How Do You Survive the Holidays? Help!

It’s not that I don’t love Thanksgiving or Christmas. I mean, who doesn’t love Thanksgiving and Christmas? The whole freaking world loves Thanksgiving and Christmas! Because…otherwise… You’re one of these two characters:

And wouldn’t you rather be these?

By the way, I wanted to include a picture of a guy enjoying some Christmas cheer so that my male readers wouldn’t feel left out. Word of advice: don’t Google “male Christmas model.” It’s nearly-naked dudes wearing Santa hats. Sometimes on their heads, sometimes on their…other place.

So.

I’ll take the grinchy hit here: Holidays stress me out. I’m not even sure that I like them. My favorite time to be thankful is when I’m snuggled up on the couch with my husband and dogs, watching our fireplace, and we’re snowed in so no one can bug us. Or when it’s summer, and we’re driving down a dirt road with nothing but trees for miles. That’s when I think, “Wow, I’m profoundly thankful.”

Thanksgiving is the time when I think, “Ack! I have to cook for HOW many people? And my house is supposed to somehow be magically spotless at the same time? Of course I should be able to do this, because Rachel Ray does it and the Pioneer Woman does it and every other freaking housewife on my social media feed does it. So why am I covered in flour with an underbaked casserole, burnt cookies, and a kitchen full of weird gadgets that I didn’t even know I owned? WHY?”

Then there’s dinner itself, where you mingle with the cousins who you haven’t seen all year, and they ask you awkward questions like “Why don’t you have kids yet?” Because it’s inappropriate to ask that to just anyone, but we’re family, after all, and so it’s probably fine even though we never talk except for at these awkward family events (Hint: it’s not fine).

Then there’s what I call the “résumé relatives,” who ask you what you’ve been up to this year, but it’s in this judgy way where you should have definitely accomplished more than you have (because did you hear how much THEY did this year??). It’s like they want you to send them your updated résumé every year, just so they can scoff and say, “HA! Loser. I knew it.”

And then there’s my grandma, who is honestly awesome but also the strangest grandma ever. She looked me up and down last year and said, “Yes, hm. I suppose you don’t need plastic surgery yet.” YET? WHAT? What am I going to need plastic surgery for?? And why did I barely make the cut?? I was feeling all cute, but then I felt like crawling in a corner and apologizing to everyone who had the unfortunate task of looking at me.

Plus, I mean, in-laws. That’s all there is to say about that, amirite?

So holidays stress me out. I ADMIT IT! I AM A SCROOGE!

Mental illness can make normal holiday stress even more difficult. I’m completely off of my routine, I’m under more anxiety than usual, I have to be all social when I hate being social, etc. The holiday season is not kind to the mentally ill. Lots of people kill themselves during this time, did you know that? “The most wonderful time of the year,” and people are killing themselves at alarming rates. I have no jokes about that one, y’all, because it’s not funny.

So. What do you do to decrease your stress during the holiday season? How do you keep your brain functioning like it should? Let’s comment with tips and all help each other out. Thanks in advance for any advice you may have!

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What Did You Do in the Last Hour?

I don’t want to be all, “Oh hi! Me again! I’m sure you’re all wondering why I haven’t been posting in months!” Because let’s be real – none of you were wondering. BUT I was talking to my husband yesterday, and I talked about how it makes me jumpy when people in the mental illness blogging community stop posting. Because…what happened to them? I like to think they suddenly won the lottery and moved to an island in the Caribbean where they’re so busy swinging in hammocks and reading books that they’re no longer bothered with blogging about the trivialities of life.

But as anyone in this blogging community knows…that’s not usually what happens. Best case scenario, the blogger’s life got busy. Worst case scenario…well. No one likes to think of that, but we all worry about it.

So – here I am, just in case anyone wondered. I’m not in the Caribbean, but I’m also not a worst case scenario. I’m still over here navigating life on this side of normal – how have y’all been?

Here’s a nugget from my life for you:

Thursday night, I went to a new book study group. I love books, and I marginally like people. So a book group should be fun, right?

For our icebreaker, the woman leading it asked us to detail what happened in the hour of our lives that immediately preceded book study. I think it was a way to show, “Hey, we’re all busy, frantic women. No need to keep up pretense and pretend that we have it all together.” But I couldn’t tell the full truth. I just couldn’t. Because do you want to know what happened in the hour preceding that question? Check it out:

An hour before she asked that question, I was failing at therapy. Oh, you didn’t know you could fail at therapy? Me neither. And YET I DID.

I was sitting in therapy, about to leave, and my therapist said that we should make an appointment to meet again before our next scheduled one. She said it seemed like I could “benefit from some extra support.” Which, okay, I admit that she was right and that an extra meeting isn’t technically failing therapy. But it felt like, “What?! I’m not capable of doing life without you until our next appointment?? AHHHH! How messed up am I?”

This is obviously a me issue, and I probably need therapy to get over the fact that I have declared I failed at therapy (how very metacognitive of me. Someone somewhere give me a gold star, please).

So I reluctantly agreed to remedial therapy, and then it was time to go. Plot twist: my mom works at the same clinic where I go for therapy, but she doesn’t know I go there. My mom gets all jumpy if she knows I’m seeing a therapist or if I’m not completely 100% stable-to-the-point-of-emotionless. I’m still not positive she believes in mental illness as a real thing…in the past she’s told me to pray my way out of it. SO. I didn’t want to run into my mom. My therapist knows this (and even books my appointments under a pseudonym like I’m a spy or something). She peeked into the hall to make sure my mom wasn’t there…but my mom was in the office. Crap. She was doing paperwork, so it could be any length of time until she was finished.

My therapist offered to sneak me out of the back door. She said I could sneak around to the parking lot through the woods and tell anyone who asked that I was looking for deer. L.O.L. But I took the offer. I tiptoe-sprinted through the back hallway like I was trying to escape the KGB, and I got to the woods undetected. Once I got to the parking lot, I breathed a sigh of relief.

PSYCH! NO RELIEF! Just then, my mom walked out the front door. EEEEEP!

I did the only logical thing to do in the situation. It was time to come clean and be honest with my mom like a mature adult, right?

HA. No. Definitely not. She wasn’t looking in my direction, so I dove into my car like an action movie star and hid under my steering wheel. I didn’t really fit, so I was also sort of curled around my gear shift. I was not breaking the line of sight through the window, though, so that’s all that really mattered.

I heard her car leave the lot, and then I waited a couple of minutes before peeking out. Just in case she was waiting out there to be like, “HA! I CAUGHT YOU BEING CRAZY!”

(Wow…I’m suddenly understanding why I need more therapy – lol!)

Luckily, the coast was clear. I turned on my car and high-tailed it out of there before she could realize she forgot something and decide to come back.

I drove straight to book study, where that lady asked me to detail the last hour of my life. And when a lot of women said things like, “I just got done making a homemade batch of applesauce!” or “I found a great sale on avocados at Aldi!” I decided they weren’t quite ready for my full dose of crazy. I went with, “I had a medical appointment that almost made me late” rather than, “I failed at therapy and then had to escape through the woods to evade my mother, where I then got a neck cramp from hiding under a steering wheel while I waited to see if she was going to bust me.”

Come to think of it, I should have said that. Because how many times do I have something so bizarre to say about the last hour of my life?

Missed you all, blogging peeps. Hope you’re doing awesome.

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.

Gray

I haven’t seen the sun in weeks.  WEEKS.  I’m like a freaking hibernating bear, except I didn’t gain a bunch of weight before winter and I still have to pee every day.

Well, I did eat a lot of food at Thanksgiving… I might have gotten a little chunkier there… but since I’m still peeing, I’m not hibernating.  That is official.  So, since I’m not hibernating, WHERE IS THE SUN?!

Michigan winters are the worst.  The. worst.  There’s a permacloud that covers this state from November until around April, and at this point in time I am so over it.  There’s no snow right now, there’s no sun…it’s simply gray.  Everything’s gray.  The naked trees are black silhouettes against a dull sky, and spring is nowhere in sight.

This is why seasonal affective disorder is a thing, people.  Humans need the sun.  I distinctly remember the last time we had a somewhat sunny day – it was a couple weeks ago (WEEKS).  The sun peeked out from behind a cloud, and I literally stopped teaching, looked out my window, and said, “Amazing!  It DOES exist!  I had forgotten what it looked like!  It’s so….shiny.”  My class laughed, but I was only 98% joking.

It’s tough to keep my mood up when the weather is like this for weeks on end.  I don’t feel like going outside (it’s freezing and gray), but being inside makes me feel cooped up. I realized lately that I haven’t wanted to write, and that is concerning.  One of the first things that happens when I’m going into depression is that I stop wanting to do all of my favorite things.  I’ve taken naps for the last three days in a row.  I sleep sleep sleep and then wake up and think there’s really no point to getting out of bed anyway.  I noticed that my lesson plan book has started having blank spots again where I forgot to make lessons.  Eeeeeep!  I don’t want to be depressed, but I feel like I’m watching a movie where all of the color slowly fades out of a picture until it’s black and white.

Come back, colors!  I need you in my life!  I guess a black and white picture is still okay, but it’s dangerous because a deep depression is where that black and white picture fades totally to black.  Then I’m in serious trouble.

I keep telling myself it’s the weather.  It’s gotta be the weather, right?  I’ll be fine in spring.  I’ll just live life in black and white for a while.  It matches the landscape.  I’ve always been a fan of matching.

Except you know what?  I don’t LIKE black and white. I want my life to be colorful again.  I want to wake up every morning being happy that I’m alive and feeling like, “Okay, I can do this day!”  I don’t want to simply exist.  As I said, though, it’s like watching the color fade from a picture.  What can you do to get the color back?  It just gets paler and paler and then it’s gone.  I’m not entirely sure how to fight back here.

I wish I was a bear.  Those lucky  dudes get to skip winter altogether.

Wal-Mart Doors Can’t Tell Me What To Do

I have independence issues.  The fist full sentence I said as a toddler was “I’ll do it myself.”  Seriously.  That’s probably where it all started… *lies down on a therapy couch to discuss these issues*

Having a mental illness (or any serious illness) tends to rob people of independence. If I think a train is about to crash through my wall and I’m running away in panic…yeah, someone’s going to have to help me out with that.  If I’ve got a stubborn brain tumor that keeps growing even though it has way overstayed it’s welcome in my head…I’m going to need help with that too.  Hand over the drugs because I can’t, in fact, shrink it myself.  I’ve tried to Jiminy Cricket or Cinderella this sucker and dream with all my heart that it will go away…but DISNEY LIES.

Anyway, I think because of all of my medical crap and my loose grip on reality, I am always fighting to feel like a normal, respected human.  Maybe I’m even fighting to respect myself.  *puts arm on head dramatically as I lounge on the therapy couch*  The other day, I think I went a little too far.

I was walking out of Wal-Mart.  The sign on the door said “DO NOT EXIT THROUGH THIS DOOR.”  My honest-to-blog thought was, “Eff you, Wal-Mart.  You can’t tell me what to do.  It’s a DOOR.  I’ll go through any door I please!”  It’s not like it was a secret door to an employees only section; it was a clear automatic door leading to outside.  There is no reason why I shouldn’t have been allowed to use that door.  Wal-Mart was just trying to keep me down!  One more reason to hate Wal-Mart!

So I walked through the door.  No sirens went off, and no one stopped me.  I simply walked through, and I was outside.  Then I thought, “HA!  See, Wal-Mart?  You can’t control me!  I WILL DO WHATEVER I WANT!”  I felt jubilant.  I felt triumphant.  Then I felt like a complete weirdo and thought, “Holy wow, I AM crazy.”

Maybe life is about the little things…  I can’t avoid taking pills, I can’t avoid my tumor, but I can stick it to Wal-Mart.  I can be independent and rebellious on tiny things, and if that helps me avoid being rebellious on bigger things, then I say whatever.  Bring on the wrong door.

Bipolar Blackout

There’s a chance I cured cancer and I don’t know it.  On a darker note, I also could have robbed a bank and I don’t know it.  The chance of either is extreeeeeeemely small, but we’ll never know because I have complete memory loss about what happened from early September to the middle of October last fall.

I knew last fall was fuzzy in my memory, but who doesn’t have a hard time remembering things from a year ago?  I told my husband I am excited for this fall, because I was so mentally jacked last fall that I feel like I skipped it.  It’s the best season in Michigan.  I didn’t realize until this week, though, how complete my blackout of that month is.  Now I’m a little freaked out.

This week is professional development week at school.  Professional development week is when teachers sit around in mostly pointless meetings and discuss things about the upcoming school year.  This conversation happened yesterday:

Mr. T:  Should we do the raking leaves field trip again this year?  The one where we take the students to rake leaves for elderly people?

Me: That sounds like fun…but we didn’t do that last year.  You must be remembering a different year.

Mr. T: Ummm…we definitely did that last year.

Me: No, I would remember that.

Mrs. S: Hazel, you were a driver for the field trip.

Me: No I wasn’t!  *laughs nervously* No way.  You’re messing with me.  We didn’t do that field trip.

*everyone on staff looks at me like I’m crazy (which, you know, I am…BUT THEY DON’T KNOW THAT)*

Me: No way. *stops laughing, looks around nervously* Wait, really?  Are you serious?

All staff: YES.

Me: Huh.  I don’t remember that.

*everyone looks at me like I’m crazy again*

I cannot believe I forgot a field trip.  I tried really hard to remember, but I have literally no recollection of this.  Ask any teacher about the work that goes into a field trip, and they’ll tell you that there’s no way they could forget one, especially not one from last year.

That was a little creepy, so I decided to consult my lesson plan book and see if I at least have note of this field trip somewhere.  I keep very detailed lesson plans, so if we had a field trip, it would have been in my book.  I grabbed my lesson plan book from last year, turned to last fall, and guess what I found?

BLANK. PAGES.

I could hardly believe my eyes.  I had weeks between mid September and mid October where the entire week was blank.  I teach six classes five days a week.  That’s thirty little white squares staring at me with invisible question marks.  What did I do?  What did I teach?  Why aren’t there any plans?  Why can’t I remember anything from last fall?

The couple weeks in that period that did have things written had haphazard, half-baked lesson plan ideas written in only a few of the squares.  I have no clue what I taught.  It was so eerie…I never leave lesson plans blank.  I didn’t know I did that.  I don’t remember.

I know that last September was the deepest depression of my life, ending with a suicide attempt at the end of the month and a subsequent emergency psychiatric evaluation that resulted in a bipolar diagnosis.  I guess it’s logical that I wasn’t on my A-game at school, but I didn’t know I had done nothing.  I didn’t know I would forget field trips that I apparently chaperoned.  I tried to remember other things from this period: what was my first day of school like?  Can I remember the leaves changing?  Did I go to any football games?

I can’t remember any of it.

Isn’t that super creepy?  What if I did something awesome or awful?  I have no idea.  Has this ever happened to any of you, readers?  Do you have an explanation?  It’s like people who get drunk and can’t remember the night before, but I got crazy and can’t remember an entire month.  I suppose, in the grand scheme of life, losing a month isn’t that bad.  It’s not like a remember anything about my first thirty-six months.  I haven’t lost any sleep over that.  I hear it was a lot of bottles and diapers.

This one’s weird.  I haven’t had anything like this happen before.  I told Andy I was planning to blog about this, and he said, “Are you sure you want to write about that?”  I asked why I shouldn’t.  He said, “People who read that might think you’re…you know…a bit insane.”  They say that if the shoe fits, wear it.  Call me Cinderella to the glass slipper of madness.

If you’ve been reading this blog at all, you already know I’m a total nutter.  This one post isn’t going to make things better or worse.  Like Andy, you have the choice to stay or to leave.  He chose to stay.  I hope you do too.  Then again, if you choose to desert me…no big deal.  I might not even remember it.

If You Send Me One of These Cards, I Will Punch You

I got diagnosed with bipolar disorder almost a year ago, and I can’t believe I haven’t received one single card consoling me about this.

Oh wait, yes I can, because greeting cards about mental illness are SUPER WEIRD.

I should have known this was a thing.  I really, really should have known.  Card companies make cards for everything!  I could probably find a “Congratulations to Your Twin Girls on Third Grade Graduation” if I wanted to.  But mental illness??  There’s a line somewhere, and this is over it. It would be like having a “Sympathy – Humorous” section in a card store.  It doesn’t belong.

Here’s the link (please don’t buy these) and a few of the best (worst?) ones. http://hopestreetcards.com.au/collections/all

hope-street-cards-mental-health-card-depression-these-things-solo_1024x1024hope-street-cards-mental-health-card-bipolar-mood-change-front_1024x1024hope-street-cards-mental-health-card-general-sick-brain_1024x1024hope-street-cards-mental-health-card-depression-existing-solo_1024x1024

If I got a mental illness card, I would probably open it and then look really confused.  I would look around to see if someone was secretly filming me (I frequently do this during “Is this really happening?” moments).  Then I would read the card and think, “Thanks a lot, you.  I was having a really good day.  Now I had to be reminded of my crazy, and also I have to absorb your sympathy at my plight.  I don’t want sympathy; I want to be treated like a normal human.”  Here are people who are allowed to treat me like a crazy person:

  1. My psychiatrist
  2. My husband, only when I’m being literally delusional.  And it will still make me mad.

You’re not on that list?  Then don’t buy me these freaky cards!  Even if you’re on that list, I don’t want the freaky cards!  I mean, WHY WERE THESE EVEN INVENTED?!

What’s next?  Hallmark might capitalize on it!  First they invented Valentine’s Day…then Sweetest Day…next we’ll have “Crazy Person Day.”  You can celebrate by watching Psycho and sending greeting cards to your favorite nutters.  Maybe on Crazy Person Day, you can have your copay waived for inpatient psychiatric treatments!  Can I request that this holiday also include candy like Halloween does?  Now there’s a good holiday, but what a shame that people aren’t allowed to celebrate as non-reproductive adults.  I may or may not have considered having a child to capitalize on trick-or-treating once again.  If we can just tack that on to our new Crazy Person holiday, then I can skip the inconvenience of labor.  I might even be okay with the people who made these strange cards.  Until then…I know I’m not normal.  If I’m not going to get candy out of the deal, please treat me like you’d treat anyone else.  If you’re a nice person, though, maybe you’d just give everyone candy.  My favorite is Sour Patch Kids.

Did You Know I’m a Sex Maniac Stalker? Me Neither.

My grandma recently retired from her job as a secretary at a doctor’s office.  Every once in a while, she still tells me about her patients.  Over breakfast today, we were discussing the book Fast Girl by Suzy Favor Hamilton (the protagonist in this book has bipolar disorder).  My grandma took this opportunity to impart upon me the following information:  “We had a few patients who suffered from manic depression.  That’s another term for bipolar, you know.  Manic depression.”

Yes, Grandma.  I’m familiar with the term.

“Dr. Keith told me to watch out for those manic depressives.  They’re complete sex maniacs.  They just have sex with everyone.  And my brother, he knew a woman with manic depression, and she stalked him.  Like, really stalked him.  It was so creepy.”

Okay, that felt a little like a stab wound…

“Insane asylums really need to make them a higher priority.  I mean, they’re out there wandering the streets untreated.  Who knows what they can do?  They need to be in a home for the mentally impaired.”

Knife twisted.  Thanks Grandma.

After this monologue, I figured that would be a very inopportune moment to reveal that I am one of these scary “manic depressives.”  What if she kicked me out?  I have nowhere to go until my plane leaves on Sunday.  The thing about grandparents is that it’s very difficult to change their minds on things.  Still, on behalf of myself and everyone else in the mental health community, I felt like I had to say something.

“Grandma, I seriously doubt that everyone with bipolar disorder is a sex maniac stalker.  Actually, I’m positive there are people who aren’t.”

“Yes, of course you’re right,” she said.  “But you just have to be careful.  You never know.  Actually, some of them are very smart.  Did you know that many very gifted artists and writers have been manic depressives?”

Again, I’m quite familiar with the concept.  I’ve only spent infinity hours researching this topic…but I don’t say that.

“Yes, Grandma.  I’ve heard that.  It’s great that they’re so creative…many of the best artists of all time have been mentally ill.”

She looks a little pensive.  “I wonder why all the greats are insane?  What’s different about them?  Hmmm…  Well, their brain unlocks different levels of creativity, I guess.”

Yes, let’s please focus on that instead of the fact that they’re all stalkers.  We talked a little longer in this new vein of less offensive conversation, but honestly I was ready to hop off of that before she started asking uncomfortable questions.  You never know with grandmas…she started our time together this week by asking if I’m planning to get pregnant soon, and just today she said, “Hmmm…I don’t think you need plastic surgery yet, but you will when you’re older.”  Grandparents say the weirdest things.  I didn’t want her to ask about my mental health, because I am the worst liar ever (just ask my husband).

I texted my husband after this exchange, and he said, “Don’t let her get you riled up…you know who you are.”  And really, he’s right.  I do.  For a world where people are bent on “finding themselves” and “discovering their true identities,” the fact that I know who I am is actually a pretty big accomplishment.  Perhaps “who I am” is a bit insane, but hey, at least life will never be boring.

Waiting. Get Me Out of Here.

I’m sitting in my endocrinologist’s office, and I just lied to the nurse.  I don’t know exactly why, but I know that doctors’ offices make me all jumpy and nervous.  Then I do stupid things like lie, when that really defeats the purpose of going to the doctor in the first place.

This room is so….white.  Why do medical offices have to be aggressively white?  I understand that they’re supposed to look sterile, but they end up looking stark and scary.  I’m in an albino room.  It’s not natural.  There’s a slightly peach model of a swollen thyroid on the counter, but I’m trying not to look at it.  It’s disgusting.

I’m here to get a checkup on my brain tumor, and you would think that after nine years of various endocrinologists, this process would be old hat.  Nope.  Always scary.  It doesn’t help when the receptionists are extremely mean, the other patients look just as scared as I am, and the only friendly person around is the lady on the waiting room TV smiling while she talks about genital yeast infections.

If I ever ruled the world, I would make the word “genital” an expletive.  It’s so clinical and just…ew, but the lady on the TV was awfully cherry about it.  Why can’t they show something nice and calming on a waiting room TV?  Or stand-up comedy? THAT’S a great idea.  Let people laugh so they won’t cry.  Instead, we have to watch creepy health shows.  Or we can read totally obscure magazines like Osteoporosis and You.

I lied to the nurse when she asked if I’ve been feeling down or depressed at all in the past two weeks.  I immediately said no, which was dumb because just yesterday I told Andy that I was scared I might be falling into depression again.  It’s been a rough couple of weeks, but maybe it’s not depression.  It was probably just a couple of lethargic and down weeks, and I’m sure I’ll perk up any day now!  I’m sure that’s it. Plus, whenever anyone asks how I’m doing, I automatically say fine.  Either it’s true or it’s probably about to be true.  I don’t like the weird and scared looks I get if I admit that I’m not doing well.  Plus, depression is a psychiatric issue, not an endocrine one, right?  I mean, RIGHT?

Fine.  I should have told the truth.  I’ll tell the doctor if he ever actually decides to come in here.  The nurse also asked if I have ever smoked, and I immediately said no to that one too.  That’s because she obviously meant “smoked as a habit, and not for less than a week while you were in Korea being stupid.” Korea’s like Vegas, and what happens there stays there.  Something like that.

The doctor is still not here, so I will take this opportunity to tell you about the meanie receptionists.  The first receptionist totally ignored me when I got here.  I stood there in front of her window awkwardly for a minute until she finally snapped, “Can I HELP you?” in a way that meant that was the last thing on earth that she wanted to do.  I said I was here to see Dr. H.  She rolled her eyes and said, “then you need to check in with the endocrine center.” I think it took all of her willpower not to add “duh” at the end of that.  I looked up at the glass window that clearly said “Endocrine Center.”  There was another lady sitting to the right of that sign, but there was no partition between the lady I was talking to and the lady I apparently needed to talk to.  They could have shaken hands.  I’m sure they’ve borrowed pencils from other.  Yet CLEARLY I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN to talk to the lady on the right instead of the left.  Oops.

I finally talked to the correct lady, and she was wearing a pin that said “Miracles happen!” I’m pretty sure she meant that to be encouraging, but I found it annoying.  For those of us on my side of the counter, no miracles have happened.  We’re there because we still have our tumors, our diabetes, our whatevers, and the trite encouragement from a piece of plastic felt less than genuine.

I have to go to the bathroom.  What if you have to go to the bathroom while in a doctor’s office?  I’d better hold it.  I don’t want them to think I left.  The nurse outside my door is calling patients and saying things such as, “Hi, is this Jane Smith?  Hi, I’m calling to give you the new dosage of ______ drug that you’re taking.  Take two tablets once a day with meals, okay?  Okay.”

I can clearly hear all of this from my room.  I could type you a list of a bunch of local residents and the drugs they’re on.  Isn’t this some sort of HIPAA issue?  It seems like it to me, but hey – I’m no doctor.  I’m the invisible patient with a brain tumor.  Don’t mind me.

So here I am, an hour and a half after my scheduled appointment time, chilling out in an albino room with a plastic inflamed thyroid and feeling bad about lying to the nurse.  I really have to go to the bathroom.  I’ve spent hours more pointless ways than this…probably.  I’m struggling to think of one at the moment, but I’m sure it’s happened.

Doctor’s here.  Gotta go.

Terrible Questions

“Are you PMSing?” is a terrible question.  You have no shot at getting a good answer.  Here are the two potential outcomes:

  1. She is PMSing, in which case you should put your hands up in surrender and BACK. AWAY. SLOWLY.  You just poked a very angry and irrational bear.  There’s no telling what’s going to happen next.
  2. She is not PMSing, in which case she’s going to be annoyed that her totally rational, legitimate issue with you is being trivialized into a case of hormones.  Now you just made whatever she was angry about even worse.  Congratulations to you.

Most people learn pretty quickly not to ask this.  It’s simply a very stupid question.  Even cave men were probably like, “Shhh…I think my wife might be – you know – but I’m not asking her.  Let’s all go hunt some woolly mammoths.”  They ended up hunting a lot because they were always guessing about their wives’ hormones. This is why woolly mammoths are now extinct.

In the past few months, I’ve discovered a new and equally infuriating question:

“Have you taken your pills today?”

My husband inevitably asks this when I’m doing something weird.  The other day he asked it because I decided to read a book on the roof of our house.  I admit that, to a normal person, that’s probably kind of weird.  BUT what my husband didn’t know is that my dad and I used to have tea parties on the roof when I was a kid (true story), and I always climbed in weird places to read.  I read in trees, I read on the roof, I read everywhere.  It was a beautiful day, we have a safe roof, and I decided to go chill out on it.  Instead of thinking, “Huh, Hazel sure is a strange duck,” he immediately thought, “wow, she’s crazy again.  She probably isn’t taking her pills.”  I own that I’m weird.  I’m fine with that.  Weird and crazy are not the same, and I don’t like it when people get them confused.

Of course I don’t WANT to take my pills.  I don’t know anyone who’s ever been excited to take pills.  I do take them, though.  I’ve said multiple times, “I don’t know if I really need these…I think I’m doing much better…but I guess it doesn’t hurt to take them.  If it’s not hurting anything, I guess I’ll just do it.”

Here’s my issue: the truth of the matter is that it does hurt to take them.  It hurts because I lose a sense of identity when I’m forced into a box labeled “bipolar.”  It’s like a watermark.  You know what a watermark is, right?  It’s the faded picture in the background of a letter that appears on all of a workplace’s stationery?  Here’s an example:

watermark

It’s like no matter what type of text is written on the pages of my life, it’s all colored by this new watermark.  I am successful at something?  Well, it must be because of the creativity and exceptional memory that comes with having a dysfunctional brain.  I fail?  Well, I’m mentally ill, so the fact that I’m alive should be enough for me.  No one would expect much from me anyway.  Everything in my life can be explained by, “Well, she has bipolar disorder, you see…”  I don’t want that watermark to color everything.  I want my bad decisions to be bad because I did something stupid.  I want my good decisions to be good because I did something right.  I feel like my entire life is explained away by chemical imbalances that are beyond my control.  I am seen as a puppet.

Sometimes I’m cranky because a person is being an idiot, not because I didn’t take my pills.  Sometimes I’m sad because life is hard, not because I didn’t take my pills.  Sometimes I’m happy because I’m having fun, not because I didn’t take my pills.  Sometimes I don’t got to bed on time because I’m not tired, not because I didn’t take my pills.  Sometimes I’m weird because I have a funky personality, not because I didn’t take my pills.

So yes, it does hurt to take my pills.  It hurts even more when someone tries to distill my behavior (positive or negative) down to the presence or absence of drugs.

Maybe this post is kind of cranky.  Well, for your information, I did take my pills.

Although I suppose I could be PMSing…  You’ll never know, because everyone knows not to ask that.  🙂