This fortnight seems to be the Annual Time of Year that Big Shifts Happen in my life. I only just realized it this week for some reason. On April 24, I celebrated 9 years since we found out the Bear was planning her Winter ’07 debut. On April 26, I’d been off all my psychiatric meds for a solid two years*. This weekend marks 13 years since my earnest suicide attempt and subsequent stay in a mental hospital. And today marks 10 years since the last time I checked out of an inpatient mental health facility.
More than celebration, all of this past-gazing signals that the season of Beltane/May Day seems to be as good a time as any to make bold life changes; the energy is ripe for it, and obviously I’ll be okay, if the past is meant to prove anything.
That’s actually the thing that most surprises me about this particular story of mine; I did this myself. I mean, there were people around me who were encouraging me to “get better”, but none of them knew what I needed to do that, since we all were clinging to doctors and conventional methods. In fact, when I announced “I’m quitting my medicine and my doctors, you guys!” everybody was pretty damn terrified. And I was scared, too, but, moreso, I also had a Something In Me telling me that this is what I needed.
And it was. And I did it. I did it without doctors. I did it without a support group. I did it without begging a deity to show me answers. (I did it without ribbon! I did it without tags! I did it without packages, boxes, or bags!) I just listened to myself for a change…well, I listened and actually heeded my advice for a change…
Alright, and ask anyone who has known me intimately for awhile and they’ll tell you I’m not as independent as I love to fancy myself. I’m whiny and needy too much for an adult; I love to pay people to do stuff I could easily learn how to do on my own; I constantly doubt my competence in pretty much every arena. And seriously, I cannot commit to predetermined lifestyle changes to save my life; my personal discipline is kind of pathetic. I’m not proud of it, but I’m also too apathetic afterward to feel shame about it, usually.
But then there’s this whole mental health quest I’ve been on for more than half my life. Somehow, I’ve stuck around to give myself answers, even though I was tired and bored of it by the time I turned 20. I’ve done literal years of thorough research on every problem I thought I had (most of which were brought on by the wrong medication – like bipolar tendencies and borderline personality disorder) and am ridiculously well-educated on mental illnesses, psychiatric interactions with the endocrine system, the female reproductive system, both holistic and medical approaches to healing the aforementioned, and a bundle of other topics I never in my life thought I would care about. It’s all a complete contradiction in my character, really.
It’s the first thing I ever did for myself start-to-finish. I took myself to my first psychiatrist when I went off to college (after asking for help since I was a young adolescent and being told to “stop being so dramatic”) and, 12 years later, I researched for a month before I did a DIY detox after conventional psychiatry had exhausted my options and still gave me nothing. I didn’t quit any time in there, which is very unlike me. I love to quit. I’m fantastic at quitting. (Okay. Honestly, there were long weeks in the last 5-ish years when suicide seemed like the only sensible option if not for the fact that I’d be ruining the Bear’s chances at staying out of therapy, so I do credit her presence for giving me a reason to stay. Even still, I recognize that she was a roadblock I created for myself. If I was as fatalistic as I believed myself to be for so long, I wouldn’t have opted to bring a child into that. She’s the best possible anchor – something I don’t remember enough even now.)
None of these accomplishments are things I can bring up at class reunions. None of them have value on a résumé. In fact, if you look at my last 15 years on paper, my list of personal accomplishments don’t seem impressive at all despite me working my ass off daily to keep myself alive and my household afloat in tandem. And yet, all this work to ultimately liberating myself from medication and that prison of bullshit is without a doubt The Thing I Am Most Proud Of About Myself.
I’m not magically “All Better” these days, by the way. Now that I’m having a natural monthly cycle again for the first time in forever, I’m still having at least a day every month of debilitating depression with a side of suicidal ideation that I can’t get to shut up just like when I was 12 and all of it started (but at least I don’t act on anymore.) I’ve also started having what are known as “aura seizures” about once every couple months that go on for a solid day with very intrusive thoughts and nausea that are goddamned terrifying. I also have a lot of lower back pain and foggy brain/memory issues so I’m thinking this is an adrenal issue from my system being ramped up on agitating antidepressants for awhile; I’m getting some testing done to see if I can slowly heal that part of my endocrine system next.
And even though there’s this little voice in me screeching, “WHAT IF ALL THOSE DRUGS MESSED YOU UP FOREVER AND YOU’RE FACING AN EARLY DESCENT INTO GENETIC DEMENTIA?!!?!?”, the Voice in Me that I’m finally taking seriously is snorting, “Gurl, calm down. Haven’t you been paying attention? Even if we’re losing our minds, we’re going to get memoir material out of this.”
*Btw, I’m not having the giant Drug-Free for 2 Years Whee! Bash I was planning because I realized my husband and I haven’t been on a couples vacation together since Burning Man ’10, and now that we really, really like each others’ company again, we kind of want to enjoy that alone in a mountain cabin for a week instead. The prescription bottle piñata will just have to wait.