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.

 

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My Nalgene is Where I Hide My Crazy

Tomorrow I’m leaving for a camping trip in the Adirondack Mountains with a bunch of fellow teachers that I have never met (it’s kind of a long story…the teachers are not the important part).  The important part of this story is that none of them will know about all the drugs I take because I found a super-ninja-pill-disguiser that will allow me to masquerade as a normal, healthy adult.  CHECK IT OUT!

Look.  This is a normal, run-of-the-mill Nalgene water bottle, right?  It shows I’m a little hard core and like to stay hydrated.  That’s it.  Nothing to see here – move along people.

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You’re probably sitting there at your computer thinking, “Wow, what a boring water bottle.  Who writes about water bottles?  I’m clicking on a different post.”  But wait!  Watch this witchery!  Out of nowhere, BAM – there’s a false cap!  It has four pill compartments hiding in what looks like an otherwise normal lid.

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*thunderous applause, gasps, and how-did-she-do-thats*

It’s like they hired Houdini to work for Nalgene, and he made my pills disappear.  I’m so happy.

Now I’ll have my pills with me wherever I go.  This means no missing doses, no worrying about having a panic attack while I’m in the woods (or anywhere!), and no trying to hide away from people while fumbling with incriminating orange bottles.  There will be no more awkward questions!  If someone sees my false top (which, HA, would be ridiculous because it’s VIRTUALLY INVISIBLE), I can just say, “Oh, I keep vitamins and stuff in there.”  I’ll put one vitamin in so that it’s not a lie.  They don’t need to know that “and stuff” means “the cocktail of drugs that keeps my head from exploding all over this frickin forest.”

It’s like I’m crazy, but I’m secretly crazy.  I’m very excited about this water bottle.  It’s so amazing that I feel I should make a speech in honor of this marvelous invention.  I know!   Let’s toast to it.  Are you holding a beverage?  Find a beverage.  Please hold it up to your screen in a toasting fashion.  I’m holding up my water bottle to you, dear reader.  Let’s toast to secrets being kept for as long as we want them kept secrets, and to places (like the mountains) that make life infinitely more worth living.

*long drink*

Now We’ve Got Bad Blood

The title of this post is an obvious reference to a Talyor Swift song, except I’m pretty sure she was writing about a guy.  I’m using the title to write about my brain tumor.  Despite that difference, Ms. Swift and I have a lot in common.  By “a lot,” I mean we both know what it’s like to get unfortunate phone calls from men.  A Jonas brother broke up with her in a twenty-seven second phone call, and I got a call from my endocrinologist last night in which he told me my blood work came back with bad news.  Her bad blood was metaphorical, but mine’s literal.  Let’s not compare our pain.

He was, after all, a Jonas brother.

The doctor called at almost ten o’clock last night, which should have tipped me off immediately that it was bad news.  Doctors never call that late.  If they do, it’s never to say something like, “Just thought I’d let you know – you’re totally and mysteriously cured!” or “I found a stray puppy and thought it might cheer you up; I’ll be dropping him off in ten minutes.”  Nope.  They always do that sigh where they  don’t want to say what they’re about to say, but they can’t pass the unpleasant task off to a lesser minion.  Then your heart sinks and you wonder, “Oh no, how bad is it this time?”

Is it bad that I am familiar with this process?  That I’ve gotten enough of these calls to know exactly how they go?  I could probably do them myself.  I should tell the doctor, “Next time just e-mail me the numbers and save us both the trouble.  I’ll call myself and break the news gently.”  I might put my husband’s lab coat and square-rimmed glasses on my dog and pretend he’s the one telling me.  Bad news would be less scary if it came from a beagle.

The bad news is that my blood results showed certain hormone levels four times above normal adult levels, which probably means that my tumor is growing.  There’s a bit of irony there: I can’t keep plants alive (at all), there’s a good shot I can’t ever get pregnant, but my body apparently does a damn good job at nurturing a tumor.  Thanks, body. You’re a gem.  I’d rather you had the ability to grow some healthy cilantro, but I don’t get to choose these things.

Anyway, the doctor’s trying to devise our next plan of attack on this little dude.  It’s not cancerous, it shouldn’t kill me, but it does a pretty fabulous job of messing up my life.  It’s like I’m in a dysfunctional relationship.  “It’s not you, tumor, it’s me.  Actually, no it’s you.  I think it’s time for us to break up.”  Then, just when I think my brain is rid of him for good, the tumor comes back and my brain is all, “Come here, ya knucklehead.  Let’s give this thing another shot.”  Because my brain is frickin crazy, that’s why.

I have to go back on a med I was on a while ago, and I need to double the dose.  I told the doctor that last time I was on that pill (taken once a week), I would be sick for the entire day after I took it.  It was pretty bad, stuck-on-the-couch-waiting-for-it-to-end sick.  I usually took the pill on Friday nights, spent my Saturday on the couch, and then recovered on Sunday to get ready for another week.  The doctor says I have to take it anyway because we want to be “aggressive” on getting my numbers back to healthy levels.  Now I’m supposed to take that same pill, and I have to take it twice a week.  I’m supposed to torch two days a week for at least the next six months?!  How am I supposed to do that?  I think I’ll torch Mondays.  Everyone hates Mondays.  Imagine a wonderful pill that lets you skip Mondays!  This is going to get complicated with work and everything, but we’ll figure that out later.  Right now I’m dreaming of a Monday-less life.  Who knows?  Maybe this drug won’t make me sick this time.  That was years ago.  I’m practically a new woman now.  Since that time in my life I’ve traveled the world,  I’ve voted for a Democrat,  I’ve learned how to make the perfect apple pie,  I’ve dyed my  hair purple, and…I’ve trained my body to better metabolize drugs?! (something like that…)

So. I’ve got bad blood results, but at least we have a plan.  I lamented to Andy last night that with all of my health issues, my life expectancy has to be quickly dropping.  I sighed and said I’m probably not going to live to see forty.  “Don’t worry about it,” he told me.  “Neither of us are even going to live to see thirty if Trump becomes president.  The rest of the world will nuke us off the map.”  And that’s why I love Andy – because he can make me laugh when I would prefer to kick a wall.

Keep your fingers crossed for me.  New pills start this weekend.

Doing It Right (Granny Style)

When kids play games, they usually play school or house.  They rarely play pharmacy.  I’ve actually never seen anyone play pharmacy.  Maybe that is because it’s not very fun.

Lately I’ve felt like I am playing pharmacy.  I have an impressive collection of bottles that almost completely covers the navy blue tiles of my bathroom counter.  There are fat bottles, skinny bottles, orange bottles, blue bottles… (Where was the Dr. Seuss book about this?  MISSED OPPORTUNITY).  Every night and every morning, I pick up each bottle and take “one of these, two of these, a half of this one…” etc.  It takes forever.

If any pharmacies in the area are robbed, I hope no police officers check my bathroom.  I’d be a person of interest faster than you can say Xanax.  They might just skip the questions and arrest me on the spot.  No one could possibly have that many legal pills (right?).  It doesn’t help that some doctors give me three months of a prescription at a time, so then I have stupid amounts of pills lying around even if I’m only taking one or two per day.

I’ve been resisting the inevitable, but I think it’s finally time:  I’m going to have to do pills granny style.

When my grandma was alive, my mom used to go to her house every Monday morning at 9:00 AM to “do her pills.”  That meant taking grandma’s personal pharmacy of pills and sorting them into easy-open compartments separated by day and time of day so that when grandma had to take her pills, it was just POP! – open the plastic flap and there you go.  All of the pills in one easy spot.  She didn’t have to play counter top pharmacy games every day.   Her pill container looked like this:

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Now, that is very handy and nice for grandmas, but I’ve always felt like you should hold a genuine AARP card before needing to buy one of those.  I’ve told myself, “No problem.  I’ll just sort out the pills as I take them.  Not a big deal.”  The problem is that we have a beautiful bathroom counter top, and I CAN’T EVEN SEE MOST OF IT.  Plus, when I’m trying to dispense my own pills at 6:30 AM, half the time I’m still all bleary with Einstein hair and feeling angry at the world for existing so early.  I’ll frequently pour too many pills or accidentally drop one or two on the floor (then subsequently put them back in the bottle because – hello – ten second rule, and also it’s too early to think about germs).

Basically, it’s time to bite the bullet and go granny-style with pills.  It will save me a lot of time, it will clear counter space, and I’ll stop accidentally eating dog hair from my bathroom floor.  I started shopping on Amazon for a good pill container, and I tried to find a hip, non-ancient-person looking one.  I tell you, fashionable pill containers do not exist.  Why can’t being crazy also be kind of cute?!  This is unfair.  I’m going to create a line of stylish pill containers, and all of my mentally-awesome blog friends will buy them.  I’ll sell them to psychiatrists for distribution.  This could catch on, y’all.

Until then, I’ll use a dumb granny-looking one.  I’ve decided I’m also going to put a gummy bear in each pocket. I hate taking pills, but I feel like I can’t possibly be that mad when I open the container and see, “Hey look!  A gummy bear!”

Wait a second, that’s kind of like when my parents used candy to potty train my sister, isn’t it?  I am using candy to make myself form positive habits.  Oh boy.  I’m a granny, but I’m also two years old.  Faaaantastic.  My life is strange.

Here’s to you, Grandma K.  Let’s rock these drugs old-school style. Maybe I’ll even do my pills on Mondays just to be like you.

Uses for Old Pill Bottles

What can I do with dozens of empty pill bottles?

The possibilities are endless.  Don’t ask me why I have dozens of empty pill bottles.  I have no explanation.  I swear I throw them away, yet they still end up in all corners of my house.  Maybe they’re reproducing.  I find them everywhere.  My nightstand is FULL of pill bottles in various states of emptiness.  The other day I found an old green pill bottle from 2010 and thought, “Awww…my very first Prozac prescription.  How cute.”

I have issues.

I wish there was a pill bottle fairy who would come scoop up old pill bottles and trade them for money.  Surely old pill bottles would be more useful than baby teeth?

I decided to find out all the uses for old pill bottles, hoping I could stumble upon something inspiring to do with my army of plastic cylinders.  I went to Google images and typed in “uses for old pill bottles.”  Here were some of my favorites (with my own commentary, of course):

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This one is actually a good idea (one of the very few I found).  Dig a hole, plant a pill bottle, and keep a house key in it.  Just remember which rock it’s under.  Also, I might actually leave a Xanax or two in the pill bottle, because if I forgot my keys again then it’s probably a Xanax sort of day.

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Deck the halls with proof that you’re sick, Fa-la-la-la-la-la  la-la-la-la.  People will think your brain is a brick, Fa-la-la-la-la-la  la-la-la-la.

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You can use them as party favors!  It’s the absolute perfect choice if you don’t really like your friends.  You can creep them all out so they’ll never come to your parties ever again.  Finally – peace and quiet!

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You could make this…..thing.  I have no idea what this is.  I don’t have any clue why someone put this online.  I say throw it in a science fair and see what happens.  Weirder things have won prizes at science fairs.

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This is a cool idea.  My earbuds always ensnare the contents my purse into a wiry mess.  This would keep them separate and relatively tame.  I wouldn’t put that girly decoration on the side, though.  I’d slap a white label on there that says “YOU CAN’T OVERDOSE ON MUSIC” in black Sharpie.  That will make me look hipster and deep.

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This one is my personal favorite.  I sort of want to do this one day just so when people comment on my beautiful chandelier, I’ll say, “Thank you.  I took all of those pills myself.  It took ten years of bipolar disorder to make that chandelier.”  Then I’ll smile and ask if they’d like a glass of champagne, and they’ll get all squirmy.  It could be fun.

 

After I posted those pictures, I realized Google overlooked some very simple but effective uses, which I will add here now:

Glitter Bomb.  As soon as I thought of this, I thought, “BRILLIANT!  WHY HAVEN’T I DONE THIS BEFORE?!”  Fill a bottle with glitter and keep it in your purse.  When you’re at a store and someone is super rude, or when someone takes your parking space and makes you mad – BOOM – glitter bomb.  It’s like pepper spray except less aggressive and prettier.

Halloween Treat.  Take the labels off so parents can’t track you down, then put white mints in the pill bottles.  Hand them out to kids who come trick-or-treating.  Look extra crazy and say, “These make you feel reeeeeeeal good, kid…” then dart your eyes around wildly and slam the door in their faces.

Shot glass.  Hello…does anyone else think that pill bottles are just the right size to be shot glasses?  Unfortunately, you have to shoot 7-Up or whatever since the side of the bottle clearly tells you not to drink alcohol.

Tiny Bowling.  Line up ten pill bottles in a triangle, get a good bouncy ball, try to knock them all down in one roll (STRIKE!!), and wonder why you have nothing else better to do on a Saturday night.

Modern Art.  Everything’s art, right?  I feel like modern art is especially weird, so you could probably throw a pill bottle in that genre.  Melt the bottom of the bottle a little bit, call it My Fading Life, and sell it for thousands.  Millions, even.  It’s art.

There you have it, friends.  My top uses for old pill bottles.  Let me know if you have any other ideas.  Also let if me know if you want to buy a beautiful piece of orange plastic modern art.  I’ll cut you a deal for following my blog.

Driving West

It was past midnight, and I’d just sped out of my driveway like a NASCAR racer who somehow missed the starting gun.  I got to the end of my street and looked both ways.  I could turn left to go east, which would lead me straight into town, or I could turn right and go west, which would lead me out of town.

I drove west.

I didn’t really know where I was going; I was just driving.  I needed to get away.  I couldn’t be home anymore.  It wasn’t like I was in a fight with my husband or anything…I just needed out.  I was in a fight with my brain.  Unfortunately, my brain has a tendency to follow me no matter which way I drive, but that didn’t stop me from driving.

It’s probably for the best that there is no major airport near my house, or you can bet I would have driven there, even with no luggage, and said, “Put me on the first flight to anywhere out of here.”

Sometimes I need to escape, and what sucks about bipolar disorder is that I cannot.  There is nowhere to fly, there is nowhere to drive, there is nowhere that I can escape from myself.  Do you know how frickin terrifying that feels?

I kept driving west.

I drove fast.  Too fast.  It was past midnight, and the further I got from town the further I got away from any cops.  It probably wasn’t safe, but I also didn’t care.  Memories flashed in front of me like a highlight reel from a string of movies that I would give anything to forget: MRI machines.  Needles pulling blood six vials at a time.  The sterile environment of doctors’ offices.  That weird endocrinologist who was obsessed with osteoporosis.  The psychiatrist who wouldn’t listen to me.  The psychiatrist who did and got it wrong.  The therapist who made me work with seashells (SEASHELLS), like that was going to somehow fix things.  My husband’s cousin who tried to sleep with me.  The raccoon running in front of me.

Oh crap!  That was a real raccoon.  Not a memory.  Eeeek!  Don’t hit the raccoon!

Phewf.  The raccoon was safe in the woods.  I turned the music up louder to drown out my thoughts.  I didn’t know the song.

I kept driving west.

I probably should have turned around.  My husband didn’t know where I was.  I got a text from him a few minutes after I left asking where I had gone.  I didn’t text back. Texting and driving is dangerous, you see.  If I was texting him, I might not have seen the deer on the side of the road that was ready to run into my headlights.  Michigan is full of weird creatures trying to cross roads in the middle of the night.  Not a single car was out, but tons of animals were.  I tried to focus on looking for deer, my music was as loud as it could go, and still the tears came.  Still the memories wouldn’t stop:

There was the prescription in my purse that I refuse to go fill.   The empty orange pill bottles filling various drawers in my house.  SO. MANY. PILL BOTTLES.  I don’t know why I keep them all.  The pile of bills on my counter that keeps getting higher as I keep forgetting to pay them.  The secret.  The smiling faces of my students who don’t understand what a triumph it is for me to even get to work in the morning.

I kept driving west.

If you look at Michigan’s lower peninsula on a map, you’ll see that if you drive west for long enough, you’ll eventually get to Lake Michigan.  “Lake” is kind of a misnomer, as this lake is so huge it might as well be an ocean.  You can’t see the other side of it.  It would take fifteen hours to drive around it.  It’s not called a “Great Lake” for nothing.  Before I knew what I was doing, I’d arrived at the lake.  I was surprised, as I’d lost track of time while driving.  How could I possibly be at the lake?  Didn’t I leave the house five minutes ago?  Apparently not.  I drove through the sleeping seaside town, past the “no parking” signs, and all the way to the beach itself.  My tires were in the sand.  I didn’t know why I was there, but I had arrived.

I opened my car door and got out because I couldn’t drive any further.  The clouds covered the moon and stars, leaving the sky a dull black.  I pulled my jacket close as the January wind whipped my hair around my face.  I looked and saw the lighthouse lit up, giving me enough light to look around.  I bent down and let the sand run through my fingers, wishing for summer.  Last summer, before everything fell apart?  This coming summer, when I’ll hopefully be a little healthier?  I didn’t know.  I just wished. I looked all around and didn’t see a single soul.  To have the entire beach to myself was very strange, as usually in the summer it’s so busy that I can barely find a place to lay my towel.  I breathed in the fresh air and peered into the darkness that was Lake Michigan, but I couldn’t see the water – only a large expanse of blackness.  It felt like looking into my life; an empty, endless darkness with only question marks where there should be hopes and dreams.

The sound and smell of the lake was calming, but the darkness was creepy.  I don’t think there are many serial killers in Michigan, but I would have been perfect prey if one happened to be stalking the beach that night.  No one even knew where I was.  Finally I sighed, knowing that my sudden and impulsive mini-road trip was over.  I had to go back, solving exactly nothing, but there was nowhere west left to drive.