N.B. To paraphrase one of America’s most esteemed contemporary philosophers, Samuel L. Jackson: this is one long motherfucking blog post. I’d suggest waiting until you have time to read it all in one go, or conversely, read it before bedtime to ensure a good night’s sleep, which will probably start around paragraph 3. You’re motherfucking welcome.
So there’s something wrong with me.
And before the resounding chorus of “DUH!”s creates enough energy to jolt the Earth out of orbit – settle down, folks. For once, I’m being serious.
Ask anyone who’s tried to see me in the past few months and they’ll tell you: it was a roll of the dice as to whether or not I could actually show up. (Mr. Benjamin, in particular, I offer apologies to you, after our three – count ‘em, three – cancelled outings. According to ancient etiquette, I think I now owe you approximately two oxen and a wife.) Normally I’d chalk it up to ye olde hermit-writer social anxiety – because, hell, what can’t I chalk up to ye olde hermit-writer social anxiety? – but to be honest, it just felt like I was extremely sad about feeling pukey all the time, a mixture of sensations that culminated in a very public and appalling clusterfuckorama that finally – finally – slapped me awake. Yet because I had been so deeply asleep (read: “denial la la I can’t hear you”), in order to wake me, said clusterfuckorama was forced to slap the shit out of me. Like, really, really slap me so hard it left me with a faceful of broken blood vessels. Literally.
But we’ll get to that.
For any of my readers who don’t know – which is, what?, the one guy who stumbled in here after Googling the word “cuntrocket”? – I am bipolar AND completely unashamed of it, the same way one might be unashamed of having cancer – because being bipolar is a physical illness. And feeling ashamed of a physical illness makes about as much sense as feeling ashamed that you aren’t a helicopter. In other words, that’s just fucking crazy.
Now if you wanna get technical about it, I have Bipolar II, or the “milder” form of bipolar disorder – and oh, how I love that adjective, “milder.” You might as well have a milder form of Buzz-Lightyear-Jammed-Up-The-Ass Disease:
It’s like being “slightly” pregnant.
The shrinks only differentiate it from Bipolar I because you tend to err more on the depressive side, and you don’t experience full-blown manic symptoms, i.e., you don’t have psychotic hallucinations about Elvis talking to you through your rice cooker – followed by you running through the streets, naked and shouting, “WOW ISN’T THAT THE COOLEST FUCKING THING BECAUSE I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW ELVIS LIKED RICE HEY LOOK AT MY TATAS!”
Thus, I got off “easy” by having what I like to call “Bipolar Lite,” which basically boils down to, “All the meds, half the nuts!”
And the meds? Oh, the meds you will take! After several failed experiments immediately following my diagnosis, I’ve been on a steady three-drug cocktail for almost a decade. Except for the occasional “dip” – where some of my depressive symptoms resurface for a couple days, but dissipate on their own – with the meds’ help (AND years of therapy AND exercise AND yoga AND meditation AND getting enough sleep), I’d finally wrested a mostly-normal life back from my rogue neurotransmitters.
Yeah, serotonin and dopamine, you fuckers, I’m lookin’ at you.
If you do any research at all on medicating brain diseases (one more time: it’s a disease, not an attitude problem, assholes)(okay, that last part was attitude), you’ll soon discover this Super Fun Science Fact: in a large number of cases, for reasons unknown – even if you take your medication religiously – eventually the meds can simply… stop working.
Yep. Easy as that.
One morning you get up and… you’re just re-fucked all over again.
I could pitch a bunch of theories as to why this is – your body acclimatizes to the meds and stops reacting to them; your metabolism changes as you get older so you stop processing the meds the same way; you start taking another drug that interacts weirdly with all your other drugs – but no one, not even the board-certified brain-peelers, has a comprehensive explanation for what I call the Attrition Effect.
It’s just like life, I guess: messy, inexplicable… and sometimes everything up and goes to shit for no reason.
And despite several (fine, several several several) warning signs over the past few months, when it came to the Attrition Effect, I was firmly in the Never Gonna Happen To Me camp. Nope, not me, I’m different, I’m frangin’ awesome, I have diamond-hard willpower, I have absolutely FORBIDDEN it to occur, thus…
…I’m a wishful-thinking dumbass, just like everyone else.
Not that this is anything to feel ashamed of, either. Face it, if some guy walked up to you and said, “Hey, how ’bout I shove this sharp stick into your brain and stir shit up in there?”, I’m betting your answer would be something along the lines of: “Fuck off, you fucking psycho!”
Which is essentially what I’d been telling my brain for several months when it kept nudging me and whispering, “Hey, um… there’s something… I think there might be something… y’know… kinda… off… from what we’re used to here? I dunno… maybe it’s just me but… hey, only if you have time, now, I don’t want to be a bother but… could you… oh, say… look into that for us?”
To which I kindly replied, “Fuck off, you fucking psycho!”
(And yes, being a woman with a brain disease, I can use the word “psycho,” just like I can use the word “cuntrocket.” Ah, the small perks of marginalization.)
Now, “Fuck off!” isn’t a particularly nice thing to say to your brain, what with its keeping you breathing and getting you into college and preventing you from accidentally stepping off cliffs and providing you a living and putting up with all the chemicals you’ve been feeding it for the last ten years – and its, oh by the way, making life worth living, you ungrateful meatsack!
My brain may be a tad pissed at me. But I can’t blame it.
After you’ve lived ten years in a mostly blissful state of productivity and personal growth, you get a little cocky.
* * *
Even the ancient Greeks knew “cocky” is a really bad idea.
* * *
Yet as I said, I’d been pretty miserable for the last three months. And not just mentally “off,” but physically ill, too, since there isn’t a lot of room in your skull, and your “happy/unhappy” lobe is located relatively close to your “I’m-fine/I’m-vomiting-like-The-Exorcist-chick” lobe. At first I figured (“denial la la I can’t hear you”) I was just catching some virus. A lot. Like, every other week or so. Infinite Stomach Flu. ‘Cause that happens, right? Right?
But then I went to the dentist.
Which turns out to be a stunningly bad idea when A) you use nitrous even for cleanings because you have a pre-existing dental phobia (due to your childhood dentist, Dr. Mengele, D.D.S., breaking teeth off in your jaw when you’re 10 years old) and B) your stomach is already kinda… BLEAAARRRGGHH.
I won’t go into too much detail – largely because I don’t want to make you barf up a pancreas – but I think I definitely saw my pancreas in the dentist’s bathroom, coinciding with the worst panic attack I’ve ever had in my whole life – and let me tell you, for someone who’s had panic attacks for 20 years, that is saying something.
Oh, and all of this took place in front of strangers, which was nothing short of gaggingly awesome. Granted, they were kind strangers, ones who murmured and patted my back comfortingly while my pancreas did laps around the toilet bowl, but nonetheless, strangers who never needed to see my pancreas in the first place.
All of which necessitated The Finance’s actually leaving work to retrieve me… or rather, to retrieve the weeping, pukey, shitting ball curled up on the dentist’s waiting room floor, sobbing under a blanket and trying to hide her face from the normies. After we got home, there was more puking and panicking and shitting and crying – mainly because I didn’t know what the fuck was happening to me – and indeed, I cried so hard I broke almost every blood vessel in my face, which I didn’t even know was possible. But for 36 hours afterwards I looked like a sunburned cherry tomato. (Just trust me when I say: not a good look for the Whitest White Girl in the Whole White World).
Hence, let this be a lesson to you, kids: Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt. It’s a river made of acid and lava and nuclear sewage filled with cobras and butchers’ knives and dead babies you hacked into pieces with the butchers’ knives. That is to say, it’s your worst fucking nightmare and you, lucky you!, you get to live it out in front of other people!
That’s when I thought maybe there might be a problem with my meds.
Take a moment. I realize my genius is magnificent to behold.
So I went to the shrink, who gave me new meds that turned me into a zombie. A zombie too stoned to go out and chase people. A zombie that slept 14-16 hours a day and fell on the floor whenever it tried to get out of bed.
Hand to god, this really happened.
I couldn’t write a text, much less finish the “Elementary” script I’d been working on. I couldn’t talk on the phone because people thought I was drunk. (Hi-lar-ious, since I don’t drink. And when I say “hilarious,” I mean, “fucking irritating as shit.”) After a while I just stopped talking at all because I couldn’t hold a thought in my head long enough for it to exit my mouth coherently. Matter of fact, when I finally told the shrink this new medication wasn’t gonna work, it came out, “I can’t tay thish ‘cush I nee’ mah job for mah brain.”
My shrink answered, “Yeah, I don’t think this is the meds. I think we should run some blood panels.”
I muttered, “Whaffever,” and promptly fell out of bed again.
So the blessed, saintly Finance drove me to the clinic and I underwent a bunch of tests (you know what’s a great preschool game? My First EKG!) and they poked me with a bunch of needles and sucked out a gallon of blood and – surprise! – what they told me was:
It’s not Infinite Stomach Flu, you moron.
No one catches the flu for three months straight, you idiot. No one. Even Keats, in the final throes of his tubercular wasting, was healthier than you are, despite your working out four times a week (prior to Zombieland, anyway). And no, there’s no mysterious dust you’re inhaling from the treadmill that’ll give you an excuse not to work out. (Fuck.)
Reading their lab numbers like tea leaves, they were pretty sure I had something called Central Hypothyroidism – which, hey, whattaya know, causes nausea and depression! – and is like regular hypothyroidism, except it has nothing to do with your actual thyroid glands. (Gotta love how the medical community names stuff. Too bad I didn’t have milder Central Hypothyroidism. I would’ve known how to deal with that.) No, this particular condition originates higher up, usually in your pituitary gland, which – say it with me – is also in your brain. And the main cause for Central Hypothyroidism?
Is a little thing we like to call a brain tumor.
Whoa, whoa, whoa – cheap shot at dramatic effect, y’all. I’m not gonna leave you hanging past that sentence. More specifically, the most frequent cause of Central Hypothyroidism is what’s called a pituitary adenoma, which, yes, is a type of tumor, but not, like, a Hell’s Angel kinda tumor. No, 90% of the time these adenomas are just a bunch of cells hanging out where they shouldn’t, making trouble… more like juvenile delinquents. And these JD’s probably don’t even know they’re causing trouble – like I said, they’re just hanging out ‘cause they’ve got nowhere else to go and nothing better to do; in other words, they’re benign, or non-cancerous – but they’re still leaving their cigarette butts all over the damn place and carving PA ♥’s PA into their desks, all of which in medical parlance adds up to, “Yo, they’re fucking up your hormones, dude.”
And as you may or may not know, fucked-up hormones can lead not only to fucked-up feeling, but fucked-up thinking, too. So those past few months I spent in “denial” about my meds not working anymore? Were probably due to my fucked-up hormones, rather than the Attrition Effect. In fact, to the best of all the doctors’ knowledge, the meds never stopped working, and I’m back on the cocktail I’ve been on for ten years.
So on the one hand, “yay?”
And on the other hand,
Allow me to share a few words you never want to hear from a doctor:
“We need to schedule you for a brain MRI.”
My stomach, which for the last few months had stubbornly insisted on fighting its way up? Suddenly plummeted into the parking garage. (And those cheapskates at the clinic don’t even validate.)
The MRI was five days later.
Like, so much longer than it’s taking you to read this blog post. (Hard to believe, but true.) During the intervening period, the zombie medication finally cleared my system, and I was back to being my usual charming self… which meant I was eaten alive with anxiety and crying at the drop of a hat. Only this time I felt okay about it because I knew it was just my fucked-up hormones… well, that, and the whole “possible brain tumor” thing.
Now, do I have a pituitary adenoma?
I found this out a few days ago after getting the results of my MRI. I would’ve said something before then, but who wants to write, “Guys, hey guys! I think maybe I have a brain tumor but I’m not sure so I’m opening this Kickstarter campaign just in case they need to crack my skull and dig around in there and I might need a wig but I want a really COOL wig okay so please donate!”?
That’s the main reason I’ve been off-grid for so long. It’s hard enough to write true or untrue things, in general. I’ve found it impossible to write about things that may or may not be true but we’re not sure, so let’s do more tests.
So we did more tests.
After the negative result from the MRI, came the thyroid ultrasound, where I found out my right thyroid gland is twice the size of my left one (fucking overachiever – and underachiever at the same time – I can’t win), which means… frankly, I don’t know what the shit that means. But I have an appointment with a fancy-pants endocrinologist next week to explain to me what the hell is going on. I may be put on thyroid replacement medication, I may need even more tests – but I feel infinitely more well-equipped to deal with it now that I’m back on my usual meds, know that they’re still working, and I DON’T have a brain tumor.
It seems odd, to celebrate the non-existence of a thing, sorta like celebrating a tornado that bypasses your house, or a car accident you just missed having — all the while knowing that that tornado hit someone else’s house, and tons of people get in car accidents every day. But the sense of relief — it’s not me, it’s not me! – is a real thing, a palpable thing, a thing you’re sure exists. And it, too, spawns its own reaction: gratitude. Gratitude of the highest order, appreciation of what you do have, and hosannas to the Grand Hoo-Ha, even for your mild form of Buzz-Lightyear-Jammed-Up-The-Ass Disease.
So where do I go from here?
To infinity and beyond, my friends!
Infinity and beyond.