theworldofdale

Archive for the ‘Health and Wellness’ Category

the chronic

In Health and Wellness on November 18, 2014 at 8:46 pm

I was sick this weekend. Not the sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching kind that afflicts so many commercial actors and NFL players. Not the had too much fun Friday night and spent the weekend mourning my liver and wishing I could cut my head off of my body because that would hurt less. Not the XX-hour flu that tries to determine if your stomach can be turned inside out and negates the need for sit-ups for the next month. This was more like herpes.

I don’t have herpes (except the cold sore kind). But I do have bipolar and I’ve used this analogy before. I’m viscerally averse to going into details of the darkness of bipolar because, well, I hate pity. I feel strongly about not using my disease as an excuse for poor behavior, whether it’s hurting someone’s feelings or fucking up a project or hating everyone in the world once I start driving. To ensure that I’m not dismissed (or assumed inferior) because I experience the symptoms of an illness no one can see or even comprehend, I don’t talk about the lows.

But after this weekend, I am going to tell you what it’s like in the dark. There are so many people silently suffering and there are too many people who have no idea what people with mental illnesses experience and therefore dismiss or assume them inferior. The ignorance and stigma are touching all parts of society, from poverty to gun violence to the penal system and still no one talks about the elephant in the room. And so, let’s get pachyderm.

When starlets are admitted to the hospital with exhaustion and it eventually turns out they are mentally ill, they aren’t really lying. Exhaustion is the first and most overwhelming symptom. Upon waking Saturday morning, I already felt the weight on my chest. Getting out of bed and into the recliner felt like a major accomplishment worthy of a medal or at least a certificate with quality paper and color printing. Despite sleeping 9 or 10 hours, I felt like I’d been awake all night. My eyes featured the expected bags and circles associated with fatigue or a date with Chris Brown. If someone had seen me in that state, they would have just cause to believe I was a zombie and should have alerted the authorities (AMC).

The exhaustion doesn’t leave; instead, it’s joined by its partner in misery, pain. Yes, physical pain is a symptom of bipolar (and depression). It’s similar to the dull ache of the flu (in fact, I took my temperature, thinking I had waited too long on my vaccination), but tighter. My body naturally curls into the security of the fetal position and my muscles twitch like they are shaking off a spider. Stretching has the effect of getting a freshly unrolled poster to lie flat. Whatever temporary relief results from my made-up version of yoga is as delicately held as a snap bracelet. I’m wearing layers not necessarily because I’m cold, but because it feels like extra protection against the cerebral demons.

As this was a particularly difficult episode, there was the sobbing – for no particular reason. Like a toddler past her naptime, the tears are merely the manifestation of the inevitable surrender. It comes from deep in my chest, tears that don’t start at the eyes but at the gut, and there is more heaving of shoulders than shedding of tears. Dumb & Dumber is on the television but it may as well be Schindler’s List. There is only one thing left to do: go to bed.

I have to take Valium to sleep on the best days (my insomnia goes back to childhood). An extra V for a deep sleep (my psychiatrist knows every detail of my pharmaceutical usage, so don’t worry about the extra 5 milligrams) is well worth it. I don’t drift off to sleep. I plunk into it like an anchor.

The epilogue: I felt a little better on Sunday but still not well enough to leave the house (besides an unavoidable trip to the grocery). By yesterday, I was in much better shape besides some spaciness that will linger until my Ritalin dosage is adjusted. I cancelled both appointments that I had on Saturday, both of which were good and fun appointments, not the dentist or car maintenance. But as I remind myself in the lows, this too shall pass.

This post will probably surprise some people – the people who generally just see the goofy, cheerful, vivacious Dale who is as essentially me as is this weekend’s Dale. It will really surprise the people who don’t know much about mental illness. To those people, let me add: while my bipolar is severe, I am about as stable and healthy as is possible. This weekend happening 1 to 3 times per year is the best-case scenario for a person with bipolar disorder. And I am a rare bird among the flock – most struggle far more intensely and far more often. I am one of the lucky ones.

Mental illness is a chronic disease. There’s no cure. It never goes away. There is no combination of medicine and therapy and stress avoidance that will eliminate weekends like this. I often say that bipolar isn’t necessarily fatal (although it can be – it has the highest suicide rate of any mental illness), it is terminal. You will have it until you die. Just like herpes.

 

More quick facts about bipolar can be found here if you’re interested.

she drives me crazy

In Communication, Health and Wellness, Relationships on June 2, 2013 at 12:47 pm

I am pretty open about having bipolar disorder. If someone sees a stigma in it, they would have probably found in me another unforgivable trait like how often I mention poop. Some people ask questions; most don’t. I’m fine with either. But since my diagnosis, I have learned a lot about the disease – just as you would if you found out you had diabetes or cancer or herpes. It’s been especially on my mind in the past year and I’ve felt called to talk about it.

What has spurred this deeper study in the past year was a new psychiatrist. I am no longer seeing the kind of assembly line doctor who made me feel like I was in line at the methadone clinic. We have started tinkering with my medications, finding out that not only could I sometimes feel not shitty, I could even feel good once in a while! This was a major breakthrough in what is essentially a terminal disease. A correlating diagnosis of ADD to add to the OCD and anxiety platter made me the wet dream of pharmaceutical companies everywhere. But the brain is a complicated thing, and it’s very inter-connected. So what makes one neuron manic or depressed can then also make me count my steps and forget most of my life experiences. Anyway, that’s just technical stuff – I’ve also been studying neurology in general so I get really excited about generating new connections between the brain cells I haven’t killed yet.

What spurred me to pick up the laptop and write the first post on Snarkler in over a year was a tweet. Stupid fucking Twitter is going to go and affect my life again. Mandy Stadtmiller, a writer at xoJane, tweeted to Amanda Bynes that she should DM her about writing for the site.

I am a fan of Mandy’s writing, although I don’t always agree with her. She’s smart and she gives good advice. Her writing is open and raw without reservations of vulnerability. When I read her popular article about the hit piece written about her, I was disappointed that she called being labeled bipolar a libelous act. It’s a disease, as indiscriminate with its destruction as any deadly illness and should cause no more shame than a congenital heart defect. Then last night, I saw her reach out to Amanda Bynes.

Wednesday, former Chappelle’s Show writer and current stand-up comic Neal Brennan tweeted this:

You know Amanda Bynes is mentally ill, right? You might as well be mocking someone having a heart attack or a seizure.

I don’t think Mandy is mocking Amanda Bynes. And this post isn’t about Mandy Stadtmiller. It’s about not understanding mental illness as what it is: a disease to be managed, a part of one’s self but not its totality, and impossible to understand with a normal brain. Like white people can never truly know what life is like as a black person, and men can never truly know what life is like as a woman, the sane cannot comprehend the distortion going on between our ears.

The empathy is kind, but trying to relate to the symptoms of true illness only keeps you from learning what you need to know. 30% of people with bipolar attempt suicide. Your rainy day doldrums are not comparable. I don’t mean to diminish the real struggle people have with depression, anxiety, and the stresses of the shit show we call life. But there is an instability at work with bipolar that makes it more of a tornado than a hurricane. It’s unpredictable. Its intensity and direction swing wildly such that you aren’t quite sure where you landed. There is no control. Your mind cannot defeat matter. (Please appreciate that I didn’t go for the very punny reference to gray matter in that allusion.)

These words aren’t meant to invoke sympathy or debate and most certainly are not intended to diminish the struggle of every human life. It’s just to point out that it’s serious shit. Amanda Bynes’ behavior (and Britney Spears’ before her) reminded me of my own psychotic episode. It was about 10 years ago, and fortunately only lasted a week before my very smart mother determined through conversation that I was having delusions and hallucinations. Amanda Bynes doesn’t have my mom. She doesn’t have Britney’s dad. I don’t know who she has. I do know that it should be treated as gravely as a heart attack. This shouldn’t be a story. This should be a mission.

Don’t let all this bummer shit think I don’t still love life. I manage and monitor my disease carefully and lead a pretty normal life, or at least a safely interesting life. It’s just… this.

god and other unacceptable topics

In Communication, Health and Wellness, Home, News and Politics, Relationships, Science on March 10, 2011 at 11:46 pm

For the people who thought they knew what tonight’s post was about: Sorry. That’s for another day.

Religion is one of those things, along with sex, politics, and poop, that you aren’t supposed to talk about in mixed company. As you may guess, I enjoy talking about things that should not be discussed in mixed company.

My personal take on religion is that, like relationships, it’s a personal thing that is no one else’s business. In other words, I don’t give a shit what you think, and what I think is not your concern.

Still. Sometimes I feel like there is a dichotomy that religion boils down to, and it’s whether there is an omnimpotent being. God-ish, you may say.

I’m willing to admit that I’m in the fold of belief in God-ish. And I hesitate to narrow it further, as my beliefs are varied and broad and as far as I’m concerned, not mutually exclusive nor any of your business. What events result in that faith are pretty simple.

When I’m at the end of my rope, there’s a knot. I know that is totally 5th grade book fair poster involving a kitten philosophy. But it’s true. Yesterday was mad shitty. I mean, mad shitty. Think about the shittiest day, dial back someone dying, and that was my Wednesday. It really fucked up the whole week. I figured that life as Wednesday was barely worth it.

Then today happened. And it wasn’t perfect. There was still no sun. But I got a surprise gift from someone who thinks about me when I’m not around, which, let’s face it, is a pretty awesome compliment. Then a bit of good company sandwiched between the next slice of awesome: a childhood career dream come true. To settle the day, good conversation with good friends and a cuddle with my dog.

I suppose it could be a coincidence that a horrible day was followed by a day full of steady pick-me-ups. But it’s happened far too often to make me think that it’s not statistically significant. There’s too many times where I get to learn my lesson, but then get my scrapes bandaged and my lollipop received to think that someone isn’t looking out for me. Whether it’s the soul of my grandmother, a God, or magnetic energy from the sun in the form of Tom Cruise, I can’t help but feel like I’m not alone. Which is nice.

charlie sheen is not cool

In Entertainment and Nightlife, Health and Wellness, Home, News and Politics, Science, Work on March 4, 2011 at 3:35 pm

As much as I hate to be one of the billion people talking about Charlie Sheen when there are far more important matters in the world (Libya, unions, Bockfest), I feel like mine might be a minority (or solitary) opinion.

Charlie Sheen is not cool.

He’s not funny. He’s not winning. He’s definitely not inspiring. He’s sick.

Whether his brain was fried before the drugs is up for debate. What isn’t up for debate is that this is a grown man with 5 children. What would be mildly entertaining if he were a 22-year-old guy drunk at a party is a serious problem when it’s a 45-year-old man with responsibilities he is ignoring. As quotable as he has been in the past few weeks, he has 4 children under the age of 10. His youngest two children are with a woman who has plenty of her problems of her own. I don’t think any of us suspected that Denise Richards would come out of this family looking like the smart one.

Charlie Sheen is tragic. The likelihood of this ending happily ever after is slim. The United States is cheering the destruction of a human being, while ignoring the thousands who are losing their livelihoods and their lives.

I hate to be such a Debbie Downer, trust me. I prefer to keep this and my Twitter account as light and as bummer-free as possible. But the admiration people are showing for Charlie Sheen is distressing. Mental illness isn’t cool. Drug abuse isn’t cool. Having a harem isn’t cool (no, really. It’s not).

Charlie Sheen is not cool.

And he’s definitely not winning.

be careful what you wish for

In Health and Wellness, Home on February 21, 2011 at 7:06 pm

As a child, I had a huge gap between my two front teeth. More accurately, I had it well into adulthood. I prayed and prayed that my gap would close. It was the only thing about my appearance that really bothered me (and I spent a great deal of my childhood with a poodle perm and spent high school with eyebrows that could serve as toupees).

Over the years, the gap has closed gradually. A few years ago, when my wisdom teeth started coming in, the gap is all but closed. In fact, now I have a new concern. Is something in my teeth? (Yes, there is.)

While I’m thrilled to have one of my dreams come true, another wish I had ended up being granted a little differently. I always wanted dimples. I have dimples in my chin, which is not cute once you’re past your first birthday. So when I was little, I would pass the time while I was pooping by poking in my right cheek (the one on my face) (I preferred to only have one dimple, as I felt the asymmetry would be more interesting). Strangely enough, even after years of poop-time spent poking my finger into my own face, I did not develop a dimple.

Now that I’m aged (32, to be exact), I’ve noticed a few changes in my appearance. While I still look pretty good for my age, there is one wrinkle in particular that is very pronounced.

Right where a dimple should be.

don’t want your stacks, just crack my back

In Communication, Health and Wellness, Science, Work on February 20, 2011 at 3:28 pm

I was brought up to distrust chiropractors. I grew up in Detroit, where they had a reputation for offering to cure back pain, acne, cancer, and social awkardness. Needless to say, my parents were skeptical, and therefore, so was I. As another indication of how much my parents influence my choices, I still have never tasted a Brussel sprout, because both of my parents hate them.

My doubt about chiropractic was only enforced when I was in a car accident in 2006. As I was turning left onto a side street, a driver on the side street didn’t see me and pulled out and hit my car, t-bone style, directly into my driver’s side door. He had insurance, so my car (eventually) got fixed. Plus, I got to drive a Pontiac Grand Prix for a couple weeks, which feels like a race car compared to my Saturn.

One of my co-workers bugged me to go see a chiropractor, because after the accident, I had a problem with my back in that it hurt so much I couldn’t walk. I didn’t want to go, but finally, he bugged me so much that I went ahead and made an appointment to see his chiropractor. Without touching me once and only asking a couple of questions, the he told me I would have to come in 3 times a week for at least 6 months. So I left.

Fast forward 5 years, and my back is still messed up. Sometimes I throw it out in an attempt to carry things or bend over or walk. I’d get massages at the massage school where they would try to rub out the knot in my back, and I’d end up with bruises.

Then my mom’s best friend recommended that she go see a chiropractor in their town. My mom went, because she trusts her best friend even more than I trust my co-workers. And she liked him. She trusted him. And she felt better. I decided to give it another try.

I feel better. I’m a convert. But only for my chiropractor- I still won’t go to any other one. And not just because he’s hot (even though that obviously helps). But because he’s honest with me about what he can and can’t do, and he doesn’t try to get me to come see him more often that I want to (again, the hotness helps here). As much as I enjoy having hot guys on top of me, I wouldn’t pay $25 a pop for it if it didn’t cure back pain.

Now if there was only something he could do about my social awkwardness…

putting the period in periodical

In Communication, Health and Wellness, News and Politics, Relationships, Technology on February 9, 2011 at 7:30 pm

I have subscriptions to a lot of magazines. Like, 8. And that doesn’t include the 2 subscriptions I share with my mom, or the free subscription I have to Martha Stewart Living. Granted, I’m pretty good at getting deals on them- I pay about $5/year for 26 issues of ESPN Magazine. But still. For an environmentally-sensitive person like myself, it’s a bit extreme, but I can’t help it. I love magazines.

My periodical collection runs the gamut from girly (Cosmopolitan and Lucky) to issues that appeal to my more masculine sensibilities (Esquire). To illustrate what a frat boy I can be, I used to also subscribe to FHM and Maxim. I even had a letter to the editor published in FHM (PS – I got paid $50 for it!). Granted, they thought I was a dude (if they knew I was a chick, I would have only gotten $38.50).

There has always seemed to be something a bit off about women’s magazines- something that bugged me, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. Finally, when I was trying to come up with details about what I would do differently (besides just create a female’s version of Esquire), I realized that every magazine whose target demographic was female was comprised only of advice on how to overcome our innate deficiencies- of character, ability, worth, and beauty. As far as Glamour, Cosmo, and Marie Claire are concerned, there isn’t anything wrong with you that a 6-week exercise regimen, new beauty product, and personality transplant can’t fix. Cosmo gives explicit directions on how to shake hands with people (make eye contact, grasp firmly, slight smile- those explicit directions are generally repeated in another type of Cosmo feature).

Conversely, men’s magazines treat every man like he is perfectly fine the way he is, but just in case he was wondering how to find good scotch, fine suits, and loose women, they have some suggestions. Esquire does not have quizzes for their readers to determine if they are too much of an attention-seeker. GQ may recommend their readers use moisturizer, but they certainly won’t condemn you if you don’t. It has never occurred to an editor at Details to give step-by-step instructions on how to meet women (then again, I’m not sure Details‘ readers are all that keen on meeting women). Men’s magazines treat each reader as a whole person, who doesn’t need a mate, perfectly groomed eyebrows, or a home that is welcoming to the opposite sex in order to be happy.

Men’s magazines also tend to respect the intelligence of their reader more than their counterparts. There are stories that involved research and investigative journalism and aren’t just about women who are being repressed. Hey, I’m all for stories about repressed women, don’t get me wrong. But women need to read about men who are oppressed. They need to know what their government is doing, and to assume we only care about that affects our uterus is insulting. For the record, my uterus will remain under my jurisdiction no matter what the Republican Party says.

Hearst, Conde Nast, Meredith, ACP, and all you other publishers: Women are smart and capable and just fine the way they are. Give them more credit.  For pete’s sake, even Playboy treats women like they are beautiful creatures instead of works-in-progress.

But if you do find any fat-melting foods, will you let me know?

damn girl

In Communication, Entertainment and Nightlife, Health and Wellness, Relationships on January 25, 2011 at 9:25 pm

Many moons ago, my cell phone ring tone was “Damn Girl” by Justin Timberlake (featuring Will.I.Am, but who cares). Every time someone called me, Justin would croon, “Dammmmmn, girl, you’re so fine!” Corny? For sure. But I loved it- a consistent reminder that I am hot shit.

Related to the last post, part of the whole knowing my body thing has another positive side effect: I think I’m hot shit. I’m cute and all. I’m not skinny; I’m not fat. I’m not ugly; I wouldn’t say I’m classically beautiful either. I’ve been told I have a great smile and a nice ass (both true) and I like my eyes and wrists (weird but still true). And I have tits to die for, but don’t we all?

But I respect my body. It’s doing a pretty decent job for me (especially given how I treat it). I respect it when I have PMS, and my body is punishing me for not using it for its intended purpose. I really respect it when I’m ovulating and am beyond convinced that I’m the sexiest woman in the world (and my body is giving me a second chance at fulfilling its goal).

That’s not all, though. I surround myself with people who reinforce a positive impression of me. My first encounter with this was in 1997. In high school, I was a nerdy girl with huge eyebrows. But senior year, my mom had plucked them, and I turned 18 and met boys at dance clubs who didn’t know that I was a nerdy girl with huge eyebrows. In college, I joined a sorority, and all of a sudden, I had all sorts of guys who wanted to know this cute girl with the big boobs and the well-shaped brows.

I have female friends who are sources of constant support. Who, on my occasional down day, will remind me that George Clooney would throw his vow of celibacy (the marriage kind) out of the window for the likes of me. Sometimes, when they have a bit too much to drink, they will dry-hump me on the dance floor, and I’ll feel irresistible.

It’s been more than a decade since my first fraternity party, and medicine and age have taken their toll on my metabolism. Gravity does not love boobs as much as everyone else does. I still have pretty awesome eyebrows, but I realized something important along the way. Chris Rock put it best: show me the most beautiful woman in the world, and I’ll show you a dude who is sick of fucking her. In the same way, every woman in the world has got someone who wants to fuck her. I have beautiful, smart, smoking-hot friends who find imaginary flaws in their body that they think will turn a man off once they get into bed. And I tell them: the only thing that will get a man to kick you out of bed is having a penis. And that won’t even stop all of them.

Confidence really is the #1 ingredient in sex appeal. There are men who don’t want to get this, and that’s fine. I’m not trying to get a man who doesn’t want this. There are plenty of smart, funny, grade-A hotness men who would love nothing more than to get all conjugal with me. I don’t concern myself with the men who don’t. Just as I don’t find all men attractive, I don’t expect all of them to find me attractive.

But maybe they should get their eyes checked just in case.

do a body good

In Health and Wellness, Relationships, Science on January 23, 2011 at 9:32 pm

I think I know my body pretty well. I don’t always treat it that well- the Dale family historically abuse our bodies. We smoke or drink or tan or eat unhealthy food or don’t exercise or sometimes all of those in a single day. But there’s no cancer in my bloodline, and we look young for our age and live a long time. We are addicted to things and pretty crazy and usually have bad knees, but overall, not a bad ROI.

I know I have some male readers (honestly, it still astounds me that I have readers at all), but bear with me here. I’m going to be quite frank about what happens to a lady’s body, but you’re all big boys and you can handle it.

I don’t take birth control. I stopped when I didn’t have health insurance, because there was no reason to spend money on non-essentials. I still practice safe sex (and you should too, because having STDs is such a mood-killer). But I realized that I kind of liked not being on the Pill.

Then a friend had a stroke- which her doctors attributed mainly to long-term use of the Pill.  I also read about this study, where researchers found that the Pill can skew to which kind of mate you are attracted. Basically, without the Pill, you naturally seek out someone who is going to be complementary to you in genetics. You’re going to produce viable young. When you are on the Pill, you find yourself attracted to someone with similar genetics. And how are you supposed to resist infection with that?

Woman takes the Pill. She marries a guy with a similar genetic makeup (like marrying a cousin, basically). They decide to have a kid, and the woman stops taking the Pill. And all of a sudden, her husband smells different. Stinky. And then, she’s thinking… this was a mistake. I smelled the wrong man.

I know my body now. I know that when I’m ovulating, I’m glowing and eating healthy and attracting all sorts of male attention because they can sense some baby-making possibilities. Then I hit PMS, and my body hates me for passing up an opportunity to use that egg, so I eat pizza and take naps and become very sensitive to people being so crass as to not read my mind and do my bidding.

I’m not opposed to birth control. I just feel like I do better by my body (which, to be honest, is still not very good) when I’m in tune with what these hormones are trying to tell me.

By the way, they’re telling me: “Hey! We’re trying to make a baby in here! What the fuck?!”

take two

In Communication, Health and Wellness, Home, Relationships on January 6, 2011 at 8:18 am

If you read this, you might also read my Twitter.  If you read my twitter, you know that one of my favorite topics is poop.  Not just in the realm of humor but in a philosophical sense as well.  I have favorite poops (floaty ones) and least favorite poops (sticky ones).  As Dr. Oz enjoys pointing out, poop is an excellent indicator of your health.  I think poop is hilarious and will bring it up as a topic of conversation in all sorts of mixed company.

There’s a good reason I feel comfortable discussing poop in mixed company.  Because those are exactly the folks who poop.  That is where the philosophy comes in.

One million years ago, I taught teaching public speaking at a few of the local universities.  All three required every student to take public speaking, regardless of major.  Public speaking is often reported as the number one fear, even over death.  Basically, if I was teaching death class, I’d have more comfortable students.  I understood- when I took public speaking as an undergrad, I had an asthma attack during a speech and they found me lying on the bathroom floor.

As a result, I could relate to their fear.  There were a couple of strategies I employed for making students more comfortable, and one of them involves poop.  People often recommend to picture your audience naked when giving a speech.  While I guess that makes sense, I would be distracted, interested, and repulsed if that was the case.  I recommended my students picture their audience pooping.

Everyone poops, and it could be the most vulnerable position.  Your pants are around your ankles.  You can’t really go anywhere.  And you are stinking the joint up.  It’s the great equalizer, because no matter your job, your income, your looks, your popularity… all y’all poop.  Whenever I have the chance of being intimidated, I picture the person taking a big ol’ dump.  And it humanizes them.  No one is scary when they are pooping.

The reason poop jokes are funny is because humor relies on shared experience.  You have to be able to relate to find it funny.  And everyone knows poop.  You might not be black.  You might not be gay.  You might not be a blonde.  You might not have a penis.  But you poop.  So you get it.

Some people find poop to be embarrassing.  Even I have been known to make a man I’m dating not just leave the apartment but the building if I need some freedom to let loose, so to speak.  I’m not saying you have to (or should) talk about it as much as I do.  But if you are looking to feel more comfortable, just remind yourself: everybody poops.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 589 other followers