Depression is a dark place. One where getting out of bed is a milestone and actually bathing is just short of a miracle. As an adult with bipolar disorder, I spend the majority of my life in a state of depression, sometimes so deep that ending my life seems preferable to living in despair. The manic states come much less frequently and keep me up all hours, talking so rapidly I can barely put my thoughts together before they’re coming out, and flitting from one suddenly vital task to another. When I’m hypomanic – just below manic – I can get so much done, check things off my to-do list, and write like a mother fucker. (Shout out to Cheryl Strayed)
But, what about the ‘normal’ times? They don’t come nearly as often as everything else, and I’ve been “crazy” for so long I don’t know that I can recognize normal any longer, if I ever could. I tell my closest friends all the time that my deepest desire is to “just be normal”, “like everyone else” and to live a simple life. How do I know I’m NOT normal? Because I struggle with basic, everyday things that others seem to handle effortlessly. I know that the average person isn’t afraid of crowds or being judged by strangers or second-guessing everything he says, even as he says it. I know that ‘normal’ people don’t take a fistful of pills twice a day so that they don’t kill themselves. They don’t have to be asked by their partner if they’ve bathed today, or yesterday, or recently. Some things are effortless, like following a set routine each day – meds, dishwasher, laundry, mail, Facebook, lunch, etc. But, if I miss a step the rest of the day is off kilter, out of sync, and I want to hide under the covers until it’s all over. Breaking my routine is a big deal and I usually think about it for days ahead of time, mentally steeling myself to go out and visit, shop, see a movie.
I used to be spontaneous, and on good days I am, but, mostly, I’m just afraid. Afraid of what comes next, of how it all ends. Will there be a new med that fixes me? Maybe a new treatment or surgery that corrects the bad wiring. Should I consider electroconvulsive therapy or deep brain stimulation? How will it interact with my migraines or my spinal injury? Could it actually get worse. Migraines and chronic pain add to the mix and deepen the depression. So inextricably linked are these three – bipolar, migraine and pain – that I don’t know for certain which came first, certainly not the pain. I’ve tried every drug for each of them in so many combinations that I can barely remember when I took what and how it made me feel or why I stopped taking it. Weight gain, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, dizziness, sleepiness, sleeplessness, fogginess, blurry vision and on and on. I have a list of experimental new therapies to try and everyone tells me of their great experiences with herbs, supplements, acupuncture, chiropractic, prayer, massage, Reiki and a million other “cures”.
My biggest fear is losing my mind – this part of me that still lets me put these thoughts down on paper, coherently, so that people can read and maybe understand just a little. I fear being judged, ridiculed, abandoned, written off and forgotten after spending my whole life educating myself so that I can make my part of the world just a little bit better. What if it’s all for nothing?