It seemed unfair at first, but I've made my peace with that situation after talking it through from the big, overstuffed chair in the fourth-floor office suite.

The thing about therpy is that when you pay someone to listen to you, there's an assumed lack of sincerity on the therapist's part. I may never really know if she found me as fascinating as she claimed or if she was just interested in getting a paycheck. I asked her to fill me with coping tools and concrete resources, but that wasn't her style and I walked away from each session with a need to look for what I needed in books and on the Internet. Now I find I have found all the reources I needed, my coping skills aren't skills at all but medications and a friend named Jolie. This is enough. I am finished my pay-per-speak relationship, especially now when I don't feel I should be the one doing all the work and getting billed by the hour.

Now I will really have to write a lot.

I sing the body electric

Today was my second physical therapy session. Since I had so much pain after least week's session, the therapist decided to just work with a TENS unit. TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. The therapist sticks electrodes on you and turns up the juice. Then you twitch like a bunny.

OK. That is not true. TENS has very little current and you don't feel all that much. The therapist asked me if I had ever had TENS before. I had to think about it, and then I remembered I went to a chiropractor in New Jersey who used to use it to untangle knots in my back (at the exact site of my shingles, it turns out).

The therapist asked how that had gone for me. "Well, it didn't. I mean, the doctor seemed really baffled and a bit concerned because I needed to have the current very, very high just to feel like it was getting through. Eventually he stopped trying to use it because he didn't feel comfortable having to turn up the current to that intensity."

The therapist looked at me and said. "Huh. Did you ever have any other experiences related to electrical current?"
"You mean, other than the excess current in my brain's neurotransmitters?"
Toni jotted down a note, looked up, and said, "Yes. In addition to that."
"OK, this is a really weird story, but you asked and maybe this will mean something to you."

I told her about my trip to MOSI, the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa. I went in the late 1990s with my niece and nephew, parents, brother, and sister-in-law. There was an exhibit about energy and electricity. Among the items in the exhibit was a station where you could measure the current flowing through your body. It was a stainless steel plate where you put the palm of your hand and it was connected to a VU meter that showed your current. My niece and nephew tried it and each measured at about 20 on the meter. My parents were about 25. I stepped up to try it and the needle leaped to the right and hovered at 60. I lifted my hand and stared at the meter. My mother suggested that perhaps I had a lot of static electricity from my shoes. I tried again...60. The whole family tried again with their first results repeated. Once again, mine measured 60.

My family and I were puzzled by this the rest of the day. How was it possible? I have a long history of paralyzing wristwatches, and the LCD digital displays in almost every device I own that has them have stopped working and now look like alien code. Is it me?

Toni listened to this story and continued to take notes. Then she said, "We have to get the current to flow into you instead of out of you. That's going to be the challenge." Uhhh, OK.

She hooked up the machine and started the current. She kept pushing the up arrow button and asking me, "Do you feel it? What does that feel like?" I suspected it might be a test to see if I imagined sensation that wasn't there. I kept saying I felt nothing. Nothing.

When I finally felt something, Toni just said, "Wow." Then she asked me to let her know when the sensation was strong. Up arrow, up arrow, up arrow. Finally I could feel it with some intensity. Toni held up the unit and said, "May, your number is 37. Dang. That's high. This is interesting. I have to look into this more."

It's all starting to fit for me. Maybe I am full of electrical current, but what is the source? Is this current the reason my brain runs away at warp speed and spins on a manic axis much of the time? Does it burn out and cause my crushing depressions? Re-light and bring mania? Is this the true reason why I can't sleep without heavy sedation and then, after five hours, I am wide awake? Does lithium act as a current inverter?

More importantly, can we harness this as a power source to fuel my Liberty?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Photo du jour

This is my husband's cat. This cat is pure evil. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Ouch. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow.

Forget the part of yesterday's post when I said the physical therapy wasn't too bad. Holy shit, I am in debilitating pain. My sit bones hurt, yes. My girly part, well, I can't even describe the sensation. I also feel like my ovaries are going to pop out of my belly like twin versions of that thing from Alien. My ass is killing me. My inner thighs are so stiff I can barely walk.

Inexplicably, my right leg is in excruciating pain, but on the outside edge a few inches above my knee. That's exactly opposite the side/area the therapist worked.

Worst of all, this trigger-point therapy had set my shingles pain into a fiery overdrive.

Waaaaah! Waaaaah! Waaaah! May is not whining, she's wailing. Don't ask me why, but expressing the fact that I have pain is its own type of comfort.

Now I'm a little worried. The therapist told me that before next week's session, I have to get a prescription for lidocaine cream for my va-jay-jay. I'm going to need it. Or so she says.

Oh-dear-god this better be worth it.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Today the physical therapist asked me what part of my body I liked. I told her there isn't one--I loathe everything about my body. She asked what part I hate. I told her I hate my thighs and hips. She said, "Not your abdomen?"

I thought about that for a second and said, "No. I hate my vagina, but now I realize I may have been blaming it for things that weren't its fault. My body is a lot like a dysfunctional family."

Today's therapy wasn't too bad, but now my ass hurts on the sit bones.

My pain is always delayed.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

More media

It's possible that I already posted about this, but since I'm too lazy to look it up, I'll just post now anyway. The truth is, I'm procrastinating on submitting a conference presentation proposal. It's due tomorrow. The conference isn't until next March. Nothing like planning ahead. At least this time if I get sick at conference time, I can sleep comfortably in my own bed--the conference is here in 2009, so no travel required.

Back to my original idea. Not my original idea, but my original reason for posting: The psychological benefits of keeping a blog. A few weeks ago, this article on CNN caught my eye. Besides the fact that I am a blogger (I maintain four blogs, heaven help me), I had been struggling with answering a coworker's question when she overheard me say that I blog. The question was, "Why do people do that, anyway? Who reads other people's journals?" Well...I told her that I had always kept a journal anyway, especially when things in my life weren't going well. It seemed to me that if was taking the time to write everything down anyway, then I might as well make it available for other people to read--especially if there was a chance they would find it helpful or just amusing.

There were a couple of lines in the CNN article that resonated with me:
Writing long has been considered a therapeutic outlet for people facing problems. A 2003 British Psychological Society study of 36 people suggested that writing about emotions could even speed the healing of physical wounds: Researchers found that small wounds healed more quickly in those who wrote about traumatic personal events than in those who wrote about mundane activities.

But it's the public nature of blogs that creates the sense of support. "Blogging can create an instant support system, especially at a time when you might not have the energy or resources to seek out people who've shared your experiences," says Mason, author of "No One Cares What You Had For Lunch," a book on keeping a blog interesting.

John Suler, a psychology professor at Rider University in New Jersey, has studied the overlap of psychology and cyberspace. Blog audiences are usually small, he says, but "going public with one's thoughts and experiences can be a self-affirming process."

To read the entire article (it's short), click here.