In this moment I am wearing the same shirt and t-shirt (1996 Atlanta Olympics) that I have worn since Thursday evening. It is Saturday at noon. Needless to say I have not showered. I didn’t really sleep on Thursday night, so that made Friday difficult. Finally could close my eyes yesterday around 5:30 p.m. Missed hockey play-off game and dinner with parents in spite of much phone encouragement from both.
I just hit save on this document. I am writing instead of crawling back into bed. So hello depression here we are again. You are depressed, says my mother, who should know because she came over on Tuesday and Thursday to get me moving. Your father thinks it’s acute she says. He wants to come over and help you with your yard. For some reason this idea makes me weep. He wants to help. Why can you let me help you and not him? It’s not that. It’s just that I don’t want to be helped. I want to be 38 years old and able to keep my own yard under control. 38 years old and able to keep my kitchen floor clean.
I have only just left the house long enough to put Kacey dog on the leash and take her out to pee. At 3:30 a.m. Thursday night/Friday morning, I took her for a little walk. I was up. I can’t really be seen like this, in this t-shirt and shorts, so 3:30 a.m. is good. The pavement outside my house is brand new, black and shiny. I walk in my bare feet. I walk around long enough for Kacey to do her business; I feel a sense of accomplishment. I am also feeding her. This is good. All I ate yesterday was oatmeal. Could I finally be one of those depressed people who lose weight when they are depressed? That would be so great.
See, I can still make myself laugh. And then cry a little, too, but not huge desperate wailing sobs, so that’s good. I guess the good news is that I finally believe that I’m only going to write the book, this book, from exactly where I am in a particular moment: that bipolar girl depressed girl is going to be the one who writes it, not wellness girl, or miraculously healed girl or never depressed again girl or victorious girl or any version of totally together, keeping it together etc. etc. etc. No we are keeping it real here at Bipolar Girl central, and right now real kind of sucks.
My mom meant it matter-of-factly, you are depressed. She never every meant it as an accusation, just ok, you’re depressed so now let’s fix it. Then I started crying so she felt bad. I feel like this massive failure, falling back into depression. Here I am with the great therapist and the weekly support group and access to medicine (though maybe not exactly the right medicines) and my parents paying my $540 a month for health insurance while I try to be an artist and find a sustainable way to live my life in alignment with what I feed called to do in the world. I got an email this morning from a woman who read my blog and felt like it helped her. In spite how I feel right now, I do believe that there is something I have to offer the world from this shitty, shitty set of experiences. So as cheesy as it sounds, thanks Teresa, you’re why I’m writing right now instead of hiding under the covers of my fabulously comfortable bed. I have the softest sheets in the world, and what my friend E. and I call the single girl’s bed – four pillows and a body pillow.
What I struggle to write about is how depression, bipolar, the whole mental illness gig intersects with the rest of Dawn. So, my therapist said – and though I pay her, I believe she means this – that I posses “vitality, passion, and creativity.” Ok. I think so too. (Parenthetically, I just opened the shades to my office to let a little light in. I think this is a good sign.) So, how do I piece out the parts of me that are depressed? How do I differentiate my enthusiasms from mania? Is my depression chemical, a moral failing, or some combination of both? Is it a spiritual condition? Is it paradoxically because I’m moving closer to being in the world how I want to be, and so the old mechanisms are tearing back to visit, in a gasping stand against progress? And how the hell am I supposed to think about all of this, and what the hell am I supposed to do?
A trip to the psychiatrist, and a physical, says my mom. She knows it’s not that simple, but it’s a concrete place to start. I put in a call to a new psychiatrist, and I’m waiting to hear back. My mom and my therapist (the ace treatment team) think it’s a good idea to try someone new. I can talk to anybody, and I find it hard to communicate with my current doctor. It may be time to change my meds. I hate thinking about changing my meds. I’ve been on basically the same for almost five years and I’ve basically been ok. Basically.
I’m terrified at the prospect of making changes, because that’s what kind of started this wave of shittiness in the first place. We added Drug X to counter racing thoughts. Might be helping, can’t be hurting is what I said to my doctor. She yelped. Don’t let Drug X manufacturer hear you say that. Either stop taking it or try a higher dose. So I tried the higher dose, and the racing thoughts stopped. Mostly because I was asleep all the time. The drug knocked me out. And then I accidentally doubled my dose of Drug Y. Which went all toxic on my system. My body felt terrible. I couldn’t sleep. I slept too much. It was a relief to get back to just the generally crummy ache that I associate with being depressed.
I have a new question. What does depression really look like? Is it the numbness and tiredness a means of protection? A safeguard against the howling fear, the deadly sense of inadequacy, the hopelessness that threatens to take over unless I move very very quietly. Which is it? The numbness or the howling? Would it end quicker if I howled more?
My parents are coming over in an hour or so. I’m grateful and also kind of scared. Compassion is frightening, because if I let myself feel too deeply I might fall apart; encouragement brings up fear, because what if I can’t do something, anything; offers of help bring up self-contempt because I should be able to do it myself, to function as a normal. As yes. The hovering normal adult. The Dawn without bipolar. Without depression. She’s married to her college sweetheart and has two children. She’s not needy. She’s traveled to other countries and worked with NGOs on children’s literacy. She is not relying on her parents for money.
But what does she do? Is normal Dawn the vibrant girl that the college sweetheart fell in love with in the first place? Is she – me – creative, an artist, a writer? If so, what would I be writing about? I kinda hoped I’d be writing this book with a little more distance between me and the subject matter. Between me and my life.
Back into my life: I want my parents to stay away; I want them to be here. I want to be alone in my filth (it’s not really that bad); I want to try and shower and step out into the day. I am on this edge all of the time. Can you imagine how incredibly tiring it is, each micro movement being considered so closely? Each possibility weighted with – here, you’re fighting depression! Here, you’re giving in! Maybe tiredness emerges from depression as a protective mechanism. Asleep I don’t have to feel, consider, be. Depression as the anti-is-ness: is it a good idea to just be in the moment when in the moment I sometimes feel like I’m dying? Still, it’s better to be in the moment than to consider the next one, to get caught up in thinking this way of not-being is all there is and all there will be.
Yet even in my current state of broken-down-ed-ness, I can see slivers of hope. I close my eyes and I see a showing of hands waving across a wide sea. And I’m writing, so I must believe in something. And I'm sharing my writing, so I must believe in something more.