One Helluva Ride: Bipolar Depression
Things are not good.
It’s 2:00 AM. I’m drinking again, and listening to Johnny Cash — a dangerous combination.
I’ve been fighting this depression for weeks, months, maybe years. I don’t remember the last time I was fully “happy.” I’ve been content, or happy for a short time, or satisfied, and I’m really good at faking it; but down-to-my-core-joyful for an extended period of time? I honestly can’t remember. Doesn’t really matter how long anyway. The only thing that matters is now. And this latest bought of depression? It’s been one of the worst I’ve had in years, and it’s lasted over a month now. Bonus: right before, I was actually having a mostly-repressed-by-alcohol manic episode, so it was a REALLY FUN switch! Extra Bonus: this switch happened the weekend I was hosting my sister’s bachelorette party, in a different city, a week before her wedding!! Being bipolar is fun!
Bi.Polar. Manic Depressive. Good Ole Crazy Pants. The disease every personality flaw, mood swing, or bad day is blamed on. Yep. I have bipolar. Also PTSD. And migraines. And anxiety with panic attacks. And asthma. And chronic pain. And diabetes. And stomach issues. And a closed head injury. And a penicillin allergy. And some other shit. It’s really none of your business; I’m being nice by sharing my medical history at all. I’m a lot of things other than bipolar, such as intelligent, a lover of Michigan football, a great cook and baker, creative, an animal lover, empathetic, hilarious, a wife, passionate, a social worker, genuine, liberal, giving, a true Cancer, loyal, a horrible speller, and an ocean-lover. I’m also honest, even when it sucks. Like now. I’m writing this when I’m at the bottom of the hole. A dark hole. Filled with water. Shark-infested water.
I need another drink.
We were fighting again, earlier tonight. Or, rather, we’re not fighting- because “every time we talk it turns into a fight.” I can’t seem to win. I don’t help him; I’m distant. I try to help; I’m too pushy. I can only be a human punching bag for so long. He doesn’t know anyone out here, so I take all the (figurative, not literal) blows. And I vowed I would; so I do. But how much can one person take? Then I think about his perspective, and all he has to deal with living with me- I don’t even want to live with me most of the time- and I think that taking the blows is the least I can do. The words want to come pouring out of my lips — they’re right there! — but he said he doesn’t want to fight, so I push it down. I stare at the ceiling. I bite my lip and dig my fingernails into my palms so deep I’m sure I’ll break the skin. Most days, I try to stay busy, or at least lose my mind in some other reality. But sometimes I cry.
I need to do something. I can feel the depression lifting a little bit.
I no longer feel like I should be in a hospital, like I did for three weeks straight. I was able to write this. Twice my friends have dragged me out of the house since I returned from my whirlwind two-week trip around the Midwest — with varying degrees of success. So those are some positives.
Where is my drink? Why am I still drinking?
But I have been fighting it. I feel this depression starting to lift and though I welcome the sun, I am tired of climbing that damn rope out of this fucking hole when I know that I will be down here again, and at my rate — soon. I am tired. I am always in pain. My marriage. I just moved across country, and I don’t know many people out here, and there’s no one that I can truly, totally let my guard down around yet. My support system back home… well, they’re just a long way away and the distance weighs on me. I hate my psychiatrist. I can’t find a job out here because my social work license did not transfer (you need a master’s degree in CA to do the EXACT SAME JOB that I did with a bachelor’s degree in OH. I am suddenly unqualified for my own resume). I can’t find a damn thing in this city! I am broke. I am scattered, disorganized, and unkempt. I feel so alone. And so…
I am having panic attacks. I am isolating. I haven’t made an appointment with my therapist since I’ve been back. I’m drinking heavily. I’m not taking care of myself- eating, sleeping, hygiene, medical, coping skills- you name it. I’m not taking care of the cleaning, laundry, groceries, or cooking. I’m not exercising. I’m not meditating or journaling. Basically anything good that would be considered part of adulting; I’m not doing. And please, if you don’t have a mental illness, understand that these things are incredibly difficult when you are depressed (also when you are manic or psychotic or panicked or hallucinating, etc.) and I (and others) are not just being lazy or need to try harder or blah blah some other such drivel.
I need some water.
It’s time to put up or shut up. I was first diagnosed with a mental illness nearly 12 years ago, although I suspect I actually had one a lot longer than that; I have a license and four-year degree in social work; almost ten years work experience combined in medical or mental health social work; several years volunteering in a mental health capacity — most notably creating & running a weekly peer creative support group at NAMI in my home state; and several close family members and friends with all different kinds of mental illness. I take my meds; I go to my scheduled appointments. I’ve got my coping skills and triggers memorized like the back of my hand. I know my stuff. By any logical sense, I should have my shit together. But by its very nature, mental illness is not logical. It lurks in the background and waits for any small opening to strike again. There have been many openings in my life these past few years, some brought on by life, and some brought on by myself. And my life, like for so many others, has not been very kind to me. I have been operating in survival mode. I still am.
It has taken me a while, too long probably, to see that when I try to come out of an episode of depression, I only tackle one issue at a time. That’s what I’ve been trained to do, “so as not to overwhelm myself.” Usually that issue is “bad mental health,” and the solution I work on is “better coping skills,” or something to that effect. I rarely get past that one problem before the next round of depression or anxiety or mania or physical ailment or something moves in. So nothing ever improves, in fact, the hole I spoke of early only gets deeper because I never tackled any of those other problems! Oh well, they’re sure not going anywhere!
So I’m going to try things differently this time, because I don’t want to go insane (get it?). My depression is beginning to lift and I WILL start to embrace it. When I do, I’m going to work on a little bit of everything at the same time, in an organized fashion. I’m going to use a Bullet Journal to stay organized and tackle ten well-thought out, widespread goals at the same time, but in small & manageable bites that I can mix together to make a healthy day and overall lifestyle. I am tired of wearing my “mask” and pretending to be happy. It’s exhausting. Maybe even more exhausting than depression itself. And I have to do something, because what I am doing now is not working, and I am tired of feeling broken. So Here I Go!
I hope I can do this. I need a drink. No, no drink.
To come along, visit www.MyOpenFlame.com.
It’s gonna be one helluva ride!