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How Taking a Different Medication Affected My Bipolar Disorder

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Last week, I swallowed a pill that was round instead of square. Duane Reade said they were out of the brand name and oh, how that different pill failed me.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

Last week, I Googled “hotels in the middle of nowhere,” but no place seemed far enough away. Last week, I hovered over the “deactivate” button on Facebook to abandon a three-year fight – to escape the accountability you give me. Last week, I let the mental illness that kills me on the inside have its silence back. Last week, I “G-mapsed” a bike route from Midtown to another state. Too wobbly to make a straight line up First Avenue, I quit. Last week, I walked 68 miles and it wasn’t enough to pull me from the grip of apathy — to keep me from saying, “please, just leave me alone.”

Last week, my ears ached at the sound of a pin drop; the friction of a cotton shirt was enough to make me scream. Last week, I jumped if you tapped me on the shoulder, and I woke up shaking. I double bolted the doors last week, and no one could get in.

Oh, how many years it has taken me to erect asylums that actually feel secure. I’ve written a roadmap for every circumstance; calling them the “how-to guides for avoiding isolation.” Because I know myself and where I go when shit gets hard. I’m armed with the snacks, books, shoes and music to conquer any mood, but last week showed me nothing is infallible; not an orange bottle of squares or circles, not me or my disaster plans.

Over guacamole, I learned that the “planets are retrograde” right now, and I honestly don’t know what the hell that means, but it resembles reason so I’ll take it. I wrote desperately on my Thursday commute and watched the office shredder make my six, still-warm pages into confetti once I got in. I have no recollection of what I said on what’s now just a pile of shredded paper. It’s unlikely my voice came through.

After years of unbridled pride, I couldn’t have anticipated the shame that seeped in last week. I wanted to hide and did for a moment. But I say one sad thing out loud and I’m flooded with encouragement from a cheering squad so huge I swear it could fill Yankee Stadium. I feel like I’ve let my team down but the spotlight stays on me however far I try to run, and everyone continues to cheer. The high-functioning façade is an erasure of the very nature of these moments. I feel like I’m crushing everyone, like I will wreak complete havoc if I stay in sight. My candor in life has given me power of influence and little regret — until last week. Last week, I spent 30 minutes on the phone spiraling, piling reason on reason that I’m a burden, an imposter. No one can desert a person who isn’t there; last week I walked out on vulnerability and left.

Last week, I was the antithetical shell of a self I’ve chiseled from a dark past for years; a contradiction that I, and no one around me, knew how to help. I’ve championed the art of proactivity with episodes like these; I’ve always been prepared for the rain before it falls. Trying to reconcile the rift between who I felt I was just weeks ago, and who I suddenly became, was a non-starter. I quit looking for places to run when Google’s ideas no longer felt far enough away. The solution was to stay put – to take care of myself – but I couldn’t see it.

It’s a new week and still my mind is tired. At this moment, writing feels like it only serves to deepen my feelings of incompetence. But here I am, telling you about last week – a chapter I refuse to leave out even if doing so is what’s easiest. I don’t have it all together. Sometimes I want to check myself into a hotel room and go rogue in a way that’s destructive to me, and concerning to those who care. But for a moment, I don’t care. The story doesn’t quite fit into the usual Lindsay narrative, but if usual is what you expect, you haven’t read far enough.

Last week, I was empty, and now I trust the planets to align. I work to forgive myself for the moments I function so high I hardly have control of my limbs — pencils flying, paint everywhere, miles underfoot — and those in which I can hardly move at all. Reaching out when my instinct is to run is the most radical option I have in these moments. I’d like to shred last week into pieces so small it feels like a manageable demon. I need to be confident enough to sweep it away at some point, but what doesn’t take time is no accomplishment. How you failed me last week, my generic little pill — pink, shiny and unassuming — otherwise so reliable. You brought me darkness instead of light; took the voice right out of me.

My iPhone says I listened to my sad song 30 times in two days last week, though I hardly remember it. Indifference – the evil byproduct of sadness – ran after me until I let it in. I lost myself and my ability to think rationally. I write about the sweet taste of stability often – as if “last weeks” don’t still happen sometimes – but it’s only fair to give you the full picture. You know how gum fades into a tasteless, burdensome lump when you chew on it too long? You forget it was ever good and realize you’ve been carrying it around with you for too long? That was last week. Sometimes there’s no trash can for the garbage we carry around and we have to deal with it until there is. Life is about the good, the bad and even the in-between because it reminds us how much more we can feel.

This week, I’m letting the lyrics that came after a hopeless beginning resonate; hoping they inspire me to sleep without panic, find my voice again.

Bipolar disorder is an illness full of surprises; it will never let you have immunity, but it will strengthen the system within you that fights back. Soon, I will be ready to say, “Next time I’ll be stronger, and you won’t knock me down.”

Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

Follow this journey on the author’s website.

Image via contributor

Originally published: August 17, 2017
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