Over and Done- For Now

The crash is finally over. I began to feel better when I woke up this morning and feel even better now. It begins when a smile finds itself creeping upon my face. Maybe my eyes squint when I feel the smile on my lips. It’s a feeling of wellness felt deep down -a feeling that hell has left my body, my soul and I can breathe a little bit.

Crashing from a manic phase is – well, it is almost indescribable- except to say I feel no joy, no hope, nothing. Not flat- just lower than low.  When it is finished and I’m back to my old self – well, there is nothing more amazing.

If you wonder why I carry on so about bipolar, what it’s like, how it feels, – well, it’s to educate anyone and everyone. Back when I was diagnosed, every time there was a shooting in Dallas, it was a person with “bipolar.” Well, I’m here to let everyone know we are not all violent offenders. We are regular people trying to deal with a somewhat devastating condition not only for us, but for our families. Bipolar affects tens of millions of people and some very famous people such as Vincent Van Gogh, Vivien Leigh , of Gone with the Wind fame, newslady Jane Pauley, Carrie Fischer  and the list goes on and on. These people struggled to keep their lives going despite the peaks and valleys. If they can, I know I can and so can you.

Vivien Leigh
Vivien Leigh
Artistic genius Van Gogh
Artistic genius Van Gogh
Jane Pauley
Jane Pauley

However Dysfunctional, There was Fun!

Everyone’s family has a bit of dysfunction in it. It’s okay. Ours was that way too. But, I like to think we put the “fun” in dysfunctional. We all loved to laugh- my mother most of all. So, you can imagine how confused I was when my mother declared my lifelong friend, Kim Gibson Wallis and I “as silly as blackbirds.” I mean, after all, where did she think I learned it ? No matter, the truth of the matter was that Kim and I thought it incredibly funny! Funny, funny, funny.

As long as I can remember, we had dinners for my mom’s side of the family at our house all the time. My mother and her sister, Ginny, alternated years as to who would host the Christmas dinner. It really didn’t matter, I don’t think to us kids where it was, just as long as it was.  It was our time to see each  other and play like the wild kids we wished we could be all the time.

If we were at Ginny’s house, then my cousin, Matt would be in charge of what we played and stuff. After all, he did live there and he would be the one to get into trouble (mostly) if we did stuff we weren’t supposed to. Younger readers may be confused because we were actually outside, in the sunshine, running, chasing, playing and teasing one another. Yes, that’s what I said- Outside. Sunshine. Playing. All those things kids barely know the meaning of anymore. Well, anyway, no matter whose house we were at (Texan phraseology, i’m afraid), one game was a constant- “Big Kids Run From the Little Kids.” I never was much of a runner, in fact, I was the last one chosen on a team of any sorts at school recess, but I could outrun the little kids! When Gary, my mom’s brother’s kid, his sisters, Jayne and Amy got to come, it was so much fun! Gary, Matt, Phil (Matt’s brother)  and I ran away from poor Jayne and Amy.  Of course, it wasn’t long til Jayne was “one of us.”

A Holiday dinner at our house
A Holiday dinner at our house

Oh my gosh! Our parents could just look at each other and start laughing- something their offspring can do as well. It was always fun to know someone else was thinking the same thing at

Being silly and laughing was a genetic trait for us
Being silly and laughing was a genetic trait for us

the same time. Ever happen to you?

Of course, with all of us, there was the “odd, but lovely” relative. This would be our Aunt Dillie. She came to be Aunt Dillie because someone as a baby couldn’t say Nellie. So, Dillie it was. We kinda made alot of fun of poor old Dillie, because she could sniff more times in a row than anyone else in the world!  Not only that, but she could burp louder than a guy and we thought it was hysterical. Of course, not to her face. We held it til we were out of the room and then we’d really let the hysteria go.

Turns out, poor old Dillie, unbeknownst to us at such an early age, had been set to marry a young man and he left her at the alter. So, these interesting traits of hers probably came about after the fact. She never married or had a gentleman suitor again. Tragic, really. However, as in Shakespeare, some tragedies are comedy and we thought she was plenty funny.

I am reminiscing because my cousin , Gary, will be spending the weekend with me. For the Fourth of July. I haven’t seen him in years and I am so excited to see him. Because it is a holiday, it reminds me of being a kid, looking out the window , waiting for him to arrive- waiting impatiently for the fun to begin!

I Digress- Epilepsy Revisited

Everybody has something. One might have a birthmark, another glasses, somebody else might have a leg shorter than the other. Something. These are things people can see with their eyes. They are “normal” , everyday things. When one has something that is unseen like Bipolar and other mental issues, brain tumors  or in my case, Epilepsy, that’s when the fear sets in. Not from me, nope, I’m not afraid that I have Epilepsy. But, other people are because, well, they are mostly afraid of the unseen, the unknown. Isn’t that funny? Not funny haha, funny odd.

I remember my mom talking to my dad at the dinner table one night.

“Paul, I think Paula may be having some spells. I think I have noticed those little seizures in her.” That’s about all I remember of that. My mom took me to a doctor; a neurologist, who told her it could be a possibility since it runs in families. An appointment was made for me to have an Electroencephalogram or EEG – a brain wave test.  What I don’t remember is feeling afraid. I was escorted to a room, where a technician began combing and parting my hair, putting glue in it and hooking up little round things on my head. After all the electrodes were placed, the lights were turned out and I was instructed to close my eyes and try not to go to sleep. It was hard to keep my eyes still, but i was supposed to. I could hear the pencils marking the paper, showing what my brain waves were doing. On occassion, I could hear the technician circle the paper and scribble something, Soon, I would hear the technician say,”Paula, wake up- you have to wake up.” It sure was hard to stay awake while in the dark.

Clicks, next, I could hear clicking. “Now, what you are going to see will be some lights. some will go slow, then fast. Just keep your eyes closed and try to relax.” Strobe lights began to flicker before my closed eyes and it made me nervous and kinda scared.

Next, I was instructed to breathe through my mouth as fast as  I could- hyperventilating, she called it.

These two things have been known to cause seizures, so they want to make sure to test – just in case.

After the test, I was escorted back into the wood paneled waiting room. This appointment would take the better half of the day as far as I can remember. It was a long day and boring at that.I was glad I’d brought a book.

After a while, we were called into the Doctor’s office where he sat at a desk in front of us, whipping back and forth through the pages of what looked like a long book of scriggly lines. On some of the pages, the circles and scribbles I had heard the technician  writing were visible. The whole thing was weird.

eeg

So, even though the doctor couldn’t see many seizures, it was certain I had epilepsy. Petit mal kind (now called absence).

Now the bevy of meds, the trial and error began. Other than taking medication, nothing changed for me. I was the same little girl having the same fun I’d always had. There were side effects with some of the meds , so that had to be dealt with. Some made me sleepy, some made me angry, some worked, some didn’t.  I don’t remember it all, but my family was there for the long haul .

In junior high school, I had to take  medicine at lunchtime. Back then, you just carried your medications with you and took it when you were supposed to. I hated taking medicine at school. All the kids made fun of me. Suddenly, because I took medication, I was different. Suddenly, because I had seizures no one would notice in a million years unless I told them or they knew how to tell , I was game for fun making.When kids asked me why I was taking medicine for, I would tell them I had Epilepsy. I didn’t know  it was going to become the ruckus it was.

“What? Do you have FITS?”

“No, i just stare.”

No one could  see it. But, they had sure heard about it. Fits, huh? So seizures were called Fits? Whoa. A fit is, to  me, an archaic term from the middle ages or longer ago or something clothes do . I really detest that word.

I understand now, that people are most afraid of things they cannot see. Had I had a leg shorter than the other and a limp was visible, no one would pay much attention because they could see it, comprehend it. Not the case with Epilepsy. Yes, one is capable of having a convulsion (not a fit) and it is a scary thing to witness. How much better would it be for folks to read about and learn what to do should someone have a convulsion? That would be putting the fear to good use.

If you are not familiar with epilepsy, it is nothing more than a short circuit, of sorts, of the brain. With this short circuit, messages get confused and the seizures ensue.

seizure

It does not mean one is some kind of monster because they have it. It is a disease, an imperfection of the human brain. That’s all. It does not change who your friend is, what they stand for, how funny or serious they are-it doesn’t change their quirks or whatever that you love most about them. It’s not like that- unless it is not under control .

Whatever you do, please, please don’t call a seizure a fit. No one likes that.

I’d rather be told that I ‘flopped like a fish’ than told I’ve had a FIT. Yep, sure would.

 

Hello? Runaway Hotline

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I didn’t much like the friends Doug had in Minnesota. To be honest, I didn’t like Minnesota. It was freezing cold, dirty snow outlined the streets , my throat was sore and to top it off as if it was a cherry or something, I was homesick. I was lonely  here in this God-forsaken land. Oh, and I was running out of seizure medication. I had been diagnosed with Epilepsy at the tender age of 10- a time when a kid should be footloose and fancy-free. They were not grand mal seizures or “fits” as some called them. Just little staring spells. No one would know I had it unless I told them. Those little “spells” as we called them only lasted about ten or twenty seconds. The only evidence something was awry might be if I was in the middle of a sentence when I had “the spell.”  If that were the case, I might slur the word I was about to say or forget what I was talking about all together.I had never missed any scheduled doses of medication because my mother always made sure I had some on hand. Indeed, I had taken my medicine with me, but didn’t think about the fact that sooner or later, I would run out. I decided I should call home. I wanted to hear my mother and father’s voices anyway, even though I knew they would be mad at me. I had watched enough television dramas to know that calls could be traced and I didn’t want them to know where I was yet. I set out to find the nearest phone booth.

“Hello? Runaway Hotline, how can I help you?”  

The voice on the phone seemed so nice and helpful. I had seen public service announcements  (PSA’s) on tv about them and decided that was how I would contact my parents. A runaway could call 1-800-RUNAWAY if they needed help of any kind or just wanted to get word to their parents they were ok. 

“Hi, I’ve runaway from home.”

“Are you ok? Safe?

“Yes Ma’am”

She began to explain the way the program worked. She told me if I would like to get a message to my parents to let them know I was ok, I could just give her their phone number, she would call them and let them know I had called the hotline and  was ok. I agreed and gave her their number. I was then to call the next day and see if they had a message for me from them.I thanked her, grateful for this service and their PSA’s. More than that, I was grateful that I had paid attention to them.

I went home that night, happy to know I might get a message from my parents tomorrow. I was tired and ready for bed. It was such a cold night and I was thankful for a warm bed to sleep in.

Out of money now, Doug went looking for a job. It was a good thing we were staying  with friends since they fed us and seemed to be really happy to see him. I must have been bored during the day – it’s been a good forty years since this adventure and my memory has faded. I felt like a duck out of water, I know that. 

Each time we got gas, back in those days, we were given saving stamps. Back home it was S&H Green Stamps we got.. at the grocery store- not the gas station. Here, in Minnesota, the stamps were redeemable only at the gas station’s store. So, we redeemed the stamps for food, drinks, candy and anything else we might need. We lived this way for a bit until Douglas got a job at some kind of steel factory , boat factory or some such place. I know at one time he worked in a boat factory as I remember he would come home with fiberglass stuck in his arms and hands. That may have been his first job- I remember it was painful to have fiberglass in his body and he didn’t work there long. By this time, we were staying in Woodbury.