Those lists of famous people with bipolar/schizophrenia/depression are supposed to be encouraging – but sometime they’re not. I know I may be crossing a line here (if I am, email me and I’ll delete this immediately) but instead of being inspired, you might be disgusted – these folks are outside the norm and have nothing to do with the miserable life that lays before you as a person with mental illnesses.
I’d never thought of it before, but now that I do, I see those posters with inspirational sayings are sometimes not only fluffy, but unreasonable. We’re not going to be pro-golfers or Nobel Laureates, we’re probably just going to be ordinary people…. if you forget about the whole major psychiatric illness deal.
I am a sick little girl. (33). I take five psych meds, two prescription skin meds and vitamins. I keep the same schedule most days, I can’t drink because I drink too much, so I don’t drink at all. It messes with my meds anyway. I never ever ever used illegal drugs. I try to wake up at the same time. I keep a friggin’ mood journal so I can keep track of my ups and downs and catch them before I’m too up or too down. I used to hate this kind of structure. I wanted to stay up all night reading. I wanted to have a few mai tais. (Or shots of whiskey, or whatever you have on hand). I hated taking drugs – I mean, I hardly touched Tylenol, let alone anything as hard as aspirin.
But I took. Them. The reason I wound up diagnosed with bipolar in the first place was because I wanted to drown my little girl. It hurts to say it, and I know some of my new readers will be so shocked they are going to stop right there. Either way, that is not the reason I brought it up. I was suicidal since eighth grade. I went from full blown suicidal thoughts and plans to self injurious behavior (cutting) to drinking very heavily. These things calmed down some but not completely. They say the birth of a child can exacerbate these symptoms, but I’m not sure that was so. My daughter was extremely colicky and I thought it was perfectly reasonable to want to drown someone who, no matter what you did, would cry for five hours. I confessed this to my husband and he was sympathetic, but we didn’t see it as a sign.
The second time this hit, she was about sixteen months old. There is more to the story but this time I wound up in the psychiatric floor of a nearby hospital for six days, newly diagnosed with juvenile on-set rapid cycling bipolar disorder. I was allowed to see her mornings and nights so I could nurse her, but the rest of the time, I was apart from this little girl I loved so much who I was compelled to hurt so badly.
I never would have sought help if it wasn’t for my daughter. I would have gone on in a suicidal fog and lived some kind of nightmare. I wanted her to, first of all, be safe. I wanted her to grow and live. I wanted to be there to see it. I couldn’t even think about myself in terms of mothering; I wasn’t there yet. But I wanted her to live and live ardently and even passionately – two things I hope to encompass – but I hope for her that she is able to do it all without mental illness.
What are my hopes? Where can a person find hope that doesn’t? Of course, my hope is in God. Times like these God feels like a long term investment. I know He’s mine for eternity. I honestly do not get a lot of comfort from Him during these times… I know with every piece of my heart that I belong to Him and that will never change. But, honestly, I don’t look directly at Him to be my sole comfort and life’s meaning. (Go on, leave an angry comment.) I don’t know if I forget to, or that I push things aside, it’s just that other things, God with skin might be the appropriate cliche, tend to be extremely valuable for me at this time. I wouldn’t put them above God, but they’re pretty high up.
What are these things? My daughter. She is a light and a beauty and all mine. I have an attentive husband who cares greatly for her too, but I know in her heart I’m her “best love” and her number one. Every time I want to have just one drink, I think of her. When I want to stay up too late, I think of her and don’t. Because of her, and because of knowing what works for me, I do my best to catch my “indiscretions” quickly, otherwise things escalate. I can’t have one drink. Staying out late will screw me up for days, maybe weeks. And let’s not even get in to meds.
The problem with treating any sort of illness is that there are so many bad doctors. I have seen six different psychiatrists. The first one I met was okay. He preferred to serve as a therapist than a medication dispenser. I saw him twice – my church paid for it because I told the pastor I was extremely suicidal. The next psychiatrist was issued by the mental hospital, and thankfully, was willing to work with me as a continued to want to nurse my baby. The one after that was great – I stayed with him for over a year before I moved. Another told me he was going to probably call CPS on me. Finally I found someone who is able to take excellent care of me – she’s a bit of a drive but completely worth it.
I went through therapists too. One wanted me to play with little figures and point at pictures of happy faces. Another would regularly be 15-20 minutes late. There are all sorts of stories I could tell, but that’s another day. Ultimately I found a wonderful therapist back home and found the same here.
Why do I bring this all up? It’s because I had to fight to be well. I took my meds 90% of the time. In all this time I’ve missed less than five scheduled doctors appointments (including therapists.) When one didn’t work, I’d look to one that did. I’ve been on a dozen of drugs (Seroquel, Lithium, Lamictal, Ambein, Abililfy, Cogenten, Lexapro, Cymbalta, Welbutrin, Zoloft, Ativan, and Xanax) and finally have found the cocktail that works right for us. I deliberately say, “us” because I’m not in this alone.
I must become well for my family. They need me. They need me when I’m at the top of my game and they even need me when I’m at rock bottom. I matter to them; I can sometime be a drain but it is worth the effort to them to stay along side me during this time.
But – not everyone has a family? Not everyone can hope so much in that. What’s next?
For me, the answer is so clear – even if it wasn’t while I was suffering so much. The answer is you. You have fresh, fierce pain. You are suffering and have been for a long time. You have lost a child, maybe even more than one. You are, like me, mentally ill.
Because I have been there, and there are times reflected in this blog that I’m still there. I am almost to the point the loss of my first baby and the loss of any future babies doesn’t reduce me to tears, but I will never be at the point I cannot empathize with a mother who has gone through loss. I don’t know the secret hurts of your heart, but I know what pain is like because I’ve suffered.
I used to say to my husband that I wanted to reach just one person through my writing ministry. I believe I have, but I’m a little more ambitious now. If you think there is someone who could be helped by this, please pass the address along. Also, if there is something you want me to write about, shoot me an email and I will do so!