My Daddy Died: Grief, Anger, Depression, oh and more Anger, and Reality

I lost my dad last week. It has taken me so long to just write this next sentence. It’s as if, if I keep writing after saying I lost my dad–then I lost my dad. It’s true. My dad is gone. I’m at acceptance right? Sorry bitch. I ain’t outta the woods yet.

My dad was sick. After returning from a three month trip to the Philippines with Mom, Dad complained of itchiness and a different urine “color.” A large mass was discovered around his liver causing jaundice. Four weeks later, he died from Lymphoma at home.

Watching your father die is one thing, but watching him quickly turn from a smart-ass, funny BBQ man who travels regularly rapidly decline into this foreign 80lb body lying in bed, too exhausted to breathe–is just too…much.

I missed his final breath, but was there when he passed. That part was peaceful. His rapid decline was traumatizing. Much so, I will not be writing about it today.

I knew there’d be denial, anger, depression, bargaining, yada-yada. But what I was not anticipating was the severity of these emotions. I was not just angry. I WAS MUTHA’ FUCKIN’ ANGRY AND HATED EVERYONE–EVEN YOU–angry. I became volatile with my sister, raged at a dear cousin because of  a drunk comment, causing a scene with family members sent to look for me (and my sanity),  and abruptly yelled and threw my keys at my ex husband for driving me home safely because I was intoxicated. Classy. Really classy.

I began to justify my behaviors by telling myself, I am grieving. This isn’t myself. Have some self-compassion. Really though. My dad’s oldest daughter, my dad’s favorite nephew, and my dad’s son-in-law–they all lost Dad too. Shit. I AM the asshole. Hate it when that happens.

So, in addition to anger, let’s now add the lovely emotion, guilt, into the mix. I’m angry, then angry for being angry, then feel guilty for being angry, and oh! Do I smell depression in the horizon?Yes I do.

Angry and depressed, and now scared of lashing out to more undeserving people, I began to isolated myself. I’ve sat in my dark room, got high, binge watched the Walking Dead (season 9 does get better), and reread Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart.

I saw my therapist who helped me discover the true source of my anger–the distorted family dynamics I’ve been avoiding my entire life is now something I must face. And regularly. In close proximity. The reality is, my sister and I are dreadfully estranged and now must work together. And can’t. This, again, is a post for another day. Trust me, it’ll be a LONG one!

Anyhoo, I’m slowly trying to understand my behaviors and check my emotions before they turn into, uh, not wise decisions. Is what’s happening the reality, or distorted by an emotion just coming outta your ass as convenient? My anger was not at my sister, or the drunk cousin comment, or anyone in the same room with me–it was me being pissed off that my dad was dead and now I got to deal with all y’all? Fuck me.

A’ight, after discovering my anger issue, of course I isolated myself. I mean, that’s all I gotta do, right? But my therapist mentioned something called “grace.” Woman. I went to Catholic school for 12 years. I am a Buddhist now and still don’t even say grace. But she is my therapist and going against her wishes has made me whimper “you were right,” so I gave “grace” some thought.

Apparently, grace is the opposite of throwing a fit and storming out. It’s letting go and moving on confidently. It’s bushing it off, instead of hanging on to a grudge that is only hurting you.

I get that, but I still have random daydreams of kicking my sister’s ass, so I have some work to do. Grace. I’m going to start with that.

Has anyone had any other experiences with grief to share? Graceful strategies? Thank you kindly.

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The Bliss of a Great Date…or Hypomania? Fuck. Well, no don’t. Seriously. Don’t.

two people laying on a bed covered with a floral comforter
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One of the hardest part of navigating this newfound bipolar diagnosis is figuring out the difference between a good mood or a hypo-manic episode. Isn’t that the point? To be happy and stable? Yet here I am, months into this diagnosis and treatment, and I’m almost scared to be happy; at least without a tinge of hypo-manic anxiety.

I am no doctor and struggled with human biology in community college, so take this as you will. It is my understanding that women come with this hormone thingy called Oxycontin, also dubbed somewhere as the “cuddle hormone,” which causes a woman to feel “deeply infatuated” (for lack of a better word with my shrewd vocabulary) with the the person she has sex with. Yes ladies, that feeling of “maybe love?” is really biological.

Now (again, not a doctor. you have been warned.), add this dumb hormone with a couple of chemical mechanisms in place that literally scream impulsivity, how could one not feel…elated? Blissful? Hypomanic…?

I have no advice here, as I am riding this bipolar journey along with you, but I can only think the best course of action in dating while bipolar is to take it slow…Right? Right.

At least that’s what I’m going to try.

Does anyone else have any helpful advice for sex and dating with bipolar?

 

The Diagnosis

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I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety all my life. Well, I didn’t know it most of the time, just thought I was “over-reacting,” “over-sensitive,” and “angry” pretty often. But also, I was highly motivated, educated, and confident as fuck. You’d think, as I assumed, I was a just a social worker with functional depression and anxiety (and addiction, but that was my little secret).

On Mother’s Day 2017, I was hospitalized for a suicide attempt. In an effort to desperately have my then husband understand the pain I was in, I took a handful of ibuprofen. He abruptly called my kids (aged 17 and 21) over to witness this–so i would realize my ridiculousness and stop the madness. In guilt I spit them all out and asked my adult son to drive me to the ER. They 5150’d me. I was prescribed Lexapro and Ativan for depression and anxiety.

It wasn’t til my uncoupling with my husband the second time around  a year later, (yes you probably read that confusing sentence right. More about this later, but yes, I got back with an ex hubs for a seven additional years after a five year hiatus from him) in addition to a highly stressful job in Child Protective Services, that I landed in a depression that had me so frozen that I could not get anything done. My motivation went from 40% to about 3%.  My work began to suffer, by house began to go array, and my ex began to lose patience with me. I began to unravel. I took a six week leave from my job. Ex hubs moved out. AND I WAS ECSTATIC.

I explained to my psychiatrist that I was so super freakin’ happy that Ex was out of the house that I felt manic. Dr. asks, “Uh, why did you use that word?” What word? “Manic.”

We discussed other times I felt ecstatic/manic. Shit…I recalled spurts of ADHD tendencies and project excitement beginning in my 20s. I’m in my 40s now. We took a manic questionnaire. She asked about my mom’s diagnosed symptoms. She confirmed that I had bipolar II.

Bipolar? WTF. How could a social worker do her job successfully with bipolar? Holy shit, everything began to make sense. The fights with the ex, the yelling at the kids, the ambition to give no fucks, the days I could not get out of bed, the cancelled plans with and subsequent loss of my friends, the isolation from my family, all of everything wrong with my life had to be due to my diagnosed bipolar II.

I mean, shit, I was 41 years old when I was diagnosed. I lived 41 years with “one hand behind my back,” according to my therapist. I fell into a deeper depression. What if I had both hands, how would my life look? Was I really emotionally abused by my family of origin, or was I “being bipolar” during my childhood?  Was I genuinely able to get an AA, BA, and MSW in six years as a single mom and working full time or was I stubbornly riding out a hypo-manic episode, killing myself along the way. Did I fuck up my kids’ chances of being happy adults? Of course I was attracted to a job that is so stressful it’s often described as an “abusive relationship.” And not surprisingly, I decided to go back to a toxic relationship. Was this all because of this new diagnosis?

The shame, the blame, the guilt–all sucks. More so, I blamed myself for not knowing better. “I’m a social worker,” I would often tell therapists and psychiatrists, “I should have known better.” Right? No, I’m told. I’m still struggling to believe that.

One thing I know is…I’m human. I’m a mother, daughter, friend, neighbor, social worker, and…a person. A person who just learned she has bipolar II. Game changer, but still a person and…human.

Phew. This is going to take some getting used to.

 

If anyone have similar diagnosis stories to share, I’d love to hear them.