Tag Archives: vanity

Vanity V. Sanity, Part I

After fending it off for like maybe a year, I finally let my doctor prescribe me Depakote. I’m at that point again where I feel like I have no choice. My mood for the last 6ish days has been extremely unpredictable and varied. I’m ecstatic at 11 a.m., fiercely focused on a writing project at 3 p.m., then depressed and contemplating suicide by 6. (I’m not in any real danger right now, my husband is watching me like a hawk and my roommate has a keen eye for this shit. Oh yeah, and I’m doing my part too, that shouldn’t be discounted. Part of me not trying to kill myself is me trying not to kill myself.)

I got a couple blood draws yesterday to check my liver and thyroid – but especially my liver ’cause Depakote can apparently trash your liver. Because with bipolar it seems – or at least with my bipolar – relief never comes without strings attached. I can have a healthy mind or a healthy liver, but the combination of both is not guaranteed me. Lithium lifers know this one all too well. After I left the walk-in diagnostic center at the hospital, I went to get my prescription filled immediately so I could start the Depakote last night, before I had the chance to scare the shit out of myself by reading too much about it and its side effects on the Internet. Before I had the chance to talk myself out of piling another mood stabilizer on top of my current cocktail ’cause, as of right now, I’m not swapping out the Depakote for any other drug. That’ll probably happen sometime in the near future, but for right now, we’re just adding. I hate that. I really do. The fucking pharmacy was out of Depakote. They told me to come back Friday after noon. I just wanted to pull the damned trigger. I didn’t used to be such a wuss when it came to meds, but Depakote will be the 18th psych med I’ve tried in just under 8 years. I’ve had a few bad reactions, both instantaneous and longterm. I’ve had the side effects of otherwise helpful medication make my life shittier than it needs to be. Sometimes it just seems easier to suffer and to force my loved ones to deal with my contagious suffering than to wander through territory that’s both new and old at the same time.

But the thing that scares me the most is the possibility of contracting the stupids. Depakote is an anti-epileptic. I’ve tried 2 other drugs in this class before and they both made me dumb as a sack of doorknobs. One of them was really uncomfortable to wean off of. I couldn’t find the words I was looking for. I couldn’t concentrate easily or read properly. If this blog goes silent, it might be because I’m doing really well on Depakote and my vocabulary has shrunk to that of a 4 year-old’s.

So I’m being a little hyperbolic here. But I’m apprehensive and I’m scared, Ok? This is why I wanted to just start taking the damned pills yesterday evening so I wouldn’t have time to let this shit marinate. I’m pretty fragile already. I’ve been struggling with a pretty bad depressive episode since the end of May. I don’t feel like I can do very much well, but at least I can read and write better than most people. I dance like a snake handler and I can’t drive a car for shit. I know what I’m bad at and it’s almost everything, but the things I’m actually good at require a certain level of mental acuity that, when compromised PISSES ME THE FUCK OFF. Nobody wants to feel useless, especially those of us who’ve been fighting off feelings of uselessness for 3 and a half months.

Ok. Silver lining: Depakote prevents migraines. I mean, I might still have hair loss and double vision which is just fucking GREAT ’cause my vision is already garbage. I joked to a woman in my husband’s eye doctor’s office yesterday that my right eye is primarily ornamental. It’s barely a joke. THIS. THIS PARAGRAPH RIGHT HERE. This is why I didn’t wanna give myself time to overthink this ’cause I insist upon fixating on the potential negative side effects and ignore the fact that I’m taking this medication to make me better. But I look at the future and see a bald, blind idiot who is nothing else but not dead.

In my calmer moments, I’ve written about quality of life issues regarding medication and treatment and trying to find a workable balance between the necessary goods and the inescapable bads, and I think I did so with deliberation and some degree of restraint. This is not one of those moments. This is a fuck everything I hate my life I’mma put my fist through a wall I know how to do that now moment. I think I should be allowed these occasionally so that when I finally get my hands on those damned pills, I might’ve worked some of the resentment at my lot out of my system. Here’s hoping.

So, maybe some of you who are taking or have taken Depakote will read this and be like, “Laura. Chill, dude. It’s not the nightmare you’re envisioning. It might actually help and you won’t become a drooling, hairless crone devoid of human-like cognitive faculties.” To which I say: I love you, but shut up.

I just need to air out my insecurities.

But seriously, I still love you.

I’m just not at my most rational right now, which, all things considered in this post, should bug me a lot. But I’ve kinda worked myself into a small tantrum. I gave myself stomach knots and I wouldn’t mind a solid cry right now. It’s ok. It’ll pass. I’ll be fine. I got pills for this shit.

-LB

Advertisements

Obecalp

About 2 weeks ago, my doc upped my Welbutrin dose from 300mgs to 450mgs because we’re trying to stay on top of my depression and this was the only compromise medication-wise that I’d make because I didn’t wanna change any of my other meds or add new ones.

Welbutrin (bupropion) is kind of a neat drug. It tends to give me a little extra energy and it prevents me from smoking (mostly). Other people sometimes find it helpful for issues like weight management and sexual dysfunction. I think John Oliver once referred to it as the “happy, horny, skinny drug,” though he was mostly lampooning its off-label overuse. Including my dad before he died, all of my immediate family members have been on Welbutrin at one time or another, all for different reasons related to depression. I know I mentioned in the LBD that antidepressants are usually ineffective in treating bipolar depression and can even have some hazardous effects, but that’s not always the case. Partly ’cause everyone responds to meds a little differently and partly because, at least in my case, combining Welbutrin with a mood stabilizer and anxiety meds seems to be a workable balance. The Welbutrin handles the grogginess I experience with my other meds and my other meds seem to keep the Welbutrin from making me hypomanic. (It’s more nuanced than that, but I’m not getting into it.)

So when my doc offered to increase my Welbutrin as a means of handling my worsening depression, I went for it because I wasn’t comfortable with my other medication options. Increasing my olanzapine makes me really tired and I oversleep. I was not keen on introducing Depakote – an anti-seizure med which also works as a mood stabilizer – either because the last couple of times I took anti-seizure meds, they made me stupid. That’s really my biggest fear. Some medications make you a little slow. One of the notable side effects of many psych meds is having difficulty finding the word you’re looking for when you’re speaking or writing. This is a really big deal to me because I’m not good at most things. Language is kind of all I have and there’s an easily roused part of me that would rather be sick than stupid.

Last week, during therapy, after I’d been on the increased dose for about 5 days, my doctor mentioned that a newly documented side effect of Welbutrin is that hard to find words thing. I asked her if it was one of those side effects that tend to go away as you adjust or if it’s just part of the nature of the drug. She said it was likely the latter and I told her I wished she hadn’t shared that with me ’cause now I’m hyperaware of everything I say and write, constantly checking things to make sure my vocabulary didn’t shrink.

The annoying thing about this situation is that it doesn’t matter if my lingual capabilities are taking a hit or not, I just assume they are. It’s this reverse placebo type thing…or just the power of suggestion and and I’m suggestible. We bipolar folk are notoriously hard to medicate and it’s not just for one reason. This is a complicated illness.

I think a lot of us have this warped notion of losing ourselves to wellness. At least for me, I see such a radical difference between myself as I am untreated vs. myself with a fairly controlled mental illness, I naturally assume that getting from the former to the latter requires a deep sacrifice on a fundamental level. Instinctively, I always assume the thing I’m sacrificing is of value, I almost never think of this shit as shedding symptoms of my illness via modern medicine. I also cling to fears that are irrational because the idea that everything is gonna be OK consistently strikes me as entirely ludicrous.

There are some parts of my life that are a bit too black and white. If I can’t do something I deem important perfectly, I’d rather not do it at all. I take the adage, “anything worth doing is worth doing well” and stretch into a preposterous shape. I’ve been like that since I was a kid. I understand that I’m frequently my own roadblock. I contemplate this nonsense as I’m constructing yet more roadblocks. If I can’t write good songs, I shouldn’t even play instruments. If I can’t write good stories, I should turn off my computer. I also have a very strained relationship with mascara ’cause my eyelashes are like a foot long so if I accidentally clump my enviable fringes, I wash that eye off and start over. I will do this even if I’m running late. These things are a shitty combination of obsession and self-defeatism. It’s gross. I hate it.

My doctor asked me to give it about a month before I make any decisions about changing my medication dosage. So that’s like, a little over 2 more weeks. I don’t get dizzy anymore. I’m starting to adjust. It’s easier. But I’m still paranoid. I’ve been reading over some of my older posts and thinking, “Why don’t I write like that anymore?” when there’s no real discernible difference between the talents I had last October and the ones I have now (’cause they’re the fucking same, Laura).

Even if I operate a little differently at the moment, my first assumption is that my meds are messing with me, not the more likely scenario that it’s super fucking hard to do things when you’re depressed. Why is that? Why am I like that? Why do I have such a complicated relationship with help?

So, fine, I’ll stick out out mistrustfully for the next ~2 weeks. If I’m still in this big, dumb depression, if it stays the same or gets bigger and dumber, then I’m gonna have to revisit this Welbutrin thing with my doc. No sense in being sad and stupid.

-LB

Settle In

Why do I feel like this? 

‘Cause you forgot that you’re actually depressed right now.

Right now?

Yeah. Right now.

So, I should go play guitar.

Nope. You’ll just hate yourself for not playing better.

Then I should write a poem or a story or something.

You’re gonna delete most of it and feel worse for having tried at all.

What if I write in my blog. Like, I should express myself, right?

You hate this post. You’re embarrassed by it.

Damnit, I do. And I am.

Yeah. And your hair looks like shit today.

Dude. Who’s fucking side are you on?

Yours. That’s the problem.

Well, my hair will look better when it grows out a little more. It’s an unflattering length.

You’re still gonna hate it.

Whatever, it’s just hair.

No it’s not. It’s everything. You hate all your clothes too. And that’s just the outside shit.

I do hate all my clothes. 

Right. But, like I said, outside shit.

Yeah, but if I’m not pretty, life will be harder.

Yup.

And it’s already hard.

Yup.

But it could be worse.

So could anything. You’re missing the point.

So, what then? More pills?

I mean, that’s what you usually do.

And drugs?

You have nothing to do today. Get as high as you want.

I have nothing to do today. Goddamnit.

Right?

I should call my sister.

Gambit. If she’s busy, you’ll feel more alone.

She’s almost always busy.

Yeah. She does shit with her free time. Like, outside of the house.

Now you’re just taunting me.

You’re taunting yourself, idiot.

Remember that night I gave up one of my longest held ambitions?

Yeah. You were OK with it. That’s the part that freaked you out.

I don’t have any remaining ambitions. They got all eroded and shit.

‘Cause you’re depressed.

am depressed. 

Not even a little either.

This is gonna suck so bad.

Really bad. You’re gonna hate yourself. For a while.

I kinda already do.

Settle in.

You gonna stick around?

Yeah, I got nothing to do either. Hey, don’t forget to eat or your tits’ll shrink.

Outside shit, man.

Yeah. Outside shit.

-LB

Casual Perspectives

I have a lot of messed up friends. We mentally ill folk tend to gather in flocks – something my shrink says is both a good and a bad thing. We support each other, we commiserate with one another, we speak in our own shorthand and talk about how, despite being labeled “disordered,” we’re probably more fun than everyone else. I will stand by this arrogant assertion ’til the day I die because I’m a vainglorious blowhard and it looks SO good on me. ANYWAY, from time to time, I’m gonna let some of my awesome, interesting, messed up friends take the mic and share their perspectives. Mental illness comes in every flavor and, despite the fact that I’m undeniably super tasty, I think a palate cleanser will do some good now and then. So, to inaugurate “Casual Perspectives” I cede the floor to a dear friend who you’ll be hearing from whenever he decides you need a good NAP.

-LB

An Introduction Of Sorts

For lack of a better moniker my “name” is NAP. I’m a real life friend of LB. I know what you are thinking right now; “there’s a ‘real’ life?” And yes, yes there is my fellow internet cave dweller. My relationship with LB started in my last year of college in a philosophy class. LB is the primary catalyst for me seeking help with my depression. Oh yeah, I have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder. I’m currently working in a high stress job and taking a generic anti-depressant. So you know getting by just by fine.

In all honesty I am losing my mind and LB asked for another perspective on this blog. So I’ll be contributing occasionally, casually if you will. I’ll probably write about working a high stress job and maintaining a work-life balance with depression. But more likely I’ll be adding a bit of levity to this blog.

Yours in healing, or whatever,

NAP

That Crazy Looks Good On You

I’m completely willing to catch some hell for this because it might come off as sophomoric or insensitive but there are times when I’m one or both of those things (most people can probably say the same), so there it is.

I think I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I’m gonna go see my general practitioner this week and find out for sure, but I’m making a stop at my gynecologist’s office first to make sure the problem isn’t coming from a malfunctioning or dislodged IUD (which, tangentially, for those ladies interested, is a great form of birth control and the likelihood of complications is really slim, but I just wanna cover my bases). The tech who does the trans-vaginal ultrasounds at my gyno’s office is roughly my age and and a really convivial human being who makes having something cold and slimy shoved inside me marginally less unpleasant. There’s a part of me that’s hoping that this potentially unnecessary gyno visit is actually not unnecessary because a) if there’s something wrong with my IUD, it’s probably a pretty easy fix and b) reproductive issues are sexier than gastrointestinal issues and it’s not just because of their respective geographical locations.

I’m vain. I’m pretty open about it. I put on makeup to go to the grocery store. I don’t wear my glasses in public. I spend too much time dressing even if all I’m doing is going to a friend’s to hang out. Fine. Nobody’s perfect (but I certainly waste a lot of energy trying to look it). I really, really hope I don’t have IBS and at least half the reason I feel that way is because IBS is not sexy.

There are a couple of reasons I think I might have IBS:

– My dad had it and it’s inheritable

– I have most of the common symptoms (bloating, cramping, changes in bowel movements, transient constipation and diarrhea, feeling gassy, etc.)

– The alternative diseases that would cause similar symptoms are considerably rarer

– There’s a supposed link between IBS and both mental illness and a history of suffered child abuse (both of which I have)

Ok. I’m gonna take a second to bitch about how absolutely fucking unfair it is that mental illness and IBS present comorbidly frequently enough for it to be mentioned on every stupid medical website I scoured while I was googling my symptoms (see LBD: comorbidity). I don’t need my bipolar disorder to follow me into the bathroom and the idea that it might do so strikes me as a cruel cosmic joke: You’re so crazy you can’t even poop right (obviously, this is an oversimplification of the way this shit works, but I’m annoyed).

But when I say that some diseases are sexy, I’m assuming you get what I mean. Mental illness is sexy. This is probably because so many of us are artistic to some degree, or at least really smart, and there’s that whole “tortured artist” motif that’s been around for at least a few centuries (hi, Van Gogh! Tell Virginia Wolf I said ‘sup!). We brood and we suffer and it’s mysterious and maybe a little dangerous and out of that mystery and danger and brooding and suffering comes cathartic and thought provoking work that exists on a plane unwelcoming to the well-adjusted and the mentally sound. Think about the pedestal we’ve built for Elliott Smith. He wrote some of the most poignant, downcast indie-folk of the late 90’s-early 2000’s and he stabbed himself in the heart. Supposedly twice. Tell me that’s not a sexy way to die.

Look, I don’t wanna be encamped with the people whose facile understanding of mental illness leads them to draw the conclusion that we’re mystics of some kind. Sure, we’re privy to a facet of the human condition that not everybody will get to experience or even fully understand. And sure, because of that experience, we sometimes make good art (and we sometimes make terrible art, maybe worst of all we sometimes make unremarkable art). But, from my perspective, there’s no denying the kernel of truth buried in that tortured artist bullshit. I think looking at mental illness from the outside in is akin to visiting the moon. It’s cool as hell that the diminished gravity allows you to jump 40 feet in a single bound, but once you realize you’re sitting on a barren, icy rock eating freeze dried green beans and shitting in a crater, you may decide that you don’t want to live there. Even astronaut ice cream can’t save this one (that’s a lie, astronaut ice cream can save anything).

The stigma of mental illness can be a two-sided coin. On the one hand, we’re all crazy (read: dangerous, unpredictable, unfit for social interaction). On the other hand, we’re all crazy (read: misunderstood, passionate, mystifying). I have a few theories about why “outsiders” might find this second brand of crazy so captivating:

1. They think they can fix us and that fixing us will be meaningful (or fun). I can tell you right now that you can’t love someone’s bipolar away. I used to prefer to date people who had issues with depression, suicidal ideation, self harm, addiction, etc., because I thought they would be able to understand me better than a person with no significant psychiatric issues could. There’s some truth there, but when it comes down to it, two lousy swimmers can’t save each other from drowning.

2. They think associating with us will make them interesting. You can’t be mentally ill by proxy (actually you can, but not in the way I’m thinking of). You also can’t cherry pick those parts of mental illness that you like (eg. the mystique, the creativity) and engage solely with those. When you have a mentally ill person in your life, you have to take the bad with the good or just get the fuck out of our way. Being friends with me or being romantically involved with me doesn’t inherently impart to you any depth of character. Taking care of me might do that, but mostly, being associated with me re: my mental illness affords you the opportunity for insight and compassion. Take those. Those are the gift.

3. They’re bored and we’re not boring.

So I think mostly I’m just railing against the vacationers and the fair-weather fans (and to some degree the people with the messiah complex). That being said, I’d be a liar if I claimed that I don’t occasionally wear my bipolar like a badge. I was having a fight with my mom once (which happens roughly once a week) and I told her that I can feel happier than she’ll ever feel happy and sadder than she’ll ever feel sad – that I’m more human because my moods cover a greater span of the emotional spectrum than hers possibly can. This may be a juvenile perspective (in fact, I know it is), but it’s also not completely untrue.

When it comes down to it, you’re probably reading this blog because you either have a mental illness or you’re interested in mental illness. You’re most likely not reading this blog to know more about what’s happening with my poop (inaugural post notwithstanding). My poop is not sexy and neither is yours (unless scatophilia is your thing, in which case, party on). I think the meager valiant streak in me wants to lobby for using this sexy illness nonsense for good, but just don’t think that’s my fight. And if it is, then I want a different sword because I don’t want my psychiatric identity to be boiled down to a fascination or curiosity. I get similarly annoyed when breast cancer awareness campaigns do that “Save the ta-tas!” shit. It’s not about tits, guys, it’s about human beings.

-LB