I started being serious about taking medication for my depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and whatever else in September of 2015. I’d tried it on and off since I was a teenager, but I was never very motivated to take it and my compliance was incredibly low. I’d asked my primary care physician for anti-depressants once as an adult, but when it completely knocked out my sex drive I abandoned the whole idea.
Since then, I’ve seen a psychiatrist and two psychiatric nurse practitioners regularly. I also saw several different psychiatrists in the hospital and my stay in a psych ward last October. I currently have someone I see monthly who I respect and am confident in. Over the last month we’ve changed up my medications a little and seem to have landed on something that is working well for me. I am so incredibly grateful to my professional team and my prescription drugs. They changed everything. They saved me.
Nadine and I used to walk around Green Lake once a week. We’ve recently gotten out of the habit, but I’m sure we’ll fall back in. There were these two dogs who always seemed to be there the same time we were. Pitbull mixes with sharp ears and short legs, they walked around the lake as if they were on patrol. They owned that territory. One day, one of the dogs was missing. Then we stopped seeing them all together. But today on my run I saw both dogs back on duty. I couldn’t stop smiling.
My friend George–who I’ve known since I was thirteen–came to visit me the last couple days. Before he left today he tidied up the entire apartment and took care of a branch that was hanging right at eye level on our sidewalk. No wonder I’ve kept him around.
Last night I went to the ER for an infection. A burn I got on Thursday, instead of healing, started to get red around the edges. Spreading up my arm, swelling. The intake nurse flew through the questions they always have to ask. “Do you feel as if you are a danger to yourself or anyone else?”
She didn’t notice the pause. Where I weighed out if it was worth another ambulance ride, another week in a psych ward, another stack of bills I’ll never be able to pay. More missed work, another set of unanswered phone calls. Hours in hospital beds waiting for social workers, doctors, nurses. Was it worth it?
“No,” I said. And she moved onto the next set of questions.
“How tall are you?”
What I should have said was, “Of course I am. I was released from a psych ward at the end of October and it’s not as if much has changed since then. They turn you back to the real world with no more coping skills, just a different set of medication and legs in need of shaving. Of course I’m a danger to myself. I sat in front of my sister’s house for forty-five minutes before I convinced myself I could drive home without jerking the steering wheel hard to the left and smashing into a barricade. Of course I am. My brain is a running list of ways to stop existing, interspersed with a few warm thoughts of my family, my partner, my friends. But how long before those aren’t enough to keep the fire burning? Of course I am. I’ve been toying with the idea of suicide since I was twelve-years-old and I’ve still yet to learn how to keep those feelings at bay for any significant amount of time. Of course I am. I am always a thread away from throwing myself off a bridge. But I haven’t yet, so maybe I never will.”
Instead I kept answering questions and waiting for a doctor to come look at my arm. Kept on point for what that visit was about, then Googled more inpatient psychiatric facilities as soon as I got home. I keep wondering if I’m going to have to give up my job, my apartment, my life in this city for another stint in a psych ward. For an outpatient program. For something else than what a therapy appointment a week and a monthly check-in with a psychiatric nurse practitioner can offer. But I guess we’ll see, won’t we?
For now I just keep my nose down. Play Taylor Swift albums loud. Try to remember to eat well, not sleep too much. I focus hard on existing. I’ll figure it out.
Photo courtesy of Samuel Zeller.