Without going in to the specifics of how my drugs work, other than being miraculous, I’m going to let you in on the dirty little secret my doctor never really explained to me: If you stop taking your meds, you will lose your mind. While I had been instructed to keep up with my meds, checkups, and blood work, my doctor didn’t mention what would happen if I stopped. It’s kind of like that movie The Little Mermaid:
Ariel: I want to walk around on land. I’m gonna see the sea witch!
Everyone in Atlantis: Don’t do that.
Ariel: Will it be bad if i do?
Everyone in Atlantis: Just don’t…okay?
No one told me about the feeling of numbness or the inability to focus I would experience if I stopped my daily drug regimen. They just told me not to. The biggest thing they forgot to mention was the agonizing insomnia! Anyone who knows pre-medicated Samantha knows that sleeping from 8pm to 1 pm is normal. That Samantha loved sleeping! So, consequently, insomnia is new for me.
Let me be more specific. It’s not that I can’t sleep and I have all of this energy and I’m taking advantage of excess hours to get chores done or something constructive like that. No, I’m just in my bed, staring at the wall, thinking, thinking, thinking…
This lapse in medication was caused by poor scheduling on my part and the inability to understand the world of American health insurance. So, I still have my lithium, which is good because I in no way intend on changing the name of this journal, but also I’m out of my antipsychotic prescription.
(Doesn’t that just sound great! That’s what you wanna see on an e-dating site personal ad: I’m friendly, outgoing, and I’m out of my antipsychotic.)
My meds are like this scenario:
Mom’s got a kid that’s running around everywhere in anticipation of getting a piece of cake. The kid’s screaming and skipping around the kitchen. Finally the mother yells, “KNOCK IT OFF!” The kid then sits quietly at the table and waits patiently for their cake. So mom cuts a piece and presents it to her child. The child is instantly delighted, so happy that the kid doesn’t make a peep as he eats. He’s just so content.
My moods run rampant and lithium says, “KNOCK IT OFF!” And then the antipsychotic is like the cake to top it off. It brings me an overwhelming sense of peace and contentment, which is something everyone deserves in life.
My days, now, are like that kid waiting for cake. That kid is just waiting, and waiting, never moving, never sleeping. He knows that cake is coming and that he really wants cake, but for now, he’s just in this limbo.
Before anyone lashes out with advice about mythical roots or special yoga poses that make me sleepy, let’s keep in mind that my brain is having a chemical reaction to not having a chemical reaction. I tried a few remedies. I went jogging. I watched Midnight Cowboy. Nothing is putting me to sleep.
We’ve all probably seen or read Fight Club by now and know that Palahniuk did a bang up job describing what it was like to have no sleep. I would say it was like that, except that I’ve been off work this last week. So, instead of my life jumping from one moment to the next without a connection, I’m just ceaselessly staring my boredom in the face.
I’ve also been exhibiting strange paranoia-like symptoms. The wind feels like a hand on my shoulder. My shadow looks like an axe murderer. And the sound of the cat walking through the living room sounds suspiciously like Michael from Halloween on his way to murder me. My sleep has been sporadic at best this past couple nights. If I do sleep for an hour or so, it feels more like blinking, then I’m wide awake again for a few more hours.
Here I am, middle of the night, nothing left in the house to read and no one to talk to. Luckily, there’s a golden realm where you can have both of those things. In preparation for what I’m about to expose, let me remind you that I never give out personal information to strangers or go to the seedier parts of the internet.
The last few nights of sleeplessness I have been in chat rooms! Did you know the internet is insane!?
Now don’t shake your head at me, I don’t go to those rooms where people expose themselves on web cams and make sweet RPG love to their cyber lovers. I’ve been to a few Christian ones where people just talk about how Christ was reborn in them. I’ve been to Final Fantasy ones where people just talk about how they will never find true happiness. Sometimes I’ll go to various music related chat rooms. But those can be quite elitist. The fun thing about those is coming across the realization that there is someone, out there in the world, who is lonely, staring at their computer, and angered beyond all reason that someone would consider With Sympathy Ministry’s best work. (That person was me, by the way.)
Have I adopted some sort of alter-online-ego these past nights? Am I one of those nerds that somehow gets brazen when they’re armed with a keyboard and a lack of physical being? You bet I’m not! I’m still as spineless and accommodating as ever.
It’s important to remind you that none of these faceless strangers know my name, address, phone number, place of employment, family members, location, or license plate number. If someone asks you ASL, YOU MUST ALWAYS LIE! This evening’s insomnia goes out to all the wonderful pieces of text that are bouncing back in forth across the world wide web, connecting nerds everywhere.
So, as part of one of those “Pen-the-Pain” programs where you keep a journal to help you better understand your own turmoil, I started a blog to help friends and family understand what it’s like to live in my brain.
It’s probably going to be long and wordy, I must warn, but I promise it’ll make you laugh in the same way the thought of me bashing my head hard, over and over again, into a cement wall might make you laugh. If you didn’t catch that, the idea of me ceaselessly causing myself pain was a metaphor for my life, and yeah, it’s kinda funny that way.
Here’s the big reveal that a lot of you might have already been in on for a while. I’ve got Type 1 Bipolarism. How do I think of my condition? If my condition were a person I would never call her, I would never invite her anywhere, and I certainly wouldn’t introduce her to anyone I remotely respected. And that’s the worst part of all of it. Because even though she’s as classy as the drunk chick at the party, as rational as a toddler, as poised as a demolition derby driver, and as stable as a row of dominos, I have to take her everywhere, and I do, occasionally, have to bring her out in front of prospective friends, mentors, and partners.
At first, I thought the best thing to do would be to dress prettier, act nicer, and be wittier than that part of me in hopes that people would see my condition as that friend I brought to the party as a plus-one, though she is my ward, she’s in no way me. This manifested in me buying the affections of friends I didn’t really like. Or lying to my parents about how well I felt.
Then, as the roller coaster sped on, I wanted off. I did want her credit card debt or her meaningless relationships. Metaphorically, I wanted to sneak out the back door before anyone knew we were associated. Realistically, I had attempted to take my own life in hopes to keep my own erratic behaviors at bay. I know it seems illogical, displaying an erratic behavior to squelch another. It seems illogical to me, now.
You’re probably already getting the gist through my story and your preconceived notions of what bipolarism is. You get the picture of someone enjoying life a little too much then having all the passion, happiness, and energy sucked out of them in the form of a crippling depression. The sad part is that this didn’t just happen once. And it didn’t happen over the course of years. My condition had me cycling from euphoria and optimism to suicide in only a short year, with plenty of smaller drop offs in between. And I had attempted to take my life not once, but three times.
It doesn’t matter what I did or what I used for the most part. The important thing was the mentality I had each time was different.
Attempt 1: “I want everyone to see how hard I have it and how much it hurts me! My life is awful. I’m so sad. I’m lower than low. I’m Morrissey-depressed right now! Me-me-me-I-I-I!”
Attempt 2: “Wow, I couldn’t even succeed at killing myself! I must really be a giant pile of crap! Maybe if I get it right this time, I won’t be a disappointment to anyone else. Everyone must think I’m worthless and pathetic!”
Attempt 3: “I don’t want anyone to know that I’m going to try again. I just want it to end.”
Ironically, people had thought I was so happy before, trying to hide my condition, when the attempts came about, the only thing those close to me could exhibit was confusion. I didn’t get the pity I wanted or the punishment I longed for. Luckily, the third time is always the charm, and the morning after an attempted overdose, I puked all over my room, got fired, got dumped, dropped out of school, and someone said, “Samantha, I think you need help.”
I think the idea has always been to start climbing up once you’ve hit rock bottom, but this was more like trying to unbury myself from rock bottom. Not only had a pitted myself in my own mental despair, but the walls of my own black little hole had caved in on me.
While it sounds so wonderful to have someone offer you help, it’s nothing as heroic as the rescue missions you see on television, but still every bit as poignant. No one grabbed my hand and pulled me to safety. I was sat in a cold room with a direct and terrifying woman who seemed to take me completely out of context but could also read me like a book.
“How do you feel about your goals?” she had asked.
"I just feel like I’m failing everyone and the things I want are unattainable."
"So you feel like you’re worthless."
It was weird how trying to hide my condition meant deleting the words necessary to describe it from my lexicon. I did feel worthless.
Like I said, there was no sweeping music or angelic back lighting to make her seem like a saint. She just had me fill out a paper tracking my moods and my sleep patterns.
I remember thinking, “This is stupid! I just want to be valued. I want my parents to love me. I want scores of suitors and millions of dollars. I want a hug and a perfect body. How is this paper going to help?”
The next time I saw her, I exchanged my papers for a prescription for a drug called lithium, hence the name of this journal, and another called Abilify.
Again, still denying the reality of my condition, I thought, “How are these pills going to get rid of all that depression and anxiety?
Admittedly, twenty four hours later, I did kind of feel a little better. The first thing that I noticed was that I didn’t sleep in an extra six hours. I woke up at 8 AM for no reason other than that was when my body was done sleeping. Discovering 8 AM was like a vampire seeing the sun for the first time without burning.
It was strange to think that those little pills could make me feel that much better. Of course I was gonna keep taking them.
It was on the second morning that I felt the full effect of the pursuit of wellness. There I was, 8 AM again on a new morning, and all I wanted to do was get back to that book I was reading last night. My first thought wasn’t something irrational or pessimistic. It was something normal, human even. It was a surreal moment filled with great epiphanies. I could be just like normal people and for once I had a base of comparison for what normal was! Oh joyous 8 AM, how had I never realized your beauty before?
So, I’m at this party with my condition and she’s obnoxious and embarrassing. Her moods are inconstant and I’m not doing a good job making at making excuses for her. Then, someone slipped 600 mg of lithium in my sex on the beach, and I can be myself again. As for my condition, 8 AM rolled around and someone put her in the backseat of my car, passed out from excess partying. She’s still my ward, but I think she’s learned her lesson.
Now, you’re probably asking why I admonish my saving-grace-drug in the title of this journal. Well, sadly, there is no cure for bipolarism. I am never going to have to stop taking meds. There’s always that split second every evening when I’m about to take my pills and go to bed when I look at the little tablet and think, “If I just never had to take you again, that would be fantastic.”
This journal is dedicated to that split second every evening, and all of the 8 AM’s I have to look forward to from now on.