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.

It’s Not a Relapse – I’m Leveling Up

Bad news.

I mean, good news?

Well, NEWS.

I’m going back to therapy.

I haven’t been in over a year, and I was irrationally proud of that. Like, “Look at me! I’ve been successfully handling life all by myself for a YEAR! Look, Ma! No hands!” (As I then hide in the corner and hork down a handful of pharmaceuticals).

I’ve been struggling lately, so I decided to go back. I was initially frustrated with the decision and told Andy that it feels like a relapse. “I’ve been off therapy for a year,” I said. “It seems a shame to break my record.” Like therapy is some illicit drug that I went to rehab for and am now one-year clean.

“You’re not relapsing,” Andy said. “You’re leveling up.”

Say what?

He went on to explain that when I first went to therapy, I was extremely suicidal and was literally trying to survive. This time around, when I’m not suicidal, I can work on Level 2 therapy problems, which focus on how to deal with life now that I’m committed to living it.

Look at me! I’m at Level 2! That sounds way better than “relapse.”

Super Mario Brothers is the only video game I’ve ever played, but I think level 2 is the one underground with the blue turtles, right? Yep – this one:

level1-smb1d

I get fireballs, y’all. Who’s gonna hate on Level 2?? I’m a brick-smashing, coin collecting badass.

So I contacted my dealer (oops, I mean therapist) and asked if she would see me again. She said yes. Phewf! So at least I’m not going to have to start over with someone new.

Bring it on, Level 2!

If My Therapist Won’t See Me Anymore, Is That A Graduation or a Break-Up?

My next session with my therapist will be my last.

We had planned to continue seeing each other through the end of the year, but through an insurance glitch we discovered that I am only covered through one more session.  Next year her insurance changes, and I won’t be able to see her then.

SO.  Here we are – the end of the road.  She says I’m ready to be therapy-free, and she’s maybe right.  Obviously with bipolar disorder there’s no guarantee I won’t end up back in therapy at some point (actually, it’s veritably guaranteed that I will…), but it won’t be with her and it won’t be this year – the year I was diagnosed, the year that my life was blown to pieces and then built up again, and the year that I learned to let go.  It’s been a crazy twelve months, and I have put a lot of my heart and soul into that well-worn therapy couch.  This is a significant ending to me.

I don’t know how to feel about our last session.  Should I be happy?  Sad?  Hmmm…maybe I will talk to my therapist about it. 😉  I told her I’m bringing cake to celebrate, but I don’t know what to have the bakery people write on the cake.  Here are the main contenders:

“Congrats Therapy Class of 2016”

“To Never Coming Here Again”

“I Won’t Get Crumbs on the Couch”

“Feeling All the Feels”

“Sorry For All the Kleenex I Used”

It’s weird to think of life beyond therapy.  I’m glad that my therapist has confidence in my stability, but I feel a little like I did when my parents took away my yellow blankie when I was six years old.  The blanket had become so ragged and dirty that it had long been unable provide any warmth, but it was my blankie.  I was not at all confident that I could survive to see my seventh birthday if I didn’t have that blankie.  But I did turn seven…and seventeen…and twenty-seven, and life went on like they promised it would.  I’m hoping it will be the same here: scary at first, but surprisingly okay.

I don’t know how to say goodbye at the end of next session.  It’s a weird thing, therapy.  This person knows all of your deepest secrets, and then one day it’s simply, “Bye.  Have a great life.”  Does this strike anyone else as incredibly odd?  Who invented therapy?  Did they write a manual on how to say goodbye properly?  Am I supposed to cry?  Am I supposed to hug her?  I’m so not hugging her.  I’m not very huggy.  I want her to know how much she helped me, but I don’t want to get all gushy about it.  Maybe I’ll put it on the cake: “Thanks.  You’re sweet like cake.”  I’ll let the frosting convey my sentiments.

Also, I would like to point out that even though she repeatedly said that there are no grades in therapy, I am taking her approval of my moving on as a tacit passing grade.  If she won’t give me the grade, I’ll give me the grade.  I’m a teacher, so I think I’m authorized to do that: HAZEL THERAPY 2015/16:  PASS.  PROMOTED TO NEXT LEVEL OF INDEPENDENCE.

I don’t know about this, blog world…you’re about to see untherapized Hazel.  Let’s hope she’s as ready for this as my therapist says she is.

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.

PURPLE HAIR

A few weeks ago I posted THIS post about why I was planning to dye my hair purple, and why it was all my therapist’s fault.

Some of you said you wanted a picture of the final product, so here it is!

hair

I’m really happy with it.  My father-in-law hates it (which surprised no one).  My husband loves it (yay!).  Everyone else has been varying shades of in the middle.  It’s a really fun twist for summer, and it’s allowed me to feel a new level of confidence: “Yes, I know this is crazy, but I’m kind of crazy.  I’m rolling with it, and I LIKE IT.  I don’t care if you do or not.”

I haven’t felt that way a lot in my life.  It feels good.  Maybe I’ll never go back to blonde.

Ha ha.  That was a fun thought for a second.  My school would freak.  Oh, well.  September is a long way away.  Purple stays for summer; confidence hopefully stays after the summer ends.  🙂

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.

Why Teaching Junior High and Having Bipolar Disorder are Basically the Same Thing

Don’t ask me why I teach junior high.  I guess I fell into it, people started telling me I was good at it, and for some odd reason I find it fun.  I’m also certifiably crazy, so there’s that. Perhaps that’s the best explanation for why I thrive in junior high: I’m nuts.  Junior high kids are their own special brand of crazy.  Most of them will grow out of it.  I suppose I just didn’t.

Since being diagnosed with bipolar disorder last fall, I’ve been on a revolving cocktail of medications and therapies that are slowly bringing me to a place of stability.  I texted my husband last week and said, “The more sane I get, the weirder these kids seem.”  Because they are so. very. weird.

Do you know what else is weird?  Mental illness.  And, in possibly the weirdest simile ever created, here is why teaching junior high is like having bipolar disorder:

1. Everything is extreme.  The things I hear kids say on a daily basis are some of the same things that my brain has told me at various states of depression and mania: “This is the BEST DAY EVER!” or “My life is COMPLETELY OVER!” or “MY LIFE IS PERFECT!” or “EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD IS TERRIBLE!”  Bipolar disorder is frequently thinking in capital letters.  Lots of capital letters.  Junior high kids don’t only think in capital letters; they speak in them too.

2. Other people don’t get it.  When people find out that I teach junior high, they have one of two reactions: they either get a completely baffled look on their face and say, “Ummm…why would you do that?!” or they look sympathetic and say, “Oh, bless you.  You must be a saint. I could never do that.”  Seriously.  Those are the only two reactions.  Next time someone asks what you do for a living, tell them you teach junior high.  I bet you $10 that you’ll get one of those two reactions.  It’s actually a bit creepy how everyone says the same two things. Anyway, I get variations on those two reactions when I’ve told people about my bipolar disorder.  Most of them are super confused because they don’t know what it is, or they have gross misconceptions about it.  Other people start crying (literally) and act like I’ve just told them I have terminal cancer.  I mean, I’m not going to lie…bipolar disorder sucks, but it doesn’t help when people act like I’ve just been handed a death sentence.  People don’t get why I teach junior high, and they also have no idea how I’ll live with bipolar disorder.  Trust me, both can be done.  I’m doing both of them.

3. Sometimes I wish everyone would please shut up.  I cannot tell you how many times a day I hear, “Mrs. Hillboro!  Mrs. Hillboro!”  I answer to that name quicker than to Hazel, for sure.  In my life, I get called Mrs. Hillboro at least twenty times more than I get called Hazel.  That is not an exaggeration.  Anyway, when my students are working on a project or asking me questions in between classes, five or six of them will all start talking to me at once.  They have no concept of taking turns or waiting for someone to be finished talking.  It’s a very egocentric age group.  Sometimes I want to yell, “EVERYONE LEAVE ME ALONE!!”  Obviously, that’s a bit…erm…unprofessional, so I don’t do that.  When everyone’s talking, though, sometimes it reminds me of my brain.  When my thoughts start racing, it’s like I have five hundred things to think about all at once and I can’t think fast enough to get to them all.  My brain starts doing this weird jittery thing where I think about everything for about 0.2 seconds each before moving on to the next thing, and I can’t actually concentrate on anything.  I want to yell at my thoughts, “EVERYONE LEAVE ME ALONE!” but I can’t because they (like junior high students) are very loud, obnoxious, and persistent.

4. The little things become big things.  In junior high, everything is a big deal.  You have a zit and picture day is next week?  Well, you’d better freak out and try every single home-remedy zit cream Google can give you.  You’d better worry constantly from now until next week because if you have a zit on picture day, obviously everyone will hate you, you’ll be a social outcast, you’ll never get a boyfriend, and you might as well start adopting cats now because THAT’S ALL YOU’LL EVER HAVE FOR COMPANIONSHIP!  Obviously, all of the worrying will probably cause more zits instead of fewer, and you basically just shot yourself in the foot.  Call PetSmart and start stocking up on MeowMix.  Perhaps this pertains more to an anxiety disorder than bipolar disorder, but I have a hard time differentiating my crazy.  Sorry.  Anyway, sometimes I get fixated on one thing, and I absolutely cannot calm down about it until it’s solved.  I need to pay an insurance bill?  Well then, I need to pay that RIGHT THIS MINUTE, because if I wait until after work I’ll probably forget, and when I forget then I’ll probably get distracted and forget tomorrow too, and when I keep forgetting then they’ll eventually discontinue coverage, and that will be the exact moment that I get into a terrible accident and look like one of those cartoon characters all wrapped up in bandages like a mummy with their leg in one of those lift things by a hospital bed.  That’s what will happen if I don’t pay this bill RIGHT NOW, so I need to use my lunch hour to do it and probably need a teacher to cover the first ten minutes of my fifth hour class in order to get it done.  It’s like my mind has no “back burner.”  I can’t table that issue until later.  It will bother me and sensationalize itself until I just-freaking-do-it.

5. It’s a bonding agent for those of us that understand.  When I meet another junior high teacher, we are instantly friends.  That’s the truth of the situation.  Even if they’re a horrible person and we have nothing else in common…oh,they teach junior high?  Besties.  Not many people understand the intricacies of this job.  It’s nothing like teaching elementary school, but it’s also not like teaching high school.  It’s its own little universe, and not many adults live there.  Similarly, people who struggle with mental illness can understand each other in a way that other people can’t.  If someone struggles with bipolar disorder specifically, then suddenly I want to talk to them for hours.  I want to know everything they’re willing to tell me.  More often than not, we have a lot in common and it is so comforting to realize that yes, having bipolar disorder is isolating and feels like it’s own universe, but guess what?  Other intelligent life exists there too.  Let’s find each other and build a colony, because then we can all make it through this wasteland.

6. Sometimes it’s confusing beyond all reason.  I’ve been in this profession and with this age group for quite a few years now, and still there are days when I find myself thinking, “What?  What just happened?”  The kid stuck his testicle in another kid’s eyeball?  A student just crashed a teacher’s car into the creek by the school?  Someone brought his cat to school, and the cat just had explosive diarrhea in the hall?  WHAT?  (Those are all true examples, by the way).  One of the best and worst parts of my job is that you never really know what’s going to happen next.  It’s the same way with bipolar disorder.  Once you think you’ve got everything under control – BOOM – curve ball.  Something totally unexpected happens.  I have a delusional panic attack.  I need to switch meds again.  Old thought patters resurface out of nowhere.  I think the only standard is that I’ve come to expect lots of curve balls (both in teaching and in having a mental illness).  This is probably a good thing, really  You can be a lot better at catching them when you’re expecting them.

There you have it: why teaching junior high and having bipolar disorder are basically the same thing.  I’m already pretty good at the first one, but it took a few years to get there.  I’m sure I’ll eventually be alright at the second one too.

Eight Years Lost

“I’m so glad you’re back,” my husband Andy whispered.  He gave me a tight hug and kissed my hair.

“Back?”  I asked. I was confused.  “I didn’t go anywhere.”

He looked sheepish, almost like he didn’t want to tell me.

“You know…just…back.  You’re yourself again, and it seems like you’re back for good.  I missed you so much.”

I immediately knew what he was talking about.  He’d mentioned something similar this past fall, when I first started on my meds for bipolar disorder.  I knew I hadn’t been myself for the past few years, but I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten.  “Was I really that bad?” I asked him.  “I don’t remember.”  I honestly didn’t.  “How long was I out of it?”

“Well, we were okay for a couple years when we first got together,” he explained.  “Then you sort of entered this…I don’t know…fog.  Every day you were either extremely sad or just…um…’out there.'”

I asked him what I meant by “out there,” even though I already knew.

“Like when you said you had to sleep in the back yard to ‘keep us safe,’ or when you locked yourself in the bathroom and thought I was going to kill you, or…you know…just…’out there.'”

“So when I was crazy,” I said flatly.

“I know you don’t like that word, so I don’t use it,” he responded.  He looked past me, as if he was unable to meet my eyes while talking about this.

“But it’s true,” I said back.   My voice wasn’t angry or sad.  I knew it was simply the truth. “I know I was crazy.  I was.  I am.  I don’t know.”

“I think you’re back, though,” he said.  He met my eyes again.  “When you were first feeling better this fall I was too worried to get my hopes up, but it seems like you’re really, really back.  There are good days and bad days, but overall you’re YOU again, and I could not be happier.”  He hugged me again.

“You waited an awfully long time,” I commented.  This year we will have been together ten years, and my brain tumor was diagnosed eight years ago.  We (and my doctors) think this could have been part of what caused the chemistry upset now diagnosed as bipolar disorder, so it’s logical to think I’ve been struggling with this disorder for almost eight years.  It went undiagnosed until this past fall, even though I’ve clearly had symptoms that entire time.  That means that out of a ten year relationship, Andy has had two years (well, now two and a half) with a woman whose brain actually works.  Eight years have been spent waiting.

“I know it was a long time,” he told me.  “But every single day has been worth it.  I knew that somewhere in there the real you still existed.  I would have waited decades to see her again, and it still would have been worth it.  I missed you so much.”

Which, obviously, makes Andy the best husband in the world, because I’m quite sure that he meant it.  He took eight years of hell on the outside chance that I might one day get better – on the chance that we would maybe one day solve the mystery.  He took totally delusional panic attacks, nights of me locking myself in the closet and crying/hyperventilating until I threw up, nights of my manically staying up all night writing because I-just-had-the-most-brilliant-idea, nights of me crying because I knew I was going to kill myself, the night that I actually tried…  He took all of that, and he still loved me.  He still loves me now.

I am genuinely, legitimately confused.  If I could break up with myself, I would have.  So, so, so long ago.

I am blown away by this kind of love, but I’m also angry and scared.  I’m angry that he had to go through this.  I’m angry that I had to go through this.  I’m angry that FOUR psychiatrists got this diagnosis wrong, when now I look at the symptoms of bipolar disorder and it’s basically a checklist of every symptom I told them.  I didn’t know to look for bipolar disorder.  They should have known.  They should have known those symptoms.  At least one of those doctors should have gotten it right.  Why did I have to waste eight years in a fog of depression, mania, and paranoia?  Eight years of my life, people.  It took away eight years of Andy’s too, because he had the misfortune of falling in love with the wrong girl.  Praise God that he stayed, but only God knows why he did.  This wasn’t fair to him either.  I don’t take much time to feel angry about all this, but to see how much Andy loves me and to see (from a standpoint of relative sanity) how much he’s been through, how long he’s waited, because of a condition that could have been detected years ago?  That makes me angry.

No, scratch that.  Angry is when a student forgets their homework for the third time this week.  This situation makes me livid.  I try not to think about it too much.  Anger will only take up more of my life, and I think I’ve been robbed of enough.

I’m also scared.  Andy’s right when he says I’ve been “back” for the past few months.  My personality is back.  I’m not paranoid anymore.  I don’t want to die.  It seems like maybe we’ve found a solution; like maybe I’m better.  Everyone I know who has bipolar disorder, though, says that this stable period only lasts for so long when inevitably the symptoms come back.  I don’t want to waste my life by worrying about the future, but I also want to be prepared.  I don’t know how, though.  How can one prepare to have their sanity taken away again?  I don’t think I’ll every be ready for that.

Eight years was too long.  I don’t want to lose any more.

The Fat One

My therapist was trying to recall something we talked about in our last session, but she couldn’t remember what it was.  “Hold on a second,” she told me.  “Let me grab your folder.”  She pulled out the drawer and started flipping through folders.  “Where is it?” she asked herself, still flipping.  “Ah ha!  Here it is!  I forgot – yours is the fat one.”

MINE’S “THE FAT ONE”?!

I obviously peeked at the rest of the files as soon as she said that (I couldn’t read names or anything.  Calm down, HIPAA).  Mine was definitely the fat one.  I simultaneously felt two strangely opposing emotions: horror and pride.  Horror because I am the craziest client she has, but also some pride because, hey, I’m the craziest client she has!  If I’m going to be crazy, I might as well go big or go home.  Looks like I win!  Hoooooray me!

I would have preferred to win a different sort of competition (like maybe…um…any other one), but oh well.  A win is a win.  I’m going to take it.  They’ve been tough to come by lately.  While I’m basking in the glow of my victory…does anyone know how to put a folder on a diet?  I don’t actually want to be “the fat one.”  I know!  I’ll stop adding so much every week and let the other people in that drawer catch up to me.  Next week I’m going to say, “I have nothing to report.  I am GREAT.  Please write down ‘she is great’ in super tiny letters, and that’s all you need to say.  You know what?  You could even throw out some of those other papers, because I am so very over all of those issues.  They’re not even worth keeping.  Let’s do a ceremonial purging of the folder to show how over them I actually am.”

I would love to know what’s in that fat folder.  Why does she write so many more notes for me?  Have I been seeing her the longest of all of her clients?  (That can’t be true…I’ve only been seeing her since fall.  It’s barely spring.  She sees some people for years).  I want to break in after hours and take a look at that folder.  It’s a great plan, because if I get caught I’ll say, “Officer, here’s my ID.  Look at which folder is mine.  See how fat it is?  CLEARLY I am super crazy.   This isn’t my fault.”

On second thought, if I did that then we would have a bunch of arrest paperwork to add to the folder, which wouldn’t really help my cause.  Pretty soon I’d need my own frickin drawer.  Perhaps I’d better skip that idea.  I’ll just embrace my fatness.  At least my therapist can’t say that I don’t I keep things interesting.

She Finally Gets Me

I hate how therapists are trained to dig up a bunch of dirt from your past.  It’s psychological paleontology.  They tend to find the stuff that makes you want to scream, “I WAS DOING A REALLY GOOD JOB OF FORGETTING ABOUT THAT!  Let’s not talk about THAT stuff.”  But that’s the paleontological equivalent of stumbling upon a T-Rex skeleton, and they get all excited that they found the cause of some crazy problem you have.

Of course, that’s the exact kind of stuff that you need to “process” with a therapist.  Once again, I’m still waiting for the certificate of completion that says certain events in my life have been fully “processed,” but I’m not holding my breath.  I’m just paying a lot of money to talk about things I would really like to forget.  Interesting economical choice, me.

This past week, we were talking about a topic I hate talking about.  It was about a guy who messed me up pretty bad (which, I’m sorry, is the most cliche girl problem of all time.  MY LIFE IS A CLICHE.  I don’t like that.  Mental note: process this.  Whatever that means).  My favorite part of this therapy session came when my therapist said, “Well, with a lot of people, I would have them talk as if the person was sitting in this chair,” (she motioned to the empty chair next to me), “and I would have them say what they would want to say if the person was here listening to them.”

I wrinkled my nose.  “Umm…are you going to make me do that?”

“No,” my therapist said, “because I know you wouldn’t do it.  Or you would do it while actually thinking it was super strange and not get anything out of it.”

Peeerrrrfect.  My therapist and I are finally starting to understand each other.  I’ll talk about topics I don’t like, and she’ll stop doing crazy stuff to make me process said topics.  Fabulous.  Talking to invisible people would not help the “I’m not crazy” vibe I’m trying to achieve here.