strength is what we gain / from the madness we survive :or: having a very public nervous breakdown



[originally published one year ago today, January 20, 2017…later that day I checked into a residential mental health facility for one week]

Oh look! I failed Self Care 101!! I wrote a blog post back in August about self care and listening to my body because it knows.
I was watching myself spiral.
I thought I was catching myself.
I was wrong.

I talked about making it two days, just until my appointment with a new psychiatrist. I made it the two days, back in August, and got in to see a new psychiatrist. I cried when she read my history and my new-patient intake forms and asked me some questions, and then looked right at me and completely understood me. She was shocked to hear that she was the first one. That I hadn’t been previously diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
I’m not one for labels, but when a label comes with clarity and a plan?
Yes, I gladly took her label.
Previous diagnosis of severe depression and anxiety and cPTSD changed to (or, added to? or, supplemented with?) bipolar mood disorder (and cPTSD).
I started new meds, adding a 3rd to the 2 I was already taking. I had the adrenaline rush burst of HOPE that a new treatment plan provides. The honeymoon period that comes with new meds.

With the promise of, ‘I’ve got this’.

I’m here to tell you, I didn’t have it.



I thought I would have it. I was sure that once those new meds titrated up to the sweet spot right amount dose, I would be good. I would have it. And for that honeymoon period, I think I actually did have it, a little. At least for part of the time.
But honeymoons end.
That short burst of adrenaline hope that had catapulted me on a chemical high into an insane few months? Gone.
I hit the wall. I fell flat on my face.
Too bad I don’t have a bloody nose to show for it. I’d be much happier right now with a bloody nose than with what I’ve got.

What I’ve got is an empty shell.
A sagging skeleton skin.
No meaty substance.
Wind whistling through hollowed out brain.
Electric zaps that make my head and shoulder twitch together as if magnets were stitched under my skin.
Walking around like a goddamn zombie risen from the grave. Vacant blank slate look in my dark shadowy eyes.
As I stare into the space between.

depression. mania. insomnia. ocd. paranoia. suicidal ideation.

hallucinations. scary as shit. because i don’t always know which ones are the hallucinations and which ones are real.

disassociation. separated from my body i hover and float and watch it all through an old staticky screen. squinting so hard to make out the pictures of me that my eyes hurt. blurred vision. no focus. stress lines around my eyes carving deeper and deeper canyon lines that age my face by a decade.

erratic behavior. impulsivity. fugue states. chunks of time. completely gone. stricken from the record.

i can’t see without my glasses. i can’t see with my glasses. I forget that I even wear glasses. i can’t find my fucking glasses. i can’t find my thoughts or my words. i can’t find the reason why i’ve walked upstairs 5 times in the last 20 minutes. i can’t find the end of this sentence right after i begin it. i can’t find the milk when i look in the pantry, or the cereal when i look in the fridge. i can’t find my hands. i just can’t.

everything hurts. light is too too bright and sends electric bolts buzzing through my veins. I can hear the sizzle as it oozes long river pathways through my blood. sound is too too loud and echoes through the marrow in my bones. I can see the shake of sound waves bouncing off walls inside of flesh behind my eyes.

my skin is constantly on fire. a fire that starts deep down in my core and radiates out through bone and meat and sinewy muscle and flesh. the faint smell of char in my nose, as if i’m a living breathing campfire. as i wipe the sweat off my brow and from the shallow places that it pools on my body, i ask myself if i’m still human or just a walking furnace burning off fossil fuels into the ether. desperate to leave a carbon footprint or nothing at all.

don’t touch my skin. don’t hold me close. it hurts. i want to tell you how much it hurts but hurts doesn’t even come close to telling you how deeply the pain sits.
it makes me feel trapped. i can’t breathe.
it makes me want to scream. and punch you in the throat.
i’m sorry. i can’t help it. it’s not me. only it is.

Everything hurts.

I’m a high speed training heading directly for a brick wall. 

This is apparently what my nervous breakdown looks and feels like. Or at least the parts of it that I’m still able to articulate. Articulation isn’t really a thing for me in all of this. I’m not articulating well at all. For a writer, I’m sure you can imagine a hint of what that must feel like. Maybe like a chef with a stove top full of pots and pans containing all the ingredients, but no spoons to stir or forks to whisk, no spatula to flip or tongs to pick up or put down.

My average mood swings between:
a snotty teary blubbery mess;
to so full of rage that my blood boils over in the creaky basement furnace within me.
Anything in the middle is just numb. All numb. Nothing.
I’m ALL OR NOTHING right now.
Or maybe I’m all gray area right now.
I’m not even sure.

Looking back on that time from the August diagnosis to the current downward spiral, I see it more clearly in this rear view mirror. The manic phase the doctor was so articulately describing; a warning. The manic phase that can last months in someone with bipolar disorder. I thought I knew what I needed to know about bipolar disorder. I thought I knew enough and was doing enough to manage. But I wasn’t. And I didn’t. It was a new label for me. My longterm labels of severe depression, anxiety and PTSD were the labels I knew well. I’d worn them for so long. Strutted them proudly with all their flair.
I was them and they were me.

This bipolar label is still new. It’s me, only it’s not yet. My skin doesn’t slip slide like silk into it quite yet. It does. Only it doesn’t.
I don’t know all the ins and outs and sexy curvy lines of it. Not yet.
I’ll need some time to adjust and feel comfortable in this skin. This two-faced skin of mine.
Some time before I can trace the arch of its spine in the dark. Before I know the scent of it in my bones. Some time until I can reach back and embrace the heavy fullness of it as it gropes for me in the early dusty shadows of pre-dawn light. Before I can breathe into it. Before I can exhale and relax into its embrace.

The last few weeks I’ve put any energy I  could muster into just holding myself together. A juggling act with my marbles. Only I don’t know how to juggle. I’ve tried but my hand to eye coordination is complete shit. So I’ve holed up at home, for the most part. In my room. In my bed. Deep in the safety of the blanket fort. And at night I come out and roam the empty halls, where the only thing I can trip over is myself or the cats. Until the sun rises and the house becomes alive again. And I retreat into the safety of the blanket fort. Reducing my exposure to other people, for fear that I’ll incinerate them with the fiery heat of me. That the rage inside of me will devour anyone who dares cross my path. Or that I’ll drown them with the sheer volume of my uncontrollable tears.

I can’t regulate. Anything. Not my mood or my temperature or my appetite. I feel as if lost control over my mind and my body. I couldn’t hold onto all the marbles. I tried so hard and I just couldn’t. Mental and emotional instability is not something to take lightly. I see that now. First hand. I’m in that too dark place right now. I need help. And I’m the person who tells everyone it’s okay to ask for help but has no idea how to ask for it for myself. And I asked. I did. And I’m getting it. I’m going. Today. Right now.

I’ll be taking a break from life and getting the help I need. With no shame nor fear of judgement. Because this is my truth. This is my story. Right here and right now. As my dear friend keeps reminding me, “oxygen mask on you first”. So here’s to tapping out, asking for help, checking myself in. I’ll have no access to electronics nor internet. For which (after the panic attack when I first heard this) I am grateful. Full of gratitude. Full of relief. It takes the burden away from me. The burden that comes when your own filter has gone. I’ll be there for somewhere between 5-10 days. Five to ten days. I can have visitors and food deliveries. I prefer chocolate and ice cream. They are good for my soul.

I will see you all on the other side, in 5-10 days.
Stronger. I hope.
More clear. I hope.
More myself. I hope.
With more courage.
With more me.
With hope.

Until then, I am numb. All numb. Nothing. I’m all or nothing right now.

Or maybe I’m all gray area right now.

I’m not even sure.


3 thoughts on “strength is what we gain / from the madness we survive :or: having a very public nervous breakdown

  1. Carol Rogero January 24, 2017 / 3:20 am

    Just got around to reading this.So grateful you’re taking time for you and to be taken care of. Big hugs sweet soul. You’re going to be okay. Your mom said so. ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Samantha January 26, 2017 / 11:20 am

    Thank you, Melissa. You have given words to it. A pain treatise. Not much of a treat and certainly not a tease. You just told it like it really is with detail and poetry as only you could do. Words can save us. Keep writing. Even if all you can write is about how you can’t write. After you’ve passed through this deep dark abyss, you will see how you can write and think and understand, even from the bottom of the pit. I love and admire you and hold your spirit in my heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Diane March 19, 2017 / 1:44 pm

    You give us all a gift with your articulation of mental illness. My mother, a poet, wrote a bit like this when Parkinson’s stole her words. xxoo

    Liked by 1 person

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