OK, I’ll admit it: I am officially in a depressive episode. It says so right on my paperwork from Dr. Awesomesauce’s office. It’s what they call an “atypical” depression, which is common in bipolar people, meaning I sleep too much and eat too much junk but can still derive some pleasure from enjoyable experiences, like watching The Big Bang Theory. It is also what Dr. A considers a perfectly understandable downswing, given the fact that I am grieving the loss of my old life and having trouble visualizing a happy ending to this story. Even so, I hate it, because it’s more than just sadness. It’s hopelessness.
As is usually the case with these episodes, I have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, and occasionally I’m so wiped out that I need an afternoon nap. I don’t feel like showering or grooming myself, and I’m spending too many days lounging in the old sweats that double as pajamas. I have a million things to do in order to prepare for this move and don’t want to do any of it…..today all I could manage was to take down all the pictures off the walls, and I cried through most of it. The act of removing the wall hangings symbolized everything that’s wrong with life these days, and I just couldn’t help myself, even as I cursed myself for doing it. I HATE crying. It does no good, and I look like hell afterwards.
I also asked Will how he was managing. Dr. A questioned me about that yesterday, and all I could say was that he was calm and focused, as usual. But it got me to wondering how he really does feel, and I was ashamed that I hadn’t thought to discuss it with him before. He confessed that he was “disappointed” that nothing had come along to make all of this unnecessary, and he feels every bit as badly as I do about having to give up the cats. But he absolutely, positively is NOT angry with me for any of it, even though it’s my illness that has, in essence, betrayed us both.
Naturally my depressed brain tends to believe otherwise, but I am forcing myself to accept his refusal to assign blame at face value. Number one, because I didn’t screw up on purpose, and number two, because it really isn’t my fault. Shit happens. People get sick. I did the best I could to keep going in the face of what turned out to be insurmountable odds, and all I wound up doing was hating my life and spending much of it ill. And overall—this depressed mood notwithstanding—I’ve been a lot less stressed since I haven’t been working.
There. I said it. I was killing myself trying to work full-time and do what I believed was my duty as a productive citizen. It was all I knew how to do, and there were even times when I did it pretty well. Some days I miss my fast-paced lifestyle (and the money and prestige that came with it), and I’ll probably always wish I could have continued it and stayed well. But I couldn’t, and while this move looks, smells, and feels like failure, I have to listen to the people who care about me and accept the unacceptable.
That’s what logic says. I wish someone could explain it to the part of me that’s looking at bare walls and seeing the outlines of where family pictures used to be.
Great visit with Dr. Awesomesauce this morning. I’ve been more depressed than I wanted to admit, but an hour with him and I feel better. As always, he gave me some food for thought and encouraged me to look beyond the immediate situation, which is hard to do when I have a metaphorical brick wall in front of my face, but not impossible. This is one time when “one day at a time” is NOT serving me well. At least I can see a glimmer of hope now, and maybe these upcoming changes really aren’t the end of life as I know it after all.
We talked about disability again, which he is going to do his best to help me with. I don’t think either of us wanted to think it was the best thing for me, but it is and I’m glad I applied. I’m in the process of gathering documentation, and was going to print a copy of my diagnoses and med list from the patient portal to send in with my other paperwork. Ironically, the only diagnoses I found in my online medical record were depression and anxiety. WTF?
I asked him if he’d changed my diagnosis, which I rather doubted because he ALWAYS talks to me about things before he does them, but stranger things have happened. (Maybe I was hoping he had…..?) Silly me. He was quite amused that I would even think that for a moment and quickly corrected it in the computer, then printed it out and handed it to me. So now all my records match up, and I can quit tantalizing myself with thoughts of not having bipolar. Seems I went through that last fall, and got smacked upside the head with back-to-back mood episodes. I better watch that stinkin’ thinkin’…..it never ends well.
Dr. A is also not going to change any of my meds (read: taper me off Zyprexa) anytime soon. Which makes sense, because even though I’m somewhat down, I’m basically stable and not having manic or mixed moods. So if it ain’t broke, goes the thinking, he’s not gonna fix it. And I have to acknowledge the fact that I’ve been so much better overall since I went on the Z full-time. There have been a couple of very brief hypomanias and some depression, but NOTHING like I used to experience. I just hate it that when I have to go on a new med or increase an old one, I never seem to be able to get back to where I was. There are so many scary stories about long-term side effects in people who have to be on multiple anti-psychotics for extended periods of time, and I don’t want them to happen to me.
But consistency is a good thing, and Dr. A is nothing if not consistent. He is a port in the storm that is my life with this disease, and I feel safer knowing that he’s there to guide me through the rough water. Don’t get me wrong—Will and my family and friends are wonderful and I’m blessed to have their love and support. But it’s also good that there is someone who knows the things I can’t tell my loved ones lest I frighten them, and doesn’t judge me for it. The world would be a far better place if everyone had someone like him in their lives.
I am definitely having a downturn. It’s situational. There’s so much that needs to be accomplished in the next few weeks and nothing is even remotely settled yet. I’m looking at finances and the numbers scare the hell out of me. Will and I have to re-home three cats whom we’ve had for their entire lives, and it’s breaking my heart even to think about it. One is 14 years old, for Pete’s sake—who’s going to take care of her for the few years she has left? I never thought I’d have to give up having cats, but my son-in-law is wildly allergic and we can’t take them with us. But then, I never thought life would come to this.
I’m beginning to think filing for disability was a really good idea. I’ve continued to look for jobs, but I can’t get around the fact that the market is horrible for people over 50 and my work history over the past five years makes me look like a complete flake. I’m not getting down on myself for this, it’s just a fact of life; and having been a hiring manager myself a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I understand why employers are reluctant to take a chance on me. It doesn’t make my work search any easier, but I get it. I really do. I only wish I could fix it.
Wouldn’t it be nice if life came with “Ctrl-Alt-Delete” buttons?
I have also resigned myself to the fact that I am going to go through this transition whether I like it or not, and I can’t be expected to stand here grinning like an idiot while it happens. I wish I didn’t have the bad thoughts that accompany these down times; they seem to come whether I’m clinically or merely situationally depressed. But I can usually banish them by forcing myself to think about something else—today it was the movie “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, which not only distracted me but I enjoyed it thoroughly. I also made a big pot of chili and a pan of cornbread for dinner; who says I have to get bogged down and wallow in my miseries?
So I’m in pretty decent shape for someone who is NOT having a good time in life. I see Dr. Awesomesauce on Monday, and I’ll bring all this up to him but I don’t think it will alarm him too much. He’s seen me through these things before—as have you—and I always come out on the other side. Always. There will be no early exit from the festivities. And maybe if I tell myself enough times that it’ll be OK, it will be.
OK. I’ve taken a couple of days off from posting and I feel refreshed. A good friend of mine took me to task the other night for overthinking and being too self-involved, and as much as it hurt (me? overthink? I would never…..haha) I had to admit she was right. As a result, I’ve been able to crawl out of my cave a little and focus on something besides my own misery, and surprise, surprise, I feel much better.
If there is one good thing to say about having bipolar disorder, it’s this: no matter how you feel at a given time, it’s going to change. You can count on it. However, it usually doesn’t turn on a dime like this, which is how I know that what I’ve been dealing with is a lot of anxiety, rather than depression or a mixed mood. I’m still not a happy camper, but I’ve settled down a lot and even been able to enjoy things like an evening with the kids and grandkids and a supermarket trip with Will.
That’s something I’ve always loved about us…..we can even make something as mundane as grocery shopping fun. We talk, we laugh, we goof around, and we get it done without a big hassle. It’s a team effort, and we sometimes have to negotiate regarding desserts (he’s a chocoholic and would be content to eat Hershey bars every day of his life, while I like a variety of sweets). But overall, we have a pretty darn good time doing this weekly chore.
We still don’t have firm plans for our move, although I imagine our landlords will assist us in this regard when they get back from South America where they’re doing missionary work. I look around at the mess the house is in and wonder how the hell we’re ever going to get all this stuff packed up and ready to go—and I know sitting in front of the computer writing isn’t getting us any closer to that goal—but we’ve got to start somewhere.
And I have to stay well. This isn’t a time to get bogged down in self-recrimination and give in to my fears about what may lie ahead. There’s too much to do. Time to shift gears.
Thank you, my friend (you know who you are).
Sometimes I’m amazed at my ability to stand outside my own life as an observer. I should be wrapping and packing our stuff, but on this rainy, dreary day I have chosen to play armchair quarterback and analyze how I’ve been feeling over the past week or so. I don’t know if it’ll help me sort things out, but until I see Dr. Awesomesauce next week, it’ll have to do.
I’m not depressed. Well, maybe a little, but not all the time—yesterday I was laughing hysterically at Facebook memes and enjoying the last of our beautiful fall weather in between tears and thoughts of death. That means I still love life, it’s just this particular part of it that sucks and I wish all this crap would get over with yesterday. I am also somewhat restless and agitated, which apparently came across in yesterday’s post. This raised some alarms in several readers’ minds, and I want to assure you all that I am neither helpless nor hopeless. I’m just not dealing well with the suckage.
It’s weird, being up and down multiple times in the same day. This is not my normal bipolar cycling, but then this isn’t really a mood episode. (I think.) How can it be an episode when I don’t know from one minute what the hell is going on in my head? I can be sitting here, completely forlorn and trying not to cry, and two hours later I’m cracking up at cat videos on the Internet. I haven’t been out of pajamas since Sunday night (well, they’re old sweats, but I use them as PJs) yet I’m still brushing my teeth and taking care of my hair, which I often don’t do when I’m in a real depression.
Regardless, it makes me feel crazy and I hate it. It’s almost like a mixed mood episode, but I think it’s anxiety that’s feeding the beast because when I’m mixed, I don’t have enough insight to recognize it. Oh, no, I know perfectly well that I’m anxious, and when I’m anxious I have big trouble maintaining my equilibrium, which is already difficult due to the nature of my disease. I’m also easily overstimulated by TV, music, even the Internet, but I can’t stay away from any of them.
But you know what’s cool? I can still hide it. I can go through all kinds of mental gymnastics and no one knows just how complicated it is—not even the people who read this blog. I did some off-loading yesterday, but I can just as easily go underground and pretend that everything is just hunky-dory. Turn my angst inward. Put up a good front. Keep a stiff upper lip and all that.
I wasn’t always able to do this. Used to be when I felt miserable, everybody and his brother knew it, and I sometimes went out of my way to make sure they did. But I’ve grown up a bit, and then there’s medication…..the wonderful, miraculous concoction that has quite literally changed my life and lets me “fake it till I make it”.
Still, it doesn’t make everything go away, and I’m subject to breakthrough mood swings just like everyone else. It’s been like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride the past few days and I’m not sure just where I stand on the mood spectrum—actually it’s more like hopping than standing—but it’s OK. I’ve been here before. And I’ll get through it again.
Have I ever mentioned that I have trust issues?
It’s not difficult to figure out where they came from. It goes back to earliest childhood, when I was cared for and loved by my sister and grandmother rather than my mother. I wanted to trust her; of course, being a child I didn’t understand why I couldn’t, or why she couldn’t love me the way I needed. But it set the stage for a lifelong distrust of people, and it’s taken me years to learn how to go through life without putting my head down and my fists up.
I don’t even trust myself half the time, and the other half of the time I can’t be trusted. This is not undeserved; after all, one should not trust me to drive when I’m manic, or to have access to a big bottle of controlled substances when I’m depressed. I also cannot be trusted not to throw a screaming fit out in front of a packed restaurant in the pouring rain or behave myself when someone is taunting me, even though neither of the above has happened in a long time. I know when the kids were growing up, the family walked on eggshells around me lest a storm blow up, which occurred way more often than was healthy for ANY of us.
I used to wonder why everyone went around all the time waiting for the other shoe to drop. “I’ve changed,” I would tell them, time and time again. “I’ve never hit people and I don’t even scream and yell much anymore. You don’t need to be afraid of me.” And then sure enough, something would happen and I’d go off on someone, and the whole cycle would start all over again.
To be honest, I still don’t think my family trusts me completely, even though I haven’t lost my temper in some time and the over-the-top conniptions haven’t happened since I’ve been on medication. A couple of my kids have admitted they worry about me going off the deep end, though, and I think that’s where the trust problem lies now. I once texted my oldest daughter in the middle of the night and said I thought I wanted to die, and I threatened to OD on Ativan. I didn’t do it then, but I did a year or so later, and of course Will couldn’t keep quiet about it, and he called the kids while I was passed out in the La-Z-Boy.
I wish I could say for certain that I’ll never do such a thing again. I don’t plan on it, and I don’t believe I will, but I can’t make such a guarantee. I made that mistake when I was within three months of celebrating my 22nd sobriety birthday. It was NOT a suicide attempt, and I didn’t use alcohol; but the reasons for doing it were the same, and the result was the same. In that case, I can’t blame my loved ones too much for being concerned, especially now that life is becoming progressively harder and right now I can’t see beyond the chaos to a better day. But it must be out there…..and I have to trust that it is.