I’ve been holding off on writing anything a lot recently, but I received this message randomly on Reddit:
It’s been a year since I stopped taking the cocktail of medications I’d been prescribed for more than a decade prior and, while I consciously know that a lot has improved, spring is the time of year that my mental state collapses. I was determined this will be the year I come through it without falling apart, and I was very optimistic that, because this last year hasn’t seen any major, long-term depressions, this would finally be the spring I was okay; however, the last couple weeks have seen that typical decline in spirits that I’m fighting tooth and nail. You’ll have to forgive my momentary Eeyore demeanor (or not – your choice) , but this week in particular has traditionally been the one that has seen a complete meltdown on my part, which usually results in me being bedridden for a month and has put me in two separate mental hospitals over the years. (This, by the way, isn’t at all uncommon I recently learned. In fact, spring is the season that sees the most suicides and mental health hospitalizations. Does this make me basic?) I’m trying to get sunshine, continue a daily yoga practice, and get what fruits and vegetables I can, but the surge of random despair is pretty hard to shake.
It would serve me well to focus on The Positives of The Last Year. Let’s do that instead.
1) I’ve lost half of the 60 lbs I quickly gained while on the last medical cocktail, which has been veeerry slow going (apparently my liver is so shot from years of meds that its ability to metabolize fat is pitiful), but because of my yoga practice, I feel stronger than I ever have. I still have a long way to go, but unlike every time I’ve ever lost weight, this has been gradual and lasting; I’m not losing in fits and spurts and I don’t gain everything back during a premenstrual week where I’m craving every carb on the planet. Also, despite what I weigh, I have better endurance during an average day, which feels tremendous. A year ago, I was exhausted after a 25-minute mile and felt abysmal; now I’m walk/running around town when I can and spending a few hours on a recumbent bike every chance I get which has really rebuilt strength in my thighs and knees. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything slowly-and-surely, but regaining my physical health is successful because I haven’t been in a huge rush to “get my body back”.
2) I’ve been able to maintain routines, complete tasks, and accomplish stuff. In the last year, I took on a part-time job, which I was able to maintain while also keeping up my household consistently – a feat that never once happened when I was on the roller coaster of manic-depression-inducing medications. Again, usually my energy levels go through month-long cycles of mania then depression, but in the last year, everything has leveled out so that I’m consistent. It’s amazing and it has profoundly impacted the happiness and peace of my family. My job folded because the small business I was working for is changing ownership, but while there, I was competent and able to show up and get things done regularly. I haven’t been quite as consistent in my energy levels with the 9-month yoga teacher training course that I’ve been doing since September (mostly because my physical health has still been struggling), but I’ve kept plugging away at it as I can. I had a habit in my early years of college of getting all the way to the end of a semester and then having a meltdown and just stopping; I’m fighting the urge to do that now as we’re entering the last weeks of the training.
3) I’ve been able to let go of stuff FINALLY and have “trimmed the fat” from my social circle. I mentioned this before, but the medications I was on kept many outdated conflicts with past relationships at the forefront of my consciousness and emotions. Being the type to try to “solve” these issues, I kept entertaining those relentlessly, unable to stop replaying situations/emotions in my head despite praying to be able to just get the fuck over it already. There were about 8 people whose interactions with me had an impact as though they had happened recently, even though I haven’t seen many in more than a decade – some in almost two. Despite realizing years ago that this was an unhealthy/psychotic fixation on my part, I just could not seem to move past them. I honestly tried prayer, meditation, ancient rituals, spells, and anything else I could find to cut emotional ties with my past to no avail. Turns out, all I needed to do was stop taking medications that kept feeding that loop in my psyche. Within a couple months, I stopped being haunted by all of that anger and sadness. I politely excused myself from the lives of those I’d continued to bother with my insanity finally. I honestly feel absolutely nothing about my bad past relationships except peaceful indifference. ::exhaaaales::
In fact, in the last few months, I was presented with a new relationship that immediately spelled trouble and, without hesitation, I put my foot down and said, “No. I care about you, but I’m not doing this.” Unlike every single time I’ve tried that, I didn’t hesitate or backslide.
There are a couple of people with whom I will be interacting with for the rest of our lives, but even those relationships are more peaceful now. I’m not on guard constantly, but I’m blunt about boundaries without any lingering anger. That’s also a huge difference.
It’s been staggering to realize that the medicines that were supposed to be helping me heal from trauma were, in fact, the thing that was keeping me stuck in a frenzied victim mentality. Gross.
Anyway, despite these last few weeks of swatting at seasonal depression, my life is significantly better than last May; my whole mindset is clearer and more serene than since I was about 11. The tone in my home in this last year have been so different I feel like we’re living by a new script. I’ve been very guarded in letting in any new drama as this is the most peaceful we have ever been, and my husband and I are taking the time we need to rest from the years of legitimate insanity.
To be honest, I have fought a lot with myself and my crushing disappointment that I haven’t accomplished more with my life at 32 years old. On paper, it doesn’t seem like I’ve been doing much of anything, but if this last year has been allowing me to prepare for the next few decades of my life, I’m okay with that. Before I try to launch myself into the lifestyle I dreamed of the whole time I was sick, it seemed wise to take some time to figure out what all had been physically damaged over the years, work toward healing all that, and find some steady footing. Just taking some time to catch my breath seems necessary, despite my desire to do something productive/that I’m proud of.
I realize there’s no such thing as “perfect health”, and I’m being patient with my healing as 12 years of multiple medications (15 if you count birth control, which I should) is a long time; chances are, I have a while longer before my body is completely free of all the damage it endured. I’m no longer suffering from PGAD (which evaporated when I stopped the antidepressants, a phenomenon I will be discussing in a documentary I’m participating in next fall, actually), but my other aforementioned gynecological issues are still working themselves out. I’m positive I do suffer from PMDD, which has me fighting the urge to step into traffic a couple days every month (not kidding.) I’m still unsure whether or not I should take Zoloft during the week prior as my OB/GYN has prescribed and recommended because, while I’m now terrified of medication, I’m also still terrified of my mind trying to kill me randomly because it’s freaking out on hormones once a month. Meanwhile, I stopped eating gluten last January and, have since had major relief in a lot of the neurological weirdness I was being tested for last autumn, but there’s still a lot of stuff that I’m dealing with that I’m just sort of hoping will go away over time as I continue to eat better and build physical strength.
Mentally, the Tardive Dysphoria (feeling of apathy resulting from years of antidepressant use) I mentioned having or months and months is also lifting, but it has been replaced with a lot of projected frustration and aforementioned misanthropy, which I’m not enjoying and am fighting a lot. There’s not enough research out there to say whether or not a grumpy internal monologue is one of the phases of healing from TD, but I suspect that it may be. I’m trying to do what I can to keep my hormones in check to regulate symptoms of needless frustration and, luckily, I’m not aggressive in my grumpiness. In fact, for the first time ever, I’m able to observe when I’m being unnecessarily cranky, distance myself from others quietly, deal with it privately, and return to social circles without causing needless drama. THIS IS UNPRECEDENTED. Also, I’m no longer having the fuming, ongoing anger about small things that has plagued me since forever, and that’s nice. I’m spending a lot of time alone, doing work outside when it’s sunny and working on art pieces while listening to a nonstop stream of intelligent stand-up comedy, which has proven to be therapeutic, actually. I’m okay with it seeming underwhelming from the outside; anything more than this has been making me miserable and anxious.
Conclusively, this year has been successful in improving my life (and my household tone) significantly, which is what I’m working to focus on instead of the things that are still lacking. Having the expectation that I’d be “all healed” within a year of going off medication only has me focusing on the disappointments of not being completely better. In my fantasies, I disappear from society for half a year and come back all rebranded as the image of physical health and with a fully-completed portfolio of publishable final drafts. Realistically, however, it is my slow, steady recovery and interactions with my support unit that are facilitating me turning this corner and building a sustainable lifestyle for a change.