My Brain Off Drugs

I have an alarm set on my phone in two different apps to remind me to take my medication. I have routines to try and keep on track. Yet, my system failed me yesterday. Today, at 2:00 PM I discovered yesterdays pills in  my skirt pocket.

We were running all over the place for Evan. He had a neurology appointment and a pre-op appointment for his dental surgery. My regular schedule was scratched. Systems fail. Safeguards go off duty. It happens.

I use a journal to track trends in my mood, behavior and thoughts. It helps me to refer back to other times when I’ve missed medication. I’m able to prepare for what is coming or at least able to tell myself it will pass in approximately 72 Hours.

The Last Time I Missed My Meds…

One of my particular medications is quite dose-dependent. I’m not sure that is an official  way of describing it or anything. I just mean that when I miss even one dose, then everything goes to shit.

Late Afternoon on Day Missed – I start having enormous, incapacitating anxiety. I literally have to distract myself from reality in order to cope. Usually, I immerse myself in a book, while also playing games on my phone. I do the two things at once. The multi-tasking helps to keep my brain from catastrophizing everything in existence.

Day After Missed Medication – I’m hypomanic. Everything is wonderful. I accomplish all of the things. I consider starting a new career, business or non-profit (I’ve learned NOT to do this the hard way). I call people just because I want to talk to them. I decide to clean the house top to bottom at 11:30 that night. I go full steam until 4:00 AM, when suddenly I feel like I’m completely alone in the world, everything is awful. Suicidal thoughts come to mind so frequently that now I HAVE to sleep in order to not harm myself.

Two Days After Missed Medication – I am now completely catatonic. I awake to thoughts of self-harm. I don’t want to eat. I go back to sleep. I sleep 14 hours that day, because I cannot cope with the vicious thoughts bursting through my mind.

Three Days After Missed Medication – I only missed one day so things start to even out here. The last two days I took my medication on time so I’m stabilizing. I still can’t do much of anything. And this is why….

Thinking of Hurting Yourself…..Hurts

Maybe it is just me. Maybe I respond to thoughts of hurting myself more dramatically than others. Actually, I’m willing to strike maybe from those sentences. I’m super sensitive to my internal state. I’ve read that this is part of my personality (INFP). I’m willing to venture a therapist would have some recommendations on how to cope better. Right now, I’m still sans therapist (though I have an appointment in two weeks).

For me, thinking of harming myself, contemplating suicide – these are just thoughts. I don’t have to believe them. I don’t. I know they are lying to me or at the very least false notions. When these thoughts come a couple of times a day, I’m able to use this strategy/idea to calm my emotional reaction to the thoughts.

When I’m off my meds? There is no time. Literally, thoughts, images of cutting myself and other awfulness are so frequent that I can’t focus on anything else. Sleep is my only reprieve. I’ve learned HOW to go to sleep by deep breathing and repeating one phrase over and over.

{Breathe in.} All I have to do is sleep. {Breathe out.} All I have to do is sleep.

So I sleep.

When I wake if the thoughts are still galloping like a warhorse, then I put myself back to sleep. Eventually, I wake up and the thoughts are slow and I’m able to say to myself, “These are just thoughts. I don’t have to believe them.” Then, I go and reward myself for staying alive by drinking mountain dew or eating a donut. Honestly, its the only thing that can motivate me to get out of bed.

This is my brain off drugs.

I wonder if other people experience this too.

Candidly,

Ash

 

No One is Alone

Last week was a rough week. We’re struggling. It’s nothing new, but it feels new to say it here so very frequently. Maybe new isn’t the correct word. Maybe “uncomfortable” is the word I am looking for. I am used to handing out my struggles in snippets and side stories, not in full disclosure. This “Candid” blog thing is really different. I mean, I’ve written about my struggles before – that is not new at all. I guess sharing my struggles this frequently is uncomfortable, challenging in a different way.

I have to be honest with myself.

Really, “Candidly Ash” is probably just a message to myself to keep it real and in greater frequency than before.

Back to the struggling…

Friday night my husband and I sat on our bed. The covers have marker spots and spill spots from various children, despite incessant washing. I fingered at a new mark – mascara? Who knows. I said words to him about the futility of life. Running on an empty tank. It honestly reminded me a little bit of that song “Going the Distance” by Cake (follow the link to listen). In the song, a man is racing for a something he yearns for, except the race is actually over and no one is watching. Sometimes we race, not for an audience, but for ourselves and the people we love. No one sees it; no one commends us. On and on we go. That song by Cake is honestly a stellar piece of poetry in my opinion. Too bad they made it a song. Ha!

I’m digressing. Back to the talking to my husband.

Somewhere in the discussion, I talked about waiting for things to get better and that maybe I would just set a deadline and if things weren’t better by then….Well, maybe that would be the time to end it all. You know, suicide. It was silent then, as I buried my face apathetically into a pillow. I couldn’t even cry.

Then, he whispered, “Please don’t leave me.”

And I cried at the sound of his desperate words. I don’t have a date or deadline and I’m not leaving him anytime soon. No plans, no actions. Just thoughts.

Then, after our really solid crying, we moved onto the portion of the evening in which we distract ourselves with TV.

It’s probably my favorite part of the day, because we always watch *something* together. We aren’t really one of those couples who do separate things in the evening. Like we always come back from the ugliness of the day by staring at Netflix. Precious Netflix.

Of course, we decided that since it was the weekend a movie would be good and so we ended up watching a Denzel Washington movie that the XBOX was offering up for free. It was called “The Book of Eli”. I’m not really into spoiling movies for people so here is a one sentence synopsis. A man defends the last copy of the Bible post-apocalypse. Pretty interesting concept and Denzel is, as always, superb.

Later that night, at the 3:00 AM hour, I woke up and on a slight whim decided to read my Bible. I literally read for an hour, just randomly paging to different spots. After coming across multiple spots where the Bible lists genealogies (so annoying) I turned over to Job and read how God decided Satan could basically lambaste Job with suffering. In fact, God even partakes in the lambasting.

Job responds and his friends respond and there is a lot of dramatic monologue by various parties. Of course, Job’s script is the best and some day I vow to make a video just quoting Job, because its fabulously honest and ugly and beautiful. Honestly, it is hard for me to narrow down my favorite parts, but I’ll try.

I would rather be strangled – rather die than suffer like this. I hate my life and don’t want to go on living.

Job 7:15-16, NLT

Yeah, I’ve been there. I’ve felt that. I feel that.

I find it extremely comforting and ridiculously morbid that I enjoy reading other people’s suicidal thoughts. Yet, I think that is precisely  what I need and what other people need. It is why I write my own thoughts here.

No one is alone.

I may think I’m the only one running on fumes. I may not want to go on.

But I’m not the only one.

Candidly,

Ash

P.S. Songs enter my mind all of the freaking time. When I typed “No one is alone.” I thought of this song from “Into the Woods” and when I wrote “But I’m not the only one” I heard John Lennon singing “Imagine.” I think my brain is just a giant song database, honestly. Ha!

 

Help from My Friends

We moved here with so many expectations. As my husband and I did the rundown on our last six months, we were both completely dumbfounded at all that has happened. One of us said something about “expect the unexpected” followed by sardonic snorting. (I am an excellent “snorter”, by the way. Not of drugs or anything, just laughing snorts and sarcastic ones too.)

We are so jaded.

First, the whole idea of expecting the unexpected is a sham. If you expect the unexpected, then doesn’t that make it expected? I am not the first one to point this out, nor will I be the last.

Second, no matter how hard we try, humans make assumptions about the future. It’s healthy in so many ways – planning for the future, taking next steps. It’s also a sure fire way to anxiety. I literally have anxiety about my anxiety about the future. Why can’t I just let it lie? I mean, I can visualize the next thirty years of my life in the span of 30 seconds. If I tell myself to stop thinking about the future, then I just think about not thinking about the future – which is really just thinking about the future.

Oh yes, anxiety is a bitch. Sigh.

At points in my life, I have been so depressed that I had no dreams. In fact, I remember several seasons of my life in which I listened to Dar Williams’ “I Have Lost my Dreams” on repeat. Each time I hoped it would help me find a new dream, something to hope in. Sometimes, when the past and present are so bleak, we need a quality hope for the future.

I think the wide majority of my suicidal ideation is tied to a vicious combo of depression and anxiety. In those moments, when the thoughts of harm come to me, I usually don’t want to feel the pain of the past, present or future.

Growing up, I just turned music on and sang it out. I don’t know when that became socially inappropriate, but it did. I turned to fiction novels, specifically fantasy and sci-fi. Why? Because they have nothing to do with reality. I wanted to be as far from reality as possible.

Sometimes, I still do.

Honestly, I think a little bit of that is healthy. I need breaks from the onslaught of depression and anxiety. Taking breaks can be healthy, as long as that is all they are. You see, for a long time I took hiatuses (the exaggerated term for breaks) and I would return to the world, the onslaught, and the breakdown would be even worse.

I cycled like that for years and years. Shit happened. Sang myself out of reality. Shit is still happening. Read myself out of reality. Shit will happen. Try singing and reading myself out of reality. Fail. Maybe I should end it all? How can I end it all? When?

Stop.

I don’t do that anymore. I try not to at least. Now, I have this thing called a safety plan, in which I have to confess to my husband that I want to take my life. We’ve been at it for three years now and it is no easier than day one. Well, maybe it is actually. I mean, we’ve been doing the dance of communication for a lot longer now. He doesn’t ignore comments like, “I can’t handle this anymore.” And I desperately try to understand when it takes him an hour to get to me or he tells me that I need to call my sister or my best friend.

It’s been three years now. I have some dreams – things like maybe becoming a therapist or fostering kids. Yet, I know, deep down that the paragraph I just wrote likely disqualifies me from those things. How could I ever help someone else when sometimes I can’t even help myself? (Right now, I want to stop writing this shit and go eat 25 cookies.)

Yet, truth is an evolution and the truth that I am learning is that everyone needs someone. No one gets by without a little or even a lot of help every now and then. I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know if my dreams will ever be made reality. I do know that if I expect the unexpected from people?

Then, successfully managed mental illness would stop being a disqualifier to helping others. Rather, it would be a qualifier for helping others. Because I know one thing, those that have known the deepest pain have been the best helpers in my life.

No, not just helpers.

Healers.

Candidly,

Ash