I’ve Come a Long Way from Hell

love this pic

 

I’m writing this blog post as a treat to myself.  My friend Doreen Bench, blogger extraordinaire of “Always Recovery”, wrote that blogging helps lower her tension level and that’s what I hope happens today.  Last night my daughter suffered terrible ear pain that came on quickly.  I realized that it must have had something to do with her trip to the pool earlier in the day.

A look at WebMd under “treating ear pain in children” suggested that she had swimmer’s ear. She kept screaming as waves of pain hit her, and I gave her acetaminophen and a warm compress, but nothing seemed to help her feel better.  I knew that if she could fall asleep, we could probably wait until Urgent Care opened in the morning.  She finally dozed off, but I knew she would most likely wake up again during the night, and she did wake up briefly twice, but thank God she was able to return to sleep each time.  As the daughter of a speech therapist trained in ear anatomy/function, I knew that if she was able to sleep for long stretches, we could avoid the ER.

Words fail me when I try to describe what was like to see my child hurting like that.  I had an ear infection when I was little and over forty years later, I can recall how, apart from the pain of childbirth, nothing else ever hurt that bad.  As I comforted my girl, I wanted to tear my hair out. I felt helpless; moreover, I was utterly frustrated, furious, and frightened.  The three F’s from Hell!

So first thing this morning we headed to Urgent Care so we could get in line before the doors opened at 9:00 a.m. We left our beloved new puppy Lucy alone for the first time since we brought her home.  Lucy has become my third child (I freely admit it – dog lovers will understand this!) and it was tough for me to leave her.  I put on classical music to soothe her, and made sure that she had food, water and toys.  At that moment I wished I had gone through the extensive requirements to certify her as a psychiatric dog so I could bring her to Urgent Care!  I had seen dogs in their office before.  My last visit to Urgent Care (which was only a couple weeks ago – I swear to God the place feels like a second home!) I observed a fellow patient with his big,’ol Lab dog waiting to be seen.  But, as I often do in this blog, I digress.

Avonlea did, indeed, have swimmer’s ear and it’s good I brought her in because it was in the early stages.  I couldn’t imagine what her pain level would be like if I had waited much longer. She was prescribed ear drops with a steroid and anti-bacterial agent, and in the future when she goes to the pool there are other ear drops and ear plugs she can use to prevent this from happening again.

I’ve been to this medical office often in the past eight weeks.  Aside from today’s visit there were two Urgent Care trips for yours truly, two separate “Well Child” visits for my daughters, and one “New Patient” exam for me with a general physician so that I could get the required referral for my mammogram.

While we got ready to leave for Urgent Care this morning, I dressed up a little nicer than I usually do.  My usual outfit consists of sweats, jeans or a casual skirt, a tank top and my $7.00 black flip flops I bought in Hawaii! I barely style my hair and my makeup routine is simply eyeliner and Burt’s Bees $4.99 lipgloss.  However, lately I’ve been hooked on watching “What Not to Wear” re-runs with Avonlea and Marill.  To my great surprise they enjoy the show as much as I do. Today the “What Not To Wear” stars’ fashion rules inspired me to look a little more pulled together so I could present well to the doctor.

The reason I bring appearances up is that I looked, more or less, like a “normal” mom.  I wore a dress for a change.  It was a hand-me-down, like literally all my clothes in my closet, but it was  understated and I liked its charcoal gray hue.  I put my hair up in a ponytail, smoothed on some makeup and I wore a beautiful freshwater pearl necklace.  Avonlea likes it when I dress nicely, and even though she was in pain and scared, she liked the fact that I made the effort.

Looking put together also helps me in terms of my constant struggle with social anxiety.  I’ve always been shy in most circumstances, and I grew up with anxiety that worsened over time, especially after the bipolar diagnosis. I have social and generalized anxiety, and I’ve done all sorts of things, both traditional and holistic, to try reduce my angst.  It’s very common for people with bipolar to also suffer with anxiety disorders, which makes total sense to me!

Anyway, I was very anxious about my daughter’s ear, and that intensified my regular high level of anxiety, so I was an anxious mess this morning. Still, I powered through it!  I validated myself for being a good parent and for taking care of my child.  I didn’t reach for my anti-anxiety pills, Baclofen, which I’ve been off for almost three weeks.  I just took deep breaths and reminded myself how well I was doing in spite of my anxiety.

Then, on the way out of Urgent Care, as I de-hunched my shoulders with relief at knowing Avonlea’s case was not severe, I was triggered.

I spotted the doctor who technically was the first person to diagnose me with bipolar disorder.

At first seeing him didn’t make any sense to me. Dr. S., my children’s former pediatrician who worked in the same building as the Urgent Care clinic, was sitting down in the waiting room chair.  He looked like a regular patient instead of being on the job that day. Dr. S. held a baby in his arms and was cooing at her (or him), and he was seated next to a pretty blonde woman who I believe was his wife.  (Later on I realized he and his wife may have been there to see another doctor for their newborn, but I’m not sure.)

Eight years ago I took my second baby to see Dr. S. for her six-week-check-up and I brought him a bunch of gifts.  I was taking superfast and I was elated.   He took one look at me and exclaimed loudly, “You’re manic!” as if he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. I immediately burst into tears, which I did not do in public.  I felt on a gut level that I had “been caught” at having bipolar.  I calmed down enough to convince him I would seek immediate psychiatric help. I admitted myself to the hospital after that incident to be officially diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder one.

I had initially chosen Dr. S. as my daughters’ pediatrician because he was brilliant, funny, and great with kids.  Dr. S. was also very cute!  I was intimidated by his high intellect and good looks, but I didn’t dwell on those qualities too much because he was such an outstanding doctor.  Of equal importance was that he developed a good rapport with my older daughter in particular.

Seeing Dr. S. today, albeit briefly (we didn’t even have eye contact!) brought back vivid memories of my falling apart in front of him, of being at the very beginning of the disease that would almost destroy me numerous times, and other ineffable feelings. As I walked Avonlea outside to our car, I allowed myself to wallow in my “trigger zone” for a few minutes.  Then I forced myself to let those negative associations go.

I thought to myself, “You are NOT the person you used to be.  You are stronger and you are doing so much better.” It’s true.  I’ve come a long, long way!  It’s a cause for constant celebration, really.

As I write this, my sweet girl is so worn out from the pain and fear of going to Urgent Care that she fell asleep on the couch.  A daytime nap for this energetic nine-year-old has been absolutely unheard of for so long, and as I gaze at her napping, I feel such love for this person. She has beautiful hands that look like they belong to a pianist, complete with polished nails (in pink, of course!) from a manicure I gave her before she went to the pool. Those hands are so very different from the chubby little nubs she had eight years ago.

Watching her in repose, free of pain, is magnificent.  Absorbed, I forget about my own troubles for a few minutes.  Now I see her arms move and stretch as she wakes up once more. I know I’ll see both of my children in pain again.  And I plan on being the strong one, the healthy one, for each of them to lean upon for support as much as humanly possible.  I’ve spent enough time ill with bipolar disorder, shut away in hospitals seven times in eight years

.  It’s time to be available on a moment’s notice to help my kids face any pain they’ll encounter under my watch as well as when they strike out on their own.   It will take a Mack truck to stop me from being there for them.

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18 thoughts on “I’ve Come a Long Way from Hell

  1. I’m going through and catching up on some of your posts. There is certainly nothing worse than a child in pain. I was laughing about your dressing “more normal” comments. I can remember times when I didn’t want to dress in much of anything, but then in my manic shopping trips, I’d stop by high-end fashion stores and buy really nice stuff that I loved to wear when I was on my up times. It’s funny how body image cycles with emotions.

    And, as a side note, the daughter in the picture is gorgeous. I bet you are a very proud momma.

    1. Thanks for reading my blog. I always feel honored just to know that someone is reading my thoughts…as kooky, dorky, neurotic and/or superficial as they sometimes can be!

      Last year when I went off meds and was manic, I wore cute tops & jeans and VERY bright pink lip gloss. The lip gloss color was the tip-off to my family & friends that I was going up! At least I didn’t go to any high-end stores; they don’t exist where I live, thank God! 😉

      Thank you SO much for the compliment about my girl!!! That totally makes my day. She is a “girly” girl at heart, just like I am when I’m not depressed. When that happens, I couldn’t care less if I’m wearing a potato sack or a sheet! 😉

      You said it so well, “Body image cycles with emotions”! It certainly does.

    1. I love your blog! You understand why I don’t always comment since it’s so hard to type with one finger on a tiny Kindle while working out! ::)) But when I press “like” you know I’ve been there, hurrah! I wondered if you got some sleep by now – I sure hope so! I’ll be sending you positive thoughts, dear C&B! (((hugs)))!!

  2. First of all, “normal” moms wear sweats and don’t bother with makeup, even here in South OC. Here we opt for yoga outfits whether or not we do yoga, for it’s often too hot for sweats. Only when I worked outside the home did I regularly bother with makeup. The rest of us (I’m including myself as both a “normal” mom and a bipolar mom), just throw on clothes and take care of our kids. Yes, I do feel prettier and more put together when I “paint” my eyes, and it’s worth the five minutes or so of bother.

    As far as Dr. S is concerned… Thank you, Dr. S! He did you a great service by diagnosing you in a way that broke through any defenses you may have had. Thank him! No need to be ashamed. Overcome the stigma. Let him know he absolutely did the right thing. You got help!

    1. Okay, okay, I know that “normal” is a loaded word and in this hastily written post, I didn’t think that through the way I wish I did – if I could write it over I wouldn’t use that word. I’m also contradicting myself because time and time again I’ve said and written that I feel there is no “normal” in the first place!

      I think now I’d say there are different degrees of normality and everyone is a little wacky (or a lot) at some time or another.

      Now, the “What Not To Wear” stars said that if you don’t do yoga, you shouldn’t wear yoga pants, ha ha ha! I heard that in an episode just last night, but I forgot what Stacy and Clinton said to wear instead of yoga pants! I bet it is too hot for sweats down there, especially in the months to come!

      Re: Dr. S – yes, yes, yes he was a wonderful doc and did me a great service. He totally caught me off guard – but that was probably the best way it could have gone down. When I see him next, I will thank him moderately 😉 When I brought him a bunch of thank-you gifts last time, when my girl was 6 weeks old, that was the first sign that tipped him off that I was in full-blown mania! He really is a great guy and I’ll let you know how the interchange goes. Thanks for reading, dear Kitt!

      1. Stacy & Clinton live in NYC & shop in expensive boutiques. I live in suburbia and shop at Target. Stacy wears heels — ridiculous! I do not take their advice to heart. Dress as you like taking clues from the locals as to what is appropriate and what would be overdressing (heels and dry clean only clothing).

      2. Hello again my friend! You are absolutely right – Stacy & Clinton shop only @ high-end stores, I’m sure, plus they must be given tons of fancy freebies from sponsors and hopeful sponsors. Yours truly has 90% hand-me-downs in my wardrobe at the moment. We have a Target and later this summer I’m planning to splurge on a few items. Craig has given me a couple things from Costco, but nothing swanky of course.I don’t own a pair of heels and I don’t see that happening anytime soon! 🙂 Also, back to WNTW, according to Wikipedia & a few other articles I perused, Stacy & Clinton are childless. Yes, I bone up on these facts. I’d like to see them with a gaggle of their own geese and then they may not be so smug in their assessments!

      3. Yep. When I was single and working in downtown LA and SF as a legal assistant, I looked fabulous. I did, though, keep my heels at the office and commuted in flats or tennis shoes (oh, horror). Who wants to run to catch BART in heels?

      4. Dearest Dyane, your post touched me so much! You know why we are lucky? Because we have children who force us to be strong! It is only my children that makes me even leave the house! Motherhood, I believe, is the only reason why I am still here! Otherwise I would’ve given up a long time ago! Thanks for blogging so honestly…that’s what I love about you!

      5. Love your comments, N. Eleanore & Kitt – you are both special to me. I’m always excited when I see that you’ve read & written about my post!

        Yes, we are lucky to have children – I had to laugh; the other day my six-year-old told me that she didn’t want to be a mom because it was “too much work”! While I would say that motherhood IS a lot of work (waaay more than I anticipated, that’s for sure!) it’s worth it.

        I am so glad that motherhood is keeping you going, dear N. Eleanore – you’re a shining soul. I’ll keep you both in my prayers because even though we’ve never officially met, I care about each of you! Hugs to you gals, and let’s continue to encourage one another. Your support means a great deal to me and brightens my days immeasurably.

  3. Good job on pushing through the anxiety – I know how that feels. What a trip! Having your daughter in so much pain and THEN seeing Dr. S! You have nothing to feel ashamed of when you see Dr. S – you are so brave for checking yourself into the hospital and coming through it so many times. Kudos to you and your family. You are doing great things!

    1. Dang, Doreen, if I come into a ton of money maybe I should open up my own mental hospital!! 😉 But it would be more like a day spa with furry animals and a chocolate bar. ;))))) (no offense to anyone, by the way – sometimes I need to be a little humorous about that whole thing)

      I love your comment so much – thank you a million times. I know intellectually that I shouldn’t be ashamed about Dr. S., but it’s just hard all the same, which I know you understand. I think at some point this summer I’ll face my fear and ask to talk with him/meet him for the purpose of my book. I want to know more about his perspective in dealing with me, and if he had any other postpartum mamas like me!

      In the meantime, I’m working on the “Always Recovery” tenets as much as I can! Love your blog!!! xoxoo hugs to you!

  4. Zephyr, you are a total love! The world needs more Zephyrs – moms full of compassion and sweetness and encouragemen t & excellent, relevant blog posts! I know an ear infection is relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, but any parent knows that to see one’s baby suffer is the worst. She’s better today and so now I can fall apart….just kidding!!! :))

    But I’m gonna need more of my Ben & Jerry’s “Chocolate Therapy” or even better, an amazingly yummy gelato found @ Safeway called Talenti. OMG – so, so good. The chocolate, chocolate chip flavor rocks.

    You’re the human form of Talenti, Zeph – I am sending you hugs and lots of love for a good, good day!!!!! xoxo

    1. Ok, now I am on cloud 9 sister. You just made my day, I was having a hard one. Oh Ben and Jerry’s. I have to get it. Safeway !! OMG i don’t know if you can actually miss a grocery store but I miss Safeway. I used to live in DC before MI, they don’t have a Safeway here. Do I miss all of that stuff. M definitely buying chocolate therapy. I am gaining weight like a maniac cz of the meds. I can still do chocolate therapy. Oh I love you ! thanks for making me feel so special. Hugs and kissies back to u hun ! love ya

    2. Sign me up! Bunnies and Belgian chocolate… I’m totally there. I’m sure my beloved would be into this too. Can we book a twin share psych-ward?

      I’m sorry your daughter had to suffer all that ear pain. I’ve had problems since my teens.

      Good on you for overcoming your anxiety too! It can be so crippling.

      Anyway I just thought I’d say that. All the best.

      1. Hi James! It was great to read your post and you made me smile when you mentioned bunnies and Belgian chocolate. Love it!!!! (I actually had a bunny as a pet – his name was Drizzle, but he was cranky. Here I go, digressing yet again. Nasty habit!)

        Twin-share psych wards managed by the Four Seasons would be nice, now, wouldn’t it? With turn-down service?! Patients deserve 800 thread-count sheets in my humble opinion.

        Sorry to hear you too have suffered ear problems. Yikes! Hope that your ears are doing well these days. (That’s probably the first time anyone has even written THAT sentence, I would think!)

        I wish you my very best, and thanks again for bringing a bit of joy into my day.
        take good care! Hope to see ya round again…. 🙂 Dyane

  5. Dyane-
    I hope your little baby is doing better. Please give her my love and I wish she gets well soon. I can hear you sister and I love the last part specially where u want to be there for your kids. The initial diagnosis struggle is hard. You have come a long way and you are one amazing, strong woman.
    Wish you all health and happiness
    Zeph

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