July has been hectic. This is a rambling post so, whatever.
I’ve started a new job, moved into my own place, got my dog back, sold my old car, and have begun helping in the restructuring of my old job.
Also, since I was 14, July’s have always sent me into horrid depressions. It was only recently revealed to me this may be due to a trauma that resurfaces as soon as it starts getting hot out. I’m too tired to look into that theory right now.
This is also officially the month that I’ve been off all psychiatric medications for one solid year.
Half of July 2018 had been spent manic: awake and obsessive with things I’m too embarrassed to mention now. The other half, I had plummeted into the black hole of depression and gained a bunch of weight. To think of the things I stuffed in my face and the empty calories my poor body was trying to make sense of is an easy way to start hating myself again. So let’s move on…
I still remember the conversation I’d had with my psychiatrist a few months earlier in October 2017. I had been faithfully seeing her for a little over a year. She’d seen me relapse after relapse, disheveled and unable to speak through nonsensical crying at times. She’d seen me freshly released from the hospital, overly and irrationally optimistic about my psychiatric hold after one of the meds we’d tried hadn’t worked out quite as we expected, sending me into a manic state.
That particular episode had me overdraw my checking account by about $300 after spending tons of money on swanky restaurants in La Jolla I clearly remember ordering food from but never eating. Only later, binge drinking on $12 beers at The Lot and seeing some awful action movie as I made phone calls to people in AA through most of it. Explaining to the person I had just called that I couldn’t talk because I was at the movies.
Now, I laugh when I hear this but I also feel this familiar twinge of desperation when my sponsees tell me: “I DON’T FEEL ANY BETTER. WHEN WILL I START FEELING BETTER?”
Do you have any idea how often I sat on that damn grey couch of my psychiatrist’s office telling her I didn’t feel better? WHEN, WHEN, WHEN. I wanted to know.
At the time I decided to get off my meds, I’d had nine months sober and was starting my second BBA workshop to work through the 12 steps. The drinking issue had seemed resolved…or at least pleasantly in remission. Buoyed by my newfound support group and encouraging catchphrases, we spoke of God and spiritual maladies. But I had this secret, too.
I DON’T FEEL ANY BETTER. WHEN WILL I START FEELING BETTER?
My doctor had agreed to take me off the last medication I was on, which was Depakote – a mood stabilizer. She said it wouldn’t do anything for depression anyway and she’d only prescribed it for me when I was having a fair amount of hospitalization for my mania the months prior. Since I was refusing the anti-depressants for fear of another manic episode, there wasn’t much of a need to see her anymore. And anyway, I’d switched jobs and insurance so I wouldn’t be able to see her anymore.
Still, she wrote me a final prescription and I refilled my last prescription of Depakote (180 pills split into 3 bottles) and tucked them in the back of my closet with my collection of other psychiatric drugs.
Just in case.
When I started moving again this month, I found all those pill bottles. All the phases of my psychiatric treatments just in the five years since I had moved to San Diego. I couldn’t be bothered with thinking of the previous ten years at the Riverside County Mental Health hospital. Ugh…
Then I found all my legal paperwork. The DUI’s, the restraining orders, letters to and from jail, the hospital bracelets, too.
I’ll be really honest with you right now: I stopped unpacking. As of now, I don’t know when I’ll be unpacked.
It’s July. I’ve been feeling low and I haven’t been sleeping much at all because… it was highly improbable that I would get the job and the apartment that I got… and I got them both. So that means I have to work three times as hard to feel deserving of it at all. So that means I’m working until much later than I’m supposed to or is even expected of me. One day, all I ate was a leftover Krispy Kreme donut for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The same donut. In some limited capacity, I know what the next few weeks will bring if I don’t put my foot down and begin to manage responsibly. The lack of sleep will spark the mania and sometimes in that loss of reality, the only feasible way to come down is to drink.
Recently, I finished reading Gorilla and the Bird by Zack McDermott. There were sooo many similarities in his story and mine, I was almost comforted when reminded of the first rule of bipolar disorder:
“The solution to mania is so simple yet so hard to come by. Just sleep.”
Today, when I made my final attempt at unpacking, I found this piece of paper from a visit I’d had last year with a spiritual advisor I very much admire. I’d told him of my depression and he asked if I liked being depressed. In retrospect, I think I had favored it over mania. It was more predictable.
He drew me this diagram:
He explained that I felt undeserving of my sobriety, of my good news. I had friends die of this disease, and here I was. I couldn’t believe after years of ruining my life that God could still want the best for me. So I overworked, I method-acted a person in recovery, I achieved to feel worthy of the person I’d become, to work my way up to God.
You don’t have to earn it, Vanessa. God loved you then, He loves you now. You can’t do anything to change that.
So, I stopped unpacking. I stopped building furniture. I put my phone away and hid my to-do list. I listened to the end of Zack McDermott’s book while I shared my salmon dinner with Coppola and we laid down on a yoga mat in my living room. When the book was over, my dinner was gone, and the sun was setting. Coppola began snoring the cutest softest snores. I regained my footing.
July is almost over, I’m ready.