Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

February 17, 2011

The Finish Line

I finally finished it. For a book that’s in generously sized font and a mere 180 pages, it should’ve taken me just a few days-or week at most to be done. But regardless of the time it took, I reached the last page while at Starbucks today–while attempting to do ‘real’ work, of course. ;) I know it’s just another book among tons of other ones I’ve read, am reading, or will read in the future, but for some reason, I got a little emotional as my eyes came to the last word of the book. The book’s kind of about running, and I don’t even run! And it’s not some sappy tale  that’s supposed to induce tears. But I took a deep breath with a sense of relief.

Though I don’t want to place blame on my illness for stuff, the depression has often robbed me of my ability to complete things, either on time, or not at all. It’s a struggle I’ve dealt with–and one that really does hinder me from moving on with various aspects of life. Currently, I’ve been having  a hard time keeping myself motivated about finishing this masters program, among other things in life. So, actually finishing this book gave me a little hope that I am able to take myself to the end of what I started, however big or small the task may be. Writing a thesis and reading someone else’s work are not the most congruent tasks. But they both do involve having to take steps in order to finish it.I think I had forgotten what it feels like to actually get through something. And this really was a good reminder of what you can get done when you keep going with what you want to get done.

By the way, this book (What I Talk About When I Talk About Running) was a really good read!

 

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November 25, 2009

a step back

I hate to admit it, but I guess I’m going to have to. I haven’t been feeling as well as I’d like to be feeling.

That sounds so ambiguous, and my attempt to explain the above statement will only make things sound more confusing and whiny. But this state is not where I want to be only a week after the ECT. Hell, this damn treatment should last me a whole month! But perhaps it’s beyond the little spark’s control. Am I just scared about the fact that I have a huge paper due in two weeks that I’ve really yet to do much work on? I think I’ve gained back some weight, and I can’t be fat when I see my parents in a few weeks. Or have I caused all of this because I, well, haven’t been quite meticulous about taking all the drugs each and every day? I’ve used up my prescription drug coverage for the year, so for a single drug (out of five or six that I take), it costs around $500….per month. I’m trying to stretch my stash out by breaking them into half or not take them at all on some days. Such a stupid move, I know, but I’m just not looking forward to paying nearly $1,000 for a one-month supply of my medication.

It’s not that I’ve crawled back into my depression cave or something. I’ve just found myself slower to get up in the morning and eager to have the day end (with Ambien, of course). I kind of feel like I’m in some emotional lockdown, except that I seem to be tearing up and I am making a futile attempt for the tears to not ruin the mascara I decided to wear today.

Sometimes you may be able to forget that you have this mental illness that has crippled you in the past. Other times, like now, something just jerks you right back into making sure that you remember you have bipolar disorder. It’s such a humbling feeling, to be pushed back down to recognizing that you’re really not all better, not just yet, and that I have to work at it constantly to gain and maintain a sense of normalcy. And even if I achieve that, I can’t forget that an illness exists at my core.

Hello. I have bipolar disorder, and frankly, right now I’m pissed about it.

…to be continued.

November 24, 2009

Giving thanks

In a blog post on mayoclinic.com–Being grateful: Giving thanks helps with depression, Dr. Melin suggests “that you write down three things each day that you’re thankful for. This can be three sentences or three words, the simpler the better. Keep paper or a journal by your bedside and jot in it daily. This can be at bedtime or in the morning, whichever works best for you.”

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Since I’m posting this tip, I should actually write down three things I’m thankful for right now.
Today, I’m thankful for….
1) My friend/professor Robin. She brought over some lunch today, and we got to chat for a while. I feel a lot more rejuvenated after our conversation, and I now feel like I can get through the rest of this month.

2) My cat Simon. I am so glad he is my buddy. It’s been about a month since his surgery, and he seems to be doing well.

3) NFL. Without it, I wouldn’t have a paper topic. And I also love watching the game (when I should be researching for that paper).

 

 

November 10, 2009

finding myself

me

I use a mirror daily when I put on make-up or to see if my pants matches with my shirt. Recently, I’ve become interested in that reflection. Perhaps it’s because my friend commented that the ‘self portrait‘ I posted the other day wasn’t much of one. Though I had fun trying take pictures of my shadows, his comment made me realize that I cannot be represented by just a shadow of myself, literally and figuratively.

I began to notice that my reflection is actually everywhere, in the bathroom, on the car window, on the  shiny surface of a table. So I decided the other day to actually study that figure–that person looking back at me.

This is me.

It feels kind of odd to post this picture (and I realize it’s not the greatest pic, but it’ll do for now). I’ve identified myself in this journal mainly as a girl with bipolar disorder who’s been going through electroconvulsive therapy. But looking at this image showed me that I am indeed more than just a shadow, and that I’m not defined simply by my illness or the ECT. In fact, I realized that what I see is that the woman in the mirror is a person. That sounds so obvious, but for me, I had pretty much forgotten that what I am is a whole, breathing human being. Before, I felt as if I was merely existing. This picture of myself reminded me that there is a person that’s more than just a reflection. At the end of the day, she is the one I must confront, care and comfort.

Tomorrow morning when I see her in the mirror, maybe I’ll do more than just throw powder on that face. Maybe I can tell her how glad I am to see her still standing.

October 31, 2009

permanence

It’s autumn. The leaves have begun to change color, and some have already fallen to the pavement. You can see the leaves just flying away, carried by the breeze.  I usually love just watching these colors, but this year, the change in season has been coupled with some dreary days. I can’t remember the last time there was blue sky. Anyway, the auburn hues will in the coming weeks  all turn to the color of the earth and find themselves on the ground, as if they were returning back to the soil that brought them up. They teach me that there is no permanence in life. That’s the only thing that doesn’t change.

I found out that my freshman roommate’s mother had passed away. It wasn’t sudden, but from cancer that she, just this spring, found out had already ravaged her whole body. My roommate Katherine had kept a blog chronicling this journey until her mother’s death. I could not stop crying as I read those words, so beautifully written. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that my own mother was diagnosed with cancer two years ago (she’s currently doing fine). Sure, it did hit close to home, but my tears were more than about that. In reading Katherine’s blog I saw a sense of strength despite what must be a difficult time. I found that inner strength so beautiful, but I was so sad that it was in this time that I recognized that part about Katherine. I think a part of me wished I could be more like her.

I look outside and see the trees. I think about Katherine. Though I cannot imagine the pain, it’s clear to me that Katherine will be fine.

Then I notice that those trees were now against a brilliant blue background.

September 9, 2009

Time for a cocktail…

pills2

Well, of some sort. Don't they look like candy? I think these may be the prettiest pills I've had to take. They're fluoxetine 20mg, more affectionately known as Prozac. I'm so fascinated by this light blue/turquoise color that I had to take a picture.

September 6, 2009

entering a fantasy (football) world

Right before work, I headed to the bookstore.  I’m surrounded by hundreds of fascinating literary works, but they do not interest me today. Instead I made my way to the magazine section where I perused through what seemed like countless fantasy football draft guides. Yes, I am playing fantasy football.

I took up on my friend Duncan’s invitation to try NFL fantasy football this season. I’ve liked watching NFL football on television for years, but it’s my very first time joining a fantasy league. As I get ready for my first draft, I am starting to find out just how complicated and time-consuming this whole task might become. On the surface, it seems like an activity suited for those beer-drinking guys who proudly own and wear their favorite player’s jerseys on game days, or perhaps a way to take up some work-time among office co-workers. And well, that may be true to a certain extent. According to an article in Time, on average, fantasy-football players spend five hours a week managing their teams, and fantasy football wastes $9 billion out of workplace productivity. Despite the Recession, the trophy business is churning out more and more “I’m better than you” trophies.

But I see it another way. In the league that I joined, a majority of the ‘owners’ all graduated from the same high school. I have not contacted most of them since we left in 1999. For at least the next four months, I will have to stay connected with these friends on a weekly basis. Which is a pretty good thing for a gal that’s been told she needs to be in touch with more people. For me, fantasy football will serve as a catalyst of sorts to bring these long lost friends together.

So, maybe I will be watching more football and ESPN than I really should, and maybe I’ll be spending even more time on the computer to obsessively check on individual player stats. But just maybe, this is my way of learning how to connect with people – by trying to kick their butts every weekend.

September 4, 2009

Dear Sister

How is it that I am so open on the blogosphere but can’t be pried open in person? I am like a stubborn clam shell, nearly impossible for anyone to just pull those shells apart to get a glimpse of the insides. This is how I am, especially with my family. I suppose it’s not as if everyone else in my family is an open book and I’m the exception. Much of this is a learned behavior. But regardless, I really don’t know how to communicate the simplest emotions. That inability makes it tough when people have to judge my progress based on what I say about how I’m feeling.

Since the maintenance ECT has started, it’s been my little sister who has been accompanying me to all the treatments – having to drive me to the hospital, wait around and then take me back home. This responsibility is something I wish I never had to ask my sister to do. But she has been there for me, having to miss her classes just so I can make it to these sessions.  Though I record my thoughts on this journal after each treatment, I have never discussed with her how things are really going. Needless to say, she doesn’t know about this little blog.

While words don’t seem to come out of my mouth easily, over the years I have developed  a way to be able to write down those words to express my thoughts and emotions. I’m not willing to share the existence of this journal with her, but I’ve come to realize that it is my responsibility to share some thoughts with the person that is having to take care of me.  So, my psychiatrist and I have decided that it’s best that I begin writing to my sister and let her know what’s going on and how I feel. That’s my assignment for the week: to write her a letter.

I can’t say to her everything in a single letter, but at least the first one will allow me to tell her just how grateful I am for her support and how much I admire her spirit. This is the least I can do, and I owe her at least this much.

September 2, 2009

From a Distance

Here’s my guilty-pleasure confession: I love watching reruns of ‘America’s Next Top Model.’ It’s really another reality show with a bunch of catty young women posing for the camera, but I seem to love it.  So I was watching yet another marathon of ‘Top Model’ this morning, mostly because I don’t have to think about anything. Well, somehow one of the episodes found emotions in me instead.

It was an episode about being honest with yourself, and these girls were having to confess to each other about things people didn’t know about them. Maybe it was their tears, but it brought out the tears in me and something that I realized about myself: I’m not comfortable in my own skin, and I don’t know how to be comfortable in my own skin.

Perhaps the reason why I don’t feel comfortable around other people is because of this discomfort with myself. I even feel distance from the reflection in the mirror. I feel like I’m always being the person that people perceive me to be, or a pretense of who I think I need to be. More I think about it, more I realize that I’ve been doing this since I was a little girl. That constant desire to be accepted by others has caused me to forget to accept myself as I am first. Now I don’t know who the real ‘me’ is (is this where my indecisiveness comes from?). It’s such an odd feeling to not be familiar with yourself. My psychiatrist said to me last week that much of my constant sadness maybe comes from being alone all the time. She’s right in that I am rarely around people if I didn’t need to be. But maybe that loneliness comes from the fact that I don’t even find that emotional connection with my own self.

The girls on the tv have moved onto getting these underwater pictures, yet my tears are still streaming down. At that moment, all I wanted was a hug, but I knew of no one to ask.

August 10, 2009

weekend (non)happenings

Perhaps nothing happened this weekend that’s worth noting, which is why I’ve stared at this laptop screen since Thursday with no success of being able to put together a single sentence. Well, Mom, sister and I did go see “Julie and Julia” on Friday. The movie is based on two stories, one about Julia Child, and the other about Julie Powell, an office worker who starts a blog as she attempts to cook all the recipes in Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in 365 days. In those 365 days, Julie succeeds in her task, and thus putting an end to her blog. This made me wonder something about my little blog. Is there ever going to be an end to my ECT journal, or at least the ECT part? Now that the maintenance ECT has started, what once ended at just those 15 treatments early in the year has turned into to something with apparently no end in sight. In Max Fink, M.D.’s book “Electroshock: Healing Mental Illness,” Fink states that the length one goes through continuation ECT isn’t so bad, considering “that psychotropic drugs for mental disorders are usually prescribed for years.” But he does note that the number of treatments is rarely fewer than six and could go on for months or years. I am not worried about how many treatments I’ll be having, but now that I’m coming up on my twentieth, there’s a sense of curiosity about where this is all going.

Maybe I’m wondering these things because I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the last ECT for some reason this weekend. I was at work yesterday, and all I could think about was about my recent treatment at the hospital: how it felt, how it smelled, what Dr. F looks like, etc. they all keep flooding my head. On top of that, where the conducting gel was on my head (by both my temples) still itches.

So, I obviously have nothing of importance to write about this weekend, except to note that my mother did go back to the homeland (in time for her own health check-up).  Hope I get my thought process and writing skills back soon. In the mean time, I guess I will watch the ‘Mad Men’ marathon that’s been on AMC in anticipation of the start of the new season.

July 26, 2009

On “Guideline is Function”

**I wrote most of this a while ago but totally forgot to post it, so here it is.**

Guideline is function. That’s what Dr. J, my previous ECT doctor, said to me about what the whole purpose of psychiatric treatment was. He explained to me that the process was to get me to reach a point where I can get through daily life and what comes with it. That point where I can perform everyday tasks consistently, without crumbling with every depressive episode.

I’ve been thinking about what he said to me for a while now. (I wish I had taken better notes when we had this conversation. He made the comment when I called him to ask about the sine wave machine issue.) That view seemed so callous and detached at first when he told me. Is that all he wants his patients to aspire to? To just function? Shouldn’t I get to actually like and then “thrive” at this life deal? I mean, I go through ECT and all the other psychiatric treatments only to just “function” like some programmed robot?

Then I remembered that when I was hospitalized five years ago (he was the attending), Dr. J drew me a circular diagram on how to have a balanced life. On that table in the common-area kitchen where the ward patients had their consults with their assigned doctors, he explained that the medication and therapy are only part of my road to building back my life. I think I got a bit annoyed that time five years ago, because I thought I already knew what he was talking about. But now, I realize that I didn’t quite understand how to even function at life then and how crucial it is that I live the balanced life he’s talked to me about. Along with that ‘balanced life’ diagram, his ‘guideline is function’ comment is slowly making more sense to me, though I still think it’s not the most optimistic view on psychiatry.

Functioning at life first.  If I can’t function, I can’t start thriving. It’s not their job to give me some “thriving pill” or whatever. If I can learn to function again, it is up to me to keep it up – with the help of the profession. As much as I’d love for everything to turn around in a flash, now that I’ve started maintenance ECT I’ve come to realize that things take time. And that while the ECT hopefully will change my life for the better, I must do what I can to contribute to make that change ever more possible.

And as for the function I’ve been trying to gain since the first ECT, it looks like I got into graduate school for the fall semester (At least that’s what my status says on the web; I’ll wait for my confirmation via real mail).

July 20, 2009

Breakfast Options

caps
Sometimes, that’s how it feels.

July 17, 2009

Up in air

I am on an airplane back from Santa Barbara, and I look out the window and see land below that extends beyond my imagination. The image is suppose to be breathtaking. It is supposed to evoke a feeling of wonder about the vast beauty of our nature. Instead, I found myself faintly wishing I could evaporate into thin air, to drop out of sight into the landscape.

This is depression that will not go away.

No one would know that I am at all in any emotional distress from looking at me in person. Honestly, I’m not that depressed, so there’s not much to express outwardly in terms of a depressed mood. But what’s kept at bay doesn’t mean  it doesn’t still affect me. I don’t remember what it’s like to not question why I’m alive. Let me make clear that I am not actively contemplating suicide here. It’s far from that sort of thinking. However, I just wish that this wasn’t the thing to ‘keep at bay.’ Though I cannot speak for others, I think this, the unpredictability of having to deal with what lurks around, is what makes suicidal depression so hard to manage.

What’s changed for the better since I’ve started ECT is that I haven’t given up and given in to these thoughts. Now, if only they would go away….

July 11, 2009

The Bell Jar: a reason why we love America?

My sister and I are on our way to Santa Barbara, Cali. We’re meeting our father there since he has some sort of a conference down there. While I brought my own stuff to do in the airplane, I picked up my sister’s copy of this month’s Marie Claire, mostly so I could find some picture to draw. While flipping through the pages I came upon an article entitled, "50 reasons we love America." The article lists a lot of random things like labradoodles, but then there is was, in #25, The Bell Jar (they even included the cover pic). The Bell Jar? As much as I love that book, have I ever considered that book to be one of the reasons why I love America? I’d really like to know why it is that we would love this country because of this particular novel. I mean, I owe a great deal to Sylvia Plath for inspiring me to keep such a confessional log of events, but would I say that the book, and by extension, Plath, is one of the very reasons that make America so great? Maybe I’ll think on it during the next plane ride before I give my concrete answer.

June 28, 2009

In the Words of Carrie Bradshaw

Last time I was about to have the very first ECT in January, I called upon the wisdom of Carrie Bradshaw to give me some sound advice from those “Sex and the City” episodes. Here I am, the night before a new chapter in my ECT adventure, and I think I’ll summon Carrie’s great words again.

“Sometimes we need to stop analyzing the past, stop planning the future, stop figuring out precisely how we feel, stop deciding exactly what we want, and just see what happens.”

All I can do now is to just see what happens.

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