Morning Cup of Crazy

In the year 2008, I was sitting at the breakfast table in the psychiatric facility of a certain hospital in California, when I noticed something disturbing. All of the other people had coffee — the kind with caffeine — but only I had decaf.

Naturally, I summoned a nearby psychiatric technician, and I asked him why I was given decaf, rather than regular coffee. I remember his name was Steve.

“Because you are bipolar,” said Steve, “a cup of coffee will hype you up, and put you at risk of having a manic episode.”

“But I drink coffee every morning, Steve,” I said calmly. “I find that my morning cup of coffee relaxes me, and helps me to focus.”

“If you were ADHD,” Steve continued, “your cup of coffee would relax you. But since you are bipolar, your cup of coffee hypes you up.”

“Well then, I must be ADHD, because my morning cup of coffee relaxes me. And really, Steve, don’t you think I know how my cup of coffee affects me? I mean, I’ve been having a cup of coffee every morning since I was 19 years old.”

“Andy,” frowned Steve, “I know that you sincerely want to be helped, but you seem to want to be helped on your own terms.”

At that, I could no longer suppress my outrage.

“A cup of coffee is my OWN terms?” I cried. “Me and a hundred million other Americans!?”

(Granted, I was a bit agitated. But what do you expect? It was early in the morning before breakfast, and I hadn’t even had a cup of coffee yet.)

Long story short, my outcry attracted the attention of a number of other clinicians, and before I knew it, I was forcibly given a shot of concentrated Zyprexa on my tongue, before the words “I have the right to refuse any medications,” could emerge from my mouth.

What followed in the next few minutes is hazy in my memory. But evidently, I shortly later fell into a deep sleep. Either the next morning or the morning after, I awoke. A psych tech named Tim was standing next to me.

“Andy,” Tim said in a compassionate tone, “don’t make a big deal out of a cup of coffee here.”

I shot up from my bed. “WTF!!??”

Me being me, I made a totally big deal out of it! I went over people’s heads until I found the guy who was in charge of the place, who happened to be from Austria. Apparently, they do things a bit differently in Austria than they do in the San Francisco Bay Area. Or at least, he had a sense of right and wrong.

“That was horrible what they did to you!” he said. “And of course, you may have your morning cup of coffee from now on.”

Year 1 | Puss Bank School

I was considerably calmer each following morning, for obvious reasons. It also caused me to wonder if I had been misdagnosed. Later in Berkeley, a clinical psychologist and a psychiatrist both independently diagnosed me with ADHD, and both of them said I showed no symptoms of bipolar disorder.

Not to overemphasize demographics, but they do things differently in North Idaho, too. My present physician is considered to be an expert on mental health conditions. I saw him twice a couple weeks apart, and thought I was a little “manic” the second time I saw him. He reeled off five known symptoms of bipolar disorder and explained why I demonstrated none of them. Then he said, “If there were a line-up and I had to pick who was bipolar out of the line-up, I would not choose you.”

Prior to getting my Medicare and Medicaid with my retirement income, I was at the low income clinic where again I was disturbed that the bipolar diagnosis was on my chart, following me wherever I went. After much self-advocacy, which included accessing records from the psychologist and psychiatrist in Berkeley, the physician there diagnosed me with ADHD. I also took a test on my own — something I found on the Internet that seemed reasonable — that labeled me “Severe ADHD.” Then my physician gave me a test independently, yielding the same results.

I was put on the drug Straterra, and after three months of urinary retention and sleep paralysis, I stopped. I was able to urinate normally within two weeks after stopping, and the sleep paralysis stopped as well. I’ve not taken a psychiatric drug since then, although I’m certainly not opposed to the concept. I get tired of being a total space cadet. A little bit better focus, a little bit better reading comprehension, would be welcome. But you know, I also like my excellent physical health, and I don’t like it being messed with.

Maybe I’m proud. All I know is my morning cup of coffee relaxes me. Just ask my ex-wife.

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10 thoughts on “Morning Cup of Crazy

      • Not sure why I’m reviewing my past, but I just put a link on “sleep paralysis.” It heads toward a 2019 entry in which I was unusually troubled by repeated bouts of it. I re-read the entry, and it amazed me that I wasn’t able at the time to directly correlate the sleep paralysis with the Straterra. When I was researching ADHD meds, I overlooked the part that said: “Straterra should not be taken by people who have sleep disorders.” Apparently, the doctor didn’t notice it either. But I have a better doctor now.

        Also (if you’re interested) I tried to tell this story in 2018. But I was so fragmented in those days that as I began to write of it, it tangented into a completely different post. But the post “The Revelation of Humanity” refers to the events leading up to my admission to that particular psych ward. I never wound up telling the coffee story, because my brain at the time refused to take me in that direction.

        But the Revelation of Humanity was shortly thereafter published under a different title in Street Spirit News.

        Liked by 2 people

  1. Thank you for this. It’s been on my mind a lot lately. Cried my eyes out for two days over it recently, if I’m honest. You always have such a gift for letting my soul know it’s heard. Thank God for that. Truly, truly, my friend.
    If I wasn’t use a filter I’d say it was equivalent to rape. People never talk about it that way but I think that’s why my soul is having a hard time with my own memories of such. It’s rape that there is never any punishment for because there is so much “proof”, so much rationalization that the use of force or coercion or restraint is warranted. I’m grateful you got that apology and your coffee. The people I’ve known in my life that had ADHD were like food, like the best meal you didn’t know you were hungry for, like brain stuff that spurns your own creativity and imagination. I’m sorry it gets hard for you but I am so damn grateful you exist.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The misdiagnosis merry-go-round. Been there, done that, way too many times.

    My daughter is a licenced therapist. Newly licensed, as of about 2 years ago. She told me recently that she hates diagnosing people because it’s too easy to get it wrong and because the stigma of the psychiatric label often does more harm than good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hear you on the stigma of the psychiatric label. I have noticed that a lot of the younger people now are very comfortable with identifying themselves according to their diagnoses. This helps a bit. People on my musical team are very supportive of each other’s mental health, I’ve noticed, as well.

      I definitely would not want to be a diagnostician. I imagine your daughter’s job entails a lot of responsibility. I would feel beholden to my clients to “get it right.” I’d think that a psychiatrist would (or should) have a similarly heightened sense of responsibility. Unfortunately, not all of them do.

      Liked by 1 person

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