I will dance so freely/holding onto nothing

*TRIGGER WARNING* *SUICIDE*

It’s been a while. I seem to take a break from here when I’m doing well and come back when I’m doing either fair to middling or poorly. Today I’m not doing well at all. I did it again; I went off my meds. I was toying with the dosages; I was doing well with taking them every other day and then it spiraled into ever few days. I went on vacation to Las Vegas with the husband – our first vacation alone – and with all the sightseeing for the 2 weeks we were there, I think I took my daytime dose maybe 3 times. By the time I got home I was slowly slipping into a manic phase.

I was unstoppably horny. I was eating candy like none other. I was restless and couldn’t just sit still. I was loud and mean. I said some of the most cutting things – just no inner monologue. I couldn’t take it anymore. On Friday night I started taking my meds again.

Saturday afternoon I woke up groggy as hell. My nighttime meds have a way of knocking me out cold. I woke up and I was not just feeling lethargic but utterly drained, as though the floor had sucked out my energy, had swallowed my soul. My affect was blunted – I lost all emotion in my voice and face except pain and I could hear it and feel it. It hurt to try and smile. I knew I’d plummeted into my deep hole of depression.

I was crawling around in the dark, trying to find a ladder but it wasn’t there. My husband noticed immediately and threw me a rope to climb out, but the only thing I could think to do was end the pain with it. I was tired of climbing. I am tired of climbing. I’m tired of the calloused palms, I’m tired of the burning hands, I’m tired of the fiberglass feeling you get in your fingers after you’re done swinging on the rope, I’m tired of looking up and seeing how much farther I have to go.

I’m. Just. Plain. Tired.

I’m tired of begging for the rope. I’m sick of needing one at all. I’m afraid for my daughters – that one day they, too, will need one because of me. This pain is fucking real and I’m tired of swinging. I want it to stop.

What do you do when you want to use the only escape route you have to end it all? Knowing you don’t really want it, but you feel painted into a sick and twisted corner? Like you’ve no options left?

I’ve stopped seeing the forest for the trees. There is no big picture for me anymore. I’m hanging on by a spider’s thread. I keep seeing my husband remarried with children of his own – a chance to start a new, normal life with someone who doesn’t have all these complications. Someone who will treat him the way he’s always deserved to be treated. I see him finally making strides to be the best in his field – something I hindered these past 10 years because of my anxiety and insecurities. With me out of the way, there is no telling how far he could go.

My father and siblings wouldn’t ever notice I was gone – they don’t give a shit that I’m here. My mother’s early-onset dementia is progressing slowly; she’ll forget it all over time. This hellish creature inside me would finally be put to rest and I could be free. They could all be free from my ups, downs and all arounds.

I am not doing any good here. Needless carbon dioxide. Usurper of oxygen. Waste of space. Full seat on the train. My mother and husband keep saying I can’t leave my husband here but I can’t hear them. I don’t hear them. All I can hear is the depression telling me I’m not fit to be here and all I can see is this interminable fog.

I came to work last night and this morning – both jobs. I’m trying to stay out of the hospital. I’m taking my meds again as directed and I’m trying to stay supervised. I don’t want to be here anymore but I’m trying not to go back to the funny farm either. It’s either stay at home with all my artillery or keep my mind busy while I wait for the meds to work. Staying in the hospital while they treat me like I’m sub-human away from my family while my psychiatrist is on vacation isn’t going to help me. I need my bed, my dog, my phone and my family. I’m trying my damnedest at home not to act on my thoughts and I’m being watched like a hawk. The minute I’m not safe I know they’ll throw me in my car and drive me to the ER without my consent; they’ve done it before.

I’ll be OK; one way or another I guess.

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I’m meaner than my demons/I’m bigger than these bones

It’s been such a long while since I’ve written in here.  I don’t know if it’s avoidance or forgetfulness at this point.  What I do know is that I’ve backslid and I’m slithering around on my belly like a tongueless snake.

I had the surgery and I’ve lost about 50 pounds.  I honestly think, for once, I’m returning to my baseline physical self.  I never saw myself as this fat, huge overweight thing. Body dysmorphia is quite common for people after the surgery; my mother struggles with it daily.  I wasn’t always fat – I was a skinny kid.  I see myself losing weight and – don’t tell anyone – but I feel fucking awesome.  I think I look fucking hot.  Aside from the loose skin I’ve acquired, I feel my confidence going up.  People at work keep commenting on how great I look, and while I don’t particularly enjoy that, I do like the looks I give myself.  Pretty narcissistic sounding, huh?  It’s not like that, though.  I used to look at myself and glare.  I’d give myself a once-over in the mirror, gazing at each body part with hatred and disgust.  Each body part was subject to ridicule and hazing by me, every day.  There were some days I couldn’t bear to look at myself at all.  I’m fucking done with that.  I look at myself – loose skin and all – and see someone who struggled with a lot of shit, but won’t give up.  I see a woman who is not just a fighter, but gorgeous inside and out.  Not just because she has a sexy husband that wants to fuck her every minute of every day (God he’s seriously relentless), but because she believes it now.  She doesn’t need his validation or anyone else’s.  Who knew it would only take a $40,000 surgery to get to this point?  Oy vey.

So I just got out of the psych ward.  Ha!  Didn’t see that coming, did you?  Alice: always full of surprises.  It had been over a decade since I last graced their halls with my presence.  The staff remembered me.  I’m still trying to decide if that’s good or bad.  My schedule affected my medication schedule and then I stopped taking it all together.  Then I slipped into a manic phase.  I told my family that I wasn’t taking that “poison” anymore, I was “normal” without it.  I was also unable to concentrate on anything, I was the best at everything ever in life, I was getting 4 hours of sleep at night, and couldn’t sit still worth a damn.

Then I fell.  Hard.

I couldn’t get out of bed.  I wouldn’t shower for days.  I would cry at nothing.  Or something, anything.  I’d get frustrated at little things.  I just couldn’t function worth shit.  So I called my psychiatrist.  He told me he was having me admitted to the psych ward.  I was there for a week.  He put me on FMLA and here I sit, at home, taking my meds… ish.

I told him I’m fucking trained.  I know better than to not take them.  I know that the incidence of bipolar patients not taking their meds is higher than any other mental illness because we think we’re getting better, stop taking them and fall on our faces.  I said I know the stats, I’ve read the studies, I know this shit and did it anyway.

He said, “That’s how you know it’s the disease, Alice.  Not you.”

Being in the psych ward as a mental health professional was a nightmare.  You think they treat you any better?  Nope.  Still just a fucking nut in a ward full o’ nuts.  I didn’t expect to be treated better than anyone else but I think I’ve become more aware of the stigma than I had in years past. I never remember the staff being so dismissive and cold. Even the social workers, who claim to help even the playing field between the professionals and the patients were at times condescending and patronizing.  I reminded them that we shared the same credentials, same degree and performed the same functions in our profession as a way of humanizing myself however I doubt it did much good as I was still cast aside when asking for simple things like respect.  During a group session, one social worker stated part of their job is to educate the other staff members, including the doctors, about mental health.  I actually fell out laughing.  I said that, as noble as that may be, the worst stigma against mental illness I have ever seen has been in the medical community.  I explained that I am terrified my co-workers will find out that I am in the psych ward, as I was in my own employer’s medical system and in our computer system it will show that I was there.  I further explained that none of the doctors I work with have any interest or desire to work with psych patients; they actually express disdain for the entire population.   The nurses at my hospital are mostly impatient and rude when treating a psych patient and want nothing more than for my department to hurry up and get them out of the hospital.  I have social workers who actually said to me they hate working with “bipolars” because they are constantly going off their meds and have wild mood swings.  So, excuse my skepticism when discussing “educating” the medical staff – I’m sure it’s going well.

The nurses and nurse’s aides were a fucking nightmare.  It didn’t help that they’d rather surf Facebook and Instagram than do their fucking jobs. Aside for a select few, they treated me like I didn’t know my own body.  And, not to sound like a dick, but like they knew more about psych than I did.  As someone who’s been on both sides – a patient and a professional – I can safely say that’s bullshit.  And as an employee at that hospital I knew corporate policy, so they couldn’t fuck me around when it came to that either.  Plus, this isn’t my first rodeo.  I’ve been hospitalized about 7 times.  Go fuck yourself; I know how this goes.  I wasn’t in the mood to be fucked with.  Not to mention the fact that my psychiatrist is on staff and we’ve been working together for over a decade.  I know that he always has my best interests at heart and will go to bat for me (and did) when I need him to.

So.  You’re caught up.  Time for my meds.

Devious stares in my direction

It’s been a minute, I know. I’m hanging in, but barely I feel. 

I’ve been struggling at work the past few weeks. I feel drained and overwhelmed. I often wear my bite guard to work to keep from grinding my teeth while I’m awake. The job is stressful while at work, but I don’t often take it home which is nice. When I do, it’s usually a personal problem, not a patient’s problem. 

For instance, the other day I had someone call me a fat bitch.  While normally I wouldn’t pay much mind to what others have to say to me, that stung for some reason.  Maybe because they hit that right on the head. Obviously the “fat” thing pissed me off more than anything. And it hurt. It cut really, really deep. Then I had a situation where I felt I did something right – I felt confident about my work and I was ripped apart.  Later that shift I assessed a situation and my disposition was not what anyone wanted to hear. I was ripped apart by family members, nurses – and I broke down. I was so frustrated and angry that I started tearing up and couldn’t stop them from falling.  It didn’t help that I’d had a UTI and hadn’t been able to pee all shift long.

What I’ve realized since then is I can’t allow people to dump on me. My supervisor said that’s what happened – everyone felt like crap and needed to release their frustration and crap and I happened to be the nearest one there. 

I am not a trash can. I am not a dumpster. I am not here for people to dump their crap onto. This was a step further than projection – this was blame, guilt, manipulation, and avoidance.  

See, when things don’t follow the natural order of things in my department, the staff gets freaked. It’s admission, assess, and either discharge or transfer.  Not to mention cleaning up the ancillary bullshit that no one else “knows” how to do. (They sometimes know, they choose to shove it into our laps).  That shift, things were so fucked up it didn’t go that way for several patients and each time I had a gaggle of nurses and 1:1 sitters in my office asking me the same questions: 

“What are we doing with them?” 
“Bed 58 wants to see you again.”
“So what’s the game plan?”
“I know you’re super super busy, but Bed 58 said they wanted to see you again.”
“What’s the ETA for transfer for Bed 13?”

When the staff gets freaked, I’m usually good at holding my own, but that day I couldn’t keep it together. I had 2 nurses, 1 security guard, and a 1:1 sitter standing there just pressing and pressing.  I answered the same question three times.  At what point should I stop talking? At what point did you stop listening – were you ever listening?

Behind my charades

Today, my best friend announced she’s pregnant.  I asked all the questions a mother would ask: 

Do you want it? Do you have the means to care for it? Are you getting married? What about school? What about work? How’s your mom taking the news? How’d he take the news?

Then I proceeded to be happy for her. 

Is there a reason I couldn’t react the way many people react – excited, elated, over the moon?  Nope.  Sat there and double-checked that she was going to do everything she needs to. 
“Needs to.”  Because I’m the one who decides that?! It dawned on me as my car pulled away: 

Who the fuck am I?

No, really. Who am I to make sure she’s planned it all out?  Who am I to ensure she’s got it all handled?  Nobody, that’s who. 

So why do I feel so odd right now?  Is it because at this time last year, I was pregnant?  

What does that have to do with anything?  

… Ok folks, it’s time for Alice to come clean. 

It wasn’t a miscarriage. 

There. I said it. Sort of. 

The shame, the constant pain I carry to this day about a decision that changed my husband’s life and mine for the rest of our days. 

Did we want it? Yes. 

Did we have the means? No. 

Can you plan for everything in life? No. 

And that was it. I wonder what my life would be like if things were different. Would my mother still hate my husband? Yes, but not for the decision he and I made – she does that well enough without a reason. Would it have been healthy? No. The medications I was taking last year increased the chances that our child would have been deformed or born with serious health complications. 

I spoke to my therapist (yes, I have a therapist now) who helped me see a different side to it. 

I’ve made a choice. We made a choice. Looking back, as much I would like children, I think I have some more growing up to do before I bring in another life. I don’t want to perpetuate the cycle of needy mothers and overbearing grandmothers. Once we can stand on our own two feet, we can here the pitter-patter of two other ones. 

Someday we’ll know

I’m detoxing so hard right now.

My body is so weak it hurts all the time. My head is cloudy, my fuse is short. Really, really short. I will unhinge my jaw and swallow you whole for asking the simplest of questions.

Restless? Check.
Irritable? Check.
Discontented? Check.

Yeah. This 3-0-1 plan, on paper, looked easy as pie (Apple pie. Dutch Apple. A la mode. With chocolate syrup and whipped creamALICE!!). Ahem. Easy as hell.

But this is hell. Reading labels, weighing food, measuring food, sending my food log to my sponsor every night – this is what I’ve come to. This is the only way. And I know I’ll get well in time, but right now I need to keep working my program.

My biggest hurdle as I face Step 1 is acceptance. Having been in control (or at least believing I was) for so long, it’s a tall order to admit to others, myself, and to G-d that I’m not only powerless, but I lack the ability to control this disease without the support and assistance from my Higher Power. To me, it speaks to my vulnerability as a human being; I was always taught to rise above that. To be fair, I was also taught to clean my plate, to drink orange juice and milk at each meal, and it was OK to finish a whole package of Rice-A-Roni pasta in one sitting. By myself.

Not healthy messages, I’m aware.

So, how does one admit powerlessness and inability to manage their life and all that’s in it due to disease without oozing vulnerability?

I guess when I figure it out, I’ll be ready for Step 2. Maybe.

Started out a nice vacation

I got a quarter-sleeve tattoo today; it covers my scars from long ago. The design I had tatted means rebirth, a new beginning. I hope as I move forward I can look at this as a reminder of both where I’ve been and where I’m going.

If you get up super super close, you can still see the scars from my cuts under the tatt. Like life, you can’t erase the past – I had no intention to today. But like life, I wasn’t going to let those scars define me or allow others to define me and who I am today. I struggle everyday with this thing inside me; there is no escape, only (sometimes long bouts of) temporary relief. I’m OK with that, I’ve accepted that this is a lifelong struggle but if I have to live with it, I’m doing this on my terms.

My terms no longer require me to wear these scars as a symbol of pain, shame and struggle; I’ve turned them into a symbol of hope and rebirth from pain.

I will be better than “okay” one day. One day.