Friday, March 5, 2010

Feeling Weak

I'm feeling weak but I don't want to rest my head and sleep or read. The impulse to write drives me. I tell myself, "watch a movie" but instead I wish to do something constructive. If I watched a movie I would feel guilty.

Two days in a row I woke panicked. During the day my husband and I have been planning a very small business. It would require two employees besides ourselves and commit every penny of our savings. I would be in charge of the payroll for the employees, having to learn all the paper trail and tax needs that a small business generates. I would be essential to the business, and perhaps this point panicked me. I don't want to be essential. I don't know if I can be essential. I don't know if I can handle the stress of the responsibility.

To handle more stress, to become a more solid person, probably I would have to go on more medication. I could change my anti-psychotics from Geodone to Seroquil and add the mood stabilizer Lamictal. This would cause me to gain weight. It is a struggle right now, being under stress, to just keep my weight even.

My husband knew a beautiful Chinese woman named Chang. Chang had a husband who was embarrassed by the fact that his mentally ill wife did not work. So to satisfy her husband Change got a small job working at Burger King. This job was stressful enough that she needed extra medication to continue working. She got the extra medication and then developed a permanent side effect. She developed tartivdiskinesia, a type of re-occurring muscle spasm in the face. A permanent tick. Chang would I think, roll her tongue and smack her lips. It was freakish and changing medications would not change it.

One night I said to my husband "I was planning to use my best hours tomorrow to write. I should instead use my best hours to study my book on business accounting and make phone calls and emails to research the business needs. I created a little to do list. It all seemed so reasonable. Intellectually I am smart enough to do it.

But then in the morning I woke with a mighty fear about what might happen should an expensive machine the business would depend upon break down, and we have employees that need to work and get paid. And then I thought about how I had turned down my writing to work on the business, and I thought, "I am raping my mind. Causing it to act in a way that it doesn't want to act in". And I began crying.

I can't plan the business with passion and excitement, it only causes me to break down further. This bodes ill for when the business is up and working. Either I adjust or I break and require more medication and maybe a hospitalization.

Oh I know about recovery. I'll tell you about recovery. You don't get better and better and more competent and your brain heals from the illness. This maybe happens to some people. Other people get worse. I've seen it happen. Usually a stress comes along and re-wrecks your mind. You have a second breakdown. New hospitalization. Sometimes, a new and worse diagnosis. From mild manic-depression to schizophrenia in a woman who used crack cocaine. From schizoaffective to paranoid schizophrenic in a woman whose best friend committed suicide and she had to be re-hospitalized because of the trauma. From paranoid schizophrenic to suicide in a man who had successfully gotten off social security and worked full time. I've seen all this happen to people.

In myself I am less than I was three years ago because I'm using a weaker anti-psychotic and weaker anti-depressant. The anti-psychotic was changed because of the side effect of weight gain, the anti-depressant I had been using gradually lost its effectiveness. Now I need to see a therapist where as three years ago I was feeling well enough, happy and confident, that I did not need to see a therapist. Now seeing a therapist literally helps keep me alive. I rely on him that much.

Recovery? With mental illness the circumstances of your life could change or drugs could stop working. I've seen a stable woman who worked as a truck driver loose her job and become an emotional mess because her lithium stopped working. I've seen a nice, mild mannered schizophrenic have a nervous breakdown after working too many hours in a hospital laundry and have a marked personality change that ruined relations with his family. He acted out with anger, and his family feared for the safety of young children. Children that formerly he had been a happy uncle to, now there were no more visits. His family withdrew its support, having been frightened, and he withdrew socially from the world - his life pattern completely disrupted after his second, late, work-induced breakdown.

The horror stories about how mental illness gets worse, and the medications get increased, the body becomes obese and has medical problems, and the personalities change and the diagnosis changes - these horrors never get reported. The people who get lost in the system the system never keeps track of. There are no statistics about failure, only about success.

The failures can't speak for themselves. Illness mutes the voice, only when there is a success will you hear a voice. And that voice, being a success, usually says, "you can do it!"

I'm going to go read about the poet Emily Dickinson. The book is due back at the library in three days.

1 comment:

  1. Karen, thanks for writing. A friend of yours named Eric directed me to your website and from there I found your blog. I've put you on my bloglist, so hopefully you will get some more people coming to check out your blog, but you really should post a link to your website, so people can check out your great artwork.

    Stress is a key factor in relapse into greater mental illness. You have to know your limits. You seem to be telling yourself in this entry that you are not ready to take on more responsibility. That's really quite fine. You should write. That might be just what you need right now. I think you should talk to your husband and tell him how you feel and what you really want.

    I do think you can do it. The course that recovery takes is different for each of us. Sometimes it's two steps forward and five steps back, then again sometimes it's three steps forward and one back. I really believe that people go through stages: Pre-illness, acute illness and recovery from illness. It took me three years in the acute stage and over eight years to get to my present state of recovery. I am on almost the highest dose of Abilify as well as on generic Risperdal and generic Prozac. I am obese. I do hear voices (though they have returned to being mostly positive) and occasionally I fall into some delusional/paranoid thinking. My house is pretty dirty and cluttered. I can fall into some depression and some anxiety, though part of that may just be the nature of life. Nonetheless, I am definitely in recovery. I've been to hell, that sounds so dramatic, but it's kind of true for me and many people. Having been to hell, I've learned to appreciate both the small and big things in my life.

    What would you say to someone who was severely depressed or who had schizo-affective disorder, bi-polar disorder or paranoid schizophrenia who was suicidal? You probably wouldn't say--you might as well go ahead. I know I wouldn't because I believe that there is hope and you should pass it on when you can. I would tell them that they could survive and in time be happy most of the time. I would also say to them that they would have to work for it and part of the work is telling yourself throughout the day that you can do it, even when you feel like shit. Part of it is just getting through day after day. I went through a period where I just survived day to day listening to audiobook after audiobook because it was the only thing that would take my mind off my ill state, my severe depression.

    There is a lot of negative in the world Karen, but don't you start to believe in it. So reach for the hope and know your limits.

    I'm looking forward to getting to know you through your writing and your art.

    Take Care,

    Kate : )


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