New York, New York

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In mid-November, my husband and I took a weeklong trip to New York City, and it was fabulous!! We ate at GATO NYC, one of Bobby Flay‘s restaurants. They had a semi-open kitchen and I kept looking for him through the window, but he wasn’t there lol! The food was delicious.

On Bobby Flay’s show, The Flay List, his daughter recommended Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer, where we met a high school friend of mine for lunch. The Black Tap is mainly a burger joint, but they have these EPIC milkshakes. My husband ordered one — cookies ‘n cream — and the sides of the glass were covered in frosting topped with broken chocolate sandwich cookies. Okay, let’s be real — they were Oreos. The burgers were yummy, too.

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Afterward, the three of us went to the Museum of Modern Art. We apparently broke some rules by accidentally sticking our noses past the line that delineated how close you could approach a painting. We were also warned not to touch anything, which I feel the need to do with art exhibits, sculptures, and the like because I’m a tactile person. I didn’t touch though, lol!

A trip to New York wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Our tour guide led us from the ferry to the statue, to the island. We learned a lot of historical facts that we didn’t know, and it was very interesting. There’s a wall-type sculpture in the gardens of Ellis Island that lists the names of some of the immigrants who came to the U.S. through there. I was surprised to see my name, because as far as I know, my parents and I were the first immigrants in our family. Maybe time for a genealogy project?

Finally, we went to the Rink at Rockefeller Center, on which I’ve always wanted to skate — a bucket list item. We had VIP tickets, which meant snacks, free skate rentals (though we have our own), a different entrance from the General Admission folks, and we had an earlier start time for entering the rink. I hesitated about being the first people to go on the ice, but I got over it and we went.

Instead of the grand entrance I’d always dreamed of, gliding gloriously on the ice, I froze. I could barely move; my whole body was tense. And you have to be relaxed in order to skate. I couldn’t lift my legs. I couldn’t bend my knees. It was a nightmare. I was also in disbelief. I’m actually a pretty good skater, when I’m actively playing hockey. I held onto the rail with one hand and my husband with the other. I was determined to skate around the rink once, which I did, though it could barely be called skating. I fell several times. Luckily (?) I’m not afraid to fall on ice. Except for on a sidewalk lol!

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The original Carlo’s Bakery (from Cake Boss) in Hoboken, New Jersey, was something of a consolation the next day. The pumpkin spice cheesecake I ate for my second breakfast took my mind off what happened on the ice. Or what didn’t happen.

Last stop was the football stadium on the Rutgers University campus in New Jersey, where we watched my beloved, Ohio State Buckeyes basically…annihilate the home team. Well, a win is still a win.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my New York experience. I can’t wait to go back!

Have you been to New York? Share your experiences in the comments!

The Escape Game

Photo credit: Anita ūüôā on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA

I should have put off doing the Song-Off until today because today’s daily prompt is, of course, song. Ah, well. I have other things to write about!

About a month ago, my sister, brother-in-law, husband and I made plans to do an escape room game last night. And I didn’t cancel, even though we had to reschedule because I was in the hospital on the original date we were supposed to go. But I’m proud I didn’t back out at the last-minute because we had so much fun.

You may have read my description of an escape room a few weeks ago, but if you don’t know what it is, you’re placed in a room (depending on the theme, it could be like the one in the picture) and have 60 minutes to figure out how to escape from it. You aren’t actually locked in there, like you can leave and return if you have to use the washroom. There are all sorts of clues hidden around the room, including keys that open locks to different items, which contain more clues. It takes a lot of teamwork, which is why we were glad we bought a private room.

Each room holds 8 players at this particular location, so we had to buy all 8 tickets to Prison Break so that we could have the room to ourselves. Otherwise, we would have been grouped with 4 strangers, and we didn’t want that. My sister and I agreed that 8 people would have been too many cooks in the kitchen.

So yeah, our room was called Prison Break, and we had to figure out how to escape prison. Unfortunately, I can’t describe what the rooms or clues were like in order to keep others who want to play from getting spoilers.

We had dinner beforehand, the best parts of which, for me, were the walnut muhammara dip (don’t worry, I don’t now what that is, either, but it was good lol), fresh-squeezed orange juice, and the strawberry rhubarb crumble with the biggest scoop of vanilla-bean gelato I’ve ever seen. My sister and I shared that.

All told, it was a great night! And we’ll be playing a different escape room in the near future!! I’m also really proud of myself for showering and not cancelling. Those are big steps for me.

Daily Prompt: Song

Back From St. Joseph, Michigan

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Yesterday, my husband and I returned from a 5-day, 15th wedding anniversary trip to St. Joseph, Michigan. St. Joseph is only a short, 2-hour drive away, which was really nice. Neither of us had been there before, and we loved it!

We particularly loved the B&B in which we stayed: it only had one room downstairs, and we had the entire second floor to ourselves! We usually book suites, so we have a seating area where we can relax. Here, the sitting room was in another room altogether, which was surprising at first, but we grew very comfortable, very quickly! Especially because we were the only guests there — it’s the off-season. St. Joseph is a beach town, and we’re not particularly beach people. The photo shows part of the sitting room and the bedroom. You can see a few more pictures of the second floor on my Instagram account.

The innkeeper was very accommodating and had the best stories! He was also an AWESOME cook! He did ask me what I do, and I finally got to use my answer: “I’m a writer and I blog about bipolar disorder.” He was accepting and we had a short conversation on mental illness.

IMG_0672He’s also a photographer and has an artist friend who lives next door. The neighbor did a lot of the art work that decorates both the interior and exterior of the house, and I fell in love with an outdoor piece called “Fish Sticks.” The innkeeper introduced us to him, and we got our first piece of commissioned art work, which you can see in the photo! It’s called “Voodoo Fish Sticks,” and while it isn’t identical to the innkeeper’s version, it’s very similar. We plan to hang it on our balcony/deck because it’s weatherproofed. Plus I told the artist that I wanted to display it outdoors.

Because the breakfasts were HUGE, we didn’t eat lunch the entire time! For dinner we got take-out once, which was meh (I had the mozzarella sticks; my husband had a pizza with a soggy crust). We ate at a pub in the downtown area one night, and that was really good, especially the fries. At 4:00 PM every day, the innkeeper set out snacks of chips and home-made salsa/guacamole, freshly baked cookies (the rest of which he sent home with us!), and wine. Between breakfast and snacking, we didn’t need lunch or dinner much!

Also, all the food was made from scratch, down to the granola in our yogurt. Just about everything was locally sourced. On our last day, I tried quail eggs for breakfast. Although the yolk is much richer, they taste like chicken eggs. I’m not usually adventurous when it comes to food, but I figured, why not?

Like our last trip, we found a chocolatier lol! This place only made truffles though, and they are ex-cell-ent! We left with a dozen ūüôā

We also did an escape room adventure, which we’d never done before. If you aren’t familiar with it, you’re basically locked in a room for a set amount of time with other players, and have to solve your way out. You’re not actually locked in there and can leave at any time, but the goal is to find the solution based on clues in the room. Each room has a theme. Ours was to find Bugs Moran’s mole in Al Capone’s organization! Even though we didn’t know the father and son we were partnered with, we worked together well. We weren’t allowed to take pics because that would ruin the secrets of the game. My sister, brother-in-law, husband, and I will be doing one here in Chicago in a couple of weeks. This time, we bought all the tickets so we’ll have the room to ourselves. I can’t wait!

Although I was able to push myself to do the escape room, visit some art galleries in Benton Harbor, go out to eat, walk along the South Pier, I was unable to shower the last 3 days. I haven’t showered today, either. Despite all of the fun things we did, I felt, and continue to feel, depressed. It doesn’t help that my husband left for Nashville this morning for work. At least he’ll be home tomorrow night.

Have you ever been to Saint Joseph? Did you like it?

via Daily Prompt: Identical

Poor Hygiene & Going to the Salon: A Paradox

Photo credit: The Library of Congress on Visual Hunt / No known copyright restrictions

It’s been ¬†just over a week since my psychiatrist raised my Prozac dose, and that I’ve been using my light box for 45 minutes to start, and then 1 hour the last 2 days. I feel a little better, but not much. My insomnia still troubles me. If it didn’t, I’d probably have trouble getting out of bed.

It’s been 2 weeks since I showered, and on Tuesday, my husband washed my hair because I couldn’t do it myself. I did manage to wash my privates (I’d like to repeat that I won’t sugarcoat my experience with bipolar), although it was much more difficult to do than the last time (which was before my most recent shower).¬†That difficulty in doing what was previously a simpler task makes me tend towards going through ECT again, after all. Especially because on most days, my husband still has to help me get dressed.

However, we have a short trip planned for the weekend after Valentine’s Day. We’ll be staying at a bed-and-breakfast for a few days just to get away and relax. I’ll make my decision when we return. I’m hoping that between now and then, my depression will improve and that I won’t need ECT.

The procedure itself isn’t bad. The entire process of going to the hospital and all the prep they do — which is a good thing — is a huge pain, though. (If you’re interested in what I go through on ECT days, please click here.)

I haven’t been completely idle this past week, probably because I’ve had extra hours in my day, due to the insomnia. Anyway, I’ve blogged daily — writing is therapeutic for me; finished a crochet project — also therapeutic; saw my therapist on Friday; and went to my salon appointment yesterday for a brow wax, mani/pedi, and hair color to hide the gray lol!

This seems counter to not taking care of my hygiene, but going to the salon is part of my self-care. For the hour or so that I’m there, I’m pampered, and until my next appointment, I feel somewhat good about myself. I know it’s weird because I don’t particularly care how I look otherwise: that my hair’s a mess, that I wear sweats and a t-shirt every day — on the days I change out of my pajamas.

I’ve been going to this salon since they opened in 2004, and am friends with the staff, who knows I’m bipolar. So the visits are also a way for me to socialize. They always ask about my well-being and actually care. The owner has repeatedly invited me to visit, even if I don’t have an appointment, just to hang out. I would take her up on this, particularly on the days my husband works from the office, but he’s the one who drives me to the salon. I’m not yet comfortable taking the train by myself.

Do you care about your appearance and/or have trouble maintaining basic hygiene when going through a depressive episode?

via Daily Prompt: Tend

Bipolar & Sobriety

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Before I was diagnosed with bipolar II and anxiety, I did a lot of partying. I may have been hypomanic — I don’t know for sure. I felt more confident as soon as I had my first shot and a beer, and I bellied up to the bar as soon as I walked in. J√§germeister and Miller Lite were my go-to’s. When Mind Erasers became popular, I’d down several in one night. For maximum effect, you drink these particular shots quickly through a straw. I also smoked pot and did coke. This was in my early 20s. Once I was diagnosed at age 25, I quit hitting the bars. I quit partying altogether.

Presently, I seldom drink, but I do drink. On the few occasions we go out to dinner, I may have a glass of wine — 2 at the most, which is rare. Sometimes, I’ll have a mixture of Malibu Rum and orange juice. Malibu contains half the alcohol as other spirits, such as vodka. I’ve also realized that I don’t even like beer, and yet I drank it for years!

The psychiatrists I’ve seen regularly (#s 3 and 6) ¬†have never told me not to drink, nor have they suggested it. But I’ve often considered quitting drinking because of my meds.

According to an article¬†on the Mayo Clinic¬†website, you may become drowsy if you mix antidepressants with alcohol, or feel “more depressed and anxious,” among other things. Mixing alcohol and benzodiazepines, according to this article on the American Addiction Centers website¬†includes “a reduction in cognition,” which in turn, “can result in . . . a loss of inhibitions [and] impaired judgment,” as well as other other undesirable effects. And yet, a PDF factsheet from¬†states that taking¬†mood stabilizers¬†doesn’t mean that you “have to stop drinking alcohol completely. But you should try not to have more than one or two drinks a day.” Finally, according to this article on the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health website, if you’re on an atypical antipsychotic, “Having one or two drinks on occasion should be okay —¬†but remember that one drink may have the effect of two or even three drinks.”

I take all of these types of medications. Yet the articles leave me bewildered because some strongly suggest not to drink, while others say that it’s okay, as long as you only have a couple. I’ve never experienced drowsiness or loss of inhibition when I drink these days, but the articles concern me. There’s no reason I need to drink at all, so I’m thinking I should stop. On the other hand, a part of me thinks it’s okay, as long as I only have a drink or two while socializing. So confusing.

Do you think it’s okay for someone taking these types of meds to have a drink once in a while? Why or why not?

via Daily Prompt: Bewildered