Artwork Friday #1: “Still Alice” in pencil

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So this is my drawing of Julianne Moore in “Still Alice”. Let me give you a bit of a background.

I decided to go see this movie myself. Julianne Moore, in my opinion, is the greatest living actress. Idol, Queen, Icon, she is my star. So I simply had to see the movie. Well it was a terrible idea to go alone.

The movie is about Julianne’s character getting early onset Alzheimer’s disease, and after about 30 minutes in, I started sobbing, and could not stop. Even after it was over, I hung my head and cried while the credits rolled. I crossed the street to my favorite coffee shop, and cried. And then I decided to sketch it out.

See, my grandmother raised me. She was my mother. And she has dementia. She won’t remember my name. She will get lost from the bathroom to her bed (literally just one left turn). All of our photo albums are labeled. And Julianne’s performance echoed my grandmother’s behavior so perfectly. I couldn’t help but sob.

I think Alzheimer’s is the worst thing that can happen to a person. Early onset, in your 50s, like in this film, that’s unimaginable. But I imagine grandparents– they lived life. They grew up, fell in love, made a family, had careers, watched their children grow up and make families, watched their grandchildren be born….. And then one day nobody needs them anymore. One day they just end up laying around the house, useless. And all they have left, ALL they have left to comfort them, is their memories. And Alzheimer’s, or dementia, takes that away. That, to me, is the saddest thing in the world, and it breaks my heart.

Anyway, I know this sketch doesn’t look much like Julianne. Give me some credit, I did it in 15 minutes in a coffee shop. I mainly wanted to capture the look of confusion. Plus, I’m new to colored pencils. I’ve only been using them a few times. So you will see more artwork soon. Thank you, as always, for listening.

Love, Gabe

Mania and Migraines

So yes, my moodswings have totally changed. The rapid cycling I was worrying about has finally burst through the barrier– I am completely manic. Manic. Manic. Manic.

And my fucking god the headaches, I don’t know where the headaches are coming from. They are more than headaches. They remind me of Virginia Woolf, how she had headaches so debilitating she couldn’t do more than hold her head in her hands.

It feels like an old fashioned headphone band wrapped around my head. Squeezing. It’s there constantly, maybe just lightly, threatening to return.

But last night, in a manic rage, I ripped a bunch of books to shreds. Seeing the pages fall like confetti around my room was actually very therapeutic. But the migraine set in afterward. Squeezing my head. 10mg Valium, 200mg Seroquel, 5mg Ambien, and because of this headache I could not sleep. It penetrated my dreams. My roommate woke me up at 5am to check on me, and all I could do the next three hours was lay, hold my head, and cry. I took some ibuprofen and it gave me enough relief to sleep.

But when I woke up today, my God what a fucking state I was in. You couldn’t get a full sentence out of me, my behavior was insane. Dancing and singing, but always the headache in the back of my head.

THIS IS NOT A HEADACHE. THIS IS INCAPACITATING. I plan on going to urgent care ASAP tomorrow morning. Because if this keeps up, I don’t know what I’ll do. I’ve never felt such pain in my life. What do you take for migraines? please help.

The mania doesn’t help. I’m at a loss. I don’t even know what to type…

Gabe

Poetry Monday #1: “Hope Less, Sleep More”

This poem was written in the depths of depression, with just an inkling of hope in my mind. (Circa 2012 by Gabriel Corona)

Hopeless, Sleep More

The practical pair:
Hopeless and Sad.
I keep them around
Cause they’re not all that bad.
There’s a comfort I find there
In being sad.
That comfort, I’ve found,
Well, it’s not all that bad.
Between the sound and the silence,
There’s nothing I lack.
Between the notes and the smoke,
I can finally relax,
Lay my head down and dream
About cocaine and smack.
Cause being hopeless is just
A prelude to relapse.

It might sound sad when I say
That I’m content to remain
Hopeless. But it’s not,
It’s a comforting thought.
That hopelessness, see,
At least to me,
Is a defense mechanism.
A comfortable nest.
It’s not at all like a prison,
It’s a down feather bed.
Where after my days of sorrow and woe,
I can lay down my head, and just let go.
I’m numb;
It’s number.
It’s cum.
It’s comfort.
It’s dumb;
I’m dumber.

If I
Can get through
Today
Without slitting my wrists,
Swallowing pills,
Or jumping off cliffs,
Doing things that can kill,
Taking suicide risks,
Then I guess
That I’m here
To stay.

Anxiety Meds: Pros and Cons

So as I’ve stated in a previous post, my treatment team and I recently decided to change my course of anxiety medications. I’d like to discuss the pros and cons of the side effects, and see if any of you experience the same.

Ativan: I’ve taken Ativan since I was 16 years old. It was always what worked the best. Lately though, experiencing so much mania, it wasn’t enough to calm me down. And by the time I took enough to calm me down it was like– ZONK, it put me in the backseat of my own mind. I was calm, but I felt like I wasn’t really there. Also, Ativan seems to cause a lot of memory loss for me. So we are trying Valium.

Valium: This definitely seems to calm me down much better. And what I love about this medicine is that while it’s calming me down, it keeps me in the driver’s seat of my own mind. My troubles aren’t as worrisome, my racing thoughts are gone, I’m completely relaxed, and I’m still able to see the world through my own eyes. But lately I’ve been noticing these tension headaches after I take it. It feels like a pair of old fashioned head phones, a band around the back of my head that just squeezes. It leaves me holding my head in my hands until some tylenol and caffeine kick in. I really feel like Valium helps my anxiety better than anything, but could it be causing these headaches?

So, has anyone else experienced tension headaches as a side effects of Valium? What are your thoughts?

Gabe.

So Why Am I Here?

I guess my original idea for starting a blog was to promote my art and my writing, but I’m feeling more and more like I’d rather really connect with people who struggle with the same issues I do. I’ve been having a hard time putting my thoughts into words lately, they’ve been racing so much, but I guess I could try simply by describing today. (As Virginia Woolf said, “A woman’s whole life in a single day… And in that day her whole life.) A theory I believe– if you follow the details of a person’s single day, you will see their whole life.

Today I could not get out of bed. Lately (in the past few months) my disorder has made me more and more manic, more and more panicked, and more and more anxious. I’ve been bouncing off walls and not able to sleep. I was given Ambien, which helps me sleep, but still I have been totally unable to calm down during the day. My doctor and I tried starting Ativan again– a medication I’ve taken off and on my entire life– but even it seemed to have totally lost it’s effects. So… actually, a side note:

I can not stand the stigma of mental illness and psychiatric medications. With even my closest friends and family. The Ativan was not working– period. So we decided to try Valium. And when I told my best friend and roommate, “My doctor and I decided to try a two week course of Valium, to see if it works any better,” I was greeted with a sigh and an eye roll. This kind of behavior angers me to no end. Would you roll your eyes at a cancer patient who said, “I’m starting chemo”? But I digress…

So taking Seroquel, Ambien, and Valium make for a pretty heavy sleep. (Granted, I don’t take the Ambien much, and I only take the Valium mid day, but I needed an Ambien last night.) So I could not wake up this morning. My poor boyfriend tried several times to rouse me. Finally, at around 3:30pm, I tried to get up. My body hurt, my head hurt, and my mood was depressed. I thought, “I’m going to get up, and get myself some coffee.” And I continued to think that for 45 minutes. My body simply wouldn’t cooperate.

So I started off depressed and tired: Mood number one. I made myself a french press of coffee, and before it was even ready, I found myself pacing: Mood number two. Suddenly I had all this energy, and nowhere to direct it. I wanted to do something so badly, but cleaning seemed to much effort. I tried to write, I tried to play piano, I couldn’t focus on anything. I tried to sketch, but my hands shook and I had no patience to form the right lines: Mood number three. I knew reading or even watching TV was out of the question.

The point is, I don’t know why I’m having such rapid cycling anymore. It leaves me terrified, because in the past I would only deal with long periods of depression, slight hypomania, and then “normal behavior”. Now I go through all three (four, five, six, seven) in one day. So finally I found where to direct my energy.

I got on wordpress, and spent hours reading all of the beginner’s information, trying to learn how to form a valid blog. And I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve come up with. So my creative energy has flowed through the keyboard, but I still haven’t found it in me to shower or change my clothes.

It’s as if my brain is fighting off depression by trying to force me into mania. But while I’m doing manic behavior, my mind is saying “calm down, you lunatic”. I see a new psychiatrist soon, so hopefully something will give. But I find writing here, to whomever might read this, even if nobody does, a soothing therapy. If anyone stumbles upon this and can relate, please reach out to me. The Valium has definitely eased my racing thoughts, but I hate to be totally dependent on medication.

Anyone else have manic/depressive symptoms at once? How do you handle them?

Gabe