She gazed out the window holding the world together, happiness just within reach.
A caped crusader without the valor. A martyr without the speckles of blood.
I worry I’ll forget what bravery smells like–what my real life is supposed to resemble.
As I swerve in and out of happiness and retrace the path to the beginning, I am not sure where I end and the better half of me begins.
Nervous thoughts steal energy and impede my cautious optimism. I’ve masqueraded in my own skin for so long, and I don’t always like what I’ve become. But I don’t know how to pretend to be anything different.
Anxiety has always been the comfort in the chaos — an imaginary friend with a cape and a sword, ready to both save me and destroy me.
Tension buried in my soul ready to lead the parade of crazy at any moment. Yet, anxiety is a comfortable place to lay my head and hang my hat. Fight or flight–helping me accomplish more than most but with the steepest of stakes.
But anxiety I can handle. It’s what comes next that still leaves me spinning.
One day I drove to run errands and pictured what it would be like to swerve off the road to make the pain stop. My hands clenched the steering wheel as my mind hopscotched the options. I was into year three of postpartum depression and hadn’t felt like myself in seemingly forever. I took pills. Tried every yoga move imaginable. I tore through $6,000 in beds thinking that if I just got sleep maybe I would feel better, but better never came.
Many nights I would hear my family playing without me downstairs and I was convinced they would be better of without me. Just give them time and they would forget about the woman who never was enough. I thought of pills, running away, dreamed of starting over.
Full on panic attacks would ensue and I would be convinced that the world was coming loose by an already dangling thread. No matter how hard I tried at work, at home, with my friends, nothing ever seemed good enough for the expectations I’d built up in my own head. Random things would trigger me. Just the wrong song on the radio. Just enough sleepless nights.
I remember nights of screaming at my husband, Jon. How could he ever love me? I don’t trust myself. Someone should take me to the hospital — I may be actually losing my mind. But morning always came, and the demons calmed themselves enough for me to make it to work the next day. For me to throw frozen pancakes in the microwave for my boys. To brush my teeth and hastily put on clothes that could cover up the twenty pounds children, emotional eating, and antidepressants left me with.
After trying fifteen combinations of pills, my psychiatrist re-evaluated me and determined I had bipolar 2 — everything about manic depression without the psychosis. I’ll never forget the punch in the gut as I heard the words. How could I be as crazy as my grandmother? How could I be this broken? They offered Lithium and I refused. Why not just lock me up, too?
“You may gain weight, you may have horrible side effects,” he said. “But at least you will be alive.”
A Lithium-filled life isn’t a life worth living to me. I can’t become a shell of myself just to save myself. Quality of life has to count for something even if my current life seems just past its expiration date.
This was the decision I made. Someone else might make a different decision about Lithium or medication, and that’s totally okay.
I forced myself to start exercising and tried eating better. Kept trying to see if this new diagnosis was something I could handle on my own. The weight I gained from even the Latuda and Effexor was enough to send me into an anxiety tail-spin everyday. How could I handle 20 more pounds?
Some days are okay. You would never be able to tell because I am pretty high-functioning. But that’s the problem — no one takes it seriously because they cannot see the internal battle I fight every day of my life. Then again, I’m afraid they will take it too seriously if I let them in on the secret that I am bipolar.
The road to bipolar 2 has been a long one, but this is the first time I’ve let the world know. I’m tired of feeling ashamed for something I cannot help. Anxiety and depression feel comfortable because so many people have stepped forward and shared their stories. Bipolar seems like such a dirty word, but I’m tired of not saying it. It’s part of who I am as a person, as a mother, as a wife, and as a friend. If you have the massive highs and the devastating lows, I hope you can find the help you need and your own (if even dull) sword and dented armor.
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