FRACTURES…published spring of 2013.

My book, Fractures, was published in the spring of 2013. It is tells the story of my struggles as a child with learning disabilities being constantly bullied and with no friends. The book tells my transgender journey as well as my continous battle with the ups and downs of bipolar. The book also depicts the harrowing tale of the destruction and recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction. Ultimately it is a story of survival. It is a place where the reader may find a connection and may find that he or she is not alone in their own feelings and experiences. The book is available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle formats.

Also, you can see my website for the book fracturesandhurdles.com

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Being an Alcoholic and an Addict on Addictive Prescription Drugs

“All I had now were the pills. Gradually, there was no pretense anymore that their primary use was pain control. They were just another way to stop me from feeling. . . . Total oblivion was my ultimate goal. Even in the fleeting moments when I achieved a kind of deathlike peace, I was not truly happy.” (Jason Peter, Hero of the Underground

Close to four years of sobriety and I can relate to and understand exactly what Peters is describing about his use of pills. He was out of control. He used the drugs so that he would not feel. Even though he may achieve a moment of total oblivion which was his goal, he was not happy. This is reality. This is what the addict doesn’t remember when he is sober and having obsessions of using and changing the way he feels. It is the same with alcoholics. It is one and the same.

With the medication that I am prescribed by my psychiatrist, I am in dangerous territory. I am prescribed some medication that has no addictive qualities whatsoever, and then there are those few that could be abused very easily. Don’t get me wrong, I am not writing this as an apology saying I have slipped up and am not sober. I am sober, and am not abusing medication. The purpose of this blog is to talk a bit about the realities of obsession and feelings and how easy it is to fall into the traps of addictive thinking and possible relapse.

I am an alcoholic and an addict. The daily obsession to drink and use was lifted from me roughly 5-6 months after I got sober. I realized that I no longer woke up in the morning with the obsession to go and buy a bottle and drink. I no longer wanted to use pills to get outside of myself. I don’t know how this happens, but eventually every alcoholic and addict has this happen. It takes a lot longer for some than others. This doesn’t mean I don’t obsess on drinking or using sometimes.

My bipolar mind goes crazy. When I have thoughts of hurting myself, or I am in bed all day depressed and staring at the walls feeling like my life is not going anywhere and there is no point to anything. I want to feel something different. I don’t want to have these thoughts. I don’t want to feel the emptiness. I don’t want to feel the sadness and impending doom. So, I quickly take my pills in order to feel different. I feel less pain. I may not be abusing the pills, but they still lower the anxiety and pain that I am feeling. Why wouldn’t I want this out? But, the key is just as with Peters, I may feel different or have achieved a lower pain level or somewhat of a numb state, I am still depressed. I am still not happy. And, on top of it, just as I did when I was drinking or using, I get angry at the medication for not taking away my pain. This is a sign of the addict in me. Although I am not abusing by taking extra pills, the medication is the first thing I reach for, and it is the first thing I blame when I still feel irritable and discontent.

As shown by my story, I am still sober and I am not abusing my medication, but what is clear is how quickly an addict or alcoholic can reach for the substance to get outside of themselves. It becomes a slippery slope. The obsession to get outside of ourselves and not feel whatever it is that is bothering us, is the root of why we seek the substance. There is a difference in what I experience between obsession and craving for that medication to stop the mental torture the bipolar creates. Once an alcoholic or addict has experienced using or partaking in the substance they begin the not only have obsessions but also cravings because they know what it tastes like and what the drug or alcohols direct effect is on them from recent experience. The cravings and obsessions can lead to relapse. They can lead to the alcoholic and addict not following the doctor’s orders, and using prescriptions addictively.

Having medically prescribed addictive prescriptions when you are an alcoholic or an addict is dangerous. The best way to handle it is to give the bottle to another person and only take a few pills at a time. This prevents using the medication addictively hopefully.

I do believe that under all circumstances anyone who needs additional medication prescribed by a doctor should take them while in sobriety. I do not agree with the people who are in sobriety that condemn those of us that take medication. It is unrealistic. Have you ever seen an unmedicated bipolar individual? Personally, I do not want to spend my days bouncing in and out of the mental hospital.

In the end, having these prescribed addictive medications is risky when it comes to maintaining ones sobriety, but it is possible to do when an addict or alcoholic wants to stay sober and work their program of sobriety.

Am I male or am I female?

Am I a male or am I female? I have the outer parts of a female, but none of the internal parts of either sex. What is male? What is female? What do either of these terms or concepts mean to me? How do I classify myself?

To start it is clear that my body does not match my mental image of myself. As Jamison Green writes,” imagine…you feel great about yourself, but when you look down, your body is the opposite sex from whom you know yourself to be. I am what it would feel like to live with that discrepancy” (22). It is true, I often feel caught between two worlds. I often feel half female and half male. A liar. Someone who is trying to act a part for acceptance from others, but ultimately will never fully “be” the part and everyone knows this including myself. Does this matter?

When I get dressed in the morning, I do not look in the mirror until I am fully clothed. I have not looked in the mirror for most of my life. I hate the curves. I hate my breasts. I hate not have the correct parts down there. I feel less than. I don’t feel whole. I feel like a “she-man”.

I struggle at times to understand the communication differences between men and women. The way me have friends as opposed to women. I struggle to gain acceptance in a world where most of my friends are in construction or labor jobs, and I know nothing about that. I am seen as weak, or at least that is how I feel. I feel as though my transgenderism is thrown in my face by circumstance almost daily. Not by individual people with words or on purpose. Everyone around me accepts and supports me. But there are situations that occur that constantly point out to me that I am not male. I am not a man. I am a woman trying desperately to act and be and transform myself into a man.  For example, if I am helping someone move, I cannot help move the heavy pieces because I do not have the upper body strength that most guys have. Or, I don’t have much “handy man” knowledge. Now on the flip side, I have written a book, and I read a lot. I spend a lot of time in my head and most people would call me somewhat of a nerd. So, there are different types of people. I always have to keep that in mind.

Then there are the surgeries. If I had the money (which I don’t) to have my top or bottom surgery, would that make me more or a man? Would that make me feel as though I was officially a man? I don’t know. I know I hate my breasts, and I yearn to be able to walk or run on the beach in the spring or summer without a top on bare chested. Maybe someday. It is hard though, I used to love the water. I was one person people could not get out of the water, but now I sit on the edge avoiding the water afraid that once my rash guard is wet my breasts will show and I will then look down and feel as though I am once again caught between two worlds.

Without the surgery I classify myself as a man. I have been transitioned for several years. I consider myself as male. On many levels I feel comfortable as a male, and do not regret the process I decide to undertake. The thoughts I am bringing up are just that thoughts that run through my head daily because the issues about being transgender are a daily issue for me. Transitioning is not easy.

How do I date? Another simple, yet complicated issue. I don’t seem comfortable trying to meet anyone out of fear that I will have to tell them about my between two sexes status, and they will run the other way out of fear or lack of comprehension. So, I stay alone. It is difficult. A side effect (at least for now…temporarily…my choice) of my transgender journey.

I have chosen to become a man, and I am confident this is what I was supposed to be from when I was very little. There is no doubt that I was born into the wrong sex.  I have the opportunity to fix it and become who I was meant to be. The journey is difficult and I am reminded each day that I am not fully a “guy” and never officially will be. I need to find acceptance with what I feel as a “guy” or what is male in order to find peace with my transition.

Nighttime and my bipolar mind.

Tonight is difficult for me. I am struggling with my depression from my bipolar.
I lie in the darkness unable to keep my mind free of negative thoughts.

“You are worthless.”
“You might as well kill yourself.”
“Just go do it.”
“Life is pointless.”

These are all examples of the looping negative thoughts that run through my mind each night (and during the day as well at moments). I turn to the T.V. to distract my mind, but it is too loud. It agitates me. I cringe wanting to just cover my ears from the incessant chatter. I then turn to a book. Reading seems to quiet the chaos of my mind. I can focus temporarily on the pages full of words even though the loop is still playing in the background. Once I lay back down again, the chatter starts again.

“Go drive yourself into oncoming traffic.”
“Take the pills.”

Anger. Frustration. I don’t want these thoughts going through my mind. I don’t want to be told to kill myself. It is a stupid thing to do. Frustrated that the chaos in my head just will not go away.

It isn’t always like this. When I am flying and spinning and numb to emotions in my manic mode the chatter is less. I am able to ignore it. It disappears for the most part. But then what follows every good high is a devastating low, and this is when the looping negative thoughts kick in full force.

How do I deal with these thoughts? It is something I am working on. I believe it has to do with acceptance. Just as I had to come to terms with and accept my diagnosis of bipolar and all that that meant, I have to accept these thoughts in order to learn to cope with them. I don’t believe they will go away fully ever. There was a few months when they disappeared following a round of ECT,  but they returned in full force just as bad as they were before the treatments. So, acceptance is the answer and finding ways to distract myself and minimize the intensity of the chatter.

Prayer, Faith, Trust, and Turning it over.

Prayer. Faith. Trust. Turning it over. This is what I am struggling with these days. My life is a mix of ups and downs, highs and lows, and I feel like a lonely person out in the middle of the ocean without a life jacket on. Without faith and belief, I am sure to continue to feel alone, confused, depressed, and without grounding. I don’t know this for sure, hence the word trust but I see my fellow members of Alcoholics Anonymous and other people in my life rely on their Higher Power or God and their world seems to be right side up or at least their reaction to whatever going on in their world is workable. So, I look at these people and I see that faith works in other people’s lives, so I begin to trust in this concept of a Higher Power and faith.

I grew up in a big United Church of Christ in New Haven, CT. I grew up in a family where the previous generations of men were all Presbyterian ministers. My family went to church every Sunday. I went to the service, and I went to Sunday school. I was baptized, and I was confirmed. I came to understand what God was or so I thought at the time, and came to trust in God. My undiagnosed bipolar, learning disabilities, commencement of my addictions, and fighting with my parents and other adults began at the end of middle school and the beginning of high school. My world was crumbling. I threw myself into my faith and my search for what God was all about. I thought he was torturing me, but at the same time I prayed to him that if he protected and saved me through all of the chaos in my life I would live my life correctly. Fox hole prayers – if you do this God, I will do that. I was praying none the less. Something I should be doing today at age thirty-nine, but I fear and am resistant to. I do not pray.

So where did my faith go? Where did my trust go? Where did my ability to pray go? Where did my ability to turn my problems over to my God or Higher Power go?

I don’t know. I became skeptical. I think it was because I have experienced so much hurt and destruction in my life due to the bipolar and alcoholism. I didn’t believe I deserved to be helped by anyone. I picked up this resentment early on that I held onto for years that God was at fault for bringing me into this world with all these fractures and he was torturing me and teaching me a lesson I just could not understand. He was wanting me to jump through hoops that were never ending. He would not end the suffering. Was this immature thinking? Or was he trying to make me a better person by providing me the hurdles of bipolar and alcoholism? Giving me the power to heal, relate to others, feel other people’s pain, teach and help other people, care for others, tell my story, work to help those who cannot help themselves. Is this why I had to endure all that pain and suffering, and why I continue to have to fight the daily mood swings and negative thoughts, anxieties, and fears? I don’t know. It does make sense.

So why don’t I pray? Why don’t I believe?

I continue to have the suicidal obsessions and self-loathing thoughts along with fears that I will never get well, that I will never be able to stop spending my days in bed as I have done for the last year, never amount to anything, never be self-sufficient, etc. I continue to have the anxieties of walking alone in public or going into a store or coffee shop alone. There are more thought, fears, anxieties that I experience on a daily basis but it would take too much room to list them all and honestly it is too painful and makes me feel my life is fully out of control around me.

Prayer and belief in a Higher Power would help according to friends and my therapist. Those two things would help to make me not feel so alone. They would help to relieve some of the pain, frustration, fear, and anxiety that I have. Turning it over to my higher power and giving my fractures to someone else to deal with so that it clears my head so that I can live my daily life. Praying helps to keep my head clear, and to remain focused on the now and having turned over the issues. It is about control. When I try to control my life, my life goes haywire and my mind is out of control. But when I have faith and turn everything over and relinquish that power and control, then I am not in control and I have to let whatever happens happen and trust that my higher power has a plan for me and that he won’t let me suffer without a reason why.

In order for any of this to happen I must have some sort of connection. Prayer helps that connection grow. It begins with belief. After I have belief, I will better be able to pray and turn things over and let my higher power have control of t­­he reigns. How do I reconnect with my Higher Power? I had a connection when I was a youth.

In Alcoholics Anonymous, I have done the steps a few times. Steps one through three are the key ones that I seem to have to do the most often as they relate to my daily life.

Step One: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.

I admit that I am powerless over alcohol. I don’t have a problem with that. I admitted that at the beginning of my sobriety in 2010. The reason why I bring this step up, is because I have to admit to myself on a daily basis that I am powerless over the chaos in my head – the bipolar, the mental illness – and that my life had become unmanageable (at times).

Step Two: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

This is the first step in believing in a Higher Power. It speaks to how if I believe in my Higher Power, then my Higher Power will help to clear my head and help to keep me sane. It won’t take away the bipolar or mental illness, but it will help me to deal with it.

Step Three: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

As this step reveals it is all about believing and turning over the control and my life to our Higher Power so that I can begin to heal and have faith that God is on my side helping me.

These three steps that I complete when I choose to work on acceptance, believing, and turning it over are key to helping me to have a framework for letting me work on doing something that at times to me feels like it is so outside of the box that I just do not understand or get it so why should I bother.

So, I believe that prayer comes after these steps are done. Once I have that connection formed. I can pray for understanding and relief. I can pray for courage. Prayer is a source of support and help as we learn and begin to turn things over to our newly found Higher Power that we now believe in.

BIPOLAR – How it feels in my daily world.

Today has been a mix of ups and downs. At moments paralyzed from fear, anxiety and depressive negative thoughts. While at other times feeling driven and focused thanks to medication that appears to work for a few hours each day to pull me out of the darkness that I am experiencing these days.

I will begin my blog with a piece of my writing that describes how bipolar feels in my daily world. It also shows the difference between the different manic, depressive, and mixed states of bipolar. This is what I deal with every day. It is the underlying condition that effects every aspect of my life including my daily recovery from alcoholism and addiction and my ongoing transgender journey and my ability to connect with others.

The intense thrill and anxiety of roller coaster rides have filled my life for years. The winding tracks turning every which way with cars set precariously upon them balancing gently while simultaneously lurching at every twist, turn, drop, or forward propulsion are all too familiar. The experience is never the same. The ride is never smooth. It is always unpredictable. It is breathtaking and chaotic. The various twists and turns are an exhilarating rush while they last until they come to a crashing halt, and the thrill is gone and a low idle sets in. Followed always by the subsequent roar of the cars climbing up the tracks higher and higher. How long have I been riding this ride? Will the ride ever end? It has not been the familiar ten minute amusement park ride that I ride with friends during the summer months. This roller coaster ride is different. This roller coaster has sharper twists and turns. It has higher peaks and lower valleys. This roller coaster continues. The time doesn’t seem to end. This ride has marked the twist and turns of my daily life from the time I was young through my adult years. It has generated the highs, the lows, the flats, the side way lurches, and the upside down loop to loops that have produced the vast array of feelings that I have felt on a monthly, weekly, daily, hourly, and sometimes even, minute to minute basis.           

I have bipolar disorder. I have rapid cycling bipolar. “Bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) is a mental illness highlighted by alternating episodes of mania and depression – elation and euphoric highs, followed by melancholy and severe hopelessness” (Behrman). No two mornings of waking up are ever the same. Some mornings I feel as though I am on top of the world and I can do anything at all. My mind and body are moving at an unprecedented rate of speed. My words and thoughts are being formed so quickly, that I cannot even keep track of what words I am using or what I am trying to say or even more simply what the individual words mean. My head feels as though it is going to spin right off of my shoulders. When I begin to spin like a top at faster and faster speeds, it is then that my world around me begins to get altered and I begin to question reality. My world around me begins to float and move and dart and dash. The entire world including me begins to run like an overcharged energizer bunny jumping, spinning, falling, hopping, and running in every direction possible all at the same time.

On the flip side, some mornings I wake up feeling dead inside and all I yearn for is that my physical body could fall apart and match my internal feelings. Still on other mornings, I wake up feeling one way, and by mid-day I feel the complete opposite. For example, Some mornings I wake up and my mind feels as though it is on the rapid spin cycle of a washing machine or like my brain is spinning on its own axis inside my head, and by mid-day I may be lying in bed depressed feeling as though I want to jump off the tallest building in the nearest city. Finally, on other days I am greeted with a mood that makes me feel as though I am flying or spinning around in circles moving faster and faster gaining speed as I go around, while simultaneously I feel as though I want to cry and scream and flail my body around and die all at the same time in a horribly uncomfortable and confusing mixed manic and depressed episode.

Here’s the hell of it: madness doesn’t announce itself. There isn’t time to prepare for its coming. It shows up without calling and sits in your kitchen…you ask how long it plans to stay; it shrugs its shoulders and starts digging through the fridge.

But even that implies some sort of lag time between the arrival of madness and the actual experience of it. In the early years, it’s like a switch flips on, and though only a moment before you were totally sane, you have suddenly gone mad.

…Maybe it’s a chemical shift in the brain that the medications don’t block. Maybe it’s a stressor in your life that you didn’t expect. Maybe there is no reason, and you’re just going mad for the hell of it… (Hornbachner, 225-226).

Bipolar disorder is messy. It is unpredictable. No day is ever the same as the last one. There is always a variable that is different or missing that causes my mood to shift one way or the other. There is never a place somewhere in between. It is impossible to prepare for what the morning will bring. I go to bed feeling one way, not knowing what mood (manic, depressed, or mixed) I will be in 6-8 hours later when I will open my eyes to greet the next day. Each night I lay in bed filled with anxiety not knowing what the roller coaster has in store for me. What section of the ride lurks beyond the bend? Is it an insatiable energy or a devastating lethargy? No matter what it is I will not be prepared. No matter what it is I will not know how long it will stay or how high or low it will go. The unpredictability and insanity of the ride destroys the fun of the ride. The amusement park ride may have been fun, but the ride that exists in my daily life is not fun. It is filled with the dread of not knowing what is ahead. It is filled with the dread of not knowing how fast the ride will be or how high or low the car will climb or descend on the track. The ride is filled with fear, anxiety, and uncertainty.