“I’ve Just Wakened Out Of A Nightmare”
Exactly one year ago today, I filed the above post on my personal blog, I Was Just Thinking. . . It was remarkable for many reasons, but the major one was it detailed what had happened to me two days prior.
On March 3rd, 2012, I went to bed in the midst of what had been a severe, protracted mood episode.
On March 4th, 2012, I woke up and I was well. And I don’t mean the mood episode had remitted, though it had. I mean I was well, better, no longer plagued by the spectres of bipolar and anxiety disorders.
I was not a mentally ill me, I was not a struggling or scared me, I was not even a medicated me. . . I was just me. Me ten years ago, before I had ever heard the words “bipolar disorder” associated in any way with myself, me when I could balance it all and do everything in my life so beautifully and flawlessly and it wasn’t an effort, not really at all.
Just like that, overnight. I still had to take my medications, of course, and during the past year I dealt with a number of challenges and acclimation, tweaking my dosages to treat the premenstrual dysphoric disorder stability unmasked in me, for starters. But I got my sea legs quickly, and I knew from that day on that I could handle anything.
It was a wonderful year. I was alive again, and I seized life with everything I had in my being. I was given something I had stopped hoping for entirely, I was given recovery beyond my wildest dreams, and I knew that I had finally made it. After the years of failed medications, failed talk, cognitive, and behavioral therapies, and the disaster that was my experience with ECT, I had a whole life suddenly spread wide in front of me, and I knew without doubt I would have it forever.
And I might have, too, if not for a completely unforeseen development about a month ago. In the course of one day, once again my life changed in a way that I had never even considered as being in the realm of possibility. I discovered that I could no longer take Carbatrol, my main mood stabilizer. Thus were my legs knocked brutally from beneath me.
I won’t lie and say I didn’t go into a panicked tailspin, because I did. I went from happy to a state one breath away from catatonic depression in five days. It ended with me blanked out in my PCP’s office, and he undoubtedly saved my sanity, my life, and my mind that day.
This man has known me for 17 years, and in all of my traumas since entering psychiatric treatment, I don’t think anything frightened him like what I presented with late that afternoon. He snapped me out of my withdrawn state quite violently, but I don’t think anything else would have done it, and I will be forever grateful to him.
I then got proactive with my very famous binder, filled with pages and pages of medication notes from years gone by. My meticulous record-keeping gave me a tool with which to feel empowered at my next psychiatric appointment. As far as my mental health history, I have tried every psychoactive drug (excepting most antidepressants, because they induce frightening and severe mania), as well as dozens outside that categorization, and every drug has failed me in one way or another. And so, as I put it, we are looking for the “least worst” solutions, and we are going to have to get extremely creative.
Round one was a flop. But somewhere along the way I latched on to that empowered feeling again, and I haven’t let go, and I won’t let go. One year ago today I wrote:
That’s something else that changed for me. I’m not living my life in fear anymore. I’m not putting into place backup plans that are only marginally better than the state they would get me out of. Less miserable is still miserable and I refuse to live my life accepting the presence of that spectre. Un-uh. Not me. Not anymore. Not ever again.
And I won’t. I may have been blindsided, but I refuse to settle for anything less than what I found I could in fact have: me. I’m fighting this with everything I have. I start my days now with yoga and kickboxing, because when I am alone with that bag, I am beating all life out of any feelings I may hold of anxiety, depression, frustration, and fear. I think I am really fighting ghosts that are making threats to emerge and try to terrorize me.
I have also turned to the unfailing wisdom of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to help me look at my life in the grand scheme of things, to quieten the anxiousness and dismiss the uncertainty. His Holiness has been my guide, my teacher, and my comfort since I was barely a teenager, and I find myself going back to him as the calm, safe refuge of my mind.
Thus I arm myself for this war once again. I didn’t expect it, but I know I can win.
“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead!
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favoured rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect.”
~ William Shakespeare, Henry V ~
© Ruby Tuesday and A Canvas Of The Minds 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ruby Tuesday and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
I do so love the St. Crispian’s Day monologue. I thought I was the only one who randomly quoted it!
Glad you’re back to fighting back, my dear.
I can’t take credit for knowing the whole thing. The first line I knew, and maybe I did know more of it once, because it immediately came to my mind when I knew I had this new war to engage in. But after reading (perhaps re-reading) the rest, I knew it was right for this, all of it, and I’m glad it struck a note with you.
And thank you. I’ll fight. I may get knocked to the ground momentarily, but I’ll always get back up and fight. It’s the only way I know.
Great news, Ruby. As FDR said: we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Having decided to free yourself of fear, you’ve taken a giant leap in your healing process. Supporting yourself with the teachings of the Dalai Lama and the writings of William Shakespeare: brilliant! xoxoM
Fear, anger, frustration, anxiety — they can all go to hell. I’ve learned over the years that His Holiness, William Shakespeare, and my good friends can offer me at least ten times the wisdom of any psychiatric text. Treating this illness will never be straightforward for me. Not that treating bipolar ever is, but for me, it’s so much less so. A novel illness requires novel treatment, and things like kickboxing, spending a lot of time alone with music and writing, even playing around with art — which has never been my thing, but I’m feeling a sudden yen for — in the company of The Artist herself, these are the building blocks of my foundation.
Thank you, as always, for your positivity and encouragement. xo
Exactly! I’ve been moved to spend time with The Artist recently, too. It’s an interesting journey! xoxoM
Except my Artist is a 13-year-old I used to nanny for (now we just hang out). I used to call her my Babygirl, but she got way too grown up, so I had to think of a new moniker for her. She has always been very into art, and amazingly creative, so she became The Artist Formerly Known As Babygirl, and then, soon after, I shortened it to simply The Artist. 🙂
And, so, The Artist has no limitations on expression! 😉 xoxoM
She and I complement each other well, because she does happen to be limited in her abilities for expression by parents who don’t get that piece of her. So I have taken to buying her art supplies, while she encourages me, who has nothing in the way of natural artistic ability.
Truly, a perfect match! My dear friend, Florence, helps me with the artistic expression piece, and I do my best to help her see her own splendor. Another perfect match! 😉 xoxoM
Sometimes the encouragement is important.
Dearest Ruby, encouragement, getting as well as giving, is ALWAYS important. How lucky are we to have it so close to hand? 😉 xoxoM
Indeed we are, Margarita.
You are an inspiration. I have such a hard time getting past my anxieties and conviction that I am useless. I am so glad you shared this. I wish and hope for the best for you.
You are kind to say so, but mostly I am just stubborn as hell. I decided long ago that I would not let this shit beat me, not any way, not any how, I would always get the last word.
Please don’t ever say you are useless. I know it often feels that way, but you are strong and inspiring yourself! Trust me, it isn’t every woman who can bring up a daughter who doesn’t get discouraged when her snow creations don’t go as planned, but decides instead to make some snow boobs for it! Those shows a certain type of chutzpah I have a hunch she got from you.
Thank you for your wishes and hopes. Those are mighty precious things, and they will help to carry me through.
Ok, not gonna let it beat me. Keep saying that…and thanks for making me smile. She does, indeed, have chutzpah, wherever she got it.
I have a sneaking suspicion suspicion she got it from her mama! 😉
What round is this? You’re my favourite boxer, and I sit ringside wearing your colours.
Sarah, I stopped counting long ago. But one of my very favorite (if not my absolute favorite) songs, one I have always felt described me was Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer”, so you nailed me with that one. And thank you for saying I’m your favourite. As for colors, they would have to be black and old gold like the Steelers/Pens/Pirates wear. 😉
Your bravery and your determination will get you through this. Don’t be afraid to lean on your friends when you need to and blog blog blog!
Thank you, starlight. I am certainly the most determined son-of-a-bitch you will ever know! And I have lots of good friends. Blogging is something I have to make more time for, things have made it difficult lately, but even when I’m not blogging, I’m journaling, so I have that, which helps immensely.
Sending lots of healing juju your way. And since you’re into His Holiness, you might want to check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pema_Ch%C3%B6dr%C3%B6n, a Tibetan Abbess who suffers from Chronic Fatigue Disorder and has written many books about dealing with adversity in positive ways that make your adversity into your ally. The first one of hers that I read was “When Things Fall Apart,” right in the middle of my divorce. It saved my life. I also listened to her audiotape, “Getting Unstuck.” That helped me to realize that the important thing is to keep moving. Writing this, I realize I need to go read and listen again! Keep on keepin’ on, my friend.
Thank you so much for your “healing juju”, Soul Survivor. His Holiness is someone who is really special to me for reasons beyond his teachings and philosophy. We met once (you can read about that life-altering encounter here), and our souls seemed to know each other. I have carried him with me ever since, and tried very hard to model my life upon his example. I’ll look into your recommendation, though. I’m so glad she has had such an intensely positive effect on your life. 🙂
Ms Ruby I have no doubt that you will kick some butt and win this war! I am cheering you on. 🙂
Red, you are sweet to me. With a cheering section that includes you, how could I do anything but succeed brilliantly? 😉
I love this. Love it. And the pictures – the one of you at the beach is the best! You look so happy and free. Hold onto that one. So glad you’re feeling some strength again.
Thank you so much, Alice. I wanted to put those pictures in to show everyone — myself included — how good it really was last year. I’m glad you like the beach picture. I was visiting my friend (whom I had known for four years, but only just met for the first time that very week) in Virginia Beach, and we just had the most relaxing, wonderful time together! It had been a long time since I had any “girl time”, and it probably will also be the last (her husband has returned from his deployment, and the third little girl she had growing in her tummy has since entered the world). Except the time I spend with The Artist now counts, as she somehow went from hanging out with a little kid I loved to hanging out with a girlfriend overnight, and it has just gotten better and better!
Anyway, I’m rambling. But thank you again for your support, and yeah, the strength has returned to me (mostly).
I can feel your resolve to keep fighting and to win. Good for you. I am cheering you on!
Janet, thank you so much. That means a great deal, as I wanted those who read this to feel exactly that: my determination, and my unwillingness to settle than anything less than total victory. And having you in my cheering section makes me feel so strong and cared for. I am so, so grateful!
I am a little ways behind you in that trip that threatens to take away the stability I have finally found. For me its lithium–it causes me to have a kidney disease. So far I can maintain it with meds, but one day I won’t be able to and I’ll have to stop the lithium. Took me 10 years to find the only drug that worked and worked well. I hope I can enter the battle to find the least evil replacement stabilizer as bravely and confidently as you have. Thanks for sharing this story!
Well, my advice to you would be to enjoy what you have while you have it, and deal with what happens next if and when it happens. Worrying yourself now is just spoiling the joy you have found. I’m very glad I didn’t know that my Carbatrol use had an expiration date — I enjoyed my time without shadow.
You are kind to say I am brave and confident, and I am sure if you have to deal with this type of situation, so will you be, because what other choice have we got? I’m certainly not going to curl up into a ball and die because of it, and I doubt you’d want to, either. Use this time to embrace life and build strength for what lies ahead, whatever it may be!
What can I say except that you’re an inspiration, Miss Ruby. As is your famous binder. I’m on my second day (I know…) of an SSRI and am working out what I think the ‘side effects’ are, looking weeks out into the future for the intended effects to solidify. And I’m taking notes (pen and paper, no less 🙂 ). But mostly you’re the inspiration – your fighting spirit is a model that we can all try to emulate.
Wow, Sid, you’re just. . . You are so incredibly kind to me. I never set out to inspire anyone, I just do what I do, and I certainly have a lot of less-than-inspiring times. But you telling me that, well it makes me want to live up to and deserve your high opinion, so thank you.
As far as taking med notes, good for you! As a rough guideline, I usually write down: Medication Name (brand and generic, but note which you’re taking specifically); Date(s) Prescribed; Reason(s) Prescribed; Dosage; Side Effects; Reason for discontinuation (if applicable); and any other relevant notes, like what I like(d) about it (even if I did d/c), if it was helpful, any especially serious reactions or side effects, etc.
Maybe I should write a post about that, hmm. . .
But I hope the medication helps, and I hope the note-taking helps. If nothing else, having all of that information at your fingertips is very empowering, and I think feeling empowered is HUGE in helping you to keep fighting when you’re otherwise lost and at loose ends.
When I read posts like this from you Ruby I just find myself loving you all over again my dear friend. I so appreciate your honesty, your fight and your ability to keep winning. And you do, even when the battle changes shape, direction or place. You get up and move on to it. As others have said, you are an inspiration and this is a much needed post I needed to read right now. Thank you 🙂
Define winning, Ken.
Thank you for this. Yes, I get up, I move on to it. There is no other path. I have to do it for myself, because I have a 13-year-old who is watching me very closely for cues on how to live her own life, and I want to show her the best way I know how.
I’m glad this post caught you at the right moment. It’s the first non-informational post I’ve been able to write for Canvas in months, so it needed to matter to me.