Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Year of the Tiger

Recent attention on the sexual exploits of Tiger Woods made me wonder what the story is really about. At first, it appeared to be a minor story of Tiger driving badly. Of course, the local police who responded to the incident felt the need to mention that a window was broken out on the car, apparently with a golf club. This seemed unusual given the fact that the accident was not serious at all.

Enter the media. The scrutiny about that window and the golf club started to build with the intensity of a conspiracy investigation. Speculation was rampant: Had Tiger and Elin had a fight? Was there trouble in paradise? If so, pray tell, what was going on??

The story grew from being the report of a minor incident to a demand for answers about the 911 call, the smashed car window and the golf club. Somehow, there was an expectation that an explanation must be given--nothing less would be acceptable. Was this really news? Was this really anyone's business? Why were we supposed to care?

At about the point my disgust with the media coverage--which spanned the sports reports, national news, and entertainment news--the Women started coming forward.

The Women emerged from obscurity to openly admit Tiger had been sleeping with them. One woman had saved all of her voice mail messages; another had over 300 saved text messages. Reporters couldn't get these women and their artifacts in front of a television camera fast enough. Was it simply a case of, "Aha! We told you there was scandal in the car vs. tree incident."

Seriously. How can someone claim to have a loving and special relationship with Mr. Woods and then rush to the news outlets with 300 text messages to share? Were all of those messages kept because they were special, personal treasures? That's highly doubtful. Who saves hundreds of text messages and then admits to an adulterous affair? I suspect love's got nothing to do with it. This is not the behavior of someone who is who is love with Tiger or who cares for him in any way. Could it be these women were just waiting for the opportunity to show that they had, in fact, snuggled up to a famous (married) guy?

Ladies, nobody is proud of you. Nobody thinks this was an accomplishment on your part. You have just revealed how little class you have.

The ongoing media coverage of Tiger's indiscretion has troubled me, as well. He's a man. He plays golf. He endorses products. And, like millions of other men, he got caught being a serial adulterer. I'm still not sure why that's news nor am I convinced it's anyone's business other than the members of the Woods's household.

Tiger Woods is a golfer, a professional athlete. Do sports figures really have an obligation to be role models? Should we care how they spend their money or their time away from their work? Should it matter to anyone other than Elin?

I would say no.

Another rich guy let his ego get the best of him and he screwed around a lot. Not news, not interesting, not worth the press conference or the hours of television, newspaper, radio, and online coverage.

The world is a busy place full of real scandals that affect our safety, our health, our freedom, and our finances. Events happening every day are shaping the every-day lives of regular people but we don't even hear about it.

Even the media outlets have forgotten what is news.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Maybe it's just winter

This life was never what I had in mind.

How did I get to be this sad? I don't think it's medication related. I was pretty sad before that change.

At least I have all of that lithium coursing through my brain preventing me from taking a long nap outdoors in the single-digit night weather. Not sure what the lamictal is doing for me. The EMSAM may or may not be having an effect on me. I can't determine that.

I'm sad. I'm restless. I'm bored. I'm exhausted. I'm slow. I have no one to talk to, and damn it, I am not going to pay someone to talk to me and pretend to care. I don't feel well and it's so hard to maintain an optimistic outlook when that's a chronic condition.

I used to be smart, funny, and creative. My mood and the medications that supposedly stop it from gettting worse have made me into a fat, uninteresting blob of personalityless cognitive dysfunction.

I'm not blue; I'm gray.

photo by me, 2005

Sunday, February 21, 2010

a memory

Sometimes when I feel bad, I look at pictures that might help me to feel better. Since my wedding anniversary is Valentine's Day, I've spent the past few Februaries going through my wedding pictures. It was a day when I was only half as dorky as usual. Nowhere in the pictures can you see the depression and anxiety that were beginning to devour any sense of joy or normalcy in my life.

I wore a peach-colored satin garter over my long underwear, but it kept sliding because it was satin and a little too big. I had left my garment tape and little safety pins back at the hotel. I kept trying to be discreet in making adjustments, but at one point I just got frustrated, yanked up my dress, and aggressively repositioned the garter. Right at that moment, I heard a chorus of camera shutters clicking. My head snapped up in surprise--I had been unaware anyone was watching me. And when they kept shooting, I spontaneously laughed out loud.

It was a good day. I didn't screw up.

Most days, I really just want to blow my fucking brains out.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The core of the matter

I do not believe that our emotions dictate our health. Plenty of happy, well-adjusted people come down with chronic illnesses and just as many dysfunctional humans are no less healthy than anyone else in the general population.

After doing some research on the psoas muscle, I was amused and distressed to read this:

Although we can differentiate our thoughts from feelings and sensations, these qualities are aspects of a total expression within a living being called you.

The Psoas is the deepest core muscle and grows out of each side of the spine. The psoas is primarily a messenger... If there is compromise within the core, and I am defining core as the central nervous system inside your spinal column (tip of the coccyx to the cranium) it will be reflected within your psoas.

When our integrity is compromised it is always expressed within the core. One expression is curling inward, a protective gesture. No matter if we are emotionally or physically attacked, fall off the roof of our house, lose a loved one or have way too much to think about (Goggle Rodin’s thinking man sculpture to see an image of the over burdened intellect) the psoas will express our being overburdened.

If we are too far off base or when we are not living from our core integrity the psoas speaks up loud and clear. (Liz Koch: The psoas speaks out.

Fascinating, but actual medical research indicates that tight or short psoas muscle condition is the result of sedentary habits, a lot of sitting, poor posture, and lack of exercise.

At the moment, severe pain is gripping my entire pelvis, sacroiliac joint, and lower gut. My pelvis is twisted and the SI joint is locked on the right side. Rampant inflammation is making everything feel even worse. Granted, I don't like myself or my life very much, but if I were going to engineer a distress signal from deep within, this would not be what I would come up with.

I am in bad shape because I have been sedentary, I sit a lot, I have poor posture, and I don't exercise.

Were anyone to offer a bet, I'd feel compelled to oblige if it were to prove that no matter how distressing my emotional situation, my pelvis can be healed rather easily and in just a month or two with physical therapy and daily targeted exercise.

So, then, if the body speaks for the mind, if I fix my psoas muscle, does this mean I will no longer have bipolar disorder, depression, or anxiety?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Deeeeep thoughts

I am sad.
I am tired.
I am tired of being sad.
I am frustrated that I am sad and tired of being sad.

I am not even creative enough to put this into a poetic form.

I want to believe that I can overcome any emotional malfunction like bipolar disorder simply through the power of thought and mind over matter. (You just have to want it. Visualize wellness. Manage your stress. Be strong.)

I take medication, though, because I am not brave enough to find out if the power of positive thinking--wishin' real hard--actually works. My dosages have been cut drastically (by me but AMA) although not entirely. Why can't I find the courage to take this leap? Why am I so weak?

Pain. My physical pain is wearing me down. It is rubbing away all of my energy and what little optimism I have left. Why can't I meditate? Why can't I think my way out of this problem? Nothing shows up in any labs or imaging, so I assume my central nervous system is reacting to my emotional problems and nothing more. Right? If this is true, then why, oh why oh why didn't anything change when I cut back or cut out medication?

I am trying so hard. Half the world unequivocally believes that there is no need for medicine or medical treatment for the types of ills that dog me. It's all supposed to be solved if I just allow myself to believe I am well.

It's not working. Nothing has changed. What am I doing wrong? If these illnesses are nothing more than a creation of my own thoughts, then why are they still here?

I don't feel like I have unresolved emotional problems. I would know, wouldn't I?

This must be some fundamental weakness on my part, some failure, some deep flaw...and I'm too stupid to know how to fix it.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

It makes me feel heard

Awhile back I joined a group on Facebook called "The right to die with dignity." It's supposed to be a forum to discuss, well, the right to choose your own outcome.

That discussion has over 1,000 members, but nobody actually joins the discussion. Still, more than 1,000 members means people are thinking about this.

Wanting to have my politically incorrect and apparently illegal point of view to be heard, I started my own group: "My life, my death, my choice." I get to express my opinion on this matter all I want. My group has 23 members so far, and I think most of them have bipolar disorder or severe depression. That's OK. Everyone should know that there is a safe place to talk about the topic without fear of being arrested or committed.

Saying, "I get to decide for myself when I've had enough," should not be a crime. For once, Facebook is serving an actual validating purpose for me by letting me have a group--and by having people join it.


I am alone.

(Scratch that.)

I am utterly alone.

(with thanks to Lydia Deetz)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Insidious sleep

Sometimes I have other people’s nightmares. Their stories settle over me and eventually are absorbed, taking up residence in my brain as false memories and never-known experiences.

I have been listening for a long time, yet I have been unable to neutralize the information before it finds a portal into my subconscious. Why do other people’s memories and nightmares become my own? What part of my brain spins out dreams that cause me to relive horrors I’ve never imagined or seen?

Making my way through the Congolese jungle, falling flat into sucking mud during a fierce storm in the rainy season. My feet hurt, my back hurts, my gut is on fire, and I have no idea where my two oldest kids are.

This is not my story, although I know it by heart.

The jungle again. More rain. Quiet, quiet. My friend is above me on the path we were just following before I slid through the slick leaves and loose gravel to where I am now, looking up the steep embankment. Burmese soldiers saw us: my sister and her husband, another Karen man we met yesterday, my friend Moo Thay Paw, and me. When the blistering crack of a rifle shot ruptured the thick jungle air, I caught my breath, lost my footing, and fell off of the path.

I am afraid to breathe. I can’t hear what the soldiers are saying, but I see one of them shove my sister to the ground. The food. Maybe they just want our food.

“Get up!” He is screaming at my sister. When she is back on her feet, he ties her left wrist to Moo Thay Paw’s wrist. The other soldiers pile their things on the path and tell my family and friends to carry. A few minutes later, when everyone is out of sight, I hear another gunshot and a faint thud. I hope it is the sound of an animal being killed and not someone I love. Night is coming. I have no idea how to get to Mae Sot on the Thai border. I don’t know where I am.

This dream woke me in the early morning hours and I was instantly filled with such a pressing sadness, I couldn’t bear to stay awake. The feeling stayed with me for days.

On the hottest nights in summer, many men and boys will sleep on the roof of the house. Our house had air conditioning and fans, so our nights were cool and quiet. With the house closed up, we never heard anything going on outside, but my husband must have because he went outside. He probably wanted to make sure nobody was trying to break in. We didn’t even know he was gone until morning.

I was frantic with worry and it got worse as each day passed. Nobody knew anything, nobody saw anything. Six days later, I heard a car in the narrow alley behind our house. The walls around the courtyard are too high to be able to see anything. I didn’t hear anythingat first, but when I did—I saw it and heard it at the same time. Had the sun been in my eyes I would have thought someone had thrown a bundle of trash or an errant ball into the courtyard, but the sun was behind me. I saw quite clearly the horror before me. My husband’s head and right hand had been tossed over the wall, landing with a dense thud on the concrete patio. My husband was dead. My husband was dead and his body was defiled in the most violent, repulsive way.

I did not faint. I did not get sick to my stomach. I did not cry. Instead, I stood there motionless in the pounding heat for a very long time, wondering if someone was watching me, wondering if my husband’s severed head was rigged with explosives. Maybe it was hours later, maybe not, but I went into the house and tried to call my brother who lived in a different part of Baghdad. Where was my cell phone? Where was my god? I was afraid to stay, afraid to go out, afraid to speak. My beautiful house was no longer going to be my home. How could I live in the place where my husband’s head had sat decomposing in the summer heat only a few meters from the patio door?

Long ago, I made a promise to myself that I would be an open vessel for these stories. They had been entrusted to me, and I accepted them silently believing this would help someone heal from the worst trauma and I could remain uninvolved and safe at home. The refugees recounted their horrific experiences, sometimes through tears, and sometimes without emotion. I thought that I received them quietly, and that the tales were locked away in a benign place away from my own memories.

This is not how memory works. It is not how the brain processes repugnant visions. These stories are sill alive and they are playing out in the nightmares of a second-hand bystander.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

That worked out OK

I've been carrying around a Chico's gift card for quite some time now. I rarely shop there because my shape doesn't fit into the shape of their clothes. I also think the merchandise is overpriced. Still, a gift card is a nice treat, along with the 25% off coupon that came in the mail.

Frank came with me. He knows I'm prone to minor meltdowns and despair when shopping. It was his idea for me to go to Chico's today. He thought I had a particularly rough week, I don't feel well, and I haven't done much outside of the house except work.

I found some tops to try. Chico's doesn't carry skirts or dresses in their stores, nor do they carry plus sizes as we know them. At the end of the sale rack, a pair of gray jeans caught m eye.No flap pockets, no metallic embroidery on the butt, no low-cut waist. I put them in the dressing room.

Once in the dressing room, I worked my way through items I loved but that didn't fit well, things that fit well but weren't comfortable, and a couple of pieces that were comfortable but not flattering. I took a deep breath and pulled on the jeans, waiting for the inevitable braking constriction at the thigh. Except it didn't happen. the jeans fit. they looked OK. They were the right length. They were $30. I stepped out of the dressing room to show Frank.

It was a miracle. No. I was skeptical. I found the sales associate and asked, "Has the company changed its fit model or sizing?" She assured me it had not.

Frank later noted that everyone working in the store and shopping in the store was white and between the ages of 45 and 65. Perhaps the jeans fit because they are made for a specific target demographic, the very one that includes me. Or maybe I lost a few pounds.

Anyway, mark this day as the miracle day when May Voirrey fit into a pair of pants (structured pants) at Chico's.

I also bought a choclate brown (not white) long-sleeve tee that's soft as buttah, a gray/white long-sleeve tee with little, airy flowers and beads sewn on, and a dark charcoal gray tank top. I'm eliminating color from my wardrobe so I don't have to put so much thought into getting dressed.

Sometimes I need to remember what makes me happy

Turnabout is mean-spirited play

A friend in Colorado forwarded this article to me. This must be a universal bad practical joke in the asshole arsenal. If it weren't wrong and intended to be humiliating, they wouldn't have done it. Nothing, absolutely nothing, could have proved my point better. You don't need to be a cop to be that asshole, though.

Criminal Charges Possible In DPD Prank Call

CBS4 has learned two Denver Police Officers are under investigation for allegedly making a prank phone call to the Parker Police Department, sending Parker Officers on a wild goose chase.

"We have an active criminal investigation ongoing into charges of false reporting," said Parker Police Sergeant Doreen Jokerst. "We have conferred with the District Attorney's Office and charges are pending."

Sgt. Jokerst said she could not release any details citing the ongoing police investigation.

Multiple sources familiar with the case told CBS4 that the two Denver Officers, who are assigned to District 6 in central Denver, were on duty at the time they made the crank call.

Sources said they called Parker Police from the District 6 station and the call ended up on the Parker Police Department's 911 emergency line. They reported that a fellow Denver officer, who had called in sick for his shift, was at his home in Parker and was suicidal.

Parker officers were apparently dispatched to the officer's home. But they quickly realized the officer was not suicidal. Several sources said the Denver officers quickly confessed that they were trying to play a prank on their colleague by having Parker cops sent to his home after he had called in sick, and that their call was a hoax.

Sgt. Jokerst said Parker Police Chief David King was aware of the case and that the department's Investigations Division has been piecing the case together.

(© MMIX CBS Television Stations, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.) So find me and sue me. I'm not making any money off of it.
In March of 2008, shingles took over my life. I didn't know that at the time, but the last two years have spun out a mystery that is far from solved.

My central nervous system was already showing signs of trauma when pelvic pain syndrome and bipolar disorder became painful constants for me. A researcher at a major university hospital told me that there is evidence that people with chronic neuropathic pain have spinal cord lesions related to chickenpox. About half of patients with pelvic pain syndrome have also had shingles, regardless of age.

Prior to my shingles outbreak, I suffered repeated bouts of near-debilitating pain in the very spot where the shingles eventually erupted. Two doctors told me that it is likely I was experiencing bouts of subclinical shingles in the form of zoster sine herpete, or shingles without the rash.

Recently, study results were made public indicating that zoster recurrence is far more common than anyone ever knew. Recurrence, even in a subclinical form, is much more likely for patients who have extended pain--post-herpetic neuralgia. That would be me. There was anecdotal evidence of this floating around in previous research, but the published study is discouraging. then again, it was funded by Merck, the company that makes the shingles vaccine, so they could just be setting the stage for increased marketing of that vaccine.

Nov. 2, 2009 (Philadelphia) -- People with shingles are more likely to suffer a recurrence than previously thought, especially if their attack is accompanied by lasting pain, researchers report.

"The risk of getting shingles again, once you already have it, is about one in three," says Barbara Yawn, MD, director of research at Olmsted Medical Center in Rochester, Minn. "That's about the same chance of getting shingles once in your lifetime."

People who suffer pain for 60 or more days after their shingles attack are nearly five times more likely to suffer a recurrence, Moore says.

The research was presented at the annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA).

Shingles can result in persistent pain lasting for months and even years after the rash has gone away.

"But unless someone has a compromised immune system, we didn't think they would actually have a recurrent attack," Moore says. Moore and colleagues studied the medical records of nearly 1,700 people with a confirmed shingles attack from 1996 to2001. Only 8% had compromised immune systems, she says. But 95 of them suffered 105recurrences by the end of 2007.

"Clearly most recurrent attacks are occurring in people with healthy immune systems," she says.

Recurrences were:

  • 2.8 times more likely in people with shingles-associated pain for 30 or more days during the initial episode
  • 4.8 times more likely in people with shingles-associated pain for 60 or more days during the initial episode
  • 60% more likely in women than men
  • 40% more likely in people who were 50 or older when they had their initial attack
"Still, most recurrences occurred in people with none of these risk factors," Moore says.

IDSA spokesman Aaron Glatt, MD, of the New Island Hospital in Bethpage, N.Y., tells WebMD that he was "surprised" at the high rate of recurrence.

"We knew you could get another episode, but we didn't know the risk was so great," he says.
Despite my 77 medical appointments in 2009, I continue to backslide with my chronic pain. Neuropathic pain is brutally difficult to treat, and the relentless nature of it is hurting me physically and emotionally.

Having tried antidepressants, anti-convulsants, pain medications, anti-inflammatories, and plenty of vitamins, we are down to two options for treatment as I mentioned earlier this week: Acyclovir, a herpes maintenance medication, and medical marijuana.

The logic is this: Acyclovir will suppress the supposed-subclinical shingles outbreaks, while medical marijuana will block pain receptors in the central nervous system. It will also act as a calming agent which is important because stress greatly exacerbates central nervous system pain.

Unfortunately, pot is contraindicated for patients with bipolar disorder. Having recently put some work into reducing or eliminating all medications that make me depressed, fat, and stupid, becoming a consumer of medical marijuana seems counter-productive.

I really want to feel better, but there must be another way. Let's hope that way makes itself known soon. I am barely hanging on.

Friday, February 5, 2010


May's NO list
Things I do not consume, do, or have
  • No smoking
  • No illicit drugs
  • No soda
  • No meat
  • No artificial sweetener
  • No alcohol
  • No overeating
  • No sex
  • No fun
  • No energy
  • No friends
  • No concentration
  • No exercise
  • No money
  • No bicycling
  • No skiing
  • No books
  • No privacy
  • No joy
  • No passion
  • No optimism
  • No hope
  • No ambition
  • No love
  • No satisfaction

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The dichotomy of May

Day in and day out, words of encouragement and compassion make their way from my heart and flow like warm sugar from my mouth. People who have endured the worst that mankind can mete out sit with me and tell me about their odyssey of loss and survival. They are discouraged by the enormity presented in the task of starting life over.

I reassure them that although their path is arduous, it is not insurmountable. Things will get better. Have faith, feel what you feel, lean on the people who want to help you. Take your time. Take care of yourself. Sit and catch your breath when you are weary from the effort of rebuilding yourself. Understand that you won't make sense of the confusion for a long time; just be open to considering a different cultural point of view.

Today I stood in front of 20 social workers and interns for two hours leading a discussion on cultural considerations in the family dynamic. We talked about the refugee experience and the effects of trauma, relocation, and biculturalism on school-aged children. I explained how our expectations are deeply rooted in culture and personal experience, but through compassion, patience, and a setting aside of judgment, these social workers could facilitate a smoother transition for refugee and immigrant kids and their parents. "If you are not passionate about learning about the human experience," I said, "you cannot be effective in your work."

The presentation was well-received and many participants told me I had inspired them, struck an emotional chord in them, and reminded them of the value of their work and the gifts they possess and need to share. Several people thanked me profusely for sharing my knowledge, but more thanked me for being honest and soulful in talking about my own struggle to make sense of an often senseless world.

You have no idea how little I've shared. None at all.

Their words sounded like the dull, echoing thud of lead coins dropping into an empty vessel. I can talk the talk, but I am having some difficulty walking the walk when it comes to believing in hope. I am not sure that persistence and the belief in possibilities yields any return on investment. I am especially unsure that feeling one's feelings leads to anything worthwhile.

I got in my car and drove across town to the hospital for a status check with Dr. G and her nurse practitioner, Mary. Twenty minutes into the conversation, they told me they wanted to put me on a daily regimen of Acyclovir. "Herpes medication? Um, I don't have herpes." Are you kidding me? I can't tell anyone, ever, that I take lithium. I hide the medication in the back of a kitchen cabinet. I certainly will have to hide the Acyclovir, too. I don't want anyone to stumble upon it and come to any judgmental conclusions. Shit. Herpes medication??

Dr. G explained that this treatment was being proposed based on a theory that my shingles virus was still resident in a subclinical state causing nervous system inflammation and neural windup. All I heard was "...based on a theory. Some people think...anecdotal evidence suggests..." Where were my concrete answers? Why was I being burdened with illnesses that nobody could even prove existed? Why can't you fix me? Why can't anyone fix me?

As the conversation went on, it soon became evident that I had nearly exhausted my options for managing the multiple nervous-system maladies afflicting me. I expressed my frustration and dismay in not being a successful patient. I told Dr. G and Mary that I knew they were trying everything they could think of and I wanted them to see their efforts result in some measure of success.

Mary looked surprised. "May, we don't need the validation of you getting better. You haven't failed us--we've failed you. Medical science is failing you. We have so many patients who are so bereft of hope that they won't even try any of the therapies we suggest. You had 77 medical appointments last year. You are the research queen. You brought us articles and asked us to consider different ideas. You are doing your part. We couldn't ask you to be more on board as a patient." My psychiatrist had said almost the exact same thing, but he didn't have any answers, either.

I want to be cured.

The tears started rolling down my cheeks. "I hate this. I hate being in pain. I hate being told to have hope when nothing works. I hate being in constant, chronic, inexplicable pain that doesn't seem to have any definable cause. I hate that you're telling me that at this point, the best we can do is lidocaine suppositories on a daily basis. Is this it? Is this what my life is going to be? Didn't I go through this already with another illness?"

Mary asked me, "You take other medication every day; how do you feel about taking lithium?" I narrowed my eyes and spoke slowly. "I resent choking down every one of those pills. I will never get over it. I hate the illness. It embarrasses me. The medications remind me that I am mentally defective. Generally defective. I don't work right. It's not just the supposed bipolar; it's the whole damn body. The added insult is that I don't even have a condition I can discuss in polite company. It's all on me to carry my feelings about all of this."

My afflictions can be treated, but they will never go away.

Mary told me that feeling bad about feeling bad doesn't help me in any way. Still, I always feel like I must have done something wrong somewhere along the line to bring on these health issues. I'm sad. I'm frustrated. I've hit a dead-end and I have no idea how to feel OK about that. The well is empty. If my well of optimism and hope is tapped out, I am a hypocrite for suggesting to other people that perseverance and self-love will see them through impossibly difficult days.

I just want mine to be over. One way or another.