In my last months in therapy, it has become evident that my unresolved issues dragged from early age continue to be a determining factor and cause of my feeling of hopelessness and even suicide ideas. Continue reading
In US, adequate health care is a privilege. This is even truer when it comes to mental health. Even with medical insurance, the patient must fight to have control over her treatment and the decisions that affect it. Continue reading
The year starts heavy like an anvil in our collective consciousness. We read the news from Indonesia, France, and Nigeria. News of tragedy, terrorism, intolerance; news of death. The cold air feels like needles on my face, as I feel sympathy for the casualties of a lost airplane, or the victims of a terror attack in Paris and villages in Nigeria.
“It’s easy for me to feel depressed in winter. My brain can’t absorb enough Vitamin D from the weak daylight.” I give myself this and several more logical explanations for my lack of joy and my somber thoughts, all rational, cerebral. But I don’t internalize any of those reasons, and continue to drag myself through the days despite having little energy and experiencing self-harming thoughts.
The insurance company neglects to pay for my last therapy sessions. I call my doctor to reduce the frequency of our appointments because I don’t have money to pay for once a week visits. I’ll have to see my doctor once a month, do my best to cope. Still this is better than what the majority of the mentally ill people in this country can enjoy. “I am privileged,” I tell myself, “no reason to complain.”
When I feel I am reaching an unhealthy level of sadness, I switch into depression coping skills mode, what I have learned in years of therapy to balance myself without increasing medication. Tuesday is particularly difficult. I don’t feel the need to get up from bed.
But I must. I haven’t gone this far in recovery to relapse without a fight. “Depression is not a one-way ticket. I don’t have to stay down. I must come back, and feel joy again.” I insist.
I get up, shower, and make coffee to start the day with a semblance of routine, of normalcy. I write a to do list, my first attempt at pulling up strength to carry through the day.
- Stay away from the news
- Do something healthy (Walk, do yoga, sit in the sunlight, weed the garden.)
- Meet writing goal for the day (a thousand words)
- Have a cup of tea
- Call a friend
- Read a poem
- Cook dinner
- Submit work
At the bottom of the page I write, “Get through this day and you’ll be fine.”
The day drags. My unkempt wooly hair gets stuck between my fingers as I try to brush it off my face while I write the thousand words I have pledged to write daily. When I finish, I connect back the Internet to submit my work to the writing forum I am part of, and do my share critiquing my fellow writers’ work. When done, I check another item on my to do list, and battle the thoughts of going back to bed. I cry sitting on my desk, with negative thoughts berating my effort, “Look at you, you are a shadow of what you used to be.” The words in my head describe a miserable life I don’t have.
I repeat my mantra: “Get through this day and you’ll be fine.”
I don’t have energy to walk a mile, but stand up, nonetheless, go downstairs and stroll quietly to the mailbox in the bright morning sun. I cry at the sight of a cat crossing the road.
I come back from walking and drink another cup of tea. I call a friend. She is sweet and understanding, and lets me talk even when my words get stuck in my throat. She then tells me about her own tribulations. I gain perspective, understanding once more that the reason for my sadness is merely chemical. I have a great life. Were it not for my condition, I should be a happy person, sharing laughter and joy with the rest of humanity.
At my desk I reach for a book, “The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou.” I open the book on a page marked with a craft my college freshman son did in preschool. The card is a turtle, smeared in paint, with his name written on it in the sweet handwriting of a child who is not experienced with a pencil. “So many years ago,” I think, and cry some more, at how time will never reverse.
I read the poem “Phenomenal Woman” aloud to myself. I let the words roll in my mouth, let the rhythm of its verses penetrate me with their energy, let the music of its rhyme sing in my ears and carry me through the hour with optimism and joy.
It’s four o’clock now and there are only a couple of items left to cross from my to do list. I go downstairs, turn up the heater, play some music from my itunes library (no radio) and set to cook dinner. It must be simple and fast, which is all my depressed brain allows at this moment.
After cooking dinner, I go to the garden to pick up dead leaves, and water the hanging baskets, the ones the hummingbirds love, with tears running down my face.
In the evening, when my husband arrives, I hug him and cry on his shoulder. “It wasn’t a good day. Was it?” He asks. “It was difficult,” I answer, “but I pulled through. I even cooked dinner.”
The next day, the sun wakes me up early. Without effort I get up from bed and set goals for the day, and the rest of the week ahead. I have weathered this storm in the best possible way, using the coping skills I have learned, with a to do list and determination as tool.
The battle goes on, but I’ll succeed. I am a phenomenal woman.
It’s widely believed that people who suffer from bipolar disorder lack the focus to complete their projects. Without adequate care or guidance, a bipolar person can get lost in a myriad of projects and interests in the height of mania, and then lack the energy to carry them out when depressed.
For a while it seemed that way with me. With equal passion and dedication, I took care of my family, cooked elaborate meals, crocheted tablecloths and blankets, planted trees, made cards, taught classes, and wrote a book. Continue reading
First they stigmatized the lepers.
The power holding institution of the Middle Ages, the church, believed that leprosy was the result of god’s anger and that only segregation and suffering would lead to the salvation of the leper. Isolation also secured the safety of the rest of the population, those who were accepted as normal and didn’t pose any threat to others.
When leprosy disappeared from Europe by the end of the Middle Ages, the buildings of exclusion remained marginalized at the outskirts of the cities, stigmatized as a place for the poor, the criminal, the vagrant, and “deranged minds.”1 All that was needed was an informant pointing a finger to send the “deviant” to the former lazar house, excluded for life, away from the normal population. The church encouraged the actions of informants by propagating fear among the ignorant. Continue reading
Chainsaw on tree limb, a mulching truck on the driveway, the rumpus of men shouting instructions and warnings, branches falling from the canopy of an old eucalyptus to the right of my house. My attention runs from the house away from the noise, while I remain inside trapped, unemployed, waiting for calls that never arrive. Continue reading
During last week, I helped my youngest son pack for college: clothes, bike, passport, and computer. I saw him fold his new sheets, and pack the microwave safe bowls, and his guitar, thrilled with the enthusiasm of a 17 years old who is going away for good.
Last Saturday I posted a message on Facebook, “song suggestions for a happy playlist, for the hard times.” Later saved 3 hours worth of upbeat music to cheer me up. I don’t expect it to hurt, but I rather sing my way back home in case it does.
We have prepared well for a long time for the day to see our children go and become independent men. During last year, I edited college application essays, and I was there with him when he got acceptance letters from several universities. I assured him he made the right decision when he finally chose his future alma mater.
Two nights ago, when we were finishing dinner, I asked him my only request. “I don’t need a hero, or an award winner,” I said. “Just make mamma proud.”
My heart wrinkled when he slung his guitar across his back and he placed the last of his boxes in the trunk of the car. Will he call home regularly like his bother does? Will he avoid hard drugs? Will he respect women, their wishes and choices? Will he focus on the career ahead of him and enjoy college in a healthy way?
After all, a mother with bipolar disorder is just like any other mom. I worry.
Today as we drive back on Hwy 101, my husband and I sang along Marc Anthony’s, Vivir Mi Vida. “La, la, la, la.” We sang and remembered when the kids were little and we used the theme song of Sesame Street to entertain them in the car. Perhaps now that they are all grown up, we can sit back and answer life’s most pressing questions:
“How to get to Sesame Street?”
“What is the hokey pokey about?
Durante la semana pasada, ayudé a mi hijo menor a empacar para irse a la universidad: ropa, bicicleta, pasaporte y computadora. Le vi doblar sus sábanas nuevas, y empacar los recipientes para micro-ondas, y su guitarra, entusiasmado como cualquier muchacho de 17 años que se va de su casa para bien.
El pasado sábado, escribí un mensaje en mi muro de Facebook, “sugerencias de canciones alegres, para los momentos difíciles.” Después grabé unas tres horas de música de ritmo festivo para alegrarme. No es que espere que me duela, pero prefiero cantar de vuelta a casa en caso de que suceda.
Nos hemos preparado bien por un buen tiempo para el día en que vemos a nuestros hijos irse y convertirse en hombres independientes. Durante el último año, edité ensayos de solicitud de cupo universitario, y estuve con él cuando recibió cartas de aceptación de varias universidades. Le aseguré que había tomado la mejor decisión cuando finalmente escogió su futura alma mater.
Hace dos noches, cuando terminábamos de comer, le hice una sola petición. “No necesito un héroe, ni un galardonado,” le dije. “Lléname de orgullo.”
Se me arrugó el corazón cuando se colgó su guitarra en la espalda y colocó la última caja en la maleta del carro. ¿Llamará con frecuencia como lo hace su hermano? ¿Evitará las drogas duras? ¿Respetará a las mujeres, sus deseos y decisiones? ¿Se concentrará en la carrera que tiene por delante y disfrutará de la universidad de una manera saludable?
Después de todo una madre con desorden bipolar es como cualquier otra madre. Me preocupo.
Hoy cuando manejamos de vuelta por la Autopista 101, mi esposo y yo cantábamos la canción de Marc Anthony, Vivir Mi Vida. “La, la, la, la.” Cantábamos y recordábamos cuando los niños estaban pequeños y usábamos el tema de “Sesame Street” para entretenerlos en el carro. Quizá ahora que ellos están crecidos, podemos relajarnos y contestar las preguntas más apremiantes de la vida:
“¿Cómo se llega a ‘Sesame Street’?”
¿De qué se trata el ‘hokey pokey’?