Exactly one year ago today, I filed the above post on my personal blog, I Was Just Thinking. . . It was remarkable for many reasons, but the major one was it detailed what had happened to me two days prior.
On March 3rd, 2012, I went to bed in the midst of what had been a severe, protracted mood episode.
On March 4th, 2012, I woke up and I was well. And I don’t mean the mood episode had remitted, though it had. I mean I was well, better, no longer plagued by the spectres of bipolar and anxiety disorders.
I was not a mentally ill me, I was not a struggling or scared me, I was not even a medicated me. . . I was just me. Me ten years ago, before I had ever heard the words “bipolar disorder” associated in any way with myself, me when I could balance it all and do everything in my life so beautifully and flawlessly and it wasn’t an effort, not really at all.
Just like that, overnight. I still had to take my medications, of course, and during the past year I dealt with a number of challenges and acclimation, tweaking my dosages to treat the premenstrual dysphoric disorder stability unmasked in me, for starters. But I got my sea legs quickly, and I knew from that day on that I could handle anything.
It was a wonderful year. I was alive again, and I seized life with everything I had in my being. I was given something I had stopped hoping for entirely, I was given recovery beyond my wildest dreams, and I knew that I had finally made it. After the years of failed medications, failed talk, cognitive, and behavioral therapies, and the disaster that was my experience with ECT, I had a whole life suddenly spread wide in front of me, and I knew without doubt I would have it forever.
And I might have, too, if not for a completely unforeseen development about a month ago. In the course of one day, once again my life changed in a way that I had never even considered as being in the realm of possibility. I discovered that I could no longer take Carbatrol, my main mood stabilizer. Thus were my legs knocked brutally from beneath me.
I won’t lie and say I didn’t go into a panicked tailspin, because I did. I went from happy to a state one breath away from catatonic depression in five days. It ended with me blanked out in my PCP’s office, and he undoubtedly saved my sanity, my life, and my mind that day.
This man has known me for 17 years, and in all of my traumas since entering psychiatric treatment, I don’t think anything frightened him like what I presented with late that afternoon. He snapped me out of my withdrawn state quite violently, but I don’t think anything else would have done it, and I will be forever grateful to him.
I then got proactive with my very famous binder, filled with pages and pages of medication notes from years gone by. My meticulous record-keeping gave me a tool with which to feel empowered at my next psychiatric appointment. As far as my mental health history, I have tried every psychoactive drug (excepting most antidepressants, because they induce frightening and severe mania), as well as dozens outside that categorization, and every drug has failed me in one way or another. And so, as I put it, we are looking for the “least worst” solutions, and we are going to have to get extremely creative.
Round one was a flop. But somewhere along the way I latched on to that empowered feeling again, and I haven’t let go, and I won’t let go. One year ago today I wrote:
That’s something else that changed for me. I’m not living my life in fear anymore. I’m not putting into place backup plans that are only marginally better than the state they would get me out of. Less miserable is still miserable and I refuse to live my life accepting the presence of that spectre. Un-uh. Not me. Not anymore. Not ever again.
And I won’t. I may have been blindsided, but I refuse to settle for anything less than what I found I could in fact have: me. I’m fighting this with everything I have. I start my days now with yoga and kickboxing, because when I am alone with that bag, I am beating all life out of any feelings I may hold of anxiety, depression, frustration, and fear. I think I am really fighting ghosts that are making threats to emerge and try to terrorize me.
I have also turned to the unfailing wisdom of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to help me look at my life in the grand scheme of things, to quieten the anxiousness and dismiss the uncertainty. His Holiness has been my guide, my teacher, and my comfort since I was barely a teenager, and I find myself going back to him as the calm, safe refuge of my mind.
Thus I arm myself for this war once again. I didn’t expect it, but I know I can win.
“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead!
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favoured rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect.”
~ William Shakespeare, Henry V ~
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