Did it really happen

I know, or at least I’m pretty sure it all happened…
But everything seems like ghosts to me now
It’s a strange thing,  memory,
There is no rhyme or reason
Why this memory exists,
But this one is gone

That’s what I mean in saying that I’m only
Pretty sure things happened
I remember certain events,
But not in a particular order

It’s as if the connective tissue has been removed
Everything is just piled together like a stack of pancakes
You can move them around but
There really is no way to make it all make sense,
No matter how much butter and syrup you put on them

Sometimes I have a recollection
That seems like it’s real and
I just sit and wonder how to tell if it is true
Or just a wraith of a recollection,
How did it rise to my attention,
Is it something I can believe,
Or is it just a trick being perpetrated by my mind

I could resort to questioning others,
I could resort to making myself seem incompetent,
I could resort to making myself feel awkward and embarrassed,
But, rather than put myself through all of that…
I resort to just sitting quietly
and trying to put all the pieces together myself

Most of the time I am left wanting for answers
and then I am back to the beginning

It is all part of a circular discussion
That I am constantly having with myself,
In search of the linear, logical, truth I know exists

— GB

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Breathe…

I’ve spent my day trying to find a song that adequately describes the days I’ve been having.  I have a lot of music and I’ve gone through Pop, Funk, Punk, Rock, Country, Metal, Reggae, Classical, Trance, Chill-Out, GOA, House, there are even more choices but that list could go on for a while.  I have the time but I wouldn’t want to bore anyone.  I guess my point is that I’m not coming up with anything and that is an oddity because I always have at least one song clattering around inside my head.  As scattered as my mind has been over the past week,  it’s no wonder I can’t get anything to stick.  Still, I feel the need to have some type of soundtrack going to accompany me on my journey.

I just had a pretty concrete thought.  For the past couple of years I haven’t been very good with uncertainty.  I like to know what’s happening and I like to have things I can count on.  My life doesn’t necessarily need to be routine, but I need to know that if something goes wrong I’ll be able to work the contingency plan I have in place.  Here’s the thought, my psych-doc is going on travel for the next five weeks and he’s a big part of my plan.  Now, I’m to the point that I only see him every three months so five weeks isn’t a big deal as far as routine treatment is concerned.  The problem is what happens if I should have a problem.  As much as I would like to avoid ECT, I have shown that I respond well to it.  It has pulled me out of psychotic episodes twice.  My doc is the only one for at least 120 miles that performs ECT treatments.

So, what I need to do is just live as I have learned to live;  take my medications, see my therapist, go to the NAMI Peer Support Meetings.  And remember to breathe…

Don’t force it, the song will come when it’s time.

Ways I See Myself

Ways I see myself:

1. I’m a guy with Bipolar Disorder II.  I’m fairly run-of-the-mill, I have downs more than ups.  I have several hypo-manic episodes  a year, but those are usually pretty mild.  I’m just doing what I need to do to get by.  I get enough sleep, I take my medications, I go to a NAMI Peer Support group every week, I see my therapist every other week and my psychiatrist every 3 months.  I write a blog where I publish poetry and articles about Bipolar Disorder and Mental Health from my point of view.  I guess you could say that I’m on maintenance.

2. I’m a guy who lives in the past.  It’s been two and a half years since I had a psychotic episode.  It’s been one and a half years since my last ECT treatment.  I am trying to piece together my life between 2005 and 2009 because it is largely a blur to me.  I would like to know what caused my big psychotic break.  I have a suspicion that a large part of my life between 2007 and 2009 was lived in a manic state.  Most of my writing is about things that happened in the past.

3.  Again, I’m a guy with Bipolar Disorder II.  That in itself makes life harder for me to live than other people.  I fear the stigma that goes along with it, enough to keep me from doing much besides going to my doctor appointments, seeing my therapist, writing a blog, dinner, movies, shopping, all things that either center around Bipolar or don’t have anything to do with Bipolar.  I shy away from social situations.  Because of the ECT and some of the medication, I don’t always speak well, I have problems finishing sentences, I have tremor in my hands and legs.  I feel I am awkward both physically and mentally.  I am unsure about my future life.

I do know this:  Post 800

My ECT Life

I realize some things I said in my previous post may be misconstrued.  Specifically, the way I portrayed ECT.  I believe the way I described the treatment itself is spot on.  But, the way I portrayed my reactions to it make it sound as though I hated it and didn’t want to be having the treatments, which is completely untrue.  While I didn’t love the treatments, I knew then, as I know now, that they were a necessary means to an end.  I believe that if the treatments hadn’t shown progress I wouldn’t have continued to have them.  There is a lot of controversy over ECT.  I think that the treatments helped me, even though I might have some negative comments about them in the past.

“A Bipolar Life”

After my break, I floated around for a while.  My parents were there to take care of me, I was not in the psych ward.  I’m not really sure what I did, except try to piece together what had been going on for the previous two years.  I remember little pieces of things but not very much.  I also know I hunted around for quality psychiatric care.  Other than that, I come up empty.  Six or seven months after the break, I had found a psych doc and therapist. My meds had changed and I was starting to feel the fog lifting a bit.  I had started Cognitive Behavioral Therapy on an outpatient basis at the psychiatric hospital.  I had been going for a month and I really wasn’t seeing any benefit.  My biggest complaint was that I was still hearing voices telling me to do all kinds of things, the least of which was to crash my car.  One of the counselors took me aside one morning and talked to me about ECT.  I went home and talked to my parents about it and we set up an appointment at the hospital.

The next thing I remember clearly is being taken off the unit I was on and walked down to the ECT department.

The first ECT went like this:
After the lengthly talk with the nurse, blood pressure, blood sugar, pulse, temp, etc. etc.
Walk down the hall to the ECT Room
Hop up on the gurney
Hello to the Nurse, Doc, Orderly, Anesthesiologist
Nurse hooks up a bunch of electrodes, then finds the vein, hooks up the IV
Doc puts electrodes on your head
Anesthesiologist administers heart rate drug (downer, feels a little good, I could stay on this for a while)
Anesthesiologist administers knock out drug (it felt like my heart stopped and I died, I don’t need to or want to experience this again)
Wake up on the gurney in a long line of gurneys and curtains (ECT Recovery)

The way I experienced ECT for the first few months was to black it out.  This was made easier by the anesthetist.  Having to go for treatment on a regular basis meant that my regular life was pretty much blacked out as well.  I remember doing things in and around San Diego, but they’re a little fuzzy.  When the treatments got farther apart the three of us would go on weekend then week long trips.  Yosemite was a favorite and I know we went two if not three times. (I’ll have to look back at the pictures I took).  We also went up the coast to Santa Barbra, and further North to go whale watching.  Most of my in between treatment memories are held in pictures and video that I have on my computer.  Other than those trips, my memory of that time is empty.  I don’t know if it was because of the way I was approaching ECT or if it was the ECT itself.  I have nothing.  Though I will say, the ECT appeared to be doing its job.  My mood was better and the voices had stopped.

Then the disability from my job ran out and I was officially laid off.  We needed to find a new place to live.  I did, and my parents were coming with me.  So, we moved to my aunt’s house in Elk Grove, VA.  That’s about an eight hour drive North of San Diego.  We moved there and still “commuted” to San Diego for ECT treatments.  They were getting further apart so we didn’t have to go too many times.  Still, those trips were a blur.  I think we drove down the day before, stayed in a hotel, had the treatment the next day then drove back to Elk Grove.  I float in and out of the early days in Elk Grove too.  After a little while we made arrangements with the Psych Hospital in Sacramento to take over the ECT treatments.  They required that I go in patient to start so I could be monitored.  I remember three things about that stay.  Gray,  the cafeteria made me want to retch, we had to walk through the gym to get to the ECT trailer and it smelled of sweat, rubber flooring and rubber balls.  After the initial treatments I went to outpatient again.  Once my government disability and Medicare was available we moved out of my aunt’s house and into an apartment close to the hospital.  My memories of this time are better.  For one, I had an outstanding therapist who just “got me”.  Also, all the relatives I had around provided a constant source of interaction and I was finally coming out of the fog I had been living in for a long time.

Looking back on that time of my life, I can now see how I pulled myself through some horrible experiences.  The only way I can describe it; I was present but I wasn’t always there.  I found myself in a sequence of situations that I didn’t want to be in, so for all intents and purposes, I went on auto-pilot and just got through.  I am greatly and sincerely sorry to anyone this may have hurt, inconvenienced, put-out or mislead during that time.  I was trying to survive the best way I could.

Reading “Madness: A Bipolar Life”  by Marya Hornbacher for the past week and a half has made me look at my own relationship with Bipolar Disorder a lot differently than I have been.  Marya’s experiences with Bipolar are very different from mine.  To begin with she has Bipolar I, rapid cycling, meaning she goes from depression to mania very quickly, she also suffers from mixed episodes where she experiences depression and mania at the same time.  I have Bipolar II and suffer mainly depression (though I am not a stranger to mania and psychoses).  She has also been in hospital many more times than I have.  Where our experiences do cross how Bipolar has affected things in our lives like relationships with family, friends (gained and lost), jobs and careers (won and lost).  Mental illness affects these things and many, many more, in all who suffer from it.

I learned a lot about myself reading this book, I saw a lot of myself in those pages and I think that I am better off for having read it.  One thing I will take away from it comes from the Epilogue (that’s right you should always read the Epilogue) where Marya talks about who we are and what we can become.  She writes:

“How do we know who we are or what we can become? We tell ourselves stories.  The stories we tell are what we know of ourselves.  We are a creation, a product of our own minds a pastiche of memory, dream, fear, desire.  My memory looks like a child’s collage, or a ransom note, incomplete and full of holes.  All I have is today, this moment, to work with.  I am writing my story as I go.  I am inventing myself one moment, one experience at a time.

And that’s all right.  It means I can choose who I become.  It means I can write my future.  I can create a person, write a story, full of hope.”

I sincerely hope you get a chance to read “Madness: A Bipolar Life”  by Marya Hornbacher.  It’s a gripping, funny, maddening, harrowing, human story that could possibly change your life.

there is poison in that needle

there is poison in that needle
but I am already strapped
down to this gurney, I know
what comes next, but I have
never experienced it before

lightning from the electrodes
goes shooting into my brain
electric fingers pinch, poke, and
prod all they can reach, stirring
the gray matter around breaking
down the dearest memories,
leaving others in tact, there is
no rhyme or reason which it is

— GB