Cracking the Safe

As a person in recovery who’s also diagnosed bipolar II and ADHD, finding the right balance in life often feels like I’m cracking a safe. One notch in the wrong direction can lock me into depression for days.

It sounds so simple, but I’ve only recently discovered how important sleep is to my sanity. I always believed I was functional with 6 hours a night or less. Oh how wrong I was! I easily require 8-9 hours, lest the dial slips in the wrong direction.

Over the weekend, my husband’s band played a gig, meaning I didn’t become one with my pillow until 3:30am. 3 days later and I’m still feeling the effects. My mood’s been stable for several months, but today was a steep nose-dive into depression and irritability.

I’ve learned so much these past 2 years about myself, yet I still do stupid things now and again. This old gal just can’t party until the wee hours of the morning anymore. How did I ever do that, plus alcohol? I can’t even remember anymore.

On a positive note, it’s easier to climb out of a depression pit when I understand what got me here and what I need to do to get out. So, whether my misfiring mind likes it or not, I will force myself to sleep early tonight, hit the gym early tomorrow, and remember to take shit one day at a time.

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What Are You Waiting For?

My therapist admits that I frustrate her. She wants to yell “what are you waiting for?!”

The snapshot of my life today looks enviable: I’m 610 days sober, I have a good job, I own my home with my husband, and I have a family that loves me. Peek behind the headline and you’ll see that I am unhappy, and it’s more than just a clinical depression. I am unhappy with my everyday life.

I’ve been unhappy with my everyday life since I started working with my therapist, but I’ve done nothing to change the big stuff.

I’ve been sober long enough that I can’t continue to use it as an excuse to not take on more change. I’ve also made enough changes within myself over the past 20 months to know that I need to tackle the big stuff to make a dent in this unhappiness.

I’m lonely. I live with a man, but I’m always lonely. We don’t share any hobbies other than a love for TV. So we watch a couple of hours together every day before we carry on by ourselves.

He says he likes his life. He doesn’t need “constant excitement,” he says as though it’s a dirty phrase.

This inactive, homebody lifestyle worked for me when I was drinking. I did not want to leave the house unless it was for work or a liquor store run, and near the end the 2 were synonymous Monday through Friday.

I didn’t want to plan day trips or spend a day running errands together; I just wanted to drink until I forgot my name.

I have a choice to make: I can stay in this house with this man and continue to evolve this new sober lifestyle around him, or I can break out on my own. I suppose the only difference is whether or not I share a house with someone.

I’d rather live alone. It’s one thing to be single and lonely, but it’s especially sad to be married and lonely.

I do not want another relationship. I do not want to swap out the groom on the top of the cake. I just want to be free to develop this sober life and not be held back from pursuing new things.

“I’d like to try snowshoeing, would you like to try together?” I asked tonight. With a blank stare he asked “where?” I’m not sure why he asked where, because it likely had zero impact on his final decision: “no.”

I need to find an outdoor winter activity. This is the first time in my 38 years that I’m staring down the barrel of a long, snowy winter and I’m genuinely sad. Last year at this time, I was less than a year sober. I was still relatively oblivious to the world outside of my crazy head. Rewind even further and I was always happy to see winter come when I was drinking: I felt protected by the extended darkness, the vodka stayed cold under the car seat, and my year-round uniform of long pants and a hoodie was not out of place in the cold.

I’m coming out of a summer that I enjoyed more than any summer in decades. I relied on my bike to provide pure happiness as I pedalled 660 kilometres around the city. I wore shorts and t-shirts regularly, in place of my alcoholic uniform. I’m very sad at the prospect of putting away the bike for the next 5 months. I can’t sit around for the next half year, it will be the end of me. I need to find a winter replacement for biking. I need something to keep me from sliding into a depressive hibernation that will only result in weight gain and even louder suicidal thoughts.

What am I waiting for?

 

The Perfect Storm

When the perfect storm of depression, mental illness and addiction comes together, it takes you to some very dark places. It’s difficult to put the internal storm into words for those who have never stood in its eye. Even now, as I’m typing, I’m separated from my last storm by only a couple of months, but the memories of the feelings, both physical and emotional, are fuzzy and difficult to articulate.

What I can say is that I am not surprised by Robin Williams’ suicide. As tragic, unexpected and painfully sad as his death is, I understand it. I suspect he was in the center of his own perfect storm.

Depression, in its most insidious form, removes all rational thoughts and memories and replaces them with truly irrational stand-ins. During my most lucid, rational, depression-free days, I know that I have a wide circle of family that loves me. However, in stormy times, I feel completely alone and as though no one in this world think twice if I ceased to exist.

That loneliness and isolating sadness is not just a thought, but something I know and physically feel. It’s during these times, when depression replaces rational thought with irrational, that suicide is possible. If I feel it in my soul that I will not be missed, then suicide becomes a real option that otherwise wouldn’t be considered.

I’ve been suicidal since 13 and over the past 25 years, the definition of “suicidal” has evolved a few times. Today, what it means for me is that I consider it in passing almost every day. I know that I will not do it today, but I regret that I didn’t do it 20+ years ago. I have the best handle on my suicidal thoughts today than I ever have, however it’s always still on the edge of my consciousness.

On top of living through depression, Robin Williams was an addict. He publicly acknowledged relapsing after 20 years of sobriety. Active addiction, recovery and relapse are all such powerful forces that they change any person who struggles through them. I cannot imaging the struggle through relapse after long-term sobriety; that alone must carry it’s own set of self-loathing irrationality.

I hope that his death has a ripple effect throughout the population. Of course we mourn, but my hope is that we consider his life, angst, and death from different angles. For this recovering alcoholic, it’s a reminder that even in recovery, when mixed with depression and other forms of mental illness, addiction changes the brain, giving irrational thoughts a disguise of normalcy. It’s what allows a person with long-term sobriety to pour a drink.

If I can ingrain that reminder in my head, like spray paint on a brick wall, I hope to keep it in the light during the next perfect storm. At the very least, it’s now painted here.

I am a Mental Rollercoaster

The mental rollercoaster that is bipolar II doesn’t stop. For the first time, I understand the diagnosis. I’ve spent my adult life drunk, unable and unwilling to bear witness to any real feelings. After a year of sobriety, I am finally connecting the dots.

I’m sinking into depression after several months of consistently feeling good. I was motivated to eat well, be social and physically active. I truly thought that I was witnessing a evolution of myself. Why not? I’ve gone through a lot of changes this past year. Was it so unreasonable to believe I was finally becoming a happy, motivated person?

Today, I realize that it was simply a manic episode. For me, mania manifests itself in the best possible ways. Simply put: I feel good. So here I am, on the downswing of bipolar and I’m longing for the feelings of the past few months, much like a person longing to relive a memorable vacation.

Surrendering

I’m in a funk and I need to get out of it. The trouble is that I don’t even know where to start. My head is swirling with too many thoughts to count and I can’t grab hold of one long enough to give it proper attention. I’m overwhelmed by feelings and I’m having trouble separating reality from what’s potentially just a creation of my own self-loathing mind.

Above all else, I feel completely alone. Is that real or is it a manifestation of my warped mind? For a brief moment, I was feeling as though I had people around me that I could open up to. That’s gone. I’ve realized that no one wants to hear from me – I have nothing to offer. It’s what I’ve suspected for years, and what has made me the closed person I am today, but I foolishly allowed myself to briefly believe otherwise.  I’ve slowly, over the past 6 months, been trying to create a more open relationship with my husband. I would compare our relationship to that of roommates. We don’t talk about anything below the surface. “How was your day?”; “Did you see that thing on the news?”; and “What are your plans for the weekend?” are as deep as we go and I feel completely alone because of it.

I’ve been trying to slowly open the door. I developed a rash last week as a reaction to a new medication – it’s one of the side-effects of this drug that they tell you to seek medical attention for because it could be a symptom of something more serious. His question to me: “are you sure you’re not just creating a problem by itching?”. It immediately fed into what I’ve been fearing lately: that there’s nothing wrong with me and I’m just a whiny, needy bitch.  I’m ready to give up on medication. Nothing is helping, which is a pretty sure sign that there really isn’t anything wrong with me. A pill can correct a chemical imbalance in the brain, but it won’t correct whiny, poor-me self-pity. That’s all it is.

So how do I get back from here? How do I surrender and accept that there is nothing medically wrong with me and somehow become a tolerable person?

Taking the Driver’s Seat

Doctor Note

I had a big wake up call this week, reminding me that I cannot continue to be passive in the treatment of bipolar.

When it comes to treating alcoholism, I’ve been an active participant, going to therapy and getting involved in AA.  However, when it comes to depression, I’ve just sat back and let the doctors throw pills at me.  Don’t get me wrong, I need pills, but not the ones I’m currently on.

I saw a psychiatrist last month for an evaluation.  He’s provided my GP with his notes, but because of my GP’s vacation schedule, I haven’t seen her since the notes were sent.  I have an appointment with her at the end of this week.

On my therapist’s request, I asked for a copy of the psych notes.  I never would have thought to do this – I wouldn’t have thought it was something that could be done.  Granted, all of my medical knowledge comes from TV, so my perception of doctors notes is limited to Elaine’s experience on Seinfeld.  I thought doctors notes were meant for doctors’ eyes only.  “What are you writing?  Don’t write that down!”

Reading the psychiatrists’ notes, my therapist and I realized that the medication he recommends for me is not what I’m taking.  I don’t know where the error happened, whether it was him who meant to prescribe drug A, but wrote drug B on the prescription, or if it was the pharmacy that misread and dispensed the wrong drug.  Either way, it’s an error and I’m taking the wrong drug.

Granted, both drugs are in the same universe.  It’s not as though I’m taking meds for gout.  However, I have felt like shit this past month.  I’m ridiculously tired and my depression is running rampant, with suicidal thoughts swirling around in a big bad way.

This is a wake up call for me to become active in the bipolar treatment.  Until now I’ve simply just nodded my head and taken whatever is prescribed.  Yes, the doctors probably know best but they’re human too, and just as prone to error as anyone else.

Lonely

Cloudy DayLonely. Tonight I was at my home AA meeting in a church filled with like-minded people and I was alone in a pew. Very lonely. I typed this post instead of making eye contact. Very lonely. Nervously waited for the meeting to start so I could look up without fear of making small talk. Very lonely. Very unapproachable. Shit I made eye contact with the woman I want to ask to sponsor me. I’m lonely and afraid. I’m mostly afraid that she’ll say no.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m tired, but I was tearing up throughout the entire meeting. I was 5 paces from my car when the tears started streaming.

I have an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness. This is my life. This is it. For the rest of my living days, this is fucking it. There’s nothing new to love or experience. There’s no new life coming into mine. All that’s left to experience is loss. I don’t think my heart can bear this. I know my mind can’t.

What’s worse for my family: losing me to death or losing me to a lingering life of alcoholism and despair? They will just have to understand that I’m not capable of continuing like this. I can’t be expected to.

I’m a fucking coward that should have killed myself 2 decades ago. So many people would have been spared.

I am so fucking lonely but I don’t want to be around anyone.

I need a full nights’ sleep and to stop living on chocolate and Red Bull. But for what? To string together a couple of days of normalcy? Why fucking bother? The hopelessness is always right there, under the surface. It’s never far enough away.

Comments are closed because I’m having a shitty night and can’t bear to read encouragements.  If it sounds crazy, it is.  I am.  Tomorrow will be better, but for tonight I just need to spill my unpopular feelings.