I had gotten cocky. I hadn’t had a bipolar episode in a long time and I thought I had gotten better (though I wasn’t about to go off my medications anytime soon). I thought my meds were solid, my brain was maturing and I’d remain as stable as I’d been, which wasn’t perfect but was getting the job done.
I did really well with the quitting smoking in the beginning – something about the nicotine patches made me feel a bit hypomanic when I had one on and it felt amazing. I had so much energy, felt so empowered, was very productive and the world felt like a magical place – like the universe was conspiring on my behalf. I knew it wasn’t a good thing though – what comes up must come down, and crash hard when it does, with bipolar disorder – so I called my doctor and told him what was happening. He said as long as I wasn’t doing anything reckless or self-destructive and was still sleeping my usual amount, he wouldn’t worry about it as he’d never heard of nicotine patches pushing anyone into a bipolar episode in his entire career as a psychiatrist. So I didn’t worry but I should have because I always get the weird side effects of a medication that almost no one else gets. Around Monday I started to crash. It was more subtle at first but then Tuesday was worse than Monday and Wednesday was way, way worse than Tuesday. I smoked a few-to-some cigarettes when my patch wasn’t on on each of those days. I relapsed, then I got back on the quitting horse, then I relapsed, then I got back on the quitting horse, repeat. I felt like myself with the patch off and a cigarette; I felt sane again.
By Wednesday I was fully back into depression. I was crying at random intervals, at everything – because I felt sad, because I didn’t know what I felt, because I was afraid of the future, because everyone I love is going to die someday, because it’s exhausting having a body and mind that don’t work as they are supposed to and need constant medication and monitoring, because Edward said something kind to me and I didn’t deserve his kindness, etc etc. I often couldn’t explain to Edward why I was crying because I often didn’t know. I just knew that I felt awful and life felt dark, scary, hard to impossible and hopeless. It felt like things were always going to feel this way – that’s one of the classic lies depression tells a person. I was a ball of anxiety. I wanted Edward to fix it (“it” being everything, “it” being the way I felt, “it” being me) but he knew he couldn’t. I also knew, rationally, that he couldn’t, but when I’m in depression I lose most of my rational thinking. I was needy, I was indecisive, I was insecure, I was raw and he felt frustrated because he felt powerless to help.
There’s a little story I found somewhere so long ago that I feel fits well here but I can’t figure out who the author is:
“When my nephew was about four years old, we were on a float trip. There was a bend in the river that felt a little bit scary to him, but he looked around and could see that everybody was calm. He stood up in the middle of the boat and yelled, ‘do something about something!’ I can’t tell you how many times I have felt like shouting, ‘do something about something!'”
Do something about something. Do something about anything. Make it stop. Make me okay. Make me better. Fill this awful void.
Thank god my doctor has an after-hours line and is generally pretty good about calling me back when I have a problem. I talked to him Wednesday night and he said to try using half a nicotine patch today and let him know if that worked better. He said if it didn’t we’d figure out something else. So that’s what I’m doing. I’m definitely craving cigarettes more with the half patch instead of the whole one, but I don’t feel the bipolar monster in my chest stirring – at least not yet, I only put the half patch on about two hours ago.
Sometimes I feel so much guilt and self-loathing for being; I feel guilt and self-loathing for being “how I am sometimes.” For getting depressed or anxious or any number of other negative emotions my brain has more of tendency to feel than the average person’s does. I feel guilty for all of the time Edward spends talking me down or through, trying to comfort me, asking me what he can do to help, just being with me, etc. I feel guiltier when he gets frustrated, when it happens when he needs to be studying, when I feel like a burden, when I feel I don’t deserve what he gives to me. So this morning I guilt-cleaned the apartment while he was at school. I shouldn’t have to guilt-clean though. What I mean to say is this: Yes, because he’s in medical school, most of the housework is my responsibility and I need to do it but I shouldn’t feel like it’s penance for my being “bad,” penance for my suffering (read: inadequacy). I don’t think Edward thinks in terms of keeping score like that and I shouldn’t either. It’s just hard today because the depression is still lingering just beyond my shadow and it’s saying I was bad because I felt things and cried a lot. It’s saying I was bad because I should be better and stronger and less imperfect, I was bad because I needed Edward, I was bad because I needed anyone at all, I was bad because I am bad and I’ll always be bad because I’m broken and emotionally-stunted and my brain will never function as a healthy person’s would and I’ll never learn to ride the waves with more ease. That is what my depression/brain is telling me right now. It’s not screaming at me, like it was yesterday, but I can hear it whispering. I’m very close to the pit but I’m not in it today.
Quitting smoking is a little personal hell for nearly everyone who does it but I think it’s especially hard, because of the effects it has on mood/stability/etc, for people who already struggle with their mental health. Anyway, I’m less of a mess today than I was yesterday, I’m back up on the quitting horse, I’m still trying and I’m here. That’s pretty much all I can tell you.