A bipolar, body-positive bread enthusiast with a jacked-up ankle and a history of disordered eating chronicles health, weight-loss, and gardening. No diets allowed.
Yesterday, the mere sight of my 17-year-old son left me in tears. He walked in wearing Calvin Kleins with a hole in the knee, a button-up shirt, and black dress shoes, looking effortlessly stylish, suddenly grown, and I cried. I think it was the suddenly grown part that was the catalyst for the tears — but it could have been hormones.
Earlier in the day, I went to see a friend’s freshly-born baby girl; I cried then, too. Babies are just magical that way, I think.
The day before, I cried because it was Friday and I was tired. And today I cried because I’ve been trying to write this article for a week, with little success.
As a way of explaining the tears, I keep telling people I must have PMS, but the truth is, I don’t know when I have PMS, or if I have PMS at all. I don’t have a uterus anymore and am therefore lacking the telltale bleeding that offers an excuse for the previous week’s tears and general bitchiness.
The truth is I don’t know what I feel anymore or why I feel it.
I mean, I know what I feel, but I don’t know if those feelings are actually mine, or a byproduct of my illnesses, or the intended effects of my medication, or the side effects of my medication. I know what OCD feels like, and I don’t feel like that. I know what bipolar disorder feels like, and I don’t feel like that. I remember PMS, and I guess it’s something like that, but also something else.
I’m afraid I don’t know what my actual feelings are at all.
I’m logical enough to know that bipolar disorder has a unique way of making its victims feel cured enough to flush their meds. I’m logical enough also to know that some of how I feel right now might be because of that.
I am tired of taking medication. I am tired of relying on the manufactured versions of the chemicals and hormones my body could — should? — make for itself.
I have avoided filling my pill organizer for over a month. It’s not a difficult task, but it does require me to confront the handful of meds I take every day. My laziness, or my avoidance of it, means that multiple times a day I have to go to the medicine cabinet and take this or that pill. There are a dozen prescriptions lined, mostly neatly, on the shelf, labels forward so I can see what is what; I almost invariably knock one down trying to get the one behind it out, and then another trying to get the displaced one back.
Modern medicine has saved my life, and I should be grateful for it; but instead of gratitude, I feel indifference, disdain, anger.
The cabinet is a contradiction, this row of yellow bottles, sandwiched between herbal remedies and homeopathic hope. What you see when you look in there is what you’d see if you could look into my thoughts — all of this necessity, surrounded by all of this effort to belie it.
The organizer sits empty in the drawer. I can’t decide if filling it is an act of empowerment, taking control of my disease, or an admission of defeat, that I will never be rid of my pharmaceutical cocktail.
I started listening to Deepak Chopra two weeks ago. The sound of his voice fills my headphones during the workday, the car speakers while I drive. He speaks to me from the nightstand, talking me to sleep.
Twice in the last week, I’ve dreamt Deepak was in my bedroom. I want to believe this is a spiritual sign that I can heal myself of mental illness with quantum physics. Twice in the last week, I’ve come out of my dream state with Deepak, only to realize he’s not in my bedroom, and I’m still me, still sick, still with a pharmacy in my bathroom.
Modern medicine has saved my life, and I should be grateful for it; but instead of gratitude, I feel indifference, disdain, anger. I wonder what my sex drive would be like without the SSRIs. I wonder how much energy I’d have without the mood stabilizers. I wonder if I could manage my anxiety without anxiolytics. What would happen if I stopped taking the pills that keep me from getting too high and the pills that keep me from getting too low? Don’t those two things cancel each other out anyway?
I envy the people whose lives aren’t ruled by med dosing and interactions. I see my partner drinking coffee without worrying that he’ll end up tachycardic when the caffeine combines with whatever he took an hour earlier. As my family of nine sits in a local diner for breakfast, I butter and cut the kids’ pancakes and then quickly wash down my pills with a glass of water; the timing is important, take them too early, and I’ll end up nauseated, any later, and I’ll forget.
I miss my mania, but more than that, I miss knowing who I even am underneath the dry mouth and weight gain and dizziness and upset stomach. Is this person who you see, the one you know, even really me? Or is she just the byproduct of pharmaceuticals?
I'll never know.