Saturday, August 16, 2014

I need a day off from all my days off

Forgive me for going somewhat stream-of-conscious here. I'm feeling the need to write--and to share--today.

Often I wonder whether, by trying to better understand my own mental health issues, I actually make them worse. Other times, I know they don't need my help for that.

Mom and I were partners at the job I held for most of the last eleven years. While I managed my business at around 60 hours a week, she was my presence in the community. She did much of my leg work, phone calls, and emailing. We bounced ideas off one another, and shared in the excitement or frustration when those ideas were enacted. We vented, we shared. We had fun.

After she died in January, I wasn't sure how able I would be to keep working there. By March, I knew I couldn't do it. Simply looking around the place brought memories that would lead to tears; there wasn't an inch of the building that didn't have her touch. I found myself having to do some of the work that she used to do, actions which left me debilitated from loss. Not only had I lost my mother, with all of the obvious pain and loss which accompanies that, but I'd lost my best friend and partner. And I couldn't go to work to escape it; in fact, in many ways I felt the hurt even more acutely there than not. Being at work, doing the things I'd done (fairly successfully) since 2003, was killing me.

So I worked almost a month-long notice, helped find and train my replacement, and I quit.

Now, as for dealing with my bipolar issues, a couple of years ago my wife and I decided, as a team, that we'd see if I could make it without my medicines; after all, I wasn't even properly diagnosed until I was almost 30 years old, and I'd managed alright--it was only the occasional extreme manifestations that caused major problems (and major they were). The medicinal side effects were a pain; I was better now at managing stress; and my relationships with God and family were exponentially improved.

Almost 1½ years after I stopped taking my medicines was when Mom died. Needless to say, my psyche has been a full-on wreck ever since. Quitting the job helped take away some of the ugly reminders.

Since then, I've been at home. We've adjusted our budget to accommodate the change while Bethany and I rely on financial aid and part-time work, and we explore other occupational options. If it weren't for the anxiety side of being bipolar, I'd probably be doing a little better. The depression after so great a loss makes sense, of course, and Bethany and my friends have been wonderful in their attempts to hold it mostly at bay.

But anxiety is a fickle beast. Days like today it gets very bad. I cannot look anywhere in the house without feeling intensely overwhelmed. Our house is probably in about the same shape as most homes with three boys under seven years old. But, in my head, it's Hell. Nothing is where it should be, or clean enough, or organized enough. There is no peace or relaxation. And, because of my general lack of mood-lifting hormones, I cannot seem to force myself to take action on anything.

I know these things consciously: I should do things; I could do things; it's not nearly as bad as my anxiety says it is; I can relieve some of my depression by doing things that will release mood lifters into my system; small steps and small victories will help get my mood into balance. I know those things, but they may as well be meaningless. Mood disorders put you at odds with yourself.

And I so desperately wish my friends and family understood it more. It's been on my mind a lot since Robin Williams's death and the subsequent discussions about depression and suicide; most people still simply do not understand the disease. They don't understand that it's not about _choice_ or even willpower. They refuse to believe that it's about chemistry, as if admitting that our psyches are not completely abstract phenomena, but have biochemical components, somehow makes us lesser beings. And that puts people like us in a really lonely place, exacerbating our problems.

I now wonder whether I should try to start taking medicine for bipolar disorder again. Which makes me wonder how to do that now that I no longer have insurance. Sometimes I just want to throw everything I own away to see if it causes my anxiety to go away. Sometimes I don't get out of bed. Oftentimes I miss doing things with my friends. I even miss work, sometimes. I miss Mom always.

If you're reading this, I hope you're well. I hope you know that you're loved. I hope you remember to let your loved ones know how you feel about them. And I ask you, if you know people with mental health issues, mood disorders, or whatever, that you not judge them for their illnesses. Read about them. And love.

Remember, always, to love.