We’ll start with gambling, because it’s more straightforward. As much as I spend lots of money on things most people would consider frivolous or disposable (clothes, makeup, pens), I have never believed in the concept of throwing money away. To me, that’s exactly what gambling is. I could spend a buck and, against the odds and in my wildest dreams, wind up with hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of dollars because of it. I could also write a work of literature comparable to Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. I think the chances are about equivalent, because while I am a gifted writer, Mr. Heller himself made an assertion to the fact that nobody, not even he writes another book like that one. To finish the analogy, I have never so much as shelled out for a scratch ticket or put a quarter in a slot machine.
I used to say that I would be one of those individuals who never plays the lottery, then one day decides to buy a ticket and wins The Big One. But I got older and I lost whatever little seed of belief (and it was minuscule from day one) I had in this, because I know I won’t ever buy a lottery ticket. Besides, to me there’s just something unfair about that idea. You read about (or know) little old men who buy their tickets faithfully once a week. I want one of them to win big, not me. I know I can’t control the universe (or I’ll at least leave you all believing that), but I won’t contribute to them having less of a shot. Now if I could live my life in the films Casablanca, or Gilda, or anything of the type, my take on gambling would be entirely different, I suspect.
Medication adjustments. Anyone with a mental health issue, especially one as nebulous and individualistic as manic-depression, do it with me, *SIGH*. Most of us play with meds and combinations and dosages our entire lives. If we’re lucky, it gets less arduous as we learn what works for us and what doesn’t, but it isn’t ever completely over, not until the only thing you’re wearing is a toe tag.
I thought I was pretty well past the more intensive and uncertain phase of medication roulette. I hadn’t found a good combo, actually quite the contrary. Nothing in the treatment algorithms worked for me, nothing unusual and off-label worked for me, we went through combinations and dosages and different combinations and different dosages, and I had non-responses or intolerable side effects. Side effects being a whole different post, but not the kind you have to suck up and deal with in the name of euthymia. The kind that cause you to shatter one of your mother’s holiday plates because you set it down on the counter – you just perceived that the counter was three feet closer to you than it actually was. The kind that gives you such overall mental impairment that you are quite literally a zombie. You walk (sort of) and you talk (sort of) and your moods are controlled, but only because you are now so doped that it’s as though someone shot up your brain and body with a local anesthetic that didn’t remain localized. That’s not a life. That barely even qualifies as an existence.
I did have a few good medication reactions, rare as they were. I found something to act as a mood stabilizer – and I developed drug-induced parkinsonism. I found a thyroid supplement (as in prescription, not health food store supplement) that worked beautifully to obliterate my depression (I cannot even get a whiff of an anti-depressant, no matter how loaded up I am on mood stabilizers, I go through-the-roof manic) – until I wound up in the ER and it was discovered that I was so incredibly hyperthyroid that my heart could have fibrillated at any moment and I was extremely fortunate to not have already dropped dead.
So I came to terms with the fact that my moods would have to be managed with sub-par, unusual medication choices (Valium for mania, Phentermine for depression, most docs aren’t down with that), introduced and withdrawn with my moods. But mostly I would be my own medication – not “willing away” my symptoms, but always remaining just that much more vigilant, and altering my life accordingly. All bipolar individuals have to do this in varying degrees, but I had to do it more because it had become the only choice.
The only good to come out of this was that since there would be no ‘magic bullet’ for me, and since I had tried it all – no exaggeration, would you like my shrink’s number? – and kept detailed notes, I wasn’t going to have to be put through the wringer again as far as meds. Incidentally, while I use the term ‘magic bullet,’ I don’t mean for any of you to think that I think any manic depressive has their cure-all pill(s). But many, if not most, do have their standbys which they know they can take regularly with a positive effect, and their go-tos when they need something more. Me, I just happen to be wired a little differently even in the context of such a highly individualistic diagnosis.
Except while I was away, I became manic (And On The Next Day She Got Manic – an explanation of sorts, read and ‘enjoy’). Had I been in my own home, I probably would have been able to work to bring myself down. But I wasn’t, and I wasn’t going to ruin my time or spoil anyone else’s by letting my mania escalate further.
This post is getting much longer than I intended, so the very short version of what happened next and is happening now is this: I took a medication I didn’t especially want to, it made me better for a few days and then it made me much worse, and now I’m working with different meds to try to bring myself to a place where I can take over without them. Just because I have to manage mostly on what I have learned works for me in a non-pharmaceutical capacity, doesn’t mean that I don’t know when I need medicinal intervention, at least temporarily.
One last note – I don’t want for anyone reading this to think that I am 100% medication-free, because I’m not. My presentation is too severe, and I have found one or two things which I take daily to help me stay more level. But my particular regimen and condition are just the same as me and can be described with the same word, uniquity.
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