Bipolar 2 From Inside and Out

Posts tagged ‘family’

Coping With Disaster

On Memorial Day, our house was hit by a tornado. I was trapped upstairs in the bedroom before my husband made it home and rescuers came to get us out. The Red Cross and the First Baptist Church took us in until we could arrange lodging at a motel, thanks to our dear friends Robbin and Stuart.

I am still quite numb from the whole ordeal, but none of us was physically injured. When the shock wears off and reality sets in, I imagine I will allow myself to freak out and let out my fears and other emotions however they choose to come out. Until then I am coping, with the help of my husband and many friends and neighbors.

I am learning new things about the meaning of self-care during the middle of a disaster.

When the fire/police/paramedics came to get us in the mandatory evacuation, they yelled, “Grab your medications and get out now!” Then they helped us through the rubble. Having those medications with us was essential. If I didn’t have my psychotropics, I would have undoubtedly fallen apart before now.

As Mr. Rogers advised, look for the helpers. They are everywhere. Don’t be ashamed to accept help or to ask for what you need.

My self-care routine has become very basic. A place to sleep, a hot meal, and clean underwear now seem to me to be the essentials of life.

Helping each other is evident throughout the area, but has never been more important to my husband and me. We remind each other to take our meds, to eat, to rest. We try very hard to understand that the other one is experiencing a flood of unfamiliar feelings too and we need to take care of each other emotionally – being accepting of what each of us thinks is important, shouldering more of the load when it all gets too overwhelming, thanking each other for small kindnesses.

We also have to be careful not to try to do too much in any one day. There are, of course, a million things that need doing, but we have found our limits. In the morning we make a plan. What absolutely has to be done today? Which of us is capable of doing it? What can we do together. My husband has done a lot of the heavy lifting of heavy lifting, while I have become the communications person. dealing with insurance, utilities, housing, and anything else that can be handled by phone or computer. Three activities in a day seems to be our limit, whether it’s visiting the laundromat, trying to get valuables undercover, or making arrangements for the next hotel we move to.

Perhaps next week in this blog I can tell you more about the psychological effects of this traumatic experience. They have barely begun to hit yet. Until then, though, we are safe and uninjured, our cats are safe and cared for, and we are muddling through the muck and the mess that surrounds us, inside and out.

Why I’m Not Like Sheldon Cooper

Obviously, I’m not a man or a theoretical physicist or a character on The Big Bang Theory. But also, I can’t say, as he often does, “I’m not crazy. My mother had me tested.” I’d like to have that t-shirt, but it would be false advertising.

I am crazy and my childhood was entirely free of psychological testing.

It probably shouldn’t have been, because the crazy had taken full hold during my tender years. Crippling depression. Massive anxiety. But both my parents were ordinary folk from Kentucky transplanted to a bland Ohio suburb. They stayed true to their roots and never considered testing or counseling for me or my sister. According to their upbringing, having crazy relatives might be upsetting or embarrassing, but that’s just the way it was. You tried to shelter them from the outside world – and vice-versa – but you didn’t involve agencies or doctors or hospitals.

My crazy got too obvious to ignore when I was in junior high school. I developed a nervous tic – my head would jerk up and to the left uncontrollably. This was very distracting, not only to me, but to whoever was sitting behind me in class. It got me noticed.

It did not, however, get me to a psychologist or other mental health professional. I didn’t want to see one anyway, because I had the irrational notion that being “shrunk” would go on my permanent record and I would never get into a good college.

Instead, I was taken to our family doctor. He prescribed Valium, which did stop the twitching but did absolutely no good for my depression.

Later, during my college years – at a good school, I might add – I had another run-in with Valium. This time my symptom was pain like a railroad spike being driven into the side of my head. Naturally, I thought it was a brain tumor.

I went to the doctor, who said, “I can do any test you want, but I can tell just by looking at you what your problem is. Your jaw is crooked.” He diagnosed me with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, explained that tension made my muscles contract unevenly and cause excruciating pain in my temples. He sent me away with a prescription for Valium. Which helped with the stabbing pain, but again not with the depression. (Also, I was self-medicating with wine, which just made the crazy train run faster.)

It was not until years later, after college, that I got half a diagnosis – depression – and a non-Valium prescription – Prozac. And many years after that until I got the more accurate diagnosis (bipolar 2) and an appropriate regimen of drugs, which does include Ativan, but not prescribed alone or with wine.

And that’s another thing I don’t have in common with Sheldon Cooper. He’s not taken any psychotropics (or wine) and is happily stuck in his supposed non-craziness. I’ve accepted my craziness, gotten help for it, and am slowly rising, if not above it, at least to where I can peek over the top of it.

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