Dear (few and) Loyal Readers,
I treated myself to some outrageously expensive mini gourmet donuts from a new food truck on the corner. $5.69 for six donuts relatively the size of a Dunkin Donut Munchkin. In my last post, I explained I assess myself every morning and make a list. Today’s assessment: Horrible. Today’s forecast: Survival Mode. Today’s List: 1) Eat Donuts. 2) Let the dogs out. 3) Let the dogs in. 4) Repeat 2 and 3 all day. 5) One foot in front of the other.
Last Thursday I saw my counselor and discussed how well I’ve been doing over the last year. We chatted about how I managed situations and scenarios that in the past would have thrown me off balance. I even asked her, “But I am bipolar, right?” Like somehow, I magically cured myself because I managed to find balance over the last several months. She assured me, “Yes, you are most definitely bipolar.” Those words, though disappointing, didn’t come as shock. I know the games bipolar plays. The disorder’s voice (Yes, it speaks. I don’t talk about hearing voices for the sake of humor.) sells me the belief that the diagnosis is wrong, and thus I don’t need the medicine that keeps me stable. Then the vicious cycle continues. Believe voice. Believe I’ve cured myself. Stop taking medicine. Become unbalanced and mean. Realize I do need medicine. Wait in misery until it enters my system again.
I told my counselor that I keep waiting for the “shoe” to drop. She reassured me the shoe wouldn’t come off completely. The heel may slide off, but I would catch it and know how to fix it. Last Friday, I wrote Just Plain Grinchy. Saturday I thought I was getting the flu. By Monday I knew it wasn’t the flu. I have been “sick” with depression since last weekend. I absolutely didn’t cause it with a self-fulfilling prophecy. I wish it was the flu. Right, just plain crazy. Who wishes for the flu? I do. I wish for other illnesses, too. I’m afraid and embarrassed to tell you all the horrible illnesses I wish I had. Yup. I don’t call myself just plain crazy Jen for nothing.
I’ll share just one. I have wished for a brain tumor. Why? Because people understand scientific proof. “Look at that dark spot on the scan. That’s a tumor. It’s pushing on (some specific part of the brain) and thus causing your mania and/or depression.” Remove tumor. Or not. Live. Or not. There is something about specific proof that is comforting to me. The diagnosis for bipolar is made based on symptoms only and not symptoms AND conclusive testing.
I “self-harm” for this very reason. Translation: I intentionally and occasionally cut shapes and negative words into my left forearm. I didn’t start this until my thirties. I’m a 45 year old mother with a teenage daughter, a husband, and a master’s degree. And yes, I still do this. Why? Two reasons: The voices tell me to punish myself, and physical pain, in my twisted opinion, so much better than mental anguish.
I am sure there are specific people in my life who will wish I didn’t post this. I’m also sure there are people who think the risk associated with its publication is not worth it. I say no risk, no reward. I take pills with horrible side effects to stay “healthy” and balanced. Swallowing and gagging on those damn things every day is a risk I am willing to take for the sake of my family and sanity. I write about my disorder/disease/curse because it helps me feel better. It’s cathartic and much healthier than carving words in my flesh. It’s a risk I’m willing to take if my explanations can enlighten others and maybe even help a few.
Let me be very clear: in no way, shape, or form do I condone self-harm. It is an unhealthy, unacceptable way to handle pain. One should not treat pain by inflicting pain. I am not proud of this. Nor do I believe it is “cool” and “trendy”. On the rare occasion that I choose to injure myself, I do so knowing it’s wrong but literally cannot stop myself. In those cases the impulse and the voices are louder than me, and the rush of the pain is as addictive as a drug. The shame is immediate, and it last the same length of time it takes for the wound to heal.
(I must pause here. This little bit of writing has been exhausting. Depression is exasperating and relentless. To survive, I must rest. I write this in because the struggle is real. I’ve been up since 6:30. I’ve managed to accomplish very little with much effort. It’s 11:30 now. In order to continue with this day and this post, I must sleep.)
Note: I wrote this last week. It took me a week to muster the courage to post.