Mental illness is a REAL illness


This is not a political post; I am all too aware that the Affordable Care Act was anything but. Unless something miraculous changes in the Senate, mental illness will no longer be included in the new health plan. So…not only do I have a variety of pre-existing conditions but the one that makes me most ill (and yet is least expensive) will not be covered. For some reason, addiction and mental illness has been put in one category. From my work and personal experience, mentally ill people often self-medicate but they are not the same. I have a clearly inherited condition, much like heart disease, and there was no element of choice. I am not criticizing anyone who has an addiction – there is enough blame to go around.

Let’s take this past week. It started on a high with Teddy’s birthday and then rapidly went downhill. Why? Even I want to slap myself because it was no good reason at all. Our roof has been leaking and the contractor took three days to repair the ceiling, leaving me trapped in the master bedroom which has a large bathroom and closet. Toffee (my elderly cat) and I had to go there so that she wouldn’t escape or get in their way. I had great plans; I would write blogs and binge watch girly TV shoes. Mentally I was paralyzed. Thoughts started spinning in my head about how fat and useless I am. I am neither of those things. I couldn’t watch anything other than old Bones episodes because I couldn’t concentrate. Then the physical pain started to set in. When you sit in an anxious state, you start getting cold and stiff – it was almost 90 degrees outside but the air-con was on for the contractor.

I was determined to do better the next day but the anxiety was rising. My thoughts were, “what do I really need to prioritize in my life?” My ridiculous conclusion was that I would be really happy if I got back to 1** lbs. (about 6 lbs. less than I am now). I joined a free weight loss internet club which told me I was already within my BMI range and that I would have to eat 700 calories a day to lose 2 lbs. a week. This is a glimpse into a world of disordered thinking, especially with eating. Then the sciatica kicked in. I was fully aware that I could have sat in the yard, watered the garden or tidied my filing system but again – paralysis.

By the third day, I had drunk a small glass of vodka with anti-anxiety medication because the paint didn’t match (our ceiling has not been painted in 13 years). I spoke to poor, long suffering Teddy who could hear a panic attack coming on and he agreed that we would ask them to leave. Teddy would finish the painting after our roofs have been replaced in the next few months. As soon as the contractor left, I sprang into action, steam cleaning tiles, polishing our leather suite and assembling everything back in the room. My sciatica really hurt after all that but endorphins got me through. All throughout the 3 days and nights, I had horrifying nightmares that meant that I was really sleep deprived despite being in bed most of the time. My eating deteriorated to almost nothing except snacks and vodka. Perhaps I should revise my thinking about putting mental illness and addiction together?

Now it is all over and I am on the way to feeling better. I ate properly, stopped drinking vodka and went walking to help with the sciatica and general good health. Then, I lost my sunglasses. It felt like the end of the world – I searched the house and garage. It culminated in texting my husband in California to see if he had seen them. Finally, good sense prevailed and I ordered another pair from Amazon at $7 – less than two lattes. I am still hugely annoyed at myself for this whole week. Why couldn’t I just deal with it? This is the true cost of mental illness, a life mostly wasted because of tortured thoughts. Mine are benign, as are the majority of people with mental illness. There is real physical pain, too. The only time I felt happy with an illness was when I was in a full leg cast for almost a year. For once people could ask me what was wrong and not be embarrassed about the answer. Sometimes you need sympathy for an invisible illness.

If the act passes without amendment, mentally ill people will end up in and out of psychiatric hospitals or often prisons because they haven’t been able to access regular help at their psychiatrists, psychologists or doctors. In the end that costs more than a quick visit to the shrink.

Writer’s anxiety

Yellow shrimp plant

Yellow shrimp plant

My current life and the geopolitical world have left me lost for words. I have been feeling anxious about everything, which is part of my diagnosis, and nightmares have exhausted me. There is a short break before I start the Super Bowl work then I will stop feeling anxious because of focus and tiredness. Sometimes writing lifts me up or helps ease anxiety but despite taking more medication, I am like a cat on a hot tin roof, yawning with insomnia.

red-spike

I have peppered this short post with some final photos from Puerto Vallarta – just to take the edge of my writing. I work alongside people who have immigrated from Iran and Iraq and wonder if their American dream feels as ephemeral as mine. Even at the shops, people are talking in hushed tones about executive orders and I don’t know if they feel happy or afraid. When we went to Puerto Vallarta, we were seriously considering a retirement home somewhere in Mexico but now I doubt that they would want us. Do you think I have enough Mexican ancestors to request entry? Should I print out my Ancestry family tree?

umbrellas

Almost every week I soothe people whose relatives have been detained at immigration. It is usually something relatively minor such as an incorrect visa or a similar name. We were stuck in Egypt until the very last minute, whilst my husband’s employer desperately tried to get a work visa for him to go to the USA. I remember being at the airport in Cairo, wondering if they were going to accept our cats’ paperwork or my husband’s. I have an American passport, so I could go anytime. Nonetheless, it was terrifying, especially since it was during Gulf War II.

yellow-blossom

I can support passengers and myself by being as helpful as always. A smile can work wonders, for the recipient and the person feeling depressed.

Kerry wears J Crew…

Kerry navy 2
I bought these shorts at J Crew this year and everywhere I go people ask where I got them from, including staff in their competitor’s stores. J Crew haven’t paid me for this although a little gift card would be kindly accepted…(methinks that might not happen after they read to the end).  They are beautifully soft and comfortable for our humid heat. The navy ones have silver embroidery and the white has gold embroidery so they sparkle in the light.

I do have a bone to pick with J Crew’s advertising. They regularly send me a catalog and, to be fair, the models range in age but they are incredibly thin. This is a very outdated way to sell clothes and the strange thing is that their clothing is not just for skinny people. In real life I am a small petite size but I had to take the extra small shorts and even considered the extra extra small pair.  Are fashion stores taking us for fools?  I know we have a problem with obesity in the Western and developing world – I was obese for many years.  It took years of changing not just my eating habits but also my mindset.  Like many other obese people I struggled to both see how overweight I was and could easily be deluded into thinking I had lost weight if the clothing size went down.

On my recent road trip I tried on two dresses by the same manufacturer, both of which fitted me.  One was extra extra small and the other a size 6 (normally I take a 4/6 US size) – how on earth are we supposed to know what size to try on? I just eye-ball clothing now and have my clothes altered to fit me properly.  The gold t-shirt (also J Crew) was very long and hid the lovely embroidery on the shorts, so I had it shortened.  Curiously, as I look at the photographs I still think I look fat despite my objective mind telling me that I am slim.  Just a tiny bit of body dysmorphia that comes free with my diagnosis and that statement is not written lightly despite the humor.  Despite all my criticism, I love my shorts and I am sure they would sell just as well with regular models (age 55) like me!

kerry gold

Kerry is Bald

Kerry baldI wrote this letter to friends and family in 2010 and I have left it in the present tense to allow you to be in the moment. In the end I raised over a thousand dollars which I donated to a Houston charity that gives free mammograms to those in need. Youtube link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDcYSls9F8s

Most of you know that I decided to shave my head in aid of a breast cancer charity. I was going to do the deed on my 50th birthday in July but I didn’t get the reaction I expected from most of my friends and family. Given my various health issues, I can understand that you thought I had lost my mind! I brought the date forward to prevent any intervention, more tears or concern – especially on my birthday! Click on the link to read the whole story, see the video and progression of hair being shaved. Kerry is bald – click here