Category Archives: Grief

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.

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.

Not Just Grieving or Angry

I still have near constant suicidal thoughts as discussed in my last post. I’ve researched some possibilities to carry it out, and come to the same conclusion that my primary method is the best for me, AND I cannot do it because several methods are hidden from me by my family.

So there. I’m safe. Just miserable and wanting to end the misery. And the best way to end the misery seems to be to follow the thoughts’ plan.

My thoughts seem to say “I’m not fleeting. I’m persistent. Do it. Here’s a scenario.” Sometimes this repeats ad nauseum. Sometimes I can look with the self and notice that they are thoughts, and see that they are not coming from the Self. But even when I can create distance in this way, I do not know from whence the thoughts cometh. Arguably, from bipolar. The diseased part of the brain. Yet that is part of me. I can’t yet see bipolar as Other-Than-Me, when it comes from MY brain. How can I even distinguish diseased-brain from me-brain? My cognitive abilities are so hampered, even when my mood is in the middle, neither depressed nor manic. So much of ME is taken up by diseased-brain with all the cognitive jumble and lack of function I live with. It’s amazing I can even drive.

My thoughts also seem to say, “I hate this limping life. This is not the life we signed up for. I expected some good things, such as lasting relationships, an interesting career, and a developing/ed intellectual self. What is this hobbling along day-by-day, hour-by-shuffling-hour business?”

I’m grieving – Still! – the life I had and thought would continue. But it’s more than grief. I’m angry at being robbed of this life, but it’s more than anger. I’ve sat with these emotions and phases Multiple Times. Sometimes, like a few posts ago when I was signing up for college classes, I seem to have accepted, or at least embraced this limping, hobbling life bipolar has left for me, and made some good fortune happen.

When all is said and done, and I’m alone with my bipolar and suicidal thoughts, I Have Not Accepted that this is my life. I think that’s one reason why I want to end it. What else do you see in this mess? Help me.

Inherent Dignity And Worth

In church today we recited some principles of our faith. The first one is the inherent dignity and worth of every human being, indeed every thing in the universe. The reflection included some stuff about the inherent dignity and worth of every person, as well as the need for finding meaning and purpose for life.

Some observations.

  1. It’s an assumption of mine that a lot of (most?) people in the world do not have the luxury of self-reflection or finding meaning and purpose – in their jobs, for instance. It’s a 1st world or 4th quadrant problem. Must have the basics of life going well (i.e., a job that provides for a family) before self-actualization becomes an issue, says the person in weekly therapy. I have the luxury.
  2. I do not feel I have inherent dignity and worth. I feel like a collection of cells that have gone wrong. I have so many medical problems, and bipolar is just the worst one right now. I know you will disagree with me.
  3. Evolutionary science is absolutely amazing, and each thing in the universe is awe-inspiring for how it has evolved to function in so many diverse ways. In living things, in me surprisingly, there is a survival instinct to keep breathing, keep eating, keep sleeping, keep living. It’s what has kept me alive when so close to suicide. I follow this instinct to this day when I can’t see a point in going on.
  4. So I’m in awe of how my personal cells have evolved with billions of microbes to create a living thing. But my genes mutated into a living thing that is not fit for the environment, and I first made the decision and then it was made for me, not to reproduce so that I didn’t pass along any of my (mostly heritable) mutations who would also not be fit for the environment.
  5. I know I’m not giving my body enough credit for adapting as much as it has. Nevertheless, I don’t feel I have inherent worth or dignity. Just a collection of cells not functioning even with modern science working hard.

Sigh.

An Icky Stay at a Icky Hospital

I miss my Illinois hospital so much. The people, the familiarity of the place and routines so I could feel safer faster. I was planning to write them an update anyway. Now I’ll sing their praises too!

I hit 10 months out of the hospital last Sunday. Hooray! Then the next day I went inpatient at the place I was doing outpatient programming. That was so very, very disappointing to stop my streak. I was doing well! Then it was just too intense with ridiculously high anxiety, suicidal thoughts and urges more frequent and more intense, PLUS visual hallucinations starting. [sheepishly] I guess I needed to go in.

I was only in for 4 days. Thank Goodness! It was a horrible and icky experience.

  • My medical meds were messed up the whole time. Apparently I needed x,y, and z from home. And then I didn’t. And then I did. And then I needed an order for them. Giant Sigh!
  • It was freezing! I was wearing two shirts and a sweater and I was still cold! I mean, I understand germ control, but give us a couple more degrees!
  • It wasn’t all that clean or kept as clean as it could, especially between roommates.
  • Most of the people were detoxing from alcohol or drugs, very few dealing with mental health situations. It was clear the rules, such as keeping rooms locked during the day, were meant primarily to keep them from sleeping the day away.
  • It was clear during the very little processing or therapy time of the need to keep such different groups separate. The dire issues are so very different.
  • There were six smoke breaks a day preceded by fresh air breaks. Guess which breaks were NEVER skipped? And since I’m allergic to cigarette smoke and have asthma, I can’t just go out during their breaks and stand away. That smoke carries far!
  • Did I mention how little therapy there was? I mean it was blank time so much of the time. Why be there?
  • Only benefit to me was the change in my psych meds which got rid of the hallucinations, and my anxiety went down. Suicidal ideation finally lessened too but I lied about having any. They wouldn’t understand that I have them all the time but now I don’t entertain them all the time. That was how I was able to stay out of the hospital for 10 months. (Still miffed I have to start my count over).
  • I am left with my psych meds making me sedated All.The.Time. I fell asleep in my chair there all the time, even meals. And I’m doing it again at home. Something I still need to work out in outpatient.

So I’m back in the outpatient program. I was so sedated this morning driving in that I was swerving and trying not to hit bumpers. So now I’m getting transportation from the program but I’m leaving an HOUR before I need to. (I’m whining I know. But I’m not a morning person plus all the sedation.)

I had a good day today and got a hair cut for self care. Here’s to processing grief and anxiety for a few weeks!

Anxiety Blows

I am struggling with an extraordinary amount of anxiety – 8-9 on a scale of 10. It has been high since October before I tried living on my own again. But with the move to Texas, the anxiety has been my constant companion and consistently high. And so I am in a day program to deal with mood lability, anxiety, and depression.

Today in program I had a nice meltdown about my anxiety. I figured a few things out. It’s related to losing my independence because I feel that I’m a failure at taking care of myself. The bipolar and anxiety and depression have won and I’m failing. I’m buying into the stigma that mental illness is a moral failure or weakness of character.

It doesn’t matter that I would tell people that their illness is biological and a disease they had no say in contracting. It doesn’t matter that I would tell people that asking for help and getting more support is a strength not a weakness. It doesn’t matter that I would tell people that living with mental illness is brave and courageous.

Because deep down inside I don’t believe it. I‘m a failure at living independently and taking care of Continue reading

Saying Goodbye

I am in Illinois with my mom for two weeks to see doctors, pack up everything, and say goodbye to the good friends who have made my life possible for the last 8.5 years in Illinois. I was in and out of the hospital more than 30 times during that time. My church, my family/friends, my friends have all walked that horrible road with me. They’ve seen me suicidal and helped me get through the moment and then take me to the hospital anyway. They’ve fed my cats while I’m gone. They’ve welcomed me back into the world without batting an eyelash. They gave me the opportunity to volunteer and give back in ways I could. They helped me feel less disabled. I can’t say thank you enough. And Goodbye is nearly impossible. I really hope I find cheap airfares to come back for a visit sooner rather than later, and regularly too. I’d like to keep relationships!

And saying goodbye to my psychiatrist and therapist was near impossible! They have been so helpful and accepting. I bonded so deeply to them. They are wonderful people.

I’m finding that the rending apart of relationships is so difficult, so very difficult, that I can’t concentrate on much else. My mom asks me questions about packing or donating, or whether these things are going to home or to storage, and it hurts my brain, literally, to make a decision. My concentration is so low that I’m forgetting basic routines like how to get ready for bed.

rootsI’m tearing apart roots that I haven’t had since leaving California after 30 years of growing up there. I hope I can make some shallow roots that deepen quickly in my new location in Dallas area. I’m a person that needs people and that needs roots.