Talking to Carrie Fisher

Probably more than any self-help book, article, or therapist, Carrie Fisher helped me to understand mental illness and specifically our shared mental illness, Bipolar Disorder. Although I’m Type 2: Electric Boogaloo and she was Type 1: A New Hope.

It was her books that inspired me in the way that I deal with my illness. She was and is an inspiration to me. She was the only person who put the illness into words that made sense – that weren’t clinical, besides faceless bloggers (like me) who write about their experiences. It was different to read about how one of my heroes (on screen and in the written word) handled her illness. The openness was refreshing and scary. Those words can describe Bipolar Disorder pretty well, actually.

Carrie Fisher was first diagnosed at 24, or at least in interviews she said a doctor tried to diagnose her, but she was doing drugs at the time and addicts can’t be properly diagnosed when they’re using. Then, at 29, when she was sober, she was officially diagnosed. I wasn’t properly diagnosed until I was 39. I can’t imagine how different my life might have been if a psychiatrist would have diagnosed me almost 10 years earlier when I first saw a psychiatrist. But then again, Carrie Fisher was diagnosed and treated, and died of “sleep apnea with other factors” last year. Her daughter, Billie Lourd stated, “My mom battled drug addiction and mental illness her entire life. She ultimately died of it. She was purposefully open in all of her work about the social stigmas surrounding these diseases.”

It’s the stigma versus the truth I’ve been writing about for the past few years. Most people assumed and still assume Carrie Fisher committed suicide or died from a drug overdose. And yes, drugs may have played a part in her death because drugs were found in her system.

When her autopsy was finally made available I was relieved it wasn’t suicide. Not because she wasn’t a hero of mine. Because after I was diagnosed as Bipolar I did what I do when I get any diagnosis or start any new medication: I Googled the shit out of it. I read everything I could find on it because I didn’t want to be the Bipolar You Know — the split screen picture of a woman who looks like hell and the same woman who is dancing on a table? Or those stupid drama/comedy masks? For the love of Fisher, they show up when you Google “Bipolar.” God, I hate those. Or Claire Danes in Homeland? Usually in the first paragraphs of articles about Bipolar you read a sentence like this: the suicide rate in Bipolar individuals is about 30 times higher than than that of the general population. Go, us! “Have a good day, honey! Try to be in that 70%!”

That’s a scary statistic. And it’s scary. Especially since I was in the 1% who had the worst reaction to a drug a few months ago. Why can’t I be in a good percentage? Like the extremely wealthy 1%?

Despite addiction and being Bipolar, Carrie Fisher had one hell of a career as an actor and an author. Star Wars was the first movie I saw as a three year old. I didn’t come to understand it until many years later, but I knew I loved Princess Leia. Then I loved her as Marie in When Harry Met Sally. “Someone’s staring at you in Personal Growth.” Then I delved into her novels. I read Postcards From the Edge and Surrender the Pink in high school and soaked them in. Even though I had no experience with drugs or the adult themes. In just the past few years I’ve read or listened on Audible to her biographies, and that’s when I got to know Carrie Fisher, the woman and the mentally ill woman. She writes about it with complete honesty, which I truly admire. Total transparency. It was what I needed to hear. She was my aunt who had been there and authenticated my thoughts and experiences.

An interviewer asked a good question to Carrie Fisher:
Q: What is it like to plan your life, and career, around mental illness?

A: I don’t. You cross your fingers and hope you don’t get gobsmacked by it in the middle of something.

And that’s the thing – being gobsmacked in the middle of something. Because we’re always in the middle of something. Bipolar Disorder is a one-two punch of a disorder. I can think I’m fine and that nothing is wrong – and nothing seems wrong – but friends can tell when I’m talking fast or over reacting. That’s the hypomanic part of my illness. I hate the racing thoughts.
I need to write this down right now because if I don’t I’m going to forget to tell Dana this story. Remember to get red spray paint, but not the gloss, get the matte. Download that book about who really wrote Shakespeare. Crap. I forgot the name of the book. I need to do a canvas of “God Only Knows.” Did I order a new Macbook Pro cord? Must order cord. Did I take my Lithium? Does Andrew have practice today? I need to make a hair appointment. I’m just going to get my layers trimmed. Maybe a Pixie cut. Yeah, I liked it when I had one. But I was going to keep my length. Maybe just a couple of inches. The salon is by Old Navy and I should get Molly new jeans. I don’t want to go in there, I can just order jeans. But what size is she? I have to take the dog out.
So, maybe I am crazy. What kind of person takes her dog outside and screams “STOP IT! THAT’S ENOUGH!” in their nightie from her patio to neighbors who are setting off fireworks in the middle of August then bursts into tears upon re-entering her house? That’s not normal. Nothing I do is normal. Normal is a place that doesn’t exist. The parts of being hypomanic are fantastic and scary. I enjoy the hell out of things. I get angry on the verge of rage at other times, sometimes it’s something to be legitimately angry about, sometimes not, but usually not deserving of the depth of anger I have. I play a song over and over dozens of times because of how it makes me feel. I’m quick to make Notes in my iPhone because I know I’ll forget the thought in 10 minutes, 10 seconds. The next day I’ll have no idea what the notes mean.

Current Notes:

House – Learn to Live With What You Are
BenFolds5
Murder Book
Words on Podcasts
This is what happiness looks like in your brain
Hilarious World of Depression
Beck
Indigo Girls
Coffeespoons
2-55-0

I have no idea what any of those Notes are in reference to. No idea. But they were important enough in the moment to write down. Many of them are written during my racing thoughts as I’m going to bed. With my illness, during hypomania, I can’t hold onto a thought longer than your intelligent goldfish. That’s why I make notes. Or I ask friends or my kids to remind me to do something or to tell them something later. I obsessively check my texts as if I’m waiting for Publisher’s Clearinghouse to contact me. Sometimes I’m burdened with so many thoughts at once that I’m almost comatose on the sofa because I don’t know what to do first. Or I can’t remember what I was going to do. All day. A positive thing of hypomania is that my creativity knows no bounds. I write, I paint, I do typography, I paint furniture, I decorate, I make up witty quips for future use (not that I’ll remember what they’re for), I read everything I can get my hands on and Google the shit out of everything that crosses my mind. The second worst part of hypomania (the first being racing thoughts) is over thinking. Even more than the impulsivity, the over thinking is a killer. And the fear that the part of my illness that makes me productive will stop and the fear of depression.

Depression just sucks you into a dark place from everyone and everything you love. That’s all there is to it.

That’s my interpretation of being gobsmacked. I’ve never used the word “gobsmacked” in a blog post and look, I’ve used it three times. No cocktail of meds I’ve tried in the three years since I’ve been diagnosed have worked completely. But I wouldn’t expect that. Mental illness is a plug and play. Throw this at the wall and see if it sticks. Try a little of this, a little of that, increase the dosage on this, cut back on that. It’s far from an exact science and I know I’ll never be fine.

Not to take away from my sister-in-illness, Carrie Fisher, but in the Miami New Times in 2015, Adam Duritz said about his illness, “A few years after that, I realized I probably wasn’t ever going to be fine.When you have something wrong with you, you want to get better. You get strep throat and you expect an antibiotic to be healthy again. A lot of things in life work that way, but not everything does. That was a hard realization.” That’s kind of how I expected my medication cocktail to work, make me better and have no symptoms. What I learned it that it’s more like asthma, which I also have because of course I do. If you have asthma, you take a preventative everyday, but carry a rescue inhaler in case you have a flare up or an asthma attack. Asthmatics know their triggers. Mine are smoke, most perfumes/colognes, extreme cold, fresh cut grass, flowers, dust, etc. But that’s why you carry a rescue inhaler. That’s the difference between most illnesses and mental illness, there is no rescue inhaler – no nitroglycerine, no hydrocortisone, no adrenaline, no atropine (yes, I went to the Grey’s Anatomy/ER Medical School).

In his post-Carrie Fisher divorce album, Paul Simon wrote the song “Allergies,” containing a little gem of a lyric, “From what I can see of the people like me/We get better/But we never get well.” I think Carrie would definitely agree, after all, she was married to the man. And the album was about her.

So, Dear Reader, this was my love letter to Carrie Fisher. I’ve quite literally been working on it since January. And until today I quite literally could not get through a paragraph without tears. Her death made me incredibly sad; what I learned from her words while she lived makes me incredibly grateful. And it’s that gratefulness that will get me through that last book on Audible. Hearing her words spoken by her in my ear. I’m not going to be cliche and say “an angel from heaven,” because I hate that stuff, but definitely a brilliant woman who had brilliant things to say and to write and whose words have helped me in times when I needed them. And she also rose from Princess to General. And that’s pretty fantastic.

Typewritten 

img_1660

The Lost Andy Warhol Love Boat Episode 

I’ve been looking for this episode of The Love Boat with Andy Warhol (where he utters maybe 20 words) for two years. No, I have no life and yes, I have weird interests. 

And here it is — in it’s entirety!

And Another Thing

Wile E. Coyote was always ordering and trying to drop anvils on the Road Runner. I’ve looked up anvils — they’re expensive. Plus, they’re not eligible for Amazon Prime for shipping, so that’s out. Where did Wile E. get the money for them. Did he have a job? A hefty inheritance? Anyway — back to the anvil. Even if I could afford an anvil, they’re too heavy to pick up to drop on someone. Yes, I’ve thought this through. Even if I could get a rope around one (and I couldn’t), I’d have to get some kind of wench to hoist it up. These costs are getting out of hand. And I don’t know if my Explorer could handle the weight because I’m going to need to transport that thing. Not that I have plans or anything. 

I hope my psychiatrist isn’t reading this. 

I’m tired of all the spokesowls and spokescows in commercials. There are spokesowls in at least three commercials currently running and four with spokescows. Listen, I don’t need an animated cow to tell me what cheese to buy. And don’t get me started on those damn Charmin bears. 

People who have a last name that could be a first name are sketchy. You know what I’m talking about. I was watching something just now and a man’s name was John Christopher. I don’t trust you, John Christopher. You’re probably in the witness protection program. 

I have no tolerance for body icky body function humor. You’re not 12, you have a huge ass beard, and your kids are twelve — grow up. 

Someone has to say it — the huge ass beards have to go. I’m not even sorry. I don’t care who you are, what your background is, or what your profession is. Unless you are a lumberjack or you are actually Grizzly Adams, shave that mess off. There are critters growing in there. Nicely trimmed beards, goatees, and impeccably perfected mustachioed men: I am not talking to you. I’m talking to the unkept full face beards and the long beards that rest on a man’s chest. Stop it. You are not a lumberjack or a pirate. 

I’m half clairvoyant, half Nancy Drew. That means I can sense things and then I can figure out what the hell is going on. I have my ways and I’m practically impossible to fool. Friends didn’t nickname me Nancy Drew for nothing. 

For fun I like to refinish furniture into shabby chic pieces. I’m currently looking for a super cheap long dresser/buffet/credenza for my living room to use as a tv stand/entertainment center. I’m on several sites where people sell things and I’ve noticed a ton of people call their pieces “antique.” No, your 1975 dresser with a broken drawer and missing hardware is not antique and no one will pay $100 for it. 

Would it be weird if I got rid of our dining room table and put in an air hockey table? We would get more use out of that. Plus, I can smoke just about anyone at air hockey and there aren’t many sports (yes, I’m calling it a sport) I’m good at. Except for badminton, which we all know Tory and I came in second at the intramural championships. I have the tshirt. 

If you drive a classic Corvette and you have the little sticker stick people on your window, I should be able to pull you over, put you under citizen’s arrest, and seize your car. 

TV chef prople: stop saying “I’m going to build this cocktail” or “I’m going to build this spring roll.” You’re not making it from Legos or actual bricks. 

My son had a football scrimmage yesterday afternoon. I made it 20 minutes outside before the Irish in me said “ya garsh darn fool, get ya inside inside before ya burn to a crisp!” No, I’m not schizophrenic (that’s not my brand of mental illness), it was a joke. Anyway, the heat index was 1042°, so I went to my car — but not before noticing that a coach on the other team was wearing an Urban Sombrero. 

Dear Readers, 

I need to write. More than ever. I have things to say — whether they’re ridiculous poets like this or something more serious. 

As always, thanks for reading. Y’all rock. 

So, Here We Go Again

Hello Dear Readers,

Four months (or so) ago I had a severe reaction to a migraine preventative my neurologist put me on. I wrote about it on this very blog. Since then I’ve had headaches and migraines several times per week. Much more often than I talk about or post to Facebook or even tell my family because it must get a little old, right? Hearing about the pain someone is in every other day? I get tired of talking about it, so my family and friends have to get tired of hearing it. 

The thing about migraines is it’s not just your head — it’s everything, your whole body — and you never know how long it’s going to last or if your medication will stop it. That’s probably my favorite part. 

No, wait — not being able to have a normal life is my favorite part!

And so, my neurologist put me on something else, which is like “hey, let’s take a shot in the dark and play with your brain!” And if this doesn’t work my next step is Botox in my head. 31 injections over almost my whole head and back of my neck. I know what you’re thinking, “lucky girl — I wish I could have Botox in my temples to get rid of those wrinkles in my scalp!” 

And so, I’m trying a new drug, a calcium channel blocker, which is a blood pressure drug that can work for migraines. I made the mistake of looking up all the information about it so I can have massive anxiety about it. And sure enough, anxiety took over when I saw the first COMMON SIDE EFFECT: heart failure. Thank God, because of all the things to die of, heart failure seems quicker than other things. And I’m not really using my heart anyway. 

Another side effect — headache. Because yeah, why not? Pile ’em up! I can take on a few more a week. I’m not doing anything on Tuesdays. 

I’d love to postulate more on the subject but I have a headache. More late. Or not if I go into heart failure. We’ll see. 

Learn To Live With What You Are

 

Longtime readers know that I write about music quite often. I’ve told this story years ago on this very blog at some point in the 14 years of its existence. I’ve loved music since I was very young. I bought my first record at Hastings Records in St. Vincent Mall (at least I believe it was Hastings at that time) in 1982. It was “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. I was 6.

 

I was in a mall when I heard a Beatles song for the first time. It was “Norwegian Wood.” I had to ask my mom what it was. That day changed my world.

 

Years later I found post-punk and new wave and found solace in songs like “Ghost in You” by The Psychedelic Furs and the amazing Rave-Ups song “Positively Lost Me,” which is just as fantastic and resonating as it was in 1986. And I would be remiss without mentioning “Being Boring” by my Pet Shop Boys with their quote from Zelda Fitzgerald, whom I’ve felt a connection with from the first paragraph of Save Me The Waltz, among the obvious connection my reader will know.

 

In college I fell in love with Counting Crows and Ben Folds. Both write as though they’re writing my life. My feelings. My history. “Learn to Live with What You Are” came out on Supersunnyspeedgrapic” in 2006 and the first time I heard it I wept. It still gets me. Every time.

 

I’m posting “Learn to Live With What You Are” by Ben Folds today. Because. Lyrics first, then video.

 

As always, thank you Dear Reader for following my nonsense.

 

“Learn To Live With What You Are”

I know that you’re in there
I can see you
You’re saying you’re ok
I don’t believe you

 

And now that the gig is off
The spell is broken
The fat lady sung
The president has spoken

 

These days that you were waiting for
Will come and go
Like any day
Just another day

 

There’s never gonna be a moment of truth for you
While the world is watching
All you need is the thing you forgotten
And that’s to learn to live with what you are

 

So freak out if you wanna
And I’ll still be here
Don’t call me for years and when you do
Yeah, I’ll still be here

 

I’m not saying the effort is a waste of time – but I
Just love you for the things you couldn’t change
Though you’ve tried
These hours of confusion they will soon expire
Like everything
Does

 

Sometimes
Everything you’ve ever wanted
Floats above
He’s sticking out his tongue and laughing
While everything
Anyone can ever need
Is down below
Waiting for you
To know this
There’s never gonna be a moment of truth for you
While the world is watching
All you need is the thing you’ve forgotten
And that’s to learn to live with what you are

 

You got to learn to live with what you
You got to learn to live with what you
Are

 

My hair is no longer curly and other things that bother me

 My hair is no longer curly. My hair has been curly since puberty. Very curly. If you’ve been reading for a few minutes you know this. After my first child was born in 2001: A Baby Odyssey, my hair turned from red to a medium beige-ish — which is a noncolor. It’s not a color. I’ve colored it ever since. My current color being Carrera Red. Several stylists and ob/gyns have said it’s due to hormone changes. Back to the curly thing. A couple of months ago my hair would go from curly in the morning to a little curly in the evening. Now it starts out barely curly in the morning and is barely wavy in the afternoon. I guess I’ll save money on all those curly hair products. 

I’ve been listening to a bunch of podcasts over the last few months, mainly true crime. I have my favorites and I’m pretty close to dropping one because one of hosts pronounces “picture” as “pitcher.” Yes, that’s enough to set me off. 

Band names these days have dumb names. If I were to start a cover band (and don’t think I haven’t thought of it — Dana and I have at least 120 band names at the ready and errrybody knows that’s all you need), “Go Your Own Way” is the first song I’d put in my repertoire. No lie. 

Stop saying “I love my tribe/they are part of my tribe.” You are not a Native American, you are in a mall at Cinnabon in Dallas. 

I watch a show on Food Network called “Chopped.” one of the dozens of shows I watch on that channel. One cheftestant was named Sammy Davis, Jr. but he wasn’t THE Sammy Davis, Jr. THE Sammy Davis, Jr. is dead, so of course he’s not on “Chopped.” Chef Sammy Davis Jr. should have to put “*not related” on the show’s chyrons. Now, I’ve looked him up and his reviews are fantastic — who wants to go with me to Maryland to eat at his restaurant? With any luck, his restaurant sells shirts that say “Sammy Davis, Jr*  made my dinner! *not related. 

If you ever appear on a reality show, don’t say “you haven’t seen the last of me” because yes, we just did. 

If you are ever on a reality show don’t say “I’m not here to make friends” unless you mean it. Because I am literally never anywhere to make friends because I have exactly enough friends. 

My new lipstick says to exfoliate my lips before wearing. Now I have to exfoliate my lips? With what? Can it be the sugar on the rim of a raspberry margarita? Because thats my kind of exfoliating. 

There was a big email announcement from my daughter’s high school that there were dress code changes. I was hoping the outlawed the big hoodies they all wear. Nope. They are now allowing boys to have trimmed facial hair (gasp!) and boys are allowed to have pierced ears. My old high school principal would die. 

My new dog is afraid of plastic bags. I keep yelling “it’s just a bag!” when someone is using a bag, but she doesn’t know what I’m talking about because she only knows her name and the words no, outside, and come on. I should probably order Hooked on Phonics for Dogs. 

My girls want to go to Hot Topic for back to school tshirt shopping. That shore gives my anxiety anxiety. Also, I don’t remember ever wearing a regular tshirt in high school.  Because I thought I was in Sassy Magazine. 

People, the word is SHERBET, not sherBERT. 

Not to be lewd, but it’s never “hot as balls.” Unless you’re talking about those big red balls we used to play 4-square with if you left it in the sun all day. But you’re not talking about 4-square balls and we all know it. Stop saying that. 

Here’s a big pet peeve: tv shows and websites need to stop calling everything “lifehacks.” Seriously, Today Show woman, they’re melon balls! My 14 year old makes them. It’s not a “watermelon hack.”

Overheard at nice restaurant we went to for my husband’s birthday:

“I’d like the chicken.”

“We don’t have chicken, we have conrnish hens.”

“What are those?”

“They’re like little chickens.”

“Do they taste like chickens?”

“Pretty much.”

“I’ll have two of those.”

Then we went to a certain comedy concert and heard this from the people behind us before the show:

“Awe look, they got buckets’a’beer.”

“I din’ see dem at the bar.”

10 minutes later:

“I’m gonna get me one’a those buckets.”

“Shoot, I’mma go witcha.”

43 Things I Know for Sure

I turned 43 at 8:39 this morning. It’s a weird age. 42 was good. My favorite number. Say it out loud with an accent. Can you beat that? It’s right up there with the word “plethora,” my favorite word. 

So, I’m being reflective. That’s what old people do.  Here are 43 things I know for sure.

  1. Find what you love and do it. 
  2. Make time for people. 
  3. Learn how to dress your body. No excuses. No “I’ll wear BLANK what I lose 15 lbs/my arms are too fat for sleeveless/I don’t look good in red.” Screw that shit. 
  4. You’re not too old to start something. Like Michael Jackson said, “gonna be startin’ somethin’.”
  5. Don’t tolerate punk-ass bitches. Life is too short for them. 
  6. Have a signature dish. Lasagna, risotto, lettuce wraps, a soufflé. 
  7. If you’re a woman, you can wear red lipstick. I wear it all the time. People who say they can’t wear red lipstick haven’t found the right red. Go to Sephora or Ulta – they will find your perfect red. 
  8. Get in the picture. Don’t just take the friend/family photos – get in there. No excuses. When you’re gone one day your kids will want to remember that vacation and see pics of you. 
  9. Spend money on quality clothes. It’s better to have a small wardrobe of great clothes than tons of junk clothes you’ll have to throw out in a year. 
  10. Use proper grammar when you should. 
  11. Celebrate stuff!
  12. Dogs are great. Get one. My puppy has helped my anxiety. Seriously. 
  13. Raw tomatoes are gross. 
  14. Clean as you cook. I only learned this a few weeks ago. It’s amazing. 
  15. Fruit baskets are the worst. Don’t send them. Send chocolate or nuts. And don’t ever send me an effing Edible Arrangement. I will throw that shit away. 
  16. Have a signature drink if you drink. If you don’t, don’t feel like you owe people an explanation as to why you don’t. 
  17. Teach your kids about the music you love. 
  18. Play an instrument at least once in your life. 
  19. Louisiana is more than New Orleans. 
  20. Don’t be afraid to be different. 
  21. Board games are the worst. 
  22. Tell them you love them. 
  23. Be your own kind of lady (if you’re a lady). You can be a lady and have tattoos or a pink streak in your hair. 
  24. Say what you mean. 
  25. Sonic is the best thing that ever came out of Oklahoma. 
  26. Learn how to make an omelet. 
  27. Martha Stewart is still my favorite. 
  28. Everything is better than “how skinny feels.”
  29. Get the shoes. 
  30. Don’t be afraid to be the bitch. Some ocassions call for it. 
  31. Accept yourself and learn to love yourself. 
  32. Don’t wait for “the right moment.”
  33. The “tiny house movement” is stupid. 
  34. Never be too proud to ask for advice/help. 
  35. There is never a bad time for queso. 
  36. You’re never too old to quote Clueless or Mean Girls or Pretty in Pink. 
  37. Learn how to type properly. 
  38. Don’t dress older than you are. Gawd. 
  39. There is no excuse for not being up to date on current events. You’re not too busy. You’re not paying attention. 
  40. Get the right size bra. It will change your life, Miss Saggy Boobs. 
  41. Don’t let people take advantage of your good nature. 
  42. Learn how to properly wrap a gift.  The presentation is part of the gift. 
  43. Your birthday is not just another day. It’s important. It’s the anniversary of the day you came into this world and you are the only you that God made. Celebrate the heck out of you in whatever way you want because you are a beautiful individual fucking snowflake. 

We Are Breakable Breakable Breakable Girls and Boys

So (I like to start with “so” because it feels conversational and I like to think of my readers as friends), I’ve been MIA for a while. I didn’t intend to be, but that’s what my brand of mental illness does to me. At times (and for long stretches) it makes things I love like writing and art and makes them nearly impossible or unbearable to do. I’m aware that it’s happening, but I can’t open my laptop. I’m sorry I’ve been away. And no, not “away” as in the hospital this time. But I do have a story.

My psychiatrist has put me on different medications and taken me off medications trying to find the specific cocktail that will work for me. I think we have it right this time because I feel more myself than I have for a while. I could tell I was hypomanic for a good few months. That’s over. The anxiety is still there, but I’m almost convinced that’s a dark passenger that will always be along for the ride. Oh well.

A few months ago I finally got in to see a neurologist who put me on preventative drug for migraines. It’s a medication to be taken everyday, so I did. Four weeks into that medication, as Vivi said in The Ya-Ya Sisterhood, “I dropped my basket.”

I experienced a depression darker than I ever had. I pretended I was ok on the outside, but I spent most of the time in bed. Like Brian Wilson. I was going to bed at 7:30 pm. I wasn’t eating. I didn’t enjoy life anymore. I waited for my psychiatrist appointment which was at the end of that week, where I was sure he would put me in the hospital. Everything made me cry. I talked about suicide a lot. I had a plan. A perfect plan. I was convinced I had nothing and no one. Entering my psychiatrist’s office I started crying. I told him everything I was feeling; he typed away on his laptop and went through the list of my medications. After 30 minutes he said I had to wean myself off of the migraine drug over the weekend and to call my neurologist because I was having a severe reaction. It turned out I was in the 1% that had the rarest reaction of suicide ideation, which is what you want when you have the psychiatric history that I have. I cannot express how miserable I was. It was dark. Breakable, like the Ingrid Michaelson song. Dying from the inside out. Not feeling human anymore. Not feeling anything.

And so I started to wean myself off of the medication and just threw it away by that Sunday night. Coming off of it was super weird. Talk about not being myself. I was super chatty and sleepy and felt tipsy for four days. That Sunday at church my husband kept shushing me because I was talking to him throughout the service at my usual voice volume, but I thought I was whispering. My apologies to the people sitting around us. Actually, my apologies every week to the people sitting around us. My memory was bad. My balance was off. I didn’t feel fully awake. It took a full four or five days to get back to my normal, but I wasn’t suicidal or even depressed.

On Friday I went back to my psychiatrist. That’s me in the photo and that’s how I usually sit. Yes, it’s a sofa, but as often portrayed in comic strips, one doesn’t lie down in the psychiatrist’s office. It’s a relatively short visit. It isn’t therapy, it’s to identify illness and treat it. So, I come in, drop my purse on the sofa and plop down with my feet up — always. I don’t know why. That’s how I sit at home and I’m pretty at home with my psychiatrist since I’ve been seeing him for three years. This time was a little different. He asked me how I was doing as he always does, but this time we went over the visit from last month. I told him I was in a completely different place and confessed that I was convinced he was going to have me admitted to the hospital before. He told me he thought about it, but thought it would make me worse in the short term. Then he said “man, you were bumming ME out.” I laughed. If you have a psychiatrist and he/she doesn’t have a sense of humor then you need to get a new one; but you can’t have mine. Then he read some of the things I said. I wanted to use the When Harry Met Sally quote, “no one’s ever quoted Me back to Me before!” but I didn’t. It was surreal. The person he was quoting wasn’t me. I didn’t recognize that person.

It’s been a month and I can say that you should definitely read all the side effects when you begin a new medication. I only know one friend who was in a 1% rare side effect situation before, but it definitely happens. I’m proof. And my psychiatrist saved my life by spotting it.

Thank you, unnamed shrink, who for funnsies I will call Dr. Bi-Polar for Dummies because he has that book on his bookshelf. Again, no, you cannot have my psychiatrist.

Talking to Carrie Fisher

Probably more than any self-help book, article, or therapist, Carrie Fisher helped me to understand mental illness and specifically our shared mental illness, Bipolar Disorder. Although I’m Type 2: Electric Boogaloo and she was Type 1: A New Hope.

carrie.jpegIt was her books that inspired me in the way that I deal with my illness. She was and is an inspiration to me. She was the only person who put the illness into words that made sense – that weren’t clinical, besides faceless bloggers (like me) who write about their experiences. It was different to read about how one of my heroes (on screen and in the written word) handled her illness. The openness was refreshing and scary. Those words can describe Bipolar Disorder pretty well, actually.

Carrie Fisher was first diagnosed at 24, or at least in interviews she said a doctor tried to diagnose her, but she was doing drugs at the time and addicts can’t be properly diagnosed when they’re using. Then, at 29, when she was sober, she was officially diagnosed. I wasn’t properly diagnosed until I was 39. I can’t imagine how different my life might have been if a psychiatrist would have diagnosed me almost 10 years earlier when I first saw a psychiatrist. But then again, Carrie Fisher was diagnosed and treated, and died of “sleep apnea with other factors” last year. Her daughter, Billie Lourd stated, “My mom battled drug addiction and mental illness her entire life. She ultimately died of it. She was purposefully open in all of her work about the social stigmas surrounding these diseases.”

It’s the stigma versus the truth I’ve been writing about for the past few years. Most people assumed and still assume Carrie Fisher committed suicide or died from a drug overdose. And yes, drugs may have played a part in her death because drugs were found in her system.

When her autopsy was finally made available I was relieved it wasn’t suicide. Not because she wasn’t a hero of mine. Because after I was diagnosed as Bipolar I did what I do when I get any diagnosis or start any new medication: I Googled the shit out of it. I read everything I could find on it because I didn’t want to be the Bipolar You Know — the split screen picture of a woman who looks like hell and the same woman who is dancing on a table? Or those stupid drama/comedy masks? For the love of Fisher, they show up when you Google “Bipolar.” God, I hate those. Or Claire Danes in Homeland? Usually in the first paragraphs of articles about Bipolar you read a sentence like this: the suicide rate in Bipolar individuals is about 30 times higher than than that of the general population. Go, us! “Have a good day, honey! Try to be in that 70%!”

That’s a scary statistic. And it’s scary. Especially since I was in the 1% who had the worst reaction to a drug a few months ago. Why can’t I be in a good percentage? Like the extremely wealthy 1%?

Despite addiction and being Bipolar, Carrie Fisher had one hell of a career as an actor and an author. Star Wars was the first movie I saw as a three year old. I didn’t come to understand it until many years later, but I knew I loved Princess Leia. Then I loved her as Marie in When Harry Met Sally. “Someone’s staring at you in Personal Growth.” Then I delved into her novels. I read Postcards From the Edge and Surrender the Pink in high school and soaked them in. Even though I had no experience with drugs or the adult themes.  In just the past few years I’ve read or listened on Audible to her biographies, and that’s when I got to know Carrie Fisher, the woman and the mentally ill woman. She writes about it with complete honesty, which I truly admire. Total transparency. It was what I needed to hear. She was my aunt who had been there and authenticated my thoughts and experiences.

An interviewer asked a good question to Carrie Fisher:

Q: What is it like to plan your life, and career, around mental illness?
A: I don’t. You cross your fingers and hope you don’t get gobsmacked by it in the middle of something.

And that’s the thing – being gobsmacked in the middle of something. Because we’re always in the middle of something. Bipolar Disorder is a one-two punch of a disorder. I can think I’m fine and that nothing is wrong – and nothing seems wrong – but friends can tell when I’m talking fast or over reacting. That’s the hypomanic part of my illness. I hate the racing thoughts.

I need to write this down right now because if I don’t I’m going to forget to tell Dana this story. Remember to get red spray paint, but not the gloss, get the matte. Download that book about who really wrote Shakespeare. Crap. I forgot the name of the book. I need to do a canvas of “God Only Knows.” Did I order a new Macbook Pro cord? Must order cord. Did I take my Lithium? Does Andrew have practice today? I need to make a hair appointment. I’m just going to get my layers trimmed. Maybe a Pixie cut. Yeah, I liked it when I had one. But I was going to keep my length. Maybe just a couple of inches. The salon is by Old Navy and I should get Molly new jeans. I don’t want to go in there, I can just order jeans. But what size is she? I have to take the dog out. 

So, maybe I am crazy. What kind of person takes her dog outside and screams “STOP IT! THAT’S ENOUGH!” in their nightie from her patio to neighbors who are setting off fireworks in the middle of August then bursts into tears upon re-entering her house? That’s not normal. Nothing I do is normal. Normal is a place that doesn’t exist. The parts of being hypomanic are fantastic and scary. I enjoy the hell out of things. I get angry on the verge of rage at other times, sometimes it’s something to be legitimately angry about, sometimes not, but usually not deserving of the depth of anger I have. I play a song over and over dozens of times because of how it makes me feel. I’m quick to make Notes in my iPhone because I know I’ll forget the thought in 10 minutes, 10 seconds. The next day I’ll have no idea what the notes mean.

Current Notes:

House – Learn to Live With What You Are

BenFolds5

Murder Book

Words on Podcasts

This is what happiness looks like in your brain

Hilarious World of Depression

Beck

Indigo Girls

Coffeespoons

2-55-0

I have no idea what any of those Notes are in reference to. No idea. But they were important enough in the moment to write down. Many of them are written during my racing thoughts as I’m going to bed. With my illness, during hypomania, I can’t hold onto a thought longer than your intelligent goldfish. That’s why I make notes. Or I ask friends or my kids to remind me to do something or to tell them something later. I obsessively check my texts as if I’m waiting for Publisher’s Clearinghouse to contact me. Sometimes I’m burdened with so many thoughts at once that I’m almost comatose on the sofa because I don’t know what to do first. Or I can’t remember what I was going to do. All day. A positive thing of hypomania is that my creativity knows no bounds. I write, I paint, I do typography, I paint furniture, I decorate, I make up witty quips for future use (not that I’ll remember what they’re for), I read everything I can get my hands on and Google the shit out of everything that crosses my mind. The second worst part of hypomania (the first being racing thoughts) is over thinking. Even more than the impulsivity, the over thinking is a killer. And the fear that the part of my illness that makes me productive will stop and the fear of depression.

Depression just sucks you into a dark place from everyone and everything you love. That’s all there is to it.

That’s my interpretation of being gobsmacked. I’ve never used the word “gobsmacked” in a blog post and look, I’ve used it three times. No cocktail of meds I’ve tried in the three years since I’ve been diagnosed have worked completely. But I wouldn’t expect that. Mental illness is a plug and play. Throw this at the wall and see if it sticks. Try a little of this, a little of that, increase the dosage on this, cut back on that. It’s far from an exact science and I know I’ll never be fine.

Not to take away from my sister-in-illness, Carrie Fisher, but in the Miami New Times in 2015, Adam Duritz said about his illness, “A few years after that, I realized I probably wasn’t ever going to be fine.When you have something wrong with you, you want to get better. You get strep throat and you expect an antibiotic to be healthy again. A lot of things in life work that way, but not everything does. That was a hard realization.” That’s kind of how I expected my medication cocktail to work, make me better and have no symptoms. What I learned it that it’s more like asthma, which I also have because of course I do. If you have asthma, you take a preventative everyday, but carry a rescue inhaler in case you have a flare up or an asthma attack. Asthmatics know their triggers. Mine are smoke, most perfumes/colognes, extreme cold, fresh cut grass, flowers, dust, etc. But that’s why you carry a rescue inhaler. That’s the difference between most illnesses and mental illness, there is no rescue inhaler – no nitroglycerine, no hydrocortisone, no adrenaline, no atropine (yes, I went to the Grey’s Anatomy/ER Medical School).

In his post-Carrie Fisher divorce album, Paul Simon wrote the song “Allergies,” containing a little gem of a lyric, “From what I can see of the people like me/We get better/But we never get well.” I think Carrie would definitely agree, after all, she was married to the man. And the album was about her.

So, Dear Reader, this was my love letter to Carrie Fisher. I’ve quite literally been working on it since January. And until today I quite literally could not get through a paragraph without tears. Her death made me incredibly sad; what I learned from her words while she lived makes me incredibly grateful. And it’s that gratefulness that will get me through that last book on Audible. Hearing her words spoken by her in my ear. I’m not going to be cliche and say “an angel from heaven,” because I hate that stuff, but definitely a brilliant woman who had brilliant things to say and to write and whose words have helped me in times when I needed them. And she also rose from Princess to General. And that’s pretty fantastic.