It seems like ages since I last posted, or responded to your comments. I've been remiss. I apologize.
Please forgive me. I've missed you.
Although I hate it when people talk about how busy they are – because we're all busy – it seems that this is an uncommonly "wild and crazy" time.
Between Passover seders that fell this year on two of the three days I teach, plus all my marking, which is over for the time being, I have not watched any television, cracked open a book or even read the newspapers very carefully. To be honest, I don't miss the TV, but I'm feeling a little out of touch.
Most of all, I'm terribly sorry that I've had to neglect "Coming Out Crazy" – and you – for a few days.. So today, I'm going to play catch up and fill you in on what's happening with Angela and some other news and views. Plus, this is a short week, with Good Friday tomorrow and Easter Sunday. It's tax time, too. It means we're all working harder and faster than usual to accomplish more that needs to get done, in less time.
Stressful, to be sure.
Next week, I plan to return to my regular schedule of two posts a week, plus commenting on your comments. Thank you for your understanding.
ANGELA PLODS ON AS HER ECT TREATMENTS DRAW TO A CLOSE
Angela has about four or five more treatments left. Neither of us is sure if she'll be having ECT on Easter Monday, so we don't exactly know.
We speak almost daily. Yesterday morning, she was upset because there's been a hitch with her new motorcycle and she's anxious to get her hands on it and start biking the highways and byways of Ontario as spring temperatures are rising. I cannot believe it will be 24 degrees Celsius tomorrow, but that's what the weather man is telling us.
One recurring theme in our conversations is that ECT may do wonders for one's mood, but it doesn't solve all the problems in your life. And it can create others, like problems with memory – though Angela didn't complain about her memory at all yesterday.
I've been thinking about all the things that electroconvulsive therapy cannot do and was never intended to do.
Sometimes, Angela expects miracles but she's beginning to realize how much long term work she has to do with her psychiatrist in psychotherapy – in addition to the ECT. And she is willing to have maintenance ECT treatments if it is recommended.
ECT WORKS BEST IN COMBINATION WITH PSYCHOTHERAPY
"My way of thinking is messed-up," she admitted yesterday morning. "It's gonna take a while to fix. Still, I do think the ECT is beneficial. And I don't think it would be as beneficial unless it's combined with therapy."
This is true for all psychiatric treatments. And for emotional healing. Medications are much more effective in combination with psychotherapy. Ultimately, though, you have to do the work – and it IS work. Whether it's psychiatric therapy or peer support or any number of other approaches – any therapy. It's never easy and often painful. It's all about change. Transformation. I've been at it for close to 50 years and still counting. More than 20 years with Dr. Bob. Trust me, it's worth it.
Changing the way you think and perceive, changing your beliefs and your behaviour patterns is the toughest work in the world, but I wouldn't trade all those years of psychotherapy for the world. That's why I call it "my PhD in me" – though I'll never graduate with any degree. This is what recovery is all about. Those years have given me peace of mind – insight – as I hope they will Angela.
All that work is the only way to truly go into recovery. (As I've often said, you won't find insight in a bottle of pills.) It's a constant. Never ending. Because our lives are changing all the time – throwing us curves we have to deal with and adjust to. Dr. Bob and I often joke about how we'll be together until we die. "Whoever goes first." I don't view this as a weakness, either. It's a strength because change is so challenging and ultimately so rewarding. Builds resilience.
Despite the fact that we resist change, which is natural, I suppose.
CHANGE IS NEVER EASY – THERE'S ALWAYS RESISTANCE
Just look at what's happening in the U.S. and all the resistance to the new Health Reform Bill and its amendments that were passed over the last two weeks. Surgeon and journalist Atul Gawande puts this revolutionary change (for the U.S.) and the resistance Health Reform is facing into perspective in a fascinating commentary in this week's New Yorker titled Now What?
When it comes to change, some things never change, I guess...
WHAT'S NORMAL? AM I NORMAL?
Whenever anyone, I mean ANYONE, starts talking about being normal or not being normal, I jump in and say, "What's normal? There is no normal."
I don't ever ask it anymore. Instead, I view everyone as "Next to Normal" which nicely encompasses all manner of quirkiness and eccentricity and even outlandish behaviour. Extreme behaviours.
I picked up that handy little phrase after flying down to Manhattan last June for a mid-week matinee of a then-new Broadway rock musical/operetta about a suburban family coping with a mother who has serious and seemingly drug-resistant bipolar disorder.
WE'RE ALL NEXT TO NORMAL
This show is called Next to Normal and I will be forever grateful because of its integrity, honesty and respect for the complexities of psychiatric conditions and their impact on everyone they touch directly and indirectly. (We're all touched in some way.) More important to me is that it puts into perspective this rather absurd notion of "normal" – which applies perhaps to body temperature – 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. That's about it.
When it comes to people and their personalities and behaviours and experiences, I have no idea what "normal" means.
Three days later, this stunningly authentic show picked up three Tony Awards, including Best Actress in a Musical for the wildly talented and irrepressible Alice Ripley, who plays the mother, Diana Goodman and sings most of the songs.
This show was slated to close in August 2009, prior to its Tony wins. It wasn't drawing great crowds. That's why I was invited to attend and comped two tickets. Instead – three days later, after scoring big at The Tony's, it started picking up steam and has continued to resonate with its audiences. The wildly spontaneous standing ovation as the curtain goes down is testimony to that. Its run has been extended repeatedly.
Last Saturday, March 27, marked the first anniversary of Next to Normal's Broadway run. This little show that almost didn't make it has turned a profit, both signs that it's a legitimate Broadway hit.
Here's the clincher. It's an artistic and commercial hit about a most unlikely subject for a rock musical – a serious mental illness – bipolar disorder. There's even a scene during which Diana undergoes ECT, and as a result loses her memory.
I think this is revolutionary. Think of it. A major mental illness goes musical and mainstream. It's not depressing, but inspiring and uplifting. A national tour is planned for the fall. I think this is the best news of all.
Have a good weekend and speak soon. I feel so happy to be back.