I’m Emotionally Immature and I’M NOT MATURE ENOUGH TO HANDLE THIS!

He he…okay, yes I am mature enough to handle it. Because recognizing the issue is the first step, right? I mean…RIGHT?

HEY! GIVE ME VALIDATION TO STRENGTHEN MY BUBBLE-THIN SELF ESTEEM!

Oops, there I go again – making jokes to cover up an underlying layer of mental fragility. But who doesn’t like, jokes? HMMMMM?? I’M HILARIOUS. EVEN IF ONLY I THINK SO.

Hold up. Is speaking in excessive capital letters a sign of emotional immaturity? Let me check.

*switches tabs a second*

I guess that would fall under “over-exuberance.” Fine. No more capital letters. I’m getting rid of them all. Sayonara, over-exuberance.

(side note: spell-check wants to change “sayonara” to “savonarola.” wtf is “savonarola”?)

on wednesday night, i totally embarrassed myself in front of my pastor. that’s a long story that ends with, “and then i quickly said goodnight and excused myself to the other room to curl up in a chair and wonder why i can’t ever act like a normal human adult.” then, when i talked to my husband, i said, “seriously. why do i act like i’m twelve? i think i’m emotionally stunted or something.”

and do you know what he said? DO YOU KNOW WHAT HE SAID? (oops, sorry. the capitals leaked out)

he said, “eh, maybe. but that’s okay. it’s a common symptom of bipolar disorder.”

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

(is excessive punctuation over-exuberant?)

so then I said, “what?!” all freaking out. not offended, really, but just mad that i really might be emotionally stunted, and it might be due to my obnoxious brain. like, my occasional childishness isn’t a quirky piece of my personality – it’s a flaw due to my dysfunctional body. i don’t want a flaw! i want a quirk!

so i immediately got online and googled this to see if he’s right. not that he’s usually wrong…he’s got a doctorate, he’s taken abnormal psych classes, and he (clearly) knows more about my disorder than i do. sure enough – there it was. emotional immaturity can be a symptom of bp.

things started clicking into place like when you arrange random scrabble tiles and they start to form words. maybe my emotional maturity is why i’m such a good middle school teacher…because i’m as mature as my students. perhaps this explains my consistent low self-esteem and need for near-constant validation from people, accomplishments, etc. does this explain my low resiliency and inability to handle change effectively? is this why i can’t handle scary movies – because people under seventeen shouldn’t watch rated r movies and i’m not emotionally that old yet?

here’s a super embarrassing secret: i really like stuffed animals. one time i told my psychiatrist, “hey, when i’m about to have a panic attack, sometimes i can hold a stuffed animal really tight and literally feel calmer and comforted by it. but then i feel like i’m about three years old because i was comforted by a stuffed animal…is that weird? should i be concerned by that?”

my ever-practical psych answered with, “if you have a way to calm yourself down, do it. if you’ve found a strategy that works, don’t question it – be thankful that you have it.” which is true, i guess. i’d rather get drunk or something, but that’s not advisable for people on my meds…or people with bp…or really, people in general. so i’ve got a stuffed panda instead of jack daniels.

judge away, friends. judge away. just don’t tell me about it, because clearly i’m not emotionally mature enough to handle criticism.

blog

can i have my capital letters back if i promise not to be over-exuberant anymore? the lack of proper capitalization is hurting my eyes.

You’re cool with it? Okay. Thanks.

Anyway, my husband seemed super unconcerned by this. He said, “I love you just the way you are. I love that you get excited about things. I love how much fun you are, and your challenges don’t bother me.”

To which I responded, “But if I’m secretly twelve, it’s like you’re having sex with a twelve-year-old. That’s messed up.”

He put his hand to his forehead. “Oh my word, Haze. You’re not secretly twelve. You just might have more emotional challenges than some other people, and that’s totally fine.”

Totally. Fine.

HA!

Not fine. But then I looked up ways to increase my emotional maturity – how to age myself like a fine wine – and it looks kind of impossible and/or boring. For example, lose my over exuberance? Like I have to hand over all of my capital letters and my birthday tiara? NO THANK YOU.

On the other hand, it would probably be in my best interests in increase my self-esteem and be able to handle change better. But that seems like something I’d have to go to therapy for, and I’ve been trying to stay out of therapy. I haven’t gone in over a year. I’d really rather pretend I don’t have these problems.

Wait. Hold on. *switches tabs again*

Shoot. “Unwillingness to face reality” is another symptom.

Arrrrrghhh!

Okay fine. I might be a little emotionally immature. And I might have a little bit of bipolar disorder. There. I faced reality. I’m growing up now. I faced reality, and it’s ugly. U-G-L-Y it ain’t got no alibi!

No wait, now I’m going backwards.

*facepalm*

Why I Would Make a Bad Scientist

Based on my current life circumstances, I have concluded that I would be a bad scientist. This would be me:

Real scientist: Hmmm…I believe the gas bubbles in this beaker are because I just mixed baking soda with vinegar.

Hazel: Are you sure?

RS: Excuse me?

H: I’m just saying…it could be that, but it could be any number of things. I think I saw some dust falling from the ceiling when you put that baking soda in. Maybe it was asbestos. Does asbestos cause a reaction with vinegar?

RS: I don’t think so…

H: Ah HA! You don’t think so. So there’s a chance.

RS: No, I’m pretty sure it was because I put baking soda in with the vinegar.

H: Do you know if that beaker was clean? Maybe there was residue in there from the last guy. Was Frank working in the lab earlier? Everyone knows Frank is a slob. He probably left something in there, and it had a delayed reaction with the vinegar. Aw, Frank. At it again. Someone’s really got to talk to him.

RS: I cleaned this beaker myself.

H: Have you been hanging out with Frank? Maybe his slobby ways have rubbed off on you. You have to be careful who you hang out with – you are who your friends are, you know. And here you are, saying that the bubbles are from adding baking soda to vinegar, when really the facts that you’ve been hanging out with Frank and that this building might have asbestos could be causing the whole thing. Then you’re going to have faulty results. Such a shame.

RS: But it’s been proven-

H: *shakes head* Such a shame…

Today I’m having one of those days – an “I probably don’t have bipolar” day. I’m stable right now, you see, and probably all of my past symptoms could be explained by other things. The decisions I made while manic were because really I’m just very stupid sometimes. I could function with no sleep for days on end because, well, who doesn’t do that once in a while? Talk to college students in finals week.

Sometimes I get depressed because, umm…because life sucks sometimes.  I just handle it a little worse than other people. That doesn’t make me bipolar, it makes me…I don’t know. Something else. Bad at handling life.

As for the delusional panic attacks…uhhhh…I’m simply very creative. I think impossible things are happening because my creative mind is not constrained by the dimensions of reality. See? Now, that doesn’t sound so bad. I’m not bipolar, I’m very creative.

Or maybe it’s really the baking soda in vinegar that caused those bubbles.

No matter how much evidence I see pointing to the fact that I prooooobably have bipolar, I still have days where I think maybe I don’t. My husband, in the kindest way possible, will say, “Hazel. I’m 100% sure you have bipolar. You need to come to terms with that.”

And then I’m inevitably all, “Well, that’s awful certain. 100% seems a bit presumptuous. I don’t think we can ever be 100% certain of anything. Are you even 100% sure we exist? Maybe we’re holograms projected by an alien race to test certain sociological and cultural patterns.”

Then he’ll raise his eyebrows and say, “Uh…now I’m 101% certain.”

Haha…that part didn’t actually happen. He does say he’s 100% certain, though. I’ll accuse him of having no evidence, and he’ll give me the following:

  1. I’ve been diagnosed with it by a psychiatrist who’s been practicing for thirty years.
  2. I have experienced every symptom of it.
  3. The medications to target the symptoms have effectively eliminated the majority of the symptoms.
  4. He (my husband) has a doctorate and has taken multiple classes in neuroscience and abnormal psych. My diagnosis matches what he’s learned in school.

To which I inevitably come back with, “Okay yes but what if…” and then come up with some alternate reasoning about as logical as Frank and asbestos.

Does anyone else do this? I think I so badly want to be rid of this disease (what a gross word) that the only choice is to not have it in the first place. If I have it, it’s a lifelong battle. I can’t be “cured.” My only choice is to live with it – forever – or find another explanation for my eight years of symptoms.

Isn’t Occam’s razor the one that says, “The simplest explanation is probably the correct one”? Occam’s probably right, since he’s all philosopher-y and whatever.

BUT IN THIS CASE HE MIGHT BE WRONG.

Maybe.

Possibly?

Oh boy. Help me out, blog friends. How do you get over days like this?

Dear Random Girl in the Coffee Shop, I Don’t Like You

I’m sitting in my usual coffee shop, working on work, but the conversation taking place next to me is so intriguing that I can’t focus.  I completely stopped typing and sat here silently listening to them for a minute, but now I feel like I should type something.  Therefore, goodbye work and HELLO BLOG.

The couple didn’t even notice when I stopped typing.  I’m maybe three feet from these people, but I’m alone and with a laptop.  I’m invisible.

The girl has long dark hair that she plays with every time she laughs nervously.  She’s overdressed for a coffee shop and wearing a lot of makeup.  The guy is wearing a gray hoodie with a white t-shirt hanging out from underneath it.  I think she hopes this is a date, but I don’t think he does.

They had the “I can’t believe I haven’t seen you since graduation” conversation, so I know they’re old friends who haven’t seen each other in around a decade.

She was supposed to get married this summer – July 16 – but she broke it off.  This is when I started listening.  Why did you break off your wedding, make-up girl?  Why are you already trying to meet up with old flames?

WELL.  She didn’t break off the wedding at first.  They first postponed it to next summer, but then she called it off altogether.  Do you want to know why?  Hmmmmm?

Because he had bipolar disorder.

I kid you not, bloggosphere.  This is really what she said.  That’s the part where I went from casually eavesdropping to abandoning typing altogether.  Apparently he had an episode that landed him in psychiatric inpatient, and he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  She was going to go visit him, but then she didn’t.  This made me conclude that she is a bitch.

That’s probably unfair, since I know next to nothing about this girl, but I know that her fiance was in the hospital and she decided she didn’t want to go see him.  Then she subsequently dumped him.  So actually, I retract my former statement.  I do know enough about her to call her a bitch.

I know that handling a spouse with a mental illness is a challenge.  I know.  But to bolt as soon as he was diagnosed?  I mean, to not even give him a chance to figure out meds and stuff?  That hurts me on behalf of him.  She said she had to “look out for herself.”  Fine.  That’s fine.  I suppose that she hadn’t made her vows yet…she still had freedom to leave.  It just hurts.  Why is the word “bipolar” scary enough to make you leave, girl in the coffee shop?  His brain works differently than yours, but there are some awesome aspects to that too.  He can probably love you more deeply than an average human can.  He probably has other parts of his brain that work great – is he amazingly creative?  Is his memory exceptional?  He has strengths too, girl in the coffee shop.  If you couldn’t see that, then maybe you didn’t deserve him.

She’s currently lamenting the fact that he got to keep the dog.  I’m glad he did, girl in the coffee shop.  Maybe your dog will stick by him even though you wouldn’t.

Her “date” keeps saying things such as “what time do you need to get home?” or “I should probably go smoke soon…”  He’s clearly not into this coffee date, but she’s acting super into him.  I’m vindictively happy about this.  She’s a jerk, dude in the coffee shop.  Don’t give her a chance.

I have to go home now and leave this annoying girl to her coffee and her uninterested man.  I hope she one day finds the kind of love that won’t be shaken by a tiny word like “bipolar.” True love doesn’t run away, but her coffee guy is totally going to.

Let’s Go Catch Stars

Last night I told my husband we should go catch stars.  Oddly, I think one of the main reasons I remember this is because he said, “You should probably go to bed now…you’re not even going to remember this in the morning.”  I generally have memory gaps when I get psychologically weird.

When he said that, I obviously thought, “Shut up, you sane person!  I WILL remember this!  Because this is my BEST IDEA EVER!”  And I willed myself to remember that moment, which I did.  So ha.  I win.

I’m not exactly sure why I thought catching stars was a great idea.  Every once in a while, I enter a psychological vortex that feels like the opposite of a panic attack.  It’s where I have a super great idea that we should go do right exactly now, but it usually ends up being something quite weird (when I remember it at all).  Last night it was catching stars.

When you think about it, catching stars really does sound fun (you know…if it was possible).  I believe I said that they’re just “hanging out up there” and “why don’t people ever go get them?”  They could keep them in jars like fireflies, and they could take one out whenever they need a wish!  I think then I said something about what I would wish for, but I don’t remember what I said (my husband didn’t challenge me to remember that).

Having a mental illness mostly sucks, but think about it – for a few minutes, I lived in a world where catching stars was possible.  Was it healthy?  Probably not.  Exciting?  Heck yeah.  It’s worth mentioning that sometimes my world is even more fun than reality, but I guess reality is a safer place to live.

Maybe I can’t literally catch stars, but I’m sure I could squeeze a “go for your dreams” metaphor out of that situation.  It practically writes itself.

Go catch your stars.  Metaphorically only.

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.

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.  🙂

Teeter-totters (and Other Terrifying Situations)

First grade can be hard.  There are spelling lists, letters that you somehow have to make into words, numbers that add together to make other numbers, and then also one of the trickiest situations of all: teeter-totters.

I remember my favorite game on teeter-totters:  I would sit right on the fulcrum (a word I did not learn until much later), and I would work really hard to balance.  Inevitably, the teeter-totter would start to lean one way or the other, and I would have to readjust to try to get the board to balance in a perfectly straight line.  When I finally got the board to balance, then the tricky part really began:  DO. NOT. MOVE.  The slightest movement would tip the teeter-totter, and then my moment of perfect balance would be over.  I didn’t move.  I yelled at my friends not to touch the teeter-totter.  I yelled at butterflies not to fly too close and throw off my balance with the wind of their wings.  Basically, I needed the world to stop for a minute because I FINALLY GOT THAT FRICKIN THING TO BALANCE.

That’s how my life feels at the moment.  I’ve spent months trying to get my life into balance, and I finally feel good about where I am.  The problem is summer break.  I think I’m the only teacher in the history of humanity that is scared of summer break.  I don’t want to mess up all of my routines.  I don’t want hours of spare time to sit around and think.  Thinking is not usually my friend.

balance-quotes-5

Perhaps it will all be fine.  Maybe I’ll be able to make some new routines and still keep to my general sleep and exercise schedule.  Historically, though, summers look completely different and quite unpredictable week by week.  Summers, generally, are tricky for me.  It’s like the fat kid from my first grade class is running towards my balanced teeter-totter, planning to jump on it, and I want to say, “GET AWAY FROM HERE, FAT KID!”  But the fat kid keeps running.  Now I’m going to have to readjust the whole thing to consider the fat kid factor.  Which begs the question – can I even balance with the fat kid, or is he just going to muck everything up?!

One of my friends described having bipolar disorder like being on a trampoline.  People who have a normal range of emotions are jumping on one of those cute little exercise trampolines used in eighties exercise videos.  They jump not too high, not too low.  People with bipolar disorder are jumping on one of those crazy high-bouncing trampolines that require you to have a harness and be strapped in with bungee ropes because you’re about to scrape the clouds when you jump.  It sends us incredibly high, but also so incredibly low.  I don’t want to be on that trampoline.  It’s like this year finally allowed me the opportunity to buy one of those cutie small trampolines, and now I’m hugging it close and saying, “Don’t put me back on the big trampoline!  I like this one!  I look good in neon colors, leggings, and puffy headbands!  Let me stay in the eighties exercise video!”

Life has a way of not letting people stay in one place very long.  The only constant we can expect is change, but change doesn’t have to be scary.

Except, obviously, THAT IT IS SCARY.  I’ve faced a lot scarier things than summer break, though.  I can handle a few changes of routine without bouncing off the trampoline.  I think.

Bring it on, fat kid.  I’m gonna rock my leggings and balance this thing called summer.

Crazy Shit I’ve Done in Therapy (Episode 3)

I’m dyeing my hair purple, and it’s all my therapist’s fault.

Sometimes I do weird things in therapy (you can read episodes 1 and 2 of this series here and here).  I really do like my therapist, I swear, but she’s got some weird ideas every once in a while.  As an even rarer occurrence, her ideas lead to questionable life choices such as dyeing my hair purple.

A few months ago, she gave me a bizarre homework assignment: she handed me a shoe box and a stack of magazines, and she told me to go home and cut out pictures.  I had to glue pictures that represented my “inner self” on the inside of the shoe box, and I had to put pictures that represented how others see me on the outside of the shoe box.  I wish I had a photo of my face when she told me this.  I think it was…skeptical to say the least.

“I’m sorry, what?” I asked.  “You want me to cut out pictures?  Like, what the kindergartners at my school do?”

“Yeah…it could help…” she said, looking a bit uncertain.  She was probably worried I would flat out refuse (a very real concern, by the way.  I thought about it).  In the end, I figured that she’s the one with the degrees and I’m the one with the defective brain, so it would probably be best to do what she said.

I went home and got to work.  Shards of magazine paper were quickly strewn about the living room.  My husband walked in at one point and asked what I was doing.  “Therapy homework,” I answered, as if this explained everything.  He looked at me a moment longer, trying to figure out what I was doing.  I held up a picture of spaghetti in response.  “Do you think pasta is more of an inside piece of me or an outer piece of me?  Because, like, everyone who knows me knows that I love Italian food, but I actually really do love Italian food.  Does that make it inside or outside?”

“Uhhh…cut it in half?” he suggested.  Perfect.  Great solution.  I hadn’t even had to bother with explaining the project.  This is why Andy is great.  I cut the spaghetti in half, and Andy walked away (probably to shake his head and swear that he will never go to therapy).

When I brought my shoe box into therapy the following week, I presented it like a kindergartner presents a finger painting masterpiece.  “I did my homework,” I said.  “Is it good?  Do I get an A?”

“There are no grades in therapy,” my therapist said for the thousandth time (which is not true, I say.  What else could possibly go in that thick file of notes about me?!  I know she’s writing if I did a good job or not.  I JUST KNOW IT).

We talked about the box for a while and how the optimization of happiness occurs when the inside of the box matches the outside, or when people are projecting an authentic image of themselves.  Perhaps this is why I’m happiest when eating spaghetti!

An interesting conversation sparked when she noticed a picture of a girl with purple hair on the inside of my box.  She asked me about it, and I said, “Oh, I don’t know…I just put that in there because I’ve always thought it would be fun to do something really crazy with my hair, like dyeing it purple.”

“Then why don’t you dye it purple?”

I looked at her as if she was the crazy one, not me.  “You don’t just DYE your hair purple.  People would think…I mean…you just don’t DO that.  It’s weird.  My husband would kill me.  I would get fired.”

“You’re a teacher, right?  Why can’t you dye it purple for the summer?”

I shifted uncomfortably on the couch.  “Because…um…because it’s just not done.”

“I say if you want purple hair, you should go for it.”

I assured her that no, that’s crazy, and theoretically wanting purple hair and actually dyeing it were two totally different things. I was squarely in the camp of the former.

Still, somehow, the next week when I was getting routine highlights done, I struck up a conversation with my stylist.  “So…umm…theoretically, how difficult would it be to dye my hair purple?”

Her eyes got wide and excited behind her thick square-rimmed glasses.  “Oooooh, like a purple strip on the inside by your neck?  That would look awesome.”

“Uhh…no…”  I said slowly, wondering if the highlighting chemicals were seeping into my brain.  “I actually meant…sort of…all of my hair.”

“All of you hair?  Like…your whole head?”  Apparently this is not a common request.

“Hold on,” I said.  I quickly grabbed my phone while she kept wrapping highlights.  Amazed that I was even thinking about this, I google searched some ideas for purple hairstyles.  I found one I liked, and I held it above my head.  The light of the phone reflected in the tin foil strips of my highlights.  “Like this,” I said, watching her reaction in the mirror as she stopped to look at my phone.  She looked even more excited than she had earlier.

“Seriously?” she took the phone out of my hand to look at it more closely.  “That would be so fantastic.  Let’s do it.  This is going to be so fun.  When are we doing this?”

“Summer,” I said definitively.  “Right when school gets out.”  As soon as I said that I thought, “Wait, what am I saying?!?  Back up! Take it back!”  Except I didn’t do that.  I looked in the mirror, head full of foil, and smiled.

After that appointment, months ago, we put my purple hair appointment on the books: June 15.  At the time, June 15 was such an abstract date – far in the future.  Now it’s…in eleven days.  I’m a bit nervous, but I’m mostly excited.  When I told my husband about this idea, he was surprisingly supportive.  He said he thinks purple hair will look really sexy.  I don’t know if it’s the purple hair or simply the fact that I’m not trying to fit into what I “should” be anymore, but one or the other is definitely attractive.  I feel sexy.

My sister went to that same stylist last week, and the stylist was talking about how excited she is about my crazy hair project.  My friend Bri lives in Maryland, and she texted me this week to say, “Purple hair, Hazel?  Seriously?”  This made me laugh, as this friend was voted Biggest Gossip in high school.  Even ten years and multiple states later, she somehow still has the pulse on the latest news.  She must have heard it from the ONE other person from high school who knows about it.  My husband said he’s pumped to see it.  I bought new nail polish to match it.  There’s no going back, people.  I’m going purple.  THIS IS HAPPENING.

I asked my husband to take me downtown this weekend, as I have some new white shoes I want to wear.  I told him that I’ve been waiting until after Memorial Day to wear them because they’re summer shoes.  He said, “Wait a second…you’re dyeing your hair purple, but you can’t wear white shoes before Memorial Day?”

“Absolutely not,” I responded, appalled.  “I’m edgy, not TOTALLY INSANE.”  This made us both laugh.  There are so many issues with that statement.  Maybe I’m not quite done with therapy yet.