Tag Archives: psychotherapy

You Tell ME

Ok, so I need you lovelies out there to share your opinion on this – if you have one:

I’m going to start seeing my therapist twice a week again. I have the hypothetical option of going 2 days in a row or spacing my appointments out a little so I don’t go as many days in a row without seeing my doctor. Few things to consider:

1. The benefit of going 2 days in a row is that I can keep the momentum going and pick up where we left off the day before when I’m dealing with something that can’t be dealt with entirely in 50 minutes. Doc says some of her patients find this route really beneficial – closer to having one really long appointment than 2 shorter ones…kinda.

2. On the other hand, sometimes something fucked up will happen the day of or the day after a session and I have to wait almost a whole week to talk about it, and in that time, I might forget important details or the incident altogether, so it might not get handled properly. So it might be better to, for example, meet on a Monday and a Thursday so therapy is, in a way, more frequent and my issues more up to date.

3. It’s about a 90 minute commute via public trans from my house to my doctor’s office, which probably sounds like a stupid choice on my part, but I started seeing this doctor 8 years ago, and 8 years ago, I lived in a neighborhood that was pretty close to her office, so it was fine. 90 minutes each way, two days in a row is a pain in the ass. It might be less exhausting if I had some spacing between doctor visits that take up like half of my goddamned day.

4. Regarding #3: I don’t mind long bus>train>another train commutes as much as most people probably do. I can read, I can listen to music, I can write, I can check out cute girls like a total pig. A lot of my fashion decisions are the result of things I’ve seen people wear on the train, and because my city’s so large, there’s a lot of variety.

5. Depending on what my doctor has available, this choice might be made for me, and, really, I’m not gonna suffer either way.

But I still wanna know what you think. Which option would you prefer? Why? Open to all opinions and experiences. Lemme know in the comments and thanks in advance! (Especially for factors I hadn’t considered here.)

-LB

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Oh Good, More Learning

So, as stated last post, I’m down to one session of therapy a week and it’s been a rough transition. I wanna say it’s been a surprisingly rough transition, but that’s not true because I knew it’d be hard and I just decided to ignore that reality. It’s hard. I hate it.

I had a little meltdown the night before last. I’d cut my hair that day. Which is to say that, deviating from my typical habit, I let a professional cut my hair. Like someone with many years of training and experience and very likely some kind of degree or certification in this shit. It’s short. Like just past my chin. I like it because I have to. I also like it because it’s cute. There was a dive bar on the first floor of the building where I got my hair cut. I asked the receptionist if it was a decent place to grab a drink and she said it was nothing fancy, but it was fine. I don’t know why I felt like having a drink. I mean I probably do know. It was probably because I lopped off like 5 inches of my hair after ~3 years of telling myself I was gonna let it grow out to an unreasonable, mermaid-like length. So I got a drink. I forgot that it was only 4:30ish so the bar was pretty empty except for the sweetest bartender ever and 2 middle-aged regulars. So I started talking to these guys about the mayoral election we’d all voted in earlier that day (my candidate lost). We talked about past mayors, political dynasties, school closings, citywide ethnic segregation, the mismanagement of public funds, the political machine of the good old days, the political machine of today. The word “reluctant” got used a lot. So did “the lesser of two evils”. This is the vocabulary of my hometown. We only get truly pissed off here when so many people get thrown under the bus that the bus can no longer run.

I get a little defensive of my intellect and my opinion when I have to deal with men who are older than I am. These dudes were actually really cool about not treating me like I’m 9. They asked me what I thought about the leadership of a mayor who left office before I was even born. At some point Nazis came up (like they do). One of these dudes was born in Argentina, so that took an interesting turn. I was having a really good time. I kept ordering beers. At one point, the bartender stopped charging me. Or I stopped paying. It’s not really clear. Since I can’t even remember the last time I got legitimately drunk before this, my tolerance, as you can imagine, was/is pretty fucking low. It got dark out, and I remembered I had to run an errand on the way home that required me to carry approx. 15lbs of stuff on the bus…a ream of printer paper, half a gallon of soy milk, baby food so my cat will actually take her meds, contact solution, stuff that drunk people shouldn’t heft on public trans. So I cheerily left the bar and the nice people I’d met (which were in a neighborhood I almost never visit) and got on a bus headed somewhere and hopped off when I spotted a drug store. I had a list with me. I could only find 3 of the things on my list before I gave up because I was walking into shit. I put on my best “sober” face and, in my best “sober” voice, paid for my purchases and went looking for a bus line I actually knew how to navigate, which I found without much difficulty because it was right the fuck there the whole time and I can get myself lost walking around the damned block, so, as one might conclude, it’s even funnier and probably more hazardous when I’m three sheets.

So, I’m certain I’ve mentioned this before, but being drunk while bipolar is often a little different than being drunk without a mental illness. To begin with, when that first wave of booziness hits me, I start to talk loud and fast. I get tons of energy and I want to chat with everyone. I like meeting strangers anyway, so meeting strangers when I’m drunk is even easier. I get temporarily a little hypomanic. That overly spirited sense of wellbeing and invincibility, though, almost always takes a freaky turn like 4 or 5 hours in to my drunkenness. While on the right bus, I started to feel very intensely about EVERYTHING. I texted my sister saying:

Right now I simultaneously feel like the most brilliant thing that ever lived and like I wanna die right this sec.

Which is the kind of thing that sparks alarm in most rational people. It’s also one of the reasons I don’t drive. Me behind the wheel is fine until it’s not. And it can turn into not on a dime, even though I feel very strongly about not driving drunk (don’t drive drunk. I was hit by a drunk driver when I was 5 and it FUCKING SUCKED. Don’t drive drunk). Anyway, my sister, several states away, was pretty concerned for my safety. I don’t know why I wanted to die. I felt high as a kite. I was pretty euphoric. Maybe too euphoric. There was so much going on inside my head that I think I thought, at the time, the only logical culmination to all this out of control effervescence was a big, glorious death. This is the kind of shit that makes total sense to me when I’m not in my right mind. Everything becomes gigantic.

The second part of this nonsense is probably the least flattering. I got my sister on the phone when I got into the house. I started crying and screaming and I absolutely cannot remember what I was upset about. I asked her, later, not to tell me because I think I’d rather not know, and, anyway, if I thought about it hard enough, I could probably just guess. She calmed me down, convinced me to take some Klonopin (see LBD: benzodiazepines) which I’d neglected to do at my scheduled time because I was busy knocking back Dogfish and discussing Nazi war criminals’ flight to South America with strange men. And by now, my pretty haircut was a masterful shitshow because I kept twisting and ruffling it frantically and I cried all of my makeup down to the wrong parts of my face and I was probably waxing wistful about everything I never did or won’t do or never knew I wanted to do until right that second and OH MY GOD my sister is a hero. But eventually I stopped crying and took my meds and got off the phone with my sister and texted my husband to come home.

My husband arrived just in time for part three which is, primarily, me despairing repetitively in barely audible monotone. I can’t remember if I was still drunk, which means I probably kind of was, but my thoughts followed a very logical if utterly unsound sequence. I used a lot of $10 words which is a thing I do when I feel like I have nothing else. And also because words make me feel better. I did that thing I always do where I took stock of my life and denigrated all of it as folly after mishap after plummet. The how-did-I-get-here-I-hate-my-life shit I do is pretty unfair to my husband seeing as he’s one of the biggest parts of my life. I punished myself, as usual (hi, Catholic upbringing!) for not taking pristine care of myself and for having the nerve to share a few drinks and good conversation with some new people (or, as I framed it: being reckless, getting drunk, putting myself in danger and then crying about it when, SURPRISE! I didn’t feel fantastic for having done those things). The point I kept harping on was that I know better (than what? was never clearly defined but it was probably that I know better than to get that drunk, though there was a strong implication that I should know better than to have such loud feelings, shame on me). I do know better, though. I can’t believe I actually got home that night. I can’t believe I didn’t puke. I considered the migraine I developed as I slowly sobered up over the course of the next few hours my just deserts. And then down and then more down and then downer and then at some point Laura passes out.

I was really sick, both in my head and my guts the next morning. I hadn’t slept very well that night and I was tossing so much much between 3:30 and 5:30 that I went to the guest room so I’d stop bothering my husband and I watched a nature documentary, drifting in and out of shallow sleep until the stupid sun came up and once the sun is up, I have a really hard time staying asleep, even if I’m really tired. Which I was. I was tired and headachey and sick to my stomach most of the morning, which was really a drop in the bucket because I was super fucking preoccupied with shame and self-loathing. Quite frankly, I’m not sure what happened or what I did wrong. I know I drank more than I should have, but beyond that, there was nothing that triggered my weird mood shift or my crying or my self-pitying. I know for sure that my self-flagellation was extremely disproportionate to my actions (oh hey, Catholic childhood, you’re still here…). I know that Silver Linings Laura would try to appreciate this shit as a learning experience rather than waste an entire day in my jammies watching cartoons and trying to rehydrate while questioning whether or not I even deserved water.

One of the things I find really frustrating about this situation is that, as far as these things go, I have pretty successfully treated bipolar. I haven’t had a serious episode in at least a year. I’m comfortable (for the most part) with my meds, I was starting to make some really good headway in therapy about non-bipolar shit that anyone would need therapy to deal with (dream-destroying mom, years and years of child abuse, dad dying way too early). Over the past year, I’ve been able to congratulate myself more than a few times for finally seeing the actions I’ve taken to make myself better come to fruition. But I won’t allow myself a single slip up. I’m too rigid for that. It’s definitely worth noting that, had this course of events taken place 2 or 3 years ago, I would’ve done more than just cry and pity myself. I would probably have had a full-blown panic attack and I very likely would have self-harmed. But I don’t think about progress that way. I don’t know why. After all the work I’ve done, I sure as hell should.

So, today, I feel fine. Good, even. I had a nice conversation with my sister about what to name her new kitten. I managed to erase my sleep deficit. I’m going grocery shopping later (not a huge deal, but at least it’s productive). And I have every intention of doing many pushups later to make up for not having MMA class last Sunday. Oh yeah, and I finally got my copy of the new Mountain Goats album in the mail (which I stupidly ordered in disc form for some fucking reason, but who the fuck cares because I am STOKED). So, I know it’s almost 2:30, but I’m at least going to try to make this a good day. Wish me luck.

-LB

ETA: I’m no longer regretting my choice of ordering a CD ’cause that shit came with a kickass poster and fucking STICKERS. Killer.

What I’m Actually Upset About

I’m having a hair problem. It’s bugging the crap out of me. I stopped straightening my hair like maybe 10 years ago because I realized I actually really liked my natural texture. I had these really nice, uniform, loose spirals that behaved perfectly with almost no styling. Like I’d just wash it and forget about it and be left with this awesome head of long, flowing curls that changed colors according to the season: strawberry blonde in the summer and a deeper auburn in the winter. Killer. Loved my hair. Embracing your natural hair texture is kind of a big deal for girls and women because so few of us have tresses that align with conventional, Western beauty standards, so we torment ourselves with expensive products, cumbersome tools and wasted time to achieve attractiveness (which is ultimately bullshit, but really hard not to buy into). I was pretty haughty about my ability to skip that nonsense.

So my curls are gone now. I dunno how or why. I started noticing it a little over a year ago and started going to greater and greater lengths just to get my damned Adonis hair back, but it’s gotten to a point where it just kind of hangs in these sloppy, uneven waves. It looks dumb. My hair looks super dumb. I’m pissed. I asked my sister-in-law about it because she’s a hairdresser and she said that sometimes it just happens. She said it’s usually meds or hormones, but for some people, your hair texture just changes. She followed her comments up with, “I know that’s probably not what you wanted to hear.” It really, really wasn’t. But I appreciated that she took those feelings into account. Since it’s been so long since I’ve had to style my hair, I don’t really know how to do it anymore. I don’t have tons of hair and it’s not very long anymore (about to get even less long next week when I actually let a professional touch it, which I rarely do because I NEVER HAD TO WORRY ABOUT IT BEFORE), but it takes me like a full hour just to blow dry it into a shape I can live with, only to have that shape unfurl into a sad, limp mess 30 minutes later.

I’ve tried every weird tip and trick I could dig up on the Internet. In the last week, I bought a curling iron, a diffuser and some way too expensive products, all of which was a waste of money which I know I can’t really afford this month, but I’ve become obsessed. Last night Husband had some of our gaming friends over to play D&D. I didn’t participate. I didn’t even greet them when they showed up. I holed up in the bathroom with a whisky tonic, some T. Rex and a curling iron trying not to burn myself and trying not to cry and then lamenting my choice of tunes because Marc Bolan had this going on:

Marc At The BBC

And the whole while I was grappling with this searing hot curling iron, I was like, FUCK YOU SO HARD, MARC BOLAN WITH YOUR GODDAMNED CHERUB CURLS, YOU ASSHOLE. Because at that point I was starting to forfeit some of my rationality, which was probably resultant of the whisky and the iron burns. Good. Productive.

But truly, I am becoming obsessed. And, in my estimation, my hair is too frivolous to spend this much energy on, but, as I’ve said many times before, I’m pretty vain, so my fixation is becoming emblematic of everything in my life I see as a failure. Things could be so much worse.

Things are so much worse.

Last week, we found out that one of the cats needs surgery to correct a badly healed femur she broke when she was a stray and probably still a kitten. She has arthritis (she’s only 3) and is probably in a good deal of pain. The surgery will cost us about $3,000. That’s a lot for us. Realistically, we might have to cancel our honeymoon which we still haven’t taken even though we’ve been married for over 6 months. We already bought plane tickets and planned a 5 stop itinerary from central to southern California. Awesome. My grandmother was admitted to the hospital two days ago because her kidneys decided to take a nap or something and the buildup of whatever your kidneys are supposed to filter out (I’m not good with human anatomy, I’m just relating what I was told) caused her to develop type II diabetes, which has its own set of complications because she weighs 98 pounds and has almost no body fat, so there are very few places on her frame that can support an insulin injection. Awesomer. One of my uncles-in-law was, this past weekend, given 6-12 weeks to live after years of battling brain cancer. He does not want to be resuscitated. He’s going and very soon. THE MOST AWESOME.

I’ve been crying a lot. I reached a breaking point the other day after a phone call from my mom became an exercise in masochism as I let her start yelling and arguing with me when there was nothing to argue about. Mother’s day this year falls on the 8th anniversary of my dad’s death and my mom just can’t handle it.So we agreed to celebrate the day before, primarily for my grandmother’s sake who really, really deserves to be celebrated this year. I mentioned to my mom that my mother-in-law pointed out (without resentment) that last year my family got my husband and me for both Easter and Mother’s Day and she’d really appreciate it if we could be with her family for one of those holidays this year. I also pointed out that she’s about to lose her brother, so it’s important to me that we spend time with my in-laws. Even though there was no scheduling conflict, Mom started raising her voice as if I was trying to weasel out of something, even though I made it clear that we will be seeing her for Easter, we will be celebrating Mother’s Day with her on May 9th and Mother’s Day with my in-laws on May 10th (I declined to point out that this arrangement is going to be extremely emotionally taxing for me because I didn’t want to give her another foothold in her concocted conflict that she didn’t seem to realize was completely one-sided). What I did say was that, while I recognize that May 10th will never be a happy day for anyone in our family, over the years I’ve learned to cope. Her response: WELL I HAVEN’T.

Oh yeah, and as long as I’m enumerating my current misfortunes, I just remembered that 4 days from now will be the anniversary of the death of my childhood best friend who was killed by a Taliban suicide bomber in Afghanistan while she was working as as diplomat for the State Department. She was on her way to deliver books to some schoolchildren when her caravan was struck by a car bomb. She was 25 and was moving up the ranks in her department at such an unprecedented rate that I have little doubt she could’ve been Secretary of State or even President one day. She was one of the smartest people I’ve ever known and the world is a shittier place without her.

So I’ve become fixated on my hair. Because my hair is superficial. Because my hair doesn’t yell at me. Because I can waste time fucking around with it, channeling all my frustration into garbage pile that’s hanging off head right now and not think about the forfeiture of my honeymoon, my grandmother’s faulty organs or my uncle’s impending death. I don’t have to think about how I lost my dad and my friend prematurely if I’m focused on avoiding another curling iron burn. That shit gets REALLY hot.

There are 2 things I wish I had available right now. I wish I’d bought a 100lb heavy bag (punching bag) for the basement like I was gonna so I could practice my MMA technique (i.e. punch and kick the crap out of it) to blow off some steam. And I wish I still had therapy twice a week. I had to start going once a week because, in light of the money problems we’re looking at this month, I can’t afford two sessions every week. I would be getting out of therapy right now, actually. I might be running into one of the homeless dudes I chat with when I’m in that neighborhood. Those dudes are so goddamned friendly and so goddamned positive and I almost always get a hug and I could really use a fucking hug right now, even knowing that it would probably make me start sobbing, but I know they’d be cool about it.

So, right now, because I wasted most the of day in bed recovering from a migraine, I’m gonna finally get into the fucking shower. I’m gonna try to avoid fucking around with my hair. I’m gonna try to spend some time playing my cajon (it’s a Peruvian box drum that you can play with your hands, if you didn’t know) because I think the tactile sensation of hitting something coupled with the aural sensation of the massive booms I get out of that thing (my cajon kicks ass) will do me some good. But, frankly, I’m probably gonna cry in the shower because I’ve been feeling a monolithic sob welling up in me the whole time I’ve been writing this and if it doesn’t come out soon, I might end up barfing instead of crying. If I had a dollar for every time in my life that I said, “when it rains, it pours” I could probably afford that second day of therapy. I guess I just have to stick it out.

-LB

Everybody’s Talkin’ (Except Me Because I Have Nothing To Say Right This Sec)

I am astonished by how astonished I am that I have so many covers of Harry Nilsson’s classic novelty jam, “Coconut” in my library. Right now I’m listening to one by Fred Schneider from the B-52s and it sounds EXACTLY how you think it would.

I wrote like 11 drafts of this post and deleted all but this one because the only thing I needed to say is that I have therapy today and I have nothing to talk about which is really disconcerting because my doctor will let a pause get pregnant and pregnant-er until I spill my guts about anything in the hopes it’ll circle back around to something worth talking about. It’s a really good strategy.

Everything is fine. I think I’m gonna waste the session talking about Harry Nilsson.

Harry Nilsson is one of only 3 blonde dudes I’ve ever wanted to bang. I mean, not now, obviously, ’cause he died in the 90’s, so that’d be hard to swing. But before he had 8 kids? I’d hop on that train, no hesitation.

Harry Nilsson is sometimes referred to as the 5th Beatle, which is kind of unfair because Harry Nilsson is better than the Beatles. John Lennon produced one of his later albums and it’s SO DEPRESSINGLY BAD. John Lennon ruins everything.

I wonder what Harry Nilsson thought about Soundgarden.

If I got to watch Harry Nilsson fistfight Paul Simon, there’s no way any possible outcome would leave me dissatisfied.

Nilsson Sings Newman should be rocketed into space as humanity’s ambassador to all aliens.

I don’t do hard drugs anymore, but I would to ALL the drugs with Harry Nilsson if he called me up and was like, “Laura, I have all the drugs. Let’s do all the drugs together.” Yes, Harry. Let’s.

And then my 50 minutes would be up. I mean, I guess I have some insurance stuff to discuss with my doc, but I’m not insured by Harry Nilsson, so I feel like it’d be really hard to keep me on track.

Sorry about the throwaway post (except I’m not really that sorry, but I feel like I should be). Umm…I guess I should go to therapy. Dig this in my absence:

-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

You’re More In Charge Than You Think

I may write about this some more because I feel really strongly about it, but I want to address a specific aspect of the doctor/patient relationship. In order to get the most out of your efforts, you need to be an active participant in your healthcare. You’re not a lab rat. You’re allowed to say no to things you don’t wanna do. You’re allowed to fire your therapist if (s)he is not working out for you. When you’re prescribed a medication, do your homework. Knowing what to expect makes medication a lot less daunting. Know your body. Know your meds. I’m practically a pharmacist at this point because I won’t take a pill or a dosage adjustment before I ask every question I can think of. Your doctor might be the one with the medical license, but that doesn’t mean you have to be uninformed. You’re smart enough to understand the things you need to know to be a knowledgable and participatory patient. You also have every right to negotiate your treatment options. The only time you can’t really do this is if you’re hospitalized, but you can do it once you get out.

I’ve seen a few people who have been cowed into submission by a doctor or therapist. This is not how it’s supposed to work. You’re not a car in need of a mechanic. You have agency. Work with your doctor, not for your doctor. I got pretty lucky and found a doctor/therapist who’s honesty and leniency are at a good ratio. She tells me things I don’t wanna hear all the time, but she’s not punitive if I decided to push back.

There are a few red flags that I think are deal breakers when it comes to choosing a doctor:

1. Your doctor admonishes you for drinking or using drugs instead of non-judgmentally advising you not to do those things and then explaining how they actually affect your symptoms. My doctor knows I drink moderately (but less so lately because I’ve been having migraines more frequently for some reason) and that I use marijuana occasionally (I said “use” instead of “smoke” because I recently got kinda into edibles). She also knows that, once in a blue moon I’ll use hard drugs or hallucinogens, most likely MDMA, but this only happens a few times a year at most because hard drugs get really boring eventually. BUT: really important PSA about hallucinogens: if you’re taking lithium do not take mushrooms, LSD, DMT, Salvia (which I don’t think anybody even uses anymore, but whatever) or anything that makes you trip because if you mix hallucinogenic drugs with lithium, you’re basically asking for a seizure, even if you’ve never had one before. I found this out just in time before I went to visit my sister which is pretty much the only time I take acid. But my doctor doesn’t berate me when I come home from a Big Sis bender and tell her I was high for 4 days straight. She explains to me what the intoxicants do to my brain, how they affect mood disordered people differently and what the potential consequences are if I decide to get messed up. She’s my doctor, not my nanny. I have a friend whose doctor likes to take up valuable therapy time by chastising my friend for having a single fucking drop of alcohol. This doctor, in my opinion is overstepping her bounds partly because she assumes my friend is completely unaware of the effects of drugs/booze (which my friend is not because she’s not stupid) and partly because it’s your therapist’s job to help you learn to take care of yourself. Condescending to a mentally ill person is the worst idea ever. If your doctor doesn’t treat you like the grownup that you are, then find somebody who does because, rather than a slap on the wrist over a tallboy, your therapist should be equipping you to make healthy decisions.

2. Your doctor dismisses the side effects of the meds (s)he prescribed you. If your doctor doesn’t think that medication side effects are a quality of life issue, then (s)he is a crappy doctor. One of my older meds made me so tired that I never had the energy to go out. As a result, I was alone a lot, and being alone constantly cancelled out whatever positive effect the medication might have because being isolated – willingly or not – makes most people’s depression worse. And, speaking of quality of life issues, there is no issue too small if it’s really bugging you. I refuse to take SSRI antidepressants (see LBD: antidepressants) because when I take them, I can’t have orgasms. Maybe that’s not a big deal to some people, which is fine. But some people think it’s frivolous and it’s not. Do you wanna not be depressed or do you wanna get off? is a false dichotomy. I can come and get proper medical attention, the two are not mutually exclusive. But if you have a problem re: side effects that you think is trivial, it’s not. Tell your doctor about it and then discuss what your other options are because you’re not short on options.

3. You doctor doesn’t monitor the long term effects of your meds. Prolonged use of antipsychotic meds (see LBD: antipsychotics) can cause a condition called tardive dyskinesia which is a neurological disorder that causes involuntary, repetitive and aimless movements, mostly in the face and the hands (which are things I assume you don’t want messed with). The really scary thing about TD is that, in some cases, it’s irreversible even after you’ve stopped using the drug that caused it. TD can present as something as mild as a mouth twitch and as severe as involuntary jerking of the head and neck which is extremely noticeable. My doctor tests me for TD like twice a year. I started to show minor symptoms of it the last time she checked so we’re trying to come up with a better long term solution (together). If you’re taking lithium, you’ve probably already been warned about what lithium can do to your thyroid and kidneys. Lithium will trash your thyroid pretty thoroughly if you take it for many years so you should have blood work done roughly twice a year to make sure your organs are still doing their job. I know a couple of people who are stuck in medication limbo because their prescribing doctor is myopic. If your doctor doesn’t keep an eye out for what your meds are doing to you in the long term, find a doctor who will.

4. Your doctor talks more than you do. You didn’t go to therapy to get a weekly lecture. You went because you need to work out your problems with someone who’s trained to deal with them. Working out said problems begins with articulating them (which is way harder than most people think) so you need to be able to talk. Ask for advice when you need it, heed your therapist’s recommendations, but don’t get run over. You may have an illness that several million other people also do, but your illness is your own and it’s different from anybody else’s. Cookie cutter therapy only works if you’re a literal textbook and not a human being. You are allowed to tell your therapist to shut up. They’re not your boss and you’re paying them. A good therapist will let a pregnant pause sit until you’re ready to squeeze out a thought because, in the long run, those awkward silent moments can rouse some really important feelings that you didn’t even realize were part of the bigger picture. Everybody needs to learn to speak for themselves and that voice should not be sequestered to therapy. So say anything. You have no idea whether or not the loose thread you just tugged will unravel the whole garment. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. But you’re not hurting yourself by babbling. In the long run, you’ll get better at dealing with the bad shit on your own, which is pretty much the entire point of therapy.

All said, I’m not bitching about doctors in general. Doctors are great (a lot of the time). You should not cavalierly ignore a doctor’s advice just because it sounds like no fun. Much of the time it is no fun. But you decided to get help from a professional because you probably realized you couldn’t do some things on your own. But it’s your life. You’re not too stupid to wrap your head around your situation and you’re not too stupid to understand the process of dealing with that situation. Bipolar disorder can make it really hard to feel like you’re in charge of anything. Depression can too. But you are in charge. Do your homework, ask every question you need to and remember that nothing – not meds, not doctors, not therapists – is indelible. You’re the boss, so act like it.

-LB