Archive for January, 2015

The Nut House

Silver cloud picture I drew

Sometimes, when babies are screaming, Amor’s asking me questions, Mica’s not focusing on her never-ending homework, cats are scratching at the door, the phone’s ringing off the hook, Grandma’s ringing the doorbell because she can’t get her key to work, the TVs blaring in the background and I’m trying so hard to focus and I just can’t, I say, “I feel like I’m in a nut house.”

But, truth be told, it’s nothing like a nut house. I know because I’ve actually been in one.

In 2005, I was finally officially diagnosed with Bipolar I disorder after having struggled with it (unknowingly) for almost ten years. It took another two years of trying different medications and combinations of medications to find the right combo for me. During that time, I had great insurance but later fell on harder times. I had also gone through a pregnancy, had a daughter and my medical needs had changed over time.

In the beginning of 2012, I was struggling financially and emotionally. I was still grief stricken over the death of my bipolar father. There were other factors too that caused some problems. Long story short, I stopped taking my meds (for various stupid reasons, one of which was financial) and started self-medicating with alcohol. I ended up in the ICU for 3 ½ days and then it was off to the loony bin for what they said would be an indeterminate amount of time, but a minimum of 3 days. It was a short-term facility where they would treat patients and then determine a long-term plan which, for most patients, meant transferring to a longer-term inpatient facility.

Not for me! I wanted to go home.

I was open to the idea of going there, though I didn’t really have a choice. The hospital would get a court order if I didn’t go voluntarily. I was fine with all the rules, except the one about not letting me bring stuffed animals. I wanted my bee pillow pet (some other time, maybe I’d do a post about the significance of this but for now, just know that the bee pillow is very significant). I tried to smuggle a mini-bee that my daughter had given me but they found that in my pocket during the strip search and it was confiscated.

The psychiatrists there asked a lot of questions but never seemed to listen when I would respond. I also saw a lot of psychiatrists, rarely the same one twice. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that I just needed to tell them what I they wanted to hear if I ever wanted to see the outside again. I missed my 3-year-old daughter. I was depressed, lonely, cold and terrified. It didn’t help that they assigned me to the wrong wing of the facility. I was never an alcoholic, though I had ended up there due to misusing the substance. So based off assumption, they assigned me to the east wing with the detoxing heroin addicts and meth heads who had the shakes, missing teeth, and uncontrollable fits of anger. The staff knew many of them well, calling them repeat offenders. The patients would complain about not getting some kind of specific medication (presumably to “take the edge off”) and would irately demand to speak to a doctor. The staff would just openly warn them that next time they would be visiting a morgue. Yes, straitjackets were used.

There was a strict schedule. They had “group” in 1 ½ hour intervals with 15 minutes in between when you could return to your room to reflect. Or you could wait in line to make a phone call which would enviably result in waiting in line for 15 minutes for the junkie ahead of you to get done with his  instructions to his significant other on how to smuggle contraband into the facility and then hang up the phone and curse when it went dead because they would cut the line when it was time for the next group.

These groups were supposed to be optional. But “if you do not go, your doctor will know,” and of course, convincing your doctor that you were well would determine when you were released. There were cameras everywhere so I just knew mine was watching. Interestingly, I never met “my” doctor (the doctor whose name was on my wrist band) until the day I was actually released when I had to prove to him I was ready to go home.

To say groups were boring is an understatement. Mind-numbing, maybe that term does it some justice.

After the first day, I was delighted that they had allowed my wonderful husband (who visited me at every available opportunity) to leave some crayons, a magazine, a snuggy and my coat, which I used at night to supplement the paper-thin blanket they had provided. My bed was directly beside a freezing cold, snowy window.

I had found some coloring sheets in the entertainment room beside the 1,000 piece puzzle with missing pieces. There was one guy whose mission it was to put that thing together. I wondered if they were doing some kind of psychological experiment to see how long it took him to go crazy. But wait, he was an in-patient, so he was already crazy, right? Maybe they were watching me to see how I would react. One crazy watching another crazy.

But back to group, there was one where a chipper, young blond-headed little therapist talked for over an hour about the definition of good-self esteem. I wondered what her credentials were. She couldn’t have been over 20 years old. Both her voice and lingo sounded like a little girl’s. Everyone just looked at her when she concluded her session. “Any questions?” Blank stares.

In yet in another group, we were divided by gender. The ladies were taken to another room and given some “guidance” cards. I’m not sure what tarot cards look like, as I’m not into that sort of thing, but from what I understand, they were similar. Each card had some sort of ethereal figure on it and we were supposed to state what the card we were given meant to us. Then others were encouraged to comment. The group leader struggled to keep it clean as those ladies seemed to always bring it around to some sort of raunchy, sexual context. “Doesn’t it make you think of strength?” she’d encourage, then some comment would be made about how, “yeah, he’d be strong in bed.”

The group all the others seemed to enjoy the most was led by an AA speaker. He did have a compelling story. One with which many of the patients could relate. At the end of the group, however, they went around the room stating their names and identifying themselves as alcoholic. I was one of the last ones to speak. I felt the pressure but I just couldn’t go along with calling myself an alcoholic. When it came my turn and I said, “My name is Michelle, and I have bipolar disorder,” I got glares. Clearly I was in denial. I hoped my doctor wasn’t watching at that moment.

Arts and crafts was, um, fun (relatively speaking, I guess)? They gave us heart stickers and red construction paper. Oh how I longed to be in the West wing with the depressed patients. At least they got to use glue and colored pencils during their arts and crafts therapy. On the East side, we couldn’t be trusted to not sniff or stab.

I had been put on an antipsychotic drug called Risperdal my first night there. It did not agree with me. My legs would twitch so hard at night that I would kick myself awake as soon as I’d fall asleep. The second day I was on it, I fainted in the breakfast line. Apparently, this is nothing unusual to the staff. I woke up in a wheel chair in group. I was told it would take several days for the doctors to change the script so I just had to take it. One of the conditions of my release was that I’d get a prescription filled within 24 hours of my release. At the pharmacy I learned the stuff was more expensive than my house payment! Did they miss the part where I told them over and over again that I was having financial problems?

Thankfully, another condition of my release was that I’d see my regular psychiatrist right away. Usually, there’s a long wait time between my first call until actual appointment time. I guess a call from crazy town bumps you up on the list because I was seen right away and put on a better, more cost-efficient regimen.

In total, I was only at the psychiatric facility for 3 ½ days. It was the longest 3 ½ days of my life.

When I got home, I cuddled my baby in my arms. I was grateful to be alive. The entire experience was life altering and I will write about the serious side of this one day when I’m comfortable with that. But for now, enough time has past for me to look back and see the comical side of it all.

So, even though I compare it to a mad house sometimes, I know that I actually live in a house full of love. And I am still so grateful to be alive today.

NOTE: The use of the terms “crazy” “nuts” and “loony” are descriptive of my personal experience. I am not trying to dissuade anyone from seeking treatment. I just hope they have a better experience than mine!

Double Talk Quote: “That’s nice mommy. When are you coming home?” Mica to me when I gave her a picture I had colored during group.

Verse: …Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Word that has Lost its meaning: sanity (I’ve learned that word is relative)

Relatable Lyrics: They’re Coming to Take Me Away Ha-Haaa! by The Napoleon XIV – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Fn36l_z3WY

January 26, 2015 (6 -7 months old)

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Little Girls Are Beautiful

Beautiful Girls 3a

Why I never say anything negative about my body in front of my daughters:

 

Because society already has impossible standards that it will try to force on them.

And little girls are beautiful.

 

Because I know that at such a young age, I am the biggest influence they have.

And little girls are beautiful.

 

Because kids model behavior.

And little girls are beautiful.

 

Because kids are innocent and impressionable.

And little girls are beautiful.

 

Because I want my daughters to be able to accept a compliment about her appearance without negating it.

And little girls are beautiful.

 

Because I don’t want my daughters to believe a put-down based on her looks.

And little girls are beautiful.

 

Because I want them to be healthy and happy, not perfect.

And little girls are beautiful.

 

Because I don’t want them to go through what I went through.

And little girls are beautiful.

 

Because people with high self-esteem make better life choices.

And little girls are beautiful.

 

Because I don’t want them to feel they have to “settle” when they start dating.

And little girls are beautiful.

 

Because I want my daughters to love and respect the body God blessed them with.

And little girls are beautiful.

 

Because the pressures of this world are brutal.

And little girls are beautiful.

 

Because I want them to be empowered by “flaws” and rise above adversity.

And little girls are beautiful.

 

Because accepting myself teaches them to accept themselves.

And little girls are beautiful.

 

Because I don’t want them to learn that their self-worth is based on their looks.

And little girls are beautiful.

 

Because girls grow up to become women.

And I want my beautiful little girls to grow into beautiful, confident women

who will teach their little girls

that they are beautiful.

Double Talk Quote: “You look beautiful, Mommy!” – Mica, when I was 6 weeks postpartum

Verse: I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are beautiful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14

Word that has Lost its meaning: ugly

Relatable Lyrics: “This One’s For The Girls” by Martina McBride https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vl7W77cYfNU

January 17, 2015 (6 months old)

Dedicated to Mica, Bella, & Hope

Princess Micaela Bella Sunday Best Princess Grace

Praying for a Parking Space

Mica school

One of the mommies from my church group gave an example of how her mother used to teach her about God when she was little. She said her mother would pray out loud for everything, even simple things like a parking space. This comment made me smile. Here is the story behind that smile:

The twins were born in the summer. My six year old daughter, Mica, had about 7 weeks to enjoy them during her break. I really enjoyed having her around and did not look forward to her going back to school, so as the inevitable season approached, I was sooo not ready.

About Two weeks before school started, I got a generic “Items you will need for this grade” kind of list in the mail. I decided not to go back-to-school shopping just yet, as I had learned the previous year, that each teacher would want something different for her classroom. At the open house I was proven correct so I was glad that I hadn’t gone already because I would have had to go again, however, the open house was held on the Thursday before school started, making me one of those last minute shoppers. I knew the stores would be crazy (being that the back-to-school season is one of the biggest retail opportunities, second only to Christmas).

I was not back in shape at all physically and therefore didn’t feel like I had the energy to go. I was nursing two babies and that kept me pretty busy. I did not have much time to go anywhere before one of them was hungry again. Money was also extremely tight. The teacher had told me that they had plenty of some specific items so I didn’t need to worry about a few things, such as sanitizing wipes and paper reams (I promised to fix her up with a gift card later in the year that she could use for whatever she needed at that time). I also had a friend with a daughter about the same age who had extra of some of the things that I needed, which she kindly shared. So my list was not quite as long, which would save me time and money, so I was extremely grateful.

But, I still had to go to the dreaded store.

We had an appointment of Friday, so I didn’t get a chance to go until Saturday. I braced myself. My plan was to go by myself and get in and out as quickly as possible.

As I approached the store, I thought about praying, “God, please give me a good parking space.” This is something I normally wouldn’t have a reason to do. I usually purposefully park in the back of the lot in order to incorporate exercise into my daily routine. I do try to park close to the cart return, however. I got into the habit of doing that when Mica was small. But this was an extenuating circumstance. I was low on time and energy. I said the prayer but felt slightly ashamed for praying for something so seemingly trivial.

Low and behold, I got a good spot. It was a good thing too because the place was a madhouse and it did take a toll on me to find everything from the list. I even had to ask an employee for a specific kind of yellow folder. There were only two left. There was another mom there looking for the exact same thing so it worked out perfectly. They had plenty of the one very specific kind of composition notebook Mica’s teacher had asked for, and it hadn’t been listed on that first generic list, so I knew that her class would probably be short, so I bought a few extra of those. There was an overwhelmed father there and it was clearly his first experience with back-to-school shopping. “I just need dry erase makers, that’s it, I just need dry erase markers” I heard him say in an exasperated moment of frustration from not being able to find what he needed. I knew where they were so I was able to help him. I ended up walking out with everything I needed and although I was exhausted, I felt accomplished. As I left and another mom in another car waited for me to pull out, I wondered if she had prayed for a good parking space (and hoped she didn’t need a yellow folder).

Only a few weeks later, I found myself in a similar situation. I had a long grocery list and a short time to shop. It was the weekend and the store was crowded. As I approached the lot, I debated about whether I should “bother God” with another prayer. I didn’t feel I had as much justification to need a closer spot this time. So I prayed, “God, If you don’t mind, may I please have a good parking space?” Then I quickly added, “but not my will but Yours be done.”

I ended up in the very last spot furthest away from the store. It was no where near a cart return. “Oh well, I guess God wants me to exercise today,” I thought to myself.

I did my shopping, got the “Are you about done?” phone call from Amor while at the check out and made it back to the car, again exhausted. As I was packing the groceries into the car, I kind of grumbled in my mind about having to take the cart all the way back to the store. I was tempted to leave it there, but thought, “No, that wouldn’t be doing the right thing. Live a life of integrity and all that…” Just as I was wrapping it up, I saw an elderly lady approaching. She seemed to be struggling to push her own cart. She put her few little groceries in the back of her car which was parked directly beside mine. Out of breath, she turned to take her cart back to the store. “I can take that for you.” I said.

God’s will had been done. He put me there to help that lady.

So that’s why I smiled at that comment. God knows what He’s doing, even in the simple things, like guiding me to the right parking space.

Double Talk Quote: While watching PBS on Saturday morning, I said, “I don’t feel like watching how cheese is made.”  Mica says, “How Jesus made what?”

Verse: “…All things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:28

Word that has Lost its meaning: Lazy (replace with the word efficient)

Relatable Lyrics: Chris Tomlin – Indescribable https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sM5YReFSm0I

(6 months)

Mr. Nobody’s Perfect

Brooks - huh

There is an extra person who lives in our home. No one has ever seen him. But we all feel the mischief of this invisible person. Despite all our efforts, no one can ever catch him in the act. But the evidence that he resides with us is everywhere. Although it can be frustrating, it’s also a bit comical when no member of the household admits to contributing to particular parts of the chaos that exists in our house. So when that happens the only logical explanation is that it is Mr. Nobody’s fault.

Nobody who lives in our home is perfect. We have all sinned and made mistakes. God will be working on each of us until the day we die. All we can do is try to cooperate, try to participate, try to communicate, and try to rely on God to work things out for us. Do your best and let God do the rest.

Meanwhile, our only hope of combating Mr. Nobody’s deviousness is to leave notes to him on the refrigerator door. When frustrations arise, I think it eases the tension. Thank you, Mr. Nobody for being perfect since no one else is.

Double Talk Quote: “Let me tell you what you think.” – Me. Meant to say “…what I think.” Starla retorts, “You would!”

Verse: “…Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone.” John 8:7

Word that has Lost its meaning: Decluttered

Relatable Lyrics: “Don’t Be A Jerk…”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idmRh3dmz_g

Mr. Nobody Mr. Nobody Mr. Nobody1 Mr. Nobody2 Mr. Nobody3

December 2014 (5 months old)

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