Thursday, September 26, 2019

Weight Weight..Don't Tell Me

Cheekbones! Thin arms! Those were the days!
Ten years ago today, I tipped the scales at 105 lbs. I was eating the exact same amount, and exercising the exact same amount, as I have ever since. But this morning, I was 50 lbs. heavier. Now, mind you, that low number was a good 25 lbs. less than my “normal” adult weight, so I guess the net gain isn’t quite so horrific. But it is a metaphor (in addition to being a nuisance). I have taken on a lot in the past decade, and not just poundage. And I am reminded, yet again, that mental illness totally stinks.

I chalk my relatively recent “expansion” up to the havoc my psych meds wreak with my metabolism. When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2006, I was put on Lithium, then Seroquel, both of which caused some weight gain—and neither of which helped my disease in the slightest. But then I was switched to a combo of Abilify and Wellbutrin. And that’s where the roller coaster took off. It was with glee that I dropped pound after pound, bought smaller and smaller sizes, right down to the comical “00”. I was buoyed by all the “You look amazing!” comments, and (foolishly) thought the good times would last forever. And for several years, it seemed that was true.

But, alas, it wasn’t. I noticed the numbers on the scale creeping up, but didn’t worry at first…after all, I really HAD been too skinny. But wait a doggone minute! I am suddenly buying bigger sizes of pants! And it isn’t because I’m hitting the pizza parlor! So I don’t even get the benefit of enjoying extra mozzarella cheese! The medication that is saving my life, is now qualifying things: “You don’t feel suicidal any more! But now you hate being photographed!” And I guess, when I think of it that way, my yearning to be svelte does seem pretty silly.

But this is just one element of the sad situation confronting those of us with chemical imbalances in our brains. There’s the cost of treatment: most psychiatrists do not take insurance, so for many of us it becomes a matter of “see the shrink? or pay the light bill?” Then there’s the ever-present stigma, the nervous smile and slight step backwards when someone hears our story. I am lucky indeed to be in a workplace where my honesty is not punished, but I know many people who fret about being fired, on top of the other huge issues they are dealing with.

What now? I seesaw between embracing a strict diet regimen (which may or may not yield results) and acceptance of my slightly chubby state. At age 62, I recognize that I am no longer whistled at, or carded. So why should I care?

Because my gain, really is a loss. A loss of pride in my appearance, a last link to youth. And that is bittersweet.

Oh, well. Off to the grocery store. Kale? Cupcakes? Maybe…some of both?

Not cupcakes

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Stirring Up a Hornet's Nest

This is NOT a hornet. This is a sweet little Bee Patrick (with big bro Evan)
We’ve all heard that saying, right? When someone instigates trouble, or adds fuel to a fire that is already burning. Hornets are some of nature’s nastiest creatures, bees with an attitude, bad bold bugs that actively dive bomb humans. They may not be disease transmitters like their fellow insect horror shows the mosquitoes, but their stings are doozies nonetheless. Disturbing, much less stirring up, a hornet’s nest is an activity to be avoided at all costs.

So we didn’t. Honest. Yet a hornet’s nest found us anyway early this morning, around 3 AM. Steve was restless and awake, reading, with his bedside light on. Well, the lamplight must have caught the fancy of a hornet who had escaped its abode right underneath our bedroom window, and found a way through a small hole in the screen. With zero warning, Harry the Hornet made a bee-line (sorry) for Stevo’s arm and went in for the kill. There was much shouting and leaping around on our part, as Harry darted all over the room. Yet, when Steve finally located something with which to smush the little stinker, it was nowhere to be found. Although I am a million times bigger than an insect, I am no match for one with a stinger. Hubby and I soon conceded defeat and decamped for the family room, hastily closing the bedroom door behind us.

Later, while I was at work, Steve leaned out the window (carefully) and sprayed the nest several times with Raid Flying Insect Killer. As a result, a bevy of poisoned bugs soon staggered from the nest, and plastered their dying bodies against our windows and doors. We still need to get rid of the nest itself, of course, but for now we feel pretty safe.  

These days it seems like waaaay too many folks are deliberate hornet’s nest stirrers, from the people of influence who appeal to the very worst in human nature, to the online trolls and websites inciting discord and spewing verbal garbage. There have always been times and places in our world (and in our souls) that are dark and ugly—and there are certainly times we need to take a metaphorical stick to these nests of evil in order to get rid of them. But when those nests are disturbed merely to enliven the haters, just to further polarize an already polarized society—well, that is unconscionable.

It is fairly easy to take down an actual hornet’s nest. It’s much harder to disable the angry, stinging words and actions taking place all around us right now. The solution may be slower than we’d like, but in the end, hopefully, more effective. Let’s overwhelm hate with love, even if it takes time (and it will). Set an ongoing example of kindness and caring. Refuse to take the toxic bait that’s meant to trap us in a quagmire.

And maybe someday, we’ll look around and realize that all the hornet’s nests are gone at last.

That is my prayer.

Not our hornet's nest. We were afraid to get that close!!

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Normal? Or What?

My goodness, someone is a happy busy bee lately! The last few weeks I have been buzzing around my hives (Lewes and here in Oreland), productive as heck and “high on life.” Tidier than usual, accomplishing entire “to do” lists in a single bound, keeping up on the exercise and my correspondence. My often-fuzzy memory is sharp as a tack again, and I feel confident and contented. 

Before that, in late spring, I was definitely in a bit of a slump. Just generally cranky and uncomfortable in my skin. Maybe because work was super busy and I was a little burned out? While I got everything done, I was often irked by the people in my life—and life in general. I often identify with Lucy from Peanuts, and I was certainly channeling her “crabby” most of the time. Then came summer and the switchover from life in a minor, to a major chord.

One of the most unfair things about being bipolar is no longer trusting that my moods and emotions are normal. My radar is so attuned to signs of a relapse that even a totally understandable frame of mind is seen by me as a symptom of my disease. My doctor is pleased with my progress, my meds are regulated (and I faithfully take them), and by rights I should be enjoying the regular ebb and flow of life. But I distrust my ups and downs, and don’t know if I can ever go back, emotionally, to the old days.

I feel a real kinship to someone suffering from a chronic physical ailment. That stomach pain…is it a medical crisis? Or just the three tacos you ate last night? A headache after a day in the hot sun? Logical or worrisome? I totally get it! Whereas John or Jane Doe thinks nothing of that nagging cough or brief spell of sadness, we know better (or so we imagine)! We are hyperaware of our brains and bodies, 24/7, and I tell you it’s NO fun.

Getting out of my head helps, I find—that running/walking thing I did on the boardwalk every morning at the shore, taking time to pray and meditate—the mental static recedes, and I can deal with things logically again. But my head is a place that is always beckoning me back…”Whooo ooo! Come in here, Elise! Let’s just dwell on everything! Life is one big problem and it’s your job to wrestle with it all!!”

This afternoon, the sun is shining, and there’s a hint of lovely breezy Fall in the air. It’s my day off, with nothing pressing on the agenda. It’s been such a good summer, for me and my family, and I’m so tired of borrowing trouble. Here is my prayer, for today and every day: May I learn to love the gift of exuberance, and not fear some sadness. Joy is not a pathology, nor are the occasional blues.

Don’t worry, I tell myself. Be happy.

Hey, that’s catchy.