Hell of a year, right? Enough already. I don’t think the world is going to reset at midnight on New Year’s Eve and everything will be better, but I hope it’ll be a bit of a relief to put this calendar year to rest and enjoy that initial fresh-start feeling in 2017.
On the 30th it’ll be a year since I went to the emergency room because I wanted to kill myself. I spent New Year’s Eve drugged out of my skull and asleep by 10pm in a sad little bed in a psych hospital. Yesterday Facebook showed me a photo from a year ago, the day when my college friends and I got together, all seven of us, for the first time in forever. It’s a great group photo and I found myself studying my own face, wanting to analyze that smile that looks so easy and bright. I think about what a wreck I was and feel sad for that year-ago girl who was spinning out of control and didn’t think anyone could help her. My hospital stay was a largely positive experience because I was with the rehab patients, not the other patients who were mentally ill and posed more danger to themselves and others. I came out feeling emotional but also glowingly grateful for the chance to get things off my chest to a supportive group (never underestimate the power of unloading your stuff on a small group of impartial strangers and have nothing come back at you but unconditional acceptance and a complete lack of judgment). I was better for a while, then started spiraling out again, even worse than before, and that’s when the bipolar II diagnosis came. Ultimately this was an incredibly good thing, but before we got the meds right, I wound up in the hospital again in May. That was a fucking trainwreck. I was locked up with severely sick and disordered patients and nobody there was going to get any better. I woke up to people screaming their heads off in the middle of the night and getting locked into “quiet rooms” that were basically prison cells. It was a horrible hospital with horrible staff and I walked out in no better shape than I was when I went in.
But then I took a month off work and we got the drugs right, and everything’s been different since then. I’m still a little depressed most of the time, but that’s pretty normal for a bipolar II sufferer, and sometimes I’m manic, although that’s mostly mild. But overall I feel much more in control and that’s a win all around. My mom gave me a book about bipolar II and it’s been a revelation to learn how some things that I assumed are just my personality are actually symptoms of depression or mania. Sometimes that makes it hard to know when I’m feeling angry or upset about something genuinely shitty and when I’m not, but it’s still good to know that irrational irritability, explosive anger, and my sometimes-debilitating sensitivity to rejection are often symptoms of hypomania, not my “crazy” personality traits that I’ve spent so much time hating. There’s so much freedom in that because it enables me to understand myself better and recognize when it’s time for self-care to get myself balanced and feeling more like me again. I’m not always an unwilling rider of the bipolarcoaster, as I like to call it. It can be a subtle, insidious disease, but every day I’m learning to recognize its many faces.
That’s been my year in mental health. Six months of garbage followed by six months of slow but steady improvement. Thank you to those of you who put up with me being cripplingly depressed and unable to go out, or relentlessly crabby, or just not present in general, and still supported me. None of it’s been intentional but I know that I don’t exist in a vacuum so I am, in fact, a pain in the ass to be friends with sometimes. So thanks to everyone who’s still here. I love you. Everything won’t reset as 2017 rolls in, but I still feel hopeful that my health (and life) will stay on this upward trend.
As Bukowski said, “Be on the watch. / There is a light somewhere. / It may not be much light / but it beats the darkness.”