Present Day, April 8th, 2020

FURLOUGH – day 9

The weather is about to take a turn. After a number of very springlike days with highs in the 70s and lows in the sleeping with windows open range, it is all about to drop about 20 some degrees. Coupled with some clouds and rain, things will likely feel more like England or Seattle for the next 10 or so days. Which will present some new challenges to my stay-at-home lifestyle.

I do not know the process or clinical procedures for being diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), nor am I looking for another diagnosis to go along with my Bipolar. I just know I am one of those people who does better when the sun is shining. Who does better when I can relax outside in any number of ways on a 75-degree day. I have a daughter that absolutely loves the rain. I just do not get it, nor do as well in it under normal circumstances. And that is under “normal” circumstances, which we are far from living in.

I have had a pretty good morning routine going for the last few days. The weather has allowed me to enjoy an invigorating bike ride each morning as part of my exercise commitment. I am trying to avoid putting on the COVID-30 (no…not another virus…another 30 pounds). So daily exercise is part of the plan. However, I am used to having a gym to go to which is no longer a luxury. So my choice is the bike or these god awful workout videos that motivate my wife on a daily basis but I absolutely disdain. Unfortunately, the change in weather will mean a change to the videos. At least for the short term.

I have also enjoyed a daily afternoon walk with my dog. The weather is not changing so severely as to eliminate that, but we have really been taking our time on the strolls. No hurry at all. Depending on the weather, they may have to become more purposeful. Less relaxing and enjoyable. Less therapeutic.

If all this sounds like I am just being a whinny ass wimp, I probably am. It has been very difficult for me to establish a routine and rhythm to this period of life. To any period of life. Routine is critical for me to begin with, as with many people suffering from a mental illness. Now more than ever. Any disruption to that can be very unsettling during what is already a highly unsettling time. So the thought of having to “mix things up” really can mix my mind up.

I did a quick Google to try and obtain some advice for dealing with derailed plans as someone living with bipolar. First suggestion, do not panic. Okay, so it is a tad bit late for that one, but I feel my panic is still at a level that I can reel back in. Next suggestion, find a solution and adjust my schedule to accommodate the situation. Third? No, that is it. In other words, stay calm and carry on. Easier said than done.

When I wake up tomorrow it will be a new day requiring a new plan from the previous handful of days. Here goes nothing!

 

Present Day, March 29th, 2017

Last week I did not do well. Had a few really rough days. Less than 5 out of 10s on the “How the hell are you doing?” scale.

As is often the case, it was a little thing that set it off. But somewhat unusually, it wasn’t the little thing that plunged me down or kept me there. In fact, I would ascribe…oh, let’s say 5% to the event and 95% to my feelings that followed the event.

Let me see if I can find a way to describe this. Much like every other human being in the world, I experienced a mildly hurtful moment. I simply wasn’t quite thought of as much as I would have like to have been. A request came, I didn’t think it was filtered through my needs, and that frustrated me. It really was no big deal. Not a major slip up by a loved one. It just happened.

But what followed was the reality of how much my neediness requires such requests to be filtered, or even rejected. The request would have potentially impacted my sleep schedule. It might have thrown off my “night before work” rhythm. It could impact my routines that I tend to hold quite dear.

Now, I get that not everyone reading this is going to get this. However, there are those of you out there who are totally going to understand the power of those three words: schedule, rhythm, and routine. You not only understand them, you see them as lifelines. You see them as foundational to keeping your shit together. Like me, you know that the break in any one of or more of those three can be the snowflake that starts the avalanche or the pebble that initiates the rock slide. Both of which cause great messes, significant damage, and possibly loss of life.

Yes, that sounds very dramatic. And yes, if you knew the request I was presented with, you would think it is way overly dramatic. But here is the thing…we never know. We never know when that little thing that we pass off as a little thing because we don’t think it will be a big thing ends up being. (Yeah, you might have to read that one again.) I could have rolled with the request, and everything may have gone fine. Or I could have rolled with the request, and a few days later been in real trouble.

Which gets me back to the 95%. The part that plunged me into a fairly dark hole for a couple of days. It was the reality once again that I am Bipolar. The reality once again that I have a mental illness. The reality, right in the middle of life chugging along fairly reasonably, that such small things can become big things and big things can become life and death things.

It was a reality that cranked up ideation and thoughts. Yeah…that kind of ideation and thoughts. A reality that caused an overwhelming pain at the reality of never getting better. A reality that we aren’t just waiting for my insurance company to approve the treatment that is going to “fix” me.

No, the reality is that more times than not these simple requests will have to be met with “No. I can’t.” answers. And the fact that someone actually asking will probably hurt less and less, while the reality that I had to say “no” will probably just keep hurting more and more.

Wednesday, August 31st, 6 a.m.

It is strange the things that we find ourselves missing.

When I awoke on this eighth day away from my home, I found myself overcome by a sense of homesickness. This is not an emotion I am used to. I have spent a lot of time…well, maybe more than the average person…in my life traveling. And for the most part, have always enjoyed it.

Eating out. Hotels. Extra and/or extended time alone. Not a problem for me.

But today was different. Maybe it was the constriction of the walls of a psychiatric ward. Maybe it was the fact that I had not breathed in the outdoor air since being delivered to the Emergency Room by the police (with no idea at that time that I could possibly still be here at this time!). Maybe it was simply that I am a creature of habit and the loss of my routines and habits was starting to weigh on me.

In any event, I was homesick and took a few moments on my bed to mind map some of the big hitters…

No shocker my wife was at the top of the list. Talking with her. Spending time with her. And yes…of course, sex with her!

I missed the routine of life. Free access to my computer and the freedom it gave me to track and follow one of my life long addictions…sports! As summer was about to give way to fall, I missed being outdoors. Even for such things as lawn care, or a grueling bike ride for exercise sake. I missed one of my all time¬†favorite forms of relaxation…television. Yes, we had access to some screens in the ward, but it was first-come-first and majority rules and our scheduled activities rarely allowed for the match up of a start and stop to a show. Plus, aren’t we all of the online streaming generation now anyway?

I missed work. I think I have always been a hard worker. Have never been able to vacation for very long, or survive an extended period of time without my mind wandering back to it. I have always found value, maybe even an unhealthy identity in my vocation. To take that away for a week was starting to leave a void of worth in my life.

Then there were two simple food items. Because to be honest, the food overall wasn’t bad. In fact, we had quite a bit of choice and freedom. But the coffee was awful and so I missed my Starbucks, and god how I missed soda!

They say “absence makes the heart grow fonder”. Maybe absence is how patients grow better. For me, the safety and security of the unit were falling out of balance with the reality that this probably was not how I was meant to live the rest of my life. There were yearnings in my heart for such basic things that attach themselves to normal living and make us want to return to where we are from. Things that have pulled me back other times when I have run.

As I contemplated the day ahead, I realized it was time for my thoughts to begin shifting stronger from what got me here, to what I was going to do differently when I got out. Because that day was likely not far away.