Roughly sixty-five days ago I began having a mental breakdown.
Forty-four days ago I went into the hospital.
I spent seven days (not enough!) in a ‘residential mental health facility’.
Thirty-seven days ago I came home from the hospital.
Over the past forty-four days my meds have been changed more times than I can count. I stopped keeping track at some point because I just couldn’t keep up. The anti-depressant meds that I’ve been taking for several years at the highest recommended dose were reduced and increased and then reduced and increased and then again and maybe even again, over a span of 3 weeks. Three. Weeks. These are meds that require a very slow titration up and an even slower titration when tapering off (read: just a little bit of an incremental increase/decrease every 2-4 weeks). Slow as in weeks to months. I’m not sure I can even explain what this flip-flopping of dosage in such a short amount of time does to the brain and the body. It made me feel insane (more than I was, ha!), and like I wanted or hoped to die, and like my brain was being electrocuted and I just wanted to fucking rip it out of my skull.
I was prescribed two anti-psychotics (at the same time) and when I had side effects from them I was prescribed an additional med to treat the side effects that I was experiencing. This happened with two iterations of anti-psychotics over two weeks. Anti-psychotics are not for me. Anti-psychotics made me want to rip off my skin. All.The.Time. If anyone even brushed against my arm I would fly across the room and hiss like a feral cat. They made me ragey like I’ve never felt before and I know ragey, it comes with my bipolar swings. They made me feel like I was on fire from the inside out. They made my heart race and my legs twitch, my knees bounce uncontrollably, my hands shake and my vision distorted, and even more. Anti-psychotics are not for me.
The benzos that I had been taking daily for at least a couple few years were cut off, cold turkey. My body was completely addicted to them and went through major withdrawals when they were cut off so abruptly. I was shaky and sweaty and my skin hurt so much I couldn’t stand to be touched. I had a hard time making sense of letters and words and sentences. I couldn’t gather my thoughts. I was so agitated that I couldn’t sit or stand or sleep.
I’ve been given additional meds to help with sleep. They’re not working so they keep getting increased. The mood stabilizer that I’ve been on for 8 months is now being increased to make up for the decrease in the anti-depressant. And the benzo has been replaced with a non-habit forming medication to manage my anxiety and agitation.
I’ve seen three different psychiatrists and two different therapists + my regular therapist. I can’t go to school. I can’t work. Most days I still can’t go anywhere. Right now, ‘most days’ is a significant improvement from ‘all days’. Some days I can shower and dress and leave the house and people. ‘Some days’ is a huge improvement from ‘no days’. A few of those ‘some days’ I can even feel good about being out and being around people. Also an improvement.
The med changes that wreaked havoc on my mind and body are starting to subside a little at a time and I’m starting to feel somewhat like a human again, a little bit at a time. My brain isn’t in quite as much of a fog. My skin is [mostly] not in searing pain. My insides are [mostly] not on fire. Sometimes I’m not as ragey, and sometimes I’m not as depressed. I’ll take it. For now.
I’m not sure if it’s a side effect from the meds or a side effect from the crazy in my head, but I still can’t find my words. And when I do they are jumbled and backward and in the wrong order. I have to read a sentence an average of 3 times before my brain and eyes synchronize and properly process the words to the correct order so that I can comprehend them. I love to read, so this means I can’t enjoy a good book right now. I’m still having trouble forming a cohesive thought. I still can’t find what I’m looking for and forget that I’m even looking for it. I still leave mugs of tea in the microwave all day until they are cold again. I still forget things just a moment later. I still can’t sleep very well. I still. I still. I still.
I share this not for pity or sympathy or for cheers of encouragement. I share this because mental illness comes with so much stigma. We don’t talk about it openly. We don’t share what we’re going through and how we are feeling. We don’t say that a medication makes us want or hope to die. We don’t even say that we’re on meds. We don’t say that we’re a hot mess and can’t see the forest for the trees. We don’t say that we went to inpatient treatment. We don’t say that we’ve been out of inpatient treatment for thirty-seven days and are still not ‘fine’. We don’t say any of it. We hide it and feel isolated and like we’re the only ones going through something like this. We feel like no one will understand.
I want to share this with you. I want you to know that I’m not ‘fine’, not yet. Even though I might say I am. I want you to know that this is the struggle that those of us who live with mental illness experience day in and day out. I want you to understand and I want to find others who understand me. I want to speak freely and show that there shouldn’t be a stigma. I’m still the person that I am. My mental illness is real, and also it doesn’t define me.