Present Day, April 7th, 2020

FURLOUGH – day 8

One of the ways recommended for getting out of your own head is to do something for someone. Some type of act of kindness. Maybe volunteer at a soup kitchen or a food bank. Help out at a homeless shelter. Assist with a literacy program.

While the recent outbreak of COVID-19 has not eliminated such opportunities, it has definitely made them a greater challenge. On top of that, in recent years I had gotten disconnected from much community service as I have simply tried to keep my own shit together. For better or for worse.

However, one very simple and basic way that I try to “give back” is by donating blood. It really could not be less of a big deal for me as I have no problem with needles (I watch the entire process so intently it is probably a bit creepy for the phlebotomist), it only takes about an hour out of my day every few months, and I am even rewarded through various donor programs with such things as t-shirts, mugs, and movie tickets.

Even this has been somewhat challenged by the recent dynamics in society. They have put out a number of calls for donors during these times, and the calls have been answered. At least, they were a few weeks ago. I made an appointment for my wife and me to donate. On the day of our donation, we went to the blood center only to find it packed with people. We were told it would be a two-hour wait, even with an appointment, and there was clearly no space for the number of people they had in line as far as social distancing was concerned. They simply were accepting too many walk-ins for us to feel safe. Regretfully, we left and figured we would just have to give it another try at another time.

A few days ago I decided to give it another go and booked another appointment. This one, for today. Upon arrival at the parking lot I could tell that the circumstances were very different, and when I reached the door it was clear as to why. They had gone to an appointment-only basis. There were a few other differences as well. All the employees were wearing masks (as was myself and a number of the clients). Before check-in, I was asked if I felt healthy today, and also if I had traveled out of the country or to New York in the past 14 days. They wanted to know if I had been exposed to anyone who had tested positive for the virus. My forehead was scanned for my temperature, and then and only then was I allowed to approach the check-in counter and report for my appointment. Tables and chairs had been removed to thin out the waiting area and space people further apart.

From there forward things proceeded as normal. Blood pressure, pulse and finger prick. Lie back and squeeze the stress ball a few times. The customary multiple stabs to strike a vein (I have tough veins to find apparently…multiple efforts are always required). Roughly ten minutes of blood flowing into a pint-size bag, and a handful of test tubes. Like I said, for me…no big deal.

It felt good to do something that I am at least told is a good thing to do. To do something that might land beyond my world and help someone in theirs.

I wish I could do more. In what now seems like different lives I worked for a rescue mission. I once directed a residential addiction recovery program. Not anymore. The mental and emotional fortitude required for such work is no longer there. Maybe it never truly was, but definitely not since my breakdown. So I have to settle for more basic acts. Like serving on my daughter’s high school marching band food crew, or donating blood. Simpler things for a simpler man.

Maybe when things die down and the world goes back to normal I will be able to discover something more. Something regular. Something more frequent than every two or three months. But for now…for today…this was my act of kindness. My act outside my own head, that hopefully will mean something to someone else.

Present Day, April 6th, 2020

FURLOUGH – day 7

This is where it started: Thursday, August 25th, 10 a.m.

133 entries ago I launched this blog. And it started by recounting a mental breakdown and subsequent hospitalization I underwent, brought about by the lack of management of my bipolar. Three and a half years ago I began to tell my story in hopes that someone, somewhere might find it helpful.

Now, as we all find ourselves homebound and with time on our hands, I thought there might be individuals who would like to hear from those early days of my struggles. So I have provided a link above to that first blog. If you scroll to the bottom of it you will find a link for the “Next Article”. That will allow you to sequentially follow the story as it unfolded. Reflections of what it was like to be hospitalized. Reflections of what it was like to journey forward upon returning back home. Reflections on how the struggles do not just abruptly come to an end.

I thought this might be a good time to introduce other features of the blog as well. On the right side is a thought cloud called “Train Stops”. By clicking on one of the items in this section, the blog will pull all the entries (from newest to oldest) with that tag. For example, you can click on “medication” and pull up entries where I talked about issues surrounding medications.

Another filter tool is located further down the right side: “Catagories”:

  • Back Home blogging about life back home post-hospitalization
  • Brain Tracks thoughts from inside the bipolar mind
  • Music for the Road songs that speak to life with a mental illness
  • Out of Town posts related to my escape and subsequent hospitalization

Take today’s entry as a shameless plug to delve further into the blog. To see what has been left in the past. To see what is the foundation for the present. To see why the future holds the challenges it does.

Share some thoughts and comments as various writings speak to you.

And continue to stay home, stay healthy, and stay safe.

 

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.