Saving and Standing Up for Ourselves

I saw my therapist again yesterday and we we both pleased with the progress I have made since my last visit. Of course, it could be that my bipolar is in a manic phase rather than a depressed one, at the moment. Perhaps I am hypo-manic, but it’s where I like to be. It allows me to feel more alive and free – I can breathe without the steel corset crushing me and my mood into darkness.

Moments like this are when I can enjoy the sounds of the creatures in my yard when I wake up in the morning, as I inhale my first cigarette and it’s still too dark outside my porch to see them. I can find pleasure in the sunrise that I see as I make my way to work, changing the sky from dark, to pink, to blue – all above the palm trees that line our streets. I have the energy to exercise, before coming in for the day. I meditate. Of course, I am only sleeping about 4 or 5 hours a night, if I am lucky, so this will all probably come crashing down in a few weeks…but I can hope it won’t.

I wait for moments such as these. I dream of them. I salivate for them, as if they were a piece of delicious cake that is out of my reach. So when they happen, I grab them for all they are worth. And I don’t let go until that horrid morning when I awake and the darkness has descended once again. Moments like these are why I spent an excruciating summer coming off Paxil, the anti-depressant I had been on for 20 years (and whom most shrinks were aghast that I had been put on). They are also the reason I refuse to take the one my current shrink has prescribed for me. It is known within the industry that these lovely pills can “flip” a patient from one extreme to the other, or cause rapid cycling. When I was first put on Paxil, I needed it. I was severely depressed in a way I had never been before. But I should never have been kept on it. In retrospect, some of the best psychiatrists I think I have had in the past have put me on medication that I never should have been placed on, or pushed the dosages too high, and I am the one who suffers the repercussions.

Now, I know as humans we love to self-diagnose and the internet gives us that ability at the drop of a hat. As someone who has a mental disorder, I know it is very common for anyone in my tribe to have the desire to alter what they take, stop taking it when we feel better, or abuse it. I have refused medication (the new anti-depressant) and I have been taken off things cold-turkey by “professionals” – both of which make me question the competency of these individuals. I expressed in detail to my current shrink 1. Why I did not want to be on an anti-depressant again and 2. That it gave me horrid tremors. She did not care. She still does not. She doles it out as if it were tic tacs. I throw the bottles in a box in my closet, never to be used.

So, in some ways I am regulating my medications, regardless of my shrink’s orders. I am controlling the doses and what I do and do not take. I know this is NOT what any doctor wants a patient to do. Any mental health professional would be aghast at this, as this is one of the biggest “no-nos” they warn their patients against and what they strive to avoid us from doing. But, I’m sorry. I’ve been on this damn earth for over 40 years. I have had this condition, or at least aware of it, for more than half my lifetime. I am done playing the medicine roulette. I know what works for me and what doesn’t. I don’t need to be told by yet another shrink what they think is best. Because, in my experience, often times what can seem like a winning medication will evolve into a monster, one that only gets worse if you are taken off of it.

Please understand, I am not saying stop taking the magic pills that work for you. Don’t quit anything cold turkey because you’ll never know what can happen (as my swinging arm and six months of torture after they took away the Benzos proved to me). But stand up for yourself. Don’t just take what they say at face value, because what may work for me may not for you, and vice versa. If it is your lifeline, it is good. If it is causing you more pain, it is not. All of these you need to discuss with your doctor, and if they suck, find another one. Because one thing I have learned is that I refuse shitty medical attention for a disorder I did not ask for, nor ever wanted. I want good care, professionals who understand, and to feel that I am not some freak.

Many of the doctors we go see have very personal reasons to be in the industry they are in. Perhaps they are affected personally or have a loved one who has been. Hell, I almost became a social worker because I thought I would be able to relate, but the more I thought about it, the more I understood that it would be exhausting for me. I would not be able to let go of the stories I listened to day in and out, and would crumble if any of my advice caused another pain. So, I chose something else, which was fortuitous, because about a year after I had decided that profession was not one for me to pursue, my bipolar exploded and there is no way I would be able to help another human when half of my year (if not more) is shrouded in a blanket of darkness and getting out of bed in the morning is an exercise all on its own.

Maybe that’s why I started smoking again. As well as dealing with the stress I am going through with this job, my mother’s illness, the isolation of being so far away from everyone I know and love, it gets me out of bed in the morning. I know it is a disgusting habit and one I have quit numerous times in my life. But for now, I need it. It is a balm, not a healthy one, but hell I am living in one of the least healthy states in the nation, so no one is going to have an issue. Most people in the Swamp smoke…

Ultimately, take good care of yourself. If you are in pain, embrace it – don’t be as foolish as I was when I took to self-medicating myself with alcohol or having illicit flings simply to forget the pain I was in or to feel validated. It is impossible to escape – I have tried so many times and only wind up getting myself in trouble. If you need help, seek it out. There is no shame in asking for this. I had to learn that early on. Sadly, many people do not because they are embarrassed, ashamed, or feel they should be “stronger”. We don’t need to be strong. We are imperfect humans. I had to accept that a long time ago about myself and while I still do not like to admit it, I cannot deny it either. I will fall, I will get up. It is a pattern that will repeat itself over and over as it has done for years. Until the day comes when I cannot get up any longer.

Yet, for today, for this moment, I am going to enjoy the sunshine streaming through the windows. I am going to enjoy this feeling of being free for as long as the mania will hold and I can be. I may only be out in the prison yard, getting my hour of exercise for the day, but I’ll take it. I don’t know what tomorrow holds. I do not know if when I awaken in the morning and come back to these pages, if I will still be in this frame of mind or the other, darker place. But I will fight to stay here, for as long as I can. And I can only wish the same for all of us who battle this horrid disease.

© Sorrow & Kindness

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