I Choose Life

handmade greeting card, collage artComing down from a stretch of mania—that feeling of a greasy rope flying through my hands.  Later I’ll feel the burn, the skin of my palms flayed.  Now it’s just the rope.  Too fast.  No grip.  And the foreknowledge of when the frayed end finally comes—and goes—I’m done.  Then, it’s the limp fall.  Out of control.

I couldn’t go to the hospital today, or yesterday.  I spent all day Friday there, finally realizing I couldn’t help my mom.  She won’t or can’t choose life, says no to food, to therapy, to any action that will move her toward living.  A stubborn non-choosing. I counted off all the ways I’d done what was expected—held vigil for three weeks, cajoled and pleaded, coordinated with my sister, planned to provide care if and when she goes home—trying to be something I’m not, trying one more time to be good enough and worthy.  I was ready with my bag of distractions today, ready to camp out once again after working out at the Y and after meditation group.  But as I fast-walked around the Y track, sliding from mania to depression with the rope smoking my hands, I chose life.

Today, I sucked in the cool air.  I lifted my eyes to the white, cumulus clouds rowing a jewel-blue sky.  I saw a movie, sat journaling at the Hy-Vee cafe with soothing chai tea and kept choosing life.  I’m not done with Mom.  I’ll never be done with Mom.  But I won’t sacrifice myself for her anymore.  No more.

These past few nights, waking up at 2AM, I tried something new.  I laid a quilt under my bedroom window, piled pillows—a poor girl’s zafu—and sat meditation.  I tried to find a different rhythm, tried to let it speak to me instead of chasing or forcing it.  And when the discomfort got too big, when it gripped the place under my left breast, when my brain sighed in sorrow and begged for mercy, then I rested in the Fantasy Man.

He stands in the near distance, his back to me, looking ahead.  Jeans, dark blue dress shirt, dark hair.  Relaxed, but alert.  Hands in his pockets.  Long grass waves against his legs in a silent breeze.  The sky is overcast.  I walk toward him, and that’s enough—to know I will reach him, to see the comfort coming.

Friday night, I dreamed Hugh Jackman was wildly in love with me.  He was ready to leave his wife for me.  And it broke my heart, because what I admire most about him is his devotion to her and his children.  “You can’t do that,” I told him.  “That’s not who you are.”

Broken-hearted.  The core of my bipolar-ness.  I feel the shards rubbing against each other under my breast and fantasize about a heart that is worthy and more than enough.  As my mood shifts this time, I do more than manage, I choose.  On the bed this afternoon with Henry and Emmet close, a breeze slid through the open window.  It slid over my skin like smoke.  It slid me into a place of hearts whole and beating life.

Across the 8th Dimension

Buckaroo BanzaiDoes anyone remember The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension?  Quirky Sci-Fi movie from 1984.  Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Clancy Brown, lots of other great actors.  Half of my vocabulary comes from this movie (Laugh it up, Monkey Boy).

There’s a scene where Buckaroo opens the boundaries between dimensions and drives his car through a mountain.  He proves that many realities exist in the same physical space.  Just find the right side-step and you’re face to face with weirdness.  I understand Buckaroo’s disorientation a little better now.

Tuesday, my mom went to the hospital for an angiogram.  Her docs thought she might have some heart problems and wanted to get a good picture of her blood vessels.  One minute my sister and I were joking with her about our double chins as we waited to start the procedure.  The next minute the doctor was telling us he had no idea why she was near death.

Hospital waiting rooms must qualify as another dimension.  Time functions differently—speeding up when the doctor shows up, slowing down between the five-minute visits inside the ICU.  Several new languages must be learned—Doctor-Speak, Endless Speculation, and the abbreviated answer to “how is she?”.

The senses work differently in this dimension, too.  The colors in the jigsaw puzzle I’m working seem alive, blasting with color.  But the smells in the cafeteria hardly register.  Light ranges from stark fluorescents in the halls to ambient murkiness in Mom’s room. Sounds are muffled—the shush of crepe soles, laughter far away, the gentle few bars of Brahms’ Lullaby over the intercom whenever a baby is born.  It’s all very odd.

Even when I leave the hospital, I’m still caught in its vortex.  I talk to my friends, feed my cats, eat supper, but all done on the wrong side of the dimensional barrier.  I’m wrapped in a space suit of Hospital Waiting Room and can’t quite touch my own reality.  Which seems right.  Moving through dimensions must have repercussions.  I’ll just stay here for the duration and acclimatize.  I’m afraid I’ll be back soon enough.

Late Trains

Nathan Fillion, Malcolm Reynolds, Serenity, FireflyI’ve been waiting a week now for help, waiting for my therapist to return my calls, waiting for the hospital’s day program to accept me, waiting for the mental health professionals to save me.  I’m beginning to think like my Firefly friend, Malcolm Reynolds.  He tells Shepherd Book, “I ain’t lookin’ for help from on high.  That’s a long wait for a train don’t come.”

Even if Mercy calls today, I wouldn’t start partial hospitalization until Monday.  That’s three more days I have to get through.  The prospect of spending three more days holed up in my jammies is unacceptable.  If I have to work my way out of this by myself, then I’d better get started.

There’s still a Bad Ass inside me, still a part of me that fights to live.  I can’t just forget all the training I’ve gone through, all the work and effort I’ve made to come to terms with this bipolar business.  I’m tired just now from the fight, and resentful of how hard I have to work every day.  Every gorram day.  But waiting for help that may never come isn’t the answer.  It’s up to me.  It always has been.

So, impossible as it seems, I’ll get dressed.  I’ll go to my water aerobics class and reassure my friends there.  I’ll take myself to breakfast and journal my way through this strange situation.  I’ll take back the DVDs I’ve watched and get a few groceries.  I’ll take care of myself.

I never much cared for trains anyway.

Well, That’s Different

We had a saying when I lived in Minnesota (Minnesotans being the masters of understatement).

Well, that’s different.

This declaration is reserved for things like two-headed chickens or grown men rollerblading down the sidewalk in neon-orange short-shorts.  It slipped out of my mouth today—a knee-jerk reaction, I guess.  My closet Scandahoovian jumps out at odd times.

And it has been an odd week in Lake Wobegon.  I was in trouble, and finally admitted it.  My illness had rolled over me, and I couldn’t cope by myself anymore.  So, on Monday I put a call into my therapist, saying it was time to check into the hospital—preferably the day program I attended three years ago.  I waited all day for her to call back, white-knuckling the panic and galloping moods.  For distraction, I rented the first season of Downton Abbey and watched it all.  By 8:00, I gave up and went to bed.

My therapist called while I slept.  Her message was breathy, fractured.  She said she’d call on Tuesday at 11:00.  Tuesday came and went.  So did Season Two of Downton Abbey.  I didn’t know what to think.  My clinic is usually prompt in responding to distress.  I decided it must have burned down or my therapist eaten by zombies.  It’s hard to be charitable while chewing the walls.

This morning I wondered if I could call the hospital myself.  Medical protocol is weird—referrals, chain of command, secrecy and double-sided red tape.  You need a law degree and fluent Klingon to really figure it out.  But, I thought it was worth a try.  The guy who answered at the Help Desk told me to come in.  No problem.


I was proud of myself for bypassing the loud absence of my clinic, but also wondered why I had to do that.  I drove the hour to the hospital and gave an honest interview.  The nurse was friendly and concerned.  “You need to be here,” he said.

But I have to wait for the Day Program to call with an opening.  “Probably tomorrow,” the nurse told me.  But it’s 11:00 and still no call.  I’m beginning to think there’s an alien telephone virus infecting all mental health lines.  Or it’s a test.  Lay on the bed.  Breathe.  Wait.  And find a TV series to watch that’s longer than two seasons.

Still Here

handmade greeting card, collage artEvery once in a while, I like to throw out the factoid that most of the folks with my type of bipolar disorder (rapid cycling with mixed states) are either in group homes or institutionalized.  It’s one of those literary conceits meant to shock the reader.  It also provides a nice rationale for whatever craziness I happen to be experiencing at the moment.  Generally, I don’t think too much about it.

But yesterday, my friend Vivien at Manic Muses wrote about coming home after a week in hospital, recovering from a mixed state.  As she described her symptoms, my mouth went dry.  Holy shite, I thought, that’s my life.

I forget.  I forget that the prognosis is so poor for my type of bipolar disorder because a majority of sufferers choose suicide as a treatment.  I forget that I’m sort of a miracle.

Today, I’m thinking it’s okay that I’m overweight.  It’s okay that I’m anti-social and a pain in the ass.  It’s okay that I burst into tears in the locker room yesterday with a couple of my swim buddies holding me.  It’s okay that I fight with my compulsions and lose.

Because I’m free, and I’m still here.

This is my 601st post.  That seems like a big deal, too.

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