Today is the First Day of the Rest of My Life for the Next Two Weeks

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Me, take the large jumps that you know you can do, and don’t look down because if you do, you’ll fall. But don’t be stupid either – do all the safe things.

6 September 1999

After a quiet weekend I went out to work. It’s not easy to concentrate on the tasks at work, and in fact I did not do very much. But that’s okay. I feel as if I just had major surgery and I’m back out to work for the first day.

Most eerie is the sensation that I don’t know what to do next. I’ve been so out of it that I cannot remember my daily routines in or out of work.

At home, this means that I don’t remember all the things I usually do in my morning schedule or the order I do them. Do I have to water the plants in the morning or the afternoon? I actually have to think of an answer. I’ve forgotten my habits. Same thing on afternoons. It feels odd to come home from work when I haven’t done it for a while. I forgot to pass for the groceries I needed. What did I do between reaching home and going swimming? I don’t even feel like going swimming.

I can see that it is going to take a few days to get back in stride. Or a few weeks.

7 September 1999

Today is as confusing as yesterday. My head feels fine – I don’t have the sensation of depression. And my basic ability to get things done aren’t hampered or slow the way things are with depression.

But in the big picture, I’m still acting as if I am depressed.

I don’t know what is the cause. I can think of a few reasons though. Perhaps I am still a bit depressed, and it is showing subtly. Or perhaps I am still shell shocked – the last two months have been very bad and the last three weeks have been devastating. Or perhaps the phase shift is continuing apace and my old daily life is becoming something I know as a faded memory in the past.

Or perhaps it is a mixture of all of the above. I do know it is interfering with my returning to a real life.

Perhaps it is because I do not want to return to that real life. I think I am scared. Sort of like the little boy with a candle flame. In trying to live normally for the last two months, I’ve been burned rather badly with the mood swings, and I’m a little scared to touch the flame again.

Well, whatever the reason for my apparent listlessness, it is keeping me from moving on. Quite annoying. Does anybody own a size 13 foot? Does anybody want to use it?

I am also annoyed that my family expects me to simply pick back up and immediately be as fully active and organised and capable as if nothing went wrong. But this really is like coming from major surgery and it will take me some time to settle back in.

Now objectively, mom and dad have been filling in without comment and without carping about how I am doing badly. So the feeling that they have expectations could just be a feeling on my part. Still, there it is, one additional thing to deal with. Sigh.

I am also getting the most unusual sensation that mom and dad don’t know how to talk to me about my being depressed and they are therefore glossing over it and pretending that everything is normal. It’s irritating because I would like to share what has been happening to me, if for no other reason so I can justify my behaviour.

But at the same time, I find it extremely difficult to talk to them about my being depressed too. I don’t even let them read this website, though it is publicly available. I’m not ashamed of it, but I just don’t know how initiate the conversation. Where does one start?

The depression is too complex to describe easily, even for me and I’m living it. I’m not sure that I will provide an understandable account of what has been happening. Especially since I suspect that if we talk about the same things in two weeks, I’ll give them a slightly different set of answers. How does that help them understand me?

8 September 1999

Got up this morning at 4:00 am. What the heck is going on? But I feel good. Clear headed. Normal. Got to work before 8:30 am, for the first time in, oh, six to eight weeks.

And I ironed a shirt! I must be well if I can do something as complicated as find a clean shirt, find the iron, set up the ironing board, and iron a shirt (which has lots of complicated motor actions and requires patience).

I felt clear headed at work, but still wasn’t up to a full day. Sneaked out at about 1:00 pm. But not guiltily. I’m still recovering and I deserve it.

The medications (600 mg Epilim / 600 mg Lithium) are doing weird things to me. I feel extremely nauseous, wanting to throw up all the time. And these terrible headaches. I’m hoping it will all pass in time. But generally I’m glad how things are working out. If the Epilim stays as effective as it currently does and the nausea goes away, I’ll be happy.

And I’ll know that if things go wrong, I’ll only take three weeks to restabilise (not including fixing my life). This may sound like a long time, but at least I’ll know a time.

I’m also realising that I’m slowly learning about compassion. It is not something I would have expected, or even thought about. But in going through all this, I am slowly understanding that other people have an equally difficult life, or worse. Not intellectual abstract knowledge, but a kinship – life can indeed be tougher that it looks. I haven’t done anything wrong, and many of the people who aren’t doing so well haven’t done anything wrong either – just circumstances conspiring against them.

It is so ingrained that we reap what we sow that we often forget that perhaps the truism isn’t true all the time. And how do you tell. In a world with randomised callousness, it is a profound experience to see, really see, that other people are just like me, struggling and heroic and infinitely precious.

It does make me feel blessed. Don’t get me wrong. I hate being bipolar, and I hate the things it has done in my life, and will do to my life. I used to think that nothing would be worth the horror of being bipolar. But the gift of compassion is a great gift indeed. And it is worth the price.

All I need to learn now is how to put compassion into action. And how to act such that God can be made manifest in my actions.

9 September 1999

My schedule is still shot to hell, but hopefully getting there. I don’t have much to say, but when I’m feeling well, what is there to say.

The Chinese have a curse – “May you live in interesting times.” And us bipolar people certainly have interesting lives. So I’m very happy to be boring at the moment.

I’m starting back exercise tomorrow (I’m always starting back exercise tomorrow). And I’m slowly slipping back into old routines that I have had for years. This is a danger. I’ll have to watch myself from getting too comfortable in habits simply because they are familiar. I have to change to a life that protects me more.

10 September 1999

Today was full of little incidents, none of which I am to keen on.

I changed my method of taking medication slightly yesterday. Instead of taking Epilim (Depakote) 200 mg morning / 400 mg evening, I’ve shifted to to 300 mg. / 300 mg. It’s not a big shift but even that minor increase has left me groggy this morning. And nauseous. Just when I thought I had gotten past that with Epilim.

You just can’t win. Or if you can, it takes an awfully long time. Patience ain’t a virtue, it’s a survival trait.

In addition, I just realised that I got either a rash or was sunburned on my cheeks over the last few days. Now, since I wasn’t very much out in the sun, I am at a loss to understand this – unless of course I am photosensitive at my current dosage of Epilim. And I itch slightly.

So red cheeked and itching, I head off to the gym. There to find out that I weigh in at a new high of 165 lbs. I try rowing and the treadmill. I can’t make thirty minutes. This is from someone who used to do 45 minutes of cardio work and then do weights.

The medication must be working because I should be seriously down about this sorry state of affairs, but I’m not.

What did I say before. Patience is a survival trait. Right. I’ll just have to start back over. But I don’t have to be happy about it.

And trust me. I am not happy about it.

And for the final insult. On Friday afternoon among the office staff, I decline a beer due to the meds. Then I say to myself what the heck and take one. By the time I am halfway through, I am feeling as if I want to throw up. The sensation remains with me for the next two very miserable hours.

A very nice way to round off the day, eh? Guess I won’t be having alcohol again in a hurry. I feel persecuted.

12 September 1999

Today has been my first day that I have felt normal. Though normal here is defined by absences. Not hyper, not depressed. Not feeling any particular way, but not numb either. You know. Normal.

Well, maybe you don’t know.

I am still nauseous though. I can’t wait for my body to accept the new dosage regimen for Epilim. But this is going to take a few days. I still feel like throwing up, I still feel as if I have acid reflux, and I still am getting a headache. But I’m willing to tolerate it for a week or so again if it makes me normal.

It’s just as well that I have time now. I have three pairs of clean underwear left. I have no clean work shirts. I have no clean dress shirts that can act as work shirts. I barely have clean shirts. I have one or two T-shirts that I can wear in public left in my cupboard. I have been wearing the same pair of jeans for three weeks now. I have no clean socks, so I’ve been wearing moccasins everywhere (okay, so I’ve worn dirty socks with shoes when I’ve gone to work, but everybody does that).

I’ve put out the garbage. Some sage advice. Never put a bipolar person in charge of putting out the garbage.

Luckily, this time around I haven’t killed, or even maimed, any plants.