New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve is always melancholy for me. It’s the arbitrary end of the year, which can be a mixed blessing. More importantly, it’s the anniversary of my car accident – 24 years ago tonight. Sometimes it feels like yesterday.

The facts are simple: we exited the Brooklyn Bridge, the exit ramp is sharp and short, and we slipped on a patch of ice. The car slid and we ran head-first into the concrete bridge footing. The emotional memory is far more complex. I had gone to NYC to spend New Year’s with my boyfriend. Being young, in college, and possibly a little hypomanic, this seemed like a good idea at the time. So did the idea of hopping into a SUV with four boys to see the ball come down in Times Square. “Bad weather” doesn’t mean much to a teenager. Life is a cruel teacher.

I don’t remember everything. They thought I might have hit my head. My two front teeth were never found. But I remember the last few moments before impact. They say that in situations like this that your life flashes before your eyes. Bullshit. Time slows down. Your brain registers every nanosecond. And you think really stupid things. One minute you are laughing and talking, the next your brain is calculating. See bridge footing. Check. Impact imminent. Check. Bridge footing getting closer. Check. Am I supposed to relax my muscles or brace for impact? Time’s up.

My next conscious memory is of the paramedics ripping the door open. Strong arms beneath my armpits dragging me across the frozen grass.  I couldn’t feel anything. Shock can be a blessing.  I recall watching my legs bounce along the grass.  My left leg was on the opposite side of my right.  Something didn’t add up, but I couldn’t quite figure out what. I was cold. So cold. They kept asking me how to contact my parents. I recited my brother’s phone number over and over again. Really, I just wanted them to leave me alone and stop asking questions they already knew the answers to. There was a nice lady paramedic who held my hand and talked to me. I don’t remember what she said. I just remember she was nice, I was cold, and I was really sick of repeating my brother’s phone number. I didn’t even like him that much.

Next memory: the ambulance.  Shock started to wear off.  My nerve endings came back to life.  I felt every bump the streets of New York had to offer. I yelled. I cursed.  I asked the driver if he could find anymore fucking potholes to run over. The sound of emergency sirens blazed trails of emotional memory in my brain. Mercifully, the trip finally ended.  They ripped open the back of the ambulance. As the pulled me out, the driver said to me, “Happy New Year.”

The rest of the evening is a blur. (I posted some of this in Donation.) Someone shoved a clipboard under my nose and asked me to sign. It didn’t look like my signature. Was that important?  I was in and out of consciousness. I swore. A lot. Where does it hurt? Fucking everywhere.  Later, it didn’t hurt anywhere.  I couldn’t feel anything below my neck.  That’s when I screamed.

Meanwhile, my parents got a call from the nice paramedic lady.  Five words a parent never wants to hear: “You should go to her.”

I woke up strapped to a board.  One of the most terrifying moments I’ve ever experienced.  You can’t even move your fingers. They couldn’t operate on my leg until the neurologist came to drill holes in my skull for the halo traction. A nurse fed me ice chips while we waited for surgery.  A priest stood by my side all night, ready to give me last rites should I need them.  When my parents arrived, they told them to be prepared.  I only had a 40% chance of surviving surgery and I would never walk again.

Good thing no one ever told me the odds or I might have given up. I don’t know if I would have or not. I am a stubborn S.O.B. And I was hell bent and determined to go back to college.  Eight months and one cane later, I was back in school full time.

Eleven years later, I had my Ph.D.

I never take the easy route.  But you wouldn’t be reading this if I had.

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2.5

It’s been 2.5 weeks (or so) since my surgery and I haven’t written in over a week.  Nothing’s happened.  That’s not true – lots of things have happened:  I got my splint off, I started PT,  I’ve even been out of the house a couple times. I haven’t written about any of this because it doesn’t seem like something worthy of writing. But that’s not fair to you.  It’s not my place to determine whether my blog is a waste of your time or not.  It’s your time to do with as you please. If you wish to read it, then the least I can do is write it.

I think the true cause of this attitude is because the depression is returning.  It’s not a train barreling down the tracks at me like before.  It’s slowly creeping up behind me, carrying a cloak of darkness.  It’s a silent stalker, waiting for me to pause in my step, so it can work its dark magic.  Tendrils of familiar sadness flowing over me, binding my arms, slowly dragging me to the ground.  I’m fighting to keep moving but it’s not easy.

The physical is taking a toll on me as well. I can’t use my right hand for much of anything.  My arm doesn’t straighten all the way.  I can’t lift it to my mouth because it won’t go past my chest.  If I try to make a fist, I can get the tips of my (long) nails to just touch my palm.  Last night I was in a lot of pain.  I took a Percocet but it didn’t do any good.  It didn’t even make me tired.

My electronic communication is limited to left-handed typing and dictation because I can’t type or write with my right hand.  It’s taken me an hour to get this far in my post.  I have to ask for help with almost everything.  No wonder I’m depressed.  Maybe it’s situational, but it still feels the same.  Wisps of darkness enveloping me, beginning to drag me into its murky depths.  I feel like I am living in a cocoon, cut off from the rest of the world.

We increased my antidepressant but I have a hunch Celexa just isn’t going to work for me.  Sure wish I could go back to Paxil, but it will render the Percocet useless so it’s no good until after this surgery recovery is over.  I hate being so limited and dependent.  I am trying to stay upbeat but it is hard.  I am trying to be thankful for the small things but that gets hard too.  I am thankful that I have a good surgeon.  I am thankful for good doctors. I am thankful that my Dad is doing OK.  I am really thankful to have a good husband.  It’s the little things that help.  Like knowing someone will read this – so I don’t feel quite so alone.

© Manic Monday (manicmonday123). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Manic Monday (manicmonday123) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Pay it Forward

I’ve been blessed in my life with some very wonderful friends.  Most of them don’t know about my illness, or if they do, I don’t trouble them with my ups & downs because I don’t wish to invade their lives.  Perhaps it’s not fair of me to rob them of the chance to support me, but it’s how I feel about my bipolar.  (I can be quite stubborn about suffering alone.)  I do allow my friends to support me on other medical issues or when I have a family emergency.

I have one friend who is wonderfully supportive.  When my mom had a heart attack and bypass surgery, she picked my husband and I up at the airport and let us stay at her place.  She was single at the time and living in a small apartment, so she gave her bedroom to my husband and I, while she slept on the couch.  Another time, during a family emergency, she gave me the keys to a spare car in addition to the keys to her house and said, “I’ll see when I see you.  Good Luck.”  When my mother died, she did the same, except she didn’t have a spare car at that point.  She apologized that she couldn’t go to the funeral because she was already committed to a different funeral that day. (Bad time of the year, I guess.)  I love this woman more than she will ever know and there is no way I could ever pay her back for her kindness and support.

Another friend texted me the other day and asked if I had some time to talk to her.  She was scared because she was being tested for a medical problem that was similar to something I had gone through.  We spent two hours on the phone and by the end of it she felt much better, less worried, and we’d even worked out a game plan for how to approach her doctor.

A couple of months ago I spent two hours on the phone listening to a friend who was going through a divorce.  I also listened (read?) via IM.  He was very grateful and listed my name (along with all the others who supported him) on his Facebook page in a big thank you note.

There have been many times when I’ve listened when someone needed to talk.  Friends or even just acquaintances, and of course, there are times when I can’t.  Times when I am in a “bad headspace” and need the support myself.  I’ve looked for support, but only for more typical things – work relationships, personal relationships, medical issues, etc.  But when it comes to my bipolar, I only look for a handful of people: my husband, occasionally a friend, but mostly my therapist, pdoc, and you, dear readers.

I have sort of gotten off track with the last piece, but what I am trying to tell you is this:  you can’t always pay it back, but you can always pay it forward.


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PT Bruises

My arm is covered in bruises from physical therapy. And I have PT again tomorrow. It’s from a procedure called ASTYM. (http://astym.com/) It is supposed to be very good for tendon issues, and it has helped my right arm considerably over the past year, even if the first person who did it was doing it wrong. But I dread going back to PT, because, well, this $#@^% hurts!

ASTYM involves taking hard plastic tools and scraping them along the length of the tendon and muscle. (If you’d like to witness this torture, then you can watch the video: http://astym.com/video/)  Fortunately, they slather your arm in cocoa butter first so it glides along the surface. Can you imagine how painful it would be if they didn’t? And they don’t HAVE to bruise you in order for it to work, they just do.  And they keep torturing the same specific area.  My left forearm has more than 10 different bruises, many that run into each other, the largest of which is nearly 2″ in diameter.  I think physical therapists are secretly sadists.

The way it works is that it stimulates blood flow to the area which instigates healing.  This is especially important for tendons because they don’t get a lot of blood flow in the first place.  It’s also supposed to break up any fibrous tissue (aka scar tissue) so that when you stretch, the muscles & tendons lay down proper tissue in the correct direction.  Does it work? yes.  Has it worked for me? partially.  My right elbow should be completely healed by now, but it’s not.  But then I’m a bit of a medical mystery anyway.

I go to PT. I do my stretches every day.  My right elbow improves incrementally, but my wrist hurts more since I started PT than it did before. I’m scared.  I’ve started developing nerve pain in my left wrist too.  Keep in mind, the left wrist is the one that is “only a sprain” and doesn’t require any job restrictions, thanks to worker’s comp.

So what do I do now?  I don’t know. Keep going to PT I guess.  I have PT every day this week – either for the left wrist or the right elbow.  I realize that it’s my “job” to get better right now, but looking at that 2″ bruise and knowing it’s going to get pounded on tomorrow, makes me really not want to go into “work”.

 

© Manic Monday (manicmonday123). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Manic Monday (manicmonday123) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.