Sunday, September 28, 2008

May revealed for the fat pig she is

I never was exaggerating.

This picture was taken on Thursday when I was out doing a work-related presentation. I like this outfit a lot, at least, on the hanger. When I left the house on Thursday morning, I felt pretty good about how I looked. Now I know I was clearly delusional.

Would someone please, please just kill me so I can be put out of my misery? I thought about wandering off into the countryside with the intention of pushing on until I dropped dead of exhaustion, but I would probably just stumble deliriously into a grazing herd where I would fit in so convincingly, I would be taken off to a slaughterhouse. It's not the slaughterhouse I object to, but being poked in the ass with an electric cattle prod would really piss me off. I probably have it coming.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I have a headache. I've had it all day. It's 6:30 p.m. Why am I still here at work? Is it possible to be so busy you forget to breathe?

Is this even healthy? I've been pulling long hours for a few weeks, and it's not letting up any time soon. Tomorrow looks like an 8:00-7:00 day (getting home close to 8:00), and Saturday my day will start around 5:00 a.m. and I will facilitate a training session for 24 people that wraps up after 4:00. I should get home around 5:00, but I'm sure my day won't end there.

At least I've been getting some quality sleep.

Yesterday I had an appointment with the psychiatrist. He's a nice guy, overworked, not at all pretentious. He has no office staff, and he does all of his own bookkeeping. His wife takes care of the insurance billing.

I told the psychiatrist that I've been feeling sad about my illness. Not depressed, just sad. And alone--very alone. I told him about some of the cultures I deal with, where they truly see any health problem as just that--a health problem. He said, "They don't stigmatize mental illness?" I told him that no, they don't because there is no mental illness, only illness. Illness is seen as a problem of both mind and spirit, and you must treat both to get better, be it pneumonia, cancer, or bipolar disorder.

I want to live in a world where my illness doesn't even raise eyebrows, let alone carry any stigma. I don't want to be sick. I dream of the morning when NPR snaps to life on my clock radio alarm and the news story I hear isn't about politics or hurricanes, or the economy or a foreign war; rather, the story will be about the stunning and long-awaited scientific breakthrough that has led to the cure for bipolar disorder and chronic depression. I never, ever have good dreams, so maybe a really good wake-up story is in order.

The doctor asked me how I help myself manage my feelings about having my illness. I said that it's hard for me to have so many doctor appointments, yet when coworkers ask me why I need so many appointments, I can't tell them. I don't lie about the gynecologist or even the urologist. The psychiatrist, though. I cope by lying. "Doctor, I changed your area of specialization. Today I said I had an appointment with the neurologist. I always say it's the neurologist. If pressed, I say I have a seizure disorder. I do take anti-convulsant medications, after all. I'm not in any way diminishing the field of psychiatry, but it does have a bit of a perception problem in the public psyche."

The doctor told me he wasn't offended at all. He said, "May, at least you have the right doctor if you're going to use the neurologist excuse. I am as close to being a neurologist as you can get without having the title. For what it's worth, look at my Board certification certificate. It clearly says that it's given by the Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. That aside, a lot of my practice overlaps with neurological work. Not many psychiatrists can say that, but I am qualified to make that claim. So, May, you really aren't off the mark when you tell people you're going to see the neurologist. I'll back you up if anybody gives you a hard time."

He gave me a kind, somewhat sad smile. He must hear this sort of thing a lot. The doctor can patch together my broken brain, but there's no hope for the thinking that goes on outside of my head. He knows it.

I accept my illness, but I am tired of it, weary even, and I want it to just go away. No more doctor visits, no more handfuls of medication to choke down, no more blood draws every eight weeks, no more jagged sleep patterns, no more living in fear that my secret will be exposed, and no more dreading the havoc that comes with the change of seasons. I want to say I can't take it anymore, but that is not true. I can endure this until my brain snaps, or my liver fries, or my kidneys stop making the effort to withstand the medications. More than anything, though, I just wish I didn't have this thing to endure at all.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Calgon, take me away

The Brainucopia is temporarily empty of intelligent thoughts. It is, however, full of to-do lists, domestic chores, errands, appointments, meetings, spreadsheets, and names it can't seem to pronounce, let alone remember...Goma Chapangai, Tuka Dharuali, Ka Paw Htoo, Nay Chi Nway, Abeba Gebrehiwet, Nan Kyu Kyu Mar...the list goes on. I have to get this right. It's my job.

This entire weekend was what my husband calls "All refugees all the time." From the time I got up on Saturday until the time I went to bed last night, I was working on refugee matters. I probably put 150 miles or more on my car over the weekend, and all of it was from doing home visits--along with some resource gathering.

Crap, I'm tired.

Watched the Emmy Awards and realized that I had no idea what most of the winning shows are all about. Except for 30 Rock, which I think is hilarious. Tina Fey is one of my favorite people. Loved the Josh Groban TV show theme songs bit.

Apparently, I can get by quite well on four or five hours of sleep a night, as long as I sleep straight through. It probably isn't healthy, but I'll take what I can get.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


The thing about September/October is...the light changes. It is so subtle that most people don't perceive the lowering shift of the sun's angle or the length of the days that shorten first in small increments--by seconds--and eventually by leaps in full minutes. I am not most people, which is to say, mine is not most brains.

Enter the bipolar brain.

It's easy to sum up the illness as a simple mood disorder or chemical disorder, but BP is immensely more complex than that. It is also a disorder of the perception of light. Too much can induce mania; too little brings in waves of severe depression that can last for an entire winter. The wrong kind doesn't do much of anything.

Even I do not consciously perceive the change in light, but I know it's here. I don't get depressed--not right away, anyhow--but I do get bitchy and impatient. Maybe even a little mean. This is the time of year when I start to withdraw and the people who know me start backing away. They sense it. I should come with a warning label. My moods have teeth.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Lovely and Amazing

Three people told me to watch it. I did. I didn't get it.

Usually if three people tell me to read something or watch something, I can see what it is they want me to see. Not so much this time.

In his review in the New York Times, Stephen Holden said, "As smart and observant as it is, Lovely and Amazing doesn't really go anywhere. ...the movie expertly evokes the rivalry percolating just below the surface of the Markses' relationships. But once family members have weathered their personal crises, little seems to have changed."

At the end of Lovely and Amazing, my feeling was, "May, everybody hates their body, just like you do. You are neurotic and ridiculous like the women in this movie. And stop with the throw pillows, already."

Friday, September 12, 2008

Darwin was right.

I hope that not one resource is spent--or even considered--to save morons like those in this story. What makes people so arrogant as to believe they are not subject to the forces of nature?

HOUSTON, Texas (CNN) -- Forecasters expect Ike to strengthen before its center makes landfall late Friday or early Saturday. Winds upward of 100 mph may reach the Texas coast by midnight, the hurricane center warned. The Category 2 storm had 105 mph winds as of 5 p.m. ET, according to the National Hurricane Center. It is expected to make landfall near Galveston, and by that time may have strengthened to a Category 3, forecasters say.

Ike is 900 miles wide, measuring the cloud cover at its widest point. On Friday, its tropical storm-force winds extended up to 275 miles -- the length of the Texas coastline -- from its center, for a total reach of about 550 miles.

Waves washed for blocks inland, the beginning of a storm surge that forecasters warned could reach up to 22 feet and bring "certain death to anyone who remained in Galveston Bay homes.

More than half of the community of Surfside Beach was inundated by 8 a.m. Friday, and rescuers drove a dumptruck through the streets in a final bid to get people out before the storm hits, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Those facts didn't seem to bother the beer drinkers at a bar and grill called Noah's Ark in Bacliff, Texas, a small town between Houston and Galveston that is expected to be Ike's bulls eye.

Lifelong resident Steven Alexander dismissed all warnings about Ike. "It ain't nothing but a little wind and rain," he said, saying that he's done nothing to prepare for the storm.

Charles Slaydon, who repairs and builds boat masts, joked that the storm would be good for business because it could "break every one of those masts." "I've decided not to evacuate," said iReporter Matteu Erchull on Galveston Island. "We have a lot of faith in the seawall, and we have boards on the windows. Most people on the island live on second or third stories, so they don't have to worry about the water so much."

However, Erchull started having second thoughts as the sea surged in.

"There's a lot of concern, actually, because we were getting all gung-ho about staying here, and just now I've taken all my electronics and [I'm] putting them on top of the refrigerator," he said.

"I just don't understand how Elsie got sucked out into tha bay. Dang!"

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Glimpsing a total lack of madness

Just because the doctor says you have it doesn't mean you actually do. The DSM-IV is not written in stone; in fact, it's just another human-created tool. The contents included in the DSM-IV are the result of a vote--yes, a vote--at the APA's annual conference. Does this mean that if your particular pathology gets voted off the island, you don't actually have it anymore?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

45 Mercy Street

Anne Sexton died in her garage at age 45 as a result of self-induced carbon monoxide poisoning. Her poems haunt me, but I always come back to the first one I read, 45 Mercy Street. Sit in as many poetry circles as you like and discuss until the academic words run dry. To truly feel the weight of this poem, you have to understand loss that starts from inside and reveals itself out. You have to live it to know about this inside out life that makes you invisible to those who should only love you more.

I did not read Anne Sexton's work when I was in high school. I didn't read it in college. I came to it the way I come to most things I like: via the pulsing path of pop culture. Peter Gabriel introduced me to Sexton's work with his song, Mercy Street on the So album. The first time I heard the song, it was as if a grainy flash of familiar images played in my head like a home movie when the film is beginning to break down.

I knew who Anne Sexton was and I knew how she had died; I was not unaware of her as a writer. In high school I read Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar and found it at first incomprehensible. I compensated by re-reading it immediately. The second time was much better, but no less disturbing. Reading Plath's work over the next few years always left me feeling unsettled and little bit afraid of the chaos of the disordered mind. Maybe my neurotransmitters stirred a bit knowing what was eventually in store for me.

Why are you thinking about Sylvia and Anne at 1:15 in the morning, May? You're supposed to be looking for a good quiche recipe for tomorrow's brunch. Stop stalling. You can't get out of it, it's at your house. Smile a lot, look competent, make sure all of your medications are out of sight. Figure out the damn quiche.

Saturday night is the vast wasteland of television. Reruns. Infomercials. Some obscure movie with Demi, Bruce, and Glenne Headley. Flip, flip, flip. Billy Crudup. Why do I know him? Almost Famous. Yeah. What's this movie? Waking the Dead. Waking the Dead? The Scott Spencer novel was made into a movie? How did I manage to not know that? I actually like Scott Spencer's writing. I read Endless Love not because I was inspired by Brooke Shields' acting in the movie adaptation. I never made it more than half-way through the movie, but the book held my attention and felt worth my time.

Waking the Dead was sitting on a sale pile at Barnes and Noble. I saw it, saw the author's name, and bought it. I didn't even know that the story line involved the political fallout of the Pinochet regime's deep cleansing of popular opponents. Having lived in Chile at a time when the news was still scandalizing the car bombings of a former General and his wife in Argentina, followed soon after by a car bombing in Washington, DC involving a former Chilean diplomat and his female associate, the book had meanings within the storyline that wouldn't exist to the casual reader. I liked the book and the mood of it settled over me and draped heavily on my shoulders for weeks. Weeks.

The movie was nearly over when I found it, but I watched it anyway. Near the final scene, Mercy Street enters the soundtrack. As soon as I heard the first, deep notes, I started thinking about Anne Sexton. Peter Gabriel's song is nothing less than an homage to the poet.

Sexton's 45 Mercy Street makes me sad. I get it. Maybe that's why I stopped reading Sexton's work, and Sylvia Plath's, and Virginia Woolf's, as well. Sylvia was truly mad, and her writing was filled with bitterness and anger that became barbed wire tangled into words. Woolf was frustrated, an astute observer who was too incapacitated to participate. She knew it and it killed her. Anne Sexton, though, kept trying to lead a normal life, but her attempts never quite achieved the desired outcome. She was angry and frustrated, but the sadness still ripples through her writing in a way that leaves no doubt what was under her skin, coming from the inside out.

I like this part of the poem:
I walk in a yellow dress
and a white pocketbook stuffed with cigarettes,
enough pills, my wallet, my keys,
and being twenty-eight, or is it forty-five?
I walk. I walk.
I hold matches at street signs
for it is dark,
as dark as the leathery dead
and I have lost my green Ford,
my house in the suburbs,
two little kids
sucked up like pollen by the bee in me
and a husband who has wiped off his eyes
in order not to see my inside out
and I am walking and looking
and this is no dream
just my oily life
where the people are alibis
and the street is unfindable for an
entire lifetime.
I also used to live at number 45. Now I live at 5150, and that, of course, is a police term for the mentally ill. No mercy here, either.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Today was a car-crying day. Car crying is not a good thing emotionally. It's not great for managing an SUV on busy city streets, either.

I don't know what's wrong. I do know that it will pass. That's what the drugs are for, and I just have to trust they'll do what they're supposed to, much the same way a window washer trusts that his scaffold and pulley system will maintain its integrity on a windy day.

There are just too many thoughts in my head.

I've been absorbed with television in lieu of actual thinking. Tonight's Daily Show made me laugh so hard I couldn't speak. That had to be good, right? And doesn't that show evidence that there's some organized thought process in my head?

I think that to really make that TV show, Big Brother, interesting, they should populate the house only with people who have bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and PMS. I would watch that.