Brought Low

I am not sure what to write. I am taking a low dose antidepressant now, but in the dead of winter, that isn’t enough. Of course, the prescribed dose is, but I can’t take that because I can’t take the side effects.

A funny thing is that before I ever took anything, when I felt really awful, it was restless and anxious and I couldn’t sleep. I gained weight. I got into messes. I started millions of projects but was sure that they all would fail. I broke down at night, before sleep, and the mornings were a little better.

Medication, oddly enough, gave me normal depression. I’m slow, I can’t think, I want to sleep all the time, I wake up at 4 AM, I feel better at night. I can’t concentrate, feel sluggish, move through a fog. Just like in the books. Not like before.

This is more tolerable – it is far less unpleasant than being racing and running and unable to stop. But it is far less productive. I cannot do anything. Wake up at 4 AM, stay awake until 6. Fall back asleep for a fitful hour or two. Get up, sort of get dressed, have coffee. Sometimes I manage a half hour of work. Most of the time, by 11 AM, I am back asleep. Then I get up in a daze, attempt a little more work, but am usually too sleepy to do much.

I feel like I shouldn’t complain. It could be so much worse, has been so much worse. But now I miss feeling good. For so many years, I thought I’d never have a decent life, never be able to use any of my talents, never be a normal person. Then: the wonder drugs. Suddenly, I became the person I always thought I should be: successful, warm, funny.

Unless you have experienced it, you cannot understand what it is like to never sleep a full night, to always be tortured by your mind, to feel shame for every tiny mistake you ever made, over and over again, replayed. To not care about eating.

That was my life for so many years.

And then, all these good stable years. It was so strange. Suddenly, all the things that most people take for granted were mine too. I could go to bed and fall asleep, and then wake up in the morning having slept well. I felt like getting up and living my stupid little life. I could work consistently, not just during little blips when the heavy weight let up. But I was still me – not like some meds made me, the ones that, without really fixing anything, turned me into a partygoer, and outgoing butterfly, impervious to pain and unable to cry, unable to really be happy, uncaring.

The good meds gave me four good years of being a person, like anyone else. This let me fool myself into thinking that life would continue like that. Internally, I started to see myself as normal and healthy. The day-to-day business of the problem – the sleeping, the anxiety, the racing thoughts, the inability to sit still – the things that shaped the inner fabric of my life, had changed. One thing people don’t understand is how all-consuming they can be. Imagine what it would be like to never be able to count on sleep, on an appetite, on morning coming. Fuck the suicidal thoughts, the grim outlook for the world…it was the little things that made such a difference, sleeping, eating. I stopped being broken, stopped seeing myself as such…all the monstery things that had defined my life just went away.

And all those good days and nights? With lesser amounts of substances floating through me, they start to fade as if they never were. As if I am back to being that broken fuckup who no one could stand to be around for more than an hour at a time. Who can’t do anything right, can’t care about other people, can’t write (compare the writing here to some of my more hypomanic posts, like this, or this, or this), can’t do anything but stare into space.

I don’t know what to do. I guess internet advice from anyone reading this is as good as anything. I could go back to the shrink that I hated 4 years ago, to ask for another med consult. I hated him because he just didn’t get me, wanted to do tons of counseling and stuff, misinterpreted a lot of what I said in such sessions, but on the other hand, he suspected bipolar when no one else did, and he found me this wonder drug set that has given me these great four years.  I think he’s a less bad shrink than many I have seen, though I think he was wrong for trying counseling at that time. It is possible to go back, but he also demands visits once a week or so, which I just hate. I feel like I am being babysat, like a wayward child. Or sicker than I am, or want to admit.

The good thing is that he knows me, has seen me in the worst states, and it might be even kind of nice for him to see me now, when things are kind of ok, relative to where I was. I don’t think he has ever seen me not manic/mixed and suicidal. As soon as I start to get better, I always quit going, which is probably why he thinks I’m in so much worse shape. If I do this, though, I think I want to get back up to a good dose, so that I really can for once go in when I’m ok.

And despite me leaving on bad terms, I think that somewhere deep down, I’d like to say thank you to him. Thank you for putting up with me when I was truly insufferable, and thank you for these four years. Thank you, in spite of the fact that you accused me of flirting with you when that was really and truly the farthest thing from my mind in the world. Is that utterly fucking crazy?

Another thing is that in so many ways I wish this were a more socially acceptable illness or physical one. I wish deep down right now for an encouraging or sympathetic word from a friend. A friend who knows the good part of me, not just the crazy part. And there’s the rub, again. My normal friends are my friends only because I had a good period of time, a period when I could hide crazy me.  I still am hiding crazy me; these days I have avoided everyone, afraid they will see something wrong with me. I can hardly answer the phone, because I just can’t keep up my end of the conversation. And now I’m convinced they only like me for being the friendly, nice, cheery sort (well, okay, I was never quite cheery) and I cannot initiate a phone call knowing that I just don’t have it in me to inquire about their lives, to push the conversation forward, to crack witty.

Yet I am also too proud to admit that something is wrong to them, that I am not well, that I am not the person they think I am, at least not all the time.

I think during my last big crash, around June/July, they all saw that something was awry, amiss, whatever a-word you want. But everyone, it seemed, was very careful to stay out of my way, to not ask questions, to give me room to snap out of it. I think the people who do what we do for a living have a natural aversion to weakness, want to give the wounded privacy, time to hide their limp.

Only Jake asked me once what was wrong, said I looked really bad and that it was hard to watch. That comment, while humiliating, meant the world to me. Someone from my new world cared, cared about the less than perfect me. Or maybe just cared about the perfect me enough to want her back.

Either way, I could use that kind of encouragement now. I wish I had the kind of illness where people send flowers and call to make awkward conversation, the kind that it is no big deal to mention. But then I hate myself for wishing that, and hate my stupid pride.

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