Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Turns out Ginger Rogers Is Really Robert Benchley

How could we have gotten it so wrong? Four grown women and a man examined that fiesty kitty and all of us concluded that he was a she.  I had been waffling on the name. Why not a literary name? @PhoebeFay suggested Dorothy Parker. I almost called the Vet to have it changed on her/his records, but I didn't.  It's just as well.  But for now I'm thinking Robert Benchley, notorious liar, humorist, writer, actor, member of the Algonquin Round Table. Friend of Dorothy Parker.

I'll call him Bob.  The House Call Vet said he's a holly terror of feistiness.  The Vet had to wear his kitteh gauntlet to handle Bob.  Now I want to rename Marley, but Bob plus Marley makes BobMarley, so...

Bob had terrible personal hygiene.  Dirty ears.  Really dirty ears.  Ten days worth of ear wash and ointment dirty ears.  Bob got the whole shebang of immunizations and a second round in three weeks. Worming too.  Bob got wormed. The indignity of it.  Then in a few short months Bob will get neutered.  I don't think it's going to change Bobs personality much.  He's oddly self confident for a dirty guy abandoned in someone else's garage, then passed around a couple of times before landing here.

Bob, I want to make a deal with you.  Once I get your ears clean, you better step it up.  Bob purrs really loud and likes to hang out around my neck.  This disturbs Marley.  We'll work it out.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ginger Rogers? Is That You?

The new kitteh has a third eye or a second vajaja.  Check out this face!  She devours the news. It's a requirement in this house.  I must have well informed critters.  I can't quite settle on a name for her, but Ginger Rogers is a possibility.  If she turns out to be a boy or chooses to go the trans-gender route she can become Ginger Baker.  She can be whatever she wants.  And with those marking she might well be THE ENLIGHTENED ONE.  Not that I'd entirely buy it, but maybe that's Jeebus on her forehead. 

She does have dirty ears and a Vet Visit tomorrow afternoon.

Okay, so much for the face.  Take a look at this form:  She whirls to find that article she wanted to devour.  Where's the Mother Jones? It was something by David Corn! 

She seems to have sturdy legs and nice sized feet.  She has pretty markings on her tail, too.  All in all I think she's a lovely kitty.  I've done a bit of de-cluttering to make the solarium a safe place for her, since I don't entirely trust Marly to be sensible.  And yet, after 24 hours of very limited sharing of space, we have reached this weary nonchalance, this delicate detente.
This kitteh seems to have a special fondness for the reference books.  Marley is faining interest in the Portuguese Dictionary.  Until today she's never show the slightest interest.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Real Americans

We see it every day.  It's everywhere.  It's us versus them.  Is it race, class, gender, sexual orientation, my religion or lack of it versus yours?  Is it income, accent, education, gender?  Yes.  It's all of these things and more.  Are we polarized?  Yes.  More than any time since the 1960s.  Only this time it's the White Right wearing teabags and holstered handguns that's taken to the streets.  So I'm trying to understand the Tea Party mentality.  I'm trying to understand why these poor souls are being led around by the likes of Dick Armey, Koch Industries, and the John Birch Society.

The saddest part of this polarization is the belief that the American Dream is about wealth and that it's within reach of everyone.  All you have to do is come up with a good idea and put your shoulder to the wheel, and you could be the next Bill Gates. And if not, you could win the lottery.  That's bullshit, but almost everybody buys it.  And it's why the Teabaggers (who think of themselves as the "Real America;" Sarah Palin's America, the great, now mostly mythical, white, middle-class) are willing to give huge tax breaks to the very very rich.  They believe that they too, can become filthy fucking rich, and they will want to keep their imagined someday riches all to themselves.  And when they are finally really really rich, they won't give a shit about the poor elderly, or the poor immigrants, or the unemployed, or the homos.  They'll think, "I got mine.  If I can do it so can you, you lazy bum."

This "Real America" watches Fox News pretty much exclusively.  (Utah is an example of the Real America; in every public place with a TV on, it's turned to Fox News.)  They listen to the twin gods in their political universe: Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.  They consider themselves religious folk even though they don't go to church much, but their Christian religion is the Real American Religion, and thou shalt have no other gods by god, or you are un-American and you don't know that Christianity is our state religion, you dangerous, socialist, ignorant, multi-lingual Nazi kike raghead beaner bastard, you.  Speak English like a Real American.

They are fiercely anti-immigrant and have no idea that they are all illegal immigrants in the eyes of the few remaining Native Americans who managed to survive the internment camps, broken treaties, and genocide.  These "Real Americans" are mistrustful of people who don't look like them. ( Like Native Americans for instance.  They look a lot like Mexicans, those indians.) What they don't realize is that anyone who is filthy rich wouldn't give them the time of day, would see them as the great unwashed masses.  These Real Americans don't realize that the Filthy Rich don't identify with them the way they identify with the Filthy Rich.  It's an unrequited love.  And as much as they identify with the rich, and parrot the political ideology of the rich (which they don't entirely understand) they mistrust the well-educated and don't quite realize that getting the right education at the right schools is one of the pathways toward becoming not exactly rich, but at least middle-class.  The job market has contracted.  Remember when the filthy rich were exporting all the tech and manufacturing jobs overseas?  Those jobs are gone forever. But there are two wars still on and private contractors are probably still hiring.  Too bad they're looking for linguists.

We gave the filthy rich the right to do whatever they wanted with no regulation during the reign of GWB, because he was a guy we Real Americans could imagine having a beer with, because he talked like an ignorant uneducated cracker from Texas.  He wore cowboy boots.  God Bless America!  We're Number One!  And since the Real America doesn't like to read history much, the Real America didn't realize GWB was an elite with a good education (even if he was a lazy student) from a life of incredible privilege and vast inherited wealth. He had the worlds best contacts, even if he did sound like a hick.  And even if it didn't work out so well last time, they still want to do it again. Why? Because rich white people will look after us, right?  Because it's us versus the un-white, right? 

No, not this time either, because it's stiil just class warfare.  Ask Shirley Sherrod.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Ms M's Parting Gift

Ms. M is a gifted photographer. I was sure she'd find a way to make that her career.  But she's chosen Industrial Design. She's moving to Savannah to pursue that dream. When she's traveled she's sent me remarkably striking photographs.  I make Marly self conscious when I get out my camera.  And Marly would try to drag me across the street to avoid walking across pavement that was recently sprinkled.  I'd call her water phobic.  But Ms M took Marly and Roscoe to one of our lovely dog parks and took this shot of Marly standing in water and looking thoughtful, but not horrified.  It's now my screen saver.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

How To Argue With Andrew Breitbart

 Stolen from Bob Cesca's Awesome Blog

We'll Miss You Roscoe

Roscoe is about to embark on a great adventure.  Yesterday was his last day with us.  He's lived here almost all his life.  He's secure and loved.  We'll mourn his leaving and hope his new life will be every bit as happy as his life with us has been.  Bon Voyage, Roscoe.  And if you ever want to come back, just tell Ms M.  We'll always be here for you.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Cautionary Tale

Whether you've been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, thyroid cancer, or have never had a funky day in your life, this kind of thing can happen and does, all the time.  Without advance directives you may be at the mercy of the ER and hospital, should a serious emergency arise, and you have no one present who will speak up for you to say, "She's bipolar.  Here is a list of the medications she's on.  Here is her psychiatrist's name, here is her primary care physician's name and number.  She has a DNR"  Everyone of us should carry a card that says at least this much about us.  Because if you have family that feels shame or denial about your mental illness or any illness and those people can speak for you in a situation where you can't speak for yourself, their shame and denial can kill you.

I know a man who has been overseeing his elderly sister's bipolar disorder.  Due to his diligence to get her the best possible psychiatric care, she was on the medication necessary to control her bipolar psychosis and other bipolar symptoms.  Anyone on her cocktail of drugs might seem a bit slow on the uptake, a bit casual about disorder and mess.  To a religious and disapproving sister who didn't believe her sister was psychotic, only uncooperative and lazy her sisters psychosis would seem like another kind of illness altogether.  The brother was out of town when the bipolar sister had a crisis in the presence of her disapproving sister.  Psychosis was misdiagnosed at the ER and her medications were not administered making her psychosis worse.  She was admitted to the hospital, but not the psych ward.  She was six weeks in the hospital developing strange symptom after strange symptom that eventually developed into pneumonia and then something that made them think she needed her gall bladder removed, or some other surgical procedure, and then an infection and then, death.

The man was notified of his sister's hospitalization, probably by the sister who did not believe in bipolar disorder.  Because of HIPPA laws and the strange politics of family dynamics he was not given authority to intervene in any decisions about her care.  He watched helplessly as his psychotic bipolar sister died inch by inch. 

Her funeral came a couple of days after the funeral of Wayne, his friend, the pianist who died in a car crash after the Salt Lake Jazz Festival.  I can't begin to imagine his grief.  But I can imagine my own death in circumstances where I have a stroke or accident that lands me in the hospital with no family at all,  and my friends are unaware that I'm in need of their help.  I'm a solitary woman who seldom leaves home.  But when I do, anything could happen.  Life's messy like that.

When I finish this I will type up a list of my medical conditions, all medications I take on a daily basis, the names and numbers of all my doctors, the name and number of the friend to call in case of an emergency.  I will keep copies on me at all times, just in case.  I don't fear death, but I do fear mistreatment in a hospital if they do not know my history of bipolar disorder.  I also fear mistreatment in a hospital if they do know I'm bipolar.  Medical professionals are not immune from mistreating the mentally ill.  I know.  It happened to me in a much less serious circumstance when I was in the hospital with diverticulitis.  There are people who have no compassion for the mentally ill in every ER in the country. I know,  I had a roommate who worked in an ER and for most ER staff, someone who is crazy and needs emergency medical attention is seen as much less deserving of sympathy than almost anyone else.  We are just a pain in the ass.

Friday, July 16, 2010

GOP Liars and the Lying Lies They Keep Telling

I suspected that the economy was unraveling before the election was over, but had no idea how bad it really was until Bush, himself, the Decider in Chief, asked for Billions to bail out his buddies on Wall Street, the very guys who got the big beefy tax breaks, and the obscene bonuses for ruining the economy, just as Bush himself was heading out the door, pockets bulging.  That worked well, didn't it?  The Republicans seemed to have no problem bailing out Wall Street,  and then blaming Obama for TARP, but when it came time to hand out a few paltry dollars as a stimulus to the economy to bail out those of us, lowly middle class taxpayers who'd lost our homes, our pensions, our life savings in the Wall Street melt down, well that was a different story.

The Republicans are still at it.  They don't give a flying fuck about the middle class.  They keep voting against extending unemployment benefits for those hardest hit by this deep recession, the lowly middle class.  They are telling the ignorant teagaggers that unemployment benefits are a form of welfare for the lazy.  Once again, they are wrong.  A wage earner who has worked his or her whole life and is now unemployed due to the contraction in the job market caused by the recession, has been contributing through payroll deductions to an account that is just for this kind of event, is now being insulted on a daily basis by the GOP.  Unemployment Insurance is just that.  It's insurance in the event that one will be unemployed due to no fault of one's own. If you don't know this you've never punched a timeclock.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The New Black Panthers and the Old White Men

The discussion centers on whether the Justice Department's civil rights division mishandled a lawsuit against members of the New Black Panther Party, which was filed weeks before the Obama administration took office. The suit was focused on the party and two of its members, who stood out front of a polling place in Philadelphia on Election Day 2008 wearing military gear. They were captured on video and were accused of trying to discourage some people from voting. One carried a nightstick. 

This is an except taken from a piece in the Washington Post dated 7/14/10 and written by Krissah Thompson

It begins: A 2008 voter-intimidation case has become a political controversy for the Obama administration as conservative lawyers, politicians and commentators raise concerns that the Department of Justice has failed to protect the civil rights of white voters. 

Abigail Thernstrom (a member of the Bush Civil Rights Commission) said that she did not find testimony convincing and that the facts of the case raised doubts in her mind, noting that the Black Panthers were standing in front of a majority-black precinct that had voted overwhelmingly for Democrats in previous elections -- not a prime spot for intimidating white voters. 

There is nothing more disgusting to me than hearing whites complain that they are being discriminated against on the basis of race when they are attempting to deport every brown person in this country who wasn't living here a hundred years ago and has a birth certificate and passport to prove it when they're asked to show their papers to some beefy red faced jackass with a gun strapped around his bulging belly who calls himself a teapartier and a patriot.  Frankly I'm ready for the uprising of all of us with some native or African DNA to deport all those racist idiots.  I'm so sick of them and their fake indignation over "illegals."  You are all illegals in my book.  My DNA dates back three thousand years of living on this continent.  Go fuck yourselves, you lilly white idiots.  Go back to the Old Country wherever that is.  Get a job cleaning someone's home or gardening for them.  Then you can start complaining about how good things were in the USofA when you were the boss of everything.

Politics: Why I Blog

When my young friends from New York were visiting in January of '08, just after I got my Imac so I could finish writing my first novel, they insisted I needed a blog.  They had to explain to me what a "Blog" was.  Web log?  WTF?  Why would I ever want to do that?  What a pointless endeavor, no one would ever read it.  And aside from working on a difficult manuscript, I didn't really have much to say.  Or so I thought.  1,365 posts later, I have discovered my voice.

It was a political season and I am a political animal.  There could not have been a better time for me to start a blog.  In the beginning of that political season, I was a Hillary supporter, but as the season progressed, I became an Obama supporter. I had begun to have readers and some of them were outraged that I, a feminist, would abandon Hillary.  It was our turn, as women, to put a woman in the White House and not as just First Lady, a term any feminist worth her salt should hate.  We are not "Ladies" we are women.  But it became clear to me that Hillary was not well served by the advise she was getting and that advise was coming from people she had chosen to run her campaign.  She was making rookie mistakes, acting like she was entitled to the nomination, as if it were a coronation and she was the heir apparent.  She was leaving States she'd lost without thanking her volunteers and supporters for their generous help and forgetting to congratulate the victor, her current boss.  She began to seem boorish and rude to me.  And I worried that if she won, she'd do the same thing as President; she'd put the same lousy advisers in positions of power, and she'd still be getting bad advise.

I'm not always sure Obama is all that well served by some of his adivser, but one person I'm positive he's getting and honest advise from is Hillary.  It was a brilliant move to offer her Secretary of State.  So we, the voters got a three-fer:  We got Barack, we got Hillary, and as a tripple player, we got Bill Clinton, the man we quietly call on when we need some charming arm twisting done in the troublesome South.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Death of a Local Jazz Great

Wayne Christiansen was killed in a car crash on his way home from the Jazz Festival.  He was a monster talent.  He was a great pianist and composer.  I knew him from the time Tom Burton and I lived together up Emigration Canyon.  They played together for awhile.  They'd played together in the 60s at The Quarter Note.  It was the only bar in town where you could go almost every night and hear really good Jazz.  David Harrison owned it at the time.  Wayne was one of the few musicians I really liked personally.  I know that sounds harsh, but harshness seems to be what I'm left with.  My last encounter with Wayne was at a small club on State Street.  It was a complete surprise to find him there, and I went up during a break to say Hi and to make a request.  I asked him to play Round Midnight.  And he did.  If I were anyone else in the world I would have said, "Thank you, that was lovely."  But I'm not that nice a person.  I wanted the classic Round Midnight and I got a virtuoso bebop version instead.  It was a great deal more than I deserved.  But my reaction to it was to give him shit about overdoing the virtuosity.  It was the last time I saw him.

David Harrison just called to tell me, and to ask for Tom Burton's phone number.  And it shocks me how careless I've been with every man I've ever known.  I no longer have a way to get in touch with Tom.  But I gave him Pat Zwick's numbers (another man I've finally completely alienated with my anger). Pat will know how to get in touch with him. There will be a memorial for Wayne, and I've been told when and where to go. And then there will be The Bastille Day Reunion.  I won't be able to go to either event.  There are men from my past who I want to avoid and for perfectly good reasons, not just because I'm bipolar and careless with my insults.  But I have been unforgivably careless of Tom's feelings and for that too, I'm sorry.  To bad I won't have the chance to make amends for my past bad behavior, but any contact with people with whom I've had a long relationship and have bailed on, is another opportunity for me to be cruel and careless, or to be hurt again myself.  I'm a coward when it comes to close quarters with the past.  It's been too painful.  And much of that pain has been self inflicted.

So, goodbye Wayne.  I'm so sorry I was so awful.  And I waited too long to tell you.

Monday, July 12, 2010

One Night of Missed Pills Equals Two Lost Days, So Far...

It doesn't take much to topple this bipolar person from her delicate balance.  I've worked very hard to achieve "normal."  Normal is for me a very hard-won balancing act.  I teeter here, on the balance beam of sanity, a bit wobbly but still standing. One missed dose of antidepressant and the two mood stabilizers made me stay up all night and spend yesterday watching old movies and lying in bed trying to stay out of trouble.  I tried to tweet a bit, write a place holder post, and clean up my dresser, but I couldn't type.  Words tumbled out like letter salad.  I now think I know what it must feel like to be truly dyslexic, the brain moving like lightning, too fast for the fingers to keep up.  My one little cleaning project expanded as I moved the mess on top of my dresser from one surface to another, expanding chaos rather than taming it.

Today I thought I'd be back to "normal," but I'm slow and disinclined to do anything but stay out of trouble.  Monday is a day I usually grocery shop, but I'm not inclined to trust myself to stay out of trouble in a store of any kind.  Shopping is potentially dangerous.  And I'm not in desperate need of anything yet.  I can feed myself today.  I have plenty of dog food.  Nobody needs a treat, so sending myself off to the treat store is just flirting with disaster.  If I really want to see what shopping is all about for me, I'll clean the cupboard and fridge.  I could probably feed a family of four for a month on what I have stashed away.  I'll thaw something for dinner.  I know from a cursory glance that I have ham steak, pork chops, rib eye steak, pot roast, ground lamb and more.  In my pantry I have rice, potatoes,  grits, cereal, two back-up jars of mayonnaise; what the hell do I need?  I have greens for salad, cabbage for slaw.  I have honey yogurt and blueberries.  I will not starve.

I'd love to work outside, but the temperature is climbing toward the high 90s so I'm going to spend another day just chillin'.  If my brain were in good functioning order I'd read all day, but a page of words is like trying to read word-salad.  Typing is easier today, but still not as natural as it should be.  I could retweet all day on twitter, but I'd have nothing original to add to the conversation, so I'll give it a break for one more day.  The world won't wobble off it's axis without me.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Today it's Sunday.  There.  Now I'm anchored.
Last night I missed a dose and now it's like an acid trip, almost.
Last time I looked at the clock last night it was 4:00 AM
It was the most important dose.  The Sinequan would knock me out eventually
It wasn't on board. I take two 800 mg Neurontin every night along with the Sinequan
Then the half a Lisinopril and the double dose of Loveistatin to keep my veins open and unclogged
And finally the rhythm keeper! Flecainide!  It keeps my heart beating in my dreams.  I took none of it.

I can barely type. I just came in from trimming the Virginia Creeper along the sliding gate and fence at the very back.  It's where I hide.  It's how I get in and out in my mommy mobile.
Invisible on the streets of Salt Lake
It's where I store my bricks and future gate.
It's where one Aspen's dying.  I'm watering now.

I took a 25 mg Sinequan and an extra Neurontin this morning or rather early afternoon.  I'm coping.  I'm staying in and out of sight.

The charming, somewhat glamorous boy and girl returned late today. They've been traveling. There will be parties ahead.

Dartmouth stayed home and worked like a Cholo with borrowed power tools, cords hanging out
the dining room window.  Screen removed.  Always barefoot.  Suntanned barefoot beautiful boy.
I avoid the front of the house and so the weeds grow,
The lawn burns, the flowers need deadheading.
I need to get the blower out.  But first I'll get the dust down.

Ms M brought Roscoe over for a three day visit with overnights.  We three, Roscoe, Marly and me (that's the problem with her name) watched movies and ate popcorn until the wee small hours and not once did I think about my pills.  I take a handful every night.  They're all lined up in morning and nighttime doses.  I know better than anyone how important they are.  It was an accident.  I've heard it said, "There are no accidents."  I don't buy that.  No one would deliberately destroy the balance that keeps her on her feet, her brain working, her life from devolving into chaos when she's worked so hard to create a bit more order this year.

It's 7:00 PM and I'm taking my pills.  I'll go to bed early, hopefully get up early and get things done.
I'm not oblivious to the fact that I just wrote a piece about what it's like to be bipolar and not medicated correctly.  I know the dangers.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Shopping's a Symptom?

Show me a woman with a real serious shopping compulsion and I'll show you a bipolar woman.  If that woman's mother found her life's greatest pleasure shopping, I'll show you the closest genetic link, though there will be many in the lineage of that family. It's probably the most under-diagnosed of the mental illnesses and yet it seems everyone's bipolar these days. It's one of the few genetic illnesses with two genetic markers, which means that if there is one bipolar person in your family, there will be many more, diagnosed or not. 

Compulsion (mania and psychosis) and the complete absence of compulsion (depression) are the two poles of bipolar disorder.  With compulsion comes boundless energy.  The joy of having both energy and the purpose of compulsion feels great and no one in a slightly manic swing will want to come back to earth.  The compulsion to shop takes me when I'm transitioning into hypo-mania.  That's when I have boundless energy and feel a strong sense of well being and optimism.  "Money's like a river; it has to flow.  Spend it and more will come."  It's the "zen like" place where I have absolute faith that it will all work out and I need those Gucci high heeled boots. It would be great if I used that energy to clean my closet and scrub all the floors since I don't have enough money to quite pay all my medical bills.  The impulse to shop, especially shopping without a list (for things I don't really need) should be a signal for me to check in with my therapist and see if I need an appointment with my shrink for a med check. Problem is, it feels so good.  Hypo-mania is like the very best drug.  This is how life is supposed to feel.  I feel charming, but I'm probably a little too intense, a bit too loud for most people.  It might be that's when I start thinking that my sex drive isn't dead after all.  Another red flag for those with bipolar disorder is an intense and perhaps inappropriate sexual appetite that might lead to disastrous sexual encounters.  Yes, encounters with an S. Yes, without protection. Yes, with much younger men. Yes, possibly married younger men. Yes, maybe married to your sister.

A lack of impulse control and a high tolerance for chaotic disorder is a another symptom of someone in the hypo-manic phase of the illness.  All these things might seem to you like personality. And yes, there might be a narrow line between being a charming, flirtatious, fast-talking smarty-pants, but then if you have no boundaries at all, and you feel compelled to fuck your sister's husband, you are probably at risk of driving the bullet-train that is your "personality" off the cliff.  We can be incredible drama queens.  We can be very destructive and self-destructive.  But then our lives have probably been quite trying, not to mention embarrassing for our families.  As children (if female) we are the ones who get bullied and abused.  We may be the family's scapegoat.  We might be the child who is sexually abused.  And as we grow into our teens we will likely become the ones who cut ourselves so we can feel something, so numbed by stress and psychic pain are we.  That's not to say that every child who is bullied at school and abused at home is going to be bipolar.  But a high percentage of female bipolar adults had that kind of childhood. We are the vulnerable ones, no matter how brash we may seem.

So what does this have to do with you?  Bipolar disorder is under-diagnosed, and if diagnosed, often kept secret.  And in the early stages of depression you do feel sick.  Depression may begin with a strange fatigue, a headache that won't go away, a low grade fever that lasts for weeks.  You ache all over.  These symptoms have sent me to the doctor many times, and each time tests have been run and one of the things they check is my thyroid.  Before any doctor diagnoses depression other things have to be ruled out.  And in the testing phase, they may find a thing or two.  I once had a one-time sugar spill in a urine sample.  This was so perplexing to my doctor that she had a complete endocrine work up done.  I was desperately hoping that it would be an endocrine problem, anything but another depression.  But there is nothing wrong with my endocrine system.  I do have heart problems, but they have never been mistaken for bipolar symptoms.  Depression is serious.  It can't be dismissed as just laziness.  If you're the only one in your family who's ever been seriously depressed, it might be that other members of your family tend to be a bit on the manic side.  If mania is the predominant side of bipolar disorder for those in your gene pool, chances are those folks will never be diagnosed.  Because who ever thought dynamism was a bad thing? Those who mostly swing towards mania are energetic, fun in a breathless sort of way, and productive powerhouses.  They are often greatly admired.  And they can be mean, so woe to the depressive bipolar child who lives in a family of manics, for there will be no sympathy there.  We just seem terribly lazy to the rest of our lunatic relatives.

Bipolar disorder can be managed quite well with the right drugs.  But finding the right drug might take a bit of trial and error.  And once the right drug is found compliance is often a problem.  Few bipolar drugs are weight-neutral.  I carry forty pounds of drug weight.  Zoloft makes me lose weight, but I tend to get a bit manic on it.  Wellbutrin can help you quit smoking but made me psychotic.  Most bipolar drugs keep me from dreaming, and for me, dreaming is one of life's little miracles.  So I'm willing to trade being thin for being able to time-travel in my sleep.  For most women the weight gain may make compliance problematic.  For men, just admitting that they have a problem that needs medication is astonishing in itself.  Men experience bipolar disorder differently than women.  Or at least they shop for different things like cars and boats and tools and such.  Men may be violent when manic. The high of a manic stage can manifest as aggression for both men and women, but men express their aggression more often with fists, and most bipolar men think having an insatiable sex drive is the ideal anyway so what's the problem there?  Inappropriate sex?  Are you kidding?

I've been in a lot of group therapy for bipolar disorder and I have never seen a man in any of those groups. And it's not because they were women-only groups.  Men don't seek treatment unless repeated incarcerations find them negotiating further jail time for therapy and enforced drug treatment.  A lot of men would rather do jail time than admit they have a mental illness and have to take drugs that take the thrill of risky compulsions out of their lives.  Because the compulsion for risky sexual behavior is a lot more fun than feeling just normal.

We still live in a time of shame when it comes to mental illness.  Many of us just self-medicate to try to feel normal.  We smoke cigarettes (which are a mild antidepressant) and drink too much.  We smoke pot and drink too much.  We do meth so we can have the energy that depression takes away, and drink too much.  We will try damn near anything to feel "normal," except take an antidepressant or anti-psychotic that will stigmatize us as crazy and make us gain weight.  But remember, along with a high degree of creativity we also have the highest rate of suicide for any illness.  It is our leading cause of death before the age of fifty.  After that we're the real experts on the illness.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Dog House

This doghouse was Roscoes.  When Ms M first got him, he was an adorable puppy.  But as he grew his behavior, when left alone, caused her to have to relocate often.  He would tear up her stuff if left inside alone.  If left outside alone he would howl and bark incessantly, driving neighbors nuts.  If given half a chance he'd escape his solitude to end up chased around the neighborhood by the dog catcher.  She got him a dog run and he'd just howl his outrage at being behind bars.  Then she and he boyfriend at the time made Roscoe the world's sturdiest dog house. The idea was to give Roscoe shelter that was so heavy that when leashed to it by a study cord attached to the doghouse, he'd be safe and have shelter. He was never happy with this dog house. He hated being leashed to a dog house he'd never go inside.  He'd still howl and carry on, attempting to drag the dog house behind him as he tried to get away from it.  So moving in with me was her last chance to find a way to keep Roscoe.  He was always happy here, and there was never a need to chain him to his unused doghouse.  So, the doghouse has remained empty.  I think of it as a warning to possible intruders that you may not see the huge dog, but he sure has a very big doghouse, so buzz off.

Marly is the only dog to show an interest in it.  No, she doesn't ever go inside and curl up like a contented dog, but she does poke around it now and then.

"...His Injury Here, With Her Punishment There..."

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

It's All In My Head

I'm Bipolar.  I'm crazy too. And to make matters worse, my pedophile dad was a psychologist.  So, even though it was important to the family that I keep my piehole shut about what my daddy had been doing to me, my daddy was always telling me that my seething fury and the self inflicted wounds of careless "accidents" was all in my head.  And it was, in the sense that I might open my mouth and spill my guts to a sympathetic stranger, and what would come out might just put my whole family in jail and me in the looney bin for life.  My mother would scream, "Snap out of it!"  My father would say, "It's all in your head."  It never helped, and though it was all in my head, I could not snap out of it.

My dad's dad was a famous surgeon here in Salt Lake City.  He was Chief of Staff of a couple of Salt Lake's finest hospitals and a high up muckymuck in the Shriners.  He too was a pedophile.  I found this out when he died and his elderly only daughter (another crazy woman) got all Doc's films and photos.  As she and her children were watching the first of Docs carefully numbered films they were surprised to see two kids, ages ten and seven, having clumsy sex with one another.  The little boy was the seven year old and he grew up to become my daddy.  The little girl was the old woman watching home movies with her children.  It was a little awkward.  The man with the movie camera was Doc and the director was his wife, my Grandmother.  And so begins the problem that would disguise my bipolar disorder with all the symptoms of an adult victim of child sexual abuse.  Turns out that's not uncommon in children with bipolar disorder.  Pedophiles either create their own victims or find them.  But the kids with underlying bipolar disorder are often also the victims of child sexual abuse precisely because they're vulnerable.

It is rare for the bipolar child to be unscathed by other victimization.  We are bullied, we are withdrawn, we are moody and sometimes full of a rage so fierce it can only be safely turned within and we are often the teens who cut ourselves or have frequent "accidents."  It is also rare for the bipolar adult to be without substance abuse.  We are mostly self-medicating, trying desperately to find a place within that feels "normal." If I'm describing your childhood here and you have been diagnosed as "depressed," that may just be your predominant pole in the bipolar swing.  It was mine.  I spent years so depressed I couldn't get out of bed.  And depression almost always begins with symptoms that seem like a serious sickness.  You ache all over; you feel so tired movement seems like walking through molasses; you might have a low grade fever, a headache that won't go away; you lose your apatite; you go to your doctor certain there will be a diagnosis and a pill to fix it.  And eventually, after a series of expensive tests that find nothing, you'll get put on an antidepressant. And there are pills to fix your symptoms.

There are so many drugs to treat depression and the mood swings that go along with it, like the occasional psychosis.  But first everything else has to be ruled out.  My thyroid was almost always suspected since my eyes are prominent, or were before the upper lid began to droop.  But, if after a month or so on a new drug, my symptoms aren't getting less debilitation, I probably need to try another drug.  There is one that will help.  And it needs to be a psychiatrist who works through that process of finding the right drug, so I can live in a place of emotional balance.  It's a process of trial and error.  The errors can feel like a full blown psychosis or a lobotomy.  And most bipolar drugs are not weight neutral as it is so genteelly described in the inserts that come with a new drug.  I gain up to forty pounds on certain antidepressants, and no amount of dieting will get rid of it.  This is one of the reasons so many women won't stay on their antidepressant.  Would you rather sleep for a couple of years or live your life with a bit more weight?

At the depth of a depression is a coma-like sleep that is dreamless and very difficult to come out of to eat, bathe, and then make it back to bed.  Eating, bathing and walking across the room all take enormous energy when in the depths.  Sorrow resides there as well as oblivion.  Regret is sorrows twin.  And it doesn't help to have a family member shout "Snap out of it! I don't believe in depression!"  That's probably just a family member who is in the hypomanic phase of bipolar disorder and hasn't been diagnosed yet.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Stupidity of Burning Money: Fireworks!

We, like many municipalities, are in a money crunch.  We're cutting programs for kids.  The arts are going, parks programs are cut, sports programs for kids are cut, and so, in an effort to keep some of those programs the Sugarhouse Fireworks display was cut.  To me this is a very sensible solution to saving money.  What is a fireworks display but the literal burning of money in a very ostentatious way, with a lot of noise and a certain amount of risk of life and limb to the idiots blowing things up. "... it costs more than pocket change to put on the show: $55,000 to be exact"  according to the article in the Salt Lake Tribune.  So some idiot with more money than brains began a private effort to raise the money to put on the blowing shit up program in Sugarhouse Park.  And it was wildly successful.  So, fine.  We can raise the money to blow shit up, but we can't afford a summer arts program.  This private effort to raise funds is laudable.  But if we, the citizens who feel so burdened by taxes can raise money for fireworks, why can't we do the same for our public schools, or summer programs for kids from poor families?

I have many reasons for hating fireworks and not the least among them is the damage they do to lives of animals who are terrified by the noise. It is the glorification of "bombs bursting in air" symbolized by the sight and ground-shaking sound and smell of smoke that fireworks is all about.  Surely we can find a way to celebrate the Fourth of July in less costly and dangerous ways than blowing shit up.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Summer of Loss

I hold myself together during the hours of a crisis.  I cried a bit when I knew it would be the day I couldn't go on thinking Cyrus was okay, thinking he could make it through another day.  And  I'd been told he was on the maximum dose of pain medication. The level of antibiotics was as high as it could go.  Finally nothing was helping.  It was all getting worse.  And maybe he'd been suffering too long.  Maybe I was just selfish in keeping him with me to fill my need to have him here.

Every day since his death there has been the oddly timed firecracker popping off somewhere on the block, or just behind the house in the alley.  And the reflex holds to not react, so as not to feed his terror of anything that sounds like gunshot.  I look over the bed to see how he's doing.  It's just a reflex.  But I will always hate the Forth of July for all the terrified dogs. 

The orange and cream Tibetan rug that was under his tempurpedic mattress and cedar bed on top of that is now bare and visible.  It could be a treasure exposed, but it just seems like an absence, a loss, a minus in my life.

Yesterday I spent most of the day crying.  Loss is always my fault.  I cannot grieve, it seems, without believing that somehow, if I'd done something differently, Cyrus would have made it through another summer then a fall and then...  I know why I have to blame myself.  It's the phantom pain of the scapegoat.

I have a few more days of dog-sitting Roscoe.  He spent last night here.  We had a little slumber party.  It's probably the last time I'll sleep that soundly for a good long time.