Dear Friends, this is a revised post.
I decided to share it again today because I still suffer with that insidious, dreadful “shoe dropping” feeling. Thanks for reading!
Ever since my severe bipolar depression lifted, I’ve felt like I’ve been tumbling around in my dryer. Maybe that’s not the best analogy to use, but it has been a long, strange, emotional trip!
I’m not quite what to make of it from a medication perspective. When my depression lifted in 2013, it correlated with my adding the “controversial” MAOI (monamine oxidase inhibitor) drug Parnate to the 900 mg/night of lithium I was taking. I call my MAOI controversial because it’s an old-school drug that many psychiatrists “poo poo” because it has dietary restrictions. (Those restrictions are no big deal, because the benefit far outweighs them!) MAO’s don’t work for everyone, like all meds, but they have been studied and found to help with treatment-resistant bipolar depression, especially in combination with lithium.
In tandem with the depression I had a terrible, agitated insomnia resulting in barely any sleep for two nights. My psychiatrist suggested I take Seroquel for the insomnia. I took 100 mg/night and I was able to sleep again. (Update: I gradually tapered down to 25 mg and then stopped taking Seroquel few months ago.)
Once again I am walking pharmacy. I’ve come a long way from being medication-free (which resulted in relapse, including suicidal ideation and hospitalization), and I am resigned to popping pills three times a day if it means I can function and be relatively depression-free.
I’m not thrilled about being dependent upon meds the rest of my life, but I’m definitely resigned to it. My psychiatrist and therapist believe I can eventually reduce the dosages of some of my meds, but I don’t want to change anything right now.
I have been holding my breath both literally and figuratively. I’ve always been an anxious person, and once bipolar disorder entered my life, the anxiety skyrocketed. I became addicted to benzodiazepines (that’s a section in my book; it wasn’t pretty) but I was able to successfully wean myself of the benzos. Books like the rock climber Matt Samet’s Death Grip, which chronicled his benzodiazepine addiction, inspired me to cut those drugs out of my life for good.
I suspect I hold my breath in part so I can irrationally control something in my life and it’s a nasty, nasty habit. I have also been holding my breath in the figurative sense because of my fear that the depression will return at any moment. Growing up in a worrywart culture of Jews, I was taught to fear the very worst, and that tendency remains with me. I think self-defeating thoughts such as, “Now that my damn depression is finally gone, something really bad is going to happen!” This way of thinking is fruitless, and let’s face it – I can’t control the universe. I don’t like that one bit! Having a family obviously compounds my worrying, and gives me more to fret about.
My psychiatrist Dr. D. advises me to add meditation and to pray. (Yes, pray.) I’m still not at the meditation point, but praying is easy, quick and free, so I sometimes do that. I’ve never been a religious person, but I’d call myself spiritual and believe in a higher power which I usually refer to as God, and sometimes (gasp) with four-letter words I’ll spare you reading about here. (No offense to those of you who are deeply religious!)
All my troubles were put into perspective yesterday when I reported for jury duty selection for the first time in my life. I was completely freaking out about the process. My worry was so strong that at the very last minute, I asked my doctor for an excuse note. That felt wrong. Then I listened to the jury commissioner’s phone recording explaining what would happen to those citizens who did not report for duty.
The penalty: a fine up to $1500.00 and up to five days in jail! Hearing about those penalties sent me over the edge. Even though I had two sick kids home from school and I hadn’t showered for three days, I ran out the door in a dirty sweater and sweat pants, with no makeup and messy hair and drove to the courthouse. (Thankfully Craig was able to watch our children and work from home. I felt very lucky to have that support.)
To my surprise, it turned out that it was a very interesting experience, although it was sometimes tedious. I realized that the reason I was so resistant to attending the jury selection was my fear of the unknown. I was scared I wouldn’t know where to park. I was scared I wouldn’t find the right building. I was scared I’d be grilled by the judge and lawyers in front of everyone.
Before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, none of these logistics would have frightened me to such an extent that I felt paralyzed to act. Now that’s no longer the case, not one bit.
It turns out I figured out everything I needed to do, and I wasn’t quizzed in court; in fact, I was excused. To my amazement, I was a little disappointed I didn’t get to participate on the jury!
Sitting in that sterile court room, I watched a young person on trial for a crime, and the intense scene triggered a deep sadness in me. I pondered how the person’s family must have felt, and how such a serious allegation would affect his life forever. It was sobering to witness, despite the fact that the judge had a sense of humor and he humanized the proceedings. Moreover, the room had such a serious, almost scary energy, and I was relieved that I was simply an observer, not someone on trial. I also noticed the anxiety of some of the prospective jurors who didn’t want to be there one bit – one of them even began to cry when she told the judge she had a financial hardship.
When I left the cave-like court room and walked outside into the beautiful, sunny day, I was grateful. I was on my way home to a loving family. They were proud of me for facing my fear of the jury process. I’m glad that I have my freedom and that the “shoe” I’m so petrified of is still suspended in air for now.
Like everyone, I have no idea what the future will bring, but being in the moment as much as possible can only help.
Happy Friday, my friends!
I wish you all a good weekend.
Sending you my love as always, and I’ll be back here next Friday.
Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (author of Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth) will be published by Post Hill Press in 2017.