Present Day, March 31st, 2020

FURLOUGH – day 3

The weather has been in our favor. Right up to today. Today the temperatures have dropped 20 to 30 degrees, and the rain has moved in. I had actually been doing a pretty good job of getting outside and getting some fresh air. Not so much today. Things are more gloomy. Things are more homebound. Things are more challenging.

But nothing like what my daughter is experiencing. My daughter is really my greatest concern at this point in my life. That is because she is a senior at NYU. As in New York University. She lives in Brooklyn and is pretty much locked up like the rest of us. Unlike the rest of us, she is in many ways all alone. Hundreds of miles from home. Maybe not what she considers home anymore at 21 years of age, but what I still consider her home. And now she is trapped in the epicenter of it all.

She is smart and cautious. So I do not have to worry about that. In fact, she has not left her apartment for about five days now. No stepping outside. No fresh air for her. Totally penned up. Groceries are delivered, and needs are taken care of…for now. All of her classes have gone to remote learning, giving her something to work on and occupy her mind. At the same time, all of her classes have gone remote giving her something to mourn the loss of. Per her own words, her classes were not designed to be handled on-line. They are seminar-based classes and she misses seeing the other students and professors for interaction. She misses dreaming of a graduation that has been postponed (which may just be a fancy word for canceled). She misses the excitement of four years of college culminating in a family celebration that she has now been robbed of. In other words, she has plenty of unhealthy things to occupy her mind.

Meanwhile, I have my fears. They may not be rational, but they are real. I read the headlines, though I keep myself from reading too many of them, and read about the situation in her very city. In fact, the situation in her very hospital. It is not good. As long as she stays locked up and healthy, everything is fine. Yet if she somehow contracts this virus, things could go downhill fast. And that worries me. That gets my racing mind going. What if she is sick and all alone? What if she does not know when to get help? What if she does not get help in time?

It is a terrible thought to think of your child dying. Even worse to think of a child dying at such a young age. Even worse to think of a child dying in a hospital hallway all alone. Or on a ventilator. Or in an apartment. All incredibly morbid thoughts, but all thoughts that find their way into my somewhat paranoid cranium.

It is part of mental illness at a time like this. Part of the bipolar mind. It exasperates the worst of emotions. The fear. The fatalistic thoughts. The restlessness. Feelings of worry. And of course, all of these things lead to irritability, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, change in eating habits, and more.

So I struggle on. Hoping that she will be alright. Hoping that she will stay patient and stay smart. Hoping that this insidious disease will pass her door.

Present Day, March 12th, 2018

It seemed so bright for 4 a.m. Too bright. A quick look out the window explained the reason. A significant snow had fallen. From the view of the bedroom window, maybe as much as six inches. Which in this town typically means shut down. As in, life shut down.

Which caused me a bit of a predicament at this early hour because I had never before had a “snow day” at this workplace. Would I receive a text? Would they post it on the local TV channels? Would they even shut down due to a snowfall? All of which meant that the two and a half more hours of sleep I had waiting for me, in either event, was now shot to hell.

When six o’clock rolled around I decided to grab my phone and check in on the snow closings. Sure enough, there near the top of the list (as our company name starts with an “a” followed by a “c”) was the indication that we were closed for the day. (Ironically enough, and unbeknownst to me until later…not because of snow, but because of a power outage caused by the snow. Thus meaning, I still do not know if we in fact shut down for snow.)

A few snooze alarms and FitBit notifications later (don’t ask), and I actually managed to fall back asleep. Most likely in the 6:45 range, but regardless my next significant conscious moment didn’t come until around 8:25. A nice additional block of sleep to help compensate for the previously lost.

Bring on stressor number two. Being closed doesn’t mean the customers that direct work my way will be shut down today. Meaning double the work will be awaiting me tomorrow. Maybe not a huge deal in a normal week. However, this is not a normal week. It is my birthday week. Which means I am scheduled to utilize my free day off on Friday and enjoy an extended weekend. Alas, a four-day week is now a three-day week.

I was texting the same thoughts with a co-worker who ended the conversation with “try to enjoy the day off.” I am pretty sure she was sensing that I was probably more stressed about the work awaiting tomorrow then I was focused on enjoying the free day that had fallen into my lap today. She would be correct.

Seeing the pattern here? I imagine most people would flashback to 4 a.m. and respond with something like… “Looking like a snow day!!!” Then they would check back in around alarm time, and enter into a true celebration of the gift that is a day away from work (and/or school).

Not me. Not my mind. Not that simple.

The difference is not the reasonableness of stress or the unknown. It is more the management thereof. I assume everyone experiences some curiosity as to if they will get the day off. Everyone likely wants to make sure they get accurate information rather than guess about staying home from work. Everyone probably thinks ahead to the fact that a double day of work will likely be awaiting them. But not everyone obsesses about any of the above. Or loses valuable sleep due to them. Or sees a day slip away in stress rather the enjoyment of “didn’t see this coming when I went to bed.”

Obsessive minds do. Racing minds do. My mind does.

4 a.m. was almost 10 hours ago. The good news is, I seem to have it all under control now, and with still a good six or seven hours of a day to enjoy. I’m sure the panic will come back as the sun sets. That’s just part of it. But for now, it is a half a snow day to enjoy, at the launch of an unpredictable three-day work week.

Present Day, March 4th, 2018

As someone with a constantly racing mind, a new found practice of mindfulness has been a welcome place of rest. It is still very much a “practice” for me, and one that I struggle to successfully achieve for as short as a 10 minute period. However, I look forward to it each and every day and feel the calmer for it on the other side. At the same time, it does cause me a significant predicament.

I think we are all wired and prone to have an acute awareness of contrast. For example, severe changes in the weather. The audio launch of a rock concert. A bite into a particularly spicy dish. From level ground to a steep incline during a forest hike. We tune into these things, and they cause a sensory response in our bodies. Be it touch, hearing, taste, or even sight and smell. Contrast is simply a part of how we differentiate and how things are set apart in our minds and feelings.

The practice of mindfulness magnifies a rather extreme contrast in my living environment. I am already rather introverted and silent. I already value solitude and quiet above the average person. And I already struggle with the, at times, lack of appreciation other people might share for these same qualities. Couple that with the “contrast” of mindfulness sessions to regular life…and I can go from a state of peace to set on edge pretty rapidly. I know, totally contrary to the whole purpose of my mindfulness practice.

In fact, just finding a peaceful and alone time or location to engage in as little as a 10-minute meditation can be a challenge on some days.

The company I work for is owned by a Japanese corporation and therefore utilizes many of their workplace ideals. One example is the open workspace. Picture Dunder Mifflin from “The Office”. No cubicle walls. No offices except for the few at the top of the food chain. It is also a bi-lingual environment. Meaning that I am often working at my desk with a full volume conversation taking place over my left shoulder in Japanese, and a full volume conversation taking place over my right in English. Mind you, neither of which involve me or are of any importance to me. This environment makes my lunchtime mindfulness session 1) invaluable and 2) often immediately forgotten upon returning back to work. The contrast can be overwhelming.

This is my predicament. The practice designed to bring me peace can highlight an overall lack of peace. The practice designed to help me with a singularity of focus can highlight an ever run amuck mind. The practice designed to calm my life can often do little more than emphasize a greater lack of calm in my moment to moment existence.

For now, I look forward to my 10 minutes a day. And work on accepting the other 23 hours and 50 minutes in all their chaos.

Wednesday, August 24th, 10 a.m.

I had “disappeared” roughly 24 hours earlier. Checked into a hotel in my own version of “off the grid.” At the time, I thought I was just riding out the storm. Giving my mind a chance to settle. And for a short period of time, it did.

But then, near the end of the 24 hour period, it (being my mind) snapped. I snuck back to the home I would no longer view as mine, packed a duffel bag with a few “necessary” items to put the highly irrational plan in place (which I had developed as my mind began racing out of control.) Then, in my desperation, wrote two quick notes on a single piece of paper.

In my 30 year battle with Bipolar I had written “goodbye” notes. None quite like this…

And never anything like this…

Because I didn’t believe I would ever leave a note again.

Present Day, January 24, 2017

Tonight I will pop my first Risperdal. For those of you who don’t know, much like me a few weeks ago, it is an antipsychotic often utilized for treating people with schizophrenia, autism irritability, and in my case…Bipolar.

Following another rough spell a few weeks ago, it was determined that an up in my Depakote and the addition of another medication may be warranted. Once again, for those of you who don’t know, this shit is pretty tough to get right. For example, when I’m put on 1250 mg of Depakote following 8 days of inpatient treatment and chug along in pretty good health for a few months…is it because of the Depakote or because of my quality treatment at Camp Northwestern Memorial Hospital? You never really know until the next crash, and maybe not even then.

So…here we go again. The original plan was a fairly new drug called Latuda. That is the brand name for it. My name for it is “Turn Around and Bend Over and Take It Up the Ass Twice Daily.” Why? Because it came in at just over $400 for a 30 day supply or a cool $1,100 for a 90 day by mail supply. Seriously, thank you Mr. Big Pharma for wanting to do your community service to those of us in the throws of mental health challenges. (sarcasm)

Plan B switched over to Abilify. A much better plan at $40 per month or $120 for a 90 day supply, but still enough to make me want to cry on top of therapy costs, the other 10 pills I take each day, and god knows what else hits my pocket-book over the next 11 months that make up the dream year of our Trump 2017.

Finally, which is actually a pretty appropriate way to phrase it as it involved almost two weeks, plenty of conversations and voice mails, and more people than ever should have had to be involved, we have landed on Risperdal. $5 for 30 days, $12.50 for 90. YES!

Of course, the list of side effects is long and illustrious, including increased hunger which should help me keep up my post-hospital pace of weight gain. Drowsiness and trouble sleeping are on the list (don’t ask…I did, and it makes my brain hurt thinking of the answer), which for a borderline insomniac who has to get up for work at 3 a.m. could be an interesting piece of my life puzzle. And on the more serious list, “painful, prolonged erections” which at my age does not seem like a problem at all (nor do I think my wife will see it as one).

I once again need relief. The depression is one thing, I’m learning how to rest my way through those bouts. But the racing mind…so exhausting. While attempting to nap today, I literally awoke to my own snoring. At the time, I was deeply immersed in a dream, whilst simultaneously writing this blog in another part of my mind, and in yet another cavern fighting back the inner demons that never seem to need a rest (thus last Saturday’s Musical Truth).

Bipolar is rarely treated with a single drug. If a cocktail is discovered, it rarely stays consistent in mix and dosages for the long-term. It is an unscientific crap shoot (not a term the professionals would use, but one that many of them will admit to). This is my next shot. Will see if it works…or just produces an even larger pile of crap.