“I’m fine,” She Lied: Part 6 – (Don’t Go Back to) Rockville

I was 39.

We decided to move to the Houston area, where Scott’s job was. A few months before, I started having a lot of pain in my right knee, so I went to an orthopedist who took x-rays and said that I had no cartilage in the left side of my knee and that was causing the pain. I started getting shots in my knee and had physical therapy. It got better for awhile. Our house went on the market. I had the house professionally cleaned and I decluttered. When my realtors showed the house we would get feedback that the house wasn’t clean. It would be after having the house professionally cleaned. I felt like a failure.

Megan and I were planning ScrapFest and it would be the first time we held it in a hotel. It was October and we held the event – some people liked it, some didn’t, but it’s what we decided as business partners and thought it went well. The entire time we weren’t sure if we would break even due to being limited as to how many croppers we could accommodate because of the space of the ballroom. Once the event started things ran smoothly, but the numbers showed we would have to come out of pocket to pay the hotel. This was a first. The scrapbooking industry had been in decline and the number of crops was increasing, so croppers had to decide which events to go to, which we had no control over. And we liked going to the other events because we were actually able to scrapbook when we weren’t running the show. On the last day of that October ScrapFest we were forced to make a hard decision. I would be moving, which would make planning difficult, but do-able. But we couldn’t put on the event out of the goodness of our hearts and lose money. We made the hard call to tell our croppers that it would be our last event. We put on happy faces, sold the majority of our Cricut collection to our croppers, and sold or donated the rest of our way cool stuff (our Plinko board, spinner wheel, Accucut machine and dies), but I kept the candy machine.

For me, losing ScrapFest was like losing a part of myself. I didn’t care about the money. It was never about the money for me. It was about having a creative outlet and bringing other women together to be creative. ScrapFest was the only vacation some women took each year. They looked forward to it like kids look forward to Christmas morning and that’s not an exaggeration. And that’s not because of Megan or me – it’s because they could get together with their friends and have a great three days doing one of the things they loved most. I lost a part of my creative self. Designing tshirts and mugs and bags for hundreds of women in six or so years meant a lot to me. Going to other events and seeing women wearing something I drew or designed was a feeling that is practically indescribable. It didn’t just make me feel good. It was good for my creative soul. And then it was gone.

I started to pack up things I knew we wouldn’t be using until after the move, not knowing when the move would actually take place. I resigned my position in the PTA so I could focus on getting packed and finding a new house. It was too hard to get the newsletter together and attend meetings while being in the process of a move. PTA was something that was important to me – and just like that, another creative outlet gone.

One day, shortly after the last ScrapFest, I was at Megan’s doing some of our last bits of housekeeping before we could call the business actually closed. That morning I greeted the maid at my house, left instructions as I always did, then drove to Megan’s. The maid said she was having headaches, but I didn’t pay any attention to that. Forty minutes after I left my house, the maid called to say she’d gotten a last minute doctor appointment and would have to reschedule. I said that was fine. I left Meg’s or maybe we went to lunch and then I went home to see that exactly nothing had been done in the forty minutes the maid had been there. I called Megan and said how odd that was. A notification came up on my phone from Walgreens to say my refill was ready. I would put that off until the next day. The rest of my day was unremarkable, just lots of pain in my knee. Late that night I opened my nightstand drawer to take a Percocet to get some relief from my throbbing, swollen knee. The Perocet wasn’t there. I went through the whole drawer – it was gone. These were the drugs left over from my ablation and laparoscopic procedure. There were 27 tablets left, I knew this because I only took three after the procedure, then took Advil. I dialed up my Walgreens after remembering that I got the notification earlier. You can imagine my surprise to see that a refill of Percocet was picked up that day (and my thyroid medication). Dr. B had given me a refill knowing he didn’t remove the pain in the ovary cysts. I concluded the maid had stolen my medication and called in the refill. This is a woman I trusted to clean my house for several months, whom I left alone in my house many times. I called Walgreens, they said they didn’t have video on the drive through, so they couldn’t ID anyone. I called the police, they came to my house and ran the maid’s name and all she had was a traffic violation, so they couldn’t go to her house with only my word/suspicion. I was livid. I called my friend Kathy, the detective. Kathy said to text the maid and say I know what she did and a few other things. I did what Kathy said and the maid denied everything, then blocked me on Facebook. Bitch was guilty. At some point that week, I was in my medicine cabinet and noticed the bottle of liquid Percocet (from my sleeve surgery) was missing as well. Having something stolen from you is horrible. Having something stolen by someone you knew and trusted is disturbing.

imageThe house was slowly getting packed up. October became November, then December, then January. I had mixed feelings about moving to Texas. I wanted to be in the same house as my husband, but Texas represented what I recognized as when my anxiety really hit me. I remembered all the times I had the irrational fears when Molly was a baby when we lived southeast of Houston. The time I had to leave my cart in Walmart and had a panic attack. When the planes struck the World Trade Center towers. Molly’s first birthday when my family couldn’t come in because my grandmother was dying. Then my grandmother died. So many awful things happened during the short time we had lived in Texas 12 years before. I didn’t know if I had it in me to do it again. We’d lived in our home in Covington for 9 years. I loved that house. This would be different and I would be okay, I told myself. I had a couple of built-in friends in the Houston area – Michelle and Katie. We were looking for houses in Houston and the two I loved were snatched up. In February we finally got an offer on our house and we accepted it. That week Scott found a house he thought was perfect and sent me tons of pics, plus the pics that were online. It was brick, had a front courtyard, amazing kitchen, amazing master bathroom and closet, a study, and “wing” for the kids, as well as a big gameroom upstairs. I told Scott to go ahead and make an offer on it and I would drive to Houston the next day to see it. I made the drive and on the way to see the house, our realtor called to say our offer was accepted. We were thrilled. I was really thrilled once I got to the house. Our new town would be Humble. The H is silent. It annoyed me and still annoys me. Our street is Guadalupe. No one can spell it. I have to spell everything for customer service people.

 

imageThe closing on our house in Covington was delayed by a week and I took the kids out of school the week before St. Patrick’s Day. We stayed at my wonderful mother-in-law’s house for that week. I worried about all the things that could go wrong during our move. There were no school uniforms at the new schools, so we went on a shopping spree for spring school clothes. The moving truck was holding all of our possessions until our moving day. One of my great friends, Stacy cleaned my house after we moved out. Scott had taken the dog to Texas already and was waiting on our closing day. We closed on St. Patrick’s Day and the kids and I drove to Humble. My Explorer was packed like I had never packed a car before. Another closing was down. We took the kids to see our new house for the first time. They all liked it, but Katie moaned that she didn’t have a bay window like Molly’s room did. Our moving truck arrived. The unpacking began. A house was starting to become a home. That Thursday I took the kids to enroll in school, but couldn’t get Andrew enrolled until the next day because we were waiting on the old school to send one more form. Paperwork never ends.

I kept unpacking and arranging. Our new furniture arrived. Things were coming together. Molly started showing signs of depression. We brought her to a new pediatrician, a psychiatrist, a therapist – started medication. I had new fears that I was passing my depression onto my children. It was something that terrified me. Something I didn’t know how to handle except medically and to be there if she felt like talking about it. After the first four months she was okay and didn’t need medication. She’d made friends, she was plugging in. After unpacking the last box I realized that my flatware never showed up in the new house. That made me furious. Just last week I realized my record (yes, record) collection never got to the new house either. This made me a whole ‘nother level of furious.

10255796_10203803588265240_4297811223154731932_oWe got a kitten. Actually, three kittens, but only F. Catz Fitzgerald survived. That was Easter weekend. When I returned to my car there was a lovely note on my windshield that said “learn to park” with a smiley-sun face and then “happy Easter!” Shortly after that we got a note on our front gate that said someone was reporting us to the Homeowner’s Association because our dog barked. Our dog only barked at the landscapers and strangers. Texans like to leave notes. It wasn’t the last note we’d get about our dog.

My Covington friends and I texted. Beth and Christine started scrapbooking retreat called Scrap Dat in Mandeville and although I was sure I’d be able to make their first event, I just couldn’t with the kids starting school and the pain I was in. I went to a new orthopedist who said I had the worst osteoarthritis in someone my age that she had ever seen and that because I was too young for a knee replacement, I’d get a custom fitted brace and start knee injections. Then I went to a new gynecologist who actually listened to me and did an ultrasound, finding the two softball-sized cysts and a tilted uterus (of course it was tilted because I can’t have a normal anything). She said she had no idea how I was walking around with the pain I must have been in. Finally, someone who understood my pain (for real). She scheduled my hysterectomy and I finally felt like I was going to be okay.

My mother came down to help with the kids at the end of June and I had surgery. My doctor was wonderful. Surgery went well. I went home the next day. The day after that my Aunt Darlene died from ALS. I was recovering and couldn’t make the funeral, which made me very sad. I was sad for my cousins who lost their mom while she was still young, for my dad and for his sisters, for my grandmother. The way ALS takes away the person you love is like nothing else I know of. It takes your body from you while you still have your mind. Then it takes away your ability to speak, when you still have a mind to speak, then it takes you away from a family that loves you. I was glad that I got to have lunch with my aunt before her disease progressed, while she was able to still say “I love you too.”

imageAnd then  a few days later I was forty. My husband gave me a gorgeous ruby ring and took me out for a great dinner and to buy my first cowboy boots. He gave me Counting Crows tickets for later that month. My favorite band. Their drummer Jim wished me a happy 40th on Facebook. So did Tommy Blatnik of the Rave Ups, a band I’d loved since 1986. We went home to have my favorite cake with my mom and fantastic kiddos. It was a good day. Another week or so passed and I went in for my surgery followup and my new Dr. B (how is it that it was my second gynecologist with a name that started with B?) showed me photos of my twin cysts, one a softball, one a baseball. She also told me my cervix was precancerous, so it was good that bitch was gone. I told her my belly felt like jello since the surgery and she said “well, we removed a bunch of stuff.” I like it when doctors get all technical like that. I asked her if my belly would ever tone up and she said “not without surgery. You’ve had five abdominal surgeries, it doesn’t work like that.” Well, that was deflating – emotionally and physically (literally, ha). Nothing fit right after having the hysterectomy. All of my new “skinny” clothes didn’t fit anymore because of the way my abdomen rearranged itself. That’s the only way I can think of to describe it – that’s what happened. I went up a size, it was okay – I’m old enough and smart enough to know I am not a size on a pair of jeans. It only hurts the ego to go up a size. And my ego was practically non-existent anyway.

imageI started seeing a new psychiatrist. I went to her twice and didn’t like her at all (plus she had a weird hippie name and I can’t get past that kind of thing – no offense if you have a weird hippie name), then the third time I went, the receptionist told me my shrink couldn’t make it in that day and another doc was seeing her patients. Yee-ha! The other shrink and I clicked. He told me I wasn’t crazy, a term I’d always tossed around like my friends had.

For the first time I was properly diagnosed. I was Bipolar Type 2. It’s scary admitting that to the blogosphere because maybe you’ll see me differently now. Maybe you’ll think I am really crazy. Maybe you’ll defriend me on Facebook because I’m “crazy.” Do I look like someone with a mental illness? Now that you know it’s a mental illness, anyway. Suddenly, I’m not just quirky or just funny anymore – I’m Bipolar 2. Or Bipolar 2 – Electric Boogaloo, as I refer to it. So what does that mean? I’m sure you’re wondering.

“While bipolar I disorder is characterized by one or more manic episodes or mixed episodes and one or more major depressive episodes; bipolar 2 disorder is diagnosed after one or more major depressive episodes and at least one episode of hypomania, with possible periods of level mood between episodes. The highs in Bipolar II, called hypomanias, are not as high as those in Bipolar I (manias). Bipolar II disorder is sometimes misdiagnosed as major depression if hypomanic episodes go unrecognized. If you have recurring depressions that go away periodically and then return, it could be Bipolar II.” DBSA.com

I told my new doctor that I knew what Bipolar 1 meant because I had family members with it and I wasn’t like that. I didn’t have that particular brand of “crazy.” Bipolar 2 was different. My doctor explained more and put me on the right medications. He told me that it was the cause of my irrational anxiety, ability to be more social than usual, having periods of being very energetic, being very quick to anger, having racing thoughts to the point of not being able to sleep without medication, being easily distracted, even the periods of being intensely creative and having this driving need to do something and feel accomplished. Then the crippling depression that settles in and doesn’t want to leave. I had been more depressed since ScrapFest ended, since the move, since the hysterectomy that felt like a loss somehow, even though it was a good loss – it felt like what made me a woman was gone, even though my pain was gone. I had periods of depression after losing weight when people said what they thought were nice things. I was depressed that my everyday crew of friends was now five hours away. And I was depressed after gaining back a little weight (even though I was definitely told I would) when I had the hysterectomy. To me, this was all loss. It all represented failure. My failure. And a diagnosis that wasn’t just regular old depression. A real diagnosis. A diagnosis of a disorder that could be genetic, that I could pass on to my wonderful spirited children.

So, I was 40 and I lived in Texas and I was Bipolar 2 Electric Boogaloo and I still felt much the same. I had the same sense of loss. And then one day in November my dad called to say my favorite aunt on his side passed away in her sleep. She was way too young to be gone. My heart broke for my dad and my cousin Teresa and Uncle Jerry. The next day Scott’s grandfather died and we made what I secretly called “Louisiana Funeral Tour 2015” from Humble to Shreveport to Union Springs to Metairie and back to Humble. It was a whirlwind of emotion. My kids had attended their first funerals. And then it was Thanksgiving. And then it was Christmas. There was no Faler Family Christmas Party last year after Scott’s grandfather passed away. The kids had the flu and couldn’t make the trip in to Mandeville for Scott’s mom’s Christmas party. Scott went in and delivered gifts and brought back gifts. We had Christmas here in our house for the first time and decided we would always have Christmas day in our house. And we spent New Year’s in our house, watching the neighborhood fireworks.

The first six months of this year went by and we adjusted to Texas. Well, I tried my best. I really did. I purposely didn’t join the PTA. I didn’t volunteer at school. I didn’t volunteer period. I went to Scrap Dat last spring. I refinished and painted a bunch of furniture when I had hypomanic episodes. I designed Will’s new album cover and all. Then I wouldn’t be able to leave the house. I wouldn’t be able to go to church. I would cancel a trip to Shreveport that I had been looking forward to. I was on the right medication and I thought I felt better, but I wasn’t better. I had the medication, but I didn’t have the coping skills. I wasn’t coping.

imageIt was July and I turned 41. Within three months I would be in a mental hospital.

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