A Message to My Meds

This post is a follow-up to My Voice

Dear Lithium, Seroquel, Lamictal, Zoloft (as needed), Ativan (as needed), and Klonopin (as needed),

What can I say? We’ve had a lot of good times and a lot of tough times together.

Zoloft, remember that time when you spiked my mania and I couldn’t subdue my sparkly, agitated mind so I ended up only drinking bubble tea for four days because I thought I was too beautiful to need food?

Lamictal, you sure can slow me down. Remember that time my brain chemistry was still adjusting to your increased dose and I had to cancel my meetings for an entire week because I couldn’t manage to rub two brain cells together under the weight of your cognitive fog?

Hey — do yinz remember all those times when you completely stopped working and I lost my mind? Like when I plateaued on Seroquel, became psychotically depressed, and saw spiders? Or that time I became so full-blown manic I drew all over myself with Crayola markers because I thought I was a kaleidoscope?

We sure do share a lot of memories!

To be honest, it hasn’t always been easy between us. At times I’ve loathed you. I’ve felt trapped by you. You patched me up but made me feel broken at the same time. I guess you can say that our relationship has always been complicated.

But the truth is, I have to thank you all. My pharmaceutical posse, you’ve made a lot possible. You’ve empowered me to pursue my goals, you’ve enabled me to have healthy relationships with friends, family, and myself, and you have provided me a means of control that I’ve sorely needed because — as we both know — bipolar disorder never goes away.

These past few years have been particularly difficult — with the routine struggles that come from mental illness, the instances when you guys stopped pulling your weight, and with the stress of pursuing a doctoral degree — keeping my head above water wasn’t exactly an easy task.

So I’m thrilled to announce that last Thursday I successfully defended my dissertation! I’m a doctor! I couldn’t have done it without you guys.

With your support and guidance I’ve learned how to own my illness, how to ask for help when I’m struggling with stability, and that there is hope. When I take you guys I can sleep, I can eat, I can work, I can go to school, I can function. You empower me to be who I truly am — someone who is ambitious, capable, smart, funny — a woman who loves life even with this disease.

I just — I never thought I’d get here. I’m a doctor, I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been both emotionally and physically, and most importantly I’ve learned to love myself — illness and all. I think the reason I was able to do it is because I didn’t have to do it alone. My husband, family, friends, pets, therapist, psychiatrist and you six have always been there for me — by my side, in my heart, and in my brain — and I’ve grown to be a person who I’m immensely proud of.

I talk about my life with bipolar disorder so often because it is important to challenge how we think about mental illness. The stigma, the prejudice, the limitations we impose when we label. And most importantly, challenge how we think about the people who struggle with these illnesses — myself included. Over the years I’ve confronted the negative perceptions I have about myself, challenged the self stigma I’ve carried with me for so long, learned how to forgive myself when I make mistakes, celebrated my accomplishments without being clouded by doubt, and embraced the fact that I’m worth it.

I know we’ve had our disagreements and falling outs, you guys haven’t always been easy to live with, but I’m thankful for the power you’ve given me. I’m thankful for the hope. We’re not always going to get along but I couldn’t do it without you.

Let’s both keep up the good work,

Dr. Rach

Successful defense!