Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Savior in Beige

This time the bed was comfortable.  Those three inches of air– contoured directly to the weight of my body– stood between me and the deplorable, painful, and despicable excuse for a mattress that lay atop my bed in the psych ward.   I didn’t mind the plastic awkwardness of my savior– a beige institutional blow-up mattress pad, ugly as sin but beautiful to me in its unexpected comfort.  It wasn’t much to look at, just an ugly blow-up mattress pad, but it stood between me and my foes:  the parody of a mattress beneath it, the sleepless nights induced by the painful pad, and the pain– the constant dull ache in my back begot by a college injury and exacerbated by lying on the naked mattress.  The pain didn’t stop at my back, it radiated down through my hips, passing through my knees, and ending at my ankles.  Finally, the magnified pain of my problematic back at the hands of the evil, unedited mattress was over.  The glorious mattress pad, begot by sympathy from an intake worker in the psych unit, was my savior.

Although confined to the mind-numbing boredom of the inpatient psychiatric treatment center– the crazy house– I had finally found a silver lining: sleep.  Pain-free sleep.  And for me, the power of sleep cannot be overstated.  Sleep is my refuge, my break from the real world, an escape I indulge in at the expense of productivity and the mundanity of being awake.

But sleep can be dangerous to an inpatient experience, especially when the goal is escape.  The desire to sleep the days away and to avoid the mind numbing boredom of daily life on the psych ward dangerously conflicts with the dream of release.  

The eyes of the nurses are ever-watching, their hands are ever-moving, taking down the notes of your life.  They monitor how much you sleep.  When you sleep.  What activities you avoid.  How much you eat.  Whether you eat.  They take a note whenever you start to cry.  When you come to group.  What you say.  When you miss group.  And why.  They know where you are at all times, pens and pencils constantly at work, logging your life in inpatient care.

That’s why sleep is dangerous– it makes you look bad in the eyes of the doctor.  A patient who sleeps all day is a depressed patient, they’ll say.  A patient who is not improving.  A patient unfit for release.

Therein lies the battle.  To sleep or not to sleep?

It was not my first rodeo– I had learned how to play the game in these psych wards.  So I chose to sleep appropriately.  A short nap after breakfast was acceptable– I seized these moments.  Turning in early didn’t raise any eyebrows– an 8:00 pm bedtime was fine by me!  

I slept judiciously, savoring the sweet time with my beloved mattress pad.  I got up for breakfast, went to group, interacted with the other patients, went to snack and meals, talked with the social workers, hung out in the common room, and refused the temptation to engage in any crying breakdowns.  

I was playing the game; I was going to be released.  And my friend, my comfort, my savior– the ugly, plasticky, beige blow-up mattress pad– was going to get me there.


1 Lorazepam, 2 Lorazepam…. 55 Lorazepam, More!

“I’m moving out.”

“What did you take?”

“I’m done.”

She was not pleased. And neither was I.

It was two days after law school prom and I hadn’t slept in 48 hours. Accustomed to 10 hours a night, was unacceptable. I tried everything– melatonin, smoking green, having a few drinks. All to no avail. So I got desperate. Kept awake by my anger and an accidental ingestion of PCP– ecstasy can be a dangerous drug– I resorted to more drastic measures.

I was home alone and my roommate was working late– I didn’t expect her back before 10 pm. Searching for a solution to my sleepless problem, my mind drifted towards my lorazepam. I was– and still am– prescribed 3 milligrams of the delightful controlled substance a day. Relying on its sedative powers, which would surely be accelerated by the few drinks in my system, I delved into my purse and popped 5 milligrams. The tablets were quick dissolve and I placed them under my tongue to ensure quick delivery of the drug into my system. Then I sat on the couch, watching some vapid television, and waited for the pills to work their magic.

No luck. Half an hour later, I was just as awake as I’d been before. I popped 5 more. Still no luck.

After ingesting about 15 milligrams, 5 times my daily dose, I started to lose the few shreds of discretion I still possessed in my sleep deprived state. When I was up to 20, I was still awake. I started researching overdose amounts– not to kill myself but to ensure the opposite, that I wouldn’t kill myself. The internet wasn’t particularly informative but I gathered that it was pretty difficult to OD on lorazepam alone. To be sure, I texted the Ex, a fourth year dental student with a good working knowledge– scholastic and experiential– of pharmaceuticals.

“How much lorazepam is an overdose?”

No response.

Ten minutes later I got a call from my best friend.

“What are you doing?!” Her angry voice sang into my drugged ear.

“Watching TV. What are you doing?” I probably slurred.

She had gotten a call from the Ex, who told her that I was trying to kill myself. I assured her that I was not. She asked me what I’d been taking. I low-balled her my dosage and told her I was, and would be, fine. She was not pleased but, being 1000 miles away, she had to take my word for it.

In a few short hours I had ingested what remained of my bottle of pills. I was up to a whopping 55 milligrams. At some point I had decided to finish off the bottle. 3 milligrams a day is a fairly high dose of the stuff. And taking 55 over the course of a few hours was pretty much unheard of.

And then my roommate came home. She could tell I was pretty out of it– I was draped lazily across the couch and my condition was hard to hide. Tired of putting up with my constant drug use, which had accelerated with each week that I backslid away from my promise to stay sober, she told me she was moving out.

We exchanged some unkind words and she stormed out of the apartment. I stormed off to bed, finally tired enough to get some sleep.

But I wouldn’t get the rest I so desperately desired. As soon as turned the lights out and sat on my bed, seconds away from pulling my feet up and myself under the covers, I was greeted by angry, glaring flashlights and the authoritative voice of a policeman.

“Ma’am, you’re going to have to come with us.”

My roommate had called the ambulance. And before I could protest, I was on my way to my second hospitalization.

This one wasn’t voluntary.

“I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m FINE.”

No one would believe me. I was able to walk without assistance, even though they did their best not to let me, speak with only a slight slur, and recount exactly what had happened. They took my vitals at the hospital and everything came back normal. There was no administration of an antidote, no pumping of my stomach. I was fine.

Unfortunately, no one would believe me. Scared by my ingestion of an ungodly dose of a controlled substance, the authority figures I was beholden to chalked my behavior up to a suicide attempt. Which meant I was headed straight for the psych ward, on a 72 hour involuntary hold.

Back in the place I hated the most, the place I swore I’d never return to, I was irate. One angry phone call to my roommate later, I was done. I knew my situation was bad but I never dreamed it would get worse.

She moved out.

I had taken 55 milligrams of lorazepam.

And everyone was done with me.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/writing-challenge-dialogue/


Waiting for an Ending

I’ve been working towards an ending for a long time. Months now. I started blogging in search of an ending and here I am– still searching. Maybe I can’t start from the end because I don’t know what the end looks like. Maybe I don’t have an ending. Or maybe I’m afraid of what the end looks like.

Or maybe this is my ending. Today. The stupid, ugly, tiresome present. The end, my end. I’ll tell my story from the end, and, in doing so, give you a picture of my present.

Here’s what it looks like: anxiety stretched out to the max, no substances to lean on, living in limbo– I’m dying for an end.

The Bar Admissions Committee is breathing down my neck. Hard. “Other information obtained by the Committee reveals certain information that raises some concerns including your treatment for Bipolar disorder. As a result, the Committee has determined that further inquiry will be necessary in order to make an appropriate assessment regarding your fitness to practice.”

Every time I read it, it makes my stomach turn, my anxiety rises in my gut, and I feel empty. I’m waiting for an ending.

My naked records, hospitalizations and all, have arrived at the Committee and are awaiting judgment. The things in those records– things said, admitted, disclosed under the thick and protective cloak of confidentiality— those things are what haunt me.

I’m terrified. Terrified that the Committee will look at my arguably ugly record and do their worst– Admission Denied. I’m terrified that the ending, the conclusion of the Committee’s investigation, will be my end. The conclusion of my law practice, a practice so short lived it was never given a chance to take flight.

Will the eyes of the Committee be sharp enough to see my scars? These scars, scars left by periods of instability, left by leaving lovers, left in the wake of hospitalizations gone awry, will the Committee see these scars? Will this be my end?

So here’s my story, from end to beginning: I know how this all began. And it’s not the beginning I’m scared of. It’s the end.

The end. (Or the beginning?)

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/09/09/writing-challenge-backward/


The Explosion

In the chain of events that got me here, writing this blog, the Explosion is probably the heaviest link. It weighs down all the other links, pulling them closer to It– the Explosion.

The Explosion is the only name for it, no other title describes what happened as aptly, as poetically, or even just as plain old accurately. The Explosion is why I’m here, where I am today. But for the Explosion, this blog probably wouldn’t exist. And that’s enough to explain the heaviness of this link in the twisted chain of events that got me here.

I have a temper. An explosive one. Just ask my brothers, who were the unfortunate objects of my rage many times growing up. Because it’s so bad, I’ve learned to control it. And so it very rarely comes out; once a year is the unfortunate average.

When my temper explodes, it’s all I can think about. I become obsessed with the object of my anger and become determined to punish. The punishment is important. I calculate it to inflict the most damage, depending on what would hurt the victim the most. I balance it against risk to myself– I don’t want to catch any heat from my scheming. My temper is dangerous.

And on the night of law school prom, my guy friend that I stupidly hooked up with was the target, the victim, and the source of the eruption of my mighty, evil and dangerous temper.

Admittedly, there were a lot of bad decisions on my part that led up to the Explosion. Still on a break from the Werewolf and with a distaste for the chore of drinking, I wanted to get fucked up for the dance. Smoking weed wouldn’t be enough, I needed something harder. So I got 5 ecstasy pills from my dealer and took them by myself. Taking E alone was certainly a different experience than the usual sex bender that accompanied the popping of those pills with the Werewolf. I danced all night and was in a pretty good mood, anticipating a promised rendezvous with the guy friend at the end of the night, so I didn’t have to worry about going home alone.

Little did I know, those shitty E pills were cut with PCP, a drug which is on my Do Not Do list (along with meth and heroin. It’s a short list). This definitely contributed to my fiendish temper Explosion and to the events that flowed out as result– which landed me in the crazy house for a second time. On involuntary psych hold. But that part comes later.

The other factor that made me explode was the stupid agreement with my guy friend to rendezvous post prom. He texted me before the dance not to “touch him” or appear to be interested in him during the dance. We were trying to keep our stupid hook up a secret for many good reasons. So I didn’t notice the red flag that was waving right in front of my face.

I behaved myself and slyly ignored the guy friend while silently catching his attention with my fabulous dress and to-the-9’s get up, complete with a salon up-do. I was hot.

Predictably, at the end of the dance he told me he couldn’t meet up because he had to get up early to take a train to Chicago. I exploded. It must have been a combination of the bad ecstasy, the long promise of rendezvous being broken, and anger at myself for landing myself in a situation where he could reject me. My pride was assaulted and my temper flared wildly. I erupted with a tide of a scathing tirade that I poured over the guy friend. But that was only the beginning.

He needed to be punished. My friends thought I was crazy. I was certainly crazed. After I finished verbal abusing the guy friend– to a pulp– I went home to scheme. I decided that the best punishment would be for him to finally know how everyone felt about him. How we all thought he was creepy. How the girls were only nice to him out of pity. How all the guys thought he was a douche; his own roommate hated him. I reached out to other girls that he’d discarded and prepared to mount my assault.

Unfortunately, the explosion of my temper really made me crazy. I stayed up late that night, watching the hours tick by until the sun came up and 8:00am flashed on my computer screen. I had stayed up all night. Staying up late was dangerous for me, I need my sleep to stay sane. Lack of sleep for a bipolar brain leads you down the winding road to psychosis. And I was usually a sleeper, averaging 10 hours a night and easily doing 12 when time permitted.

I stayed up for 48 hours, just getting crazier. I couldn’t sleep. So I started dosing myself with my lorazepam to break the sleepless cycle. But that story comes later– the story of how I landed myself back in the crazy house.

The Explosion wasn’t deadly but it was incredibly destructive. It made me crazy, I burned bridges with friends I thought I’d never lose, and it set me up for my second stay in inpatient pysch treatment– a true nightmare.

The Explosion is a heavy link in that chain, that chain of events that got me here, the chain that wrapped itself around my neck and nearly cost me my sanity. The Explosion is the heaviest, deadliest link in this twisted, ugly chain. Fuck the Explosion.


Boredom is Dangerous

I cannot handle boredom.  It’s one of the reasons I’m on Vyvanse, a wonder drug that turns my boredom into productivity without the twitchy Adderall side effects. Boredom is also one of my drug triggers– it makes me want to use.  And, most dangerous of all, boredom gives me bad ideas. And my bad ideas are generally very bad.  I.e., weekend long benders, getting unwarranted tattoos or piercings, visiting ex-boyfriends, and, the subject of today’s post, hooking up with a notoriously bad-idea guy friend.

He’d been hounding me since we first met at the beginning of my 2nd year of law school.  He was a transfer.  He was obnoxious, kind of sexist, and had a way of pissing everyone off just by existing.  Charming, right?  For some stupid reason, (perhaps the product of another bored day) I was friends with him.  He was overly sensitive and occasionally spread shit about me– kid could not keep his mouth shut– but I’d usually forgive him, get over it, and we’d go back to our dysfunctional friendship.  We fought on a regular basis but this was never truly injurious to our stupid friendship.

Sometimes I felt bad for him.  He didn’t realize that most people didn’t like him.  And he tried too hard– especially to be liked, and especially by girls.  Despite being somewhat attractive and mildly fun when you got to know him, his terrible girl-getting strategies meant that most girls just thought he was creepy.  And he hated being called creepy.  Even though he was pretty creepy at times.

Why I was friends with him is a mystery, but all of it is certainly attributable to some form of my bad judgment.  At the beginning of every semester he would try to hook up with me.  And I would quickly rebuff his advances.  This didn’t really damage our relationship, and maybe that was one of the many red flags I should have noticed.

But at the beginning of our last semester of law school, his efforts to hook up with me took a serious turn.  Usually, after I said no a few times he would stop.  But this time, it was not so easy to shake him off.  I think he was determined to get me to hook up with him before graduation.  He redoubled his efforts and wouldn’t be turned away.  He started to get angry when I scorned his advances, leaving me drunk and angry voicemails.  His texts got explicit.  And so we fought a lot.  And I spent a lot of time and energy thinking of new ways to say “no fucking way”.

But over spring break I got bored.  And this boredom proved to be deadly.  No one was in town,  the Werewolf and I had been taking a break from each other, and all I had to occupy myself with was cough syrup.  I did manage to do some pretty crazy art– my gravatar is a product of that spring break cough syrup binge.  But at the time of the deadly and injurious boredom, I was trying to resist the cough syrup and behave myself.  Which resulted in immense boredom.

On this fateful day, he was being especially persistent.  And, for once, I listened to that little voice in my head that said “why not.”  And so we hooked up.  Not something I’m proud of and it was certainly not something I told many of my friends.  It was a terrible move and I knew that I would be subject to some harsh criticism and heavy judgment– and bewilderment– by disclosing my stupidity.

The nature of this bad decision was a problem.  We made plans to see each other after the spring formal– aka law school prom.  This was about two weeks away.  Again, my reasons for agreeing to this and willfully consenting are still a mystery to me.  All I can blame it on was the crushing boredom that animated my life that spring break.

In the big scheme of things, this bad decision– I had made worse– shouldn’t have been a big deal.  But it became a very big deal.  It created the perfect storm, a storm that would erupt with my temper at the end of my law school prom.  A storm that would land me back in the hospital.  And a storm that cost me some very good friends.

You could say that this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  And, in a way, it was.  Although it was not a great decision, true to the form of my boredom-induced decisions, it shouldn’t have been a life-ruiner.  He wasn’t someone I would get attached to; it was something to be ashamed of– and that should have been it.  But that wasn’t it.  That straw broke the careful, shaky, and precarious balance of my sanity and drug use.  And when it broke, it wasn’t pretty.

But that’s what boredom does to me.  It just makes things ugly.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/daily-prompt-turning-point/


Backsliding

I had it down to a science. I knew what stores sold it, whether they sold a generic, whether they sold it in soft-gel form, and whether there was a self-checkout I could use.

I knew the differences between brands and knew flavors I could tolerate. I learned to avoid the extended release formulas unless I wanted to double it up with the ordinary, old fashioned release kinds.

I knew which ones had extra ingredients like acetaminophen, guaifenesin, and sudafed. I preferred my DXM unadulterated.

I even knew what doses I needed to take to get to my desired high. And I knew the differences between the high plateaus.

I had whittled my cough syrup use down to a fine art.

I didn’t go back to cough syrup right away. After my release from the crazy house, I was sincere in my sobriety. I met with my drug counselor and made a plan. I worked with my therapist to develop coping mechanisms to get me through the drug cravings. And most importantly, I announced my new sobriety to my friends and the Werewolf.

The last bit was the hardest part; it made me squirm. Announcing my sobriety meant accountability. My friends were invited to act as watch dogs, policing me and keeping me from the ever-dangerous relapse. I hated being watched like this under any circumstances, and their lectures became more than tiresome.

Telling the Werewolf was the worst of all. It meant that our benders would be over: a thing of the past to day dream about nostalgically in sticky classrooms, sober.

I was never “completely” sober though. I worked with my therapist and together we developed a realistic plan to start me on the road to the old fashioned, strict, and– in my mind– boring sobriety.

So for me, “sobriety” meant I was allowed to occasionally smoke weed, drink in moderation, and take any pill I was prescribed (which included high doses of benzos, amphetamines, and opioids). This was clearly at odds with the common conception of “sobriety”.

For me, sobriety was ugly. It meant abstention from the hard drugs I was doing: the molly, ecstasy, morphine, vicodin, and– most importantly– my beloved DXM, conveniently and legally available at your local drug store.

Even though I was still allowed to associate with my minor vices, going “sober” was hard. The drug cravings were hard to ride out. I often had to sit at the table with my hands tucked under my thighs, watching the seconds pass on the 15 minute timer. If the craving didn’t abate in those 15 minutes, the timer was reset and the rhythmic tic tocs resumed.

I really did want to go sober. I missed my drugs but, during those the first few weeks after my hospitalization, I was able to get through my cravings by reminding myself of how awful my hospital stay had been– and how easily I could end up back there. Especially if I backslid my way into DXM.

DXM is a double-edged sword for people dealing with mental illness. Not only does DXM nullify the effects of mood stabilization drugs, it goes farther than that– DXM actually magnifies the problems of mental illness, digging you deeper into your diagnosis each time you use.

And as time passed, I started to forget why being sober was so important. The memory and shame of my hospitalization began to fade away, as did my convictions. Why was going sober so important? After all, I was high functioning even when I was using. But, most damning of alI, I was bored. Boredom will always be a trigger for me. And DXM whisked me away from that unbearable, self destructive boredom.

The days rolled by and my convictions slowly began to fade away. Three short months after my release, I was back on the cough syrup wagon with no end in sight.

I started to backslide.


Holiday Weekends

Holidays are hard because they reminder me of the same date, the same holiday, the year before.

“Next year will be different,” I assure myself last year.  I was sure that by then I’d have a boyfriend to show off to my friends, cousins, aunts, uncles, and  grandparents who believe that I am either an old maid or a lesbian because I’m still single.

Instead of facing the tragedy of another failed attempt to bring a boyfriend, I day dream.  I dream that I have someone to sit next to me and to help me avoid the murky waters of small talk, Someone I could sneak off with, after making our polite but quick good byes.

Then the night would be ours.

Well, it looks like I’m in for another year of solitude.  How am I spending my labor day? Alone.  The weather is nice, I have errands I could run, I could go for a bike ride– maybe I will.  But I’m holed up in my room, stressed beyond belief about bar Admissions standards.  It’s sadder but safe to stay in here.  I’m two weeks sober from weed and months from the other stuff.

But I’m depressed.  Crossing the threshold is work, the sun is too bright, the lines are too long and, saddest of all, I have no one to share it with.

I guess I need those meds after after all.


Mental Health Disclosures

Any thoughts on mandatory disclosures for mental diagnoses? I’m struggling with the Bar Admissions committee, who wants all my psych and hospitalization records so they can examine them and determine if I’m “fit” to practice law.

To me, it seems like an incredible perversion of the system– what you disclose with your doctors is confidential to facilitate accurate treatment. These kinds of mandatory disclosures put that confidentiality in jeopardy.

And to be honest, I’m scared to get the help I need because I’ll have to disclose it to be admitted to practice. Not being admitted = not licensed= no job = $100000+ in debt.

Is this perverse or am I crazy?


Twitter

I’ve finally broken down and decided to use twitter to help drive in some blog traffic… follow me to keep up to date and find more updates and teasers about upcoming posts. You can subscribe to my blog updates and tweets at @AGirlDivided or https://twitter.com/AGirlDivided.

Stay tuned for updates on forthcoming posts!


Toxic. For those of you who missed seeing it as a guest post on BBW

Toxic.

I’m toxic. I’m a poisonous plant, growing slyly in the garden of my peers. I slowly poison anyone who unwittingly– or gallantly– sets down roots within reach of my coyly venomous vines. My toxicity leaks out of my bipolar brain and poisons the soil that I share with my plant-friends beside me. My disease makes me weak and so like a parasite, I feed on others. Below the surface and under the ground, my roots entangle themselves into the roots of my peers. I latch onto them, deep within the earth, because I need their strength, their support, to survive.

I am self-pruning: I cut myself. This scares the ones that grow beside me, as we thrive together and weather each other’s storms. While our roots remain entangled we hold each other fast, because at some point we all become weak. And although at times we all become weak, we are not all toxic. I am the toxic one. The one that makes late night, crying phone calls; the one that gets out of control; the one they are tired of taking care of.

I am bipolar, but I am not self-loathing. I leave the loathing of myself up to those who have the time to devote to it. I leave this up to those who I’ve poisoned, the ones that weren’t strong enough to survive my toxicity. They’re better at it than I am anyway, as true hatred of myself would be fatal.

I’m not a Venus fly trap– I know better than to frighten at first glance. I’m a daffodil, an oleander, an azalea– pretty to look at but fatal if ingested. I have to attract others to my side, to lure them in– unsuspecting– as coy as a vampire seducing a naive victim. Once they’ve planted themselves near my side I begin my slow, toxic attack. The poison works its way ever so slowly through their roots to their stems until they can’t take any more. And they die.

But of course they don’t really die. They simply leave me. They untangle themselves from my sick roots and move to a fair weathered climate, far away from me and my toxicity. My poison has zapped their reserves and they can no longer weather my storms. The storms that roll in, my storms, are big, dark and ugly. They are hard to weather. And after weathering too many, my friends give up and walk away from me and my poison.

But I’m not really poisonous, despite the warnings they issued to the world, they that uprooted themselves and fled to sunnier skies. Maybe they didn’t know that I needed them, and their support, to survive. I’m not poisonuos; I’m bipolar. And without the strength of their roots, I wilt in the hot sun and bend even in the mildest breeze. Without their strength my illness overcomes me, the sickness of my bipolar brain. Perhaps I’m a parasite, a sick and rotten one, living off the strength of my friends– but I am not poison.

And so, to my fair weathered friends– you who blame your abandonment of me on my toxicity, my poison, the venom of my disorder; you who left me on my birthday, fresh out of the hospital and struggling through my darkest days– I know why you left. You simply weren’t strong enough to survive. You allowed your roots, the ones entangled in mine, those roots that held me firm to the earth and kept me from being blown away by the storm of my despair and my disorder– you allowed those roots to shrivel and die. You became scared for yourselves and feared that you’d been poisoned. And the antidote you chose was abandonment. You forgot the times when you’d been toxic too. You forgot how my roots, the ones you call poisonous, were entangled with your own and kept you firmly planted during the gales of your own storms.

You may be gone but you will not be forgotten. Perhaps I do have some poison in me after all, your poison. The memory of you– you who abandoned me and branded me as toxic– is a sharp stab that still hurts, a thorn that can’t be pruned because it always grows back. I’ve managed to survive, mainly through the strength of those around me– those that didn’t leave me alone during the storm. These are the strong ones, the ones who are better than me, the ones that never believed that I was truly toxic– even when I thought I’d poisoned myself.

I’ve been labeled dangerous and warnings about my toxicity have been issued. It’s been said that I’m unsafe for public use. Nevermind the fact that my disease isn’t contagious; that I bark but do not bite. You have been warned, so approach me at your own peril and handle me with care.

After all, I am toxic.

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