What about Bruce Jenner

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So I’m standing in the checkout line at a North Portland grocery.  And not one of the expensive, organic, hipster ones. It’s that post-work rush so the line is crowded.

“So I guess Bruce Jenner is a woman now.”

“Is he–I mean, she?I missed that.When did that happen?”

“I dunno,”he says, “but that’s what it says there,” and he gestures at the now infamous InStyle magazine cover.

“What’s the big deal?” asks someone else, “he looks fine to me.”

“Like I wouldn’t know if I saw him walking down the street that he ever wasn’t a woman,” adds another.

“Because he looks comfortable with it.”

“Yeah.”

“Dunno why it’s a big deal.”

“Well,maybe his wife thinks its a big deal,”points out the first gentleman, pointing out the subtitle on the magazine.

“I’d be fine with my husband doing that,”points out a middle-aged woman, “as long as he really acted like a woman, you know, and picked up his clothes and stuff off the bathroom floor.”

(Ok, that one–I’m not sure if she was kidding or not.)

“Hey,” the guy says to the cashier as we advance up in line, “Did you know Bruce Jenner is a woman now.”

“Cool,” says the young man checking out or groceries. That was all he had to say about the matter.

So there you go. I’m not sure if this is a reflection about how the whole country really feels about Bruce’s gender choices and there are just a few journalists and celebrities out there blowing it all up into another “controversy,” or if it’s just a Portland thing.

But really, that’s all we have to say about Bruce.

Road Rage

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I’m not sure if road rage is common for people with PTSD, but I can see where it would be. Near accidents set off that exaggerated startle response and fight or flight reflex and everything just cascades from there. Portland drivers have been fucking crazy the last couple of days. Just fucking crazy. Doing things like trying to get onto 84 west using an off ramp. That kind of crazy. I wrote a poem to my road rage:

Your Daily Roadrage Poetry

Like a branch
falling into the water
Your actions
have
an immediate effect.
As you are an
asshole,
so I shall be an asshole.

You
cut me off.
Once.
I cut you off.
Twice.
This means
we are
Even.

You drive
a
hamster box.
I drive
a
red sports car.
What did you *think* would happen?

I’m not going to work today

wpid-1411782160538.jpg…and its not because of Thanksgiving.
I had marginally planned to take at least some of the day off, to do a little ahead of time cooking if my work load allowed. It doesn’t, but I’m staying home anyways.
I work in a part of the city that historically has had racial issues. And I’m talking about a city that was once know as the Mississippi of the West.
I love my neighborhood by the way. And it is mine. I lived there back in college with my sister and with my poor mad boy. His family home is there. The place where he hides in his little empty room. I always planned on going back. That’s why I looked so hard for a job in the area.
But I couldn’t get a house there. I was dumbfounded by the prices. I was only gone a couple of years. A couple of years! The gentrification that everyone seemed to be doom saying about back when I moved out was real, and it was here.
I work all day with black and Hispanic and Asian clients who used to live in the neighborhood like me. Their family homes were here for generations. Now they bus in from cheaper neighborhoods. Some of them hang on. A lot have moved into subsidized housing that has been built around the outside edges of the area as a concession to those who protested the gentrification. Right. Because a crappy little projects apartment where you have to get rid of your pets and can’t have a garden or a BBQ or a lot of other things is totally the same thing as the family home you lost because you couldn’t pay the hiked up taxes.
They go without food. The prices in local restaurants are hiked up too, but that’s not the real problem. The problem is you go up to the counter and you wait. And you wait. And you wait while the counter people keep waiting on all these white hipsters that keep coming in the door after you.
And this rears it head up constantly at my work. And I’m not just talking about the clients. I often catch people I work with speaking in terms of “us” and “them.”
The other week, I spent a lot of time dodging around corners when the Hispanic workers felt one of the black workers had unfairly denied funding to one if my Hispanic clients. “You’re on my side, right?” They kept literally saying that. Apparently there’s no Indian faction and we redskins are up for grabs.
I was unaware of the protesting in Portland initially when it started. And I got a weird phone call from a black client during that time. He put his girlfriend on the line too. She seemed confused, but offered her two cents too eventually. It made more sense later in context of the protests.
So I’m not going in to work today. I’m not afraid. I did a self-check: is this just my PTSD predicting a possible crisis and avoiding it? No, I don’t think so. Let’s face it, I’ve kind of sucked at avoiding conflict lately.
No. I just have this sinking feeling I’m not going to get much work done. Clients or coworkers are going to be too caught up in trying to find out from me, “Whose side are you on?”
And I think I’d rather just go cook some cranberries.

Day 2 of the Not Wedding Week

TheCake

This will NOT be “The Cake” after all.

I’m surprised that I feel better today than yesterday. I sort of expected to be freaking out more and more as the week progressed. I had one bad spell around lunch. Around very late lunch…it was past 2pm before I heard from him regarding lunch. We text our lunch plans, since I’m usually in the middle of speaking, or in the office at work–both bad environments for a ringing cell phone. And his texts were so distracted and delayed that I was actually driving out to The Arbor Lodge for coffee and a cinnamon roll again, before he finally acknowledged that he was at his parent’s house and, sure, come by for lunch if you want. Remember how this one goes: panic, spelled P-A-N-I-C. Why is he not answering me? Maybe he’s suicidal. Maybe he’s in the throes of a bad mood swing and is going to rip my head off when I walk in the door. Maybe he’s in the arms of some hussy he picked up off of Craigslist, since he obviously doesn’t love ME any more… Yeah. Panic. And the brain ran away with the spoon.

So it turned out that he was just deep into a video game. Could be ok. Could be the beginning of a deep downward mood swing. Who knows: Welcome to bipolar disorder.

I’m home with the munchkin now, and again, surprisingly not too stressed. I’m kind of vegetating, but that’s all.

Here are my thoughts on this weekend: I want to commemorate it somehow. I said in my last post, that I just don’t want it to be like any other weekend. Maybe… maybe this is like when someone dies, and you need to do something for closure. I feel grief. I wish I could do something to commemorate it with him, but that could go so badly. I feel like it’s a damned if I do, and damned if I don’t kind of situation. If I avoid him all weekend, that in itself, is going to make me sad. And it could really launch him down the rabbit hole, if he’s nursing some guilt ready to turn into the Depression Monster. But if I’m around him this weekend, my very presence could set off a guilt-driven mood swing. Bad for him, and bad for me and our daughter if we’re in the vicinity of an explosion.

Dammit.

Day 1 of the Not Wedding Week

It’s Monday of the week of our Not Wedding Day. The counter on our wedding website is in the single digits (I haven’t had the heart to even open it up and look at it, much less log on and KILL it.

(Here’s the skinny on the Not Wedding Day, in case you missed it: https://islandofmamabone.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/the-wedding-is-off-again/ )

I was determined to live in the now, and practice mindfulness, and try to be, if not happy, then content and not massively depressed. I pulled out my Happy Habits app, first thing and filled out my Happiness Journal for the day. I made a list of little stuff I could do through the day to stay calm and make myself feel a little better. I put my outfit together carefully so that I could add a few extra special accessories: a bracelet I received from a mentor to remind that I am making progress in a career I love–and people are noticing, a necklace from my baby sister to remind that I can find positive things in my past if I look for them and don’t focus on the negative, and a ring that my dear heart gave me early on in our relationship before his first big bipolar surge to remind me to look at the whole person, the whole experience, and again, to not focus on the negative.

I was fine through most of the day. Something maybe began to creep in around lunch–we normally meet for lunch because we work close by to one another–but when I contacted him, I found out that he was still helping a friend of ours move, because he didn’t have an afternoon shift today. I constantly prove to myself that human beings can feel two entirely opposite things at the same time. Because I was a little disappointed, but a little relieved at the same time. I settled for feeling good that he was helping a friend out, and spoiled myself a little with an americano and cinnamon roll from one of my favorite coffee shops. No, not Dutch Brothers:

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From commons.wikimedia.org

And then toward the end of my work day we did some texting back and forth and I found out he was still tied up helping with the move, and I needed to go pick our daughter up at daycare because he wasn’t going to make it on time. I think I started to unravel during the commute. I forced down the doubts and sadness and Panic that were starting to well up. Which is a bad thing, when you get to that point, because no one responds well to force. Seriously–when you start making demands of yourself, you resist that just as much as you would if someone else was making demands of you. I snapped at him on the phone–I can’t remember if he called, or it was through text. Holes in memory–another sign things are going south. I snapped something curt and rude while I was trying to get our daughter into her car seat. If anyone’s had to get a kid on the autistic spectrum strapped into a car seat on a regular basis, you already know why this is a stressor for me.

By the time I got home, my brain was trying to take off on it’s own. Why was he spending so much time at this friend’s house? (Any one who’s every moved, already knows the answer to that one.) Were they talking about our failed wedding? About me? Again, ridiculous: this friend, in particular, would never do anything unkind toward me. Did he just go home without a word, because, basically, he just doesn’t care. I’m just a the world’s biggest joke because I do care… Folks, can you spell panic? P-A-N-I-C.

I do give myself credit for not giving in to the more paranoid notions and ripping into him for nothing, but I did finally start leaking some fatalistic misery at him through intermittent texts. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I suggested we take the friend who was moving out to dinner. (Ulterior motives: cheer myself up by spending time with a good friend, have a third party present to force us both to be on our best behavior, to allay all my weird fears about gossip and so forth by personal witness.) He texted back that our friend wanted to head out now because they had a long drive to Salem ahead of them…. “but how about we all go out for dinner together next weekend?”

“Sure. Sounds a lot better than burying myself in a hole and eating myself to death which was my Big Plan A for next weekend. After all, nothing better to do.”

Yes, I was a bitch. And in the throes of angst and self immolation at the same time. It’s an art form. On the plus side, I kept enough of a handle on my PTSD that I didn’t lash out in a direct attack even though my stress level was suffocating by this point.

“Oh.” He says. That weekend.

He asks if I even want to see him at all this weekend.

I tell him, “I don’t know.” I really don’t. The one thing that I think that I will not be able to stand is if it gets treated just like any other weekend. Right now, though, as I am typing this out, is the first time I’ve been able to articulate that. And I still don’t know how I’m going to explain it to him, to anyone.

Then he surprises me. He asks if I want to see him tonight, then. Hell, he surprises me so much, I say sure. He never comes over late on Monday nights. He politely lets me know when he’s on his way. He even sends me a text to let me know he’s driving up the hill to my house now. I’m not sure why. In the old days, before his bipolar disorder became so bad, I could have seen him reasoning out that it’s not good to surprise someone with PTSD who is in the middle of stressing out and panicking. But I really don’t think he’s been functioning at that level for years. Instinct? Some other motivation stemming from one of his own mood swings? I feel bad for leaning toward the cynical choice, but these days everything seems to revolve around his own slightly detached from reality world. So I just don’t know.

Anyways, surprisingly, we spent a nice quiet night watching old Avatar episodes on Netflix, and sharing some ramen. He surprised me further, by staying the night after I put the small to bed. And he didn’t complain to me in the morning about how he was always late for work when he stayed over on week nights and how that was all my fault.

???

I know, it sounds awful that I’m expecting the worse here, but part of living with someone with bipolar disorder–especially when its out-of-control and untreated–is waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Here’s what I’m thinking: if he actually feels bad enough about the wedding to modify his behavior in a way that is cognizant of another person… that’s gotta be bad. I mean he’s gotta be feeling really bad. And last time he felt really, really bad, he tried to jump off the St. John’s Bridge.

Any here you thought I was always posting pictures of that thing because it was pretty.

Haunted

One of my mentors, my friend, posted that he had a serious form of cancer on his Facebook page at the beginning if this week. It doesn’t look good. At first, I couldn’t even reach out to him, I was so angry that this is happening, that there is nothing I can do about it. Nothing I say is going to make a difference. Joe is still going to die.
I have just been completely off all week. Short-tempered, tired, just feeling low, overall.
Finally, yesterday, I swiveled around in my chair, with some documents in hand, to ask Joe’s opinion. After he finished my training, I still shared an office with Joe for over a year. It wasn’t just the volume of what Joe taught me -other people have imparted -or at least tried to -knowledge on the same subjects over the years. It was the amazing quality of Joe’s teaching. And no one has taught me the first and most important lesson the way he did. That the key to being extraordinarily in this job is to care deeply for each and every person you work with.
So even after my formal training was over, I would often turn to consult with Joe on things -maybe something new had come across my desk and I wanted his opinion to back up or contrast with my own. Maybe it was just something I thought he’d find interesting. And, it was secretly gratifying that toward the end of that year, he would turn and ask my opinion if things as well.
So I had a puzzle in front of me. I thought I’d arrived at the best solution, but before I acted on it, I wanted to ask a second opinion. I wanted to ask the expert. I weighed whether or not it was worth bothering him with, as I always did, and then I swiveled around to face his desk, and got as far as, “Hey Joe, what do you think of-”
And that’s when, of course, I realized I wasn’t in Joe and I’s old office. I was in my own office, years later, facing a blank wall.
So I’ve already added Joe to my ghosts. And he’s not even dead yet.
That night I talked to my “PTSD buddy.” I never got around to telling him exactly what happened, but he knows why we call at that hour. Al told me about the spate of nightmares he’d been having and how he’d been having to sleep on the couch so that he didn’t inadvertently punch his wife in the night. Message: these things happen to us. We find ways to deal with it. This is our normal. His called out from the other room that I should try putting lavender oil on my feet. Aromatherapy is her thing. Message: Don’t forget the science behind your PTSD. Do things to bring your adrenaline and other chemicals down and you’ll have less PTSD symptoms.
I sent a message to Joe after I hung up. “This fucking sucks. His are you doing?”
Dear Joe, I refuse to add you to my ghosts. Not while you’re still here.