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.

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Superbowl 2017

nfl

Unless you have been sleeping under a rock, you will know that the Superbowl is in Houston this year. At the last minute I have VIP contract work with long shifts and I will have to take a sabbatical from WP for a couple of weeks. If I get the chance I will prepare drafts.

I am going to take down ‘Carrie and Kerry’ temporarily and present it as a series and hopefully show that there was a happy ending for Carrie and Kerry. My doctor has also prescribed a new antidepressant (dum, dum, dum) which I will take after the Superbowl. Otherwise, there might be a National Enquirer worthy photo of me working with VIPs. They aren’t really VIPs, just executives from rich companies wasting money on bloody football tickets…

Stop! That is what I get paid for. Please pray for me in a city already overcrowded with drunk football supporters and I will be back in touch. I care not a whit about Atlanta or Boston or football but will be smiling with an old country accent to charm the pants off them (not literally). There are hookers for that…😈

Cersei or just ginger?

cersei2

I dye my own hair both to save money and because it usually turns out a better color than a salon would achieve. Today I used a slightly different mix and as it was processing, my hair started going vivid auburn. Sometimes it does look a really odd color when processing, such as purple or gray, so I wasn’t too worried. Then I rinsed it off. Teddy was in the bathroom and I said, “See, it turned out blonde after all”. His response was, “Cersei blonde, perhaps?” For those of you who watch Game of Thrones you will now know that it turned out strawberry blonde, titian or maybe just ginger. I have dyed it green before and grayish lilac (not the modern Kelly Osbourne style), so ginger is okay. My hair is so coarse that it soaks up all the UV light from the sun and will be a different color next week anyway.

The fact that I dyed my hair at all is a sign that I am feeling better. I had let it go quite white which made me look even more wan and tired than I did before. My last post was about my many miserable birthdays. Quite unexpectedly, this one turned out to be the worst ever. I can’t talk about it because I might consult a lawyer at a later date. Suffice to say, that it didn’t help my current mood. I was convinced that my various symptoms were caused by the menopause and went downtown to the OB-GYN who had done the Vajazzling. Beforehand, I sent her a mini-thesis of symptoms. It was clear that she didn’t really think it was the menopause but prescribed a type of hormone replacement therapy. I have a doctor friend who had suggested this particular combo, so although I wasn’t sure I took the prescription. When I had the script filled, I was horrified that the generic cost $90 per month – this is a drug that has been used for 38 years. I could have said no but thought that a month’s treatment might kick start something. Desperation makes fools of all of us.

That morning I took one tablet with breakfast. I have an element of ADD in my illness, so of course I didn’t look at the contraindications… Later on I did and realized I had just wasted $90. I have a very delicate digestive system from having had undiagnosed Giardia for 5 years (a little gift from the people of Egypt) but the doctor had given me a low dose because of that. The one that horrified me was that I could not be in the sun without sunscreen or being covered up. I need unfiltered sunshine to give me a decent dose of Vitamin D. The next contraindication was that it might cause depression – seriously??? WTF! The next contraindication was acne for which I am being treated by my dermatologist (menopausal acne, of course). I was so angry at myself for not listening to my gut instinct and going to my regular GP who would have ordered some blood work.

It is always difficult seeing specialists and other doctors when you have an underlying mental illness because neither of us can be certain whether it is the chicken or the egg. I think she thought that it was all my depression and I think she could be right. I see my psychiatrist in a few weeks and in the meantime I have stopped caffeine, alcohol and have cleaned up my already good eating habits. After the one HRT tablet my tummy erupted, so that wouldn’t have worked anyway. On a funnier note, another potential side effect was facial hair. I already have issue with middle-aged chin hairs – mine are all white so you can’t even see the buggers. When I mentioned this to Teddy he said (and I knew he was going to say it), “Well, you could always join the circus”. I wanted to slap him but instead I fell on the floor laughing at his bearded lady joke. You’ve got to laugh… 😹

Wednesday’s child is full of woe…

Spicebush Swallowtail

Spicebush Swallowtail

This photograph is for Victor Rakmil. His has a fantastic photographic blog on WordPress. His photos inspire me to do better and learn techniques. That said, I took this butterfly with an inexpensive camera, shaky hands, peripheral neuropathy and NO patience!

The title of the blog refers to my birthday which is today! I was born on a Wednesday in San Francisco, many, many years ago. No matter how I approach my birthday each year, it is not usually a happy day. I have spent many birthdays on vacation as our wedding anniversary is the day before and sometimes that helps. Although I am often smiling, it is a social mask to make me and everyone around me feel better.

I am surrounded by people who love me and still receive a handful of cards from relatives and friends. Presents make me anxious – why? Who knows, not me. My mother frequently quoted that line of the nursery rhyme – “Wednesday’s child is full of woe” – and perhaps it is just imprinted on my personality that I cried on special occasions. I still get very excited about events then get anxious and finally sad.

The truth is that I have chronic depression and anxiety. It was first noted when I was 7 and now that I am aged 56 I guess I will die with it. Someone recently mentioned to me that many people in the third world I have no idea of their birth date or exact age. Maybe that would work for me? In which case I would like to be born in August about 20 years later than I was… 🙂

This year, I am grateful that my husband has a job, after 6 months of unemployment. I seem to have chronic fatigue but it could be much worse. Currents global events are making me weary and sad. I volunteered yesterday and someone from Latin America told me in broken English that I was a very nice person.

Anyway, happy birthday to me, Crabby Kerry!

“Oh yes, she’s back…”

Happy Hibiscus

Happy Hibiscus

I have missed everybody and it’s great to be back. I’m not very good at following advice that I would give someone else but this time I did the sensible thing and took a break from everything. Work, blogging, socializing – if I had a cave I would have gone to stay in it.

My slow recovery and continued pain from the eye surgery was contributing to my low mood but fortunately my regular eye doctor has provided huge relief by inserting little collagen stoppers into my leaky tear ducts so that some liquid stays in the eyes. He said I had striations from the dryness which was causing pain up to the scale of 10. When I started researching my eye problem, I reduced a variety of factors that were contributing to my chronic dry eye. I cut back on my essential medication to a manageable level, stopped taking the painkillers and anti-histamines. Then I cleaned my diet – more Omega 3s, less caffeine, less alcohol and more vegetables. I walked every day for 3 or 4 miles and was vigilant with eye drops and cleansing.

It all helped but the honest truth is that I think most of it was a mechanical problem – the tear ducts were just not working properly. This is common, particularly in menopausal women but the less said about that the better… I am not having hot flashes – it just gets suddenly hot in the sub-tropics. 🙂 With more liquid in my eyes the vision is my post cataract eye is much better and I have super spidey vision with tiny writing. It’s a nice plus in a protracted recovery.

Last weekend I knew I was feeling better because I suddenly wanted to go on a solo trip with our air miles. We have been very thrifty (our water bill has increased from $10 to $10.10!) and it was a relatively inexpensive trip with a free flight and a fantastic Hotwire deal on a historic hotel in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. This week I will be telling you all about it. Sometimes you just need a literal break away.

This red link “Kerry chatting” will take you to a little video of me chatting in my dulcet Celtic tones – I just want to say thank you, literally, for all the support you gave me. It meant so much.

I can’t participate…

tornado

Some of you may know that we have had some extreme weather in the Houston area. I live a little north of the main Houston area and on Tuesday evening/Wednesday night we had a tornado just a few miles from our house. I heard the cell phones go off with yet another storm warning (we have had so many recently). I ignored it and the really loud thunder and lightning. The next morning we discovered that a 62 year old woman had been killed in what looked like a pre-fabricated house when a tree fell across her home. I was envious.

I thought, ‘How lovely to die instantaneously with no sickness or problems’. I am 55, so she is hardly much older than me. This is how you feel when you have major depression. My thoughts are filled with death and the longing for it, yet I am not suicidal. I have been unwell for months and my doctor is trying to address it with both an increase and addition in medication. It is working, to some extent, but time is a major factor, as is reducing stress which is out with my capabilities at the moment.

I have a new job and I enjoy it but worry about it incessantly. What if I make a mistake, what if they don’t employ me again? I am trying to be supportive of my husband who is looking for work and setting up a new company but it is as if someone has cut my brain stem. Every so often I come out with a brilliant idea which thrills him but I know I am capable of so much more. Things are beginning to look more positive with the possibility of clients but I don’t care.

My recent cataract surgery has been successful but my chronic dry eye condition has made me feel miserable. I finally went back to the surgeon today and he gave me steroids to help. My husband was with me and thought the surgeon was sympathetic. In my mind, he was saying, “Put your big girl pants on”. This week I got a corporate gratuity from one of the companies I work for (which I suspect everyone got) but I started worrying about how much I had flirted, was it appropriate?

My friends are trying to help me and some are more successful than others. One is constantly giving me encouragement about daring to join the workforce when I feel so ill and others tentatively pace around me. I know that they don’t want to say the wrong thing or upset me but they can’t. My emotions feel deadened and yet raw. I feel as though my life will never be the same again although logically I know it could be even better.

I have been down this path so often that I know I will recover but each time I feel I lose a little bit of myself. I suspect the opposite is true and I evolve into a kinder, more compassionate person after each episode. My blogging is stop/start and then I feel like I am being excluded when that is not the case. When you stop blogging, followers probably think you are busy getting on with life.

I can’t participate right now… but I will join you later.