Last week I made several mistakes while taking care of myself. First, I overcompensated with NyQuil (which contains alcohol) to make up for my neuropsychiatrist’s mistake in my sleeping pill prescription–by itself, a somewhat tiny infraction, but I know to avoid alcohol in even small amounts to maintain myself at my best. Then, I medicated myself with more NyQuil during the day in addition to taking OTC medication for a sinus infection, compounding the issue on two fronts. Next, I celebrated on Friday and Saturday of this past weekend last with a total of six drinks over two days because it was my 41st birthday. Meanwhile, I was tapering off Geodon, Lithium and Ativan because I was having the side effects of all three medications and my neuropsychiatrist cut all three doses in half; but, I of course, for good (or what was actually bad) measure, took a three day break, hoping to rid myself of the migraines, diarrhea, dizziness, disorientation, fatigue, etc. of said side effects before starting the halved dosages last Friday.
Suffice it to say that once my body digested the two hurricanes I downed during my birthday dinner at Red Lobster on late Saturday afternoon, and we had returned home, I cut my participation in the festivities short and made a beeline for my bed–where I stayed from Saturday around 5pm until Monday morning at 6am, waking up only to take my meds and quickly fall back to sleep for what was left of last weekend. The moments of consciousness I had during this period can best be described as circling the bottom of the toilet–I had CNN on and would alternately wish I were as dead as John McCain and wonder how this “sudden” depression had gripped me so completely.
I was no good to my family and they quietly existed beyond the closed door of my bedroom as the sun beyond my blackout curtains turned on and off, on and off, and I couldn’t even bare to be awake for the length of time it took me to open pill bottles, stuff my face with the new dosages, choke them down with water, readjust in my bed, and ward off consciousness.
I had to get up yesterday morning to get my seven year old daughter ready for the bus, and after she left as happy as I was capable of making her, I tumbled back into bed and starting thinking, “How have I found myself here in the utter depths of a despair deeper and stronger than any I have surely ever felt in the twenty years since I have knowingly battled my severe depression and mania?” I thought I had made progress this past summer. I had thought that TMS’s lasting effects, even though treatment was currently suspended so that the meat of my brain could recover, would have prevented the tentacles of my nemesis from strangling me so completely again.
And that’s when I started retracing my steps, unable to sleep any longer, steps I retraced for you in the beginning of this post. I had awoken the sleeping tiger of a med change, always an incredibly dangerous time for me, with NyQuil and booze. I had stupidly skipped three days of my previous, side effect-inducing med dosages, a stunt I had never attempted before and which belied my own hubris in thinking I was safe from the extremes of my condition, a stunt so stunning in its short-sightedness that I can honestly never see myself attempting it again. Even outrageous physical side effects trump a deep depression! My mood was a perfect storm of my own making. But a light became visible at what I could now see was a finite tunnel–if I had done this miserable thing to myself, I could possibly also undo it.
So, I forced myself out of the lonely comfort of my bed. Then I made that bed. I got myself dressed. I tidied up the house from the messes my family created over the weekend while fending for themselves. I took a long, relaxing bath in the middle of the day. I drank water and aloe vera juice, threw out the rest of the NyQuil, cleansing my body of extra medication and the remnants of alcohol. I did my hair. I started rereading a book called “The Gifts of Imperfection,” even though its lessons seemed like gibberish since my mind was in the grips of angst, worry, regret and the after effects of self-sabotage. I nursed my mind throughout the day.
After about 8 hours of conscious work on my mind, body and even spirit, I felt I had made some progress. This book, one my mother gave me a few years ago and one I pick up and reread when I am feeling at my worst, is about recognizing and overcoming your mistakes, trying to live in a wholehearted way with forgiveness for yourself and those around you, working through your struggles in an honest way without numbing your feelings, and working towards authenticity with yourself and the people you love.
It still took an early turn in and a long night’s rest, but when I woke up today I felt much better. I was able to be gentler with myself, to set goals of housework and accomplish them, to reflect in my journal and to feel more closely like my natural, happier self.
Here’s what I am realizing today: I am quite lucky to be saved again, by the graces of time passing and the quiet support of my husband and daughter, from my own mistakes, saved by the unending desire to hold on and reorient myself that is the most basic state of those of us who live with mood disorders. Every mood passes to the next mood which also passes to the next and so on your whole life long–they all pass like everything passes into the next thing and the next…Everything is impermanent except hopefully love, but moods are most definitely impermanent and therefore should be somewhat ignored for the task at hand. It is the task at hand that pulls us out of our own holes and back into the flow of life. Extreme moods seem to grip me entirely and leave me with no room to maneuver, but this thought too is like the moods themselves, an illusion.
I hope I can keep this in mind on the road I am on now and the one that lies ahead in what is certainly the bumpy ride of this life of mine, but I will probably forget this type of Buddhist wisdom soon once another strong mood passes through me. But that’s the point, all moods pass and come again and pass again. We with mood disorders know this more profoundly than others–but, they pass more quickly when you work your way out of them.
So here’s to working our way out of strong moods and into the calmer waters ahead because whether you’ve made mistakes that have caused your mood or whether it is simple biology, we all have the power to force ourselves to get out of bed and heal ourselves–so that we might be ready for the next wave of emotion that is most surely coming down the pike as we ride our moods out to their logical conclusions.
If you enjoyed or related to this post, check out my creative writing website, http://www.MarieKJohnston.com, which features my second novel, “Mental,” the tale I am currently shopping around to literary fiction agents and publishing houses.