Quick Question…

To my bipolar amigos: does anyone have tips for going through time zones? I’m going to be zipping through quite a few myself in a couple days, and last time I ended up in a manic episode that…wasn’t so great. I mean, it was great, obviously, but then it gets all “wreck your life”ish (as those things tend to do). Trying to avoid it this time.

I tried to spend the last week getting on the time schedule of my destination’s time zone, but…well… #fail.

Any advice?

The Roadkill and Gender Differences

My husband and I were driving down the road, and there was a roadkill opossum off to the side. This conversation happened:

Me: Wow, a dead opossum. It really makes you think, doesn’t it?

Andy: Yes, definitely.

Me: It’s like, one day you’re just walking along, going about your business, and then suddenly – SPLAT! – it’s all over. It shows how fragile life really is, you know? We need to live each day to the fullest, make the most of every moment, because you never know when it could all be over. This really puts things into perspective. We need to stress less and live better. Have fun. Enjoy the day while we still have time left on earth.

Andy: *looks at me like I’m an alien*

Me: Uh…was that not what you were thinking?

Andy: No. When you said, “it makes you think,” it made me think, “Huh, there must be a lot of opossums that live around here.”

THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is a perfect example of how my husband and I are different. I was going to write some further commentary, but I don’t even think it’s necessary. The conversation speaks for itself.

Happy Wednesday, y’all!

The Mystery in the Bedroom

*SPOILER ALERT* There are no sexual encounters for the duration of the post. Not with me, not with a skanky mistress, none at all. You were going to be thinking that once I explained the setup, so it’s better to get it out of the way up front.

Let’s proceed.

As I was walking up the stairs to get ready for bed, I heard classical music coming from our bedroom. Now, you don’t know my husband, but he’s a bluegrass, country, there-should-be-a-dog-or-truck-in-every-song kind of guy. I’ve never heard him listen to classical.

I stopped midway up the stairs and furrowed my eyebrows. What was going on? It was a triumphant, battle sort of classical music, like the William Tell overture. Why was my husband listening to battle-type classical music? I didn’t have the handy spoiler alert that I just gave you, so I wondered if this was some kind of sexual thing. Like, was he going to be in there with a ripped shirt and acting all Braveheart-ish? Was he going to use a Scottish accent? Because I can’t do Braveheart. I just can’t.

Then I realized that my husband would simply never do a thing like that – ever – and so there had to be a more logical explanation. Also, my husband tried a Scottish accent once (in a completely nonsexual setting), and he sounded exactly like the Crocodile Hunter. He even said, “Crikey” if I remember correctly. So. That wasn’t it.

I took another few seconds to try to guess what was going on, and I came up totally empty. I decided to open the door and figure it out.

Turns out it’s a good thing that I didn’t waste any more time guessing, because I never would have guessed this. You won’t either. I bet you five dollars that you can’t guess what was going on in my bedroom.

……have your guess?……..

…….are you sure?…………

……..no changing your guess when you read the next line……

Okay. Here’s what was happening: the dog was on the bed, and my husband was next to her with a CD player that was playing triumphant battle music. I asked what he was doing, and he said, “I’m doing music therapy with Ruby because she needs it.”

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Honest to blog, my first thought in that situation was, “I cannot believe I’m the crazy one in this relationship.”

Apparently – I can’t believe I’m even typing this – our dog needs music therapy so that she will be comfortable around guns and shooting. She’s a hunting dog, so I kind of thought that came with the territory, but alas. This is something she needs in order to work at maximum effectiveness (says my husband).

Here’s how it works: there’s classical music for the first couple of tracks, and then when the dog is totally calmed, the music starts putting quiet gun pops in the background. As the tracks progress, the gunshots get louder and louder until the last track, where it’s just gunshots and no music.

THIS IS A REAL CD. Google it if you don’t believe me. We live in a weird world.

I was so shocked that this is even a product, let alone one that my husband paid for, that I didn’t know what to do. I think I laughed and awkwardly left to go brush my teeth. Or maybe I said, “Wow, cool jams” or something like that. I mean, what was I supposed to say?!

Bet you didn’t guess that’s what was in the bedroom, did you? I’ll keep my five dollars, thank you very much. I’m going to need it to pay for our dog’s therapy.

(!!!!!)

The Bathroom Fiasco

I was locked in a bathroom stall, popping pills, and I thought, “Oh great. My life is such a cliche: the teacher who can’t get through the day without hiding away and doing drugs. YAWNFEST.”

Granted, the pills were prescription, and also I was on a stressy field trip with a bunch of preteens running around in downtown Detroit…but it was a low moment. I was disappointed in myself for needing the anti-anxiety meds, as I hadn’t taken them in a long time. I was disappointed for needing a “bathroom break” from my kiddos even though I didn’t have to use the toilet I was sitting on.

But really: YOU try spending a whole day with twelve-year-olds squawking at you from every angle, and tell me you don’t need a break. I’m just saying.

This would be a short post if it ended here – a “junior high kids driving me to psych drugs” type of post, but OH. It does NOT end here.

Remember the part where I was sitting on the toilet fully clothed? Well, once I took my pills and spent a minute or two breathing without anyone screaming at me, I decided it was time to go face the yahoos once again. I stood up, straightened my teacher-chic cardigan, and prepared to leave.

That’s when I felt drops of water on my legs.

I paused a moment, thinking something like, “Hmmm…I should look down now, but I can’t imagine seeing anything pleasant that’s dripping on my legs in a bathroom stall. Perhaps I shall ignore it.” Obviously, I couldn’t ignore it.

In my haste to pull out the drugs when I first closed the stall door, I inadvertently let my skirt fall in the toilet. I’d been sitting there with my skirt hanging in the toilet THE ENTIRE TIME. The water had been creeping up the fabric, and now the whole back of my skirt was sopping wet.

You can tell I’m clearly one of those cool teachers. *facepalm*

I rolled my eyes at this point. What a day. At least I calmed myself with the reassurance that this is the year 2017, and nowadays everyone’s about being green and recycling. We were at a science center for the field trip, so surely they would have electric blow dryers instead of paper towels. I could use the dryer to dry my skirt.

Ha!

Of course not. That would be far too convenient at a moment like this.

So then the next logical question: what do I say to the kids?

“Yeah, um, I didn’t have to use the toilet. I just sat there and dipped my skirt in it for kicks.”

“I had to pee so badly that, um, I didn’t quite make it.”

“The toilets in there have a very aggressive flush. I didn’t stand back in time.”

“This is how I save money on laundry expenses.”

Clearly I went with the only logical answer: wring the skirt out the best I can, and then stand against a wall for the next half hour until it dries.

You’re probably over there on your computer/phone, thinking, “Ha ha, Hazel, obviously that didn’t work! What happened next?” But you underestimate my stealth skills, my friend. It worked like a charm. It was a very stressful time (good thing I took those drugs, lol), but it became like a game. You know the game  “The Floor is Lava,” where people have to jump from thing to thing and can’t let their feet touch the floor? Well it was kind of like that, except it was “The Wall is a Magnet.” My butt always had to face a wall. Some students looked at me a little weird when I would jump from wall to wall to help them, but my skirt fiasco went UNDISCOVERED!

WIN!

And noowww it’s time for summer break.

This is My Brain on Drugs (and Other Useless Things)

My mom is cleaning out her basement, so she’s giving me all kinds of crap I don’t want. Today she gave me the following “gifts:”

  • A reeeeeally ugly square lamp. It’s a clear square with a brass rod through the middle of it, and its shade might have been white in a former lifetime. Now that I think of it, it’s so ugly that it probably goes great with the ugly chair from this post. Then again, how much ugliness can one room handle? I think this would put us over the top from “quirky” to “tasteless”…if we haven’t already migrated into “tasteless.” Tough to tell sometimes.
  • A teddy bear that says “I ❤ Jesus” on the foot (there’s actually a heart, not the symbols for less than three, but I’m not technologically intelligent enough to put that in a post). I read the tag on the bear’s ear, and it was a prayer for salvation. I told my husband, “How many people have read this out loud and then been like, ‘Crap! Did I just accidentally get saved?!'” Ha ha. Sneaky bear.
  • A glass dog. Um…..whyyyy do I need a glass dog? It’s kind of big, too. Probably as big as my open hand. Is it a paperweight? While I’m working, it can stare at me with its creepy clear eyes. Is it a….doorstop? A talisman of some sort? It sounds like a curse…THE CURSE OF THE GLASS DOG. I’d read that. Sounds like a Nancy Drew.

And….

  • Old MRI scans from 2008

Now this one was kind of cool. 2008 is when my brain tumor was first discovered, and these were the scans that discovered it. The scans are big and bulky. I held them up to a window and said, “Hey Andy! Check this out! Look how creepy my eyeballs look!”

For the record, the glass dog’s eyeballs are still creepier.

After these scans were taken, I started on a long trail of drugs and doctors and medical nonsense. 2008 was the last time I was not on any medications. I was getting a little sad about this, but then Andy said, “We have your current scans, and now we have your first scans. You’re one of the very few people who can actually hold up pictures and say, ‘This is my brain, and this is my brain on drugs.” Ha! It’s like the old D.A.R.E. ads, except the pictures aren’t much different from each other and I have to be on drugs, not off them. Life gets weird sometimes.

Anyway, Jesus bear and the glass dog are still looking for placements in my house. I hope the ugly lamp isn’t getting too bonded with the ugly chair. I sense a garage sale in their future…don’t tell my mom.

George Washington and Baby Steps

If you’re reading this right now, you’re alive.

Well, unless literate ghosts are real. What if someone really famous is reading this over my shoulder right now, like George Washington or Tupac?! I hope it’s George. He knows a lot about revolutions. We need a revolution in the way society treats mental health. We’re headed there, we’re baby-stepping, but it’s time for that baby to learn how to run.

As I was saying, if you’re reading this then you’re (probably) alive. For some people, that’s the biggest accomplishment they’ll make today. Staying alive is a lot harder for some people than it is for others. For those of you staying alive today, I salute you (no offense, George).

I recently had a talk about mental illness with my sister (she’s a junior in college majoring in neuroscience). She mentioned that every time she gets to choose a research project, she tries to do something dealing with bipolar disorder. Unfortunately, she said, cutting edge research in mental illness is overwhelmingly on anxiety and depression, and diseases such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia get put on the back burner.

She’s thinking about going to grad school to do research on less common mental illnesses. She also wants to help break stigma when it comes to those. “Everyone wants to break stigma for anxiety and depression,” she said, “because it’s so common now. But you’re bipolar? Well, you’re not just crazy. You’re super crazy. People are still going to be freaked out about you.”

Ah, the things she says. Thanks a lot, baby sister.

Behind the somewhat offensive explanation, she has a point. It’s great that people want to break stigmas for mental illness so that more people will go get the help they need, but how often to we hear testimonies normalizing schizophrenia? Multiple personality disorder? Bipolar disorder? They feel few and far between compared to the ocean of people posting to social media about “This is what it’s like to live with my anxiety disorder.”

It’s true that our diseases are rarer (more rare? rarer?), but I want to be invited to the party! I want my illness to be seen as acceptable too! I want people to research wtf is going on in my brain so that they can fix it!

I’m not sure how to make that happen.

I don’t want people to make jokes about bipolar disorder. I don’t want people to be freaked out by me when they learn I have it. I want to feel like I’m okay as a person even though I have this illness (because if you’re under the delusion that all illnesses are socially acceptable, you’re wrong). We need a revolution (George! Are you reading?! Go haunt some people about this).

I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen in the normalization of certain mental health issues, but we still have a long way to go. You, reader, are in this blog community because you need support and/or because you’re supporting the rest of us. Thanks for that – it’s one step in the right direction.

Pet Names and Why I Fail at Them

I think I’m doing marriage wrong.

When people are in love, they frequently call each other by cutesy pet names: babe, baby, sweetheart, darling, or my husband’s least favorite: bae.

I kind of want a pet name, but we’re incapable of using them right. Look at this fight we had (seriously – we were actually mad, and this happened):

Andy: *says something stupid that I don’t remember now*

Me: Sweetie, you’re not understanding what I’m saying.

Andy: Don’t call me sweetie.

Me: Why not?

Andy: I know whenever you say “sweetie,” what you really mean is “fuckface.”

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! And then I started cracking up, shocked, because my husband drops f bombs about as often as our country drops atomic ones. Also, what the junk is “fuckface”? Not, like, “asshole” or “shithead” or some other normal profane insult? I’d never heard that one before.

Also, he was spot on. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but he was right: I only use pet names when I’m mad. He does too. That’s, umm…not how they’re supposed to work. So then we were laughing so hard that we forgot what we were fighting about.

Last night I said that I wanted a nice pet name so that we could, you know, pretend like we’re normal. He looked at me and said, “Well, you’ve got a great body. How about Boobs MaGoo?” Oh my word. Not exactly what I was going for. Can you imagine it? We’re out with a bunch of friends and he calls across the room, “Boobs MaGoo, you ready to go?” Not happening.

I don’t think pet names work for me. I’ve tried a few on like clothes that don’t fit right. “Babe” and “baby” annoy me, like, “I AM NOT A BABY! I AM AN EMPOWERED, INDEPENDENT WOMAN!” But that’s just me being overly-feministy. Excuse me while I go clean up the ashes from my bra bonfire.

I also don’t like getting called food names, because “honey” and “muffin” and “cupcake” straight up make me hungry. Like, “Mmm…cupcakes…” And if I want to have a Boobs MaGoo kind of body, I can’t stock up on cupcakes.

“Darling” makes us sound vaguely British. “Boo” is so very R&B. “Doll” makes me think of the movie Chuckie.

WHY CAN’T I HAVE A PET NAME? Someone please comment with a good pet name I can steal.

This is just great. We’re going to be “Boobs MaGoo and Fuckface: Best Friends Forever.”

How sweet.

The Cranberry Battle

The offending item was dried cranberries. They were expensive, disgusting, and I was NOT going to bring them home with us.

My husband Andy and I have a game we occasionally play at the grocery store (because maturity is overrated). If Andy puts something in the cart that I don’t want, I try to sneak it out without him noticing (and vice versa). You might think, “Wow, how lame. That would be easy.” If you’re thinking that, you’ve clearly never played this game with Andy.

He knew I didn’t want the cranberries (first mistake on my part). He put them in the cart anyway. Game on.

It wasn’t two aisles later that he stopped, looked in the cart, and immediately started a frantic search. He found them by the peanut butter. “Nice try,” he said, “but you’re going down this time.”

I waited about ten minutes, and then I asked him to go get a can of corn that I forgot to pick up. While he was gone, I disposed of the cranberry bag. When he got back – you won’t believe this – he was carrying another bag of cranberries! He said, “I got the corn. Oh, and I picked up another bag of cranberries since I bet you just hid mine.” He looked in the cart and then let out a triumphant, “HA! GOT YOU! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!” People started looking at us weird.

A few minutes later, I successfully hid the new bag. We were on our way to check-out. I thought I might win…then he stopped us by a display of Jewish food for the Passover meal. “Wait a second,” he said suspiciously. “Let me check something.” Blast.

“Where are the cranberries?!” he asked.

I had hidden them long ago at that point, so they could have been anywhere. I threw my head back and let out a loud, “MUAHAHAHAHAHA!” Now people were really looking at us weird.

“Fine,” he said. He looked around. “Hey, we forgot to get matzo crackers for our Passover meal, didn’t we?” He grabbed a giant box of matzo crackers and added it to our groceries. It took up literally half of our cart. “And we should make sure we have enough,” he added. He put another box on top of that one.”

“What are you doing?!” I grabbed the box. “We’re not even Jewish.”

“We need more crackers!” he said. He put two more boxes on. The pile of cracker boxes was almost as tall as he could reach. “Tell me where the cranberries are, and I’ll stop adding crackers.” He grabbed another box.

“Okay, okay!” I surrendered. “The cranberries are in frozen foods. I forgot exactly where.” He immediately ran to frozen foods, like someone was going to see them and take his precious cranberries. I started putting matzo crackers back.

We finally got to the check out, and all of the items (including the cranberries) made it onto the belt. Andy got a text, and when he pulled out his phone I realized that this was it: my last chance. My buzzer shot. Now or never. I swiped the cranberries off the belt and put them by the magazine rack. The store was busy, and the people in line on both sides of the aisle must have thought I was nuts. He put his phone away. I smiled sweetly.

As Andy was bagging the groceries at the end of the aisle, he suddenly said, “Whoa…wait wait wait…where are the cranberries?!”

“I’m sure they’re in there,” I said. “Keep bagging. It’s busy in here.”

The Meijer employee spoke up. “Um…I don’t remember ringing up cranberries.”

Shoot. “I’m sure you did,” I said. “Seriously, you’re fine. Just keep ringing.”

“I’m not sure…” he said. “Well, maybe I did. I ring up a lot of stuff. I could have subconsciously rang them up and not noticed.”

“I’m sure that’s it.” I said.

“Hey! Who’s side are you on?!” screeched Andy to the teller. “Where are my cranberries!?” Andy was laughing, but the worker looked freaked out. He put his hands up in defense. “Hey, I’m totally biased here. Not on anyone’s side, I promise. I don’t know about the cranberries, I swear.”

(I ignored the fact that “biased” was not the correct word to use there). I felt bad for the guy, so finally I said, “Okay fine. I’ll get the cranberries.” But, astonishingly, in the two minutes of this exchange, someone grabbed the cranberries from where I left them by the magazines. I’m not kidding. There were a lot of people in there, so it could have been anyone. I started laughing. “They’re gone.” I said. “Seriously, I left them right there. I promise. They’re gone.” Swish! Buzzer shot was IN!

Andy laughed and threw his hands up in a “why me?” gesture. “FINE! I can’t believe you did that!” The awkward teller looked at us, thoroughly confused.

“So…should I keep ringing, or… um…are we still concerned about the cranberries?”

“Nah, you’re good man,” said Andy. “She won.” The confused teller finished ringing up our groceries.

SSUUCCCCCEESSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!

A few days later, I bought the bag of cranberries and left it in the front seat of Andy’s car with a little heart taped to it. I bet they tasted pretty good, but there’s no way they tasted as good as my victory.

Are You “Fiercely Committed” to Your Recovery?

I like to read the “about the author” portions on online articles. An article I just read on bphope.com described the author as fiercely committed to his bipolar disorder recovery.

This made me wonder – am I “fiercely committed” to my recovery? Are you? If I wrote honestly, my about the author section would read more like this:

“She is recovering, but she frequently sulks about the challenges.”

“She’s doing what she has to in order to recover, but this is super annoying.”

“She takes her pills, but she glares at her pill bottle often as if this whole thing is the bottle’s fault.”

“She’s recovering. Mostly. Whatever.”

“She knows the healthy choices she should make, and she makes them often enough to not go into a full episode (but fudges the rules if she can get away with it)”

“She’s doing what her doctor says, but would prefer to pretend she’s perfectly healthy whenever possible.”

Fiercely committed would look a little different. Case in point: I might be offered a summer internship where the hours could be super weird. My husband said, “Um, that’s a problem…you know an interruption in sleep patterns can trigger episodes.” I immediately said, “No way, I’m fine. I’ll be fine.” *odd look from my husband* “Totally fine. Seriously. I’ve got this.”

Which, who knows? Maybe I would be fine. But does “fiercely committed” go into situations that are clearly hazardous to someone with my condition?

I’ve read numerous articles about the fact that a healthy diet and exercise regimen is essential to mental health for everyone, but especially to those of us with a mental illness.

Here’s the thing: running hurts, and eating cookies doesn’t. Pizza is yummy, and celery isn’t. I would rather sit and read than go “feel the burn” and sweat. Sweating is yucky.

But is any of that fiercely committed? It’s more “let me do the bare minimum to stay mostly stable.” Which, I guess is better than nothing, but…it’s only okay. I shouldn’t settle for only okay.

What have you done to be fiercely committed to your recovery? What inspires you? Because I would need some pretty major inspiration to give up pizza and go running in the snow. Also to turn down that internship (which I am so not going to do if I get it. I’ll be fine. Really).

Looks like I’m not fiercely committed. Hm.

 

Barnes and Noble Hide and Seek

“Hey, wanna play hide and seek?” is an odd question to ask a random adult in Barnes and Noble, but that didn’t stop four-year-old Olivia.

I was sitting there, reading books with my husband, when this Olivia kid came and sat next to me. She had bobbed brown hair and huge blue eyes. She wanted to know about my book, so I told her about it. Then I asked her about her book. Then, well…let me break it down for you:

Olivia: I love reading so much.

Hazel: Good! Reading is really good for you.

O: I can’t actually read, obviously. I look at lots of pictures. Wait! I can read some words. I can read “sam” and “top” and “tip.”

H: Wow, that’s great!

*we awkwardly both go back to reading for about three seconds*

O: Hey, do you wanna play hide and seek?

H: Ummm…we’re in a Barnes and Noble. You can’t play hide and seek in a Barnes and Noble.

O: Sure you can! You could hide behind that column, you could hide behind the trash can, you could hide under that chair…

H: Right, okay, yes. I understand that you CAN play hide and seek here, but it’s just that…ummm…people don’t.

O: We could.

H: Right. Uh….well…

At this point I looked at my husband, and he looked back at me like, “Are you seriously going to turn down little four-year-old Olivia?” I looked around for this kid’s parents, and I saw a haggard lady who looked like her grandma. She gave me a quasi-apologetic look that seemed to say, “Sorry…but at least she’s not bugging me for five minutes.”

So I played hide and seek with the kid.

I’m not joking.

She hid first (behind a display of stuffed animals), and then it was my turn. I asked how high she was going to count, and she said, “I can count all the way to TWENTY!” Whoa. Dream big. I’ll have time to hide in Madagascar with that kind of head start. I hid behind a case of books, but she said my coat gave me away.

Then it was her turn to hide. I said I would count again, but she turned to my husband and said, “I want HIM to count!” Picky picky. Andy asked how high he should count, and she said twenty. He looked sad and said, “But what if I’m not as smart as you? What if I can’t count to twenty?” Olivia channeled some major teenage sass, put her hand on her hip and said, “Seeeeriously?” in a way that clearly meant, “I know you can count to twenty. This is a very serious game of BN hide and seek. We don’t mess around.”

He backed off and said okay, that he would count to twenty. Then he did, but only after pretending not to know which number came next a couple of times. And then I couldn’t find her! Seriously! I was thinking, “Oh crap. I lost a kid. I lost a kid. This is very bad.” Finally I looked at the old grandma lady. She pointed under a low kids’ table, and I found Olivia there. Phewf!

After that, it was (thankfully) time for Andy and I to meet our friends for dinner. We laughed so hard all the way out of the store. I’m sure I looked like a total idiot, but I don’t care.  I think life is a little too serious sometimes; it is probably good to get dragged into an involuntary game once in a while.