Better

I’ve spent the better part of the last decade in therapy and on meds. Going to therapy, takin’ my meds. Rescheduling therapy, adjusting my meds. Adding more therapy, adding more meds, then backing off a little on both. Though I’m still a habitual marijuana self-medicator, I’ve more or less stopped drinking over the past year. I definitely stopped that shit where I pick up a 6 pack on my way home and drink alone in my living room with my guitar before the sun even goes down. A bottle of gin in my house has a way longer shelf life these days. I been good. A model prisoner of my illness (or whatever poetics you wanna stamp onto this situation).

A week or so ago in therapy, my doctor commented on how much better I was doing. I’ve been on Depakote for like 5 months. No hair loss or anything! I’ve had some kinda funky depressions and at least one pretty awesome hypomanic episode, but overall things have been less sharp and less rough. I’ve been writing a lot. I’m working on a collection of poems and I’ve been writing some essays just for shits. I feel stupid and wordless a lot. Then I don’t. Sometimes I feel proud of myself. It’s real weird.

But my doc says I’ve been doing better. She has my chart. She’s been treating me for 8 and a half years. I told her I didn’t really believe her, but that she’s the expert. So here we are. I’m better. Yikes.

Part of me is upset by this prospect: better. It makes me wanna destroy myself a little and I certainly know how, but there’s a large part of me that feels I owe it to my psychiatrist – to all the hard work she’s done and all the shit she’s put up with from me – to stay better. Why don’t I feel beholden in the same way to myself?

Couple theories: Firstly, and most obviously, if I’m doing terribly, I probably can’t get a whole lot worse. There’s nowhere to fall from rock bottom. It’s paradoxically comforting to know there are no threads left to cradle you. You get to lie all the way down.

Secondly, I’ve had more experience with depression than…almost anything else over the past decade. I know how to navigate it. Sure, it hurts like hell, but it’s a hurt I’m used to. I can change all the dressings ‘n everything. I’ve been ill as a full time job for years and years. I’m getting fired or something. Additional metaphors relating to the unknown, etc.

But I think my biggest problem is: what now? My identity is kinda shifting away from simply Bipolar Laura to _______ Laura. Not sure how to fill in that blank. I mean, I’ll always have bipolar. I didn’t get here by magic, I worked toward this. I don’t think, though, I ever really thought concretely about what I was working toward, just that I needed to keep pushing in an upward direction. Now I have more time and energy (most days) and I don’t need to use those circumstances to patch myself up the same way. I can do things!

I told my doctor that I’ve arrived at the downside of up and she said, “Yup, that’s the downside.” She recognizes that the new imperative I’m facing to do something with my life is not an easy thing to tackle. Maybe it’s even complicated by the fact that there are like a hundred things I wanna do with my life. Basically, I’m having a Sylvia Plath problem:

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The Bell Jar

‘Cept I’m starving not just because I can’t decide, I’m starving ’cause even if I do decide, I can’t rely on my own self-motivation which has been directed entirely at my mental health for so long that I don’t really know how to use it for anything else. I just haven’t really had to, and though people keep telling me to be easier on myself, I still insist that I’m awfully lazy.

So let’s not confuse “better” with “cured.” I still have to take care of my illness, but the difference is that it’s not the sole thing I have to take care of right now. I still have mood swings and panic attacks and episodes. Like, that shit’s never going away entirely. Not unless I cloister myself in completely perfect behavior and probably take some stupefying meds that I don’t want. But that’s not a life. I’ve always been scared of the future for the same reason I’m now scared of being better. I don’t know precisely how to move around in it.

That’s basically where I’m at. And don’t think that I won’t stretch my indecision and cowardice and self-doubt into months and months of soul searching or some bullshit, ’cause I definitely will. Out of fear and hesitation. I have some thinking to do. It’s probably gonna be a minute.

-LB

Smokey Knows

So I don’t have a whole post in me right this sec ’cause I’m working on some other writing thing, but I was listening to Smokey Robinson, my love of whom knows no Earthly bounds, and I got to “The Tracks Of My Tears” and it kinda struck a chord a li’l. So, alright this is a breakup song, but, my dear mood-disordered compatriots: tell me you can’t relate to the lyrics in the first ~60 seconds, almost eerily.

That’s pretty much it. Enjoy!

-LB

Answer Me! Pt. 2: Answers!

Ok, so I made you guys wait a little while for this. I’m sure you were on tenterhooks these past 8 days. I’m here to relieve you.

The question is sort of a meaningless li’l ponderable that came to me when I was, of course, in the shower washing my face with my eyes scrunched up real tight. I think it was super windy or something that day and I was worried about a power outage while in the shower, ’cause at best that’d be kinda slapsticky but at worst, I’d get like a cracked skull and die in my tub which, if I were able to become so postmortem, would make me really pissed off. A slip and fall in an unlit shower at age 28 is not how this lady is going out. That’s dumb.

Even so, I still went with: B. Blind! Shit! Shit! Fuck! Shit!

My general guess about what the hypothetical “means” was this rough dichotomy:

A: Power outage = you’re probably prone to becoming a little paranoid about the state of your life which you regard as precarious, making you slow to let your guard down.

B: Blindness = you’re a hypochondriac that assumes all fevers are typhoid, all cuts are gangrenous, all aches and pains are rheumatic, all plagues are bubonic (calm down, it’s just a plain old plague, pal).

‘Cept when you guys answered, you kinda steered me in a few different directions. I hadn’t really taken into account personal histories with either vision loss or frequent power outages (stupidly, nor did I expect some of you to come up with modified or third answers, Acid and Illuminati, I’m looking at you guys, you made me laugh).

So what does it all mean, man? It doesn’t really mean anything. It’s just a goofy question that can be tediously analyzed and parsed apart for significance, or it can just be a silly conversation starter. Ask your coworkers! Ask your friends! Ask whoever. Why not?

But, in truth, I am kind of a hypochondriac. I blame my dad. He was an even better weirdo than I am, and if I could ask him this question, I know how he’d answer but I also know he’d think about it for a really long time before and after saying anything. But let’s just say this post and its sibling are celebratory gestures regarding the completion of my physical therapy for my ankle tendinitis, which I assumed was a horrible, degenerative joint disease with no cure, causing me to have a like maybe 2 panic attacks a few months ago before I went to the doctor to have it looked at and diagnosed. At this point, after like 6 weeks of physical therapy, my ankle is nearly well enough for me to return to my MMA class which I miss a bunch. Also, after like 6 weeks of physical therapy, my right leg is visibly more muscular than my left, which means my roundhouse kicks are gonna be fucking lethal when I get back to the gym. Seriously, you guys, I could probably kick a tree over with this thing, it’s pretty cool.

I’ve always been a big fan of personality quizzes, ever since I was like maybe 11, reading teen magazines and taking quizzes like, “What Lipstick Shade Are You?” and “What Do Your Dreams Say About Your Love Life?” (The answers being, respectively: coral in the summer, brick red in the winter, fuck the quiz, I know my complexion; AND a series of unending rabbit hole nightmares, apparently…?). But I have this theory (don’t I always?) that personality quizzes are not particularly simple for those of us with bipolar, because our behaviors and self-assessments are perhaps a li’l more malleable than the average bear’s. This feels especially true* when I answer questions pertaining to introversion/extroversion. Do I consider myself introverted? No, but I did most of last week. Would I rather go to a party or stay home and read a book? I dunno, is Thursday purple this month? I don’t mean to imply that we’re so mercurial a group that we lack static personality features entirely, but I also don’t mean to say that these types of quizzes will provide us with much insight about ourselves (I mean, they don’t for most people anyway, but I think even less so for us).

Anyway, if I come up with any more seemingly ponderous but actually completely trivial hypotheticals, I’ll share them. Just don’t think too hard about your answer. You’ll sprain your neurons er something.

-LB

*The part of me that studied Philosophy in college really hates the notion of something feeling true, apparently enough to prompt this footnote, but it’s just rhetoric, so calm down, Laura.

Answer Me! A Hypothetical Just For Fun

I’ve posed this hypothetical to a few people and expected to get the same answer every time, but I didn’t:

You’re washing your face in your bathroom and you have your eyes scrunched closed so you can’t see anything, including light. When you open your eyes, everything is unexpectedly completely dark. Your reaction is:

A. Damnit, the power went out!

B. Shit! I’ve gone blind!

I have a theory (actually, like a theory and a half) about which answer means what, but really, this was just a weird question I came up with ‘n I’m kinda curious to see how people respond. Don’t think too hard about it. Tell me in the comments! Followup next post!

-LB

P.S. Have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve! See all you lovelies next year!❤

Medzzzzzzz…

I had like 3 fucking meltdowns over Christmas weekend which is sorta normal for me but this year was probably worse than previous years ‘n I don’t really wanna talk about it right now, not because I don’t wanna revisit that shit but because I’m sleepy as fuuuuuck…..

My doc and I decided to halve my Welbutrin dose ’cause I think neither of us is 100% sure that I still need it. I tried it a long time ago, pre-bipolar diagnosis as a treatment for depression and that didn’t really work out, obviously (see LBD: antidepressants). Then a couple years ago, while on mood stabilizers, my doc prescribed it again to help me quit smoking because I have like zero willpower and I get upset a lot and it’s super easy for me to rationalize breaking my tobacco fast if I’m really, really, really upset (so, like, often). Welbutrin makes smoking really uncomfortable (I frequently liken it to trying to inhale a large marshmallow I picked out of bag of wet garbage) and also disrupts your brain’s ability to enjoy nicotine so you may as well just be smoking the paper for all the good it’ll do in terms of calming you down.

The other reason we went with Welbutrin is that it’s kind of an upper – not in the same way that speed or even caffeine is, but among its peers, Welbutrin is the most likely to give you a little boost. All my other meds are sedating so the intention was to sort of counteract that problem with more meds (I’ve written about medicating my medication before, but probably not thoroughly enough, remind me to get back to it).

This time around, I don’t think I’ve been prescribed Welbutrin specifically to combat depression, but if it happened to do that, then yay? So last week, my prescription ran out and I was talking to my doctor about it and we thought maybe cutting to dose in half might be fun (ahem: a medically sound choice that is reversible if it happens not to work out). I didn’t start taking the smaller dose until after my Xmas meltdowns because I fucking hate the holidays and I didn’t wanna start experimenting until they were over. Which turned out to be, probably, a really good idea.

This is either day 2 or 3 of the halved dose and I’ve been a fairly drowsy. Which, I mean, is unsurprising considering the drug’s invigorating properties. I suspect I’d feel similarly if I switched from coffee to tea or something – which will never fucking happen, when I die, I wanna be ground up like coffee beans and served, hot or iced, to all my mourners (no I don’t, that’s gross, Laura). 

So, like, I spent the day fucking around with my roommate’s mandolin and working on some poems just for fun, and I think I paid off the balance on my Target card. Like, I got some shit done. I taught myself this song on mando:

Don’t get impressed or anything, it’s not a super complicated song, just a really good song and a fun one to sing and play. But now my fingers hurt ’cause mandolin strings are a little more ouchy than guitar or banjo strings ‘n I’m not really used to them yet. But I did like, at least one or two things today and I didn’t actually have to do anything today, so good for me. Fine.

But it’s me, so I worry a lot about these specters of things that are pretty unlikely, chiefly here: I’ll be sleepy forever. Before my various Christmas freakouts, I had been doing really well. Depakote seems not to have given me the stupids like I worried it would. My moods were pretty even, almost predictable (!!!) and I was feeling good about myself and having all these neat ideas for creative projects which, at this point, I haven’t been neglecting as severely as I usually do when I have good ideas. Good. Cool.

But I wanna take as little medicine as I can get away with and Welbutrin, among my other meds, is the easiest to play around with, so here we are. Slightly less medicated, but markedly more sleepy. This should go away. I mean, if I were taking Welbutrin and nothing else, I’d be about 100% sure the drowsiness would wane after the physical withdrawal was over, but that’s not the case ’cause, like I said, I’m on other meds, 3 others exactly, and they all sometimes make me very tired. More specifically, they shorten my battery life. It’s not that I’m evenly sedated throughout the day, it’s more like I only have energy for one or maybe two activities in a day and I don’t like to stay out late anymore.

So right now it’s a little after 4 p.m. It’s rain-snowing like the goddamned apocalypse outside and I’m legit afraid my power will go out. I’ve run out of shit to do except take a shower which is only necessary because it’s my habit to shower daily, I’m not actually dirty enough right now to warrant bathing. After that, it’s very likely that I’ll get high and watch cartoons or something. Maybe reread my poems a few hundred more times. They are part in Italian and I’m like real stoked on that point. But that’s about it. I don’t have energy for much else. I could:

Clean something, like my desk maybe (nah…)

Investigate the meaning behind the text I just got from my sister which simply reads: “Butt fun?”

Learn more mandolin chords and maybe develop some muscle memory and build tougher calluses

Mulch Arturo more thoroughly (Arturo is my pet blueberry bush. He lives on my patio and should be able to withstand a northern Midwest winter storm but he almost died this summer so I worry about him a lot)

Play some solitaire chess. Gotta stay sharp ‘n whatever.

But I totally won’t do any of these things (except maybe find out what the deal is with “Butt fun?” ’cause there is zero context for that text and it’s fucking funny). I’m probably just gonna return my roommate’s mando to his room, take my evening meds (including the ones I prescribed to myself), move from the office to the couch, watch some Jaclyn Glenn youtube videos, lazily entertain sexual thoughts about this woman who I only know through her Etsy shop but who seems like my kinda people even if I can’t quite see what she looks like or tell how old she is from her tiny picture, and maybe see which of the cats is more amenable to being used as a pillow today ’cause one of them will usually let me do that, but it’s not always the same one. All eminently slothful pursuits.

Anyhowl, getting back to things, I’m gonna give it maybe another 7-10 days of grogginess before I decide if the new Welbutrin dosage is right for me. Like, fingers crossed real hard, I guess, ’cause, like I said, the less medicine I can get by on, the better. In the meantime, jammies ‘n couches ‘n…”Butt fun?”

-LB

I Finished A Book

I finished a book. That makes two in one month! If that doesn’t seem very impressive to you, bear in mind that I’m still kind of in the process of relearning how to read, so I’m pretty stoked on this.

I read Maggie Nelson’s Bluets which is lovely and philosophical and lyrical and just really cool. Highly recommend, especially if you’re into poetry, philosophy, or both. Even if the book did shit on the color yellow just a little bit, which bugged me ’cause yellow is my favorite color and has always been my favorite color, but I’m willing to forgive here, ’cause Bluets stretched my brain into all sorts of fun shapes and that’s something I both want and need with regularity.

I have another book lined up: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s short story collection The Thing Around Your Neck. I figured shorter books and short stories are probably a good way to ease myself back into being fully literate again and so far, so good. This whole thing is really important to me ’cause I frequently bemoan the stagnation I feel in my life, and continuous reading  keeps my brain from getting sludgy and helps me write better. And write more.

So this is basically me giving myself a cookie for having read a whole book, but I can’t overstate the significance of this for me. Before my dad died, before my bipolar diagnosis, and way before meds, I was always, always reading. There’s a period of my life during the first few years a college when I felt like I was advancing on a very satisfying track at a very thrilling pace. I don’t expect ever to get all of that back in the same form or pick up where I left off, but I’m hoping for a little redirection from the nowhere upon nowhere I’ve been passing through for the last several years.

Also, if I write it down and if I promise you guys I’m gonna finish another book, I’m a lot more likely to do it, so, you guys, I’m gonna finish another book. Let’cha know how it went!

-LB

Too Sad For Therapy

I rescheduled therapy today. I probably really needed to go to therapy today. But it’s a 90 minute commute each way on public trans, and I couldn’t fucking stop crying and, though I’ve said in the past that my near total lack of shame has accommodated a great many bus cries, there’s a difference between a few tears sliding from under my sunglasses and outright, unstoppable bawling. So I didn’t go. Also I was having unusually severe IBS symptoms and, in truth, if it was just the IBS, I could’ve bit the bullet, taken extra Imodium and peppermint oil, donned a very loose sweater and gotten my ass to therapy. But I’dve been super fucking uncomfortable the whole time and clenching distractingly out of a worry that I’d poop on my doctor’s white couch*.

I cried yesterday too, but only for like 20 minutes after I WebMD’d the symptoms** of this mystery shoulder pain I’ve been having for a few days and concluded, via the Internet, that I was dying.

My appointment today was at 2:15, but it took until around 1:45 for me to stop weeping ‘n shit. I didn’t know how long it was gonna take, but I still can’t get to my doc’s office in half an hour, so I guess I really couldn’t have gone.

My husband and I like to play one of three games when it’s just the two of us: Scrabble, blackjack, and chess so, in the hopes that it’d make me feel better, we spent like an hour playing blackjack on our bed. It did help. Probably more than therapy would’ve because I’dve just cried the whole damn time and my doctor and I would have probably come to the conclusion that I’m sliding into another depression, which would’ve made be cry even more because of how fucking unfair it feels whenever I start to get depressed.

I think my depressive episodes come saddled with a twisted and customized version of the five stages of grief:

Denial: It’s just a shitty week, I’m fine. Not cutting or scratching, that’s proof, right? This isn’t happening again, it’s not.

Anger: I can’t do any of the things that were moving my goddamned life forward and everyone who thinks they can help me through this can just fuck off.

Bargaining: I wish I was just stupid. Like really fucking stupid. Really stupid people don’t get depressed, they get sad but not depressed. Can’t I have that? I want it.

Depression: I’m worthless, I’m subhuman, I can’t eat, I oversleep, I can’t have orgasms, I’m a pollutant and a cancer. All I do is take from everyone around me and I don’t have enough strength to fight through this to give anything back.

Acceptance: I’ll always be like this. Even if this goes away, it will come back. There’s nothing I can do about it.

Acceptance is probably the most dangerous stage ’cause it’s usually the point at which I feel the most suicidal. It’s also, arguably, a vital pivot point, simply because I tend to acknowledge that this particular depression could actually dissipate (even if I insist it’ll come back). Depending on how well I can convince myself of the transience of my episode, I could feel more motivated to work really hard*** to get back to regular.

They don’t always go down like this, but right now, I’m oscillating between blaming the fallout of my hormonal IUD removal coupled with my lack of proper sleep the last few days and fearing that this an actual depressive episode rapidly hurdling over the horizon. Today, I’m probably leaning toward the latter. Or maybe not. I really haven’t been sleeping properly for like the last 5 or 6 nights. I get up and night a lot and have trouble getting comfy. Exhaustion and depression can both make me cry a fuck ton. Both leave me fatigued. Both make me irritable.

So, in short: I guess I have no idea what the fuck is going on. Except yes I do. I mean, I’m pretty damn sure I do. The best I can hope for is to land on that unsteady target where I’m just depressed enough to spin it into something cool, and not lose my motivation completely, but it’s not like I can arrange that shit. I could be staring down months and months of near-lifelessness and my mother’s infuriating commentary on how much weight I’ve accidentally lost (she doesn’t seem to be 100% convinced of the “accidentally” part, she thinks I should try harder). I could be going into a mental and social hibernation indefinitely. Again.

So, my doctor let me reschedule our appointment for tomorrow afternoon after I told her about my IBS symptoms. The rescheduling was a massive relief at first, until I realized I might be just as bad or worse tomorrow. I guess the best I can do at this point is to expect that in case it happens. Preparedness…

-LB

*I don’t have anal incontinence, so this really wasn’t likely at all, but my Pride and my Vanity have convened and are in agreement that you should know: I don’t have anal incontinence.

**Don’t do this. You know better. I know better. You type in “fatigue” and come away, definitely, definitely with stage IV esophageal cancer, even if you know you’ve been getting poor quality sleep lately and don’t drink or smoke.

***Depression is hard fucking work. You have to try to keep your life together but you’re probably pretty hobbled. So, it’s basically like having gravity turned up while you struggle to lift the same amount you were lifting comfortably a week ago.