Precarious Existence

There’s something to be said for humans and their ability to withstand a constant barrage of soul crushing bullshit. Some folks are like well trained dogs, or perhaps horses. So stubbornly proud of how much they can endure the feeling of the cruel bit in their quivering mouths. I try to not be such a person when possible. 

Granted, I’ve calmed down quite a bit since I was a rage junkie teenager /young adult. But I still have a really hard time with impulse and mood control. Sometimes my brain feels like a car with the gas pedal and the brake being slammed at the same time. The laws of physical science dictate that one or both will eventually give out. That said, I’m a lot better than I used to be. I have SOME degree of control over my emotions and moods. There was a long time where I had zero.and it was not pretty. 

I realize that I have a responsibility to keep my head together and stay out of hospitals or legal trouble. I’m getting better about articulating the things that are ripping through my mind day to day. I don’t go manic. Risperdal prevents that pretty well. But in the last year or two depression and anxiety have been much bigger problems for me than they have been in the past.

I take Wellbutrin for this purpose and it helps. I’ve come to accept the fact that I’m going to have to deal with some breakthrough craziness in the name of not being completely dead inside from being zonked the fuck out on psych drugs. 

I get upset a lot, almost completely at random. I’ve gotten better at identifying my bad states and taking my vistaril (antihistamine used to treat anxiety and panic) when I start freaking out. Still, it’s been rough the last month or so. Being temporarily unemployed didn’t help my mental state any.  On a positive note, its been great to be back at my job. I missed my people ๐Ÿ™‚

I don’t know, sometimes it feels like all it takes is a single word or a random breeze to put me in a state of profound sadness. I don’t know if anyone realizes the herculean effort it takes for me to maintain the veneer of relative composure. Some days I just go to pieces regardless. It all depends on a plethora of factors and variables.

I don’t get to see my friends much lately and it’s really been eating at me. Spending entirely too much time in my own head. I don’t have a car and our schedules never line up anymore. I just worry that they think I don’t care. It’s not that at all. I just feel like I’m spread out too thin trying to do too much. 

Still, I’m grateful for the life I have, batshit as I may be. I have a job. I have relative freedom and a Lover who makes all the bullshit worth it. Its so easy to lose sight of the things that really matter. Mental illness has a way of giving one a bit of the old tunnel vision.

This has been one of my less focused posts on this blog. But whatever. I’m thinking this is a decent enough place to wrap it up with a quick run down.

I’m happy to be working again.

I love my Fiancee and my Dog and two Cats.

I’m doing my best.

May it be enough….

-Thom

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Muh Chemical Profile

I’ve been taking various central nervous system drugs since I was a wee Berserker of seven or eight. My current cocktail, including non-psych meds is:

Risperdal 3mg daily
Ritalin XR 20 mg daily
Wellbutrin XR 150 mg daily (beginning tomorrow morning)
Metropolol 25 mg daily
Benazeprilย  6.5 mg daily
Also occasional ibuprofen for joint pain and I keep a few vistaril on hand for the times when sleep is elusive.

Some folks tell me it’s horrible that I take all these meds. I don’t think it is myself. Aside from them working at keeping me sane, organized and not hypertensive or achy I don’t really feel like I’m ‘on’ anything. I’d like to see you manage arthritis with no analgesics.

At some point in my life I have had these experiences with the following drugs:
Abilify- Made me very foggy and was rather unremarkable.
Adderall XR- was great for my attention span but revved my heart like crazy .
Buspar- didn’t do crap for my anxiety and made me feel blah.
Celexa- kept me hypomanic before being discontinued when the psych unit was bringing me down from a feral lexapro induced mania.
Depakote- Acute psychotic reaction. Tried to start a revolt in the crisis ward. Fun stuff.
Effexor- Absolutely despised it. Felt like a zombie dipped in shit. Plus I had the most horrible withdrawal. Ever hear of the brain shivers? Because I never had.
Geodon- Good results for pulling me out of madness. It does scary stuff to the heart though. Wouldn’t repeat it.
Lamictal- helped at first but crapped out fast.
Lithium- blunted my emotions profoundly. I couldn’t cry while I was on it. I can now. I’m glad that the side effects outweighed the benefits enough to try something else.
Provigil- great for ADHD but needs a time release coat or something as it poops out too quickly.
Tegretol- took at the same time as Geodon. It’s a seizure med so it’ll basically make you kinda drunk and disoriented like it did for me.
Zyprexa- made me fat. But slayed my psychosis like nothing else. Calmed me the fuck down fast.
Lexapro- induced a terrifying series of rapid cycling manic episodes. I am still cobbling my life back together from this period.
Strattera- didn’t do crap for my ADHD. made me feel really sluggish and ditzy at the higher doses.
Risperdal- works better for me than any drug ever has in terms of keeping me stable without completely zonking me into oblivion. It is a good med for the  bipolar/ADHD combo in particular. However, at the higher doses (6mg and up) it can do a number on your hormones. I only take three mg and my doctor is hesitant to raise it.

As with a great many things, results may and will vary. This is just what I got out of these particular drugs.  Hope you have found this entertaining and informative.

Depression Part Deux

I’m changing my approach as my ‘soul of iron’ is no longer cutting it. I’ve been in a funk since before Thanksgiving. I kept telling myself it would get better after the holidays. But it hasn’t. I still have the same hair trigger agitation and  fairly regular spells of explosive weeping.

As I mentioned in previous posts regarding this particular subject there’s… an issue of sorts. I’m Bipolar. More specifically the Manic variety. As such, giving me antidepressants, particularly the SSRI kind is a dangerous proposition. It can induce the worst kind of batshit mania known to man. A lexapro induced mania led to my first hospitalization and I was a bucket of wacky. When I would finally crash I was so depressed I was nearly catatonic.

But yeah, after the last few months, I’m
warming up to giving it another try. My shrink tells me the mania potential is less with multiple reuptake inhibitors as opposed to strictly serotonin inducing meds. I’m already (more or less) stable on risperdal so that works in my favor too.

I have to try something. I’m tired of feeling like putting a grenade in my mouth.

It’s been frustrating. It took a lot of nerve on my part to actually talk to my doctor about this. The first med he prescribed I tried to fill today on the way home from my appointment. Not covered by my insurance.  I walked home in the rain crying and pretty much cursing life.

I feel relatively alright right now, at least alright enough to try to articulate some of this stuff. It’s like walking across a booby trapped floor. Not sure if the depression I keep falling into is worse than the anticipation thereof.

As gloomy a post as this is, it’s the best I’ve got right now aside from one bright spot: I met with the people at the Vincent House today and am getting the vocational rehabilitation ball rolling.  That compels me to get this depression under control more than any tea or sympathy in the world. I keep telling myself my current job isn’t forever.

Also, (and this is a huge one) I have the most kind, witty and devastatingly handsome Boyfriend in the universe.

I’ll survive, I just have to keep these things in sight.

Onward.

Well…

Things are alright. I’m working hard as usual. I work at a burrito joint as a prep cook in the mornings. Not exactly my life’s ambition, but considering I was unemployed for years, it’s a start I suppose. It’s actually not so bad. It’s the same company I started working for part time when I was still on disability. After two years I switched locations and went full time, effectively terminating my SSDI. As I sit here absorbing King Diamond’s ‘Fatal Portrait’ album I realize that I’m actually something of a survivor. The first two years I worked 15-20 hours a week and could barely handle that. Worse still, I absolutely despised the job.

Allow me to explain a bit further. Sorry, I spaced for a moment as Andy Laroque and Michael Denner’s delicious riffing seriously distracted me. A friend of mine who worked there basically gift-wrapped the job for me. I just had to apply. I was still nervous as hell because by then I had been largely unemployed for the past three years. I started as a prep guy, but there was more to it than just that. I was also a dishwasher and a front of the house employee (bussing tables, cooking whatever the hot line needed more of on the grill (open assembly line type of situation). I was running around like a rat on meth trying to keep up. Some days I simply got buried and left three or four hours late. I couldn’t leave until the responsibilities of the day were complete, no matter how ridiculous.

I was losing my bloody mind. I was also zonked out on Lithium the whole time. It was icky beyond words. I was horribly bent out of shape most of the time. Then something cool occurred. I was cast in a production of ‘Guys and Dolls’ around the time my relationship with my girlfriend of four years was crumbling. This was a clear case of theatre saving my life and sanity. I had so much fun with this show that nothing could touch me. I split with her and moved home to start over. Happens to the best of us I guess.

So I kept working at burritoland. But a guy I worked with told me about the other location he worked at with a different franchise owner and slightly different way of operating. I was intrigued. I went in, got hired as the same job (or so I thought).After a few weeks I told the other store very politely that I was done and went full-time at the other, closer to home store. Right around this time I switched from Lithium to risperdal. Both this and the new job were huge improvements. It was so much better it blew my mind.  I could just be a cook and not do three jobs at once. I don’t mind having to do dishes but all that plus front of the house was too freaking much. I’ve worked there six months now and am fully off of social security benefits and it’s going just fine. Sometimes the grass IS greener on the other side.

So what else is up with me? I’m psyched to be going out with muh Man to see a movie Wednesday night. I have a bit of nerves for an unrelated reason though. My Dad left me a voicemail the other night that made me a bit uneasy. He said something like ‘I have a few things to talk to you about.’. My Dad has kind of a highly serious air even when he’s totally relaxed so I could be misinterpreting. But I remember what I did on Facebook that day. My hairdresser/theatre friend got married to his boyfriend that day and I congratulated them on Facebook. I think my Dad may have been perturbed by this.

My Father’s side of the family are conservative Catholics. Wonderful people but highly intense. As a bisexual man, I’ve always worn a cloak of heterosexuality around them, save for one Aunt who happens to be my Godmother. We don’t talk about it much, but she’s aware and is totally cool.

I’m not out on Facebook. Most of my friends know this about me but I’m not an ‘Advertise it with a neon sign’ sort of guy. I just try to be myself insofar as I can. Too many family members and not well known people are on there and I’m really intimidated by the prospect of how the men in my family would react.  Social networks carry with them some immense social pressures. I’m really not in the closet with most people. With my family it’s different I suppose. I’ve always known it would come up eventually. Still, I’ve played keep away for so many years.

Damnit. I never thought I’d accept this sort of cowardice from myself. I’m so desperate to not upset them that I’m upsetting the hell out of myself. Incidentally, what I’ve described is part of the reason bisexuals are despised by the gay community. They call it hiding behind heterosexual privilege or something. They think when the chips are down we put on the mask and play it safe behind a mask of ‘socially acceptable’. It isn’t like that, though I have asked myself these kinds of questions.

I don’t know. Maybe they would shrug it off. Or they might call me a sodomite and tell me some shit like ‘turn or burn’.I don’t know what to expect. I’m pretty sure they would not get it. It’s a generational thing I guess. My Dad is a good man. When I was a kid I got caught in an Atlantic riptide. My Dad went after me and pulled me to shore. I at least doubly owe him my life. He’s a very cultured man with incredible taste in music and literature. A man of relentless integrity. A man who’s flaws I can easily see past. I don’t know. Maybe someday I’ll summon the testicular fortitude. Just not today *sigh*.

I know sooner or later the cat is going to escape the bag. I mean, if the show Dexter taught us anything it’s this:

NOTHING STAYS BURIED FOREVER.

In the meantime I’m just delighted to find someone I can be myself with. Honestly, this is some of the most intense romance I’ve ever experienced. He’s strong yet delicate, witty yet absurd and just so very sultry in his geeky way.  I don’t really know why I let the family crap bother me. It’s me I have to live with, yanno?

On that note, have a pleasant evening.

-Thom

Contradictions….

So many things which seem to be the purest form thereof….are not. Whether one is talking about chemistry of the romantic and neurological varieties, or a really stunning recipe, or a crossover album or WHATEVER- Some things which seem like a bad idea on paper or in theory turn out to be stunning testaments to human ingenuity. It all depends on how you approach it.

Some of the Metal music I adore is honestly pure schlock and cheese. But it works despite how cartoony it may appear on the surface. A great deal of my friends are people I never thought I would ever have any common ground with. Variety is truly the spice of life.

So it goes with many things. My current boyfriend and I actually have some things in common, which is highly unusual for me. I usually find myself awkwardly mismatched and grasping for the words at any moment. When I saw him recently we listened to some Brian Eno, some Lycia, some Jess and The Ancient Ones and I even managed (being a devious bastard) to slip some Mortuary Drape in there. He isn’t an obsessive listener and just told me to surprise him. Still,ย  he was pretty receptive to everything I played. Important plot point this is. He and I are very different people but we seem to be a good fit.

Back to contradictions, let’s talk about the chemical management of the bipolar one/adhd stuff. Risperdal and Adderall. The most potent dopamine blocker on the market combined with the most powerful stimulant. You would figure this would be a clear case of canceling one another out, ja? Not the case. The risperdal generally keeps me calm as a hindu cow while the adderall makes me think more.. I guess you could call it linearly and logically. I can plan ahead as I go and not get sidetracked by every stupid little thing. I’m hoping I can use this to help me conquer some sort of schooling soon. I went to trade school for HVAC but my back and shoulders are in no shape for that sort of work anymore.

I’ve started this blog for a few primary reasons.

1. To have a place where I can speak relatively freely and release pressure.

2. To get myself back in the habit of writing.

3. To offer what perspective, insight and support I can to the community of mental health bloggers on wordpress.

Blogging here has been an immensely valuable resource for me in the past. Whether it’s for just blowing off steam. sharing strategies for coping or just having a place to share/be oneself this is a wonderful community. I’ve had to narrow my audience a bit as I’m not really ‘out’ with about half my family. So there goes publicizing on facebook. Still, I’m doing it more for peace of mind than the gathering of followers.

So that’s about where I’m at. Enjoying my mental health sabbatical and getting my affairs in order. Medicare dragged their feet on striking me from the rolls so I nearly lost my tax credit for my current insurance. Got it sorted out though. As it stands though I’m kind of in the weeds. I was on Social Security Disability for five years. My case was flagged for termination while I was still barely functional because I started working part time. I was still a mess though.

I filed for an extension of benefits while my appeal was being reviewed. However, something changed. After about nine months after I filed I got taken off of Lithium and put on Risperdal. I was aย  literally like a new man after about a month on Risperdal. I abandoned my appeal indicating to them that my condition had drastically improved and I was no longer interested in pursuing the hearing. So I got stuck with the bill because I signed an agreement stating that I understood I may have to pay the appeal payments back.

So I owe about a year of SSDI back. Eleven Thousand dollars. Ouch. I’m a person of modest income so this will take a long time to pay off. However, I have made arrangements for monthly payments. It’s a bitter pill to swallow as I feel I’m being punished for getting better. My condition was well established as causing impairment and the change for the better was abrupt. Still- what can I do?

In spite of this all, I feel good. I know I’ve changed for the better because the old me would be going completely to pieces over this kind of stuff. Experience really is the best teacher.

That’s about all I have for now. Be well.

-Thom

 

P.S.- One final thing- regarding the title ‘Planet Berserk’: My nickname among friends has been Berserker since I was seventeen years old (32 now). It is what it is ๐Ÿ˜‰