I live my life in constant conflict with myself. If not constant, nearly. My recent encounter with a kidney stone once again provided a stark example of this reality.
There is my personality, and then there is my illness. Not the kidney stone one. The other.
My personality is one of those somewhat hard care, highly driven, perfectionistic, some use the label…Type A personalities. That means my thinking is often characterised by a spirit of “suck it up.” Other phrases that commonly spew forth from my mouth are, “life’s not fair”, “deal with it”, “it is what it is”, “quit complaining and move on”…you get the idea. Worse yet, you have probably encountered someone like myself and these past few lines immediately brought them to mine. Double worse yet (if there is such a thing), you also are such a person.
Then there is my illness. Bipolar. Which, while once would have provided me with the identifying label of being a manic depressive, the more I age just provides me with the label depressive. I find my bouts with depression to come more frequently and more intensely. And they are polar (see what I did there…) opposite to the mentality of my personality.
In fact, the reality is that the depressed person has a counter to each of my spiritual pep rallying cries –
“Quit complaining and move on” – but I don’t want to.
“It is what it is” – but it shouldn’t be.
“Deal with it” – but I don’t know how to.
“Life’s not fair” – but it should be.
“Suck it up” – but I can’t.
As a parent, I know the frustration of seeing a child down in the “mulligrubs” and unable to coax them out of it with a little cheerleading. Unable to do that for myself? Well, that’s just plain debilitating.
So I wrestle internally. At times my personality gives way to a greater sense of compassion for the other in front of me, and on very rare occasion the person inside of me. At those times, I find it in me to just be present rather than to be a drill sergeant. On other rare occasions, I am successful at picking another up by their bootstraps or even pulling myself from a plunge towards darkness through more tender and kind words of encouragement. Most of the time? I just wrestle.
Wrestle between a personality that is telling me not to cry over spilt milk and an illness that just wants to crawl back under the covers and cry.
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.
I was the knight in shining armour in your movie
Would put your lips on mine and love the aftertaste
Now I’m a ghost, I call your name, you look right through me
You’re the reason I’m alone and masturbate
I, yeah, I’ve been trying to fix my pride
But that shit’s broken, that shit’s broken
Lie, lie, l-lie, I try to hide
But now you know it
That I’m at an all time
Low, low, low, low, low, low, low, low, low
Low, low, low, low, low, low, low, low
I was the prototype like 3 stacks on that CD
An example of the perfect candidate
Now all your girlfriends say that you don’t want to see me
You’re the reason that I just can’t concentrate
Not this year. Not today. I just don’t have it in me. I can not remember the last time this was the case. Years. Probably decades. In fact, I have almost been religious about it. Looked forward to it. But now? I just do not have it in me.
Today is the day millions of people will launch their New Year’s Resolutions. Over the past six or so years I have allowed the numerical year to fuel mine. 12 goals for 2012. 14 commitments for 2014. 16 resolutions for 2016. Even went as far as to connect the year to the next level. 15 challenges for 2015 including losing 15 pounds. Neurotic? A bit. You get the idea.
However, as the now past year wound down and this day approached there was never a second thought. I knew weeks ago. Probably months ago. It simply was not going to happen.
Not that there aren’t plenty of needs. Weighed in today 16 pounds heavier than when I left the hospital and 27 pounds over what my doctor recommends. Split the difference and wouldn’t it sound great to aim for 17 pounds of weight loss in 2017?
Opposite my weight, my reading has dropped to a hideously low level. Let’s aim to read 17 minutes a day in 2017! A little over a date a month is far from too many so how about 2017 including 17 dates with my wife. Hell, I’m not even trying and look how easily they flow.
But no. No way. No how. No chance. I simply am not ready to look another year of resolution failure in the face. I do not have that in me. Not even close.
I’ve been one of those people who have joined the mantra of shouting good riddance to 2016. If you have read many of these blog entries, you know a major reason why. There are others.
I’ll confess, I’m not a fan of the President-Elect and all that 2016 included in bringing us to where we are politically in America. Then I got to thinking, if you didn’t like those results in 2016, how is 2017 going to be any better when the “-Elect” part comes off the job title?
Owning my own business and driving close to 100 miles a day in a 9 miles per gallon F-250, I have been a big fan of sub-$2.00 per gallon gasoline. As we have seen over the last month, that’s gonna change. And not for the better. If you weren’t a fan of gas prices, health insurance premiums, or cost of living budget lines in 2016…yeah, I think 2017 is going to be significantly more disappointing.
In my home state, 2016 was the second hottest year on record. I have some familiarity with the arguments for climate change and tend to agree with them. Are we turning the corner in that area of global challenge in 2017? I think not.
International conflict. Civil war. National violence. Addiction. Crack down on racism. Elimination of stigma. Equal rights for all people. Yeah…fuck you 2016 because these are all about to be resolved in 2017. Right? Umm…no.
I find myself unable to resolve too much of anything for the New Year. I have yet to receive the final bill for my last mental breakdown, and over the past few weeks have not felt that far from my next. If you think 2016 was a rough time to be alive, try being one of us for whom every day is a rough time to stay alive.
So this is my only commitment for 2017…each day when I wake up, I will commit to giving my all to staying alive for the next 17 hours. To doing everything within my power that day to make it back to that pillow 17 hours later.
To recognize that I will likely fail more than I will succeed at the tasks of my day-to-day living, but that failing alive is probably better than succeeding at death.
I had been duped. At 3:45 p.m., still in the psychiatric emergency room, I believed I had mustered enough energy to put on a mask and pull it off. The psychiatric resident had sat across from me and indicated that I would not be put in the psych ward. I would receive a regular hospital room. I would be placed close to a nurse’s station so they could keep an eye on me, but in my mind I had once again avoided revealing the greatest indicators that I had totally lost my fucking mind.
It is right in the hospital notes. I did not merit “CVO” (constant visual observation). Then the damn attending psychiatrist had to go and meet with the resident to review my case. Had to go and show him the realities of my case. Had to review the intense suicidal ideation I had been experiencing. The thought out plan I had to kill myself and possibly harm others along the way. The lifelong history of depression and manic behavior. The phone conversation with my wife indicating her level of concern over the rapid flip of my mental and emotional switch…yet again.
So here I sat. Sitting at a small round table across from a diminutive woman talking to me very softly and gently as she took out a packet of forms and a pen. I had entered yet another state of shock when they placed me in a wheelchair downstairs and informed me that I would be taken to the 13th floor and placed in the care of the psychiatric unit where I would get the care and help I needed. This was NOT what we had discussed!
The shock had deepened into a very dark depression as I was escorted to this table in this “living area” across from a large nurse’s station. Into disbelief as individuals in hospital gowns walked by checking out the newest member of their community. Some of them offering gentle smiles. Others talking out loud to demons located somewhere in the deepest recesses of their minds.
This was not yet rock bottom, but I could see it from the point of my current downward float. I was provided a “Patient and Visitor Information” brochure to look over as the small administrator ordered her items to begin checking me into the Norman and Ida Stone Institute of Psychiatry.
Meal schedules. Medication schedules. Telephone schedules. Television schedules! It had been at least 35 years…if ever…since I had been told when I could or could not watch television. I know, strange thing to stick out in my mind and pop up at that moment. It gave procedures for laundry which I remember finding significantly startling. How could I possibly be here long enough to need to do laundry! Details regarding group and individual sessions. I don’t know these people. I can’t share with them my thoughts. My places of brokenness. My pains!
She could see me looking over the brochure and it seems was attempting to verbalize key points related to the sections my eyes seemed to be passing over, but she sounded like the teacher from a Charlie Brown episode as my mind raced out of control with dark frightening images of straight jackets, syringes and injections of unknown fluids to attempt and control my thoughts and behaviors, and fears that I had finally been locked up…and would never be fit to get out.