Saturday, October 22, 2011


A lot's happened since I last wrote.

I got kicked out of school.

I got put on suicide watch at school while my father flew to the east coast to pick me up.

I had a last meeting with my psychiatrist, "Dr. Blum".

I said goodbye to my dearest friends.

I flew to California, for the next two years at least, perhaps for the rest of my life.

My first night in California, driving down the highway from the airport, my father tried to prepare me for my mother's anger. I cried a lot, told him how suicidal I'd been for the past few days, and he backed off. I came into my parents' house scared and extraordinarily depressed.

Monday morning when I woke up my mother was already at work; I spent the day with my dog, who is a lovely dog, and I waited.

My mother didn't eat dinner with us. I knew it was bad - my mother's anger is slow, and it builds, and she lets it build, waiting until she's had enough to drink that it all comes pouring out of her. At maybe eight o'clock at night she knocked on the door of the room I'm sleeping in (my parents' guest room), and confronted me.

How could I have lied, and pretended everything was alright? How could I have missed appointments? What was wrong with me, that I'd fallen apart so completely? She'd always managed to work and make her appointments when she'd been so depressed. What did it mean that I was suicidal? Wasn't it just an act, an attention ploy? And above all, how could I have lied? Wasn't I just a terrible liar?

I quickly became incoherent, mute, in the face of her anger. I avoided her eyes, and this made my mother even angrier. It was a terrible evening, I wept inconsolably. I listened to my parents scream and fight about me outside my bedroom door.

The next day, my father drove me to the local hospital for an entrance interview for their partial day program - which, for those of you who aren't familiar with psychiatric care, is a 6 to 8 hour a day program of group therapy and individual meetings with a psychiatrist. During my interview with the program coordinator, I stated, after much prompting, that I was suicidal and couldn't swear that I wouldn't act impulsively and try to take my life. And so instead of entry into the partial program, I accidentally talked myself into another psych stay.

What can I say about the hospital? It was a large unit, and I was the youngest person there by about thirty years. Most of the patients on the floor were, like me, bipolar (I think because, compared to schizophrenia, bipolar is relatively common, and compared to depression, bipolar is relatively severe), and a few were delusional - none were acutely psychotic. As with all hospitals I've been in - and I've been in four - I slept as often as possible, because there was nothing to do and hospitals are frankly scary places to be trapped in. And you can't just walk out of a psych floor - once you've signed the papers, you're there until a psychiatrist releases you or you take legal action.

Within two days, I was feeling enormously better. I'd had my meds changed, by a doctor whose manner I disliked, but who I suppose knew what she was doing. I went from being on (deep breath) Saphris, Stratera, Lithium, Lamictal, Cymbalta and Latuda to being on Lithium, Lamictal, Cymbalta, and Geodon. Lithium is the classic bipolar mood stabilizer, Lamictal (generic lamotrigine) is an anti-seizure med which, like Depakote, was approved for use in bipolar in the early 90s, Cymbalta is an anti-depressant, and Geodon, like Saphris, Zyprexa, Abilify, Seroquel, and others, is an atypical antipsychotic.

Unfortunately, I've been experiencing a lot of unpleasant side-effects. Two I know are from the lithium: headaches and constant acid reflux. One I suspect is from the Geodon, since it started when I began taking the Geodon - dizziness and a kind of trembling weakness in my limbs, not so severe that I can't function normally, hold a pen, etc, but enough to be uncomfortable and disconcerting.

But like I say, I feel enormously better. The meds are probably a significant factor - but so was patching things up with my mother. I feel tremendously guilty about being hospitalized for a second time in two months, and I suspect my mother's current kindness to me is because of my hospitalization. I worry that she thinks I tried to get hospitalized to get back at her, that I was making suicidal threats as manipulation. Truly, I wonder whether perhaps that's unconsciously what I was trying to do. Consciously, no, but ... well... I don't know.

Today is a beautiful, sunny, gloriously warm California day. I walk my dog three times a day and get plenty of fresh air. I love the natural beauty of this town, on the water, with seals and sea lions and pelicans - pelicans! - along the piers. And I have felt happy now for two days in a row.

And that scares me. Scares me deeply. How can I be so happy, when I have lost so much? Lost my apartment in Maryland, lost the company of my friends, lost my chance at the best education in the world at a unique, impossible-to-duplicate school. I have no idea where I'll finish my college education, or when, or what degree I'll get, if any; what career I'll pursue, and in the short term, what job I'll manage to find in this down economy. I'm living on borrowed time and kindness, sheer kindness, in my parents' house. I live with two alcoholics, one eleven months in recovery and one who's still drinking. There's a lot of love in this house - in this family - but there's a lot of grief, anger, and resentment too, and sometimes that grief and anger and resentment is going to boil over and wound every one of us.

But today? I'm happy. God grant that many more days will follow. And I'll try to enjoy this feeling while I can.

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