Tag Archives: dad

Answer Me! Pt. 2: Answers!

Ok, so I made you guys wait a little while for this. I’m sure you were on tenterhooks these past 8 days. I’m here to relieve you.

The question is sort of a meaningless li’l ponderable that came to me when I was, of course, in the shower washing my face with my eyes scrunched up real tight. I think it was super windy or something that day and I was worried about a power outage while in the shower, ’cause at best that’d be kinda slapsticky but at worst, I’d get like a cracked skull and die in my tub which, if I were able to become so postmortem, would make me really pissed off. A slip and fall in an unlit shower at age 28 is not how this lady is going out. That’s dumb.

Even so, I still went with: B. Blind! Shit! Shit! Fuck! Shit!

My general guess about what the hypothetical “means” was this rough dichotomy:

A: Power outage = you’re probably prone to becoming a little paranoid about the state of your life which you regard as precarious, making you slow to let your guard down.

B: Blindness = you’re a hypochondriac that assumes all fevers are typhoid, all cuts are gangrenous, all aches and pains are rheumatic, all plagues are bubonic (calm down, it’s just a plain old plague, pal).

‘Cept when you guys answered, you kinda steered me in a few different directions. I hadn’t really taken into account personal histories with either vision loss or frequent power outages (stupidly, nor did I expect some of you to come up with modified or third answers, Acid and Illuminati, I’m looking at you guys, you made me laugh).

So what does it all mean, man? It doesn’t really mean anything. It’s just a goofy question that can be tediously analyzed and parsed apart for significance, or it can just be a silly conversation starter. Ask your coworkers! Ask your friends! Ask whoever. Why not?

But, in truth, I am kind of a hypochondriac. I blame my dad. He was an even better weirdo than I am, and if I could ask him this question, I know how he’d answer but I also know he’d think about it for a really long time before and after saying anything. But let’s just say this post and its sibling are celebratory gestures regarding the completion of my physical therapy for my ankle tendinitis, which I assumed was a horrible, degenerative joint disease with no cure, causing me to have a like maybe 2 panic attacks a few months ago before I went to the doctor to have it looked at and diagnosed. At this point, after like 6 weeks of physical therapy, my ankle is nearly well enough for me to return to my MMA class which I miss a bunch. Also, after like 6 weeks of physical therapy, my right leg is visibly more muscular than my left, which means my roundhouse kicks are gonna be fucking lethal when I get back to the gym. Seriously, you guys, I could probably kick a tree over with this thing, it’s pretty cool.

I’ve always been a big fan of personality quizzes, ever since I was like maybe 11, reading teen magazines and taking quizzes like, “What Lipstick Shade Are You?” and “What Do Your Dreams Say About Your Love Life?” (The answers being, respectively: coral in the summer, brick red in the winter, fuck the quiz, I know my complexion; AND a series of unending rabbit hole nightmares, apparently…?). But I have this theory (don’t I always?) that personality quizzes are not particularly simple for those of us with bipolar, because our behaviors and self-assessments are perhaps a li’l more malleable than the average bear’s. This feels especially true* when I answer questions pertaining to introversion/extroversion. Do I consider myself introverted? No, but I did most of last week. Would I rather go to a party or stay home and read a book? I dunno, is Thursday purple this month? I don’t mean to imply that we’re so mercurial a group that we lack static personality features entirely, but I also don’t mean to say that these types of quizzes will provide us with much insight about ourselves (I mean, they don’t for most people anyway, but I think even less so for us).

Anyway, if I come up with any more seemingly ponderous but actually completely trivial hypotheticals, I’ll share them. Just don’t think too hard about your answer. You’ll sprain your neurons er something.

-LB

*The part of me that studied Philosophy in college really hates the notion of something feeling true, apparently enough to prompt this footnote, but it’s just rhetoric, so calm down, Laura.

Advertisements

The Very Distracting Elephant Has All Of My Attention

I almost never think about this because I kind of don’t really care, but it comes up now and then, at which point I’m forced to think about it, which often leads me to the conclusion that I still don’t really care.

I have ADHD as well as bipolar, which is pretty common. I often forget I have ADHD even though I’ve been diagnosed with it twice and treated for it twice, and I feel like maybe there’s a joke hiding in the fact that I generally don’t remember that I have ADHD. I guess part of it is that my ADHD is really mild and treating it with meds ended up exacerbating my bipolar symptoms a whole lot more than it alleviated my ADHD symptoms, so it’s really not worth it. Most of the time (but not all of the time), the meds you get for ADHD are stimulants, usually methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta) or amphetamine salts (Adderall). I tend to think of these drugs as “legal speed” much the same way that oxycodone is arguably “legal heroin,” because prescription stimulants can be a little intense and cause a person to behave in ways that are similar to their illicit, street-dwelling cousins.

Way back in April, 2006, a few months before she turned 19 and after an inexplicable plummet in academic performance at the beginning of college, Laura’s well-meaning dad brought her to a specialist to get tested for ADHD. Currently, Laura isn’t 100% sure why she’s speaking in the third person, but she’s gonna keep doing it for a sec, so deal. The nice doctor (he really was super nice) prescribed Laura 18mgs of long-acting methylphenidate a day. Upon beginning treatment with the methylphenidate, Laura did not sleep more than 4 hours a night for about 6 weeks (“night” meaning between the hours of 7:00 and 11:00 a.m., after the sun was up). During the day, Laura spent hours and hours playing guitar in her room and doing little else. She…fuck it, I’m done with the third person thing…I couldn’t bring myself to close my eyes while it was still dark out because I was afraid of this or that faceless, gloomy specter, likely a shifting amalgamation of horror movie previews, posters, photos, and fucked up memories. So, I was almost 19 and so afraid of the boogeyman that I kept every light in my room on all night and tried to keep blinking to a minimum. Once the sun came up and I heard my parents moving around the house, I felt Ok to close my eyes and get some sleep, but I still usually kept the lights on. The point is that I got bizarrely paranoid of shit I don’t and didn’t actually believe in (demons, ghosts, the remaining peppery flakes of my gothic-ass Catholic upbringing – side point: I posit that growing up Catholic predisposes nervous people to deeply intense but irrational fears, or at least that’s what happened to me).

So I was getting by on 4 hours of sleep, hyper-focused on creative projects, and immensely paranoid of the dark. It was a weird time. Through those long nights, I watched a lot of shitty romance movies and replayed the sex scenes over and over (bonus points If the DVD had a cache of scenes deleted from the film for being TOO HOT FOR THEATERS!), because, at 18, I had done most of the sex things I was then interested in doing, but not all of the sex things I was interested in doing, and I wanted to make sure my orgasming visage would be the right combination of sexy and cultivated* when said visage would smear itself all over my face.** Pro tip: don’t explore your own sexuality by watching adaptations of Nicholas Sparks books, you won’t have any fun. DO masturbate more.

Shit calmed down a lot after that first 6 weeks, but the paranoia stuck around, kinda shapeshifting. I felt I could sleep with the lights off, but I was convinced people were watching me from their windows when I walked around outside. It should go without saying that by “watching” I also mean “judging” which is a little funny to think about, when I root around in that notion a bit more and realize how important I must’ve felt. I went back to school for my sophomore year of college (which, for like a dozen reasons was a total blast, despite the really bad cockroach problem in my apartment), but over the course of that year, my paranoias got worse. In quiet elevators or train cars, I was never sure if I was talking or thinking, so my brain would go off the rails, whipping up waltzing cyclones of hateful language that I never use in real life, like just to fuck with me. Did I really just call that woman standing next to me a [blank-ity blank blank]??? I would never call a person that! She has to know I don’t think she or anyone is a [nope-ity nope nope]!!! So my solution to this was to bite my lips. Like real hard. ‘Cause if I was chomping down on my lips, I couldn’t be also using them to hurl obscene epithets at elevator strangers, right?

In a moment of clarity, I realized that the shit that was happening to me re: this paranoia nonsense and the things I was doing to cope with it were stupid and making my life needlessly stressful. So I called my doctor and told him I was gonna stop taking the methylphenidate and he said Ok. Fun thing (and my psychiatrist has told me this more than once): sometimes when you stop taking a medication, the side-effects you experienced when you were first taking it that went away after your body adjusted can come back. And mine did SO HARD. I became completely hypomanic (which I didn’t know was a thing at the time). I may have told this anecdote before but for like about 2 weeks, my poor, poor roommates had to deal with my assertion, nay, my insistence that the floor was a trampoline. Thusly, I would often start screaming, “THE FLOOR IS A TRAMPOLINE!” while jumping up and down in the living room (which should’ve scared the roaches at least a little, but totally didn’t, those fuckers are hardy as hell). I was bathed in awe, and the object of my awe was skyscrapers, which was pretty convenient since I live(d) in a major city. I haven’t had a hypomanic episode with that awe component in it for a really long time, but it’s not unusual for a person experiencing mania or hypomania to feel an intense reverence for X thing. People often land on stuff like trees or mountains or bodies of water, but it can really be almost anything. I considered skyscrapers to be these magnificent testaments to human ingenuity – from the minds of the architects who envisioned them to the hands of the workers who made their integrity incarnate. It was all very poetic, etc.

Then my dad died. I was reaching this unbelievable psychic climax when, without warning, my dad was felled in seconds by a faulty heart. I was still hypomanic during the first week or so of grieving my dad, which may be the most surreal thing that’s ever happened to me, if you don’t count psychedelics.

All this weirdness ’cause of some ADHD pills. When I returned to college post-graduation to study more Philosophy, I was put on Adderall, but this time, I was also taking mood stabilizers, so I didn’t have any significant episodes, none that I can readily recall, anyway.

So, it comes up in therapy now and then. The ADHD. My doc will occasionally remind me that I have it by suggesting it may have a minor role to play in such-and-such event/feeling/endeavor. My response is usually along the lines of, “Well, whatever,” and then I just move on. I don’t know exactly how to express the fact that I don’t really care whether or not I have ADHD…except, I guess, by saying that I don’t really care whether or not I have ADHD. But it’s probably fair enough to say that it has me sometimes, as in, by the short hairs but so what? Is it Ok to say “so what?” here? It doesn’t feel especially un-Ok. Plus, ADHD seems to fall into that category of Silver Lining Disorders where people who have it may experience some trouble, like in school maybe, but that trouble is often (sometimes tremendously) offset by the facets of the illness that are fucking great. People with ADHD are often more adventurous and creative than the average bear, and, I’ve been told, more easily think outside the box (sorry…) than their unaffected peers. There’s also a theory that ADHD may be the result of an evolutionary advantage re: hunting vs. farming, essentially making people with ADHD traits better suited to certain scenarios and more prone to hyperfocus, which, when aimed at the right target, can be really fucking fun. Look it up, it’s cool.

So, 1,500 words say that I have an illness about which I don’t really care. But maybe that I’m better than you (I am…on some days, on other days I’m less preferable than hemorrhoids, but this whole parenthetical is pretty typical of what I know and feel about myself as a person with bipolar, not as a person with ADHD). So, long story short, uh, comorbidity is a thing, it can lead you to some weird crossroads and…maybe not all disorders need treatment. I think I’m getting along Ok. The hand I drew doesn’t allow a ton of room for perfect, functional normalcy, so why try to force it? In this case, I insist for myself, that it’s better not to.

-LB

*This doesn’t exist. Humans, with little exception, look ridiculous when we come. That doesn’t make it any less hot, though.

**Yes, that phrasing was intentional, thanks for noticing!

Hi. Poe. May. Knee. Uh…

*big loud screeching noise*

*laugh track*

*laugh track*

*honkey tonk guitar lick*

*words words words words words words*

*the sound of my tongue moving in my mouth*

*tasteless lesbian porn*

*laugh track*

*trains, lots of them*

*I can hear my eyeballs slide*

*Ok Ok Ok Ok Ok*

*distant hisses*

*laugh track*

*uh, um, uh*

*lightbulbs popping*

*a belly flop from which I never recover*

 

Theory: I am, in fact, my dad’s kid even more than I thought, which is to say, my natural state is quiet, ponderous, shy, and introverted. The only reason people don’t believe this about me and the reason I don’t always believe it about me is because these traits are squashed by my big, loud, sexy hypomanias. Which means sometimes I don’t live up to myself (?) which, in turn, causes a fair degree of dissonance upstairs ‘specially  when I have to perform Laura when Laura is feeling quiet, ponderous, shy, and introverted.

One Reason To Think This: I’ve been hypomanic for about 2 weeks and it hasn’t been particularly euphoric but hasn’t been irritable either. It’s been creative above all else and it fucking rules. I’ve been reading and writing frenetically and, while I’ve been enjoying other people’s company more comfortably than usual, I’d rather be in my office makin’ shit with my suddenly cartoonishly oversized brain.

Another Reason To Think This: I’ve been super, super good about not drinking and this is probably the first hypomanic episode I’ve had where I haven’t had a single drink, not even once. I’ve had to learn about 9 times (non-hyperbolic) that Laura + hypomania + booze = a noise blasting sex monster that’ll chew your damn ear off. Instead of expending this energy and disinhibition on trying to fuck your girlfriend, I’ve been shoving creative production out of my being with superhuman strength and I’m enjoying it a great deal.

 

What about the eventual fall?

What about it? Fuck you.

 

So I can’t sleep for shit. I’d been self-medicating with weed or NyQuil (or both) until my doc asked me to please stop doing that and prescribed me Sonata. Cool thing: Sonata gives me crazy vivid dreams. The people in my dreams are so lifelike, I’d deem them identical to their IRL forms. I dreamt of my dad the first night. I saw his real face, his real height, his real glasses, and I heard his real voice. I’ve not seen, in any hallucinatory form, my dad so lifelike since he was actually still alive. SO. FUCKING. COOL.

 

What about the eventual fall?

FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK you.

 

So, I’m sober, sleeping about 7 hours a night, laughing ’til I get stomach cramps, writing, writing, writing, writing, writing, just diggin’ it, really. I haven’t frightened anyone yet, not even myself. Good. More than good.

FRENETIC. The word has a great mouthfeel and is an entirely apt descriptor. I’m good with it, I’m just good. Barking for a speeding ticket, gesticulating even more than usual, tying together the windblown threads of my savaging mind because there is good stuff up here, and despite alienating people who might be put off by my pace or my presentation, I’m fine. And safe. And diggin’ it. Absolutely.

 

What about the eventual fall?

Not even dignifying that one right now.

-LB

Kid Stuff

My mom has this super neato habit of sharing really important information with me very casually and way later than I need it. She’s dropped a dozen or so of these little depth charges over the 8 years since my dad died, and my reaction is almost always: WHY WOULD YOU NOT HAVE TOLD ME THIS BEFORE?? REALLY??? Because, so much of the time, what she tells me does affect my life in one way or another. Like when she told me she had postpartum depression after my sister was born and again after I was born. This is important information to me for 2 reasons. Firstly, even though she’s got a family of nesting squirrels residing in the part of her brain that processes empathy, it would’ve been helpful to know that my psychiatric issues are not unique to me amongst my family members (so, y’know, I’d feel less like a freak resorting to slathering a Thanksgiving Smile™ on my face at every goddamned family function so I wouldn’t make anyone uncomfortable), and secondly, the children of mothers who suffered postpartum depression are at an increased risk of emotional and developmental issues – info that, if shared, would’a come in really handy while I was growing up and displaying behavior that baffled and frustrated my parents.

Which brings me to my main point…

My parents tried to find a kiddie shrink for me when I was like 5 or something. My dad sensed that there was something not quite right about me. I hit certain milestones (walking, talking and reading) earlier than a lot of kids, but I had fears, anxieties and an aversion to change that I clung to later than most children tend to. I also had serious issues with tantrums, mood swings and shyness. My dad had some of the same problems as a kid, but he grew up very poor, very neglected, and a very long time ago, so psychiatry wasn’t an option for a number of reasons. I think he was worried I’d suffer as much as he did and he wanted better for me (this is purely speculative because, as I stated previously, nobody told me shit). So my dad got in contact with a very well respected child psychiatrist though a colleague of his and he and my mom went to check this dude out. When they met him, they realized immediately that, no matter how good a doctor he was, I would not have talked to him due to the fact that he was a large, tall man with a beard. At that age, I was afraid of all men who weren’t my dad or grandpa. I was also afraid of very large adults and I didn’t know anyone who had a beard, so this doctor would have seemed frightening and imposingly alien to me. Nothing would’ve been accomplished in my meeting him, except maybe a lot of crying.

So my parents decided to find someone else. A nice, dulcet-voiced woman, perhaps, with an office full of teddy bears and baby dolls. Then they just didn’t. So I got no help. I felt weird throughout my entire childhood, endured many trials by fire, and didn’t seek psychiatric help for myself until the catalyst of my dad’s sudden death when I was 19.

So I get to wondering sometimes: what if they’d found me a doctor? The offshoots of this line of thinking have gotten divided into a rough dichotomy of outcomes. On the one hand, if I had gotten help when I was 5, I might’ve gotten a proper bipolar diagnosis at an earlier age and might, at this point in my life, have that shit more under control. I might not have developed a pattern of being so goddamned mean to myself after committing a (real or imagined) social faux pas. I might have been a better student, I might’ve learned better coping skills, I might’ve developed actual self confidence before the age of 23. A lot of good things could have happened and a lot of bad things could have been avoided. Theoretically.

On the other hand, there are a lot of things that I had to teach myself without any help and I might be better for it. I was so self-conscious about sitting alone in the cafeteria that, during my freshman year of college, I’d just skip dinner if my roommate had work or something. Whereas, Today Laura would plop down at any interesting looking table and ask to join the conversation, because Today Laura thinks strangers are great. It took a lot of work (and probably some Klonopin) to get me here, but, ultimately, I had to convince myself that I wasn’t going to starve anymore just in order to avoid the imagined whisperings of my peers who actually didn’t give a shit about what or where I was eating. Just an example. There are more. But my point is, a lot of the components that make up my ever advancing wellness are things I had to earn by myself – often uncomfortably. Yes, kids, I am a superhero.

But maybe one of the the essential questions at the root of this is: how do I feel about myself today? I can’t go back in time, I can’t redo my childhood, I can’t imagine a scenario where I could’ve asked for what I needed when I needed it so many years ago. That’s probably fine. Let’s just say I built some character, right? But it gets trickier when I have to think about my bipolar. I started seeing my current doc 8 years ago, but she didn’t diagnose me with bipolar until about year 3 – not because she’s a bad doctor, ’cause she’s not, but probably because type II bipolar is notoriously misdiagnosed as depression all the damn time. What I went through regarding my diagnosis is, by no means, unusual. Maybe if I’d had some professional help at a young age, I’d have gotten a grip on my illness before it had the chance to do some of the damage that it’s done (although, to be honest, some of that damage came in the form of more than a few fun as fuck benders that I would not repeat today, but which I remember with some fondness).

But how do I feel about myself today? I mean, today today isn’t the best time to ask ’cause I’m still pretty depressed, so my answer would be, um, glib…ish. And, anyway, at some point, this is sort of a fruitless topic on which to waste my energy ’cause I can only work with what I have, not with what I wish I had. And in a broader sense, I mean, most people probably have plenty of shit in their lives they’d like to have done differently, so how unhealthy are my regrets anyway? Maybe not very.

I guess something else to consider is the possibility that seeing a psychiatrist at age 5 (and potentially being medicated sometime thereafter) might’ve stamped me indelibly as crazy, especially if my peers found out. We had a kid in my grade school who saw a psychiatrist. His very name was a punchline. He was a weirdo and even the nicer than average kids I was lucky enough to go to school with from K-8 let him know he was a weirdo on a regular basis. Kids aren’t nice, even the nice ones. But Weird Kid from grade school also had unusual/nerdy interests (like science and owning multiple cats) and also had some motor tics and the occasional emotional meltdown in public. Not trying to be a dick, but find me a class of 6th graders who will be unflinchingly kind and accepting of such a kid and I will abandon my vow to remain childless for life and ADOPT ALL OF THEM. Granted, my problems were a little different than his. Weird Kid didn’t have a very good sense of how to operate within social norms. My sense of cool vs. uncool was sharpened to a fine point, so I knew when I wasn’t meeting the criteria and I did my darndest to hide that shit. That was probably the source of a lot of my anxiety. I knew I wasn’t cool. I don’t think Weird Kid understood it.

Regarding the above paragraph: Fuck mental health stigma. Super hard. Weird Kid, I’m sorry if I was ever shitty to you. I probably was. But maybe my parents were worried about the same thing and didn’t want their daughter to get branded. Not a good excuse to deny a child medical help by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m still thinking a lot of this through.

I guess the logical targets of my focus at this point should be a) appreciating the help I did end up getting and b) doing something with it. Like I said, gotta work with what I have. Like an emotionally myopic mother, a dead dad, and a childhood/adolescence studded with both regret and awesomeness. Also, like, this isn’t my first rodeo. I’m not as dysfunctional as I was 8 years ago. Better late than never, right?

Yeah. Better late than never.

-LB

Helping…ish?

Goddamnit. I would think that in the 3 weeks I’ve been going to therapy half as frequently, I’d be writing here constantly because I’m filled to spilling with all the feelings and my tendency is to want to articulate them, but I’ve been busy as fuck with the goddamn sky falling this past week, and even though I know it’d be therapeutic to hammer out a post, I’ve mostly been hanging out with my favorite guitar (its name is Calvin. For 3 separate reasons).

But the sky is most certainly falling. My uncle-in-law died ahead of schedule (he was given 6-12 weeks and only made it 2) so almost nobody got to visit him and say goodbye, the thought of which make me sick to my stomach with regret because when someone’s dying that fast, like, don’t fucking tarry. Just make room and go. Lesson uncomfortably learnt. So This past Thursday was the wake and Friday was the funeral. Both events lasted most of the day. My husband and I each brought a flask of whiskey to the funeral. This is not something I’m accustomed to doing, but it is something I did do and getting buzzed in a cemetery on the most beautiful spring day that ever happened anywhere was moderately surreal and probably not the classiest thing I’ve ever done. But funerals are hard. And I kept my shit together, so whatever.

The sky is falling on Colorado too, in case that’s of interest to you. My sister has strep and her roommate brought home bedbugs and 2 nights ago, some drunk strangers her other roommate brought home almost broke Big Sis’ new couch by fucking super loud and hard on it within earshot of the entire house. Like, what the hell is wrong with you? Go screw in the bathroom like a normal person. Idiots.

But the most disconcerting was the 50 minute phone call I had with my stressed-to-the-breaking-point mom last Wednesday. I called her ’cause I needed someone’s address and it should’ve been a 3 minute call, but ballooned into this…thing. This thing that required me to avoid being an asshole to my mom which can be a genuine challenge because sometimes she just plain invites it. My grandparents are doing very poorly and my mom is shouldering way too much of the work needed to keep them comfortable and not dead. She’s been sleeping like 2 hours a night, dealing with my grandpa’s dementia, my grandma’s failing kidneys, the horrible pain resulting from my grandma’s failing kidneys and – between the two of them – this ancient, stubborn Sicilian couple who refuse, out of pride, to consider dialysis and/or a night nurse.

My mom very obviously needed to unload so I let her talk, and when she started talking, she started crying and it was really evident by the tone of her voice that she’s basically a raw nerve at this point. So I let her talk some more and mostly just listened. Like many people in crisis do, she shot down most of my suggestions as logistically impossible. I don’t know why people sometimes react this way. I think when you’re that shot you need something to lean against and, in some cases, you end up leaning against your last shred of control by way of an exasperated argument angled at whoever might be trying to help you. I think if she deemed any of my ideas doable, my mom would internalize them as an indicator that, despite working herself down to the marrow, she could have been doing it better. The mind recoils.

But in all the years I’ve been in therapy, I’ve learned that being heard is more important than almost anything, so I tried to keep my mouth shut. Which is another thing I’m not accustomed to doing, but hey, week of firsts. When she was out of things to say and things to cry about, my mom told me she felt better. I done good. Like not even by accident. I mean, the phone call was happenstance, but everything else was me acting like a decent human being to this person who has the peerless ability to topple my wellness in a fell fucking swoop. I was nice to my mom and it was weird.

So there’s a part of me that’s deeply resentful for the things that happened re: my mom in the weeks and months after my dad’s death. I moved home temporarily to take care of her (nobody actually ever asked me to do that, the whole family just assumed I would). I guess my dad would’ve appreciated it. But losing my dad the way I did was arguably the worst thing that ever happened to me. I say “arguably” because there are some super unfortunate contenders for that #1 spot, but, in terms of flashbang tragedy, Dad’s sudden and untimely death left me like…concussed…in the soul. Is that a thing? It sure felt like one. The summer after he died was hard as fuck. My mom regressed into this awful, helpless state which left her 100% unable to support me emotionally. The whole summer she kept asking me why this horrible thing was happening to our family. I didn’t know. Nobody that close to me had ever died before. I was a grief neophyte. She never asked me how I was doing or if I was Ok or if I needed to talk. She did cry a lot and refuse to eat, fucking up her blood sugar but still giving herself insulin so that I’d find her passed out on the floor occasionally. Dunno if you’ve ever tried to lift a person who’s gone completely slack but it’s not very easy. It’s pretty hard to tell what the worst part of that summer was, but a candidate might be the limited symptom panic attacks I was having. I’d be sitting in the class I was taking or just listening to music or bumming around and my heart would start to race and pound and I’d get really nervous. My dad died of a heart attack so the shit my heart was doing as a response to bereavement and shock was twisted into firm evidence that I was next on the list and that I was, at all times, one misstep away from a heart attack of my own. I got kinda into morphine that summer, which probably didn’t help things. Good stuff.

Anyway, after a while I got so angry with my mom’s behavior that I stopped talking to her for 8 months, 5 of which I spent in Rome, so that made it a lot easier to avoid her. I got SO much shit from my family for cutting off my mom. To this day I still think that 8 month cold shoulder was justified. In the years since then, she’s been many flavors of difficult and frustrating. I’ve spent way more time in therapy talking about my mom than my dad – Dad being the reason I sought help to begin with. So being a shoulder for my mom to cry on last Wednesday felt a little like a betrayal to myself. That’s kinda fucked up. It also goes against everything I believe in about treating other people empathetically, but I frequently jettison my integrity on that point when I deal with my mom. Cognitive dissonance, man. (Cognitive Dissonance Man would be the worst superhero. Or the best. I can’t really decide.)

But she really needed someone to talk to. She really needs some sleep. I’m not a monster. I’m also not a martyr, but I’d like to think, at this point in my life, I can actually refrain from being a dick to my mom even if it’s sort of my natural state. So I think she’s a little better now. I’d call to check in, but that just feels weird to me. This isn’t a vengeance thing. If one person in my family is suffering, we all suffer. My mom will, quite likely, be losing one or both of her parents soon. She wasn’t there for me when I lost one of mine. There’s a juvenile part of me that wants her to know how that feels, but to what end, really? Forgiveness is hard, but the discomfort is likely temporary. Regret, on the other hand, never really goes away. And anyway, isn’t it technically a win for me if I manage to be compassionate here? Or, at the very least, reassurance that I didn’t grow up to be my mom? There. I think I made it palatable for myself.

-LB

If Our Paths Never Cross Again, I Hope You’re The Last Thing I Think Of Before I Die

I have that exact relationship with someone. It’s kind of torturous, but also, I’ve become sort of complacent about the parts of it that hurt really bad, so I’m like…experiencing very high functioning torture that I mostly ignore. I think it’s working out.

I had a dream like 2 or 3 months ago wherein I was watching an hourglass filled with dark brown sand run out, and I guess I understood I had like maybe 2 minutes left to live. So, really, the only thing I could do was decide what my last thoughts were gonna be. Dream Laura decided on the lyrics to this song:

I can’t speak for Dream Laura, really, because she does a lot of things I probably wouldn’t do and neglects to do a whole shit ton of things I would definitely do, BUT, “Going To Georgia” is plausibly the most human art thing I’ve ever gotten to experience, and I guess Dream Laura reasoned that she should indulge in one last sublimely human thing before she stopped being a human and would thereby be a total poser by trying to participate. And also dead.

I used to think about this more frequently, but sometimes I wonder what my dad’s last thoughts were when he was dying. He died like really fast, so he might not have known he was dying and his last thought could’ve been “I should retie my right shoelace, it’s kinda tight” by default, which would be unfortunate, but, in the years I’ve been dealing with various incarnations of grief, I’ve been trying to remember that the sum of my dad’s life was a lot greater than the last things he did. It helps me not be so bummed that I didn’t get to say goodbye. My last conversation with my dad was about voiding a check. It lasted roughly 5 minutes and then I went to my second job interview ever and then 2 days later he was dead. But, maybe he did know he was dying. I wonder what he thought about. I guess I sorta hope he thought of me and my sister, but I don’t think I’d be offended if he thought about something or someone else.

This is kind of a one-who-got-away situation for me which, inherently, has some elements of grief ’cause your options are either to a) pine and hope wistfully like a big, dumb idiot or b) do something realistic that brings you tangible joy. I guess that’s a false dilemma. You can do both. The one who got away (who I’m gonna call Gilgamesh because I looked around just now and it was the first name I saw when I glanced at a pile of books – and is also an appropriate nickname for other reasons, so that’s cool) shows up in my life in small measures maybe 4 or 5 times a year. That’s sorta weird, maybe, because we used to see each other every day and he spent most of his time at my apartment. I guess it’s not really that weird because that was a long time ago and the separation was fairly gradual and partially spurred on by location changes. It takes like actual effort to maintain friendships with people who live hundreds of miles away and I’m super not good at holding up my end sometimes.

So, um…Gil…the idea of that ever actually working out in any scenario strikes me as complete lunacy and I don’t know how much of that is manufactured by years of far-flung honesty dumps (go ahead, picture it, I know you want to, I can see inside your brain right now) and how much of it is my realistic understanding that Gil is a terrible partner and it requires so much energy just to keep up with him that I’d probably run myself into the ground trying. I probably already did at least once. Gil feeds my mania. Gil, himself, has bipolar (or at least mentioned in passing that he was diagnosed once but he refuses to treat it). I would believe Gil has bipolar. He’s incredibly impulsive and he never sleeps. One time we fucked on my birthday and it was terrible. We were both terrible. I’m trying really had not to analyze myself over this, but this dude is kind of emblematic of all things kinetic in my life, so when shit slows down, I’m inclined to feel Gil’s absence more acutely, and it’s probably not super healthy, but I indulge in this neat little mixture of craving, restlessness and nostalgia like just for the fuck of it. Why not? If I’m gonna have a feeling and I can’t do anything about it, then I should probably just have the damned feeling.

I’m gonna be in San Francisco in June which actually means nothing because Gil doesn’t live there anymore and hasn’t for at least a few years, but I’m still gonna be on the lookout for a preposterously tall, skinny dude destroying old guys at chess or getting hammered and writing letters on the beach at 1 in the afternoon. I don’t even know if he does either of those things anymore, but if he does, he’ll be doing them on the other side of the country because, Laura, he doesn’t live in San Francisco anymore, dummy. That doesn’t mean I’m likely to rid myself of the assumption that he’s gonna be around. When we do connect, it’s pretty arbitrarily, so there’s no reason why we both wouldn’t be in a city neither of us lives in at the exact same time and then run into each other just ’cause.I did really well in the Logic course I took in college and this paragraph is making me feel entirely undeserving of that high mark (conceding that Formal Logic and common sense are not the exact same thing). I’m being kinda ex-Catholic at myself right now, which is to say I’m denigrating myself when it’s not really called for, but seriously, Gil and I will not be running into each other casually in San Francisco in June.

So, Ok, death, right? I feel like I already popped my cherry re: me facing death ’cause of that time I was gonna kill myself, so I’ve given more thought than I assume most people give to the very last seconds of my life. I really don’t wanna fuck it up ’cause I only get to do it once. I won’t be able to regret it, but that’s cold comfort (which I won’t be able to feel, but still). Mountain Goats lyrics are a perfectly fine choice. John Darnielle has, arguably, made my life a little better, so maybe he can go ahead and make my death a little better too. Sure. Fine. I probably won’t screw that one up. But, hey, the needlessly poetic and exquisite anguish that comes with missing the ever-loving fuck out of Gil is among the most genuine emotions I ever get to feel, so maybe that’s the better choice. I don’t actually need anything from him ever again. I’m pretty satisfied that we met and I’m pretty satisfied with the time we spent together (except that sex time), even if that time feels unhappily truncated when I think about it too hard, which isn’t terribly often. He’s more of a totem at this point. I’m not sure how I feel about that. It’s weird. I feel weird.

Anyway, the album Alopecia by WHY? is coming to the desert island with me because it’s pretty magnificent. My reason for mentioning it is the presence of the lyric:

“Even though I haven’t seen you in years, yours is a funeral I’d fly to from anywhere”

And it’s a little bizarre to have that feeling and then to have someone articulate it for you and you sorta wanna punch something, but like out of relief or maybe even euphoria or maybe I need to have a conversation with myself about when and why it’s appropriate to punch things. I’ll do it later. Here. Dig this super dark song in the meantime, and maybe think about your own mortality and then try to accept my sincerest contrition for ruining your day:

-LB

Dreams

I have 3 types of recurring dreams: the Refugee Dream, the Ever-Expanding House Dream and nightmares that I think I have more frequently than most adults do but I don’t really ask around about this shit so everybody else might be having nightmares all the time like I do. Dunno.

The “refugee” in the Refugee dream is a word I use kind of loosely. Sometimes I am a refugee. Most of the time I’m not. The identifying trait of the Refugee Dream is me frantically looking for things and running out of time to collect them. Sometimes I’m dashing through a hardware store gathering what I feel are necessities: lightbulbs, sheets of plywood, picture framing hardware. Sometimes I’m in a massive cosmetics department at a drugstore and I keep finding items that I can’t stand not to snatch up. I mean look how many colors of eyeshadow they have! And it’s so inexpensive! I could buy like 14 different colors of eyeshadow while I’m here and I could totally afford it (the weird thing about that bit is that I wear eyeshadow pretty infrequently, but Dream Laura apparently needs all the fucking eyeshadow that ever existed, even in colors that would look clownish on me). I’m never alone in the Refugee dream. There’s always someone telling me that we need to leave the store now and that it’s urgent that we go I can’t possibly keep shopping, which is the point at which I get really stressed out because I can’t leave until I have everything I could possibly want or need – regardless of my inability to even carry all of it and regardless of any true need to possess any of it – because I know, somehow, that I’ll never be coming back. When my mom was in the process of selling my childhood home I had the Refugee dream for real about twice a week. I’d dream that some unnamed malevolence was forcing me and my loved ones to flee and I’d only have a few minutes to pack the absolute necessities. I totally choke in that situation. I keep finding things I’m sure I’m going to need because I know that the journey ahead of me is going to be really rough and I need to be prepared. I’m never able to take everything I want and I’m usually hauled off by my more sensible company with a cartoonishly overstuffed suitcase and as many layers of clothing as I can stand to wear. The urgency in all of the Refugee dreams is never completely explained. Who’s forcing me to flee my home? Why can’t I come back to the store tomorrow and buy more lightbulbs or eyeshadow? What am I late for? What am I making everyone else late for? At any rate, I never get everything I’m seeking and it totally freaks me out.

About 8 or 9 years ago, Doctors Without Borders ran a traveling refugee camp. The point of the tour was to show people what it’s like to live as a refugee. The DWB veteran who hosted it when it came through my city it took us through a miniaturized version of a makeshift sanctuary. She began by telling us that we had exactly 5 minutes to pack and to decide right now what to take and what to leave. She also mentioned that 5 minutes was kind of generous because some people get 0 minutes and just have to start running. We walked through the mock camp, crawled around in cramped little tarp and canvass tents, were given food and water rations, shown the bathroom facilities (hole in the ground), got our shots or medications if we were lucky, got sent to the cholera tent to die horribly if we weren’t. It was an excellent exhibit and was extremely eye opening. I hope they do it again because anybody who gives even half a shit about other human beings should know what it’s like (even in miniature) for the millions of displaced people on Earth whose lives are, as Thomas Hobbes put it: nasty, brutish and short – by no fault of their own. Tangent, but this was an important moment for my developing moral compass and it ended up getting tangled up in my dreams.

The Ever-Expanding House dream is trippy as fuck. When I was younger, the dream usually started in my grandparents’ basement. I’d find a door that lead to a sub-basement and then another door there and so on, descending without any endpoint. Every level is different and really cool and I get really excited that I’ve found access to all these sweet new places to explore. As an adult, I tend to dream about my own house. I move in and start poking around and I keep finding more and more cool spots furnished with wacky shit: Dr. Seuss-esque shower heads, steps that lead to nowhere, massive bridges that connect one hidey-hole to another, ice cream (for some reason…). I’m usually bummed when I wake up after an Ever-Expanding House dream because after that shit, my real life surroundings are depressingly banal by comparison. The house is labyrinthine and, the longer I sleep, the more I find. If I slept forever, I’d never see the whole house. There’s usually someone exploring with me. It’s usually my sister or a friend. Usually the kind of dream friend that doesn’t exist in real life but in your dream has known you since preschool. Everything in this dream is dazzling and it’s always mine to keep, no matter how much I find. I guess that’d make it the opposite of the Refugee dream.

My nightmares are almost always intensely violent and extremely sad. Waking up confused and crying is dumb as hell and I hate that I do it so much. A few nights ago, I dreamt that my sister and I were being executed. They killed her first. They tried to behead her but couldn’t make it work, so they plunged a sword into her lung. I kept screaming and crying and telling her that I loved her as she was bleeding out in the grass, knowing that I was next. I woke up before they killed me. No one ever told us what we did to deserve death, but I don’t remember claiming to be innocent or even pleading for my life because I knew it was futile. I had about 8 seconds to accept death and I spent them fighting to make sure that the last thing my sister ever heard was that she was loved. When I was a teenager, I once dreamt that I was being chased through the woods by a serial killer. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to outrun him so I decided to kill myself before he got the chance. I slit my wrists and woke up just as I was blacking out on the forest floor. I still remember the color of the leaves. I also remember smiling because, despite having to forfeit my life, I had won. Futility is the main theme in most of my nightmares. I know something bad is going to happen, I know I can’t stop it and I know I have very little time to decide what to do about the situation. I guess it’s sort of a test of my mettle, but Dream Laura is a lot braver than Real Laura so most of the time the only thing these nightmares accomplish is making me really upset.

People have myriad notions about the significance of dreams. I, personally, don’t think that my dreams are delivered to me by any external sentience. This shit comes from inside my own head. After 7.5 years of therapy, I know myself well enough to get a rough idea of why I dream the way that I do. An overly reductive interpretation might be:

Refugee Dream: insecurity, inadequacy, anxiety, fear of change

Ever-Expanding House Dream: hopefulness, inquisitiveness, novelty, imagination,

Nightmares: sometimes I’m just a fucking bummer, man

There’s probably a lot more going on than that. It took me an embarrassingly long time to connect the dots between the sale of my childhood home and my dreams of being forced out of comfort and safety. I think my dreams tell me things about myself. I think, much of the time, my dreams tell me what I’m afraid of. I have other recurring dreams, but they’re pretty garden variety: losing my teeth, having a kid, talking to my dead dad. Those don’t interest me much. If the lost teeth thing sounds familiar to you, it should. Almost everybody at some time (or many times) has a dream wherein their teeth crack, break or fall out. Along with things being on fire, missing or damaged teeth appear in bad dreams more than almost anything else. The prevailing theory on the teeth thing is that it’s spawned by stress, anxiety or a lack or self confidence. That makes sense to me. An aside, but I think it’s kind of cool that something so specific is as common as it is. Unity and solidarity and stuff. Neat. Stressful, but neat.

I went to bed really late last night. I didn’t get enough sleep because I can’t sleep in anymore. I don’t know why. I made it to about 9:30 but I had intended to get up at like noon so I’d actually get a full 8 hours. No dice. I was bummed when I woke up because I had been having an Ever-Expanding House dream and there were Dreamsicles involved (cute, right?). But disturbed sleep patterns, even if it’s just one day of bad sleep or too much sleep or not enough sleep can totally fuck with a bipolar person’s moods. We’re more sensitive to sleep issues than most people. More on that some other time.

So, I guess I could’ve started the post by noting that most people don’t find hearing about other people’s dreams to be especially interesting, but if you’ve made it this far: Hi! ‘Sup? Titties! Sorry… My psychiatrist, though, usually encourages me to talk about my dreams if they seem significant. Sometimes the weird shit I dream up can help her help me untangle some knotted up feelings that I can’t articulate well. Several dozen times I’ve dreamt that I had the opportunity to say goodbye to my dad; to tell him that I love him and that I miss him like crazy. I didn’t get to do that in real life. It’s bittersweet as hell but I think it’s probably good for me, especially because I don’t believe in an afterlife, so near-death Dream Dad is the closest I’ll get to the kind of closure I wasn’t lucky enough to experience. I like that my doc thinks my dreams are worth talking about. Otherwise, I’d be having a shit ton of intense feelings about technically nothing and not knowing what to do with the cloudy emotional residue my dreams leave behind. Some people tell me they don’t dream at all. My sister says she doesn’t. So does my husband. They’re both really sound sleepers. I am not. I wonder if they’re missing out or something. I mean, I could do without all the nightmare violence and bizarre stress behavior, but I got a Dreamsicle last night and I’m pretty sure they didn’t. So that’s something, I s’pose.

-LB