Archives for mania
Yesterday, a speech I made about fighting discrimination and prejudice against people with mental illnesses through changing the way we use language made the evening news and that's why I'm back. I've missed you and for months I've felt guilty about not being here. I've even avoided PsychCentral.com. Here's why: In April, my darling dog Riley died after a four month fight with kidney cancer. He never suffered, but he was only nine years old and he was my best boy, my muse. I adored this little fellow and I still miss him terribly. I stopped writing. One month ago, after months of excruciating pain, my husband Marty had a total hip replacement. He's recovering beautifully, but it's kept me really busy. There have been other illnesses in my family that have demanded a great deal of my time. I wasn't thinking about mental health issues and my mental illness. I didn't have time.
I felt I had lost my voice, that I nothing more to say...I know these are not excuses to abandon you and my blog, but I was really beginning to think I had nothing more to offer in this forum.
Yesterday was my birthday. I'm not sad. Not manic, either. Just celebrating aging and a joyous day. Here are 10 reasons why: 1. It went on for three days, beginning Saturday. I had my hair cut. Very short. It's a brush cut. I love carefree hair. Who has time to fuss with hair, so every eight weeks, I'm buzzed. 2. Then, I met my closest girlfriend and we walked to a tiny perfect new sushi spot for a delicious Bento Box lunch. Very intimate. We had the place to ourselves. This is our annual ritual because our birthdays are three days apart, though I'm one year older. We exchange small gifts ~ I knit her a scarf in her favourite colours ~ and we celebrate our friendship. Without fail.
Getting Buzzed3. Then I went home, worked for a bit – I never feel right unless I work everyday. We watched a great HBO documentary about Ethel Kennedy, made by Rory Kennedy, her 11th and youngest child born six months after the 1968 assassination of her father, Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
I'm not dead. I'm still here. I'm not "away" in a mental hospital. I'm not manic and flying. You may have thought that and I wouldn't blame you.
Quite the contrary – I'm thriving on work...Work is the greatest therapy of all. Here's why: Work gives you a sense of purpose and we all need to feel purposeful and useful. It gives you a reason to get up in the morning, get dressed and get going. (I work at home, but I still get dressed every morning, no matter what. Otherwise I don't feel professional, and I'm a professional.) When you work you have to reach out and engage with other people. Connect with the world. That's exciting and exhilarating. The more you have to do, the more you get done. (That sounds like it should be an axiom with a name like Murphy's Law, which it is not. I cannot find it right now. When I do, I'll get back to you.) You feel a great sense of accomplishment, confidence, self-esteem, a wondrous natural "high" when you do a good job. You can't buy that feeling. It's truly priceless. I love it. You learn so much from the mistakes you make or the first drafts you have to rewrite. It's tough work. Writing really makes you bleed sometimes, it's so hard, but when you get it right, it's bliss. There's nothing better than falling into bed at night utterly exhausted after a hard day or night of work.
I'm very tired. Blogged out. My blog posts are not up to scratch, in my opinion. I know because you're not commenting and a blog is a community. Without you, where's our community? So this little post is simply an update to let you know that I'm not going to spend hours posting today.
Today's a "mental health day"During my 30-year career writing for a daily newspaper, for radio and for magazines, as a freelancer, I always took a day off from time to time. Everyone needs to recharge, reflect and refresh to continue to write, which is enormously taxing work.
Me, too. I hope you'll understandNever, ever have I published 12 days in a row, as I have here. And here, I've actually posted 14 times in 12 days. That's a lot. You can get burned out at that rate. I need to prevent burnout. Also, my blog posts average between 500 and over 1,000 words. Ernest Hemmingway wrote 1,000 words a day. Would that I could write like Ernest Hemmingway – in my dreams – a journalist before he became a novelist. He wrote for The Toronto Star.
Maybe there's hope for me... In today's New York Times, the lead article in the Sunday Review is titled Where Have All the Neurotics Gone? by health reporter Benedict Carey. Where are neurotics today? It seems they've become a thing of the past. An old, dying breed. According to Carey, "For a generation of postwar middle-class Americans, being neurotic meant something more than being merely anxious, and something other than exhibiting the hysteria or other disabling moods problems for which Freud used the term. It meant being interesting (if sometimes exasperating) at a time when psychoanalysis reigned in intellectual circles and Woody Allen reigned in movie houses. "That it means little now, to most Americans, is evidence of how strongly language drives the perception of mental struggle, both its sources and its remedies. In recent years psychiatrists have developed a more specialized medical vocabulary to describe anxiety, the core component of neurosis, and as a result the public has gained a greater appreciation of its many dimensions. "But in the process we've lost entirely the romance of neurosis, as well as it's physical embodiment – a restless, grumbling, needy presence that once functioned in the collective mind as an early warning system, an inner voice that hedged against excessive optimism."
There's a mysterious, somewhat strange-sounding convention in psychiatry, I think. I'm not sure. I've never imagined it would apply to me, so I've never bothered to investigate it. I've steered far away from. It scares me. Leaving therapy... Here's how it was explained to me at the Eating Disorders Outpatient program I just completed. And remember, an eating disorder is a psychiatric illness. For a minimum of two years, I was told, I could not go back to see my social worker, dietician or any of the practitioners who helped me begin eating normally for the first time in my life. A follow-up might be possible, but now I have a psychologist to help me. I suspect psychiatrists work in similar ways. I don't know... Once you say good bye. Once you receive your psychiatric "seal of approval." Once you have your psychotherapeutic "walking papers." Once you leave, is that it? Do you venture off into the world on your trembling feet, vulnerable, alone? Independent? Do you never see your therapist again? Or at least for a minimum of two years? That never seemed to be the case with Dr. Bob. It seemed he would always be there for me.
As anyone acquainted with me and this blog knows, I see a psychiatrist regularly for my mood disorder. We started seeing each other in 1991. He's an unusual psychiatrist... Dr. Bob is not a psychoanalyst like my first psychotherapist back in 1960. She was Jungian and probably one of the only therapists to treat children like me in Toronto. "A very, very, very difficult child," I've been told time and again all my life. "There was something wrong with you." You hear that long enough and often enough and you begin to believe it, Dr. Bob reflected this week. His orientation to psychotherapy is eclectic. We talk. I sit facing him and he sits behind his desk facing me. There's a couch in his office, but I doubt anyone uses it. And an intriguing piece of art that says, I need you which I've written about here.
It's been a while. And a struggle. But I am definitely on the mend. Happy 2012. I have resolved not to make any resolutions, other than to be more empathetic with Marty, my husband, who has a completely different temperament than I do. My mind works faster than my left forefinger, so writing this blog is not easy for me. Living with me is not easy either, but we're doing much better. Couples therapy is wondrous if you find the right therapist and, happily, we did through my eating disorders program. Today's big news? My cast comes off today ~ I hope. In the meantime, to make life easier for Saint Marty, I had all my hair cut off. Every little bit helps. I love it and when both my hands are working, I'll send you a picture. Since we last spoke, I was on Day 31 of my Eating Disorder Treatment Program.
In February, my family doctor began cautioning me about my obsessive dieting. She explained that eating disorders are psychiatric conditions, mental illnesses. She used the "A" word. Anorexia. I thought she was out of her mind... I am not thin. I've never been thin. Certainly never too thin. I feel I need to lose more weight. To get thinner. She began monitoring me, monthly. By May, overly concerned about my inability to perceive myself realistically and my relentless determination to lose weight, she said this was related to my "mania" ~ my bipolar disorder. She sent a note to my psychiatrist. He referred me to an Eating Disorders Clinic... Last month, my kidney transplant specialist expressed similar concerns. He didn't want my electrolytes to go out of whack. When I diet, my sodium levels plummet. When these three doctors, the team that keeps me alive, showed such alarm, I decided to investigate eating disorders myself.
This post is in response to Dr. Suzanne Phillips and Dianne Kane's fascinating Healing Together for Couples post on Hoarding Behaviour. By the way, yesterday, somehow, it was accidentally posted, unfinished! I'm so sorry... Now it's here, camera ready, as they used to say in those by-gone days of print. :) It began as a comment, but was so long, I decided to post about it. So, thank you, "Phillips and Kane," for your inspiration. As I've known hoarders in my day ~ and I confess, I am one, with certain things... You struck a chord.... Don't you think almost all of our behaviours are as a result of some sort of "trauma" in our lives? Almost?