My lovely self, in the psych ward.

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So there’s this thing I never talked about, before I stopped talking altogether. I didn’t talk because I couldn’t talk, because it was all too close and awful, and the other day I read this thing and now, in my head, I can’t stop talking.

http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/lovely-wife-psych-ward-95567/

I didn’t talk because I couldn’t, because, in June 2013, I was committed, which is different from admitted, and all of a sudden talking felt dangerous. In June 2013, something changed.

~~The following may be triggering. Please read with care.~~

The run-up was very much the same old tune: an uptick in work stress, an increase in self-harm behaviors, verbal explosions, days in bed. Except there was something uncontained about the whole situation – how it bled all over my life, and now, how everyone could see. Everyone was aware. My partner would call my therapist, who would advise him to call the cops and/or my parents. There was discussion about what ought to be done with me, as though this “me” were some other entity, something who didn’t have her own priorities.

Given that my ONLY priority was to stay Bin-less until my sister’s wedding, I was not a willing participant. I don’t like to think about those days before my second hospitalization, that hour before I was half-dragged into the ER by my then-boyfriend / now-husband, the indefatigable B!. And the most horrible: my mother, who, having been summoned, walked in to a nurse swabbing my secret wounds with alcohol. The way I cried when she saw me, because I knew what it was that she saw.

I have not forgiven myself for the harm this caused to my family, this falling apart, time after time.

It had been easy, before, to speak of my mental illness as if it were “over”, and it was nice to think of life as having that arc. Health to illness and then better than before. It had been easy, before, to deal with it alone. But June 2013 annihilated the fantasy of my mental health as a solitary island.

I thought I was writing about one thing, but it seems now that I’m writing about another.

It is certainly one thing to be the spouse or partner, and to see your beloved fall into madness. It is one thing to be a parent or sibling, wondering how you can help. It is another to witness one’s own fall, knowing the chain reaction one’s own madness will cause, not understanding how to reach out for whatever it is that might slow your annihilation. Gravity. Vertigo. The pull and weight of the inevitable as your soul wanes thin or burns up in a nuclear blast.

For me, the biggest takeaway from this article is having a “mad plan”. Limits that are set before the descent begins. If X then Y and we all know it. Because without a plan, the free-fall can feel unbreakable. Without a plan, the “healthy” partner has no recourse but to play the enforcer of ad-hoc rules made, often, without the patient’s consent. Without a plan, the patient can be rendered unfit to GIVE consent, her concerns dismissed as excuses or worse.

This is what happened to me, that June. My voice was not heard, and my treatment, therefore, was a farce. In the hospital, my medication was switched, for the third time in as many months, I cried during all my yoga classes, and, after a mandatory three-day hold, I was sent home to a situation much more precarious than the one I’d left.

My sister was getting married. I put on my bridesmaid gown and raised a glass.

 


Sometimes I think I’m charged with negative ions.

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In what seems like a string of unimaginable coincidences, in the past several weeks I have spent the better part of a month’s salary on not-so-extravagant electronic items, only to have them die at their pulse-driven cores: zero by one by one.

1) Failed 2009 MacBook Pro RAM upgrade: $150 +/- 12 hours of my time

2) Failed 2003 Ford Focus: $850 +/- untold pain and suffering

3) Failed 2011 MacBook Pro (battery? logic board? They’re a little fuzzy on what they’ll be replacing.): $2,200 +/- 36 hours of my time

I thought it was bad when the Focus’ main computer gave out after we’d just ponied up for new brakes and a clutch, so you can forgive me for wanting to crush glass when my brand-new refurb MacBook Pro suddenly stopped charging in the middle of my workday. I mean, I LITERALLY spent two whole days configuring the machine – reinstalling software, repartitioning hard drives, restoring from backups – not exactly the fun time one wants to have on any given Friday. I’ve invested a lot. Which is why I almost strangled the Apple “Genius” at the bar when he said to me, blithely,

“Well, you have 14 days to return it, if you’d like.”

Um, no DUDE, I do NOT want to RETURN the computer. What I WANT is for the computer to WORK.

Which, I think, is exactly what came out of my mouth.

But now, I’m thinking. Does this mean that the computer’s a lemon? Ought I to cut losses, return the beast, and go back to square one? More research? More time? ANOTHER three days spent repartitioning hard drives? Internet, I’m confused. I need help. Please guide me.


Can still remember.

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Ten years ago, I woke up to my roommates screaming. At first I was annoyed, I mean, it’s like 8:30am, TONE IT DOWN ALREADY. Then I saw. And we were all quiet.

My father was flying out of Boston that day, but I didn’t know where. The phone lines were down, so I couldn’t call my mom. It was like the apocalypse, I thought. No service. No contact. Only this breathless uncertainty – the kind of terror that has its own atmosphere.

We watched the news all day long, and, by this time one decade ago, I was at work. I waited tables at an Italian restaurant on the East side of Syracuse, NY, and the few customers I served that night were celebrating birthdays. I gave them all free cheesecake. What a crappy birthday, I’d say to each, I’m sorry. When I wasn’t tableside, I sat at the bar and watched CNN.

By nightfall, exhausted, my friends and I decided to distract ourselves by going to our favorite bar. The news was on there, too, so it wasn’t much of a distraction. The air hung thick with smoke and resignation. None of us knew quite what to do, so when we got home we started to pull Tarot cards. I pulled The Tower.

The next day I rented a car with no tape deck and drove to Massachusetts to be with my family. I didn’t tell them I was coming, just sort of showed up. I drove through the Berkshires in silence, thinking about that night in late 1999 when I sat on the steps of Kaia’s brownstone in Jersey City, out of my mind after a night at the clubs. She had a view of lower Manhattan from her stoop, and the twins seemed to sparkle and wave. Columns of light and life.

The meaning of The Tower is catastrophic change – the undoing of all things. It is a card of violence, but also a card of immense hope. For from destruction comes creation, and only from the ashes can the phoenix rise. I know this now, deeply, and I hope that we as individuals (and our country as a whole) can use this time to live in a way that builds better Life. Because Life, I mean, it can be pretty awesome.


Dear The Internet, Thanks for Nothing.

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So B! and I have officially become slave nursemaids to our eldest cat, That Jake. We are giving him liquid antibiotics four times daily, injecting SQ fluid once nightly, and generally monitoring his progress while he recovers from what sounds like some kind of liver failure. He explains it very well on his Facebook page, a few scrolls down… I don’t really understand it, though. That Jake is so damn smart.

Bottom line is that we have to do all this crap, and we don’t know how, and that doctor at the hospital last Friday only showed us once and I was too scared to watch. And I feel all the time like I’m doing everything WRONG, because he practically foams at the mouth every time we give him an antibiotic (which, remember, is 4x/day), and you can just imagine how he feels about my piercing him with a hollow needle. Every night. For the next eight nights. He’d yowl in the most pitiful way, we’d force in a meager .5ml, and he’d squirm his way out of our grasp. The whole thing leaves me lightheaded, honestly – I seriously hate needles.

In despair one night, I turned to the only teacher I could find that didn’t charge an exam fee: The Internet.

The problem is, The Internet is a liar.

Like seriously? LOOK at this cat.

THAT DUDE IS ONE-HANDING IT! Like, he’s not even holding the cat DOWN! Wtf, Jake would be out of there so fast, and he’d probably take a couple of your fingers and half your shirt with him.

That’s just the kind of badass he is. And he reminds us. Every. Night.


At least the maze rats get cheese or whatever.

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Last week sometime, B! was informed that his debit card had been used to make some small purchases in Europe. The card was subsequently cancelled.

Just around the same time, I lost track of my own debit card. But I’m lazy about weird things, so I didn’t call to report it. “It’ll turn up,” I figured. “They usually do.”

Then, Jake started peeing again. Peeing like he used to, which is to say : everywhere. Off to the vet with him, then, and my Discover card for payment.

Midafternoon, a call from B!. Card was declined. The vet was more expensive than I’d anticipated. “Tell them we’ll pay them tomorrow,” I suggested, trying to be helpful. “What are they going to do, keep the cat as collateral?” B! met me at work, I gave him a check which he gave to the vet, and everyone was happy.

Until this morning.

Test results in, the general consensus is that I “have a very, very sick cat” that “needs emergency treatment”, like, yesterday. How perfectly timed.

“I’ll write myself a check!” I thought. “That’ll do the trick!” (Except for how I’d just used my last check for my psychiatrist’s exorbitant copay.) (It’s not her, it’s my health insurance.)

“I’ll go to the bank!” I decided. “Get a replacement card, pull out a few hundred dollars, order new checks”.  (Except for how it turns out my driver’s license is expired, which makes it ineligible for use as a form of identification.)

“Get your passport!” shrieked the customer manager at the bank, afire with inspiration. (Except for how the last time I saw my passport was also the last time I saw my friend Stephanie’s D80.) (Dammit!!)

After ransacking my apartment for the elusive passport, I found my debit card wedged between a Staples receipt and a gift card to Chili’s, so off to the hospital I went, brandishing cash borrowed from my parents.

More tests! An ultrasound! I’ve never spent so much money so quickly with so little pleasure. Next thing you know, they’re wanting to keep him overnight for observation and I’m seeing my meager financial goals melt like ice in a warm pond.

Eight hundred and something dollars later, we are all home. We have a bag of saline, three kinds of antibiotics, all-new kitty toys, and one very tired Jake. We also have needles for the subcutaneous hydrating saline solution. We are supposed to hold him down and stick these needles into his skin. This, I calculate, will save us nearly $300/day. Even still, I’m not at all sure that I can do it. Not really that sure at all.


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