Monday, September 22, 2014

The other day I had an epiphany. It had something to do with meds… and feeling out of it… it had something to do with wondering if I made the right decision to have a go without meds and if I need to go back on them… and how that thought was a crutch... could be a crutch… and that proves it was a crutch. I get scared, so I want my meds… because I don’t let myself deal with this myself. I need to do this OFF of meds so that I know that I can do this on meds.

I need to be off meds so that I can find out that I can do most of this off of meds so that I can do this with them, too. I need to develop the skills concurrent with the meds… so that I know I’m ok… so that I’m not a time bomb - won't feel like a timebomb - because I know how I’ll handle it… and that I can handle it… and it won’t stop the crazy. Nothing can stop the little things that will always bother me or the how of how I see things.

Let me back up a bit.

After some discussion with some close friends and my boyfriend, I went off meds once school ended in early May to try something out. I let people around me in on it so that they could help monitor me and my behavior, letting me know if I got too bad, or even calling me out if I slide too far one way or the other.

First of all, I wanted to get back in touch with what's wrong - try to feel it and figure it out... likely see if I can figure out triggers, and how it progresses, to how to stem the flow of the thoughts that might send me into depression or a tailspin. Some is for the sake of my writing (that sounds kind of hokey to me) since I feel I have to get back to the true feeling and experience of it, not make it just something remembered and botching the truth of it.

On TV or movies, one only ever sees the worst of it... and it's not always that way - usually it's subtle. I feel that it's much like the issue I had with telling my mom about being sexually molested when I was 7 (I told her when I was 9). What is shown is soo much bigger than what I experienced that I had a hard time recognizing what they showed on TV in me. The after school specials and "very special episode of..."s usually showed kids who were truly traumatized from their sexual abuse and I always thought about how awful that must be for them. What had happened with my mom's best friend's son (he was 16 or so at the time I was 7) was definitely less than that. He got grabby and did some exploring, but I wouldn't say it was traumatizing. I mean, I'm sure there are issues from it, and I've certainly talked about it with therapists, but I was not having behavioral issues, or wetting the bed, or anything like that.

I've gone off track a bit here...

Back to what this has to do with the bipolar. I want to write about an experience that's subtle, at least for the most part... and I have to remember how these things start... and that they usually come from nowhere and build. It's tough!

There's also the part of my... experiment... that has to do with making sure that I have my skills and that I can also learn to pinpoint what's coming on - be it triggers or how to tell if I'm a little off. I had a year off of meds when I first moved to KY because of lack of insurance and I feel like I was very good about using everything I had to make sure I was ok, especially since it was a tough year. My support group was not with me, for the most part. I had 2 people here that I could trust, so it was...scary. I was also newly officially separated from my ex of 10 years... with a pending divorce, at that! I mean, it was perfect for a meltdown and I had only been officially diagnosed for a little over a year! Still, I got through the year gloriously! I used all of my skills and the people around me for help.

However, I found that once I went on meds again and was with a therapist... I got worse. Well, not bad, but I wasn't as good as coping with things on my own, or paying attention to triggers and what went on in my head. It's like I got lazy and expected to let the meds do more. Well, that's my theory anyway. Also, I've been questioning adding medication since the psychiatrist I saw here was pushing to put me on lithium, which seemed excessive. Plus, she always wanted to add something if I had a bad day or if things were just a bit off and I didn't feel like anyone was really working with me to work out what was going on, like my therapists in Portland and California used to. It didn't and doesn't feel right to me.

So I wanted to focus on skills... and in order to do so I wanted to do it while I was in control of things and with a great network of people that can call me out and have learned what to watch for. I want to make sure I get this... and understand it, and with that learn about what happens to me and how to help it.

Woman on a park bench in Central Park, New York, 1957. Photo by Yale Joel 
It scares me, not being on medication. Not because I feel out of control and not because I know that I'll go out of control. I don't. I don't know that. What if I can control it mostly, or maybe even keep it to minimum medication with the help of understanding my problem? I feel like I've become afraid of myself because I was told that I have to have medication, if not it would all go very badly. It's like... being the incredible hulk. It's not that I hate medication, and I do believe that it's very handy and necessary... I just... don't know that it's the only answer. I want more insight, not just medication. However, because I've had it drilled into me that medication is and always will be necessary, it's really scary to be without it... but in that scared-of-the-monster-under-the-bed kind of way. When you're a kid you're convinced it's there and you keep waiting for it to pop out.

Not that I'm saying that medication is imaginary/all in my head... just that... I want more than that, I guess. I want more than a blind belief that meds are the answer. I've a sneaking suspicion that it's both meds and skills, but really, I just wanted to know, you know? I also want to know how they work... what they do, and I feel like people are never really told. I'm ok with accepting the meds on faith when first diagnosed to get things right again - that is the time to simply act and get things back to normal. Shouldn't we - I - learn more about my condition and how to live with it now that it's a done diagnosis?

So... that's where I'm coming from on this meds business. When I will go back on them, I'm not sure.

Why I haven't told you has to do with being told that I always have to be on meds; I feel like a five-year-old that's snuck out of bed to sneak a twinkie. Would I have gotten the twinkie if I had asked for it... maybe... but no one was around to ask, so... there's that, too. Also, I constantly question when I should start up again and how. At this point, I think it's something that I would like to discuss further with Dr. R at the University of Cincinnati's division of bipolar research, whom I started talking to a month ago, and Dr. B, my general doctor.

It's something I felt I had to do in order to know more. I know it's risky, and many will frown upon it, but I felt I had to explore this, and I feel I'm going about it pretty safely.