Saturday, February 04, 2012

Salt, toxic, anxiety, flight

Last Tuesday, I decided to make roasted Brussels sprouts. While sprinkling salt over them, I noticed the salt container's bottom was swollen; it must have gotten wet. Unfortunately, I noticed this milliseconds before the bottom dropped off the container, dumping salt all over the olive-oiled sprouts. I rinsed them off and roasted them, but they were still excessively salty.

Wednesday morning I woke up wobbly and nauseated, and called in sick. After Googling "sodium chloride poisoning" a few times, I realized that I felt lithium-toxic, as if I'd taken too much lithium or gotten overheated in the sun. I called my psychiatrist, he said to skip my Wednesday evening lithium dose and let him know how I did. Thursday I felt a little weak and shaky, but well enough to work. Thursday night I took my regular lithium dose.

Friday I was ANXIOUS. For no apparent reason. Well, I was nervous because I had two sick days in early January (thanks to the integrated Traditional Chinese/Western Rehab medical practice I mistakenly thought would cure my knee pain), and didn't want to look like a slacker. I still have to get through probation (February 15!). But I did the best I could; I called in sick Wednesday morning, and I worked as hard as I could Thursday and Friday. I know that an uneven lithium level in the blood destabilizes mood. And unfortunately, I had signed up for a very expensive Shabbat dinner with an organization where I knew nobody.

I thought I would. They're called "Modern Jewish Connections"; I mixed them up with "JC Connections," which has organized dinners in the past that I've enjoyed, seen people I knew and met new people. But the JC Connections events are very structured -- rotating tables and hosts who make an effort to ensure everyone is included. MJC events -- from what I've seen, not so much.

The event was supposed to start with kabbalat Shabbat davening at 6 pm. When I arrived at 6:30, nobody was davening. And the crowd was young. Average age 27, I would guess. Everyone was sitting around chatting. I didn't know anyone, and I was too anxious to try to meet someone new.

Time dragged. MJC is affiliated with Chabad, which isn't renowned for punctuality. The rabbi introduced himself to me -- I'd emailed them asking for the exact address, which they didn't email around until 2pm on Friday, so he recognized my name. I tried to tolerate the anxiety, telling myself that after davening, when people sat down to eat, I'd be able to socialize with the people at my table. But there were no signs that davening would start soon.

I went into the bathroom and began deep-breathing, trying to ease the choking anxiety. It didn't really help. I felt like Norma Desmond, desperately trying to pretend a youth I didn't possess.

"Are you okay?" a voice asked. I turned around. A tall, slender 20something was standing by the mirrors.

"I'm not great in unstructured situations," I said. "I don't know anyone here, so I'm feeling a little anxious."

"That's okay," she said. "If it's any help, I think most of the people here don't really know anyone. You can be my friend. My name is Chaviva."

I appreciated that. But somehow we got separated during davening, which finally, finally started. When it was over, I hoped we'd quickly be seated.

Instead -- just more aimless milling around. I felt more and more desperately alone. I tried to control my face, worried I'd look distressed. It didn't work; the rabbi asked me if I were okay.

"I just don't know anybody here," I said. "I thought I'd know someone. I don't belong here." He was nice enough to let me out of my contract. Supposedly he's going to refund the $70 I paid. And I un-liked the JMC Facebook page, so I won't get any more invitations from them.

Only good part of it all was that I was too upset to eat much when I got home. I took a Klonopin, had an apple and some pistachios, and went to bed. Where I spent most of Shabbat today as well.

I've had bipolar disorder for more than 15 years, and I've been on the same medication cocktail for more than five years. I thought I knew how to handle myself and my errant brain. But clearly there are crises and surprises that hit when least expected. If anyone ever asks you, yes, I am definitely disabled by this illness. It's not just an inconvenience. It's a disability.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

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