I get restless. Sometimes it starts with an itch between my shoulder blades, and then a feeling that I have to go somewhere. Be somewhere else. It almost doesn’t matter the destination, because usually I’ll end up changing my mind seven or eight times before I get to wherever I was headed. Just go go go.
The past few months have felt great. Since my store closed in April I’ve been home, free; no work, no stress. That is, of course, not entirely true. There’s plenty of stress. Bills still need to be paid, the house needs to be cleaned, dogs walked, dinner cooked. I’m home; I should do all this. And some days I do. At first, I was a whirlwind, cleaning everything in sight. Whole rooms looked great. Our kitchen table, our primary crap catcher, could be seen again. Then; I slowed down. I started getting up later each day, accomplishing less and less. I spent more money; generally on coffee and beer. Couple coffees each day, a beer at night. Take myself to breakfast? Sure! Take Robbin to lunch? Sure! It’s not the sign of a problem if I’m taking someone else. I’m not being impulsive, just a good husband, right?
The issue here is that I’m Bipolar. That is the starting point for any thoughts or discussion about my behavior.
Earlier this year I did something that any psychiatrist or mental health provider will tell you a Bipolar person should never do; I went off my meds.
To be fair, or fair-ish anyway, I was having a reaction to the Lamictal I was taking. Without going into detail, it was the ‘stop-this-immediately-if’ reaction they tell you to look for. Before that I stopped taking Risperdal. I was having trouble remembering words. I couldn’t finish sentences, and would feel like an idiot in any conversation. Recall of anything was not immediate. I was (and still am) taking Lorazepam. Many people, about 50%, diagnosed with Bipolar will go off their meds at some point, for any of a number of reasons. I fell victim to the feeling of ‘I got this! No problem!’.
At the time, I felt fine. I thought that my mindfulness practice was seeing me through. Meditation has helped me tremendously over the past few years to see my behaviors and thought patterns clearly, and be able to react to them; stop them and change them, or at least pull myself out of a situation where I would over-react.
But Bipolar is slippery. Like a snake that wraps itself around you softly until you’re fully ensnared, then pulls tight to smother you. The signs have been there, and I haven’t been paying attention. It hit me hard the other day as I got into my car for a drive. That need to be moving go go go. Get out of here. It has not helped that I’ve spent so much time alone in the house. I had plans to get out and see things, meet people. I haven’t. It was easier to stay in. The puppies are good company, but I think even they are wondering why I’m here all day. They look at me as if to say; ‘Thanks for the walk earlier, but don’t you need to be somewhere? Or at least play with me!’
I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately. The old demon of insomnia coming to call. It does not help that I have a beer every night. It interferes with the Lorazepam, and helps to wind me up. Likewise with caffeine. It accelerates my mood, pushes me toward mania. I can’t sit still long enough for my sitting practice to be effective. I have also had a recurrence of anxiety that pressages a mixed episode. It centers itself around my heart, and presses, making it difficult to breathe or think clearly.
My psychiatrist knew I was discontinuing meds, and told me to call him immediately if anything happened. He was duly concerned, but when you have a patient doing well who makes a decision on their course of treatment, there is only so much you can do.
I feel frayed. As if the corners and edges of my life are tattered, and could start to unravel quickly if I don’t do something. So I will be going back on meds. What and how much; I don’t know yet. I know I need to control it now, before it spirals away from me, and I can’t stop it. I am not scared, although perhaps I should be. I feel like I’ve caught the cancer in an early stage, and it can be treated.
What brought this all home for me most clearly is a book Robbin and I are reading: ‘Madness’ by Marya Hornbacher. It details her struggles with Bipolar I (I have Bipolar II), and seeing her talk about her symptoms showed me some of what I have been feeling for a little while now is not my imagination, and not something to be taken lightly. I have, thankfully, never been in the extreme as she has. But; it is all there.
So; we go forward. That’s all we can do, right? Like so many people with this disorder, it took me a long time to realize that not everyone feels this way. It feels like everything is wrong, and that it won’t be right. My normal has to include a type of vigilance about how I feel, how I think, how I act. I’ve let that slip too long.