Present Day, January 20th, 2018

phi-lat-e-ly /feladle/:  the collection and study of postage stamps

Hobbies have been difficult to come by for me. In the past few years I have tried to take back up the piano. Could never return to where I even was in my teen years. Hardly my elementary school level! Way too self-conscious of my own ineptness and unable (willing) to find (take) the time to claw my way back.

I ventured into other adult creative efforts. A daily prompt journal. Worked with adult coloring for a period. But struggled with perfectionistic needs to stay in the lines. The slightest sway outside taking me away from the work completed to date. A lack of creativity requiring a photo of the image to even select colors and shades. More of a burden than a relaxation.

But I have needed something. Something to occupy my mind. Something to bring a sense of calm during downtime. Something to help fill the hours of free time that my new work schedule can afford me on the weekends.

Earlier in my adult life I collected sports cards. Thousands of them. I know it is crazy, but an obsessive mind like mine could find great pleasure in opening packs, sorting numbers, and building complete sets. The hunt for the missing pieces to the puzzle that would tidy up the series. The history of the players and games uniquely chronicled on the cards. The adventure of sub-series or inserts that added even more intrigue to the search.

For hours on end, I could think of nothing else. It would take my mind, in a good way, off the other thoughts that can race through it. Just this side of manic? Maybe. But better than plunged into a sea of depression.

However, sports cards are expensive. And when most parties are honest about it, there is not much return on the hefty investment. Yet it got me thinking even further back into my life. To my childhood. To a very brief sliver of my childhood when another, similar hobby occupied periods of my free time. Stamp collecting.

And then I got the itch.

I began doing some online research. IF…IF I were to go down this path, what would I collect? How would I limit myself? What parameters would keep it enjoyable and keep it from being an all hours of the night manic obsession? When would I collect while still keeping other responsibilities and goals (i.e. reading) in sight?

The more I explored, the more excited I got…and this last week I decided to take the plunge. To see if this could be a place of fulfillment. Of hobby. Of pleasure. Something to build on through the years. To enjoy learning, expanding, studying.

So far, so good. But I’m bipolar and the first few days of just about anything in my life are so far, so good.

Here is the thing – racing thoughts and a manic mind are not inconvenient side effects of the bipolar life. They are serious challenges. Possibly even dangers. What for many people can be a restless night or afternoon of obsessing can for a bipolar person be the beginning of a serious slide…crash…or even worse. Thus having a hobby to counter that is about more than just…well, having a hobby. It is about a safety net. A place of sure footing. At times, even a refuge or escape to allow our minds to be captivated by a single thing in order to cease the endless ruminations.

That is a lot to ask from an album and some postage stamps, but I do not have to perform for anyone. I get to make the rules for my collection. The lines are of my choosing…if I choose to have any at all.

One week and a few hours in…so far, so good.

Present Day, March 28th, 2017

A gift to you.

I recently completed a work by Albert Ellis entitled A Guide to Rational Living.

Granted, I am not a full advocate of Dr. Ellis’s therapy techniques (god rest his soul in peace). However, for most of us, and especially those of us struggling with racing minds and unhealthy thoughts, his work regarding irrational beliefs has a lot to offer.

After completing the roughly 250-page work (somewhat laboriously at times), I decided to journal out a snapshot of the key “stuff”. A quick reference guide of sorts for me to go back to from time to time.

So, here it is. A little out of focus, and in less than ideal handwriting, but maybe with enough clarity to bring you a thought or two which might help bring your mind in check when like mine it is trying to feed you a line of irrational nonsense.

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.

Thursday, August 25th, 12:05 a.m.

I had left home for work at 3 a.m. on Tuesday the 23rd. Upon returning from work and continuing in a desperate downward spiral, I had left home with a bag to simply get some “space”. Checking into a hotel, I operated at a fairly cognizant level of logic into the next morning of work before coming unhinged prior to completing my responsibilities for the morning. That is when things came unglued, and I went on the run.

Almost 18 hours later, I had exhausted myself with constant bouts of paranoia, changing locations, hiding from people I thought were chasing me, attempting to “tie up loose ends”, and all while believing that my plan and demise was all dependent on making that 1:41 a.m. train westward.

All the while my mind was racing. Processing thoughts at light speed. And when I say light speed…I’m telling you, if you don’t have the type of mental illness that includes a severe condition of racing thoughts…you have no idea how quickly the mind can fire!

They had finally opened the renovating train station and escorted us back to the waiting room where I would find myself huddled in a corner counting the remaining minutes until my departure. It was there, amidst the struggle of an almost uncontrollable brain, that I bared down to give all the focus I could to one final email to my wife –

 

I want you to know some of my deepest regrets that have plagued my mind today –

My biggest one is how overly critical I was of you. My endless barrage of criticism and critique had to lead to many miserable days in our time together. My life long struggle to see the positive vs the negative has robbed me of so much joy and peace. And I know it did the same to you. I am so sorry.

I also regret not telling you how beautiful you always were to me. I let that go away after the wedding, which is shameful. You captivated me till the end.

And I regret not sticking to plans. Conflict resolution plans. Emotional health monitoring plans. Safeguards that were supposed to keep us from these moments. Looking back, it is all so obvious: sleep deprivation, parenting stresses, XXXXXX’x departure, the mediation…I should have been more proactive in managing myself. I failed you. And I am sorry.

I don’t know what I am doing. But every fix seems so temporary. I just don’t want to fight this all my life. The constant neuropathy pain. The endless self-management. The lack of resources to tackle a crisis like this when it arises. Life is an endless struggle and I’m just so tired.

The nightmares are back. The ideation is back. The temper. The insomnia. Every victory is fleeting.

I regret not being stronger. Not being whole. Not having managed my life better so that we could enjoy these years.

I regret not having a lifetime with the most wonderful, beautiful partner I could ever dream of.

 

I hit send. Boarded the train. And as far as I could tell, began to say goodbye to my demons. All the while knowing…they were getting on the train with me.