Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Pelvic Pain Support Group

Oh, forget it. The whole thing was just really discouraging. Everybody feels like crap, they've been struggling toward The Solution for many years, they're overmedicated and out of options, and there's nothing left to do but commiserate.

I'm not so sure that misery loves quite that much company.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Understanding swine flu

The news is full of chatter about swine flu. It could become a pandemic. It's in Mexico. It's traveling. It's awful, awful, they tell us.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, persons contracting this strain of flu can expect to be sick for five-to-seven days with upper respiratory symptoms, fever, body aches, coughing, cold symptoms, and fatigue. If a patient rests and drinks plenty of fluids, maybe works through some Sudoku, a full recovery should be expected.

More than 1,000 people in Mexico have come down with swine flu, and a few cases have been reported in the U.S. So far, no one in the U.S. has died from swine flu; in fact, most were not hospitalized. To put this into perspective, the CDC says that every year an more than six million people in the U.S. get the flu, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from complications, and about 36,000 people die from the disease each year.

So, what makes swine flu different and what are the chances it will become a pandemic? Swine flu is a strain of influenza type A H1N1 virus. In other words, it's a Type-A flu, which is what most flu strains are. This new strain has a molecular twist: It is composed of avian and swine influenza genes, as reported by the CDC and WHO. The virus travels effectively across porous borders, which raises concerns that a true pandemic pandemonium will erupt soon. The same warning was issued across the U.S. for SARS and bird flu. Given that this strain is a hybrid of avian and swine flu, the chances of a pandemic spreading throughout the U.S., meaning far more cases than the usual 6+million cases of Type A flu seen annually can best be explained with the following graphic:

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Facebook and me

It has been just over a week since I joined Facebook. After searching for everyone I know or ever knew, I concluded the following:

  • I'm not really friends with most of the people on my friends list
  • The best way to find the Facebook help information you need is to Google it.
  • Groups suit me better than friends. I joined something like 15-20 groups and pages.
  • There is a Facebook page for Adam's Peanut Butter and that is fabulous.
  • People seem to believe they are so original, they should start a group for whatever occurs to them. The overwhelming majority of these people start groups before checking to see that there are already 35 other groups with the same name about the same thing started by other original thinkers.
  • Actually finding someone from my past usually leaves me with a very melancholy feeling.
  • Social networking makes me feel anxious, not happily connected.
I'm going to start my own new groups:

  • "Stop talking about the goddamn NFL day in and day out, as if it's the only sport on the planet, especially when it isn't even football season."
  • "The NFL draft is not worthy of being the lead story on the evening news."
  • "Professional sports are entertainment and therefore should merit no more than three minutes out of an entire newscast, and should only show up in the final five minutes."

May is cranky and sad and should go to bed. As she heads down the creaky hallway, she ponders the questions: How can people claim to love you if they let months or years lapse between calling or taking your calls plus they never even acknowledge your email? Can you love someone about whom you have no interest? Can you miss someone when they're gone if it never occured to you to check if they were still around?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Because it's more fun than wearing the drapes

No, not Scarlett O'Hara's drapes; the Von Trapp family's drapes.

I'm not sure if I should admit this, but Frank and I can recite most of The Sound of Music. We also do this thing where if someone mentions The Sound of Music, we make eye contact, put our arms out and twirl as we sing these words: "The hills are aliiiiive..." And then we go back to doing whatever it was we were doing.

Give it time to load and then enjoy.

Friday, April 24, 2009

There doesn't have to be a reason

I woke up exhausted and cranky.
I felt lonely and isolated.
The sadness and pain all came back with the revitalized memory of they see this as something I'm doing to them instead of as something that's happening to me.
I am reminded that my brain doesn't work as it was designed to, but I'm supposed to keep up regardless.
I can't think, I can't focus, I can't remember, I can't get any work done.
How can I be this tired?

I wept from the time I poured my coffee, then all the way to work, until I stood in front of the parking garage elevator.

I can't really say why.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I said it first

My husband is a devout fan of the Fox show, Fringe.I enjoy the show tremendously, although the portrayal of the main character, Walter Bishop, can border on mockery. Walter is a brilliant but extremely quirky researcher whose work is a mix of medical research, science, chemistry, and a touch of the paranormal.

Walter spent years in a mental hospital, a fact that is often treated with tongue-in-cheek irreverence. Not just often, but a bit too much.

Walter's son works with him as more of a handler than anything. He occasionally shows flashes of irritation toward his father, and in the first episodes was estranged from his father and still bitter. He had a lot of resentment about Walter succumbing to eccentricity and then being institutionalized.

As the show has progressed, Peter Bishop has started to see his father from a more compassionate angle. He's beginning to understand that Walter's mental meanderings are not malicious in any way, and that his institutionalization took a profound toll on his wellbeing.

At the end of the last episode, Peter was talking to one of the other characters about Walter. He was somber and he said, "I didn't really understand what was going on. Life was so hard for my mother and me when he was gone, that I could only concentrate on how angry I was at him for getting into that situation. The whole time, I only thought about it as what he was doing to us and not as something that was happening to him.

Somewhere in the early days of this blog or perhaps in my pre-online journal, I said the same thing, pretty much verbatim. I remember sobbing in Lisa's office and saying, "Everybody acts like this is something I'm doing to them but they just can't see that really it's something that's happening to me."

When I heard this on Fringe, I sat up straight and whispered, "That's what I said. That's exactly what I said to Lisa."

Frank had forgotten about it, but once I pointed it out, he remembered, and he remembered the pain and frustration that I was re-experiencing in that moment.

No, I didn't do anything to anyone--something horrible was happening to me. To me.

Self-knowledge via Facebook

I needed to join Facebook. The why of that is irrelevant, but if there hadn't been a specific reason, I wouldn't have done it.

I'm still avoiding the creepy follower, so I'm not on Facebook under my real name. I'm not even using my own life. Of course, two people have already called me by my real name, but I don't think anything has been revealed to Those Who Should Not Know.

Facebook is a scary place for me. My relationships exist on the surface, but only one or two people who know me have actually caught on. I struggle with wanting deeper connections but not being willing to reveal myself to that degree.

Facebook has more than 200 million active users. Once I figured out some of the functionality of Facebook--and it wasn't easy--I went on that search of looking for everyone I know or had ever known. Making Facebook friends while using an assumed identity is tricky, at best, especially if you're trying to keep your identity a secret. Sort of. I immediately became annoyed by the people who have an account but no profile picture or location. Don't they know how irritating that is if someone is trying to learn of their whereabouts?

Users over 35 years old are the fastest growing demographic on Facebook. Given the searching I did for fmiliar faces, it was surprising to see how many people are not on Facebook. Maybe they have much more of a life than I do.

The average Facebook user has 120 friends on the site. I have nine "friends" on Facebook. That's about seven more than I actually wanted. There are many people I know on Facebook, but I feel no compulsion to contact them or bring them into my group. I became a fan or member of ten groups (I think), but the only one I felt strongly about adding to my profile was Blogger. Seriously. I spend more time reading and writing content on Blogger than with any living, breathing, entity.

Social networking may not be for the socially suspicious.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Befuddled not bedazzled

I used to have a brain and it worked pretty well. Of course, throughout my entire life, I experienced moments or even longer periods of fuzzy thinking. I had trouble paying attention, so I would miss out on things, or else I was so busy doing and thinking that I would space out on things insignificant or of major importance. I am that person most likely to leave the stove on or to forget to lock the front door (actually, I did that a year ago--in fact, I left the door unlocked and wide open).

It keeps Frank on his toes and gives his OCD something to latch onto.

Every once in awhile, my brain gets full and needs to be decluttered (hence, Brainucopia). I usually know it's time when I start to have amnesia-like symptoms. I have a low frustration tolerance in certain situations, but nothing, nothing makes me lose my mind and patience quite like not being able to find something I have misplaced. If someone ever wanted to really play with my head, all he or she would need to do would be to hide something I would be likely to go looking for.

It's about the damn sterling round and crystal faceted beads I bought for a project. In order to get the best price, I went in with others so we could buy in bulk. The order came, I had it with me at an event we attended, and then...amnesia. I didn't need the beads that night, and we were busy, and I remember having the packet in my hand thinking, "We don't need these right now. I'll put them away and we can deal with them later."

And from that point, I have absolutely no memory of what I did next. Nothing. Zero. Gone.

Someone said I articulated that thought and I put the packet into a bag--one of six we had with us. Sure, if you say so.

It has been a couple of weeks and I cannot find this stuff. The packet of beads wasn't so small that it would have slipped between the sofa cushions or gone unnoticed had it fallen out of the bag somewhere on the sidewalk. It was about the size of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich but dense for its size.

Is there anywhere I haven't looked? In every bag, under the bed, between the sofa cushions, in the basement, everywhere in my car, in my laptop tote, in my office, in the basement again, in the closets, in my coat pockets, amidst the countertop clutter, dining room table clutter, craft room clutter, existing bead population, and then all of those places again a couple more times.

I think about it repeatedly throughout the day. It has become a mental obsession. But here's the thing.

I already bought replacement beads--I had to since I was the one who lost everyone's beads. I am being driven to distraction and depression not by the loss but by the forgetting. Where did that 20 seconds of time go? It remained intact for everyone else who was there, but my part got stuck to the bottom of someone's shoe and walked out of the room to places undetermined.

My brain is not that full right now, so why can't I remember? And why can't I forget about it?

Monday, April 20, 2009

The fragrance never left my memory

Hyacinth. Hyacinths have been popping up in my garden for a couple of weeks now. It’s been disconcerting, to say the least.

I love hyacinths. The fragrance they bring is intoxicating, and the colors are the first to appear in the drab winter garden.

Disconcerting. Troubling. Not the flowers so much as the name. Hyacinths were one of the first things I planted in the garden as a child. They are a favorite, yet I couldn’t come up with the name. I waited three weeks to try to remember, but finally I gave up and did a Google search this morning: early spring bulbs fragrant.

This is not an isolated incident. It started when I began taking lithium, and it never improved. No, the word-finding problem is worse than ever. The short-term memory gaps are increasing and that’s frightening.

I’m going to end up like Guy Pearce in Memento. "Hyacinth" will be the first word tattooed onto my body. With a picture. Maybe scratch-n-sniff.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Slushy--it's not just at the convenience store

In the past month, I've seen fire and I've seen rain. I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end. I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend, but I never thought I'd see winter again.

Fire and rain. A couple of weeks ago on a snowy day, we also had thunder and lightning. Go figure. In the midst of today's white-out snow, a plane got hit by lightning on landing approach.

The weather has been mostly mild and lovely and spring-like. At the moment, it's snowing slush. It's snowing globs of snow, jumbo-cotton-ball wads of snow. If you walk on it, it makes a splork! noise. A walk across the yard to the driveway leaves you cold and sniffly and dripping wet. The roads are covered in snow with slick, frozen slush underneath so it's slippery in the most surprising places.

The view out the living room window sucks. Being on the outside of that window really, really sucks.

Enough already. Bring on spring and warm days and light breezes and sunny skies and bright green grass and the first flowers popping through the garden soil. Ahhhh!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I blog the path alone

I'm not egotistical. I don't really need to know whether or not people think I'm interesting. Still, it's feeling a bit unsettling that I appear to have lost my readers. It validates my belief that I'm dull, although I cracked myself the hell up with the serotonin graphic. Ha!

While I was busy feeling like a boring reject, a sparkly thought came to me. It was a thought about why I started this blog. It wasn't so others could read it--that's just an additional point of interest. The purpose of this blog is to serve as my journal, but in a format that allows for other people to help me think through my life process.

Geez May. Don't lose your perspective. The words are for you.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Phil Spector's Wall of Sounds like Bipolar to me...

It has been six years since Phil Spector, the once brilliant music production prodigy, was arrested for killing a young actress in his backyard swimming pool. The ensuing trials were surreal more than tabloid due to Spector's bizarre behavior.

Phil Spector arrived at court dressed strangely, or with his curly hair grown long and teased out into a huge shock of an afro. He refused to speak, he behaved oddly, to say the least, and listened to testimony from former dates and girlfriends who talked about his erratic moods, violent outbursts, irrational thinking, physical abuse, risky behavior (including a penchant for playing Russian roulette), a fascination with guns, and an admitted problem "dealing with the demons" in his head.

Phil Spector changed American pop music forever. His trademark Wall of Sound became the signature of Motown Music. His production influence and talent for understanding the most subtle nuances of writing and arranging were unsurpassed for years, and as a result, he worked with some of the biggest names in music, including the amazing Darlene Love and Leonard Cohen. Eventually, he had destroyed so many relationships and threatened to kill so many people that his career lay in shambles before he was 40.

By the time he was 35, Spector was prone to long periods of reclusive behavior. Phil Spector's father suffered from chronic depression and committed suicide when Phil was nine years old. Phil's sister suffered from serious mental illness and was eventually committed. As if that didn't indicate predisposition for problems, in the early 1970s, Spector suffered a severe head injury when he was ejected through the windshield of his car in a near-fatal car accident. The frontal lobe is not a good place for an injury, particularly in someone who is already volatile and possibly lacking judgment.

And so it is that Mr. Spector was convicted of second-degree murder today. While the world focused on his brilliant creative talent and business skills, then joked about his erratic and eccentric behavior, it seems that nobody thought to look at all of the pieces together. That's unfortunate, if you ask me. Given the big picture, I'd say bipolar disorder or something like it is crystal clear.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sponging up pop culture

Charlie's Angels. Opening scene (or, the first scene that registers with me). Cameron Diaz doing an hysterically funny dance in her panties to Sir Mix-A-Lot's Baby Got Back. It was funny.

The song has overtly sexual lyrics, but no worse than Relax by Frankie goes to Hollywood, and that didn't suffer from lack of airplay--until and even after it was banned by the BBC.

After the initial dust-up over the lyrics and video of Baby Got Back, the catchy (nay, infectuous) tune with very modified lyrics was used in a G-rated animated film and a Target commercial touting kids' backpacks. Nobody raised an eyebrow, at least, if they did, it didn't make national news.

Why then is it suddenly scandalous to spoof the song again for a mainstream audience? Sponge Bob Square Pants is collaborating with Sir Mix-A-Lot and Burger King to promote a new Kid's Meal deal. The commercials featuring Sponge Bob and others with square butts is hilarious. I think Sponge Bob is hilarious in pretty much any context, but the visual for this is very funny.

Now that I think of it, didn't we see Patrick's naked ass as he used his butt crack to clutch a flag in the Sponge Bob movie? Where was the outrage over that?

Lighten up, people. It's a commercial on a limited run. It will be out of your kids' memory once the next catchy commercial saturates the airwaves. Your kids already know about butts and they've probably already watched the original Baby Got Back video on YouTube.

It's a spoof. You aren't supposed to take it seriously, let alone think your tot will be marred for life by watching it. It's funny. Appreciate something clever and learn to laugh. Please.

Why won't the bad feelings disappear?

In the field of trauma treatment, there has been heated discussion about the impending ability to eliminate bad memories from the brain. There are those who believe this is the only true way to bring about healing. Others vehemently disagree, arguing that we are the product of all of our experiences, and that different memories have different meanings as we reprocess them and reinterpret them over time.

Traditional therapy aims to neutralize extremely difficult memories so that the memories themselves are no longer the source of anxiety or recycled trauma. The idea is that once the memory stops triggering the fear/anger/anxiety that the original event did and the person can see the memory as nothing more than data, the last hurdle has been cleared to live normally now that the memory can fit into a new context.

So much easier said than done.

I struggle with the anger, panic, anxiety, sorrow, and disillusionment my illness and its effects visited upon me. Yesterday Kat was here and we worked on some things that needed doing for the nonprofit. We both worked for Sonja and we were both friends with her. Kat went onto a management-level job that led her to the position has now with the city's office of community development. She considers Sonja a friend, although I can see they are not as close as they were even a year ago.

Kat asked me about why I had said that Sonja broke my heart. I couldn't articulate it very well, but in the wee hours of the morning, I sent my reply via email. When I finished, I was in tears, again. It wasn't just about my experience with Sonja; this was me reliving, one more time, the loss of a life I could manage and wondering when I could tell the story without feeling devastated yet again. How long does it take before that happens?

Thank you for listening to me yesterday. I am always working on trying to be mindful of how much activity is coming out of my mouth, and I try not to babble. Part of it is just me, but part of it is inherent to my illness. Did I ever tell you that my last big episode--along with having treatment delayed for far too long--resulted in brain damage? Lithium certainly does terrible things to my body and thought processes, but my pre-lithium brain kind of fried itself and I have permanent deficits as a result. (I told Sonja that a few times and each time she rolled her eyes and told me You...are...just...fine and there is no brain damage.) Among other things, my ADD went full-blown, and my short-term memory really took a hit, hence my need to start every conversation with, "I don't know if I told you this or not..." I can't remember where I put anything, and I have to make notes and lists obsessively to compensate. Also, it is almost certain that the nerve-related pain syndrome I'm dealing with now is in part related to misinterpreted signals in my central nervous system. The medications I take have certainly stabilized my moods and smoothed out my thinking, but they have also removed much of the positive side of the mood spectrum from me--joy, light-heartedness, and optimism are mostly suppressed by the meds. I struggle with this a lot. I'd like a new and much better brain because the one I have isn't doing much to let be me the person I want to be.

I hope I didn't say anything about Sonja that you found to be offensive yesterday. This is a topic of great pain and sorrow for me--and sometimes intense anger. Last night I was alone after Frank went to bed and I thought about just how unsupportive Sonja was when I needed her most. She certainly wasn't alone in that, but she was the most overtly hostile person in my life right then. Last night I stayed up until almost 2:00 a.m. looking through my journal files from that time. The writing is almost hysterical in tone and style in some places, but the facts are still in there and now that my health is better managed, I can look back while thinking rationally and I see what makes me so sad even now. Rather than send you journal pages, I will recap a couple of weeks of writing. I wish I could say my perception then was colored by my extreme rapid cycling and mixed state, but the words of everyone involved are pretty much verbatim. My illness really has taken a lot from me and there isn't a medication in the world that can take away that kind of sadness and disappointment.

When I was in full meltdown and going to therapy once or twice a week, there was a session where I was talking about how awful I was and the terrible person I had become. I was crying so hard I wasn't making much sense, so the therapist stopped me from speaking and she said, "What is it you're doing that is so bad? Did you kill someone? Crash someone's car? Burn down the house? Why are these women [Sonja & Tica] so angry with you? What have you done to their lives that is so heinous?" I was having trouble lining up my thoughts, so answering was not easy. I told the therapist, "If I understand it, I'm not putting in enough effort to be nice or to filter my thoughts in any way, so what I perceive as straightforward honesty is pissing people off, but I don't even know what I'm saying or doing wrong. They think I'm hostile, but they don't understand I don't mean to be. Sonja's mad because--and she told me this point-blank-- I'm a disappointment to her now that I've stopped living up to her impression of me. She always held me in high esteem and thought I was better than "this," but now that my illness has taken over, she sees a different person and she wants me to, quote, 'get my shit together and stop behaving this way.' I told her that I am suicidal and that I'm so severely depressed I can't find any reason to fight this. She got really angry, leaned across my desk and pointed her finger close to my face and snapped that I was a quitter and that was making her mad.

Lisa, I am trying to act normal, but I can't connect my thoughts, I can't sleep, I can't think, nobody can assure me I'm going to get better or that the drugs won't always make me so sick and what I need are friends. I need to know they love me, but they only want to know a certain version of me. If I can't be that version, then they have no interest. Why can't anyone understand that I have never needed love and friends more than I do right now? Why can't they walk this path me? They don't care. They just don't care. I'm not worth that kind of love, I guess. Nobody cares if I fall down or how bruised and broken I am, they only care that I start acting normal. I am so alone and now I have to try to hide that I'm sick, too. Why don't they understand that I am sick and this is not a voluntary condition? Why would I want to be this way, Lisa? Why would anyone think this is a choice? Why? Why don't they get it? I give them articles to read but still, nobody can accept that this illness is a big, fat, brain defect. Why won't they cut me some slack? Sonja keeps saying I'm not trying, but all I do is try. I can see that somebody could be offended if I say whatever thought races across my brain, but really, if I can't control that, how can I control feeling like I need to end my life? How can she get outraged and wag her finger in my face and tell me that I'm a quitter and then go on with her day normally but satisfied like she just did me a fucking favor by trying to straighten me out?"

Less than a week later, Dr. B said, "You need to protect yourself, May. Make sure this woman signs a confidentiality contract. If it turns out that after signing it she speaks to anyone except HR about your condition, you can get her fired and you can sue the organization--and win. Remember, you have coworkers and you have friends--don't confuse one for the other." Then he went on to fill out FMLA paperwork on my behalf in case I couldn't tolerate being at work anymore. When I submitted the paperwork to HR, I talked with the HR director for about an hour. She was incredibly supportive and helpful. She gave me the language for the confidentiality contract and told me to make sure I kept a copy, Sonja kept a copy, and HR got a copy sent directly to the HR director. I never thought I would see a day when HR was more helpful and protective of me than someone who purported to care about me personally. Sonja signed the document but never mentioned it to me again.

What I was trying to say yesterday was that I have never, ever felt that Sonja cared about my being sick; in fact, she does not believe that my illness is an illness at all. She sees it as a character flaw with ensuing emotional and behavioral problems that can easily be corrected through self-discipline (trust me on this one--there is no interpretation here). It is an annoying inconvenience to her. I remember I once told her that 20% of people with BP commit suicide and she said something almost verbatim like, "Not really. That illness itself isn't fatal--it doesn't actually kill anybody on its own."

When therapy was finished and I became more adept at using my coping tools, and then the medications were tweaked to a point that allowed me to function, I was able to do a better job of putting on my persona every morning just before I walked out the door. I made a decision that I would no longer have friends or let anyone know more than the most superficial details about my life and how I experience it. I stopped believing in the existence of any spiritual entity that influences the outcomes of our lives. I told Frank that if he wanted a social life, he would need to make his own friends because I was finished with that aspect of my life. It has been almost three years, and so far, these decisions have proven to be wise ones. Becoming friends with Jolie was the only exception--she met me at my worst and didn't judge. Also, it's not hard for me to be friends with someone who lives 800 miles away. It's a safe distance.

Otherwise, I struggle with the day-to-day challenges of an illness that can be controlled (erratically) but not cured, especially knowing that I fall into the 10% of cases that are medication resistant. I am intensely self-vigilant, desperately lonely, and determined to prove that I am no less than anyone else and that I can still be productive--I'm down but not out, useful and not a throw-away.

Having said that, what I really want is to stop everything, find quiet, and never need to leave my house or have to talk to anyone. It would be such a relief to stop worrying about whether or not I'm behaving OK, thinking normally, keeping paranoia at bay, etc. Mostly, though, I wouldn't have to act like I feel OK when I don't. I will probably always have subclinical depression, I will be wracked with anxiety, I will make mistakes due to my cognitive deficits, and I will have suicide ideation on a daily basis, but it would all be easier if I didn't have to see anyone or do anything. Having the nervous system/muscle spasming issue adds an intense layer of additional stress to my life. I feel like my life is very, very hard, but nobody except Jolie and Frank seem to understand and appreciate the full implications of that. And that's OK.

I hope this gives you some insight into why I harbor some frustration about my relationships. Now that I've said all of that, I promise I will stop talking about it! Thanks for listening.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Aha! So that's where it begins

98% of Babies Manic-Depressive

NEW YORK—A new study published in The Journal Of Pediatric Medicine found that a shocking 98 percent of all infants suffer from bipolar disorder. "The majority of our subjects, regardless of size, sex, or race, exhibited extreme mood swings, often crying one minute and then giggling playfully the next," the study's author Dr. Steven Gregory told reporters. "Additionally we found that most babies had trouble concentrating during the day, often struggled to sleep at night, and could not be counted on to take care of themselves—all classic symptoms of manic depression." Gregory added that nearly 100 percent of infants appear to suffer from the poor motor skills and impaired speech associated with Parkinson's disease.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Why won't it just stop?

The last 2 1/2 weeks have found me enduring nearly crippling pain at the base of my neck. I have to take Advil every day, sleep with a heating pad on my upper back and not tilt my head back.

I mentioned this to Toni at my PT session today. The news is not good and although I try to avoid "why me?" syndrome, this time I really have to ask. It's too much.

Maybe it's because my pelvis is slowly becoming untilted and it has shifted my spine. Maybe I wrote some intense blog post and strained something. In any case. The area is actually puffy and inflamed. I have developed the start of a small dowager's hump as a result.

Toni's assessment showed that the muscles across my shoulders and scapulae are rigid and spasming, much like those in my abdomen and pelvis. The muscle spasms feel much like shingles. My spine is frozen from T1 to T3. (T1-T3 are the top three mid-spine vertebrae, starting at the base of the neck.)

Given what a crapfest bipolar disorder is, shouldn't we be given a free pass on any other health problems? It's like the powers that be are giving me some sort of endurance test. Am I in a secret study being done by a lithium manufacturer trying to see what the limits of stress are upon a bipolar patient experiencing relative stability?

Had this happened three or four years ago, I would have killed myself. I can't imagine bearing up under this with a brain that has abandoned proper neurotransmitter behavior.

I want a new body that functions as it should. If that's not possible, then I want to come into enough money so I can stop working and just settle into a life of quiet contemplation ruminating over my apparent deterioration.

That being said, I look OK, and if I understand the thinking of the other people on this planet, if you look OK, then everything must be fine.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Things that do not interest me in the least:
  • football
  • basketball
  • country music
  • horror films
  • Mississippi
  • Dancing with the Stars
  • dancing with anyone
  • NASCAR, etc.
  • coin collecting
  • Sarah Palin
  • flashy jewelry
  • camping
  • social networking
  • guns
  • accounting

Monday, April 6, 2009

Oh, well, of course

Upon further research, I uncovered this interesting fact: Most hard-core sugar cravings are the body's request for more serotonin. Of course. Serotonin helps the brain lift depression or even just a low mood. The reading on this was quite fascinating, and there is a lot of research illustrating this point:

This can't be good.

In the last two hours, I ate at least five mini-size Hershey's bars, plus one full, 3.5 oz. Cadbury Fruit & Nut chocolate bar. That's like 700 calories of chocolate consumption.

I've been doing this for two days, making today the third. Don't get me started on the jelly beans.

I don't usually eat much candy. I mean, I eat it, but in small doses.

The sugar cravings are almost unbearable. What brought this on? This is a serious and nearly overwhelming craving for sugar. Why would I be craving sugar? I read somewhere that sugar cravings don't exist in the physical sense; they are strictly a behavioral manifestation of a psychological issue.

As if I needed more of those.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Book of Knowledge

Even though it's a tiny little book, I could not get through don Miguel Ruiz's slim 138-page volume, The Four Agreements. The ADD Force is growing stronger.

Despite my inability to concentrate long enough to read the book (Twitter was made for people like me), I did manage to find out what the four agreements are. Today I'm thinking about one of them in particular, Don't take anything personally. This is a hard prescription for the insecure, but I'm working on it.

A few years ago, right in the middle of losing my mind, a sadly misguided soul named Teresa came into my professional life. She believed that she was my supervisor and it was really bad timing because I wasn't even a little bit interested in being polite about the misunderstanding. For two years.

Teresa got to a point where whatever I said she interpreted as a veiled slight. One day she showed up at my office and made me listen to a voice mail I had left for her. She intended to demonstrate to me the validity of her belief that I spoke to her harshly (I didn't), and she thought that if I could hear my message after the fact, I would hear what she heard. I didn't. I only heard the same message I had left the previous day and it sounded detached and professional, but perhaps laced with a bit of weariness.

Teresa was stunned that I just couldn't see what was so clear to her. Of course, I knew what I said, so how I could I possibly be objective? I knew exactly what I had intended when I left the message, and there was no issue of interpretation for me.

This brings me to something I once told Teresa: What I say is entirely up to me. How you take it is entirely controlled by you.

And so, flipping through don Miguel Ruiz's book, I found validation right there in Agreement #2: Don't Take Anything Personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering.

It's a satisfying complement to something my therapist used to say when my paranoia would start to spiral into hysteria: Is that a fact, May? Look at the data. Are you sure you really know what other people are thinking?

I suppose I don't know what anyone else intends to say since, as Ruiz points out, so few people say what they mean. This is not a trait I share with most people. I have learned to temper my bluntness in the interest of being diplomatic, but a conversation with me is rarely laced with ambiguity. Why can't more people be this way? Could it be that they don't want to know what we think about them as people?

A great deal of my life has been spent feeling bad about myself. Self-esteem has been an issue since a very young age, and I struggle with it every day. This evening I was thinking about that when my mind wandered and I started thinking about the conference presentation I had to do last week. Two of my key co-presenters bailed out shortly before the conference, and one of them pretty much blew it off only 24 hours before showtime. I haven't spoken to either one since.

I'm not on a quest to avoid them forever, nor could I; I'm just waiting until I know I can speak politely and I don't sound as annoyed and disappointed as I am. I'm almost there.

Lying there on the couch tonight, I thought about whether or not Jenny and Anita have even noticed that I haven't spoken to them. Then it occurred to me that being dynamic, emotionally healthy women, they probably don't care if I like them or not. It takes a certain amount of indifference to bail out of a conference presentation you know is incredibly important to someone. Considering that, I'm pretty sure that I have neglected to consider the situation as a factor in Jenny's reality or Anita's reality. I've only been seeing it from my own perspective. I, personally, would never do what Jenny and Anita did, but I understand that just because something is important to me doesn't automatically mean it will be anyone else's priority. We are all independent agents.

Is it liberating or depressing to realize that people I know and like may not put any thought into how I perceive them? Frank immediately thought I was asking about something rooted in my insecurity about not being liked, but it's more analytical than that. It hadn't really figured into my perception of the world that my opinion of another's character, personality, behavior, or accomplishment, is not a factor in anyone's facing the day. And why would anyone care what I think of them? Who am I to expect anyone to find meaning or value in my opinion of them? I am not a judge. I am just one more person trying to be comfortable while navigating life's path. We all deserve the same.

Maybe when we all stop taking things personally, we will become truly self-reliant and emotionally detached in a way that protects us so we can achieve without criticism. Abraham Maslow would have disagreed, but even he admitted that others needed to judge the work. And they did. And they disagreed. I wonder if Maslow cared.

Friday, April 3, 2009


The chilling news spread like an icy wave through the refugee resettlement world. A shooting in Binghamton, New York. The American Civic Association provides a variety of services to immigrants and is also a refugee resettlement agency, an affiliate of United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.

We've whispered about this possibility for years. Disgruntled xenophobes, desperate and traumatized refugees, someone angry about immigrants in the bad economy. It was bound to happen sooner or later.

For the most part, refugee resettlement work is unbelievably stressful, but benign nonetheless. It is social work aiding people who have fled the horrors of war. Some people don't get it.

Innocent people doing good work should be immune from armed gunmen harboring a grudge.

I am so sad about Binghamton. Desperately sad.

Because I still don't have a tattoo

Shopping should be easier for plus-size women. Half the country is obese, but the women's section is tiny in pretty much every clothing store except for Talbot's Woman and Dress Barn Woman. Somehow, every female below a 1X is not a woman; they're ladies. I've reached a point in my life where I feel very womanly.

Shopping is hard. It's especially hard because not only am I a 16W, but I'm not quite 5'2." Petites are too short, regular pants are too long, and I refuse to hem my pants or pay the short person's tax, otherwise known as tailoring fees, to have it done.

When I get discouraged, I buy accessories. I have a lot of accessories. A couple of years ago, I gained a liking for graphic Tees and bags. Then, I met my friend Jolie who is very into tattoo art. Like me, she doesn't have a tattoo, despite the affinity for tattoo art. It was Jolie who made me aware that what I like is tattoo art. Oh.

Marc Eko bag. Somebody generic shirts. Can't afford Ed Hardy, even from Ross and TJ Maxx Last week I bought Skechers that are, apparently, designed by a famous tattoo artist. It was a discouraging day of shopping for pants. When all dignity had been wrung out of me in the dressing room, it was time to wander over to accessories.

I have no pants, but now I own these cool Skechers. Love 'em. The Koi would make a splendid tattoo, wouldn't it? The waves aren't bad, either.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

69 Songs (Sleep)

Adagio for Strings____________Samuel Barber
Afternoon Postlude Soliloquy____Daniel Hecht
Air 'On the G String'__________Johann Sebastian Bach
Amongst The Ruins__________ Delerium
Angel's Flight_______________Shadowfax
Blue_____________________ Sarah McLachlan
Piano Quartet No. 1__________ Bohuslav Martinu
Bricklayer's Beautiful Daughter__Will Ackerman
Burying Song_______________Hem
Canon in D_________________Johann Pachelbel
Close Cover________________Wim Mertens
Cold Tea Blues______________Cowboy Junkies
Quiet City_________________Aaron Copland
Destruction________________Alberto Iglesias
Dreams___________________Shankar 'n' Caroline
Dropped Off At Turkana_______Alberto Iglesias
El Conquistador_____________Daniel Lanois
Finale - Last Exit To Brooklyn___Mark Knopfler
Funeral___________________Alberto Iglesias
Gloomy Sunday_____________Sarah McLachlan
Peer Gynt - Morning Mood_____Grieg
Guide My Sword____________Mark Knopfler
Gwenlaise_________________Eugene Friesen/Scott Cossu
Gymnopedie No. 1___________Erik Satie
A Happy Ending____________ Mark Knopfler
Hospital__________________Alberto Iglesias
I Thought It Was You________ Julia Fordham
Inner Sanctum_____________ Delerium
Jeux D' Eau_______________ Cirque Du Soleil
Justin's Breakdown__________Alberto Iglesias
Justin's Death______________Alberto Iglesias
Justin Returns To The House___Alberto Iglesias
Kenny Curtis______________ Alberto Iglesias
Kindergarten______________Alberto Iglesias
A Love Idea_______________Mark Knopfler
The Mist Covered Mountains___Mark Knopfler
Montana Half Light__________Philip Aaberg
Morecambe Bay____________Alex Gifford
Morning Ride______________Mark Knopfler
Myth___________________ Delerium
O______________________Cirque Du Soleil
On Every Street___________ Dire Straits
Once Upon A Time...Storybook Love___Mark Knopfler
Peace___________________George Winston
Pink Moon________________Nick Drake
Pittsburgh 1901 [from Mrs. Soffel]____Mark Isham
Polly's Dress_______________Hem
Procession________________Alberto Iglesias
Ride Across The River________Dire Straits
Smooching________________ Mark Knopfler
Some Are_________________Philip Glass
Subterraneans_____________ Philip Glass
Suheylâ__________________Kudsi Erguner
Swept___________________Julia Fordham
Tessa's Death______________Alberto Iglesias
Tessa In The Bath__________ Alberto Iglesias
Theme for Naomi Uemura_____Philip Aaberg
To A Maddening Ghost_______Sara Hickman
To Airport________________Alberto Iglesias
To the Well_______________ W.A. Mathieu
Toys Not Ties_____________ Nightnoise
Triennale________________ Brian Eno
Victims__________________Mark Knopfler
Warszawa________________Philip Glass
White Rain_______________Alex de Grassi
Woman at the Well_________ Tim Story
2nd Gymnopedie (1888)_____ Bill Quist

Estate planning

Ever since Padam's suicide last month, I keep thinking about something the grief counselor said. She said that most people who commit suicide don't leave a note, and those who do almost always leave rambling letters that make no sense. I had heard this before. It's addressed in Kay Redfield Jamison's book, Night Falls Fast. The problem is, I think it's a generalization. Some people leave eloquent prose explaining why dying was their choice.

The trick to writing a proper suicide letter is to plan ahead and write when you're healthy. I understand the inevitable. Death is inevitable. There is no ethical component to dying.

I've been working on my letter for some time now. Should I need to use it, it will be well thought out, articulate, and unambiguous. I believe in courtesy. And maybe having the last word.

Frank won't need to read whatever the final product turns out to be. He already knows about the intent and the reason. Other people will be sure to ask him, so I figure it will be helpful if he can make photocopies of the letter for the questioners to read on their own. Frank won't want to be pestered about this.

Having taken my huge nightly handful of pills (including extra Baclofen), I am now falling asleep. I need to go to bed before I lose the sleepy groove. It's so precious. Zzzzzz.