I nearly checked myself into the mental ward recently. I’ve been once, and it is no vacation.
But, one ordinary day in September, I was in that much pain. And I didn’t trust myself enough to be safe — all over some vanity and pride.
But I was wrong.
Remission for me meant experiencing episodes that weren’t much worse than having a bad cold. I didn’t have any mixed episodes, full-blown mania or crushing depression.1 I like the idea of being well so much that I can be a little dishonest — or a lot dishonest — with myself when I’m not.
In any event, I began to think I was BP-lite, if you will. Not a sickie like other people. After all, I’m a breadwinner, a fairly capable mom, a generally kind wife. I never stop taking my daily meds, blah, blah, blah.
And in this state of pompous reflection, I started to think that maybe it was all overblown — that I wasn’t as mentally ill as my circle of trust (psychiatrist, family) thought. I should have seen the warning signs.
This “I’m invincible” thinking allowed my pride and ego to take over. I started giving myself way too much credit for my so-called remission. I started to think that I was singlehandedly holding myself together, and that I’d beat this bipolar thing.
That type of thinking gets me into trouble every time, in a big way. My arrogance interfered with the maintenance of my mental health. How? Well, despite my best try I’m overweight, sorely lacking in friends and still smoking like a rebellious teenager. And despite all my efforts those three things remain open wounds. I work up a good self-loathing over them on a daily basis.
So I started Chantix, the smoking aid. Despite a previous failed attempt on Chantix that ended in depression, despite the message boards and blogs and disclaimers out there, I decided it wouldn’t affect me. I was stronger than everyone else who had a hard time with it; I would simply succeed. Being all healthy would let me check one big hateful item off my Things to Do Before I Turn 40 list.
Within a matter of days, at half the recommended dose, I was nearly out of my mind. Both motivated and depressed, I thought endlessly about gobbling up the entirety of my pills and being done with it all. The only thing that stopped me was a tiny, small little voice reminding me of my daughter, and my wife. So I made a call to my lifeline, my doctor. And, she pulled out what is for me, the big guns. Zyprexa.
I woke up from my drug-induced sleep groggy, fogged out and entirely, utterly depressed, hardly able to brush my hair, much less think about work. This is where the shame comes in. By allowing my pride to get in the way, I jeopardized everything that matters to me. Family, health, life. When I think I am the exception, rather than the rule, the fallout is intense and long-lasting. And it is back to the beginning of the bipolar game.
- Okay, maybe here and there they hit but it is hard for me to remember each and every cycle — they pass by quickly and my brain erases them even more quickly. [↩]