Wednesday, March 21, 2012


On Tuesday I celebrated 7 years since I threw myself a quit drinking party. It feels good to look back and see how far I have come. Life has thrown me some curve balls recently and it is easy to let myself slip into a not so good place. But for the past few days I have been reflecting on the last 7 years and I am proud of who I have become. I can face those curve balls head on because I know I have made it through much worse.

Last summer I participated in AZ Storytellers, a story telling night that one of my dearest friends created. I told the story of how and why I quit drinking. I had SO MUCH FUN! I am looking for more opportunities to preform, it really makes me happy. You can find a video of the story HERE.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The luxury of distance - part two.

Less than 24 hours later I found myself in our car going 20 miles an hour, trying to avoid every pothole and crack in the road (which in downtown LA is close to impossible). Cars sped around me and honked as they passed. People gave the same dirty looks that I am sure I have given while in a rush to go about my life. In the passenger seat was my love, still in his hospital gown because it was impossible to get pants around his broken pelvis. The morphine they had given him was starting to wear off; every bump we hit was an unnecessary reminder of broken ribs. His right arm was bandaged in this bulky monstrosity of a situation. They had gotten him to the car in a wheelchair, but only sent him home with a cane. Somehow I was supposed to get him from our car, up 4 stairs in the entry and then to the elevator, up three floors and down the hall to our loft. We got there. It was painful, but we got there.

Nothing could have prepared me for what was to come in the days, weeks and months ahead. I had never been in a situation where I was the sole caretaker of someone.

The first few weeks, well months actually, were excruciating. He could not move or sit up on his own; he could barely stand, let alone walk. He could do nothing for himself. He was in an unbearable amount of pain. He needed pain medication every two hours on the dot. He had no appetite and we learned the hard way that taking pain meds on an empty stomach was a bad idea (vomiting plus broken ribs doth not a good pair make). The bruise on his hip started to spread up and down his body, it was the colors of a super intense sunset – the deepest purples that faded out into the brightest yellows. It was the only thing that changed in the beginning. It was a strange evolving work of art in some ways. Each day we would document the progress of the bruise, it was like we were clinging to its movement, the only evidence that there was passing of time - clearly we were in need of serious sleep.

For me, the most unexpected personal struggle in this whole ordeal was sleep (or lack there of). A large part of how I deal with being bipolar involves plans. Lots and lots of plans. Schedules, calendars, rules, exceptions to those rules, non-negotiables, etc. This probably makes me seem super uptight, but it is really not the case. It is just survival. It’s the way it has to happen. I have wrapped my mind around this. I am good at it. It works for me. The number one non-negotiable, must-have, plan above all plans is sleep. One of the first things that they tell you about being Bioplar is that sleep is the corner stone of mental stability. It creates a base line – too little leads to mania and too much can slip you into deep depression. For me either of those ends leaves me experiencing mixed states, which is both anxiety-ridden mania mixed with overwhelming depression at any given moment in the day. Sleep is something that I take very seriously. It takes commitment.

So now, with out warning, I found myself in a place that was completely out of my control. I had to wake up every 2 hours to make sure that pain medication was taken on a non-empty stomach. Not just a quick up then down again, but it required sitting up (extremely painful), standing for a moment (extremely painful), forcing some jello down, plus pain pill (extremely painful) and then laying back down again (extremely painful). It was so terrible, I wished every moment that I could somehow take this away from him, I felt desperate and I was exhausted. I was only sleeping about 45mins to a hour at a time. The first few days I was in a zone, but then it started to wear me down. One week in: I cried any time I was alone, it was uncontrollable. Two weeks in: the tears keep the shower, in the car, with the door closed in the bathroom. Three weeks in: I started to be short and irritable and dare I admit, bitchy. Four weeks in: I walk the line on the edge of losing it at any moment. Suddenly it was about me and I tried everything to stop it, but it took on a life of its own. I started to feel angry and guilty – here, my dear boyfriend who has literally been hit by a truck has to figure out a way for me to get some more sleep. It became his number one goal. I remember the night we made it to a four-hour block of sleep – it was magical, we celebrated in the morning. I don’t know what I would do with out him.

I still carry some of that guilt. My mental issues prevented me from being the best caretaker that I could be. There were moments that I was less than pleasant. I feel really awful about that. And the truth of the matter is that it could have been so much worse. I knew this, yet it was impossible to get a handle on myself. At the same time it was an opportunity for us to work as a team. I started to realize that this had to be a two way street, by letting him care for me in some ways, he was maintaining the smallest bit of normalcy. And that was imperative to his recovery. Weeks and months passed – he started to get out of bed on his own and into a wheelchair, then he could walk with the cane and now he is in physical therapy and making small improvements each day. It has been and will be a very long and hard road, but he is strong and determined. It is nothing short of incredible.

So that brings us to now. It is the distance that allows us to see a little more clearly.
We stand, closer that ever before, having learned lessons that neither of us expected and thankful for the place that we have come to. While things are still very difficult, our future is bright, and for that my heart is full of gratitude.

End note: I have to take a moment to say that I would have never made it through the early weeks and months with out my mom, cousin, niece and 2 dear friends. They came over and checked on him, they made us meals and were just there. I will be forever grateful for those acts of kindness and love. They are everything to me.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The luxury of distance - part one.

Have you ever been so deep in something that you know you can’t truly process what is even happening? One of those places that you know that you need to just survive and get a little distance before really understanding what is going on? But then, as time passes, you are able to step back and take a look at the whole thing. And you begin to process...

Four months ago, on a Wednesday afternoon, I got a call, the kind of call that you never want to get. There’s been an accident. My boyfriend is very hurt. He was on his bicycle and hit by a truck. A stranger is telling me these things. My heart stops and my brain gets fuzzy. He holds the phone up to my love. He is frantic. He tells me that he is hurt bad. He tells me that he does not know what is going to happen. He tells me that he loves me. I fight tears and tell him that I love him back. He tries to tell me where he is. The stranger gets back on the phone. The whole thing is so confusing to me. We hang up. I am still not very sure what has happened. I was on my way into a meeting. I walked in and apologized for having to leave. I could hear myself speaking but I felt like a robot. I knew that I had to keep it together. All I can think is that it is a good thing that he was talking to me and I hold on to that thought as I spend the next hour searching for where he might be.

I finally find myself in the waiting room of the USC Los Angeles County Hospital Emergency Room. After what feels like an eternity, they finally come out and tell me that I can go back to see him. He is all bundled up. He has a neck brace on. He’s super out of it. I immediately tear up, but then decide that I had to stop, he can’t see me cry upon looking at him. That is not reassuring at all. I finally see a doctor. Broken arm. Broken pelvis. Broken ribs. Broken finger. Liver laceration. He will be kept overnight for observation. This all sounds bad. I find myself fighting tears again.

Its time to go into problem solving mode – there are police officers to speak to, a cell phone to find, a broken bike to get into the car and phone calls to make. I speak to the officer, who was pretty much a jerk, so that was pleasant…not. The cell phone was nowhere to be found (striking out here) and after quite the process, I did manage to get the bike into my car. As I sat in my car it was time for phone calls. Dread. I called my mom first, I knew I needed her and as soon as I heard her voice I loose it. She says she is on her way. I am so thankful. I had also texted my cousin (and bestie) and she was already in route to walk and feed our dogs and grab something to eat for us. Once my mom arrived we went back into the hospital, they had moved him to a different place and as we walked there I knew that I had to make the worst call: his parents. They live on the other side of the country and while I do not have kids of my own yet, I can only imagine that getting a call of this nature is a parent’s worst nightmare, even when your kids are grown adults. And the distance makes it worse. They were amazing; I remained calm and gave clear and concise facts. I am so incredibly thankful for how lovely his family is and how they have welcomed me with open arms. That made the call just a little bit easier.

My mom and cousin sat with me in the observation waiting room for hours. We were allowed to go in and see him once an hour for 5 mins. We ate takeout, thankfully my cousin knew that cookies were in order and oddly enough, we laughed a lot. We had not seen each other in a while, so it was a catching up of sorts. I do not know how I would have made it through that night without them. Like for serious, they were above and beyond wonderful. As midnight approached the nurses let us know that he needed to sleep (and frankly, so did I) and that I should go home and come back in the morning. As my mom and I walked to the car I felt like I was in a dream and I was not quite sure what to do with myself.

Earlier, on the phone, his mom offered to come out. I said that we needed a few days to get settled and then we would see how everything was. Looking back, I should have said YES immediately because I had not the slightest idea of what I was about to be thrust into and once I was in it, there was no turning back...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The search.

Its been since July that my crazy doctor moved to Florida. To most, switching doctors might not be that big of a deal. But there is something about going through a Bipoar diagnoses (or I would assume any mental illness for that matter) that creates a bond with the professional who guides you through it. At least for me it did. When she told me the news, I responded, what I considered to be, quite rationally. There was really no reason for me not to. I had been stable on the same medication for six years and had not experienced any major episodes for nearly three. She gave me ample notice and I knew that I would be fine.

Even though I knew these things, I had a really hard time starting the search for a new doctor. I guess part of me knew that once I made those calls there was a finality to her departure that perhaps I was not ready to wrap my mind around. Then on top of that, once I finally forced my self to get it together, several of my initial calls to prospective doctors were not returned.  [Note to said doctors: you treat mentally unstable people, perhaps you might want to return their calls. Just a thought.] I finally received a recommendation from someone and made an appointment. I arrived that day with my mood history dating back to 1991 in hand. For an hour and a half I shared my journey over the last 20 years (since when can I describe something as happening for 20 years…yikes!). I signed all the paperwork so that she could get my records from my previous doctor. And while she was nice and seemingly competent, I had a weird feeling that I could not shake when I left. I felt disappointed in way – I guess I had this unsaid expectation that I would leave feeling as comfortable as I had been with the doctor that I had seen for all those years. Which is silly because that obviously takes time. It made me realize that I needed to create a space in my brain to grieve the loss of that relationship.

I would later learn that after knowing me for 90 minutes, her recommendation for me would be to add 3 new medications to the one that I was already on; clearly we were not going to be a fit. [Note to self: that feeling you could not shake is your intuition. Trust it, it is usually right.] This whole experience really made me dread the next steps in my search. It took me two months to make an appointment with another doctor. I went to that appointment last week and it went well. I decided to keep two things in mind: #1) I was not going to leave with a BFF necklace – relationships take time, especially ones with crazy doctors and #2) This did not have to be a forever choice.

I am learning that #2 is big for me. Do you ever do that to yourself, hype something up so much in your brain that it becomes unnecessarily stressful? I was living in the “what if” of years from now. What if I choose someone and it does not work out? What if she sees me as just another crazy person on her long list of crazies? What if when I decide to have kids she is not willing to work with me as a partner in my treatment? What if she does not get my sense of humor?  I was not considering where I am right now. While all of these things are important (especially the sense of humor part, obvs), I do not need all the answers now. It is ok if it does not work out. I have the power to make a change. I can trust myself to know if and when that is the case. It is about embracing the process – there is so much to learn from where I am now. Today. At this moment. It would be unfortunate to miss those things because I am fretting about what will happen when I'm crazy preggers (which is not any time soon, BTW).

So this is where I am now: I have another appointment in two months at which time I may or may not clue her in on the superpower part. We’ll see.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A [crazy] first date story.

Three years ago, I met my sweet, loving, completely adorable boyfriend online. When people ask me how we met and divulge my digital secret they give the head tilted, “No way, really?!?” As if to say, 'but you guys seem so normal and put together, you had to resort to on line dating?" and then I’m like, "um yeah we are totally like one of those vommy".  Really, we are.

It was pretty text book: emails were sent, profile pictures carefully studied for evidence of photoshop, text messages exchanged, obligatory ‘lets meet for coffee just to make sure you’re not a serial killer' was had and then it was time for our real first date.

You can imagine the commercial: A folky mostly guitar based singer-songwriter trying to be hipster tune plays as emails are exchanged….I walk into the coffee shop in my cutest ‘I hope I don’t look like I’m trying too hard’ outfit, he’s sitting there pretending to read something then he sees me, his face lights up when he realizes that my pictures were real…conversation is easy and light…laughter, coy looks, a hug good bye…then it cuts to the epic first date…we have dinner in Malibu, over looking the ocean, there’s candlelight, more laughing, clearly sparks are flying, the song reaches the verse about maybe, possibly, most certainly falling in love…but at this point in my commercial, rather than the voiceover guy trying to convince you, the viewer, that you really can meet a totally normal, hotter than you would think person on and fall in love just like us, I lean over and mention to my handsome, intelligent and perfectly normal date that I’m crazy on paper…Bipolar to be exact.

Before I go confirming the rumor that ALL girls online are crazy, let me just say that, in my defense, I did not blurt my crazy business all over the place out of nowhere. We were deep in conversation, not light fluffy convo, but lets be real and talk about life convo. It was a process…a long, effortless, inquisitive process whos end can only be blamed, oddly enough, on the LACK of alcohol. How is this possible you may ask?? Well as you may or may not know, I do not drink (it just does not mix well with the crazy). But when you meet someone the answer to “why don’t you drink?” is not that simple. I was comfortable with my crazy, I had it on lock down, I had no problem talking about it, but I also understood that there was a time and a place for those conversations to happen and no one likes the girl who vomits her entire life story at you with in the first 5 minutes of introduction. So in anticipation of this I tried to go with 'easy and light' answers to questions about my lack of adult beverage consumption. That being said, when you are on a date with someone that you met online and you are 29 and three-quarters and you don’t drink, it’s usually for one of two reasons: A) you never have because you grew up in a crazy religious cult or B) you have WAY to much because you’re a raging alcoholic.  In my case neither was true, but the process of explaining that without going the 'vomit my life all over' route is really difficult. 'Easy and light' can go down-hill quite quickly. For example...

Well I just came to a point in my life where I needed to make better decisions and revaluate what is important to me and so I decided to quit drinking” which could be interpreted as “This one time I showed up to thanksgiving dinner and it turned out to be an intervention…for ME

OR “Yeah I take a medication that does not mix well with alcohol” which makes you just sound like a disease ridden carrier monkey who has god knows what AND a pill problem.

Either way I end up having some splainin to do. This is the moment where I just go ahead and say it and hope for the best.

If you think about it, those moments exist in the beginnings of any relationship. The ones where you realize that you have to reveal something that is incredibly real and personal and then that revelation will inevitably lead to questions that have answers that are less than ideal. There is a lot of baggage that comes long with the statement “I’m Bipolar”, but you know what, there is just as much baggage that comes with the statement “I’m Jenn and I’m 29 and three-quarters and I have a cat”. Sometimes you just have to say it like it is and see where it lands. I did just that.

Right as we were finishing dinner, he looked at me and said “I think we are going to be friends for a really long time”. I smiled and said that I hoped so, but inside my brain, I was like Aww man, the friend card?!?! Really Jennifer Ann? Really?!?! You had to bust out the crazy, on the first date? Well played. Enjoy your life with your thousand cats.

And just as my internal convo was getting to the part where I am certain that I am a cat lady who will die alone, he smiles and suggests that we stop and get some dessert on the way home.  Over fancy pants gelato and coffee across the street from my place, we talked and laughed for another 2 hours…besties in the making. We walked back to my place and I offered for him to come in and see this piece of art that I had told him about earlier in the evening. Not weird at all right? After all, we are going to be PALS. So you can imagine my complete and utter surprise when he leaned in to kiss me as I was going on and on about my art. A sweet simple first kiss – I still get all fluttery in my stomach when I think about it. To this day he gives me a hard time because apparently no guy just wants to come in and “see the art you have been talking about”.

So there you have it, I wasn’t joking, we are totally a vommy, complete with sappy tune and happy ending. To me, that is the craziest part of the story.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sweet Tooth.

My super sweet Blog Sugar ladies, all of which I have known since high school
[Photo booth by the spectacular Melissa Munding]

One week ago I attended Blog Sugar. An ultra fabulous event conceived by one of my oldest and dearest friends, Rachel. Blog Sugar is responsible for my little piece of crazy on the interwebs. The first one was in Rachel’s living room. I showed up, blogless and left excited and encouraged. That night I went home and decided on Crazy is my Superpower. It would be months before I was brave enough to click the publish button for the first time. It really was the stories, smiles and sweet authenticity of the ladies I met that night that inspired me to take the leap.

I had only written a few posts before the 2nd Blog Sugar rolled around. This time it had graduated to Rachel’s back yard. The crowd grew from 25 to over 60. It was luau-riffic and quite impressive!! I stuffed my face with brownies, met new friends and caught up with old ones. Our nametags included our blog names – I was mid conversation with someone when she read my nametag and said, “OMG, I read your blog and I love it – you are so brave”. It was a pretty amazing feeling. It also caught me off guard – I never thought of myself as brave. I still don’t. Honest? Yes. Brave? Debatable. The night was really magical – it made me realize that authentic storytelling can be quite powerful.

I signed up for this year’s Blog Sugar back in March and September seemed like it was a million years away. Not surprisingly it snuck up on me…the week before the event I was not sure what to make of the whole thing – I have not written in months and am smack in the middle dealing with very stressful circumstances right now – I am tired and I feel detached from the real world, let alone the blog world. The morning of, I woke up and decided that I was just going to go and have fun. No pressure, just be open to what the day would bring. I walked in to a beautifully decorated venue (we have out grown the back yard). The energy was bursting through every pink stripe and orange polka dot! AND there was cotton candy (oh how I love thee)! Rachel’s vision has grown to something bigger than she could have ever imagined (I can say this, because we have discussed it at length). She molded it and shaped it to be a faith centered experience that would impact people on a whole new level. And it did just that. I had the pleasure of hearing 4 speakers in the break-out sessions that I choose: Nish of The Outdoor Wife, Sarah of The Best Days of My Life and Julie of Joy’s Hope with Jeannett of Life Rearranged.

I learned so much from these incredible ladies. Nish engaged us in a conversation about how to write about difficult subject matter with grace and compassion. Sarah shared her incredible story and how she learned the importance of staying true to your voice and creating a community. Julie and Jeannette encouraged us to think bigger than ourselves and use our tiny spot in the digital world to make a difference in the lives of others. And the keynote speaker was Meg of whatever. She humbly shared her experience of discovering that her blog was not about her, but rather a tool that would be used to make a real difference in the lives of others.

I also have to give a shout out to Andrea of Four Flights of Fancy and JJ of Blah Blah Blahger who added some extra sass as they helped Rachel make the magic happen!! As hoped, I walked away excited and encouraged. The stories, smiles and sweet authenticity of the ladies I met once again left me inspired. Who knows what that looks like for my crazy corner of the interwebs…we’ll just have to wait and see.

How about you? What has inspired you lately?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


So today is the day, my last appointment with Dr. John. It seems like yesterday that I found out that she was leaving (as told here). As I sit here getting ready to travel to Tustin one last time, I can not help but feel a little sad and a whole lot grateful! Six years ago I walked into her office a hot manic mess and today I am beyond blessed to have had her knowledge, wisdom, and gracefulness to guide me on my journey. She did not commit me when I told her that I was throwing a 'quit drinking party', she understood when I told her that I wanted my crazy to be more like an 'adorable little chihuahua', rather than the 'great dane' it had become, she quietly listened as tears fell while I wrestled with whether or not I should leave my job and she encouraged me when I proclaimed that I would embrace crazy as my super power. 

So today I say good-bye. How do I even start? It's a bit of a daunting the risk of sounding dramatic, I feel like she saved my life...or more accurately, she set me on a life-saving path and has walked with me (at times carried me) until now. Tears well as I type, this is a lot more emotional than I expected, but that is ok. I look to a future that I know is bright. I know that my progress comes from within and that tomorrow nothing will have changed, I will still be me. I know that I will find another doctor who will walk the next part of my journey with me, but today I celebrate a woman who was placed in my life at a time when I needed her most. No matter what, she will always be a part of my crazy story.