Wednesday, April 14, 2010

When I Was First Diagnosed-Repost/Rewrite

I was almost 23. I just finished school and was supposed to start a PhD program in the fall. My life was spinning out of control, I was completely in the thrall of full blown mania. I had over 70 graduate credits under my belt and for the last three years all I had been doing is working on two Master's degrees at the same time, while being a teacher's assistant, tutoring writing and history in the learning lab, cleaning houses and teaching sunday school. In the summer I took classes, lived on campus as a Residence assistant, and taught and tutored SAT prep off campus. I was treated as a peer in my department, and if they saw anything suspect, which some of them did, they just wrote it off to me being ultra creative and one of the budding geniuses they ever saw. Several professors were mentoring me as a protege, and all of them saw me finishing the PhD by the time I was 25, landing a job at some college or university and writing and publishing and teaching. And that was what I wanted for my future too. I had just finished my first novel, and was happy. A major publishing house wanted to publish it.  Looking back, the only time in my life that I was ever happy, truly happy was when I was in school. Only one professor, said to me "You're the next Sylvia Plath. You will be a suicide too by the time you are 33".

Yeah, right, I told him. Right along with Anne Sexton and John Berryman.

Then, that April my life started spinning out of control. By the end of the semester, I threw down my dissertation on the English Chair's desk and went back to the apartment I shared off campus with a female roomate and her fiance. And slept for several days straight, waking only to use the toilet. I hadn't been depressed before, never like this. Maybe it was residual from the rape the month before. Though I had thought about suicide before, I never attempted. Not really. At least I hadn't thought so at the time. 

I had Tylenol, 50 pills, downing it with a bottle of ice cold vodka and OJ. Gagged a lot, and semi regurgitated, but kept going until the entire bottle was finshed. I washed the glass I had used, put it on the drain board, and tucked myself into bed, with my teddy bear. And fell asleep.

Woke up in the Emergency room of the hospital. The guy I was semi- dating at the time found me, unconscious and unresponsive. Apparently he called an ambulance and I had my stomach pumped. He stayed with me the entire time, but when the admitting doctor told me I *HAD* to go to the psychiatric hospital, he stared down in my blue eyes and told me he could no longer date me, now that I was about to be labeled "crazy" and going to the "nut house", I could keep f***ing him, but we were finished as a couple. This was the first but not the last of the boyfriends I lost because of my illness.

The first doctor in the hospital diagnosed me as unipolar- he was just dealing with the suicide attempt. He put me on Prozac, which had to be stopped after a few days because I literally felt I was crawling out of my skin.

The second doc I saw actually spent time with me and asked the right questions. And then I heard it. Manic Depression. He sugar coated it by calling it Van Gogh's disease. Maybe this would help amielorate the blow must of thought, knowing how much I adore Van Gogh. I don't know. Eventually Manic Depression was out and Bipolar was in. Now I was Bipolar 1.

I never accepted it, though I knew in my heart I was, my brain didn't want to accept it. I took my lithium like a good girl, and did the mandatory blood work required by the doc. And I went through all the other meds I went on, not questioning, just taking because part of me thought if I took these meds it would go away and I would be normal. I would have a normal life and live happy. if I just took the meds and ignored the diagnosis, I would be normal, and my life would be normal. I was the perfect consumer. I didn't question the pills, didn't investigate them, and even though most of them gave me terrible side effects I kept taking them because I just wanted to be normal and thought this would let me lead the life I was meant to live.

My family didn't accept it either, my father telling me to buck up, and try harder. My mother just told me to take the meds, go to the shrink and go to work, and in my spare time date. I got to be quite good at dating, mastering the art of the blind date. But I just didn't feel normal. The meds left me weak, gave me the runs constantly. They never told anyone else there was anything "wrong" with me, and I know this caused a rift in their marriage, my mother believing the meds and hospital stays and much later,  ECT would cure me, my father saying there was nothing wrong with me that hard work couldn't cure and I didn't need meds.

And it didn't work that way. All the meds, all the different shrinks, other stays at the hospital, even ECT trying to bring me back to normal. I've lost jobs, lost countless relationships. It's always been the same. Good enough to F**K, never good enough to have children with, should they wind up like me. I tried to ease the hole in my heart and soul by food, but that didn't work. Alcohol made me comfortably numb like nothing else could, but it's been almost 14 years since my last drink.

So here I am struggling. The last year I've had to go a complete overhaul with the med cocktail and at one time I was on 9 different meds in my cocktail at the same time. This past two years alone, I've gone through two psychiatric hospitalizations, one regular hospitalization and one rehabilitation hospitalization from this illness. It's cost me the last year of my life.

All I have is my writing and my cat. I know I will never have a family of my own, or children from my body. I can deal with that, and I am accepting it, but I get so lonely sometimes. Some nights it is so unbearable I just lie in bed with the thought I need to hold and be held so bad I don't think I will make it til the dawn. I don't think I will ever have a relationship with a man again, I have friends who are men, but to have one that I can live with and grow old with, I think that will escape me, much to my chagrin and heart ache.

This illness may have robbed me of a life, but it won't rob me of ME. It won't destroy my soul. I came into this world half dead, backwards, kicking and screaming. That's how I want to leave it. Kicking and screaming, putting up a good fight.


Sean said...

I read through the whole page...You've got it right with the end line "Keep On Fighting." Everyday is a struggle even for the non diagnosed. I miss having our chats over the phone every so often. Take care of kitty!


susan said...

Sean, I am still here but lost your number.
You take care and take care of your kitties too. Did you see I added you to my blogroll?

Syd said...

Susan, I am sorry that the illness took so much from you. I am glad that you are a fighter and have the will to live.

Mark p.s.2 said...

I bust my ass working during the day so I don't have time to be-feel lonely at night, I'm too tires/busy sleeping.
I think to myself things could have been worse had I been born 50-100 years earlier ( and been diagnosed seriously mentally ill).
I do take some comfort in that.
I have food and a place to live, its much better than a homeless persons life.

susan said...

Syd, is there any alternative? I'm scared of that alternative.

Mark, I understand what you are saying, but there are times, a girl's got urges and no where to go.... but a cold shower, it's difficult. At least I know it's normal and part of living. If I didn't feel those things I would be worried.

Anonymous said...

Susan, I want you to know that by checking out your blog daily helps me to hold on, reminding myself that there are people whose history so similar to mine, who do not get a break and are suffering as much I am – presently, continuously, and are wondering when it is going to exceed the tolerable? Susan, please don’t leave me behind, promise? Besides, who is going to love you cat as much as you do? Who is going to love my dogs as much as I do?

susan said...

Anonymous- I am not going anywhere. Stay here with me. I wish I had a dog. I wish my cat liked dogs, I would really like to get a therapy dog. But my kitty really hates dogs. And other cats.

I'm thinking of getting a fish tank. What do you think?
Do you think she would think it's free range sushi?

Anonymous said...

I don’t know about you, but cleaning the tank would be a gigantic undertaking for me. Instead of sushi for the cat, they might end up sushi for me, when I couldn’t go to the market and the fridge is depleted of human food as it is right now. Did you do your tax? I have been staring at my TurboTax page for two days, so far I filled in the personal information (1st page), what an accomplishment! I had hallucination two weeks ago (now my excuse for haven’t done the tax), in and out of the reality and I had to write down what I did during what hour in which day of the week. I am a fairly young widow, have no children and live alone…

susan said...

Anon- I understand about the empty fridge and pantry. I seem to always run out of real human food too. I just worry about fish and plants since I have a "dead" thumb and would probably kill off all the fish, as I've killed off any attempts at flowers/plants.

I did my taxes back in February in a burst of mania. I paid someone to do them.- go H and R Block! I still wish the government would let me declare my cat as a dependent. Can you file for an extension?

I am sorry about your husband. I cannot imagine too many things worse than loosing your spouse. Hang in there. Please.

Anonymous said...

This is what Cole Bitting (Fable) says in the interview with Therese Borchard (Beyond Blue), I cried when I read it. It comes from left side of the brain and absolutely clarifies:

“We are happier and more resilient when we have consistent access to attachment figures. It's obvious kids need them for a healthy childhood. When the statistics show adults are happier and healthier in a functioning marriage, a significant reason is the presence of the other. If a break up is abrupt, we all feel abandoned and unworthy. The world immediately becomes more hostile and we have lost our biggest source of support and help.”

I am going to try the tax tonight after I feed my doggies. Yes, TurboTax did ask me if I want to file an extension, he/she was so concerned I was very touched.
Thank you and Goodnight Susan!

Anonymous said...

This is exactly what my parents do all the the time....They try to tell me and other people that there's nothing wrong with me, that I am normal and that I can be happy and totally cured if I just put enough effort into it. They don't even know what they're talking about and I guess deep down, they know that they are wrong. Their marriage is not the same anymore...they're unhappy because of me. That makes me feel even worse.
I am so scared of the future sometimes because I can see what my illness has been taking from me in such a short period of time: many of my friends (yeah...cause I'm *crazy* now-.- Nobody really told me that, but I can see it on their faces) and because I don't attend school anymore, my family like it used to be, even my dreams seem to be far away now (how are you supposed to go abroad if you can't even leave the house properly), I know that I'll never go to college, I know that I'll never have a family let alone a boyfriend...I can't even remember all the people I pushed away and hurt just to get away from them...even when I'd been loving them more than my own life. I think they would have left me anyway when they had got to know me closer. Even then, before I'd been diagnosed this whole shit started affecting my life. I really wanna someone to talk to, someone to lean on and of course someone for these 'special needs'^^
I just can't stand it, when people tell me something like: 'So, do you think Mr. Right will just knock on your door someday?? You gotta get out of here to meet some people. They won't be coming to you!'
Do they even know, what they're doing to me by saying things like that? I don't think so.

Wow...that was definitely a long comment. But I think one should just let it out^^

Radagast said...

Susan, I'm a bit lost on the chronology, what with it being a re-post, and all... When did this happen?

You know about Pavlov's dogs, I guess? Clever Pavlov: he taught them stuff. Except, he found he could only teach them seven new things, before they reached saturation point. Most of them had nervous breakdowns - he over-stimulated them with stuff that they couldn't assimilate, for whatever reason. In other words, he didn't teach them, he programmed them to perform certain acts, under certain stimuli, without them ever understanding why they were doing those things, such they could fit them into their own system (not that a dog would be able to express it like that, of course!).

I don't know where I was going with that, but it popped into my head, when I saw the workload that you'd taken on. If I may make an observation, I would say that most of your problems appear not to be yours, at all, and have more to do with what others have expected of you, in your various hats.


susan said...

@Radagast- That was when I was first diagnosed as Manic Depressive, then Bipolar1, but it's all the same thing. It was a while ago. I haven't been 23 in a while. ;-)

But I thank you for thinking I was still that young. I think I still feel like I am that young, and I still act that young, much to my families' chagrin. I guess I am a female Peter Pan, if there is such a thing. I;m sure there is. There is a psychological label for everything.

Radagast said...

Ah, 23... An old man remembers (fondly)!


Journey Out of the Darkness said...

Wow. I'm almost speechless from your story. It's heartbreaking, really, and so unfair. But that's life, right? That's what authority figures love to tell us - life isn't fair. As if we don't already know that, through our utterly unfair experiences. I'm so inspired by your writing. The fact that you keep at it, that you invest your creative energy in something that helps other people get through their pain ... that's something really special. Sounds like you've done more and been through more in your adult years than most people do in their entire lives. So be proud of yourself. I'm amazed by you! Keep on keeping on.

Radagast said...

Look what's just popped up in today's Indy:

It seems that the human equivalent of a computer's RAM can only deal with two simultaneous tasks, at most (according to these guys, anyway). I don't agree that we use binary logic to solve problems *because* our brains are divided into hemispheres, though! Binary logic is certainly one option, and is effective, though laborious (and explains why dialectic is such a valuable thinking tool).

But what about IF>THEN-type decisions? How do we choose something like which colour to paint our living room, when there are so many to choose from? Or a new shirt, or MP3 player, or TV? Do we make a whole series of binary choices about a whole range of factors that we might consider important about each of these articles (eg, "Would I like red in my living room? No. Would I like blue in my living room? No. Would I like green in my living room? Yes. Dark green? No. Light green? No. Mid-green? No. Turquoise? Yes")?

Hmmm... I'm waffling! Anyway, I still say you overloaded yourself with stuff, which might still be floating around, waiting to be resolved. Most people have, after all.

Wonder Woman said...

Susan - I'm exhausted right now (I'm in bed with my lap top), but I want to tell you that you are the Queen of Writing. Your descriptions are beyond accurate.

Phenomenal. God sends me love through your posts.

We are sisters in the spirit.

Much love
- Wonder Woman

bipolarlife said...

Hey Susan - I don't remember reading this much of your story before. It's nice to hear more of your background even though it was probably painful to write. I admire your self awareness. Loneliness is difficult because this bipolar thing tends to isolate people. I remember going on a date with a guy once who told me about his bipolar ex and how he would never date another guy with bipolar. I kept my mouth shut but made sure it was our one and only date. Finding a romantic partner is difficult at the best of times because so many lack interests outside of work and haven't picked up a book since college. I'd rather be alone than date some plastic generic guy just to have someone around. Which is probably why I'm single! I see my non-mentally interesting friends struggle with loneliness too. Which is why there are so many Internet dating websites. I have no advice on that front except to remember that everything is a thousand times tougher when you are experiencing depression. Be gentle with yourself.

Liam said...

Hi, I'm L from Keep up the fight, thinking of you.



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