I’m about to tell you the big reason I’ve been so stressed out lately, but I should first say that I’ve found a topic that even I’m uncomfortable blogging about. I really debated this post. I’m not the sort who keeps herself to herself. Scott’s more the private one in our family, and I tend to be all out there. If I wake up in a bad mood, it goes out on Facebook. If one of the kids does something crazy, I’m online about it in a heartbeat. While I totally agree that my situation is far better than say, that of the people dying of dehydration in water-starved Africa right now, I don’t buy that this denies me the right to bitch. And my problems are totally 21st century modern American problems.
I’m frustrated professionally because I don’t have the time I need to write. We are, of necessity, a two income family. If I had the time to write, I could make the writing my contribution to that income. But I don’t. And we don’t have the kind of buffer for me to be able to build up my income sources. Yet. It’s coming. But my patience is thin. And anyway, that’s not the big problem.
I’m frustrated as a parent. Caroline has Asperger’s, and we just got on the diagnosis train with Sam. And Sam, at 4, has just had to change preschools. Again. This is the first time it’s because of his increasing volatility, but it’s the fourth preschool he’s been to in the roughly three and a half years we’ve lived here. Although the other three changes had nothing to do with him personally, his constantly shifting educational environment has been very rough on all of us. Then, because this move does have to do with his behaviors, it was difficult to find someplace that would take him. When we tried to place him at a new school, he was turned away by some people who should have known better. They lied to us about the formality level of one of the interviews. And one of the people, indeed, the person in charge of telling us he couldn’t attend that school, has a child with special needs of his own. So the hypocrisy factor is great, especially since this person had the gall to say we should just send him to public school and get him an aide. Good that this person talked to Scott and not me. Scott was caustic and sarcastic. I would have been much, much worse. (And if you follow me on Facebook, you know where I vented the bulk of my anger.)
The school we turned to next seems geared up to help Sam, and is, in fact, willing to negotiate getting him a public school aide in their private school classroom from the Board of Education. And my problems with public school all start at the Board of Ed level, so it’s good this school will work with them as needed with Scott doing whatever little bit has to be done on our end. Because I can’t. I hate those school board fuckers. I don’t enjoy explaining that this belief has nothing to do with the teachers and principals who fight on the front lines against a tide of bad things and everything to do with an abysmal system that cannot help most students. (And every now and then a sadistic
teacher or local-level admin.) But that’s not the big problem, either.
The big problem I’m having is extremely personal, and possibly not something appropriate for a blog. But I’m a writer. And I’m not the sort of writer who can compose without an audience. I have to imagine a reader out there interacting with my words. I kept a maternity diary back when I was pregnant with Caroline, and I had to create a hypothetical adult from an as-yet nonexistent person to get anything like enthusiastic for the project. Fortunately, I’m possessed of enough delusions of grandeur that my audience exists even if nobody else knows about them. Even when I was ten years old working on an old Remington Rand manual typewriter, I envisioned an audience. So I created an imaginary kid (who didn’t even have a name – we were calling her Sprout in the womb) and wrote to her. And then, of course, I got cramped fingers because I couldn’t have short little entries like “Baby bump showing”. No, I had pages-long rambling monologues that I probably can’t ever let the real Caroline read. Turns out, those entries were for my in-head audience after all. Hell, I’ve always been famous in my own mind.
So on the one hand, I could not write this just for myself. The people in my head don’t get their own essays; they couldn’t even trick me into a second maternity diary. But on the other hand, it’s a topic that I think is off limits for most. Which means I would normally be all about writing it up. But I’m heading into taboo ground at a number of levels, and I’m not sure if it’s wise to project this part of myself onto the internet for everyone to see. Not that questions of wisdom have ever stopped me from doing anything. I’m quite stubborn once I’ve made my mind up to do something. (You never would have guessed that, right?) And I’m pretty determined to do this.
My life has been so stressful for the last couple of months because, in addition to everything else that’s happening, I just changed medications. In fact, I’m now at the part where I have the new drug in my system and things are going to be fine. But they got very bad for awhile there. One of the reasons I’ve been absent is that writing is very hard when the bipolar gets very bad. When I’m that angry and there is absolutely no reason for it (not even a superficial one), all I do is shout at people and brood.
And to change medications, you have to wean off of the old before you can start the new, and you have to be completely off of the old one for a long damned time before you can start the next one. I started the new one last month, and now I’m about two weeks past the month –long stabilization period, which felt like it lasted seventy five years. I deliberately take extremely low dosages, because I have a healthy paranoia about addiction. But I take enough to get the absolute fury under control. And I have slowly started writing again. I didn’t lose the writing until right at the end of the drug-free period, but when it went out, I couldn’t force it back. I’ve been able to do things sporadically, but nothing that lasted for more than a few pages at a time.
I don’t get all sad-depressed. When my meds aren’t buffering me from the world, my manic gets angry. And angry can’t stay seated long enough to type. I’m kind of bitchy all the time anyway. But when I’m not medicated, the anger sits on my chest like a physical weight, and in trying to get it off, I lash out at everyone. There’s a reason this monster used to be called manic depressive disorder, and personally, I find that description to be more accurate. The last time I was drug free, I was pregnant with Sam, and I was just this side of a psychopath before I gave birth. Seriously. Nine months without drugs is very bad. I am lucky, too, because I can still treat this with low level antidepressants like Zoloft and Wellbutrin. I may have to up the ante soon and ask for something strong to help with the anxiety that is the other side of the anger, but for now, it is enough that I have Bupropion (that’s generic Wellbutrin) built up in my blood stream. I can write again, and that’s my barometer.
Even when I am medicated, it’s a very bad idea to cross me, because I have a temper like a wild animal, and that’s something I don’t presume will ever go away, no matter what drugs I take. I don’t apologize for it, and I don’t feel much guilt towards the non-innocents who get in my way and get
bitten. (Like those asses at the school that rejected Sam.) The fury doesn’t come along and terrify my husband and children when there is medicine involved, and they’re the ones I care about.
Thanks to all the chaos with poor Sam right now, the low pressure zone around our house won’t be lifting anytime soon, but at least I’m not as much of a factor in that stormy tension as I was this summer. But that’s not to say I won’t be again. Even with medication, bipolar comes in cycles. And it’s not a condition that gets ‘cured’. It’s a chemical imbalance and dare I say it, a mental illness that has to be monitored constantly. There’s a certain amount of stress involved in that process, but not nearly so much as when I’m smelling the ozone, constantly waiting for my lightning to strike.
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.