Evil Gal Productions

Mere Smith
is a recovering Southerner,
longtime TV writer,
author and blogger.

Archive for the ‘Bipolar Lite’ Category

January 15th, 2016 by Mere Smith

The Year of Blogging: 1-15-16

Have had the gray blahs the last couple days, like clouds the weatherman didn’t forecast, unexpected and gloomy.

Feeling a familiar weariness. Not bodily tired, not thoroughly exhausted, but an inevitable draining sensation, like a double portion of me is being poured out during the day to keep the engine chugging.

I keep working, though – I keep writing – and for this I’m grateful. I’ve gone through gray periods before where the work dries up – where the fog gets too thick to think through. Right now I’m holding the line in the ways I know how: getting sleep, working out, yoga, meditation, meds. Maybe I’m also just willing myself forward, but a lot can be said for will. For mind over mood. Sometimes discipline can be your backbone when your own goes gummy.

Hoping this will pass – maybe it was Bowie, maybe it was Rickman – maybe it was the 1-2 jab-cross. Maybe it’s too much info dump on Twitter (will Hollywood ever get #woke? ever ever? forever ever?). Maybe it’s paying too much attention to the news (I can’t even listen to Trump’s voice anymore; a clip from the GOP debate aired while I was on the treadmill this morning and I had to yank my earphones out; I couldn’t stand it). It doesn’t feel like Depression, capital D, but it’s a little more than wobbly.

Oh! What an excellent place to introduce my 100% Scientifically Accurate Mood Scale For Diagnosing Depression in Mere Smiths! The tiers are, in increasing order of severity:

  • off
  • wobbly
  • gray blahs
  • navy blues (for business wear)
  • dark
  • Depressed

I suppose if there’s any benefit to be accrued by having a recurring illness, it’s that after a while you know what to look for – what to feel for – and while it’s not Candyland Play Palace, it’s not Terra Incognita, either. I think that’s why I can make jokes about it – why I can keep working – even under the gloomy cover of the gray blahs. Because I’ve been here before, and emerged…

…every single time.

So I have faith. In myself. In my resilience.

Life is a collection of nested cycles. I’m learning how to mindfully follow the cycles rather than blindly fight against them.

So far so good.

March 27th, 2013 by Mere Smith

Lost In The Meremuda Triangle

N.B. To paraphrase one of America’s most esteemed contemporary philosophers, Samuel L. Jackson: this is one long motherfucking blog post.  I’d suggest waiting until you have time to read it all in one go, or conversely, read it before bedtime to ensure a good night’s sleep, which will probably start around paragraph 3.  You’re motherfucking welcome.

.

So there’s something wrong with me.

And before the resounding chorus of “DUH!”s creates enough energy to jolt the Earth out of orbit – settle down, folks. For once, I’m being serious.

–ish.

Ask anyone who’s tried to see me in the past few months and they’ll tell you: it was a roll of the dice as to whether or not I could actually show up. (Mr. Benjamin, in particular, I offer apologies to you, after our three – count ‘em, three – cancelled outings.  According to ancient etiquette, I think I now owe you approximately two oxen and a wife.) Normally I’d chalk it up to ye olde hermit-writer social anxiety – because, hell, what can’t I chalk up to ye olde hermit-writer social anxiety? – but to be honest, it just felt like I was extremely sad about feeling pukey all the time, a mixture of sensations that culminated in a very public and appalling clusterfuckorama that finally – finally – slapped me awake. Yet because I had been so deeply asleep (read: “denial la la I can’t hear you”), in order to wake me, said clusterfuckorama was forced to slap the shit out of me. Like, really, really slap me so hard it left me with a faceful of broken blood vessels.  Literally.

But we’ll get to that.

For any of my readers who don’t know – which is, what?, the one guy who stumbled in here after Googling the word “cuntrocket”? – I am bipolar AND completely unashamed of it, the same way one might be unashamed of having cancer – because being bipolar is a physical illness. And feeling ashamed of a physical illness makes about as much sense as feeling ashamed that you aren’t a helicopter. In other words, that’s just fucking crazy.

Now if you wanna get technical about it, I have Bipolar II, or the “milder” form of bipolar disorder – and oh, how I love that adjective, “milder.”  You might as well have a milder form of Buzz-Lightyear-Jammed-Up-The-Ass Disease:

.

medium

It’s like being “slightly” pregnant.

 

The shrinks only differentiate it from Bipolar I because you tend to err more on the depressive side, and you don’t experience full-blown manic symptoms, i.e., you don’t have psychotic hallucinations about Elvis talking to you through your rice cooker – followed by you running through the streets, naked and shouting, “WOW ISN’T THAT THE COOLEST FUCKING THING BECAUSE I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW ELVIS LIKED RICE HEY LOOK AT MY TATAS!”

Thus, I got off “easy” by having what I like to call “Bipolar Lite,” which basically boils down to, “All the meds, half the nuts!”

And the meds?  Oh, the meds you will take! After several failed experiments immediately following my diagnosis, I’ve been on a steady three-drug cocktail for almost a decade. Except for the occasional “dip” – where some of my depressive symptoms resurface for a couple days, but dissipate on their own – with the meds’ help (AND years of therapy AND exercise AND yoga AND meditation AND getting enough sleep), I’d finally wrested a mostly-normal life back from my rogue neurotransmitters.

Yeah, serotonin and dopamine, you fuckers, I’m lookin’ at you.

However.

If you do any research at all on medicating brain diseases (one more time: it’s a disease, not an attitude problem, assholes)(okay, that last part was attitude), you’ll soon discover this Super Fun Science Fact: in a large number of cases, for reasons unknown – even if you take your medication religiously – eventually the meds can simplystop working.

Yep.  Easy as that.

One morning you get up and… you’re just re-fucked all over again.

I could pitch a bunch of theories as to why this is – your body acclimatizes to the meds and stops reacting to them; your metabolism changes as you get older so you stop processing the meds the same way; you start taking another drug that interacts weirdly with all your other drugs – but no one, not even the board-certified brain-peelers, has a comprehensive explanation for what I call the Attrition Effect.

It’s just like life, I guess: messy, inexplicable… and sometimes everything up and goes to shit for no reason.

And despite several (fine, several several several) warning signs over the past few months, when it came to the Attrition Effect, I was firmly in the Never Gonna Happen To Me camp.  Nope, not me, I’m different, I’m frangin’ awesome, I have diamond-hard willpower, I have absolutely FORBIDDEN it to occur, thus…

…I’m a wishful-thinking dumbass, just like everyone else.

Not that this is anything to feel ashamed of, either. Face it, if some guy walked up to you and said, “Hey, how ’bout I shove this sharp stick into your brain and stir shit up in there?”, I’m betting your answer would be something along the lines of: “Fuck off, you fucking psycho!”

Which is essentially what I’d been telling my brain for several months when it kept nudging me and whispering, “Hey, um… there’s something… I think there might be something… y’know… kinda… off… from what we’re used to here? I dunno… maybe it’s just me but… hey, only if you have time, now, I don’t want to be a bother but… could you… oh, say… look into that for us?”

To which I kindly replied, “Fuck off, you fucking psycho!”

(And yes, being a woman with a brain disease, I can use the word “psycho,” just like I can use the word “cuntrocket.” Ah, the small perks of marginalization.)

Now, “Fuck off!” isn’t a particularly nice thing to say to your brain, what with its keeping you breathing and getting you into college and preventing you from accidentally stepping off cliffs and providing you a living and putting up with all the chemicals you’ve been feeding it for the last ten years – and its, oh by the way, making life worth living, you ungrateful meatsack!

My brain may be a tad pissed at me.  But I can’t blame it.

After you’ve lived ten years in a mostly blissful state of productivity and personal growth, you get a little cocky.

* * *

Even the ancient Greeks knew “cocky” is a really bad idea.

.

Ask Icarus.

Ask Icarus.

 

* * *

Yet as I said, I’d been pretty miserable for the last three months. And not just mentally “off,” but physically ill, too, since there isn’t a lot of room in your skull, and your “happy/unhappy” lobe is located relatively close to your “I’m-fine/I’m-vomiting-like-The-Exorcist-chick” lobe. At first I figured (“denial la la I can’t hear you”) I was just catching some virus. A lot. Like, every other week or so. Infinite Stomach Flu. ‘Cause that happens, right? Right?

But then I went to the dentist.

Which turns out to be a stunningly bad idea when A) you use nitrous even for cleanings because you have a pre-existing dental phobia (due to your childhood dentist, Dr. Mengele, D.D.S., breaking teeth off in your jaw when you’re 10 years old) and B) your stomach is already kinda… BLEAAARRRGGHH.

I won’t go into too much detail – largely because I don’t want to make you barf up a pancreas – but I think I definitely saw my pancreas in the dentist’s bathroom, coinciding with the worst panic attack I’ve ever had in my whole life – and let me tell you, for someone who’s had panic attacks for 20 years, that is saying something.

Oh, and all of this took place in front of strangers, which was nothing short of gaggingly awesome. Granted, they were kind strangers, ones who murmured and patted my back comfortingly while my pancreas did laps around the toilet bowl, but nonetheless, strangers who never needed to see my pancreas in the first place.

All of which necessitated The Finance’s actually leaving work to retrieve me… or rather, to retrieve the weeping, pukey, shitting ball curled up on the dentist’s waiting room floor, sobbing under a blanket and trying to hide her face from the normies. After we got home, there was more puking and panicking and shitting and crying – mainly because I didn’t know what the fuck was happening to me – and indeed, I cried so hard I broke almost every blood vessel in my face, which I didn’t even know was possible.  But for 36 hours afterwards I looked like a sunburned cherry tomato. (Just trust me when I say: not a good look for the Whitest White Girl in the Whole White World).

Hence, let this be a lesson to you, kids: Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.  It’s a river made of acid and lava and nuclear sewage filled with cobras and butchers’ knives and dead babies you hacked into pieces with the butchers’ knives. That is to say, it’s your worst fucking nightmare and you, lucky you!, you get to live it out in front of other people!

That’s when I thought maybe there might be a problem with my meds.

Take a moment.  I realize my genius is magnificent to behold.

So I went to the shrink, who gave me new meds that turned me into a zombie.  A zombie too stoned to go out and chase people.  A zombie that slept 14-16 hours a day and fell on the floor whenever it tried to get out of bed.

.

facefirstcomforter

Hand to god, this really happened.

 

I couldn’t write a text, much less finish the “Elementary” script I’d been working on. I couldn’t talk on the phone because people thought I was drunk. (Hi-lar-ious, since I don’t drink. And when I say “hilarious,” I mean, “fucking irritating as shit.”) After a while I just stopped talking at all because I couldn’t hold a thought in my head long enough for it to exit my mouth coherently. Matter of fact, when I finally told the shrink this new medication wasn’t gonna work, it came out, “I can’t tay thish ‘cush I nee’ mah job for mah brain.”

My shrink answered, “Yeah, I don’t think this is the meds.  I think we should run some blood panels.”

I muttered, “Whaffever,” and promptly fell out of bed again.

So the blessed, saintly Finance drove me to the clinic and I underwent a bunch of tests (you know what’s a great preschool game? My First EKG!) and they poked me with a bunch of needles and sucked out a gallon of blood and – surprise! – what they told me was:

It’s not Infinite Stomach Flu, you moron.

No one catches the flu for three months straight, you idiot.  No one.  Even Keats, in the final throes of his tubercular wasting, was healthier than you are, despite your working out four times a week (prior to Zombieland, anyway).  And no, there’s no mysterious dust you’re inhaling from the treadmill that’ll give you an excuse not to work out. (Fuck.)

Reading their lab numbers like tea leaves, they were pretty sure I had something called Central Hypothyroidism – which, hey, whattaya know, causes nausea and depression! – and is like regular hypothyroidism, except it has nothing to do with your actual thyroid glands. (Gotta love how the medical community names stuff.  Too bad I didn’t have milder Central Hypothyroidism. I would’ve known how to deal with that.) No, this particular condition originates higher up, usually in your pituitary gland, which – say it with me – is also in your brain.  And the main cause for Central Hypothyroidism?

Is a little thing we like to call a brain tumor.

thescream

 

Whoa, whoa, whoa – cheap shot at dramatic effect, y’all.  I’m not gonna leave you hanging past that sentence.  More specifically, the most frequent cause of Central Hypothyroidism is what’s called a pituitary adenoma, which, yes, is a type of tumor, but not, like, a Hell’s Angel kinda tumor. No, 90% of the time these adenomas are just a bunch of cells hanging out where they shouldn’t, making trouble… more like juvenile delinquents.  And these JD’s probably don’t even know they’re causing trouble – like I said, they’re just hanging out ‘cause they’ve got nowhere else to go and nothing better to do; in other words, they’re benign, or non-cancerous – but they’re still leaving their cigarette butts all over the damn place and carving PA ♥’s PA into their desks, all of which in medical parlance adds up to, “Yo, they’re fucking up your hormones, dude.”

And as you may or may not know, fucked-up hormones can lead not only to fucked-up feeling, but fucked-up thinking, too. So those past few months I spent in “denial” about my meds not working anymore? Were probably due to my fucked-up hormones, rather than the Attrition Effect. In fact, to the best of all the doctors’ knowledge, the meds never stopped working, and I’m back on the cocktail I’ve been on for ten years.

So on the one hand, “yay?”

And on the other hand,

“HOLYSHITBRAINTUMORBRAINTUMORFUCK!”

Allow me to share a few words you never want to hear from a doctor:

“We need to schedule you for a brain MRI.”

My stomach, which for the last few months had stubbornly insisted on fighting its way up?  Suddenly plummeted into the parking garage. (And those cheapskates at the clinic don’t even validate.)

The MRI was five days later.

DO.

YOU.

KNOW.

HOW.

LONG.

FIVE.

DAYS.

IS.

WHEN.

YOU.

“MAYBE.”

HAVE.

A.

BRAIN.

TUMOR?

Like, so much longer than it’s taking you to read this blog post.  (Hard to believe, but true.)  During the intervening period, the zombie medication finally cleared my system, and I was back to being my usual charming self… which meant I was eaten alive with anxiety and crying at the drop of a hat.  Only this time I felt okay about it because I knew it was just my fucked-up hormones… well, that, and the whole “possible brain tumor” thing.

Now, do I have a pituitary adenoma?

No.

I found this out a few days ago after getting the results of my MRI. I would’ve said something before then, but who wants to write, “Guys, hey guys! I think maybe I have a brain tumor but I’m not sure so I’m opening this Kickstarter campaign just in case they need to crack my skull and dig around in there and I might need a wig but I want a really COOL wig okay so please donate!”?

That’s the main reason I’ve been off-grid for so long. It’s hard enough to write true or untrue things, in general.  I’ve found it impossible to write about things that may or may not be true but we’re not sure, so let’s do more tests.

So we did more tests.

After the negative result from the MRI, came the thyroid ultrasound, where I found out my right thyroid gland is twice the size of my left one (fucking overachiever – and underachiever at the same time – I can’t win), which means… frankly, I don’t know what the shit that means. But I have an appointment with a fancy-pants endocrinologist next week to explain to me what the hell is going on. I may be put on thyroid replacement medication, I may need even more tests – but I feel infinitely more well-equipped to deal with it now that I’m back on my usual meds, know that they’re still working, and I DON’T have a brain tumor.

It seems odd, to celebrate the non-existence of a thing, sorta like celebrating a tornado that bypasses your house, or a car accident you just missed having — all the while knowing that that tornado hit someone else’s house, and tons of people get in car accidents every day.  But the sense of relief — it’s not me, it’s not me! — is a real thing, a palpable thing, a thing you’re sure exists. And it, too, spawns its own reaction: gratitude.  Gratitude of the highest order, appreciation of what you do have, and hosannas to the Grand Hoo-Ha, even for your mild form of Buzz-Lightyear-Jammed-Up-The-Ass Disease.

So where do I go from here?

image

To infinity and beyond, my friends!

Infinity and beyond.

January 7th, 2013 by Mere Smith

It’s 2013! Time For Plan B!

So it’s five days into 2013, and already I’m on Plan B.

planb

Okay, that’s not entirely true.

I’m not technically on it anymore, but I was on January 5.  And ladies, lemme tell ya, what a delightful experience!  Simply a rainbow cornucopia of pleasure!  A veritable fruit salad of Nausea, Fatigue, Dread, and A Longing For Sweet, Sweet Death!

(FYI – Most folks might find this entry contains more than they care to know about me, in which case, seriously, what are you doing here, anyway?  Have you learned nothing?  Go read some Berenstain Bears books and play with your sexless little Kens and Barbies!  Off with you!)

Suffice it to say that on Saturday, the Finance and I were “celebrating” our return home from various family vacations when –

WHOOPS!

He experienced…

…let’s just call it a wardrobe malfunction.

Initially I wasn’t worried.  In fact, given that I’m almost hypervigilant about my cycle (more on “why” later), I already knew I wasn’t in Prime Ovulation Territory.  Not to mention the condoms we use are as thick as kitchen gloves (sorry, hon) and are chock-full of spermicide.  No, as a general rule, we have that thing strapped, tranq’d, and in lockdown, and in the nearly five years we’ve been together, we’ve never had to change the (BLANK) Days Since Our Last Workplace Accident billboard.

But then – shock of all shocks – for the first time in my entire life, I thought, “Well, I’ve already deemed 2013 The Year Of Glorious Mistakes… maybe this is the Universe’s way of doubling-down on my bet!  Calling my bluff!  Ha ha… oh… hrm…”

I reclined there for a few minutes, all warm and vaguely amused, imagining – me!  a mom!  what hath Hell wrought?  but maybe in a good way? – when I turned to the Finance to share all this shit out loud, y’know, have a good chuckle.

Which is when the Finance asked, “Well, but – what about your meds?”

And holy scheisseballs on a Saltine, Brunhilde.

Way to snap me back into reality at Mach 1,000.  My cervical vertebrae are still vibrating.  (Which sounds a lot dirtier than it really is.) (Pity.)

You see, one of the medications I’m on for Bipolar II increases the chances of birth defects.  If I ever decide to actively plan to get pregnant, in order to be on the safe side, I’ll have to stop taking this medication.  So more bipolar crazy, but less birth defects.  It’s a trade-off.

However, as my shrink has reassured me time and again, this medication doesn’t necessarily cause birth defects, it just increases the chances of them.

Now, I don’t know about you, but if someone told me that going to the mall on Tuesdays increased my chances of having my head chopped off by a psychotic clown, I would definitely find another day to go to the mall.

And thus suddenly that nice warm maybe feeling evaporated like water on the surface of the sun—ffft!  Instantaneous.  And –

“Oh, shit,” I said out loud.

“Oh, fuck,” I said out loud.

“Oh fucking fucking fuck fuck,” I said, and launched myself upright and into the kitchen, still naked, grabbing my journal, where I meticulously keep track of my only-slightly-less-than-clockwork cycle.  Flipping through the pages like an Evelyn Wood valedictorian (look it up, young’uns), I doublechecked my math over and over again.

Seventeen days.  Seventeen days.

If my cycle’s this long, on the seventeenth day, I’m fine.

If my cycle’s this long, on the seventeenth day, I’m fine.

If my cycle’s that long, on the seventeenth day, I’m… should be fine.

Should be.

And that “should be” is what screwed my mental.  So to speak.

See, I can’t abide “should be.”  In my experience, “should be” is the equivalent of  “definitely isn’t.”  Because over a decade ago I took a gamble on “should be”…

…and lost.

Big time.

So big that – to boil it down – “should be” left me sobbing in a corner three weeks later while a man screamed, “You fucking babykiller!” at me.

After that, keeping track of my cycle just felt like self-preservation.

Yet all these years – and SO MUCH THERAPY – later, I realize that this situation is about as far from that situation as you can possibly get while on the same plane of reality.  I can’t even picture The Finance thinking those words, much less screaming them, but all the same that “should be” slammed me right in the fucking gut like a steel-toed boot.  We’re talking flashbacks, projectile tears, pure panic-attack adrenaline.

But never again, I’d said to myself then.  And never again, I said to myself now.

“Should be” is not an option.

So I called the nearest drugstore: they had Plan B.  Check.

Need a prescription?: nope.  Check.  (Thank you, FDA… AS OF ONLY THREE YEARS AGO.)

Check drug interactions with my shrink: and…

You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.

The very same medication I’m on that increases the chances of birth defects?  Makes Plan B less effective.  Apparently it accelerates the rate at which Plan B is metabolized – the bottom line being: you have to take TWO DOSES of the super-potent one-dose version.  That is, take one super-potent pill, wait 12 hours, then take the other super-potent pill.

Twice the side effects with still no guarantee the shit would even work.

But… should be…

“Honestly, you’ve gotta be fucking kidding me,” I thought.  And not for the first time, “Why is being crazy so fucking inconvenient?”

(Oh, and I should probably note here that if you wanna get all screamy rageful anti-choice in the comments, I’ll be deleting you.  I mean, please, feel free to express your opinions calmly and respectfully – even if they differ from my own.  But be a dickbag, and I’ll chuck you out on your ass.  My house: them’s the rules.)

So within an hour and a half of the first “Oh, shit,” I was taking the first dose.

And then commenced feeling like shit for the next two days, as I followed up with the second dose 12 hours later.

It was like having a low-grade stomach flu, except you can’t throw up or you’ll have to take the pills All. Over. Again.  Which, at fifty bucks a pop, is some expensive fucking vomiting, so you just lie on the couch and feel barfy and gross and have that oversalivation thing where your mouth fills with spit and you think If I have to swallow one more mouthful of spit… which just makes you feel even more barfy, and your stomach grumbles aggressively — aggressively!  angrily!  like, “Fuck your stupid libido, Smith!” — and it’s like you weigh north of 600 lbs. because you sure as hell can’t get up and why can’t you just pee right here? — upholstery can be cleaned! — since the bathroom is miles away and you’re just… so… damned… tired… but you can’t sleep as you’re nauseous and when you do doze off you have nightmares, and even watching TV is too much effort and dying would just be so much easier, wouldn’t it?, because suddenly there are only three circles of hell: Pregnant, Nauseous, and Dying, and Dying is the least worst one by far…

…all this because I was blasting my body with a tera-fuckton of hormones that I barely survived, much less any random cells lying around in my uterus.

Actually, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be sterile for the next four months or so.

Poor Finance, though.

He’s going to be celibate.

October 14th, 2012 by Mere Smith

Bipolar Leech

You are responsible.  You take your meds.  You go to therapy.  You get lots of sleep.  You drink water.  You exercise.  You do yoga for your peace of mind.  You keep busy.  You take the time not to be busy.  You are gentle with yourself.

You tell yourself you love you and are worthy and deserving of love.  You are a good person.  You have a good heart.  You want good things to happen to other good people because it makes you happy when other good people are happy, maybe even happier than when you’re happy for yourself.

You carry the threat of battle every day, every single, single day – some days okay, some days worse – with an emotional tumor leeched onto your amygdala and there is no chemo, no radiation, no remission, no cure, not ever a day when you will not be the host to that leech in your head.

You help other people who are hosting their leeches because it’s too easy to recall what it’s like to feel devastated and hopeless and like your skin is coming off but completely numb at the same time and you want to save someone else from that.

You realize that sometimes you can’t save someone else from that.

You realize that sometimes you can’t save yourself from that.

You are demoralized by the inability to protect yourself at all times.

You curse the shrinks and their thoughtlessly scribbled-on prescription pads.  You curse the therapists and their calm voices and the questions you’ve already asked yourself a dozen times and what will it change when they ask them instead.  You curse the meds that might as well be strung into candy bracelets for all the good they do and you shake the bottles and the pills whisper, “sucker.”

You curse the leech, the leech, you curse it, you wish you could rip the evil right out of your skull and set it on fire and burn it to ash.  You wish you could see it burnt to ash there in front of you and believe it is gone.

You have days or weeks when you love the leech.

You have days or weeks when the leech surges through you, unleashing stored energy, ideas, opening your hungers full-throttle, making it easy to fly on four hours’ sleep a night.  You feel your senses honed, your body invincible, it drives you forward forward forward, excited, thrilled and reckless, like free-standing on a ledge bolted to the front of a speeding train.

You have days or weeks when you hate the leech.

You have days or weeks when the leech sucks you down into a suffocating bog.  You can’t breathe.  You carry a 50 lb. rock on your chest, a 50 lb. rock from each shoulder.  You get headaches, backaches, neckaches, eyeaches, stomachaches, heartaches, soulaches.  You can’t sleep enough – 9, 12, 15 hours a day, it still can’t make you come alive.  You can’t think straight.  You forget words, names, events, memories, entire conversations.

You feel things so sharp, every emotion is wrapped in razor wire: happiness – razor wire; sadness – razor wire; anger – razor wire; anxiety – razor wire; regret –razor wire; guilt – razor wire.  You walk around gushing from hundreds of gouges that no one takes seriously and you are bleeding to death and no one can see it and you are furious at people’s blindness.  You also think you are self-pitying and pathetic.

You also don’t care and think what’s the point, what’s the point, what’s the point.

You go back.

You adjust your meds.  You work out harder.  You do more yoga.  You meditate.  You are even gentler with yourself.  You try to think positively.  You talk to your therapist.  You talk to your friends.  You talk to your family.  You talk until you’re sick of hearing yourself talking and reinforcing the leech’s presence and think maybe if you just ignore it, fake it, pretend the leech isn’t there, it will go away.

You know in the deepest, most inside part of you that it will never go away and it makes you sick and you throw up.

You sit in the bathtub naked and rocking and crying and raging with the shower running until the water goes cold.  You hate the leech.  You hate yourself.  You hate your brain.  You hate your DNA, your genes, you hate your parents, your ancestors, you hate feeling like this.  You hate feeling at all.  You hate thinking, hearing, seeing, smelling, touching, talking, being here, trapped inside yourself with no escape.

You think it will never end.

You wake up one morning, a morning just like the morning before it, and the morning before that, but on this morning you feel normal.

You feel it as tangibly as a change in air temperature.

You wait.  You suspect it.  You disbelieve.  You lay still, waiting for the piano to drop.  You hold your brain’s breath.  You will not be fooled again.  You will not be tricked into thinking you’ve gotten through it because you have done this before and only ended up fighting it again and again and every time the leech reappears you hear the pills whisper, “sucker.”

You are tired.

You are tired of the battle day after day, month after month, year after year.

You surrender.  You withstand.  You endure.

You wonder how.

March 27th, 2012 by Mere Smith

Dear Lizardhead

After 37 years of unblemished mental health, one of my good friends from college is currently experiencing a bout of clinical depression.  Aware of my own struggles with Bipolar II (or as I call it, “Bipolar Lite” – All the Meds, Half the Nuts!), she and I have been corresponding about her diagnosis and treatment as I try to lead her through territory I’ve been wandering my whole life – although, lucky for me, thanks to medication and therapy, my brain and I have reached a certain détente.

Yet détente does not mean a full cessation of hostilities.

Last Friday, for the first time in months, I had what I call a “dip”: a temporary drop back into depression.  (And we’re not talking sadness here, folks, we’re talking depression.  After you’ve been bipolar for a couple decades, you can recognize the difference.)  Thanks to the meds, though, these dips happen very rarely now, and only last a few days at most.

After I came back up out of this particular dip, I wrote to her, feeling that if nothing else, the dip could be used (in the popular psychobabble) as “a teachable moment.”  Well, she must’ve gotten something out of it, because she encouraged me to post it here on my blog just in case it might help someone else – which just goes to show that even at her lowest point, she remains caring and compassionate towards others.

I think some well people could learn a thing or two from Liz.

(Oh, and in order to protect her privacy, I changed her name from Liz.)

 

Dear Lizardhead,

So I wanted to tell you about Friday, and then I found this:  http://thebloggess.com/2012/03/feeling-a-bit-like-death-warmed-over/

And I was like: maybe the whole world had some sort of depressive flu on Friday, and it wasn’t just me!

But of course, it was me – me and my roller-coaster’s-sudden-drop neurotransmitters – and I figured now was a perfect opportunity to show you how even though my bipolar disorder is mostly “cured” thanks to my medications, there are still times when my brain goes, “Hey, you know what would be fun?  For you to revisit the Depths of Despair.  Wouldn’t that be fun?  Don’t you think we’d have some fun times remembering that place?”

And the answer, of course, is: no, you fucking fuckhead brain!  The Depths of Despair sucked my nonexistent cock and I hated it and that’s why I went on the meds in the first place!

However, as it’s been a long while since I had a “dip,” I thought it would be a good time (as it happened only 3 days ago) to describe to you what I feel when these dips occur, so you can compare them to what you feel.  Not that two people are ever so similar as to experience the  same thing, but so you can see that what generally happens to you also happens to other people (i.e., me).  I write this to make you feel less alone, or weird, or crazy – because when I was in your position, that’s what I needed.  Again, this is not to say that I know what you need, but on the off chance that it might help, I’d rather say it than not.

Thus.

I woke up on Friday morning and knew something was wrong.

Wrong in the same way that when you wake up with the onset of a cold or a flu, you think, “Oh, shit.  Seriously?  I’m going to have to deal with this shit today?  Seriously?”

For me, it is just as much a bodily sensation as it is a mental one.  I feel as if 50-pound weights have been attached to my shoulders.  My back hunches over, my head hangs low, smiling is an effort of incalculable will (in the end signifying nothing; it just feels empty and fake and then I hate myself for being fake), and standing up straight is something I’ve not yet evolutionarily achieved – I’m just bluffing the walking upright so that people won’t notice I’ve stopped being human and started being Depressed Alien Mere.

During a dip, all I want to do is lie down and curl into a ball and hold onto a stuffed animal (not kidding – I have numerous Ugly Dolls for this express purpose – the express purpose being that Ugly Dolls are “cool” and don’t make me feel like some creepy 38 year-old hugging a My Little Pony).  You might think I’d cry, too, but the fucking awful thing about depression is sometimes you actually feel TOO LOW TO CRY.

You literally Do. Not. Have. The. Energy. To. Cry.

Which only makes you more depressed, the same way when you have the stomach flu and you really feel like you have to throw up, but then you can’t throw up, so you just feel sicker than you did before.

When I’m in the dip, everything annoys me.  Everything.  People annoy me.  The Finance annoys me.  Honestly, even The Finance being nice annoys me.  New information annoys me.  Having to think annoys me.  Having to work annoys me.  Luckily (?), this last annoyance doesn’t come into play too much because I can’t think straight enough to work.  I can’t think straight enough to have a conversation.  And then not being able to think or talk or work annoys me.

I feel this feeling: “I hate everyone in the world including the people I love and I just wish they’d go away and leave me alone in my fetal position except I want someone to come in and lie down with me and stroke my hair and shut up and not say anything and just be there and let me get through this without them thinking they have to save me or somehow know what to say because they don’t get that nothing – nothing – will make this pass any quicker or suck any less.”

So approximately seven conflicting thoughts that no one who hasn’t gone through clinical depression will ever understand.  Which also annoys me.

This is what I like to do when I’m in a dip: lie on the couch and smoke pot and watch reruns of “Law & Order” that I’ve already seen 12 times because I know what’s going to happen so I don’t have to process any new information or pay attention to an unfamiliar story and nothing is going to come as a surprise and I don’t have to make the effort to think and all I have to do is lie there and try my damnedest to just wait it out and hope the dip doesn’t last too long and hope I don’t damage my relationships with anyone by telling them to fuck off because I really CAN. NOT. deal with people right now.

Because how do you explain to someone who has never dealt with bipolarity or depression that you wish you knew what the fuck was wrong with you, and no, you couldn’t tell them what it is even if you tried for a thousand days, and you wish you could just snap out of it, and you wish you could maintain some sort of interaction with them without wanting to beat them to a bloody pile of flesh and muscle and bone because you hurt, you just hurt, all over, because you’re angry, hugely, monstrously angry for no reason, no reason at all and you feel like killing everyone in sight, but in reality you’re just so tired and sad and sad and tired that you couldn’t throw a punch to save your life?

How do you pack all that into a conversation you don’t have the energy to have?

Now, thanks to my meds, even when a dip occurs, it is short-lived (comparatively speaking).  Here, on Monday, I am just now pulling myself up – although that makes it sound like some sort of volition is involved, and it’s not – I no more “pulled myself up” than I made the sun rise this morning… it’s just a matter of my brain chemicals settling back down.

And while I used to ask myself, “What happened to presage this dip?  What situation or action or relationship triggered this slide?”  I have now come to realize that sometimes: IT JUST FUCKING HAPPENS.  You can be a good girl, and do everything you’re supposed to do: take your meds, work out, go to therapy, strive for healthy relationships, allow yourself some room to have uncomfortable feelings without freaking out – and still, sometimes, IT JUST FUCKING HAPPENS.

Which, while you’re in the dip, seems so infinitely unfair it just makes you want to cry again.  Except, you know, you can’t, which just makes you want to cry more.  Ad nauseum, sans vomitus.

This weekend The Finance and I got into three extremely unpleasant fights, all of my doing.  Whenever you’re in a dip, it’s hard to not be in a fight, because you just want to get all that angry, jagged ICK out of your chest.  You want to yell it out, scream it out, take it out on someone else – because then maybe, just maybe, there will be less of it inside you than there was before.  The more dips you experience, however, the more you realize this is pure fallacy and the ICK will still be there after the fight, only now it will have been joined by guilt and remorse.  Yay.

The Finance knows I’m bipolar – he tries to keep this in mind, he gives me room, he knows I take medication for a reason, not just ’cause I think it gives me an “out” for my behavior – and yet still we fight: because sometimes the ICK in my chest is too great for my body to contain and it escapes and punches him in the mouth.  I try to apologize for this, but I can’t… because I’m still too angry.  How fucked up is that?

And no matter how hard I try to see this intellectually, when I’m in a dip, all that higher-reasoning shit goes flying out the window because all I am capable of is feeling and I just want to bite things.  Bite, bite, bite, bite – people, suggestions, ideas, opinions.  I hate EVERYTHING in a dip because what I’m really hating is my stupid fucking brain and WHY can’t I control it?  WHY can’t I make it do what I want it to do?  WHY can’t I just be normal like everyone else?  WHY?  WHY?

And then:

You slowly rise up out of the dip.

You start to return to baseline and you think: Jesus Fucking Henry Christ!  If this is what my dips are like on meds, it’s no wonder my life was a total fucking mess before I started taking them.  No wonder I couldn’t hold onto a boyfriend or girlfriend.  No wonder getting along with people at work was a futile nightmare.  No wonder I did all those horrible and self-destructive things that now make me gape at myself in disgust – and amazement that I came through it without doing irreversible damage to myself.

Because if what I went through just now was only a “dip,” then I truly was in the Depths of Fucking Despair before, and thank Little Lord Jeebus I somehow got my shit together long enough to do what had to be done in order to save myself.

And what an amazing thing a human being’s sense of self-preservation is.  And what a blessing to be smart enough to listen to that sense.  To pay really fucking close attention to that sense because it will save you.  Over and over again it will save you, if you can at all retain enough hope to look for it and clutch at it and hold on to it for dear life when it seems like you don’t have the energy to hold onto anything.

I don’t know if this letter’s made any sense whatsoever, but what I do know is that every single word of it is true.  For me, anyway, every word is as honest and earnest as I am capable of.  And while yes, it makes me feel incredibly vulnerable writing this, I also know that when I went through my unmedicated bouts of depression, I wished someone would tell me that I was NOT CRAZY, that I was feeling something physiologically real.  That I was NOT IRRESPONSIBLE, or WEAK, or PATHETIC, or a LOSER.

I was having the equivalent of a mental flu, and you can no more talk yourself out of being depressed than you can talk yourself out of having a virus.

Whew.

Okay.  That’s it for now.  I just wanted you to know that even after 10 years, as “together” as I usually seem and feel and am, there are still dips and peaks that I deal with – sometimes well, sometimes not so well.  And it is nothing to be ashamed of, as long as you’re doing everything you possibly can to strive to maintain control over your brain.

The only, only, ONLY failure in mental illness is giving up.

Everything other than that is heroic.