As in manic-depression, or bipolar. I bet y’all thought it was gonna be dog or dogs considering my last two posts were about two of my furbabies, but no, today is a more serious topic. I love my furbabies, but I can’t talk about them for
28 26 days (grumble grumble Dyscalculia). Anyway, depression has been a part of my life for a long time. A very long time. I was diagnosed officially with manic-depression back when I was 19, and was in the throes of postpartum depression after the birth of my second kid. I’m fairly sure I developed my bipolar (as it’s called now) some time around age 16, because that’s when my peers started accusing me of doing drugs. I’ve never done illegal drugs, dear reader. Once I figured out that my brain was not firing correctly I decided that drugs would be a bad thing and just never touched them. Not even to experiment. Okay, when pot became legal in Washington a couple of years ago, then I tried it for the first time — because I heard it worked for pain — found out it did nothing for me and stopped. Anyway, my rapid and sudden changes in mood where a clear symptom of either drug use, multi-personality disorder (as it was called back then, and I knew I didn’t have that), or manic depression. So said the books I read on the subject when I was trying to figure out what was going on with my bad self. ^_^
That was… 36 years ago. 36 years is a long time to live with a miswired brain. A long damned time dear reader. For the first, I dunno, 20 or so years, I was unmedicated because I was young and stupid and thought, I’m strong, I can beat this with a good diet, exercise, and a strong will. Mind over matter and all of that.
That didn’t always work out so great. Let me tell you what that got me in the end — Two failed marriages and two adult children who will have nothing to do with me because of my mental shenanigans. My youngest two kids still keep in touch, so there’s that. But I drove a lot of people out of my life with my madness. At least I only ended up in the nuthouse once (due to the aforementioned postpartum depression). That’s… not a pretty story. But it did end up with me being diagnosed formally with “manic-depression” and kind-sorta started me on my way to recovery. I say kinda-sorta because I was still young and stupid and thought I could “beat this thing” on my own. And, I never ended up in jail. So kudos for that I guess. Walking through life with bipolar hasn’t been easy, but I did my best. I didn’t, and don’t always make the right decisions, and bipolar colors just about everything I do, even though I’m on the right meds. But you know what? After 36 years with it, I’m learning to at least carry it with me instead of carry it like a burden.
For me, depression is like a heavy, wet, woolen blanket that I can’t shake free of. It smothers me, and colors everything I do. It’s itchy and cold. And if you think that’s not oppressing, I invite you to find a heavy wool blanket, soak it in cold water, keep it wet and walk around with it draped over you for a day or two. Try getting dressed, cooking, taking care of the kids, and doing any kind of chores with that blanket draped over you. Then try explaining to anyone who asks why you have a blanket on you. Depression is like that. Because I can’t always explain why I’m depressed. Sometimes, I just am. It’s a chemical imbalance in the brain. Sometimes my depression is situational. Someone has died, or I saw a sad movie that made me cry, and that’s made me sad and the sadness morphs into depression. And sometimes, the brain just flips a switch and bam! I am depressed for no particular reason at all. And for me, it flips a switch again and bam! I am manic.
As a side note, I’ve always like hyperbole and a half’s take on depression too. It’s pretty spot on. Read the second part too. That’s kind of how hypomania feels… with the hate and the uncontrolled laughter… a little… but not quite.
Mania, dear reader, comes in several flavors. For me, it comes in two — hypomanic euphoria and manic paranoia and/or rage. Oh the trouble I got into whenever I was hypomanic and/or manic. And man, do I not miss being either of these. Euphoria is great and all, but the whole “I can take on the world” business just… well it leads to really bad decisions, let’s just leave it there, shall we? Luckily for me, I tend more towards the hypomania than pure mania. Also, luckily for me, I’m what’s known as a rapid cycler. I say it’s lucky because I was never in any extreme long enough to do too much lasting damage. I mean I only landed into the nuthouse once, as I mentioned, and I stayed out of jail. I was only fired from one job, and I got really good at hiding my moods from co-workers and family. But, that took some time, which is why I have the two older kids who won’t talk to me. And it’s pretty damned hard to hide a deep-deep depression and a severe mania. I’m betting I wasn’t as good at that as I thought. Still, I stayed relatively employed and record-free through all of it. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t fun, and I didn’t and don’t have a close circle of friends because of my mental madness. But cycling out of a deep depression before I could do the unthinkable is why I’m still here to write this to y’all today. And cycling down from an extreme mania before I took a mallet to the walls of my apartment to look for the microphones I’m sure where in there sure saved me a lot of money in the long run. Living with a miswired brain isn’t fun or pretty, y’all. It’s not fun at all.
Anyway, that’s all in the past. It took quite a few years and a few missed shots, but me and a good psychiatrist got the right combination of medications back in 2005. I’m so glad I did too, because my life went to hell in a handbasket around 2006. You can bet your ass that if I hadn’t gotten my bipolar under control, I’d be in a completely different place now. There have been a lot of people who have come into my life since then too who insist that I can do better without these “chemicals” I take every day. And I tell them to fuck right off. I lived for decades without these medications. Decades. I know what I’m like without them. It’s not a pretty life. I don’t want to be that person again. While the Willow that I was back then wasn’t a bad person, she didn’t exactly live in the same world as I do now. So, I will take my crazy meds until they either stop working, or until I die. Whichever comes first. And if my crazy meds do stop working, I’ll hop back on the med-go-round until I’m “sane” again. Because I don’t miss carrying that wet blanket around with me. Nor do I miss wondering if “they” were listening and/or following me. And I certainly don’t miss the fun times of being both enraged and exhausted at the same time — also known as a mixed episode. Yay! If taking two little pills is what keeps all of that away, then I’ll gladly take them every single day of the week.