March 11th, 2017 – Musical Truths

I’m jealous, I’m overzealous
When I’m down, I get real down
When I’m high, I don’t come down
I get angry, baby, believe me
I could love you just like that
And I could leave you just this fast

But you don’t judge me
‘Cause if you did, baby, I would judge you too
No, you don’t judge me
‘Cause if you did, baby, I would judge you too

‘Cause I got issues
But you got ’em too
So give ’em all to me
And I’ll give mine to you
Bask in the glory
Of all our problems
‘Cause we got the kind of love
It takes to solve ’em

Yeah, I got issues
And one of them is how bad I need you

You do shit on purpose
You get mad and you break things
Feel bad, try to fix things
But you’re perfect
Poorly wired circuit
And got hands like an ocean
Push you out, pull you back in

‘Cause you don’t judge me
‘Cause if you did, baby, I would judge you too
No, you don’t judge me
‘Cause you see it from the same point of view

‘Cause I got issues
But you got ’em too
So give ’em all to me
And I’ll give mine to you
Bask in the glory
Of all our problems
‘Cause we got the kind of love
It takes to solve ’em

Yeah, I got issues
And one of them is how bad I need you

Present Day, February 8th, 2017

I need him to like me best. Not want. Not wish. Need.

No amount of study regarding rational emotions. No therapy. No medication. It does not appear that anything will change that. And that isn’t even the worst part.

He is a cat. A type of animal I have distained all my life and vowed never to share a domicile with. He’s not even my cat. My wife’s Valentine’s Day gift cat. And it gets even worse.

The moment prompting this reflection involved an elementary school age daughter. It appears that during the previous night when I was thoroughly drugged and thought the loyal feline was by my side, he had ventured to her room. Spent some time with her. Checked out some of the other relational options in the house.

Nope. We aren’t there yet. But we are getting closer. This  information saddened me. Then it frustrated me. Then…wait for it…it angered me. All within a rapidly escalatory matter of moments. So I attempted to come to the rescue of my absurd emotions.

“Well, you might have to start closing your door when you go to bed. We can’t have him waking you up on school nights.”

If you think this sounds like ridiculously childish behavior for a grown man, you’re right. It is. And now we have arrived.

Upon reflecting on these emotions for this cat and the subsequent interaction with my daughter, the internal humiliation begins. The loathing. The anger. The self-hatred.

It is a life cycle for myself. For thousands of us with Bipolar. For millions of us with a mental illness. We experience immature, over reaching, inappropriate emotions for a given situation. All of our therapy and treatment goes out the window as onlookers think we should just “grow up” or “get over” ourselves. Then, later, we do. And the knife cuts very deep. The knife of misunderstanding of what drove our motives. The knife of embarrassment. The knife of shame.

This time I started to binge eat. Some pretzels. A peanut butter and jelly roll-up. A Ding Dong. Child food for the grown man who had behaved like a child. And with each bite, I had another reason to hate himself.

Monday, August 29th, 6 a.m.

I tend to move through emotional states and stages rather rapidly. Jovial one minute. Angry as all get up the next. Cruising through my day before lunch. In deep depression after. More so off medication than on (duh). But I have yet to say anything unusual for an individual in the throws of Bipolar II.

While Friday had seen me quickly transition from denial to anger (as previously discussed as part of the Five Stages of Grief in my Friday, August 26th, Early Evening post) today would provide another opportunity to knock out a few more stages. Though I didn’t know that at the time.

Having survived the rather ‘less structured’ and thinner staffed weekend of a psychiatric ward, I awoke Monday morning ready to get on with life. I sat on my bed, grabbed a pencil and began drafting a plan for escaping the walls of this institution and returning to my life as I knew it prior to my little meltdown (yeah…I know, still some echoes of the “denial” phase hanging around). Phrased another way, I began to map out my “bargaining” (Stage Three) plan.

The plan was to serve a couple of purposes. First, to show that I was cognizant and aware of the realities of life. Family. Friends. Work. Looking back at the page of notes, it is almost comical to see that there is not a mention of aftercare. Almost.

Second, the way I figured it, anyone able to so clearly delineate his responsibilities, obligations and commitments couldn’t possibly be crazy (there’s that ol‘ “denial” again).

Third, I knew whatever was going on during my stay wasn’t free. In fact, the tab had to be running hard and fast. With an insurance policy carrying a $5,000 deductible and a few more grand in out-of-pocket maximum charges, I needed to get moving (little did I know those numbers had been blown by some time ago!).

Fourth, and most importantly to my well rested and to be quite honest somewhat bored mind,  it would get the ball rolling. While this was my first go around with mental health inpatient care, it was not my first go around with a hospital. A little over 18 months prior I had suffered a heart attack and spent a few days catching my breath at a half-dozen grand a day. Therefore, I was well aware that getting checked out was typically about as slow a process as getting admitted. If I wanted out before Thanksgiving (or say…Wednesday), I need to get things moving to help encourage others to do the same.

Anyone seeing why during my stay, evaluations and subsequent therapy it will be highlighted that I might have control issues?

I went to breakfast and came back to see what type of schedule had been written on my white board for my day of treatment. It was significantly different than the weekend. Namely, it was jammed with group sessions, treatment, teaching, and structure. Oh my.

I grabbed the handy dandy patient folder that I had been provided and began to notice there was a sheet for Monday. For Tuesday. Wednesday. Thursday. Even Friday. There was a form explaining the “week long” format for recovery and treatment structure.

What already felt to me like Day 5, they were seeing as Day 1. What felt to me like a good time to start packing, they were seeing as time to get to work.

What felt to me like the opportunity for Stage Three Bargaining…was giving way to Stage Four Depression.

Saturday, August 27th, 6 a.m.

I awoke fairly restless. Unlike the day of my capture (okay…”taken into protective custody”), the night before was the first I had been provided with medication. Not sure how that got missed on the day of my intake, but it did. I’ll let it slide, as that was literally about the only negative thing I could ever come up with for the mental health team at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

However, last night I was medicated. Which means that for the first time in many days, to some extent weeks, I had a fairly quality night of sleep. Which also means that my mind was clearing, my emotions were coming into balance, and I was starting to feel normal. At least, as normal as a 47-year-old, married, father of five can feel in a psych ward multiple states and hundreds of miles from home. Which also means one more thing…I was doing what I have always done in the past…shifting my focus from the fact that I am significantly fucked up to all the other problems outside these walls that are in need of my attention. Like, now!

Here’s the thing (or at least one of them): if you are never willing to stop and look at what is broken on the inside, then you tend to get angry at anything getting in the way of your trying to fix what is broken on the outside. (I know I’m in no position to offer advice, but read that sentence again. Trust me on this one.)

Almost a week from now a psychologist will sit down with some test results and ask me to reflect on the following: “Tell me a time when you weren’t angry.” After a rather significant, long, and awkwardly silent pause I will end up saying, “Actually, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t angry.”

Back to that early Saturday morning. This also was not such a time.

Now that I had survived my period of suicidal angst. Now that I felt ready to be trusted to return home (though it was probably a 50/50 toss-up as to whether I really would have). Now that my mind was clear and my emotions stabilized (as would only be perceived to be so by myself and no trained professional). Now that I had managed to fully immerse myself in the denial of my situation, it was time to move to anger and get down right pissed.

I have committed no crime. I have threatened no one. I’m not walking around screaming profanities to unseen ghosts in the halls of this psych ward. And forget the negatives. What about the positives? I own my own business (at least, I thought at that point that I still might). I have a masters degree. Property. Financial holdings.

What the hell am I doing sitting in this sterile room, on this plastic mattress, without so much as a shoestring or hoodie drawstring to even think about harming myself with? What am I doing in Chicago, Illinois on this late summer day?

My blood began to boil. My rage began to burn. And then it struck me, that will never work. No one will ever believe I am okay behaving like that.

Knowing that a nurse would be around at any moment to take my blood pressure and vitals, ask me how I slept and check in on my overall mood…I took a few deep breaths. It was time to do what I have always done in public throughout these many years of internal struggle and done quite well.

It was time to push that Bipolar self deep down where no one could see it. It was time to put on my game face. It was showtime…

Friday, August 26th, Early Evening

We have all heard them. Though assumptions are dangerous things, so let me just lay them out for us one more time. There are perceived to be Five Stages of Grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.

As I completed my first ever day of inpatient hospitalization for my Bipolar II mental illness, I became a full-fledged believer in the Five Stages. While I think the process had begun earlier in the day, it fully settled in during a phone call with my wife. I’ll use quotes, though I cannot guarantee these were her exact words, the gist of it was, “They did tell me the average treatment and stay is five to seven days.”

Fun fact about me: I have always bounced back very quickly. Probably to my own detriment and lack of proper treatment. My Type A personality tends to force my mind to “snap out of it”, suck it up, and get back on track. Granted, no healing, therapy, processing, or actually dealing with any shit has taken place. But I’m right back at it!

Needless to say, if spending my day walking around a psych ward in a hospital gown and those little socks with the rubber anti-slide strips on them wasn’t enough to convince me this was for real this time…hearing my wife share that little tidbit of information came down on my shoulders like a load of bricks. Granted, I had been told the same thing. But that was last night when I came in with the police and really needed help. Or that was again this morning after a psychiatric evaluation by an actual psychiatrist (the second one to evaluate me) informed me of the same.

Here’s the thing: they did not really know me. The real me. They did not know what a difference 8 hours could make. They did not understand that I would be just fine. I was no longer a threat to myself or others. I could be released, lovingly pushed out the front door, and I would go back where I came from.

Though I had no intention of doing that if they actually bought my little con-job.

And so it had begun with Denial. There were about 18 people in this ward. And bless their hearts (no…seriously) some of them were much worse off than I was. Or so it seemed. Maybe external signs of damage does not mean the internal damage is any worse. (I should probably write that down somewhere and read it every day.) The psychotic symptoms and outbursts were all around me. About half of us suffered from psychosis, the other half not. Some had been here for weeks. Some had been in treatment before. It sounded like some were actually living most of their lives inpatient!

Not me. Had a little meltdown. Blew a fuse. Went off my rocker. Got a little crazy. Lost track of reality. Whatever you want to call it…just don’t call it a mental illness in need of extensive inpatient treatment. Because I don’t have that! Give me some pills. Write an action plan. Send me on my God Damn way!!!

It seemed like the Denial and Anger stages were merging pretty quickly…

Thursday, August 25th, 10:05 a.m.

As they opened the glass doors etched with the Amtrak police logo the thought passed through my mind in almost too fleeting of a way to even realize it had been there. Like a whisper…grab a gun. How quickly it all would have ended.

But I was almost catatonic. For the past 24 hours I had been living in a state of the deepest depression my emotions had ever delved into. I had not been asleep for well past that amount of time despite being on a regular diet of Tylenol PM every couple of hours. In fact, looking back, I had been operating on roughly six hours of sleep since 3 a.m. on Monday, August 22nd. Six hours in the past 75 with more diphenhydramine in my system than could be anywhere close to healthy.

So surrounded by three officers creating almost a bubble around me, I simply moved within that bubble until coming to the stereotypical hard, plastic, waiting room like chair next to a desk where they asked me to sit down. They put on latex gloves as they obtained my permission to search my bag. My person. I must have given it, though I have no recollection. Maybe I just shook my head. Maybe they simply took my lack of resistance as compliance. Maybe…

For those who have never been there, though I know many of the readers of this will have been, it is almost beyond reach to describe my state at that point. There was no awareness that my plan had been foiled. There was no understanding, or even curiosity of what they were going to do with me next. There was no plotting, calculating, or weighing the gravity of my situation. There. Was. Nothing. Were it not for the beating of my heart and the oxygen flowing in and out of my lungs…I had practically ceased to even exist.

Based on my limited experiences in life, I cannot imagine a person being alive while feeling more dead. To this day I can remember there being three officers. I can picture one. Vaguely a second. No idea what the third looked like. There was an office I was sitting in. No concept of the color of the walls or the placement of objects.

But I do remember this. Two of the officers could not stop talking to me. I believe the third had gone to call my wife. And all the two could say…over, and over, and over, and over, and over again was…“We have all been there.” “There is nothing to be embarrassed of.” “We all know how you feel.” “Everyone has experienced this.”

Really? This? How can you know how I feel when I don’t feel a fucking thing!

It is interesting now as I work through my therapy and recovery to look at some of the most profound underlying challenges in my emotional life. One of, if not the greatest, is a deep-seated, passionate, foundational feeling of anger. Hostility. Rage.

And it is interesting that at this moment of my life when I have never felt less alive, the one emotion that found a way to keep embers alive was that one.

“Shut up! YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW I FEEL!!!