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* * *

I don't  know what there is to write anymore.  My life is so odd and strange and unfamiliar, and yet it has very little to do with my mood swings and medication.  My mom and I are hardly on speaking terms since I withdrew from school.  Being in the house is awkward and tense, and I just don't know what to do.  Do I initiate conversation?  I'm afraid to do that because of the potential she'll explode in a rage and chastise me for my decision.  I know I'd become more suicidal than ever and probably try to kill myself again.  Myself and I haven't quite yet established complete trust when it comes to safety.  I sometimes wish I woulnd't listen to me.  

I've been spending my days working for dad on a few cases that are somewhat interesting yet somewhat ridiculous.  Rich people suing rich people.  I also see Rebecca still and that is the highlight of my weeks.  After our play sessions, I like to drive to dad's house and have dinner and play with little Olivia.  Anything I can do to avoid going home is fine by me.  It's as if I have to prove to everyone that I am not being lazy and mopey and a total homebody.  I've been more busy now than I was in school because after classes I would come home so depressed I couldn't do a damn thing with myself.  Now I'm seeing more friends and last Saturday I went to a frat house with an old friend from junior high.  I was around so many people and really made an effort to put myself out there and have a sense of humor.  This friend from junior high is a boy I had a lot of classes with and we recently got back in touch.  On Tuesday night we went out to dinner with his fraternity friends after walking around downtown for a while.

"Did you guys take a ride in the horse carriages?" one of them asked.

Pause.  "No, but we saw one," I replied.  The table errupted in laughter, much to my surprise.  

After that my friend and I had some coffee and then went to the park and played in the snow.  It couldn't have been more than 20 degrees but I didn't care, I was feeling so light and joyful.  There was a frozen pond and he suddenly dashed towards it, grabbing my hand as I protested.  We stood on the ice and it crackled and heaved.  I was bracing for my feet to meet an icy fate, but we were intact on the surface, him holding both my hands and laughing.  I kind of got the urge to kiss him but I thought the better of it.  I hate being rejected.  We shuffled off the ice and walked through the snow, the sky almost a soft navy color.  

"Hey Amanda, I bet I can dunk you in the snow."  He rammed into me and I rammed back, pushing hard, but seeing as how I'm less than 100 pounds and really short, he had me on the ground in one quick motion.  I rested and looked up at the sky, and he suddenly plopped down and laid his head on my stomach, which made me flinch.

"No offense, but your stomach is uncomfortable.  It's too hard."

"That's a compliment to any girl."

My life is sort of a teeter totter.  Down, up, rest, down, up.  Pulling in one direction or the other, with the risk of falling off and having to climb back on.  I don't know where I'm headed or where the balance will ultimately end up.  All I know is, this isn't the status quo.

* * *
I feel disconnected, dissociated, and unreal.  This past week has been a whirlwind of irrationality, emotions, and anger.  I've become so anxious I'm constatntly sore, as if someone is squeezing my neck and slowly twisting it.  My legs feel as though the musles are turning to stone.  My headaches are persistent and cause me to be irritable.  Why the anxiety?

I decided to withdraw from the University because I can no longer go on like this.  I refuse to mull over my assigned reading, trying with every atom in my brain to uncover the meaning of the text and recognize the subject.  I will not sit in class anymore trying to pay attention but continually zoning out, feeling nauseous and unhappy, reminded of what it is I am no longer capable of.  I'm ashamed and embarrassed of my current state and its inhibitions.  I'm an honors student, yet I think and act like a remedial couch potato.  This isn't me.  I'm the overachieving perfect daughter who loves school and reads nonstop and loves debating the political events of the day.  Now I am a disappointment to myself and my mother.

She hardly talks to me, and the tension at home is so overbearing I'm suffocating and walking on eggshells.  She is making this withdrawal out to be a decision that will have catastrophic consequences for me.  "You'll never go back" "You can't isolate yourself like that" "You can't sit at home" "What will your life look like if you don't get an education?"  I thought she knew me better than that.  Of course I will go back to school.  I want to be able to listen to lectures and take notes and do the reading with the enthusiasm I once enjoyed.  I didn't plan on bipolar interrupting my life like this, and neither did she.  If it's so painful for her, can't she think of how painful it is for me?  

I've lost my college exeperience so far, I've lost friends, I've lost reading, I've lost dorm life, I've lost college anecdotes involving drunken parties and frat houses, and most of all, I've lost my relationship with my mom, who refuses to understand that this condition really is debilitating in so many ways and that I simply can't put a halt to it.  Thursday I had a meeting with my therapist and I had asked my mom to come, and she said she'd be there.  At 3:00 my dad showed up and we all waited and waited, and she never came.  She gave me no explanation when I went home, nor did she explain yesterday morning when I woke up.  I didn't see her at all because I dashed off to my dad's and we picked out a tree with little Olivia, and I decided to spend the night. 

I now go out of my way to avoid going home.  I'll run random errands--"I need some cereal, I need new face cream, I'm going to the bagle store, I need a cup of coffee."  Sometimes I just drive around for an hour or so, pretending I have a destination and something to look forward to.  I'm a feather floating in the wind like in Forrest Gump, finding somewhere to land, sometimes in the least expected places.  

The fact that I repeatedly keep thinking of death is a sign of how bad things are.  I've been remarkably good at maintaining a stable and pleasant appearance around others, but at night when I'm alone and in the dark, I can't get out of my head the sadness that is a stake in my heart.  I still try not to think about it, all the broken pieces that might be fixed later on.  I can count on my dad, who has opened up to me these past few weeks more than ever.  It's obvious he needs someone to talk to, and I always feel as though he is trying not to cry.  

I have been put back on Klonopin and Zoloft because of the anxiety/depression.  My sleep has been sub par, to say the least.  I'm kind of in a state of denial still and sometime soon I could have a meltdown.  I don't know.  I'm only trying to stay alive.

Someday, the thunder and lightning will give way to a warm sunset, I hope.
* * *
What a bleak and bizarre few days it has been.  My depression has not subsided, it has merely worsened to the point where I'm having crying spells again.  I thought I had moved past that since my last brush with the dark cloud, but I was mistaken.  I cry every time I am reminded of my life before Benny Bipolar; I cry when I try reaching out to friends and I feel rejected; I cry when I look at my school books and sit in class because I so want to be participating in the academic process like everyone else I know.  There has been so much crying that people notice something different about the way my eyes sit plastered on my face, small, glassy, and red.  

The psychiatrist called yesterday as I was sitting at the dining room table, wondering what there was to do and what meaning exists in my life.  I answered briskly and was surprised to hear his voice, chirpy and sunny as ever.  

"Hi, Amanda?"  (He has a way of raising the tone of his voice at the end of sentences, especially questions)

"Oh.  Hi."

"So I talked to your therapist and we've decided an SSRI would be appropriate right now.  Do you have any Zoloft left?"

"Yes.  A few."

"Well take half and then when I see you next week I will write you out another prescription."

"Okay."

"Great, see you soon."

I can't say I am thrilled about popping more pills, relying on chemically concocted medications to help me not be stuck in the mud.  Then again, I don't see many alternatives.  I took actions and made decisions that were "correct" for combating the darkness, but here I am again, sinking more and more into the diaper brown mud despite all my preventative efforts.  If one white pill can assist me in scooping away the watery waste, I might as well give it another try.  My only concern is that the Zoloft will do what it did before after a few months--make me manic and out of control.  My theory is, that won't happen as long as I am with Lucy Lithium.  Somehow.  

Last night I visited Chloe, who came in from Pomona for Thanksgiving.  Suffice to say she hasn't changed one bit, and that for sure is good news for me.  (Have I abandoned my liberal roots in favor or anti-change conservatism?)  I filled her in on what's been going on these past several weeks, but realizing I was taking up so much time, I directed the focus back at her, who informed me she wants to take a year off next fall.  Ahhh.  See?  Even a dazzling genius like Chloe needs some time to regroup and remove herself from the demands of Academia.  

Speaking of which, my dad is coming to our house tomorrow at the advice of my therapist, who listened to the both of us on Tuesday voicing our grievances about me staying in school.  I told my mother this morning, "Mom, is it okay if I ask dad to come over tomorrow so I can talk to both of you about...how I'm feeling?"

"How are you feeling?"

"Bad."

Her face dropped in understanding, and she took my shoulders in an embrace.  "I know you are."

"Okay, so I think we should all talk about what I could do..."

She let me go and looked me square in the eye.  "Is this about school?"

I stopped breathing.  My heart stopped beating.  "It's about everything."

"Well, okay."

I breathed again and my heart came back into motion.  Not all will be settled by the start of next week, though.  I can feel it.  If my mother wants to remain her stubborn, projecting self (which she probably will) and refuses to support me in my decision to withdraw from school, I'll simply tell her, "Then I am not going to take lithium anymore."  That's the truth.  If I must stay, the only possible way I can get anything done and recollect the broken pieces of my education is to quit the agent that is disrupting my ability to think and concentrate and memorize.  That's just the way it has to be.

I left the house before noon with my sister to attend Thanksgiving Dinner #1.  We arrived at my dad's to follow everyone out to Theo Minoli's for the dinner, and there was little Olivia, changing her clothes for the tenth time, her room littered with red stockings and blue skirts and waffle texture underwear.  She decided on a pink skirt and a pink shirt, but when she realized her ghastly mistake of forgetting her socks, she requested the "long white ones."  My stepmother went upstairs to find them, but all she could find were long pink socks.  Olivia threw herself on the kitchen floor, kicking her legs, propelling herself around and around like an angry windmill.  My dad motioned for us to come outside, and from the driveway we could hear her erratic screams and wails as she fought off the evil pink socks.  

Once we got to Theo's house, Olivia still had no socks--and no shoes.  She walked in barefoot, scowling daggers at anyone who looked her way.  Even with an unflattering facial expression, she was still very pretty.  My stepmom's gay friends who were invited fawned over the precocious five-year-old, who was shouting, "Pumpkin pie!  Pumpkin pie!" for two minuts straight.  We ate massive quantities of food and somehow had room for dessert.  One Thanksgiving down, one to go.  

And, being the vegetarian I am, I did not eat turkey.
* * *
I wish I could hurry up and live the next 50 years of my life and then have it be over.  

Today was a perfect waste of a perfectly good Saturday.  I woke up at 11:30 this morning to gray light peeping through the blinds.  I turned over and put a pillow over my head in an attempt to muffle the sights and sounds of the living.  Downstairs in the basement, the tile people were hammering and drilling to renovate the bathroom.  My mother's shrill voice rang through the house as she chatted on the phone, with my stepdad, with the tile people, etc.  She kept opening and closing my door as a I pretended to be sound asleep, dreaming of merry things like kittens and candy.

When I made my awakened presence be known, my mom took a calmer approach and offered  to help me out with food or activities or company.  I didn't want any of it.  The hermit Amanda had taken over like Jekyl and Hyde.  I let go of trying and seeing the positive, because what good had it done me?  None at all that I can think of.  Here I was making phone calls and being cheerful despite feeling horrible and saying yes to activities and volunteering and babysitting and finally eating better, but it didn't pay off somehow.  Why does it have to be that way?

I have to wonder why some people don't understand the let down feeling I've acquired after all these weeks.  I made efforts beyond what I thought I was capable of.  God it makes me so angry and sad to look back at myself, exerting so much energy and thinking in a positive way, expecting something good to evolve.  It's not like this process was a few days in the making--it's been going on since I got out of the hospital,  back in mid-October. 

Worrying about my grades and academics and the like is trumped by this bigger cloud of depression and anxiety.  If I am so depressed and I am still being faithful to the lithium, then what is the point in taking it still?  I want someone to answer this question without being suspicious that I'm being dishonest about my medication.  God I'm in a rut, and I can only feel that tomorrow will be the same, or progessively worse.

Why kill yourself?  Life will do it for you.
* * *
I'm struggling.  Struggling.  The time has come to admit it to myself.  I've tried to hold it together with old super glue, but it's worn thin in recent days and needs to be reapplied.  The problem is, it's in short demand.  

The depression is creeping back into existence, nesting comfortably in that little part of the brain that controls serotonin or whatever.  I have sensed its presence for a while, grimacing in pain and running away from it, hiding in my closet or under the covers.  Now I fear it has me.  The things I have done "right"--sleep, exercise, do things I love, see my friends, relax--paid off for a bit, but now all my efforts and progress threaten to be washed away in this tidal wave of anger, frustration, and loneliness.  Although I surround myself with people and activities when I can, I'm still hopelessly isolated.  I never allowed myself to realize that having a condition that's still taboo could build up a wall so thick and indestructable.  

Meds or no meds, I will have to go through these cycles.  It's very difficult to look forward even to my new job with little Rebecca, the one bright spot in my weeks of gray sludge.  Volunteering at the Childrens Center for four hours just exhausts me, and the therapists I work with are awkward and strange.  Yes I am doing good for others and that's my non-monetary award, but the lack of enthusiasm I have these days is eating at me.  

Today I had breakfast with my friend Amelia, which started out alright, but soon became a time for her to vent continually about her boyfriend and gossip about Sarah.  She then got up when her phone rang and went outside the restaurant since she wasn't getting any reception.  I sat there for 15 minutes, staring at the few scraps left on my plate, wondering what the hell to do.  A bunch of burly high school boys walked in and I recognized one of them, but when I caught his eye he shifted his attention conspicuously to another member of the group.  One of the waiters asked, "Are you okay, miss?"  I forced a smile and nodded.  "She'll be back in a minute."

I drove home in silence--no Debussy in the CD player today--and contemplated the meaning of friendship.  At the house I realized I had only a half hour until I had to eat with dad, so I hurried and jumped on the treadmill for 20 minutes at a very fast pace, and when I was done I remembered I had to take my lithium.  I popped it in my mouth, fighting the urge not to, and guzzled down a bottle of water.  Five minutes later, the nausea hit me and I was over the kitchen sink, vomitting the remains of my breakfast.  What an idiot I am, running on a full stomach and then taking lithium.  I surprise myself sometimes with my stupidity.  

At lunch I despaired over green salad how impossible it is to do any substantial amount of schoolwork anymore.  "I try, dad, I really do.  Last night I sat over my reading for 45 minutes trying to make some sense out of it, but I ended up crying my eyes out."

"I don't think being in school is reasonable right now, to be honest.  Give yourself a damn break!"  He shook his head.  "You worked your ass off in high school and have two whole years of college credit.  Can't your mother see that?"

"She doesn't want to see it or hear it.  She's convinced if I take just a year off I'll never go back."

"I don't understand this apocalyptic mindset she's adopted.  Jesus."  

We formulated a plan where he will come to my therapy session next week and try to reason with my therapist, who then might be able to reason with my mother.  If not, she will just become more antagonistic about the school issue than ever and my life will be all the more enjoyable.  It's not that she's a rude or inconsiderate person.  She basically spends her life making other people happy and making sacrifices for my sister and me.  For that, I feel guilty and ashamed when I consider throwing away this semester she helped pay for.  I hate feeling guilty, and I'm guilty for feelng guilty. 

I can't smile tonight at all.  I have no interest in being pleasant or making other peoples' lives any less miserable.  The darkness is tempting me to forgo everything and carve out a shell for myself.  I wonder how long I can hold out.
* * *
* * *
Never in my life have I felt so hopeless when it comes to learning.  Oh, god, I did take my incredible memory and reading skills for granted.  I used to call myself stupid and "not good enough," and now I could kick myself every two seconds for being so idiotic and delusional.  

I'm slaving away over some ridiculous reading about art and museums for an honors class, and had my brain been intact and unmedicated like it was two months ago, this work would be simple and possibly interesting (even though I hate art).  Instead, I get through a paragraph and I cannot even recall to my mind a word, phrase, or very general topic.  How can I go on like this?  The very fact that I forced myself to actually attempt the reading is an incredible step in itself, but I've failed horribly.  I have four large papers that are due the first week of December, and every time I try to start writing and outlining one of them, I give up after an hour of mediocre "progress" and too much gnashing of the teeth.  I want my old brain back!

The question of whether or not I should stay on my medication is looming larger than ever now as I realize what's at stake in terms of my school performance and prospects for success in the future.  So what if I may be a crazy person?  At least I'll have something to show for myself.  

And then I'm realistic and honest with myself when I consider what sort of life I'll live as my illness, I've been told, will become worse and worse until it's unmanageable and I'll be in and out of hospitals for decades.  Do I want that?  No, no thanks, but maybe that will all surface in many years when I've already established myself as a productive member of society--and as a smart, educated woman?  

God.  I am not suffering, as Kevin so often wants to put it.  I'm just angry and frustrated.  Who isn't these days?  Sometimes I truly believe this will all go away, that it was a phase, a distraction.  Deep down I know that's not true--I can feel it.  I am stuck like this forever, either medicated or dangerously moody.  I refuse to feel sorry for myself and I will not lead myself to think, Why me?  A majority of people will get stuck with a life changing problem.  I am no different.  In fact, in being mentally ill, I have just joined the ranks of people who are basically "normal" if you look at it that way.  This lends me no comfort or consolation, but I at least recognize I'm not at all alone.

I have to wonder why I do feel so alone then.  

* * *
For the past few days I have been contemplating how my mind used to work.  Even though it's hard for me to even think right now, I still can recall certain details, like how I could remember exactly where a specific phrase or passage was on a page, or how I could focus during a lecture and relate every word to something else.  I'd make strange but sensical connections, a network of creative ideas and thoughts all spun together in an intricate web.  

I miss that so much it brings tears to my eyes.  My ability to connect and expand and embellish has been reduced to one slow thought at a time, coming so slowly that it's forgotten in a moment.  Where I could throw down an extended essay in two hours, I now struggle to write out a simple poem for a class that doesn't give grades.  I used to read my honors reading assignments swiftly and easily, and now I struggle to get through the first page.  When I listen to Debussy and Chopin and Rachmaninoff, the notes are empty and blank, sliding straight out my ears to be lost in the air.  I used to anticipate and relish each note and relate the music to something almost spiritual.  

Today I went to therapy and while talking about all of this, I suddenly realized how much it hurts me.  I have lost a huge part of myself that can only be retrieved by ceasing the meds and letting go of therapy/psychiatry.  Either way, everything feels so out of control.  If I do stay on the lithium, my brain will be a vegetable for quite some time, and I god only knows when I'll be able to function like my old self again, if ever.  Going off the lithium would present some problems--the return of the mania and depression being the major one, and losing the support of my family being the other.  I believe deeply that I would be so debilitated by the wild swings that independence would be a laughable desire.  On the other hand, though, my intellect and enthusiasm for learning would be back, at least during the highs.  Even when I am depressed I still think on a deeper level and am able to do academic work just as well.  Should I stick with the lithium, yes, it will take so much time to regain my sense of self and my cognitive strengths, but at least people around me would be happy with how I'm doing the "right thing" and "taking control" of getting better.  I live to please.  

I just don't know.  Now that I have weighed the pros and cons, the decision seems even more daunting.  I'm so stuck.  The only way for me to get a sense of my thoughts is to try and write them out, as I routinely do.  I'm worried about the future and what kind of human being I'll turn out to be.  Will I be pleasant but tragically dumb?  Will I be brilliant but exceedingly unstable?  Damn bipolar nonsense.  It's ruined my freshman year of college.  This is not how it was going to turn out!  This is not what we were planning on!  No, I am not dying of cancer or AIDS or starvation, but I'm still experiencing something I would never wish anyone else to encounter.  

Quel est la reponse??
* * *
Alright, I will try to make this my last political posts for awhile for my sake.  I've been living in a world of electoral maps, political commentators with their own agendas, and newspapers full of the latest tallies (Dems have it--no contest) and analysis.  Even though I'm trying to tone it down,

TAKE THAT GEORGE BUSH!

The war in Iraq and a plethora of issues ranging from the minimum wage to stem cell research knocked even the most established and powerful incumbents out of office.  There was Sen. Rick Santorum, in line to take the number two position in the Senate and perhaps the most conservative guy on Capitol Hill, falling by 18 points to Democrat Bob Casey, Jr.  For his part, he did give an amazing and eloquent concession speech amid his teary-eyed children.  The GOP saw Conrad Burns of Montana, Mike DeWine of Ohio, Jim Talent of Missouri, Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island, and finally George Allen of Vigrinia, whose presidential hopes are all but abruptly ended.  I was actually a little disappointed to see Chaffee get booted out.  This guy is, after all, the most liberal Republican in the Senate, an opponent of George Bush on practically everything--including the war, which he voted against (something Hillary Clinton will need to explain should she decide to run in 2008).  Republicans in the Northeast fell by the many, and they fell hard.  R.I.P. Moderate Republicans.  

Now the question remains: can Democrats find a way to not screw this one up?  It's not enough to just claim victory and throw parties, then forget about the reason why one is actually elected.  If they want to maintain power, they'll need to be more united than they generally are and compromise--yes, I said compromise--with Republicans when gridlock seems inevitable.  The relationship between Nancy Pelosi, the first female Speaker of the House ever, and our own laaaaaaaame duck president, George Dubya Bush, should pan out to be rather interesting and bit tedious.  He's a Texas conservative, she's a San Francisco liberal (as right-wing pundits and Republican ads just had to keep pointing out).  I hope good ol' Nancy will be tough but pragmatic.  I hope Dubya will be...anything but the stubborn, naive moron he has shown himself to be since he took office.  Or maybe that's asking too much?

So, in frenzied adoration for what the Democrats have accomplised, I raise my glass of grape juice to the future of this country.  May it someday soon get back on track.
* * *
I am, after all, a political science major--and a democrat!

Democrats will take the House.  They need only 15 seats to win, and they are expected to pick up at least 20.  Hello, Speaker Pelosi.  

The Senate is a bit more precarious, but I think the Dems can pick up a few seats.  They need six to control the Senate.  Someone should tape John Kerry's mouth shut until he learns how to speak coherently.  Argh!

I've been campaigning a lot with democrat Pete Ashdown, who is running for the U.S. Senate against Orrin "I Hate Technology" Hatch.  Yes, being a democrat in Utah is suicide and pretty damn depressing, but it's fun to at least pretend we'll win...we do have one democratic Congressman!

But he votes with George Bush 65% of the time. 

* * *
Dull, bland week I've had.  Nothing good, nothing bad.  I suppose the one bright spot was negotiating with my calculus professor to just take an incomplete in the course this semester, seeing as how my brain is burnt toast right now, seasoned with a blend of butter and lithium carbonate.  When I approaced him in class on Friday, I was ridiculously anxious and predicting the worst case scenario.  Our encounter went like this:

"Amanda, I got your email, and the email from your doctor."

"Oh, okay..."

"So the lithium is causing you problems?"

"A lot."

"That tends to be the case.  I think taking an incomplete would be the best solution right now.  Now I have to ask you--and I don't know if this is unfair--but do you have reason to believe your condition will improve?"

"Absolutely.  It's going to take several weeks, but I know I'll improve."

"Good, good.  We'll work out a schedule for assignments and tests in a bit."

"Thank you so much."

"You're very welcome.  By the way, where were you staying when you were hospitalized?"

"The Neuropsychiatric Institute."

"I had a son up there.  I know it well."

"I do too."

"I can only imagine."

The end.  So while things are looking up on the math front, they aren't on the friend front.  I'm pretty alone with the exception of  my family, who have chilled out immensely in the past week.  After hearing my dad fret about the chance that I might not get good grades this semester and therefore not get into law school, I knew I needed to take action, so the incomplete I worked out with the Polish math professor was welcome news.  

I'm having a hard time sitting still and focusing, though, and it's causing some irritation for my mom, who finds herself repeating the time-honored phrase, "Amanda, calm down."  My stepdad called me "annoying" in a family session with the therapist, and my sister talks to me as though I am two years old.  I feel like joining a support group where maybe I would feel sort of welcome and at home for an hour or so, but I do fear I would be too much even for a room full of bipolars.  How devastating would that be?

Every night this week I have either had a dream about being back in the hospital or living at the dorms (this would be a nightmare, rather).  There are so many idiosyncratic occurrences with my former floormates, such as climbing out windows and smoking pot in broad daylight on the walkway.  If I'm in the hospital, I am usually in group, reciting 1) Why I am here, 2) My mood, 3) My goal for the day, and 4) Answer to the question of the day.  Oh, the weirdness of everything.

Things will get better.  They will never be perfect, or even what they used to be.  I will be okay, though.
* * *
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