Returning

I haven’t felt myself lately. Where “lately” is “the last nine months or so.” Maybe longer. I was so sick last spring semester that perhaps the depression was already at play, earlier than I thought, masquerading with physical symptoms. In fact, it seems likely.

(The good news about this is I’m slowly re-adding soy to my diet and with no ill effects!)

I first recognized it yesterday after I signed up to volunteer at an event in February. In days past, this would not be something of note, as I was frequently volunteering in some way or another. But in the past six months, I’ve been afraid to leave my bedroom, much less go somewhere public to volunteer. Not only that, but signing up to volunteer required me to answer questions like, “Describe your level of experience working with people with disabilities.” I didn’t write a Nobel Prize-winning essay to be sure, but a month ago, even two sentences would have seemed impossible.

I started walking home from school on days where it is nice (read: not raining and above 25*F) and running for 20 minutes with a toddler doesn’t tire me out to the point of being incapacitated the rest of the day. I can arrive on campus early and tolerate being around people for the “extra” time. I speak out, take the lead in discussions. I make witty reparte’. I look at what remains of my schooling and think, “This is do-able.”

I sit down in front of a blank page and can find a way to put words on it.

I am returning to myself, slowly but surely.

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Unexpected Vacation

I mean, if that’s what you want to call two weeks in the hospital. I’ll spare you details, but it was a couple days in ICU, then I got transferred to a locked facility which, so far as those things go, is a rather nice one. And I wasn’t made to wear the turtle suit, which was a welcome surprise.

I also had my own room and bathroom, which was great since I am not a people person, but really poorly planned in terms of safety. I had to have a “bodyguard” occasionally, but otherwise was free to “move freely about the cabin” as it were. For the post part, this wasn’t an issue and my room was just a place to escape the din of the dayroom and/or sleep, but I couldn’t help thinking about how easy it would be to use eating disorder behaviours while there. To my credit, I didn’t (much), but it was certainly tempting.

Overall, it was just a long, long stay and it is nice to have returned to the real world, where I can buy a diet coke and drink it at any time of the day and be trusted with pens not be forced to eat dinner at 5 pm, which is entirely too early. (But really. And the ward below us ate dinner at 4:15! I would have just lost it.) Unfortunately, the depression hasn’t abated much, and there is now the added issue of schoolwork. (Work-work I am eager to return to.)

The stress of this semester certainly played into this episode, though I can’t blame it all on that. On the whole, my self-care and taking time for me have been far superior to any other time in my life. This is a lot chemical, and I know that, but we still have no idea how to get me out of this pit. I’ve been on just about everything, which is why it begins to seem hopeless.

The doctor tried one medicine in the hospital that made me a bit hypomanic and so the doctor discontinued it immediately, much to my dismay. After many days of raised voices and complaints and me giving in by “taking” (er, cheeking) the medication he was so set on, he finally agreed to let me try this drug again. I told the doctor that I am not looking to be hypomanic all the time – I know that is not sustainable. But I’ve been maxed out on the only two antidepressants that ever worked for me for over two years. I don’t want to be hypomanic – I just want to get up in the morning and not kill myself.

All that to say, I have returned to school. And if my anxiety about school were high IN the hospital, it seems to be even higher out here. Mainly, just being on campus is throwing me into a bit of a panic, as I have class in an hour or so and am no doubt going to have to answer a number of questions. I really don’t know that I can handle all of that right now.

But I don’t really have much of a choice, do I? Onwards and (hopefully) upwards.

Meltdown in T-30 Seconds

Okay, so I’m exaggerating slightly.  However, I am having a small panic attack at the thought of going to a “Welcome Potluck!” that starts in 40 minutes.

Surprisingly, this panic attack has absolutely nothing to do with the food.  I’m totally cool on that account.  People have posted what they’re bringing on the event page on Facebook to ensure that nobody brings the same thing.  Handy, right?  So now I can get some idea with what food I’m faced with before I go.  

The panic is directly related to the fact that I am going to have to be around people.  People I don’t know.  People who don’t know me, save for what they’ve seen on my Facebook (which is basically, “Hey!  I’m a nut job!  I have an eating disorder!”).  I left graduate orientation this afternoon shaking after having spent an hour with 250 of my closest friends.  I was literally shaking as I walked down the stairs.

I tried to go to the library and check out a book for class so I could begin reading and was immediately confused by the library layout.  I walked in and tried to log onto a computer and couldn’t. So I got up and left the library barely 2 minutes after I walked in, sure that people were looking at me as if I were the biggest idiot in the world.  (That cognitive distortion is called “mind reading,” y’all.)  I followed the sign that said “stairs” and still never.found.the.stairs.  But I didn’t want to turn around and look like a fool in front of the one girl who was sitting in the atrium and not paying attention to me at all.

So I continued on to my car, probably looking something like a Parkinson’s patient with all the shaking I was doing.  I got to my car and opened it and immediately downed a milligram of klonopin — which my psychiatrist said “should put me to sleep,” but in fact has done absolutely nothing to reduce my anxiety over the past 30 minutes.

I highlighted the section about the Office of Disability Services as we were in orientation, wondering if my vast array of diagnoses ought to be declared should anything happen during the semester.  However, this level of anxiety is, in fact, limiting my ability to function and thus — I probably ought to ask for some help with that.  (I should also probably find a new psychiatrist who will prescribe me medications that actually have some effect.) 

So, yeah.  How far do I go in asking for accommodations?  What are “reasonable accommodations” when you’re anorexic, bipolar, generally anxious and could, at any moment, lose your shit?  Or maybe I’ll keep it all together nicely by using my new coping skills.  (Blogging is one of them, BTW.)  The point is, I DON’T KNOW WHAT COULD POSSIBLY HAPPEN THIS SEMESTER.

But if today is any indication, treatment didn’t CURE ME OMG! — it just helped me to be able to deal with it.  And what if dealing with it looks like asking for help?

 

Before you ask, YES, I’m still on my meds

This post is going to be utterly incomprehensible.

My brain is running a million miles a minute, focusing on everything and nothing.  My head pounds.  My stomach growls.  My hands shake and tremor.  My feet tap an anxious rhythm, one that betrays my exterior.

I have spent the past two weeks trying to hang on despite a depression that threatened again and again to land me in the hospital once more.  And now, on the flip side, my body still sluggish, my thoughts still dark, this race of energy appears.  I am up at all hours of the night, thinking, writing, composing in my head.  None of it makes it to paper because I am too exhausted and depressed to move my body and get my computer.  I am up in the middle of the night in near panic, sure that my brain is being pulled in two, that there are no way these racing, hyperproductive thoughts can coexist with the thoughts of death and destruction.

Tired but wired.

This is a phenomena that has plagued me through school, the full extent of its meaning not hitting until yesterday afternoon when I sat in a Books A Million reading.  Reading and trying to decide whether my psychiatrist’s latest diagnosis is at all valid.  No family history.  Fewer than three hypomanic episodes.  Majority of the time spent in crippling depression.  Surely, he’s wrong.

As it turns out, the symptoms still match.  It’s not uncommon to spend less than 1% of the time in hypomanic episodes.  Heredity plays a large part, but is by no means 100% the cause.  The majority of those with bipolar II will spend more time depressed.  And more and more research is showing that mixed episodes will occur not just in bipolar I, but bipolar II as well.

I tried to craft this entire post without ever mentioning the phrase “bipolar” — I have, in fact, known for years that it is a very strong possibility given my history.  My therapist in college mentioned the possibility.  The psychiatrist in Florida maintained a “rule-out” diagnosis on my forms for my entire stay at Renfrew.  I have, on my own, mapped my moods across months and years, figured out triggers for my hypomanic episodes, found ways to maintain a sufficient level of functioning when I am at my most depressed.  But I still don’t like the label.

And I know it’s just a quick way to explain how my brain is wired.  It’s a way to explain to multiple doctors and therapists and whoever else the way that my brain works, why it flips so often from dreams of writingandlovingandmakingadifferenceintheworld to dark visions of razor blades and bottles and pills.  It’s a starting point in figuring out what sort of cocktail of drugs I’ll need to be on for the rest of life just to maintain some grip on sanity (not to mention recovery).

My head is screaming.  My body is tired.  I feel like I am but an observer, watching my life spiral out of control and wondering how the heck the stop the seemingly unstoppable turn of events.

Throughout this, I am aware that my ED and moods play off each other.  Nothing (historically) is more likely to send me into a hypomanic episode than starving and lacking sleep.  Depression leads to loss of appetite.  Prolonged starvation begins to affect my sleep, spinning it from the 12 hours a night of depression to the 3 or 4 broken hours of sleep I can manage when I am fully entrenched in my ED.  Finally, my brain short-circuits and I experience the worst of both worlds – depression mixed with agitated anxiety and extreme energy mixed with a brain that is constantly plotting the next skipped meal, the next pound lost.

So when I say that I have no idea how to stop this downward spiral, that’s not entirely true.

Dinner might be a start.