I survived the trip. We chose an alternate route that did not involve going through Atlanta, which greatly pleased me. Of course I was still petrified of riding anywhere outside of our regular errands, so before we left I dug out an old bottle of Klonopin that I had leftover from when I had a doctor to prescribe them to me and I had to take a few throughout the trip. But I survived. Panic attacks, paranoia and all. But I can’t say that I have been well since we returned home. The stress of everything really did a number on me, and I think the only reason I have felt halfway okay today is because dissociation is beginning to block out the overwhelming burden of reality. But it has yet to erase this nagging depression, this feeling that I am really, really not alright, as much as I try to pretend to be. Every part of my life has cracks in it that are getting way too big to ignore. And I think this trip made it all the more clear that something has to be done, and soon.
I have been off medications since October. Even now, with all the symptoms I am having, I can’t really say I was doing better on medication. I was just different. And truth be told, I didn’t like that version of myself any better than this one. Medicated Amy is a slightly more subdued form of me, but she is also burdened with side effects like constant fatigue, weight gain (despite diet and exercise), and -in most cases- even moodier (at least at a more rapid level than my usual rapid cycles: think seconds instead of minutes or hours). But Medicated Amy has less paranoia (most of the time), less hallucinations, and the highs and lows are usually not as high and low. Some medications calm down the OCD and/or other manifestations of anxiety. Some make it worse. Usually, whatever medication helps the OCD makes the bipolar worse, or the panic attacks worse, or the angry outbursts worse; likewise, if the medication improves the bipolar aspects of my illness, it often seems to irritate the anxiety. And of course, this is frustrating for me, for my doctors, and for the therapists that have to listen to my complaints of how I can’t concentrate and I can’t function and I can’t seem to feel okay on or off medication.
Since my doctor dismissed me in October (and the place she tried to refer me to wouldn’t take on another patient without insurance) I have tried very hard to keep myself within reasonable bounds of sanity. As much as I have feared that a hospital stay might be the only answer, I have tried to hide the worst parts of me, and have relied on my fiance to fill in as parent when I was raging or suicidal or any of the other Not a Good Mom Moments that have come up. We can’t afford for me to go to the hospital, not a good one anyway. And there’s no one to take care of my son if I am not home. My ex-husband would probably make it even harder to see my daughters if he knew I was struggling enough to be committed for any length of time. So my fiance and I have patched up the broken down spots as well as we could. I regret how hard I have made things for him. I regret bringing children into the world to witness a mother who is so not alright much of the time. I regret being alive most days, and I regret that I fear death too much to take that leap. Mainly, I regret not being whole. I am fragments of this and that, nothing that adds up to a person who can do things properly. And I know that sounds really melancholy and perhaps even ridiculous, but I don’t know how else to look at it.
I have great ideas sometimes, and I would be adequately intelligent, and I would most likely have the ability to focus and get things done, if it were not for all the uglies of mental illness. And that makes me mad. I actually get jealous of people who, despite their illness, go on to achieve highly functioning lives…how the hell do they do it?? And then there are others who are destined to a mental asylum for the rest of their lives, or a prison, or a halfway house, or at the very least 24/7 care from a guardian because they cannot attain a functional level regardless of the treatment options available. And then, there are people like me who are just barely keeping their heads above water; enough to not be a danger to society, enough to get a shower half the time and take care of most basic needs for survival, but everything else is so unbelievably hard. We’re stuck in the middle, where it could be worse, but it could be so much better. If only we could find the right doctor. The right therapist. The right medications. The right opportunities. We search and we try, and we are turned down so many, many times. Life just has a way of sticking us in the ground and sitting on us. After a while, it hurts too much to try. But it’s what we do, we can’t give up, even if we wanted to. So we keep trying to find a way out of the quicksand. I think, hey, maybe I am okay enough to start driving again. Maybe I can start working again. But then I have another major episode and all those dreams get reburied. I begin to think the only future for me is going to be in a state hospital, where the only thing to look forward to is that potential visit from my family each week. And then maybe those visits don’t ever happen. The fiance finds a well person to spend his life with. The kids grow up and have better things to do than spend time with a sad, lonely woman who tried her whole life and never got anywhere for it.
But, damn it, I am still fighting to make a better future for myself and the ones I love. I hope one day I will figure this all out. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to fail my family. What I do want is to be able to trust my own mind when it tells me something, and to be able to share my good characteristics with others without all the bad getting in the way. I want something to make sense for a change. I don’t know what it would feel like to walk through life without these bleeding colors and screeching sounds and fears and rules and clowns and devils all rushing in my brain nonstop. If there is a silence to be known, I wish to hear it. I want a quiet walk in a quiet town and the freedom to own my life and not feel like a prisoner. I will always work toward that, like many pay to win the lottery. I don’t know if I will ever accomplish it, but I have to keep aiming for it. In a way, it is the only thing that keeps me from losing myself completely.