Monday, August 16, 2010

I frequently joke about having a seat on the train to crazy town. While it is, in some ways, a convenient way to excuse some of my quirks, there is more than a grain of truth to it.

I mean, when I tell people my family history - the full on version, I generally get shocked silences. In some ways, because it is what nurtured me and produced THIS Dawn, I forget what it can look like on the outside.

I tend to laugh at my stories. Most other people do not.

It was during my first years in therapy that I started to catch on that my "funny family stories" weren't particularly funny to others. Maybe it was the horrified face of my first therapist that clued me in, or my first real room mate listening wide eyed and stricken to some memory I  recalled.

Let's just say that by 1989, I had figured out through a combination of therapy and interactions with other people outside my family that we were different.

I will spare you the full list of the various diagnosis of my both branches of my family tree. Suffice it to say, we have every major mental illness and/or addiction WELL covered. You name it, we got it. Going back generations even.  We are not a family who "discovered" mental illness in the age of Prozac, oh Hellz no. Genetically, We are the reason pharmaceuticals were invented.

I have had at least 5 major clinical depressions since 1996 not to mention a few minor ones that we pulled me out of with medication and some intensive patching up. One of those lasted nearly three years - the one after Emily was born.

I have had one full blown Manic episode too. I alluded to it back in 2006-2007, but didn't so much name it, as I was still pretty well smack dab in the midst of it.

Does this make me officially a bi-polar? No, I don't think so. In tandem with my doctor, we figured out that a combination of medicines did some really messed up things to my brain. Now, had I been under the care of ONE doctor who I saw every week, I suspect she would have picked up on it much faster. However, because I moved while in the "phase in" period of the second drug...and had yet to find someone here in Montreal to treat me, I was able to happily spin off the rails for a good 8 months before I crash landed in the McGill Health Center, crying on a cot, my throat completely closed by strep in January of 2007. By the summer of that year, I had stabilized and been weaned off the second drug and was doing much better.

Mid 2008, when my medication needed adjusting again, I started to long for the mania. My depression  was creeping back in and anything - ANYTHING- was preferable to the sludge of living inside depression. I had leftover pills from long ago and began to take them - hoping for a jump start out of the sand trap.

And here is where we all say "Dawn. What the fuck? If you KNOW these combination of meds are going to cycle you into a Mania...only to crash BACK down into a worse depression, WHY would you do that?"

Um.... Cause?  It isn't logical. It makes no sense, except to say that I knew something was going wrong and I was trying like hell to fix it before it got worse and that your rational mind just doesn't tune in the way it should when all the chemicals are balanced and the neurons firing in the right way.

I had taken them for about 2 weeks before I confessed to my therapist and we weaned me off of them again, while boosting the dose of my primary medication.  He asked me why too.

I am going to try and explain it the best way I can and maybe it will make more sense to you than I think it did to him.  And I will preface it all by saying maybe no one who hasn't lived through one can understand it.  Maybe people with balanced brains can't fathom what I am about to write. And I get that, because 60% of the time when my brain is balanced I am disturbed by that epoch in my life.

But the other 40%? Misses it terribly.

*Part II - Coaster, up next

4 Baleful Regards:

Anonymous said...

I had a discussion with someone about identifying bipolar in girls early. The sooner they get on the meds, the less they remember the mania. If they can remember the mania, they spend the rest of their lives missing it and/or chasing it via whatever means.

Of course they would. Who wouldn't want a completely natural high that's better than your best all-nighter?

Dawn said...

Are we related? I have the full family history of mental illness as well - in fact I have a great uncle that was given a lobotomy (back in the day when that was the way to handle us crazies). The high of mania is something everyone would reach for if they had ever experienced it, even though somewhere deep down we know the crash is coming. Does it make sense to the "normals" of course not - but then again alot of them have that Pull yourself up by your bootstraps thinking anyway.

Now, try having a chronic syndrome that is life changing and was formally to be thought to be all in our heads, mix in my family history and yeah.....everyone thinks if I would just try another anti-depressant I would be magically cured.

Anonymous said...

Oh, totally. I've got diagnosed and undiagnosed mental illness all over my tree. Well, my maternal tree.

Sometimes I'm so unmotivated I long for a little mania. But, then, I remember the winter my mother decided to strip the paint off the beams of our 100-year-old dining room. 24/7 on a ladder with a heat gun, ignoring the basic needs of the two children in the house must have been a blast. It sure was for us!

E. said...

I can completely understand why you miss it. Madge's comment about girls experiencing and seeking it for the rest of their lives makes sense and also sheds light on some of the adolescent girls I've taught who have both awed me and worried me. I envy that energy so much, and I'm scared of it like I'm scared to ever ever try meth or heroin even once. I've talked to too many people who've tried one or the other and say something along the lines of "once you feel it, you never stop wanting to feel it again."

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