Present Day, April 2nd, 2017

It started at 2 a.m. a few days back. March 29th to be exact. The pain came on a like a lightning bolt stabbing me in my lower back. Right side to be exact once again.

After roughly an hour of cringing, curling into a ball, and sitting on the toilet with the shower curtain wadded up in my mouth to keep from screaming and waking the rest of the house…it subsided. Until 4 a.m. When it hit again.

Needless to say, the Wednesday morning 6:30 a.m. alarm came far too early. Though fortunately for me that any other day of the week the attack would have hit in the midst of my launch of the 3 a.m. workday. I attributed both attacks to something I had eaten the night before. Maybe too much dairy. I have always had a rather sensitive system. And with the pain gone for the time being, it seemed like it must have been something temporary.

Until roughly 4:30 p.m. that same day. When it struck again. This time, harder than ever. This time, powerful enough to leave me vomiting into the toilet. This time, too strong to ignore. I had heard of pain that could make you throw up, but I had never felt it. Until now.

My wife and I attempted Urgent Treatment Center no. 1. A 90 minute waited with a way overcrowded waiting room. Especially for the display of pain and nauseau I was experiencing. Urgent Treatment Center no. 2. 45-minute wait (I’m not sure these people understand the definition of the word “urgent”). It didn’t take that long for them to notice my pain, and by the time I was escorted to an exam room they indicated they would never be able to run the tests needed or provide the pain medication necessary for the condition they thought I was clearly facing. Namely…kidney stones.

Off to stop no. 3. The Emergency Room. A few hours later, two shots in my ass containing anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, and more importantly – morphine! A CT scan, and sure enough, the discovery of an 8mm kidney stone which I was simply and initially advised by a nurse was a “pretty good size stone.”

While I awaited the doctor and further instruction, I found this on my phone indicating that my little 8mm gem fit the worse case scenario of both sides of the graphic –

The doctor provided further pain medications and a few other necessary prescriptions along with a follow-up appointment with a urologist within the next 48 hours to resolve the challenge I was facing. The next day we would discover that the referral was “out of network” and that an “in network” provided could not see me until the coming Tuesday afternoon. Yep, that’s right, six days from the initial attack (still 2 more days from today!).

These are the big things for normal humans that can become the unmanageable things by bipolar people. My wife joined me at 3 a.m. the next two days for work as the pain medications had me so drugged I could hardly stay awake while driving down the interstate. The same pain medications that can leave you plunging into the lethargy of depression, a state that I happened to have just pulled myself out of about 10 days ago (see recent posts). Not to mention the anxiety and unknown of when the next attack will come. The compounding stress and reality of mounting medical bills. The fear of exercise or strenuous movement that could once again dislodge the stone and send me into excruciating pain resulting in becoming stagnant for a number of days and giving inactivity the opportunity to dig its claws deeper into my life with weight gain and unhealthy daily life practices.

I don’t believe in god, and part of the reason is simply a hope. A hope that he or she doesn’t exist. Because if the mother fucker does he is an unrelenting bastard that can’t seem to find it within his means to just leave me alone for awhile. An abusive childhood. Teenage suicide attempts. An adult life battling bipolar. A heart attack two years ago. A mental breakdown last year. A multi-thousand dollar kidney stone trauma this year. I have to hope that there isn’t some being up there who could look down upon me, along with millions of others, and just say…“You know, I think he has probably had enough for awhile. Let’s just let him be.” Yeah, I’d rather just hope he doesn’t exist. Believe he doesn’t exist.

60 more hours to go. Hoping that a relatively tiny ass stone, though rather big ass in the perspective of its location, stays put and doesn’t send me back to the bathroom shrieking in pain. Back to the pain killers falling back into the haze. Hoping that this next life stretch can be navigated and maybe, just maybe a period of normalcy experienced.

Unless of course, this just is normalcy, in which case…well…my bipolar mind is best not going there.

Present Day, January 11th, 2017

Last night I enjoyed a dinner and movie date with my oldest daughter. Home from her freshman year of college for winter break, we have enjoyed a few of these evenings together, cherished by fathers whose children are rapidly becoming adults and beginning to journey paths of their own choosing.

She is a passionate individual focused on the plight of immigrants, women, and minorities (in no particular order). And yes, her liberal views are one of the many things that I am most proud of.

With that heart, she had recently completed reading August Wilson’s 1983 play “Fences”. Therefore, we decided to take in the critically acclaimed large screen version. Before I get to the true heart of this post, let me just say that the acting was phenomenal. Off the charts. Incredible. By every. Single. Character.

However, I was forced to make the decision early on to emotionally detach myself from what I was watching. I could tell it was simply going to be too painful.

Rather than litter this entry with spoiler alerts or disclaimers, let me simply share the realities I have had to face about my life over the past six months that were directly addressed (exposed anew) and thrown in front of me by this movie…

1. Abuse is abuse no matter what decade it took place during. 

I had never allowed myself the freedom to believe this prior to my hospitalization just over four months ago. Here’s the thing. If it isn’t abuse. If it is just an acceptable form of physical punishment or emotional gamesmanship. Then I deserved it. My behavior warranted it.

But if it is abuse. Then I am simply not worthy of decent treatment. I am a creature who deserves to be beaten, berated, or maybe even sexually violated (though I speak with less certainty about this due to our minds ability to deeply suppress or contort such awful memories). 1970s, 80s, or in the case of Fences…40s and 50s, abuse is abuse, and abuse is wrong.

2. Affairs cause pain and often come from a place of pain.

Let me be clear, I love my wife very dearly. She found me, rescued me from myself, and had me placed in protective custody resulting in my hospitalization. She has stood by me since. However, we met via an extramarital affair and are aware that we caused great pain to two spouses and five children in the process. At the same time, prior to the launch of our relationship, we were concurrently facing marital separations and potential divorces. We were both in places of great, life-threatening pain. While our actions caused pain, they also came from places of intense pain.

3. There is a vague line between the blame of our past and the accountability for our choices.

Vague, as in, I don’t know where it is. Yet it seems that at some point and time, no matter how horrific the past, we still become accountable for our individual choices and actions. Interestingly enough, it seems like people often get a quicker pass for this based on racism, chauvinism, or other mainstream prejudices than those of us in the mental illness universe do for behavior in line with our diagnosis. Why? Because at our core, we all know that there are few infinite excuses in the world. Eventually, we have to become accountable.

4. Escapism will never work.

Sports. Alcohol. Sexual relationships. Job promotions. Running from our inner demons will never allow us to find freedom because inner demons don’t have to do any of the work when they are along for the ride. (Damn, that’s another one of those good ones I should get credit for somewhere!) In the hospital I was told I would have to confront a life pattern of control, anger, and unaddressed mental health needs if I ever wanted to live a life of greater peace. I had to…I have to…quit running and confront my inner demons.

5. Life is hard.

Like many plays, books, or movies that are designed to in some way deal with reality rather than the Death Star, the Underworld, crazy office Christmas parties, or alien encounters (all of which can be entertaining and/or include plenty of human truth)…movies such as Fences remind us that life is hard (as if we needed that reminder). Or maybe phrased another way, that life is often harder for people than we could ever know. 99.9% of the people that encounter me on a daily basis have no idea I have a mental illness. No idea that I am Bipolar. No idea what a daily battle my life is. And the same is probably true for them.

 

It was all just too much to take in for one movie. Too many real life demons. Too many real life connections. Too much common ground. Which is ironic for a film about a black rubbage collector in the 1950s. At face value, we have nothing in common. But the ties of true humanity are much deeper than at face value.