My Experience Only. YMMV.

Posts tagged ‘holidays’

Relentless Holiday Cheer

a snowmanFor many of us with bipolar disorder, the holidays are hard to get through. There is stress caused by family, shopping, entertaining, and crowds. Or the celebrations of others can bring loneliness, isolation, immobility, and despair. Above all, there is the relentless, overwhelming, mandatory cheerfulness, and the expectation that we should feel that way.

As I write this, tomorrow is Thanksgiving. A bit over a week later is my birthday. Then comes Christmas. And, of course, New Year’s Eve and Day.

Every year these celebrations are a trial and a chore for me. I don’t know how you get through them, but this is what they usually look like for me.

Thanksgiving. We have no family in town, so it is just me and my husband. Actually, this is not bad, because it relieves us of the responsibility for massive cooking, anxiety-filled entertaining, and the always-dicey interactions with family. At most, it means we Skype with my mother-in-law while we all eat, which is taxing enough.

This year we are short on funds, so we’re having spaghetti instead of turkey. (I don’t like to do turkey anyway: http://wp.me/p4e9wS-2z.) Then we will indulge in our two traditions: the Thanksgiving episode of WKRP (“As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”) and the ceremonial playing of Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant.” Then we nap. That’s it.

And what am I thankful for this year? I can’t think of much, except for my husband and cats, and that my pdoc just increased my Abilify. It hasn’t kicked in yet, except to make me sleepy, but, hey, a nap is on the schedule anyway.

Birthday. This is one of the big ones, with a zero at the end. My husband has already given me my presents (a variety of shoes and slippers). I can reliably predict that there will be a day-old baked good from where he works. No singing, no candles. That’s the way I like it. I’ll count the number of greetings I get on Facebook and feel miserable no matter what it is.

(My attitude toward birthdays is colored by the fact that a traumatic childhood event happened at a birthday party, although not my own.)

Christmas. The biggie. We exchange gifts ahead of time, without wrapping them. We go to the Chinese buffet. Dan watches a movie that I can’t stand, like Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, or one I can sort of tolerate, like It’s a Wonderful Life. Or one I actually like, like Scrooged.

New Year’s Eve/Day. We used to go to a friend’s house for leftover Christmas cookies and singing “Oh, Danny Boy” on the porch (don’t ask), but she was one of the people who couldn’t put up with my bipolar isolation and tendency not to respond to invitations or to show up if I had. So that’s out now.

Dan’s family has a tradition of shaking their purses or wallets at midnight to ensure prosperity for the new year (it failed spectacularly last year). He’ll be working, so we can’t even kiss at midnight. I drink cheap champagne and go to bed early. We might have pork on New Year’s Day. Or not. But unless we have cole slaw or Dan opens a can of sauerkraut for himself, no cabbage.

If that sounds like a dreary holiday season, well, it is, but it’s all I can handle. I have tried. I really have. In years past I have bought Christmas sweaters and earrings and sent cards and entertained and done Secret Santas at work. I have had dinner with family. (Decorating is largely out, owing to the cats.) I have organized trips to fancy local buffets or restaurants. I have wrapped presents creatively (if sloppily) and even shopped off-line. I have baked spice cake and decorated sugar cookies with my friend Peggy. I have gone to community carol sings.

But no more. In many ways, like my life, my holidays have been pared down to the bare minimum. I approach them with dread and survive them with relief. They do not lift my spirits and nowadays I don’t expect them to.

It’s ironic that, though in many ways I am improving and healing and rebuilding my life, the holidays still defeat me. They are, at least for now, pieces that I can’t reclaim. I don’t think it would be much better if a bout of hypomania hit. I can just see myself buying presents for my far-flung friends, then bottoming out before I could mail them. You can’t time these things, after all.

The best I can wish for myself and for all of you is this:

Survive. Hold tight to whatever happiness you find. And please, please, get through this season any way you can.

The Abilify Saga Continues

It turns out, Abilify works for me. Except now I have to work for Abilify. To afford it, I mean.

I now wake up around 7:30 or 8:00 instead of 10:00. I can concentrate long enough to read whole chapters of books, and am enjoying that immensely. I am able to get showered and dressed and go out to run a few errands. I can decide what to eat and even recognize when it’s time for me to eat.

And I can work. I have taken on a mega-project, which has required my attention up to eight hours a day, researching, writing, editing, and proofreading. I don’t know how well I’m doing (there are some differences of opinion about that), but I’m doing it, goddammit.

I may be pushing myself a little too hard, despite the new energy and focus. The other day I had to force myself, one pitiful step at a time, to address a dozen Christmas cards. “You have the list, you can put the addresses on the envelopes. You’ve got enough stamps, you can surely put them on the envelopes. (Don’t call me Shirley.) Better put return addresses on. You can do that much, then stop. You can slip the cards into the envelopes. How hard can that be? You had them printed with your names, so you don’t really have to sign them if you don’t want to and won’t have to fake your husband’s signature because he’s not here. That would be too much. Now lick the envelopes. All you have to do is stick out your tongue. Might as well take them to the mailbox. You need to get cat food out of the car anyway. Okay, now you can crash. Egg sauce, Ted.”

Many’s the year when all that was Just Too Much. According to the Mystic Law of Reciprocal Cards, we get about four nowadays, and are very grateful for those.

And grateful for the Abilify. Except it’s $800 a bottle, even for the tiny dose I’m taking. I got one free month and one discounted month ($650) from the manufacturer and have spent a lot of time since worrying and seeking solutions.

There will (we hope) be a generic in April. Yay.

I know someone who was taking it and has some left over.

I know someone in Canada.

Will my doctor prescribe a higher dosage so I can break them in half and stretch them (and the cost) out?

I may have at last solved the problem. After hours on the phone and hours more on hold, we finally have new insurance. It costs about as much per month as a bottle of Abilify, but the drug benefit kicks in before we’ve paid the deductible (which is way lower than previously). So our many, many other drugs will magically shrink to $15 per – or less with mail-away – and we’ll come out ahead. A little. Probably. If I can keep up the pace on work.

Plus, now we have dental, and oh lord do I need that. But that’s another story for another time.

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