Here We Go Again

I made a promise to myself to write more, but I broke it thanks to a depressive episode. I’m still working with a psychiatrist to get my medication right. Too much Latuda made me sleep all the time and really brought out the nihilist in me. I just wanted to stop existing, and apparently that isn’t something we should want. We started a different antidepressant and now I’m worried that I’ve bypassed hypomania for a full blown manic episode just based on my own understanding of how it felt last time. I’m doing my best to avoid big purchases and trying not to let stress push me over the edge—but it’s hard. I’m not just fighting my own brain now, I have additional chemicals fighting a battle in me.

On Friendship

Friends are helpful. Friends who have the same disorder are a godsend.

It’s funny how the world works sometimes. I’d be lost without one friend in particular, and I didn’t meet him because I tweet about mental illness. He actually presented at a conference I attended and I followed him because of his presentation. Interestingly enough, we both got diagnosed with bipolar around the same time. He’s asked me about side effects like akathisia, and I confessed to him two nights ago that I think I might be manic. Part of our relationship is offering encouragement. Two nights ago, he encouraged me to call my psychiatrist (I bumped up the Latuda last night). We also support each other through job stresses and the inevitable rollercoaster moods. We both have supportive spouses, but sometimes it’s just helpful to say to someone, “Hey, has your brain ever done X?” and hear an affirmative response. It means that things are going to be okay. It means that I’m not alone.

That’s something I didn’t realize with this diagnosis. I have a better understanding of myself, but I also feel alone because so much of the world is neurotypical (or just a lot better at pretending).

Hindsight is 20/20

The epiphanies since my diagnosis and partial hospitalization are too many to list. I started to reflect on this a bit with late night thoughts, but it goes beyond that. Periods of my life make more sense. But perhaps what upsets me the most is my whole trajectory could have been different with an earlier diagnosis. It’s not fair to dwell on what could have been, but when I’m in certain moods it’s unavoidable.

What would have happened if I’d stayed at the same college all four years instead of transferring and then transferring back after one semester? What would have happened if I hadn’t walked out on the job in publishing? Or the job at the nonprofit? And that one time I almost impulsively moved to D.C.—what would have happened if I’d followed through with that? Would I have dated so-and-so if I’d been medicated? What would life be like if I hadn’t spent so much on tequila and clothes and then had to dig myself out of debt?

And the most unfair question of all: Why didn’t anyone see it?

My life makes more sense now. The self-made obstacles that got me to this point are just part of my story. Asking “what if” is not going to bring back 15 years, and would I want to lose all those experiences anyway? I’m who I am today because of all the wrong turns and bumps in the road. My hope, as I move forward, is that sharing my experience can help others make sense of their own journeys. And knowing I’m not alone gets me through this.


Late Night Thoughts

Well y’all, it’s four in the morning and I just finished doing some organizing for a freelance project and writing this blog post.

I think this firmly proves that I’m still in some sort of manic phase, although I’m definitely not at the height of it, and I’m much more self-aware. In fact, I can see myself making the bad decisions and sometimes even stop myself.

It’s not that I’m not sleeping. I fell asleep around 7:00 on the sofa, went up to bed around 10:00, and woke up—bright eyed and bushy-tailed—between 1:30 and 2:00. Around 2:00 I decided I would just get up and do some work in the living room. I’ve been waking up all week, usually at 2:30 and 4:00. Sometimes I get back to sleep. Sometimes I stare at the ceiling for half an hour. It’s annoying and it leaves me drained, but this too shall pass.

It’s nothing like high school when I consistently got by on two or three hours of sleep each night. I would stay up working on my graduation project and watch The Crow twice a night sometimes. These were the days before I had a computer in my room. In summer, when my poor sleeping habits were more acceptable, I’d stay downstairs on the computer all night and sometimes fall asleep on the pull-out sofa in the computer room. I’d be chatting on IRC or playing Rollercoaster Tycoon, trying my best to be quiet as I listened to OutKast on repeat.

* * *

In our psychoeducational groups, they explained bipolar and other depressive orders with a graph. [Aside: I just now understood sinus rhythm is because it’s a graph of sine and remembered how much I hated trig.]my crappy graph drawing Anyway, the neurotypical mood graph is that gentle wave and my mood has this tendency to go up, up, UP, and then back down. The third line in my poorly-drawn graph is what a friend who has depression says her mood tends to be—her ups don’t make it to manic highs if and when she has them.

Part of the problem with this disorder is that it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between being happy and being manic. Another problem, for me at least, is that so much has also been masked by anxiety, which is what I first sought treatment for. In fact, I sort of wonder if the intensity of this manic episode I just had could be because I’m already on a great SSRI for treatment of anxiety. I haven’t had a bad panic attack in ages, and—knock on wood—I haven’t experienced a bottom-out depression on that mood graph for a long time.

This journey of understanding is just beginning, but I’m hopeful my graph looks a bit more muted in the future.

Hi, I’m Lindsay and today I’m feeling okay.

I have a pineapple tattoo on my arm.

It’s not my first tattoo, but it’s my first that I can’t hide easily. It’s not the first that I got while manic, but it’s the one that made me realize I needed help. At thirty-two, I found myself in therapy and marriage counseling. My thoughts were racing constantly. I spent months making impulsive choices that kept getting more and more reckless. I started to hurt the people around me. Suddenly, it wasn’t fun anymore.

In hindsight, I’ve been experiencing ups and downs for most of my life. I could always write it off as something else. I didn’t sleep because I was a night owl. When I slept all day it was because I needed to catch up. Invincibility was just confidence, and I should be happy I felt good! Hook ups and binge drinking were just part of the college experience. And so on and so forth until I excused it all away. I wasn’t hurting anyone then—unless you count myself.

So at the beginning of December, I entered a partial hospitalization program. From nine to three every day, I attended group sessions alongside peers with similar diagnoses. Some were recovering from substance abuse, others had anxiety or depression, others—like me—were bipolar. We learned from each other and a team of professionals. We participated in process groups, psychoeducational groups and expressive therapies.

Today, I was discharged.

I’m still processing what this means for me. The journey of the past two weeks, my growth in self-awareness, the friendships I’ve forged—I’m still sorting everything out in my head. What I can say now is that the focus on self-care that was the underlying theme of the program will not be forgotten. I clearly needed this break to regroup, to get to know myself again, and to figure out how to cope with a chemical imbalance that can lead to me jumping into the swamp before I look for alligators.

Writing more is a goal of mine, so I hope to expand on this journey over the next few months. Stay tuned!