Crazy Train 🚂 part 3- Home-ish (2011)

I would ask total random strangers to look into my eyes and see the flecks. The flecks are magic, I would say.

Continued from Crazy Train Part 2

My husband, Dean flew to Toronto to meet me and take me home to Nova Scotia.   He had arranged for his eldest sister from Newfoundland to come and stay with us for a couple of weeks tohelp out with Leo (again!) while I was sure to be in the hospital and Dean would be running back and forth watching out for me and bringing me what I wanted. Manic me was very demanding (unlike normal me). Ha ha.

The saddest thing about this whole story is that it could’ve been completely avoided if I had been fine with taking lithium. But, at that point in my journey, and because of my disordered eating and body image problems, and knowing that lithium causes me weight gain, I refused, absolutely, to take it. So, you would think I preferred the option of going crazy over getting fat.  And that I selfishly ruined everyone’s Cuban vacation because of my issues with food and body image.  Crazy train anyone?

In the hospital they put me on extremely strong medications: anti-psychotics, lithium, antibiotics for the bronchitis and a sleeping aid. I was a walking zombie.  I was extremely ill in the hospital and very upset to be on medication and to be tied down. The nurses constantly told me to go to my room and get some sleep. But when one is manic all one wants to do is relate and connect to others. Even though I was a walking zombie, it was still very difficult for me to sleep more than a couple of hours at a time. As a manic person, medications have very little effect compared to what they would on a regular person.  One side-effect of the anti-psychotic drug was the feeling that my skin was crawling. It was one of the worst feelings I have ever encountered.

When the nurses wouldn’t pay attention to me I found ways to entertain myself.  I would walk past the nurses station window where a few nurses would be quietly working with their heads down and I would SLAM my hand against the glass.  The nurses would jump from fright as I quickly walked away.  I was sure they had no idea that it was me. One evening, I decided to pull the fire alarm. Obviously this was a serious infraction which, at the time, I didn’t understand.  The nurses scrambled to get all the patients out of the rooms, I snickered with my hand over my mouth, by the wall. I was then noticed, yelled at and put in solitary.

What  I did next seems unbelievable now that I have my sanity back. I truly believe they would never let me out of that room. A half hour may have a lapsed  when I realized two things: I had to use the bathroom, #2, and, I was very thirsty. Because I truly believed that they would not come back for me, and  I was firmly ensconced in cra-cra land, I went over to the corner of the room,  squatted and pooped. Then I started to bang my cup on the door saying that I was dying of thirst. An idea emerged: I would have to drink my own urine in order to stay alive.

It was salty.

Next I started to sing at the top of my lungs and trust me, that little solitary room had great acoustics  (this is a Kris Kristofferson song that Willie Nelson sings so well) and quite apt at parts…

Take the ribbons from your hair, shake ’em lose and let ’em fall. Let ’em fall against your chin, like the shadows on the wall.  Come and lay down by my side in the early morning light, all I’m taking is your time…help me make it through the night…(This is where I would seriously belt it out) Well, I don’t care whose right or wrong, and I won’t try to understand.  Let the devil take tomorrow, cause tonight I need a friend….it’s sad to be alone…help me make it through the night

I knew that whole song by heart because Mom used to play it over and over again when she and Dad were separated but living in the same house. I was in extreme discomfort in the solitary room. My thoughts where racing. My skin was crawling. My mind was blowing. There was no sleep in sight. I could not stay still. Psychosis is shitty.  Truly.

Finally they let me out. I gladly went to my room. My next plan was to escape and run home.

I studied the delivery door to the locked psych ward. Suddenly, I saw my chance to escape into the February night and I was GONE.  Hightailing it through the lobby with my ass hanging out of my johnny coat, with my SmartWool knee socks and Birkenstocks on out into the parking lot, down the concrete steps, turn right down the hill, turn left, through the intersection and starting up the hill. Suddenly I realized how cold I was and that my feet were freezing. Later I found out it was -20°C. If I had gone the wrong way and landed in the snowbank, behind the hospital, I may never have been rescued from the cold.

As it was, two older ladies in a large sedan pulled up beside me as I made my way up the hill. Seeing how I was dressed and with my hospital wristband on, they asked me to get in the car with them for a ride. I must have thought that would be a good idea. Even through the haze of psychosis I knew that my safety was threatened. I ran into the parking lot of the Catholic Church (irony on that not lost on me) and they let me get in the car to get warm. Next they locked the doors and called the police who escorted me back to the psych ward  and back into solitary.

When Dean heard that I had escaped, in my condition, dressed in a tiny cotton johnny coat, he was furious at the hospital.

I was in for two weeks then out for week at which point I stopped taking the medications and became manic again.  So, I was back in for another two weeks.  It takes about two weeks for the lithium to take effect.  When I was home with my family and dog Lady, and I was out of my head in cra-cra land, I could swear that I knew what she was ‘saying’.  I would look at her and her ‘words’ would pop into my head.  Ooookay.

Mental illness is a real thing, not to be trifled with.

Lady Jane, 2 years old

Crazy Train 🚂 part 1…All ABOARD (2010)

The stress of a kitchen renovation then subsequent bronchitis throws me into a psychotic episode while in Cuba…

I had my Birkenstocks and  SmartWools on and with my big-ass undies peeking out of my johnny coat, I saw my chance to escape. Out the psych ward’s normally locked door I slipped, down the hall and through the big front doors. I was  running home. It was a dark, -20, winter night but if I could just run the 15 k home, all would be well…

You see, I was in the midst of my second ever full blown psychotic episode of Bipolar-1, my first ever had happened in postpartum in 1999.  It was now 2010 and I had enjoyed perfect mental and physical health for eleven years.

Then, we decided (cue ominous music here)…to move house and shortly thereafter to completely gut and renovate the kitchen and that’s when the shit hit the fan…and, it wasn’t pretty.

We had moved into our little bungalow which is in an idyllic location in our beloved town.  It is close to everything and sits between two parks and just up from the dyke lands.  The street is short and quiet with a handful of unique homes on it and quiet owners who mostly stick to themselves.  I adored this new little house, which is all we needed for the three of us and our large dog.

The previous owner (whom I strangle in my imagination every time I catch sight of him) had, however, sadly, let if fall into disrepair and become outdated.  We had our hands full when we moved in.  The old harvest-gold carpet in the living-room stunk like stale Guinness.  We ripped it out the first night.

Open the dryer and door fell off.

Door knobs and cabinet knobs were missing.

Huge pink toilets ran for hours after flushing.

Every window screen was torn.

Faucets dripped.

Paint was chipping on the exterior.

The ancient dishwasher didn’t work.

The fan above the oven exhausted into your face.  Not pleasant.

The windows were full of black gunk around the edges.

There was black mold on the main bath ceiling.

The ensuite shower stall had a serious microbiome going on.

Run the washer and the water drained into the kitchen sink and then onto the kitchen floor.

You get the idea.

Everything was broken!!!

And the owner had been a professional, a PHd!!!!!  (I’m a ProFESSional, as Dad would say so that everyone would know that he knew everything about everything.  One time, in the eighties, on a road trip to Florida, he had corrected a local waitress, serving tables in her own home-town, about a fact about her home-town that there was no way in hell he could have known to be true –there was no internet nor cell phones nor wifi then.  He waved his thumb at he and his new wife saying, Honey Baby, we’re both teachers.  Luke and I were stunned and mortified at his audacity.  We would have liked to slip under the table to hide our embarrassment and very red faces while we cringed.  Years later we just chuckle about it.  It was a trait of our father that was oh so irksome.  The only thing Dad knew everything about was hockey.  Every stat. Every player. Every game.  It was truly fascinating when he got going.)

I digress.

The kitchen in our new bungalow was completely substandard.  Popcorn ceiling (stucco ceiling in a kitchen!  Imagine.)  Tiny, rotting windows.  Single sink in rotting cabinet. Dark wooden cupboards and doors.  Ancient washer and dryer, both missing knobs, right in the kitchen.  The wall behind the lint-bomb of a dryer was crumbling and one of the wires to the 220 v outlet was bare.  Throw a lit match back there and the place would go up.  One teeny light fixture with a tiny fluorescent bulb that would flicker ad naseum while I tried to chop veggies for supper and no other task lighting to speak of.  It was depressingly bad and needed to be fixed.  People had warned us that kitchen renovations can be stressful. Oh Lord. We really should have listened.

After much shopping around for contractors and planning and budgeting, the day came for demolition.  The idiot who decided to take down our old popcorn ceiling, for some inexplicable reason, did not seal off the room to the rest of the house.  I arrived home from work to find a scene out of a post apocalyptic nuclear snow storm: about 3 feet of vermiculite on our kitchen floor and buddy (the idiot) shoveling it into plastic bags to get rid of it.  He had no face mask on and all of the fibers were floating around the whole house.  My first thought to accompany my racing pulse and rapid breathing was: Holy shit.  That could be asbestos.  Next I calmly asked the idiot when he thought he would have it cleaned up.  Next I ran like a devil to find Dean and to get Leo from school.  My friend who is both a Master Electrician and a Master Plumber (and whom I had hired for the job) was my next call.  He calmly told me to get on the internet and find a place that could test a sample of the vermiculite.  He told me there are two types of vermiculite. One with and one without asbestos.

I was in luck.  A scientist working in Halifax lived in the Valley and did vermiculite testing on the side.  He told me to put a baggie of the stuff in his mailbox in Canning and he would have an answer to me the next day.  He said there was a fifty fifty chance it was asbestos.  I asked him what would have to happen if it WAS asbestos.  He said quite simply, ‘you’d be forced to move out until it was all abated.  The place would be off limits.’  Oh jesus…

Stress and more stress.

The next day I received his email.  It was NOT asbestos.  I had not slept the previous night. We paid the idiot and fired him and that did not go well.  Next I heard that he beats up his wife.  This is a small town.  I did not wish to run into him again.  Especially if I was by myself.  I hardly slept and when I did, it was the idiot who was in my nightmares. A cough had developed and was getting worse.

So, the stress and the interrupted sleep began.  With Bipolar disorder, sleep disruptions and sleep deprivation cause or exacerbate the symptoms of the disorder rapidly.  So does stress.  I was not on medication then and in hind-sight, I truly wish I had been.

After the idiot was fired, the work on the reno started to come together nicely.  I would work alongside my skilled and talented friend and we would chuckle the day away.  I would just do things like retrieve parts from his van or the hardware store or screw this in, screw that in, move this, hold this…you get the idea. My cough worsened and would wake me up several times a night.

At some point, I went to the doctor and was told I had developed bronchitis.  I asked about my sleep interruptions and he explained that when I went into a coughing fit, my body produced the hormone adrenaline.  The adrenaline would soar through my body and stop my sleep.  Uh oh.  It was  thought that the soaring hormones in postpartum, as well as the difficulty and length of the birth,  and resultant sleep deprivation,  had caused my first psychotic episode.

Up next…Crazy Train part 2 – Cuba