One year on my birthday I woke up in Venice. The next year on my birthday I woke up in excruciating physical pain. For me, anyway, birthdays are like that–a crapshoot.
It’s been a long time since I really enjoyed birthdays (except for the one in Venice). As a young teen, I experienced a humiliating, traumatic event at a birthday party that triggered a severe depression. It wasn’t my birthday party, but it left me deeply wary of birthdays in general and birthday parties in particular.
Now my birthday is approaching again and I don’t know which way it’s going to go. Oh, I know I won’t wake up in Venice and I hope I don’t wake up in excruciating pain. But it’s going to be a crapshoot for sure.
You see, this year I’m walking that tightrope so familiar to people with bipolar disorder. Though I’ve been fairly stable through most of the year, now I find myself teetering. If I fall off to one side, there’s depression waiting to catch me. If I stumble the opposite way, hypomania beckons. One way or the other, I fear I’m going to be triggered.
Last week I wrote about my husband’s heart attack and how it was my turn to be the caregiver (https://wp.me/p4e9Hv-Kx). In that post I blithely claimed that I could handle the financial stuff for us. What I mean was that I could handle dealing with the bills and bureaucracy and the assorted financial frustrations that go with a medical crisis.
What I can’t do is make enough money to get us through it all. Dan hasn’t been able to work since his heart attack in late August. We’ve gotten by so far largely due to the generosity of family and friends, which I have been able to organize, track, budget, and spend. But now we’re running out of money. And I’m afraid.
Naturally, I’m catastrophizing, one of my less-effective “coping” mechanisms. We might make the next mortgage payment, but after that I just don’t know. Even with Dan going back to work next month (we hope) and the small amount I make, I know it won’t stretch to cover the mortgage and all the other bills. I imagine that soon we will be living under the Third Street bridge and fighting stray dogs for cold french fries.
Plus, desperate finances, particular long-lasting and seemingly unrelenting, is one of my depression triggers. Dealing with our own finances at the same time as taking over my mother’s was deeply involved in the last major meltdown I experienced.
Dan is already taking up the slack, planning and coming up with ideas to get some more money to tide us over. But then I feel defeated, as though I’m not shouldering my weight in the caretaking department.
The ensuing chaos should descend right around my birthday. And I may descend right along with it.
On the other side of the tightrope lurks hypomania. My first book (on bipolar disorder) is getting closer to being published by Eliezer Tristan Publishing, which is a brainchild of Sarah Fader of Stigma Fighters. Publishing a book is a goal I’ve had for a good many decades and to have it about to happen is a real rush.
But. I can already feel myself planning fabulous things once the book exists. A launch party. T-shirts. Bookmarks. A promotional sign. Speaking engagements. Networking. Bookstore visits and author signings. I may just be getting ideas that are beyond my ability to organize and pay for. I’ve already bought a top to wear to the not-yet-and-maybe-never-existing launch party. I may be planning things that I don’t have enough spoons to accomplish. I may be getting overwrought at the thought of reaching this goal and that way lies hypomania.
Or maybe depression, when reality doesn’t meet with my unnaturally inflated notions. Or both, I suppose. I have little experience with mixed states and may not recognize one until it bites me.
When my birthday comes, I may still be teetering this way and that. Or I may have either fallen or flown. I suppose it’s possible that I won’t lose my hard-won balance, though I’m not counting on it.
Whatever way it goes, it looks to be an interesting birthday. And not in the festive sense.
Comments on: "Birthdays on the Tightrope" (2)
Oh Jan, I am so sorry! I don’t think you are really catastrophizing in this instance. Not so long ago, I almost ended up on the streets at 62. I was only saved from that because I had a friend that would let me stay with him, despite it being the last place I wanted to be, other than on the streets. I so hope you are not headed for a mixed episode, although it sounds as though you are already starting down that road. Excited about the book, in despair about finances. I do hope Dan is doing well.
It is easy to get caught up in that wonderful hypomanic/manic let’s spend lots of money mode. Time to give your credit card to someone else for safe keeping. As to keeping your heads above water, I can only hope that you get help from somewhere.
You’re in my thoughts.
Thank you for your understanding. We will get through somehow. We always have. (And we gave up our credit cards long ago.)