My lovely self, in the psych ward.

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So there’s this thing I never talked about, before I stopped talking altogether. I didn’t talk because I couldn’t talk, because it was all too close and awful, and the other day I read this thing and now, in my head, I can’t stop talking.

http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/lovely-wife-psych-ward-95567/

I didn’t talk because I couldn’t, because, in June 2013, I was committed, which is different from admitted, and all of a sudden talking felt dangerous. In June 2013, something changed.

~~The following may be triggering. Please read with care.~~

The run-up was very much the same old tune: an uptick in work stress, an increase in self-harm behaviors, verbal explosions, days in bed. Except there was something uncontained about the whole situation – how it bled all over my life, and now, how everyone could see. Everyone was aware. My partner would call my therapist, who would advise him to call the cops and/or my parents. There was discussion about what ought to be done with me, as though this “me” were some other entity, something who didn’t have her own priorities.

Given that my ONLY priority was to stay Bin-less until my sister’s wedding, I was not a willing participant. I don’t like to think about those days before my second hospitalization, that hour before I was half-dragged into the ER by my then-boyfriend / now-husband, the indefatigable B!. And the most horrible: my mother, who, having been summoned, walked in to a nurse swabbing my secret wounds with alcohol. The way I cried when she saw me, because I knew what it was that she saw.

I have not forgiven myself for the harm this caused to my family, this falling apart, time after time.

It had been easy, before, to speak of my mental illness as if it were “over”, and it was nice to think of life as having that arc. Health to illness and then better than before. It had been easy, before, to deal with it alone. But June 2013 annihilated the fantasy of my mental health as a solitary island.

I thought I was writing about one thing, but it seems now that I’m writing about another.

It is certainly one thing to be the spouse or partner, and to see your beloved fall into madness. It is one thing to be a parent or sibling, wondering how you can help. It is another to witness one’s own fall, knowing the chain reaction one’s own madness will cause, not understanding how to reach out for whatever it is that might slow your annihilation. Gravity. Vertigo. The pull and weight of the inevitable as your soul wanes thin or burns up in a nuclear blast.

For me, the biggest takeaway from this article is having a “mad plan”. Limits that are set before the descent begins. If X then Y and we all know it. Because without a plan, the free-fall can feel unbreakable. Without a plan, the “healthy” partner has no recourse but to play the enforcer of ad-hoc rules made, often, without the patient’s consent. Without a plan, the patient can be rendered unfit to GIVE consent, her concerns dismissed as excuses or worse.

This is what happened to me, that June. My voice was not heard, and my treatment, therefore, was a farce. In the hospital, my medication was switched, for the third time in as many months, I cried during all my yoga classes, and, after a mandatory three-day hold, I was sent home to a situation much more precarious than the one I’d left.

My sister was getting married. I put on my bridesmaid gown and raised a glass.

 


A secret confession:

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So the front door to our building hasn’t ever really shut properly. We’ve lived here for almost four years, and I can’t ever remember feeling the door slam CLOSED in that concrete way that doors are supposed to do. But that was fine, mostly, because I’m not good with locks.

Then, a few weeks ago, some guy got mugged across the street. We heard him screaming for help through our open window – B! called the cops while I flailed about, eventually bursting onto the scene, arms akimbo, yelling. The two dudes who mugged the guy had taken off up the street, and the victim seemed shaken but not really hurt. It was all of 10:30pm.

“We’re moving,” said B!, making a big scene of shutting the door behind him. “And we’re getting this thing fixed!”

I laughed.

Then, my key stopped working in the door that doesn’t close. And one day, inevitably, someone locked it while I was out at work. Luckily, I had arrived home in midafternoon and not after dusk – but that’s all it took to get me on the phone with our landlord making all types of demands.

“What is it that you need?” he asked wearily, finally returning my third voicemail.

I explained the situation, mugging and all, and the next day a locksmith was at the door. I gave him my sweetest smile and thanked him for his help, and my new key – magically! – worked just fine. It was a big relief, finally having a door that shut and a key that worked, because seriously the previous night I’d had to break in through the basement, climbing over the IKEA Wasteland of Broken Dreams that lives underneath our downstairs porch, IN HEELS NO LESS, to get to the rickety back door.

But, guys, here’s the thing.

I just realized.

My key wasn’t broken. I was just using the wrong one. For like, a couple weeks.

Hey, I SAID I wasn’t good with locks.


Shopping: The most subversive therapy.

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One of my many problems is that I never relax. Like, it makes me nervous, and I’m not very good at it. But Sunday mornings, for some reason, provide a solace that I’ve not found through any other means. You know what I’m talking about, ladies. I’m talking about Target.

I roll up in the early morning sun, just minutes after the doors have opened, and join the line of townies at the understaffed Starbucks. It’s always the same group of not-that-old dudes talking about whatever sport is happening. Or politics. There’s a lot of politics, too.

Dark roast in one hand and ergonomic basket in the other, I weave my way through the women’s  section, looking for good sales and touching all the sweaters, before losing myself wholly in Clearance. This could take awhile.

For a long  time, I wore exclusively Target black tank tops and Target black long-sleeves. When I was in North Dakota, I would continually replenish my wardrobe with such staples – pair after pair of Target knee-length black socks. So, you see, it’s more than just shopping. It’s nostalgia. It’s a uniform. It’s love.

After Ladies’ Clearance has been scoured, I usually make my way through the intimates section. Mostly looking for different colored tights, if you must know, but I’ve been known to eye a kimono robe or two. After that, I’m off to bedding, bath, lamps, and candles, the last of which are never – EVER – on clearance even though I so wish they would be. And I’m always in the market for a wicked cheap lamp.

You can tell by the way I’m writing that I’m kind of working myself into a froth, can’t you? You can feel the madness sinking in? I mean, remember, it’s only probably 8:35am by now, and we’ve already sucked down most – oops – ALL of this coffee – and our basket is suddenly full of all sorts of Things! Towels on Sale and 3-dimensional “thank you” cards (only $2/pkg!) and OMGZ all teh pretty tights and Wait:

 

WTFXX

 

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I TRY TO RELAX. 

I WIND UP BUYING A (!!!)PINK(!!!) SWEATER WITH SOME KIND OF HEDGEHOG ON IT.

I DO NOT WEAR PINK.

I QUIT.


Quiet, now.

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This has been total hell. The whole spring-into-summer. One slow-burning, creeping infection that reinvented itself hourly. There was the hospitalization, of course, but that was just the beginning. That was only the spark.

It wasn’t like last time, this past time – again, June. There was no brandishing grand hopes of success or faith in newly devised treatments. Rather, I harbored a dreadful certainty that this scene would play itself out again and again, rippling its dark water into every corner of my life. Call it what you will, premonition or self-sabotage, but damn if it hasn’t been just like that. My entire basement is flooded, at this point – I’m draining it out a bucket at a time.

Things got really weird for a long time. It’s kind of like, “woah, what was in that brownie” and then forgetting you ever ate the brownie. You’re left unmoored, disembodied, completely immersed in a tilt-shifted world of your own making. It’s different – eerily hollow – but familiar. Then you wake up seven hours later wearing your roommate’s favorite dress, inexplicably covered with butterscotch ice cream topping.

Except that last part never happened. Not this summer, anyway.

Somehow the real-life aftershocks seem even more shattering this go-round, which is saying a lot, I suppose, since my last breakdown resulted in the end of my marriage. But it’s a true statement if there ever was one.  If I tried to list the ways this summer’s trials have screwed up my scene, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. And it would probably be super depressing.

I have a new therapist who specializes in DBT, and, for better or worse, I’ve given up trying to give up Abilify. It works too well, this designer-drug miracle, and pulls me together so completely. Having a new job helped a lot, that much I will admit – having to pretend to be OK sometimes leads halfway there.

So here I am, facing up to reality and moving along. Still pretending from time to time, but mostly just analyzing the cost of the metaphorical sump pump. Getting sick was expensive.


Intra-synaptic swordfighting

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Somehow, I don’t know how, I mis-read the instructions on my bottle of Venlafaxine (generic for Effexor) XR and wound up amping my already high dose to nearly double what’s recommended for human consumption. I’ve been reading since I was two. Like, HOW do you mess that up.

Anyway, not only did I *completely* mess that up, I (unwittingly) spent a few weeks that way.

Oops.

So I ran out early, of course, and decided to just go ahead and cut myself back down where I ought to be with no taper. WHAT COULD GO WRONG!!

Ladies and gentlemen, I can now personally certify that hatcheting off 300 milligrams of Effexor, a psychoactive drug with true physical withdrawal and an awkward half-life, is not a good idea, under any circumstances, for anyone. Go here and do a page search for “Venlafaxine”. Go on, now. Good times, right? I’m goddamn lucky I didn’t get hauled back to the ER.

Although the sudden worsening of depressive symptoms is especially welcomed when received alongside a wad of unpayable medical bills from June’s stay at McLean, I have to say that my favorite part so far has been the full-body brain zaps. The who what now? Allow me to expound!

You know that feeling you have when you’re falling in a dream, and you wake with a start the split-second before landing? Like, you can almost feel the bones crush with ground but JUSTalmost / NOTquite? Imagine that times 15, and it’s happening while your head is enclosed in a skintight pleather mask with a brushed silver zipper – large teeth – securing the front seam from chin to hairline.

Now imagine someone ripping that sucker open. Hard. Right as you land.

And maybe someone also has your skull inside a paint mixer for a breath or two.

If you’ve ever succeeded with Salvia divinorum, it’s kind of like that, except awful. It feels SO bizarre and SO unpleasant and only happens (thank God) at night. But man. I’m totally not doing this ever again.


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