Tag Archives: panic attack

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.

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Among Others

Would you mind just knowing when I wanna be alone but not alone alone, so like maybe you could hang out in the next room with the door open but I wouldn’t have to tell you to do this, you’d just know it’s what I need right that sec?

Is there any way we can ensure that you’ll say exactly what I need to hear, at the pace and in the tone in which I need to hear it but without my having to instruct you at any point regarding what is the right thing to say because I honestly have no fucking clue?

Can we make arrangements for you to be gone when I’m feeling spontaneously creative and would really like the house to myself so I can make all the noise I want for the purpose of later choosing which noises I like best except I’ll never have to actually ask you to leave?

Can you please refrain from commenting that I seem like I’m feeling better because it places a lot of pressure on me to stay better and I don’t know if I can do that, plus having this conversation has the potential to make me feel un-better, so just like, know not to do that, Ok?

Would it be possible for you not to take, “FUCK YOU, [LOVED ONE], COME CLOSER AND I’LL PUT YOUR GODDAMNED LIGHTS OUT!” personally when I’m having a panic attack, and while we’re on the subject, can you jettison your natural instinct to comfort me physically when I’m freaking out because your well-intentioned hugs feel like burning sandpaper, but I don’t wanna have to recoil when you touch me, so you’ll just not do it?

If possible, can you try not to resent me when I’m in bed at 6 p.m. reading and rereading the same news article for 45 minutes because my brains turned to gutter slush while you’re downstairs both cooking and cleaning up dinner which I probably won’t eat until 4 hours later, and I probably didn’t clean the litter boxes either but you’ll just understand that an apology for this shit may or may not be coming several days later?

Is it alright if we have an implicit understanding that when I say I’m gonna “power down” for the evening it means I’m gonna get stoned and watch episodes of cartoons I’ve seen so many times I can recite them by heart and then fall asleep at 9:15 when my Depakote kicks in ’cause I’m still not totally used to it?

Can I not have to defend my irrational attachment to the 3 saplings that took root in the yard this summer so we can plant them in the spot I picked out and cross the low-hanging power line bridge when we come to it because destroying trees of any size makes me cry?

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Thanks. I love you a lot, though.

-LB

God God Damnit Damnit

Well, there went June. I mean I was in California for half of it, and I’ve been pretty sad for the rest. My grandma died the evening following the previous post, so, like 5 weeks ago at this point. It got really ugly. The last few days she was in hospice, we were all kind of hoping she would just go. Watching her struggle to catch her breath and then feeling my stomach drop in between breaths as the pauses got longer and longer and I thought, this is it, she stopped breathing was pretty brutal. The last 2ish days she was really loaded on morphine and lorazepam so she wasn’t really even there, but there was a really brief window when she was still lucid and I got to say goodbye to her.

Fuck saying goodbye to your loved ones forever so hard. It’s the roughest thing I’ll ever be grateful for. At this point, I’ve lost 2 really important people in two different ways. My dad died without warning and the shock was unbelievable…and the regret and the guilt and the wondering if I had a hand in it and the accusing other people of having a hand in it, but not to their face because: You’re a fucking backbreaker who worked your husband into the ground (I’d say “literally” but my dad’s not buried in the ground, he’s in a mausoleum with mostly strangers and now my grandma)…is like maybe the quickest way destroy a relationship with someone. Probably. Not that it was great to begin with, but at the end of the day, we were all shellshocked and miserable and shitty to each other. I had to watch my grandma die. I saw her shut down piece by piece. I saw her fingers turn blue as she got less and less oxygen with each breath, I watched her chest heave reflexively in a morphine twilight, I saw tears of pain gather at the corners of her eyes that she didn’t even know were there.

I heard her whisper in Sicilian: Mama, I’m coming to be with you.

God god damnit damnit.

I’ve been ignoring how unsteady I’ve been since she died. I went back down to my normal dosage of meds because the extra olanzapine was making me really tired. I had a panic attack in San Diego. I cry when I think about this, so I don’t think about it a lot. I’m motivated to shower and drink gin and impulse buy shit off Etsy. I made a Pinterest board of things I wanna put on my back deck. I won’t ever actually put them there, but in my mind (and on the Internet), I have a killer back deck. I haven’t picked up a guitar since I borrowed one in Carmel like over 2 weeks ago. Sometimes, without provocation, my heart pounds real hard for several minutes and then goes back to normal. The last thing my grandma ever ate was a pancake and they had to stop feeding her when she started to choke on a piece. When I think about pancakes, I cry. That reality is 100% not workable.

I missed 3 MMA classes in a row, but the third time was to see Serengeti at one of my city’s myriad summer street festivals/glorified block parties with sponsors, which, at the time I decided was worth it, but I’m gonna be like, cursing his name at the gym on Sunday when I barf on the floor after 90 seconds of jump roping. I’ve been trying to work out at home. I’m not a self-motivator. I need my class. For many reasons. But live music is also a tonic, so it wasn’t a loss, really.

I’ve been smoking cigarettes kinda. I quit 2 years ago, but watching my grandma suffocate slowly warranted a number of cigarette breaks in the hospital parking lot with my sister. The cognitive dissonance was not lost on me. But I really needed some timeouts, so whatever. I have an e-cig. I have more than enough vanity to keep me from using it in public. Nobody looks cool smoking a e-cig. It’s not really the same anyway. I had intended to go home after the Serengeti set last weekend because I had no other reason to be at the festival. I hadn’t slept much so I wasn’t drinking because I didn’t wanna fall asleep in the grass. But I hung out for like an extra hour just to bum cigs off dudes which is really easy so I made the most of it. I bought a few packs in California – which were unnervingly inexpensive compared to here – but I purposely left them behind places so I would only smoke like 2 or maybe 3…which I guess means they were sorta, kinda way more expensive than they are here cause I wasn’t getting my money’s worth. I’m not real worried about it. What I am worried about is that I made my husband promise not to let my buy any more cigarettes but I very frequently want one. Like right now would be one of those times. I just feel like smoking a lot, which is generally indicative of: a) I’m drunk b) I’m anxious or c) I don’t know what to do with my hands right that sec. Thanks to all the weed in my life, I can have orgasms again and my husband has been out of the house a lot the last few evenings which are the only times I watch porn ’cause we don’t like the same kind of porn so “c” is not really a problem. (Trying super hard not to think too much about that last sentence, ’cause it’s just depressing.) So I’m sitting here puffing on my e-cig. I am unwashed and I do not look cool.

So, here’s something that’s fucked up and terrifying and one of the gifts you get when you come from a line of mildly inbred Italian hill people: my grandma died because her lungs shut down. She never smoked in her life and she never let my grandpa smoke in the house. She was rarely sedentary and spent a lot of time outdoors. She ate really well. She took care of herself. But she got a cold or something sometime this past spring and it triggered an autoimmune response that resulted in her lungs overproducing heavy mucus and basically strangling her from the inside out. The reason this is so scary to me is because so many people in my family are carriers of autoimmune disorders, including my mom who’s a type 1 diabetic. There’s actually this freaky subset of couplings among my grandma’s cousins wherein the children of those couples have a 1 in 4 chance of developing an autoimmune disease. 4 kids came out of that batch, one got diabetes, one got MS and one got scleroderma. I wanna say the 4th one is safe, but my grandma probably thought she was too until a fucking cold turned her lungs into rocks at 89, which is exactly my point: this shit could happen to me too. And, as with my grandma, I might not know until I have 2 weeks left to live. So from now on, I’m gonna be massively paranoid every time I get the sniffles ’cause they may be my last. Or something. I’m not a doctor. I could be wrong about all this. Paranoia is part of how I grieve.

I’ve been subject to this weird glut of deaths in the last 8 years and the thing we all keep telling each other is that there’s no right or wrong way to grieve. It doesn’t matter how well I understand this concept or how threadbare that platitude has become by this point, I always think I’m fucking it up. My grandma lived a good life. She was happy and virtuous by her own measure. Unlike me, she was a person of faith, so she probably felt a brand of comfort and homecoming in her last days that I’ll never know. She was industrious, humble, sweet and nurturing. She always put herself last. When relatives came to the hospital to say their last goodbyes, they’d say, “I’m gonna pray for you.” My grandma would respond, “No, I’ll pray for you.” And she did. When she died, she was the most beautiful person at her funeral. She was buried in the dress she wore to my wedding. She was stunning.

I’m bothered that I’ve been able to keep as much together as I have, which isn’t to say I’ve been keeping it 100% together, obviously, as evidenced by the panic attacks and low motivation and nicotine cravings. But I still feel like I’m not giving my grandma the reverence she deserves. I asked my therapist what’s the weeping equivalent of a standing ovation. She said she didn’t know. But I hope I figure that one out because my grandma earned it.

-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