Once upon a time, I was a kid, just like everyone else was once upon a time. I had a fairly happy childhood in spite of the constant upheaval of moving, being the person both of my parents bitched about the other parent to, and all the other joys that come of growing up poor in America. I managed to hold it together pretty well, until I started high school.
I’m not sure what the scientific term is, but everything went to hell. My physical health and stamina evaporated, I was awash in depression and the constant reminder that I was a failure on some level or another, and I’m still not sure how I made it out of there alive. Add in all the hell of being considered the weirdest person in an art school, full-time employ, and rampant perfectionism, and I repeat that question — how the hell did I make it out of there alive?
And yet, saying that, I still feel faint twinges of people thinking I’m a drama queen for having slogged through those years feeling oh-so-alone. My parents were then, and still are, not the sort of people to engage in frank discussion about emotions. Oh, they tried to chivvy my feelings out of me as a pre-teen, but it backfired so severely that I became quite skilled at not speaking for hours… and couldn’t actually express emotions in words until my 20s. My friends were similar in their responses; if someone brought up something ‘painful’, lo, the jokes came out and the subject was rapidly changed. I still do my best to not be bitter or accusative, because those things are soul poison. And then, I just masked the severe pain of existence with whatever substances I could get my hands on (within the range I permitted myself; I wasn’t about to become a cokehead or start abusing needle drugs).
When I joined the Air Force, I had to continue in the same sort of vein. It’s not exactly a caring organization, per se, and it was ever my understanding one cannot have mental health issues and a security clearance. It was ‘fine’ to a point — boozing is an accepted part of military culture. Having said that, I was drinking myself into a stupor with sleeping pills because shift work has absolutely no respect for human body clocks. I developed severe sleep paralysis, and insomnia. The forced exercise regimes robbed me of my appetite atop severe non-stop nausea (which meant a good decade of my life hearing ‘You’re pregnant!’ jokes near-daily. Top tip? DO NOT THINK THIS A JOKE THAT IS OKAY TO MAKE). I was in a town I hated with people I didn’t particularly like who, like in high school, labelled me terminally weird and left it at that. I don’t mind owning up to my weirdness, mind, but the isolation was kind of crap.
When I ‘met’ my husband, it was as if a haze lifted. I’m one of those people who weighs things up and overthinks everything (like most of my bipolar compatriots!), so when I am sure about something, I am very sure about something. So it was from the first time my husband messaged me, ‘Hi <3.’ As my mother put it, I was happy for the first time in my life, and it was true. And it enabled me to sober up in a reasonable amount of time. It came with a job that didn’t have office drama, because I married into a family business (though I do have any number of anxiety trigger issues with my father-in-law… but I won’t go into that right now). My life was, for the first time ever, ideal.
Of course, that meant that all those emotions and brain fuckeries that I’d been covering up to get by came to the fore.
I continued to ignore it for a few years, even if it ended up with me taking swathes of the year where I’d hide at home and go to work. My physical state was still terrible due to probable endometriosis, and it got to the point where we opted for what my mother calls ‘the cure’ — getting pregnant. That happened readily, and we had a gorgeous little girl promptly nine months later.
Which is, of course, where it fell apart that bit worse.
Because, of course, I went from where I could try to ignore it and get by to realizing that I really needed to get my house in order. Having a kid isn’t like having a cat — the cat will just give you a flat look if you start screaming and raging; a kid will join in and probably start the therapy bill from birth. Trying to take care of myself, something that I should have probably tried to find the strength to do sooner, was something I had to do for the sake of my family. It took a couple of years of bullshit before I managed to get my diagnosis confirmed (which I might write out again sometime, if I can’t find an old post about it), but having something definitive, and some medicine chucked at it, was a lot like throwing open the blinds and actually getting some blah blah bright shiny light.
Now, I had my reservations about starting meds, just like pretty much everyone else. I was afraid I was going to lose myself, and I was so prideful of having survived the rapids for that long. It seemed to me those rapids were a part of who I was, and how different would I be if they went away? It turns out I’m a lot happier. It turns out I’m not flipping out at everyone in my line of sight over nothing. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to heal the years of damage being constantly in a state of fight-or-flight, but I can hope that I can salvage some relationships, and hopefully not lose too many more as Bipolar II does its bit with the recurrent depressive episodes to destroy my social functioning. It’s more useful than not in the past year; I started attending my Stitch ‘n Bitch group after starting meds, and they all seem to believe me to be a cheerful, even (albeit quirky) person. Normality achieved? Close enough in this instance!
So yes, I can thank my Seroquel for evening me out; I used to be a rapid cycler of the ultradian sort, dontcha know. If you want to know just how poignantly miserable that is, I recommend checking out this blog; she explains it very well, and why having meds that work is a godsend (she doesn’t, even though she knows what works. I still hope her doctors get over their misconceptions and help her out). I was in a constant state of fight-or-flight, and frequently had bad insomnia (it still springs up a bit in spite of the Seroquel, but not as much). I did as much as I could to manage on my own, and it was not enough. I did it with as much cheer as I could muster (which shot me in the foot, ’cause if I’m smiling I must be okay? Bullshit), but in the end I had to admit that I needed assistance. And having had it, having had all those years of unmanaged hell… even when I hit ‘Yay I feel okay!’, I just have to think about to all those years of pain, and the urge to go off meds evaporates.
That isn’t to say I’m against people who choose to not take meds; if self-managing is working for you, then kudos! Maybe that will be me some day down the line, but for now… I’m grateful for the stability it gives me, because it enables me to work on me a bit better.
Also, hi to the new people coming by — welcome aboard! And old or new, kudos on reaching the bottom of this much longer than intended post. ;D