Tag Archives: bipolar disorder

Just another (not) Manic Monday

28 Jan

Baby-Horse-Running-Wallpaper-240x180I want my mania back.

Now, if you’re normal, you probably can’t understand why someone with Bipolar Disorder would even contemplate wanting a ride to the top of the roller coaster, particularly when what’s waiting on the other side of the climb is a drop into depression.

Even if you’re Bipolar, you might not understand remembering mania wistfully. Getting deeply in debt, driving drunk or high, having sex with strangers…why would anyone want to live that way? Certainly, I’m in no hurry to return to my wicked, pre-medicated ways, but the life of lethargy I’ve been living lately has seriously outworn its welcome.

A little mania and my house wouldn’t look like, well, like someone was too depressed to straighten. The cleaning ladies are scheduled to come tomorrow, but even that isn’t uplifting. Without straightening, it won’t even look like they came except for the telltale trails of a vacuum cleaner. Add in the fact that we can’t afford the mostly ineffectual crew but don’t have the heart to fire the now 70-year old woman who has been cleaning our home since my son was two and who just lost her retirement savings in a series of ill-advised real estate transactions, and my morose mood is more understandable.

A little mania and I wouldn’t be feeling like a parental failure because my son—who carries my genetic code—barely scraped together the four Cs and an A on his recent report card while my daughter—adopted from China—came home with all As . . .ok, one B+. Sure, my son also had an A in PE, but PE doesn’t count. I know, I know . . .a class focused on activity suits his ADHD brain, PE is an important class in a society full of couch potatoes , an A is an A. Yada, yada, yada. And I know that lots of kids get Cs, even lots of kids we know and lots of kids we know who got into colleges they wanted to go to. Cs aren’t Fs, but that’s the problem. To me, Cs are just Fs with a silent F. Unkind and unfair, I know, and further evidence that I richly deserve the depression I’m in.

A little mania and my creative well wouldn’t have run dry. I’d have posted witty commentary on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, how I came to love the running skirt, watching my husband writhe in pain. Well, maybe that last one wouldn’t have been witty. I might even have finally figured out how to get my son’s obscene sense of humor featured in a blog with a PG13 rating.

Just a little mania, that’s all I’m looking for here. Of course, there’s no such thing as a little mania. Oh, at first I think there could be, that I can keep the momentum from building out of control. But it always escalates so that what started as a trot through the park turns into a wild gallop and a crashing fall.

So, I took my meds. I let the house be cluttered beyond recognition. I sat my ass down at the computer and I wrote, even though writing was the last thing I thought I could do, and pulled these 600 plus words out of some secret place even I didn’t know existed. Pretty soon, I’ll put on my running gear—it might even be warm enough for a skirt today—then get my ass off the chair and onto the trail. I’ll ignore that the unseasonably warm weather is most likely caused by global climate change which will lead to the early demise of our planet. At least, I’ll try.

I’m sure all of that will help. But I’ll still miss my mania.

Happy Birthday, Dear Mom

11 Oct

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. No, not a day when everyone on earth spends the day trying to act calm, stable and happy, but a day devoted to encouraging people to discuss mental health issues. This year’s topic was depression. Not to belittle the global crisis of depression, but I guess all the other mental disorders got to take a break.

Most of you know that I am bipolar and may wonder why I didn’t write about what it’s like to be bipolar on World Mental Health Day. According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, I’ve got all week. Mental Health Awareness Week in the United States runs from October 7th through the 13th. I am American and I’m writing this on the 11th, so I figure I’m covered. Even if I’m not, National Mental Health Month is in May. Of course, a mental health month puts a lot of pressure on us; I’m not sure I can keep my mania and depression from popping up for an entire month even with meds.

I didn’t write about mental health—mine or anyone else’s—because yesterday was my mother’s birthday. When she was alive, I hosted a beef-centered dinner at my house. I did this because I loved my mother, but also because I spent years listening to her complain that no one ever did anything for her birthday and she was not going to plan her own party. And she loved beef.

Yesterday, we had fried chicken for dinner. That is not as contrary as it sounds. My mother was from the South and, while she made really good fried chicken herself, she also loved Popeye’s. My kids don’t really like beef—I think my daughter may become a vegetarian soon—but they like Popeye’s.  So, fried chicken for dinner.

I think my mother would have approved, but there were many things in my life that she didn’t really like a whole lot.

My hair? Not curly enough. Never mind that it is stick straight, fine as frog fur and most likely inherited from her. When my hair was permed, my mother loved it.

My housekeeping? Notice “housekeeping” and “Ha!” both start with an H. But when Mom was scheduled to visit, I became a dervish, scrubbing counters with hot water, vacuuming lampshades, polishing bathroom fixtures, arranging flowers. A friend once pointed out that it wasn’t like Queen Elizabeth was going to pop in to use my powder room. If only, I thought, if only!

My mouth? Far too many F-bombs came out of it to please my Mom. Actually, any F-bomb was unacceptable. According to her, I swear like a longshoreman. I doubt she ever met one; I’m not convinced she even knew what they did but she was convinced that I talked like one.

My mother didn’t swear . . .much. I think I heard her use the S-word twice. The most memorable instance was during a sewing session when she repeatedly tried to do a tricky seam. Finally, she got it right only to realize she’d sewed the thing to the shirt she was wearing.

There were things my mother approved of, though.

My intelligence, for one. When Geraldine Ferraro ran with Walter Mondale, my grandmother was appalled. How, in her mind, could a woman be tolerated one heartbeat away from the presidency? My mother was incensed. “I think a woman would be a wonderful president. Janice would be a wonderful president!” I might be, but there are far too many skeletons in my closet. Hell, my skeletons are out on the front lawn doing the Macarena.

My cooking. My mother loved the beef-centered dishes I made, but she loved the Williamsburg Orange cake I made every year even more. She liked my snacks, too. When my sister and I still lived at home, we’d watch late night movies with Mom, everything from Frankenstein to It Happened One Night. During some commercial break, I’d want a snack. I’d offer one to my mother on my way to the kitchen. “No, thank you” was invariably her response. On my return, she’d take a look at my snack and say, “Oh, that looks good!” an unspoken yet undeniable request for said snack.

My spirit. I’m honest—blunt, some would say—and pretty funny. If something strikes me as humorous, I’ll say it even if it’s highly inappropriate. My mother loved this about me. She loved it so much that she worried the meds I needed to stay alive would dampen it. They never did.

My mother died a slow, painful, ugly death of COPD. But while her disease chipped away at her freedom and health, she adapted and kept going. When breathing became difficult at night, she used an oxygen concentrator while she slept. When climbing the stairs at her home became difficult, she got a stair lift. When she couldn’t walk around the mall, she got oxygen in a bottle and a wheeled cart to drag it around behind her. When even that became difficult, she learned how to surf the ‘Net to visit her favorite stores.

My mother even found a reason to like Depends. Getting to the bathroom from the couch before you’ve got to go is something you likely take for granted. But when you can’t breathe, there’s no guarantee you’ll get there in time. “These Depends are great!” my mother told me. “I never have to worry if I’ll get to the potty in time.”

We joked that Mom was the Energizer Bunny; she kept going and going. Even in the end, she didn’t give up. It was left to us to turn off the machines keeping her alive.

I don’t need a particular day to make me aware of mental health issues; I live with them everyday. So, while yesterday may have been a mental health day for the rest of the world, I spent it with memories of my mom.

Head of the Class

9 Aug

Image: Designtechtonics.biz

Not too long ago, in my newspaper column, I wrote about my son’s friends being given cars by their parents. I had heard that kids with cars—and I don’t mean Power Wheels—was pretty common here, but didn’t really believe it until one newly minted driver after another was given a car. And we’re not talking old cars in funky colors, like the mustard yellow Pinto that was my first car. Two of my son’s friends were given new Priuses. Or is it Prii?

I wrote that no kid should be given a car, especially a kid who just learned how to drive. Let that kid buy a car and he’d appreciate it, care for it, drive it with caution, fill it with gas using his own money. Until he could do that, I wrote, my son would be asking to borrow the family car. I mentioned that we can’t afford to buy our son any car, but even if we could, there’s no way in hell that we would.

I was accused of having class envy. You need to understand where I live to fully appreciate this accusation. Money magazine has named Naperville one of the 10 best places in America to raise children—more than once! There are a lot of reasons to like Naperville: good schools, nice houses, lovely downtown near the historic district. A river even runs through it.

In Naperville, you could live here.

With all that good publicity from Money magazine, lots of people moved here in the past 20 years or so. So, you’ve got the old timers who mostly live in the old neighborhoods. Back when I was a kid, houses in those neighborhoods were very affordable for a young family; my own family almost moved there. If you moved here in the good old days, your $25,000 house is probably worth more than $500,000 now. Wealthier people have moved here and built even more expensive houses. And less wealthy people started moving here when builders started turning farmland into subdivisions; I live in one of those. Today, we even have town houses, condos and (gasp) apartments.

Or you could live here.

Or here.

What started as a pretty nice small (white) town has become a city of more than 140,000 people replete with every race, religion and socio-economic grouping. We even have a prostitution ring and a heroin problem.

In that context, I understand the anxiety that pushed an obviously wealthy long-time resident to think that when I said “ there is no way I’m giving my son 24/7 access to something that is a proven killer, particularly of boys” what I actually meant is “rich people suck.”

I don’t think rich people suck—well, not all of them. There are rich people that suck and poor people that suck. I’m equal opportunity when it comes to thinking someone sucks. So, me with class envy? Nah.

I have had several other types of envy. Like kid envy. There are children who make their beds every morning, get their own breakfast and go happily to school. There are children who join in school activities, practice their music lessons, do their homework and help around the house. There are children who respect their parents, walk the dog, get good grades and brush their teeth. These are not my children.

Frequently, I find myself wishing that my son were more involved in activities at school, such as anything. And I would love for my daughter’s room to not look like Lord Voldemort could hide in it. But, then I wouldn’t have a son who calls me on his cell phone and says, “Hey, Mom. I’m sitting on a couch on the corner of Sanctuary and Lowell.” When I drive to said corner, I do indeed find my son sitting on a discarded sofa, kicking back like a football fan on a Sunday afternoon.

I have had penis envy, too. When I worked in public relations, I made a fairly decent salary. We bought our first house on it. But, if I had a penis, I would have made $25,000 more. That would have also made us a gay couple, but we’re ok with that. Hell, we adopted our second child and lived in Oak Park for a while.

Do I even need to mention shoe envy? Massive quantities of shoe envy here. My sister and her daughter have truly gorgeous shoes and they wear the same size, doubling the number of shoes available to each of them. Not fair, right? When my husband finally got his PR business off the ground, I could buy truly gorgeous shoes, too. I paid lots of money for some pairs. I still swoon over the Italian ones made completely of leather. Does that mean I envy myself my shoes? I think it might.

I certainly envy my daughter’s shoes. She has narrow feet. With a lot of obese children in the US, they make cheap shoes really wide these days. So, the Empress—I mean, my daughter—can only shop at the pricey children’s shoe store in town, or Nordstrom.

But the envy I’m most likely to suffer is Writer’s Envy. Like most writers, I read a lot. I read all kinds of things, from crappy fantasy to classic literature. And when I find truly good writing, I want to crawl in a hole and never touch my computer keyboard again. I feel like Mike Myers and Dana Carvey meeting Aerosmith in Wayne’s World. “I am not worthy,” I think, “I am not worthy.”

Being bipolar actually has its benefits in dealing with Writer’s Envy. Reading something truly fabulous will send me into a tailspin. But all I have to do is wait for the next mania train to pull into the station and I’ve got myself convinced I can write a bestseller . . .in a month . . .while still working . . .and raising my kids. You jealous yet?

Tears On My Pillow

14 Jun

One look at him and I knew he wasn’t done. Brow furrowed, mouth turned down, eyes wide, he was half an inch from starting up again and I had no idea how to stop him. Then the tears started.

“Why are you crying?” I asked as gently as possible.

“Because of the lump in my froat,” he said, still too young to get the “th” sound right.

“The lump is in your throat because you’re crying,” I said. “So, why are you crying?”

“Because of the lump,” he said. I sighed. The physiology behind tear production apparently isn’t part of the public school kindergarten curriculum.

“Well, when we are sad, we cry and the lump means that you are thinking about something sad and then you cry because of the sad thing, not because of the lump,” I explained. Then, he cried in earnest.

“Why are you sad?” I asked.

He cried.

“Are you thinking about mommy?” I asked.

He cried harder. Ah, I thought, something to work with.

“Well, stop thinking about mommy,” I said.

The crying paused, as he considered whether it were truly possible to stop thinking about mommy when he was sure that mommy had abandoned him at math enrichment class. He began to cry again.

“Think about math,” I said. Well, I thought, that was the lamest thing you could have said. Sensing the lameness of my advice, he continued crying.

“Wait! Wait!” I said. “I have an idea! Let’s try this!” He paused.

“Take a deep breath and pretend you’re smelling a big bunch of flowers.” He inhaled.

“Now, blow it out and pretend you’re blowing out the candles on a cake.” He exhaled.

We inhaled and exhaled for a while ‘til he calmed enough to think about math. We got through the lesson. He never knew I learned “smell the flowers, blow out the candles” while helping care for my own mother, who died of emphysema.

I didn’t cry for my mother in public other than those dainty little trails so insignificant that they barely need to be wiped away. I remember holding my daughter’s hand as we walked down the aisle behind my mother’s casket. I spied a friend in a pew toward the front. Tears came to my eyes. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes until the tears passed, not in time to keep one from trickling down my cheek but before my mascara suffered any damage. My mother would have approved.

I’d like to tell you that my aversion to public crying is based on aesthetics. Runny, ruddy noses and red-rimmed eyes are unattractive at best. But I know that I really do think crying is for sissies and I am no sissy. No, I don’t think this is a particularly healthy stance, but it’s the one I’ve got. And, yes, I do know that big girls, and big men, do cry.

It’s not that I don’t feel like crying. I feel like crying so often I might be able to cry a river. Between hormone fluctuations and bipolar disorder, my brain chemistry is pretty much primed to turn any amount of pathos into a bawl. Remember that Coke

(ok, so it was Pepsi) commercial with the little boy being pounced on by a pack of puppies? Had me in tears every time I saw it. Now, I’m not talking little sniffles. I’m talking about tears that lasted way past the commercial break. That Procter and Gamble spot with all the moms dragging their sleepy kids out of bed so they (the kids, that is) can become Olympic athletes? Wrings sobs from me. Is it no wonder I’ve trained my tears to stop on command?

My kids, particularly my daughter, have picked up on my propensity for becoming maudlin over recorded fare ranging from the sentimental to the insipid. We’ll be watching a movie, say We Bought A Zoo, and everything will be going along swimmingly until the dad-figure and the son-figure have a touching moment that begins to heal the rift they’ve felt between them since the mom-figure died. Only seconds after my eyes begin to fill up, my daughter says, “You’re crying, aren’t you?” Doesn’t even have to look, she just knows it. My sister suffers the same schmaltz-induced weeping. Her kids are far less kind. “Look!” they say, “Mom’s crying! You’re crying, aren’t you?” I believe I’ve seen my sister stick her tongue out at them.

My daughter may have taken a page from my niece and nephews. Recently, she and a friend were cleaning up the family room. By that I mean they were listening to music, dancing and performing gymnastics amidst a myriad of books, stuffed animals and craft supplies. A particular Selena Gomez song came on; I’ve written about this song before. My daughter knows it makes me cry. So, in consideration of my tender feelings, she said, “Watch this! This song always makes my mom cry. See! There she goes!”

There, indeed, I did go. My daughter’s friend’s mother apparently does not cry at sappy Selena Gomez songs. Friend looked at me as if I were some exotic creature. “Why does this song make you cry?” she asked, cocking her head to one side like a scientist. I resisted the urge to hand her a clipboard and pencil.

“Well,” I said, “lots of women have a nasty voice inside their heads that tells them they are ugly or fat or stupid. It makes me sad that I have that voice in my head and I hope my daughter never does.”

She nodded her head and went back to turning cartwheels. Yes, in fact, I did cry writing that last paragraph—in the peace and privacy of my office.

Of Bacon, Breasts and BPD

7 Mar

When I started this blogging thing, I had two goals. I needed something to occupy the time between caring for children and filling out job applications. I also thought I’d keep digital dinosaur status at bay by learning some of the new fangled social media. Apparently, I am under-ambitious. People are making money at this blogging thing.

In fact, people are making freaking boatloads of money at this blogging thing. Heather Armstrong, according to the New York Times, is the queen of the “mommy bloggers,” those women who blog about their kids, their husbands, their tract houses. Sound familiar? What doesn’t sound familiar is that Heather is on the Forbes list of the most influential women in media. Heather’s blog brings in as much as $50,000 per month. I, on the other hand, make about $80 a week tutoring.

I may be under-ambitious, but I am not stupid. Though I didn’t start blogging thinking I would make money at it, I also didn’t become a teacher thinking I wouldn’t. The blogging thing is going better than the teaching thing, so why not look into making money blogging, I thought.

I did some research. I’ve discovered that you can make money blogging if you are willing to be infamous or odd, reveal intimate details of the misfortunes in your life or endorse products. For what I hope are obvious reasons, I explored endorsing products first.

I use lots of products. I use products all over my house. Problem is, the products I use don’t really excite me. Except for bacon. I love bacon. Bacon is like a kiss on a boo-boo. It won’t fix anything, but it makes me feel better just thinking about it. Endorsing bacon is a problem, though. I don’t have a favorite bacon brand. It’s bacon, for crying out loud. All bacon is good. Bacon is the little black dress of the food world. Doesn’t matter who made it, it goes with everything.

So bacon’s out. I used to endorse the hell out of Prescriptives makeup. They folded. I loved the restaurant, L’Escargot. It went. Finding products to endorse was starting to make me feel very old and very out of touch. Then I remembered mayonnaise. I could live without dark chocolate. I cannot live without mayonnaise, specifically Hellman’s. My love of Hellman’s comes from being raised by a Southern woman. As a child, I believed that all sandwiches were made with Hellman’s, just as I believed that anyone who wasn’t Catholic or Republican would go to hell.

My mother put Hellman’s on every sandwich she ever made. Once, at our house, my dad’s mother was making him a sandwich. She buttered the bread. “Ewwww!” I thought. “Grandma, Dad likes his sandwiches with mayonnaise,” I said. “Oh, no, he likes them with butter,” she said confidently. Now, at this point in my life, my father had been eating sandwiches with mayonnaise for nearly 30 years. “Hey, Dad,” I said, “do you like your sandwiches with butter or mayonnaise?” My grandmother was generally a humble person, but I could have sworn I saw a smug little smile cross her lips as he said, “Butter.” My father’s sandwich lunacy aside, I can say without pause that I thoroughly and heartily endorse Hellman’s Mayonnaise. I also endorse therapy to resolve conflict avoidance issues, but my dad is making his own sandwiches these days so it’s a little late for that.

Unfortunately for me, endorsing Hellman’s is only going to pay off if I have more than a handful of visitors every day. Heather, the Mom Blog Queen, gets about 100,000 every day. Clearly, I’ve got some subscriber base building to do. That’s where being infamous or odd or willing to reveal intimate details of your life come in.

Heather built her base through infamy. She, famously, was fired for doing a very naughty thing: posting rotten things about the people she works with on her personal blog. The story went viral. (That’s what the kids call it when something gets very popular on the Internet and millions of people are clicking on it, sharing it, posting it. Going viral is not to be confused with going postal.) With no co-workers to malign, Heather turned to blogging the intimate details of her life. When Heather got pregnant, her subscriber base soared. I hope she didn’t blog the details of how she got pregnant. Now, Heather blogs about everything that happens to her, including getting her washer fixed.

My appliances all seem to be in working order. The motherboard on the dishwasher went wacky a few weeks ago, but so far my biggest dishwasher problem is worry that the dog is too heavy to stand on the open door while he licks the plates clean. If he climbs in and accidentally gets washed, then I’ll probably have to call the appliance repair guy. But I’ll be able to cancel the grooming appointment.

Unlike Heather, I feel my everyday life is just a little boring. I could do odd, I thought. There is a woman who calls herself “Pioneer Woman.” She got picked up by a cowboy in a bar, they got married and she traded her “high heels for cowboy boots.” Now she blogs about her life as a city slicker on the ranch with four kids and a cowboy.

I thought about being odd for a while. Oh, OK, I thought about being more odd. Yes, I could be more odd, so shut up! Problem here is that you have to be really odd to cut through the clutter. So, I decided that it would be really odd to blog about having a third breast installed. I could write about my struggles to find a doctor who would install said breast. I could blog about where on my body I would put said breast. Would it go in the middle? To the side of one of the existing girls? If so, which side? There are so many possible tangents to the third breast avenue. Of course, the problem with writing about installing a third breast is actually having to go through with it. Maybe if I learn Photoshop®, I’ll start the “and booby makes three” blog. Until then, I’ll be buying my bras off the rack.

So, I’m left with sharing intimate details of the misfortunes in my life. There are women who’ve built loyal followings writing about deaths of husbands and children, about battles with cancer, about living with mental health issues. My husband isn’t dead and I’m not planning on killing him this week. If one of my children dies, I don’t think I’ll be in a writing mood. I could write about living with bipolar disorder, which I do on a daily basis—the living with it part, not the writing about it part. The thing about writing about my chemically imbalanced life is that then I’m “the bipolar blogging mom” when really, I’m just a mommy blogger who happens to be bipolar. Did I mention that generic lamotrigine is really crappy? If you can, get Lamictal® brand. Otherwise, take the generic stuff with bacon.

Copyright© 2011 by Janice Lindegard. All rights reserved.

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