When a loner feels lonely…

I have always perferred to be alone. Even as a kid even though I had friends I perferred most of the time to play alone in my room. As much as I enjoy spending time with friends, and maybe even one or two of my family members I just enjoy my own company more.

The thing I look most forward to on weekends is not being around people. So, why have I felt so lonely since I started cancer treatment? There is the fact I’m not around people at all when I am home between hospital visits. Most of the time I have to so I don’t catch someones germs. I have always said I could never work from home no matter how much I would love that because I would never see people again. I need that soical interaction to stay sane and keep up my barley there soical skills.

I also think it is because I feel vunerable. I need the support of other people. I need my family and work family. I need to gossip with my girls. I had dinner with some friends from work and I had the best time catching up on the gossip. We had so fun just chatting and I felt so much better then I did earlier in the day. I almost cancelled because I was feeling tired and achy again. But when I got there and spent time with my friends I forgot that I felt like crap.

I went into the office last week twice. The first to visit the next to pick up paperwork. My face hurt from smilling so much. In the three years of working there I’m sure they have never seen me smiling so much. It was just so nice to be out of the house and to talk to someone that wasn’t my dogs.

I even gladly hung out all day with my oldest sister. That is normally something we all try to avoid. But I was so desperate for company I watched her unpack boxes and put up shelf paper.

Cancer has turned me into a social butterfly? No. I’m still akward and uncomfortable around other human beings, but I just don’t want to be alone all the time right now. Maybe it’s just me learning to lean on others for support. I’m sure as soon as all of this is over I will go back to making excuses to not hang out with people again.

Being in the hospital is the place and time I feel the most lonely. I see nurses and nursing assistants all day, but are they really counted as company? We talk and get to know each other. They are very caring. I have made “friends” with them. My Dad tries to visit everyday. My Mom does her best, but has a strangr work schedule. My sisters each came once. The first round of chemo two coworkers came by. My friend Sam who I have known for almost a 11 years came by each time. She even brought hers kids by to visit me at home. Her husband who I’ve known just as long came too. Even though there was a 4 year old and a newborn there it felt like we were in our early 20’s again. The three of us hanging out and talking. The only difference was they weren’t drunk and I wasn’t laughing my ass off at them.

People keep saying they want to visit me in the hospital and I will tell to come on by. To message me and I will give them the room number. It is mostly a thing you say I think, because they never do. It is also hard for people with work and kids. I get that they have a life and sometimes I think would I visit them. Maybe if we went as a group. I don’t like driving.

There have been times in my life I would find myself thinking I wished I had someone to hang out with when I was home alone. Sometimes I would even put in the effort to find someone to hang out with. Mostly my Mom and sister because all my friends are married with kids. But for the first time I’m really lonely. My friend who set up the dinner said she was surprised when I just came out and said it. She asked if there was anything she could do for me. I said spend time with I’m lonely. My boss said to call her when I know I can safely go out to lunch. I jumped at the chance.

Having social anxiety makes you a loner, but when things get really tough even a loner needs to have people around them. I never even realized how many friends I had until I stopped seeing them everyday. When I left work the other day I was thinking to myself how can such anti-social person have so many people that care about her. How did I not know that I made these friends? I got so comfortable there after 3 years that I was just being me and they liked that. Some people broke out in tears when they found out. They follow my Facebook updates religiously.

I guess I’m not really alone, but it sure does feel that way.

lonely

How having cancer has changed me…

A lot of people have asked if having cancer has changed me in anyway. Even my Dad asked . Some people have even told me they have seen a change in me. I think it has and it is common I’m sure. I think some people see it as a near death experince and look at their life or themselves differently. For me it wasn’t about the chance I might die. For me it was a wake up call telling me I’m not doing what I wanted to do with my life.

All my life, even as a small child I have wanted to help people. There were times when I didn’t know how and went with a opportunity when it came along. There were people that would come into my life that I felt needed me and my help. I will be honest helping people is hard. Mostly emotionally. I’m a sensitive person and also have my own issues.

After getting hurt a lot from helping people and things in my own personal life I started to close myself off. I don’t think I noticed it at first. It started with me saying I’m done helping people who won’t help themselves. There was a guy I worked with that had depression and was away from his family. I also had a crush on him. After everything that went down with him and a huge fight with my best friend I was 100% done.

I think it was three years ago I told my therapist/counsler that I was starting to notice I wasn’t feeling empathy or even sympathy anymore. People at work would tell me about this horrible stuff in their lives and I would know how I should feel, but I didn’t feel it. In the past I would cry along with them and feel their pain. Now nothing. I had been seeing counsler for a couple of years at this point and had shared all the pain I had gone through in my life. She told me I had put up walls to keep all the pain out and that included feeling pain for other people.

Not only was I not helping people anymore I couldn’t even feel bad for them. What had become of me. She also told me that is why I’m not in a realtionship and wouldn’t be able to be in one until I fixed it. At the time I was on the fence about if I wanted to fix that. If I don’t get close to people I will be hurt a lot less.

Not to long before I was diagnosed with cancer I started seeing someone new to prescribe my Lithium and other meds. I was telling her my history. Telling her about my life. We went over our time because of it. At the end she looked at me and asked if I ever thought about writing a book about my experinces to help other people going through it or who have loved ones who are. I told her I had tried, but can’t organize my thoughts well. She is the one who suggested this blog.

I started this blog as a first step into getting back to my calling and true love. Helping people. Soon after I found out I had cancer. I truly believe this is a sign I’m getting back on track with what God wants. People keep asking me if I was afraid I was going to die. No, because God would not have put me on this path if he was going to take my life. He put me in a place where I am needed.

The talks I have had with a few people here at the hospital I talked about in one of my other blogs firmly cemented this belief in my mind. A friend I have known since I was 15 said to me a couple of weeks ago that I seem more open. I told him that I’m not putting up walls anymore. I’m going to let people in again. It’s time to stop hiding. There are people out there that need help and I want to try to help in any way I can. I don’t want to hide from pain I want to help people with theirs.

Having cancer has put me back on my path and no matter what horrible things my body has been subjected to I believe it was worth it. I have learned so much about what people in the USA who have illnesses have to go through. I already knew about how people with mental illness are treated. Now I know it’s not just us. Anyone with any type of illness in this country is treated so unfairly. People are sick and could die and the laws in this country don’t help them. The laws help to save big companies money. Charities do the best they can to help, but they are limited.

This is a stessful time for so many reasons. Sometimes it helps to talk especially if the person has gone through it too. I have even picked up a few things that might help. My Dad works in the HR department at the company he works for, so he has helped me a lot with FMLA, short term disability, and insurance issues. I can pass that along to people who aren’t lucky enough to know someone like that. There are a lot of things about the hospital and treatment I’ve learned.

Cancer has given me new tools to add the the ones I already have to help. Everything I have gone through in the last few months sucks, but I can’t bring myself to wish it never happened.

people-helping-people

Emotional roller coaster…

The last few days have been an emotional roller coaster. It has been good news and now some bad news kind of a week. I guess that can be expected with cancer. It started off with my boss calling and telling me now that my FMLA is up I am losing my insurance with them. I panicked at first called the marketplace and got insurance temorarily. I will get my insurance back as soon as I go back to work. I was excited that the new plan was better then my old one.

More bad news the hospital were I’m being treated doesn’t have a contract with the plan. I will have to file myself. Then my PET scan results come back and my cancer is gone. The doctor said even though I am in remission I still have to finish all the rounds of chemo. That is great news!

The nurse tries to access my port and not only fails to do so she pokes it several times. Then another nurse tries and she misses. She puts saline under my skin. Ouch! They bring in the IV nurses to try they can’t find the access point since it is now swollen. They have to put an IV in my arm. I have horrible veins. That is why they gave me the port. Last time they tried to do anything through the veins in my arms they blew my veins. So, to say I was upset was an understatement. The whole time the nurse was putting it in I was crying. I don’t mean a tear and a sniff. I mean tears running down my face the whole time. I was biting my lip to keep from sobbing out loud. Then I got good news from the insurance lady at the hospital. They can fill out paperwork and send an apllication to my insurance so I can be seen here. She is 98% sure they will approve it since I am currently being treated and I had no other choice for insurance.

I was stressing all night about the port not working. There was no way I was letting them near my veins again. This morning the lab lady came in I said to my nurse is ‘she here to take blood from my arm’. They said yes and I said no. I told her I have one good vein and there is a IV in it right now. You can not get blood from any other vein. She asked can I at least look. No! I shut that down fast. After what I went through in November and then December at two different hospitals I was not going to even let her try.

When I was a kid I was terrified of needles because I got tested for stuff a lot. Which means blood tests. I have small veins that roll. I have this memory from when I was kid where the nurse kept trying to get blood and couldn’t. She stuck me so many times I was crying and screaming. I remember my Dad yelling at her to stop. My fear of needles had gotten better. As you most know a lot of the medications you take for bipolar disorder or any mental health issue you need to get regular bloodwork done. So I have to go get bloodwork done every three months. When I was a teenager my doctors office got this wonderful phlebotomist named Dixie. She was the first to get blood from me with out any problems.

I have one vein that she found always gave blood and didn’t move. She also used a butterfly needle. She told me if anyone other then her ever took my blood to tell them to use a butterfly needle and use that vein. My fear got better over the years. Once Dixie pointed out I was actually watching her do it and was calm as I could be. She said she was so proud of me.

I even volunteered at a local technical college for a phlebotomist student to do her practice stick on me. She even tried the left and missed the vein. I was calm and felt just fine. After everything that happened the last two months the idea of a needle coming anywhere near my arms or hands scares the Hell out of me. I will start crying. I can’t even help it. Everyone is like it’s alright take deep breathes. That makes me sob more.

My Dad texted me earlier today to check on me. He asked how I was doing. I said honestly I am depressed. For the first time since this all started I am depressed. After I found out my cancer is gone. All it took was them telling me they were going to have to put an IV in my arm. All these wonderful people I have gotten to know here at the hospital have been coming in to see me and to celebrate the good news. And I’m acting like a sad sack. I’m like freaking Eyore. I feel bad, but I just can’t bring myself to be more joyful.

The good news is that my oncologist nurse was following my chart from the cancer center next door. She saw they were having problems with my port. She sent over Ms. Pat the queen of ports. She popped that needle right in and now I have started my third round of chemo.

All these highs and lows have made me emotionally exhausted.

butterfly needle

Life & the crazy things it does….

I’m not sure if this has anything to do with being Bipolar or not. Maybe it is, I don’t know. This is my life right now. For a year now I have been having shortness of breath which has gotten worse. Three months ago I started coughing and I haven’t stopped. I have been to the doctors for both of those things. My doctor sent me to the pulmonologist for the shortness of breath. They said maybe allergies. My doctor was in a really bad car accident, so we never followed up on that. I went to a different doctor when she was out about the cough. That doctor gave me an antibiotic and said if it didn’t work it might be allergies.

On October 22nd two days after my 36th birthday I coughed up blood for the third day in a row. At first it was specks of blood, but this time it was a lot of blood. I took a picture and sent it to my Dad. We tease him all the time that he thinks he is a doctor. I wasn’t really being serious. He freaked out and made me promise to go to the doctor. Since I had the day off anyway I decided to humor him. He thought I had a blood clot in my lung. Over dramatic much.

Neither one of the doctors I normally go to had appointments. I saw a guy I haven’t been to in a while. He makes me feel like a hypochondriac. I told him about the cough and what my crazy Dad thought. We kind of joked about my Dad. He said we take blood to show your Dad it’s not blood clot. We talked about my acid reflux. We both agreed that it might be were the cough and blood is coming from. Awesome, reflux medicine. I have wanted that for a while. Before I left I asked if he wanted to see the picture of the blood. He was like sure why not. I showed him and he ordered a TB test. Also on the safe side a chest x-ray.

I left there feeling pretty good with my acid reflux issue handled. I go get the chest x-ray. The doctor calls just as I’m leaving work, so I miss his call. My lungs look great. Awesome! But he wants me to call him back to discuss something they saw on the x-ray. It was the end of the day so the office was closed. I returned his call after a stressful night. I was at work. Just stepped outside for a quick call. He said I had a chest x-ray two years ago that the radiologist compared to my current one. My heart is significantly larger then it was two years ago. I talked to him more about the things I have been going through for a year. Including chest pain the goes down my left arm lasting two days that I thought was really bad heart burn from garlic.

He has me schedule an appointment for an EKG later that morning. I was fine. I promised my Dad I would let him know what the doctor said, so while I was out there I called him. That is when I broke down. My Dad offered to go with me to the doctor. Then I called my Mom and a coworker was just getting to work. She saw me standing outside crying on the phone with my Mom. She went and let my boss know. I asked a friend/coworker to come outside for minute. She did and then my boss came out too. They both hugged me and I told them what was going on.

My work family is pretty great. They had me go sit in one of the exam rooms to calm down before I went home. A few people came in the check on me. My boss boss came in too. We talked, and she tried to help. It was all very sweet. One of the nurses who is a friend came in when she heard I was upset. She sat down in her way and was like “ok tell me what happened’. In just a few minutes she had me laughing. Abby is great, and we have the same dark sense of humor. She likes to startle me a lot. I keep telling her she is causing damage to my heart every time she does. When I was waiting on the phone for the appointments person and the news hadn’t really hit me yet I was thinking ‘I’m going to tell Abby it is all her fault, and I told her she was doing damage to my heart.’ I told her that and she burst out laughing. Thank God for Abby. She calmed me down enough so I could drive home.

My Dad decided to drive me to the doctor instead of meeting there just in case it was bad news and I couldn’t drive home. My EKG was normal. He had me walk around the office a bunch of times then checked my oxygen. My oxygen levels were great, my breathing not so much. So, we ruled out my lungs being the cause of my shortness of breath. My lungs are getting oxygen just fine. He referred me to get an echocardiogram which is scheduled for November 7th. After that I will go for a consult with a cardiologist.

My boss boss said yesterday that I am handling this so much better. I said yeah I am. What am I suppose to do? Sit and cry at my desk all day? I have a job to do. Life goes on. You put on your work appropriate mask and do your job. I’m still freaking out, but after years of pretending I’m ok I know how fake it. If I can go to school or work when I’m depressed then I can go when I am stressed out of my mind. The thing I’m scared about most is all the medical bills in my future. I’m going to fucking need my job. My mask is hand crafted over many years. First comes the freak out then comes the mask.

In some ways I think being Bipolar has prepared me for so many things I never knew were coming. The strength I have built over my life to fight my own mind has made me strong to fight this too. I have my family. As soon as I found out I went to them. When I was falling apart at work I asked a friend to help me. I had a good cry then I had a good laugh. I am strong enough to get up everyday and keep fighting. It doesn’t matter what I am fighting, I know I have the strength and the support to do it.

strength

Agree to disagree…

This all started with something I said at work today I shouldn’t have. We were talking about a woman who has been to the office many times and her behavior when she has come in. She has some serious rage issues and many other things. As someone who has a mental illness it was insensitive for me to say she needs to be on meds. I stand by my statement because this woman does need to seek professional help. I do not have an MD, PHD, or any fancy letters behind my name to back up my statement. But I have been reading psychology books since I was 11. The behavior she has exhibited shows there is something wrong with her. I really hope she gets some help.

My statement was uncalled for, but that is not the point of this blog. What I want to write about is the statement my coworker made in response to mine. She said. ‘People shouldn’t take medication it just makes them worse.’ I reminded myself I was at work and kept my mouth shut. If I had not been at work this is what I would have said.

‘A person who does not have a mental illness should not make a statement about if taking medications help or makes the problem worse. I from personal experience know that these medications work. I’m sure a person with schizophrenia who no longer hears voices in their head telling them to kill their parents would agree with me. You can’t make that judgement with out having that experience. Would you tell a person with cancer not to take medication. My friend has a heart condition and if she doesn’t take her medication it will kill her. I fully support anyone who treats their illness the way they want, but I don’t believe you should tell others how to treat theirs. Let’s agree to disagree.’

She is from Vietnam and that is part of her culture. I understand that, but that is one big thing I take issue with. Especially since it is something she has said to me before when I have taken something for my migraine. I have chronic migraines that get very bad. If I don’t take something I will have to have someone come and pick me up and take me home. I respect that she doesn’t take medication. She had a bad cold once I said if you are that miserable you should take some cold medication or go home. She told me how she feels about medication and I said okay. People should be able to treat their illness in the way they feel is best with out judgement. Not with drugs and alcohol of course. I don’t even say anything about treating certain illnesses legally with pot. That is up to that individual person.

The point of my rant is that it upsets me when people say that people with illnesses mainly with mental illness should not be treated with medication. I definitely don’t agree that it doesn’t work. I am living proof that it does. Medication is not for everyone one, but don’t spout your opinions as fact. There are times that medications made someones condition worse, but only because they weren’t the right ones. Find the right one and it works great. I do believe we are an over medicated nation. I have very strong opinions on ADHD diagnoses and the over prescribing of those medications. Unless asked I keep them to myself.

It is okay to have opinions, but don’t tell me something you don’t know anything about doesn’t work. I can give you testimonials of a lot of people it does work for.

Granny pills

Walk of Hope

Two blogs in one night!!

I was already planning to do the blog I just posted, but I wanted to talk about this too. Last Sunday I did the Walk of Hope. For the last 30 years in the city of Raleigh they do a 5 K for charity. What cause is it you ask, mental illness. The company my Dad works for has been one of the sponsors for years. He said it never occurred to him to actually sign up before. My excuse is I didn’t know anything about it. This year he signed us both up.

It was held at a very popular restaurant here in Raleigh, North Carolina. The place has a lot of room for booths, games for kids, and food. The booths were different places like NAMI and psychiatric places. One was the places was where I go to get my medication. There was also a mental health man that is the creepiest superhero ever. He gave me a lollipop that I didn’t eat. People could eat and play games while they waited for the 5 K to start.

Exercise is not my thing, but I have always liked walking. It clears your head you know. It was two of my favorite things walking and hanging out with my Dad. We walked all 5 miles. I am so proud of us. They said we could turn back anytime we wanted to. There were cars that would pick people up. My Dad asked me a few times if I wanted to turn around, but I wanted to do the whole thing.

I put on my Walk for Hope t-shirt and proudly walked those 5 miles. It was for a good cause. One I truly believe doesn’t get enough attention. The money went to help people with mental illness and our walk was on the news. People saw us standing up and saying people with mental illness need help. No more shame and whispers! Let’s talk about mental illness. We are not helping anyone by not talking about it.

I swear my jaw dropped a couple of weeks ago. A former coworker of mine had gone on the news to talk about suicide because her husband committed suicide this past year. She wanted to talk about it so she could help other people. I only know that she did this because another coworker brought it up. “She wanted to talk about what happened to her husband.” Her words. One of the new girls asked what happened to him. I said he committed suicide. My coworker telling the story says ‘shh don’t talk about that’. Jaw drop. WTF! Is that not the point of you telling us this. She wants to talk about her husbands suicide to help others. Not talking about it doesn’t help anyone.

Not talking about it makes people feel ashamed. If they feel like they have something to be ashamed of they won’t go and get the help they need. We should talk about it. She had no idea her husband was suicidal because he didn’t talk to her about it. Her husband is gone and her daughter doesn’t have a Father because he didn’t feel like he could talk to someone about his pain.

The Walk of Hope is a good way for people to start to talk about it. This is 2018 we aren’t locking the mentally ill in attics, prisons, and horrible hospitals anymore. We have so much more knowledge then we used to. We have medications that work. What we don’t have is an open dialogue about it. We have people who need help, but don’t know how to get it. They can’t ask because we aren’t allowed to talk about it.

All the people who came for the Walk of Hope gave me hope that things are changing for the better.

Too young to be this mature…

There are people who circumstances in their lives have caused them to grow up faster then they should. Health issues like mental illness can be one of those circumstances. I know it was for me. Not that being mature at a young age is all bad. I’m glad I got to make decisions about my own life. I was talking to a coworker last night about a 9 year old girl diagnosed with Schizophrenia, and how horrible it was that this girl won’t get to have a childhood. Her life went from dolls & sleepovers to doctors & pills.

I was young when I started suffering from depression. I was diagnosed at 11, but I had been suffering for longer then that. There are a lot of things I feel like I missed out on. I also had to make decisions about my life and future that kids shouldn’t have to make.

I had friends that I spent time with for the most part. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I started pushing them away. There were normal kid things I couldn’t do. One example was sleepovers. My anxiety would never let me do sleepovers at someone else house. At first I would just be really anxious and not enjoy myself. Then I started calling my parents to come pick me up because I was feeling sick (from anxiety). Then I just stopped going. I feel like anxiety caused by depression kept me from enjoying a lot of things until the point were I just stopped doing them.

My sister has never really understood what I go through and most of the time doesn’t seem to care. One time she was giving me a ride home after a family event and the subject of having kids came up. This was one of the few times my sister would say she was proud of me in relation to anything I’ve done about my mental illness. You see when I was young I saw an episode of the show ‘ER’. On the show a one of the nurses had a Mother who was Bipolar. The Mother was played wonderfully by Sally Field. The nurse was talking about how hard her childhood was growing up with a Mother who was Bipolar. Sally’s character stopped taking her medication to have her two children and never went back on them. Which we all know happens a lot.

That really made me think. I asked my psychiatrist about it. He said doctors do not recommend women who are Bipolar to have children for that reason. After a lot of thinking I made the decision that I was not going to have children. I was only 15 years old at this time.

Now here is my reasoning behind this. First off I would have to go off my medication. I don’t want to go off my medication. It makes me better. Then if I’m off my medication I’m going to be depressed and manic plus pregnancy hormones. Pregnancy hormones make women crazy enough I’m pretty sure you would have to lock up one who was already crazy before the hormones. If you don’t get back on your meds then what kind of parent can you really be.

Even if you are able to think clearly enough to say hey I want back on my medication now there was still one thing I know that would kill me. Passing this shit down to my kids and grandkids. My parents had to watch me suffer and I had to watch them suffer too. Think about it, the reason I have gone through the Hell I have gone through is because of them. My Father has Bipolar disorder on his side of the family and my Mother has depression on hers. I get my crazy from them. They had to watch me be tortured by my own mind since I was 7 years old and not be able to do anything to stop it. They couldn’t stop it and it came from them. When you love someone as much as a parent loves their child it is excruciating to know that you had something to do with their pain.

I know it’s not there fault. But how can you not blame yourself. I know that I would blame myself. Just thinking about the possibility of passing it down to my child breaks my heart. I don’t want another child to go through this especially my own. There is a GOOD chance my child would have some mental illness. I worry everyday about my nieces and nephew.

As far as I know on my Father’s side of the family his grandmother and aunt were Bipolar. My Dad has been diagnosed by one doctor with Bipolar disorder, but told it’s just depression by another. My mother has depression. I think her mother had something most likely depression. Her brother had depression, learning disabilities, & substance abuse problems. He died of an overdose on his youngest sons 1st birthday. Her other brother joined a cult and is weird. I’m not sure if he has a mental illness, but I wouldn’t be surprised. His cult doesn’t believe in that stuff so we will never know. My oldest sister has anxiety. (She claims that’s why she is a bitch.)

So, the percentage is pretty high that the next generation will be crazy. I think I made the right call. Back to the story I was telling about my sister. She said she was proud of me for making such a tough decision when I was so young.

When I was 23 years old and was told I couldn’t have kids because of my PCOS I was okay with that because I already made that decision. At 36 years old I cry every time someone I know has a baby. I mean on the bathroom floor ugly cry. Even though I made the right decision it was my choice. My choice got taken away from me and that is what hurts. At least when it was my decision I felt strong, but now I just feel broken. God apparently agreed with me about the whole kid thing. I still want to be a Mom. I hope someday I will have enough money to adopt a child or two. They will be loved. I will also be on my medication, so my crazy will be toned down a lot. I’m not perfect I will be still a little crazy, but in that embarrassing Mom way. Like mine.

I didn’t want to grow up that fast, but I did. It took a lot of strength to be that mature at such a young age. It takes a lot of strength to still be that mature.

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