Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Back in Korea Again

Just so you know this is about me being sick you might find a little too much information so watch out...Ok so I said I’d update everyone on how I’m doing as soon as I felt better. I’m feeling a bit better, So here’s my story. I arrived in Korea on April 9 at 8:00 pm and soon found out that my telephone had expired so I had no way to contact my new director, the man who was to pick me up. I was so hungry and could see a Dunkin Donuts and a McDonalds from where I was sitting however not wanting to miss Brian I was afraid to venture off from the International Arrivals gate. He finally arrived 2.5 hours later. Thanks dude. Still starving we made our way to Incheon to retrieve my things from my old school and then to my new place in Mokdong.
After a quick from the car tour, I got to my new apartment and moved in all of my things. I know anyone who has ever shared space with me will find it hard to believe this but I have way too much stuff,  hahahahah. So I quickly assessed the area and saw ant traps everywhere which being from central NY didn’t really bother me at all. I removed my two huge blocks of Cabot Hunters Extra Sharp, which I’m sure I could get upwards of 30,000 won for on the expat black market here for and put them in the freezer. When I opened the freezer, I saw there, on top of the college dorm room style fridge a bug that I had never seen before. A wave of disgust rushed over my body and I realized that it was a cockroach; I realized that the small black octagons, which I could see 10 of from the spot I stood, were not ant traps at all. I realized that these little fuckers had been crawling all over my apartment and that the trail of disease which they had left would show up under a backlight like a crime scene in a rent by the hour Las Vegas hotel room. I was living in an apartment completely infested with cockroaches. I didn’t see any alive just this dead one on top of the fridge but I knew this was not the end of my life with the roaches.  I will also mention the putrid smell that made me think I was going to find a dead body somewhere in the apartment at any moment.
I finally figured out the internet and touched base with the home front. I then wrapped in my sleeping bag and went to bed in my new home. The next morning I had to assist my girl with a trip to the hospital after an accident that left her hobbling. I took care of her all weekend and then returned to my apartment Monday morning and had my first day of school. Thank goodness, I have a somewhat photographic memory for I was not given my home address or the address of the school just a quick “that’s our school” as I passed it completely jet lagged the previous Friday evening. I was able to find the school after a quick trip to Paris Baguette to pick up a breakfast muffin and an iced Americano. I was really comfortable with the school and the other foreign teachers were all pretty nice. Brian had me that the lease at the current location was ending at the end of May so if I wasn’t pleased I could move out. I told Brian that I was not pleased with it and that I would like to move if the offered was still good. After work, I returned home and when I turned on the light, I saw them scatter. So many of them I can’t even begin to say, but at least 50 or more which is far too many for my liking. I don’t mind bugs in fact I’ve spent a large portion of my life living in the woods but roaches are a different kind of bug they are little disease spreading dinosaurs that refuse to die.
Tuesday evening after work, I invested my dwindling pile of won in cleaners, sprays, air fresheners, a broom, gloves and some veggies to make a salad. I opened the fridge to put my veggies in and about 4 roaches ran out. OVER! I went apeshit on those little fuckers. I of course started with the fridge and moved it way from the wall to make sure I got any roaches remains that might be there and that’s when I found the nest. The roach grado so to speak. About 50 of them went running out of the back of the fridge and into a small space between the wall and the kitchen cupboard. I also found the home of the dead body smell.  I freaked out. I went temporarily insane I really just couldn’t even hold it in. I was screaming, crying, and so afraid to allow them to exist for another minute. I was scrubbing as if I was eliminating all evil from the world. I had to keep rinsing out my sponge because once it made contact with the wall it was immediately black with roach droppings.  I’m getting sick even typing about it so I’ll spare you the grubby details. I sprayed almost an entire can of roach spray on every wall crevasse and in the back of the fridge….. everywhere I would really. After a complete mental breakdown and nuclear power plant mishap worthy shower I called my parents, Liz, and my parents again many times. I was absolutely starving but couldn’t bring myself to eat anything I’d brought into the apartment and was certainly not going to leave and give those little things a chance to come out of hiding.  I finally got a small amount of sleep. The next morning I told Brian I could not, would not stay in that place one more moment and he better move me somewhere else ASAP. That night I stayed in a love motel (which is a completely different blog post but I’m sure you can put 2 and 2 together). Needless to say, I did not get a good night sleep.
I woke up in the morning feeling completely dehydrated, like a hangover without any of the fun the night before. I had an egg salad sandwich from Paris Baguette for breakfast and by that afternoon was in the bathroom every few minutes. I even like an incontinent old woman had an “accident” Are you serious. I’m about to be 30 not 90!! Anyhow, that evening I continued to basically pass water out of my butt. It was awesome.
The next morning I told my director I needed to go to the hospital because I was so dehydrated that I was getting scared I might be having a Lithium overdose. Lithium by the way is one of the drugs in the combo I take that keeps me within the limits of “normal”. One of the things I was told when I began the meds was that if I ever felt as if I was getting the flu I was to go to the hospital immediately because it could indicate and overdose of lithium which if not taken care of can become toxic.
Brian took me to a pediatrician who gave me an IV and some anti diarrheal meds. I was told by Brain that I’d been kicked out of the motel because I had gotten sick in the night and messed up my sheets and comforter. GREAT! I was to rest assured that the greatest exterminator in all of Korea had visited the apartment where I lived and there were no more roaches not not even one. So, under the hopes that the “roach king of Korea”  had cleared my living quarters of the disgusting little bugs, I returned home. I took my meds and began drinking as much water as I could get in. A co-worker stopped by to give my some soup, vitamin C and green tea. I drank the soup broth and set the mondu aside because I couldn’t bring myself to eat anything.  After some sleep, from pure exhaustion, I woke, up to see 4 roaches crawling around the plastic wrap of my soup and just began to cry. Then much like the first wave that had hit me another wave hit me with full force. This time I realized that everything was just spot cleaned and had been moved to the couch and swept well. The 4 cans of empty roach spray by the front door are apparently, what the “Roach King of Korea” ad used to rid our entire building of roaches. What bull shit.  The next morning I walked back to the hotel and asked for a room. The ladies gladly gave me one. I checked in and lay in the fetal position all day crying begging whatever had infected my GI tract to leave me.
After moving my possessions out of the roach motel and into the Love motel, I met Lizzy at the train station. She found me by the subway entrance bent over and dry heaving. We made our way back to the hotel when I spend the night doubled over rocking back and forth going in between hot and cold and from wanting nothing to touch me to begging for back rubs and tummy rubs.  She suggested we go to the hospital but I wanted to try to make it through the night to see if I’d feel better. After all, I’d already been given meds and seen by a doctor, I MUST be on the mend right? In the morning, I woke her up about 6:30 informing her that we must go to a hospital immediately. Being the wonderful woman that she is she found one online and we made it here quickly.
Long story not soooooooooooooo long this is where I’ve been ever since. Ewha Women’s University Hospital.  I have had x-rays, a cat scan, blood tests and have had a constant IV drip since Saturday morning. I’m slowly but surely getting better. I have been diagnosed with acute gastroenteritis and colitis. In human terms, I have a really really bad GI infection, which after some internet research I am convince has been caused 100% by those little fucking disgusting cockroaches.  I am very angry right now with my boss and the fact that he tried to make me stay in that place. A foreign teacher arrived a little over a month ago and they tried to put her there. She moved out within a day demanding alternate housing because of the roaches. What the hell makes them think that I would have been able to live there? How disgusting. Now I’m in the hospital, sharing a room with 5 other people not able to eat anything hooked up to a constant drip of saline, one of “food”, and a 3 times a day dose of Cipro to try to beat this infection. I also get pain meds to take care of my cramps, which come, and go like Grover doing a sketch on Sesame Street.  I’ve had my IV moved 4 times because my veins keep getting to weak. Its bullshit and I’m angry about it. I’m angry that Brain should have taken the care he would have taken with one of his own children and never allowed one of his teachers to live there. Just like camp En Loco Parentis right!?!? I am trying not to be angry though that doesn’t make me heal faster or change the past. So I’m staying strong and positive (trying my hardest anyway).  I’ll be healthy again soon and will be moving into a new apartment on May 1. I’ll be out having fun seeing friends and exploring Korea again in no time. For now, it’s me, my computer, and a hospital room with five elderly Koreans. I’ll blog about that experience later. No worries though I’ve been visited by my childhood friend Heather and I’ve talked to my parents every day. Lizzy has been great about visiting and helping me with personal hygiene that I’m too weak to help myself with. Even though I’m far from home, I’m not alone….. I’m not alone…..

Thursday, April 1, 2010

No more stigma i'm coming out

Years ago I had to tell my parents, friends and loved ones that I love women. And even though I felt in side that I loved women I still tried to be with men (which will make more sense when you read further). I wanted to be "normal" I thought that life would be easier if I could just.. well fake it. I now know that life with a woman just feels right. Yet here I am at 29 filled with the same feelings of being an outsider and I am coming out again, I'm bi..... Polar that is. I live with and try to manage bi-polar II. You may have also heard of bi polar disorder refered to as manic-depression. About 2.5% of our poulation or about 6 million people live with Bi-polar II. The biggest different between bipolar I and bipolar II is that i've never had a full on manic episode. When I am having an upswing I experience what is called hypomania. When I am hypomanic I love to party and be the center of attention. I take intense interest in people and their activities. So what's bad about that right? Well, when one experiences a hypomanic episode, which I've had last as long as a month or more, one may partake in risky or erratic behaviors. Spending money they don't have, seeking out sex with people they normally wouldn't or just any risky behaviors like stealing, doing drugs or driving fast even. I have experienced all of those symptoms sometimes many of them together. On a downswing of bi-polar disorder I expereince depression that is almost unexplainable. I forget all of the positive things about myself and my place in the world and it seems like i'm in a fog. When I say a fog I mean that I cannot see a way through the path in front of me. When I reflect on a hypomainic cycle or a depressive cycle it is as if i'm looking at someone else and her life rather than remembering my own.
I plan to tell my whole story in bits and pieces but you'll get some of the logistics in this post. After 10 years of different medications I finally found a combination that works. They only work of course when I take them, sitting in a  bottle on my dresser they do nothing but create clutter. People have asked me on a number of occasions why i stop taking my medicine when i know that i need it. Well i'll give the example of anitbiotics. For a lot of people when they start to feel better they stop taking the medicine. For me I get to a point where i feel great i feel healthy and confident. What were once by best days become my worst days. So I feel great.. and i think maybe just maybe i can take care of my mood on my own this time. The truth is the medicine is what makes me better. If i were a diabetic i wouldn't stop taking my insulin right? There are a few people who are really close to me who are able to recognize when i'm off of my medicine. I stop returning phone calls and text messages. I don't write back to e-mails and rarely visit people. I seem to systematically find ways to avoid the people who would pick up on me, who know that I stopped taking my meds. I find comfort in new friends and people who don't know my ins and outs enough to see through the veil of bullshit that shrouds me when i'm cycling ( through bipolar not on a bike). I tend to draw people to me especially when i'm in a hypomaic state because i'm adventurous, fun, party all night long and will sit and listen to their stories for hours upon hours. It's like being high  for days or sometimes weeks. I don't sleep a lot or I have really restless sleep and i find comfort in organizing, cleaning and planning things. Like I said i'm good at faking it so to speak. The problem is i actually get to knwo new people when i'm ignoring the people who might blow my cover. So then the next time i've gone off my meds and start cycling I have to ignore them too. Having a lot of people who care about me is wonderful when i'm feeling good but when i'm not boy oh boy it feels like a thousand pairs of eyes are scrutinizing me and so... I hide.
So why come out now? I'm coming out now because i have not taken my meds since November and I have been cycling bad up and down since then. I've been home for the past 2 months and to some i've looked to be having a wonderful time. To the people that are closest to me though.. Well they haven't seen me or heard from me. I've let a lot of people down both new friends and old friends. My parents and brother. My girlfriend. Most of all myself. I became so clouded in my judgement that I missed out on a lot of moments and almost gave up some great opportunities for my future. I have people, like those mentioned above, who love me and support me and have constantly taken me back into their lives after i've gone through weeks or sometimes even months of  cycling up and down. I thank them more than they will ever ever know. I feel like i'm coming out again because people don't want to fucking admit that they have mental illness. I have been in the closet for far to long. If me admitting my illness makes even one person know they have someone to reach to or inspires one person to seek thereputic help then i've done what I can. The stigma attached to mental illness is unacceptable to me. I'm an advocate for change and for equality and so here i am bearing my darkest dirty secret to the world. I live with Bipolar II. My mental illness does not define me and i know that the only way to stop stigma is to come out of the closet.  I want my exploration of life through the eyes of a "mentall ill" person to help those of you that read my blog. So please ask questions. personal about my journey or in general about depression, hypomania or the times in the middle when i'm medicated and "normal". If you want to ask a question or contact me privately that's ok too. cassieandrews@gmail.com