What going off my meds taught me

Long story short? It was a bad idea.

I quit the meds because I was angry that they weren’t working, nothing was working, so obviously I just had to snap out of it, right?

The first few weeks were fine. I actually felt a little bit better too. A bit less depressed, things were looking good. I didn’t feel insanely great or anything but the depression wasn’t quite as suffocating. And with that, I was filled with hope that the diagnosis was wrong, that it was just a phase and I could get out of it on my own.

The crash was sudden, it coincided with going back to college (something that I wasn’t really looking forward to). Things went from being okay to a full panic in, as my old roommate would say, a hot second. At first I just thought that it was the initial “I’m back at school and I don’t want to be here” panic, and that I would get over it. But the weeks went by and it persisted, and it got worse. Soon my depression was as suffocating as ever, I was exhausted, unmotivated, and terrified of my own mind. My anxiety also increased dramatically, everything terrified me. Little things would cause me to curl up in a ball in my closet and scream silently into a pillow. I fell back on my old coping habits of self harming, and did so more than I ever had. The future scared me, hell the next day scared me.

I’m no stranger to suicidal thoughts, but I had never experienced anything like this, or if I did I had forced it out of my memory. It was terrifying, the persistent stream of thoughts, 24/7. I tried to stop them but I couldn’t, and at a point I just gave up. I let them wash over me and fester in my mind. In the past, when I was suicidal, I would always tell myself that I wouldn’t do it because I had family to live for. But this time, these thoughts drowned all of that out. I started thinking about how I was going to do it, who I was going to write suicide notes to. I knew there were people who would be devastated if I killed myself. I knew my mother wouldn’t be able to live with herself. But I couldn’t do it anymore, any of it, I had to make the suffering end, and there was only one way out. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t see reason, I couldn’t do anything, and I wanted it to be over.

I don’t know who it was that convinced me, probably my therapist and a couple of my friends, but they convinced me to see a counselor here to see a doctor to get back on meds. Everything seemed so hopeless, there was no way meds could pull me out of this, it was all me and I either needed to tough it out and get better or just do the world a favor and kill myself.

My old doc put me back on Lithium when I was home from break. It actually took me a few days to start taking them again. I couldn’t imagine it helping and I didn’t want to go back on meds, because that meant that I was weak and couldn’t deal with my shit on my own. But reluctantly I started taking them. I think my viewpoint was along the lines of “well it can’t get much worse.”

After a couple weeks back on the Lithium I met with a doctor at my university for a psych eval. I was secretly hoping that he would say that I wasn’t mentally ill and it would just get better and I wouldn’t have to worry about it again, or that it wasn’t bipolar but plain ol depression. But, at the end of the session he agreed with the bipolar diagnosis and added Seroquel to the mix.

When I left the appointment I just felt truly numb and sad. I don’t want to have bipolar, I don’t want to deal with this for the rest of my life, I don’t want to have to take meds for the rest of my life just to feel normal. One part of me said that it’s true and I just need to accept that i’m bipolar and get better, but the other part of me kept saying that I just have to suck it up, my hypomania isn’t even that bad anyway, I just need to snap out of it. The latter has been the destructive inner monologue that I’ve had on repeat for years. Acceptance is a very treacherous road that I hope to reach the end of soon.

But now about a month after I got back on the meds, things are getting better. About 3 weeks after I started the Lithium my suicidal thoughts pretty much disappeared and my anxiety has also lessened. Things are by no means perfect yet, i’m still depressed and anxious, but it is a hell of a lot more manageable than it was a month or so ago. I’m picking up the pieces too, I had to drop a couple of classes which could have implications when I transfer, I’m doing terribly in my Calculus 2 class and I have to bring up my grade a lot, which is very stressful. I’m trying to spend more time with the people who I isolated myself from when I wasn’t doing well. But I’m trying to not beat myself up when i can’t do things because of my depression, which is a difficult task. I am also trying my best to work towards accepting my bipolar diagnosis, so we’ll see where that takes me.

However, all of this answered one of my questions that I had this summer, it turns out the lithium was doing something when I quit it. Whats sad is even now I doubt whether it is actually the lithium thats helping or if I’m just lifting out of this on my own.

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