Monday, April 25, 2005

Courting Success

When a 20-year-old bipolar guy gets sent to court in Alabama, he might not face the same consequences as his non-bipolar counterpart. This is due to the actions of what some may call "activist judges" who think that those clearly suffering from a mental illness that impairs their ability to make reasonable judgements should be put on a regimen of therapy, medication and supervision.

Apparently, the system is working pretty well, as even the ill can see that they are getting a good deal. The program is only designed for non-violent, non-sex offenders. And, the consequence of noncompliance is jail time.

While I like the idea of a separate system of punishment for those who suffer from mental illness, the practice makes me somewhat uncomfortable. If I break into a store, why should I get a "softer" sentence than Brendan if he committed the same action? I suppose courts exist to discern the significant differences behind people's motivation for crime and bad behavior. It is different to break into someone's house because you want to steal their stuff and to break into someone's house because you think it's your own and you lost your keys.

Of course, that doesn't mean that mentally ill folk aren't capable of doing extremely dumb things. But their culpability is fuzzy; they are culpable, no doubt, but are they as culpable as the next guy?

This reminds me of a case in San Diego where the cops were involved in a high speed chase that resulted in the death of three innocent travelers who just happened to be from the Phoenix area. It was a big news story because the boy in the car lost his father and his fiance and his mother was critically injured; the family didn't have enough money to bring the bodies back from San Diego and there was a big fundraising effort that ended when some businessman anonymously donated all of the money necessary.

Anyway, this was a truly tragic story, but what was more tragic is that the woman running from police was not running drugs or trying to hide some horrible felony. She was psychotic and convinced that the police were going to kill her. This particular case was made all the more upsetting because the woman had been unsuccessfully appealing to the state to maintain her medical aid.

Regardless, does this clearly ill individual deserve the same punishment as some smarmy drug runner motivated by greed and street status? I certainly don't think so, and I think that's exactly why we have courts to suss out the underlying factors in crime.

And yet, I don't think there are many criminals who wouldn't benefit from therapy and intense supervision without the jail time.

Ugh. Sometimes I'm very happy that I don't make public policy.


Saturday, April 23, 2005

A Saturday Snowstorm

We need not mention that it's Saturday, it's snowing and it's the end of April. Nope. We're not going to say a word about that.

Life has been trudging along for the past few weeks and I suppose I should be thankful that my moods have been comfortably stable. While I have been tired, I've also had moments of normality...or what I think normality would be like. Sure, I've been trying new meds to inspire wakefulness, and we all know how wonderful going on and coming off of medications can be for moods. And yet, I've been stable. And I like it.

For the first time in years, I'm starting to think about achieving things other than a modicum of mental stability. I've had the opportunity to think about religion in a deeper way than the "why me?" whirlpool I get stuck in when my moods are off kilter. My faith has been sorely tested throughout this whole ordeal and there was definitely a time when I figured that God was some sadistic jerk poking us like little voodoo dolls. I was very angry. I still am sometimes, but I like the basic message of the church quite a bit. Be of service and love people. I can do that.

The problem with feeling slightly better than I've felt in a long time is that I don't know what to do about it. Before I started having serious problems with bipolar, I was very involved in the community and excited about my coursework at school. Now, I have a dilemma about how to live my life.

Do I slowly build up my goals and ambitions in number and expansiveness or do I let sleeping kittens lie and coast in the anticipation of another bout of moodiness shredding my life once more? The fact is, if I start a bunch of projects and fuck them up because of a bipolar snap, I'm going to feel like a total jerk.

I'm both nervous and excited for the next few months here. Brendan and I will both be working, so we'll have some money to put into savings. We'll be able to take day trips on the weekends...maybe even take Robbie to the sandy lake shore so he can run around. Maybe I'll put the mini harness on the cats and let them walk around outside a little bit. Ahhh. I love the summer.

I did make my first mini-commitment today actually. After I made a trip out to my favorite saltwater fish shop to buy some snails for my tank, I stopped by PetSmart and signed a volunteer application to work with a local animal rescue. I think I'll probably volunteer for one night a week, from something like 6-8pm. I'm curious to see how the cats tolerate a shelter environment and to help everyone get adopted if we can. Maybe I'll drag Brendan along sometime and he can take some pictures of the cats for the adoption website.

Besides, I think getting out of the house and chatting with some people who aren't affiliated with Notre Dame would be good for me. Not that Notre Dame is evil, but there's more to this town than the university...maybe.

Anyway, despite my best efforts to take things slowly, I'm sure that I'll quickly over-commit myself and end up feeling frazzled. Oy.


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Like falling on your ass in a puddle

I'm moderately frustrated today, I confess, mostly due to the fact that the internet is being horribly cruel to me. Who knew it would be so difficult to find a gyno with a sub-specialty in endocrinology?

That's a trick question, of course. The fact is, there are reproductive endocrinologists, but that ridiculously long title is code for "infertility specialist." Now, I'm not looking to become fertile or to get IFV or any of the other assortment of bizarre procedures these poor couples pay for in their quest to get pregnant. I just want to get an annual check-up and figure out something new about my hormonal situation.

It's all because of my ass. See, in medical speak, I have a unique body shape because technically, for as heavy as a am, I should be more flubby around the middle. But alas, God blessed me with lots of hormones that give me a GIANT ass, a small waist and nice tits. All in all, not so bad. Of course, that's not what my shrink thinks.

Although he hasn't shown his whole hand on the issue, I'm thinking that he thinks that a hormonal imbalance may account for my weight gain with lithium (hurray for 30 xtra pounds before ya get married!), and possibly, for some of my sleepiness and mood swings. This naturally makes me want to punch him in the head after eating a bar of chocolate.

At any rate, life has been a bit trying as of late. I suppose everyone goes through periods in their lives that aren't the best and we just have to get through em to find more happiness.

In my case, I really think I should hook up with a sleep clinic and get paid to be a specimen for them. Considering provigil made me even more sleepy and 54 mg of concerta might as well have been a warm glass of milk, I think I'd make a fabulous specimen. I can sleep any time, day or night. I can sleep 18 out of 24 hours in a day upon request.

I'm telling you, being a sleep study subject is my calling. I know I wouldn't be chosen to be in a study like that because of all of the drugs that I take, but dude, I still think that science is missing out on a fabulous opportunity to study "the great sleeping Becky."

I think part of my current urge to doze is caused by the slight, but cold draft coming from the wall of windows behind my desk. It's cold in here, but it's warm under the covers, surrounded by purring kittens and a sleepy Brendan. Ahhh. Could heaven possibly be any better than that?

I suppose another part of my sleep craving is brought about by my hovering mental malaise as of late. Don't get me wrong, I'm not depressed in a "i wanna kill myself" way; nope, I'm depressed in a "everything sucks" kind of way. Brendan can attest to this next thing.

When I get bummed out like this for an extended period, I'll make that superhuman effort to life myself out of the clouds so I can see and feel all the happiness in the world before I bounce back down to life. It's almost like jumping on one of those netted trampolines; if you picture the net as a black wall and yourself as a jumping little kid, if you put enough energy into it, you'll be able to see over the top of the wall for a second, glimpsing the beauty you'll see when the walls come down.

Naturally, after seeing the beauty of it call, the absence of beauty feels all the more painful. This generates the mourning response which typically manifests itself as me crying on Brendan that I'm lonely and I hate South Bend. This self indulgent whining generally subsides after about a half an hour, at which time I tend to sleep because everything will be better after I wake up.

Man, I need a nap.


Monday, April 11, 2005

The lottery

So I've decided that I want to be rich, or maybe not even rich, but I want to have more disposable income, er, uh, any disposable income to buy myself silly things like a protein skimmer for my fish tank! So, I decided that I'm going to win the lottery.

I like buying a lottery ticket. When I do, I sit back and dream about all of the amazingly wonderful things I would do with my millions of dollars. I'm sort of a dork, so I know that I'd probably invest most of it and then live off the interest for awhile. If I did spend it, I would buy a house...a really beautiful house, with a giant aquarium built into one of the walls. It would be fabulous. Truly a work of art.

I would do cool things like use the interest on the money that I'm not using to pay off people's student loans. Wouldn't that be cool? Of course, I suppose all this would depend on my jackpot. Obviously, I can't be an uber philantrophist if I win like $10,000. Of course, that would go a long way toward paying rent.

I think you buy a dream when you buy a lottery ticket. It gives you the chance to escape the daily grind, or if not escape, then at least to buy some nice clothes.

The lottery is a little rollercoaster for me. I always manage to convince myself that there's more than the most infinitesimal chance of winning. I get nervous when I watch the numbers come up and I convince myself that even one number in common with the winning number is a victory!

Then, I get disappointed. I feel cheated out of my imaginary car and house. I get cranky. The winner obviously didn't deserve the money. They'll probably just spend it on a collection of fabrige eggs or something equally horrible.

And then I return to my cynical self and decide that everyone else is stupid because if they weren't stupid, then obviously I would have won the lottery! :)

Then, I pet the cats and all returns to normal.

Sometimes when I need a boost, I buy a lotto ticket.

I could win, right?


Thursday, April 07, 2005

A lil' bit of nature, a lil' bit of nurture

From McMann's newsletter:

A University of Pennsylvania/Vanderbilt University/West Chester University study of 204 patients with moderate to severe major depression has found that 43 percent responded to eight weeks of cognitive therapy vs 50 percent of those on medications and 25 percent on a placebo.

The same group of researchers followed up 104 patients who had responded to treatment over 12 months. They found that those who were taken off cognitive therapy were significantly less likely to relapse than patients withdrawn from meds (30.8 percent vs 76.2 percent) and no more likely to relapse than patients who stayed on meds (30.8 percent vs 47.2 percent).

It seems to me that significant evidence is building to suggest that cognitive behavioral therapy has palpable benefits and should be a part of the mental recovery/maintenance of every psychiatric patient. If only insurance would pay for that!

I wish they would have taught me some CBT methods instead of trigonometry when I was in high school. I've never, not once, used trigonometry in my entire life, nor will I because if I would stumble upon a project requiring it, I would hire someone else to do it for me. But CBT? It would be nice to know more about the techniques and how/why they work.


Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Picture a guitar chord right after it's been plucked--an ample representation of my moods.

Yesterday, I was bawling on Brendan, complaining about everything from our apartment to my job so my extra belly flub. Today, I'm content to be at work. I've been watching my new betta fish, Patriot, swim around his tiny betta cube and his tail swishing movements are hypnotically relaxing.

I don't quite understand where this new wave of instability has come from. I can only hope that it passes soon so that I can get on with doing that thing I do. I miss the days when the students dropped in on me more frequently and I could rib them about the MCAT, a gorilla on the horizon they were all so desperate to ignore. Alas, the MCATs are this weekend and my crop of potential future doctors is hunkering down for some serious studying.

I'm feeling angry with myself today. I feel like I've been running a fantastic race and then I stepped in cement and now I've stopped to try to pick the cement out of my shoe instead of dusting myself off and running some more.

And, I discovered today in the mirror that I have serious back fat. Believe me, no woman wants to look in the mirror and see back fat oozing over the lines of their bra. Not to mention that the shadow of my belly button is visible through this shirt. But it matched my skirt so well. Of course, it's hot today and because I'm wearing a skirt, my thighs are rubbing together and they sweat and stick to one another--supremely uncomfortable. I even did the ole trick of tossing some baby powder on my thighs, to no avail. Ugh. These are the concerns that skinny people never have to think about. But at least I have boobs.

And fish! Despite a rather tenuous financial situation, Brendan and I decided to keep our marine fish tank going. Little by little, we'll add livestock and rock until it looks fantastic, which it already does, but you know what I mean. The most wonderful thing about marine aquariums is that, barring a few necessities, it's actually better to add livestock to them slowly.

Of course, the best thing about it is watching the fish zoom around like little maniacs when the cats come around and start pawing the glass. I was thinking that some day, when I start my cattery (like a cat kennel), I'll put an aquarium in there and write it off on my taxes as a business expense. Well, at least part of it. The cats have to be entertained while they're away from home after all!

This whole emotional volatility thing is slightly worrisome. I'm sure it will pass eventually--or not.

Maybe a girl needs to get all snot-nosed and sobby before she wins the lottery.

hey, you never know.


Monday, April 04, 2005

Stumbling after another day

Right around 4pm, I always get so tired. It's as if my eyelashed gorge themselves at 3pm and settle into a post-prandial daze just as my workday is starting to wind down. Not that it ever particularly winds up, but if it did, I think that by 4pm, I would feel tired and ready to go home and play with my pets.

This exhaustion stays with me for the rest of the night. It's like being covered in gooey vaseline and trying to wipe it off with vaseline covered hands. I'm completely compliant to its will. Naturally, this makes doing regular chores like dishes or making dinner more difficult.

The light and the coming of spring have made me happier, but I still can't shake this supremely tired, lackluster feeling. I suppose my attitude is fatalistic; I trudge to work everday and while I do enjoy my job, I could have done it when I was 11. I need more stimulation and challenge or my brain truly will wither inside my skull, becoming smooth as an undisturbed pond instead of wrinkley, like an old person's smile. I'm sure that I'll look back on this time with regret because I could have done more but didn't.

Alas. I can cope with disappointment. I started a saltwater fish tank and that baby keeps me going through my workday. I've read about corals and filters and water purification. I love this hobby. I can come home, stare at my fish and play with the kittens. There's something amazingly comforting about watching my fish goof around with each other. They are so enchanting.

So off I go, to watch them swim in this little piece of ocean trapped in my living room.