tHe haPPy grOUch

tHe haPPy grOUch

Monday, May 23, 2016

Just thoughts over 4:30am coffee...

Regardless of the relationship type, some people just don't stay with you.
It could be as simple as geographical location. It could be that life gets too busy to maintain. It could be a difference of opinion, beliefs, lifestyle, too vast to conquer. Or it could be that they're just not made of the "sticky stuff" that holds people together.

I'm not made of that sticky stuff, either. I've let so many people go over the last 20 years, it's astounding. Some I'm sad about, or regret. Some I am overjoyed to have loosed them. And some I simply feel nothing for. Some are like an old coffee mug in the back of your cupboard, so unused, unfamiliar, so nondescript, that you don't even remember it was there.
And perhaps that's the strangest thing; the non-feeling. Because, don't you usually feel something for the people who've not just crossed your path, but spent some time taking up space in your life?
Who knows.

My "mortality anxiety" (that's what I call it) has seemingly resurfaced. After months (nearly a year) of being free from it.. (Well, not quite free, perhaps just better at coping).. I know that it's running free again once I start dreaming about it. Dreaming about my death, the death of my children, of the (few) people I love. Dreaming about what comes after, if anything. I hope that something does, but I tend to believe that there is nothing. The more I think, dream, obsess, the more fearfully I live.
It's uncomfortable and annoying, to say the least.

Someone said to me the other day- Do you have so few friends, have you become so accustomed to being alone, that you talk to yourself all the time? Have you always talked to yourself this much?
I laughed and said- I asked my therapist about it, and she said I'm not crazy, so it must be okay.
I've just got to try to stop doing it so much in public (grocery shopping, banking, any outing, really, etc); because it certainly makes me look crazy.

The last couple weeks, my son and a few of my customers have asked me why I'm so "stressed out". My son is particularly keen to my moods, so I expect that from him. But I've always tried very hard to cope while working, and I usually succeed. Evidently I am failing as of late; I will try harder.
I have noticed it myself, though, too.
The agitation that is supposedly part of my "condition" has been at a much higher level. I am being snarky even as I write that, but it's no joke. And people just don't get it.

It's not some kind of "bad mood" that you can just get over or deal with. It's not just a matter of putting on your happy face and playing pretend. Check your baggage at the door. That's what normal people do. It's not like that. It's not like that at all.
I cringe when I hear my name called. I can't stand the sound of other people talking. Just a touch startles and irritates me. Sensations are elevated. The slightest mishap (an unexpected noise or touch, any kind of mistake, a misunderstanding, any sign of any kind of conflict... anything) sends me into a fit of internal fury.
Living with this makes everything difficult, if not intolerable. Shopping, going to soccer games, working, being around people at all... And it's not even just in public. At home I am so frustrated and impatient all the time, with everything. Some days I can't cook a meal or do the dishes without throwing a fit.
So when you see me, and I seem irritated or angry or "stressed out", please know that I am doing my goddamn best. This is me coping. I am "dealing with it". This is my happy face. This is me pretending to be just fine, like most people do. But it's not like most people. Not at all. It is a constant battle.

Add to all of this, a re-evaluation of sorts, as of late... Considering my life and the direction it's going. The feeling that I am just skating along, but knowing I need to make it something more. Do something. Relationships, education, work (insert life change here), something... I feel a change coming on. I need it. Am I being manic? No, I think not. Something, or some things, need to change in my life.

It's now 14 hours later, and I'm just coming back to this blog. I started it as the sun rose, and am finishing it as the sun sets. Not planned, just so happened that way.

I got through doing dishes today without throwing a fit. That was last night. When I was trying to make a milkshake, and ended up with milk and ice cream all over the kitchen, and a blender that was forcefully (if not a bit dramatically) launched into the trash.
I picked it out today. Fixed it.
Got through the dishes.
Didn't bite anyone's head off in public.
Didn't eat any small children.
Today was a good day.



Tuesday, May 17, 2016



I updated my "Patients Like Me" account this morning (a website where people like me can seek advice, support, etc), and I happened to think.. This would make a good blog entry. And so, I'll share...

I think I have been suffering with bipolar since I was a teenager, but it has gone undiagnosed. Back in my teen years I was just moody or difficult; troubled. Although I was a good kid, I struggled with severe mood swings, depression, and maintaining interpersonal relationships. I can remember starting counseling around age 13.
 My grandmother (father's mother) was stricken with major depression and mood instability. In fact, I hear stories from my Aunt about how my grandmother wouldn't get off the couch for days, how she was nearly incompetent at times, how my aunt basically raised my father and her other younger siblings.
My father was a raging alcoholic since I can remember. His drinking was what I blamed all of my problems on in my childhood. He eventually drank himself to death in 2013. He was constantly changing jobs, cars, hobbies, and homes. We moved as much as most military families. I believe he also suffered from (undiagnosed) bipolar. But he self-medicated, and it killed him.
Now at 42 (and off and on therapy over the years), I've been through 3 marriages, gone back to college (and dropped out) a handful of times, bought a new car every six months, moved about two dozen times, and changed jobs almost as frequently. I have very few friends, and still struggle with maintaining relationships of any kind. I spend heedlessly. There are days when I can't get out of my pajamas, and there are days when I could write the manifesto (like today). I have dramatic ups and downs that can't be predicted, or controlled. 
It wasn't until adulthood, and (finally) a good relationship with a PCP (around 2009) that she recognized my problems/symptoms and recommended medication.
We first tried a couple different anti-depressants. Both of which seemed to make me "crazy". I was irritable (angry, even), restless, hyperactive, sleepless, wound-up. We then switched and tried two different mood stabilizers. They were mild on the spectrum, and I don't remember exactly what they were. They both seemed to have little success, and I eventually stopped taking them. 
I sought help again in 2012, and my PCP  recommended a work-up at our local psychiatric hospital. I also began seeing a new therapist. That is when I began taking Depakote. And yet, I still hadn't receive an "official" diagnosis. The Depakote seemed to stabilize my swings, but made me quite "flat". It also caused weight gain, and killed my (already low) libido. And so, once again, I stopped taking it. 
Fast forward to the present year... (I am still seeing my therapist).. After my third divorce, a few more job changes, another (failed) attempt at college, three or four moves.. and I find myself seeking help again. I had heard that Topamax had some off label success with bipolar, and helped with weight loss. So I asked my PCP for it. It also was used for my headaches. It was a miracle drug for my headaches! But it made me eat like a pig, and the pins and needles in my hands were absolutely intolerable. It did nothing for my "moods". And so, once again, I stopped taking it (my headaches are back, unfortunately). 
I knew I still needed help. And so my PCP set me up with a meeting with the in-house psychologist in February. Him and his psych nurse and a resident doctor listened to me babble for about an hour, and I left with a prescription for Abilify. I have been on a very small dose (2.5 mg daily) for about a month. We will now move up to 5mg. I have seen no difference in my swings yet. In fact, I know I'm not any better. 
Almost every night I drive home from work crying because I feel so alone; so sad. (I am a bar tender and manager at a local bar). I see so many people having fun with their friends on a daily basis. And I wonder- why I don't have that? Why am I so isolated? Why don't I have any friends? Why can I not successfully maintain any relationships? Why am I not a "people person"?  (But damn, I do a good job faking it at my job every day).
I have a hard time concentrating. I am so distractable. I am irritable most of the time. Frustrated. Angry. I lose patience in everything I do, from cooking a meal to working my day shift. My son asks why I am always so "stressed out". Perhaps it could just be related to my current financial struggles, but I don't think so. It's always been there. 
I have spent all of my "bill money" these last couple weeks, I've been "hyper-creative" (obsessively writing, painting, crafting), I've posted my car for sale (that I just bought a few months ago) and have been feverishly looking for a new one, I'm considering going back to college (again), I got a puppy (in my defense, a service dog was prescribed by my PCP), I constantly go back and forth emotionally in my current relationship. Sounds silly, I know. I'm not jumping off buildings thinking I can fly, but this is my mania.
I still see my therapist every other week. I see my PCP every month, but she's retiring in June, so I have to find someone new. Ugh.
And I wait for the Abilify to be my answer. For something, to be my answer.

And that was the update to my health profile on "Patients Like Me".
It was a learning experience even as I wrote it.
Even though I am (somewhat) at peace here on the lake, am mostly happy at my job, and am in a relationship, I know I'm no better in mind than I was last year, in 2012, or even 20 years ago.

As I sit here and listen to the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack, and the song "Escape (the pina colada song)" is playing, I realize it represents how I feel about most everything... My relationships, my home, my belongings, my car, my job, my education... I am constantly seeking something new, something different, something more, to fill some kind of void that never, EVER goes away. Just like my father did, all those years.
  (The psychologist blames this on my dopamine levels -Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps       control the brain's reward and pleasure centers, hence the Abilify).
This kind of pleasure seeking issue sounds so silly, even as I write about it. But trust me, it's not as silly as it sounds. It's not silly at all. It's an obsession, It's all-consuming. It's destructive. And it's terribly, terribly frustrating to live with.
Add to the pleasure seeking- the constant irritability, and uncontrollable (and unpredictable) highs and lows, and its a recipe for absolute misery at times. Although, the highs are pretty good.

I can control some of my moods. Well, sometimes. Oh, who am I kidding. I don't do a good job at it at all. New cars, changing jobs, attempts at school, overspending, obsessive crafting for hours, writing the manifesto, ending/beginning relationships... My irritable outbursts. The angry moments. The inability to concentrate. The times I can't get out of my pajamas or off the couch. The times I do nothing but cry.
The psychologist also highly recommended cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). My therapist says we can try it, but that I'll also have to put it into practice on my own. That's no fun. That's too much homework.
And so, medication. Keep coping. Wait and see.

Today feels like a good day, though. Although I've had too much coffee already and I'm chain smoking. I want to sit by the lake all day. But I can't sit still. Maybe that'll help me accomplish some yard work today.

Be well.

Monday, May 2, 2016

It's been a while, and I feel like talking. So, get comfy.

It's 5:30am, and here I sit, in my usual spot by the lake for my morning coffee.
I don't mind waking so early nowadays.



I guess I'd better get used to it, now that I'm adding a puppy to the household.
Yes! I'm getting a dog! After several (lonely) months of living without and animal in my life, I'm finally getting a dog!

I began the search thinking that I would adopt. That I could kill two birds with one stone- I get a service dog, and a displaced dog gets a great home. I filled out several applications. About a week later and I've had only one response and home visit. I understand that it takes time, but I am not a patient person.
I was looking for a (young) adult. Hoping to skip the puppy angst of chewing, potty training, and all the other headaches of puppyhood. But at the same time, I worried about the train-ability of an older rescue dog. I know, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks.  But even an adult (especially in rescue) is bound to have some learned bad behaviors. Maybe a puppy is a good idea? Maybe a blank slate is better to start with? Either way, I'm going to potentially (and probably) have my hands full. I don't know. So much to think about. So anyway, my search continued.
And then I saw this ad for puppies. They were shih tzu/mini Aussie mix. I didn't really want a tiny dog, so I thought this might be a good mix. While talking with the breeder, she mentioned that she had just had a boy fall through from her full mini Aussie litter. She sent me a picture, and it was pretty much all said and done then.
I did spend a few days obsessing over the breed and the fact that it's a puppy... Oh god, it's an Aussie. Can I keep it busy enough??? Oh god, it's a puppy. There goes my shoes. And poop on the floor. And crate training. And sleepless nights. And, and, and... I spent about 12 hours reading online about Aussies and training.
Even when I went to meet them, I wasn't sure. But mom was SUCH a sweet dog. She wanted nothing more than to lean into you and have you pet her. And when you stopped, she'd gently paw you and ask for more. Her and I played this game for about an hour while I was there. The dad was a little more skeptical of us. He just laid on his couch watching us with his puppies. Once in a while he'd come over and sniff us, let us pet him, then right back to his couch to watch over.
And the puppy... Oh, the puppy. Those ice blue eyes. That tri-color coat and stub tail. Oh god. How did I think I could resist! And so I (begrudgingly) parted with my deposit money. I pick him up this coming weekend.
So I have a week to prepare! I'll go broke this week on supplies, I'm sure. Broker than I already am? If that's possible?

I worry that I shouldn't be spending on a dog, especially when things are so tight. But, it is an investment. It's not just a new coach purse, or a bunch of new home decor stuff, or a new wardrobe. It is going to pay me back tenfold, for a very long time.

And then I worry.. is this the part of me that I don't like?
Am I being impulsive? Am I cycling? Am I in a an "up" moment right now? Where am I in my mind? Will how I feel about this change tomorrow, next week, next month? How can I know I am making the right decision? About the dog, or my job, or my relationship(s), or where I live, or, or, or... How can I ever really know, about anything?
You have no idea what it's like to live this way. Never being able to regulate your own emotions and/or thoughts. Life feels like such a roller-coaster. All. The. Time. And then there are the "blank" times. When you simply feel nothing at all. Worse than the emotionless moments though, are the down times. When you're stuck in sadness. There's nothing you can do. You know they will pass, you just don't know when. It could be hours. It could be two or three days. So you wait it out. Those moments are debilitating. Knowing it will (eventually) pass is the only thing that keeps you sane, keeps you from being stupid.
It all makes every day difficult. Every decision. Every moment. Self identity is nearly impossible.
Mix BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) with depression and bipolar, and it's a pool of crap that makes life... interesting.
But I'm not crazy. I cope. I function. I'm normal.


Speaking of which.. I'm finally trying the Abilify that I was so dead-set against (as if the stigma of mental health diagnoses aren't enough).. I was quite appalled at the thought of going on an anti-psychotic. I was afraid that by agreeing to it, it somehow was the final sentence that states- Congratulations, you're officially crazy. But when my therapist said- Crista, it might not help, but what would it hurt to try it? ...it made sense.. Stigma aside, denial aside. Just try the Abilify. And so I've been on a tiny dose for about a week and a half. Too small, and we (me, my therapist, my doctor) all know it, but as with any medication, start slowly and gradually increase. And wait and see.
And so, I wait. To feel differently. Or, maybe better put- to feel less different. I wait to feel balanced. I wait for peace.

Speaking of peace...

Living here on the lake has brought some. More than I expected, actually. There is definitely something about the water that brings it to me. Moving here from across the street was one of the best decisions I've made in a long while.

Anyway, back to the dog...

I am very excited about the new puppy. A bit (or maybe more than a bit) of anxiety accompanies that, though. I know I will have moments of regret. I'm sure I'll be complaining. The poop on the floor, the chewing, the crate training, the craziness. But I have to remind myself that it will pass. Not right away, but it will.
I will invest in some training (and lots of chew toys). I will be consistent.
And with any luck, I'll end up with a wonderful companion and service dog.

In other news.. 

I do miss having two incomes! Sigh. 
Just once I'd like to not have to owe someone money. Or complain about the cost of living. Just once I'd like to have someone say- oh hunnie, I paid the electric bill yesterday, or got the groceries, or paid the cable bill, or, or, or... My good friend Sue loves that Don (her hubby) checks with her every day- Do you have enough money today? Sigh. Now that, I miss. Just in general.
I have obviously forgotten how difficult it was to do it all on your own.
But, I am doing it. I guess. Barely.

Relevant but random... I did consolidate my student loans and get them out of default, so I can now qualify for government grants to go back to school, which I have been considering. That is, IF I can decide what the hell I want to be when I grow up.
Sigh.

And although I am lonely much of the time, I try and remind myself I am not completely alone. I have company, sometimes. I have Dawson, well, half-time (Norman Bates's mother effect still in full force). I have my mom and Logan on occasion. A few friends, I suppose. None that I actually talk to or spend any time with, though. Ok, maybe I don't have friends. Lol...

Hence, the dog.
Hopefully he won't mind me sucking the life out of him.



Be well.