Around a month ago, I set out on the search for a better system for my mental healthcare. The suicidal thoughts had gone from intrusive to insistent, and I was beginning to have crying jags at work and attempting to work out A Plan. Ever the expert at emotional expression, I snapped at and/or brushed off anyone who attempted to express concern. Pain and anxiety shredded my insides, and I was in a constant fog. I could barely form coherent sentences. Mystery illnesses came and went, and I lost hours at work.
In the past, this has been the point at which I go into hiding from the world completely. This time felt different. This time felt like I would do anything to make everything stop. Hiding from the world only ever made things worse. Things just needed to stop completely. There was only one problem: my partner. We were right in the middle of helping rebuild each other’s lives, and taking mine out of the equation entirely would certainly put a snag in the endeavor. Besides that, my income supplementing his was part of what was allowing him to pay down school debt and afford car payments. Together, we could accomplish more in less time. I couldn’t just strand him alone with everything hanging over his head.
Part of me reasoned that I wouldn’t care when I was dead, but…well, I wasn’t dead, and I did care. Besides that, I wanted to see how our story went. We talked a lot about changing things and helping people (much less vaguely than that), and I wanted to see those goals through with him. Killing myself used to be something I could easily reason would harm no one but myself. It wasn’t so easy anymore. So there was nothing else for it than to decide, yet again, to fucking keep going.
The first clinic I called turned me down due to a secondary diagnosis (nothing complements the anxiety of blindly rifling for mental healthcare while in the depths of a suicidal depression like rejection), but they recommended a couple others. I called the one of the short list that didn’t have multiple bad reviews on Google and learned that I wouldn’t be able to get an appointment until at least a month out. Resigning myself to what was likely to be one of the worst months of a possibly shortened life, I agreed. I was within sight, sort of. All I had to do was not think of the six to eight weeks after the appointment that it would take for the medication to start kicking in.
I knew it was going to be difficult, my partner was duly warned that it would be difficult, and we were both surprised by just how GODDAMNED UNBEARABLY AWFUL it was. My thoughts were beginning to find better ways to bypass the blocks I tried to put up around the elephant in my mind. I even pressed a knife to an artery one day to see if I still feared it. I felt no pain, but the ache for relief was brutal.
The appointment was bumped up by nearly two weeks, which would have come as a relief if I hadn’t been systematically eliminating every hopeful thought that popped into my head. It wasn’t that I was willfully being negative, more trying to save myself from being too crushed when everything collapsed in on me–something I had come to see as an inevitability in my life. Somewhere, the axe would always be waiting to fall, and my life would once again revert to isolation and misery. I would never fit in anywhere, no one would ever care about me, and really wasn’t all this effort to fix things just silly? We all know how the story ends, and it isn’t happily. It was the usual last, desperate grab depression makes at taking you out. The antagonist always tries to convince the protagonist that their demise is inevitable, and it’s useless to resist. It’s an important part of any good climax.
In a decidedly un-hero-like manner (there’s a reason I used ‘protagonist’ and ‘antagonist’), I was twitchy and rigid with anxiety throughout the entire appointment. I tried to fix on certain things to avoid the awkwardness of having no idea what to do with my hands or facial expressions in a social encounter anymore. The psychiatrist was a regular at my coffee shop at one point. We even had a tab running for him, which was where I had recognized his name. I hadn’t sought him out for that reason–I hardly wanted customers aware of my mental struggles–but the tray of coffee cups on the table behind him gave me something familiar to which I could anchor myself a little. There was no relaxing, but it gave me a tiny sense of calm, which, coupled with my finally deadening emotions, propelled me through the visit.
There were the standard questions of an initial appointment. What brought me in, etc. I told him about the bipolar diagnosis and was asked to describe times that I had experienced the phases of the illness, though the questions were phrased around the actual symptoms rather than a blunt “tell me about your bipolar phases”. My new psychiatrist confirmed my original diagnosis. He then launched into a description of the illness, including the fact that it could only be managed, not cured.
It’s odd listening to someone recount the facts of an illness you’ve lived with your entire life. I nodded through it, thinking of all the books, articles, studies, and firsthand accounts that I’d read and heard. I already knew about everything he was telling me, but I treated it like entering a new job in the same field you’ve worked in for years: just listen so that they now know that you know.
We talked about what medications I had tried and my experiences with them. I agreed to leave anti-depressants out of my new regimen until the mood stabilizers had been given time to work. Anti-depressants were dangerous to prescribe to those with bipolar disorder, he told me. I’d read the same thing many times before, but I had still been hoping for another Cymbalta prescription. It had kicked me out of my previous depression in less time than advertised, although when not paired with my mood stabilizers it decidedly edged me toward mania. I also agreed to try Seroquel XR again–though my first experience with it hadn’t been great, it was hard to tell if that was because of the constant triggers of living with an abuser or the med itself.
I left the clinic with the words about the illness being incurable cycling through my head. I knew it was, but knowing a thing doesn’t always soften the blow of hearing it. I was stuck with this thing until it finally killed me. Meds wouldn’t even really make it all the way better. The psych had confirmed that they were only meant to better manage the bad phases and give me more and longer normal ones. They couldn’t eliminate the ups and downs completely. They couldn’t keep me from alienating myself with my differentness. They couldn’t stop the “What’s that girl’s deal? She was so happy, and now she snaps at everyone when she talks at all”s. They couldn’t make it all better. Nothing ever would.
I’ll never understand why we decide to keep going when we’re left without hope. Maybe it’s just instinct, maybe it’s the hope for hope, maybe it’s the obligation we feel to the ones who can still hope for us. I will never understand why some people stick with me without judging, but they’ve sealed my loyalty forever. And that, for now, is reason enough to try and try and fail and try some more.