fuck up

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so ive been in grad school for about three weeks.

and im leaving.

or at least, i think im probably leaving. i havent talked to my parents since theyve been in europe and i havent talked to my therapist because i missed an appointment. and also because i hate that he was right.

id technically be taking a medical leave of absence, meaning (hopefully) it would keep my scholarship in tact and allow me to try again next year. i dont know if want to.

im not sure if i picked the wrong program, the timing was bad with the break down before, my meds are too strong, or a combination of things but i cant force myself to care about it and im just so exhausted all the time.

the routine was bad for me. i know i know im bipolar so routine is supposed to be some holy grail but i cant do it. it increases the exhaustion and feels claustrophobic. its part of the reason i cant do this.

im very worried about disappointing everyone. i know my parents thought this was going to fix everything. i thought this was going to fix everything. especially financially. scholarships and loans i finally didnt have to worry about money. but that will all be gone. my student loan already came in so im not sure how they will take it back but they will.

i feel disappointed.

i feel disappointing.

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home.

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i moved home from my parents on wednesday. i was gone for three months. im not sure if this is an achievement or if i did it too soon or too late, but it’s a milestone none the less.

i wish i had written more here when things were flying off the handle, mostly because i have such severe memory gaps and i cant understand the place of things. i remember the truly scary parts and some of the mundane parts but i feel like im missing a lot. its always strange to feel like you only partially understand whats happened to you.

anyway. on to current life.

im 3 chapters from done the book content of my stats class. then i have my exam on the 14th worth 60% of my grade.  im afraid of that one. i find it so hard to learn just from a book. engaging professors have always been a necessity for me. even shitty profs are better than no profs. i actually get a lot out of lecture based classes.

im still registered to start grad school in the fall. im still hesitant about actually doing it. im just not sure i can do it, if i can move back into that feeling of life, that level of stress. i want to talk to my therapist about it but i cant afford to go regularly so there not much point. i just feel a little lost and scared. im 31 and i cant seem to take care of myself. and not only that but everything seems to be getting worse, im getting stronger weirder symptoms that last for longer periods of time. im noticing my “normal” symptoms a lot more in my daily life. but i can feel what my therapist was talking about when he said he thinks i should work for a major company with steady hours and health care and all that and not go back to school or keep working at start ups that hinge so much on your going at a break neck pace.

im afraid of going back to the break neck pace.

im not afraid of failing, which used to petrify me from a personal standpoint and now mostly bothers me from a financial one. im afraid of regressing backwards into my bipolar symptoms and doing the actions that i know trigger my symptoms, now that my symptoms are a lot worse than they were before.

i need a therapist but my therapist is against my going to school at all and i just feel like thats an unhelpful position.

im scared im never going to be able to actually take care of myself, emotionally or financially. im not so much scared as resolved to the fact ill be alone in the future, which in itself is not a problem but the two combined makes for a scary picture. where do i go? what do i do? how do i continue after age 40?

for a long time i avoided thinking about it because i assumed id have killed myself by then, which is still possible but feels much more unlikely than it has in the past. but because of this i havent really figured out what im going to do in 10 years when im unable to use my parents as support, when im supposed to be a full fledged adult doing adult things living a relatively stable if boring life.

i dont know.  i think its always been easier to plan for no future than to plan for the one i will have if i dont die. i havent taken care of my health like i would have if i thought id live this long. i never thought id live this long. i dont know if i want to, realistically, live past 40 if my life is going to shape up how i feel it will. but thats not to say i want to die, per say. like not in a suicidal kind of way.

i dont know how to handle going forward. i feel like the treading water that used to scare me so much is the only safe place i have left.

 

 

Summary

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I havent been here. I dont know why I havent, exactly, but I think its because this episode was filled with agitation more than depression, and it was too hard to concentrate to write. ive been in this state for 3 months now, so no writing came.  I cant promise what will come from here, but the agitation has mostly simmered.  For now, this is my mental illness oriented summary of June, for my future self


June was the third month of my mixed episode with psychotic features. It started in April, just before visiting Joe. April was filled mainly with anxiety attacks, panic, inability to function, and severe agoraphobia, with some low low periods. I worsened considerably throughout May, experiencing extreme heightened sensory experiences (like sounds being too loud and jumbled together, inability to parse sound, and very bright visual colors), as well as one brief psychotic-like episode where I felt like the universe was comforting me through the radio in a grocery store. I was severely agitated throughout May and into the first half of June. May was the height of my mixed episode features. I started a symptom tracker book in a bit of a frenzy, trying to find a pattern in my symptoms so I could somehow stop them. This was a grandiose idea, but I do find it very beneficial right now.

Near the beginning of June I started anti psychotic medication which helped significantly to calm things down. Things began to improve from there, but I was still having down days and occasionally being completely out of it (molasses or extreme agitation). Recently I was given sleep meds which seem to be getting me a solid 8 hours for now.

I have been living with Mom and Dad since May and will likely remain here for a few weeks (if not more) of July. Having the constant social contact helped a lot, and Mom and Dad are always a good support system. I am comfortable here and afraid to leave. My friends havent really been in the picture except for Brandon, who was really the only one who noticed something was wrong when I disappeared.

I started the stats class I need to complete in order to start grad school in the fall, and I’m managing most days, though the timeline is extremely tight now, given the late start. Its stressful, but also nice to be focusing on my brain function in a positive way again.

Jeff and Brandy had a Eleanor (Nori) on June 29th, and she is healthy and very very cute. Im still figuring out how to transition home, be helpful for J&B and the kids, but also not set myself back. There have been days where I couldn’t be near people- even them- and had to hide in the dark. I don’t want Wes and Lucy to see that or feel that from me, so managing that is my main concern about moving home. I’m super close with Wes right now, mostly because he seems to enjoy being around me more than Lucy, but I’m trying to be there for them both, and now nori too.

In short, June was still having the sawtooth up and downs, but the ups lasted a bit longer and the downs didn’t go so far down, and slowly I think I’m getting better. I also became an aunt again, which Im sure will feel more real in a few days. There’s been progress, but not perfection, which is my new motto to strive for.

I’ve gone through the worst and I’m climbing my way out, one bit at a time.

Dear Joe

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I’ve always wondered who you imagine me to be, in your head. Because much like I know you mostly through mom and dads recaps, reading abstracts of your scientific papers and vague childhood memories combined with yearly visits with screaming children at the forefront, I know it cant be very accurate. I know from the last visit that you don’t really understand much of what’s wrong with me, or how that impacts my life, and really, I don’t either. But what has become clear is that your mental version of me has little to do with the reality of my life right now. I wonder if the same is true for me with you?

I was put on thorazine recently, because sounds became louder than they were, louder than they could be, louder than any single thing and instead a chorus of many. Colors got brighter, brighter, brighter, until the ceiling started to look pink and it got a bit unnerving.

Thorazine is an anti psychotic medication, with the benefit of being an extreme tranquilizer as a side effect. Its always hard to say how much of these things is caused by my seemingly incessant state of extreme sleep deprivation, and how much is part of a bipolar symptom. I think the general conclusion is a little bit of column a, little bit of column b.

Thorazine is the brand name. My psychiatrist only refers to it by its generic name, and im unsure if this is because its simpler or if he was hoping I wouldn’t look into a seemingly innocuous name of yet another drug I shove in my body – which, to be fair, its rather surprising I did, given my current state. But I did. Apparently it’s the first, like the literal first, anti psychotic medication ever produced. There’s whole songs written about ‘thorazine dreams’ and ‘the thorazine shuffle’ and all those good dead and drooling side effects that characterize all patients who took it for decades. This is oddly not much of a deal to me. I think, at my stage, you don’t get to think about quality of life in the same way as the average person. Yes, taking this may cause all sorts of things, but are those sorts of things worse than seeing in technicolor acid trip swirls or thinking a song played through a grocery store speaker was the universe trying to send you a message? Because I feel like there’s a tipping point that comes after that that I don’t want to see.

I’m very clearly losing my grip on interpreting my reality correctly. I am not, however, actively psychotic, because I catch myself, to an extent. Like I know the ceiling should not be pink, as I know it is not painted pink, and I can usually make that logical connection. Therefore I am in, as my doctor says, “the funky stuff”.

Possibly the most frightening realization Im having is that I can understand how delusions work now. Its not something that sort of… appears and you suddenly believe you’re Christ and think you can save the world, or whatever the fuck the stereotypical thing of delusional people is. It’s the little things.

I was at the grocery store with mom, because I live with them now, because I cant function as a human. Not sure if anyone told you that yet. My apartment remains but I don’t exist in it and the idea of it makes me a bit uneasy. But I digress. The grocery store. Mom wondered away to get lemon and left me with the cart and the task of getting yogurt. I was very… alarmed inside. My doctor calls it heightened sensory perception, which is how he explains the Technicolor and such, but I wasn’t seeing things. I was just very alarmed, and suddenly very, very frightened. And I tried to reason with myself as I pushed the cart the 10 feet to the yogurt section, my fingers gripped around the cart handle, but people were in the way and I couldn’t get there and the fear just escalated so quickly. And I know you think I mean anxiety, but I don’t. I mean pure fear. Like falling out of a ten-story window accidentally.

Then suddenly I hear the store radio start playing a Billy Joel song. One of the ones mom used to play in the kitchen while we (well, I) was little. It was like a tidal wave of comfort. I felt for sure the universe was trying to provide me comfort. To take the fear away from me, personally, that this event was someone meaningful beyond mere coincidence. Part way through the song mom showed up and I was following along behind her sort of half mumbling the words to the song, catching my breath, basking in the sweet relief. She had no idea any of this happened. The song changed to something I didn’t know, and I swear to god I felt like the universe had abandoned me. Hit like a ton of bricks. Mom asks if I need to go outside but I tell her I just need to stay by her now, and she continues about her shopping while I snap back into reality enough to realize what the fuck was happening and how my brain was rebelling against logic without me. She doesn’t know any of that happened. I took an abnormally long time trying to pick a breakfast cereal. My eyes were probably really wide and I probably talked sporadically, but I don’t think shed have noticed much at all.

And isn’t that scary? That you don’t notice?

But the scary part for me is that I can see the logical connection to those feelings and normal rational feelings I would have had in that situation if I were just, say, anxious. Music is one of my calming tools it is what I do to distract myself from my other senses or to cheer myself up. That song making me feel better wasn’t illogical. But it didn’t make sense.

That’s now a thing I haven’t to consider more than I really know how. Over or under pathologizing behaviour isn’t very helpful but believing the universe is speaking to you isn’t exactly a symptom you can let slide, when you’re able to recognize it as a symptom.

So I take thorazine. It makes me sleep, so the sleep deprivation is gone, but the “funky stuff” still lingers so the dose is being increased. Although this stuff would usually be considered part of a manic episode, the fact that I’m also horribly depressed for large swaths of time indicate it’s a mixed episode. In other words, we have barely scratched the surface of the emotional well of crazy that is your sister.

I wonder how much that mental image of me has changed now. Do we know each other well enough that this is just a thing about me, or is it starting to define me, more than you want it to?

 

mixed, with no blessing

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i legitimately have no idea where to start or what to say or what the important bits are, anymore. im just going to ramble and see what floats to the top.

ill start with the obvious.  im in the middle of a (diagnosed) mixed episode. its been a month now. still going strong. things have been… unsettling.

my sister came down for a week because its her birthday, and this happened to coincide with my doctor cutting my wellbutrin dose in half (complicated story, simplified:  anti depressants bad. mood stabilizers good. lowered mood stabilizers, increased anti depressants, bad things happen. like mixed episodes that last for over a month).  This is a dramatic decrease, obviously, and because im me and im sensitive as fuck to medication, i obviously got some stupid withdrawal symptoms for a week. so the two combined and i stayed with my parents until they left today to drive amy back to new brunswick.

i never actually wrote about the trip to philly to see my brother here, and i still cant really, i mean i should, theres definitely stuff to say, and if i could string a coherent thought together i would, but basically my mixed episode started on the trip, manifested as intense anxiety and panic attacks with lots of mood shifts, i was a fucking wreck. my brother didnt know how to handle it. his family really didnt know how to handle it. i didnt know what to do. i avoided everyone a lot. i cried a lot. hysterically. hysterical is the word i would use to describe the experience.  i think joe and i got a lot closer? in the end? and i think he realized we dont actually know each other very well, considering we are siblings. it was interesting. and a mess.

things calmed down for the last few days of the trip (mood shifted up). then we got home and the mood went down but everything else stayed up up up. all the agitation. none of the sleep. all of the rapid thoughts. none of the happy.

ive been in some weird cluster of mismatched bipolar symptoms for a long time, but at any given time, what these mismatched symptoms are is a complete surprise to everyone, including me. so far the most noticeable have been extremely suicidal, extremely tired, very very very agitated, completely enraged, pumped full of adrenalin, spontaneous crying, hyper vigilance, and pressing thoughts. very few of the so called positive effects of mania.

but then.

then there are the concerning things.

yes, but definition, i guess i am implying that the previous symptoms do not merit ‘concerning’, in so much as, ‘part of being bipolar, sometimes’.

when we chopped the wellbutrin off at he knees, initially it had some very positive effects. the agitation definitely reduced. the thoughts slowed down a bit. i slept through the night for a couple days. then i slept all day, too. then i started getting sick every morning until my dose kicked in (because we cut my night dose). but like, overall good. thought that might be done.

but no.

ive been getting the scary symptoms again.

the ones ive only every gotten when extremely manic, or in a psychotic mixed state.

colors got super super bright for awhile. just like five hours here or there. only it wasnt with the exuberance that happens with mania. and then the worst symptom. the symptom i try to explain to people and they think im describing like an adhd symptom but i am really really really not.

all sounds become very very loud, and they all scramble together into a big lump. the volume doesnt bother me, like it doesnt hurt or anything, i just can. not. untangle. the. noise.

we were playing a board game and people were talking and the pieces were clicking and cards were being shuffled and the dog was sleeping and the fridge was humming and someone was talking on the street outside and amy was knitting and all the sounds all the sounds all the sounds. they get maxed out. everything at max volume and max intensity. with no ability to sort through them. like. all the sounds happen all the time, and everyone takes in all that info all the time, but our brains focus in on the bits that are important and ignore the rest, most of the time. thats why you dont usually hear yourself breathing, and how you can have conversations in coffee shops. and when i try to explain it people think im just constantly getting distracted by sounds we dont normally notice (like the fridge humming). but thats not it. its that all the sounds come in together, smooshed up, and i cant tell that that is the humming of the fridge or that that persons voice and the humming of the fridge arent the same noise.  i just. i cant explain it. but then there becomes this.. space. this layer of padding between me and all of my senses. i jut stop being able to take in any information or make sense of anything im hearing, and then seeing, and then sometimes i get extremely aware of all the sensations of my body that you dont normally notice (jeans on leg, pressure of chair, hair on arm, etc), and it all comes with an extreme sense of confusion and being overwhelmed. and then, its like my mind pops, a giant 404 error, and complete disassociation begins. but i wouldnt call it anxiety, while its happening (though definitely anxiety producing after the fact). and it can last hours and i cant make it stop. sometimes days. and all i can do is basically curling in a ball in the dark in as close to silence as i can manage and hope i can sleep until it goes away.

for me, everytime this has happened, ive been diagnosed as either being psychotic or having psychotic symptoms shortly after.

i dont know if thats happening. i dont know if like, the wellbutrin was pushing me in that direction but the sudden drop like staved it off and now im going to be fine.

i dont know whats coming.

i have never been in a position before to identify symptoms of psychosis. if you can identify them, is it really psychosis?

like i dont know how this works

i dont really consider psychosis and a standard part of my illness, but its not an unprecedented occurrence.

i dont know i dont know i dont know.

writing this is the longest ive been coherent and stable in ages.

im very tired now.

I got into grad school

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I found out like a 2 weeks ago, while I was in Philly.  I told my parents, without too much bluster, and they told Joes family, and we celebrated, kinda, a little, while we were there (there were lots of things happening, Joe got tenure! its easter! its my birthday! im having a mental breakdown!).. so it was a bit of a weird reception…. and then… then I didn’t tell anyone. At all. And theres quite a bit of story to tell in that. But for once, I’m just going to keep that seperate.

This is my thing.  This is THE thing I have been trying to do for years. And I got in. I got in with a scholarship that completely covers my tuition.

I just want that to breathe. I want that to be the part of this I go back and read about in the future.

And I know that getting in and going to school does not mean that I will finish it, or that I will do well. Hell, it doesn’t even mean I will successfully complete the stats refresher course I have to take before starting the program.  And I know my therapist thinks this is a horrible idea, and I know he might be right. I know these past 2 years have basically been an example of exactly how I am not invincible to the socioeconomic effects of mental illness, and that it is not unlikely that I will spend large amounts of my future in some combination of unable to work, living in poverty, working sporadically, and maybe just feeling accomplished to hold a job of any kind.  and I get that. But I’ve also decided I can’t just let that truth dictate my goals. There is a solid argument that I shouldn’t do this, one my therapist has made many times, one that mostly surrounds failing and making myself sicker. But the financial impacts of trying are pretty small – thanks to scholarships – and I think the benefit of trying will outweigh the prospect of failing. I would forever regret not trying.

So this is it. This moment is a culmination of every fibre of perseverance, strength and that nagging sense of hope in my soul.

I’m going to grad school.

 

progress.

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my grad school interview is tomorrow.

im a little hesitant to write this because im in a generally positive frame of mind about it at the moment and dont want to make myself all nervous over analyzing shit.  so thats mostly all im going to say about that.  I didnt get the CIHR scholarship I applied for, which sucked, but honestly i was in a pretty bad state when i wrote that so i guess its not horribly surprising.  I did just find out I received a different scholarship for $10,000 (renewable) though, and given canadian tuition prices, that is quite a lot. so thats encouraging. im not sure if they give entrance/school specific scholarships out with acceptance or not. i also dont know if ive been accepted or not. hence the interview. ack.

in other news, i have officially decided to go visit joe on friday. happy, positive, non bipolar vibes please.