The alarm clock is buzzing but I can’t get out of bed. I have no will or desire to do so. A weighted blanket of depression covers me and chains me to the mattress. I’m desperate to force it off but I’m not strong enough. Not today, anyway. The weight is too heavy to bear and some days are just shit.
On my worst days I’m frightened of everything. I’m frightened to leave the house. I’m scared of what may happen to me. I feel unsafe in every direction I turn. I’m afraid I’ll become ill. I’m afraid someone will hurt me.
I blink, I’m still depressed. I sit up, I’m still scared. I consider getting help but I have no interest in engaging with others.
I fantasize what it would be like for my feet to touch the floor. It’s near impossible to function. It pains me to move. My body aches, my head is pounding, muscles tender as if they’re bruised. I plead silently to myself to get up, but I don’t. I’m drowning, deeper and deeper into the bottom of the sea I go.
Medication management has recently become a part of my treatment plan for Bipolar disorder. Each night at bedtime I swallow a little white pill. The pill has side effects.
I’m no longer hungry due to nausea. I become clumsy and smash my finger, an injury that requires stitches. I break two toes, an injury that requires they be set back into place. My body wants to sleep all day while my brain wants to stare at the ceiling all night. My focus becomes intense, so intense that I develop tunnel vision. I’m no longer aware of what is going on around me.
I think the medication is working. The feeling of sadness starts to taper away.
So do the feelings of love, curiosity, passion and desire. So do the feelings of frustration, anger, irritation and hostility. All of the natural feelings humans experience are gone. I feel nothing, not even the emptiness of feeling nothing. This is how I know the pill is working. I weigh my options. Side effects or misery? Too many emotions or emotionless?
I manage to get up. I’m standing in the kitchen staring out the window. The sky is a rich shade of blue and the clouds look as if they’ve been placed faultlessly. The vibrant green tree tops sway in the wind. Their color contrasts with the boldness of the sky.
It’s like I’m looking at a photograph. It’s not real. It can’t be. I can’t touch it or breathe it in. I stand there gazing at the view, blank minded. The kittens chase each other on the floor. They circle my feet.
I get lost in the sky.
I forget to eat.
The doctor increases my medication dose to 20 milligrams, hopeful the increase will level me out. A day goes by, then a week. It will be ten days before it kicks in. The weight lifts but I’m a hollowed shell again. I’m hopeful there will be change. I want to be productive. I want to accomplish things.
What I want most is to feel normal, although I have no idea what that means.
I’m in a spell where the medication has brought me out from the darkness and I’m alive. I float up to the surface and gasp for air.
No one can judge me or feel sorry for me now. I’m not that dejected person. My goal for the medication is to help me function and I’m functional. I sit at my desk in the study and write.
I read Martha Gellhorn’s, The Trouble I’ve Seen.
I dance around the living room to Bright Eyes and the Avett Brothers.
I fix broken things.
I sit with my husband on the porch. We watch the sunset together.
I walk laps around the pond with my son.
I eat chocolate cake.
Before the medication I exhausted a list of non-pharmaceutical possibilities. I took a yoga class. I learned how to meditate. I did 50 jumping jacks an hour to spike endorphins. I stopped eating processed foods. I got adjustments by the chiropractor twice a week and let him stick acupuncture needles in my head. I participated in Cognitive Behavioral therapy.
Each only provided temporary relief. On the days I’m capable I grasp for all I can do to make it better, to make it bearable.
There’s a willingness when you’re desperate, a willingness to do anything.
I read on the internet that a pet can help maintain mental health disorders with their love, companionship and need for attention. So I got another kitten.
I now have eight cats.
They’re cute, cuddly and entertaining. They’re also so kind as to lay in bed with me when I don’t want to get up. They are equally as unmotivated as I am. An enabling feature the internet didn’t tell me about.
Days pass and the weight continues to dissipate. I swallow the pill and lay down in bed. I stare up at the glow of the universe projected onto the ceiling from a night light.
I look at the clock. Its 1:00 am, then 2:20 am, and now 3:42 am. The insomnia has gotten worse since the dosage increase. My body is weary but my mind is calm. It’s onerous to choose between the two, my sanity or sleep.
The sun rises and I leave the house. My intention is to head into town. My heart is racing, body wired on exhausted energy. I spend the drive down the hill catastrophizing. I contemplate making a u-turn and going home but I can’t bring myself to do it.
I have to get to the market. I have a family to take care of. The 0.8 mile from door to door brings angst. I devise a plan. I’ll move at a rapid pace through the store. I’ll keep my eyes fixated on the floor. No one will speak to me.
I can do this. I can.
I load up the packages in the back of the pickup. I force a sigh. I start up the engine and get back on the road. I convince myself it wasn’t so bad. I convince myself I can stop at the hardware store on the way back up to the house. I’ve been meaning to fix the plaster in the entry way to the main floor for months. I can do it now.
I convince myself I can go into the library and check out a book. There is no safer place than the library. I’m surrounded by adventure and every story is an escape from my own reality. I can walk up and down the aisles and shuffle through the pages of topics that intrigue me. You can do it, I tell myself. But I don’t.
Instead, I pull over to the side of the road. My limbs tingle and I suffocate inside my lungs. I attempt to breathe deep, hoping it will send oxygen to all my organs and calm me.
Breathe into the count of four, hold to the count of seven, exhale to the count of eight. Repeat.
The world on the other side of the windshield shrinks and transforms into shades of vinaigrette until all I see are my hands and the steering wheel.
The knot in my stomach tightens. I push the driver side door open, arch my body so my head is hanging outside the truck and vomit right there on the side of the road.
I’m okay now. I’m still alive. I can breathe again. I slam the truck door shut, break down and cry.
The sadness may have emptied but the anxiety creeps in. I call the doctor’s office and ask to increase the dosage. The medication is working at home but I feel panic once I cross outside my doorway, I say.
Maybe if I take more I can adjust in the world again. The dosage increase will also cause a side effect increase. It’ll be similar to starting the medication regime over again.
The doctor explains there is medication I can take to subside the side effects of the medication I take, but that medication also has side effects.
He explains that my symptoms are common but his words are just words. An average of 15 million people take antidepressants, yet I still feel entirely alone. I want to go home and get back in bed, wrap myself in the blanket and give up, but I don’t.
I keep trying.
Over time it gets better. I get better. The medication brings solace. For the most part I’m a high functioning individual but there are still days I struggle.
I get through them.
The antidepressant referred to in this story is Lexapro.
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