I’m two weeks post-bipolar II diagnosis and starting Abilify, and I’m one week into the process of weaning off my two antidepressants. The tapering process was actually going much better than I expected until the last couple of days, when I got strapped into an emotional Tilt-a-Whirl that I can’t seem to escape. To be clear, 80% of the time I feel great. I feel clear-headed, alert, energetic, quick-witted, and all-around more like myself than I have in years. Abilify has been nothing short of a miracle for me – in a matter of days it quite literally flipped the switch on my depression and it’s gone. But, as I suspected, weaning my brain off the antidepressants it’s been on for two years is not without its consequences, even though the drugs haven’t been doing what they should because I was misdiagnosed. I’ve been shaky the last few days – mostly in a good mood, but it’s fragile. I’m fine and then I see a photo on Facebook of a casual acquaintance’s new baby, and I’m in tears because his cheeks are so perfect. Or out of absolutely nowhere, I think of the fact that my mom has a severely disordered view about food and eating and how that’s affected me negatively my whole life, and I’m crying on the train. Or I watch an episode of Girls and one tearful, trying-to-keep-it-together expression on Lena Dunham’s face causes a total breakdown. But these meltdowns last a matter of minutes, if not seconds, and then they’re over and I’m fine. It’s exhausting to not know minute-to-minute what’s going to set me off. But I know it’s temporary and after this part is over, I can look forward to being much more even-keeled and stable.
I will, unfortunately, be depressed again at some point, because my new medications will lessen my bipolar symptoms but they can’t eliminate them. But if they work the way they should, I won’t ever be as bad as I was even a few weeks ago. I won’t be so depressed that I can barely move or talk, and I won’t think about dying a dozen times a day. I won’t think about something that upsets me and immediately spiral into “This thing upsets me and oh my god I hurt so much all the time and it’s never, ever going to be over and the only way to make it stop is to die.” I’ve been living with that every single day for five months. I have been trapped in a body that’s been torturing itself for two years. (And here I go, crying again.) Since my hospital stay, I’ve found myself actively resenting the fact that I have family and friends who would be completely shattered if I killed myself, because that was the only thing that kept me from doing it, and I wanted to do it so badly so I wouldn’t hurt anymore. I’d look at pictures of my little niece and nephew and know in my heart that I couldn’t allow myself to become their Aunt Minerva who’s so hard to talk about in front of them because of What She Did. I couldn’t allow myself to leave and not see the amazing people I know they’ll grow up to be. I couldn’t allow my final act on this earth to be breaking the hearts of everyone who cares about me. And I had moments when I hated all of you for that. That is what this nightmare madness was doing to me. And the Abilify shut it off. I like myself and my life again and I want to see whatever adventure is next. And when my next depressive episode happens, it won’t be nearly as bad. Having that “I wish I was dead” feeling is a living hell to experience just once, much less multiple times a day, day in and day out. I will never be able to explain the agony of it. And while I could easily be really angry that I was suffering like that for so long without an accurate diagnosis and treatment (even my therapist says I have a right to be thoroughly pissed off), I’m not. I’m so immensely relieved to be feeling better and to know that I’ll continue to feel good more often than not from here on out. I think about that sometimes and cry from pure relief and joy.
It sucks that I’m bipolar. But that’s just a word in my medical record. The reality here is that we’ve finally figured out what’s the matter and now we can treat it properly. And if I didn’t believe in miracles before, this tempts me quite a bit.