Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day

Memorial Day, 2006. Melissa and Mic left for Arkansas yesterday. Melissa has appointments to talk with several school principals next week about teaching for them starting in the fall. Melissa was also going to look at “neighborhoods” (not houses specifically) while she’s there. As it turns out, she’s looking at “houses”, and has found one the “is perfect.” I keep telling her to not get her hopes up on anything, yet. That whole cart before the horse (we need to sell a house before we go contracting to buy another house.) For the person with the most patience in the world when it comes to people, she has no patience when it comes to things like selling and buying houses.

Today, I ran the Bolder Boulder, which is one of (if not the) biggest 10k road races in the country. I think I heard that they had 50,000 runners today. It was a fun experience, and one that I needed to live one more time (I’ve run this race once before) before I move away, but I had a shitty run. My shins cramped for the first three miles, and were just relentlessly knotted up. I tried stretching them, rubbing them, pounding on them. Finally, during mile 4, they gave me a break. I’ve never had that problem before, and can only attribute it to (a) getting older and/or (b) not having run any on hard surfaces (all of my running has been on treadmill or dirt trail) since starting to run again. Given the adversity, however, I had a great day.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Finding the holes...

Today, Saturday, is a special day. It is the day that divides the rest of the year and “summer.” Today, the pool in our neighborhood opened. As I’ve mentioned before, I was a swimmer and lifeguard growing up. I have always been a major “pool rat.” I still am. At every possible opportunity, I, with a select handful of neighbors and my family, am at the pool, narcissistically sunning myself and practicing my only religion: Sun Worshiping. Adoro el sol! Summer is my absolute favorite time of year, and it always has been.

Today, I also noticed some big holes in my memory, which I was unaware of before. Maybe they are things of which I just haven’t been prompted to think about previously, but there seemed to be an abundance of such things brought to my attention today, specifically.

First, I picked Maggie up from a birthday party today and saw the father of the little girls whose birthday it was. I had met him several years ago when Maggie and the girl played soccer together. I remembered his face, his name, etc (even though he didn’t remember me.) There was another dad there, and I remembered his face, and I knew that I should know him, but couldn’t for the life of me remember why or who he was. Apparently, I had dropped Maggie off at a party at their home not long ago, and this guy stopped by at our garage sale and I spoke to him at length about our move.

Then, I was at Starbucks reading today, and this young guy came in carrying a book. I knew I should know him because I recognized his face. But there are so many faces I recognize at Starbucks because I’m there, at the same one, a lot and I see a lot of the same people. But most are people that I have never talked to. This guy, however, seemed more dominant in my memory than most. When he came over and said “Hey, Mike, how are you doing?”, I knew I was in trouble. We chatted for several minutes. This guy, I want to say his name is “Dan”, knew things about me (like my name) like the books I read, that I am a lawyer, that I run and swim. We talked about books, running, swimming, etc, all the while I was trying to put the pieces together (and too embarrassed, which is unusual, to admit that I didn’t know his name or remember anything about him other than I had spoken to him in the past and that he was a nice guy. I think I didn’t admit to my memory failure because I kept hoping it would come back to me.) I’m sure I met him around the time I started ECT, I think he was studying for or had just taken the Bar Exam, and I know that he does some running. Other than that, he and Adam look a lot alike.

Finally, as I have mentioned, 2 and 3 summers ago I personally organized and conducted an event at the end of summer called “Miles for Mic”. The event was a swim-a-thon benefiting The Children’s Hospital Psychiatric Services group, and named in honor of my son, Mic. The goal both years was to raise money by swimming as far as I (we) could. The first year, I raised funds and swam alone. The second year, I had 14 swimmers (including my daughter, Maggie) and we raised a total of a little over $8000. For this second year, we had t-shirts for the participants. They were ref shirts with an event logo and Children’s Hospital logo on the front. I was wearing my shirt today and realized that, even though I know that I designed the shirts myself, I have no recollection of doing so, what software I used to make the design, how we ordered the shirts, or anything else about them. Luckily, Melissa was there to fill in the hole for me. This hole in my memory is unique, being from a time nearly 2 years ago and not proximate at al to my ECT treatment, but during a very severe depression (remember, I swim when I’m depressed.)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Theories of ECT's Mechanism of Action

Tuesday and Wednesday were both good days. No mood shifts or mood issues at all (once I got the phone call to my now former employer (the one day job) out of the way.) Did some serious work around the house. I rebuilt the fence in my backyard which is designed to keep the dogs off of my newly seeded lawn (the bar spots caused by dog traffic.) We’ve been playing this game for weeks. I build the fence, they find a way under/around it. I patch the hole, they find another way under/around. The fence was made of chicken wire and those little green metal fence posts. I went nuclear on them today and bought a roll of that orange plastic construction zone fencing. I think I’ve won this time (again.) Its me against the dogs in this intellectual battle, and I seem to be losing.

Someone, David from my climbing adventure on Sunday, asked me what my manic or OCD spells feel like, if they feel good or bad, and how I recognize them. As I’ve mentioned, until recently, I couldn’t recognize them until long after they had passed. Now, I can catch them. After some thought, the best analogy is that mania feels like being a moth trapped in a jar. My mind flutters wildly from one task, one thought, one idea or one urge to another, never landing firmly on anything or finding a way to focus on one thing, banging into the boundaries of one thing and switching to another, and then back to that first thing again later. I never seem to get anywhere with any of it. Its frantic, but not panicky (most of the time.) It feels hyper-productive, like I have all of these great ideas and things I want to pursue. Later, after the manic spell, those things all seem trivial and not worth my time or the frustration. I am learning to realize or identify these manic periods and to be able to make myself write down all of the ideas I have and wait a week before pursuing any of them (by the end of the week, the mania is gone and I can evaluate the ideas with a clearer head.)

Grandma keeps writing about “brain damage” from ECT. Brain damage is ONE of many theories on how ECT works. I tend to favor option (c) below, as it makes most sense to me and the way I feel following my course of treatment. The problem is that there is scientific evidence that ECT is effective in the treatment of depression and other mental illnesses, but no one knows why or how. Here are the primary theories: (a) Neurotransmitter: ECT has effects similar to anti-depressants, altering brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, etc., but in a more “permanent” manner; (b) Anti-convulsant: ECT conditions the brain to become more convulsion-resistant (over the course of treatment, seizure threshold increases and seizure duration decreases due to increased transmission of brain GAMA [sorry, couldn’t find a meaningful definition for this acronym] and opiods resulting in marked improvement in depression and mania symptoms); (c) Neuroendocrine: ECT affects the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls important functions like sleep and body temperature. The disruption in homeostasis forces the hypothalamus to “reset or “re-regulate” the body, correcting the imbalance causing the mental illness ("The evidence that E.C.T. affects the hypothalamus is mostly indirect, though the uniformity with which the hypothalamus reacts to almost every form of stress leaves little doubt that E.C.T. will act similarly." (W. Ross Ashby, 'The Mode of Action of Electro-Convulsive Therapy,' J. Ment. Sci., 1953); and (d) Brain Damage: ECT causes damage creating the illusion of stability. (Based on the findings that differences in responses to Rorschach’s test were similar after ECT or diffuse brain damage. This theory has been heavily criticized because the type of “damage” hypothesized does not explain common behavioral changes, no substantive evidence of brain chemical change has been documented and because using various radio-imaging techniques as well as human autopsy methodology, no substantive evidence of brain structural alteration was found.) For a very thorough, albeit very medically technical, paper on these theories and the background for each, see “Theories on Mechanism of Action of Electroconvulsive Therapy” at (also added to the “Links” section in the right sidebar to this blog.)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Shortest job ever?

Monday, I went to my daughter’s awards ceremony at school. She is graduating from the 5th grade and moving on to “middle school.” How did she get to be 11 already? Those deep depression years seem like they were part of some bad movuie I watched while I missed that part of her growing up. I have a lot of catching-up to do with respect to being a “dad”. My wide and I got a special invitation to the ceremony because Maggie was receiving the “President’s Citizenship Award”, given to one boy and one girl from her 5th grade class. Of all of the awards that they give, this one, in my opinion, which comes from caring about her classmates and helping people out when they need help, is one of the more special ones. I’m very proud of her.

Monday was also my first, and my last, day of work at my new job. I'm sure that there is no end to the list of people that start a job, and then just don't go back for day, or at least call and let the employer know that they won't be back. That's not my style, but I DID call a nd let them know. I’ve never been good on the phone. I’ve never liked talking in the phone. I’m much better in person. Since my childhood stuttering days, the phone has been a scary world for me. My new job is entirely on the phone, talking to strangers and trying to close deals on “handyman” jobs at these people’s homes. In addition, talking about money with people I don’t know is uneasy for me (strange, given my several year history in the mortgage business, which seemed different for some reason.) My new job is filled with discussions about what these handyman jobs will cost, estimates, service charges, etc. I was so thrilled that someone wanted to hire me, after getting shunned by REI, that I overlooked the part about whether I would enjoy this job, and whether it would be a good endeavor for maintaining my currently good mental health. I stuttered and stammered and struggled all day on the phone, under “on the spot” pressure with potential customers while trying to figure out this web-based estimating software so I could give them reasonable estimates for what their repair work would cost. I held myself together all afternoon, in fact didn’t realize how stressed and losing it I was, until I got home. Then, in the privacy of my own home, I crumbled from the day’s stresses. I absolutely fell apart, couldn’t talk about it, wanted to be alone so I could just roll around in my self-loathing. Last evening, not fitting well into this job seemed like an admission that I was unable to do anything ever again. There was a battle between my pride (it gets me in trouble a lot) telling me to get back in there and make things work, and my common sense telling me that this job was bad for me and for my family in the big picture. Today, in a clearer light, I can see that “this job” wasn't going to working out. I’m back in the hunt for a Home Depot or Lowes floor job.

Melissa, once again, was my guardian angel. She is so supportive. “Its not worth your mental health for whatever they are paying you to do this work. I support you if you decide to go back tomorrow and give it another day, and I support you if you call them and tell them you are sorry, but its just not going to work out. You have to make that call, and I know you will make the right call.” I know that I don’t deserve her, but I am infinitely grateful that I have her in my life.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Not just an ordinary Sunday

Ok, a show of hands: How many people have gotten to fly in a "Flight for Life" helicopter?

There's another collection which I passively-obsessively (can I use those words together??) pursue. Colorado has 52 mountain peaks that reach over 14,000 feet above sea level. There are none reaching 15,000 feet. We outdoorsy types in Colorado refer to the 14,000+ peaks as "14ers." I collect 14ers of which I have summited (reached the top.) Its not as easy as it sounds. All of the ones I have done are "walk-ups", meaning that no technical (rope) climbing is involved, but as you ascend further from sea level, the air gets progressively thinner (contains less and less oxygen.) Breathing gets more labored, your cardio-vascular fitness gets tested, and your muscles, deprived of the oxygen they need to function, weaken and fatigue. Subservient to this collection of 14ers is a collection the topographic maps for each mountain region highlighting the route I or we took to the summit.

Pikes Peak, one of Colorado's better known 14ers (but not the tallest), is one I've climbed. In fact, I ran the Pikes Peak Marathon which begins in Manitou Springs below the mountain and runs to the summit and back (26.2 miles, but not much actual "running" goes on above 13,000 feet as the route becomes made of nothing but huge boulders and the air thins to nothing.) In preparation for this race, I've run (again, "run" means run the bottom of the routes and hastily hiked the top 1000 feet or so) Mt. Torreys, Greys Peak and Mt. Bierstadt. Still, climbing these peaks for all but those in very good physical condition is a challenge not easily forgotten (except, of course, for ECT patients.)

Today, I and a friend (David) set out to add another 14er to the list of summits reached, Mt. Evans (The huge mountain that looms over the metro-Denver area to the west, and the closest peak to Denver. You can actually drive to the top of Evans (if you’re a wuss.) Our course was to take us up the same trail as for climbing Mt. Bierstadt, and then breaking off to the north before the final pitch to the Bierstadt summit and crossing a saddleback called the "Sawtooth." Its still a bit early for climbing, and there was still a fair amount of snow to deal with, and snow-melt-mud in most other places below the summit area. Today was the first climb I’ve made since beginning to take Risperdal for my mania. Side effects of Risperdal include decreased activity, lack of coordination, dizziness, tremor, decreased blood flow and respiratory distress. This list would have been a good thing to study before this climb.

I noticed that I was breathing harder than normal pretty early in the hike, but just assumed that it was my level of conditioning, and that I would acclimate to some degree and be fine. Well, the trail cutting off to Mt. Evans was very illusive, and we never found it. So, we decided to summit Bierstadt (again) as long as we were there. I noticed feeling dizzy at about 12,500 feet, again just attributing it to conditioning and oxygen deprivation, but beginning to think about Risperdal as a culprit.

As you ascend most 14ers, you get above "tree line" (above which no trees grow) at around 12,000 vertical feet. Toward the top, you usually run into "skree" which is loose small rock that is a little tricky. Most 14ers feature "boulder fields" as the last couple hundred feet of ascent. Think rocks of sizes ranging from bowling balls to VW Bugs, and a 75-90 degree vertical pitch (some hand climbing, but, again, nothing technical). About 200 vertical feet below the summit of Bierstadt, I was in the middle of the boulder field, struggling for air, and feeling pretty dizzy but determined to reach the top. Ah, pride, the cause of many a misstep. It only takes one bad step.

I stepped up with my right foot to a rock about 3 feet above my present position, and as I brought my left foot up, the right one lost footing and slipped off. The result was a fall straight backwards (remember, there's nothing but big rocks and a steep pitch for a couple hundred feet below me), landing first on my back, padded by a backpack full of extra clothing (padding). "Ouch", but my immediate hope was that the fall would end there. But when I felt my feet come over my head in a backwards summersault as I left that first landing spot and fell off of that first spot into the air again, I knew the pain was about to get worse. I recall thinking "cover your head, this is gonna hurt." I got my face covered, but I landed on the crown of my head on a big rock. Total fall: 30-35 vertical feet with one bounce in the middle. I wound up lying on the back of my head and neck with my body sort of jumbled above me in a crevasse. I recall smacking my head (that bright light flash and sharp "crack" and ringing you get when something hard hits your head), then darkness, then my left knee hurting like hell, and just after that, a roaring headache. I managed to roll over onto my butt and slump forward and revel in the pain of mostly my knee. I was trying to assess the extent of my injuries and I noticed the headache getting worse and the world making this continuous slide to the right. Dizziness after head trauma...bad. As I looked off into the distance, the dizziness intensified into a spin. I sat with my knees pulled up and my head slumped forward, and I could feel the blood from the gash on top of my head pouring down my face and dripping onto the rock below me. Its tough knowing you are hurt and bleeding, but not being able to see the wound to know how bad it is. But I knew I was hurt, and hurt bad enough that I wasn't likely to walk off of that mountain on my own any time soon.

I yelled "DAVID!" Nothing but echo. I yelled again, and a guy coming up the mountain heard me and yelled "Are you all right?" "No!" I responded. He told me to sit tight, and he came to me. My luck was bad enough to allow me to fall and split my head open, but good enough to have me discovered by a guy on a "training" hike (he's leaving Friday to climb Mt. McKinley in Washington) and carrying 8 liters of water in his pack just for added weight. Those liters of water came in handy in washing and freezing (they were frozen liters when his hike began) my wound so he could use his first aid kit (something I didn't have) to bandage me up and get the bleeding to stop. Someone else happened upon us and went to get David from the summit. He arrived a few minutes later. David, Steve (the guy that found me) and I discussed whether to call for help. David had a phone that had signal, and I had a GPS unit in my pack. Given that I could barely stand, David called 911 just to let them know what was up, and that we may need help getting me out of there. It was an exciting day.

With blood dried in streams down my face and on my clothes, dry heaves which were never kind enough to go the distance and let me vomit (from concussion, I think) and two banged up knees, the three of us slowly made our way down the mountain about a mile and a half. There was lots of snow, and I was able to glissade (aka "ass-sled") down quite a bit of the route. Getting out of the boulders with the nausea and vertigo and legs that weren't working too well was tricky. But we had to go the mile and a half just to get to a spot flat enough for the helicopter to land and pick me up. David stayed in contact, off and on, with the Cook County Sheriff. About 2 hours after the fall, I was being put into a neck cuff and loaded onto the chopper for flight to the hospital. The bleeding had stopped, and the further down we came the better the vertigo got (although it never got very good, and the nausea remained), but the headache got worse. Damn, how embarrassing! I consider myself to be a well conditioned, athletic guy. I've RUN up this mountain before! And now I'm being flown out. And to top it off, the flight nurses CUT my brand new "Cherry Creek Sneak" shirt off of me for access to put in an IV! Did they HAVE to CUT it?!?!

So, an x-ray, CT scan, a concussion diagnosis and three stitches to the scalp later, Melissa took me home and cared for me and my battered head. David and Steve hiked on down and David drove my Jeep back to town.

Melissa tells this story from am different perspective. She arrived at the ER after I had called her and said "Don't worry. I'm ok, but I'm at the hospital", told them who she was and was escorted to a room by the security guard (this was a hospital in a pretty bad part of Denver.) Eight doctors and nurses stood around this person on a gurney. The person wasn't moving and his skin looked gray. As Melissa entered the room, all of the medics turned and stopped her and one asked "Are you family? Melissa said "Yes, I'm the wife." You're who?" the doctor asked. "You should be at the chapel with the rest of the family." The security guard popped back in and said "Oh, sorry, wrong room." The person on that gurney was dead, and Melissa was thinking "I just talked to him and he sounded fine." As if I don't put her through enough trauma.

And all of this excitement from a simple "I'll be home by three" day-hike. Life doesn't get much more interesting than that!

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Today, I woke up feeling fine, called and signed up to play racquetball in the Saturday morning “shuttle”. Competition on Saturday mornings is at its best. Not long after I got out of bed and got dressed, Melissa and I had a major fight over money (which turned out to be about nothing like what I thought we were fighting about…Mars versus Venus). I was in a horrible mood and wanted to punch a hole in a wall and was convinced that my day was ruined. I’ve had this “crick” in my neck for 2 days and I was pissed off and I knew that my racquetball game would be lame given those two factors, so I just skipped it. Its 3 hours later as I write this, the fight is over and my mood is great again. Before ECT, my whole day would have been ruined and the fight would have raged all day and maybe into tomorrow (in my head, anyway.) THAT is a benefit of ECT: The ability to rebound and recover from emotional trauma or upset. It just didn’t happen before.

Mic, my mentally ill son, has been deteriorating quickly since we decided upon this move to NW Arkansas. The stress from not knowing where we will be in a couple of months, when the move will take place, when our home will sell, etc is tough on everyone, but particularly difficult for Mic to deal with. He was relatively stable (albeit hard to deal with) prior to learning of the move, but slowly regressing emotionally and mentally. He really behaves, and must be handled, like a six year old (he’s 13). We are now down to daily outbursts. As I have mentioned previously, Mic is one of the two triggers I have identified which have serious effect on my mood. He is extremely lucky to have Melissa, who continues to handle most of his problems so as to shield me from him. Mic is generally non-violent to other people. He destroys things (usually his own things), but has never before put his hands on another person during one of his emotional outbursts. Today, (by Maggie’s account, and I have no reason to disbelieve her) he pinned Maggie against the wall by her shirt in an effort to intimidate her into doing what he wanted. I worry about his steady and now quickened regression, and what the future holds for him if this move can’t be completed sooner rather than later.

Friday, May 19, 2006

He's Employed!!

Today, I got a job. I am the new Customer Service Representative for the local franchise office of Handyman Matters, a corporate handy man service. I happened to run into the owner (with whom I worked and became acquainted with while a lawyer at Convergent Communications back in 2000), as irony would have it, while dropping off my application for the job (for which I was DENIED) at REI. I start Monday, working the same number of hours I sought at REI, and for $3 more per hour than that job would have been. Fuck you very much, REI. The more time that goes by, the more I realize that I just need to let go of the life I planned for myself, and live the life that presents itself and enjoy it while its here.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

My Nail Salon Experience

First, Bill, I don’t know if you are someone I actually know, or one of my “blog friends”, but either way, thank you for the strong words and the great insight. There is much wisdom in your comment. Thanks to all of my friends that wrote to prop me up, either in the blog or personally.

The good thing that came from the REI denial is a confirmation that my mental health is better than it used to be. Before ECT, this REI denial would have sent me into a tailspin of morbid depression including suicidal ideation and the whole bit, or made me so pissed-off that I couldn’t focus on anything for days. I was over and done with REI a couple hours after I got the call. That was one “no” in a sea of possibilities, and a “no” on a job that I only intended to keep for a couple months until the move, anyway. So, onward.

Today has been a great day. I got little, if anything done, but it was a great day. I had to be out of the house for a couple hours for showings. Melissa, sort of out of the blue the other day, suggested to me that I get a pedicure. Hmmm, that bad, huh? Those that know me personally know that I’m not the “metro-sexual” type. Manicures and pedicures aren’t my style. Now, remember, I’m about 6’2”, a pretty brawny athletic guy, shaved head and goatee. Today, I was wearing a black biker t-shirt from a motorcycle rally in northwest Arkansas. It has the logo of a drug store sponsor on the front, and on the back in great big white letters it says “OFFICIAL DRUG DEALER.”

So, here I am, pulling up to the nails salon on my big motorcycle in my sunglasses, shiny head and biker “Drug Dealer” t-shirt, strolling onto this nail place (carrying an iced coffee from Starbucks, no less) manned entirely by Asian women and full of (a) over-weight middle aged women and (b) high school chickees getting their hands and feet worked on. Before I walked in, I realized that I was going to stick out like a turd in a punch-bowl. So, I decided that, instead of being embarrassed, I was going to walk in there like I belonged there and just take inventory of people’s reactions. It was PRICELESS! It was all I could do to keep from laughing. People were whispering, pointing but trying not to be seen, one chickee even picked up her cell phone and called another chickee that was also in the salon to have her check me out. I just wish I had had on my bandana on my head and it had been cold enough for my black leather and studded jacket too.

Below is another writing from the past. I’m just tossing these in as I come across them to further pain the picture of where my mind used to be. I find them interesting now because they give me something to which to compare my current mental state. This one is consistent with my current philosophy, but only in an ill state of mind would I have written about it.

February 16, 2005

[05/15/06 Note: This was written after my first hospital stay, during a time when I “thought” that my depression was better. If it was better at all at this time, it was temporary. Much of the fear of the “Monster” has faded and continues to fade. Fear of being unable to escape the Monster, should it return, will likely never leave me.]


What are you afraid of? What really strikes fear in your mind? Most people have some phobia. Maybe snakes, public speaking, heights, water. Perhaps death. I am amazed by the Christians who fear death. “It’s a better place”, they say. “You will live at the right hand of God.” If you really believe in those things, why is death scary? Unless, of course, your faith isn’t what you pretend it is.

I don’t fear death. In fact, on many occasions, I beckon it. I wish it to come. On many occasions, in fact, I have even intended to bring it upon myself to stop my pain. What I fear (in addition to spiders), however, is the inability to bring about my own death should I choose to. Unable because I’m physically disabled, or incarcerated, or for other reasons. But being unable to end my pain is far more frightening to me than death itself.

Now that my depression is better, I also very much fear its return. I live in fear of it coming back. The medication I’m on works great during the day, but it seems like, as the sun sets, the meds wear off. And the fear comes. Sometimes I can hear depression, “It”, creeping in the shadows. It sounds like barbarians at the gate, Mongolians at the city wall. I so fear the return of the “Monster” that at times I think the fear is worse than the Monster itself. When It is here, at least I know it’s here. We are one. I am it and it is me and there is nothing to fear at that time. The pain envelopes me and causes me to lose perspective on how things really are and how they should be and how much I have in my life to live for. If I had to point to one thing I fear most, it would be being unable to escape the Monster, and being unable to end the agony it brings.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Over-qualified and Unemployable

I found out today that I am a hardworking, honest lawyer with an additional graduate degree that doesn’t qualify for a job at REI. To say that I’m disappointed would be like calling lava “hot.” I know they get hundreds of applications every month in that store and I know that I’m overqualified. But I still fully expected a call welcoming me to the team and telling when I started my new job. I’m down. I feel like a loser and I can’t figure out what I’m going to do with my life when I can’t DO the job I AM qualified for, and I’m over-qualified for the grunt job I CAN do. I’m between the cracks, and it seems that I’m stuck. I wouldn’t say that I’m depressed, I’m just very sad. Sad that I can’t do more for my family. Sad that I can't be a role model father for my kids. Sad that Melissa has to carry as much weight as she carries. Sad because this thought keeps sneaking into my head that everyone would be better off without me around, although I know that that's not what anyone in my damily wants. Sad that I have lost that lofty spot I once occupied bringing home $10,000 a month. And sad at the idea that my mother-in-law is sending us money to help support my family. I completely expect that she is sending the money because she won’t let her daughter or grandchildren suffer, but that she doesn’t give a damn about me, the loser son-in-law, who is failing to pull his weight. I don’t know what to do from here, except ignore all of these things that make me sad and wait for the house to sell so we can move to a place where I know I can get a job doing something, even if I am over-qualified. Waiting has never been my strength.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Obsessions? Me?

Obsessions? Interests? Mania? Hobbies? Call them what you like, they were coming at me way too quickly last week. It really seems that ECT had positive effect on both depression and mania, but much more effect on the depression. The OCD/mania still seems to come and go in minor, unthreatening waves.

Earlier last week, I got into darts. I played darts all the time in law school. It was what I did to take study breaks at night, throw a couple games of “cricket.” So, I dig around and found my three sets of darts not easy when some things are packed for a move), blew the dist off of and opened my dart board (hanging on the basement wall since we’ve been in this house, rarely used) for the first time in years, dug out my dart rule book to recall the distance from which I was to throw, put down a strip of tape to mark the throw line, and threw three times a day for about 4 days. Then, the interest was gone as quickly as it arrived. Today, its web design mania. I have thought, from time to time that I want to learn how to design a web page. I got a copy of Microsoft FrontPage 2003 from a friend and I want to design a web page for my journal from before ECT. I sort of tinkered with FrontPage, but I also ordered a book on how to use the software. I also plan to build a site to sell tie-dye on the internet (tie-dye is another “enthusiasm” from earlier this week which seems to pop-up from time to time, most often in the summer.) Now, also, laptops are heavy on my mind. I want one so I can write (another “enthusiasm”) while not at home (for example, when I’m forced out of my house so the house can be shown to prospective buyers.) I can’t afford a laptop, but I went today to Best Buy to find out what the cutting edge technology is so that when I can afford one I can figure out what to buy. My head seemed to be running a bit fast last week, as the list of interests above depicts. It seems to have slowed now and things are calmer. I’m just glad that the quickened pace from last week didn’t leave to a depression this week.

I’m reading “Electroboy” by Andy Berhman. Its not what I expected, and really not very good at all. Boring. The story line goes into WAY too much detail about his life before diagnosis and ECT. If it was painting a clear picture of who is was and how he got to the point of needing medical help, fine. But why would I care about most of the stuff that’s covered? I’m 175 pages in (of 272) and he just got his 1st prescription for depression.

Given my “enthusiasm” for tie-dye, I was giving some thought to new designs I would like to try. The idea came to mind to use bleach on color fabric instead of color on a white fabric. So, I bought a black t-shirt, tied it up for a spiral design, and used a strong bleach and water solution (Bleach is really already a water mixture, so I guess all I did was reduce the chemical parts per million -- chlorine is really a gas at room temperature. The gallon of bleach from the grocery store is really the chemical sodium hypochlorite mixed with water in a 5.25-percent solution.) I applied the bleach mix as if it was colored dye. The result was this really cool black shirt with this spiral pattern emanating from the center in varying shades of grey.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Ya know what drives me nuts?

I have a favor to ask of everyone reading this blog today. If you are here, reading today’s entry, would you please submit a comment with just “Read it” or “Been here” or something simple. I just want an idea of if I still have readers, or if I’m writing for myself now. Thanks.

Friday and Saturday were reasonably good emotional days for me, but they were otherwise from hell. Friday morning, I interviewed with REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.), a sporting goods store (one of the coolest stores on earth) for a cashier or floor job. If I don’t get hired, something is wrong with the world. I’m just looking for a part-time job to have something to do this summer and to make a little money. Also on Friday, Mic had his wisdom teeth out. Don’t misunderstand. I love my son and I want the best for him. I care about his life and the difficulties he has, and those that he will always have. These things make me incredibly sad and guilty and, I suspect, they are a large part of the reason that I have trouble dealing with and being around him. The feelings that come from my realization that he isn’t the son I always thought I would have (the star athlete, the boy I would play catch with and take fishing and to ball games and play video games with, etc.) play havoc with my own mood problems.

My idea of what is “best for Mic” and Melissa’s ideas differ, and at some times our opinions clash and result in some bitter disagreements. I mostly let her handle his care. Mic is the hardest person on earth for me to be around just on an every day basis. He is emotionally about 6 years old (he’s 13) and getting younger, he is very learning challenged, volatile, as contrary as anyone can be, and just generally drives me nuts, no matter how or what I try to relate to him. I try not to show these feelings to him (he can’t help who he is) and keep them inside, and sometimes I’m successful with that. When Mic is sick or hurt, he usually is less difficult to handle, more mellow and agreeable. But this time, maybe its just that he’s older, maybe it’s the pain medications, but he’s a constant time bomb, fragile and volatile.

A couple months ago, Mic traded his Gameboy, all of his games, all the accessories, as well as some cash which he got as a gift for Sony’s newest top of the line portable game system (Portable Game Platform or “PSP”.) It’s a pretty impressive $250 piece of electronic equipment. Since then, he has acquired games (about $40 each) and movies (why anyone would want to watch a movie on a 16 square inch screen beats me, but they run about $40 each, too.) As I’ve mentioned in the past. Mic seems to have peaked in his emotional maturity. His emotional control seems to be deteriorating much more quickly lately. I hope its just the stress of moving and selling the house that is effecting him. Its effecting us all. So, Friday Mic was lying on the couch, drugged up and playing his PSP. He gets frustrated with the games often and has little ability to know when to put it down and cool off. I was the same as a boy. Melissa and I were on the porch talking, and we heard him just start screaming and wailing and crying. Melissa jumped up and rushed in to check on him. He was screaming about breaking his PSP, that he “dropped it” and it just broke and that it was ruined. She also found the remote control to the TV with the battery cover off and the batteries strewn about. The PSP had a spider web crack radiating outward from the center of the screen to the edges. Remember, he “dropped it” and he hung on to that story and got very upset and out of control when we questioned him about it. Its obvious that, what really happened, is that Mic got mad while playing a game, picked up the remote control and struck the PSP screen with it. The PSP is destroyed, can’t be fixed, and a lot of money has been wasted. Money we don’t have right now. I feel sad for Mic that, because of his lack of control, he ruined one of his favorite things and can’t replace it. I also feel sad and very frustrated that, despite the pain this incident will cause Mic, he will likely take nothing positive away from it, and learn nothing, no matter how much we talk about it. He is still, now 2 days later, clinging to the story that “he dropped it.” He could have dropped it from a ten story building and not done this damage. Otherwise, a good day.

Saturday, we had to be out of the house all day for showings and an open house. We were gone from 11:00 to 6:00. Long day. I’ve been savings up little tasks and things to read that I can do at Starbucks. So far (week) 3 showings, 2 previews and an Open House. Slow week, the realtor thought, because of Mother’s Day.

So, these adversities in the last two days, and the reaction from my mind and mood stability was nothing more than a bit of a bad mood for a couple hours on Saturday. The rest was difficult, boring at times, but of no real trouble for me. I’m happy with that.

Ya know what drives me nuts? I know this is a small detail, but I was raised, despite growing up in Arkansas, using proper English. I know not to use a preposition at the end of my sentences (“Where are you at?”) and to use the proper tense of my verbs (not “I seen the man at the mall.”) And it drives me nuts when people talk in present tense when describing things which occurred in the past. I have noticed that the entire book, “Electroboy”, thus far is written like this. An example would be “And then, we go to the bar, and the bartender says to me ‘Where’s you get that hat?’ And I say to him “I got the hat around the corner.’ So he goes to the hat shop and he buys the same hat.” instead of “and then we went to the bar and the bartender said to me ‘Where’s you get that hat?’ And I said to him ‘I got the hat around the corner.’ So he went to the hat shop and he bought the same hat.” I can’t figure out WHY people adopt this style of story telling, but just pay attention to conversations with people or that are going on around you and notice how often you hear it. That ends my “quirk of the day.” Thanks for listening.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Ups and Downs

Yesterday was a rollercoaster. I got up and was good in the morning. Happy, felt good. I played racquetball at 9:00 with my Thursday morning regulars. I just couldn’t seem to get into the game. My chest was really sore from weights on Wed, and I think that was interfering with my racquet swing. Soon, I lost confidence in my shots and had this mental “don’t miss this shot” psychology going on as I set up every shot. Its amazing how a little mental glitch like that can take you from “good player” to “total shmoe” in no time. I managed to win a couple games, but not a pretty day on the court. I did surprisingly ok, mentally, with not playing well. The perfectionist in me usually has more trouble with having a “bad day.” Maybe I’m getting somewhere.

Came home and took a 2nd Risperdal just on Dr. Galasow’s suggestion. He suggested taking 2 a day every day until I got the rapid thoughts back under control. I did some work around the house. My task list for home projects is getting short. I am beginning to have time, for the first time in a while, to work on other projects (i.e. a little tie-dye business for the web – working on a web page, where to host it, how to set it up – mostly just a hobby which has the potential to become an obsession if not careful. Also, working on getting my past journals into web form so I can share a little deeper glimpse of how my illness progressed.)

I was supposed to go help a friend take apart a swing set, but forgot an appointment to go to my son’s “school” for the “Learning Fair”. I had to call, apologize for my oversight, and cancel the swing set project. I dread those things at Mic’s school. Partly because its just so hard to see substantive evidence of where he is education wise, but mostly because those functions always lead to a total emotional melt down for my son on the way home or after we get home. The dread of that breakdown and the breakdown itself are just so BAD for my own mental health, and that creates this very negative cycle for him and I. I feel like we would both be best served if I just skipped those types of things. Yesterday was no different. He started triggering before we even left the school, revved up on the way home, and totally lost it at home. Melissa and Maggie went to something at her school (poor, busy Melissa) and I stayed home and dealt with Mic. All the while, my stomach was killing me from something I ate. So, a pretty good day went to shit by evening and just ended badly. Then, our realtor called with the first negative feedback on our house (on the market.) Its one set of feedback, nothing to get too worked up about, but its still a bummer and sort of throws a kink into planning the whole sell, move, buy process.

Today, Mic had two of his wisdom teeth out, and I get to be at home with him for recovery. Fun, fun. At least we didn’t have 6 showings booked today forcing us to be gone all day with Mic in pain and drugged up. He’s been “out” on the couch all day.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Manic Mike?

Howdy, folks, This is Manic Mike comin' atcha on a fine Wednesday. Worry not, I'm not "manic". Maybe a little speedier than I should be, but under control.

Monday and Tuesday were pretty good days. Certainly nothing to whine about in comparison to a year ago or even as recently ago ad December of last year. I can feel a bit of “quickness” in my thoughts, things racing a little. Not even so much that I’ve taken a second Risperdal. And maybe its just me getting more sensitive to changes in my head. Monday, still had lots to do to get the house ready. Tuesday, we had our first showing (exciting!) and so the morning was a little frantic getting everything exactly perfect.

Today, Wednesday, began with, we’ll call it, “The Manic Extra Mile.” I don’t think it was really manic, but it was classic me: push, push , push . Last week, I did 40 minute runs in an effort to build up my stamina so that I can begin to really train for the Marine Corps Marathon beginning in June (the race is in October.) Today, I decided to do a 50 minute run. Rationale: Lets just step it up a notch. Last night, I decided to make it a 45 minute run, figuring that I had increased my pace (this is all treadmill running…cold outside) also last week, so adding 5 minutes at the faster pace was enough. This morning, I started my 45 minute run, felt great at the increased pace from last week. About 15 minutes into the run, I had to use the potty. I jumped off the ‘mill and ran up the stairs. I was probably gone 3 minutes. So, I decided to make it a 50 minute run. Rationale: Make up for the time lost on the restroom break. I play a little game with myself to keep my mind off of the clock when I run. I cover the console with a towel, I watch TV, but have masking tape on the screen everywhere that the time ever shows up on the local news or “The Today Show”, and otherwise keep myself from clock watching, which makes the time seem to drag on forever. So, I look at my watch when I start my run and spend the first minute or two figuring out what time I will be done. Then, every time I look at my watch between that time and a time within 5 minutes of my “quittin’ time, I turn up the speed on the ‘mill by a notch.

Today, I got to 42 minutes before I looked. I turned it up a notch. Only 8 minutes to go. An hour has historically been like an invisible barrier for me. Coming up from underneath, when I break that barrier, I can run as long as I decide to go. If I can run an hour, I can run two, and if I can go 2 hours, I can go four. Its getting to that 60 minute mark that takes some time, patience and hard work. Today, at 42 minutes, I felt pretty good. I decided today’s run would be 60 minutes. Rationale: Isn’t it obvious…this close to the barrier…I HAVE to go for it! Couldn’t I just do 45 and call it good? Noooooo.

Today, I will have to be extra diligent about the pace of my mind. I have a psychiatrist appointment (an “I’m about out of meds” or “I think I need an adjustment” meeting.)

Melissa and I have had this discussion vaguely, and this morning it became a little more concrete. My personality has “changed” somewhat since ECT began. I’m now coming up on 5 weeks since my last ECT treatment. I feel differently than before, certainly. It’s a much better than before, also certainly. But Melissa and my kids have reported my language (use of “bad words”) has gotten worse. They are right, I’ve noticed that too. And the only thing that Melissa could put her finger on this morning was, as she put it, I have less “impulse control” than before. I say things that I wouldn’t have said prior to ECT.

My perspective differs. I feel like I have always been one to “bottle up my feelings (another symptom that can lead to depressive episodes), to not share with others what I’m thinking and to rarely give a clear glimpse of how I really feel about something. I think it has something to do with my childhood and being told to “shut up” by my mother, and sometimes even being yelled at for expressing my feelings. I have a hard time remembering those times, but they are there, somewhere in the fog of my childhood (which was foggy before ECT).

To me, it feels like, because I’m feeling better, maybe better than I ever have, I am just expressing my feelings. I’m saying what’s on my mind. The swearing was one of Melissa’s examples, but she also brought up the fact that I said something about smoking pot in a discussion with our realtors, who are a couple that I do know, and our “stager”, this super-cool little lady who they brought in to arrange our house (fine-tuning) for showings. It was something made in a light-hearted, laughing conversation. And Melissa is right:

A year ago, I never would have said what I said. But then, and for years before then, my only expression of myself was through writing that I never showed to anyone (because it freaked me out, and I was sure it would freak others out even worse. I feared being locked up (abandoned?) in some psych ward someplace.

There is definitely change that has occurred, but putting my finger on what that change is will take a little more time. Until then, I’m just going to be me and enjoy my life (while trying not to swear in front of my kids.)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A Writing from the Past

I was going through some old Word files today, looking for the several Journals I have kept over the years. I intend to create another BLOG, linked to this one, with my past journals so that the "life" leading up the start of ECT can be seen. Toward that end, I have been gathering up the old journals.

I looking for those files, I can across some writings from the past. Some of them are as wacky as can be. Some are very disturbing. The one below I found very interesting in that my thoughts on most of the things in the writing haven't changed. The writing is from February 20, 2005.

Life Circles

"What comes around, goes around."
"You reap what you sow"
Yin & Yang
Night and Day
Winter and Summer
Life and death

Everywhere, life revolves in circles. Some small, some larger. But it all travels in circles. I remember when I was younger and I paid no mind to anyone but me. I was not exactly nice to some people. I might have made fun instead of understanding. I might have judged instead of helping. I laughed at people doing the best they could because they were less able than me. As I aged, I had life by the horns. I was a lawyer, well paid, discontent, wealthy for my age, two beautiful kids, youth, health, and a wife who loved me and was loyal to me. I was arrogant, cynical, sarcastic, deceitful at times, and judgmental. I was, at least in my own mind, bullet-proof, better. I was blind to life's little circles.

One day, my great lawyer job ended. No loss for me, I hated that job anyway. Today, I would give an arm to have those opportunities again. Those chances I then didn’t appreciate. To be able to attack that kind of work with the confidence that it could not hurt me. When my job ended, we opened a business which later failed. All of our savings were gone...GONE. We were bankrupt. I previously had thought that people who filed bankruptcy were generally losers, deadbeats, irresponsible.

My son, we've learned, is severely mentally ill. Something, earlier, of which I had no knowledge and of which I would not have been kind or caring. Compassion has come, but at a great price.

I travel today watching my youth slip away, having aged greatly by my trials. I am desperately clinging to the last bastions of my youth. My own mental illness has manifested, bi-polar disorder. Those vary traits which guided me to my lofty perch were also, in fact, my demise. Pressure, stress, fast pace became anxiety, depression, mania and an intent to kill myself. Slowly, my disease has not only become present, it has become me and I have become it. My best friend's father, only 4 or 5 years prior, committed suicide. Dr. Elliot was a successful doctor, had a great house, more money than he could spend, and a great family. All I could do when Mark called me, looking for support, was wonder "what could he possibly have been so sad over? How could he kill himself?" I didn't understand. I was afraid to try to understand. I wasn't there for my friend. Now, having been there, having stood on the edge of the abyss trying desperately to decide what, in my belief system, was over that threshold, I now fully understand.

I know now that I may be on the path upon which I have traveled all along. The path, however, is going to places I did not foresee. Walk not on the path you wish to be on. Walk the path upon which you are. You cannot force your course. You can merely guide your travel along your destined path. I do not know to where my path may take me, or when that path might end. I know, however, that I now carry tools with me which will prepare me for the path ahead. Taoism teaches that struggles and trials are not to be avoided or resented, for it is these struggles that make us who we are.

The one aspect of my lofty life I have not lost, at least not yet, and the sole anchor through this long storm, the only person responsible for my being alive and able to write this piece, has been my wife, my traveling partner. And even she is traveling in circles of her own. When we met, married, had kids, she was dependent. Afraid of the city. Weak. Now, she could take on the world and not stop for lunch (literally). She is strong and creative. She is the advocate for our son, getting him the services he needs to make the most of his life. She is my advocate, getting me help or helping me when I am unable or unwilling to help myself. She certainly is no longer dependent or weak. She is independent and able. Strong and persistent. She has ridden this wild ride from top to bottom with me, but has herself moved from bottom to top. She might not yet realize that her life is moving in circles which will take her places she is yet to go and places she might never expect to see. The difference for her, perhaps, is that where I was callus and judgmental, she was caring and helpful. Good brings good. Karma says that you are repaid in kind for what you give. You reap what you sow. Full circles. Always.

My only hope is that through my difficult learning I can help others in their travel of the same circles I have traveled. Maybe in doing so I can right some wrong. Maybe I can balance my Karma. Maybe I can give what I have taken. Maybe, if I’m diligent, I can come full circle.

The Tao teaches that "If you've never done anything wrong, why worry about devils knocking at your door?" The poem accompanying this proverb talks to a Shaman and the meditation speaks of the fact that when the spirits possess the Shaman, they do not worry about appearing normal. Rather, they allow the spirits to guide them and control them. During times of deep depression, I do not seem or feel normal. I feel like someone else. Is it possible that at those times I, too, am possessed by spirits, but those spirits are negative spirits or demons which fill me? Could these be the demons resulting from wrongs I have done, or an incorrect approach to life? If so, can they be set right?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Ah, another weekend.

Most people look forward to weekends. I prefer weekdays.

Saturday featured a terrible beginning. Got woken up early by my wife getting read to go to a flea market. She’s not exactly quiet, but usually I can sleep through it. Seems lately I have been waking up earlier and going to bed later. Melissa and I have sort of been “at each other” for the last 3 or 4 days. I know part of that is that she’s irritable from that thing we aren’t supposed to talk about (sorry, ladies, not playing on a stereo-type. I think she’d ‘fess to it as well.) and part has been that she’s upset about the move. Sometimes we all each are excited, and other times we each are saddened and in the “I don’t want to leave/do this” mode. She’s in the latter at present. When anyone but me is in the “I don’t want to do this” mode it makes me feel bad and guilty because I know that we are moving BECAUSE of me and me alone. And its confusing because this is what Melissa has always wanted: To move “back home” and, now that she’s got it, she doesn’t want it. The rest of why we’ve been at each other is me. Some of it is the guilt I feel. Some is just a general irritability I’ve had with Melissa that I can’t identify, yet.

So, I woke up and, somehow, it feels like I got lambasted right out of the blocks about the way I’ve been acting. It might not have hurt so badly, except Melissa stated in terms of “Even Maggie has said to me that you haven’t been being nice to me. And she’s upset because you are ‘cussing’ so much.” That part is accurate. I don’t know what’s driving it, but for several weeks, maybe longer, my verbal impulse control has been diminished. I swear out loud without much thought about whether the kids are around or not. I know I’m doing it, but it doesn’t occur to me until after the words are already out. And its not swearing AT anyone. Its swearing about frustration with a THING or situation usually. So, anyway, the fact that Maggie was brought in as being upset with me hurt very much.

I feel like I’ve been trying SO HARD to be a good dad, now that I’m more able. I’ve been getting up early and cooking Maggie breakfast, doing more things with her (I took her to a 5k race last weekend) and generally been more engaged. And it feels like instead of seeing and acknowledging all of that effort, everyone is focusing on the negatives and bashing me with them. This morning, I was just overwhelmed by this “I can’t win” feeling. For the first time in a month, I cried. Just laid in bed and cried. It wasn’t the real “depressed cry”, it was just a sad “I can’t win” cry, a cry from overwhelming frustration, like whatever I do just isn’t enough. More than anything, more than the substance of the incident with Melissa itself, I’m was most bothered by this worry that things are coming apart. A couple bad starts this week, a little bit of a general lack of tolerance with Mic. I’m just seeing these little cracks in the wall against my illness I’ve worked so hard to build and worrying that the foundation is crumbling.

Adter I got up and got ready to go play racquetball, I sat at my computer, wrote, and listened to Dave Mathews. Always very calming. I decided that I just needed a little extra effort today. Watch my potty-mouth and be diligent about my positive approach to things in general. – I WILL work through this, but its going to take some work.- As my therapist said “You didn’t get a vaccination against depression or feeling bad. Everyone is in that boat from time to time. Its what you do with it that matters.”

I’ve been realizing this “fear” I’ve had since some of my earliest childhood memories: The fear of being abandoned or left alone in the world. I remember when I was a kid, like 7 or 8, there was this orphanage right up the road from our home. We past it every time we went anywhere. I had this fear that my parents were going to take me there and leave me. For a while, every time my parents were on the phone, I would listen to see if they were arranging the “drop-ff” at the orphanage. Growing up, I was worried about my friends leaving me. I especially worried about girlfriends kicking me to the curb for acting wrong or screwing up. Now, I’m just amazed that Melissa hasn’t sent me packing for all I’ve put her through. Strange how that fear or paranoia has been with me throughout my lifetime, but I’ve never really focused on it until now.

Sunday went pretty well. I got up and went for a run with a couple of friends. Just a 3.5 miler (which in the scheme of a marathon training season is a “nothing” run.) Dan, one of the guys, is in better shape than both Brad and I. We mistakenly let him set the pace on the way out (we ran an out and back, out 17 minutes (1.75 miles) and back.) Dan and I both had a dog with us. I was hurting from the start and thinking it was just me. This was my 8th day in a row of leg work (running or racquetball), and I just figured that it was general fatigue. On the way back, I was just crashing (legs ached and breathing felt really labored) and had to walk several times to get things together (unusual for any of us to pull up and walk mid-run.) It wasn’t until I got done that I realized that we were running what must have been 9:00 miles or just under on the way out. My treadmill pace has been 10:15 miles or so (**I’m Slow, I Know, Get Over it** is one of my favorite t-shirts.). Doing all of my running on the ‘mill’ is great , but it denies me the chance to learn to set my own pace. So, although the lack of a rest day in the last 8 days made the run less than I wanted it to be, at least I know it was a pace problem. Not just me being a wuss. J I got to take my lab mix, Beau, out with me. He’s five, and this is his first real run. He did great and acted like a complete gentleman. He qualifies to go again soon. I had him hooked to my water bottle belt, and he gives a little pull like a sled dog.

The rest of the day was good except for dealing with my son. I get frustrated with myself for getting so frustrated with him. Remember, he is one of my two identified triggers. He just has this total lack of ability to “go find something to do.” He’s right on top of someone all of the time, and that’s annoying. When I told him to find something to do for the 5th time, he said “I can’t think of anything!” in a very rude, *I’m about to lose it* tone. I rolled off a few ideas: his new scooter, video game (hand-held that he just HAD to have), bike, skates, skateboards, books, his model, movies, TV, playstation in his room. His response, of the ten things I listed, was “I don’t have a playstation in my room! Maggie has it in her room.” Of all the things he did have, he focused on the one thing he didn’t have. Classic Mic. Classic *awefulizing.* He was *triggering* most of the day, which led to an escalation and outburst about 2:00 when asked to help with getting the house clean and ready to show to buyers. I told him, at that point, that he had lost his opportunity to be around me for the day, that I was having a pretty good day and I wasn’t going to let him ruin it with his lack of control. That’s the way it ended, and I kept my mood fairly in check. I’m glad tomorrow’s Monday.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Swallowing Difficulty - Risperdal?

An ananonymous commentor (Thanks, who ever you are) suggested that if the problem arose after starting Risperdal that it might be one of the less common (but more significant) side effects of the medication. I don't remember exactly when it began (again, its only happened twice, and neither time lately), but it very well could have been just after starting the med. Interesting.

Another change, I've noticed, is that I bump my head (mostly)and feet, legs and hips on things as I walk or move around. Its like my sense of proximity to my surroundings is just a little off in ways that it didn't use to be. And I notice that I bump my head on things I never used to or, if I used to, I do it much more or harder than I used to. And its things like my road bicycle which hangs from the ceiling in my garage. it hangs just below the height of the top of my head. I run into it almost daily and, everytime I bump into it, I smile to myself and say "why do I keep bumping into the same thing? remember its there!" But I don't remember. This one is NOT listed as a Risperdal side effect.

I did what?

[Written but not proofread.] I just finished watching the Colorado Avalanche get totally dominated by the Anehiem Mighty Ducks (this is NHL hockey playoffs I'm whinning about.] 5-0. 5 to 0!!! It better mean that the Avs take this as a slap in the face and come back in game 2 with a lot more game than they played in this one!

I woke up early this morning. I was a little worried about my mood right out of the blocks, but for no apparent reason. The "spring in my step" from recent days gone by was just seemingly missing. There just seemed to be adversity from the beginning of the day, and I didn’t take it well. I seemed more frustrated than I have been lately. I have had this ongoing battle with the master bath shower door. It leaks water under the door during showers, I –fix- it. A couple days later, right after I put away the tools, it finds another place to leak. I -fix- it. And so on. I’ve -fixed- it about a dozen times and thought I had it beaten this time. It leaked again this morning. I sort of lost my temper, said I wanted to kick a hole in the f**king thing, but then caught myself and decided that I wasn’t going to let a bit of a bad start ruin my day. I actually pulled the day together nicely and played some good racquetball in a noon -shuttle- (An organized regular event, 4 of them a week at the club where I play, in which you play 4 or 5 fifteen minute games and then, depending on whether you win or lose the game, play another player in the next round either better than the last player or a little less skilled. Its fun because you are always playing someone different, which is how you really learn to play racquetball.) I decided today that a new racquet isn’t optional. It has to happen. I’m playing at a significant disadvantage with an older, shorter and less powerful racquet. I demo’d some racquets (again) and found -the one.- Its really amazing what a power difference an extra inch of length makes. Tennis racquets are 27 inches long (regulation) with about 115 sq inches of hitting surface. Racquetball racquets are now 23 inches long with around 107 sq inches. It won’t be long until a racquet is a racquet, regardless of sport! Turned out to be a very good day. Productive, happy, level headed. Just a good day after a rough start.

I have added another obsessive -hobby- to the list of OCD/manic activities. For years now, I have collected pennies. Not collected them like most collectors, maybe I should say I horded pennies. I have put into a jar and then rolled every penny I get as change for as long as I can remember. I was sure that the government was going to stop making them soon b/c our economy was too big to need them (actually, the government revealed just recently that it now costs more to make a penny than it is worth.) At first, I separated this huge jug of coins by coin denomination, and then I separated the pennies by year. Then, I decided that that wasn’t good enough, so I separated the years by mint. Then, I rolled then in mint years. I have roll after roll like this. Then, it just became all pennies. Last week, I took $96 (192 rolls) in rolled pennies to the bank. Just a month ago, I took in $108 in rolled coins (other than pennies) to the bank. Obsessive? Nooooooo. The up-side is that the $200 in coins I took in allowed me to buy a couple accessories for my iPod which will let me use it in combination with the home stereo, in my car, and to carry it safely while I run.

I think I have always had a hard time (and still do) keeping a clear the line between -enthusiasm- with a hobby or activity (or maybe even with people) and obsessive behavior. The problem, I think, is that I am also a master perfectionist. I always have to have the best of whatever it is I want or need. Nothing can ever be second rate. I’m never quite satisfied with anything. So, once I'm into something, I stay at it until I have all of the thing there is to collect, or I'm the best at the sport, or the thing is perfectly organized, or the writing is perfectly edited, or I have every piece of equipment I might need or have built the perfect equipment (i.e. the perfect triathlon bicycle). Or, I obsess until I realize that achieving perfection isn't possible, which pushes me away from the thing or activity, but there is always something else waiting in the wings. I wanted to learn Spanish, but it had to be Spanish such that I could converse with any Spanish-speaking native fluently, or it wasn’t good enough. I wanted to learn guitar, but it had to be such that I could jam with the proficiency of Jimi Hendrix or it was a failure. So, being the perfectionist just fuels the obsession. It gives me a constant motivator to do more and more until whatever it is just sort of overwhelms me and caves in. Recognizing these things about myself is educational, amazing, funny, and embarrassing (all at once.)

These traits, these OCD/manic tendencies, I’m discovering, have been with me as far back as I can remember. They are what made me good at sports as a kid. They are what allowed me to be state champion in 3 events in swimming when I was 18 and what gave me the motivation to make myself able to run 26 miles, or swim 20 miles. These obsessions have certainly had an upside in some situations. And had these things stayed solely manic, without the emergence of the depressive side, maybe had they stayed at the level which pushed me above and beyond most people and not escalated to the ridiculous stage, they would have been acceptable and tolerable. I think as the stress in my life increased, as my career took me to higher and higher places with more responsibility and more pressure, the little cracks in my mental wellness began to fail under the pressure and widen into big cracks and then gaping holes to the point in 2001 when I broke for the first time. Nothing has been the same since. But, thanks to the treatment I’ve received over the last 6 months, not only am I still alive but I’m beginning to be able to put the pieces together and figure out my own psyche. These revelations make me more able to manage and avoid some of my more obvious and controllable triggers, which let me get stringer and stronger.

Staying well is a day-to-day battle. I fight every day to stay on top of how (and what) I’m feeling. But I continue to believe that it’s a battle that I am now, for the first time in a long time, winning. Live it to its fullest, everyone. You never know when it might end. Take care of yourselves and those you care about.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Putting together a puzzle...

...with less than all of the pieces. Its a strange life, but always entertaining.

[Written, but not proof-read.]

Things continue to go well. Very well, I should say. There have been several great opportunities for my mood to leave the tracks over the last week or so, and I have managed to keep things moving in the right direction.

As I think I’ve mentioned before, one thing I notice when I’m not well is that I have this very repetitive conversation with myself all of the time that I’m alone. What I mean is, I will state a phrase, maybe just in my head, maybe out loud, as if I’m conversing with someone (aka talking to myself), and then repeat the phrase over and over and over. Usually probably 6 or 8 times. Then, I move on to another phrase in the same or a different conversation. The subsequent phrase will be concerning something I thought of while repeating the first phrase. I notice this “habit” most often while driving and while doing any kind of work when I’m alone. I realized this week that I DON’T practice this habit when I’m feeling well. I asked my therapist about the habit. He says it is a very prevalent practice among OCD or manic people. Some, he says, do it to the extent that it is debilitating (i.e. it is so rampant that it prevents them from focusing on doing anything else.) I guess I should consider myself lucky that it just seems to be something my mind does to prevent boredom.

Anyway, as I said, I notice that I don’t do it when I am well. I take a Risperdal in the morning with my meds which is targeted at preventing OCD/mania. I noticed that, on a couple of days this week, I began repeating phrases to myself mid-day. On those days, I could actually feel my mind beginning to speed up, my anxiety level creeping up, and my tendency to overload my day and set irrational expectations of myself taking over. On those days, I took a mid-day Risperdal (I’m dosed at three times/day as needed.) This mid-day hit, on all occasions, was successful at reversing the OCD/manic slide, slowing my head down, and putting me back on a reasonable path. YEA! PROGRESS! I think, which will be borne out as I continue to keep an eye on this repetition habit and handle it with Risperdal, that I am recognizing the repetition as a red flag for OCD/mania. A flag which I have never recognized before. It seems that OCD/mania and trouble dealing with my mentally ill son are by far the two most pronounced triggers for my depressive slides (the only two, in fact, to which I can point.) It makes me very happy to discover things about my condition and find ways, within myself, to battle and win against mood shifts. There is this clearly circular pattern appearing: I find that the better I am mentally, the more I am able to identify little red flags and triggers to my mood shifts, and the more red flags and triggers I identify, the stronger mentally I am able to become. Fingers crossed for a continuance of the cycle.

There’s something I have not written about before, and which I thought might just be a passing thing or an anomaly. I didn’t understand it the first time it occurred and now that its arisen twice, I still don’t understand it. There have been two times, once lasting about 2 days and once lasting only a day, when I have been unable to swallow. Not like swallow food or liquid (liquid to some degree, but minimal), but, rather, ability to just generally swallow like you might to rid yourself of excess saliva in your mouth. (Is this making any sense?) Its just sort of that reflexive swallowing that goes on pretty much without you noticing it. On both occasions, I have just been unable to voluntarily swallow. My throat just wouldn’t do it without significant effort, and then it was sort of a forced, half-hearted swallow. Both times, the problem has subsided on its own 9in fact, both times I just noticed afterwards that the problem was gone.) Has anyone ever had this problem or does anyone know what might cause it?

**Warning: following is a story that is divergent from the main topic of this BLOG, written entirely for my own purposes so I don’t mentally misplace (aka forget) what I learned.** Monday I attended a wonderful seminar presented by the leader of the “Crisis Management Group” at the facility where my son goes to school. Dan leads the group that intervenes when a child is losing control and escalating into an irrational outburst. A child’s crisis cycle moves from baseline (all is good) to triggering (child is feeling bad about something, and looking for ways to deal, which often involves causing a problem so that he/she can act out against the bad feelings) to escalating (child’s frustrations and feelings are reaching a level beyond the child’s ability to cope) to outburst (an entirely irrational state of mind during which the child is beyond reason and out of control and unable to learn from the situation and develop new means of coping) to recovery (during which the child is calming, might be embarrassed by his/her behavior and is trying to make sense of what has happened. One of my triggers, causing my mood to slide from good to bad, from happy to manic or depressed (depending on the situation), is dealings with my son. I have a very hard time with his irrationality, disrespect, and antagonistic behavior when he is moving through this cycle of crisis. Just as learning to recognize my mind moving from stable toward OCD/mania is imperative to stabilizing my mood, learning ways to deal with my son is equally important. If I took nothing else from the seminar, there is a very simple lesson that was well worth the time: Remember that its all about the FEELINGS, not the behaviors caused by those feelings. My getting upset and responding to the behaviors is merely a continuance of the crisis cycle. I am the only person able, in most cases, to break the cycle by dealing on better ways with Mic during his crises. Solving the circumstances causing the bad feelings shortcuts the cycle and avoids the behaviors. Interestingly (to me anyway) is that the Chinese symbol for CRISIS is a combination of the Chinese symbols for DANGER and OPPORTUNITY. During crisis, the situation can become dangerous as the child escalates into an irrational state and possibly (depending on the child) becoming physically violent to him/herself or others. A crisis is also a great opportunity, handled correctly, for education, planting the seeds for coping tools to be developed, teaching life skills and building relationships.

Finally, Monday, I was running on my treadmill (over the last couple months, I have brought my racquetball game back toward its once tournament level proficiency and revived my running routine) and watching the Today show. I caught this segment with The Naked Chef (don’t ask why they call him that, he was clothed) for this oven fried chicken that looked great. I decided, mid-run, that I was going to fix it for my family. Understand, I don’t cook often. But when I cook, I cook big. So, this whole cut apart chicken was roasted/fried in the oven with olive oil, cherry tomatoes, white kidney beans, new potatoes, a diced red chili, basil and a clove of garlic separated into whatever parts of a garlic clove are called. I decided to up the ante a bit by adding asparagus tops (the rest of the asparagus stalk sucks), sliced mushrooms and an extra red chili. Mixed all together in a wok, it cooked for 90 minutes at 350 degrees. Then, you squeeze the meat out of the roasted garlic and dice is, and serve the whole thing with pasta. If I do say so myself, it was f**king awesome! My family hated me for the garlic, but that was the best part of the whole recipe. Roasted garlic is wonderfully flavorful, and horribly offensive. Anyway, me in the kitchen is a sure sign that things are going well.

Until I can think of more to say…