Sunday, October 29, 2006

Cooking You Can Do Even When You're Half Dead.

CyberGal has the flu. Had to bail from church after 30 minutes of almost continual coughing. How do you know when you're really sick, instead of playing hookie? If, once you arrive home, you head for bed believing that it is the next best thing to heaven - you're really sick!

Got a new refrigerator and I now have twice as much room to store food as I did before. But, I HATE, I say I HATE to cook. Now that I'm down with the feverish crud, I like cooking even less. So, as a public service, I present a few recipes you can do even when you're half dead, or "before coffee" in a more normal morning.

Recommended skills:
  • Pour water into and from a small container into a bigger container.
  • Chop up stuff - not beautifully, but into bite-size, though ill-formed chucks.
  • Grate cheese.
  • Hear the difference between boiling water and frying bacon.
  • Mix stuff.
Morning Bacon-Potato-Egg and Cheese Glop

2 strips THICK raw bacon (chopped)
2-3 chopped raw potatoes, or sweet potatoes
1 Cup water
Left overs you may want to add just to get rid of them.
1 Onion
Garlic to taste
2 Cups graded cheese. Pick your pleasure. Set aside in LARGE serving bowl.
2 raw eggs, beaten, set aside.

In either a large frying pan, or any old rice cooker, throw in everything except the cheese and beaten eggs.

Put stove burner, or rice cooker on high and let it boil, until the water is gone and you hear bacon start to sizzle. DO NOT cover! Water won't evaporate as fast with a cover on pot.

Once bacon starts to sizzle, make a hole for the eggs, throw them in and stir vigorously until they are cooked. This doesn't take very long.

Remove from head, pour from pot on top of the waiting grated cheese in your serving bowl. Mix well. and EAT.

I've just managed to cook the above running a fever and barely with enough intelligence to post this. So, this has truly been idiot-tested. Enjoy.

It's Almost As Good As Having A Wife Every Day Rice Dinner

This is set up for a rice cooker. For those brave enough to attempt rice on top of a stove - I'll pray for you, but I recommend you get a rice cooker ASAP!

My rice cooker comes with a 3/4 C scooper. It is idiot proof. 1 scoop of raw BROWN rice to three scoops of water. White rice (Yuck) is 2 scoops of water to one scoop of rice.

Whatever the size of your rice cooker's scoop. Use the scoop. For those of you without a rice cooker, I'll use 1 cup as a reference.

1 cup uncooked brown rice
1 portion of some meat source: hamburger, chicken, fish, whatever - to be re-heated by, or thoroughly cooked via the steam tray above your cooking rice.
1 portion of vegetables of choice, also to be cooked in the steam tray of rice cooker.
Garlic to taste
Barbecue sauce to taste. (1 to 2 tablespoons)
small amount of chicken broth powder (optional)
3 cups water

This is so easy - its scary!

Throw the rice, water, garlic, BBQ sauce into rice cooker.
Put one or two steamer trays above rice cooker (they come with the rice cooker) filled with your meat and vegetables.
Cover cooker and steamer trays
Put that baby on high and turn it on.

When you hear the rice cooker shut itself off (You must get a cooker with this feature). Your dinner is ready!

I love brown rice, always have. I go through a lot of it and just adding that one thing to my diet dropped my slightly high cholesterol down to the normal range!

CyberGal's bonus nutritional recommendations:

* Never forget desert. Ice cream is always good.

For those of you into seriously healthy food (tofu, green tea and vege burgers) When you need quick energy:

* coffee, white sugar and petrochemicals (to taste).

Our church has a quick lunch guaranteed to get any health fanatic back on track.
potato chips with dip
Hot link with bun and some kind of dressing: Ketchup or Thousand Island Dressing
Hawaiian Punch with ice. (You don't need desert - this drink has enough sugar to fulfill any craving.).

Due to being ill, i missed the above lunch. This bizarre combo is now like "comfort" food for me. I associate it with warm conversation and lots of laughs.

And now, I return to bed, while my fever spikes and sleep takes hold once again.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Being A Woman, Revisited.

Basically, I am a worldly, mouthy and at times profane Christian. I don't particularly like some of this, but I now realize why it has been so hard to uproot the habits of a lifetime. Hello sexual abuse, I thought I was done with all of this!

I have a close friend who is a very serious and sensitive Christian. He is not judgmental, or self-righteous. There are just verbal behaviors that he is sensitive to. He also knows, as we've explored the topic, that at times, I have no clue as to when I've "crossed the line", in terms of "polite" mixed company sharing.

Yesterday we were deeply involved in our usual text messaging tennis match, which I truly enjoy. He reacted to my tale of woe from college, (flunking out of engineering) with a deliberately exaggerated macho rant GUARANTEED to illicit a response from yours truly:
"See, that's what you get for thinking. Like I keep telling all the little ladies, if God meant you to think then he woulda made you'all the head.

Don't worry your little head about it, just take care to keep things tidy and make up a meal now and again and it'll all work out just fine. (all said with a thick southern accent rolling about my head, with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek)"
I reacted with a blatantly sexual retort along with aggressive commentary, I knew would have him laughing. NOT!

He responded with the remark that I'd "crossed over the line". I immediately apologized for offending him. He replied that it wasn't about offending him, but this was not appropriate conversation for mixed company.

I had to get ready for a meeting and couldn't continue this conversation. I am thankful for feedback like this. Most of the time, I have one of those: "oops" moments, but I was really confused. I couldn't figure out what I'd done wrong. My friend had discussed how "Christians" act with one another.

Well, hell 99 per cent of my really good male buddies aren't Christian, or at least, they aren't working on sanctification! They'd have been rolling on the floor. We joke about sex all the time. The married man's wife is right in there with me and the other gentleman. Both these guys are gentlemen. We have grown to deeply care for each other. I know when I'm being trashed. They have never been offended, nor have I, over conversations which stray into the mildly sexual. it just feels like a normal part of communication.

However, I knew my Christian friend was correct. I'd never joke around like that with friends from church. This is the one area where I'm still leading a double life. I began to investigate why I had no gut level "feel" for what not to discuss in mixed company. I was surprised, the information and habit pattern, not even childhood rules were there in my memory. I wondered why.

Then I remembered. I was the risque entertainment for my family's drinking parties! No wonder I had no sense of what is correct behavior in mixed company. I was taught to parade around in front of a room full of drunken strangers in my training bra and panties! I immediately felt a wave of sadness run through me. Yeah, what to do in polite company was simply a theory for me. Something like reading about proper behavior in front of the Queen of England. (I've never practiced that one either!) More sadness.

Then I pondered why I always work hard at being aggressively outrageous. I try and come off with an offensive, macho-woman stance I know turns men off sexually. I also am very glad I'm one hundred pounds overweight. I know that is another protection against unwanted sexual attention. But I'm now in my fifties, hardly a tantalizing bombshell, normal weight or not. I realize I'm thawing out inside. I'm beginning to feel that longing for a husband, to be held and all the rest of the part of life I have failed at so miserably.

Then the light bulb came on. I'm still terrified of letting anyone get close enough to me to trick me like the man who battered me did. When he called me a "fairy princess" I totally let down all my barriers. A few years ago, a man told me I was pretty. I got so frightened, I almost lost consciousness. So, I make sure no one can get at my core. If I let my softer side show, I might try and trust again. Not a good idea, since every intimate relationship I've experienced has been more violent and destructive then the last. I follow Nancy Reagan and just say "NO!"

But God is His wisdom and mercy wants to heal this tangled mess. I adore dressing up for church in really expensive dresses. Silk, conservative lace and gold patterns. Beautiful earrings, necklaces and bracelets. To know my hair is professionally styled, colored and highlighted. These all produce wonderful feelings. Church is safe. No one would dare to touch me wrong, with the Pastor only yards away!

I see men who are as damaged as I am. They stumble over basic conversation. We are learning we can trust one another. It is really quite sad to see a 45 year old man, so beaten down that, to ask me if I'd like some coffee, makes him tremble and sweat. Oh, how I can relate!

I feel like I've accidentally built a prison for myself, all because of fear. God will help me, but turning over some of these rocks is mighty painful. I know, as I continue to emerge from my pseudo maleness, that whole new worlds will open up for me. I encourage all of you, try not to run from that acute pain. I couldn't face any of this without the God I have come to know, feel and trust. I'm also thankful for honest feedback. There are just little pockets of "normal" I only know as interesting theories!

Also, sometimes someone will bring you up short on a behavior and you know you can't bear to hear it at the moment. Healthy people respect "not now". When I finally calmed down enough to where I felt I wouldn't hang up on my friend, I requested his information. THAT was such a blessing! Healthy people don't need to play the emotional "bulldozer" game. You remember, where you know you are too defensive to be rational, but they just run you over anyway? Yeah, I really hate having to explain one of my "disappearing acts" to people, when I don't like their observations!

I am learning to have enough faith to to tell the truth. It is really scary to admit to a friend that they've hurt me, and I don't want to talk about it any more. I waited to be run over, instead my friend moved onto other conversation. Amazing. My friend didn't even argue with me about what I was feeling! Recovery is exciting, confusing, painful and one whale of a lot of work, but it is worth it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Psychiatric Medication Banancing Act.

After almost two hours of very thorough work, on my HMO's part and mine, I give these people an "A". What frightened me so seriously about starting over with a new Psychiatrist, was the very assertive tone this woman took with me over the phone. We were going to change my medication. That's fine, but all she had was my past medical charts. When I have been in the hospital I've seen the hell some patients had to go through when their medication was adjusted incorrectly.

The application of medication to serious mental illness is part science and part art. Some patient's body chemistry doesn't take to, or reacts to well with a given medication, or set of medications. I have seen some of the most compassionate and hard-working behavior while in the psychiatric hospital. It is a life and death battle where the doctors and staff, at times weep right along with the agonized patient. Medication is not a magic bullet, or a cure-all. But for me, and patients like me, it has been a gift from God.

So, since I knew I was in for a fist-full of forms, I gave myself an extra hour before my scheduled appointment. It was one hell of a walk down memory lane. The first set of questions deal directly with the most common reason for becoming a patient, suicide. The last time I filled out this sheet I was critically ill for all questions, in 90% of the areas covered. Today, I truthfully answered "no" to 99% of these critical questions.

I have always believed and strongly advise, any psychiatric patient to tell the truth - all of it, to the best of your ability. I have a sleep disturbance problem. I've had it all my life. When I've gotten special medication to deal with it, I become groggy, almost to the point of being in a stoopper. So, I let myself sleep in shifts. I also drink a lot of coffee every day.

Both of these conditions can be reasons to change, or eliminate a particular medication. I told the truth anyway. I carefully explained how I was stable, even with my strange sleep schedule and high consumption of coffee. A 12-cup pot a day, spread out pretty evenly throughout the day.

Even with an hour to fill out all the forms, I wasn't finished by the time my appointment rolled around. I had put out the word to several close friends to pray that the correct medical decision would be reached. I prepared myself to make a serious effort to give this lady psychiatrist a real chance to do her job.

This was no fifteen-minute medication check-up. I was in her office for over forty-five minutes. I could actually sense the effort she was putting into searching for the answers she needed. It turns out that one of the drugs I take, a tricyclic is toxic and dangerous when taken correctly. It is also a guaranteed death sentence if used as as over-dose. For this reason, I'm not divulging the name of the drug. If you're on it, you probably already know about it.

The problem with this older medication is what it can do to a patient's heart. This was totally new information for me. This kind lady apologized for scaring me about her desire to change my medications. But I now understand why my chart was such a red flag for her. I have a heart murmur - I think that is what it is called. My heart's normal rhythm is abnormal. I skip beats, here and there, but in a way that is not dangerous to my health. It figures, my general chemistry and hormones are all messed up, so why not have a flukey heartbeat? Sheesh! I think the fact which proved the soundness of my current medications was my declining cholesterol readings. In spite of what this drug can do, I'm getting healthier!

As we talked this doctor kept misquoting my information. After three or four fumbles, I was getting confused. I had to stop and think: when do I nap in the morning? I now realize I was being tested for something. I then told her about the rare use of my emergency sedatives. I documented in this blog about a relapse I experienced. I had to take these pills to force my body to stop chemically over reacting. The doctor laughed, examining a nearly full bottle of pills over three years old!

Somewhere in this intense interview, the doctor came to the conclusion, that I really was stable and it was not a good idea to change my medication at this time. After discovering how dangerous one of my medications actually is, I was told that for a small percentage of patients, who don't quite fit the normal Bi-Polar profile, these medications make us thrive. All my heart and liver related readings are well within the normal range.

I'm not the classic Bi-Polar who swings equally from too high down to too low, but I hover on the depression side of things. I also have (or had) mild psychotic symptoms. When I'm really upset and remember an incident, I forget where I really am and what year it is. But, the doctor finally arrived at the happy conclusion that I was stable. I don't need to see her for another six months to a year, unless I run into a problem.

She gave me a slip to get my heart checked, with an EKG. We shook hands and I left her office thanking God that I didn't have to change what seems to be working so well. I was taken seriously, treated fairly and respectfully. I also now have a new Psychiatrist. Once she got the real picture of why I had the strange prescriptions I possess, she said that it was the best solution for my type of patient, but she was relieved to be sure that I was indeed stable.

I passed the EKG, which, has changed since my last one in 1984. In '84 you could hear every little heart beat, or in my case, every skipped beat. I found that feedback scary. The new test is silent. So, they put some electrodes on your chest and in five minutes, you are dressed and out of the lab. Very good. My doctor would like me to cut back on the coffee. I let her know that I really didn't want to do that, but I'd (sort of) think about it. So, to celebrate not messing with success, I went downstairs to the coffee bar and had a cranberry scone and a small mocha. See the whole culture is hyped on caffeine, a small is an eight-ounce cup! Usually I'd go for the twelve-ouncer, so, I'm sort of cutting back.

Monday, October 16, 2006

My HMO Is Reacting To An "Oops".

A couple of years ago I got the wild idea that I did not have Bi-Polar Disorder and stopped all my psychiatric medications. Six months later I was in true psychiatric crisis. After being restored via medication and through six weeks of out patient support I left that part of my life and joyously took my medications watching my mental health obtain stability and stay that way.

My Doctor put me on some pretty Strong medications, which have worked flawlessly. Unfortunately, since I don't feel ill, in any way, I forgot to call in for my routine six-month check-up. I got to it after almost eight months. Due to my doctor being on medical leave and two other doctors being unavailable, they told me to call back in another six months, when there might be better staffing. Since I am not ill, this was fine.

Well, I ran out of refills on my two heavy-duty psychiatric medications. The pharmacy warned me that I had to see a doctor before they'd issue any more prescriptions. Okay, on the very next day the psychiatric Department called me and scheduled me for January 7th or something like that.

When I called Psychiatric to alert them to what the pharmacy told me, I was cut off with: "they just didn't have the information about your appointment in January". This delivered with a certain irritation and contempt. Hey, I know what happens when I don't take the pills, okay? So, I figured its their problem and went on with my life.

All of this went down last week. I then received a call from my primary care doctor. The General Practicianer, or OBGYN doctor, who also wanted to see me. I've always wondered how the doctor who specializes in "female" problems can function as a General Practitioner, but maybe I miss the subtleties of modern medicine. So, I'm seeing a new person on November 7th.

Low and behold, I got another call from a very tired sounding Psychiatrist who told me that I'm on the wrong medications, because they don't think I'm Bi-Polar! Oh NO!

I haven't been seen by anyone in a year and my regular psychiatrist is on medical leave. Someone looked at my chart and "decided" I need a medication change. But, due to the staffing issues, I may not be seen by the doctor I'm currently speaking with, as they want to see me before my thirty-days of restricted medication are finished!

Me thinks my chart fell through a crack and now several departments are playing a complex game of Cover My Butt. I didn't get this much attention when I called Psychiatric and requested euthanasia via my psychiatrist! (But, I got in to see him within twenty-four hours!)

Let's see, One strange OBGYN doc is going ta assess my general health, by checking my femaleness, while another strange Psychiatrist is going to talk to me for fifteen minutes to determine if I need different medications. Yeah, this sure feels like a game of Cover My Butt.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Presants: Sharing and Expanding Love.

One of the true differences between the dysfunctional and healthy life, is the noticeable absence of excitement. No more frantic emergency calls to medics, fire or police departments. No more screaming fights. Gone are those poignant moments of personal hysteria. Replaced with a sense of feeling 'lost' and even bored!

Healthy living is quiet, gently pleasant, but much more predictable. You are not functioning in that high-adrenaline state of crisis. For awhile in recovery, I'd start problems, just to recapture what I thought was a normal day of, what else? Emergencies!

Happiness is far different also. In my childhood, most of the time I was extremely unhappy and lonely. I never knew what would set my mother, or my aunt off on one of their screaming 'lectures'. My mother would recount how they thought I had died at birth and how wonderful (?) it was that I had actually lived. Depending on how drunk my mother was, determined how sad she became at the news of my "life". I just got numb and endured.

Then holidays would roll around and everything changed. Christmas was the most amazing transformation. No matter how angry everyone was, come Christmas, all was well and there were presents. Lots of them. Presents were great, and really good stuff. My birthday was always a mixed affair due to me being so close to an April fool's baby! Thank God I came in early on April 2nd. But the huge wrapped empty box was a yearly occurrence I always fell for. I had to hide how hurt I was in the name of family 'fun'.

Then, just as fast as it had arrived, Christmas was over and our family returned to the normal behavior of hating our lives and one another. But, that rush of presents. What a lovely feeling! To this day I love that process of thinking about, baiting the receiver and actually giving presants. Baiting the receiver is the cute number begun around September. "Boy, wait till you see what you're getting for Christmas!" This was the cue for me to play a sneaky game of twenty questions: "Can I eat it?" Much fun can be had with this answer, as almost anything can be used as an 'attempted' food item. This was one of the few games in our family that was truly a game and not a disguised way of hurting one another. Amazing.

Then there was the wrapping and placing under the tree. Everyone, kids and adults would scope out their gifts. Shaking, turning, squeezing and in any other 'acceptable' manner, exploring that box. It was truly fun and a clean exchange of positive feelings, that were not communicated at any other time.

Then there was the food. Not just the extravagant Christmas and New Year dinners, but exceptional breakfasts and 'snacks'. Can you read: cookies, candy, little cakes and strudels. It was truly like someone flipped a switch and all the rules disappeared! There were some really sweet moments at this time of year.

The down side, of course, was the drunken parties, ambulance visits for bombed guests who'd fallen down the basement stairs (still clutching their now broken glass!) The dead-of-night flights from Arizona to California, when my mom went into the hospital for cancer and the confusion of Christmas in a foster home. But more good then bad for sharing of gifts and expressing love.

At 53, I do not consider I have a 'blood' family. Oh, they are alive, but I've made my amends and peace with them. For my own sanity, I choose not to deal with them. Just after I got married in 1972 I bought a present for my Cousin and she got mad, because she felt she had to buy for me and she didn't want that obligation any more. Oh yeah, that one hurt, but hope springs eternal and it took me years to give up on ever getting her to love me. I don't think she has it in her due to her own childhood abuse.

So, I have friends who are the closest I have to family. I was sadly surprised at how many people absolutely refuse gifts. Since most of my friends are older married men from technical backgrounds, they aren't subtle. "No, I don't do gifts. That way I don't owe you anything". Some folks respond in silence. I find this sad, but it is the way of our world.

When I find a receptive gift receiver, it is fun. I have a game developer friend who is a book hound. So, a nice chunk of change sends him off to to lose his mind in an afternoon of book browsing. He went on to unravel a windy tale of looking up his list of favorite books. Then chasing down amazon's recommendations. Finally, he'd see what other customers had recommended. By this point several hours had fled by and he'd forgotten his original desired book! Gee, he had to do it all over again! Now, that was a terrific email!

Then there are the people I'm really close to. Linda, though she can drive my crazy is also a giver. She listened to my description of the $150 radio I was exploring and offered to buy it for me on the spot! I accepted with the understanding that it was for both Christmas and my birthday. It is a great radio! She is like me, and this year is tantalizing me with the declaration that she has bought me a book for Christmas. But, not just any book... Well, that could be almost anything. I have expensive tastes in books, like I do with everything else. Sigh! It will be fun to gently try and pry hints from her as we near Christmas. For sure, I'll have my ears up, looking for the hint and wishes she has for her gift. She's another one who loses her mind at Oh, hearing about that will be fun!

Then there is dear Phillip. He likes eCards and prefers to forgo the gifts. For him it is an issue of money. He has four kids and most of his friends have four, or more kids and they'd all be broke attempting to buy for each other. Also, there is the financial pressure. Work has been a bit lean and I believe this is the main reason for a request for only an eCard. Having been broke ever since entering the Social Security System in 1982, I sure know how depressing it can be to get something from someone and know before you open it, that you can't give anything in return. Oh, that pain can be brutal.

So, when his fortunes turn around, which I have no doubt they will, I'll e-mail off a gift certificate celebrating "Happy Everything". A practice of my x-husband. He hated all tradition and refused to do anything at its scheduled time! So, we got and gave presents in the middle of February, or June, any time other then the official date of birth, marriage, or other holiday. (No rebellion in that personality!)

When I'm not playing macho-girl, I'm a sentimental soul. I like those cards that acknowledge a great friendship, mother, or how cool God is. The stuff you get embarrassed to read - but secretly are glad to receive. Goodness can never be acknowledged enough. Oh, I love letting that side of myself out! I used to hide it so well, I'd lost sight of it after awhile. Recovery is all about different levels of love. I am free to cut people some slack, because I'm learning I'm not perfect now, and don't think I'll get there by tomorrow either!

If I really love someone, I need to hear what makes their heart happy. Everyone is touched by something, but the "something" is different for different people. There is a fascinating book about people's "love" languages. Some people really feel loved from simple attention, or remembering them with a small token. Some folks only really feel loved behind the BIG gift. Some people are into touch and being pampered, or fussed over. My sweet Maria is like that. Making her a cup of coffee really does something for her. I enjoy it, but not in the same way she does. She reacts to pampering, like I do to my vacations!

When Phillip protested my teasing threat of "choose where your gift certificate comes from, or else you get amazon!" I was truly surprised. But, its his, and not my party. So I found a cool eCard and e-mailed it off. I enjoy watching my relationship with Phillip grow and change. It is subtle, but always apparent. Ever deepening levels of being real with one another. Making it safe to tell the truth when you know you are being a bit unreasonable, impatient, or peevish. We both like to talk, so text messages are part of the tapestry of many days.

I love the rough and tumble banter which always seems to develop. I give as good as I get. I know when I'm seriously being attacked, as compared to a verbal snowball fight. So many little moments of humor and creativity. This is the real deal.

No more do I need the drama of my early life. I am relaxed, engaged and intrigued with the people and events in my life as they unfold before me.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Bi-Polar Disorder and Caffine: What A Miracle!

When my medications are balanced correctly, I am as mentally healthy as the next person. If I decide to be stupid, attempting to stay up for twenty-four-hours, stop my medication, or abuse other drugs. My Bi-Polar Disorder will reassert itself in all of its terrifying glory. It is very hard to remember, when I am feeling well, that, like it, or not, I've got a medical condition which must be monitored and treated with respect.

I have stopped drinking booze for two reasons. First of all, my religious denomination really frowns on it, and I hate leading a "double" life. Also, after even moderate drinking, I experience a mild "let down". Nothing serious, but I got a bit weary with that symptom also.

I'm a committed caffeine addict. I usually have a pot of coffee a day, spread out pretty evenly throughout the day. From my last post, you could see, that I was challenged by my Pastor and basically went to emotional pieces. I flagged this, as a possible warning, that all was not right with my current medication.

I ran out of coffee and just didn't feel like going shopping. But, bless Jesus, I found a stash of coffee! What I didn't realize, was that it was decaffeinated. So, CyberGal went cold turkey off a lot of caffeine all at once. This is NOT a good idea, even if you aren't Bi-Polar. The headaches are killers! But, I blamed them on that wonderful gift from Eve, The Change of Life.

I finally felt well enough to go to church last night, but was drop-dead exhausted after only a few hours. Something was wrong. Serious depression can come on you slowly, or quickly. I went from normal balance to a critical emergency within six hours once. I have done my homework and have plans for various states of dis-ease. My vision was starting to get strange and I was becoming hyper sensitive to pain. These two symptoms are serious markers for me. I figured I'd be going to my HMO within a few days, if I kept feeling so out-of-it.

After a nap today I woke up in serious trouble. My mental ability to logically think was almost completely absent. My vision was getting really fluky and I was having trouble understanding what was being said on the radio. These are the things which happen to me when I need to go to the hospital. I'm not crying, but I'm totally out of it, unable to answer questions, or construct a normal English sentence. Time to get serious.

Before trotting down to my HMO for a seventy-two hour vacation in lock-down, I always make sure I have eaten a good meal and had at least one cup of coffee. I was barely able to make it through giving the waiter my order, but I just bluffed through it, claiming I needed coffee. I ordered a full balanced breakfast with coffee.

I immediately began to sense I was coming out of the funk I had been in. This may not work for everyone who is Bi-Polar, but, it sure worked for me. It was exactly the same "back to normal" feeling I experienced when I returned to my psychiatric medication after being off them for six months.

Being a responsible patient, I've started to "chart" my moods. If I'm "swinging" too much, even if I like the 'up' part, I have to get my medication adjusted. I have to call the shots here. If I change my medication when there isn't a need, I can throw myself into an emotional crisis of being to "up". That's where you think you can cover a semester's worth of work in a few hours!

My doctor has to trust my reporting - until I'm so messed up, that the hospital is an obvious choice. Everyone concerned prefers not to let things get that far out of hand. There is respect on both sides. My doctor knows I'm not playing games and I know my doctor really listens to my feedback. We truly work together. The happy result being, most of the time, I'm healthy.

I thank God for the dedicated folks who invented, tested and produced my medication. The Psychiatric Unit can be a discouraging place. Not all patients who get into trouble live through the battle. When I fully recovered from being off my medication for six months, my doctor got a bit teary. We both knew how close I'd come to not "making it back."

I've also discovered something wonderful about my church. Pastor was attempting to teach me how to "strive toward the mark". First Lady really cleared up my confusion when she shared that, my pain is REAL and they don't expect me to go straight from where I am to having total faith. I don't have to act like a performing monkey. It is okay to learn a new skill. I do want to be delivered from my fears and especially my excessive, I-want-it-all, anger. Once again, those wonderful "old tapes" from the past did not serve me well. I am thankful these folks have a better way. I have hope again, because I'm not afraid of having to be perfect by next Sunday.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

What It Means to "Have Faith" With A Life-Long Disability.

At church, last night, I got pulled into a mess.

"Oh, well, she works in Hayward, but she probably knows someone in your town and maybe we can get you better housing. Are you happy with your situation?"

I started to reply and heard First Lady tell me, that I'd better check it out. I began to feel a familiar sickening pain.

I took down a name and phone number, but was told not to call that phone number, but to call the person I was speaking with. I felt a kind of madness starting to work its
way to the surface. It was time to face down Pastor.

I had been informed in the middle of August that there were two housing options opening up for me, from the church's landlord. Both would involve her deliberately dropping her rent by almost half to give me, a studio apartment. This loss of income was justified to her because I am a blind person with mobility issues needing a walker. Here we are in October and I've heard nothing. (As I expected). Any landlords out there want to go for the above? I mean, as Christians, you will feel better screwing yourself in order to help the disabled, right? Yeah, sure.

When I confronted my Pastor, he started to try and explain. I cut him off and demanded a yes, or no answer on a new place to live. I've tried to communicate to this dear soul the realities of disability right now. I've already blogged on this: The link below will place my March 26, 2006 blog on housing and inflation underneath what you are reading now. You may choose to go to the "archives" of this blog for March 2006. You are looking for "march 26, 2006"

Its an ugly shell game where very few people who should be getting help are actually receiving the assistance. The reason is simple. In my town there were 100,000 applications for subsidized housing chasing 1,000 units. I with all my treasured disabilities, including actually living in the town, didn't even make the lottery that qualifies you to qualify for a slot that will come around in about five years. My pastor sensed that I have given up and began to challenge my faith.

"Do you trust God. The best is yet to come. He'll bring you out." He was looking me straight in the face. I love this man, and will not lie to him. I refuse to do the faith-happy-talk, when I don't believe in it. God CAN do anything, but I know a whole lot of disabled people who have done and are doing a whole lot of tithing, serving and praying, who are still jolly-well disabled and living in pretty crummy circumstances.

Eventually I got asked a question which caused me to break down and sob.

"Pastor, I have faith. I know God is with me and He gives me the strength to handle my life, but I refuse to hope for total healing, a full-time job, or getting out of the housing I have right now. 'Be thankful for such things you have, as this is the will of God for your life in Christ Jesus'"

Pastor replied: "Do you really have faith?" Friends, I lost it. My denomination is big on not sobbing openly. Pastor's solution to my pain was telling me to go home and read the Bible. He touched and held my head and prayed. I couldn't recover. All conversation stopped. Then someone hit the lights, plunging us into darkness, which is the cue to leave the building.

I went home deeply shaken and really torn up inside. Today is almost a total loss attempting to recover from a deep sense of rage and depression. I will return to what I had before this dreadful conversation. Once I get my emotions back under control, I'll be able to sense God in my world and continue my simple prayer requesting that He give me the grace to accept whatever He has for me.

I don't give Him a laundry list anymore. I know how to survive. Maybe I don't have faith, but this is the best I got and if that damns me to hell, I can do nothing more. I am so very tired. This is not a particularly good head space for me to be in.

Able bodied people have all kinds of theories on how to handle disability. It is the difference between a chicken and a pig, concerning the reality of a bacon and eggs breakfast. The chicken is involved (theoretical), but the pig (actual reality) is committed.

A dear friend tried to get me back to looking for God to literally provide money for me in response to tithing. I know better then to get all tied up in that thicket. I stayed deliberately vague, while he stumbled through his "came in at the last minute" story.

Yes, I have gotten more money, but I still can't support myself without governmental help. What keeps me out of the hospital is accepting REALITY. Yes, God CAN do all things, but I'm beginning to wonder if the physical plane is the least important to Him, in the spiritual scheme of things.

God has always honored any attempt I make to approach, or serve Him. The biggest miracle being my Salvation, first and foremost. Next being the healing of my mind from several very serious mental abnormalities. I could have become a sociopath. I have several of the environmental markers for that dreadful condition. I could have become a multiple-personality. I also could have died during one of my several real suicide attempts. I have no issue with God. He is fair, gentle and consistent. Nobody can take that away from me.

What God isn't is a carnival act. You put up ten percent and He'll drop down ten times the amount you donated. If Reno had those kind of odds we'd all be rich. God responds to giving, even when done for wrong motives and under duress. What I've always noticed whenever I've tried to worship God through money, is an improving and firming-up of my understanding of spiritual matters.

There were the occasional physical blessings. I prayed to see what it would feel like to get a "blessing I couldn't contain". God answered that simple question within days. I got a call from a lady in the church who humbly asked if she could bring me some clothes that were donated to her through her job. I was overjoyed. I needed new clothes and welcomed the usual bag of goodies. A large grocery bag.

She appeared at my door with four huge garbage can bags full of clothes! I mean the 4 foot-high garbage can bags for the outside garbage cans.. I had the joy of blessing others with the overflow of clothing I literally had no room to store! But, my usual experience is more of a mental, or emotional blessing. God is consistent on His terms, not mine. He is not into doing parlor tricks for me, or anyone else.

Friends accuse me of going "too deep". I just see connections others hadn't thought of. When I discovered football, I pondered if it was just another of my "worldly" pastimes. I feel guilty because I can't listen to religious radio 24/7, or read the Bible as my only literature. Apparently most people don't think like that. Well, I think it is one of the symptoms of God responding to my faith. Part of it, is just the way I'm put together. I have a way of looking at life which can be useful to someone out there, reading this, at this very moment. It is a gift of God to me and the other person.

I can't get egotistical about it, as God is the source, I'm just like the wrapping. Something about how I present God and life will help someone to re-think the whole religious thing. God always honors my sincere desire to use this blog as a place of healing and rest for some very, very tired abuse victims, who, like myself are tired of all the fluff that passes as "recovery" out there. A lot of it is simply hot-air, or worse.

So, I feel myself rising above my very real anger and frustration. I didn't start to get mentally healthy, until i let go of a few long-cherished (worshipped) dreams. Dreams which kept me doing rediculous things attempting to live "as if". I dreamed of getting completely off Social Security and the government-provided health benefits. I would do this by securing a full time job that would put me solidly back into the middle class. (where I knew I belonged). I'd get healed from everything. I've picked out the color scheme of my first car and everything. I've also let myself fantasize about becoming a world-wide celeb phenom from the above-mentioned "miracle".

I finally let go of ever getting my vision fixed and began to look for non-literate, as in "reading" employment. Its out there, bringing in just under what I make with Social Security. Actually less, after paying taxes and carrying my own insurance. I had to let go, or kill myself out of rage and despair.

Next, I decided to throw the appropriate paper at the system and "qualify" for help paying my monthly insurance premiums and getting out of the SRO (Single-resident-occupancy) hotel rooms I've lived in mostly since 1983. I had to let go of that dream when I ran into the shell-game that is today's "subsidized housing". I see no practical "worldly" way out. But, WAIT! I'VE GOT TO HAVE FAITH...

Pardon me, but "blow it out your rear, dear!"

Learning to be content at my level with things the way THEY ACTUALLY EXIST, IS FAITH! I TRUST that when there is a real, actual need, God will (and always will) meet it. Therefore, I can call people, throw paper, get on lists, and all the rest of it, but I don't really pay that much attention to it all any more. When I need a bigger house, a husband, a better job, or a fabulous vacation, God will make it happen. But I refuse to make my fellow church goers feel good by doing "goofy" religious clap-trap:

"Oh YES. God's gonna give me a new body, a new house, a new job, the perfect mate (sex on demand) and ... a partridge in a pear tree" AND I thank Him!".

Doesn't the last quote strike you as being just a touch self-absorbed? I pray that God will bless me to continue to maintain my church's website, so someone can learn what we have learned about the real Jesus Christ. I pray that God will lead the people who can be helped and encouraged by this blog to read it and find that truth will really set them free. (just like Jesus said).

No, I'm still a work in progress and you can get off that damn treadmill of feeling that recovery is a never-ending march forward. The graph looks more like an EKG. The healthier you become, the smaller the distance is between your really bad days and your really good days.

You start out swinging from: "I'm like God" to "I want to kill myself." As you gain experience, help and (sometimes), medication, you don't gyrate as radically. I wept last night, slept a lot today, but can feel my regular "all is well" state returning. My normal state of contentment, as I sort out what I believe and what I refuse to do, in the name of making others "feel" good about THEIR faith.

Am I all done yet? Heck no. I thank God I have another day to live, learn and share. When I need something, God will bring it to me, or me to it. That is an exciting and hopeful process. I have learned from bitter trial and error, that God knows what is really best for me, whereas most of the time, I'm clueless.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I've Discovered Football and failed femininity 101.

Long ago and far away, I longed to fit in. I'm a girl and I really tried to get into 'girlie' things. Oh, sigh! Alas, I like office supply stores, hardware stores, computers and tech. If I had full sight I'd go for being an interstate trucker. Most of my friends are men, and the female friends I do have, well, if they were men, they'd have massive amounts of courage.

I like Scott Sigler novels. Now, he is so rough that some men can't handle his gig. He combines rough language with grotesque science fiction and horror plots. I think there are three or four of us girls who regularly read his work. I'm on the fringe, as I can and do eat breakfast while listening to his novels. In short, I have an inferiority complex about being a girl. Now that I've discovered football its official. I flunked out of femininity 101.

For the longest time I tried to understand this strange world of football. Watching it on TV, for me, was like trying to track individual ants in an ant farm. Things move far too fast for me to visually make sense of what I'm seeing. Well, Scott's latest novel is all about football from the point of view of a Quarter Back. So, I really had a motivation to learn about the game. I started listening to it on the radio and, holy moley, it started to make some sense! Like all true football fans I soon began to yell at the radio, to coax the team, or the ref. to do, or stop doing something. It is glorious.

While cleaning a house I used to listen to talk radio. But of late the entire world has gotten so crazy, I just get upset. I mean really upset. Sports gives me an adrenaline rush without feeling like my country is going to hell in a hand basket. As I continue to listen I begin to remember which player plays on a particular team. I am immediately adopted into entire new types of conversation and banter. One of my few girl friends, is also into football and we're already planning a Monday night football evening. Her TV, I'll bring the food.

Oh, how I wish I could just be 'struck' feminine! To wake up one day and like wearing floppy pink bows! To be able to read People magazine and like it. To be demur and unassuming in some situation. To be able to act stupid and make it look sexy. Oh, I fear it is not to be. My idea of a romantic line is Mic Jaggar's song: "Hold On To Me Tonight". After he speaks of love being fragile and all of that , he gets real: "...all my cards are on the table. You can get up and walk away - or stay." Now THAT I understand!

CyberGal is at home with Skype on a four-way conference call with three male friends. Our banter is rough and tumble. I am accepted as one of the group. We needle one another unmercifully. But let one of us not be on line for more then a few days and the others start hunting our missing buddy down. Two tech / engineering types and a medical equipment technician, who has seen it all and lived to tell the tale!

But alas, I am what I am.

"Oh, NOOO! You're not supposed to drop it!" (speaking to a radio I have running in the background). Go Raiders!