About two months ago, I tapered off the medications I was taking for my bipolar, anxiety, and depression. I thought I was in a good spot, and I had the blessing of my therapist and psychiatrist. I had never done this - I was diagnosed in 2006, stopped medication when I was pregnant (and nursing), but since then, I had been diligent.
I really thought I could do it.
Here’s the thing, from my perspective: Going off meds feels like an accomplishment. It feels like a reward. Like, you’ve done all the therapy, you’ve built up this arsenal of self-care tools - you’ve earned this. Despite having given hundreds of talks to people about brain health and how for some, taking medication is just part of it, I couldn’t help but think I had finally made it. I WAS CURED.
It did not work.
I had been crying everyday for nearly two weeks. I was completely lethargic. I couldn’t make eye contact with anyone. I didn’t want to shower, or socialize, or be touched. I was embarrassed by my behavior, and I was quickly growing to hate myself. And I was this person around my daughter. If you truly want know how it feels to loathe yourself, be at your lowest in front of your child.
Yet, I was still reluctant to return to my medication, because part of me thought I was somehow admitting defeat by doing so. My brain was saying that a very obvious, very painful depression made more sense than taking pills once a day. That’s part of the depression - it tries to convince you that it’s taking care of you. It’s sick and twisted and awful.
I swallowed my messed up feelings of pride and did get an emergency appointment with my psychiatrist, fortunately.
I’ve been back on meds for four days, and I haven’t become unraveled by sadness once since then. I don’t know if it’s a placebo effect or what, but I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth. Granted, of the past four days, two of them were fueled by an abnormal amount of aggression and an urge to lash out at people, but at least it wasn’t soul-sucking depression.
Fun fact: When a person with bipolar goes onto a traditional anti-depressant, they have to be monitored, because in some cases, it can thrust a brain into a manic episode.
So, we’re paying close attention to me. I was able to handle the aggressive, impulsive feelings in a healthy way, so that’s a win. Energy was redirected through scenic drives, family time, and writing.
I still feel defeated, realizing I have to be on medication for the rest of my life. And, to me, that’s weird, because if it was someone else, I’d be applauding them for reaching this milestone, because learning something about yourself, good or bad, is a win, especially when handled with grace.
Here’s to self-awareness.