The rose and the sound of silence

I have been silent lately.

Not just on this blog. In general. With my friends, with my family, with myself. And on the inside. All of my inner and outer dialogue has been muted for some strange reason.

I haven’t felt like myself this year.

After missing one of my medications for a little while, I noticed some changes. After missing a different medication for a little while, I noticed additional changes.

Then I stopped taking three of my medications. I’ve stopped my anti-depressant, my mood stabilizer and the hardcore sleep medication I take for Narcolepsy. (Just on that note, I’ve been sleeping better off the Xyrem! I think I developed a tolerance)

I’ve been off the mood meds for 2 and 3 weeks. This might sound dangerous but while I initially made these choices subconsciously, there is a good reason for it.

I have been medicated for bipolar disorder since I was 19 years old. I turn 35 next month. I have been almost constantly medicated during that time except for 4 years when I was either pregnant or nursing my children. For over a decade and a half, I have lived as my medicated (or hormonally super powered) self. These lapses in medication have given me some glimpses that there may be more to myself under this medicated facade than I have realized.

The first time I missed my meds at the beginning of January, I got really depressed. I also woke up to the fact that I had been numbed to certain situations and aspects of my life that deep down I was very unsatisfied with. But that dissatisfaction was mollified by my mood stabilizer. So I let things slide. A lot of things did a lot of sliding. I just let things be. That sounds like it might be a good thing but in reality, you can only spackle over the cracks so long before the wall falls apart.

I started the mood stabilizer again. I felt the muffling slide back over my dissatisfaction and, to my surprise and dismay, the joy and insight and inspiration that I had found during my depression. My well of creativity was drying up and I was succumbing to my silently uncomfortable existence. I did not like it.

So I stopped the mood stabilizer again. To be quite frank, I don’t recall now, what made me choose to quit my antidepressant as well. I recall making the decision and not putting it into my weekly pill box but I’m not quite sure why. When you have cognitive impairment, you learn to respect the you that was making the decisions and trust that you had good reasons for it.

For about 10 days, things were really bad. I was sick. I was in pain. I was fucking empty. I had no words. I had no thoughts outside of “what am I going to focus my eyes on right now” and “what is going to keep my hands busy so I don’t pull out my hair or peel off my skin.”. A lot of it is blank because that’s what I was. Blank.

Which leads me back to why I’m not taking my meds. I want to know who I am when I’m not medicated. I want to know how much of my pain and several diagnoses can be attributed to a decade plus on SSRIs. anticonvulsants, and antipsychotics. I want to know what my non-medicated baseline is so I can make informed decisions on what a new medication regimen might look like. I want to differentiate my physical symptoms from my mental symptoms to get a fresh perspective on the treatment, pharmaceutical and otherwise, that I need to care for myself.

But mostly, I want to know who I am again. I’ve spent 9 years working hard to keep my current relationship going. I’ve spent 8 years pregnant, nursing, or raising young children. I have spent 7 years suffering from, struggling through, learning about and coping with my disabilities. I have spent 4 years putting my life on hold waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel.

I have spent 2 months focused on me. On who I am, what I feel, what I have to say. I want to do more of that. I want to know more. I want to feel more.

Today was a really good day. I woke up early with my daughter. We went to her Muffins and Moms(parents) activity before school where she read to me Junie B. Jones while I drank orange juice. I smiled. I laughed. I hugged her and kissed her before the bell rang.

I cuddled with my son to get him to fall asleep for his afternoon nap. He was tired and resistant. He was crawling around on my lap and he hurt me. I was irritated and then exasperated. I got angry. And then I reined it in. I felt it and controlled it. I changed tactics, and he sweetly fell asleep. I nuzzled his warm pink cheeks when he woke up a happy boy again.

I drove to a doctor’s appointment. I drank a Dr. Pepper. It made me happy and gave me energy. The sun was warm and I listened to happy music and sang along and danced in my seat a little while I was driving. I was not bothered when there was nowhere to sit in the waiting room. I was not irritated when they told me I was going to have the invasive procedure instead of the noninvasive. I was fine.

I drove to my therapy appointment tonight. Everything was not fine. I was irritable. I scrolled through my playlists trying to find something to match my mood. It was not happy music. It was screaming angry music. I blasted it on the way to therapy and didn’t turn it down at the red lights because I gave not a single fuck.

I talked to my therapist. We discussed my no-medication strategy. We came up with a new treatment plan and discussed my support system in case of emergency. We talked a lot about pizza for some reason. I like my therapist.

On the drive home I wanted to sing. So I listened to two of my all-time favorite songs, and I belted them out with abandon. The second song I hadn’t listened to in a long time. Every line hit me like I was hearing it for the first time and had been written just for me today. By the third verse I was crying. It felt great.

I felt more today, and more powerfully than I have for a long time. I told my therapist that I felt like I was a kinked hose finally let loose. Everything comes rushing out.

Yesterday I still had no words. Today, I have many.

It is worth mentioning that I am a huge advocate of safe preventative mental health treatment and maintenance. Medications are often an important and effective way to prevent unhealthy behaviors. I have chosen this path for myself because I have a partner, a therapist and a support system to turn to for help when needed. It’s better to risk the high wires when you have a safety net to catch you. 

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Intersectionality

Its 2017 now. Most of the time since my previous posts is a blur of slight ups and downs, sickness and unfortunately bad decisions. I expected my life to be ready for me to live it by now by I’m still waiting. Still in the holding pattern. I’m having a particularly hard time right now because due to my beloved son, I have had painful and humiliating cystic acne for 2 years now. Despite the contraindication of my suicidal tendencies in the past, I am in my 3rd month of the hell that is Accutane. They ain’t joking when they say that this medication  f-cks with you.

My grasp on life has not been particularly tenacious of late. For the past week,  I have felt like I’m lying on the bottom of a black tornado with a ferociously swirling black abyss on all sides and above me, with a little pin prick of light far far away. If I didn’t strive for that light, i would just be swept under and into the black. If you are familiar with this feeling, than you know that the light is not filled by the happiness readily available in your life. Depression is like an immunity to your own personal joy. When I’m at my worst, i need to escape, to find something outside myself and my circle to connect to. Something to keep me steady and out of the abyss.  So on these days when I can’t find my “nice voice” for my kids, when I’ve forgotten how to smile at their laughter, and everything around me is grey and faded, sometimes its the silly or mundane or simply simple that becomes your buoy. This week my buoy was Prison Break. 

It had been in my netflix queue for years but as I lay in bed, trying to get out of my own head, I turned it on for distraction. And it performed its job perfectly. It’s a f-cking fantastic show. What i was most surprised by was my fascination with the main character. Now i have to acknowledge that Wentworth Miller is a fine specimen of a man. That being said, he’s not my type. So I couldn’t put my finger on what it was that drew me so to his character or the actor himself because I knew it wasn’t physical attraction. I watched and watched the show, and it did succeed in focusing  me on the tiny spot of light. After several episodes (who am I kidding, it was 2 seasons), I opened W’s Facebook and ran right into why I’d connected with him. My pain had recognized his pain. 

I found a treasure trove of beautifully articulated thoughts I hadn’t been able to articulate. I found insight and similar opinions and values. He even wrote like me (at times). He has these essays that are hard to find in his page but I read them all. I cried first. I don’t cry when I’m depressed because I get more numb and full of hopelessness than sad. Just the crying (in itself) was such a release. Then I laughed, because I recognized some of my own truths. And I learned. I learned about Intersectionality; that there is a word for all the labelled roads, boulevards, and dirt paths that make up my current self and all other previous and future variations of me. I learned about self care, and death speak and life speak, and holding space for others. 

But the best thing that I learned (rediscovered rather) is how much I love words. How much words can matter. And a reminder that I don’t have to be perfect to throw words out into the world. I might not have the capacity for creativity that I once had but something is better than nothing. And I need to have this in my life again. 

I especially need to focus on fixing what’s going on with my mind and my heart. To focus on how to interact with my world and my space in it. The rest will come later. 

What depression feels like

I was going to start out slowly with a lot of my personal history and get to the details later but this is what I have on my mind today.

Bipolar Disorder, specifically the depressed aspect of it, is very physical and that is not a commonly understood fact. Some think that depression is merely being sad. Here’s the truth.

Due to circumstances beyond my control (ie. insurance and doctory prescription problems) I had been off all of my medications for 2 months. I have recently restarted them and am in week 2 of my antidepressant, antidepressant, and mood stabilizer regimen. This is what those 2 months were like. I slept fitfully 12 to 16 hours a day. When I was awake, I, very literally, couldn’t do anything. I sat on the couch and I watched tv shows that I had absolutely no interest in because I hated everything. I didn’t play with my children because I had none of the time, interest or energy for it. I barely ate and became physically ill if I forced myself. My body was sore and achy and all I wanted to do was wrap myself up like a burrito and never have to move again. Depression is not merely a mood problem. It affects your entire body and every aspect of your life. I don’t like when people say “I have depression” because it’s not something you own. It is something that owns you. I suffer from depression but I also fight it every minute of every day of my life. Some days are better than others, and some days are great.

Like today. Because my medications are starting to kick in, today I woke up at 7:00 AM to do my daughter’s hair for school. I did not go back to bed afterward. When I put my son down for a nap today, I did not nap with him. After school we went to a corn maze and pumpkin patch and even though I had to find a seat quite often, I made it through the whole activity. When I got my son into his pajamas for bedtime I blubbered his belly and we giggled together. Laughter is something you learn to appreciate when you suffer from depression. I didn’t laugh for 2 months and it feels great to be able to laugh again. Though simple, today was a very good day.