Category Archives: Support System

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 Power of Community

Yesterday I posted about how I experience suicidal ideation. I have followers on WordPress, and the blog crossposts on Twitter and Facebook with followers in both places. On all three platforms I got responses concerned about my safety.

Thank you everyone!!

Even though I always have a plan, and the impulses, thoughts and feelings are usually present, yesterday I was not worried about my safety. But I did feel Very Alone. I know people who have suicidal thoughts every once and awhile, and I’ve met people who deal with chronic suicidal thoughts like I do. Heck, psychiatrists have told me about patients like me. But it’s so easy to feel alone when suicidal ideation takes over multiple times an hour!

But yesterday You, Dear Readers, helped me feel seen and heard and not alone. You contacted me, commented, reposted, gave contact info and made sure I had the suicide prevention lifeline number (800-273-TALK). You reminded me that others have this experience and make it to the other side.

I wear a ring that goes around my finger three times. I say it is my “power of community” ring because the three rings remind me of how powerful community has been for keeping me alive and safe. It’s so easy with suicidal ideation to feel lost and alone.

Now, if y’all could point me to people with chronic ideation, that would be great! No one has ideas about how to live with it.

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.

Post-It Note to Myself

You are feeling good! You can get to this place again!

So says the third post-it on my bathroom mirror. Both my psychiatrist and my therapist insisted I do something to remember this time. “Most people don’t remember their good times. They forget and think it has always been this bad.”

My first post-it says, “Bipolar is just one part of me.” I don’t believe that right now, but I used to believe it and maybe I will again. The second post-it says, “You are brave and courageous.” I believe that one finally, even after a couple friends have spent years telling me that. These post-its are signposts of health I want to follow. I added a third one only because it is so important.

I have changed so much in the last 10 months since my move to Texas. Healthier, mood stabilized (for now), happy, motivated, energized. I feel I have to put that caveat in there since, as my therapist said, moods change. I can be honest that I will fluctuate. And my psychiatrist expects narrower swings. So the future might be closer to a healthy person’s mood changes. I have to tell myself it might be possible to have a positive future.

My therapist reminded me that it’s not just the 23 ECT treatments that brought me here. I worked hard for this. I learned and practiced dozens of coping skills. I’ve been through dozens of medication changes. Each of my 40-something hospitalizations has led to increased health and stability. I have spent years in weekly therapy, and I have bared my soul to multiple psychiatrists. I cultivated caring and dedicated support systems. I could go on.

The two sentences on my post-it contain all I have written here. This blog post will be one I return to, I hope.

No ECT!!!

I showed up for my scheduled ECT this morning. And in the pre-screen I talked about how well I’m doing, back to baseline on everything. Somehow the conversation twisted and the PA asked if I even wanted a treatment today. Um, NO!

I waited an agonizing 5+ minutes while she talked with the treating psychiatrist. They agreed I was doing well enough not to have a treatment! I’m to call in a week for a phone screen to see if I’m still doing well or if I need a treatment. If I’m doing fine, they will discharge me and I can get the port out of my chest (used to access a vein easily since IV’s are hard to get on me).

Hooray! I celebrated my unexpected free day and good prognosis with a ginormous mocha from the coffee shop in the hospital lobby.

I also saw my regular psychiatrist today to ask about the fine tremors I have developed in my hands. But, I got to gloat about how well I was feeling. And I was shocked to be doing so well that he wanted to see me next In Three Months(!).

Even as I’m feeling well, and stable, and Good, I’m worried about the bottom falling out and plunging into suicidal depression for the millionth time. My doctor encouraged me not to worry about what might happen, and even to make a video or add to my mirror post-its that Yes, I was doing well. Something to help remember if (when?) things get bad, that I had been healthy and it would happen again.

Why do I expect suicidal depression to come again? Just because it has been a companion I could count on? And I got as good as one could get at dealing with it healthily?

How about I have no freaking clue how to be in a good space? I’m worried that the increased energy I feel is mania, and that the only way I have to express how good I’m feeling is to talk too much or to spend money. Both of those are things I do when I’m manic, yet I’m not manic.

I just don’t know how to be healthy! What are behaviors You have when You are healthy?

See! You Have a Purpose

So I was talking to my therapist, as one does, and we were exploring what to do with the ever-present suicidal thoughts. He had tried getting me to welcome them as just part of the landscape of my mind, something I’m pretty good at doing already. Most of the time I Accept that they are there, and recognize that they are just thoughts. At various and sundry times, intent to follow through on the thoughts accompanies the thoughts, adding fear and a third dimension to what had just been landscape. Then suicidal suggestions become action instigators, and I worry, fret, ruminate and finally find someone to talk to about the thoughts until they become landscape once again.

Even as mere landscape, suicidal thoughts are not at all pleasant. Just live-through-able. I don’t want them. Now, at least. Sometimes I want them and I want to act on them. But 97% of the time, I want them gone.

So I accept their presence, in good ACT fashion (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). The next step, says Wise Therapist, is teaching them some boundaries. In a kind but firm way, order them away. As a small child I was often sent to my room to play, when the parents needed a break. So too, I must send the suicidal thoughts to their room when I need a break. Give myself some breathing room.

Now, we uncovered today that the undercurrent of the suicidal thoughts is the thought that I don’t have a purpose or goals. I have that thought a lot on its own, and it shows up again, subtly, with the suicidal thoughts. I hadn’t noticed it there before! I think if I send the thoughts to their room, then I need other thoughts to think about: my purpose in life and small and large goals. But I don’t have those, I protest!

And I change the subject, to my brother’s very recent colon cancer diagnosis and upcoming surgery (read more here: http://gofundme.com/markfightscoloncancer). Wise Therapist puts together that the same week I struggle with my Christmas Delusion and then persistent and pervasive suicidal thoughts, I manage not to go to pieces over my brother’s diagnosis and am the only family member to keep it together.

See! You do have a purpose! exclaims Wise Therapist. You didn’t set yourself and emotional needs aside, nor did the family situation exacerbate your symptoms so that you freaked out.

I think being steady through a volatile time for my family was the purpose he was getting at. I’m not sure I agree, but it did seem I was holding it together for people. I still don’t have goals or a larger purpose – in my mind – save for doing something interesting every day and surviving, or persisting as my bumper sticker says.

Is that all I need right now? Can I persist with no goals, no hopes, no plans. No real purpose, even for my upcoming trip to Chicago. Is persisting enough?

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.