Ever since my severe depression lifted for the second time within the past three months, I’ve felt like I’ve been tumbling around in my dryer. Maybe that’s not the best analogy to use, but it has been a long, strange, emotional trip! I’m not quite what to make of it from a medication perspective. The first time the depression lifted on November 28, 2013, it correlated with my adding the MAOI drug Parnate to lithium. I had a joyous three weeks, and then the evil depression returned. In tandem with the depression I suffered a terrible, agitated insomnia resulting in barely any sleep for two nights, and my psychiatrist suggested I take Seroquel for the insomnia. I took 100 mg/night and was not only able to sleep again – I noticed the depression lifted a few days after starting Seroquel.
Once again I am walking pharmacy. I’ve come a long way from being medication-free last spring, and I am resigned to popping pills three times a day if it means I can function and be relatively depression-free. I’m not thrilled about being dependent upon Big Pharma the rest of my life, but I’m resigned to it. My psychiatrist and therapist believe I can reduce the dosages of some of my meds, but I don’t want to change anything right now.
I have been holding my breath both literally and figuratively. I have always been an anxious person, and once the bipolar disorder entered my life, the anxiety skyrocketed. I became addicted to benzodiazepines (that’s a chapter in my book) but I was able to successfully wean myself of the benzos over time. Books like Matt Samet’s “Death Grip” , chronicling his benzodiazepine addiction, inspired me to cut those drugs out of my life for good.
I hold my breath in part to irrationally control something in my life and it’s a nasty, nasty habit. I have also been holding my breath in the figurative sense because of my fear that the depression will return at any moment. Growing up in a worrywart culture of Jews, I was taught to fear the very worst, and that tendency remains with me. I think self-defeating thoughts such as, “Now that my damn depression is finally gone, something really bad is going to happen!” This way of thinking is fruitless, and let’s face it – I can’t control the universe. I don’t like that one bit! Having a family obviously compounds my worrying, and gives me more to fret about.
My psychiatrist advises me to add meditation (not medication!) and to pray. (Yes, pray.) I’m still not at the meditation point, but praying is easy, quick and free, so I sometimes do that. I’ve never been a religious person, but I believe in a higher power which I usually refer to as God.
All my troubles were put into perspective yesterday when I had to report for jury duty selection for the first time in my life. I had been completely freaking out about the process. My worry was so strong that at the very last minute, I asked my doctor for an excuse note. Then I listened to the jury commissioner’s phone recording explaining what would happen to those citizens who did not report for duty. The penalty was a fine up to $1500.00 and up to five days in jail. Hearing about those penalties sent me over the edge. Even though I had two sick kids home from school and I hadn’t showered for three days, I ran out the door in a dirty sweater and sweat pants with no makeup and messy hair and drove to the courthouse. (Thankfully my husband was able to watch our children and work from home. I felt very lucky to have that support.)
To my surprise, it turned out that it was a very interesting experience, although it was tedious at times. I realized that the reason I was so resistant to attending the selection was my fear of the unknown. I was scared I wouldn’t know where to park. I was scared I wouldn’t find the right building. I was scared I’d be grilled by the judge and lawyers in front of everyone. In the past, before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, none of these logistics would have frightened me to such an extent that I felt paralyzed to act.
It turns out I did figure out everything I needed to do, and I was not quizzed in court; in fact, I was excused. To my amazement, I was a little disappointed I did not get to participate on the jury. Sitting in that sterile court room and watching a young person who was on trial for a crime triggered sadness in me. I pondered how the person’s family must have felt, and how such a serious allegation would affect his life forever. It was sobering to witness, despite the fact that the judge had a sense of humor and he humanized the proceedings. Moreover, the room had such an intense and scary energy, and I was relieved that I was simply an observer, not on trial. I also could sense the anxiety of some of the prospective jurors who did not want to be there one bit – one of them even began to cry when she told the judge she had a financial hardship.
When I left the cave-like court room and walked outside into a beautiful, sunny day, I was grateful. I was on my way home to a loving family who were all proud of me for facing my fear of the jury process. I am glad that I have my freedom and that the “shoe” I’m so petrified of is still suspended in air for now.
Like everyone, I have no idea what the future will bring, but being in the moment as much as possible can only help. In the weeks to come I will be adding meditation to reduce “the dropping shoe syndrome”, which I believe is related to the condition of “monkey mind” and I will share about it here in “Birth of a New Brain”.