I remember the diagnosis…me, sitting in a paper gown on a hard metal table. Much else is unclear. Except anger. I remember the anger. I suppose it was disbelief as well. Maybe there was a whole gamut of emotions, but the one that stuck out was anger. I didn’t know why I was being punished. I often compared myself to Job…thinking more directly that I had messed up in a previous life. For so long I didn’t think it was even real. I thought it was all in my head, a by product of over thinking and over imagination. I needed a brain scan with a dark spot on it; I needed tangible proof before I would believe that I needed to be medicated.
The diagnosis came at 19 and I finally started medication at the age of 22, the day after I had put a gun in my mouth. I think that’s when I knew, with or without tangible proof, that something was very wrong. I tried to destroy everything around me, I tried to commit suicide a slew of times, each time waking up in the intensive care unit with the G tube shoved down my nose and throat. I can’t say how many times I’ve been in the mental ward or mental hospital; frankly, I don’t care to count because it’s still a bit embarrassing. I’m sure there’s been some kind of damage done because of all this, and you think I would’ve learned past the third attempt that I wasn’t meant to go, not just yet.
That is something I have learned, now, after an extensive history. I was in a family therapy once and I remember this therapist said something to me that I carry with me. She said if I were to leave, to die and be gone, I would leave a void in the universe, a complete and empty tunnel that only I was supposed to fill. No other person would ever fill that void and everyone who was near it, couldn’t help but feel it too.
I’m a star gazer, a constellation chaser…so this, this reference to the universe struck a cord with me and since then I have not tried to kill myself…no matter how hard the episode may be, I’ve learned to ride it out. It takes immense strength, not from me but from Ashley, to get me through these times. It took 12 years, and yes that is YEARS, to find the right medication regimen for me. You can name most mood stabilizers, anti-depressants, and anti-psychotics and I’ve been on them at one point or another. I even went so far as to consider EVT therapy because I wasn’t sure where else to go.
Medication helps but it doesn’t cure and episodes still happen. I still know the tingling feeling that crawls up the back of the eyes when mania is eminent. I still know the compression of the vertebrae when depression sets in. My episodes have become few and far between, though, because of my medication.
I can’t promise there aren’t days I don’t wish I didn’t have to take it. I hate the handful of colorful pills and capsules I take in the morning. And sometimes I do think about the pure creative passion that happens when I’m manic that I can’t quite reach when on medication. But I know better. I’ve lost far too many things by stopping my medication than anything I’ve ever gained from it.
I don’t tell you these things to scare you, I don’t tell you my history because I think yours will be the same. I tell you all this because these are things you will feel as you work through your diagnosis. You will feel anger, you will feel disbelief, there are so many things you will have to endure, and no it’s not fair because you already have to endure so much. All I can say is to hold on….don’t let go. White knuckle this life because it is so worth it. There are times you will feel like leaving is better than staying, but the world is beautiful and you are unlike anyone else. You feel things to the nerves in the tips of your fingers, your heart thumps so loud in you chest you can’t ignore that pounding, everything in you aches for everyone else out there suffering. But stay, because there is that void and there are people around you who need you, you and all your faults, all your impulsivity, all the mistakes you have made as well as all your future mistakes.
But you grow, and you learn. I lost everything, just everything once….based too much on a bad decision, didn’t look where I was going, stopped taking my medication for four months….and just like that I had fallen. I lost everything. But just because you fall–and there is no deus ex machina in this life–just because you fall, doesn’t mean it’s the end. It doesn’t mean your bad, just remember to cut yourself some slack. Mental illness is not a cake walk, there are not instructions, we are all just riding this coaster without safety belts hoping we and keep on holding on. When it seems that darkest….
just don’t give up ;