Big Break

Big Break, for someone in Hollywood, say, an actor, it means something completely different than what it means to me.  For both of us, it will be a life-altering event.  For the actor, the change he experiences may or may not be permanent.  For me, the change is constant.  Nothing is ever the same.  It’s like I’m living on the edge of a kaleidoscope that is attached to the International Space Station traveling 17,00m mph.  At least that is the way it felt most of the time while I was having my Big Break (psychotic break, psychotic episode, mental breakdown, gone bat-shit crazy).  Part of the time, though, I felt like I was moving at a snail’s pace. That feeling only applied to me, everything else was moving at normal, if not accelerated pace.  This was the case with the little men trying to get into my apartment.  They were climbing through windows, coming up my porch downspout and pushing open my front door faster than I could sweep them out.  Because I was moving so slow, they were moving even faster. I couldn’t even get my pistol and shotgun out fast enough to get them all out.  Luckily, the guns were kept locked up and the little men, somehow disappeared.

That amounts to the sum total of what I can remember of my Big Break.  The slow parts continue to this day.  They have gotten better.  I don’t usually feel as though I am completely slowed down.  Not physically anyway.  Though it does frequently happen to me mentally.  I notice it most often when I am writing or speaking.  A thought or idea will enter my mind and it will feel as though it is wading through mud.  It will take an eternity for me to find the right word or words to express the idea.  This is frustrating when I’m writing but when I’m having a conversation with someone it can be very embarrassing.  I’ve been working on the problem for over a year now and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.  It looks like the sticky mind is here to stay.  If I were in Hollywood and the result of my Big Break was something like this, I’d probably be heading back to my home town in search of other opportunities.  I’m not, so I have no choice but to keep working at it.

California

“…and it’s California, where everything is powerfully strange. Everyone wants it to be home.  Everyone left where he or she was from with dreams of transformation.  Everyone runs away to California once, or at least all the lonely, hungry people do.”  “Madness: A Bipolar Life” by Marya Hornbacher

California, I can’t say it is where all my problems started, but it is where I started to experience the most prominent and life changing events of my existence.  My move to California was preceded by my two best friends moving out there.  One, with his growing family, to San Diego followed by the other and her new(ish) husband to the L.A. area.  Before those two moves, California never occurred to me.  But I visited him in San Diego and drove out to L.A. with her and I guess it was just a matter of time before I was on my way West.

Now, it’s not as though I wasn’t leaving anything behind.  I had lived Virginia Beach for seven years, my parent’s were in Southeastern North Carolina and my sister and her family were in the Washington D.C. area.  On the other hand, Northern California from Sacramento, to Petaluma, Elk Grove and well all over Northern California was packed with relatives.  Let’s see, two grandmothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, a third cousin twice removed or, I don’t know, just a load of relatives that I never spent a whole lot of time with.  There was that opportunity as well.

So, my friend talked to some people he knew, and then I talked to those people and after a bit of time I was on my way to San Diego.

Virginia Beach is a Navy town.  Everything is geared towards the Navy.  There is a Naval Air Station there.  Jets fly directly over the beach, and houses and the mall.  Right next door is Norfolk, a Naval Base, the across the river is Newport News and Hampton, where Navy ships are built.  To me it was a big place with a small town feel.

San Diego, on the other hand, is a Navy City.  There is so much more going on there than Navy or Marine Corps.  San Diego is where “Top Gun” was set.  The Naval Air Station is now a Marine Corps Air Station.  I think the biggest shock for me was how big it was.  There were so many freeways, 8, 5, 805, 15, 163.  So many things to do.  Sea World, The San Diego Zoo, Mission Beach, Pacific Beach, I could go on and on.  That was just San Diego.  The other friend I mentioned had moved to the L.A. area.  You can just imagine how overwhelming could get.

I was a bit overwhelmed and to add to that I had a brand new job I had to excel at. (I don’t think I knew any other way to work)  Not to mention, I was looking for a way to transform my life.  I was hoping I would find something in California that would be different, better, something else.  I was looking to escape some of the horrors Virginia Beach held for me.  My friend J, overcome by breast cancer, my own bout with cancer, starting to deal with depression.  It was time for me to leave.

After moving and finding a place to live (I stayed with my friend and his family for a few months) things started to settle down.  Work was good and not too hard, I started exploring the city some.  I was getting to know the people I worked with.  We were going out to bars and restaurants, pretty much having a good time, I didn’t drink so I was commonly the designated driver.  At the time, I had a blue Ford Expedition and everyone loved to pile in.

A few years later, my friend and his family have moved away, my relationship with my friend in L.A. has soured.  I was spending too much time at work and with the people from work.  The next couple of years are a blur to me.  When I concentrate hard on what went on in those two years all I get is working way too many hours at the office and at home.  I see going out a lot, in spite of all the work, and I see my mentor and now friend being diagnosed with cancer.  The cancer diagnosis is very clear in my mind, the rest is just a flurry of activity which ends with me in the hospital having just come through a psychotic episode.

Some days I have clear memories of sunny skies, a light breeze and a feeling of well-being.
Others are roller-coasters of faces and noise that are completely terrifying.  Those days I feel like California, at least San Diego, chewed me up and spit me out.

I loved living in
San Diego but it did
not like me at all

my friend

you visited me in San Diego
you brought your family?
it is something I should remember
we have been friends for a long time
and I barely remember any of it
I remember the oldest of memories
Pritchard Hall, Pheasant Run Drive, Red ’66 Mustang
I don’t know if it is the medication, the ECT
all these things that are supposed to make
me better, improve my life,
sometimes I question

— GB

My Argument for Bipolar Disorder

I’m thinking about the time between when I was diagnosed with depression and when I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.  I received my first diagnosis from an actual psychologist in late 2003 to early 2004.  It’s not that clear to me because it was not that big a deal to me.  I had, in the past year, come off a bout with cancer which turned itself around in pretty short order.  I wasn’t quite feeling like myself, more down than usual. So I went to a psychiatrist, was diagnosed with depression, got a prescription for an anti-depressant and went on with my life.  I figured it was all part of the healing process, part of having cancer and so would become part of my life.  I took my anti-depressant as I should. I stopped drinking as I should.  I saw my doctors as I should.  Everything was as normal as it could be.

In the spring of 2005 I was given the opportunity to move across the country, from Virginia Beach to San Diego.  So I did.  When I got to San Diego, I found a new set of doctors and went about my merry way. But something was different.  I went out a lot more often, spent money more freely, had a lot of one night stands.  I also had more and more bouts with depression.  At first I attributed it to being worn out from the increased pressure to perform at work.  I didn’t even identify it as depression.  When I talked to my psychiatrist about it, I told him I was having a hard time sleeping and he prescribed Ambien.  This worked for a while, I was rested and work was easier to deal with but my highs were getting higher.  I was spending more time at work or I was working at home in the evenings, on top of that I was still going out at night.  Pretty soon the candle was about to meet in the middle and boy was I going to get burned.  I told my psychiatrist that I was having problems sleeping again and he prescribed Lunesta.  I took Lunesta for about a week or so and then things started going sideways.  I was having problems at work, I wasn’t treating my co-workers and customers with the respect they deserved then I started hallucinating.  The main hallucination had little men trying to get into my apartment. The rest of this story has been told earlier in this blog and I don’t think I need to rehash it here.

The thing I came away with when really looked at it, is that I should have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at least as early as 2005.  The problem is that no one could see it.  I was in a new town, with new friends and we were all just out to have a good time.  This would have been fine if I hadn’t previously been diagnosed with depression and on an anti-depressant.  If I had the Bipolar diagnosis at this time I believe there would have never been as psychotic break. Up until I had the psychotic break my anti-depressant prescription never changed.  After that, I was diagnosed with psychotic depression which made more sense and different medications were given.  It wasn’t until I moved here in 2012 and had a full psychiatric work up by my current psych-doc that I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and started on the path to figuring out just which medications are right for me.  I am finally getting the treatment needed to make me level.

To some, Bipolar Disorder sounds like a horrific diagnosis.  For me, it sounds like music to my ears.  To me it means that I’m getting my life back.

Psychiatric or General

Some times I think about a giant what if relating to what happened and the end of my big psychotic break.  What would have happened if I had been to Sharp Mesa Vista hospital instead of Sharp Memorial hospital.  The difference, in case you’re asking is that Sharp Mesa Vista is a psychiatric hospital while Sharp Memorial is a general hospital.  I’m really not sure what would have happened if I had been taken to the psychiatric hospital.  I only imagine that I would have been required to stay there for a longer period of time.  Whereas the general hospital treated me with IV antibiotics for a urinary tract infection and released me to the custody of my parents after a week.  The reason I taken to the regular hospital instead of the psychiatric hospital is that my regular psychiatrist did not have privileges at the psychiatric hospital.  That should have been my first clue to drop his pill-pushing ass.  Anyhow, I don’t know of I would have been better off or worse off going to Sharp Mesa Vista, but given my categorical dislike for psychiatric hospitals, the ones I have been in, including Sharp Mesa Vista, haven’t been all that pleasant, I would have to say, I am probably better off.

Does anyone feel one way or another about their stays in psychiatric hospitals?  I’ve heard that some of them can be quite pleasant and rewarding.  Let me know what you think.

my mask shows

my mask shows
the world who
I want them
to believe I am
I am stable
I am a normal
human being
with the usual
flaws and fears

behind that mask
is reality that may
bring irrepressible
jibes and stings
unpredictable to
those within as
well as those
without, I am a
normal human
being with the
usual flaws and fears

— GB

I see….. things

Maybe I need to take some further time off, or maybe I just need to stop trying to write while I’m watching a football game.  I do, however, need to complain about something.  Something I have come to expect and tolerate are the hallucinations I experience.  I know I have written about this before, or at least mentioned it.  I see things out of the corner of my eye.  I also hear things.  For the past two to three days the visual hallucinations have been more intense.  Not only am I seeing things out of the corner of my eye, I’ve been seeing them right out in front.  It is mostly a case of seeing something and interpreting it as something else.  Like the coat rack in the hallway, I know it’s there, but when I come around the corner someone is standing there.  It just happens for a split second, but it is enough to freak me out.  Sitting in my room, I am in front of a bank of windows that faces the driveway and the road.  There are trees and birds and bushes etc.  So, I always turn my head and look when a car goes by.  If the birds are moving in the tree or bushes I look because I think it is a car.  Wind blowing in the trees…… pretty much movement of any kind draws my attention.  This also happens when I’m out.  I’m not really sure why it happens.  I don’t think it’s dangerous, it’s just really, really, really annoying.  The auditory hallucinations are not as bad.  In white noise situations I hear my name called or a faint hint of music.  When it’s quiet is when I have the most issues because it usually happens when I’m trying to go to sleep.  When it’s quiet I hear distant music and sometimes people talking and my name being called.  All in all, it’s not the end of the world for me.  But I will be addressing it with my psychiatrist when I see him next week.

Does anyone out there have hallucinations and/or suggestions how to cope with them?