Dealing with the need to take psych meds is like trying to walk a tightrope while juggling plates and playing an accordion. I hate having bipolar disorder, I really do. Yes, I know things could much worse, and I should be grateful. I could have some debilitating disease that had me bed ridden, in constant pain. But I don’t, I have what I have and I have to deal with it. I don’t always deal with it gracefully by a long shot.
All my evil little pill bottles have a warning on them “if you have forgotten to take your pill at a certain time, wait until it’s time to take the next dose, don’t take it now. OOOkkkKKK??!! #&^%(*@ But what do you do when you are freaking out NOW? I say “screw it!” and take them now. I’d rather get too sleepy and have to take a nap than go on a magic carpet ride of rage, depression, anxiety attacks, near catatonia and whatever the bipolar Bag 0’ Tricks has in store for me on any given day. I might be able to get away with riding it out if I had a storm bunker to lock myself in and hang a sign on the door saying “Warning! Bipolar cyclone raging within, enter at your own risk.” But I don’t and I don’t live alone and I have to leave the house occasionally. Being a hermit just depresses me more.
People who are not dealing with mood spectrum disorders tend to think “well hey, just take your meds and everything will be OK. What the hell is wrong with you anyway?” What is wrong with me??? Excuse me, but it doesn’t work that way. Taking meds “manages” a disorder; it is not a guarantee that you will never have a mood storm. It gives you a tool to fight with it. But meds can be a blunt instrument and it is extremely tricky finding a balance. Furthermore, just when you think you’ve found a balance your body decides to react differently to your meds, or worse, not respond to them at all. The balance is a moving target.
Sometimes I feel like Alice in Wonderland trying to figure out which side of the mushroom to nibble on. Too much and I blunder around in a stupor and do nothing but stare at the TV, unaware of what I’m even looking at. Not enough – I turn into a motor mouth and talk the ear off of anyone I can pin down, blissfully unaware that they are scrambling to get away from me. I also start eleventy seven projects at once and when I come to my senses I can’t figure out how to pick up where I left off.
I have those little days of the week pill cases that I fill up at the beginning of the week. They help, but sometimes it too much to face looking at an entire week’s worth of meds right under my nose. That’s when the thought creeps in “do I really need to be taking all this crap? Am I a drugged slave to big Pharma?” I have to be careful when asking these questions, because there is a never ending supply of people who are all too happy to inform me that I shouldn’t be taking meds at all, that I’m just weak or a dupe. I just need to meditate, do yoga, cut dairy out of my diet, dance naked under the full moon, etc.
That’s when I have to dig down deep and remember what it felt like when I was not taking meds. Oh sure I was “managing” it. Hanging on by my fingernails every day trying not to fall or jump into the abyss. I don’t want to live like that again. I guess it’s time to take my meds.
In gaining a deeper understanding of madness, we gain a deeper understanding of the core existential dilemmas with which we all must struggle, arriving at the unsettling realization of just how thin the boundary really is between madness and sanity. Rethinking Madness – Towards a Paradigm Shift in Our Understanding and Treatment of Psychosis. Paris Williams Ph.D.
Well this blog went dark for a week or so because of traumatic dealings with my daughter who is mentally ill and addicted to drugs. I sort of ran out of things to say and was starting to feel and sound unhinged, even to myself. As a result I went into hibernation mode. For a couple of days I was depressed and stayed in bed all day watching the entire 2 ½ seasons of Titus High Performance, a show that was on the Fox network years ago.
It’s a show starring Christopher Titus a stand-up comedian, and is loosely based on his life. He was raised by an alcoholic father and a manic-depressive, schizophrenic mother. He married a girl who also came from a dysfunctional family of Irish catholic alcoholics, the brother a burglar and a drug user, the sister constantly having babies by different men without being married, the younger sister selling drugs….you get my drift. One episode is a thanksgiving dinner that turns into in a food fight and escalates to a brawl and shootout and the entire family ends up in the emergency room covered with food, burns, a dislocated shoulder for Titus, bumps and bruises.
So anyway I watched this show to “ground” myself, as in I’m not the only one with an insane family of origin. Then the next day I started percolating into a rage of “I’m sick of this shit, I can’t take anymore.” I was so angry that I was shaking. I ended up screaming at the dishes in the dishwasher. “When all the dishes are clean there is no place to put anything!!!! We have too God damned many coffee cups!” Mr. Husband caught the tail end of this when he walked into the kitchen and I turned to him and yelled “STOP BUYING COFFEE CUPS!!!!” That just made his day, lemme tell ya. All he had really done was to cook a wonderful 4th of July dinner. So sorry Hubman, really I am.
In this down time I read a bunch of books about dysfunctional families, substance abuse, etc. There are many different perspectives on these issues. Then main thing I take away is that I’m not alone in this struggle and I don’t have to put up with unacceptable behavior from anyone, including from my children.
When I get extremely stressed out I tend to turn in on myself and get quiet and hide. Fortunately for those around me, I don’t turn actively psychotic and start throwing rocks at the neighbors or burn down the house. But inside my head there is all kinds of freaking and shrieking going on. I get stuck in a loop of repetitive thoughts. Things like what I’m going to say to my daughter next time she calls, and blah blah blah. It’s absolutely crazy making and exhausting.
The thing I realized is that when this happens I become physically and emotionally paralyzed and just sit there staring into to space or at the TV. Being a writer and budding artist I decided to sit down and try to get this out of my head and onto paper. That was an interesting development. I tried to draw a sort of combination infinity sign or yin yang. What I discovered was that I was having trouble making the 2 sides connect, how odd. But then I started writing in all the things going on in my head versus all things going on physically. When I was done I had a graphical representation of what was going on in my head. The revelation was that the mental side of the drawing had tons of stuff in it…fear, guilt, anger, frustration, apathy, boredom, while the physical side had not much of anything except ills such as a headache, stomach ache, neck pain and so on.
That’s when it hit me. God grief, I’m stuck in my head! I need to get out of here and start living in the physical world again. I need to get moving around and doing things again. I hate when I get stuck in my head. It’s like mental plumbing trouble. I wonder if there is such a thing as a laxative for my brain.
On my journey back to mental wellness I’ve started to notice a few things. I’m not the only one who channels Snow White’s seven housemates. You know them surely; sleepy, grumpy, sneezy, dopey, et al. I’m also noticing that I’m not the only one who does not appreciate having their every minor decision questioned.
I find that the best response a friend or family member who is channeling one of these dorks is, “Pfffftttt” or “I see” and a good shrug of the shoulders, followed by an immediate evacuation of the scene. Further pursuance of the question at hand will only result in a blowout. So it seems that I have to remember how much I hate getting dragged over the coals of sixty-four thousand questions when asking questions.
Well damn! Living in the real world can be a pain in the kazoo. I think verbal manipulations should be registered as an Olympic sport. Yes indeed folks. I’ve come across people who actually manage to take an innocent question you ask such as, “how are you?” and twist around to imply that you are a selfish mental microbe who doesn’t care about anyone or anything.
The following hypothetical dialogue (based on an actual conversation) illustrates my take on this scenario:
Me: Hey how are you?
Person X: Well I’m fine, but I’m just tired.
Me: (falling into the trap) Oh, why are you tired?
Person X: Well I was up all night worrying about the national debt. Unlike some people I know (read you) I care about what happens to our country. Also I kept smashing my big toe with a hammer.
Me: (taken aback) OOOkkkk, Uh, why were you smashing your toe with a hammer?
Person X: Well someone (not me obviously) has to take steps to protect our economy. If my toe hurts then I won’t go out shopping and buy wasteful things while other people are suffering.
Me: (feeling a vague unnamed guilt) Uh, I don’t understand how not sleeping and injuring yourself is helping anyone.
Person X: Well of course you don’t see it! And therefore YOU are part of the problem.
Me: See ya later pal, I think I left something on the stove.
I always end up with a mild headache and wondering how I managed to blunder into such a conversation. However, with some people this seems to be the norm. I never did quite comprehend how worrying about something to the point of harming myself helps anything or anyone.
Well damn! Mr. Husband is doing our taxes. He keeps asking me questions. I want to scream! Oops, I think I did scream. Sorry about that.
I tend to describe myself as an outgoing loner. A big part of the problem is that I’m always a half beat away from everyone else’s rhythm. I can do taxes myself just fine, but I can’t figure out how to do them with another brain. It’s not a matter of “my way or the highway” or even “your way or the highway.” It’s either my way or your way. I can’t think about taxes or do any other complex and/or mathematical complexity in tandem. It ends up being a 3 legged race and those are always hilarious, but not very productive.
This morning he asked me what DSW was. My response was “Designer Shoe Warehouse.” Of, course. What the hell else could it be? (If you ask the question of a shoe freak) It ended up that he did know what DSW meant. What he was asking me…I think…was how to describe it in QuickBooks on our bank statement so that he would remember what it meant, at some point in the future. Dude, are you serious? You are asking me how to prompt the inner workings of YOUR brain? I spend the majority of my time trying to figure my own self out, and sometimes failing miserably.
What is going on is a major case of temporary denial. I’m clicking along finer than fine and then – BAM, I’m not. No particular reason, nothing is different. I’m OK then I’m not, that’s all there is to it. I almost hear the click as the switch flips. The way things look literally changes – drastically. Colors are not right, the angle of the sun seems wrong for the time of day.
Running water sounds like Niagara Falls. The tone and drone of the voices of the newscasters on Fox News (Hub likes it – I hate it) become so annoying that I want to throw the coffee table through the TV and then run outside and Hi-five my neighbors. Everything and everybody seems out of sync. Like listening to the static between radio channels and trying to make sense out of it.
Oh yea, I know what this is now. I keep forgetting that I have this totally frustrating, stupid bipolar mood disorder thing. I am minding my own business, and it sneaks up on me when I least expect it. I wonder, could I get a restraining order from this disorder where it has to stay 500 feet away from me at all times? That would be cool.
What I can do is remember that bipolar just happens, it’s not my fault. I didn’t eat the wrong thing, or stay out in the sun too long, watch the wrong movie, or listen to the wrong conversation. I can be vigilant, and try to pay attention to warning signs, but sometimes there are none. What is not helpful is beating myself up when it just happens without a warning.