Sunday, June 2, 2019

You Do Not Want to Take Up Space in My Bipolar Brain

Although it wasn't my intent, I've been posting about experiences I went through more than two decades ago. Maybe my subconscious wanted to tell you I was sick then, but not now. Maybe my subconscious remembered I wanted to write a book so I started early on my life timeline. I no longer want to write a book. Frankly, I want speaking engagements. I want to tell people about Jane's Place so it becomes a reality. I've had the idea for Jane's Place for 23 years. Technology enabled me to start now. A physical building for Jane's Place may be years away. I recognize that.

I also want to give credit for the title of this essay. I saw Hillary Clinton being interviewed. She said she must still be taking up space in Donald Trump's brain. She wanted out. I want out of my bipolar brain now. Usually, I don't think about that anymore. But, to borrow a little Joan Didion in "Slouching Towards Bethlehem," I had another moment when I realized the light wouldn't always turn green for me. In fact, I had the worst moment. Because when these moments had to do exclusively with me, I eventually overcame them. But, I'm a mother now. I know the desire to take a bullet for your children.

About two months ago, we found out my older son has a tumor in his knee. The tumor is either an osteoblastoma, the more benign one, or an osteosarcoma, the malignant cancerous one.  After a biopsy, doctors are leaning toward the former. The first question was whether it had spread. Given how large the tumor is (9cm) and the length of time he's had it - he's had pain switching from hockey to track all of high school - we were scared. But, it hadn't spread. The next step is a five hour surgery and five days in the hospital. The surgery was scheduled for May 29th. They needed cadaver bone for a graft. They found the match May 30th.

That's what broke me. That's when the light switched. I had been able to be calm to support him. Now there's a feedback loop in my brain:

- the surgery won't be scheduled
- if he has the surgery, something will go wrong
- he won't wake up from the anesthesia
- he'll have the surgery and develop an infection
- the tumor will spread before he has the surgery
- the surgery will reveal an osteosarcoma
- he won't start college this year. (Fact: There's no deferral; he will have to reapply. Yes, that's cruel. And, he's chosen a field he can't start second semester.)

When my brain was working normally, I worried most about him not starting college in the fall. I also felt awful because he won't be able to play sports anymore and that was part of his identity.

Now I am reduced to nerves of anxiety. You may think this sounds normal. But, I assure you it's not.

My bipolar brain, when under stress like this, goes to the darkest places. It's not about my son anymore and that's sad. I know I'm being selfish. It's about me and my bipolar brain.

So, here's what you should not do: Do not tell me my son will be ok. Are you his doctor? His father? Any of the people in the room listening to the surgeon? No. So shut up.

Here's what you can do: Ask about me. Don't even bring up his brother who is having a homework strike. He's a teenager and he's rebelling, testing the limits. He wants to spend time with his friends and only do the activities he enjoys: chorus, band, art, and dance, not his core subjects. If you are a professional with an appropriate background, you can privately message me advice. Back to me: Keep me focused on this blog. Say you can help me with a story about a stigma you faced and how you overcame it. I need two paragraphs. I will not use your name. Or, we can speak on the phone and I'll write it up. This blog is keeping me sane. Help me grow it. But, also keep in mind that's not the sole remedy. The sole remedy would be making everything okay this instant. Given you can't do that, time with you is good. Distractions are good. I'm hurting. I need your help.

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