I am up at three in the morning again, fidgety. I am rolling and raw and anxious on appointment days, even when I know those are helping me. I always want to cancel, put everything in a car and flee to the high desert of New Mexico where I feel safe.
When I get there, my leg jerks so fast I nearly move a whole row of chairs as I fill out paperwork, checking numbers to correspond with how I’ve felt, the number of days I’ve wanted to die this month, if I want to harm myself and if I have been sleeping (too little or too much). My eyes are all over the room, trying not to alight for too long on any other patients. I glare at some hokey Pinterest homemade sign with white lettering on the front desk, the kind you can change that’s reads, “Don’t stress. Relax,” as if it were all that easy.
When I am called back, I immediately demand, “Will there ever be a time when I am comfortable coming here?”
“Sit down and tell me how you’ve been doing,” she responds. I have a tendency to lie in these situations because for years, when anyone asked how I was, I glossed it over. Then, I went home and drank whiskey with abandon until I was numb, until I accidentally broke lamps, until my legs were black and blue all up and down and I couldn’t really recall why, until I couldn’t remember if I’d taken sleeping pills. I quietly and cowardly hoped I might not wake up.
But I don’t lie anymore. It is hard to put into words how I am. Some days, everything is improved. Other days, I scream and insist that I’ll just quit everything because these meds are clearly not working. “Can’t you see? Everything is just the same,” I scream.
On those days I think it’s the same, “I just now have the firm knowledge that until I die, I will never escape it, and do you know how overwhelming that is?!” My days will march by with me there, somewhere being so manic, tingling and above it all that I forget complete conversations. My body has to shut down something to survive this much cortisol, and I’ll stare into your face and not really hear a word you are saying. I will forever be hyperventilating in hotel rooms, shaking with cold with four blankets on top of me, and my limbs going numb.
I curl my fingers around the seat under me, white-knuckled, and fight tears. I am no crier, but these days I seem to cry at the drop of the hat. “You did this to me,” I think scornfully. She speaks softly, getting to the heart of what matters. I tell the truth, and I wonder if I should interrupt her; something has caught my attention. I would want someone to tell me, I think.
The first time, she asked me a ton of questions about shopping habits, drug and alcohol history, and hypersexuality. I gave a life history. I volunteered, pouring out like a leaky bucket, all about the boiling rage. She tells me she thinks this next drug will work. I am already on two that have helped, depending on the day and my outlook. She and I nod our heads, hopefully. Neither of us now know that in a few days, I’ll be calling for her as she has taught me, high and buzzing in my web on the ceiling. “This is not working,” I practically scream. “I haven’t slept. I can’t sleep. I’ve been ‘working on my projects,’” I tell her. She debates on whether to drop the dosage or switch medicines. “Stop taking it immediately,” she answers. “We’ll have you come in and try something else.”
The first one told me about the most helpful drug she knew of; she thought it would work for me. Then she said, “We have to do frequent blood tests. It can become toxic. Your kidneys may be affected. You will always be thirsty. You may slur your words once in a while. You will need to read about the other side effects.” So I have added frequent blood tests to watch the levels in my bloodstream. The next one they try to add, I’m warned, “If you become rigid and can’t move, you need to let me know. If your legs start to jerk, and if you have tremors, let me know. We’ll find something else.” I sit and stare and watch her as she asks more questions, typing frantically in my chart.
At the very end, I mention, “I’m just telling you because I would want to be told; you have lipstick on your teeth.” I walk out with a firm parting handshake, and I wonder, “Will this make things different? Between her and I? With my brain? Will this make things different as I walk through the yard, and every time a plane flies low overhead, I wonder if I’m about to die?” Sometimes I hope I’m about to die. I tense, readying myself for impact.
I think to myself, I am going to write a book about my experiences with this. There hasn’t really been one out for years, and I know because I’ve read most of them. Then I wonder if I really can and should write this book, or if I’m just manifesting grandiosity again.
In spite of what you have read above, it is never as bad as I’ve imagined. I love my psychiatrist, and I always feel good when leaving. I just want to always be truthful about how heavy that day can be, too. Am I right, friends?
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Author: Sarah Ponder