Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Fresh Hell

Things are not looking good. M and I took the kids to REI the other night, and in the car ride over I snapped. My son's incessant talking was causing my head to ring. In fact, it felt as if his whiny high voice was right intside my brain. I did yoga breaths for as long as I could and then I asked J to be quiet.

"Why?" he asked.

"Because Mommy's ears hurt."

"Why do your ears hurt?"

"Because you've been talking a lot and my ears are a little tired."

"Why does it mean that I make your ears tired?"

I let out another forceful exhalation at the corner of Broadway and John and looked to my husband for help. We were stopped at the light; I could have just stepped out. But I stayed put. After all, we needed a tent. It would be fine once we got there. The kids could loll about in tents and play with folding chairs. I just needed a moment of peace.

An hour and a half later, we were dragging J off the play structure at REI and paying for a cart load of camping crap (or Crapp, as the word is used in Neal Stephenson's The System of the World, which M is reading) while he complained bitterly about being removed from the giant plastic tree. I survived the car ride home by singing "Baa Baa Black Sheep" to the children. In the time it took M to get J out of the car, upstairs, and into pajamas, I had put the baby to bed, brushed my teeth, and crawled under my covers. M came in later and lay next to me.

"You should think about calling those psychiatrists," he said.

Made of Wax

Out of the blue, my old high school friend Brian came to visit this weekend.

After some initial awkwardness at not having seen one another for over 10 years, we slipped back into our old friendship groove. Drinking helped. We did a bar crawl on Ballard Ave. and talked about his sex life, primal therapy, fucked up relationships, and music. We skipped seeing John Wesley Harding at the Tractor Tavern because the thought of standing in a hot bar and paying attention to someone on stage didn’t appeal to us as much once we got there.

I really am drinking a lot. The weird thing is how much I can drink these days and be okay. It’s got to be the meds. So maybe I should call those shrinks.

I came across some high school diaries and started reading them. Brian is all over one of them. I said, at age 14, that he was “the kind of guy who won’t get mad if you throw up in his car.” I believe I ripped that quote off from a John Hughes movie. Anyway, he is still that kind of guy. His heart is the same.

Yesterday I started coming down from my mania. Being hung over ushered that along. Then I spoke to my mother on the phone about my cousin, L.

She told me a long, sordid tale of Laura's meth use, absent boyfriend (father of her three littlest kids), subsequent eviction, and relocation (with the three kids) to my Aunt C.'s house.

Since these events, if they are true, have been filtered through my mother, I take them with some skepticism. (Especially the details about Aunt C. finding moldy dishes, stinking piles of laundry, and empty cupboards when she came to collect L. and kids.) But the barest facts, which are that L. is alone and caring for all five of her kids all day long (her other two live with their dad near Aunt C.) with what I can assume are minimal coping skills and a little meth problem, are tragic enough.

This whole story put me under a funk that morning. I hung up the phone and continued tossing my pesto-pasta salad while making up scenes of squalor and rage with L. and her children as victims of each other. I pictured the twin 4-year-olds wandering the empty apartment while the baby stewed in a disgusting diaper. This all sent me into a bad place.

Then I packed up my salad, loaded the kids into the car and drove to my old family friend Marion’s annual Seafair party in Mt. Baker. I wanted to be chipper and upbeat, but I was stuck in my bad images. Plus, Marion's 20-year-old son, whom I have known since he was in diapers, was there with his friends and bandmates, and instead of their energy feeling fun and stimulating, it made me feel like a shriveled clod.

As I tended to my veggie burger over the broiling barbecue and the hydroplanes roared across the lake below, these thin bed-headed boys loafed on deck chairs and discussed with great autority the recent Sonic Youth show compared with other Sonic Youth shows. My silent calculation revealed that the first SY show I went to, with Bikini Kill opening, happened when these whippersnappers were in the fourth grade. Even then, at 25, I was quite late in coming to a SY conversion experience. So who the hell did these boys think they were, talking a bunch of crap like they'd been around forever? I slapped their blood-drippy cow burgers over and replaced the round Coleman barbeque lid. I felt angry for some reason I couldn't articulate.

The kids were scared of the Blue Angels screaming around the sky. I put earplugs (purchased for $1 at a Rhett Miller show in San Francisco) in J’s ears, but he still crawled all over my lap in fear. I did enjoy sitting on the sofa in Marion’s 1940-era modern house and looking at Lake Washington through a wall of glass. I fantasized about living in a house like that when M and I retire.

I general, my motivation is flagging. I am worried about getting depressed again.

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom; Bop, Bop, Bop

I’ve been in a bit of a manic phase for about two weeks. I can drink more, sleep less, and do everything that my whirling mind comes up with, to no ill effect. I still crash every day after lunch, and do need to sleep if not go catatonic in front of Blue’s Clues with my son for an hour. Also I smoke to calm down. That’s crazy, I know, but it forces me to go outside and sit still for five minutes. (This is my theory on why most people smoke.)

This state reminds me of Ayelet Waldman’s description of hypomania:

"This is hypomania: You wake up in the morning; make four lunches, preparing three individual sandwiches (one peanut butter, no jelly. One turkey with mayo, one turkey without mayo but with tomato, blotted dry so it doesn't make the bread soggy) and a thermos of soup. Each lunch gets a drink, two snacks, and a piece of fruit. You wake, dress, and feed four children, reminding everyone to take vitamins, and Omega III. You sign permission slips, and load up carpool. Then you go to the gym, do email, make plane reservations for family vacation, copy-edit essay, put finishing touches on novel, revise short story for submission to anthology, drop off meal for family with new baby at preschool, and order new bathing suits for everybody because, suddenly, despite the fact that it is February you decide that everyone needs new bathing suits and that if a single day passes without each and every member of the family having a new bathing suit the well-being of the family will collapse. Then you reorganize the kitchen hell drawer, go online and order nine superpacks of size 4 diapers (and swim diapers for the baby, too, because, after all, what's a bathing suit for a baby without a swim diaper underneath it?). Then you pick up the children from school. You never, never, do anything without talking on the phone at the same time. Most of these phone conversations should involve volunteering for things you don't actually want to do but feel you should. That is a day in the life of the average hypomanic."

So I had a few days poring over the blogs and websites of my favorite local music men, which typically I don't have or make time to do, because more important things call. I ended up posting something on Sean Nelson’s blog, about sadness being the other side of the creative coin. It's impossible for me to skip an opportunity to comment on depression.

Anyway, I wonder if I am hypomanic (which would likely mean I have bipolar II)? I kind of doubt it. I think what’s happening is a cross between the effect of Celexa being somewhat of an upper, and being totally unmoored from depression. The tethers have come loose, at least for now, and I’m flying high.

This all replaces introspection and journaling, though. It is what it is; it won’t last forever. If I ever stop journaling, someone should take note and suggest I switch meds. That would be a true personality change.

During the last depression dip, I collected several names of psychiatrists. Now that I’m better I haven’t given them a thought. I will probably wait until I feel shitty again. I have a lot going on right now.

I should probably stop drinking coffee. The thing is, I’m enjoying this. I want to squeeze every drop of productivity out of it. I mean, I’ve actually hung a few pictures on the walls around here and done a whole bunch of stuff with the kids. This is good compared to the depressive state, during which I kick aside toys, wear dirty clothes, and defrost chicken nuggets for dinner.

Another weird thing is that I’m experiencing boredom with yoga. It could be, as M. suggested, that I’m just taking too many classes.

Just checked in on Ayelet’s website, and she’s coming to Seattle in September! I’m so excited. I’m totally going to go see her, clutching my hardbound copy of Love and Other Impossible Pursuits. Now that I'm 35, there's just no reason to have shame.