Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Adagio for Strings

The iPodNano has a lot of cool features, but lately it's the looping-repeat feature that has caught my attention. I am stuck on Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings. I think this is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written, period.

Although it sounds like an older work, Adagio for Strings was written in 1936; Samuel Barber was only 26 when he set the composition to paper and sent it off to Arturo Toscanini for performance consideration. The piece has taken on a life of its own since then. I find that it's one of those works that most people don't know by name, but many recognize from its use in movie soundtracks. The problem with a movie soundtrack and a seven-minute piece of music is that it is highly unlikely the entire piece will appear in an unadulterated form. This work deserves focused listening.

I heard somewhere that Adagio for Strings was voted as the saddest piece of modern music. It is in the key of B-flat minor--music doesn't get much sadder than that. Still, the music is sweet and soft and each expansive inversion of the melodic theme is like inhaling deeply and feeling your emotions become more obvious each time.

This song has been known to make me cry. The first time I sat in a concert hall and heard a symphony orchestra play this piece, tears streamed down my face for all but the first thirty seconds. It wasn't the sad tone of the music, but the incredible sweetness and beauty of it.

When I can't sleep, or when morning anxiety makes it hard for me to get out of my car and make the 12-minute walk to the office, I pull out my iPod and let Mr. Barber's masterwork settle the sharp and brittle pieces of my feelings. It doesn't make me sad; it makes me calm and it quiets the traffic in my brain.

It is a song best listened to in a place free of distractions. Lacking that, medium-to-loud volume brings home the full effect anywhere. Once through may not be enough. The looping repeat is often a necessity.

Adagio for Strings is nothing short of stunning. It is one of the few things that can stop the jangling, jarring noise in my head within seconds. There's a lot lot be said for that.

Monday, March 30, 2009

ADD--does it get worse with age?

There is no doubt in my scattered mind that I have ADD (not the one with the 'H' in it). I've had it my whole life, but it was attributed to either a lack of self-discipline, general absent-mindedness, a busy schedule, stress, laziness, an inability to prioritize, and any other number of personal flaws.

I've been reading up on this, and it's one of the most common comorbidities with bipolar disorder.

One of the keynote speakers at the conference admitted to having ADD. He talked about how it affected his ability to be understood as a person when he was growing up. He talked about the issues it raises for him now. I was able to relate to so much of what he said, that I had to read up on adult ADD a bit more yesterday.

I used to have much better coping skills, but I have to say, having a big, gooey brain melt seems to have made my ADD a problem I have to deal with instead of a characteristic I used to just manage. It gets more pronounced every year. I can see that dementia won't be far behind. Or maybe I'll just finally be remembering all of the things I got distracted from decages ago, and I'll be mistakenly assumed to be demented. Wait. That didn't come out right.

Wooooah, shit.

Gravity. It's just so certain, so consistent, so powerful.

The building I work in is old and poorly designed. It has steep concrete stairs at the corner entrance. They're a little tough to negotiate on a good day, and they're especially tricky on wet days like today.

I slogged my way through the city streets and got to those doors soggy and cold. I pulled on the heavy metal door, but some pressure force on the other side sucked the door back. I was already pulling the door with my strength, as it is, and before I knew it, I was flying backward. I landed three steps down on my left hip, kept going, and crashed onto my right shoulder, finally stopping flat on my back on the sidewalk.

I did not hit my head. My hip made a noise when I hit the sidewalk, but I can walk, so I don't think I damaged anything. As the day went on, I've felt worse and worse, though. I am in pain from my shoulder to my calf. All of my pelvic-related abdominal pain managed to return by noon.

At some point this afternoon, it occurred to me to file an accident form. I went to the director's assistant and said, "Jenn, I need a boo-boo report." She smiled sympathetically and said, "Oooo. I just happen to have those in this file. Did you fall down?" I nodded and she said, "Seems like there's a lot of that going around, lately. Do you need a band-aid?"

Have I ever mentioned that I work in an unsafe building? Ah, the nonprofit life.

I fear the sight of the bruise that is yet to come.

This is the second fall down a flight of stairs I've had in under three months. Frank blames lithium. I blame gravity.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

One year and it still hurts

It has been one year since the shingles outbreak. The thought of it still scares me. The pain, well, that's still here.

I'd like a new nervous system, please.

This can only mean that it's time for the big annual conference for professionals in my field. This year, there's no travel. The conference is right here at home. I could have used this site selection last year. I'd gladly go to New York now. Of course, I'm presenting this year and my session is going to be either fabulously innovative or an unmitigated disaster. I usually don't get worked up by this type of thing, but this year my session was chosen as a spotlight session. Shit. This kind of pressure I do not need. There is no way I could have done this presentation or any other last year.

A year ago. I was miserable in New York a year ago. New York. This anniversary means that Laurel has been reading this blog for a year.

I wonder if I'll still have pain a year from now.

I saw Dr. G today for nerve block injections and more dry needling. This time it was about 30 or so stabs with the acupuncture needles, as well. Dr. G continues to be impressed with and concerned about my unbelievable ability to bear pain in silence. While she was working, I asked her how she came to choose urology as her area of specialization. She said that at med school sub-specialty sign-up, she accidentally got in the line for urology instead of neurology.

Actually, she liked surgery but didn't want to spend every waking minute of her life working. We talked about that for bit, then she asked me something about my bipolar disorder. I told her that I lost at least two years of my life to the illness, but I'm still muddled. I cannot recreate the chronology without looking at my medical records. I find that disconcerting. I called the big meltdown my "dark and dangerous time." I told her what I've said before--that had I known how bad it was going to get and how hard it would be to get back, I never would have made the journey. I also said that it's probably a protective measure, but doctors don't tell you that it will get worse before it gets better, nor do they divulge how long it takes to get stable and then healthy. It's a long time and a dangerous one, at that.

I told Dr. G how lonely an illness BP is. People you thought would stick by you and give you the benefit of the doubt, don't. Work is an almost unbearable burden, and it's hard to bear witness as your assumed support system dissolves around you. I told her I was wiser and more introspective, sadder but more sure that I have what it takes to find the answers that can keep me alive.

Before Dr. G left the room, she took my hands in hers and said, "I want to tell you something. Thank you. Thank you for hanging on and coming through that dark, dangerous time. I do know that it's very hard. I do believe you are strong and wonderful and the world is better because you are here."

Then, she leaned over and pulled me close for a long, long hug. With her head next to mine, she said, "I have some colleagues who also struggle with the illness and who made it through the dark time and the journey back to life. I see how much it takes for them to manage the illness. I know that it's hard and it takes self-love and a lot of strength to survive the illness." It was a long hug. Did I mention that?

I told Dr. G that I live with a constant, underlying anxiety that another meltdown will happen and I won't be able to get through it. I said that it takes a leap of faith to embark on a course of treatment that has no guarantee of success. She agreed and said that her colleagues had expressed the same feeling.

She put her hand on the doorknob and said, "Love is the only thing that works. Where there is love, pain will fade and we find the wellness we need. You need to love yourself, May. If you can do that, the rest will take care of itself and what you really need will come to you.

I like my doctor a lot.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Everybody wants input

Sophie really is the sweetest, most adorable, loving cat on the planet. I've been around a lot of cats, so I know.

Sophie is about 12 years old, maybe 13. She appears to be having some kind of mental rejuvenation, unless it's actually senility. She runs around the house at high speed in the wee hours of the night. She will do this until get out of bed and bring her to the bedroom to calm down.

She's always been chatty--she's a Siamese, after all--but the last few months have been nonstop. Sophie doesn't sleep unless I try to get her to do it. She doesn't seem to have gotten the memo about cats needing 18 hours of sleep. She's hyper, she's chatty, she doesn't need sleep...

Oh, dear God, my cat is manic.

Frank says, "Yep, honey, that's definitely your cat."

When I sit down to write, Sophie wants in. It's like she has to keep interrupting because she has things to say about my writing. Everybody's a critic. She's not like those comic-strip cats that roll on the keyboard. No, she's way more annoying than that. She bats at my hands with increasing impatience until I stop typing. What she wants is to lick me. A lot. If I ignore her, she'll eventually hook her paw over my wrist and yank my hand toward her mouth. It's not funny. I compensate by trying to type faster before I forget what I wanted to say. That just makes the cat more agitated. The only way to get her to stop licking me is to pet her, which isn't what she actually wants, but it's a good distraction.

Sophie sleeps next to my head, in a space between the pillow and the edge of the mattress. there's a velour-type towel there for her comfort and to keep the sheet clean. She purrs very loudly which is a warning that I'm about to be licked. Sometimes she wakes me up in the middle of the night with the licking. I have to pull the covers over every exposed bit of skin. She's crazed.

I love this cat, but she's making me look bad. Check back on a post with a lot of typos. It means I gave up writing because I was too exasperated to finish. I usually go back within a day or two and fix the typos. I'm not a bad typist. I know how to use spell check, and want to make sense.

A manic cat. How perfect. I love her, manic or not. I am certain the feeling is mutual. Sophie sat on my lap for almost a year straight when my BP tanked and I lost the will to live, let alone participate in the world. She's not a lap cat by any means, despite her affectionate ways. She won't even allow anyone to pick her up. She was willing to overlook those personal traits and just stick with me when I most needed a true friend.

She definitely didn't judge me or expect me to snap out of it. She was patient, she was steady, and she behaved much better than 99% of the people I knew at the time. The dog is fickle and really only pays token attention to me if Frank isn't around. Everybody needs what Sophie has to offer. A little mania is a small price to pay for her genuineness. We should all be so unself-conscious about who we are and what we feel.

Monday, March 23, 2009

So much to do

Jacki is a nurse-midwife who fills the role of gynecologist for me. She's good--really good. It was an odd moment at the end of my very first appointment with her. I said her last name and remarked that my last intern had not only the same last name, but the same initials. I asked Jacki if she was any relation. Turns out, my intern is Jacki's daughter. Small world. Really small.

Jacki is the one who convinced me to see the urologist. It took her two years, but she got me to go. Despite my ongoing saga of pain and treatment, I suppose it actually is worth it.

Jacki asked me what I was doing to reduce my stress. That again. I told her I was a miserable failure at meditation, but I was trying to remember to breathe. Otherwise, I was taking a crack at yoga--half-heartedly.

It turns out that Jacki had a heart attack last year and has been suffering from fatigue and chest pain ever since. She said she understands what I mean when I express frustration at having health conditions that nobody can see. She understands how the whole situation--especially chronic pain and depression--just wears you down. She went on to say that we live in a constant barrage of sound and motion, activity, expectations, productivity, and endless messages making it nearly impossible to find calm--inner, outer, or other.

I am exhausted. Yoga starts in an hour. Maybe sleep would serve me better. It's possible, but I already paid a lot of money for the yoga class.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

view from Level 5

Traffic. Noise. Construction dust and the snapping sparks from the welders' torch, sirens, conversation, and the talking elevator (a woman with a nasal Australian accent).

Press five to go to roof level. We don't get covered parking. We're lucky to get parking at all. After pushing my body through 12 minutes and several blocks of city sidewalk, the automatic door heaves itself open and I'm 20 feet from my car.

It's a beautiful day, not that I usually notice because I concentrate on crossing three streets without incident and navigating the construction zone with its clumps of hardened soil and uneven sidewalks. Sometimes I realize my shoulders are hunched and I walk with my body closed around itself, protecting me from what, I don't know. I just know that it feels appropriate.

Atop the parking garage, it occurs to me to look up, and my head keeps traveling in an arc above the horizon. The sky is spotless, a fact made more evident by the clear sky--the kind of sky you can only get in a dry climate. This is the very climate that makes March tolerable for me. The blue seems to be drifting down over the city and I wonder why the world can't invert itself just for a moment so we can be on the more beautiful of the two planes.

I can't get to the sky, so I tilt my head back and take a picture, but it's not so easy. There's nothing to anchor me, nothing to help keep me from spinning and falling onto the textured concrete. I'm dizzy but when I look through the viewfinder, I get that sensation of falling up and it's not at all unpleasant. It takes a few tries to snap a picture when I'm not swaying from the lack of an object to give my brain perspective. The sky is absolutely empty and I envy it that.

Afternoon sky, 3-11-2009, 3:00 p.m.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Glaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. glaaaaaa. Glaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

Glorp. Glug. Glaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Bipolar disorder is an illness that is biological in its origins, yet one that feels psychological in the experiences of it; an illness that is unique in conferring advantage and pleasure, yet one that brings in its wake almost unendurable suffering, and not infrequently, suicide.”-- Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D., An Unquiet Mind

Lithium is my least favorite of all of the medications I take. It slows me down, makes my mouth dry, upsets my stomach terribly, gives me a hand tremor, and causes terrible weight gain.

There are many alternative medications available, but most are in classes of drugs that I can't take. Not that it matters. My doctor insists on lithium because in my case, it works. There is one other thing. Lithium provides protection against suicide, and no other mood stabilizer works so specifically in this area.

The exact mechanism that provides this protection still is not known, but research shows a strong and consistent relationship between lithium and the patient's reluctance to suicide. In my case, my doctor feels strongly about not making a change, no matter how unpleasant the side effects. Because I believe suicide is a valid and appropriate option of pain cessation for people with bipolar disorder, it means I lack the psychological barrier that protects me from harming myself this way.

Taking lithium doesn't stop me from being suicidal; it just stops me from following through on the idea. I am like the Terminator model T-101 in Terminator 3: I cannot self-terminate. There are days when that frustrates me, and days when it just makes me very, very sad. Doomed to keep going.

I am sure that some day lithium will quit working for me. I'll consider my options then. For now, I endure and cope.

Four years ago, at the height of mixed-states and rapid cycling, my tolerance for stress and frustration were minimal. Even the most minor setbacks caused my brain and behavior to spin off erratically, resulting in near-total meltdowns. And when I say minor, I mean like going out to eat only to find there are no vegetarian items on the menu.

Such is the power of lithium. I cope with a difficult and disappointing medical condition that causes me relentless excruciating pain. Life keeps throwing me curve balls that hit me square on the head. I'm overwhelmed. And nobody knows except for Frank. Yes, four years ago, this would have killed me. I would have killed me.

I have been told more than once that this is a big success for me and my treatment. My feelings about this so-called success are decidedly...ambivalent. This is what I'm supposed to happy about? This is the measure of my health?

This is not what I had in mind. I do not find any comfort or triumph in this so-called success.

I'm saving my money for a trip to Switzerland. Just in case.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hardcore whiner

If karma exists, then it would appear I'm paying back the spiritual debt of an evil person. I was actually prompted to Google "Job" today, just to see how much worse his life was. I came away not sure how living to 140 is a reward. Having been raised Catholic, I know almost nothing of the Old Testament of the Bible. Catholics don't really study the Bible--and I know this for sure because I spent many years slogging through Parochial school--they mostly just include it in Sunday Mass and leave it at that. It wasn't until I was an adult that I knew what the expression "the patience of Job" even meant.

My life isn't bad by most measures; I just feel bad about it in the context of living it.

Last night, I wept in frustration while waiting to fall asleep. Frank asked me to walk through each issue, but I couldn't get through the list. Finally I said, "I have always been a good girl. I've had my moments of manic irresponsibility throughout my life, but overall, I've always done exactly what I was supposed to do. I took care of my health but developed bipolar disorder, so what was the point of all of that healthy living? I came to a tenuous acceptance of the BP and moved ahead with my life, working harder than ever to be productive and to prove I was just as capable as someone who wasn't ill--and to make up for all of the time I lost while my brain was rerouting itself into a ditch.

My reward for that was shingles and then post-herpetic neuralgia, and ultimately, such severe flares of Unhappy Pelvis and muscle spasms, that I've had to give up the most important work I've done in years, the only thing I was passionate about in the last decade. But not my paying job--yet.

I suppose that wouldn't be so bad away from Planet May, but I've been trying not to harbor resentment toward my head for taking away my ability to read books, long magazine articles, or to watch movies. I had to give up bicycle riding, something I loved even when I was too sick to do anything other than go to work. Lithium and neurological weirdness took that away, and just when it was about come back to me, my nervous system malfunction sealed the deal on keeping the bikes in storage, probably for eternity.

I do the right thing in life, but everything goes wrong anyway. I can never get ahead financially. I'm enormous. I pay bills and mysterious new ones come that I can't even comprehend.

I am a good daughter who is taken for granted by a mother who believes I should spend every waking moment of my day thinking of ways to make her happy. When my father was dying, mom wanted me to have check-signing authority on my parents' bank account. She assured me and her bank assured me that this was not creating a joint account--I would just have permission to sign checks.

As it turns out, it is a joint account. In order to get my name removed from the account, there is an entire protocol the bank requires customers to observe. I did everything I was supposed to do. Nothing worked out for me.

As soon as I had my letter ready to send to my mother so she could sign, too, I put together a FedEx envelope and airbill. On Friday, I had an afternoon appointment and I was worried I wouldn't make it to FedEx in time for the last pick up. A coworker said I should use the drop box outside of the parking garage. Hmm, yeah, except I hadn't parked in the garage that day. "I can take it for you..." I hesitated and I don't even know why. I explained that this was beyond important and it had to go out before the afternoon pickup.

On Friday night, I sent an email to my mother (she keeps her phone turned off so she won't know when collection agencies are calling) explaining that the FedEx would arrive on Monday, and she needed to turn around the second FedEx that same day. I knew the clock was ticking. Her bankruptcy court date is this week. My letter has to arrive at the bank before my mother goes to court.

On Tuesday night, it began to gnaw at me that I hadn't heard from my mother. I sent an email asking if she had received the package. Then I sat down to track the envelopes. Nothing. FedEx had nothing. The airbill numbers didn't exist. Nothing was in their system. I tried retyping. I tried searching by account number. Nothing. Panic was setting in.

That's when I went to bed and started to cry. Frank said he would check on it in the morning, but the sense of dread had all but consumed me by then.

5:00 a.m. I woke up and had to pee--an urge I take very seriously now. I flushed the toilet but didn't hear it refill. In the unlit bathroom, I made my way to the sink and pumped two large squirts of liquid soap into the palm of my hand. I turned the faucet handle and heard only a gurgly airy sound. I stepped away from the sink and made my way to the kitchen. I tried the kitchen faucet with the same result. It took me a minute to figure out that I still had a handful of soap to deal with. After wiping my hand with a paper towel, I realized that liquid soap is really difficult to get off of one's hands without water to help spirit it away.

I climbed back in bed and rolled over close to my husband. "There's no water in the house." Frank rolled over and said what only a man would say, "Are you sure?" Apparently, I have no credibility because Frank got up to check for himself. Then we both heard it--the low rumble of a diesel engine. We looked outside.

Sitting outside directly in front of our house were five city water trucks and a backhoe. This did not bode well for a morning shower. Or coffee. I took my morning meds with Pellegrino.

The water main had broken about three houses down. I went back to bed for 45 minutes.When I got up, Frank was on the phone with FedEx. They were mystified by the apparent alien abduction of my package.

Later in the day, FedEx called to tell us that after scouring the pickup area, my package had been located--in the top part of the drop box where the supplies are. My coworker, for whatever reason, thought this was where you place the outgoing package, instead of getting an idea that the big stainless steel drawer handle might be a more logical place to get something to go inside of the drop box. The package had been sitting there since Friday afternoon.

FedEx customer service told us that it is the driver's responsibility to check that area every day for supplies and mistakenly placed packages. Keeping score: Coworker can't figure out a damn FedEx drop box. FedEx driver is too lazy to take two seconds to look in the top part of the box. May's mother neglects to call on Monday to say there is no FedEx delivery. May is a fucking moron for believing anyone on the planet is as conscientious as she is--or ever will be.

It is highly likely that May is now responsible for the entire $10,000 debt her mother has on an account that was never supposed to belong to May in the first place. Don't own the account, but I get the $10,000 debt. I guess. My mother is not checking email either, I guess.

I am appalled that this journal entry doesn't even cover half of what's tormenting me. It's late, I'm tired, I need to go to bed, and I'm trying to ignore the fact that two of the city water department trucks are idling in front of my house again.


Sometimes I really hate my life.
I am still not convinced it is really worth the effort.

I can't even write and if I can't do that, well, I don't even know how to finish that sentence.

Eh, so what...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

And the lord god said, "How can I totally screw with the already screwy heads of the Bipolar people I created? Hmmm. What intangible thing can I adjust that no one else will notice much but that will turn their world all topsy turvy? What the hell does turvy mean, anyhow?...Sleep...Hmmm...I already gave them bad dreams and fitful sleep...Aha! I've got it."

And so, late in the winter when the Bipolar were just beginning to believe the mornings really would be light from now on, the Almighty Atomic Clock and its asynchronously orbiting satellite pulled out the most obnoxious trick ever and they called it Daylight Savings Time.

This will most certainly be followed by that other intangible of the Bipolar world, a visit from the Mood Fairy.


OK, May, repeat after me:
I will not ignore the urge. I will not ignore the urge. I will not ignore the urge.

It's definitely going to be Poise with a big "P." No pun intended.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


I have a headache.

It was a hard day. One of the refugees, a 26-year-old man from Bhutan, committed suicide last night. He lived in an apartment building that is 95% occupied by refugees. The chance for secondary trauma or even contagion is pretty high. The community is reeling.

Padam left behind a 24-year-old wife who is seven months pregnant.

It was just a really tough day.

The headache set in at 8:30 this morning. I still have it.

Sometimes you need to focus on yourself when a crisis has passed.

I have red hair now. It isn't helping.

Monday, March 2, 2009

There is really no shortage of media coverage about good people doing extraordinary things. I make a point of watching the last five minutes of the national news every Friday night--any broadcast network will do--because those few minutes of the week highlight the contributions of normal people making a remarkable difference in the world.

CNN devotes a whole year of stories to this concept, culminating in distinguishing honors for a group of ten people every year. Not all are from the U.S., but some are. These honorees have found ways to make the world a better place, starting with the world in their immediate vicinity. I mention it because I am often approached by people who want to know if I can steer them toward work with refugees or other at-risk groups--overseas. "Do you have volunteer positions overseas?" "No? Oh. So, you only help people who are here?"

My colleagues and I are quick to point out that a refugee arriving on American shores has just begun a whole new struggle. There are plenty of ways to contribute to world peace and international relations right in the town where you live. Many people are surprised to find out refugees are here at all. If you aren't aware of their presence, it's because they're often all but invisible...Except to those of us who devote our waking hours to this particular cause.

Even those who are familiar with the refugee resettlement program are often unaware of just how truly grassroots most of the programs are. Our programs cannot exist without community support, church partnerships, devoted teachers, tutors for adults and kids, mentors, first friends, a small army of volunteers, plus all of the people who donate money, furniture, household goods, and time setting up apartments and taking refugees to their many appointments. Refugee resettlement works because it takes a community to welcome a newcomer to the mix, and communities have a way of knowing what to do.

One of CNN's 2009 Heroes is Carolyn Manning of Phoenix, Arizona. I'll say this for CNN: The network has consistently shown a commitment to telling the story of refugees and the resettlement process. That Ms. Manning was chosen to be honored by CNN this year is one more example of CNN's understanding that this work matters.

Carolyn Manning started an organization called The Welcome to America Project. Her program assists newly arrived refugees by furnishing apartments and providing support and guidance in the time immediately after arrival. To find out more about The Welcome to America Project and Carolyn Manning, click here to visit CNN's Website. This link takes you to an entire web page with videos dedicated to this topic.

Congratulations to Carolyn Manning and her team of volunteers. They do the same work as many other people assisting refugees throughout the U.S., so as a 2009 CNN Hero, Ms. Manning carries the torch for all who volunteer their time and open their hearts to refugee newcomers every day. To the volunteers in refugee resettlment programs around the world, congratulations to you, too, for your fine work! You are all my heroes every day.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


In 2003, scientists in Germany published a study that suggests women literally lose their minds when they do what?

Having a chronic illness (or three) has taught me a few things about being a good patient. It's not only about being compliant; it's about being empowered. I learned a long time ago that if you want to be given lots of leeway to manage your illness in your own way, you have to prove you're capable of understanding what does and doesn't warrant attention. You need to have proof of what's happening (or what isn't). Show that you're paying attention and you earn your independence.

Data. It's all about data. The psychiatrist wants to see that I am not only medication compliant, but that I also stay on the prescribed dosing schedule and that I keep a record of how the medications are affecting me. Are my symptoms improving? How do I know? Side effects? When? How? Sleep? How much? When? Quality? Bedtime? I keep charts of this stuff.

The therapist wanted me to keep mood charts, along with a journal so I could look back and see if my thinking had gone off on some irrational emotions safari. It was also to determine if I had any emotions at all. The absence of emotions would be referred back to the prescribing M.D. for further medication adjustment.

The allergist wants daily lung function metering and logging. This is a particular pain in the ass that I prefer to measure by "breathing," "not breathing much," or "turning blue."

The urologist wants to know about frequency, quantity, pain quality and intensity, and the effects of activity. Documented and annotated, please.

The physical therapist wants to know which exercises I did, how often, how many, etc. How are my nerves responding to TENS and pressure-point therapy? Are the buzzing and tingling sensations getting better? Worse? Changing? Moving? Rate your pain on a scale of one to ten... She also wants to know how many attempts I made at deep breathing and meditation. Ha!

May Voirrey has her own well being litmus test and its name is shopping. Having never been flat-out manic, I don't know what it means to blow the family fortune on a herd of alpacas or a grand piano. Instead, hypomania means stocking up on lots of shit I just don't need, or really wonderful indulgences that I can't afford. I have a particular affinity for sterling silver jewelry. Clothes used to wow me, but now that clothes shopping just depresses me, that's not a big problem.

Shopping--no, buying--is what I have always done to not cope with life. Sad? Shop. Frustrated? Shop. Avoiding something? Shop. Hypomanic? Shop a lot and then some more. I know my medications are working their pharmaceutical magic when I lose the desire to shop. Actually, that's not true. I lose the desire to buy. I've been known to shop for hours, try on clothes, carry things around the store with me, but walk out without spending a cent. Buying things doesn't make me feel happy or excited. I am indifferent, and that means I've had the shopping version of a lobotomy.

It's nearly 2:00 in the morning. I fell asleep on the couch earlier tonight, so now I'm wide awake. There's nothing on TV except for that place where there's always something on TV: QVC and HSN. Lovely people talk and talk and show me pretty things. I go to the Website, fill my cart, and then empty it, buying nothing. This is a big change. At the height of my Bipolar misery and erratic behavior, I went on the QVC Website and ordered six or seven Diamonique rings, among other weird things. I don't even like Diamonique.

Still, here it is late at night and QVC is on. I can watch TV on home shopping like other people watch CNN. I have to mute the TV when people call in, though. I have my lonely moments, but if I get to the point of calling a QVC host, I'll know that I have truly lost my mind and my dignity along with it.

Which makes me realize that QVC is selling jewelry right now--silver, my flat-out favorite--and they did a bunch of Suspicion Marcasite without the usual pitch person, Margot Potter. The QVC host who is on right now is perky and cute and I think she's been on with Margot before. When you're deep in the throes of insomnia, there's nothing like a fun QVC host who may not be taking herself seriously to make wide-eyed late nights a bit more interesting. And tolerable.

Oh, dear god, what does it mean that I am starting to have favorites among the QVC and HSN hosts?

If ever I were to call in, I'd do it when Margot is on just to see if she could not act surprised on air--or if she'd even recognize who the hell I am. I know her (but long distance and via email), and I think she's one of the funniest, smartest, most opinionated people I know. How I know her is a long story, but she has helped me with something big and important that I don't write about here. As far as I know, she doesn't think I'm a dork, but she hasn't met me in person. Maybe she does think I'm a few sandwiches short of a picnic, but so far she's been polite enough not to let on. You can watch Margot online. She's the redhead in the video. When you open the link, click on the video tab just above that massive ring picture. Lalala...wait a few seconds, and just below the picture of the ring, click "on air presentation." Here's the link.

The drugs are kicking in. For a brief moment there, I was lucid and thinking fully formed thoughts. Alas, the sedation has once again begun in earnest, so I will go to sleep in my brand-new bed and dream about my new credit-card-free life that doesn't distress me since I don't want to buy anything anyway.


In 2003, scientists in Germany published a study that suggests women literally lose their minds when they do what?
Go shopping. The scientists claim that activity in the areas of the brain that govern common sense and rational thought is almost nil during shopping trips, while electrical activity in the emotional and pleasure centers go into overdrive. Study leader Michael Deppe warns, "The more expensive the product, the crazier the shoppers get." --Heard on Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me on NPR