While my life is reading like a Hallmark card at the moment, granted it is a poor holy-hell-how-are-we-going-to-pay-all-these-bills Hallmark card, several friends (blogging and otherwise) are in the midst of the rough ride I know all too well. For one in particular it is that of her partner and his recent diagnosis with bipolar and the struggle to get the meds right to get her husband and their children’s father back that is fairly constantly on my mind.
They’re clocking up close to six months of trying to get his meds right but that reality just doesn’t pay any credit to what she/he/their family has weathered before hand or since.
When I am ‘back’ as it were, as in mentally firing on all cylinders and as stable as Martha Stewart’s horse chalet I realise the impact my mental health has on those around me but also the reality that well, this is a good phase.
I remember the first time a very dear friend (who I now basically don’t have a relationship with at all. Sadly.) suggested I go and speak to someone.
To be honest I went in part for the Bridget Jonesesque notion of how romatic an idea it was that I needed to see a psychiatrist.
But I did have an underlying concern they were going to tell me yes you are manic depressive and here, take this lithium and come in for some electric shock therapy next week. Bring your own stick to put between your teeth.
Of course none of that happened but it was about nine years ago and many questions have been answered since and many childhood ‘issues’ resolved or at least put to rest.
I’ve also worked up quite an impressive list of different drugs for dealing with depression, anxiety, bulimia and whatever other brainfuck you’d like to throw my way.
But you know what?
It was the very first prescription for anti-depressants that was the hardest for me to swallow. That script didn’t even come into play until about two years after I first saw Dr J.
But I had the script for a full two weeks before I could even bring myself to get it filled let alone start taking it.
I guess that script was a pretty big turning point, a moment of acknowledgment but certainly not acceptance that my brain just didn’t work as well as it should all of the time.
It was an awful moment of realising that while plenty of other people could handle what came their way in their daily life, I couldn’t cope with mine. Well, that was how I saw it at the time.
The next moment of recognition was when Dr J said to me that considering it was the third bout of depression he’d seen me for in as many years once I was back on track (that time around) we would have to discuss long term options.
The acceptance of my illness (for want of a better word) only came when I crossed that line back in May.
For some that line is attempted suicide, for others it is the very first labelled bout of depression or serious anxiety. Mine was that episode when I had enough cognitive thought to know what I was experiencing was a full blown panic attack but an equal physical urge to simply stop feeling the way I was feeling.
It had nothing to do with ‘suicide’.
And that has played on my mind not just as much as these friends who endure a similar reality to my own but for all those people who have killed themselves. I am spending way too much time wondering if they actually wanted to end their lives or simply that the physical urge to stop that awful awful awful way they were feeling at that time (and how long they had felt like that and just couldn’t stand it for a minute more).
That night was the first time ever I’ve crossed that line to when suicide isn’t a daydream but a very percebtable reality.
You see, that full blown anxiety attack was such that while I had occasional moments of cognitive capacity to tell myself ‘you’re not dying, this is just a panic attack, slow down your breathing, this will pass, this will pass, this will pass’ the one burning thought was ‘I can’t feel like this anymore’.
So the idea of ‘suicide’ was far less one of ending my life and much more one of not feeling so awful any more.
All of the normal thoughts I have to ensure I never act on those suicidal thoughts – the kids, Chef, my friends, the rest of my life, were not even in my head space.
I just couldn’t feel like that anymore.
I’m repeating myself and not even sure where I’m going with all this.
I absolutely dread to think of what I would have/could have done if Chef wasn’t with me.
The idea that he would leave me because of my mental health is a bit of an old chestnut in our house and one I relinquished some time ago.
His love for me, no matter what, is probably as great an antidepressant as my little white and big purple pills.
This time it took close to two months for me to find my even keel. The episode after Felix was born took about 10 months. The time after Jasper about four. And they’re just the big Cohunas – I couldn’t even give you a guesstimate on the brain snaps inbetween the doosies.
But it’s been nine years of calm seas and many Perfect Storms and that’s only the time it’s been catalogued. I think without the backstory I wouldn’t have bounced back as well as I have this time around. I know that it will pass, that I will feel better, normal, once more and that reality is very important to me to not act on the thoughts of how to stop feeling so bad. Which generally involve nudity and swimming in arctic waters in the middle of the night, so it’s really better for everyone I guess.
Sometimes all this strikes me as incredibly middle class developed nation indulgence but well, it’s my reality. Thank god I don’t have it and have to worry about finding fresh water/avoiding suicide bombers/dodging warfare each day along with my propensity to anguish, over-analyse, doubt and fret. God, how tiring.
So here I am today.
Stupidly content in my cluttered, messy, cramped house with no money and no prospects.
Taking little boys for walks around the block, to the beach, down to the lake to feed the ducks.
Cooking, baking, washing, washing, washing.
Mulling over in my head the idea for my book.
Procrastinating from starting it…
I am almost incredulous that at the beginning of May, just 11 weeks ago, I was scared of being alone with my children.
And so it goes.
In the back of my mind is a niggling thought – maybe this remarkable level of calm and peace and love and harmony is some bizarro world mania.
That it’s just the soaring high before the crushing low.
I’m not dwelling on it, it’s just there.
As is the acknowledgment that it always will be.
I think that’s called acceptance.