A budding clinical psychologist with Bipolar I & OCD

At the end of the day I’m an angry old man who has been through the ringer with Lyme Disease, Bipolar Disorder, OCD and a LOT of associated anxiety. Right now I’m at the end of my rope with my life, and while I’m resting at the bottom I’m spending my time balancing rage over the poorly run organization I work for, depression, and my physical health. I’m going to make some changes, and I think some of the changes I’m planning on making would be beneficial for other people in similar boats. (Mine is periwinkle blue though and really hard to keep clean).

At work I’m the rock for the 4 women I take care of with intellectual disability. I chuckle to myself that I can play mom and advocate for them, but I’m terrified when I get a phone call or even get a car wash. I’ve had my car for 5-6 years now and never gotten it washed. How ridiculous is that to admit? And why? Pfft, I can do that CBT exercise where you work backwards to find out why it’s so scary and at the end realize, oh I don’t want to look stupid in front of people even if they’re strangers I’ll never see again, but beyond that, periodic exposure therapy hasn’t been that much help.

That being said, my first change is that I’m going to start cutting out sugars. I did some research on the effects of the body and mind and my three major goals are to reduce Lyme symptoms by feeding the bacteria with sugars, increase my concentration naturally, and have more energy. (Sleeping all day when you’re depressed is also really easy, but not very healthy) I don’t like taking 5 hour naps on my days off and feeling like I need to battle to stay awake every single day. It’ll be a slow process. Cut out pops, juices, desserts, drink more water, eat more lean meats and avocados, blah blah. It’ll also help me lose the weight I’ve been working on dropping with exercise 3 days a week. (That’s a healthy choice I’ve already made).

For the emotional component, I’ve started praying on the daily. I’m a Catholic but I don’t often get to church (Maybe if I had more energy I would). Seriously though that has little to do with the point of this paragraph. The prayer has given me some empowerment over things I can’t control. A little peace of mind and spiritual balance.

Got an autistic sister who you’re horrified for because she won’t express anything to you and has poor sleeping and hygiene habits and you can’t do anything about it? BOOM prayer for her. Obsessive fear (I’ve had this for years) that your house is going to burn down and everything you own destroyed forever? Pray to prevent it. Hey, I know prayer isn’t for everybody, but some sort of ‘spiritual’ balance could be helpful, even if it’s just a peaceful mindfulness that can be practiced. Throw out your positive vibrations into the world you hippies. Do what you have to do. On top of the praying I’d like to find some good guided meditations and practice relaxing my body and speedy thoughts. In the past I’ve done guided meditation and been talking in my head the whole time. It ruins it. When I was in intensive outpatient therapy I used to secretly look forward to guided meditation days, and tried SO hard to make it through the whole half hour long process without messing it all up by thinking.

Lastly, and this is more or less just for me, I’m at that point where I feel like I’m ready to leave my job. I’ve talked a lot in this blog about the injustice that happens there, and how I’m pretty much not interested in being involved in a place run like that anymore. I’ll try to stay in contact with the women so I can always support them to the best of my ability, but I also will never be able to afford an adult life on $12/hour and am shortening my life with the amount of time I spend upset on the daily. In fact my direct supervisor who is a hard working genuinely caring woman is quitting for the same reason after working there a much longer time, getting out of working with the population entirely, taking a HUGE paycut and going to be making what I make. That says a lot when you want to get out THAT bad. And I understand that 100%.

I’m making a change to work at a hospital or clinic I think, working on my updated resume now. When I have the degree in hand in a few months I’ll be qualified for a lot better jobs and would like the clinical environment experience behind me to nudge me in front of the next guy, even though I already have a a year and a half of experience in “the field” now. Psychology, by the way. And when I apply to grad school, I’ll have a year and a half of (unrelated) empirical research on mental health stigma (in particular, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), to take with me.

I know the rest of you out there on the sea of troubles are all coming out of different ports, but if I pass on my pirate knowledge and experience maybe it’ll help you battle the next sea monster. That’s always my #1 hope while in this blogging community. I mean that’s why we go to group therapy too, right? 

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The Odd Couple

I’ll be the first to say that when you wake up in the middle of the night having to pee like your life depends on it and your Asperger’s sister who has no sense of time or urgency is sitting in the bathroom and you can hear her ripping a square of toilet paper at a time after BEGGING to get into the bathroom “just to pee less than a minute!!!” it really makes you mad. Then you hear the toilet paper ripping stop, and you knock on the door hurriedly again, she starts up again…after a little while, you’re in the hallway doing a dramatic pee dance and she EVENTUALLY finishes. You run into the bathroom, pee, wash hands and when you come out she’s in the kitchen STILL washing her hands. I don’t care how insensitive it sounds, when it’s YOUR sister, and you know how high functioning she is, how spoiled she acts and how much you work to take care of her and the rest of your family she still rolls her eyes and won’t even look at you, in the middle of the night…it REALLY makes you mad.

Since there are no anti-PO’d medications (waka waka), I just asked my brand new psychiatrist this past Monday to refill my prescriptions for Luvox and Lamictal and asked him to put me back on ADHD medication. He had a file in hand from the hospital I used to see my doctor at before she moved to Colorado which specifically listed ADHD as a diagnosis and wrote about how we had talked about my very expensive time-consuming ADHD testing and how she was going to try me on Strattera, and he still acted like he wanted to ask me to get ADHD testing before he gave me any medicine. I was ready to swing at him, particularly because he had the attitude of one of those “I really give no F’s about you whatsoever” attitudes. He’s the kind of guy that made me jump into the psych field out of the business field and blow the last several years of my life working toward my bachelors. Mind you, I haven’t seen a psychiatrist in a little over a year and my GP had been refilling my OCD/Bipolar cocktail and had finally gotten sick of it, but I’d been off Ritalin most of the past year and my ADHD wreaked havoc on most of my life. I was determined to get back on it, and I have, and I’m thankful. I kind of wish the guy tweaked my Luvox prescription, because my intrusive thoughts have been getting out of control the past several months, but we’ll see what happens in the future med wise. I literally have no time for myself, let alone therapy by the way. I’m hoping that session 2 with this guy is a lot better than session 1. I’ll see him in another twenty-some days.

My current struggle since I last blogged has been that the stress at work has triggered a major depressive episode. The doctor asked how many manic episodes I’ve had in my life and I replied that I get one every year or two, but I have a worse problem with depression. He asked if I’d tried Latuda or another antidepressant. I said no, and was expecting him to prescribe one, but he didn’t. I was too anxious at the time to speak up about it, but next month I plan on it. AFTER a little research on Latuda, in particular.

I stumbled upon an article the other day, the full text here, which is entitled, “Bipolar patients’ brain cells predict response to Lithium”. The sample size for the study wasn’t very large, which lowers validity, but it was an interesting read. The scientists collected skin samples from clinically diagnosed BP patients and turned the cells into neurons (don’t ask me how the heck they did THAT) and compared them to the neurons from “healthy people”‘. They tested the cells’ response to a Lithium bath, and found a diversity in excitability of the cells. Lithium didn’t do much for me, because like I said, I have a larger problem with depression than I do mania, which is why I’m on Lamictal, which I highly recommend trying if you’ve got the same problem. Our body chemistries are all different, but it’s got a high success rate among people with my kind of problem. On that note, my own research is driving me insane, because I work overtime all week at the CILA, then cram my efforts into lit reviews and test preparation just to find out that I need to re-do something or add more to my paper before I can run my tests. I’m doing a capstone right now, which is the last thing I need to graduate. The stress between that and work has taken me back to the mindset where I really just wish I could live off disability comfortably. I’m sure that the way American economy is going, disability funds are going to quickly evaporate, so even if I were to get on it, I doubt it’d be something I could benefit from the rest of my life. It’s frustrating enough to be a late twenties adult (eh, just being an adult in general), let alone a Bipolar one with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and ADHD.

Besides the obsessive skin picking that’s super embarrassing to admit I’m succumbing to again lately, my house is benefiting from my re-decorating and cleaning of the place (as much as is tolerated by the rest of my family). I think back to when I was a kid, undiagnosed with all this junk, and how on a monthly basis I’d spend an entire day ripping my bedroom to shreds in order to re-organize the whole thing. Scrubbing the walls, re-lining up my stuffed animals in a different order, dusting…Now, with my sister having grown into her Asperger’s and us still sharing a room in the same house since she was born, I can’t touch half the stuff in the room, and it drives me insane, but I still mess with what I can. (Insert the “Odd Couple” theme song here). Boy oh boy does it feel good to even move one or two things around every other night. Now onward to my last work day into a weekend where I plan on suffering through more paper editing, and lecturing myself on how I need to stop isolating myself and spend physical time with my friends if I want to keep them. Then there’s supporting my long time boyfriend who is having a bigger problem with depression than I am, and handles it WAY worse than I do…

“I can’t take it anymore, Felix, I’m cracking up. Everything you do irritates me. And when you’re not here, the things I know you’re gonna do when you come in irritate me. You leave me little notes on my pillow. Told you 158 times I can’t stand little notes on my pillow. “We’re all out of cornflakes. F.U.” Took me three hours to figure out F.U. was Felix Ungar!” -Oscar Madison, 1968 film, The Odd Couple.

Quit that Pickin’!

This is my third full week at the women’s CILA (Community Integrated Living Arrangement). I work with 3 (soon to be 4) adult women of varying ages with developmental and intellectual disabilities. I fought for the position for months and finally got the main full-time position which has been the focal point of my life right now. This is after nearly a year working at the larger group home that houses 100 individuals with these disabilities at the workshop where we teach life skills.

If you follow the BBQ blog, you know how frustrated I was with the laziness and unjustness of the job, and Lord let me tell you how much better it is to be at the CILA. I’m good at my job, I care very much about the women, and I rock at paperwork. Most importantly I’ve lasered off the incompetence of the workshop staff, and finally feel like I have some control. I’ve been calling myself the “house-mother” because, well, I am! (We spent over an hour on our first big grocery shopping trip today and remembering I’m teaching people how to live and behave in the community from scratch can be pretty rough.)

If you were to ask me if I had kids I’d have to say yes my oldest is 58 and my youngest is going to be 3. Remember for 4 years I was a nanny before all this, and if I never have kids of my own I can say I’ve been able to put my motherly personality to work. I’m proud of that. I’ve always had a big heart and a lot of love to give. I’ve also for the longest time felt bad complimenting myself. It’s a tremendously rewarding job and equally as tremendously difficult. I’ve been keeping my spirits up through the rough spots, and the amount of love the girls give me makes me beam. Anyway, on the side I’m carving out my research for my last semester of my undergrad and trying to take care of the family and maintain some semblance of a social life. Take that 3 and a half years of severe agoraphobia that ruined my mid twenties! You can suck a ****. Look at me now! (No worries life, I’m still kinda miserable and that should be reason enough not to need to jinx me).

I’d have to say the hardest part of life right now is waking up. I feel all the little Lyme Disease critter bacteria I’ve been host to for 14+ years crawling under my skin and traveling to work to make me achy and tired and hypersensitive and itchy and all around miserable. Learning to live with chronic physical illness has been a long process but if I can learn to handle living with my chronic mental illnesses as eloquently, I’ll be in good shape to live out the many more decades I hope to be able to.

On that note, I’m at that point in my life where I need a new man…maybe a woman, I mean don’t judge me here…I’m desperate. I need someone kind and understanding who I can laugh with and most importantly who is a psychiatrist who can up my dosage of Luvox. My OCB’s (Obsessive Compulsive Behaviors) have been out of control and my intrusive thoughts have been throwing frat parties on the regular. My skin picking and fear of my house burning down in particular are REALLY bad right now. I’ve also been off of Ritalin way too long.

If I get one thing done tomorrow before my shift, I’m going to try to make it find a doctor who will take my insurance and my hours and get myself there ASAP. I can do this. I can do this…I can do this. Right?

Anxiety: 89/100, Mood: Marvin the Depressed Robot from HHG2G

“Why did the chicken cross the road? Because his therapist told him to do more things that scare him.” I’m not surprised I ended up in the E.R. a couple of weeks ago with dire abdominal pain (Turns out I have gastritis, sudden onset). I swallow my anxiety and anger about things instead of working through my feelings in a healthy way. Like blogging! Whenever there’s a significant lull in my posts or general communication with friends and family I’m likely gorging on negative thoughts and thereafter gagging on my hangover from them. There’s unnecessary  guilt involved in self isolating too, which makes me isolate even more intently because suddenly the thought of anything else is so horrifying it affects me physically. “Want to come over? I miss you.” “Sorry, I’ve just had my legs gnawed off by a koala and won’t be able to make it until they grow back.”

Of course my job requires extreme social interaction, but it’s with a developmentally disabled population and I’m comfortable with them. I turn on the jolly when I get to work even if I’m convinced I won’t open my mouth or smile once that day. I’m also moving up in the ranks, I was hired for the first female CILA! Charmingly enough though, they’ve pushed back my start date three times, and my god. Showing back up to work after having said goodbye twice is one of the most humiliating, anger inducing, depressing feelings in the whole world. I was told I start this Tuesday instead of Monday (today) on Friday after work. Tomorrow I’ll be making the walk of shame one last day before switching, unless my boss who is my boss for one more day, will let me take a day off unpaid. Going to have to wait another 3.5 hours to find out about if I should be so lucky. I can’t see myself opening my mouth or smiling at all at work today. Seriously.

However, it’s not like I’ve been unproductive in my mental unease. I’ve been on a fantastic cleaning and re-organizing everything my family owns spree. “Today perhaps I’ll move all of my art supplies to another area in the room!” “I think the decor on the TV stand needs a complete revamping!” “Oh no, I’ve finished washing ALL the clothes in the house. WHAT DO I DO WITH MYSELF NOW!?” It’s relaxing for a half a moment following an accomplishment, until something else to obsess over pops up. Usually it surrounds my ongoing intrusive thought that something will spark from an outlet and my home will burn down and I’ll lose everything and my life will be ruined.

There’s also a few new developments in life that are kind of devastating…to me, and I’m masticating those at the moment because they’re fresh meat. Like…I just found out that even though I’ll be OFFICIALLY done with EVERYTHING this semester and able to graduate, I’m 4 months past the due date for graduating in December, and 2 days away from missing the deadline to graduate in May of NEXT YEAR. Wow how great it feels. I think if I can make it through today, I should be able to cope a little better by breaking things down, but this whole going to work thing today is pretty much a big glue ball of stress that’s grabbing with it all other things I need to deal with and making it slightly impossible NOT to want to hide in my head. CBT and all that are just too energy consuming right now and I’m probably not going to get more than an hour or two of sleep as is.

If We Can Change the Lens…

This was passed on to me by someone near and dear who thought I would take interest in it. Now I’m passing it on to you. I thought it was fabulous, funny, smart and inspiring. Normally I lay around with the volume off on the computer. It took me over a week to get my lazy ears clicked into the e-mail this was linked to and actually watch the video. If nothing else, it’s a reminder that those of us with mental illness CAN change our brains, as well as the rest of the average folk who struggle daily too. Aside from being something I can personally relate to, it’s a perfect picture of the person I want to be while I’m speaking in the realm of academia one day after all the years of study I’ve put into my psychology major.

The best of luck to all of us who take the plunge to change,

Bipolar Barbie (Q)

When It’s Out of Your Hands, What Can You Do?

Decay. It’s a generally awful emotional and physically sour feeling that’s only offset by the new LED (color changing) tea candles I placed in glass holders I got from the dollar store yesterday that are illuminating my dark room. Since I started working full-time this has become a routine feeling on Sunday nights. Usually Sunday’s are when I sit down with myself and rage about the big depressing offenders in my life whether I want to think about these things or not.

Tonight’s reasons why I feel like I’m decaying are as follows:

1. Finances. Two weeks ago I slipped and sprained my spine and neck. I’m healing, though slowly, and I missed out on a week’s pay as well as gotten written up for poor attendance even though I had three doctor’s notes. You know 9/10 times a co-worker who sees something drop will not pick it up for me even if I’m wearing a back brace and knows I’m not allowed to bend? For example, a client in a walker’s hat fell to the floor. The co-teacher subbing for my regular partner saw this, and passed both of us by.

2. Work. I wish the state would make their yearly visit to check up on the facility I work at already and catch-all the sons of b’ches (TEACHERS! STAFF!) who are sitting around on their phones or leaving their assigned rooms to socialize in other rooms OR EVEN SLEEPING DURING CLASS TIMES and teach them a lesson. Also, I’d like them to see how in the lowest functioning room all of the activities are missing pieces or the pieces are all mixed up in different activities to sort which don’t belong together and the only reason those two things are occurring is because of the laziness of the staff. Even the fact that staff see marker’s are sitting there uncapped, they don’t even say anything to the capable clients to cap them OR to take matters into their own hands. When I had to sub for a half hour twice last week in that room I was so disgusted I felt like throwing a HUGE fit. But if I do? Nothing will happen. None of my concerns to my immediate supervisors/boss are addressed. If anything, I’m just set to be made to feel uncomfortable.

You know that in my three-month review I was told that because I told my co-workers we couldn’t go through a client’s bag without their permission because it was against client rights that I have to work on my communication skills with them? No ******* joke. It’s going down in my file as a mark against me. I’m SO glad to be working with “A” in the class I’m in right now. She’s like a trustworthy aunt who shares my work ethic. We’re about to lose some staff when the small group homes open and we’re starting two new male staff in the coming weeks. We had one new female staff start when I was out that week with my spinal injury and my impression of her thus far is that she’ll fit right in. That being said there is nothing positive I have to say about her. Get a job prostitution is my suggestion to more than half the staff. They already suck **** at their jobs. These are intellectually and developmentally DISABLED people that we, the staff are RESPONSIBLE for. It’s unfair.

3. General Health. Following up on the fact that my back still hurts, I also feel that centipedes under your skin hypersensitivity that only Lyme Disease can give you and I’m just straight up physically uncomfortable in my own skin. My sleep is poor and my fatigue is out of control. I’ll likely need a change of…

4. Medication. I need to call the community mental health center and get an intake appointment scheduled. I’m scared about doing it, but I need a psychiatrist I can see at only hours that they can provide. I likely need a little medication tweaking, as well as I’d like to get back on ADD meds which I could benefit from so much right now, and my thyroid may be the source of my fatigue which gives me anxiety because finding an endocrinologist I can see at convenient hours will also be difficult. Especially one that takes public aid.

5. Travel and Punctuality. It’s nearing the 10 days in which I get to dogsit and though I’m THRILLED for the little mini-vacation, I’m going to be doing a LOT of driving to and from work and the apartment, then to school, all places that aren’t very close to each other. The driving doesn’t concern me, but the “Oh god I hope I get there on time.” dread is already getting to me. The days I won’t need to travel and stalk the city streets for parking will be welcomed with open arms.

School. After finding out that my adviser was going to be leaving the university he passed me off to two candidates he felt would be able to help me get my independent study underway. One said she’d be taking a leave of absence in the fall and wouldn’t be able to help me either, the other passed me off to someone else who pretty much stopped communicating altogether and very obviously did not want any part of it. So I sent an e-mail earlier today to the original advisor, letting him know that now I’m an extra semester behind in doing the last thing I need to do so I can graduate. It’s not my job to know exactly what I’m supposed to do without any guidance. If it was, and I did know, I’d be done yesterday. I feel like ALL my confidence I had at the beginning of the semester has been pulverized, and even the anxiety I wasn’t feeling at the beginning of my lab class is catching up with me.

So yeah. By the end of every day since we’ve last spoke WordPress, I’ve pretty much felt pretty hopeless. I hope all of you guys out there are staying strong and kicking ass. I’ll catch up with you folk shortly.

A Whole Bunch of Really Crunchy Thoughts

My to-do list is like decomposing matter. Something that’s new on the list only just begins to decompose, while something that’s been on the list for a week is in a much later state of decomposition. Now imagine all of this matter neatly organized into a basket and left in your stomach. The stomach acids only add to the deconstruction of the matter and because the materials don’t agree, this poisonous gas and slimey ooze starts to fill up the cavity it’s in. When there’s nowhere else for it to go, it crawls through the rest of your body and makes you sick. The pain swelling inside of you makes it even harder to face your to-do list and finally you’re so sick that you want to cry. That’s pretty much been my situation the past couple of weeks. Tonight I can feel the noxious gasses stuck inside of me and trying to push their way out if it kills me.

On a positive note, getting a blog post out of the way will be a good removal of one of the old to-do list items, which should clear up some of the gunk in my system.

I’ve been depressed. I’m working myself to the max in school and at work to do the best job I can do. At work I now have the complication of being treated like crap, because of the whole reporting mistreatment incident. That gives me anxiety while I’m there that I brush off the best I can, but it effects me. Taking care of people for a living effects me too. Every day I go out there, mask my depression or irritation and make sure I’m tending to everyone in the classroom and encouraging them to challenge themselves whilst helping them face those challenges and praising their good work. I sat with one of our clients whose two decades older than I am on Friday and helped him get through word problems on a math sheet. I was SO PROUD of him and he was so proud of himself. It feels good, that’s what gets you through the day, making a difference. A lot of our clients call me mommy. Most all of them are considerably older than me. I feel like Wendy to the Lost Boys some days. But everybody needs a mother.

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After work, if there’s school I need to mask my mood further to interact with my peers, particularly the ones on my research team. Then I go home, and do a few things to help out (laundry, garbage, putting non perishable groceries that have been sitting out away, etc.). Finally by the time I’m showered and in bed I just want to cuddle up with my stuffed Pusheen, play a few casual games on my tablet, and knock out. I probably won’t even get 8 hours of sleep. I’ll remind myself that I’m getting a B in my class, and for how hard I’m working, it breaks my heart and makes me want to hibernate forever. So does the fact that I have no time or energy to go to the gym and shed some pounds. My relationship though is going really amazingly at the moment, and I’m terrified to say that and jinx it, but that’s one of the few happy thoughts that helps me fly.

There are other tender situations. The other night I was already in bed when I heard my dad and sister get home. He had brought her home from school and my mom got up to help make her dinner. I heard their soft voices in the kitchen, everyone calm. We’re a family who takes care of each other. My parents are getting older, and they still baby my Asperger’s sister, which is fine I suppose, but what’s going to happen when they can’t do it anymore? (i.e. when they pass away). Already there’s two things that make me want to throw up at this thought.

First, I can’t deal with the idea of my parents dying. I don’t deal well with change. I don’t even deal well with having an abnormal schedule. I’m not as bad as the clients we have at work who will completely become hulk versions of themselves, but I crumble easy. Even the loss of one of my parents. God. It makes me sick to think about. And when they do pass who will take care of my sister? She literally does not know how to function as an adult in the world. I don’t even know what kind of job she could get. Will it fall to me to support her? Will she let me? She’s insistent she’s normal and can do x, y and z but I don’t think it’s hit her yet that life is going to be a lot harder when she doesn’t have that overflow of support and help to sail through it.

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Fear. Fear is getting to me. I’m having obsessions about these sorts of things on a daily basis. Getting a medication change might help a little. I haven’t had my medicine adjusted in over a year. I need a new doctor though. My GP can keep the refills coming, but can’t adjust any milligrams. Therapy would help too. But can I afford that? Can I afford the TIME even? I need to do something though to assist my mental health, because though I’m functioning well enough, I’m a wreck on the inside and it’s wasting precious seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks and MONTHS of my life. And for what?

I began reading a book called Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. There are some serious laugh out loud moments, and also some very real passages about what it’s like to deal with depression. I’m not finished with it, but I recommend what I’ve so far read of it. Sometimes I get real angry that I didn’t write a charming and funny book about my life yet and get jealous someone else did, but this one I enjoy without the resentment.

On page 132, there was a particular passage that struck home, and I thought I’d share it with you.

“And that’s the most frustrating thing about depression. It isn’t always something you can fight back against with hope. It isn’t even something–it’s nothing. And you can’t combat nothing. You can’t fill it up. You can’t cover it. It’s just there, pulling the meaning out of everything. That being the case, all the hopeful, proactive solutions start to sound completely insane in contrast to the scope of the problem.

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It would be like having a bunch of dead fish, but no one around you will acknowledge that the fish are dead. Instead, they offer to help you look for the fish or try to help you figure out why they disappeared.

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The problem might not even HAVE a solution. But you aren’t necessarily looking for solutions. You’re maybe just looking for someone to say ‘Sorry about how dead your fish are,’ or ‘Wow, those are super dead. I still like you, though.’”

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In conclusion, I’m struggling right now. And to all of you out there who are reading this and struggling too, I’m sorry about how dead your fish are.