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About the Letters.

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"I am angry enough to die." - Jonah 4:9

“I am angry enough to die.” – Jonah 4:9

I am like a bucking horse – I mean, a horse that bucks. Almost every horse bucks, eventually, during his or her life. Some are forgiven; some are not. I’m like one of our rescue horses, given to instantaneous bucking fits, no warning, just instant bronc mode. Sometimes though, I give warning, crow-hops, but in general, these warnings are ignored.

I figure I must live in a state of forgiveness for my bucking, or I would be shot or abandoned by now. Committed to an asylum or sent to the sale barn. Yet it doesn’t feel like I’m being forgiven. It feels like I am kicked and beaten every time I’m down. That I’m still here argues for forgiveness. These repeated beatings argue for unforgiveness.

Things begin to happen, but like my stories, they go nowhere. I need to be sent to a sale barn. A sale barn for useless, problem wives, to be auctioned off, packed into a truck, and taken away on a journey that will end in slaughter. Humane or inhumane matters not, since being stuck in this life is in itself inhumane.

Today, I hate being bipolar. Today, it seems bipolar is me, so I must hate myself and my life. I have tried and tried not to let bipolar get me down, but it’s apparently hopeless. Apparently, I am supposed to be grateful for my disease because it is teaching me so much about life – that would be useful to me if I didn’t have the disease, but as it is, such knowledge is useless!

Suicidal ideation was happening! I was so mad at hubby and frustrated with my earlier behavior that I wanted to pop a bullet into my brain, the very horror I had believed would never manifest again.

I would have gone past considering it, I think, if the family wouldn’t lose everything without my disability check. Or, if I didn’t owe them all better for having lived with and tolerated me and my disease for so long already. Or, if I didn’t owe God for dying for my sins. Or, if I didn’t care about ruining my children’s lives.

I cannot believe God tolerated Jonah’s anger and simply explained to him why it was unjustified. But he did. For that, God only deserves gratitude on the part of Jonah and of me.

 

 

Reasons why Bipolar is difficult to diagnose:

It has different components, which manifest at different times, so often the doctor has only what s/he sees at a given time to go on, eg:

– has similarities to other illnesses such as major depressive

– when presents as psychotic, any disorder which includes psychosis

– may present as a normal, well person, etc.

This can also apply to someone who is seeing a psychologist for crisis evaluation or a psychiatrist for emergency med management, you can seem normal then too. How? Read on if you wish. (Be warned, it’s another of my personal horror stories, very recent)…

All few of you who read this blog know I’ve been struggling for some time now with a great depressive epoch, and have recently found that some of the symptoms of my “depression” are actually more symptoms of mania. . .. therefore I’m rapid cycling like the wheels of a bicycle racer near the finish line. (please forgive the obvious metaphor, I’m not too creative at the moment, heh).

My life is unpredictable, my family never knows what will happen next. I don’t either. I know something is wrong with my meds, yet I’m reluctant to have them adjusted, especially by a doctor who no longer is familiar with my case, because of the release I’ve experienced on my current meds from cognitive dysfunction, and having regained a lot of my lost memory on the current regimen.

Yet, I sensed a crisis impending so my husband, who also sensed it, did what we both had sworn we’d never do. . . call that place for crisis help again. In this oddly rare instance, a “crisis counselor” was not available, though we’d expressed our reluctant understanding of the need to jump through that deplorable hoop before seeing a psychiatrist. It turned out that we were referred to the main crisis guy, over the phone, who mysteriously was able to produce an opening in the psychiatrist’s schedule on the spot!

Wonderful, we thought. So we saw her, and she, after only a few minutes, pronounced me normal and doing well and no adjustment of my meds was needed and she would see me again in 6 months. No opportunity to dispute that was apparent. Period. Then (unbeknownst to us) she canceled my previously scheduled appointment with my regular psychiatrist, which had been coming up fairly soon. A week later, I had the crisis my husband and I had feared.

Something triggered my destructive half, and I knew I was losing it fast. I felt rage and frustration and knew I was going out of control. So I went to an area where someone had stacked T-posts without consulting me and where I did not want them, and began heaving them out of there. What I was doing appeared like random destruction, to observers, but I had every intention of re-stacking them in a more appropriate place when I was done heaving them out of the stupid place. The kind of thing I had been counseled to do, take out my feelings in a safe way without hurting myself or exposing my family to my “episode”.

The observers (hubby and daughter) did not know what I was doing or why, and so hubby attempted to interfere with my work. Well, he successfully interfered with it, and there I went, set off. An argument ensued, which quickly escalated into something beyond my control and I began to self-harm in my usual way when out of control, which is to start bashing my head into things.

I was being yelled at to “just stop it! Please stop!”

What my interferer didn’t know was just how hard I WAS trying to stop it. I was bashing my head into the horizontal 2x4s of the horse stall wall instead of the 8×8 cemented support post that I FELT COMPELLED to bash my head into. For example. Also, how when I was smashing the bowl in the kitchen, my body/brain was screaming at me to smash WINDOWS. And other things, which I was given to understand made me a bad person who was acting out on purpose. It ended up hours later with me lying on the thin, softening ice of our stock pond trying to “cool off” but preferably go to sleep there and actually perish of hypothermia.

Unfortunately, my crying kids found me there and begged me to get off the ice. I was heartbroken, for them, but could not move. Then my husband showed up and was a little more belittling than I felt he need be. I felt, soon after I had been gotten into the house, that I was being treated the way Therapist K had treated me all those months ago, calling the police to the mental-health facility, like I was a sub-human animal who was acting out on purpose.

The horror of the whole thing for me was that I had all these self-harm/suicide prevention strategies hard-wired (I thought) into my brain. And yet they were not sufficient.

All this about a week after the psychiatrist had pronounced me normal and in no need of a medication adjustment. Boy were we glad I had another appointment already scheduled with my usual psychiatrist  (who was to be leaving the institution soon).

The next day, of sound mind, it occurred to me that I’d better check that. Make a call to confirm that appointment, since I already knew the system was broken, the front desk people were overworked, and the policies were often stupid and usually detrimental to the mental health patient.

So I called to confirm the appointment and surprise, surprise, there was no appointment. My recently-visited psychiatrist had cancelled all other appointments in favor of the one six months away. I was a bit disappointed about that, considering what had happened last night, and insisted the appointment be rescheduled since I had been suicidal. Oh, no, that appointment was already filled, did I want to be put on a cancellation list?

I explained how important it was that I see a psychiatrist immediately, so I got an appointment for three weeks hence. And I was told I am on the cancellation list, although I’m pretty sure that if I were, I’d have gotten in by now.

My husband has tried very hard to get through to them. Not even my new therapist, who had replaced Therapist K on my case because she was of a more appropriate age and qualification, had anything at all helpful to offer him. So he went to the head crisis  guy, who found him to be in crisis himself! My poor husband, doing all he can with what he has, and has been doing so for 19 years! What greater love can there be from a mortal than that I am blessed with from him???? ❤ ❤ ❤

So, there’s an example of how bipolar can present in ways that result in incorrect diagnoses with potentially disastrous results. In my case, I had the diagnosis, but my status was incorrectly evaluated, or rather, not evaluated at all, because of how I seemed when I walked into the consultation room. So a patient, with or without a diagnosis, should be very sure to make certain the doctor hears the whole enchilada and doesn’t have to go only by what he/she sees in the consulting room.

 I pledge my commitment to the Blog For Mental Health 2013 Project.  I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others.  By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health.  I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.

I would like to thank Bipolar 2 Dad for pledging me and turning me on to this project!

I don’t even remember when I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1. I believe I’ve had it all my life, but my first diagnosis was clinical depression. I was finally diagnosed bipolar in early my 20s. I’m bad with dates, but I’ll never forget the words spoken, by my boss, on the phone, the night I lost my job as a medical technologist a few years ago:

“You don’t have to come back to work.”

Thank God.

Since my diagnosis, I’ve been on almost every medication in the book. Some combos worked for awhile, then stopped working. I believe I am on such a coctail now. It has only seemed to work. Unfortunately, after decades, even as a Christian, I am still searching for the peace and acceptance that so many fellow bloggers seem to be able to achieve.

A few fellow bloggers that I would like to offer to pledge to the Blog for Mental Health 2013:

Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities And Remaining Sane Blog

maggiemaeijustsaythis

bipolaronfire

The Sprightly Writer

Roatcap Fire Smoke

Well, after all that whining I did a while back about how there is no support system for people living with bipolar illness in my area, a wonderful thing did happen. A new therapist came to town, and decided that starting a bipolar support-or therapy- group would be a good idea. And boy, was I happy. I’ve been to every single one so far, because it is so wonderful to sit and talk with others who know exactly what it is like to live with bipolar disorder, things that people without it simply cannot understand, no matter how willing they are to let you try to explain it to them.

I thought I was alone. I thought no one could possibly understand how it is to feel trapped by this illness, powerless (at times) to control thoughts or behavior or decisions. . .we’ve been exploring what it means to be manic, depressed, psychotic and found that we can all relate to the ways in which bipolar illness has affected one another’s lives. We may not share the identical circumstances, or have had the same experiences, but yet we can all relate. We can all understand what the other person was going through at the time. It is impossible to express how refreshing that is.

It has also been a wonderful time of learning. There are so many things to know about bipolar illness, and no one knows it all, not even veteran sufferers like yours truly, who has had the diagnosis for decades and been on every medication known to science. . .there is always something new to learn.

For example, I had a psychiatrist who, for many years found my happiness to be signs of hypomania and therefore took me down with more mood stabilizers. This went on for so long that I began to long for “hypomania” just so I could function like a “normal” person, do things, finish them, make plans, be happy.

Over the years, I began to think of mania as a positive state. Okay, maybe not a safe one, but a positive one. Famous actors, writers, other accomplishers of great things operated in this state. Great periods of creativity and grandiosity. These seemed terribly desirable to me. I longed to be manic, despite the dangers.

And I stayed just on the up end of depressed for, it seemed, forever. I came to group thinking, I must not be Bipolar I anymore. I must be Bipolar II, because my disease doesn’t swing toward mania at all. No mania, just deep depression. Periods where I experienced irrational rage or horrible sobbing misery I called “Mixed Manic” states, not sure what that clinically meant either, but applying it to myself.

So when we in group went around and said what mania was, I was enlightened.

Mania is not necessarily positive at all! Good and bad news for me, I guess.

The handout says: 1. Profuse and rapidly changing ideas, exaggerated sexuality, impulsivity, gaiety, or irritability, and decreased sleep.

2. Violent abnormal behavior.

3. An irrational but irresistible motive for a belief or action (been there!)

and at least a week of psychotic behavior.

Characteristics of mania as complied by our group included:

  • Anger
  • impulsivity
  • poor judgment
  • No self-control
  • Racing thoughts
  • Paranoia and delusions
  • Inflated ego, sense of self, or abilities
  • Hallucinations
  • decreased need for sleep
  • talking more
  • unforgiving, can’t let go of things

Wow.  Mania comes in many flavors, and even more than these. . .and some of these symptoms also overlap with depression. I am sure that if you are bipolar and reading this you can think of more characteristics of mania.

I have lived with many of these things for most of my life. Not positive at all. On the mood chart I would mark times of fear, paranoia, anger, impulsivity as “very depressed” when actually I was manic. So I do experience mania, a lot. It’s just not the good kind. I wish I knew how to get ahold of the good kind, heheh.

When I am manic, I tend to talk more, laugh more, become more social, become more consumed with paranoia and negativity, make plans I can’t keep, set unattainable goals for myself, think I have better ideas than I actually do, believe my writing is better than it actually is, and am absolutely sure I am right about everything. I am also absolutely sure I am wrong about everything, and everything is my fault. I get highly emotional, and anger has become a problematic emotion for me. So has anxiety. I become extremely anxious and full of doom. So when I think of mania now, I see that it encompasses a greater part of my life than I ever thought before.

These symptoms affect the people around me as much or more than my depression symptoms do. My husband wants me to come up with a “safe word” or an “off button” that can be pushed when he sees my symptoms getting out of control. Unfortunately when he sees that, I’ve already noticed it too, and have sadly realized (with that bit of rationality that sits in the corner watching myself in horror) that there is no “off button.”

Usually I can break myself out of it, but not before I’ve said or done at least one regrettable thing.  (such as post last night’s entry on this blog!)

The best cure for a manic episode that I have found (and I am talking about the kind I have) is to get off by myself as fast as possible, drink a bottle of water laced with homeopathic aconite, slather myself in calming essential oils, and/or write in my journal until all those feelings are down on paper. If I find myself on the cusp of an epic, grandiose gesture, I picture the cliff I am about to step off of and flash forward to what it will feel like, for me or for my family, when I land. That usually does it for me.

Well, I don’t know what else to say, and I’m getting a migraine here, so quitting now. If anyone reading this has any more insights on mania, I would love to hear them. Good night! 🙂

 

 

Depression begs Jesus to ask it the question “Do you want to be healed?”

And then depression really scratches its head over that one. Because depression is a juggernaut, and it does not want to be healed, even if you do.

Praying for days, singing praises to the Lord for days, burying myself in the Bible and in scripture and no change. All day long, singing “Awesome God,” ALL DAY LONG as I sadly went about what little business I could. There really is no such thing as the patience of Job. Read it. Job bitches the whole way through until maybe the very end. I think my praises and prayers were faithless.

I knew the doors that were opening in my mind since going off mirtazapine would eventually start slamming shut again. They always tease me, get me excited that I may be getting it all back, then they always slam shut. I feel, disconnectedly, like the characters in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Zaphod without his Thinking Cap. Running through the dirt being slapped with giant flyswatters every time I say the word, “think.” My brain is dying.

I feel like I have tried just about everything. I’ve been in this funk all month, a deep, miserable depression that keeps me completely useless. Sometimes I can just go through the motions. In between bouts of crying, and lying in bed, I will get a pit-pat of worry about the horses and run out to the barn and back 40 to check on them. Or I will clean a bathroom. Or I will do the laundry and the dishes, all the while mechanical in my misery. I will help the kids with homework, but I won’t often cook for them though I’m trying to get better about it.

I may have set myself up. I tried the other day, getting along with my husband, as we cheerfully assembled the tree and “decked the halls” and wrapped a present for each of the children, put them under the tree, because one of the kids had said a day or two prior that she was depressed about Christmas, all her friends had trees and presents and everything was ready, and we had nothing. So we went all out for them while they were at school. Like an idiot, I waited eagerly for the happy looks on their faces when they got home.

Nothing. Not even a glance as the shoes were pulled off.

Well, what did I expect?? That little peak of happiness, thinking I’d really done something to pull myself out of my depression; and I had to go and ruin it by not having done it for myself, but hingeing all the success upon the unpredictable reactions of school-age kids.

Down again. ALL the way down.

Hubby and I had a huge fight next, right in front of our daughter.

Could I really be mad at them? The poor kids? My poor husband? Am I? Of course not. I see what I did there. I don’t have to hate Christmas, that is only a choice on my part. I must deck the halls, even if I have to force myself to, because I WANT THEM DECKED for ME, so I can feel happy enough to get through Christmas come Hell or high water (or in this case, a buttload of extremely cloudy days followed by a deluge of snowfall).

I pulled on my cowboy boots and my ear warmers and ran outside. “I hope I die!!!” I cried like an idiot, because I would never want to die, not do THAT to my family, even though I was determined to ride out bareback without a helmet. Riding is pure mindfulness…something I can grasp at reflexively when I have nothing else. I grabbed a bosal hackamore because I had the presence of mind not to stick a frozen bit in Zil’s sensitive Arabian mouth. Unfortunately she is an English trained horse and had never worn a bosal before. She would not even let me get on. The bosal seemed bigger than her whole face. I climbed all over the metal feeder and could not get her to stand (I’m not Legolas, god how I wish I was and could just sling aboard) but no, I’m a clutz. I probably would’ve gotten hurt, but my daughter came out and helped me on her and then climbed on her own Arab, bareback, bridleless, and we rode around the field. Zil hated the bosal, but that was because I was out of my head and not being careful enough with it. My daughter got on and what a difference. That girl can ride. And train.

I don’t know if I felt any better afterwards, after crying and crying into that mare’s mane, rubbing her and her rubbing on me, but that was the idea anyway. My healing horse and I, maybe failed each other, I don’t know. That was all yesterday anyway. Today I’ve done almost nothing. I couldn’t think of a thing to write about.

Here I sit, with nothing to say, and it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. Whether I do it, or whether I don’t do it. I just don’t care about anything, but the shit of it is that I do. Somewhere in there, I do care. I hate being bipolar. I hate that I can’t do it. I hate this feeling that I can’t know what is coming next. Maybe I need a med change but that just sounds so facile! There has got to be more to life than meds.

Fleeing Pig

I have wrestled and wrestled with this one. To write about it or not to write about it.

Why, during a crisis precipitated by a therapist at a mental-health institution this past August, with all the staff staring down at me as if I were a disgusting animal, did I become suddenly still–or, “less escalated”, as they call it there–at the sight of the police officers? (for backstory see Part 1 & 2)

It was not, as staff apparently believed, because I suddenly wanted to quit my tantrum and behave to avoid punishment. It was, as I previously said, an instinctive visceral reaction to past abuse by police officers in this town. I was no less “escalated” EXCEPT in my “behavior”–which was all they cared about.

OK, the “abuse” occurred over 10 years ago; it was not being overly tazered or beaten by night-sticks; so why should I be complaining about it? Because I still feel the trauma, that’s why. Thinking of it sends me into acute anxiety attacks. The mere sight of a police car, a cop reality show on TV, or driving past the jail all trigger these attacks. Trauma, pure and simple.

I have had very little experience with police. I’ve gotten speeding tickets, been pulled over because my purse was on the roof of my car, been led out of an Intensive Care Unit in handcuffs, and so forth. So when the police arrived, from the call made by my husband at the time, after I had shoved him away from me because he was frightening me by looming over me and screaming two inches from my face (we had some issues; I was sick; police were called because we needed help), I stupidly, naively, calmly, admitted to having shoved him. Both of us believed the police had come to help us.

I was semi-clothed, in years-old, rather un-modestly torn, men’s thermal underwear. They did not allow me to put clothes on. I don’t remember having my rights stated to me. They cuffed me, took me away, and locked me up in one of those cinder block holding cells, still clad only in this underwear. I wonder what they would have done if I was naked?

One of the officers found a black-and-white striped shirt which was too short and extremely baggy, but gave me no pants. I was not allowed to be warm (it was midwinter); they would give me nothing, because it was “not a hotel.” They joked and jeered at me and my behavior, I was crying and upset, and they no doubt get a lot of “crazy” people to torment in there on the graveyard shift.

All the while, I was given to understand later, my husband followed them and demanded they release me, that he was not lodging a complaint and they had no reason to take me in. I do not understand the system, but it appears they just wanted to take me in and would not be dissuaded by reason. I was a domestic violence criminal, guilty until proven innocent and treated as the foulest of scum.

They did give me my meds, and a pen and paper when I asked for one.

The next morning, they still gave me no pants, but locked me in a chain gang with a bunch of giant, overweight men (who all were wearing jail clothes and stinking of alcohol) and took me, still chained to them, into a courtroom that was open to the public–still in torn longjohns and no pants–and put me up in front of everybody, and said stuff. I don’t know what it was. Then they chainganged me away back to the jail. I was pretty mad and still in shock and told them I had used to have respect for the police.

I had nowhere to go and no one to call. I was not allowed to speak to my husband and he was forbidden from speaking to me. I had no vehicle or place to go and my husband was not permitted to supply me with either. I was advised by legal counsel to plead guilty (to what??) because I would have little to no chance in a jury trial.

The story goes on from here, but there it is. The Incident that stopped my “escalated behavior” at the mental-health institution this past August, the sight of the big fat uniformed men I would never before have referred to as “pigs.”

Thus was the conduct of this particular city’s finest 10 yrs ago, and if I had had the money, I would have sued the city.

Laugh if you will, that I call it “abuse,” say I deserved it, say I am overreacting more than a decade later…I’m sure that’s what the compassionate staff at the mental-health institution would do and say about my “behavior” this past August since they displayed no interest in my actual mental state or safety.

I later found out that the purpose of the police who had been called by the therapist in August to the mental-health facility was NOT to take me to a place of treatment. They would have taken me to the cinder-block holding cell at the jail, conveniently located across the street. Since I had been banging my head uncontrollably on the wall and the floor, and had reached a self-harm state of being with very little thought whatsoever (staff could have cared less … they were only concerned with my behavior), my being put back into that cinder-block cell with the specter of its remembered trauma would not have ended well…for anyone…

I have the right to remain silent. If I choose to waive this right, everything I say will be used against me in the Court of Life.

I don’t, really don’t, understand these things. AM I overreacting? Was this, or was this not, abuse?

I am one of those pathological, chronic self-examiners. A form of self-centeredness that concerns itself with worrying that things I said and did will affect others who have long forgotten about, or did not even notice, what I did, said, or thought; and also with analyzing every thought and feeling I have to examine and judge my motivations and their truth or falsehood. It may arise from all those inappropriate behaviors I “acted out” (God, do I hate that term) and said and thought in the past that were NOT forgotten, were held against me, swung around to bite me in the ass, and so forth.

In any case, were I to have been truly ashamed of what had occurred in the crisis assessment, that tendency toward self-examination would be the reason that after a week or so of self-flagellation, I would fall over myself apologizing to everyone concerned for the scene I caused. Which, of course, did not happen. To begin with, I did not cause the scene.

It was later denied by the therapist, and in a so-called investigation of the complaint I lodged, that she was yelling at me and my husband as we left the building. Well, yes, she was. A trained crisis counselor. Yelling out the glass doors into the cold, polished and windowed lobby in front of God, the receptionists, the pens with giant flowers on them, and everybody else: “You had better be back here on Monday morning!”

Very professional.

I arrived at that institution for responsible reasons; to seek treatment for my condition before a crisis occurred that would have a damaging impact on my family. Instead, the crisis was initiated there in the therapy session. It was by no means over when I was thrown out, or as they call it, “left voluntarily.” I was in far worse condition than when I arrived. Truth be told, I struggled into my old, deteriorating car, whose door is literally falling off, in a truly suicidal state of mind. I was ready to kill myself. There was no help, no hope.

There was the list of things, embedded in my mind, that I had planted there myself to automatically prevent suicide. They were MY safety, which I invented, with no help, suggestion or input from their behavioral therapy, whether dialectical or cognitive.

Why was she yelling? Maybe it was indirectly because I froze when I saw the police officers. That instinctive reaction to past trauma and abuse may have been interpreted as me subsiding from my “tantrum” at the prospect of “punishment” by the authorities, which of course would lead one to the conclusion that I had “worked myself up to it” as she put it, for the purpose of creating a scene, flouting every behavioral skill that I had ever been taught. This is only speculation on my part. A mere crazy person cannot fathom the sublime workings of the vast, disciplined minds of her betters, even if her betters are just kids.

When one breaks apart as I broke apart, the one thing they need is tolerance and competence from their therapist(s). If an institution’s “trained professionals” cannot discern the difference between a real breakdown and a tantrum thrown for the purpose of making a scene, but the institution stands with moral certainty behind their employee’s incompetence as professional, appropriate and effective handling of the situation, then that institution needs to be nuked.

I of course filed a grievance, instead of engaging in the more favored behavioral skill of “Opposite Action” by apologizing and sending them roses. They responded to the grievance with what they called an investigation, which, as described in the Resolution of Grievance they sent me afterward, consisted of interviewing the therapist about what happened. They did not interview my husband, who was there, the only witness throughout the farce.

Throughout the Resolution of Grievance, the language referred to everything the therapist said and/or chose to write down during the session as factual and honest. Throughout the same document, the language referred to everything I reported that I  experienced, observed, felt, and heard, as mere “belief.” As in: ‘[Therapist] did (or said, or said you did) blah blah blah. You believed that blah blah blah. So the therapist was correct, and you were incorrect, because you merely believed, while whatever the therapist said is what actually occurred.’

This language conveyed quite clearly that they held nothing I said as credible. It demonstrated total lack of respect for the patient as an intelligent human being. It revealed that the patient’s point of view is insignificant to them, because they view the patient as insignificant and, indeed, crazy.

Do I want this institution nuked? I don’t want this institution nuked because it is my only treatment alternative in this tiny, redneck town. So, what do I do? Protest their “Resolution” of my grievance? Their Grievance Resolution invites me to. Or should I bend over and take it up the ass because if I would only practice the skill called “Radical Acceptance” my ass would hurt less.

In the end, I wrote out my entire dispute to the “Grievance Resolution” and then employed the behavioral skill of  “Opposite Action” by not sending them the disputing response. Now I practice the behavioral skill of “Interpersonal Effectiveness” by being as sweet as sugar, or at least as sweet as I can be, whenever protocol and hoop-jumping require me to be in their office. So you see, the behavioral skills as practiced save me from alienating the guardians of my only avenue to my doctor who prescribes the live-saving medications. Isn’t behavioral therapy beautiful?

A couple of days after the incident, the medical assistant called and told me that my doctor had prescribed a change in my medication. I noticed INSTANT improvement (which is rare). I had gone in there seeking just this kind of treatment–medical–and had I received it when needed, none of the rest of this would have happened.

Within three days of the incident, people from Social Services invaded my kids’ school, ripped them from their classrooms, and threw them into closed, lonely rooms and interrogated them. Then they came to my house and tried to be disarming. They found no danger to the children, only love and an uncommon maturity and intense loyalty to their mother on the part of the children.

The one thing I have learned from all this is that the mental-health institution is NOT a safe place to go when I am in crisis or in imminent danger of crisis. All crises must be worked out on my own now, as there is no safety, respect, or confidentiality extant in the institution any longer, if ever indeed there was. I go to the treatment center only as needed in order to continue medical management by my very competent and respectfully-behaving psychiatrist.

o

Behave, or you’ll end up here.

I have reached a conclusion, and it is this:

Beware of all therapies with the word “behavioral” in them.

While in some certain aspect, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is useful (all people, mental-health patients or not, benefit from understanding the dialectic), behavioral therapy in general has its own hidden agenda.

To brainwash the patient in order for other people not to be inconvenienced by the patient’s illness.

Behavioral therapy teaches the patient how to exercise appropriate behavior in a variety of situations. This behavior suppresses the expression of the patient’s true feelings and the symptoms of their illness, not for the patient, but for the convenience and comfort of others. This is all good and fine up to a point. Most of us are not considered brilliant or indispensable enough to be tolerated for being unapologetically who we are.

But the other thing behavioral therapy does, the brainwashing and ultimate damage, is more insidious.

It puts back on the patient the responsibility for having any symptoms for their illness. That’s right. It’s our fault for having symptoms, if we don’t practice the skills, whether or not the skills work or help at all. That’s what I was taught four months ago at the institution where I receive treatment. The problem there, of course, is we’re right back where we started: being stigmatized. If we cannot exhibit the right behavior, it is our own fault. We are mental cases. We are nuts.

I have the institution where I receive treatment to thank for this revelation. I was nearing a crisis, and my husband rushed me to the treatment center for help. We knew it was a matter of medication adjustment, partly because I was on Seroquel, which was giving me terrifying cardiac symptoms; and partly because my new “behavioral” symptoms were frightening ones that I had never experienced before.

Instead being allowed to see my doctor, we were told I must see a crisis counselor. I explained to this person that my “skills” (DBT, mainly), were no longer working for this alarming condition I was in. In response, she mildly asked me what skills I could use to deal with this. I explained again that I had tried all my skills and none of them were working or else were inaccessible to me in my current state. Again, she responded by asking what skills I could use. This went on and on, trying my patience, and hers. I begged her for help. To no avail. At last the effect of her mounting contempt and annoyance at my mounting emotionalism reached a breaking point.

I began screaming and banging my head on the wall.

I am not proud of this. Nor did I choose it. It chose me, I suppose, my crisis, which I had arrived there in a responsible manner to avert, precipitated by the excellent and flawless job this therapist was doing. Who knows. In retrospect, I have to think, perhaps with tongue in cheek, that banging my head against a figurative wall was not effective, and so my disease directed me to bang my head against a literal wall.

This did not end well for me, as you can imagine.

The therapist had the police called.The staff’s single objective was to be rid of me, my symptoms, and my behavior. Mind you, the staff of a mental-health institution that is supposed to help people wanted to be rid of the crazy person. Call the police!

My poor husband tried to get ahold of me. No one stepped in to help. That in itself is understandable; physical involvement in situations like that are not allowed. However, a group of staff people simply stood around me, staring down with disgusted, fascinated, or shocked looks on their faces at my disgusting behavior. Not one person offered a comforting word to my husband throughout the whole incident.

Or to me, though it might have helped to resolve the inconvenient symptoms I was having, panic being among them.

Then I saw the police officers. I froze in instinctive terror. I had been severely abused by that city’s police officers, and still suffer flashbacks of the shameless humiliation they inflicted.

The staff took this instinctive freezing to be self-control, apparently, and seemed to have concluded that the crisis was resolved.

Far from it.

I’ve spent a great deal of my life wishing I had never been born.

Now I have two kids who are just like me. They wish they had never been born.

In the aftermath of a huge argument, precipitated by my reaction to my husband’s reaction to my son’s reaction to the news that his trip to see his cousin was going to be postponed yet again, my son, my daughter, and I were sitting outside on the ground.

The clouds overhead were dark and carrying rain, the light was in that stage of the gloaming where the clouds and the trees to the east are so fantastically colored that they look fake.

I groped and grappled in my mind for words to comfort my son, who has been diagnosed with ADHD. He insisted that my fight with my husband was his fault, that it was always his fault, that he wants to kill himself every time we start arguing because of him.

“What exactly do you think you will get out of killing yourself?” I asked him gently.

“The fighting will stop.”

“No,” I explained. “The fighting will get worse. Your dad and I will fight until we get divorced or I kill myself. Then your sister will have a dead mom and a dead brother.”

I was trying to talk him into thinking beyond the moment. Thoughts like that are what stop me from killing myself. But just as soon as I uttered those words, I realized that I may have just added fuel to his fire. Because he also carries a great rage inside. It is that rage that he turns in on himself. But I sense he can also turn that rage outward, and ideates this much more often than I realize.

Thoughts like the ones I just expressed might just push him into killing himself to get revenge.

Flash to a few moments before, before we all sat down. I was looking for him, and he came walking over from an unexpected direction, his pocketknife out and open.

He said something. I told him to give me that knife, that he was far too angry to be carrying it just now. He gave it up without hesitation.

Recalling that moment, I realized I could not take back the words I had spoken, and so I simply changed the subject. After a period of silence, I asked him what in this whole world would make him happy. He could not answer this.

“Anything,” I pressed. “If you had the power to make a whole new life, different parents even. What kind of life would make you happy?”

“A life that never was,” he said.

To my bewildered sorrow, he clarified:

“I could only be happy if I had never been born.”

My daughter, drawing in the dirt on the other side of the electric fence wire, nodded agreement. “Me, too,” she mumbled to the earth. She is on medication for depression.

I felt so heartbroken. My kids are just like me. I have passed on to them my hopelessness. They are only 11 and 14.

I determined to think before I spoke again, this time.

Finally, I said, “I’ve felt like that, too, before.”

“I feel that way all the time,” he said.

It seemed there was no winning this one.  I launched into how much his father and I love him, and how sorry I am that we fight, and that none of it is his fault, and that all of it is my fault, I start all the fights with his father, and how much his father cares and wants him to be happy. It was all so desperate and now, trying to remember, seems so empty. We all knew we were together, and separate from someone else.

Eventually the dogs came over. I started picking the loose fur out of one, and white dog hair flew everywhere. My son laid backwards to escape it. He seemed annoyed.

“It’s snowing!” I said. Then the other dog came up and pushed his little nose into my legs. “Oh, no.  I know what’ll happen if I try to pull loose hair off of you!”

My son was smiling.  I imitated the dog’s yelp, sure to occur if I plucked a loose tuft of fur. Soon we were all laughing. Then the cats came over, and my daughter had the tuxedo cat chasing a weed in circles while the calico kitten crouched intently at a distance, watching every move, and the lazy, long-hair orange cat just watched. We were all enjoying the pets together and I thought inanely of the healing power of animals. Everything was all right again. Or so I thought.

Out of nowhere, more dark words came out of the mouth of my son. More tears from me, wishing I could give him whatever that elusive thing he needs that love alone cannot provide. And as my attention remained focused on him, my daughter was silently suffering from a crushing series of blows that had occurred this week. I couldn’t be there for them both. I didn’t know what to do.

Later my son and I sat at our kitchen table, and he spoke on and on, lost in fond memories of past excursions during visits with his cousin. Because he needed it so desperately, even though it was late at night, I gave him my “full” attention…to the best of my ability between my racing thoughts, worry about my daughter, and my own exhaustion.

When I convinced him it was bedtime, he went out to the couch. On the other couch, my daughter was lying, her face streaked with tears each of which had been shed for a good reason. Neither went to bed. I feel terrible. I have failed completely to be effective. I have been trying so so hard to be a better parent, and all I achieve is more arguments with my husband, more pain for the kids.

My husband gets angry when we express our emotions by crying or being angry. It’s completely justified, every time HE is angry, but nothing in my children’s perceptions or my own are important enough for it to be okay in this household for us to express any emotion except agreement with him. It is so wrong for me to insist on my right to defend my children to him, because it causes him to escalate, and then our arguments get loud in front of the child being defended. But how can standing there watching my son crying while my husband, yelling, orders him to “settle down?” Could anyone sobbing miserably settle down just because someone orders them to? My son stops crying out of fear, but has not settled down.  I started the argument that led to the tableau of us sitting outside. I am wrong to blame my husband. This is all my fault because I am bipolar and I am a terrible mother. I am a failure.

Even admitting I am a failure is a sin because expressing feelings such as these is self-pity, and there is no place for self-pity on a beautiful piece of land like ours, lush and green, in Colorado, a state that is withering, drying out, and burning like hell itself all around us; and in a marriage that has survived incredible hardships. But feelings are their own beginning and end; and have nothing to do with circumstances unrelated to them.

Food on the table where others have none does not lessen the blow of the loss of a pet. Neither does living in America while people across the globe are suffering tsunamis and genocide ease the pain of deep depression or horrible family crises. Anyone who thinks they do are kidding themselves. I know that I’m a failure as a parent and as a wife and as a friend, I have little to no hope, but I don’t have the option of giving up. I have to try to learn how to strengthen my kids. They are already strong, but very troubled, just like me. Why? Because of me.

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