Category Archives: Family

Clearing Out Storage

As many of you know, I moved from Chicago to Dallas a little over a year ago in order to live with family instead of alone. It tore me up inside to leave all the people who cared for me (psychiatrist, therapists, pastor), all the friends who loved me, all the sites and people who were part of my adopted hometown (Chicago was longest I lived in one metro area as an adult), and even my hair stylist. I ended up in a partial day program to help regulate my life and schedule and emotions, which ended up in a horrible hospitalization, as I tried to settle in to my new home.

Now for the last month I’ve been making my room more my own with stuff from my storage unit. I kept everything from a couch and bed to kitchen supplies and decor for a one-bedroom apartment or for sharing a house. For the first six months of being in Dallas, I expected I would move out of the family’s house. For the next 3 months I was focused on another hospitalization and then ECT. For the last 3 months I have been coming to terms with the newly-realized fact that I cannot live alone. I need to live with family, or at least a housemate. (I am lucky with all that is handled for me right now living with family! Things like sharing cleaning and cooking so that I’m doing much, much less than when living alone.)

The next step, after being ok with not ever living alone again, is deciding where I should live. Do I look for a place to live AND a housemate? If so, back in Chicago, out in CA (where I feel at home, having lived my first 30 years there), or even in the Pacific Northwest, so that maybe I’d have a support system or not move again if I’m in a place I want to settle? Or do I stay near family, but in my own place with a housemate? Or stay With family, as I am now? I have defaulted to living With family and trying to notice the plus sides and mitigate the downsides. The worst part is that we have very different values, such that we cannot even mention or talk about religion, politics or other things that are important to us.

So, I’ve kind of decided to live with family and make the best of it. This is really hard, because even if I didn’t live with them, I would want to share my life changes and activities with them. Though I could still move out to a place I’d rather live than <anywhere in Texas>, I am throwing my lot in with family and where they live so that I can have the trade-offs. OMG. What am I thinking? This is a huge decision that I can’t really get my mind around. But I’m acting As If I’ve made the decision, as various therapies tell you to do, to keep from being frozen. I’m moving into the future.

So, the next step is what to do about all my stuff in storage. There are more things I could unpack and take to the house to personalize my living space and update my kitchen supplies. So I’m doing that. And the rest? (1) There is stuff such as keepsakes and pictures (before the digital age, kids) that, of course, I need to store somewhere. My family has turned one room into storage for all of our stuff, so I’m schlepping stuff upstairs every time I go up. (2) There is stuff that I would use for my life in an apartment or house shared with someone else. With a great deal of effort I could unpack, photograph it and put on an app to sell it. OR, I could donate the mostly really nice stuff for the kitchen and the used furniture I got from thrift stores myself (and kept in good condition!). I have decided to donate everything, even the really good kitchen stuff. It’s a way to make room for the future by getting rid of the past, I think.


All of this has been happening in the last couple weeks as the spring equinox and related seasonal changes have been wreaking havoc on my mood. So even if my mood is stabilizing a little bit now, my emotions are All.Over.The.Place. There is specific grief over items I am saying goodbye to. There is general grief about deciding to stay in TX and to live with family. There is fear about an unknown and uncomfortable future that I’m walking into, and that I’m letting other people have some control over. Sadness. Relief. Anxiety. Hopefulness. Resignation.

I think the gamut of feelings cycling through my body, as well as the thoughts about everything in my life circling without stopping on one, is contributing to my suicidality. I almost did something yesterday a couple times, but I moved forward and made a different decision. I’m both happy and mad about not doing anything. Just writing about the feelings is causing pain in my chest, labored breathing, heart palpitations – anxiety. And the desire to die and put an end to all of it becomes strong. It’s as though it is the first coping skill that comes up. It’s not a good coping skill, but it’s the strongest and longest-lasting. I have people to talk to, including my psychiatrist and therapist, and I have all the crisis numbers too.

The Value Independence

Happy Pi Day! (March 14, 3/14 for 3.14, the decimal approximation of the mathematical concept of pi)

OK, now that I’ve displayed my nerdiness for the day…

I’ve written before about how I have valued living independently very highly among my values. Learning to live with family has been hard, and deciding several times in the past year to continue to do so has been even harder. I’m still learning to live with family, especially sharing my schedule of outside activities. I want a sense of independence. And being able to follow my own whims and schedule is part of what I value about independence. How much independence do I have to give up by living with family?

I am reading a book about the needs and desires of people as they age, Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. At one point today I read these sentences about the two meanings of autonomy: “One [meaning] is autonomy as free action – living completely independently, free of coercion and limitation,” and “Whatever the limits and travails we face, we want to retain the autonomy – the freedom – to be the authors of our lives.”

I believe I have been thinking about living independently in the first sense of autonomy described in the book. I want to live alone, keeping my own household, because I believe that kind of independence shows that I am adult and have learned to live with my limitations. But, as many people have discovered as they age or as part of disability or even as part of enlightenment, we humans live dependently with one another, sometimes with personal and/or household needs taken up by others, sometimes with emotional cares shared with others, sometimes just sharing the rent with another person for financial needs to be met. Over this past year I have come to realize that I am a better human being? or my best self? when I am living with other people. I think I have always been that way, even though I consider myself an introvert who enjoys time in the company of others A Lot. During this year, I realized that I will never be able to live alone anymore, whether with family or with a housemate.

What does not living alone mean for my value “independence”? I still want to follow my own whims and schedules. I’m having a hard time sharing that info or part of myself with others. I still want autonomy, but perhaps I’m thinking about it now in the second sense above: I want to be the author of my life, even as household, financial and emotional needs are met to some degree by housemates. I’m having an epiphany, or becoming enlightened, about the dependent nature of my very human self, which includes living with bipolar and its needs. I no longer feel the need to live alone to show my adultness or ability to manage my limitations. But I do still feel the need to be the author of my life, to make decisions about how I spend my time to enrichen my life. That is what I value about independence.

Mixed Up Feelings

I’m all over the place with my feelings. Not even sure if my mood is shifting too, or just feel down because of so many feelings. I was in a minor car accident this week, with just enough damage to the car to not be driveable. It’s an 18-year-old car, so after a year of constant fixing of things, I decided it’s time to sell or donate for a couple hundred dollars at most, instead of even paying a deductible more for her.

My therapist reminded me that this is a loss, and a sudden one at that. I’ve had the car since its third mile, and for 18 years. I guess it’s natural to get emotional over cleaning out personal items. Not sad, but shaky, like after a rush of adrenaline drains out. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to drive with how shaky I was! But it lessened a bit over the next hour until I had to drive to my therapist.

Now, instead of getting a new-to-me used car, I’m adopting my parents’ car, and all of us will share it. They use it more than they think, but still not very much. So if we coordinate our appointments with a google calendar or something (recommendations accepted!), we should be able to share it. In a year or two, we’ll get a newer car, since this one is pretty old too (17-years-old, but very low mileage).

Deciding to adopt this car into my life was a hard change. It’s connected to the constant debate I have about whether I want to stay in my family’s house or get a housemate and house/apartment of my own. And if I move, do I stay near family, or go back to Chicago, or to California or Oregon, where my roots are? Adopting a family car seems like saying I’m staying in the family house and really making a commitment to live communally with people I have very little in common with. Which if true, begs the question of why keep a storage unit of stuff to populate an apartment.

Do you see my dilemma? I know that no decision is permanent but it feels that way, saying goodbye to my car at all, sharing a car which is hard if not in the same house. My feelings are all over the place! Sad, shaky, out-of-place.

So I presented to my therapist my goal this year of feeling more comfortable with family and with my new stable (I hope) self, and my housing dilemma. He noted that it’s not a specific goal, and I clarified that I’m waiting for a feeling of home and belonging. I still feel like I’m borrowing the guest room, plus the discomfort of being in a car I would Not have chosen.

We narrowed down that I can’t find that feeling until I make the room my own (and the car…) and get more stuff out of storage. With more of my stuff around me, I can see if I can find some of that comfort. And maybe along the way I’ll find more comfort being with these people? That’s part of the belonging too – space AND people. Maybe my feelings will even out a bit in this process too.

Suicidal Ideation

A clawing, gnawing at the inside of my breastbone. Tears behind my eyes, but not released. Anxiety creases in the forehead. A fluttering heartbeat to my left, blankness and emptiness of the soul to the right. I see how I will do it in my head, over and over and over.

I’m noticing everything in this moment. This is what I experience in my body Every.Bloody.Time I have suicidal ideation. Which is minimally every couple hours, and right now intensely every other minute. It interrupts reading, watching tv, even doing algebra this afternoon, and while in conversations.

I watched youtube videos of Steven Hays giving ted talks about psychological flexibility and putting the mental brakes on thoughts. He is one of the founders of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acceptance_and_commitment_therapy) which is the therapy that finally worked for me. I’ve been practicing it for years now. The reminders in the videos helped me a bit. Hours later I’m still using tips.

I tried something, and stopped because it hurt more than planned. I’m not going to do anything, yet I’m plagued by the sensations and thoughts I described. It’s miserable and horrible.

I don’t want to go to the hospital, nor do I think it would help. My mom, though not currently in a position to help, has hidden things I could use to hurt myself. This is as safe an environment as it could be, I guess.

I don’t think more ECT would help, though my mood feels like it dipped, and I find it easy to fall into old thought patterns besides the suicidal ideation. I had a long and emotional Friday and Saturday getting certified as a NAMI support group facilitator, something I’ve wanted to do for years! But it wore me out mentally and emotionally. Which could lead to a natural mood dip, which is why I think ECT would be overkill since the depression should lift after more rest (my hunch).

Several doctors and several therapists have come to independent ideas that I just have suicidal ideations as obsessive thoughts (OCD) and there isn’t anything that will stop them. If I didn’t have the anxiety of whether my life was threatened or the bodily sensations I described, it would be a little easier. How do I live with this terrible debate and these sensations with no way to rid myself of them, to fight them, to welcome or accept them?

Holding Steady Or Hypomania?

It has been 4 days since my last ECT treatment. I’m not scheduled for another treatment for 2 more days. And my mood will probably hold steady as it has been  more or less during the last 4 days. Yesterday I was talking with someone at church about bipolar and moods and my mood was still stable and elevated even, but I had persistent thoughts of suicide, the way I used to get when I was living alone in Chicago-land. Something about church, or about opening up to people more at church, or something, brings suicide to the forefront of my mind. It hasn’t been this obvious in months maybe? So the mood is still elevated but the thoughts are disordered and considering suicide. I know my brain is lying, as it is wont to do, so I can talk myself out of any intent to follow through on the thoughts. But I am thinking about suicide more than I want to be. The thoughts are intrusive and annoying, and I can easily talk myself out of any intent. There’s a plan, but then there’s always a plan.

My mood is elevated enough that I’ve wondered about hypomania. Energy, ideas, motivation, good cheer – it adds up to possible hypomania. The good news is that I’m not depressed. Hooray! Can this be what a stable, middling mood is for me? If so, it’s higher than I would have expected. Huh.

While I’m getting ECT treatments, I’m not supposed to make big decisions. Nevertheless, I’m thinking big thoughts about my life and how I want to spend it.  A side effect of an elevated mood, that I want to spend my life – and do things that bring me joy?

I’ve been considering the options for where to live: staying in the family house, or moving to the next town, or back to Chicago with a roommate, or even to California where my soul lives (again with a roommate). My family has stepped up to be more supportive as I go through this last hospitalization and ECT.  I’m doing well and maybe that is because I have had all this extra support and therefore I need to accept the current living situation and embrace living in community with my family as I would if I had one or more roommates. I have more discretionary spending power that I could use to fulfill my dreams of travel. And since I’m doing well, I should be able to travel which means I can check out areas to live as well.

Following the travel bug, today I signed up for RewardStock.com that keeps track of all your airline, hotel, and travel miles/points/rewards and helps you put together trips using miles and points and paying next to nothing. So I also signed up for a ton of airline and hotel reward programs, and I applied for my first credit card that earns miles. Hope I get it!

It would be nice to think that maybe I could actually live in community as I have always wanted to, and do it with family and not have ruffled feathers with my family any more (long, long story). And I could travel each year, at least one big trip, or two little trips, and even do it with my mom, too, as a good travel partner.

Other Life Decisions I’ve Been Thinking About But Not Making Final Decisions On: 1. I have a half-full storage unit I pay on each month on the off chance I move out of this family house. Maybe I can have a storage-unit/garage sale or donate the stuff if I’m staying here? 2. I’ve put $3000 into car repairs this year. It’s a 17-year-old Honda Accord and it might be time to trade it in for a car that doesn’t need repairs?

Hypomania anyone?

 

Lucky Number 13-ECT

Today I had my 13th ECT treatment. My depression continues to improve! I’ve had 3 ECT’s each week of the last several weeks. My brain is rewiring itself with the seizures, and symptoms are going away. Appetite and sleep are good now when they weren’t a couple weeks ago. Concentration is getting better, and psychomotor agitation and suicidal thoughts have dissipated. I still feel depressed or down every day, and have low energy. I think I’m about 90% better. And the gains are solid through non-ECT days too. Starting next week I’ll be having only 2 treatments each week and decreasing from there too.

Cognitively, the only side effect I’m having from ECT is some aphasia and some slowness putting thoughts together into sentences. My memory is not affected at all this time with ECT. The doctor has been careful to only do right unilateral ECT and not bilateral or bifrontal ECT which led to memory problems last time.

My family is surrounding me with help during this treatment. My brother drives my mom and I to and from the hospital downtown. My mom accompanies me through the several waiting rooms, and I’m discharged to her care. She prepares a sack-breakfast for me for after ECT. She cooks dinners too. My dad cleans up the dinner dishes and the kitchen counters for me.

My therapist asked me what I thought life would be like once these treatments are over. I don’t know if I’ll want to move, and if so, to where – back to CA for geography and culture, back to Chicago area for support system, to somewhere local to the family’s house to remain with their support. I do expect more independence: cooking, laundry, cleaning. But I am considering the benefits of staying with family, living in community.

ECT Update

I have now had 8 ECT treatments. My short-term memory is just starting to be affected, but with prompts I can remember things ok. My mood is slowly getting better, though. I’m not thinking about suicide and I don’t seem to be wallowing in depression. But I’m not enjoying activities yet. So I’ll continue with ECT three times a week for at least another week or two before we taper the treatments down to once a week or so.

I wake up at 5:15am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for ECT and get a ride with my brother to the hospital which is in downtown Dallas near his workplace. My mom goes with me as you need to be released into an adult’s care after ECT. We wait in the hospital’s lobby for a couple hours before ECT and then an hour or so afterwards too until my brother comes to pick us up. Then I relax for the rest of the day to let my body come down from the seizure. I’m grateful my family is supporting me through this treatment and I don’t have to go through this alone.

Today I was stuck 4 times to get an I.V. started. It’s the first time it took more than one stick. Ouch!! The only other problem I’m having with ECT is lightheadedness upon standing. Could be the ECT or the anesthesia. It started after the 4th ECT and isn’t getting better.