My Happy Years, Part Two: Quitting Smoking

I left things off in February of 2014, when things started to change, slowly, but drastically. It was such a whirlwind and I’m not very good at remembering the timeline of everything, so I’m going to do this as a list. However, I just realized that there’s so much I want to say about every item on this list that I’m going to break them into separate blog posts. That way

 

I’ll balance out the very depressing posts I have so far (depressing, but necessarily so), and

 

you won’t read in one sitting what in Microsoft Word will be a ten-page document. Single fucking spaced.

 

YOU’RE WELCOME.

 

Here is one of the great things I did during My Happy Years (henceforth MHYs):

 

I quit smoking after smoking on and off for eight years.

 

Smoking had always been mostly appealing for its ability to reduce my stress. And boy howdy did I have a lot of stress. Smoking was a crutch, something to enforce a break within whatever emotional time-suck I found myself. I never pictured myself smoking long-term, but I had done a bad job of nailing down when I would actually stop.

 

At first, I told myself, when I turn 25 I will quit smoking for good, but then 25 came and went and I kept lighting up. I wasn’t ready to let it go; I didn’t WANT to let it go. Fast forward to a few months into MHYs and I realized: I don’t need to smoke anymore. Not only do I not need to, I don’t want to. I’m ready to quit, and to quit for good.

 

I had more reasons for quitting. I typed them up in a list and printed it out, so I could have it on me to refer to if I ever got tempted to smoke. Here is that list:

 

Reasons Why I Want to Quit Smoking

  1. It greatly reduces myriad health risks and will prolong my life.
  2. My hair and clothes will smell aMAZing.
  3. I’ll be more kissable!
  4. Colds won’t last as long.
  5. It will improve my lung capacity, which will make it easier for me to exercise.
  6. I won’t have to be outside when I don’t want to be outside.
  7. I will save about $840 a year.
  8. It will help with my indigestion problems.
  9. My teeth will be whiter and in better condition.
  10. It will enhance my sense of taste. Foods that are already delicious will be even MORE delicious!
  11. I won’t be putting harmful second-hand smoke into the atmosphere.
  12. I won’t ever need to litter again.
  13. My car won’t get any more burns on/in it.
  14. I can drive in the rain with my windows rolled up—ALL the time!
  15. I won’t feel guilty about smoking cuz I won’t be doing it anymore! WHAT’S UP?!
  16. I won’t be nagged to quit smoking.
  17. Everyone who has at some point nagged me will be really proud.
  18. There won’t be an automatic deal-breaker for future boyfriends.
  19. To prove I’m stronger than my habit!
  20. Because I don’t need it anymore.

 

As you can see, I had a ton of good reasons in my arsenal, but I didn’t yet have a plan. I wanted to do this right—I wanted to quit and stay quit, but to do that, I needed to prepare. Here’s what I did to get ready:

 

I had the inside of my car meticulously detailed (a gift from my parents to encourage my quitting).

 

I cleaned all of my clothing, towels, and bedding. Really, ALL of it.

 

I searched out all of my stashed cigarette lighters and threw them away.

 

I stocked up on mouthwash, gum, breath mints, toothpicks, and straws.

 

I created a schedule to wean myself off of the nicotine. I worked my way down from five or six cigarettes a day to two, spacing it out over two weeks. The last three days I smoked only 1 cigarette.

 

 

I brainstormed what scenarios I might find tempting to smoke in and wrote an “Attack Plan” to conquer the cravings. Here it is:

 

ATTACK PLAN: Scenarios for Cravings and How to Avoid Smoking

  1. In the morning when I drink my coffee while sitting on the porch—STAY INSIDE WHILE DRINKING COFFEE AND COMPLETE A WORDSEARCH.
  2. After every meal—AFTER LUNCH, POP A PIECE OF GUM OR A BREATH MINT OR EAT A CARROT. AFTER DINNER, BRUSH MY TEETH. WRITE SOMEONE A POSTCARD.
  3. When I have 10 minutes to kill—KEEP MY JOURNAL WITH ME, WRITE ABOUT WHATEVER. DO SOME TOUCH-UP CLEANING IN MY ROOM OR AROUND THE HOUSE. READ.
  4. When I am crying—CALL/TEXT SOMEONE. TRY DBT SKILL OF SOME KIND.
  5. When I am hanging out with certain friends—BE RECLUSIVE UNTIL I’M ON MY FEET, THEN ASK THEM TO BE RESPECTFUL AND NOT SMOKE AROUND ME.
  6. When I’m tipsy—STOP DRINKING FOR A PERIOD OF TIME (COUPLE OF MONTHS?). SLOWLY START DRINKING AGAIN AND WHEN DRINKING, HAVE A STRAW TO CHEW ON. STAY INDOORS.

 

At this point I was feeling well prepared. I was also terrified that I would end up a total failure, disappointing myself, and all my loved ones who were rooting for me. So very, very nervously, I picked a quit date: April 1st. (When I posted it on Facebook I made it very clear I wasn’t joking.)

 

April 1st was an interesting day. I felt dizzy and light-headed and super cranky. I went to Trader Joe’s to get something for lunch. On the way out, a Greenpeace representative with a clipboard and a huge smile called out to me, “You look like you care about the environment! I can see it on your face!” Now, I know I’m glaring daggers at her because like I said, I was a crankypants, so I do something COMPLETELY out of character: I whip my grocery bag around so I can lift my arm up to jab my finger at my face and yell, “THIS face? Really? I DON’T THINK SO.” Then I storm off to my car.

 

I’m feeling so hungry that I decide to eat right there in my car. I eat a Thai pasta salad I’ve always loved and something amazing happens: it tastes better than it ever has before. It is ridiculously good. The flavors are so INTENSE. I won’t say it was orgasmic or anything, but it was definitely a powerful, very delicious moment, and an excellent nudge to keep it up.

 

That first day really sucked. The next day sucked a lot less. And then the nicotine was entirely out of my system. Now the psychological battle was going to have to be won.

 

To my complete surprise (and envy of other friends who had trouble quitting) it was easy. Really easy. I hardly used any of my coping mechanisms. I just didn’t need them. And I think it was because I really wanted to quit. I didn’t want to smoke anymore. I didn’t want to smoke ever again.

 

There was one night, just one, where I received some news that made me feel very depressed and I longed for a cigarette. I wanted to stay strong, so I confided in my family. I told them I was feeling tempted and asked if I could stay with them and talk until the craving went away. It went away.

 

I haven’t had any real craving since.

 

I am telling you this great glut of this information because maybe you want to quit, too, and maybe you’ll get some ideas here that might help.

 

I’m also telling you because the experience was monumental to me.

 

I feel, to this day, that it was only possible to quit when I did because I was in MHYs. I found a new kind of strength I’d never had before. A strength rooted in confidence: I knew I could do it. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve told myself I was worthless or damaged, and how much that completely fucked my self-confidence, my sense of competency. And now, here was something that took guts to do and I did it. I did it and excelled at it. I won that battle and it boosted my self-confidence extremely. I think you can imagine how good that felt. How good that felt. And that confidence would only continue to grow.

 

Stay tuned for the continuation, My Happy Years, Part Two: Running

 

 

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My Happy Years, Part One

I’m trying not to think too much about the happy years (well, year and a half) I had so I can move on from them. For that reason, I’m hesitant to write this blog post. But I want it out there, not to brag, but to show what happened to me when my disorder was dormant. It. Was. Amazing.

 

Let me start by telling you a brief story of something that happened to me in group therapy. I was talking about how hard it is for me to let go of that time because it was perfect and I’m so desperate to have it again. The facilitator countered that nothing is perfect. She said, “You will never come in here saying, ‘my life is perfect.’” And, to my surprise, that statement made me angry. I felt sort of invalidated because, no, really, seriously, it was perfect. And as I said in an earlier post, I’m not putting a rosy spin on it. That shit was gleaming of its own accord.

 

Now let’s backtrack. Over the holidays in 2013 I had a very bad depressive episode that lasted around six weeks. It was the worst I’d had since college and it was astounding to me how rapidly I declined. In no time at all I was completely nonfunctional.

 

I was convinced I would never make it out, and yearned to hurt myself, even though I knew it wouldn’t give me relief. I was heading towards suicidal ideation like I was on the bullet train. It terrified me. And it made me have to face the reality of my disorder all over again. I’d lost the acceptance I’d gained. I pounded my fists against my thighs and spat through clenched teeth “I don’t want this. It’s not fair I have this.” Tears leaked from me constantly (like seriously fucking constantly). I was pissed off at everything. I was angry at my disorder, at myself for having it, at Christmas for reminding me how miserable I was during what was usually my favorite time of year, at the drugs that were supposed to be working. How could I fall so far down so quickly? How long would this last? How much more could I take if it just kept on lasting?

 

One night, my dad and step-mom took me with them to a Christmas concert happening about 30 minutes away. In the car on the way there I kept anxiously thinking, over and over, “I can’t do this. I can’t go to this show. If I sit down and that happy music starts playing and I look around and people are smiling or swaying or—God help me—singing along, I will crack and I will crack LOUDLY. I will burst into tears or stand up and start screaming and I will knock over anyone between me and the door. I will become a dreadful spectacle. I will be ‘that crazy lady.’ I will ruin that show for every single attendant, including my parents.” But I also thought that there was no way I could not go. How could I deprive my parents of this concert just because I was such a mess?

 

We got to the venue. I panicked and told my parents I couldn’t go in. I was vague; I didn’t really explain myself, just said I knew I couldn’t handle it. I tried to insist that they stay, said I would just walk around until it was over, but my dad decided we should turn around and go home. In the car again, I cried furiously. My sweet step-mom was trying to cheer me up. She said, “Don’t worry about us. It’s totally fine. We don’t care that we missed the concert. It’s not a big deal. We can go another time.” She said I didn’t ruin her night. And while I was immensely grateful to her for saying that, the fact remained that I ruined my night. Well, my disorder did.

 

It tarnished and soiled my favorite time of year. It sucked away all joy, joy I knew was circling around me. It held me back from it, bound my arms, made joy impossible to touch. It warped a carefree, ultimately insignificant, event into an event so fraught with danger I loomed in my mind as a bomb waiting to go off. It broke me down. I was soldiering on, but each day a little bit more of my strength was being chipped away. Depression was kicking my ass. Depression was winning.

 

I think of it as a miracle I got out of that. My loved ones would tell me to give myself more credit. So besides just being stubborn about sticking around, here are some things I did:

 

I leaned heavily on my incredible support system. No matter how many times I may write about this in the future, I cannot possibly express how lucky I am to have the support system I have.

 

I switched around my medications and changed dosages multiple times. It was a long process, but eventually I found “the sweet spot”—the right combination of drugs at the right dosages to keep me stable.

 

I made a pretty staggering realization in therapy. In every appointment I would talk about how much I wanted to be better, how much I wanted to be stable. I begged for it, so desperate I could hardly breathe. But as desperate as I was, the truth is I wasn’t trying very hard. Or acknowledging the myriad options I had. Through therapy I found a piece of myself, a piece that still disgusts me, that didn’t want to get better. It was convinced I was doomed to suffer for the rest of my life (or until I finally caved and killed myself) and as I kept being depressed it kept feeling satisfied because it was right. As long as I stayed sick, I proved to myself I would always be sick. If I really wanted to be better, I mean really wanted to be better, wouldn’t I try a lot harder? Wouldn’t I try anything?

 

So I committed myself to living. I committed myself to living in a world where I would spend a lot of time being miserable. I signed up for life again, but this time I was going to do whatever it took to get better. I was going to get to work.

 

And I did. I kept going to my weekly therapy sessions, but I also joined a DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy—the kind I’m in) skills-building group. I learned coping mechanisms and put them immediately into use. I practiced skills to help me lessen my distress when I could, and tolerate my distress when I couldn’t lessen it. I started to see a difference and it felt good to be so active in my treatment.

 

With all of that, and with time, I got better. It didn’t happen overnight, but the changes came quickly. And soon, I was not only getting better, I was thriving. I mark February 2014 as the start of my happy years. And oh, they were so happy.

 

Stay tuned for part two, which is a lot less depressing, I promise.

Fuck That.

I am thinking about a time in Portland when I decided I needed a life motto, but I couldn’t settle on just one. After much thought, I picked two:

 

Share the Road

 

and

 

Fuck It.

 

Tonight, I am modifying the second to “Fuck that,” and putting it immediately to use.

 

Tonight, I dropped my folks off at the airport and on the way home, my mind started going to familiar dark places, plumbing the depths and dragging to the surface old shit, shaking off dust and blaring in my head: You are so pathetic. Twenty-nine years old and still living at home with your parents. You’re not a real adult.

 

To which, I say: FUCK THAT.

 

You’ve made so many mistakes. A really good person wouldn’t have made those mistakes. You’re a terrible person.

 

FUCK THAT.

 

You’re scared about spending a whole WEEK alone. You are so sad. You don’t even know if you can spend a week by yourself without going into the danger zone.

 

FUCK THAT.

 

You COULD go into the danger zone. So many times before you thought you’d be O.K. on your own and you wound up miserable and depressed.

 

FUCK THAT.

 

Your last major depressive episode was during the holidays. Before you know it, you could wind up in another. If it happens again, you won’t be able to handle it.

 

FUCK THAT.

 

You are such a mess. How are you ever going to get a boyfriend when you’re such a basket case? Who would bother to get involved?

 

FUCK THAT.

 

You don’t have a job. You couldn’t even work a regular job. You will never have the work life you envisioned.

 

FUCK THAT.

 

On and on, beating myself up in my head. Fighting with myself.

 

It feels that way. It’s hard to feel like I’m battling “bipolar disorder,” like it’s something separate from me, when it’s caused by a chemical imbalance in MY brain. How can I not feel like I’m battling a brokenness that I’m at fault for, since IT is ME? I know I need to tease it out. I know I am nicer to myself when I realize that I have a disease that defines me but doesn’t dominate me.

 

It is not my brain beating me up. It is the voice of my illness. And my illness is such a bitch! My therapist calls that voice “the gremlin” and sometimes she is so fucking loud she drowns out everything else. But she lies. She LIES. And I know that.

 

Tonight, I say to that poisonous, hideous gremlin, who cannot help but rear her nasty head whenever I feel, even for a second, doubtful, not only “fuck that,” but “FUCK YOU.”

 

That is all.

[Some] Goals for 2016

I won’t post every goal I have for 2016 because I doubt you care what my financial plans are, but here are the goals I have related to my health and wellbeing:

Body

Get back on track with dieting (DASH)

Cut down on dessert consumption and late-night snacking

Restart Cto5K program and complete by the end of the year

Keep changing out old clothes (particularly t-shirts) for new, more professional, and better fitting clothes

 

Mind

Feel more self-confident in my body and as an adult woman

Stand in my power!

Trust my gut

Practice better self-discipline to decrease bad habits and increase good habits

Maintain positivity

Free myself from excessive guilt

Do what’s hard if it is what’s right

Treat myself as I treat others—show myself love, kindness, and compassion

Let go of the past

Focus on acknowledging and feeling present joy

Do more living and less waiting

Allow myself to experience intense emotions

Work on lowering my embarrassment about crying

Speak out more about my illness to combat my shame

Continue to ask for help when I need it

Handle Social Security dealings with more confidence, patience, and peacefulness

Spend more time doing things I know make me happy like dancing and writing

Work on finding the balance between doing too much and doing too little

Keep making goals for my future

 

Treatment

Be open to continuing to tweak my medications as needed

Work back down my Saphris only when I can, not only when I want to

Continue with DBT and practice skills more frequently

Continue in group therapy

Do more reading on the subject, in both books and online articles, to be more knowledgeable about my disease and the progress being made in medical care

 

As I said in an earlier post, I don’t expect to fulfill all of these goals; I think that might be impossible. I just wanted to write down every possible thing I wanted to be better about/better at. (Do you like how one of my goals is to keep making goals?) If I only achieve a handful of these I’ll be happy. I will say that these are my top three:

Feel more self-confident in my body and as an adult woman

Free myself from excessive guilt

Focus on acknowledging and feeling present joy

Emotional Depth (What’s Been Going On Lately)

This thing keeps happening to me where, in reaction to something, I feel things that should, seemingly, be in conflict with one another. And this could be baffling, but it’s not. It makes total sense to me. Perhaps it’s a product of getting older, getting wiser, but I notice that my emotions are so much more complex than I ever realized and the richness of that is as exciting as it is overwhelming. But again, it feels natural. A younger me would scoff “How can you possibly feel those two things at the same time?” But one feeling doesn’t cancel out another; it’s not that simple.

 

Example: One of the things I am trying to do that I believe will be enormously beneficial is push myself to “get out there” more. By this I mean both be more social and make myself responsible and accountable for more things. To that end, I recently signed up to help the organizer of a group I attend plan future meetings. Every meeting I go to she mentions that she could use some help and every meeting I limit my involvement to attendance. But at the last meeting, I found myself putting my name down on the sign up sheet I’ve always passed up before.

 

As soon as I put my name down, I wished I hadn’t. I was instantly nervous. I don’t know how to organize things! Especially THESE kind of things! I don’t want to talk to people I don’t know! What if I mess up and they dislike me? What if I do what I always do—take on too much, then crumble and have to back out and let people down? But here’s the thing: even as I silently panicked, I felt certain it was going to be good for me. Even if it was an awful experience, it would be good for me.

 

Last week, the group leader asked me to meet up with her. I readily agreed, still feeling nervous. I told my mother about it, knowing she would be happy that I was, indeed, getting out there more, and what I said about it was, “I really regret signing up, but I’m looking forward to it.” Huh? I don’t know if this happens to you, but sometimes I don’t know what I’m feeling or thinking until it comes out of my mouth. This was one of those times. But as soon as I said it, I knew that’s exactly how I felt. I predicted all the many ways that meeting could turn out to suck. I even practiced, out loud like a weirdo, what retorts I would have if something nasty were said to me, or if I felt I was being bulldozed. And in addition, I was excited to go. Granted, it was much easier to imagine all the negative outcomes than the positive (no surprise there), but I knew—even if this meeting IS terrible, I will have met a goal. Afterwards, I can say, Well, I got out there. And I also knew that it wouldn’t stop me from continuing to try to get out there. So mature, right?

 

And that…not duality, because regret and excitement are not polar opposites, but that…emotional depth has increased, or at least my awareness of it has increased. And now I’m seeing it with everything.

 

I spend so much of my time existing on extremes (manic! depressed!) and, taking it further, categorizing myself by extremes: Life is so GOOD right now! Life is the WORST right now! and most of the time, it’s somewhere in between. Younger me would categorize this in between state as “bad” because if the majority of it isn’t good, then it can’t be qualified as good at all. Like there’s a scale. As if!

 

Current me feels differently. Take today as an example. Current me says, Today I accidentally killed a young deer that jumped out in front of my car when I was on the freeway and I cried for a very long time and it is so terrible that that happened, but also today, after I calmed down, I sat in my room with the lights off and I put on a Christmas song by Bing Crosby and my cat, who is never a lap-cat, came and lay down in my lap and I felt happy for the length of that song. Now, O.K., three minutes and ten seconds compared with several hours may not seem like very much, but those minutes and seconds STILL COUNT. Current me says, each day (of recent days) is neither good nor bad. It’s just…a day.

 

Now maybe you’re thinking “WELL DUH,” but seriously, I’m just starting to get that. And the more I get it, the better I feel.

 

I recently made a list of goals for 2016. And I wasn’t very realistic about it; there are 19 items in the “mind” section alone. I just wrote down everything I could possibly think of that I want to change for the better and high on the list is this: Focus on acknowledging and feeling present joy.

 

I will go into detail about this another time, but I had almost two years that felt perfect. I’m not putting a rosy spin on them—they WERE fucking perfect. I have never been so happy in my entire life. I was happier than I ever, in my wildest dreams, thought I could be. It was shattering.

 

That ended around July. And since then I feel like I’ve been banging my head against a wall hating this time of my life so much because of what it is not. And it is natural that I grieve. It is natural that at times I feel so desperate to return to that place I can barely hold back screaming. But that place is in the past. I have to stop comparing now to then. And one of the ways I can do that is to remember that there is still light and joy in my life. Things are not nearly as light and joyful as they were. (And when I say “not nearly” I mean “not at all damn close.”) But they exist. And instead of ignoring them, I’m going to focus on them and feel them and then say, “That was a really good thing that just happened.” Tiny as it may be.

 

I can feel sorrowful about what I’ve lost and still love what’s happening now. At least, I’m working on it.

My History (2005-2009)

I got sick when I was 19 years old, the summer before my second year of college. The very first day I was sick was my birthday. On my 19th birthday I smoked a lot of weed and then felt like I was going to die. The weed wore off, but the paranoia remained and quickly grew into certainty: I knew I was going to die and soon. I didn’t know how, but it was going to happen and there was nothing I could do about it but be terrified. This went on for many months. I kept my fears and resulting panic attacks hidden because I knew something was terribly wrong with me (though I had no clue what it was) and I was afraid my parents would commit me if they found out. I was less and less successful at keeping things hidden as they became more and more intense. My parents did not commit me; they helped me to find a therapist.

 

That therapist diagnosed me with OCD. She admitted that didn’t really “fit” since I had zero compulsions, but that was the closest she could get. Here are a few things I can tell you about the time when everyone thought I had OCD:

 

I stopped driving my car as much as possible because I knew I would die in a car accident.

I locked myself in my house for a full two weeks because if I stepped outside the house I knew I would be murdered.

I dropped my parents off at the airport, knowing they were about to die in a plane crash. I went home, crawled in their empty bathtub with a shirt of my mom’s and wept with grief. They called me a few hours later telling me they were fine.

One night I spent at my parents’ house I woke in a panic hearing the sound of scratching on the window. I knew it was a terrorist planting a bomb. I sobbed, waiting with horror for it to go off. It was the cat, wanting to be let in.

My therapist started “exposure therapy” with me, wherein I was forced to expose myself to my fears time and time again until my brain caught up and realized there was nothing to be afraid of. My exposure therapy included listening to a tape recorded by my therapist, saying: “Katie, I want you to think about death. You fear being killed, and having your death be violent and horrific, painful and disgusting. You fear being in a coffin with maggots crawling all over you, eating away at your flesh. You fear that your soul will be trapped, confined, and controlled, with no freedom after death. And worst of all, you fear that it could happen at any moment, sooner rather than later. You fear dying young. You fear that there’s no way that you’ll be prepared because you’ll still have this fear, and having this fear will make your death even worse. But you have to accept that this could happen. You might, in fact, die young or be killed.”

I spent a lot of time sitting in graveyards.

 

 

My fear mostly went away. It became clear I didn’t have OCD, just a lot of anxiety and “ups.” Then came a very serious depression. I decided, with nudgings from concerned friends and family, to try taking some medication.

 

The first psychiatrist I saw was a bit of a hippie, and wore horrible, baggy, wildly colorful wool sweaters in every visit, regardless of the weather. He was awful. But since he was my first psychiatrist, I thought he was what I should expect. Here is how he was awful:

 

He told me I was not a “real” writer and would never be because I didn’t carry a pencil on me at all times.

For depression he prescribed reading biographies of Abraham Lincoln and Ghandi.

He told me to stop listening to the weird “electric” music I liked and listen only to classical music.

He told me that he didn’t believe my depression was as bad as I said it was because I didn’t cry in his appointments. He said I was lacking “passion,” and because of this he didn’t take me seriously.

 

Here is a journal entry I wrote about that psychiatrist: “I paid Blumbug $40 to tell me to watch William Hurt movies. Awesome.”

 

During this time, I struggled with bouts of mania (I didn’t know they were manic episodes then) where I would max out my credit card buying expensive gifts for myself and my friends. I would do reckless things like have one-night stands with people I didn’t like, and drink heavily while taking medication I wasn’t supposed to mix alcohol with. Along with these bouts came a beautiful feeling of euphoria that, to this day, is one of the best feelings I’ve felt.

 

My manic episodes were always short, sometimes as short as a few days, never longer than a week, and were followed immediately by depressive episodes. These would typically last for several months. So I was mostly depressed for three years, from when I was 19 until I was 22. Here are only a few things I will tell you about my depression:

 

I was very upset (at the time) to discover that cutting myself provided no relief. I didn’t feel any pain. I felt nothing. No rush. No blissful distraction. After a few tries, I gave up.

I worked very hard to pretend that I wasn’t dangerously miserable all of the time.

I came close to suicide.

One of the things that kept me from suicide was a strong feeling that I was already dead. Losing my life felt pointlessly redundant. I cannot explain this very well because it never made much sense to me, but that’s how I felt.

The other thing that kept me alive was a friend of mine whom I saw as pure and innocent. I felt if I killed myself I would kill a part of her, too, and I couldn’t do that.

I sobbed so many damn times. Ugly, loud, snot-filled, belly-quaking, disgusting sobs.

I lost all hope.

It was the worst time of my entire life and while it wasn’t every day for three years, it felt like every day for ten.

 

During this time, I tried the following medications:

Xanax

Klonopin

Buspar

Prozac

Zoloft

Effexor

Wellbutrin

Remeron

Lamictal

Abilify

 

My current doctor, whom I first started to see in the summer before my fifth year of school, prescribed the last two drugs on that list. I knew he was the right doctor for me because:

 

At our first visit he asked me if he could read my poetry.

He correctly diagnosed me with bipolar disorder, type two. (It all finally fit together. It is both damning to receive such a diagnosis, as bipolar disorder is a life-long illness, and relieving to know that I’m not alone.)

 

Lamictal, which is a mood stabilizer, finally pulled me out of the pit. Lamictal can cause a deadly rash (I know, crazy right?) and I was going to go on a fairly high dose so I had to work my way up very, very slowly. I mean like three months slowly. And in those three months I hung on by a thread. I was ready to commit myself. Once, I went to the hospital with the intention to commit myself, but backed out. I was ready to drop out of college, knowing I might never go back and finish. I didn’t have hope, but I did have stubbornness and I made myself wait those three months to give this medication a try, a medication suggested to me by the only doctor I ever trusted. And damn, it worked. It worked and worked and I finished college and on the day I graduated I cried so hard that I greatly embarrassed myself, but I couldn’t help it—I’d survived. I’d survived and then some.

 

Life has had many ups and downs since then. I’ve had more manic episodes, I’ve had more depressive episodes, and I will tell you about them. But the time I’ve been describing is the foundation for everything that came after and for that reason, I want to be detailed about it.

 

I will leave you with this: When I graduated college at age 23 I was extremely happy. I had come out of everything alive. I was prepared to flourish. I thought, as my parents also thought (and I’m using their words here), that I had “solved the bipolar problem.” I thought it was all behind me, but it wasn’t. It will never be “all behind me.” That much is clear to me now.

 

I am tempted to add something else here, to try and end this post on a positive note, but I told myself I wanted this blog to be representative of my truth, and my truth, in this exact moment, is: it really fucking sucks to have bipolar disorder and to have your entire life change so drastically right when you’re getting ready to start it. I didn’t have it all figured out, but I had a pretty good idea about who I was and where I was going and what all I could expect to achieve. I was dead wrong about all of it.

Names for My Blog

I’ve written my first two blog entries, but was waiting to post them because first and foremost I need a blog title. I asked around to my parents and friends and here are some of the interesting suggestions we all came up with, organized by category:

 

Bipolar and Writing

Bipolar Poetess

The Bipolar Diaries (I vetoed this immediately on the grounds that I feel about the word “diary” like some people feel about the word “moist.”)

 

Puns

Bipole Dancer (Believe it or not, this was suggested by my step-dad.)

 

Travel

Whistle Stops on the Crazy Train (Believe it or not, this was suggested by my mom.)

The Bipolar Express

Bipolar Voyages (My mom: “You couldn’t really call this a cruise though, could you?”)

 

Cats

The Seriously Crazy Crazy Cat Lady (This was my contribution. My mom pointed out that if I named my blog this and didn’t frequently post cat pictures, I’d lose crazy cat lady readers and I do NOT want to alienate that group, since I’m one of them.)

Cat-a-Tonic (My step-dad had to work hard to explain this one: “You know, you need to heal and you have cats and cats can be like a tonic” to which I replied, “But ‘catatonic’ means you’re unable to speak,” to which HE replied, “Maybe that’s why you’re WRITING a BLOG.”)

 

Baking

Crumbles from a Bipolar Cookie

Variant: Crumbles from a Bipolar Kooky

 

Speaking Out

Bipolar Shout-Out

The Bipolar Broadcast

Stigma? Schmigma (This is one of my favorites.)

 

?

Bipolartry

 

After much brainstorming, I settled on The Bipolar Verses. YEP. That’s the one!