Sunday, April 30, 2006

A good weekend!!!

Weekends seem especially tough. The last few have been ok, not bad, but not as good as the week days have been. I think much of that has to do with my son being home. As I think I have mentioned, he is "schizo-affective" (a watered-down diagnosis for "psychotic schizophrenic" given to kids before an official schizophrenic diagnosis can be given (due to age alone.) I love him, but he is the most difficult person I have ever known to be around. Melissa handles him much better than I do. She is his guardian angel and, in return, he treats her worse than anyone else. He had his 13th birthday this weekend (and how I became the father of a teenager, I have no idea.) But, Melissa and I have agreed that he seems to have reached this plateau in respect to emotional maturity, learning capacity, and even physical maturing rate (he getting bigger, but not really maturing otherwise.) So, weekends are tough, for one reason, because there are many more conflicts involving my son (during the week the bus picks him up early and drops him off just prior to dinner), which adds mucho stress to the household. In addition, Melissa and I handle his behavior and fragility much differently, which causes some conflict between she and I..more stress.

This weekend was busy! Saturday, we had a huge "Moving Sale." Two weekends ago, Melissa and I spent the weekend going through and cleaning out the garage. From that, we began the "garage sale pile" on one side of the garage. Last weekend, we tackled the basement. Amazing what you accumulate in 10 years. Stuff I had forgotten ever existed! By the end of basement cleaning, an entire half of the garage (one car-space worth) was filled (and I mean FILLED) with garage sale crap. The other half was filled with boxes and stuff we are keeping, but need out of the house for purposes of showing the house to buyers. No cars in the garage. Friday was supposed to be day 1 of the garage sale. We have sun in Colorado 360 days/year, and it almost NEVER rains. Of course, it rained all day on Friday. So, we backed-off to a 1 day sale. I am amazed at the shit people will buy for a few dollars. I think we set a new world record for garage sale revenue (not really, but we did very well considering that we were selling stuff we hadn't seen in years.) We did almost $600 in total sales on about 6 hours and sold about 90% of the stuff. I was very pleased with that result. And I had an absolute ball selling my junk and talking to people and just having a good time. All of this is something that I was unable to do just 6 months ago due to mood issues. People we have known for 10 years keep commenting to Melissa things like "I don't think I've ever met "this" Mike." and "Gosh, its great to see Mike so happy and doing so well." Those things make all the effort and pain of treatment and the fight from there to here worth while.

Sunday morning, Maggie (daughter, 11) and I ran one of the bigger 5k running races in Colorado, the Cherry Creek Sneak. It was her first 5k. I ran this race on 1999, and ran the 5 mile event then. Its grown to over 30,000 runners now. I talked her into running with me because a long time training partner of mine and his 11 yr old daughter were running also. We knoew that the other daughter would be going slow and walking some of the race. I made sore Maggie knew that there was no pressure on going fast or not walking. I let her know that she would set the pace or we could run with Dan and his daughter. We had an absolute ball. After about a mile and a quarter, Maggie had had enough of the slower pace that the other two were keeping and wanted to go faster. She has a lot of her dad in her. :) We walked some short stretches. I suggested, during mile 2, that from the 2 mile marker until the end we try to run the rest non-stop. Maggie agreed. And then as we made the last turn to the finish, I suggested that, when she could see the "Finish" banner, we finish strong and sprint the finish. She left me in the dust and finished like a real competitor. I'm very proud of her effort, and I let her know that. As we walked through the "post-race party", which is a bunch of vendors handing out samples and free stuff and info, Maggie looked up at me and said "Dad, its great to have the "old dad" back again." I had to fight back the tears to tell her "Thanks, its great for me to have him back too."

The house is dangerously close to being market ready. Shooting for May 8 to go on the market. I can't wait. This "getting ready" is hard work!

Anyway, a great weekend with some significantly positive feedback on my mood changes. One day at a time. One GOOD day at a time. Later.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Still banging away...

Things are still going strong and well. It’s been a while since my last post, and I apologize for not being more diligent. Getting a house ready to go on the market is hard work. In general, things have been going very well. My mood has remained consistent and good. I caught myself, this week, beginning to creep back toward overloading my expectations in relation to the amount of work I can get done in a day’s time, and setting my standards too high. I find that I slowly, over time, raise the bar a little at a time and don’t realize I’m doing it. I was fortunate to catch myself pushing too hard before it had a chance to side-track me. The Risperdal seems to be a big help as well (it just sort of mellows me just enough to keep me from setting the bar too high, and allows me to have the flexibility to change my expectations mid-day when necessary.) So, what, three weeks now since the last zap? And things are holding steady. Day-by-day, baby, day-by-day.

There are readers (and commentators) to this blog who seem to operate on some invalid assumptions about my memory and the return of some short term memory and cognitive ability. With respect to short term memory, in general, I can remember more unique events and periods from my history much more than the more ordinary events and times. Even right before and during treatment, there are many things and events and times I remember, such as my brief hospital stay just prior to ECT, the 1st consult with my ECT doc, the consult with her colleague who gave the 2nd opinion, and very vividly the wild suicidal ideation and serious intent to end my life which was going on just before I began ECT. Those types of things have never faded from my memory. It’s the less unique events and times and periods that are missing. Conversations with my wife, trips to Target or the grocery store, that sort of thing. I am a very “visual” person. I remember things, almost exclusively, in mental images (I don't know if that makes sense to anyone, but it's the best way I have to explain how my memory has always worked. I have heard it referred to as one of many aspects of a "photographic" memory.) A great example is that I have no real memories, no mental images, from Thanksgiving or Christmas 2005. There are some very vague images, but nothing of any substance at all. We have a family Thanksgiving tradition which has been around since my kids were old enough to converse. We go around the table and each of us tells one thing about which we are thankful. Mine this year was being thankful to be able to spend “one last Thanksgiving” with my family. I have no recollection of making that statement whatsoever. If not for Melissa telling me that that is what I said, I would never believe that I said something like that in the presence of my kids. I would never, in good mental health, have made such a statement. Looking back on such a statement now, with a clearer head and a more reasonable state of mind, it mustterrifyingbly terriying and confusing to be 11 or 12 and hear your father give thanks for "one last" holiday with his family. One of the many things to make up to my kids now that the "good" me is here again. I have my fingers permenantly crossed, hoping that he stays and keeps that "other me" away.

With respect to the return of any of the memory that I lost during treatment, there seems to be an assumption that none of that will ever come back. I know that many patients lose big blocks of memory and it never comes back. I'm sure that every ECT patient loses some memory that never returns. I expect that to happen to me and, yeah, I wish that reality had been made clearer to me before ECT began. But, again, from where I was (I refer to it as a "very bad place"), it didn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. I was going to die if something drastic didn't change in my life. It was a funeral or ECT. It was just that simple. The drastic change took place, and it had side effects that were not really clearly explained to me before-hand. Neither did I go to any trouble, at all, to ask about these side effects before-hand, even knowing that there were some possible negative possibilities. It could have been that I was too ill to inquire, or that I simply was scared enough already, and didn't want to know. I don't know which it was.

Nonetheless, the assumption that none of the memory that I lost will return is inaccurate. There are things coming back that were gone. There was a time when I couldn’t get from my house to the place where my son is treated for his illness. Its about 30 minutes from my home, and there was a time when I had no idea how to get there. Now, I can drive myself there. There was a time when I couldn’t recall the names of any songs I might hear on the radio. I would know and be able to sing along with the lyrics, but recalling the song title or the artist was outside of my capability. Now, I can recall those things (some of them take me a few minutes to get, but most of them I can recall now.) There are several other examples of my short term memory and general recall abilities that I could name that, at a time in the not so distant past, were not within my range of mental abilities. So, some of it, maybe not all but some, does return. And I expect it to continue, to some extent, to return as the last treatment becomes more and more distant.

I noticed a couple of times this week feeling confused about certain pretty discreet things. Directions to places, peoples’ names, song titles and artists, etc. I have decided that the confusion that I have felt results from what IS returning and is related to the holes in those cognitive abilities that still exist. Seems a bit backwards, but after some extensive time thinking about things, I’m pretty sure that’s what’s going on.

That’s it for now. Big “Moving Sale” tomorrow and Saturday. If you live close to me, please come buy some of our crap so we don’t have to throw away perfectly good stuff (that we have no use for.) Later.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

In response to comments by "Grandma" relating to "'Moving right Along'"

This entry is in response to comments (a second round, at that) entered by "Grandma", a frequent contributor to this blog. Please see "Comments" to the entry entitled "Moving Right Along" from a couple days ago. Thanks for the comments, Grandma. I hope I can clear up your confusion.

The fact that I seem to take what you (and others) think personally is simply a product of the fact that I am sensitive about the idea that I will not, for a while at least, be the primary income earner for my family. I don’t like the feel of that scenario, but its what works for now. I still have to say that I’m happy with where I am compared to a year ago, but playing house-husband is an aspect that doesn’t sit well.

The sidebar I changed a while back, and only in response to several suggestions, from people I actually know and others I know only through the blog, that I turn my story into a book. I just sort of tossed it out there as a broad net in case someone in position to get that ball rolling with me happened to come along. Too much going on to actively spend much time in pursuit right now And, while I would be able to tell my story for such purposes, I could only do so because I have recorded so much with the blog. My memory, of the period from about mid November through the end of March, is seriously affected. The stats say that most patients experience transitory short-term memory loss. Some (I don’t recall the percentage, but its high) find that “most” regain the majority of that loss over time. The other side of that coin says that “most” have some short term memory loss that is permanent, and some that is temporary. The length of time that it takes to regain the short term memory that is affected varies from days to months. In addition, some patients experience memory loss which is longer term and may be temporary or permanent. For example, I find that there are areas of knowledge which I had from the mortgage business, things like how to run credit reports and how long interest rate locks last, are either really spotty or missing altogether. Things from farther back, like law concepts and memories from earlier years of my life, all seem to be in place land intact (as far as the things which I have attempted to recall go.) Whether things like the mortgage concepts will return over time, I don’t know. I would like them to, so I won’t say that I don’t care, but I would still trade those cognitive features for the improvement in mood I have received through ECT. If not for ECT, I have no doubt that those lost cognitive abilities would be irrelevant at this time. Dead men originate no mortgages. To recap, however, while I could tell my story, I couldn’t do so from memory. It would have to come from recorded history and the memory of friends and family.

Talk to me about your suggestion concerning being “more proactive. Do you think a simple call to the APA main office would do any good? I’ve never really done anything (official) with them, and I have no idea how open to the idea of using my history/experience they might be. As for charging for engagements, there’s a bridge I’ll cross when I reach it. I have a feeling that those fees are sort of “market” set.

On the book idea, I know I will have to be more aggressive there to make anything happen. I wrote a book (in a very early manic phase) and did much research and proposing to agents in search of someone to publish my work. I have no interest in writing another book. I’m too much of a perfectionist, and the effort would invariably result in an obsession (at minimum) and more likely a slippery slope to mania. So, if an opportunity presents itself, I’m interested. But, for now, otherwise I’ll pass. I suppose its true that the story will always be there to be told, if and when I decide to pursue telling it.

I don’t thank God every day for my wife. I won’t go into my anti-religious philosophy and my stance on God and his followers. But I will say, with certainly, that I am an extremely lucky man to have such a wonderful woman in my life, and to have found someone, when things were much better and we were much younger and well before I had any idea about her amazing fortitude. She has proven to be reliable, resilient, tenacious, loving (is a vast understatement), and amazing on most every definition of the word as it can relate to personality. She is much more than I could ever claim to deserve, and I can only hope that I can provide enough to her in return to keep her by my side in the good times and the bad to come. I can only hope that I will be as remarkable for her if she ever needs me in that capacity as she has been for me.

No, my doctor didn’t go into much detail about the impact ECT would have on my ability to work and how long it might make me unable to carry out the types of work I am accustomed to. At the time, that topic wasn’t relevant. I was on a very short road to death, and life, regardless of incapacity to work, was my doc’s goal as opposed to the very certain and soon to be alternative. Neither my wife nor I had a clear picture of what life was going to be like after ECT, but as long as mentally it was better than things were before, we were of the opinion that ECT was worth the effort. We both are still of that belief, and I think, from a fully informed perspective, there is little argument that can be made with any success. I am, as you said, blessed, and very lucky to (a) be alive and feeling better and (b) in the company of such a wonderful person as Melissa. Melissa, I know you read this blog from time to time. I thank you face to face, but no matter how often I say the words, it will never be enough to express my gratitude for your strength and support. I love you.

So, 2 solid good weeks on the mental health front, and counting. Today was a test, created by my mentally ill son’s behavior (3 day weekends are very tough for him, and a bitch for us all.) But I turned around what was quickly becoming a “bad” day and made a pretty good day out of a bad start. I’m happy with where I am, and I look forward to tomorrow. Something that I never did just 4 short months ago.

Thank you for your continued comments, Grandma. Always thought provoking, and a welcome addition to this blog. I hope you continue to express yourself in this forum. Take care.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

"Moving" right along

Last week, having two treatments as a way of getting my feet back on the ground after a "rough patch" following 3 weeks with no treatments, was rough. It seems that the more treatments I have, now, with each one, they hit a little harder and do a little more significant "damage". Someone asked me, Sunday, if I had to make my decision to go the ECT route again, if I would make the same decision. My answer was a resounding "yes." I still stand on the concept that I would rather be happy to be alive and enjoying my world (most days), even if a little less bright than I was 6 months ago, than to have that small amount of lost cognitive ability back, but wish that I was dead and living in complete misery day after day.

In the last couple of weeks, I have figured out that my manic or obsessive tendencies appear to drive me into depressive days. I have also realized that I am not very able, on my own, to control those manic or obsessive tendencies. As hard as I try, they seem to find my weak spots and creep into my world. But, with the use of Risperdal, which I have only been using for about a week and a half, I have had very good luck, on a very small dose, in maintaining a much more laid back, less driven approach to my world. I'm still driven, and I still don't like being idle and getting nothing done or having nothing to do, but I am much more able to maintain a realistic pace and accept falling short of my stated goals for a day if things come up or if things simply take longer than I had at first estimated. Said another way, I'm still getting a lot of "work" done each day, but I'm not bothered by the fact that I might get tasks A through D done, and done well, even though I had planned to get A through F done today when the day began. With working on getting our home ready to go on the market, there is NO SHORTAGE of things to get done.

I have also discovered that, along with the manic tendencies, the other trigger for my depressive episodes is worries about financial matters. I come from a history of making more than enough money to live life doing whatever it is we wanted to do, with money left over. Now, I'm contributing very little financially while I work on getting my mental health back (and while I fight with Social Security and with my Long Term Disability Insurance criminals.) That difference causes me tremendous stress, if I allow it to and if I think too much about it. I'm relatively convinced that, without financial worries and the manic tendencies, my depressive episodes would be all but gone completely. I have found a way of reasonably managing the mania, and with planning a move from our current home to a home much closer to family (and a much lower cost of living), managing the financial worries has taken a turn much for the better.

As a result, this week has been tremendous. Yesterday, I played a really shitty racquetball match (no concentration, which I'm blaming on the 2 treatments last week), and then I volunteered at my daughter's school. They participate in this social sciences project called "Ameritowne" for which they decide on jobs that they would like to apply for in this massive role playing production. They draft resumes and cover letters, fill out applications and get letters of reference, and then they interview for the jobs they have chosen. I was one of the interviewers. It was a ton of fun. I can't help thinking back to when I was 11, and how I would have handled interviewing for a job in this situation. I was shy and quiet and would have been a nervous wreck. The kids I met with were great, prepared, most of them were calm and confident. It was a great experience. It is so GREAT being able to participate in school activities like this with my daughter (she's a great kid and I'm really proud of her and who she is.)

So, 4 great days in a row, very socially active, very productive from a "work" (on the house) standpoint, good relationship interaction with wife and kids. In fact, my wife, today in a conversation with one of our "friends" (parenthesis indicative of the fact that these are people who were friends as long as everything in life was running smoothly, but people who were nowhere to be found when things got tough and real "friends" would have been nice to have around), was asked if things were going ok between she and I. Her answer was "things are better now than they have been in years, and they are on track to continue to get better." I concur. Things may be different and changing still from where they once were, but they are changing to keep up with life circumstances, and to keep everyone in good stead and happy as the cards continue to be dealt and the hand life has dealt us continues to evolve. You can ignore the ever evolving circumstances of life and fight to keep everything in life "just like its always been." Or you can accept that life changes, and that your approach to life and the way you live it had better change along with it if you expect to have a shot at happiness and fulfillment. Better happy and rolling with the punches than holding your ground and miserable.

Life consists, at present, of painting and getting my home ready to sell (which I wouldn't have been able to do with any endurance in the condition I enjoyed just prior to ECT), looking at property and the types of things available in the category of houses we are interested in in NW Arkansas (I'm amazed at what we can get for the money we want to spend there. The difference between here and there is crazy!), and keeping up my 6 days a week exercise regimen (running and weights 3 days/week and racquetball 3 days/week.) Life is good.

Rock on!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Have I really done this 28 times???

Treatment #28 really hit me hard. My doc said she wanted to spread treatments back out to every 3 weeks or so, and that I might have some rough times between, but to use the Risperadal and make it through them. Insurance only authorized 3 more treatments at Porter (1 of which I did Friday as #28), and then I would have to start going to Centennial Peaks. Not sure I could use another provider comfortably at this point.

I think I’m starting to see a harder hit from the treatments now, which is probably equivalent to the “damage” others have talked about. Seems that after “X” number of treatments, while subsequent treatments might have a therapeutic effect, they may also begin to cause more harm than good. This one really left me confused and lost. I got home and couldn’t remember how to use the remote control for the TV at first. Strange.

I can say for certain that, after 28 treatments, I feel infinitely better than I did before I started. I have also learned a lot about my illness and where my trigger points are. One thing I’ve learned is that the manic or obsessive side leads to the depressive side. In other words, manic episodes or becoming obsessed with something and letting that obsession or mania dictate my day, more often than not, leads to a very depressive day the following day. Using Risperadal, I can head off those manic episodes, it seems, and work at whatever I’m doing in a more reasonable fashion. Maintaining control of my work habits and focus allows me, most of the time, to avoid feeling depressed the following day (or days).

I have also discovered that, if not for financial concerns (worries about money), there would be few, if any, “bad days” in the last several months (since ECT began to make me feel better.) While manic episodes lead to depression, there seems to be a required financial concern ingredient as well. Without the mania combined with worry about money, the depressed days don’t seem to come, or at least don’t come with the ferocity that they might otherwise have.

We set a goal of May 15 to have our home ready to go on the market. In the less than a week since we made that decision, we have been working day and night to get things ready. It pisses me off that we have lived here for 10 years and not done some of the “upkeep” things we are doing now to get the house ready to sell. In the next house, these little things like painting and cleaning and fixing doors and cabinets are things that I will remember to do to keep the house in good shape for our enjoyment, instead of making the house better for a buyer.

Went to a friends home today for Easter lunch. There were several other families there as well. There was one family I had never met. We wound up at a table with them for lunch (not by accident, I later found out.) As it turns out, the gentleman of this other house also suffers from depression, is not currently working, has a wife who is supporting the household at present, and has a son in my daughter's class. It was amazing how much we have in common, and how similar our situations, stresses and realities are. I had a great 2 hour conversation with "George", some of the time with our wives involved, and some without. George doesn't enjoy the manic side of the ride, but struggles with chronic, recurring clinical depression. He, too, has tried most of the anti-depressants (both MAOI and SSRI families). His shrink has mentioned ECT, but until today, George hadn't gotten much real information on the treatment. Thanks to many of the people who read this blog and contribute regularly, my knowledge extends far beyond my own experience. While I was able to relate my positive experiences with ECT, I was sure to let him know that I have many "friends" who have been treated, both people I've met through this blog and at the hospital, and not alcompletelyad comp0letley positive things to say about the treatment. It was simoply amazing how much there is that he and I see the same way, how many things that we share in focus and perspective, and how many trials, worries and motivators he and I share. George, if you find yourself here, reading this blog, please know that I enjoyed our conversation very much, I would be glad to talk again at your convenience, and I'm always here for support should you find yourself in need. I am very open about my illness, I find that sharing with others is a great way to learn about myself, and I encourage everyone afflicted with depression or bipolar disorder to take an active role in educating others. If not for my own illness, I would likely be one of those people that think depression is "all in your head" and an affliction of the weak, to be overcome by a positive mental attitude. Being a sufferer if the illness, myself, I have learned (the hard way) that depression is much more than a weakness. It is an organic illness that needs to be aggressively treated by those it afflicts, and that it is nothing to be ashamed of or to hide from those around you. One of the best ways to battle this illness is to educate those that don't suffer from it, and in doing so, educate yourself about your own mind and how it works.

Take care guys. Reach out and lend a hand to someone you know, today, who suffers from a mental illness. Show him/her that someone understands and cares about them. A little effort goes a long way in that arena. I look forward to tomorrow, and the information it holds about where my future leads.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Controlled, but busy say

My doc prescribed Risperdal, which is an atypical antipsychotic and used to treat anxiety, obsession and mania. She told me to take it up to 3 times a day to combat my tendency to overwork and push too hard on a particular project, which generally leads to a down day the next day. Risperdal scares me. My son was on it for a while and it made him eat like he was starving all the time (like the "munchies" from smoking pot.)

The first time I took Risperdal, it made me dizzy and queasy. That didn't last long, but long enough to remember. It does, however, make me a little more laid back about getting things done and keeps me from trying to cram more and more into my day. Today, the 2nd time I took it, I went straight to work painting inside my house and didn't notice any dizziness. I worked hard all day painting, but never got that "OMG, I have to get this done today, and I also have to get that done, and that and that." Just a nice easy pace, got done what I could (before I ran out of paint.) Of course, Melissa came in after I was nearly finished and decided she didn't like the color, but that's another tale.

Why is it that we live in a house for 10 years and only when we get ready to sell do we paint and fix things and replace light switches and outlet covers? This place is going to look great by the time it hits the market, and I won't get to live here to enjoy it!

I'm scheduled for treatment tomorrow at 10:30. 2 this week just to get things back in line. I guess I'll get them while insurance is still paying for them. I'm bound to get rejected sooner than later.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Back to the Tracks

Yesterday was treatment #27. Damn. If you had told me there would be 27 of these when I started, I'd have laughed at you. Now, the only thing funny is that it seems that I have to keep going to keep feeling better. I woke up in Recovery yesterday sitting upright in my bed with a nurse walking my way saying "Hi, Mike. How are you feeling?" It was Chris, my favorite Recovery nurse. "Fine, [couldn't remember her name right away], but I wish they would get my treatment over-with." I never know where I am when I wake up in Recovery.

After #27, I certainly feel better, a little scattered today, but not depressed. Looking at the summary of good vs bad days over the last 3 weeks I did for my doc, I should have seen things slipping sooner. I think I didn't see it because I didn't to. I didn't want to think that the "better" wasn't holding. But my summary clearly showed the little depressive episodes getting deeper and closer together.

Its tough trying to balance having a limited number of psych visits per calendar year, knowing that your "employer", with whom your short-term disability has now expired, will be cutting me off from an insurance perspective soon, my long-term disability just got denied, and who knows how long SSDI might take to get approved. If I need to keep going to stay better, there is a problem that will soon arise.

Much of the fodder for the depressive dips has been financial and employment driven. I know I'm not making much, if any, money right now. Melissa is a teacher. So, our life-line is limited if I don't get back to work. Working on job applications and interviewing has given me a good sample of my stress tolerance at present. Everyone keeps telling me to slow down and to worry about getting better and not about getting back to work. But HOW an I supposed to do those things knowing that the life-line is limited unless someone makes money, and my family is relying on ME to do that (at least it doesn't seem that anyone else is in position to extend that life-line.) "Slow down, but hurry up!"

So, Melissa and I have made a decision of which I never would have thought I would be this open and accepting. There are still some questions to answer, but it seems like it just might be better for all of us. We are talking about relocating to NW Arkansas, where Melissa's family is. Big move from Denver to Arkansas. I know because I've made that move in the reverse order. But for the equity we have in this house (we've been here 10 years in a flaming housing market) we can buy basically the same house in NW AR and have less than half the mortgage payment. Cost of living is astonishingly lower there than it is here. The pace of life is slower too, which will probably be good for me and Mic. And then there is family to support Melissa. She can't possibly keep up the pace she's kept for the last several years forever without some help. The "community" is much smaller and her family is plenty connected to get us whatever employment we need to make things work.

The big questions surround mental health services for both Mic and for me. I'm sure ECT won't be available in the immediate area, but Tulsa is 3 hours away and Little Rock is 3. By the time we move, I would hope to be down to "maintenance" treatments, or none at all. Maybe, even, with the stress of money and pace of life diminished, the anxiety, mania and depression will go with them. No answers yet. But we met with our realtors today and will start staging the house for sale right away. If we are going, we want to be moved by the start of school in the fall. And if we aren't going, then we have to figure out what options we have (which, at this point, do NOT seem bountiful.)

It will take, in any event, a mind in better health than I had the past weekend in order to get a home ready to sell. Amazing how much SHIT you accumulate over 10 years with 2 kids and a wife who is absolutely purse and shoe crazy (albeit otherwise amazing.) I'll keep you posted. I think I'm going in for treatment again on Friday just to assure a solid weekend (Even if I am relatively stupid for Saturday...its just packing old crap into boxes and deciding to FINALLY throw some stuff away...) I drift between being excited about "starting over" in a new setting and a new home, and being very very sad and apprehensive about leaving the few people here with whom I have stayed close through my illness. But I am sure, nonetheless, that NW Arkansas can use some outspoken advocates for the mentally ill!

Hang in there

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Black and White

Saturday, April 08, 2006

As different as black and white.

Today started pretty good. A little hurried, but pretty good from the mood perspective. I tried to squeeze too much in before leaving to play racquetball, and made myself late getting to the courts. Not an intelligent way to start, and a good way to negate a good start.

I was playing in a racquetball “shuttle” this morning, which is an organized weekly event (actually, there are 5 of them throughout the week, but Saturday morning is the most popular one.) There are 8 courts, numbered, of course, 1 through 8. 16 people can sign-up to play. The shuttle consists of 5 rounds of 15 minutes (five 15 minute games.) A buzzer sounds at the end of each round. Each player is assigned a court in which to begin, #1 being the lowest court and #8 being highest. Players are assigned to courts based on relative ability. At the end of each round, the winning player moves up a court, and the loser moves down. Nice arrangement because you are always playing someone new. After 7:30 on the morning of the shuttle, you can call the rec center and sign-up. On Saturday mornings, if AT 7:30 you aren’t calling, hanging up, hitting redial and re-calling, over and over until you get through, you don’t make the list of the first 16 people to call-in. Tough luck. Sometimes, even if you DO start right at 7:30, you still don’t make it.

Back, five years ago, when I played 3 or 4 times a week, Saturday mornings drew a pretty tough crowd. Better players on average than any other shuttle. Now, I can’t believe the caliber of players showing up on Saturdays! I used to never play below court 4 or 5. Now, granted, I’m still working on getting my game back, but its coming along pretty well. I made it to court 3 today, but courts 3 and up were occupied by solid “A” players.

Anyway, being late, I had to rush, rush, rush to get my shoes on, pick a racquet, find a glove, find a ball and a sweatband and a headband (I shave my head, and sweat a lot, which makes a headband or bandana a must!) So, I got the to court pretty frazzled for my first round. NOT the way to begin. My first 2 rounds were terrible. No focus, no concentration, very anxious, missing shots, choosing shots poorly. All because I over-booked my morning and was late. It took me until the third round to have any game at all (but when I found it, I FOUND it.)

When I got home, my mood was good. I showered and did some yard work. I was working from a schedule for the day that I had put together, trying hard to develop some discipline concerning over-booking my days and setting myself up for bad days. Things seemed to be going ok, but I couldn’t shake completely that anxiety that I created for myself this morning.

Things cruised along ok until, about 2:30, Melissa and were driving along, talking about money, the future, stuff people talk about. My mind kept returning to the fact that I’m not working, not making any money, not yet getting any disability compensation from either my LTD or SSDI. None of that sits well with me on my best days. It is hard being “ok” with me when I’m not supporting my family. Add the fact that Melissa’s job is a school year job and doesn’t go through the summer (nor does the income.) We have family that’s been helping us out some, and that doesn’t work well for me either. If I give it too much thought, it just doesn’t work well for me that I’m not contributing more than I am. Today, I guess I gave it too much thought. My mood fell like a skydiver without a parachute.

In a matter of minutes, 30 or 40, all I could think about was that so many things would be better for my family if I wasn’t here. They would have money (big life insurance), they could sell the house, buy a home closer to Melissa’s family with the equity from this one (which probably would have happened if not for me, already, and is even harder to do given that the mental health system in northwest Arkansas isn’t exactly top notch), Melissa could stop worrying about me and focus on helping Mic, and everyone could just get on with their lives and stop wondering "How's dad going to be today?" I couldn’t get it out of my head, and those thoughts tainted everything else. Everyone I see, in public, on magazine covers, everywhere, I think “Oh, they can live comfortably because they have a job and have an income.”

I have become convinced that I have waited too long between treatments. And now the doubts have started concerning whether this whole fight was worth the effort, worth what I continue to put my family through. Today, taking what seems to be “the inevitable step” just seems more and more the obvious choice the longer these "quick little sepressions" go one. Today, I even got to enjoy the mental images (again and again) of myself sitting in the floor of the shower, having drained my blood through slashed wrists (not the way I had considered ending my life in the past…don’t know where it came from.) Ugh!

I asked Melissa, when she noticed a tear running down my face as we drove along, “Things HAVE been better than they have the last two weeks, haven’t they?” In these quick depressions, I can so easily convince myself that I have never really been better, that it was a mask, just me WANTING to be better, and then reality returns.

I know, down deep, that things have been better until a couple of weeks ago, and slowly these quick but deep depressions are becoming more frequent. Too much time between treatments? Too much effort for the return I’m getting? Too much to ask of my family? Today, I can’t answer those questions. I can just fight my way through the evening, medicate the mood, and hope tomorrow is better. But today, that seems to be becoming a tired routine.

Question for my fellow sufferers out there: Do you talk to yourself, and repeat the same things, same phrases, over and over? I have just really noticed it lately, but I know I’ve been doing it for quite a while (like, years.) I can’t put my finger on what kinds of things it is, but its when I’m alone and usually when I’m working on something, and imagining a conversation with someone else. Talking to myself is neurotic enough. But I repeat sentences over and over, maybe 5 or 6 times each, and then move on to the next one. Anyone else do this?

Oh, icing on my cake! I just got word that my Long Term Disability has been denied by The Hartford. If you are or are considering buying LTD from The Hartford, don’t waste your money. They are denying on a “pre-existing condition” basis. The DEPRESSION was pre-existing, and I worked through it. The ECT treatment was not pre-existing and is the reason I can’t work. I smell a lawyer battle coming up! Melissa was upset, I was upset, Mic was being his “me, me, me” self, and then there is poor Maggie. Stoic, who must be wondering, worrying “What the hell is going on?” but not wanting to ask, bottling it up. What toll is this all taking on her? She came to me three times tonight, [put her arms around me and hugged me tight, and said “I love you, Daddy. Everything is going to be ok.” Melissa and I talked about ways to cut living costs, selling the car that is financed and keeping the one that’s paid for and the motorcycle, selling the house (which won’t do any good if we plan to stay in this city because of the housing market condition…a smaller house would cost us just as much/month as this one.), moving to NW Arkansas (where her family is and the cost of living is much lower), lowering cable, cell phone and other “optional” expenditures.

All of this, without a doubt, put my day over the top. I sat in the base of the shower in the hot water, in tears, figuring out how I would sit, what I would use, and where I would make the incisions when it comes to that time. Not yet…game’s not over yet. But I will NOT be the cause of my wife or kids going without the things they need. I simply can’t live with that. But there is still time on the clock, and a little fight left in my soul.

I have had countless people tell me that my story is book material, and that I should write a book. They are probably very correct. And there is so much more to this story which I have tucked away in a journal which is prequel to this blog. But I don’t know if time or energy is going to allow the story to be told book form. If any author, publisher, agent or anyone else capable of helping get the story published is reading, please contact me. But do it quickly. I don’t know how long I will be able to tell the “rest of the story.”

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A Stroll Down Mania Lane

I wrote a couple of days ago about my bad habit, part of my personality, that requires me to push too hard, to be too driven, at whatever it is that I do. I’ve always been this way, and I know that to be true. Always “One more time”, or “just a little higher” or “a little faster”, or “just get one more thing done”, or “just one more mile.” Its always been there. And it is, in part, what made me as successful as I was. I mean, I went from being a kid from a little town in Arkansas (side story: my son asked the other night “Dad, did you have McDonalds when you were little?” Daughter: “Duh, McDonalds has been around forever!” Dad: “Yeah, guys, but we didn’t have one in MY hometown until I was about 12, and it was a big deal when we got one.”) to being one of the top two attorneys in-house for a large national corporation in Denver, living large, making a strong 6 figures, wearing tailored suits and the whole bit. I owe that to this personality trait. I also owe a large part of my current status to the same trait. I guess you take the bad with the good?

It seems, when I was younger, I could drive myself, create all of this stress for myself, and just deal with it. I loved life in the pressure cooker. I used to get up at 5:00 to be at the gym by 5:45 for an hour treadmill run and enough time to go to Einstein Bagels and grab breakfast and coffee and be in my office by 7:30 for a 10 hour day. Its how I lived, and I lived for it.

That same drive, that same need to press things all the time, now is a problem. As I look at this whole issue, I have identified what I think is a nice, smooth continuum. It begins with (a) Interest in something, then (b) Enthusiasm, (c) Obsessive-Compulsive Interest (I am calmed by doing the activity or thing of interest, but can’t stop thinking about it when I’m not doing it), and then to (d) Manic (I can’t keep from doing the thing of interest, and I take it way too far and cause problems in other areas of my life, before ultimately dropping the interest altogether and moving to something else.) And the difficult part is, I can’t see the separation between stages of this continuum. What begins innocently enough as a little hobby becomes this manic frenzy which is controlling my life, but it doesn’t look that way to me at the time. I usually can’t figure out why everyone is on my back about my “interest” in something. I only see the reality of the situation when I look back on things and have the “Ohmigod!” epiphany (and usually feel embarrassed that I acted the way I did.)

A lot of the activities and things of interest I’m thinking of are things that I usually do while I’m watching TV at night with my family. More of that need to be busy and productive all the time. Its painful for me to just sit there and do nothing, so I find somewhat passive activities. An example is my collecting of the “state” quarters. Started innocently. I bought this cool folding rigid cardboard map of the US with a little spot for each quarter, and I planned to fill it with uncirculated quarters as they came out. I knew it would take several years to get it filed, because they were coming out 5 or 6 a year. Then, I had to have a quarter from each mint from each state. Ok, still not over the top, maybe. Then, I needed a roll of each quarter, but I dropped the “uncirculated” requirement (too hard?). Then, of course, I needed a roll of each quarter from each mint. Then (and this is while I owned my coffee business, which is another mania altogether), I had access to this great flow of quarters because of the cash exchange at the business. So, soon, it became a manic collection of all quarters. I kept them all and rolled them, and kept the rolls. I had a little more than $1500 in rolled quarters in a cabinet in the study of my house.

Soon, the quarter crazy wore off, as all manic phases seem to do. Next, I became convinced that our economy was growing so aggressively that, soon, pennies would no longer be minted, which would make then a collectors item (because, you know, there are only 100 billion pennies in circulation!). So, I started collecting pennies. Soon, I was separating my pennies by year, and rolling them in full rolls based on mint year. Then, of course, I progressed to mint year AND by mint. I still have the pennies I collected (which, in itself, is a bit disturbing.) There are, no kidding, 260 rolls of pennies in the same cabinet in which I kept the quarters.

The penny craze didn’t really fade, it grew into a “coin” craze. I reached a point where I refused to recirculate, to spend, any coins. I paid for things with bills only, and emptied all of the coins from my pockets at the end of the day into a jar. Once in a while, the jar got rolled, and I kept all of the rolls. I had thousands of dollars in rolled coins stashed away. Looking back on the whole thing now, I can see how the “hobby” moved from hobby to obsessive to manic, but at the time, it all just seemed like good fun and a worthwhile, albeit quirky, hobby.

There was also, while I owned my coffee business, a time, after I first recognized that things were going astray in my head, that I decided to learn to knit. Next to my shop was a knitting shop. I had the owner teach me. What began as something fun to do became the only thing I WOULD do. I did it while at the coffee shop, while at home, in the waiting room of the doctor’s office, and I even remember going to Las Vegas for a marathon and making my wife drive most of the way so I could knit. Keep in mind that I’m just short of 6’2” tall and weighed, then, about 225. Not your typical hard-core knitter! Over the course of 6 or 8 months, I knitted 6 pairs of socks and “slippers” (my son still wears his, despite them being too small and full of holes), a 7 foot long Harry Potter style red and yellow scarf, and a XXL sweater for myself (I was actually pretty good, but that’s beside the point and related to my “perfectionist” aspects.) Then, as quickly as it arrived, it was over. I see my knitting bag every once in a while and think “I wonder if I’ll ever do that again?” I’m sure I don’t even remember how.

There was a jigsaw puzzle phase, a teaching myself Spanish phase (my mortgage branch manager said, one day “We need a loan officer that speaks Spanish.”), a scuba phase (I know I will dive again, and probably soon, but it became obsessive, if not manic, last summer, increasing my certification through the “Rescue Diver” level), a learning guitar phase, study of the Tao philosophy and use of Tao stones, meditation, tie dye (big time manic), and too many others to name (or remember.) The coffee business began with a passive and analytical approach to writing a business plan, just to see if I could find financing and progressed to a manic drive to get construction finished. This drive to finish construction led to my first real anxiety break, and was the first time I sought help.

My thoughts on “over-drive” earlier this week sparked memories of all of these little manic runs. I look back on them and laugh, but at the same time, inside somewhere, they are so painful. Painful because I know, as easily as they happened last time, they could happen again and I wouldn’t know it was happening. When I’m depressed, I usually recognize my mood for what it is. When I’m manic, I have no clue. And then there is the difficulty of knowing where the line is, where something crosses from hobby to OCD to manic. It’s such a blurry line that I can’t see the separation until its way too late. In addition to those interests which obviously (now) went too far, there are other collections and hobbies and interests that became part of my life, became important to me, but may or may not have risen to an unacceptable level. Examples include a shot glass collection with hundreds of glasses included, race numbers from running and triathlon races (I have saved every number “bib” I’ve ever worn), completion of video game series (i.e. I have played and finished all of the “Jak and Daxter”, “Ratchet & Clank”, and several other game which include multiple games in the series), and collection of complete movie and TV series sets (I have all of the Star Wars DVDs and all of the South Park seasons.) The same occurs with physical pursuits. Endurance running and swimming began as a way to lose weight and achieve some “me” time, and became, over a lengthy period of time, very rigid, mandatory training regimens which caused great stress and anxiety if interrupted. 6 marathons, a dozen or more half-marathons, 2 half iron man triathlons, and endurance swims of 14 and 20 miles respectively resulted, but resulted from activities which might not have been the product of a healthy mind (some would argue that causing that sort of pain upon one’s self is never the product of a healthy mind. Hehe.)

I thought that this gate to mania had only been opened as my illness began to manifest, 6 or 7 years ago. I thought that, until that time, I was able to maintain control of things and know when enough was enough. Starting in 1996 and continuing into 1997, I wrote a serial killer crime novel entitled “Trail of Madness.” It is about 400 pages in length and, according to all that have read it, pretty good. Never published simply because I ran into a point in my life when I didn’t have the time or energy to pursue that end. But, I read and edited, and read and edited that damned thing a dozen times if I did it one time. I couldn’t call it “good enough.” Looking back now, no question that it was an OCD pursuit if not manic.

Again, being “better” allows recognition of many things resulting from the days when my illness was much worse. That recognition, in many cases, causes more work in healing, getting past and understanding my behavior of the past.

Thanks for reading and for your comments. When I began writing this blog, it was intended as merely a way to keep friends and family informed, and to document times which I knew I might not remember very well. It has become much more.

Judge Not...

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Those of you that know me, and those that have spent any time reading this blog, know that I am not a religious person. I never have been, and likely never will be. For that reason, when Melissa brought me a copy of a sermon written by the minister of the Methodist church that she and the kids attend, I was reticent to read it. The Sermon was titled “Judge not: Depression, Suicide and Compassion” (and is copyrighted to Harvey C. Martz, 2001.) For the sake of education, I did read it. I don’t know what I expected, but what I got was something much different.

The Bible teaches (Matthew 7: 1-5) “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged…” and the sermon was, actually, very full of compassion and understanding. Dr. Martz, it appears is well read in the works of Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison (“An Unquiet Mind”, and excellent picture of manic depressive illness) and the like, and knowledgeable concerning the wide range of famous people who have been effected by depression or bi-polar illness ( Phil Graham [Washington Post publisher], Edna St. Vincent Millay, William Styron, Vincent van Gogh, Albert Camus, explorer Meriwether Lewis, Abraham Lincoln, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Ludwig Beethoven, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and I could go on and on. It can be argued that our world, as we know it, was shaped by great people suffering tremendous pain resulting from mental illness. Think of the contributions they might have made if treated for their illnesses.

Dr. Martz’s sermon made the point that 17 million Americans (of 298,458,535 total Americans, or 5.7%) each year experience serious depression (either situational or chronic) and less than half of those seek help, and that 1 in 5 adults will experience a period of depression at some time in their lives. Dr. Martz stressed that those suffering from depression often (as the statistics bear out) have the courage, energy, motivation or combination of these things to seek the help they need. Many of these people decide that the only way to end their pain is by ending their lives, a conclusion that, to a rationale and well mind, usually simply isn’t true. The sermon encouraged people to reach out to those that they know that are mentally ill and help them get the help that they need, be that medication, therapy or some combination thereof.

My pleasant surprise in reading Dr. Martz’s work was that, like many works I have read on mental illness by “people of faith”, Dr. Martz spoke of Jesus and God and turning to faith in times of crisis, but he recognized that mental illness is a biological problem, not a moral flaw or character issue, and not a problem that prayer alone is going to solve. He suggested that medication and/or psychotherapy might be God’s way of sending the help that those seeking God’s help have requested.

I wish everyone had the compassion and open-mindedness that Dr. Martz exhibits in his sermon. Even those that view the world from different perspectives need to recognize mental illness, situational cases aside, as something that actually exists, its always been here, ignoring or denying it won’t make it go away, and the only way to make the matter better is by addressing the problem for what it is: A biological deficit, not unlike diabetes or cancer, which needs treatment, in most cases, to heal.

Situations like chronic depression and other illnesses have a filtering effect. They show you who your real “friends” are, and who are your “friends” as long as its convenient. I have some great friends, who have been by me and supported me through the ups and downs of my fight with bipolar disorder. Some of them have already been in similar situations, needing the support of friends to get through hard times, and I can only hope I have been there for them like they were for me.

And then there are the “friends”, a couple of which were seated right beside Melissa during this sermon, who vanish in the face of adversity. The people in my social circle are coming to an age where many, if not most, will run into crisis of some sort (illness, death of loved ones, etc.) at some time. That’s just life. I hope that the “friends” that have vanished from my life have friends of higher quality then they have been, themselves. I hope they are not judged, as they have judged.

Finally, the sermon cites Psalm 13, which in part reads:

“How long O Lord will you forget me?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I have pain in my soul
And have sorrow in my heart all day long?
Answer me Lord, give light to my eyes,
Or I will sleep the sleep of death.”

That passage brought tears to my eyes (and it is trying to do so now, too.) I can’t even hazard a guess at how many times I have found myself in that exact place, feeling forgotten, miserable, and that things either had to get better immediately, or they had to end altogether. So far, I have been fortunate to have the support of friends to guide me through. If left to my own devices, I would have never found my way out of that darkness. Remember, there is always a better day tomorrow waiting on you, there is always help if you seek it, and there is always an alternative to taking that tragic and irreversible step of suicide.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A Revelation of Human Nature

Warning: This qualifies as a long blog entry and may have serious side effects such as boredom and drowsiness. Consult your physician before reading.

I think I stumbled onto something today. I think I know why Sunday was bad, and I think it was a direct result of Saturday. You see, I have this part of my nature, this character feature, and I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember, which requires me to push, push, push at whatever it is I’m doing. It might be work, or home projects, or training for marathons or endurance swims, but whatever my task, the standards I set for myself are always ridiculously high, and failing to reach them is just unacceptable. All or nothing: I either reach the goals I set for whatever it is I’m doing, of the whole day or project is a failure.

Then, there is the fact that I “need” to be busy at something all the time. Melissa asked me yesterday, “Do you think you could sit down, during the middle of the day, and watch a TV show?” And, as silly as this sounds, to me, that’s almost unthinkable. Unless I’m sick or something, leisure time is limited to an hour or so just before I go to bed. Every other minute of the day has to be productive in some way, and there is always room to squeeze one more thing into today’s list of things to get done.

Saturday, I was working on my baseboard project. I was working in the family room, which is where everyone sort of gathers in the evening to watch TV or whatever. I needed to pull all of the furniture away from the walls, of course, to get to the baseboards. I had to move the couch and the entertainment center (which holds the TV) and the recliner and everything else, and all of this furniture movement made the room unusable as we normally use it in the evening. So, of course, the family room had to be started and finished in one day. So, Saturday, I worked my ass off moving furniture, measuring all of the boards I needed to cut, measuring the cutting all of the pieces of baseboard, removing the old baseboards, installing the new ones, caulking the tops and corners, painting, and moving the furniture back. And, while I was at it, I noticed how dusty and a mess behind the entertainment center was. Normally, you can’t get back there to clean. The thing weighs probably 400 pounds and is just barely mobile at all (and for those of you that don’t know me, I’m a big fella.) Then, there are the cords from the TV, cable box, stereo, CD player, DVD player, etc. They were a tangled mess (an OCD nightmare.) So, I had to clean back there, and, using little black cable ties, I had to bundle all of the cords and make everything nice and tidy.

I didn’t start this “project” until about 11:00, no break for lunch, and Melissa had to make me quit at dinner time. Now, any reasonable person would have seen this as WAY TOO MUCH WORK for one person in one day. But Mike, not knowing how to limit what he could reasonably get done in one day, told himself that he had to squeeze it all in in one afternoon. I worked as hard and as fast as I could from 11:00 to 6:30. My family told me, Saturday night, that I had been pretty grumpy all day long, and that they had tried to give me my space (“stay out of the line of fire.”) I dismissed the comments as “how they viewed my “focus” on the project.” In retrospect, however, I’m sure they were right. I was stressed to the hilt and I’m sure I was grumpy isolated and short tempered. But the crazy part was, I was the only one applying the pressure which was causing the stress. It was my ridiculous standards that were causing the pressure. Now, I always push too hard, but not THIS hard. Saturday was exceptional. And I am trying, in accordance with my doc’s instructions, to take things slower, not go so fast, give your mind time to heal.

When I am depressed, I’ve noticed that I feel like I have to do more, work harder and longer in order to feel worthy. Or maybe its self-punishment, I don’t know. But now I’m the harder I push, the more anxiety I create which results in more depression, which results in me pushing harder to feed the depression. A circular, downward spiral.

Looking back, Sunday started with high anxiety and no concentration and just got worse. I am all but certain that the pressure and stress from the workload on Saturday (the stress that I created for myself) led to the mood shift Sunday.

I have noticed, for some time now, that I habitually overload my days with things to do. There are many days that I might start with a reasonable “to do” list, but as the day goes along and I accomplish things, I recognize other things that need to be done. Instead of putting them on the list for another day, I think “Well, I’m here now and if I don’t do this now, I might forget to do it later.” Or, “This has to be done too or finishing this other project will really have no meaning.” Its always this “all or nothing”, “black or white” either I get it all done, the list I started with plus whatever I have added during the course, or the part I do get done is meaningless.

So, now that I recognize this “problem”, I have to find a way to change what is basically part of my life-long nature. I know that it’s a habit that has to change in order to safeguard my mental wellness. The question is “How do I change it?” The plan, for now, is to be more careful in creating my “to do” list for the day. I have to be more realistic when deciding what “needs” to get done today, and what I “want” to get done today. The “need” items have to get done first, and the “want” items are optional. I also have to set a “quitting time”, at which I stop, even if I’m not done (get to a reasonable stopping point, and quit.) Its still going to be hard, maybe not possible, for me to call it quits early and lay on the couch and watch a baseball game, but I have to find a way to allow myself to work at a more reasonable pace, expect a more reasonable amount of work product, and remember that its ok to “knock-off” earlier, or even “early” by other people’s standards, and save some work for tomorrow.

I am open to suggestions on how to achieve the necessary character shift. I know what my work habits look like now, and I know what they need to look like. I just don’t know if I know how to get from here to there.

The good news, however, is that for the first time in a LONG time, I’m well enough to recognize the problem (or “a” problem) and have a reasonable shot at fixing it. It seems that I needed to get better in order to allow myself to make changes to get better? Ooooh, that’s too deep for now. I’ll have to give that some thought.

On the lighter side, my racquetball game is making a strong comeback. I think I mentioned earlier that, until about 5 or 6 years ago, there was a period in which I played 3-4 times a week (tournaments, leagues, pick-ups, whatever I could find.) I think I quit racquetball (it got more frustrating than it was fun…maybe I was expecting too much out of myself, not playing up to the level I expected of myself) about the time I began to quit “life”, and well before I recognized that my mind was going in a dangerous direction. At age 39, the “game” comes back slowly, and I’m too competitive to accept playing poorly (by my definition.) But its coming. At present, my backhand is smokin’ (I would rather hit backhand than forehand) and the serve is coming back. The bastards increased the official racquet length since I last played, by an inch. Longer racquet, more power. I don’t need more power. As I mentioned, I’m a big guy and I break strings and balls as it was. The power increase just closes the gap between my power and the “other guys”. And, I’ve started running again. Its been several years since I’ve run much, and I want to do a marathon in this, my 40th year.

Until later, my friends, remember to keep it between the lines

Monday, April 03, 2006

Rebound Day

Ok, after responding to "Grandma's" comment to yesterday's entry (and if I seemed to be lashing out at you, Grandma, I'm sorry and nothing personal, I was lashing out at our society), I had to go play a few minutes of Playstation and shoot some bad guys. But I'm back now. If you don't know what I'm talking about, there was a comment to yesterday's post related to lawyers being prohibited from practice because of mental illness. The better I get, the more outspoken I become (and intend to become) about the stigma surrounding mental illness. See yesterday's post.

Anyway...Really good day today. Had sort of a slump in the middle of the day, but otherwise it was a very strong day. Got some things done, set up a job interview for a position in the State government (I don't know if I would take the job if offered, but interview practice is always good.) Did some work on my baseboard project. I have about 80% of the ground floor replaced now, 100% of the pieces cut, and about 50% caulked and painted. Much bigger job than I expected!

I have a treatment scheduled for Friday, but if things continue to go well this week, I may push that out to Monday. I'm a bit uneasy about risking another bad Sunday, but I'll play it by ear.

Tomorrow is a new day!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Sunday Slump??

Ok, where did all of my readers go? I haven't heard from anyone in several days. Don't leave me now, just because things are getting better (mostly) and slowing down!

There must be something about Sundays. After last Sunday's mayhem, last week got progressively better. Friday, I reported feeling good, having good days, being motivated and staying positive and busy. Saturday was ok, but not super. I played some racquetball in the morning. racquetball, for those that don't know me well, is an old friend. I used to play 3 or 4 days a week, played in leagues and tournaments. I was about a high "B" level player (scale runs from "novice" to D, C, B, A, and "Open" in some tournaments.) About the time, I think, that my illness began was about the time I quit playing. It became more frustrating than fun about 5 years ago. Anyway, after about an hour and a half of ball, I noticed, suddenly, that my concentration just left me. That's not something I remember from before, and I think it might be ECT related. So, I bagged it and went home. Got home and worked all day, hard, on the baseboards. I was BEAT by the end of the day. My family reports me being "grumpy" and "irritable". I noticed my focus being a little off while cutting baseboards. Made some mistakes that were not normal. But I hadn't noticed being grumpy (other than with my son, who was "helping" me, but right under my feet and in the way all day.) My wife had a terrible day with my son (the one that is mentally ill) and had admitted to being in a really bad mood. I just sort of the reports of me being irritable were related to her mood.

And then there was today.

Started ok. Woke up. This time change thing isn't my favorite, but at least I don't lose an hour of sleep before going to work! I went out for breakfast (becoming a Sunday ritual) and then to read at Starbucks (old habit.) I noticed that my focus was not good at all. Couldn't concentrate even enough to read my book. To many people, too much commotion, too many things in my head that I needed to do at home. I just felt unhappy, in general. This, despite getting notice today (came yesterday, actually) that I was being interviewed for 2 different State of Colorado job positions. Should have been good news.

Got home and did some yard work. Cut up a big downed limb, picked up the back yard, and then worked on caulking the master shower. It had leaked from under one end of the door, so I had fixed that a couple weeks ago. Now it leaked on the other end. Anyone ever worked with silicone caulk? I HATE that stuff. First, I can't stand the smell. And then, it sticks to everything except what you want it to stick to. Got the leak fixed after messing with that caulk and cussing like a banshee for an hour. Turned out to not even be a caulk problem. Just needed to adjust the door!

And then I sat on my patio, head in my hands, and was miserable. Not in hell, like last Sunday, just questions of why I keep doing this. Questions of why I even bother to continue to walk the earth, living this miserable life. Thoughts, passive, of suicide. After about 15 minutes, I decided that I could sit and feel sorry for myself, or get to work and stay busy. After about an hour, my wife brought me a Xanax and reminded me that I had asked her to make me take one if and when I was having this type of day. I don't know why its so hard for me to give in and just medicate a shitty day, but it certainly helps. The rest of the day was ok (not great, but bearable.) I ran some errands with the whole family, and then took my son to the park to fly a kite. Can't remember the last time I flew a kite. Also can't remember the last time I had a freakin rope burn this bad on my hand!

My wife and I had a really good laugh tonight over my memory issues. She was reminding me of some memory problems I had had back in December and January, when treatments were hot and heavy. I don't remember any of this, and she swears she isn't exaggerating. She says that, daily after Christmas break was over, I would wake up and ask [Q]"Where is Maggie?" [A]"She's at school." [Q]"When does she get home?" [A] "About 3:50". [Q]"Why so late?" [A]"Her school starts late." [Q]"Where is Mic?"...same series. And then [Q]"Why are they at school if I'm not at work?" [A]"you don't go to work right now because of your treatment." She said we would play this same script 2 or 3 times a day for 3 weeks, until I got it.

I would also wake up, every day, and ask [Q]"What am I doing today?" [A]"What do you want to do?" [Q]"Well, what is my job?" [A]"You don't work right now because of your treatment."

Every night, after dinner, I would ask [Q]"Have we eaten dinner?" [A]"Yes, honey. We all ate together." [Q] "Was I there?" [A]"Yes, we were all there." [Q]"What did we have?"]. Most days, I would ask the same questions about dinner the night before, or if I had eaten lunch already.

I did the same thing with Matt Lauer's (Today Show) wrist injury. He fell off a horse or something in January and wore a brace or cast for a couple of weeks. Every morning, I would sit up in bed, alarmed, and ask [Q]"What happened to Matt's wrist?!?" Every morning, she would tell me. And I must say, Melissa was better at being patient and not getting annoyed than I would have been had the tables been turned. We laughed hard about all of these things for about 30 minutes tonight. She's working on coming up with the other similar things. I don't recall any of this. I also don't remember, I noticed tonight, this "Mine Accident" from which there was one survivor. I sort of remember hearing something about it, but just barely.

There was another guy, whom we met through ECT treatments at the hospital, who didn't recognize any of his own clothes. He would ask his spouse every day if she was sure if they were his. He would call her at work and ask "Do I have any sweaters? I want to wear a sweater today." When she told him to look in the closet at his clothes, he would say that all he could find were these clothes that didn't belong to him. One night, they were at a friends' house for dinner. Karen found Bill looking through the friends' kitchen cabinets. "Bill. What are you looking for?" "I'm trying to find my deodorant! I can't remember where I put it!"

These are the things that ECT does to your memory. Is it better than pre-ECT or suicide? Absolutely, even if it turns out to be permanent.

Tonight, we were watching a show on TV and I made a (pretty uncharacteristic) chauvinistic remark about some girl's "nice rack." My wife corrected me, calling my use of terminology out-dated, letting me know that the current terminology is "nice set of twins" or "the girls." I'll try to keep up on the times a little better.