I spent the night a few days ago talking with a friend who was suicidal. Diagnosed with bipolar she had been taking a medication but it made her physically sick to her stomach. Day after day, like living with a flu that wouldn’t go away. She tried talking to her doctor but he just told her to keep taking it. Fed up with feeling sick all the time, she stopped the medication and ended up in a suicidal depression.
To those who don’t have a mental illness it seems straightforward: take your meds! But it’s not. Psychiatric drugs are not inconsequential. They are major mind-altering drugs with serious side effects. Mine have left me with a tremor that makes typing and texting a challenge. There’s frequently drowsiness as a side effect so you spend your days feeling rundown and tired all the time. Some drugs upset the stomach, some make you gain weight. Yes, your body adapts over time but you’re always chained to your pill case/bottles. It’s rarely, if ever, a single pill. It’s usually a cocktail of sorts. One pill to stabilize the mood, one to treat the depression, one for anxiety. Then there’s the supplements. Many of us take handfuls of pills just to stay stable for a moment in time. It rarely lasts and then we’re back in the doctor’s office being told to stick it out or walking out with a new prescription in hand.
It is so discouraging battling the medication, feeling like the doctor doesn’t understand, just wanting to be normal. It’s not fair. It’s not fair feeling sad when your life is good. It’s not fair being told it’s all a choice you’re making when you’re doing all you can: taking meds, seeing a counselor, exercising, watching what you eat. It’ not fair, but it is what it is.
I’m undergoing bi-lateral electro-convulsive therapy. My body has adjusted to the physical side effects. I don’t suffer from the intense headaches and muscle weakness as I did in the beginning. Now I battle the memory loss. I don’t know where the dishes go in the kitchen or which drawer the pajamas go in. I remember who people are but not conversations we have had.
I’m angry that my mind has betrayed me. I’m frustrated by others who judge me and my choices without knowing me or the reasons behind it. I’m saddened by the pain I cause those who love me who have to watch me go through this. I cling to the hope that this will make the difference. This will give me some semblance of sanity in my life.
My life is good. I have a roof over my head and food in the refrigerator. I have a spouse that loves me and supports me and my choices. I have friends that love me and check up on me. It means so much to have people who are praying for me, encouraging me and valuing me. I want to rejoice in that truth instead of listening to voices that lie and steal my joy.
My discharge papers have me on maintenance ECT until May 2018. I will be talking with my doctor about whether or not it must last that long but he’s warned me: this is it. Once we stop ECT that will be it. If it doesn’t work we won’t keep flogging a dead horse. That leaves me feeling conflicted. I want this to work -- no matter what it takes -- and yet I’m scared it won’t be worth it. Even if it cures the psychosis and depression will I even remember who I am, those I love, my hopes and dreams,,,,
I know some think I’m foolish if not downright stupid and in many ways they are correct. All I can say is without ECT my world was tilted. I couldn’t see my blessings and I couldn’t feel the love. I doubted all the good in my life no matter how much I prayed. I begged God to free me and this is what He sent. I’m not telling ANYONE to try ECT unless they, too, have run out of options. As for me, I’m going one day at a time, praying all the way.