You Did What?!?!

It’s been a long time since I’ve been checked into the psych ward. My doctor and therapist thought it was a sign I am doing so much better. Even though I told them the next time I go into the hospital it will be feet first or in hand cuffs. The last time I went was in handcuffs but I knew all the right answers and lied. They put me in an unlocked room for “observation.” I texted someone and escaped through the side door of the hospital. I would have just walked home but it was the middle of winter and all I had was a thin shirt.

I won’t go to the psych ward again because of the way I was treated last time I was there. I checked myself in and at the time I was drunk. I told them the truth and said the only reason I was drinking was I stopped taking my meds and was trying to self medicate. All of the doctors and nurses would ask me who my doctor was on the outside. I would tell them, Dr. Kates. They would all have the same reaction, “Oh Jim! I know him, he works here on weekends” I would say I know he’s been my doctor for 20 years.

I saw a doctor the first day and explained I just needed a safe place to get back on my medications because I was suicidal. He nodded and said he would prescribe me and he left. At night I went to the nurse window and they gave me flintstone hangover vitamins. No psychoactive meds I usually take. I stayed awake that night. The next day there was another doctor and her team of like 5 people taking notes. I told her I didn’t get my meds. She said I would get them tonight. Again at night I went to the nurse window. Flinstone vitamins, no meds. I saw a different doctor the next day he told me I would get my meds immediately. I went to the nurse. She said he prescribed me a shitload of valium. I didn’t understand, I had never taken valium in my life. I said I didn’t want it. It was a lot too. So much valium the two nurses thought it was a mistake and called the Dr. to make sure. Then they still refused to give that to me. Even though I didn’t want it.

It was the 4th day and all of a sudden I find I am one of those people arguing with the nurses about my meds. I know nurses can’t prescribe. They just hand out the pills the doctor tells them to. I saw the doctor again. The one with all the assistants around the table. She looked me straight in the eye and asked me if I was buying my meds off the street! I said, No, I get them at the pharmacy like everyone else. She looked surprised. I said, I suddenly feel a lot better, do you think I can go home now? (5 of them around the table and not one had the job to verify with 1 phone call?)

After that it was a different story. The nurses were chasing me down the halls trying to throw pills in my mouth. Everyone had a big smile and was friendly to me. I was fuming. I was in the hospital after being unmedicated at home for a week and they kept me unmedicated for 4 more days and nobody had called my doctor on the outside to find out what meds I take?!?! I was pissed. They were treating me like one of the drunks that checks in for 3 hots and a cot. (3 hot meals a day and a place to sleep for free) They thought I checked myself into the hospital to score drugs. They just automatically thought I was lying and I couldn’t figure out why.

Part two:

Five years later ( November 2020) my therapists drops the phrase “alcohol use disorder” on me like we talk about it all the time. I thought about it and it all started to make sense. Not only the hospital but how I was treated differently in all official situations. She diagnosed me with alcohol disorder. That was the only difference between my last hospital stay and all the previous ones. Were they just taking my word for it when I told them the meds I took all those visits? WTF kind of process is that? Then I come in and they see on the computer “Alcohol Use Disorder” Red flag! He is a liar! Don’t believe anything he says! I finally figured out why they were treating me with vitamins for alcohol withdrawal. Even though I told them I only drank one day and I could never in my life drink every day so I was in no danger of having a seizure and dying. I told them the truth on every question they asked me. I am done telling the truth to anyone in an official capacity.

Cunt! My therapist. When I figured it out in December I yelled at her on the phone and she lied to me again. All the times I complained and swore I would never go back to the hospital again and all she would say is, ” I can’t understand why they would treat you that way?” Bullshit! She knew exactly why! That is how they treat alcoholics in the hospital! I just couldn’t figure it out because I had never been treated that way in all my many visits over my lifetime. I had seen it a thousand times. I just thought the drunks were trying to con their way into drugs. I didn’t know they were being lied to by the doctors like I was.

I cancelled my therapist appointment the day before Christmas. I have no idea why she thought I would want to ruin my holiday by getting pissed at her all over again. She had no clue and rescheduled for January. Well, I’m glad she had a good holiday because mine sucked. She called yesterday (Friday) and tried to continue the lie. I told her to get fucked don’t call me again! She waited 5 minutes and called back. She asked if I wanted her to call me next week. I said bitch, what did I just say? What is going to change next week? What is going to get resolved? You have been lying to someone who trusted you for 5 years. She tried to say she can get me another therapist. What is that going to do? I’m not going to trust the new therapist and the new therapist is going to treat me like an alcoholic and won’t believe anything I say. Fuck all of them. They all work together and I know my doctor knows because he works at the hospital. He has treated alcohol use disorder patients the exact same way over the years. He has been lying to me the whole time too. I am about ready to stop taking all my meds again. They can all get fucked! Who am I supposed to trust. Do they think I am an idiot?

Accountability

I’m dating myself. Does anyone remember Bartles and Jaymes “wine coolers?” I think it was the first time alcohol companies started aggressively marketing to young women.

My first job back in the day was at a grocery store chain. I worked in the meat department. No, I wasn’t a 16 year old butcher. I was the kid who steam cleaned all the equipment after the butchers had gone home. A good job if you are trying to quit eating meat. I’m not going to tell you how bad the meat grinder smelled after just one day of use. They gave me that particular job because I worked well without supervision. As I go on you will realize I probably needed more supervision.

Okay, back to the sickly sweet, fruity tasting wine coolers. Not only did they come in a nice 4 pack of glass bottles, they also sold them in plastic 2 liter bottles! This is where I came in.

I had the run of the store and nobody questioned anything I did. I got a good idea. (In my 16 year old brain.) I went out onto the floor and grabbed 2 two liter bottles of 7-UP and carried them back to the small walk in refrigerator at the end of the butcher shop. Then I went to the warehouse part of the store and stealthily took 2 two liter bottles of wine coolers.

The walking fridge had a drain in the floor into which I emptied the soda bottles. I carefully transferred the wine from the 2 liter bottles into the 2 liter bottles of 7-UP. At the end of my shift I would carry it down to the front of the store and pay the cashier 99 cents for two liters of wine coolers because that was the price of the 7-UP.

Looking back, I think it was a pretty ingenious way to start my alcoholic career driving home and chugging my pilfered wine.

I only lasted about a year at that job. It’s another funny story. I got fired but not for stealing wine coolers. I knew a kid who worked alone in the dairy department and our freezers were next to each other. We spent a lot of time talking. But this kid was a real wise ass. To the point annoying as fuck. He said something to me and I impulsively wrapped his head with the strapping tape I had in my hands. He tried to get it out but it was hopelessly stuck in his long hair. As he started to freak out the store manager walked through the swinging doors and wanted to know what happened. That was the end of my butcher career but not the end of my drinking. I guess I was pretty determined there.

Suicide Solution

Trigger Warning: See title above. Did anyone else have a problem with National Suicide Awareness day? I did. I even wrote a negative comment on someone’s blog which I never do. I apologize if it was you. One of the problems I had was it is only one day. It wasn’t thought about the day before and it would be forgotten about the next day. And where was it when I was suicidal almost every day last winter? Not that a “How are you feeling” text would have cured me. The other problem I had was seeing the word suicide in all caps and large font everywhere I looked. And I wasn’t looking for it.

My last attempt was a huge mess. I got kicked out of the homeless shelter for something stupid and I only had enough on my credit card for two nights in a hotel. I had been having mixed episodes and delusions all summer. Being suddenly real homeless with no plan did not help.

The first night in the hotel my brain started making plans for me to kill myself. It devised a mathematical formula that dictated the date and time, how many beers I would have to drink and which pills and how many to take with each beer.

My first call for help was to my case manager, “Hello Sharon, this is me, can you call me when you get a chance?” I didn’t exactly sound stressed but that is me. I hide everything. During the next two days I called everyone I knew and I was crying and saying, “I don’t know what to do.” But I never mentioned I might be planning my own death.

The night before I started my plan. I had to buy the beer early because I had to start drinking at 4am and the stores were closed at that time. All the math made perfect sense to me in my sleepless delusional state. I started washing down the pills; some of them deadly and others benign. Whatever, I had a lot of everything. An overdose of Latuda is irreversible. I’m not sure but I think not having food in my stomach let it wash through my body. You are supposed to take it with a certain number of calories. So I guess I got “lucky.”

Sharon finally called me back. It woke me up. She waited so long because I didn’t sound stressed on the phone and she thought I was calling about housing and she had no news for me. I didn’t tell her what I had done but I was freaking out. She told me to come to the office. (She didn’t know I was drinking) She saved my life because after the call I started puking a lot. Strangely I tidied up the hotel room before I left.

Trying to get to the office I realized I could not operate a car. Me, being the super intelligent guy I am thought I needed some caffeine to sober me up. I pulled into the store and went inside. When I came out there was a cruiser behind my car. The cop was out and pulled his gun on me and started dropping F bombs. Somebody had called them. I was standing frozen holding two Pepsi’s. Nothing sobers you up more than having a gun pointed at you. The cop was screaming at me but he wasn’t telling me what to do besides yelling that I was going to blow the fucking breathalyzer. I had already told him I was trying to get to the mental hospital.

The backup cruise pulled in and the first officer holstered his gun and started talking in a normal voice. He calmly cuffed me and stuck me in the back of his cruiser. I told him I was trying to kill myself and all the drugs I had taken that day. (Funny the only one that made it into the police report was the controlled substance.) They brought me into the station and threw me in the cell. I was really wishing I would die so they would get in trouble and I would be dead.

It turns out they left me in the cell for so long because the gun wielding cop was at the courthouse for several hours trying to get a warrant to draw my blood for an alcohol test. I have talked to many people who worked in the legal/ drunk driving system since and they were all shocked when they heard he got a warrant. Not one of them had seen that before. The officer was turning my mental health problem into a legal problem. The protocol is to bring me to the state mental hospital for an evaluation. I could have and should have still gotten a driving under the influence charge but they were supposed to make sure I wasn’t dying first.

Would things have been different if they had suicide awareness day back then?

Special Effects

Overflowing pill container

I was up to 260lbs. My MD had me on cholesterol medication, blood pressure meds and was talking about treating me for diabetes if my blood sugar got any higher. That last one did it for me. I could barely take care of my mental health meds. Never mind checking my blood and injecting myself with insulin however many times per day. I knew from the black box warning that my Zyprexa was causing all these health problems but I wanted to stay with it because it was the most effective drug for my mental health at the time.

Instead I tried going to the gym. I was very disciplined and went 5 days a week for at least 2 hours at a time. My MD even sent me to a nutritionist to see if it was my diet. When I told her what I eat each day, she said, “Wow! You’re hardcore.” She didn’t have any suggestions on how to change my diet because I was already more strict than recommended.

After 6 months of the gym and dieting (still not losing weight), my MD said I was one visit away from insulin. I went to my psychiatrist and asked to switch medications. His response was, “Well, you don’t have diabetes yet.” He was an asshole. So I decided to stop all my medications at once. That would show him. I ended up in the hospital a month later. That got him to switch me to Latuda. In the first month I lost 30lbs even though I went back to my normal diet and no longer went to the gym. I quickly got down to 200lbs without really trying. Still overweight at 5’10” but manageable.

My first experience with major side effects was when they put me on Risperidone. It was a great drug. I could think what used to be disturbing thoughts but now I was disconnected from them and didn’t get the fear and paranoia that went with them. After a few months I got an unmentionable side effect but I’ll mention it here. It made me impotent. There was no way I was 28 and going to spend the rest of my life not having sex. So I immediately stopped and again ended up in the hospital. (I really need to stop doing that). But I’d rather be crazy and have sex than the other way around.

Geodon was the worst but I was too messed up to realize it at the time. It was when I first went on disability. I kept telling my psychiatrist it wasn’t working so he kept upping the dosage. Eventually I was way over the recommended maximum. He didn’t understand it was the medication that wasn’t working, it wasn’t the dosage. I moved to a new doctor and got off the Geodon. That is when I realized I was also experiencing symptoms of Tardive dyskinesia. I found out when I went to the local convenience store and the woman behind the counter asked me if I was feeling better. I asked her what she meant and she told me I used to shake so bad when she saw me. I was a little embarrassed that I hadn’t noticed. That drug also came with impotence so never again.

I’m surprised I haven’t had more side effects in my lifetime. At one point I was taking over 20 pills a day. I would tell people I had to shut up because every time I opened my mouth my doctor threw another pill in it. It was true.

Over the years I’ve gotten the amount of meds down to the minimum. I’m still on Latuda. It comes with the same weight gain, diabetes warning as Zyprexa but I have actually lost more weight. It doesn’t get rid of my symptoms but it makes it so I can do at least the minimum to take care of myself. I still have days where I can’t even function as a human but I am afraid of making any med changes. I don’t want to be a guinea pig for the latest and greatest. Maybe if I hear from another person of something that works better I will try it but I’m just happy to have my symptoms mellowed out some and no side effects. If they made a medication like Risperidone without the impotence, I would be right on it in a heartbeat. Has anyone taken a schizophrenia medication like that?

The Pendulum Swings

When I first started my career of mental illness, my mood swings would come in neat little packages of about 3 months each. I would do a season of hypo-mania; barely sleeping, staying out until dawn with the other delinquent kids. I would be the life of the party; always the chatterbox. I probably acted like a normal hyperactive kid. Then I would slip into a season of depression. I would get home from school, chow down as much food as possible, then sleep for about 14 hours. I would hit the snooze button on my alarm clock until the last possible minute. It seemed I could never get enough sleep. I would stop hanging out with my friends to the point of alienating everyone I knew just so I could be alone. Then the switch would be flipped and I would be on my way up again.

Back then my highs were never too high and my lows were never too low. I don’t remember ever being suicidal even though I listened to Black Sabbath which was about the most overtly depressing music around back then. I had ideation but I never had a real plan to hurt myself. I think my mood would swing the other way before I became completely mired in my depression.

As I got older I got higher and lower. After being brought to the psyche ward by the cops during a manic episode, I finally came around to the idea I might need to be medicated. They tried different medications and when I got to lithium I discovered a new seasonal mood. “Normal”, that was one I hadn’t experienced in some time.

I entered a new cycle of life. After I got out of the hospital, they would send me out into the world freshly medicated. I would feel normal for about 3 months and then I would do what many people with bipolar disorder would do. I would stop my medications because I felt fine. That would lead to a 3 month bout of either mania or depression; a hospitalization and back on the meds. It took me forever to learn to stay on my meds. I was still against living my life with them and kept stopping. So I stayed on that wheel for years. 3 months on, 3 months off. I don’t know how many stints in the “Pavilion.” That was the name of the local psyche ward. I guess they wanted it to sound upscale. (It wasn’t)

In 2012 I was put on Latuda and everything changed. Now I have 2 year stretches of hypo-mania/mania, a brief respite where I have just my psychotic symptoms in the background and then long, deep depressions. I am writing this after coming out of a 2 year depression and I feel relatively normal. The only reason I have stayed on this particular cocktail of medications is because I hope for the excitement of a long stretch of hypomania/mania. Even with the risks coming with it. I’m not sure if I will get it because I recently started another anti-psychotic/mood stabilizer.

Now I feel like a long stretch of hypo-mania would be my reward for such an extended depression. I’m waiting for the rush but who knows if it will arrive. It’s been so long.

I’m still not sure if my cycles have changed as a result of new medications or if it is just something that happened because I got older. I would be interested in hearing if other people have had similar experiences. It seems so drastic to go from periods of months to now years long episodes. The good/bad? news is my mania isn’t as pronounced but my depressions are still so deep.

At the moment my metaphorical pendulum is at the point of equilibrium. I wonder how long it will stay before it starts an upswing. With this new medication I worry they have eliminated my mania and left me with depression. That would be unfortunate because I can’t take any anti-depressants. I have tried a lot of them and they either do nothing or send me to the hospital.

Sometimes I sit around hoping for that magic pill that will just make everything normal. But I’m also afraid of missing the “magic.”

First Psychotic Break

I remained undiagnosed until I was 28 years old. However my troubles started in middle school. They couldn’t understand why I was aceing all the tests but failing all my classes for not doing the homework. My mother, brother and I had to spend the summer with a psychologist to see if they were going to let me into high school. They did, and from then on it was a string of psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers all trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I lied to everyone because I thought I would be put in a mental hospital.
My first psychotic break came when I was 21. I thought I was having mental problems because of alcohol and drug use but I had quit everything a year prior. I started out in a manic mode with no sleep and plenty of energy. I lived in a small town with the streets roughly set in two concentric circles. I spent 7 days walking and walking, only pausing to rest for a couple hours each day in my bedroom. As I walked I was hallucinating, hearing a voice that I thought was god telling me I was going to hell. As I walked I argued with him. I was also seeing auras around people and buildings. People’s faces looked grotesque as I walked by and I felt everyone was staring at me and trying to keep their distance.
I was raised a wedding and funeral Catholic but never attended church services. Each time I passed the largest church in town the aura around it got larger and larger. I couldn’t figure out why I was drawn to it. Finally, on the 7th day I was sitting on a bench across from the church and decided I was going in to finish my argument with god. I walked through the large doors and saw the 30 foot tall crucificion statue behind the altar. The church was full of parishioners and I started yelling, “you are dead, I fucking killed you.” Over and over until someone put their arm around me and led me to a vestibule. I broke down and started crying and he asked me if I would like to see a priest. I said yes.
Later that day I met the priest in the rectory. By this time my mood had broken and I was severely depressed. Lucky for me the priest didn’t offer religious advice. Instead he asked me if I had ever heard of “happy pills” and steered me to the local mental health center. When I got there they thought I was depressed and sent me home with Prozac. It was the worst thing they could do for me. After 3 days I was manic again and felt like I wanted to go outside and beat people who walked by my house. I flushed all the pills they gave me and swore I would never take anything again.
Years later I allowed myself to be diagnosed schizoaffective bipolar one type. And it wasn’t until many years after I finally got on some meds that worked somewhat quell my symptoms. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

My first post at 3am

I’ve been online since ’95 and this is my first attempt at a blog. A long time ago I took a two year course in web design and programming. I got pretty good at it. I used scripting languages and database to make an Amazon style store. A couple weeks ago I thought I would design my own blog but quickly found out I was in way over my head. I had forgotten everything I had learned and it would take forever to get it back to just a simple application. So I scrapped that and came to WordPress. I’m having trouble here too.

That is not what my blog is about though. When I was 38 I finally gave up and went on disability for schizo-affective disorder. If you’ve never heard of it, it is like a cross between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. So it is a thought disorder and a mood disorder. If you have heard of it. I’m sorry.

That’s not my blog either. I think I will mostly tell stories from my life and hope people will relate or connect. I’ve had a pretty interesting life. Maybe you’ll think it’s boring. I got this idea because I was getting depressed by social media focusing on all the horrible things happening in our country. I mostly wrote and read jokes on Twitter but even all the jokers turned serious and don’t like other people telling jokes. So I need a break and here I am.

This is mostly a short intro post to act as a test to see what happens when I publish. I am completely lost on this site so far. Thanks for sticking with me.