Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Journey from "Normal"

I just got into a fight with my husband.  Sometimes that triggers the urge to write.  I guess I channel my inner Taylor Swift after all.  However, there will be no guitar and no award shows for me.  I get to blog instead.

A friend of mine whom I knew years ago recently sent me a Facebook message.  She was curious about how I've come to be me.  Actually, Katie, I don't know how I've come to be me.  Something must have happened that triggered something in my noggin.

As I said, Katie was a good friend in high school.  We shared lockers two years in a row, had so many of the same classes that I can't even remember them all.  I brought candy to share in our Honors Biology class and we played games with it.  She was smart.  We had the same undergraduate degree but Katie was very educated and went on to get her PhD.  I can call her Dr. Katie. 

All right, that's the background of why this post is happening.  I laugh about being crazy but I have several things wrong with me that I wish, wish, wish I could fix. I like to make people think my life is a joke but it's a reality and it sucks.

I was "normal" in high school.  I could sleep without having to take anything.  I didn't suffer from depression nor bipolar disorder.  I was just me.  The old me that I miss tremendously.  I was smart. I was an athlete.  I had friends.  Nothing in high school would ever lead you to believe that I would turn into this.

I had a boyfriend.  We were together all of the time.  I loved him deeply.  He proposed.  I accepted.  The only catch is he had to serve a mission for our church.  We were separated for 2 years with nothing but letters to keep us together.  Half of my heart left when he left.  When he left, the separation anxiety started.  I spent an entire month in bed.  I showed up at school only to turn in papers and to take tests.  I didn't want to do anything.  I cried.  A lot.  There was really no relief from the pain.

My mom finally took me to the doctor.  He made a stupid joke about having thyroid cancer.  Ha ha when 10 years to the day I actually did get thyroid cancer.  He prescribed an antidepressant.  The plan was to start me on medication for a year and see if I could go off them and be "normal" again.

I guess it kind of worked because my husband liked me for me.  I was still taking the medication but I was functioning.  I even had a job while I went to school.  However, I started showing signs of being ocd.

My husband joined the Air Force.  Suddenly my separation anxiety skyrocketed.  I held myself together for the six weeks he was at Basic Training,  but when I saw him at graduation, it felt like the wax that had been holding me together melted.  I had come undone.  I got to spend a couple of days with him but the last night before he had to report back to Basic Training was one of the worst nights of my life. That was the night I had my first panic attack.  It lasted for about 3 hours.  I ended up at the hospital where they gave me some Ativan and sent me home.  I knew it would be several more months before I would see him again because he had more schooling to go to and I had to go home.  I fell apart that night.  That was the first time I had ever had to take a benzo for attacks but it would most definitely would not be the last.

David and I struggled secretly with fertility for four years.  No one knew we were trying to get pregnant.  We kept all of that to ourselves.  We never even sought out help from a doctor.  We just kept trying and believing it wasn't our time.  I had many panic attacks over those years. Silly things would set them off. I had a psychiatrist that I worked with that I absolutely hated at first.  He never seemed to listen or care about my problems. My episodes meant nothing to him. In reality, they were small ones where an Ativan would calm me down and make me go to sleep.  Oh, those years.

Then one day, as I explained in a previous post, we got the surprise pregnancy we had wanted.  I had to stop taking some of the medications that I was on but my psychiatrist, who I actually grew to love, and I made the decision that some medications were a necessary evil. 

Ava was born.  She was beautiful and perfect.  She had ten little fingers and ten little toes.  But something went wrong at about six weeks after her birth.  While I loved her, I couldn't stop crying. I couldn't figure out why I wasn't happy.  She was rolling over and smiling.  She was sleeping well.  She wasn't big on food but that was no big deal.  We were working on that.  She was wonderful, and yet I felt detached from my child and I cried all of the time.  I just couldn't stop.  By the time she was nine weeks old, I knew I needed help.  I called the suicide hotline but ironically their number had been disconnected.  David still didn't think there was a problem but I knew that this was something that a mere Ativan could handle so one day, while he was upstairs in the bathroom, I kissed her on the head, put her in her swing so I knew she'd be safe, and drove myself to the hospital.  Postpartum depression is not a pretty thing and it was the first time that I had experienced it. I agreed to go inpatient to a psychiatric ward for a few days to get my medications changed and get myself well.  I've never regretted that decision even though I did miss my daughter like crazy.

How else can I answer your question, Katie?  Hmmm,  I'll just say I'm not a good manic, I don't remember what my psychiatrist saw, but they were definitely signs of mania.   I'm a rapid cycling/mixed manic depressive, which basically means I can be both manic and depressed at the same time and obviously I cycle quickly.  I can wake up in the morning not knowing who I'm going to be and it's scary.  I'm not a fun manic.  Some people like it because they get all of these great thoughts.  I do too but they come so fast that I wish there was  a pause button on my brain.  It's like watching a shooting star, which is beautiful and then being attacked by the entire night sky. I physically shake out energy through my body.  Mania is bad.  It means that I'm damaged goods.  I'm that can of corn that got dropped on the floor, all dinged up, and put back on the shelf that no one wants anymore. 

Unfortunately, being bipolar isn't enough for me.  I may or may not have borderline personality disorder as well. It's very similar to being bipolar and they often overlap.  I've had different psychiatrists say I am, I've had different psychiatrists say I'm not.  I fit the definitions, like reckless driving, intense emotions and mood swings,  aggressive behavior, and feeling empty inside. I've done those.  I've even got a record.  However, I don't like the diagnosis. Nobody wants a personality disorder.  That's even worse than the damaged can of corn.   A personality disorder you can't really fix.  You spend years in therapy and try to manage.   However, since I do respond to medication, my psychiatrist thinks that I'm at least more bipolar than anything else. 

What does it take to keep stable?  2 anti-depressants in the morning with 4 milligrams of clonazepam (the generic form of Klonipin, which is like Ativan's grandfather), and a mood stabilizer.  At lunch, I get 4 more milligrams of clonazepam and the mood stabilizer again.  After dinner, I take a different mood stabilizer.  Finally, my nightly cocktail.  You guessed it.  4 milligrams of clonazepam, 30 milligrams of temazepam , and a final mood stabilizer.  I know I'm forgetting medications but you get the general idea.  The problem is this will work for now.  In say, six months, I'll have an episode and this will have to change.  Oh and the temazepam, my regular doctor says is what they give old people to help them sleep.  I'm moved beyond Ambien.  My life sucks that bad. 

I really don't know if that answered your question.  I can only tell you that at one point, something triggered in me and I just lost myself.  I'd like me back, please. 

I hate being the damaged can.


  1. You're not a damaged can, sweetheart. You have outgrown your packaging and now you need to find something new.

    It sucks and I can't pretend I know even 1/10th of what you're going through but I think you know that Dh is bipolar and has gone through the myriad of situations you have and he has FINALLY found a cocktail of meds that help him. But guys have it easy.

    We have hormones that screw everything up on top of any chemical imbalances in our brains.

    What I want you to know is that this isn't who you are. This is just a long ass shitty struggle you're going through - but you're not alone!


  2. Thank you so much for responding to my questions. I have a much better sense of your journey and how it lead to where you are now. I have only experienced the smallest fraction of what you have gone through (for me depression and post-partum anxiety), but I know how much it sucks to not feel like yourself, to feel like your issues are making life hard for your family, but not being able to fix things the way you hope to. I am so glad you are writing about all these things as they need to be talked about much more in our society both for those who are experiencing them and for their families. After all these years, I am still struck by the power of your writing, your metaphors, your turn of phrase. I look forward to reading more.