Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Descent Into Madness

It's 9:30 a.m. I don't feel right. I can't be specific, but I don't feel right. I am looking for movies to send to my daughter in college. It's important to her, and I need to have them ready for her friend who is driving down to see her. But I can't find the other bags full of things she needed as well. I had them in my hands, but I can't find them.

I am going crazy. I am going crazy. I am going crazy.

"No mom, you're not crazy. You're fine. The bags might be upstairs, have you checked?" Her voice is soothing and calm over the phone. I take a deep breath and head upstairs. My hands start to shake.

The bags are on my bed. I don't remember putting them there, but there is relief to find them. I set everything in the front room and remember to grab the cookie sheet she needed. She loves to make cookies for others when they are sad, so the cookie sheet is important. I can't forget it.

My hands start to shake more. I feel wrong. I feel crazy. I feel like my soul is trying to jitter out of my body. I text my friend because I think I need help.

He steps out of the movie he is attending and calls me back. Tells me to do something comforting. I can't remember all of his instructions, but I head into my room and cuddle onto my husband, holding onto him in an attempt to hold onto myself. Maybe he can anchor me into my body.

My brain hurts. My thoughts and words stutter.

My husband calls my psychiatrists office. He puts it on speaker phone and I start speaking to the on-call psychiatrist. It's a holiday, so there is no way to reach MY doctor. She thinks I'm having anxiety. It could be, but I don't feel the oppressive weight on my chest. I feel... wrong. It could be a reaction to the change in dosage of my anti-depressant. It could be a reaction of an antibiotic I'm taking mixing with my normal meds. I pace madly back and forth, trying to hold the phone steady in my hand while she spouts theories without solving anything.

I was fine yesterday. Why am I not fine today? Why can't I be fine today and tomorrow and for all the tomorrows after that?

She thinks I need a benzodiazepine, but won't call it in because she doesn't have all of my vitals in case there is something else wrong. I should go to the E.R. to get one.

I hang up the phone and immediately hand it to my daughter, knowing if I hold it a moment longer I will throw it at the wall in frustration.

I refuse to pay a $250 E.R. co-pay for a tiny pill.

I am frustrated. They'll put me back in they psyche ward again. I probably need to be locked up. I want to hear the sound of breaking glass. I want to feel the bright shards of pain as my fist goes through and shatters. I can see myself picking up a shard and carving beautiful bloody images in my hand. My right hand. The hand that refuses to draw, to paint, to be creative. I long for the pain and the bright warmth of the blood that flows through these useless fingers. Fingers that fail.

No. That's wrong. That's wrong. I sit and grasp the loose part of my jeans near the knees, a small part of my mind using that as a lifeline. I mustn't let go. My hands will hurt things if I let go. But I look around, anyway, my traitorous eyes searching. What is near that is sharp? Something has to be.

I want to stab, stab, stab at the skin skin skin. Nothing. I grasp the jeans harder, feeling the pain of my fingernails digging into and pushing back into my fingertips. Safer, a small part of my mind says. Concentrate on that pain, it is safer. Hold on, just hold on. Fight it. Fight it. Fight it.

I shake, struggling with myself. Shivers run up and down my arms. My brain is a battle of alarms, steel will, and the urge to punch, fight, kick, and scream at the world.

I know this feeling. They'll lock me back up in the gray rooms of the psyche ward and the social worker will treat me like an addict again. It won't help, because I'm not on drugs. Something is wrong with my brain, I am crazy.

I am angry. Furious. Why don't they fix me???

I begin sobbing as I rock back and forth on the chair. I thought I was fine. Why can't I stay fine? Why can't the doctors fix me? Why do I want to lash out and hurt the ones I love the most? Why can't I control my thoughts? I've been following all the instruction, why am I losing the battle?

My oldest daughter begins to do the dishes. I hear her keeping herself busy, her fake happy voice keeping the younger children corralled safely away from mom. I know this hurts her. I wish I could stop, laugh, be normal, talk about wedding plans. I can't. I can't stop rocking and crying.

My husband begins to yell at me. He tells me to fight it. Don't let it win.

I don't want to hear him. I don't want to hear anything. I tune everything out and concentrate on the rocking. Squeak, squeak, squeak; back and forth, back and forth. The rhythm is something I can feel in every muscle, something safe.

I pray to God to just take me away. Just let me come home and sleep on the grass near Him, just let me rest. I am tired of this battle, it's exhausting. Can't He just please, please, please make this stop?

I rock, back and forth. The squeaking of the chair a hypnotic rhythm. My nose runs, but if I let go, if I unclench my fists, something bad will happen. I am afraid I won't be able to control my hands if I unclench them.

A voice commands, "Go to bed and sleep it off."

It could be my mother. It says it again, invading my bubble of silence, demanding, coercing. I rock, ignoring it. Back and forth, back and forth. The shaking in my arms finally begins to stop.


I get up and stagger, blindly obeying, shuffling my way dizzily to bed, keeping my hands clenched my sides.

My husband follows me, his footsteps light and careful, watching. I curl up, pulling my knees to my chest, burying my head under the pillows. The darkness is a comforting softness, my own cave of solitude. My fingers begin to relax, stretching out the pain, and I breathe out into sleep, feeling safe under the pillows.

When I wake, my husband is curled around me, holding me tightly. I feel warm and secure, but vulnerable and fragile. I cannot handle the wild crazy sounds of the children being children in the house. I hide from it, and he settles them down and makes arrangements for us to leave and go see a movie. Anything to get me out of the house, something that will help me feel normal again.

I don't feel normal, but I feel in control.

At 9:00 p.m., twelve hours after this all has started, the alarm sounds on my phone and my husband gently asks, "Have you taken your meds yet?" A soft reminder that I survived today, and taking my meds tonight means there's a good chance I'll be ok tomorrow.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

My Opinion

I have been struggling with depression for over a year now. In April I was hospitalized and spent a week in the psyche ward because it was so bad I wanted to end things.

In the wake of Robin Williams' suicide, I have heard so many people say, "That's so selfish, didn't he know the hurt he was leaving his children and fans?"

So selfish...

This statement makes me so angry. Angry that people can sit back and judge another from their 'just cheer up and think happy thoughts' point of view. Angry that those who have never been in a place so bad that death seems like the only way to end the constant pain can stand on their holier-than-thou pedestal and point at another and say, "you're soooo not perfect." Angry that they can't/won't understand that when it's so hard to breathe, you just don't want to try to breathe anymore.

Would it have hurt my family if I had ended things then? No doubt about it. My older kids would have been angry and hurt, my younger kids wouldn't have understood at all. My husband would have taken it especially hard. I can see that from the place I'm at today, when my meds are working and I can feel all the feels that go along with happy, sad, joy, pain. I couldn't see that then, all I could feel was the oppressive weight of darkness.

Is it a chemical imbalance in the brain? Absolutely.

Do people try to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol? absolutely. When it's bad for me, I CRAVE alcohol, and I've never had more than a sip of hard lemonade in my whole life - and that was accidental.

I am still here because I checked myself into the hospital before it got so bad that I couldn't even see my family anymore. Not everyone is capable of seeing where they are on that road.

I've seen it said that depression is also a spiritual imbalance. Let me tell you this, I never doubted God was there for me, never doubted that He understood this trial. He didn't fix it; He didn't take it away, but that hasn't changed my faith any. It does mean that those who say 'If you just had more faith, this would go away' are stupidly wrong. It just isn't true for 90% of people. It doesn't go away. It means you're not walking in the dark by yourself, but it doesn't make the dark any easier to survive.  

I can completely understand why he did it. I hurt for him that he felt that bad, that nothing was working to fix it. I hurt for his family that they have to go through this tragedy and loss and endure all of the judgements that people are throwing around. I hurt because I understand.

Is suicide a choice? Sure it is, but unless you're standing in someone's shoes, feeling their pain, and understanding what is influencing that choice, it is completely unfair and unwarranted to pass judgement on that person. Especially when they felt their choice was between continuing pain and release.

You just don't know, you just don't understand AT ALL if you're taking the stance that he was a coward and a horrible person for making the choice he made. Robin Williams was a great man, great at making people laugh, great at emoting humor and pain, great at being human. And in the end, he was human in showing life's frailties.

My opinion: God completely understands depression, understands the choices made, and it is not our place to decide who is cowardly and selfish. It is our place to empathize, to mourn with those who mourn, to love and to support those who are left to deal with the tragedy. Not to make it worse by casting judgements and throwing hurt around.

Monday, August 4, 2014


I have been working on several art projects to get through this summer.

A few of them are top secret and I can't say anything about them other than I'm working on it.

A couple of them are things I work on when I can't keep my sanity any other way. These I wish to share when I get them cleaned up in the computer.

But to put it bluntly, it's been a long summer. It's been a long year. I have a great psychiatrist, but he's been adjusting my meds, and that messes with my brain, which makes coping with life very difficult for me, as I'm very sensitive to medication.

Things going on in my life:

Girl Scout trips and Silver Award Projects to stress over, plan, postpone, etc. I love my girl scouts, but most of my troop and my co-leader are having to carry most of the weight because I haven't been functioning well.

Two daughters going off to college this month. One is going back after a year hiatus, one is going for the first time. One heading to the north of the state, one heading to the south.

Planning a daughter's wedding. To which I can only say: you want to get married two months after he proposes, you're not gonna get all the details and all the elaborate things you're wishing for.

I just realized I forgot to register my 14 yo for Junior High. Need to do that tomorrow.

And I need to get my three little ones, my BABY, ready for school to start next week. My son starts kindergarten. I cannot believe it.

However, while I have felt overburdened, unable to cope, and out of my mind, this summer we've accomplished two family camping trips, helped bring our cat's kittens safely into the world, taught art lessons every Weds, and done a face-paining/henna tattoo booth to help raise money for our troop.

I am dizzy, disconnected, and slowly getting my house ready for the onset of school, homework, and routine. I am trying to be active in my church callings as much as I can. I find I have energy when teaching my class, but otherwise I struggle with anxiety and panic attacks over large groups of people.

I have hope. I believe life will get better. I believe my brain will find an equilibrium and that somehow I will be the fun, excited, and silly mom that my kids remember.

I am planning on continuing to help run my girl scout troop next year, but it won't be easy. I'm not sure I can help out with my little girls' troop this year, though. I am already falling apart at the seams, it feels like. More things pulling on me will unravel all that is left of my sanity, I am afraid.

I wish very much to surround myself with crystals, beads, spirit rocks, and esoteric spiritual things that make me feel good. Like long flowy skirts and peasant shirts and lovely books full of flight and fantasy. That being said, I love my scriptures, my faith, my belief that I am not alone, no matter how hard things get. I love the colors of life. I love the spice of my friends. I love those who are there for me when I can't be there for anyone. I love that my husband is willing to cuddle and hold me when I can't think straight.

I have much to be grateful for, no matter how much I might complain about the things that are hard. I am very grateful for the little things and the big things.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Artsy Fartsy

As I've been sitting in bed a lot recovering from surgery, I have been feeling arty!

I have filled up a sketchbook since my first stay in the hospital, and have recently been giving myself photoshop projects as if I were in school.

Here's the cool thing: I didn't care if I failed at these projects. Failure is how I learn.  So some of the following projects may make your eyes bleed, but I was working and stretching my art and design muscles that have sat dormant for toooooooo long.

I need practice with layer masking, so I played:

Raven and Bear in front of moon

I wanted to practice merging different pictures onto one background. So I played:

I need practice working on layouts. So I played:


I need practice with type. So I played:

just because you CAN use a filter, doesn't mean you SHOULD

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Wait, weight?

You are telling me that I have to worry about weight gain now? Seriously??

I am not grossly overweight. Yet.

I am one of those people who landed in a 'larger than I used to be' soft spot after my son was born, and had to buy a few clothes to adjust, and have stayed there in a lumpy comfy plateau for the past five years.

I don't weigh myself every morning, I don't think about what I eat except with regard to getting enough fiber and greens so my body is regular. On occasion I look in the mirror and wish I wasn't so lumpy, then change my clothes and don't think about it again for a while.

When fighting depression there are so many other things to worry, stress, cry, fret, and agonize over, that weight was something I didn't add to the list. Trust me, that list was exhaustive, why worry about something that's not *really* an issue.

Except now it is.

I've been in and out of the hospital twice in the last month, I've been to doctor's offices more often than I can count. Every single time they make you stand on a scale. And when they don't, they ask you your weight and you have to say it OUT LOUD. I always want to whisper it, looking away like I should be ashamed.

In this environment, I can't NOT notice that I've gained seven pounds since I started the mood stabilizer.

seven pounds in two weeks? Three?

And oh, yeah, food. I want to eat ALL THE TIME.

I found this site here about weight gain and bi-polar meds that explains how/why it happens. And the author is right when they talk about Bi Polar 2 struggling with motivation and apathy when they cycle low, which makes constant exercise a challenge.

I love exercise, I really do. I like the way it makes me feel. But I just had surgery, so I'm doing good to get up and walk for five minutes around my kitchen three times a day.

My challenge, should I choose to take it, is to figure out how to make this weight thing about managing the medicine instead of about how I look and feel. Because if any of this weight stuff creeps into my brain and becomes yet another tool that depression can use to lie to me with, I will just cry. I cannot handle that.

I am loveable and acceptable no matter how I look. Right? RIGHT????  Right!!

So. That being said, here's to figuring out how to make exercise a habit, and an "i must do this for my health and to manage the bi-polar" and not about what clothes I can and want to fit into.

ugh. Challenge half-heartedly accepted for now. I'll drum up some enthusiasm when I can not be bitter about 'one more thing on the to-do pile.'

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Depression Lies

Depression says, "You suck, why bother trying?"
Life experience says, "What did you learn from that experience? Cool, now try again."

Depression says, "That feedback they just gave you? It means you failed."
Life experience says, "Hey, that was full of some great ideas to improve this."

Depressions says, "Look at this list of all the things you should be doing. And you aren't doing any of them."
Life experience says, "Do your best and do what you can. If your best is getting out of bed today, let's celebrate that. The list can wait."

Depression says, "You say you love me, but I can't feel it, so it must not be true."
Life experience says, "My feels are out of order and proportion. I know my family loves me. I cannot feel it, but I know it on some level. That will have to be good enough for now."

Depression says, "You can't feel anything because you're not worth anything"
Life experience says, "This is a lie that feels like truth. I can feel the bad, but not the good, so the bad must be true. What makes me worth it? The fact that I love color, I love laughter, I love. I can't feel the love right now, but I do love."

Depression says, "Why bother?"
Life experience says, "If I love my family so much that I would be willing to die for them, do I love them enough that I'm willing to live for them?"

Depression says, "They only love you because they have to."
Life experience says, "People are lazy, they don't love anything they don't want to.  Love certainly never happens when its forced. If someone says they love you, and their actions support that statement, then they do. If they say they love you, then make fun of you or ignore you or abuse you, the yep, it's a lie."

All the logic in the world doesn't stop the feels and lies of depression on a down day. But knowing that it is all lies helps cope with it and survive.

Being an artist, some days its easier to take critiques and feedback than others. No, people should not pull their punches or be less honest with their feedback. The onus is on me to shelf it until I'm in a place mentally where I can pull all the wonderful ideas out of what has been said and move forward with a project and continue working on it until I feel it's done. If working on something doesn't feel good, I need to change what I'm doing.

I may not be able to control how I feel, but I can control what I do about how I'm feeling.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sketches Off Crazy

trees and birds I wished were happy
Last week was hard.

Normal people read that as: Oh, something bad happened. What can I do? Want a hug?

Mentally ill folks read that and think: Oh, that fight. That's a craptastic fight. You're still here! **knuckle-bump/high five**

NOTE: I feel inclined to share my experience, but would like to offer a warning. The following account is told through my filter, and I was irritated, grumpy, and trying very hard to control the angry urges screaming through my head. You may find this offensive.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

On Being Broken

This is probably a TMI post, but I'm the kind of person who will tell you exactly how I'm feeling if you ask.

For almost a year now, I have not been feeling right. It started with being tired all the time. Then my monthly cycles started being extremely painful. Then the depression kicked in with a huge whammy.

About six months ago, my O.B. put me on antibiotics for a uterine infection. And that cleared up a lot of the abdominal pain and the tired. Didn't fix the depression. In fact, it kind of got worse after that got better.

I started seeing a General Practitioner about four months ago who sees mostly patients with depression. I wouldn't call him a specialist, but I love him. Mostly because he listens to me. He takes my opinions and thoughts into account when I have issues, and he doesn't go for the easy answer, nor does he just throw pills at me to fix things. We talk things through about anxiety and any other symptoms I have.

In January, I started seeing a therapist. I also had my first Manic day. I have experienced Mania consistently on the first day of my period every month since then. Except March, which was a full-blown panic attack (which was kind of the same physical reaction as the mania, but instead of feeling high or drunk, I was panicked.) I also have little moments of mania spattered throughout, that I recognize by the overly silly tendencies that happen. As yet, I haven't done anything stupid, but it's worrisome that it's happening more often.

In February, my therapist began insisting that I see a psychiatrist, because I am getting worse, not better. But not just any psychiatrist, because she knows a lot of them and is picky. Not to mention the fact that just getting in to see someone takes MONTHS. But she has a working relationship with a couple, and once I'm in their system, I she can get them to move my appointment up. The doctor closest to me doesn't take my insurance. This is kind of a big issue for me. However, he has agreed he only needs to see me three times to get a feel for things, and then he will work directly with my GP to manage my meds and care.

Here's a description of my mental health:  Things that come out of the blue are harder for me to cope with without emotionally crashing. And things that normally wouldn't bother me now send me into panic attacks or anxiety. Good days I feel normal and can do things. Bad days, I don't even feel like I'm on meds. They are bad, bad, bad days. My GP and Therapist have diagnosed this as BiPolar 2.

One of my favorite things to do to relieve stress and feel good is to dance to happy music. Happy music to me is any song on the radio that makes me feel like moving. There's this rush that I feel from the inside out when there's good music on. Except now. I tried doing a Just Dance workout the end of Feb and instead of the emotional high, I crashed. And none of my normal coping skills to stop an emotional dive worked. 

March brought on more issues. Ended up in the E.R. because I thought I was hemorrhaging. I had never seen so much blood nor clots the size of my fist before. The e.r. docs said I looked fine except for a cervical polyp. Lots and lots of pain and blood, but I was assured this was normal for being 40 and that I was fine. I didn't believe them, but I went home anyway, convinced they just didn't care to listen to me.

The following Monday morning I was in my O.B.'s office again, and she removed the polyp and said she wanted to do a hysterectomy. I would have cheered if my body would have let me.

That afternoon I was in my GP's office and I asked if he would please check my hormone levels. We did a blood draw to measure adrenal, pancreatic, testosterone, estroven, estrogen, progesterone, and a bunch of other hormones that affect hormones. Because something is off in my body, and I am determined to figure it out, using everything possible. I want to be well, and I want to be a reliable mother, wife, and person.

Surgery is scheduled for the middle of April. My body is still bleeding, and the cramping after the polyp removal feels like I am in labor *almost* all the time. It's intermittent, but if I do anything like vacuum or sweep or lift a load of laundry, then I end up in a world of pain. I know that the removal of my uterus isn't going to fix ALL of my problems, but it will fix an immediate source of pain and stress. Seeing a psychiatrist will help fix the other problems.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it's not a train. I have hope that I'm going to stop crashing soon. Or, that even when I have bad days that they'll be more manageable.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Art of Love

I count my blessings every day that my mother is my mother.

She raised me to love people because they are people, not because they share the same religion or political beliefs as me.

I grew up in a mining town in Wyoming in a dusty, wind-blown, tumbleweed covered trailer court. And I loved it there because it was my home. I was the only kid in my neighborhood of my religion, which meant I got to go to church with my friends to see how and what they believed. I visited Baptist, Evangelical, Catholic, and I don't even remember all the others. If they wanted, they could come with me and see what we did at my church. It wasn't a missionary effort, it was a 'this is how you are a good friend' lesson.

According to my mother: It's how you understand the people you love.

When I was in fifth grade, after moving what felt like a thousand times, we ended up in a little forgotten corner on the outskirts of town. The only friend I had was the only other girl my age, who was Jehovah's Witness. Sometimes we'd talk about religion. Sometimes her mom would give me Spanish lessons, and when my accent was good enough I even got to read from their bible in spanish out loud at a couple of their meetings. (No, I didn't have a clue what I was saying, but I could pronounce stuff).

Most of the time, though, we played, we talked, we created stories and make-believe worlds. We did the things that 10 yr old friends do. I felt included, loved, and like my friend accepted me for who I was, just as I accepted her.

Now I live in a whole 'nother state where it feels like just about everyone is the same religion as me. And guess what? They still all have differing political and religious opinions. And I try to do the same thing for my kids that my mother did for me.

I am not perfect. And I AM very opinionated. But guess what? I don't expect everyone to agree with me. That guy who asked in Sunday School how to convince his kids to only be friends with same-religion kids? My opinion is that he's an idiot. He disagrees with me. I'm fine with that. (But I still think I'm right)

I want my children to love people because they are people they enjoy being around. I don't want them to pick from a specific gene pool, because eeeewwww, eventually everyone starts inter-breeding and you end up with cousins marrying cousins and people have too many thumbs and corrupted blood-lines and yuck.

People are awesome. There are some funny, fantastically great people out there who have completely different religious and political views than me. And I LOVE them! I am glad that they are there. I am glad that this world is filled with diversity and awesome. I expect people to respect that I live my life the way I do, and I *try* to give that same respect to everyone else. (Even when I think they're idiots)

/Sigh. My Facebook feed was FILLED this morning with religious and political meme's that were more hateful than helpful, and I was annoyed. Annoyed that in the comments people devolve into name-calling and hurt feelings, annoyed that "My Way Is the Right Way" is an accepted way of life for some. Life's a two-way street, and Karma is a very real thing.

In short: It is closed-minded and stupid, STUPID, I TELL YOU, to expect the whole world to change their minds and agree with you.  (So, hey, change your mind and agree with me already!)

The Golden Rule, people. Life is a lot easier for everyone if you live it. And you know what? I'm certain there are people who are going to disagree with me. Which is awesome.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I did this art thing this one time

I have this friend. And he's one of the reasons I'm seeing a therapist - haha, no, it's because he IS a therapist and recommended one to help me deal, but you can blame him, sure. He's also directing a play, and I volunteered to help him with artwork last year when I saw him in Pirates of Penzance. (spelled correctly, of course)

So here I am, a year later, and have needed much encouragement with art because that's the one thing I gave up on completely when the depression kicked in. Thank you Lee, for having me help you, for accepting my bad days, and understanding when I shut down.

Simply: Fear sucks.
More Simply: Working through it is awesome.

Here is the basic design for his "The Mikado." I think it looks like a flannel board, which is appropriate for a play, right? :)

I keep trying to redesign this:

into a facebook cover pic for his wall:

And see? They look FINE here. They look completely pixellated and awful on FB.

So... if you see them on facebook, apparently I've forgotten how to use photoshop, because I can't for the life of me make things look right.

This would be why I'm not in web design, yes?