Daft Trek

Social Services, the Final Frontier.  These are the voyages of one unclassifiable nut-job.  Her ongoing mission: to explore convoluted government gobbledy-gook; to seek out new services that might actually help; to boldly leap over the cracks in the system where no one has leapt before.


After I finished the Intensive Psychiatric Rehabilitation program in late June, the search was on to find some kind of support that might fill the gap.  IPR wasn’t therapy, but working with Aly for two hours twice a week turned out to be the best therapy I’d ever had.  How can you not go deep and actually problem-solve with that much one-on-one time?  Most participants in IPR spend half their time in groups, but we had trouble finding peers for me (I’ve got so much insight, you know), so Aly and I just met by ourselves.

We both knew no social service could provide what Aly gave me, so we looked at the kinds of support I might find.  She and my therapist thought Lutheran Services of Iowa might be a fit.  I went through two-hour assessments with both my caseworker and LSI, was approved, and started seeing a caregiver in July.

I have a caregiver.  To say I have mixed feelings about that is like saying Emmett is a little nervous (though, here’s a barely-related photo of both guys sitting next to me as I write this with Em combed and smiling).


Anyhoo, it’s taken me all summer to get used to the idea of being a person who could benefit from a caregiver.  When I look at it in terms of what I need to stay out of the hospital, I get it.  But, like everything else concerning my mental health, I don’t fit in the usual categories, so we had to get creative.

Leanne, my caregiver, and I met for coffee once a week all summer at the new coffee house (Yaay! Marshalltown finally has a coffee house!)

Brew House

This was all part of my care plan—to get basic support.  It’s not therapy, but more than friends and family can provide.  For that hour, I get to talk without worrying about my social skills or being reciprocal in any way.  Most human interaction is two-sided.  Conversation is give and take.  And, while Leanne and I do converse, the point is we don’t have to.  For that hour, she’s there for me, and if I need all that time to process, I don’t have to feel guilty, or selfish, or worry about ruining our relationship.  Over the summer, we honed that process to where we’re both comfortable with it.  And it is a true and valuable tool.  Like my new soaking tub, I can relax with Leanne now and just let go.

The other part of my care plan is for Leanne to help me keep my apartment clean this winter.  Since I’m allergic to dust mites, I need a clean living space in order to avoid the asthma flares that lead to bad colds and, often, pneumonia.  Since winter historically brings more severe depressive symptoms, cleaning (like anything requiring effort) flies out the window.

Halli, the LSI director, told me that their caregivers aren’t housekeepers.  They help clients set goals and work alongside them.  I’m expected to do the real work.  I like that concept.  I asked my sister to do that once, to come over and just help me figure out how to get my place cleaned.  I remembered what a huge help that was.  If I could get used to a stranger coming into my home, I thought that kind of support might help me avoid getting sick so much.

So, last Wednesday, Leanne came over and helped me replace the filters in my air vents.  It’s a big job.  All the vents are in the ceiling.  I put filters in the ones I could reach by standing on a chair, but that was five years ago.  Last week, with a real step-stool, we replaced the black filters (ugh!) and got all the vents covered in the hour Leanne helped me.  I spent the rest of the day cleaning the grill on the intake vent (gross!) and laying filter material across that, too.

Intake Vent

Awesome!  Except I didn’t think to wear a mask.  Oops.  Now I’m fighting the very thing I tried to avoid—a bad head cold that will probably go south soon.  I should have known better.  I wore a red shirt that day, and we all know what happens to those guys.

Cats. Go Figure.

bookCats are a puzzlement. I’ve lived with them my whole life. Some of my earliest memories are of searching the barn for the litters of spring kittens hidden like furry contraband by their mams. And after all these years, I still can’t predict or even hazard a guess about how they might behave.

I’ve read books, talked with vets, consulted other dedicated cat keepers. We’re all mystified. We might get to understand one cat a tiny bit—enough to keep from constantly pissing them off—but the next feline, like the next human, will be completely different.

sudokuThis is actually one of the joys of sharing space with cats. Learning their quirks, recognizing their different personalities, even devising unique methods to discourage unwanted behavior pose a fun challenge akin to Sudoku. The purrs, and blinky-kisses, and intellectual conversation are more than worth it.

I enjoy dogs, too. There’s nothing like a dog’s flat-out joy or unconditional loyalty. But where dogs are Captain Obvious, cats are Greta Garbo. Subtle, slit-eyed, cats rarely show all their cards and generally “Vant to be Alone.”  Or at least companionable on their own terms. Breach feline etiquette at great risk—a disapproving cat will make you pay.

knottsSo, I’ve tried not to make too much of Emmett’s nearly-constant state of anxiety this summer.  I know he’s the Don Knotts of kitties—bug-eyed and jittery with nerves, ready to bolt at the slightest hint of… well… anything.  But, it seems like he forgot who I was, where he was.  Nothing registers in his little brain except some awful soundtrack from one of the Friday the 13th movies.

I spent the last three days in Minneapolis playing with friends.  Driving home last night, I wondered how Emmett navigated my absence.  Did it stress him out even more, or was it a relief?

When I got home, he was tucked under the comforter of my bed—a good sign, a normal sign.  And then he hissed at me when I peeked at him.  A very good sign.  I’ll take hissing over paralyzed submission any day.

SharingAnd then this morning, after Henry stole my chair and I had to drag over the footstool to catch up on email, this happened 

Emmett got up behind me and fell asleep against my backside.  And he let me take a picture.

He looks a little mangy, but I’ll get the comb out tomorrow.  One miracle a day is all I can handle.

Cats. Go Figure.

Maniacal Ribbons

Twinkle Magic* * *

As someone with an artist’s studio in my 475 square foot apartment, I’ve learned the art of using space creatively.  I need to be able to see my stuff, or I forget that I have it—so lots of glass jars, open cubbies, and stuff on the walls.  I also try to keep my art stuff on or near my work table, so while the creative juices bubble, I can look up, look around, and see the perfect next step.

I love the challenge of it, just like I love the challenge of turning every inch of my apartment into beautiful, useable space.  It makes me feel creative in a different way, smart with a tape measure and calculator—capable.

BacksideWhen Tammy sent me her pile of discontinued silk cord, I knew I needed them out and visible instead of tucked into little plastic bags.  Then, I thought of the huge jar of trim and ribbons that sits on the backside of my table.  I forget about that stuff back there.  Wouldn’t it be great to have ALL OF IT out?  All the reds in one place?  All the greens there for me to sort through  and find the perfect choice?

All last week I sorted, counted, drew and cut patterns, tried and discarded ideas, hit walls of frustration, and went colorblind.  I knew I was leaning into mania with all the ideas flying and the urgency behind finding the perfect solution.  I wasted a lot of card stock, bought gadgets at Menard’s that didn’t work, but I wasn’t so far into the Red Zone that I couldn’t see the spin.  I could still stop and take a deep breath.  I could still put it all away for a while and go do something else.  I could ask for help.

So, I asked my friend, Cheryl, to help me brainstorm.  Cheryl is a Stampin’Up demonstrator and a fellow Crow in her hoarding and love of bright, shiny objects.  So we noodled for a while, looked up stuff online—like how to make your own ribbon spools.  Then, we went down to her treasure trove to dig around.

3 SpoolsShe had saved all the little plastic cores out of her ribbon spools, and uttered the crafters’ creed.  “I knew I’d use them someday.”  She also handed over her stash of thin cardboard, an old glue gun, and a couple of paper punches.  Mission Control, we have lift-off.

Over the weekend, I made 42 new ribbon spools.  I hung two more spindles from the coatrack I use on the back of my bathroom door for my ribbon storage.  Soon, I had all the ribbon of any quantity from my big, backside jar on spools and sorted by color families.  Cool!

After trying several designs for ways to hang my silks, I settled on this smaller card with a combination of slits and holes.

Ribbon Card

It ended up with a greater capacity than I imagined.  I love it when things work better than expected.

Card Capacity

And it took up very little space when hung on the coatrack.

Capacity Hanging

Last night I finished.  When I hung the last card, I still had an empty hook on my coatrack.  Point. Set. Match.

Whole Rack

I still have remnants of trim and ribbon that are too short or too delicate to put on spools.  They’re back in the jar waiting for the next brainstorm.

Now, if I can just find that receipt from Menard’s…

Color Kissed

Fuckin' Juice

I love finding great supplies for art-making.  I’ve stopped being a complete raven, bringing home all the shiny bits and bobs that make me squeal (or caw, if we keep the metaphor).  Now I look specifically for flatter objects and materials—all kinds of paper, fabric, seed beads, flat charms and too-dads.

What I love most are fibers and ribbons.  I order a lot of specialty ribbon and fibers from Flights of Fancy, but my all-time favorite source for ribbon and silk cord is the Etsy shop, Color Kissed Silk.  Tammy always helps me find exactly what I need—or makes makes special arrangements for me.  Because all the ribbons are hand-dyed, nothing in stock stays in stock.  It just morphs into an even more delicious combination of colors.

Solstice 2014A couple of weeks ago, the design for my 2015 holiday card came to me (I love when that happens).  I started ordering my supplies—card stock from Stampin’Up (because their paper is rich, heavier weight, and worth the money), metallic paint spray from Lindy’s (for my required level of grunge and mess), and ribbons from Tammy.

It’s a simple card (not like last year’s major production), but I expect to make about 100 cards this year.  The list of people I love and admire keeps growing, which is only as it should be.  Making my Solstice cards is Christmas for me—sending out all that attention, beauty and love into the world.  Ahh.

Anyway, I told Tammy I needed yardage this year.  And like always, she had everything I needed.  I also planned on making a lot of cards between now and ArtFest in March (I hope to be part of the Artists’ Fair and show off a little), so I ordered a gob of new ribbon and silk cord.  When my order arrived on Saturday, I went into beauty overload.  For two days, I played with my ribbons, laying them out, sorting, figuring out a new way to store them so I can see and feel them all as I pull a card together.  Aren’t they gorgeous?



Old FavoritesAs I sorted my old stuff in with the new, I found snippets of silk cord that Tammy doesn’t make anymore.  I kept them to remind me to ask if she had any of these old colors stuffed in a drawer somewhere, but always forgot.  So I contacted her yesterday to find out.  Here’s what she said:

I have a bag of scraps. I don’t know what is what … I don’t have any of the originals to compare so I can’t identify any of them… I will send it to you and you may find some use for this mess…  keep in mind this is just end pieces thrown in a bucket so they are not at all organized, labeled , or pressed…..I am not even sure what length they are… Put it to use if you can… they will go out tomorrow.

Holy Jackpot, Batman!  I asked what she wanted in the way of payment.

Nothing, they are just scraps… that I should have thrown away long ago, not sure why I ever kept them…

Oh, I know why.  It’s called Synchronisity.  And Abundance.  And the fact that the Universe abhors a void, so while its taken away my compulsive eating, my Beauty Glutton still gets to binge on a Bucket of Ribbons!

Somedays, it’s really good to be on An Adventure.

Rounding the Bend

Nice CatI’ve been quite worried about my scaredy cat, Emmett.  It seemed like he just went off the rails completely this summer after being terrified by big, loud men tearing up our apartment, then developing a bladder infection from all that stress.  For the past two months, he’s chosen to live in his gulag—a cat-carrier in the relative dark and quiet of the bathroom with food, water, and litter box nearby.

He seemed tolerant of my visits, purring his BMW purr whenever I reached in to scritch his itchiest spots.  Henry and I coming in and out to attend our own hygiene needs also seemed acceptable.  But, he cringed to the back of his cell when I swept the floor, and literally curled up in a ball when I pulled him out in order to clean the gulag.  I tried not to bother him any more than necessary, but for the last couple of weeks, I combed and pet him during the cell toss.  He needed grooming.  And I needed to touch him.

Em Tempt1
I also tried to bribe him—get him purring then set a treat out on the floor.  He had to actually come out of the carrier to get it, or I’d pick it up and leave.  Being Emmett, he was completely inconsistent.  Some days he would come out three times to get three treats.  Some days he just stared into the corner of his cell, hoping the screw would just leave him alone.Em Tempt2

He also made little forays into the kitchen—slinking low to the floor for a few seconds before dashing back to safety.  If I looked at him, or talked to him—BAM—he was gone. And then, sometimes he’d come right over and arch up to be petted.  All my wiles were hit and miss.

Em Out1I used cat nip a couple of times to see if that would tempt him.  He did stay long enough to roll around in it one evening, so that felt like a small victory.  But, then, he refused to come out at all the next two days.   Contrary, thy name is Emmett.Em Out4

Yesterday, we went through our weekly routine.  I gently pulled him out for grooming and a pep-talk, dumped the stray litter out of his carrier, filled food and water bowls, tidied the boxes, swept the floor.  He popped his head out of the bathroom door a few minutes later, then zipped back inside.  I went to the grocery store.  When I got back, I told Em I was coming in to put things away.

The gulag was empty.

“Henry,” I whispered, “where’s your brother?”

Em 9:13Henry zoomed to the bedroom and jumped on the bed.  There was a familiar lump under the covers.  Henry yodeled non-stop.  The whole house was excited.

“Em.”  I patted him gently through the comforter.  “You came out.”

He didn’t stay when I went to bed last night.  When I pulled back the covers (slowly, and talking the whole time), he grumbled, then bolted.  But, when I came home from the coffee shop this morning, the bed was lumpy again.

This is good.  This is very good.

Everyone heals in their own time—even cats.

World Suicide Prevention Day


 800,000 deaths:

Total number of Rwandans killed by genocide in 1994.

Total number of Chinese killed by intentionally flooding the Yellow River in 1938.

Total number of deaths by inaccurately prescribed medications.

Number of suicides worldwide every year.

Part of suicide prevention is awareness.  Part of awareness is telling our stories.  This is my story.

Threatened SuicideIt’s hard for me to remember what led to my suicide attempt.  I’d stopped journaling about a year previous to that, which in itself was an indicator of how much distress I must have felt, but leaves me with a big, white hole instead of the words that I substitute as memory.  I found one entry in a stray notebook from a workshop/retreat I attended out of state that summer.  It was vague, unemotional.  I fussed a bit about being overweight and uncomfortable, but the entry feels smooth to me—slick, with no affect.  That, too, might have been an indication of trouble ahead.

I had been living with my friends, Tom and Cheryl, for a year.  They were kind, generous, supportive, but I never felt at ease in their home.  I felt like a burden, an intrusion, always worried about breaking a rule or making them mad.  I worried constantly about them kicking me out and having to live in my car, even though that’s the last thing they would have ever done.

I’d tried a dozen different medications by then, as well as electroshock treatment.  Whenever the psychiatrist changed my meds, I threw the old ones in a bag.  I had quite a stash by Halloween of 2008.

I do remember feeling hopeless.  My old life was gone, and there was no indication of a new life on the horizon.  I couldn’t work.  I could barely think between the after-effects of ECT and the constant brain-fog of changing medications every month. Social Security approved my disability claim after eighteen months of denials, and I realized I’d be desperately poor the rest of my life.

What I remember of that day was wanting the pain to stop and seeing no other way to make that happen.  And I remember being exhausted.

I knew my friends planned on coming home late that day—I thought that would give my bag of pills enough time to end my life.  But, my friends’ plans changed, and they came home early.

A day or two later in intensive care, a different psychiatrist said to me sharply, “You must decide.  Do you want to live?”  I didn’t know what he’d do if I said no, so I lied.  I said, “Yes, I want another chance.”

My answer turned out to be true, but it took a long time for that transformation.

This is my story.

50 Shades of Me

This meme’s been circulating amongst the bipolar/neuro-other community.  The challenge is to find 50 odd facts about myself that (a) I haven’t already blabbed to the world in 919 posts and (b) are remotely interesting.  I’m willing to give it a whirl.  If all else fails, I’ll fabricate.


1. I hate chickens.  Nightmares that involve chickens rank right under nightmares about clowns.

2. I introduced myself to Senator Paul Wellstone (deceased, sadly) while we stood in line for our Thai take-out orders.  He got curry.  I got flustered.

3. Pam Donelson and I used to make up skits at recess and perform them for our third grade class after lunch.  I think Mrs. Halverson gave us free rein just so she could doze off in the back.  Come to think of it, Pam turned out to be bipolar, too…

4. A pony bit me when I was little.  Now I admire horses from afar.

Elephant-national-geographic-6902086-369-5505.  I’m not sure which I want more: to see elephants in their natural habitat or to make sure people leave them alone.

6. When I was twelve, my granny and I flew to California to visit cousins.  Years later, I realized she took me because I was despondent about my other grandmother, who had died a few months earlier.  That made her gift even more precious.

7. For a farm girl, it took me a long time to figure out how to pee outside without soaking something.

8. I saw Superman (with Christopher Reeve) in the theater 19 times.  That’s still my record.

9. I went to the first cheerleading practice in 8th grade and decided to be co-president of my junior high school instead.

10. I hate practical jokes and have been known to bloody the noses of those who prank me.  “Poor Sport!”  “Jack-ass!”

11. I joined Speech Club because I was hot for my eleventh grade English teacher (who coached us).  I won State my senior year.  Inspiration takes all forms.


12.  I don’t drink much now, but my current alcoholic beverage of choice is Angry Orchard.

13.  I hate rollercoasters.  Probably because I hate to puke.  But I did ride the Matterhorn at Disney World with my ex and had fun.  That’s what I tell people anyway.

14.  I love gladioli.  Whenever I see them, I think of Gramma and her garden.

15.  On our farm growing up, the hog lot was south of the house.  Whenever a southern breeze blew through the open windows, Dad would say, “That’s the smell of money.”  And I wonder why I have a twisted sense of finance.

16.  I buy myself flowers, especially white roses.  Because I love them.  In the absence of a Valentine, be your own.

17.  I have the same attitude about children and dogs—I’m happy to pet you, just don’t slobber on me.

Hello18.  I took three years of Russian in high school and college.  Now I wish I’d taken Spanish.

19.  I played piano and saxophone, and I taught myself a teeny bit of guitar.  All past tense.  I still sing, though.  And every once in a while, someone sitting in front of me at church will turn around and tell me what a nice voice I have.  It fuels my fantasies of being a background vocalist for Sting.

20.  I dated a fireman.  He made me a latch-hook rug.

21.  In Chicago, I got locked out of my hotel room.  Security took me to the lobby because they thought I was a prostitute.

22.  I taught children in Viet Nam to sing “Old MacDonald” so they would quit staring at me.

cvlogosig-horz25323.  I’m a second-degree Reiki practitioner, learned Sacred Sound from teachers in Colorado and Boston, and had my own healing touch practice for a time.  I can “Om” the shit out of you.  Literally.

24.  In an elevator at the 1994 World Fantasy Convention, Harlan Ellison told me the short story I’d published was “beautiful writing.”  Watershed moment.

Redford25.  Farts are hilarious.  I come from a hilarious family.  My dad could never fart without a comment.  My favorite was, “Catch THAT and paint it red.”

26.  When I was a senior in high school, my best friend and I went to Iowa City to hear Robert Redford talk about the bald eagles.  At least I think that’s what he talked about.  We weren’t really listening.

27. At the height of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s popularity, Brent Spiner (Data) made a personal appearance in a small Minneapolis hotel.  My friend and I got front row seats to hear him answer questions and dish trash on the rest of the cast.  His Patrick Stewart impersonation was spot-on, but the guy was kind of a dick.

glads28.  I don’t think of myself as particularly girlie, but I tend to wear a lot of pink and coral.  They make me feel like a gladiola (see #14).

29. One of the highest compliments I ever received was at a mostly-lesbian birthday party.  A young woman said, “You’re straight?  Nah.  You’re in denial.”  I laughed.  “No.  Really.  I like men.”  She handed me a beer.  “Well, you’d make a great dyke.”

30. I don’t have a favorite color, song, movie, book, food, or celebrity.  All those joys change constantly (not counting Richard Armitage, since he’s my pretend boyfriend—not a celebrity).

31.  The first farm kitty I named was Pussywillow, a sweet little calico.

32. I love Jimmy Carter.  He’s the first president I ever voted for, so I always felt responsible for him.

33.  When I was little, I used to drag my puppy, Rebel, out to our gravel drive and make him write his name in the soft dirt.  He didn’t like school as much as I did.

redwoods34.  Forests rather than Oceans.  I will get to the Redwoods in 2016.

35.  I taught myself to wake up out of nightmares by screaming.  It’s more of a tornado siren, starting down in the lower register and ramping up into a full screech.  My ex-husband did not appreciate this extraordinary skill, but my cats do and often join in.

36.  I flunked Art in high school.

37.  I don’t have a single piercing or tattoo.  To be fancy, in my youth, I would wear clip-on earrings, but I’m too much into comfort for those anymore.  Ditto for pantyhose and heels.  I don’t own a dress or nail polish, though I do have a little box of make-up that’s probably all past its due date.  What’s left of my jewelry is a tangled mess in an old pot.  Like I said—not girlie.

38.  I love my hair.  It’s coming in silver, not gray, and in a streaky pattern that other people pay big bucks for at salons.

shark39.  I will never go on a cruise.  One word: Jaws.

40.  My speaking voice is my best feature.  Other people comment on it from time to time.  All that speech training, I guess (see #11 & 23).  I think I’d make a great audio book talent.

41.  I have been told I’m a good driver.  I never get lost.  Taking a wrong exit or missing a street sign doesn’t constitute “lost” in my book.  I always get where I’m going and don’t get flustered in traffic.  I do tend to get tickets for not wearing my seatbelt, though.  Ironic, considering #43.

Bride Full 8042.  I loved my wedding dress.  It made me feel gorgeous (So, okay, maybe a little girlie).

43.  A drunk driver hit me one morning on the way to work.  My face went through the windshield (This was in pre-historic times before seatbelt laws).  When the plastic surgeon came to the ER (because, you know, face), I said, “Oh, good. Maybe you can do something about my chins while you’re at it.”  No reaction from the guy sewing my forehead together.  I figured flat-on-my-back comedy was maybe not my forté.

44.  First concert:  Elton John at the Ames Coliseum, 1973.

SaScDad 8545.  My brother is 6’7″.  Based on my growth as a kid, old Doc Sinning predicted I’d top out at 6’2″.  My brother also describes himself as “somewhat OCD” (lots of neuro-endocrine booby prizes in our family).  Even though I stalled at 5’5″ in fifth grade, I still found other ways to sit on our genetic joy buzzer.

46.  I’ve got mad drywall skills.  My taping and mudding rival the professionals.

Cowboys47.  When I woke up from the drunk driver accident (#43), my knees were pinned on either side of the steering wheel, and I couldn’t see because of the blood and glass.  Before panic set in, my door opened and a smooth, Texas drawl said, “Are you all right, ma’am?”  “I don’t know—do I still have my teeth?” I tried to grin in the voice’s direction.  “You look just fine,” he said.  Considering what the surgeon did later, I was probably on the nightmare side of fine.  A warm hand grabbed mine.  “I called the police.  Help’s comin’ so just hold on.  I ain’t goin’ nowhere.”  He disappeared once the ambulance came, but I still have a fondness for cowboys.

Bride&Tyler 8048.  My nephew was born a week before my wedding.  This is my favorite picture of us.  It’s a conversation-starter with people who don’t know our family.

49.  When people see my handwriting, they think I’m left-handed.  I love this because my sister, who is left-handed, taught me how to write.  It’s like I carry her around with me—sorta like a tattoo, but not.

50.  I love crossword puzzles—the harder, the better.  I do them in pen.  And while it’s fun to actually finish one, I love the feeling of leaving a bunch of blank spaces and just jumping to the next puzzle in the book.  Because fun shouldn’t be programmed for failure.


Ugh.  I’m all sticky with narcissism and over-sharing.  Wait, that’s one of the definitions of blogging, right?

Happy long-weekend.  You all deserve it.

My Life on Speed—An Update


Almost four months ago, I started treatment for Binge Eating Disorder.  Basically, that consisted of taking an amphetamine, journaling about the changes in my compulsive thoughts and eating, visiting my med provider (Sarah) more often, and fighting with insurance.

I’ll start with the ugly and work toward the beautiful.

Gorey1. Dealing with insurance is a nightmare of Edward Gorey proportions—decoding the telephone directory-sized formulary, shuffling piles of contradictory paperwork, making my pharmacy do what the insurance company tells me to tell them to do, stopping Sarah from following the pharmacy’s incorrect instructions, filing forms for an exception to the formulary, filing an exception to the prescribed dosage, discussing the exceptions with non-English-speaking Call Center schlubs who have no authority, resubmitting forms, getting Sarah to resubmit forms…

It took all four months to get it straightened out with me double-checking everyone else’s work.  This process would make a sane person stark raving (and has.  I’ve discussed this with lots of neuro-normal people who ended up screaming on the phone or curled up in a puddle at their pharmacies), so I had to tackle it one little piece at a time.

I’m well aware that insurance companies try to get customers to give up.  They don’t want to pay for anything.  But, I survived filing for disability.  I know this game.  And while it was stressful, and I used a lot of colorful language, I got the exact drug I needed and gained even more respect for Sarah.  She and my (new) pharmacy—these worthies—stood with me on the battle field.  Their loyalty and integrity will earn them a place in Valhalla.

Yield2. There’s a reason amphetamines are contra-indicated for people with bipolar disorder.  Luckily, Sarah and I both did our homework about how they might cause mania and insomnia.

When the zip I got from my pills crossed over into agitation, I stopped taking them.  Since I’ve never been very clear about that line (it feels so good to feel good), the symptoms got scary sometimes before I recognized them—like forgetting appointments, or tearing my apartment apart to find a photo I wanted to use, or getting completely overwhelmed by a movie, or driving too fast while texting.

Whenever I woke up to being scattered or dangerous, I stopped.  I made myself safe or quiet.  I notified Sarah.  And I waited.  The mania always receded.  This is one of the benefits of rapid cycling.  I can always count on my mood changing.  I just had to take my brain-skillet off the fire of the amphetamines to let it happen.

Double AhThose are the ugly parts of My Life on Speed.  The rest is pretty darn lovely.

3. I’ve experienced very little depression since May.  Historically, I suffer less depression and more hypomania in the summer, but not to this extent.  I checked my old journals to make sure.  I expected the Vyvanse to flick me into mania at times, but did not expect the overall shift up in mood.  Sarah and I are cautiously hopeful that this trend might continue into winter.

Oh!  I don’t want to pin any real hope on this, but what if the Vyvanse could keep my mood from sinking into that suicidal basement come February?  Since I’ll also have a caregiver for the first time in my life (from Lutheran Services of Iowa) to help motivate me to keep my apartment clean, this winter could be very different.

4. When I take the Vyvanse, all the compulsive thinking about food goes away.  Small amounts of food give me a sense of satiety.  I don’t need more.  I don’t want more.  There have even been times this summer when I forgot to eat.  I can’t express how weird that is.  I know there are people in the world who lose their appetites when stressed—I thought they came from Pluto.  I have wanted to eat while I was puking from the flu.

Brain That Wouldn't DieI’m seeing now how much space food occupied in my head.  The absence was unnerving at first—like walking into an abandoned house with just a few sticks of furniture left behind by the previous owners.  But, I’ve come to love all this room.  And I’m taking my time redecorating.

Whenever I stop the Vyvanse to let manic symptoms settle, the compulsive thoughts return.  I feel them crowd in—pushy, rude, overbearing.  But I can remember what their absence feels like, and somehow that helps keep me from bingeing as much as I used to.  And even then, I don’t punish myself anymore—for being weak, or gluttonous, or just wrong.  I have evidence now.  Binge Eating Disorder is real, not a character flaw.

5. The final sweet treat is that I’ve lost 30 pounds.

I’ll just leave it at that, because… you know…

I’m on an Adventure.

Circadian Rhythm & Bipolar Disorder 

Sandy Sue:

This makes so much sense—how our regulatory systems go Blewy!

Originally posted on Petite Girls Guide:

Circadian Rhythm

“The nervous systems of people with bipolar disorders frequently make specific types of regulatory errors. Many of them involve the body’s internal clock, which controls the phenomena known as circadian rhythms. These are the regular rhythmic changes in waking and sleeping, waxing and waning activity levels, even sensations of hunger or thirst and their satisfaction. The chemical clock that governs these rhythms is located in a part of the hypothalamus gland called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which (among other things) regulates the pineal gland’s secretion of the hormone melatonin.”

“You’ve probably heard about melatonin supplements sold as a cure for insomnia. Indeed, this hormone is the body’s own shut-down mechanism, and production of it usually kicks in as dusk begins. The suprachiasmatic nucleus sets itself based on the past several days’ pattern of light and dark, slowly adjusting itself in pace with the seasons. It does seem important for…

View original 353 more words

Vocabulary Lesson

Ravishing Sight

Proud: Feeling pleasure or satisfaction over something regarded as highly honorable or creditable to oneself.  —Unabridged Random House Dictionary

A couple of weeks ago, I met the nurse practitioner who will be my new primary care provider (more on that weird encounter here).  She gave me many gifts—opportunities to practice mindfulness, chances to hold an open mind, occasions to strengthen my tolerance and my boundaries.  After speaking with her for ten minutes, she also said she was proud of me.

(Cue Crickets)

See, I have a bit of an issue with people claiming to be proud of me.  The use of the word proud or pride means they have some vested interest in me, that they, in some way, are responsible for or can take credit for who I am or what I’ve done.

A few people can legitimately make this claim:

  1. My Immediate Family.  Those who raised me, shaped my character, or built the original hurdles I learned to jump can actually see their own handiwork in who I am today.  They are allowed to be proud of what they’ve done (or not so proud, as the case may be).
  2. Close Friends.  The people who stuck with me through the best and worst, who gave council and butt-kickings, who lost sleep and traveled distance to help me can also claim pride in their efforts to keep me alive.
  3. My Therapists.  The ones who actually made a difference.  The ones who struggled with and for me.  The ones who went above and beyond professional expectations.  They should be proud of themselves because of my successes and the fact that I’m still alive and walking around.

That’s it.

Now, I’m aware that people use proud and pride incorrectly.  Not everyone is an English major or is gnat’s ass picky about language.  What they really mean to say is that they admire me.  They might even be in awe of me.  Or even just happy for me.  That’s lovely.  And appropriate.  Thank you.

To claim to be proud of me after knowing me for ten minutes undermines my ownership of my own experience.  It’s a form of condescension—a pat on the head.  It effectively puts me, as a person with mental illness, in a place of less than, lower than, weaker than.  It tries to shove me in a corner.


That’s right.  Nobody.  And I don’t need Patrick Swayze to rescue me, either, because my world is round, Baby!  I know who I am, what I’ve accomplished, and what a freaking force of nature I’ve become.  All that’s needed is a little vocabulary lesson if this misusage flub happens again.  And it will.  Not just with my new PCP, but with anyone who feels so uncomfortable with my unusual life that they need to discredit it.

A gentle whack with my Unabridged Dictionary ought to do the trick.

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