Things did get better over the weekend. But the hypomania is still lingering. You know that day when you are recovering from the flu or a bad cold and you think “hey maybe I could get through work” so you don’t blow another sick day? But you really need to take that sick day to truly recover.
That’s where I’m at.
I did pretty well yesterday, kept myself busy and actually got some tasks accomplished. I ate breakfast and dinner. Read some of my library book. But in the evening, my MIL called my wife to chat and made some offhand reference to my posting about my MH on the internet WITHOUT asking how I’m doing and I was suddenly so so angry and hurt.
It hurts to realize I have no active family relationships. And I got myself very upset because I allowed myself to feel shame about my mental illness. I have no idea if that’s what she intended and it doesn’t matter – I gave permission for that to creep in and I was appalled with myself.
A little bit later, I was talking with Laura about this and that. At least I thought that was what I was doing. Suddenly she told me firmly to back off and that I was haranguing her. I was stunned, but then realized I was exhibiting ‘pressured speech’ where things come out rapidly without any filters. I apologized, she did, too.
I laid on the bed with my library book, thinking about what had been happening. It was a familiar experience, but there was a new element – like a narrator. Not a voice in my head, but my own conscious awareness of what was happening. You know that feeling when you know you are going to vomit – sometimes maybe a few minutes notice, maybe more. That body-mind connection that gets you out of bed and into the bathroom, maybe enough time to grab a towel (and move a cat) in time. This was like that feeling, telling me and reminding me that I was experiencing a symptom and had to walk through it (like walking to the bathroom) because this time, I have control. I’m aware of what’s happening, not captive to my rollercoaster emotions.
I am quite sad about one thing – missing out on king cake. They are hard to find in Pittsburgh, but some bakeries make them. I lived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for three years so I am quite fond of them. Unfortunately, my symptoms made me miss the deadline to order one from the local bakeries. And I’m not yet well enough to drive myself to Giant Eagle by tomorrow. Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday otherwise known as Mardi Gras, the last day for king cake before Lent begins the following day.
Now most king cake in Pittsburgh is a glorified New Year’s pretzel, but that’s okay as I like NY pretzel. For me, it is more about the tradition and memories, not the authenticity of the recipe. I like the fun of slicing the cake to see who gets the baby. I have a collection of plastic babies from previous years. It is a communal experience – the general premise is that whomever gets the baby has to buy the next cake. At LSU, we had cake in our department every day from the Epiphany to Fat Tuesday. Not so much in Pittsburgh. But it still represents sharing, laughing, and indulging with my friends and colleagues.
And perhaps ironically that’s where I began my recovery journey – I went to see a therapist for the first time in October 1992, just two months I moved to Louisiana. That was an important step for me. I had known since I was quite young that something wasn’t quite right. I asked my parents if I could see a therapist, but they shushed me. So I navigated the symptoms the best I could, relying on maladaptive coping mechanisms like stuffing everything inside me until I was wracked with stomach pain each time I return to college from a home visit. I was very dramatic, eager for attention, but reluctant to get too close to anyone. I was sick quite a bit. I remember being depressed – I almost failed chemistry. But mostly I remember pretending that everything was okay, that I was just moody or it was PMS or whatever. I knew I had to hide my symptoms, that I didn’t know were symptoms.
There was no therapist at my college. I asked, but was shot down – no referral, no recommendation. No follow-up. Only one person actively tried to help me, my friend Barbara Jean. But like me she was pretty much a kid. Still, I’ll never forget that.
So living in Louisiana started my journey to understand my mental health. Those early years were not easy. I was in a student clinic so bounced through therapist like water through a sieve. They tried lots of medication for my initial diagnosis of depression. I ended up on Prozac that would later trigger hypomania, leading to my next diagnosis. But that’s another chapter.
I’m still not okay. I had promised to help a neighbor corral her cat for a vet trip and just blanked on the whole thing. She was understanding. I forgot to make my coffee. I’m still in my pajamas. I’m struggling to focus and I’m easily distracted. I can feel the impulse to jump into “hey that’s a great idea” mode.
It has been 31 years since I actively began getting help. It is important to understand that many people live with chronic mental health diagnoses and don’t need the level of support I need. My case is exacerbated by the chronic trauma (or chronic PTSD) I endured. Because of the trauma processing work, I am a lot healthier than I was 31 years ago when I appeared fine.
It took 20 years for me to acknowledge that “functioning” was really stuffing my stuff away and suffering immensely. And another 10 years to find ways to redefine functioning and recovering. I can articulate my struggles pretty well. But now I deal with the facts that the traumatic events are so terrible that there are very few people I can burden with them.
I guess being isolated is just in the cards for me.
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