Saturday, March 1, 2008

My talk in 2 weeks.

I am giving a talk next month, whoops,  March!!!!. to about 300 people and this is the topic. The only thing that has changed is
1. I am on meds
2. I am currenty unable to work.

I am currently working on re writing this, so this one might be raw., but good. 

I could feel my blue eyes opening, and the light was harsh. I shielded them with my palm, trying to wake. I gradually accustomed myself, and noticed, this was a twin size bed I was in, not my normal full size. My beloved cat was not nestling besides me, nor did I have the teddy that served as a sentinel since I was four. I thought for a moment, I was back in time, back in Graduate School, where life was good, and I shared a house in my state’s capital with four other young women. But as I tried to move, I noticed I couldn’t move. There was an IV attached to my arm, and one of those heart monitors like you would see on ER. And I was strapped down to the bed. It was the present, 1994, and I had been out of school for seven years. I could hear the doctors and nurses running by me, ignoring me. I had no idea where I was, I figured it was in the emergency room of Princeton Hospital. I asked the nurse what day it was as she ran by me. It was a Sunday morning, at four or five in the morning, and I wondered what the heck had I done again, since I took all those pills on Friday night? and why in Heaven’s name, couldn’t I succeed in killing myself?
I am a manic-depressive. I was one of those people, who were misdiagnosed in my early twenties as depressive, but this hospitalization in my early thirties, would evaluate me as bipolar, with a difference, I was an ultra rapid cyler. This was not my first suicide attempt. This was one of many, starting with all the sturm und drang of adolescence. This would be my last serious attempt. I cannot begin to count all the times I have wanted to "shuffle off this mortal coil", as Hamlet said. I have tried pills, more times waking up to be Exorcist sick. I tried to use a hose to my car’s exhaust, not realizing I had a catalytic converter, which went on before I could fall asleep. I have thought of throwing myself off the Empire State Building, but I am deathly afraid of heights and have vertigo. And I have tried to slit my wrists, but could not get the razor blade out of that pink plastic Gillette razor. (Curse you Gillette!)
And I have been blessed with the mania, suffering for three years straight without crashing to anything other than mild depression. I was gifted then, doing two masters degrees and holding down three part time jobs. I had poems professionally published. Looking back they were nothing but masterful Sylvia Plath imitations. I And I was correct for the longest time. And then, just like the all time perfect day, it ended. It had to. A person cannot be manic for three years without illegal drugs, one has to crash eventually.
And I crashed. And what I learned was the same lesson every other manic-depressive or bipolar has learned. There is a hard side with genius. It is almost like what the ancient Greeks believed that the Gods give us unique things and talent with a huge price attached. And one of the prices that have affected every sufferer of this disease is both the mercurial aspect and the melancholy. Yes some of the greatest pieces of literature, art, music, and philosophy have been done by people who have suffered from this. And on the other hand, how many of us have looked at our wrists and wished you could put a razor blade or a box cutter on the vein, and allow your pain and heartache to ebb out, along with your life? And how many of us have had medication or alcohol to try to calm down the beasts in our head, leaving us comfortably numb?
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Susan I am a manic depressive, living on the East Coast of the US. I  when I wrote this piece , I had  full-time job, and make a good living. I am in my late thirties, never married. No children by choice, I can’t see myself passing on this illness to a child of mine. Something that I know I am most fortunate to do, considering my hospitalizations, and treatments. The only thing worse than my manic depression is my stubbornness, which I am convinced I can show everyone who thinks I should be institutionalized for the rest of my life, that I can be a productive citizen.
As I write this I just got out of a four-day depression. That was four days of my life where getting out of bed was painful, so I didn’t except to use the toilet and feed my cat. It was too painful to get dressed. I looked at the pile of laundry and its too difficult to do that. It’s been too difficult to do anything, even thinking. Instead I sit in bed, hyper sleeping and listing to talk radio as white noise. And think about how I wish I had an exacto knife so I could slit my wrists and end it. And not having the energy to do it. And cursing myself now, because tomorrow I have to go to work. I have one clean outfit left, because I was too depressed to get out of bed, and did not go to the laundromat. and right now, I am so sad I don’t want to be around anyone, I want to be a hermit. I don’t want to feel anything , no emotions, nothing. Instead I have to put on a smiley face and make believe that all is well, when I feel it isn’t. And I sit here now, typing and wishing I could go into manic phrase, because I need it. I want it. And the guilt that I have spent four days of my life, which I can never get back, thanks to this horrible curse or blessing in my genes, depending on your viewpoint. To me it is neither a curse or a blessing. It's my entire life. And I wish, yes I wish I was normal.
Perhaps that is why I don’t take medication. I tried them all, they made me sick. And frankly, there is something about taking those little pills that numbs your creativity. You lose that perceived edge. You want to be normal, the lithium makes your skin crawl and you can’t keep food down. I have spent days in a fetal position on the bathroom floor waiting for lithium to get into my bloodstream. Depakote makes you fat. And Depakote takes away the highs and the lows. And without the highs and the lows you would be human. Just human. Not invincible. Just a regular guy. I would love to be a regular guy. But I find when the Depakote normalizes into my bloodstream, I cannot think. I become like a stroke victim - unable to think clearly. I forget things. I cannot dream. I have no creativity. And I cannot function. I do not like living like a puppet or a small child with people telling me what to do and what not to do. And that is how I get on meds.
So to the chagrin of my shrink, I am med free. I have a suicide number here when it gets bad. I know to call 911 and tell them to take me to the hospital. My shrink thinks I am a walking time bomb, but in fact I may just be one a very small minority who cannot take meds. I know there are some. And I look at other people who can take them and live full lives. Unfortunately, I find these people few and far between. After I wrote this piece in 2002 I went back to meds in2003.

I have just found out about my birth family. I have always known I have been adopted, but I never saw the medical records. And now I have. I learned for the first time my maternal grandmother suffered from this illness. A great great grandmother was institutionalized and lobotomized because of this. A great grandfather killed himself. I come from a long line of alcoholics, and several of my uncles as well as 2 grandparents suffered from this. Alcohol and manic depression go hand in hand. If you want proof, look at John Berryman. If he didn’t kill himself, his liver would have given out.

But the thoughts race. I do not like that. The doctor prescribed Ritalin. I felt a huge surge of energy and rode my bike for 20 some miles before I stopped. I felt sick. I went to a police station and they called my folks to pick me up. And called my shrink who said I was having a toxic reaction to Ritalin, very rare. So when the thoughts race, I feel as if I am possessed.
Suicide scares me. I know how easy it would be to take a razor and watch my life ebb out. I think about it constantly. I know if I screw up, I will wind up in the hospital. I do not want to wind up there again. So I have made a pact with myself, not to do it unless it gets so bad because if I miscalculate- the consequences is worse than death. The guy who wrote "Suicide is Painless", the theme song from MASH, had it wrong. It is painful.
I once had my stomach pumped. That was hell. No one said it hurts. On TV an overdose is treated as something glamorous. It does not hurt. Bullsheetrock. It hurts. Or if they cannot pump your stomach, they give you ipac- and you vomit for hours. Eventually you have nothing left in your system and you are still vomiting. For days afterwards with an OD you cannot eat. So they have you on an IV drip. And you cannot sleep because every 15 minutes a nurse comes by and pokes you and checks your eyes to make sure you are still with us. You have a heart monitor on. And the worst thing is, the doctors ignore you. They think you are selfish for doing what you did. You are taking up their valuable time when they can be helping someone else. And I cannot say I blame them. I feel ashamed and unclean by my stigma, by my illness. I know it's an imbalance on the brain, but I did not ask for it.
I wish I was normal. I look at friends and colleagues at work. They have spouses and children, and I have no one. I am going to grow old by myself. I am scared of that. That in itself is enough to make me wish to take my life.
But I know my moods will be hard for someone to live with. I know if I was a man, it would be easier for someone to put up with me, but in this society, men do not want to be caregivers. A man is not going to understand why I can write for 36 hours straight, breaking only to refill the glass of water by my right hand or to use the toilet. A man is not going to understand the urge I get at four in the morning to clean. Or worse, bake, or ride my bike. And someone, anyone will not understand the depression, the mind numbing, aching when its too painful to get out of the bed, to get dressed or talk. All you can do is cry. Fortunately the depression does not happen often, but when it does, its hard. Who wants to be around someone like that?
I don’t even know if I would want to be around me when this happens.
So here I am. A study in conflicts. On one hand, I hold down a professional, responsible job. I know if the company I worked for found out about this aliment, I could be sacked. I am a published author on the side. And on the other hand, right now I am acutely suicidal. I know I will not act on it , or I tell myself this. This aliment has caused me to be the black sheep of the family, I am not invited to any family events , weddings, funerals, etc because I was hospitalized. I was cut out of the family will on my second suicide attempt. This is all ignorance. I do not like people who are ignorant. What I have is no different than being a juvenile diabetic. It was something I was born with. I cannot change it.
All I can hope is there will be a med that I can use, so I can live a tolerant life. I want to be like everyone else.
And I want whoever should read this to know, you are not alone


Anonymous said...

thank you. I need to know I was not the only one.

susan said...

You are so welcome. Thank you!!!!

Anonymous said...

OMG, your family must be horrible. I'm so sorry, but others are here for you.

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