My junior year of high school, my English teacher assigned a written essay detailing whether or not I considered myself to be an idealist. After careful deliberation, I covered my paper in rainbows and unicorns, omitting kittens because I considered that to be too on the nose. I got a B on the paper because my unicorn was not to scale.
Yes, I am a bright sider. You might have noticed when you finish reading one of my blogs, you kind of feel like singing a showtune. In my life, I have been known as Sunshine, Lil’ Ray, Strawberry Shortcake, and That Annoying Girl Who Won’t Stop Smiling.
So it might surprise you to know I have been diagnosed with chronic reoccurring depression.
I was originally diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I was struggling to leave a toxic relationship after determining that polyamory and my particular polyamorist were not for me. I guess I hadn’t admitted that yet, but I had an inkling deep down. To my partner’s credit, he suggested I see a counselor. I got a referral from my doctor and scheduled an appointment.
After meeting me for five minutes, my therapist determined I had bipolar disorder. He was nothing short of horrified at my open lifestyle. Polyamory was not for me, but I will say that I applaud how non-judgmental most polyamorists are. Even after I posted my recent blogs chronicling my failed attempts at an open lifestyle, I had many swingers respond with notes congratulating me on finally finding happiness. Polyamorists are not usually met with the same welcoming attitude. The first question I usually got asked was not “does that make you happy?” It was “aren’t you scared of disease?”- you know, the equivalent of calling me a dirty whore.
I expected that sort of attitude from regular folks, but this guy was supposed to be a professional. However, I was nearing the end of my rope. He promised me that a regimen of antidepressants would help, so I stuck around. A few sessions later, he started trying to introduce the idea of Jesus to save me. I’m pretty sure that’s a big no no. I already had my prescription so I jumped ship for a new therapist.
Karen was fantastic. She didn’t judge me, she didn’t force me to do things I wasn’t ready to do. She simply listened and helped me to develop strength and self esteem. It was the best experience I could have asked for.
Fast forward a few years. I am now on top of the world. I have esteem out the wazoo. I’m a great relationship based on honesty and trust. I’ve discovered a yearning to try new creative endeavors. I can’t be stopped. I begin to think that drive-thru bipolar disorder diagnosis was incorrect. However, once you have it, much like lint on a sweater, its’ hard to get rid of. When I applied for life insurance, I had to get a letter from my doctor stating he didn’t think I was at risk of killing myself. Not at all humiliating.
I decided to stop taking medication. I hated the idea of needing a pill to be happy, a pill to sleep. I just wanted to experience my life the way it was. The pills had been so readily prescribed- not a word or warning, no lengthy discussion. Just thirty seconds of writing on a pad. They were not so easy to come off of.
I had taken Effexor for probably three years. I had also taken Seroquil. I readily admit, I did not research these medications, which was a failure on my part. I later found out the Seroquil was an anti-psychotic. I wasn’t psychotic- I just had insomnia. Perhaps I could have taken something a little less on the crazy side? I have never had a hardcore drug problem, so I have no idea what crack addicts or meth fiends feel when they stop taking drugs. I can say coming off of Effexor is what I imagine stopping drugs to be like. My whole body ached. My skin felt like it was crawling. I was clenching my teeth. My emotions were completely off the charts. I was itching constantly. I felt on the verge of a breakdown. I never wanted to feel that way again. No more drugs for me- ever.
Postpartum depression made me rethink that stance. For the first six months after my second child’s birth, I felt happier than I have ever felt. My family was complete. I was very at home being a mother. With my first child, I was so nervous. I was constantly questioning my parenting skills, wondering if I was doing it right. The second time around, I was able to relax. I knew kids sometimes cried for an hour at a time. I knew sometimes they woke up every thirty minutes. It didn’t always roll off my back, but for the most part, I was at ease with my roll in life. More than at ease- happy.
Around eight months, Kellen decided he was through breastfeeding. My good hormones took a nosedive. I was also potty training Liam. Kellen was learning to crawl. These all probably sound like every day occurrences to people who do not have children (hello, that’s what you signed up for!) If you have kids, you are nodding your head thinking “oh that poor woman.”
It was too much. I was drained. Depleted. Crying every day. Snapping at my kids. It wasn’t fair to them. They needed a mom to support them as they were learning really tricky new skills, not freak out when the floor got peepee on it.
I gave in and went to the doctor. I explained that I was overwhelmed. My emotions were running me in circles, and I needed my energy to keep up with two kids under the age of three. I detailed my past. Based on the fact that I had never had any true manic episodes, but had several occurances of depression, she advised that I had chronic reoccurring depression. She asked what I thought about antidepressants and therapy.
I advised I was completely on board with therapy. For god sakes, we should all have therapists (good therapists anyway). Who doesn’t need someone to calmly listen to you vent for an hour, with no threat of your worst thoughts getting out and ruining your life. Jesus, go call a therapist right now. It’s awesome.
Antidepressants, I wasn’t so sure about. But I knew I needed to change something. I couldn’t go on this way. We discussed the medication options in detail and figured out a plan that would work for me. I would go on the pills for a year, then gradually wean off. By that time, my hormones from ending breastfeeding should be more stable, my body able to make what it needs naturally.
This Friday, I go in for that “coming down” appointment. I’m nervous. I was having a particularly bad week, and talked about it with one of my girlfriends. We don’t just needs therapists, we also need girlfriends. She put it in perspective for me.
She asked me how many times a week I work out. I responded with 4-5. Had I changed to a healthier diet? Yes. Was I working on multiple creative projects? Yes. Were my kids happy? Yes. Was I happy most days? Absolutely. Was I stronger than I was a year ago? Without a doubt.
So maybe in fact I am ready. I guess I’m going to find out. (strike up the band with “Maybe This Time” from Cabaret).