Friday marked six months since being in a hospital or residential/restricted unit. Six months! I can’t say I’ve learned a lot, but I can say I survived. And sometimes that’s the best we get. I still suffer with suicidal thoughts and desires, some days worse than others. My mood still fluctuates with the moon and season changes, and usually just because. I can’t say I’m better. I have bipolar. And good days are all we get. Sometimes they stretch to weeks and months. And that is what I am celebrating. The last six months full of holidays, death, divorce and daily suicidal thinking didn’t send me to the hospital. It’s the longest stretch I’ve gone since diagnosis 5 years ago.
So, while everyone around me celebrates, I’m going to sit here in a corner with a wry smile, glad that I made it, and try not to be overcome by suicidal thoughts and anxiety. After all, I still have two cats who won’t get along and a divorce to settle (hopefully tomorrow). Stress is bad for bipolar. It can trigger an episode or mood shift and I really don’t know if I could stay out of the hospital if that happened right now. As I said, people around me are celebrating, but I still have a looming hospitalization hanging over my head, bigger than that shoe that everyone waits to drop. I’m not at all convinced that I can make it another six months. But the next section begins with one step at a time. And right now, I need to reach out to my network because the anxiety and thoughts are strong and I want to make it through my court date tomorrow before I collapse. Which could happen. Just saying. Just because I made it six months – and I give myself credit for that – doesn’t mean that I won’t fall down again when things are too much.
On Monday I went before a judge to finalize my divorce. I felt as though the whole experience was surreal. I was looking at myself doing everything. I had two friends with me. I was ready for that chapter of my life to be over.
But I was missing a form that I didn’t know I needed and had to reschedule for two weeks away to allow for mailing the form back and forth. At least the judge was nice about the whole thing and gave me the forms.
I was in shock for a while, and then irritation set in. Then disappointment and frustration. My friends took care of me and let me feel all the feels. They and I were both glad that I wasn’t unduly upset, but I didn’t know what was coming. I was so disappointed that the thing I had been anticipating for months wasn’t over yet. I felt angry too, that no one could tell me what forms I needed to get a divorce. It’s not like I could afford an attorney who would know all those things.
Finally I had to go home and I just went to bed, hoping for a reset in the morning. Unfortunately the next morning was a bipolar hangover morning where I spent most of the morning sleeping and couldn’t do anything that I would normally do. No gym, no getting together with people. I felt so out of sorts, and all the feelings of the previous day were stronger. I think I would have handled the situation without the intensity of the painful feelings if I did not have bipolar. Bipolar magnified them, but I managed them. I didn’t do anything stupid, and I didn’t get strong suicidal feelings.
It’s a couple days later, and I’ll just count down again and wait for the papers in the mail. I’ll still have bipolar and the bipolar might make the feelings more intense than other people might feel them. But I know that bipolar overreacts. I can talk myself down. I already have.
I’m still mourning Cinnamon, my cat of 16 years. And my divorce is final in a little under 2 weeks, and I’m mourning what I wanted that 16-year relationship to be and wasn’t. And I’ve had to be the calm presence in the apartment as the new cat and old cat learn to cohabitant. (They are now, in record time.)
I started attending a writer’s critique group and got excellent feedback on the section of the book version of Suddenly Bipolar that I brought. But talking about that first year again stirred up emotions I haven’t been able to deal with this summer.
And it’s summer, and I don’t do well in the heat. My bedroom doesn’t have a/c and so I have only a fan that blows on me to help a little bit. Going outside makes me feel sick. I just don’t do well in summer.
Each of these cause stress and the bulk of them together are bringing me to the brink of breakdown. I kicked in the coping skills over the last week: reducing what I commit to and do each day. I skipped workouts for almost a week. I called in sick to my volunteer job yesterday. I contacted friends and saw several.
I am trying not to think of backing out of workouts and volunteering as failure, but to think of it as self-care. Family and friends have encouraged me to look at them as self-care. I can only do so much. Being honest about what I can actually do is the best way to make it through the stress.
One Day at a Time. I have to keep telling myself that about getting through summer. I have to keep telling myself that about getting through this stressful time. Bipolar requires attention and easy days to avoid a mood switch or episode of some kind. I hope my skills keep me stable. I don’t feel stable, yet that is the stress and bipolar talking. I have made it this far with the skills.
I loved my cat Cinnamon, as you can tell from my previous post. I had no intention of adopting another cat for some time. But Samantha-cat’s need for a companion and my running into a cat with the right personality on the right weekend when adoptions were half off, resulted in the addition of Ellie, a 2-year-old (below). So far they get along ok with some hissing and growling but less each day. Food and being surprised are the main culprits. They can be close to each other, but prefer several feet distance. I hope it is the beginning of a beautiful friendship for Samantha’s senior years (she is 15 but acts much younger).
I wasn’t sure I was ready to adopt again so soon. I reminded myself that people who do adopt again, especially soon, do it in honor of their beloved pet. I loved her so much, I’d do it again. Fall in love, spend a life, have to say goodbye. I still cry about Cinnamon. And my heart is big enough to begin to love a new little one.
One of my cats, Cinnamon, has come to the end of her life. We have been so closely bonded for 16 years. I can no longer care for her needs, and her body is shutting down even though her blood tests say only diabetes. On Monday I’m doing the compassionate, humane thing rather than watch her continued suffering. I’m grieving deeply and crying constantly. The bipolar makes the reaction more intense.
Here are some of the things I’d like to remember:
- The first time I saw you peeking out the tiny cage at Marin Humane Society. Bright eyes, fluffy, fluffy 10-week-old fun.
- Head cocked to the side in a flurry of kitten energy.
- Running up and down the first cat tree and then the huge cat tree that looked like a tree. Fighting over who got to stay on top.
- Her first Christmas running up the tree and knocking it almost over. Tried the next year, but adult body stopped her from going high enough.
- Lying on my chest as I tried to read a book while in grad school.
- Vegas-showgirl-looking tail when walking with it straight up. Getting a few tail hairs singed when walking by a candle – water on the tail right away!
- Laser lights down the hallway and conference badges and strings. Getting aggressive on catnip, playful if it’s in a cigar-shaped toy.
- Meeting me at the door with mews when young and meows when adult. Following me around from room to room.
- Cat TV in Phoenix when we fed the birds in the morning.
- Eating Tuna! Dancing around to get the plate on the floor fast enough.
- Grooming Samantha cat on her head and neck, but not letting Sam do the same, until the last year of her life.
- Sleeping between my spouse and I the first weeks, then between my legs for years. Sleeping on the end of any bed with a great blanket on it, often with Samantha. Sleeping in stylish beds that supported her larger, Maine-Coone-lineage stature. In her final home with just me and Samantha cat, sleeping altogether on the bed, the two of them in little cat beds.
- “Prissy Paws” because she likes a clean litter box.
- The morning ritual of sitting on my lap while I drink my coffee.
- Cautiously exploring the backyards but only close to where I was. Learning to be on a harness and lead by following the laser light and realizing you can walk in those things!
- 5 moves – 4 states and she still adapted, even as a senior.
- Walking across my computer keyboard, my laptop keyboard, bumping the iPhone in my hand – pay attention to me!
- Fear of the vacuum cleaner, running from room to room to get away.
- Always aware of my feelings and moods, following me when needed, asking for lap time when I’m down.
- Her sorrow when the red bag came out that meant I was going to the hospital. Her questioning looks when I returned to know if I was staying. Same when luggage came out for a trip. Deep sorrow to be left alone, even for a few days.
- Communicating without words, the love and respect and bond we have with each other.
It’s been 104 days out of the hospital, four days longer than I made it in all of last year between hospitalizations.
Progress! Due in large part to my support system – you – who offer support to make it through the good days and bad days.
I’ve been having rocky weeks with my mood, all due to stress in several areas of my life (taxes, divorce and knee injury all come to mind). I’m missing the exercise I need to even out my mood and help with stress reduction (knee problem preventing good, long workouts). And so help from my care team and my friends has been crucial to keeping me confident, and I thank you. I even contacted my therapist from residential to get back on track, which has helped a bit.
I still have suicidal thoughts every day, multiple times an hour sometimes. It’s a curse. No one seems to know a cure or a blessing to make them stop. I suffer. And I’m ashamed that I suffer. I want to tell you that all is better now.
Yet I remain true to my commitments to this new life without suicide, despite my desire to bring it into play again. Even when I am drowning in stress, I’m not turning in my thoughts and emotions in the same ways as before. I am confused by dangerous thoughts and tempted less. Truly, a new chapter has opened up since residential.
All things considered, I still suffer and am stressed, yet I’m relying on my care team and medication, support system, and coping skills in stronger ways. The bad outweighs the good I feel, but that’s distorted, I think. Progress that I know that?
If you see your way clear to help me pay for the miraculous experience of ending suicidal obsessions I had at La Paloma, check out my “Saved My Life” Go Fund Me page at www.gofund.me/nlckak
I had a much better day today. Back to confident and strong in constitution, though still having suicidal visions. They are less plentiful and I can bat them to the side. Thank goodness! I hope this lasts and all my progress returns.