Friday, December 31, 2010

The Plants Are All Dead---And I Don't Feel So Good Myself...

A lot of people have emailed me over the last 2 years, asking me what particular mental illness I have that would require so much therapy as I take, which is 3 days a week. And I've always been too embarassed about it to say. But I guess I should go ahead and own up to the dadgum specifics.

But it's kind of hard to explain. They've given me so many diagnoses. I don't really care what they have defined me as, even though the particular diagnoses affect me horribly. It's why I'm on quite a lot of medications. But even with the medication, it's as if 3 or 4 invisible demons are haunting me.

And you guys know me---I usually put song lyrics on certain blog posts. Those are the best weathervanes for my emotions. I have just never have had the nerve to put my mental problems on my blog before. I thought I would be called "whiny", "melodramatic", and self-pitying. Feel free to think those definitions of me--but I went through those stages long ago and now I have finally accepted "self"... and I don't ask an angry "why?" to the Lord anymore. I just finaly accepted the luck of the draw. In the card deck of the Lord's creations, my soul drew the "Joker" card.

The best thing I can do is my usual----express myself in song lyrics depending on my mood---but this time I'll put the truth under each set of lyrics. Sharing the truth just about scares me to death. (Don't worry, I won't put the whole dang song in here---just some pertinent lyrics.)


("Viva la Vida", Coldplay)

I used to rule the world,
Seas would rise when I gave the word,
I knew something was "wrong" with me in Kindergarten. I didn't know what it was but I knew it was bad. As I began growing up, I was always a driven person---in part to distract me from my mental problems because I felt I had to hide them. My family didn't believe in "mental illness". They just believed in success. Thus, I always made excellent grades in school, and when I was given an IQ test the school authorities skipped me 2 grades in school. But emotionally I was a wreck (although nobody knew) and I begged them to let me skip only one grade. As I grew up further into young adulthood, I always got the job I wanted and was considered the best at whatever I did in whatever hospital I worked at. But panic attacks were my norm and I struggled to keep them private.

I made a hell of a lot of money as an ER RN and an ICU RN and I was certified in just about every specialty of trauma, critical acute care, pediatric critical care, and cardiac care there is. I was always considered extremely good at my job. But on the inside, as it had been all my life, I was full of anxiety and fear--and sometimes irrationality. But I had no idea what I was afraid of. There were times I didn't even feel "real" (what they call dissociaton.) During those times, I worked on autopilot and was terrified that I wouldn't return to "reality". I was always afraid somebody would find out that I was nuts. My moods would swing back & forth seemingly for no good reason. So I worked in my typical driven fashion. I made few friends. People thought me eccentric but yet one of the best nurses in the lot. And it certainly never occurred to me that I had mental illness. I thought I was just crazy as a bedbug and had to hide it from everybody.

One minute I held the key,
Next, the walls were closed on me,
And I discovered that my castles stand upon
Pillars of salt and pillars of sand,

I thought I could hold it together and hide my craziness for my lifetime but I began drinking to calm the panic and anxiety---and shortly became a full-fledged alcoholic. I would go to work and work my ass off and then I'd come home and drink away the panic-- and then I'd go to sleep and have nightmares all night. (I still have nightmares almost every night. Some of them make me wake up in a cold sweat, calling out nonsense sentences.) During the drinking years, I'd get sober for a time, go to alcoholic rehab centers, and then fall victim to my disease of alcoholism yet again and again, over and over.

And I swear, I went to AA for years and did every single thing they told me to do. But I never got relief from the anxiety and nameless fears---or the worsening panic attacks and other symptoms of my mental illnesses. It was a horrible roller-coaster.

I hear Jerusalem bells a ringing,
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing,
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field,

My nightmares have mostly always been about situations that happened while I was growing up in foreign countries since my parents were in the Diplomatic Corps and were being constantly transferred to different countries. Many of the countries we went to were in political turmoil and there were many situations which were dangerous to us Americans. We were rudely introduced to anti-American behaviors and attitudes from the beginning of that diplomatic life. Or the scary events were just political events that had nothing to do with Americans. Here's one horrifying thing that happened overseas: here. Then there was an event where my mother and I were almost killed when there was a mob rush on the American Embassy in Damascus, Syria---in 1998-- if interested you can read the Dept. of State's Consular Fact Sheet about Syria, which mentions the riot and rush on the American Embassy in 1998 down about the 7th or 8th paragraph in the section called "Safety & Security" here.

I can't tell you that story yet. It's too awful and frightening for me to delve into that memory---but let me say that when an Embassy's detachment of Marine Guards call for anybody who can use a gun and then hands you one so that you can help shoot it out when the Embassy Compound is breached by the mobs, it does something to you that never leaves your inner horrors. (And that was after the Marine Guards had lobbed 127 tear gas cannisters over the Compound walls to hold the mob off--with the tear gas affecting us as well as the mobs....) I'll tell you the story some day. It lives forever in my dreams...

It was the wicked and wild wind,
Blew down the doors to let me in,
Shattered windows and the sounds of drums,
People couldn't believe what I'd become,

And there you have it. About two and a half years ago, after a 22 year career as an RN, I finally broke completely down psychologically and couldn't work or function. I drank even more to temporarily kill the inner monsters, the panic attacks, and the awful mood swings---and that became a time when my family was disgusted with me. They thought it was just alcoholism. They didn't know I had multiple diagnoses of mental illnesses trying to beat me down into complete insanity. And so I returned to Blaine. He had always been my rock and wanted me to come back to him. (I had divorced him a few years before but we had remained friends.) Blaine had always known I had problems but he didn't care.

And so I stopped drinking and began the therapy I'm in now. And for the record, my diagnoses are: Rapid Cycling Bipolar disease, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Paranoia, and some disorder that my therapist won't tell me as he thinks it would make me flip out-- but he always gently hints about it as he tells me that some of the things that I feel, hear, or believe are "a bit of psychosis caused by stress".

"A bit of psychosis"??? I'm not stupid. I know that I experience psychotic symptoms every now and then when I've been through some extra stress. To be honest, I have experienced a few auditory hallucinations (I heard whispering voices that aren't real) and I have also felt sensory, tactile hallucinations (something touched or pushed me and I turned around and nobody was there.) I also occasionally get paranoid about something I needn't because what's going on is not really what's going on. (A delusion or paranoia.) And I tell these things to my therapist and ask him if the things I experience could be that our house is haunted (heh!) and he again uses that gentle voice and says something like: "Bo, you know you have psychotic symptoms every now and then when you're stressed, right?" Oh yadee yadee yahdah.

My therapist told me that my particular Bipolar Disorder is the "rapid cycling" variety and is the most difficult diagnosis to treat in all of psychiatric-dom. My moods swing from elation to severe depression, and I never know which way the pendulum will swing-- or when. My therapist told me that it's easier to treat a schizophrenic than to treat what I have. Lovely.

These days I do the best I can. If it weren't for my sense of humor I don't know what I'd do. So I lean on it. Blaine understands--bless his heart. Heck, I'm lucid, I've learned to get through my severe mood swings, and so I'm able to function on a certain level. I can do my therapy assignments. I am dragged out of the house once a week on Wednesdays by the mobile therapist since I hate leaving the house. And my case manager comes on Friday. And then I have my 1:1 hour therapy session with my therapist and then a 2-hour DBT group on Thursdays at the psych center. Some days I get so sick of therapy that I can't stand it. But I diligently press on and do as I am asked.

For some reason I can't understand,
I know St. Peter won't call my name,
Never an honest word,
But that was when I ruled the world.....




Donna said...

I have a very dear dear family member who has PTSD as well as an anxiety issue that manifests itself in hair pulling. Both were caused by childhood trauma and have changed the woman I know - it hurts to see someone you love so much in such immense pain. Mental illness is a disease like any other - I give you credit, Bo, for "coming out" with it. There's a lot of people out here who appreciate that you've given a voice to people with mental illness - kudos & bravo, Bo. Oh and Happy New Year to you, Blaine & the kittehs :-)

Bo... said...

Thank you so very much, Donna! And you have a very Happy New Year, too!

FuguesStateKnits said...

Hey Bo, I'm with Donna! Sorry your family were not supportive and I hope someday if not already they will love you more than their dreams for you or their belief systems. It can happen, but the main thing is that you are (I hope) getting what you need. Mental illness really IS a physical illness, sometimes caused by physical things, sometimes by trauma and it sounds like you've gotten your share of both.
We all have things we'd rather not talk about, believe me. You are not running away from it, but dealing with it. And I say Good for YOU!:)
Hoping this New Year brings you nothing but good things:)
Joan a/k/a FSK

Bo... said...

Thank you very much Joan aka FSK! I also hope the New Year brings good things to you!

Jenn said...


Keep on working at it, Bo. I wish you peace of mind.

Happy New Year!


Bo... said...

Thank you, Jenn---and you have a Happy New Year, too!

Linda in Alameda, CA said...

Thank you for having the courage to tell us what is going on with you. It couldn't have been easy, but now you, and we, can rest easier knowing the "elephant in the living room" has a name, or names. I don't think any less of you because you have mental illnesses, just as you don't think less of me because I am overweight, am deathly afraid of freeways, and have arthritis in many places. Right?

Happy New Year, Bo and Blaine!

Bo... said...

Thank you, Linda. No, I don't think any less of you for any of those things. I think that it's important for us to support each other no matter what. And I really appreciate your comment. I hope you and yours have a really Happy New Year!

Susan said...


Keep working on your self, from reading your blog for years...I know your worth it!


Bo... said...

Thank you, Susan!

JanKnitz said...

Hey, Bo, have you ever been tested for sleep apnea? I'm wondering because it could be a trigger (in addition to the PTSD and other issues) for your nightmares and nighttime panic attacks. If you turn out to have sleep apnea and get treated for it, you might find you sleep a lot better and more calmly. It's worth checking into.

Hang in there--you're amazing.

Bo... said...

JanKnitz! Thank you so much! I will definitely ask my doctor about the things you mentioned. I go on Monday. It gives me hope that there is some reason for the things I experience. I really appreciate your caring!

Cindy/KS said...

One of my son-in-laws has some PTSD from Iraq & Kuwait deployments. We have tried to not do anything to cause issues for him, but totally without thinking about the possibility, we caused him distress by the grandkids popping balloons shortly after his return.

Bo... said...

Cindy: Just love him and show him he's loved---and it will be alright.

Warrior Knitter said...

{{{ hugs }}} and prayers every day.

Bo... said...

Thank you, Warrior Knitter! I need all the hugs and prayers I can get!