Saturday, April 27, 2013

#442: Spider On A Thread

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. - Jonathan Edwards "'Have a Nice Day' and Other Sermons for Children (Just kidding. Little Calvinist humor, there. It's actually from Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. If you are the sort of demented soul who feels the need, you can read the whole Hallmark card here.)

One of the more insulting pieces of good news I've ever received was on a radiology report: "Analysis of the brain shows nothing remarkable." What they meant was that there was nothing bad in there. My oncologist explained that this is a much better comment than: "Imaging of the brain was negative," which means that they looked, but didn't find anything. So sometimes words can conceal positive results.

In the past 30 hours or so, when I've checked my emotional vital signs, the results have been increasingly positive. Reduced tear production. No evidence of chest convulsions, throat contractions, or sobbing. Heart lightening. Creepy-crawlies subsiding. The subject appears to have turned the corner. We are cautiously optimistic.

But still, I'm wary.

Last night, Mrs P reminded me that depression is only half of my diagnosis. My wife the clinical therapist conjured the full name: Type II Bipolar Disorder with Severe Clinical Depression. No wonder it takes so many pills. No wonder I never speak it's name out loud. That is a disorder for a person who is seriously screwed up.

It's not that I hide it, not really. Readers of FMR know that I hide precious little. Much less than any decent person should.  I wouldn't say I'm a Closeted Crazy. But bipolar disorder is the one gremlin in my life that I would just as soon not name. Ever. I remember the first time I read the words, typed into my file at the mental hospital. "Well, son," I whispered to myself, "Looks like you're the Bull-Goose loony in this nut house now." And until they taught me how I could exercise my way back to the light, I pretty much was.

I stay more-or-less stable when the meds and the therapists and the coaches are all working together. People think of me as a little eccentric; a little emotional; loyal; protective; outgoing; you know, a Leo. When things get out of whack - and the whack often comes from sudden, unexpected grief - I can find myself dangling like a spider on a thread in the wind, blown from giddy with optimism to paralyzed with despair in a single gentle gust. A conversation with a friend can put me on top of the world. Burnt toast can lead me to consider suicide. A phrase in a newspaper article. A lick from the dogs. The song of a mockingbird. A paper cut. I don't know of any more helpless feeling than the one you get when you realize that you have no control over yourself or the size of your emotions. Everything is exaggerated. Bipolar disorder means living in hyperbole.The best you can do is remember that depression and manic states are really a set of lies that you tell yourself - they doesn't last for ever - and your only job is to ride them out without hurting yourself or anybody else.

Mixed results, so far. The folks at work have been supportive, without exception - but they are only human. I expect there will be consequences for my two-week disappearance - I know I'll be imagining what they're thinking about me for a while.

I haven't done myself any harm that I can see - other than shaken confidence and the stubborn stains of shame and embarrassment. I kept up with my training. Ate. Slept when I could. Bathed regularly. No boozing, binging, bruising, or burning of bridges. I said my prayers. Gave thanks for my blessings. Asked help for my trials. Kept writing.

Mrs P got the worst of me. She always does. No rage this time. Just angry confusion for both of us about how a husband can get so damn worked up just because his boss goes away. I think Coach was pretty spooked by the whole thing, too. 250 pounds of nervous breakdown is a lot to handle in a tiny office. I'm not sure either of them felt entirely safe alone with me when I was blubbering to them about What Am I Gonna Do? and Please Don't Go and Oh Dear God It Hurts So Much.

Depression is like cancer in that way. It is cruel to carry inside you, but think it's even more cruel to the people who care for you. I wish I had done a better job protecting them, no matter how sick I was.

But, today I'm riding... Not high. Not low. Just sort of cruising along. Had a nice short run today. Seven miles on the treadmill and the Legacy Trail. Smiles and laughter, all appropriate to the conversation. As I'm typing, I feel more human, more like myself than I have in many, many days. If I can keep it up for a week, I'll be able to write about what it's like to finally get over a depressive episode. Today, I'm erring on the side of caution. There are still a lot of vulnerable people around me. And I'm still a bull in their emotional china shops.

Things are good at the moment. But vigilance is needed here. Things can change so quickly for a spider on a thread.


Source note: Creepy spider picture stolen from here.

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