Thursday, May 25, 2017


I wrote my therapist a letter several days ago of an epiphany I had. I invited her to tell me it’s bullshit. She didn’t. Here’s what I wrote:

I’ve had an epiphany. It’s probably bullshit, but that’s for you to tell me, that I’m out of my damn mind. (I know I am, but sometimes it takes an outside opinion to drive home the point.)

I would like to be “reasonably content.” Not “happy.” “Happy” is a character in Snow White, not a state of being that lasts any mentionable amount of time. I know, with an attitude like this I’ll make a great therapist. But. I dropped my class, so, I’m not MFT bound at this moment. Anyway. Maybe, what I need to do, is be content with a life tinged with depression. I don’t seem to have much of a choice in the matter. Depression comes. And makes a fucking mess. And I’m assuming the mess is as bad as it is because I fight it as hard as I do.

If I could learn to live with depression, instead of against it, I wouldn’t need to be stable to go to school or work. I could do school and work depressed, stable, or hypomanic. Hell, if I could do that, I wouldn’t even need meds.

Really, though. What good is all my anger doing me? I’m mad at what I’ve lost with this episode of depression, but as mad as I am, nothing’s coming back. I dropped both classes. I think the Cymbalta is making me queasy. I’m isolating. Every time I try to text someone I stop myself. I won’t even call the psychiatrist. (But, apparently, I’ll email you and an old professor.) So I’m lonely. 

My epiphany is seeming stupider by the moment. I’m too passively angry at depression to accept it. I’m too tired to actively fight it.

What did my therapist have to say about my epiphany? She encouraged me to accept the depression, as I proposed, and let go of the meta-feelings. I get stuck in fear about where depression will take me and anger about time lost to hospitalizations and more fear about how the future will be effected . . . all the while feeling very depressed. That’s too many feelings. Heavy feelings. Depression alone is more than enough to carry.

So when I start awake from nightmares of returning to the hospital, I will reassure myself, “yes, Annie, you are depressed. No, you don’t need to go to the hospital right now. You’re safe at home, where you belong,” rather than inviting an anxiety attack of questioning what the next twenty-four hours may bring.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Admonition to be “Strong” in Good Sam

            Breathe. Be strong. And move on. This will pass, and then next time it comes around you’ll be more ready and stronger and you’ll handle it just like that, like a Real woman. You won’t cut or cry; you won’t get depressed or anxious; you won’t need help; you won’t have to put your life on hold; you’ll just keep walking and breathing and being. And that’ll be enough.
            No, you don’t need any more Ativan. You’re stronger than your anxiety. You’ll survive. No, you don’t need tea, not even chocolate; just have some water. Don’t go looking for things to use to cut; that’s your weakness of mind. Besides, they’ll never let you out if you don’t stop.  The only purposes of cutting are 1. endorphins (which are not found by cutting with a plastic spoon) 2. suicide (which can’t happen here). So knock it off.
            Stop relying on other addiction-prone substances to stave off the agitation and thereby the cutting. If you abuse coffee and wine, you will lose them. Just. Don’t. Cut. Let the agitation fuel your life. There is much to be done and none of it will get done if you rely on your pathetic level of energy.
            No, don’t lie down. Don’t try to “sleep off” the feeling. Feel it and be stronger for it. Don’t break the window, either. There are better uses of agitation.

            That’s better. Let those tears dry. No need to cry over a few haywire emotions. It’s all temporary. You’ll be fine, just as long as you’re strong.

Friday, March 24, 2017

"Unholy ghost,/you are certain to come again."

            Reading about hurt and suffering caused by addiction, mental illness, or physical illness, the hurt that radiates out into the family and support community, is heartbreaking. I don’t want to be that person whose condition affects those around her. It is why I try so hard to keep my pain to myself. But it doesn’t work, because eventually the pain gets so bad, so big, that even someone with a high pain tolerance breaks. By then the pain is so much it inundates surrounding lives, like a flash flood. The extent of the suffering is hidden until I am en route to the hospital. Or, if it weren’t for the little outlets I have, until death. Suicide. Which is it’s own kind of inundation.
            The guilt for being the reason my parents, siblings, friends, therapists, and doctors suffer is unavoidable. Sure. They want to be there. But don’t tell me they want to hurt. That’s bullshit. We all want some color of clean. Depression is not clean.
            I don’t want people to suffer with me for as long as I suffer. There is enough suffering in the world without my contributions. But I can’t help it. The pain comes and stays:

“Having it Out with Melancholy”
Jane Kenyon

            . . .
            8  Credo

            Pharmaceutical wonders are at work
            but I believe only in this moment
             of well-being. Unholy ghost,
            you are certain to come again.

            Coarse, mean, you’ll put your feet
            on the coffee table, lean back,
            and turn me into someone who can’t
            take the trouble to speak; someone
            who can’t sleep, or who does nothing
            but sleep; can’t read, or call
            for an appointment for help.

            There is nothing I can do
            against your coming.
            When I awake, I am still with thee.
            . . .

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Identity Crisis

I don’t know what I am, sometimes. I don’t feel hypomanic anymore. I’m not depressed. But I’m not “normal” either. Nor would I call this state “stable.” Perhaps “unstable” is as precise as words come. “Volatile,” maybe? Who knows.

Bipolar moods are best judged in retrospect. “Ah, I was clearly depressed.” Or, “oh yeah, hypomanic as hell.” Or, “hmm, pretty stable for that stretch.” In the midst of the moods I just do things: buy a $2,000 computer; sleep 12 hours, get up for two hours, drink some coffee, then nap for three hours; splurge $50 on books that just “look good”; question with vehemence the necessity of meds; start walking five miles a day as if it were requisite; struggle to recognize and control compulsive behaviors; go mute; hide . . . the moods are forms of madness.

But none of this musing has answered my original query: what am I? Black with white stripes or white with black stripes? Or monochromatic? Oh wait, don’t tell me: bipolar.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Undrugged (or, Wishful Thinking)

What a wonderful thing it would be to be off drugs. Completely. To not have to worry about missing doses or taking them with sufficient calories or filling the prescriptions or whether insurance will cover enough of the cost or traveling with them or . . . or becoming a parent . . . What if I wanted to have kids? I’d have to wean off before trying to get pregnant and then pray like hell that I don’t relapse, that I don’t completely fall apart. And I have always wanted kids.

These drugs have stitched my life back together over the years. With each new tear, a new drug. What would happen if I carefully titrated off? Would the seams begin to rip anew? Can I function unmedicated? I want to know. I want to be normal. Healthy. “Well” is never enough. I want undrugged. I want superb.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Pharmaceutical Wonders

Medication. It’s real. It works miracles. Let me tell you about mine.

First, some history:

I started on Celexa. An anti-depressant. It didn’t do anything. So Dr. Bunger put me on Lamictal, also known as lamotrigine. An anticonvulsant. It was designed for seizure disorders, but it works for bipolar, sometimes. This time was a sometime. It worked. Not miracles, yet. For some reason, Effexor was added, which I would come to affectionately call “efuckser,” for its side effects. I hated it. 

The doc in Michigan, Dr. Fox, added Seroquel, which I abused for its sedative effects: don’t want to deal with the world? Take a Seroquel! You’ll sleep through the thick of depression! Problem solved! Right. Eventually I threw it out, realizing what a monster I was creating. 

The real monster came in 2014, when I had stopped seeing my psychiatrist and became suicidal. I wound up at Telecare, Santa Cruz’s version of inpatient (a joke), where they sent me on my cheerful way with instructions to get an appointment with a psychiatrist. I did. And the brilliant Dr. Gilbert put me on Lithium. Lithium turned things around. Not completely, but this mood stabilizer made a marked difference. I became depressed again that fall, so he added Prozac, the old-fashioned anti-depressant, and it worked. 

I had the magic combo: Lithium, Lamictal, and Prozac. Until July 2016. I was on those three and Adderall (I had taken to falling asleep in the middle of the day—probably a side effect of Lithium), but I was not well. I was in the hospital. I came out of the hospital on seven or eight medications. Which, I do not recall. It doesn’t really matter; they didn’t work. I went back ten days later for more. So they cut down on the list and jacked up the dosage. I was up to 500 mg Seroquel, an anti-psychotic (I slept, a lot), Klonopin three or four times a day, lots of Lithium, and God knows what else. I swear the Seroquel damaged my memory. That brings us to hoy dia. Today.

But, why, before we go there, am I even sharing? What works for me probably won’t work for you or your loved one. Because it’s real. That’s why. I go to the pharmacy, three to four times a month, where I know the techs’ names, and take the stupid pills, in hopes to see one more stable day, and I want to make it clear that stable days are possible, the drugs are real, and both are necessary.

Lamotrigine: Still, I take 400mg of this sucker. It saved me the first time through, and the psychiatrists I have seen have all seen value in keeping it in my pill pile.

Lithium: The dose and specific version have varied, but currently, 900mg. I take it all at night because it makes me sleepy. Lithium is a tried and true combatant in the struggle with bipolar.

Prozac: Just for fun. 10mg. I really don’t know why I’m on such an inconsequential dose of it, but I am, and I trust my psychiatrist.

Latuda: I know, what a name. Everyone laughs. Go ahead. 100mg. It’s a new-fangled mood-stablizer that costs an ungodly amount ($1500+), thank heaven for MediCal. The website advertises it for bipolar depression, which is the part of bipolar that makes my existence miserable. Latuda is the most recent miracle in my life. It knocks me out, so I take it with dinner, and an hour later, am in bed. Shut up, I can go to bed at 7:30 if I want to. (Clearly, I’m still working out the side-effects and kinks of this one.)

There you have it. I take three mood-stabilizers and (barely) an anti-depressant. And I’m six months mostly stable. Meds. Try ‘em. They can help. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness. The coffee, not the book. I love it. It is described as a “Dark french roast, full body, earthy-tangy.” I am not so hip as to like light roasts. In fact, I think they’re, for the main part, gross. But I love Heart of Darkness. And I love the name. And I find it all too fitting that I do.

I see my own heart as quite dark, shriveled and grinch-like. My heart is one of darkness. I am not one to overflow with positivity or cheer. I don’t smile enough. At work, my register performance is what requires improvement. I don’t “engage.”

We just had family in town for about two weeks. A long time. I got next to nothing done. I love my family. My niece and nephew, tantrums taken into account, are delightful. We tease each other, quote Robin Hood and Peter Pan, and laugh—a lot.

Perhaps my heart isn’t so dark, then, if I can love my family in all its dysfunction. Perhaps its darkness is in how it perceives the body which houses it and the mind with which it works. It is a dark lens, too, through which my heart views itself.

I dislike people. I want them to go away. I wish they talked less. I dislike it when they have an affinity for me, because I can’t comprehend why. When I am depressed I wish they would let me die, instead of dragging me through thorns, drowning me in encouragement I don’t hear, and insisting that I speak. And I dislike myself for simultaneously liking and respecting them and hating them. They make me live, which I resent, but I respect them too much to take action otherwise.

My heart is fragmented, then. Dark, but in pieces between which a little light shines in allowing me to try to love the people who somehow do manage to alleviate my pain.

“Of Darkness.” Coming from darkness. Perhaps it is true. My heart is of darkness. But, dare I say it—God help me, it isn’t where it is headed. My heart may never be a light roast like Zoom Brew—and that’s okay with me—but perhaps it’ll see a medium state, like Beethoven’s Blend, dark and medium and light all mixed together, leveling itself out with it’s depressions, stability, and hypomania.