Tag Archives: death

Double the Madness


depression green road sign over storm clouds

A few months ago I wrote about how I had again received the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. As many of us know, one of the major characteristics of bipolar disorder is mood swings. My doctor prescribed medicine that worked quite well in stabilizing my mood–that is until January 27, 2016. On that day, I had a hysterectomy.

Last year I was diagnosed with Stage IV endometriosis. The only permanent treatment is a full hysterectomy. After six months of unsuccessful attempts to get pregnant, we made the decision for me to have the surgery. After I healed, the physical difference was amazing, particularly in regards to my lower back pain. I can now walk long distances without much discomfort. Yay me! Mentally is a different story.

One of the side effects of a hysterectomy is that you are thrown into menopause, and one of the major things about menopause is that you have mood swings. Bipolar disorder and menopause is no joke. Although I’m on medication, the emotional upheavals were unbearable. I found myself getting irritated at little things (an aspect of hypomania) although I’m regularly taking my medication. On the flip side, I was crying for no reason at all. Because of these things, I made the decision to go on hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Along with my medication, HRT has helped with the irrational irritability and crying spells, however I still struggle with one mental challenge. I can only describe it as the most horrible mix of depression and anxiety that I have experienced since I was a teenager. On a good day, I constantly think about my own death. Not in a suicidal ideation type of way, but always thinking that I will be dying soon, either from a horrible accident or from fatal health issues.

On a bad day, the thoughts and feelings are so bad that I don’t like leaving the house, and I even feel shaky trying to drive–shaky in the sense that I’m panicked and hyper-aware of other cars because I’m waiting for the car accident to happen. You would think that being hyper-aware would make you safer, but I don’t feel safer so I usually find someone else to drive. Even then, I’m still looking out for disaster.

My daughter likes to sleep in the same bed as me to have mommy snuggles before slumber. I’ve gotten so panicked about me dying in my sleep and not wanting my daughter to wake up with her dead mother in bed with her that I’ve started refusing her requests. I don’t tell her the real reason why, but focus on her getting older and needing to sleep on her own.

Trying to sleep is a whole other issue. Not only am I plagued by thoughts of dying of a heart attack in my sleep, but anxiety over a house fire or natural disaster keep me up until the early hours of the morning. I will lie in bed and plot exit routes out of the house, safety precautions in case of or a tornado, or I’ll just cry because I don’t want to die yet.

This is no way to live. I’m hoping my doctor can switch my medication so that the madness can end. Until then, I’m writing more poetry just to get it all out of my head.

This is just a glimpse into mental illness and bio-chemical changes within the body. The next time you encounter someone with these issues, please remember this post and be compassionate–that person has enough hurt and worry to deal with without the need for social sanctioning or ostracizing.

Blood and Family


misty+mountains

Family means a lot to me.

When my grandfather was alive, my extended family on the Adkins side would often gather at my grandparents’ home. We had a saying, “If you ain’t blood, you ain’t sh*t.” This statement bonded us together by celebrating our relationships, but also was a battlecry to anyone who wasn’t blood kin – a playful jab to those who had married into the family.

That bond quickly disintegrated when my grandfather died. I was five years old. Huge fights erupted between siblings over money and whatever estate my Papa had left behind. I don’t know all the specifics of it. I just remember hiding in the hallway of our house as my mom and dad fought with my uncle. Unfortunately when the dust settled, we were no longer allowed to have contact with my uncle, which also meant cutting ties with his kids, two of my cousins.

My family didn’t learn from past mistakes. A similar pattern arose when my grandmother began losing her battle against alzheimer’s. You see, we’re Appalachian people. Culturally, Appalachians have a deep history of “taking care of our own.” When it comes to family, this dedication is even stronger. My mom cared for my grandmother herself, even bringing Mammy home to live with us for a while. I even helped by dressing Mammy on occasion. A memory burned into my pre-teen mind is of struggling to get her to raise her arms so I could apply deodorant. Regardless of the struggle, pawning her off for someone else, a stranger, to do these things was not a consideration.

For whatever reason, one of my aunts was not happy with the way we were providing for Mammy. She insisted that she could take better care and even accused my mom of stealing money. My mom could no longer take the stress and relented, allowing my aunt to take over caring for Mammy. My aunt didn’t do this for long before placing Mammy in a nursing home without telling the rest of the family. In those days and particularly to an Appalachian family, this was quite a scandal. As one might expect, these actions created another rift in the family, and we were no longer allowed to talk to that particular aunt, my uncle, or their kids – four more cousins lost.

Since I didn’t know anyone on my dad’s side of the family, my extended relations then consisted of one maternal aunt, my uncle, and their three sons. We clung to each other and became much closer, spending every Christmas holiday together, similarly to how the WHOLE family did when both my grandparents were alive. Into early adulthood, when thinking of extended family, I only had one aunt, one uncle, and three cousins, plus a gnawing sense of loss because I knew I had more, but somehow events changed our family motto to mean that even if you’re blood, we will still disown you. This was a huge leap from the days of “if you ain’t blood, you ain’t sh*t.”

Fast forward to 2005. I was working for Amazon in India, and one week before I was supposed to leave, my mom called me with the news that my dad had died of a massive heart attack. At that time Amazon did right by me and spent whatever money was needed to get me back to the U.S. as soon as possible. When I finally landed back in West Virginia, it was a deeply sad time, but I was consoled in the fact that my dad and I had reconciled before he passed. I had finally gotten to the point in my healing that I no longer found it useful to hold onto anger over many of the hurtful things he had done under the influence of alcohol. I even remember placing my hand on his coffin and saying, “I forgive you.”

My dad didn’t have much of a will. The document had been written more than a decade before and had no mention of what he wanted done with his remains. Dad had stated on several occasions that he didn’t want people to make a big deal out of the funeral, preferring that it be informal, and he wanted to be cremated. So, this is what we did. During visitation, my dad was dressed in a button down shirt, jeans, and sneakers. After, he was cremated, and my mom received the ashes.

Life became more confusing at this point. We remembered back to one rather amusing family conversation. My dad had said he wanted his ashes sprinkled in the Ohio River. My mom asked how we were suppose to accomplish this to which he replied, “Wait until it’s dark, drive over the 17th street bridge, and throw me out the window.” We all laughed. This was the only time my dad mentioned such things. My mom thought he had been joking, particularly since we had all laughed about it at the time, so she made no plans to do anything with his ashes except keep them in her living room under a statue of Buddha.

One of my three cousins, the middle child, took issue with this. My mom had passively told the story of the funny discussion regarding the Ohio River. My cousin acted as if he was horribly offended that we were not respecting my dad’s last wishes. Truth was, we weren’t sure what those wishes really were outside of not making a big deal of his funeral and cremating his body. Still, my cousin became angry that we didn’t spread his ashes. I guess he learned well from the lessons taught previously by our estranged uncle and aunt because he stopped talking to my mom, me, and my sisters. He even has all of us blocked on Facebook, as if we don’t exist anymore.

“If you ain’t blood, you ain’t sh*t.” I guess he now considers us sh*t, and I’m down to two cousins. I’m seriously confused by all of this because I had no idea that he thought so highly of my dad. At the same time, I bitterly think, “If he only knew what my dad had been capable of, maybe he wouldn’t be guarding his memory so strongly.”

I’m sad by all of this. The right lessons are not learned, and my family on the Adkins side continues to shrink. I know that this is a huge reason as to why I place such importance on my husband’s family and maintaining all of those relationships. I’m treated differently by them – not in an “if you ain’t blood” way – but since I married into the family, a great deal of importance is placed on me. I chose the family, I don’t love them because of blood. After the wedding, my father-in-law said to me, “Now, you’re not my daughter-in-law, you’re my daughter,” and that’s exactly how I’m treated, with that same level of regard…although I ain’t blood.