Tag Archives: recovery

The Truth About Getting Better

No one ever tells you what really happens after your diagnosis is corrected, and your meds are finally straight. Because you have a smile on your face and you feel invincible; as if nothing wrong ever happened in your life. It was all in your head….

So why do you need these mood stabilizers to keep you leveled? There’s a voice whispering in your ears, claiming that you are no longer dependent on a chemical. Friends and harmless ads are there to remind you, every time they say, “Hopefully you can get off your meds soon.” As a result….

I’ve been off my meds for almost a week. I was fine. At least, that’s what I thought. See, the thing I hate about being Bipolar…is being Bipolar. You try and rationalize all your emotions – I must be angry because of this, I must be sad because I thought about this – but when you ask me what’s wrong, I draw a blank. Because I feel nothing and everything at the same time. In the heat of the moment, it all seems logical. I can take all the candles off the shelf at work and smash them on the floor – and it is okay, because afterwards, I know I’ll feel better. But who does that? The more I think about it, the more anxious I become, and the more anxious I become, the worse my mood swings get and the more frequently they change.

In a matter of 8 hours, I went through five noticeable mood swings. That doesn’t seem like much, but it is destructive in my world. I woke up at 9AM just like anyone else who couldn’t lay down to rest until 3:30AM; I was tired, but forced myself up. I went about my usual routine of getting ready for work with energy I didn’t know I had. The breeze on my skin as I walked to the store was refreshing, and I thought about laying down in the grass until the afternoon sun started burning my skin. By the time I arrived at work, I was irritable. There were too many people around me; too many conversations. Nobody seemed to move quick enough. I wanted to tell everyone to shut up and get the fuck out of the store. But instead, I smiled and told everyone who asked, that I was okay. My anger only intensified as the day went on. By eight o’clock I felt Depression creeping on after a bout of freedom from my emotional Hell. I had no reason to be depressed, I just was. Invasive thoughts of bad memories worked their way around my brain. I felt myself slipping further and further into this black abyss. But I didn’t want to go there, so I reached out to friends, and I stopped falling.

I was back to feeling content. Level. And I realized that I should stay on my meds, even after I feel okay. The thing about having your mental illness under control, is that you begin to think clearly; suddenly you want something that you cannot have. Many people experience depression or mild mood swings, and they can handle life after therapy or simply on their own. Then, there are people like me: Bipolar. People hope that one day you won’t need medication to feel better, that – if you really try and fix your problem – it will eventually go away. Honestly, I’m not going to lie, that’s part of the reason I quit taking my medication. Who wants to have their loved ones – who are supportive – tell you about how they expect you to be off your meds for good one day. This isn’t a cold. You don’t take antibiotics until you feel better. You take this medicine because instead of your brain having 100% Serotonin, your brain is only functioning at 65% on a good day.

The truth about getting better… is that it takes a lot of work and – sometimes – medication.

https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/
https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/therapy/how-do-i-find-a-therapist-near-me/

Rehab

Let me go back to the beginning…

I’m a child of seven, woken from slumber at the stroke of midnight. Doors began slamming like the roof was on fire and people were rushing to leave. I threw my blanket to the edges in a hurry. As if pushing my ear against the poster-filled wall would save me some of the heartache from the violence I’d hear in the moments to come. This lullaby sang for years and it never got easier, the more I heard it.

I grew up watching the lives of family pass by. I sat in the corner, by myself, watching in blank expression. The people that climbed the stairs constantly changed, and I couldn’t recognize the faces, though I saw them frequently. I’d go back to the computer, writing pages upon pages of stories because I needed a way to cope. See, this family was functioning perfectly fine, but those moments we slipped up, stayed with me as I grew older. Night quickly became associated with a P.O. shoving past me to reach her target and I couldn’t comprehend the events that unfolded. I no longer recognized the stumbling drunks that passed out all day and disappeared often. I was my own best friend because I never knew who to turn to as a child.

So as an adult, I’m trying to figure out how to explain that I need a friend, or better yet, a brother. I know that if you looked me in the eyes, you wouldn’t know who was staring back. And I’m bleeding on these pages, trying to come to terms that what I want is not what I have. Life just gets in the way sometimes, and that, I understand. Maybe I’m just frozen, ruminating about our lives that I recall in memories. But I don’t want these month-long silences to go any further and I’m not sure where to start; it’s like letting go of a grudge you’ve held all your life. Where do we begin?

Monsters & Men

See, there’s no clear way to start this. Because it’s all in my head, but what’s in my head feels too real…too real…

I’m walking under branches that hang over trails like an umbrella;
a feeling of safety, yet…
It’s the empty parking lot and vacant, somber sky that make my skin crawl
My eyes are open and I’m searching,
for anything that could pop out and scare me,
Because this is my life, in my head..


 

I pull on the hood of a black sweater and toss it over my head. A gold Marlboro is hanging from my lips as I close my eyes. I lose myself in a song that’s been repeating all day because it feels like home.

I’ve jumped habits over the years, beginning with alcohol and ending with this simple cigarette. People always told me I didn’t look like a smoker – and in truth, I’m not – but I’d just smile slightly and go about my day as a non-smoker, with a pack shoved in my jacket for later.

Everyone says when you drop an addiction, you gain a new one. I started as an alcoholic and slowly moved to hydros, eventually on to harder things. I never really explained to anyone why I started smoking again.

It came down to a decision as I sat alone, craving that high. Do I spend money on something that will drag me back into a black pit, or do I return to a habit I know I’ll eventually quit? It’s a crutch. Something to keep me from running back to what I realize is a natural disaster waiting to happen. It’s not easy to give up the things you crave, but I see how it affected me in the past – how messed up I was – so I find myself writing to you instead.

And as you sit here and read these words, I’ll repeat what you’ve already heard:

You’re not alone. At least, not as alone as you think you are. Talking about your problems can seem like too much a weight to put on someone else’s back, but I assure you, they just want to help. Maybe it’ll take time to become a solution, but we as humans are not meant to survive on our own. Help is not a sign of weakness, but rather, a window into our humanity and kindness.

Every week I collect myself and file into a room along with other addicts. We sit in chairs lined up against the walls, and speak of our struggles. We all come from different walks of life – a crack addict, a drunk, a paranoid schizophrenic, a pill-popper, an unmedicated Bipolar – but we all crave the same thing. Help. And the people in this room are our solution. What’s wrong with that?

If I ever gave you advice, it is this:
Don’t be worried that you’ll look weak. You’ve survived this long on your own. It’s okay to ask for help now.

 

 

 

Sometimes, I Am Me

“How are you doing?”

The voice yanks me out of my own anxiety bubble. Hmm?

“You seemed down yesterday,” my group mate continued scribbling on the daily assessment sheet.

“Oh…” I poked my feet into the ground in a nervous twitch, “Ehh..yeah, I’m good.”

My lips find their way to the placebo coffee I always grabbed on my way into the program. It was a distraction from the empty room that morning. I hadn’t taken my Trazodone in three days, and anxiety was back to clawing at the base of my legs like a lost puppy. The walls were closing in around me.

In group therapy you’re suppose to talk about your problems, but I always felt bad when I talked about myself. I don’t want to explain the depressing history of my life because I hate the facial expressions people cannot control. When they hear of the things I’ve been through in only twenty-two years, they are baffled at how I managed to survive on my own. And the truth is…by a single thread.

Because being me, means my hands are shaking as the room fills up with people I don’t know, so I fill the silence with nervous habits of crossing my legs over and over again, or playing with my hair – poking at split ends. Sometimes I just freak out and I escape to the bathroom like I’ve always done as a kid.

Being me, means having mood swings and destroying everything like a fucking hurricane intent on leaving nothing but disaster behind. One moment I’m fine, and the next, I’m ready to pop your head like a balloon, because I’m just tired…

I’m tired of everything and everyone and sometimes I can’t even move. I dream of all the things I want to accomplish, while I’m sleeping through that time to do them. And I ask myself why I do this – because I know better – but it’s like my brain has decided to take the month off. So I roll with it. What else is there to do?

These medications have my head in a haze. I don’t even know if they’re working. I’m sitting on the floor, like I’ve always done, searching this plain room for an answer I know I’ll never find. And I can feel depression clawing at the brick wall that this Prozac has created in the past month. It holds off the true effects of the disease; I can now lose myself in depressing thoughts without feeling a damn thing. Is that a positive? I’m not sure anymore.

So now I’m simply going through the motions with little to no feeling at all. It’s a better change than feeling everything so intensely, but does that mean it’s helping? Or am I just making myself believe it does?

 

 

Trust

Yesterday I went back to NA. It was terrifying at first. I sat, sipping on coffee, debating whether or not I really needed to be there. But everyone always says: If you’re thinking about going, you probably need to. So I decided to go; one meeting wouldn’t hurt.

As I listened to the first two stories, I became depressed. One guy had just left the Vines after trying to kill himself, and another woman expressed grief about an addict who OD’d two days prior. Why was I here? But the next speaker hooked me in. He spoke like a well-versed motivational speaker. I didn’t want it to end because his words were giving me hope; not only that I could get better, but so could any addict. The longer I sat in that room, the more hope and happiness filled me up. I felt a little bit better. Now I want to continue.

After sharing was over, an addict announced the handing out of chips. Lauren nudged me and told me to grab mine. This little girl was holding a silver, tin bucket filled with different colored chips. She fished out a white one and held it out. I couldn’t help but smile as I took it. 

“Thank you,” I whispered.

I turned the chip over and read the words: Just for Today.

It’s a small promise – to only stay sober today – and you don’t have to worry about tomorrow. 

I kept my chip in my hand the rest of the night; it felt like protection. Standing in the circle as we huddled close and said a few hopeful words, I felt understood. I didn’t see these people as addicts, I saw them as some twisted family. Everyone just wanted to get better, but they didn’t want to – or couldn’t – do it alone. And I’ve felt that way before.

Today is Trust.

Just for Today: I will decide to trust someone. I will act on that trust.

So I’m going to trust that NA will work. I’m going to trust myself to stick with it. I think that’s what I’m most afraid of – not trusting myself to work the program, because I decide that I don’t need it.

Popper Virus

A virus; slowly fighting its way into your system, it’s sleeping at first and it’s bearable. But once you slip, it’s like a scorned lover. I’ve kept the urge locked in a vault. No longer did I consider myself addicted to the past. I fought for a cure to this relentless hell – finding it in writing and music – but now I’m building an immunity.

I found myself sorting through ideas. How could I find some pills without allowing the people around me to know? What could I get my hands on? The weight I’ve placed on my delicate shoulders is shoving me into the ground, trying to bury me six feet under. Honestly, that’s where this problem would end.

But I’ve promised to not go back to that version of myself. I never liked her. She hid in purgatory and settled for routine. I’d like to blame the conversation topic for my struggles, but avoiding what I know won’t help. And honestly, it’s nobody’s fault but my own. I feel like I’m locked in a dark room, screaming to be let out. This is torture. But I guess I can fight it. Or I guess I have to.

I remember being called popper as I navigated seventeen. My desire to do better seemed to evaporate each time my friend brought a baggie of brownies with some white motivation. I’d take it happily and stuff it in my bag. For the rest of my days, I slacked in class, waiting for the clock to move hours ahead. 

It wasn’t even pot that drove me to pills, but instead, a driving need to escape a depression that I battled alone. Pills helped numb the pain. And I always grew up telling myself I’d never walk down this road. But addiction is a virus that sleeps during the day and wakes you at night. One time is just one time…until suddenly…it’s not. 

2 Weeks, 12 Hours

The room is daunting – hauntingly devastating – because I gaze at the padded chairs and I’m asking myself if I’m really here.

I am.

It feels like failure. But I keep reminding myself that this is a step in the right direction. The room is poorly lit, probably to set the mood, because bright lights are a deterrent in the eyes of the hungover. My hands are shaking on my knees as I settle in a spot towards the back. People pour into the small space, smiling the entire time. How could people be smiling as they walked into a meeting? Strangers approach me with comforting hugs. I’ll never forget the first woman who wrapped her arms around me.

“We hug around here. We don’t do that shaking hands.”

I was terrified. But everyone in the room made me feel accepted. There were better places for me to be on a Thursday night…but this was okay. I had to keep telling myself that, because if I didn’t, I might book it out of that building.

Halfway into the first speaker’s story, I realized my breathing had become strained. 

Calm down.

Panic attacks we’re nothing new; I just didn’t want it happening at a church in Philadelphia, during a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. 

I sat and listened to people share their stories of recovery. A few people spoke about cousins and parents they had lost to some overdose. Here they were, at a meeting, talking about their sadness like they were completely alone. How was tragedy suppose to be uplifting?

It wasn’t.

But as I thought about it, maybe we just needed a place to let go of our demons. Maybe this was a way to the cure.

NA. AA. These are not happy places. They are not where you want to find yourself at eight o’clock at night. But that does not mean there isn’t a purpose.

I was crashing on the couch; and I don’t mean ‘crashing’ in the sense that you’re staying the night at a friends place. I mean I had finally run out of cocaine after a five day binge. Cold sweats had my hands shaking and my brain couldn’t focus. I felt alive and dead at the same time. And all I wanted was more. I wanted to go back to swimming through the clouds.

But once the crash settled in – or maybe sanity found its way back home – I found myself asking:

“Why am I doing this to myself?”

The reason we keep buying more drugs is because the come down brings us deeper into a depression we’ve been trying to avoid. Of course we could stop. But why would you willingly twist your bones until they are nothing but ash?

“How long have you been sober?”

The question has me stumped for a moment. It’s like life came to a sudden halt. I hadn’t been paying attention.

“Two weeks,” I admit. And I slump deeper into my chair, thinking about the bottle of whiskey, waiting for me in my room.