About a week has passed since I took my last dosage of psych meds (Detox Diary), and I’ve just noticed an interesting phenomenon. My brain seems to be reverting to an old coping mechanism from my abuse days – shut down, feel nothing. I’ve only noticed it in retrospect, as in “That was an odd reaction to that situation.” Feelings of depression or anxiety will start to overwhelm me, then all of a sudden I’ll feel nothing. After that, I become very sleepy. Then today I participated in something that “normally” would have been the sort of thing during which I’d be crying “happy” tears (or at least sniffling), yet I felt nothing…again. This blunted affect is just as disturbing as uncontrolled mania or depression. It’s unexpected, and I don’t like that. I was prepared for the extremes, I had a plan; I was not prepared for my brain bizarrely taking over.
I’ve written that last paragraph over and over, and I cannot come up with a satisfying way of stating what I’m experiencing. That’s another thing…not being able to express myself in an articulate manner. My brain is flying all over the place, too much stimuli to cope with, too many racing thoughts, too many “feels.” There, that explains it…too much brain crap leads to brain shut down (how’s that for a concise psychological explanation?).
As a matter of fact, now that I analyze it, quite a bit of my past behavior from being abused is surfacing. While I’ve always had problems with self-doubt and negative thinking, it’s been particularly overwhelming. The quantity and quality of trash talking I’ve been doing to myself is horrific. If I heard someone speaking this way to another person, I’d probably yell at them to knock it off. Everything I do is wrong, everything I say is wrong, everything I think is wrong, everything I write is wrong. I was at the point of cancelling my trip next week because I was absolutely certain my daughter and grandchildren did not want to see me. I mean, really, why would they want to spend time with a blithering idiot? I’m sure my daughter has enough stress in her life without having to deal with me for six days. Not to mention my grandsons…Greg is the fun one, not me. Ugh, see what I mean? STFU, Sheri!
In spite of all this, there’s a tiny and weak little voice trying to be heard above the din of negativity “You can do this, I know you can.”
Please note, I am not advocating that people go off their meds, and I do not plan to be off them for long. To reiterate – in my case, I’ve been on ineffective medications for so long that I felt that at this point they were either masking or worsening my symptoms. This is the only way my psychiatrist and I know how to figure that out. This is being done with the guidance and approval of my psychiatrist.
Tonight is my last dosage of psychiatric medication until mid-January. Confidence and fear stumble over each other, fighting for power. I’ve put a great deal of thought into my self-care planning; but I keep second-guessing myself – will it be enough? Deep down, I believe it will be. There is no choice other than the clear-cut one of the necessity for it to be so. I want my life to be better and refuse to allow this lifelong battle to have a bad ending, or to end this soon for that matter. I have set up my Healing Touch treatments, registered for yoga classes, discussed when-all-else-fails plans that are not medication related.
It has taken me years to learn to recognize a manic episode creeping up on me; although sometimes they’re just plain sneaky and are disguised as a burst of energy. On the other hand, depression seems to be more difficult for me to recognize in the beginning, especially during a mixed episode (note: according to this link, the term “mixed episode” is no longer commonly used in the psychiatric world…really?). Depression reminds me of waking up to a foggy morning, but the sun never comes out and the fog never goes away. It seems to slowly creep in, and envelope my brain. But I have figured out these signs, I’m ever watchful for them.
The physiological effects of the detox will probably go on for another five days after I take this last dose (at least that’s what my psych says). If I keep that in mind, when I feel physically crappy I can remind myself it’s temporary. Then a week after that’s over, I’ll be with my daughter and grandsons for a week. By the time I get home, my most triggering three months of the year will be just about over and it will be a little over two weeks before my next psych visit. Breaking it down into these smaller spans of time makes it all easier to cope with. Baby steps got me to this point…one month at a time, one week at a time, one day at a time, one hour at a time…one second at a time. Yes, I will get through this.
As my psych meds clear out of my system, I’m noticing an unsurprising phenomenon. What used to be physically uncomfortable agitated mania has become simply anger. The automatic suppression of anger by medication has been replaced by a need for self-censorship. I find myself stopping after speaking just a couple words, or erasing a potentially offensive online diatribe. My soapbox is getting heavy; and I’m tired of putting it down, only to whisk it away at the last minute before hurtful vitriol comes pouring out of my mouth.
That’s a good thing, right? I’m “feeling” again as well as self-regulating. But at what cost? Am I becoming that stereotypical crazy woman? “Just ignore her, she’s off her meds, poor thing.”
Where’s the line between sanity and insanity? Where’s that Goldilocks middle ground of “just right?” And if it does exist how does one find it – medically, holistically, spiritually? Who has the fucking formula for bliss?
I’m angry that I don’t have, nor will I ever have, the answer. I’m angry that I’m angry.
Sleep now eludes me. Words and images have become my enemies, lumbering in and out of the dark places of my brain which only exist during the quiet of the night. The images are Kafkaesque, not the images one usually associates with metamorphosis. I am becoming someone I vaguely remember from long ago before medication and before I knew what was wrong, when my mental illness was scarier and more unpredictable. I’m a little concerned that my posts may not be good for my stigma-busting; but because I am nothing but open and honest about my mental illness, I refuse to edit my experience. Perhaps it will show the dire need for affordable mental health care, because that is one of the reasons I’m doing this. A correct diagnosis is vital (as accurate as one can get in this field); and as I’ve mentioned previously, I’m concerned all the different types of meds may be have been masking or even causing symptoms. The truly helpful meds are so expensive, even a very old generic medication is barely covered by my insurance simply because it is rarely used anymore. Our local newspaper just ran an investigative series on the appalling lack of good mental health care. The state of this issue in many parts of the world that one would think of as advanced is frightening.
It’s been over 25 years (since my last pregnancy), that I have not been medicated in some form (self-medicated or prescribed) at night. It’s been about 40 years (except for my pregnancies and a few other brief periods) when I haven’t been medicated at all. My brain is not happy. I’m questioning my reality – do I feel this way because that is what I’m expecting? That’s what makes sense because I’m not even a week into the detox process.
The last time I did this I was in the hospital for four weeks. Two weeks detox, one week clear, one day of testing, one week with a new medication. I wish I could afford to do that now. I know my marriage will survive, my husband is unbelievably understanding and supportive. I have to rein in the feelings of guilt – why would he want to live with Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde? I feel so unlovable; but if I can think of it in the terms of the fact that he wouldn’t leave me if I had any other disease, I should be able to get a grip on those unreasonable fears.
It’s all in my head, right?
(image credit to octothorpopus on flickr)
Yesterday was not good, last night was worse, today is a new day. I’m grateful for a husband that loves me unconditionally and refuses to give up on me; as well as a psychiatrist that listens.
For the first time in about 20 years, I am detoxing off of all my pscyh meds with medical supervision (do not try this at home, kids). This time I will not be hospitalized, but I have written instructions from my doctor, and people that love and care about me. It has gotten to the point of feeling like I’ve been having a variety of meds constantly thrown at me as merely a stop-gap. Nothing works any longer, diagnoses change on a ridiculously frequent basis, and I’ve had enough. No, I am not ready to check out of life, I am ready to start from scratch…again. I have made promises in writing to people I know will hold me to them, and I have made a promise publicly through because I said I would. I’m covered, I keep my promises.
It’s a scary prospect, being without psych meds, like performing on the trapeze without a net; but the timing is as close to perfect as it can get. Life is good, there are no underlying personal problems to mask my brain problems like there have been in the past. Hopefully in January 2016 (how appropriate) my psych and I will be able to come up with a new treatment plan (I’ll be seeing him before then, to check in, but I don’t want to make any decisions until after the holidays). I’m sure it will involve more trial and error, but until mental health diagnostics becomes an exact science, that’s the way it’s going to have to be.
In addition to my husband and my psychiatrist, I am also grateful for the love and support I receive on a daily basis from friends (both IRL and out in the ether) and family. Please don’t worry…I will land on my feet, I always do, right?