Both Ways

Sharing smothered thoughts,

Restricted feelings abound.

Hesitation rules the imagination,

Hiding from the truth,

Although it tortures me.

Yearning for stability,

Some kind of consistency.

If only I could have it both ways!


Mental, Part 3

Filling out all the paperwork once I was heavily medicated and in need of social services was a challenge. My dad helped me a lot with that as well as staying organized and getting my thoughts in order. He helped me apply for Dial-a-Ride, which was a must for appointments, since sometimes I couldn’t drive.

When I was in the hospital and they were trying to figure out what to do with me, two options kept coming up: being referred to UF Health Shands and ECT (electroconvulsive therapy). After several months of no improvement, I asked my psychiatrist for a referral to Shands Psychiatric. That would mean a two and a half hour drive, and my appointments were usually late afternoon, which meant an overnight stay in a motel.

Shands had me seeing an intern, with consultation during each visit with a resident doctor. They put me on trazadone for sleep, which helped a lot. Just before I had transferred to Shands my psychiatrist put me on perphenazine, an antipsychotic that would also help with sleep. I tried Shands for about six months, then I started thinking about ECT and going back to my local psychiatrist.

I did a consultation with the ECT doctor and he mentioned Buspirone, which is a non addictive anxiety med. He approved me for ECT, and Jackie’s Mom and my Dad volunteered to be drivers, coming from out of town and staying in our guest bedroom, switching off each week. After the 14th treatment, my memory had taken a plunge and I was still depressed. The doctor recommended stopping there.

I went back to my regular psychiatrist and since the ECT doctor had taken me off the anticonvulsants, Depakote and Gabapentine, they decided to try an old combination that had worked pretty well for a while, Zyprexa and Prozac (Olanzapine and Fluoxetine). Then he put me on Buspirone as well. I had been having mini anxiety attacks with a burning sensation all over my body and my body shook when talking about thoughts and emotions. The Buspirone stopped all that, along with a three times daily dose of propanolol, another anxiety med that I had been on since Shands.

We asked my shrink about memory loss. He suggested referring me to a neurologist. I went to see the neurologist, and he put me through a bunch of tests and memory function was very low, so he started me on a dose of Donepezil. After two months he tested me again and I went from a 70 to a 100 out of 130. He declared it a success.

Back in the Fall of 2017, I started the legal administrative specialist program at Lively Technical School. I had a hard time with the memorization at first, but by the Spring semester I went from D’s and F’s on quizzes, to A’s and B’s. I was very encouraged by my progress. Vocational Rehab was paying for my tuition and books, and after two rejections my SSDI case went to a hearing and I was approved, just as my long term disability coverage was about to run out.

That November my grandmother passed away and a month later I found my friend Curt dead in his house. He had a bad infection in his legs and his body went into sepsis. When I found him all the lights in the house were off and he was laying face up on the floor in his bedroom, with his eyes and mouth wide open. It was a little unsettling, to say the least.

Mental, Part 2

In 2001, I was in grad school for library science and having trouble with group work. I got into an argument online, then felt embarrassed and ashamed and had thoughts of ramming my truck into a brick wall. Instead I admitted myself to the behavioral health center and got on different meds. This was also when I started seeing a psychotherapist. The same one I see to this day. It’s been 17 years now.

Another thing that contributed to my previous crisis was my psychiatrist took me off my heavily sedating meds and put me on something that allowed me to feel and express my feelings better. I eventually got used to it and my mother in law described me as a flower opening up. After that, I was stable for 15 years.

I started on a downturn when I was working in the yard and got into some poison ivy. I went to a dermatologist, and they didn’t look at my chart. They prescribed Prednisone, and it wreaked havoc with my mood. I changed medications numerous times, but I became more and more unstable.

In the Fall of 2015, my doctor wanted to make some major changes in my meds, and we agreed that the best course of action was for me to be hospitalized. I admitted myself to the behavioral health center and it went pretty well, except I didn’t get much sleep. At the end of the week I finally started sleeping through the night and they released me.

I went back to work, but being in the mental hospital again had changed how I saw myself. My confidence and self esteem dropped significantly, and I couldn’t focus or concentrate. I then applied for Family and Medical Leave and was out of work until December. During the time I was on FMLA, I didn’t do much. I was very emotional and fought with my wife, Jackie. She was distraught and didn’t know what to do. I started seeing an art therapist, and doing a lot of marker drawing of abstract designs.

When I returned to work, I wasn’t ready. I was extremely anxious and I couldn’t focus or concentrate. I tried for a few weeks, but showed no improvement. I started getting paranoid about my supervisor and fellow employees, thinking they were judging me and being critical of me. I started to regret being so honest about my mental illness. I knew my boss didn’t really understand, but it wasn’t her fault.

One day in mid-January, I didn’t go to work. I stayed home and wrote an essay entitled, “I’m a Human Being, Not a Robot!” I was tired of the way numbers of production and money were the basis for everything. I was interested in quality, but quantity was valued much more. Jackie texted me but I didn’t respond. She tried calling me, but I didn’t answer. Finally, she got a ride home with Uber and she came in furious. I hadn’t even called work to say I wasn’t coming in. She figured I was manic, and she told me I was going to the behavioral health center.

I went along with it at first, but after I was there a couple days, I got angry and wanted out. I didn’t like how I was being treated. Jackie and the social worker arranged a family meeting, and I broke down. I cried for a long time. The psychiatrist changed my code to compulsory, which was like a Baker Act for someone already admitted and my wife signed it.

I had a hard time this go round. I clashed with the nurses and the social workers, and I seriously considered filing grievances. I was also having a hard time with the group therapy. I was so sensitive to everything said, and it was overwhelming. Finally, I asked the social worker if they could give me something to turn my brain off. I just couldn’t take it anymore. We discussed some of the meds I was on back in 1996. Risperdal. Depakote. They gave me really strong doses and put me in a blocked room that was not normally used. They gave me permission to be in the day room to journal and do art during group time.

I talked to the music therapist and she suggested I meet with the chief officer of the hospital. Later that week she came by and introduced herself, but we didn’t discuss any issues. I got really sad one day and cried in my room. I wanted to go home. I wanted to be free again. That day I didn’t go to eat lunch and the med nurse tried to talk me into eating. She brought me a sandwich and I ate. Then I remembered that my family had brought me snacks and drinks, so I started asking for them.

I refused to go to the cafeteria for meals. I didn’t like the atmosphere. One time they made me go. I had a hard time figuring out what to do and I didn’t eat much. One night I started to get delirious and started to think about suicide. I told the chief nurse and she gave me a sedative. She tried to get me to go to sleep but I wouldn’t cooperate. After that happened, the chief officer never came back.

Eventually, I started to sleep through the night. I couldn’t think well, and my speech was slurred. I even requested a wheel chair because my legs would get weak sometimes. Once I was calm and stopped acting out, they started to prepare to release me. When I got home I eventually put in for a medical retirement. I filed for long term disability through my job, and called an attorney they referred me to about Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

Mental, Part 1

In 1996, I invited myself to the nuthouse. Not the lengthy stay one, but the one referred to as a crisis unit. The first time I went I got in all sorts of trouble for writing down violent fantasies about others, including a woman I had made friends with.

The shrink I was matched with had already decided that I was just having thoughts, not in danger of acting on them. He told me that I didn’t need to be afraid of my thoughts, because that’s all they were. But apparently one of the chief nurses didn’t get the memo, because she made me sit down with my friend and tell her face to face about these violent thoughts, as if I was planning it all out or something. The chief nurse told me I had to stay away from her from then on.

The next day the psychiatrist told the nurse I was not a danger, and he even went as far as blocking my reentry the next time I attempted to be admitted. So I had to go to a different nuthouse, and this time I didn’t write down any violent fantasies and I stuck to my story that I had a plan to hurt a young girl. It really wasn’t true, but I had learned a little bit about how the system works and being a highly self-critical chap that I am I didn’t have to try very hard to convince myself.

I went back to that place once or twice, and the last time my insurance company made me move to a cheaper unit that was mostly for people Baker-Acted for drunk and disorderly conduct. Before I was moved I succeeded in getting into bed with one of the female clients, she wanted to fool around, but not involving her body below the belly button. I also taught a member of the staff to play chess. That was fun. When they moved me to the other unit, I was extremely anxious and my body would shake. It was difficult to eat, even harder to sleep. My roommate was having withdrawals, and it was scary to watch. I dreaded being there so much I tried to call a good friend in another city, five hundred miles away, who was a policeman, to get me out. He said he couldn’t do anything about it, so I resigned myself to sticking it out.

The last time that year, I was in occupational therapy, and the staff member confronted me about my numerous admittances there and said how I needed to make a decision to do whatever it took to rectify my situation. From then on I decided to see a psychiatrist and make sure I took my medicine. It would be five years until I would admit myself again, that time, for thoughts of suicide.


I used to be concerned with

How much I did,

Or how much I didn’t do,


Evaluating whether or not

I was up to snuff

With my own priorities,


And of course,

Whether or not

I kept my wife happy.


Lately, things have

Taken a different turn.

Since my body


Has seen fit

To rebel against me,

And my doctor


Doesn’t seem able

To reign things in,

My priorities have


Changed quite a bit.

In fact, the term

“priorities” doesn’t


Seem to fit anymore,

Not for how most

People think about it.


My biggest priority

Is my medicine.

That’s not a new one,


At least on the surface,

Since I’ve had bipolar

For over 15 years,


And been taking meds

For just as long.

But now it makes


An immediate,

Drastic difference.

And the long-term risk


Without it,

Is terrifying.

It’s like food


And water.

And the third need,

Common to all of us,


But more drastic for me,

Is sleep.  More specifically,

I have to keep my sleep


In order.  I have to take

A strong round of meds

Throughout the day,


And then really

Pulverize my mind

With meds


At the end of the day,

Just so I can sleep.

And I have to start


A methodic relaxation,

Early, despite being

A night person.



I will not be getting up

For work in the a.m.



Things have changed

A little bit.


(Poetic Asides

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 133


Sometimes I Freak, Part II

Sometimes I freak when I walk into a room because I know I will be in that room for the next 8 hours and be faced with tasks with impossible deadlines and impossible expectations for how those tasks are to be done. Yes, I’m talking about my job. I am an indexer and an administrative assistant. Well, I can handle the latter easier than I can handle the former sometimes. As an indexer, I create complex reference material for legal material that is published by my company. The only problem is that most of the time either the job comes to me already late or, if it is on time, it still must be done yesterday because we don’t have enough people in our indexing department to handle all the work that comes from two or three times as many editors and is proofread by twice as many proofreaders. Yeah, we indexers are the red-headed step-children of the Supplement Department. And as far as the administrative assistant duties, well those have to be kept to the minimum, despite my boss’s duties which are enough for three or four people, her being the Indexing Supervisor, Deputy Director of the Supplement Department, and serving practically full-time as a regular indexer, just to keep our inventory moving for those impossible deadlines. And let’s not forget the impossible expectations. No mistakes. This, despite jobs that come to us full of mistakes and in styles that vary almost as much as the thousands of customers we have. It’s fun stuff, really.

Sometimes I freak when I go to a party. “Why?” you ask. “Parties are fun!” Well, they are partly fun for me, but it is very inwardly forced. First of all, remember that I am an introvert. Second of all, did I mention that I am bipolar? Well, if I’m in a good mood and manic, it’s cool. I can move with the masses. But if I’m depressed, anxious, or in a mixed episode of manic-depression, meaning I’m depressed, excitable, anxious, sad with racing thoughts and intense energy—not a good recipe for party-going. And I really can’t control how I’m going to be. I don’t like crowds, and I don’t like pretending to be happy when I’m not, which is exactly what people expect of you at parties. Otherwise, you get lots of questions like “Are you okay?” and “What’s wrong with you?” More fun stuff, I assure you.

Sometimes I freak when I visit family. And this goes for blood-relatives just as much or more than in-laws. Visiting family is really a mixed bag for me because I live pretty far away from my blood-relatives so I have to use annual leave, and either have to drive a long distance (from North Florida to South Florida) or fly on a plane (San Rafael, California for my aunt, uncle and grandmother or Rochester, New York for my brother and his family). So I’m taking a vacation to see people I want to see because they are my family, but who I don’t want to see because they are my family. Wouldn’t it be fun to take a cruise, just my wife and I? Or travel to the Grand Canyon or something by ourselves? The last three big vacations I took were all with family: San Rafael, Davie (for my dad) and Miami (for my mom), and then a while back there was the big trip to Disney World with my wife’s whole family. In between, I did go to New Orleans for the Jazz and Heritage Festival which was headed by Pearl Jam (I’m a big fan), but there was the fact that we stayed with my friend’s family and spent some time visiting other family members—always got to be some family in there. That was okay, of course, because my friend is like family to me, and her whole family is so gracious and welcoming that you feel like one of their family, but then again…they are family. There just seems to be no escaping it.

(To be continued…)