U is for Unmotivated

u embroiderSo I’ve been putting off doing most things lately, including writing blog posts. Why? Because I just couldn’t get myself to do anything. To the point of spending two days in bed. Yep, you read that right. Two. Days. In. Bed.

I’m not even sure why I’ve been so unmotivated or depressed or whatever you want to call it. I don’t actually feel bad. Most of the time. Most of the time I feel like an inarticulate word ending in “h”: eh, ich, blah. It’s only when I try to get myself to do things that the bad thoughts and feelings come up (they involve my own uselessness, death, and anything else negative you can imagine).

I read somewhere that if you just start something, anything, your motivation will show up and you’ll feel better. So I chose to start this blog post. Let’s see, dear readers, what happens.

 

file000448076707

I came across this picture the other day and couldn’t help but stop and wonder. Who was Ms. Eliza M. Stillman? And why isn’t there a death date? Is she a vampire? An immortal of some kind? Based on the engraving of what I’m assuming are shamrocks, either she or her husband were Irish. Or admirers of Ireland. Or they really just liked shamrocks. Or those are supposed to be something else and the artist messed up.

Of course, there’s probably a simple explanation for everything I’m wondering. When she died her family probably couldn’t afford to have her death date engraved (we had a similar problem). But it’s more fun, don’t you think, to image that Ms. Eliza is off somewhere, baking cookies, and enjoying her 178th year of existence.

 

file000882350857

Speaking of immortal, this picture jumped out at me too. Doesn’t she look creepy? I can’t help but wonder how those black streaks got there. Intentional or…?

 

IMG_1481__

This is just pretty.

 

fat cat

As y’all know, I’m fat. Circus-fat-lady fat. And I love cats. Yep, I’m the cliché.

 

Image from mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/macro-photos-show-amazing-details-of-everyday-objects

Image from mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/macro-photos-show-amazing-details-of-everyday-objects

This falls under the title of “Isn’t science cool?” This is a single grain of sugar. Cool, right?

 

quote struggle

This picture might look familiar as I’ve used it in a previous post. But hey, I still like it and this is my blog. Love the tail.

 

Okay. So I wrote. I posted. I looked at pretty pictures. Do I feel any “better”? Not really. I just feel hungry.

 

Maybe I’ll go back to bed.

 

black white cat


 

Take care.

Bonnie

X is for X Factor

x xmas fancyWhen I was a kid, my best friend and I used to play this game nearly every day. We pretended we were princesses and we had to “compete” to win our princes in a pageant-like competition. So we would dress up, put on makeup, dance, sing, and sometimes put on a play. And of course, we each won a prince. The prince himself didn’t really matter. The whole thing was just an excuse to pretend that we had “it.” That elusive something that would make someone take one look at us, gasp, and say “Her! That’s the one I’ve been looking for!”

Image from commons.wikimedia.org

Image from commons.wikimedia.org

Now that I’m an adult I know that that kind of “something” is rare. Marilyn Monroe had it. Cary Grant had it. Katy Perry has it. Johnny Depp has it. I don’t have it. At least when it comes to that kind of celebrity charisma.

But what I’m still looking for, at the age of forty-something, is the X factor. I’m looking for that certain elusive something that allows someone, despite all the problems or issues in their life, to do better, to be better. I’m looking for whatever it is that makes someone push through what seem to be unsurmountable odds and make the world a place I want to be in.

About five years ago, I discovered the author Therese J. Borchard. At the time I was combing

Image from thereseborchardblog.com

Image from thereseborchardblog.com

the internet for answers to a spiritual quest and Ms. Borchard had a blog on the website Beliefnet which dealt with spirituality and mental illness. I fell in love with her writing, but more I fell in love with her story. You see, Ms. Borchard has Bipolar (you can find more on that here) and yet has what most of us would consider a normal life. She’s married, has kids, works, writes, has a master’s degree, has published books, and (what may be the hardest thing) fights her mental illness every day. She has the X factor.

According to one of her blog posts (found here), every day she swims, keeps a gratitude journal, lists her accomplishments, makes herself laugh, meditates, takes all kinds of supplements, watches her diet, sits under a sun lamp, and prays. Every. Day. I can’t even do those things every week. Again, the X factor.

So why does she have the ability to fight so hard? Or maybe how does she have the ability to fight? Is it the support that she has from family and friends? Or is it something in her makeup, her DNA? Is there a gene for the X factor?

And she’s not the only one. There are thousands of people out there who, often on a daily basis, fight battles that would put me under. Cancer, domestic violence, political and religious violence, schizophrenia, PTSD, fibromyalgia, cardiac disease, Crohn’s disease, AIDS, Cystic Fibrosis, MS, Lupus, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), the list goes on and on. And they fight. They have the X factor.

As you know, I have a chronic illness too: Major Depressive Disorder (more on that here). And I fight it…bed gray sometimes. Not on a daily basis. I don’t try to fight it with exercise or changes to my diet. There are whole weeks that I spend in bed, not making an effort. Not attempting to have a normal life. Not fighting. Sometimes I’m just too tired, too exhausted by living with the stupid illness to even make an attempt.

But there are other times, times when I could fight it. Times when my energy is up, and I can smile, and I can see the beauty of this world. Those are the times when I could establish the habits and behaviors that fight the disease. Those are the times that those with the X factor push themselves to do what they can, to be what they can. And often they succeed. Ms. Borchard does, and she has a family, friends, and, on top of all she does on a daily basis, has started a community for those with chronic treatment-resistant mood disorders, Project Beyond Blue. How does she do it?

And how can I not? I don’t have a spouse or kids to take care of. I have nothing to distract me, not work, not family, not even a cat, to distract me from fighting my illness. But I don’t. I don’t. I don’t have the X factor.

But maybe, maybe, I can find it.

Find the X factor and fight for my life.


Was one of your New Year’s resolutions to give more? Or are you adding more charitable donations to your plate as part of Lent? If so, please consider donating to Ms. Borchard’s Project Beyond Blue. Details on how to do so can be found here.

On behalf of all those who benefit from her work, Thank You.

ProjectBeyondBlueNingmastheadalternative3

Image found at community.projectbeyondblue.com

 


Take care.

Bonnie

T is for a Tale of Two Hospitalizations (Part Two of Four)

t blackWhen we last left my poor depressed self, I was enroute from my local hospital to the psych ward. But what I didn’t mention was the most important thing, what got me admitted: I had a plan. I honestly think, no matter how much pain I was in, how miserable I was, I would not have been admitted if I hadn’t admitted to having a plan. I won’t say what that particular plan was (it probably wouldn’t have worked anyway), but I had an out available if I got too tired of fighting myself.

That said, let’s return to November of 2012. I was taken by ambulance to a hospital 45 minutes from home to be admitted to their “Behavioral Health” ward. Read “psych ward.” Now, throw out any images you may have gotten from movies or TV about psych wards. There was no padded room, no drooling patients, no Angelina Jolie leading patient revolts.

This hospital, located in an affluent suburban area, had multiple areas within the “normal” hospital for their psych patients. Patients were separated by age (child, adolescent, adult, geriatric), medical condition (did you require constant monitoring? Were you detoxing from something? Did you have any physical problems that needed watching like open wounds or broken bones?), and how functional you were (were you in a psychotic state or not). Obviously, I was taken to the adult ward with no major medical problems and was functional.

To picture the ward, imagine a square separated into four quarters with a circle in the center. The circle in the center is the nurses’ station. One quarter was for administrative stuff (where they kept the meds, charts, and the staff break room), one for the geriatric patients, one for adults with medical problems, and one for adults without problems. Each section was kept locked so a patient couldn’t wander into a section they didn’t belong to. Everyone on my floor was functional. Those who weren’t or were younger were kept on another floor altogether.

By the time I arrived at the ward it was one in the morning. The EMTs had me strapped into a gurney and they wouldn’t let me get out until we were actually in the ward, behind locked doors. A psych tech met us in the ER and lead us to the ward, unlocking the doors on the way. I was to later find out that the locks were because we weren’t supposed to leave without permission.

After I was allowed off the gurney, I was strip searched. Yep, strip searched. I later found out that they had to do that to be sure that we had no hidden wounds or contraband (sharp things, drugs, etc) hidden under our clothes. The tech was very respectful, she didn’t touch me, but it was still embarrassing. They even had to check between my rolls of fat. Humiliating. After allowing me to dress, they took an inventory of what I brought with me. My wallet was locked up and any personal items, including my cell phone, were tucked away in a locked storage room. I was allowed access to them twice a day. Then I was taken into an office and asked a bunch of questions about my medical and psychiatric history. Everything from “have you ever been abused” to “how often do you feel suicidal.” I had to sign a bunch of paperwork, including one that said I agreed to be admitted for at least 3 days. I was told that I didn’t have to sign that form, but that if I didn’t my case would be brought before a judge and the judge would commit me against my will anyway. I had to sign another form that informed me that I would not be allowed to legally own a gun for the next 3 years.

Then I was given the rules. They were simple: no violence, be respectful, no personal items on the floor that could possibly be used to hurt ourselves (with the exception of pens. I guess they had to allow us to write), if we wanted to use our own toiletries we could (but they were kept locked up and only allowed out while we were using them), family could bring us books and candy but it all had to be searched before we were allowed to have it, and we had to attend as many activities as possible.

Finally, I was lead to a room. It mostly looked like your basic hospital room. Two beds, a couple of nightstands, a bathroom. The big differences were that all the electrical outlets were covered and the beds weren’t your typical hospital beds. They were wooden platform beds attached to the floor. They gave me a couple hospital gowns (since I didn’t bring a change of clothes with me) and some toiletries. I didn’t have a roommate (I got one the second day), and they allowed me to close my door to sleep (although they did do “bed checks” to be sure I was where I’m supposed to be throughout the night).

In the morning, they woke me up at 7am. I was told that I could hang out in my room or in the group area (a living room type area) until breakfast. The group area had a coffee maker/hot water dispenser (for tea or hot chocolate) that we were allowed access to most of the day. Our days were scheduled from 7am to 10pm. The first few hours of the day were for getting our meds, having our vitals checked (blood pressure, temperature, etc) and getting access (monitored access) to our personal items. After breakfast, we alternated between group counseling and free time until lunch. After lunch there was an hour of visiting time then more group counseling. At 3 there was a “shift change”. Basically, we had to stay in our rooms while the first shift staff updated the second shift staff about our individual statuses. Then there was more group counseling until dinner. After dinner, we were again allowed access to our personal items, there was another visiting time then, yep you guessed it, more group counseling. After a final bit of free time, we had “snack time” (granola bars, chips, pudding, etc), a final group then more free time. We had to be in our rooms by 10, although they didn’t make us go to bed if we didn’t want to. Bed checks occurred throughout the night and we weren’t allowed out of our rooms until 7am. On weekends and holidays, the schedule was slightly different, more free time, an additional visiting time, and less group counseling.

Group counseling in the psych ward isn’t like it is out in the real world. Yes we sat in a circle and yes there was some sharing, but each session was focused on something different. In the morning, we each had to set goals for the day (something concrete and attainable for the day. “Feel better” was too vague, “sharing more in group” was better). Our final group was a check to see if we accomplished our goals. Some groups consisted of being taught the symptoms of our various diagnosis’ while others were about specific things we could do to manage our diseases. Not all sessions allowed for sharing, but most did. And there was at least one art therapy session and one “spirituality” (non-specific spirituality so as not to offend anyone) session a week.

You didn’t have to attend all the group counseling sessions, but it was highly recommended. The psych techs wrote down everything we did. How much time we spent in our rooms, how much we ate, if we showered, how many groups we attended, if we participated, and so on. The more cooperative you were, the more you shared, the more groups you went to, the faster you were discharged. The first day we got a physical from a medical doctor and, if we had any concerns, specialists were called in. In my case, the doctor called in a nutritionist since my diabetes wasn’t well regulated. We saw a psychiatrist the first day as well. Everyone was immediately placed on meds. You then saw the psychiatrist every day or so until you were discharged. You were also assigned a social worker who was supposed to help you with your family issues and discharge planning.

My section of the ward held mostly people with Depression and Bipolar disorder. There were also a couple of people who had substance abuse issues. If they were still detoxing, they slept in the medical section of the ward and allowed onto our area for counseling when they were coherent enough to participate. The ward was co-ed, but each room was, of course, single sex. We had access to two phones in the hallway that we were only allowed to use during free time. We were told that our calls would be monitored if it was necessary (like if we had problems with an abusive partner or were an abusive partner. During my time there this wasn’t an issue).

I spent the first part of my first day wide-eyed, hyper-vigilant, with my shoulders up around my ears and my arms wrapped around me. I think some part of me expected the other patients to grab at me or something. I must have looked pretty freaked out because the staff kept asking me if I was okay. After lunch, I started to get sick with a headache. That’s when the proverbial shit really hit the fan. My room was right next to the phones and one of the patients was constantly on it. Unfortunately, this particular patient had one of those high, screechy, loud voices which set my teeth on edge. The anxiety of being in a strange place, being strip searched, her voice, and my headache made me completely lose it. I threw up, argued with the staff, and refused to go to a group counseling session. These are all things I never do. Especially since I hate to throw up (control issues) and feel disrespectful if I argue with those in authority. After a nap, my head felt better. Unfortunately, that was when the anger set in.

Suddenly, I felt that I didn’t need to be there. After all, I knew I wasn’t going to kill myself, even if I did have a plan. I’d lived my entire adult life suicidal and never had to be hospitalized before. I was self aware and in control of myself (or so I thought). I was a g**d*** psychology major! And every group counseling session just made me angrier. It was all Psych 101 stuff (because most of the patients didn’t know much about psychology, therapy, or their diagnosis). I didn’t need this, I thought, I already know this, I’m better than this. I was a confused, arrogant, messed up soul.

Of course, after that first day, I figured out how to play the system. Cooperate, hide your anger, do whatever the staff asks, attend all the groups, and talk in groups. Be a good girl and eventually they’ll let you out. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was shooting myself in the foot. There was good information being discussed in group counseling. The staff was more than willing to have individual talks in private to help us deal with our specific needs. If I had had a more open mind, I may have learned that I needed to review all that basic psych stuff. It might have kept me from having another incident. If I had opened up and let myself talk about my issues, I might have felt better faster. But I didn’t do any of those things. I just played the game, kept everyone at a distance, and waited to be discharged.

There was one exception to my game playing. I was reluctant to contact my family. They didn’t know I was there. For all they knew, I was happily studying and going to classes. One of the requirements for discharge was to have at least one “family session.” Basically this was a meeting, either by phone or face to face, with a patient’s family and/or friends, whoever would be their support system upon discharge. The primary purpose was to be sure that the patient would have someone to keep an eye on them and help prevent relapses. The secondary purpose was to deal with any issues the patient may be having with their primary relationships and/or to deal with any questions or problems the family/friends might have with the patient’s diagnosis. I didn’t want to “bother” my family. Or at least that’s what I thought. Looking back on it, I now know that I was embarrassed to be in the psych ward. I felt that I was weak because I’d “allowed” myself to get that bad. My pride was bruised.

It took them three days to convince me to call my family. What eventually convinced me was that I had to get a ride home and I’ve only got my brother and sister-in-law in the area. No way was I gonna tell anyone else I had been admitted. If I had been thinking clearly, I would’ve realized that telling my family wasn’t that big of a deal. It’s not like they weren’t aware that I was a “screw up.” They knew I made bad decisions because of my mental illness. But what they didn’t know, because I never told them, was exactly how bad it was. They didn’t know how close to death I got or how much I worked to simply get through a day. So I finally got on the phone and called them. And, of course, they were understanding and supportive. After another couple days, we had a family session via phone (it would’ve taken them an hour and a half, one way, to drive out there). The only things I remember from that session were my family saying that I needed to talk more (everyone tells me I need to talk more. I’m not a Chatty Cathy) and that they would keep an eye on me, try to intervene if any symptoms of my disease got worse or changed abruptly. Then my discharge date was set.

Another thing you had to do before you could be discharged was have follow up appointments set with a psychiatrist and a counselor. This was to make sure they weren’t just sending us out into the cold world to try to figure it out all on our own, and to be sure we wouldn’t be right back in the hospital the minute we got out.

I was discharged the day after Thanksgiving, a day or so later than the psychiatrist said I could go home, by my choice. I didn’t want to disrupt my brother’s Thanksgiving plans, he always invites a bunch of people from work and my nieces would be there. I didn’t want any of those people, especially my nieces, to know I was “crazy.” Again, my pride was in charge. Thanksgiving at the hospital wasn’t that bad. There were less group sessions and the hospital fed us turkey. The food was actually good at this hospital, so that wasn’t so bad.

The thing was, I did get better while I was there. I was given medication that, while it didn’t completely alleviate the symptoms, did make it possible for me to finish out my last semester of college. While I was there the interaction with the other patients and staff, and my anger at the situation, kept my mind busy and I was able to ignore my suicidal thoughts. I didn’t leave cured, but I left safer than when I arrived, so the primary purpose of hospitalization was fulfilled. At the time I was too angry and ashamed to appreciate how much this was a gift.

Yes, hospitalization was a gift. It was one I didn’t do much with, but it was offered in kindness and respect by the hospital staff members. That gift was a break from my normal life, a chance to focus exclusively on my disease and try to manage it. It was an acknowledgement that I was worth spending so much time on, regardless of my disease. Because the staff at the hospital didn’t treat me like my disease. They treated me like a complex individual with a complex problem who needed to stop and breathe and be nurtured. They treated me like Bonnie, not like “Major Depression with Suicidal Ideation.” And sometimes that’s exactly what we need.

Stay tuned, my next post will be about my second hospitalization. Because I didn’t get it right the first time.