An Elegy for Spring

Spring and I are not friends.

Each year, I await March and then April, convinced that I will revel in the season change, delight in the melting snow, and graciously accept the tempestuous weather changes because I have just come through the dark side of a Midwestern winter, replete with record-breaking snowfalls and bitter windchills.

Each year, I must forget I have bipolar disorder.

No other season reminds me of the pain and torture that my inexorable brain chemistry affords me than March and April. Once May hits, it is smooth sailing; snow falls are long gone; temperatures have reached an even keel; I can be assured that sunshine is a daily occurance. My serotonin levels don’t rise and fall in correspondence with the barometric pressure.

I always thought that Winter was my hard time. I thought wrong. I grew up in Florida as a kid. The sunshine state, a state where a daily thunderstorm is basically the only interruption to a wonderful, natural mood-boosting supplement know as the UV ray. My parents always considered me an intense child. To be sure, my first thoughts of suicide occurred at 9 years old, when I still lived down south. But those ponderings were more scientific in nature, a pattern of disordered thinking that I still have today: If I took 50 pills of Tylenol, what would happen to my body? It wasn’t the angsty, nothing-is-going-to-get-better kind of suicidality that occurs every spring-time in Wisconsin.

To a person without my history, this may sound scary: Get thee to a psych ward! one may shriek. For me, it’s part and parcel with the brain chemistry. Come mid-March, I begin thinking of purposely running my car off the road, because what is the point of all of this anyway? It’s all really just a ridiculous struggle, this grad school, this relationship, this work, this life. I mean, who really gives a fuck about me? What am I really doing here anyway? Who the fuck am I kidding? I am not going to make a fucking difference. I begin thinking of staying on my couch for hours at a time, listening  to back-to-back episodes of Law and Order re-runs, Jerry Orbach’s voice weaving his way into my dreams as I sleep away the rest of March and then April, my own personal manic depressive hibernation. I’ll awake on May 1, Beltaine, refreshed, face turned toward the sun, ready and willing to take on the summer.

I show up to work, face puffy from crying; everything sets me off these days. I know I am overemotional, over analytical. Everything is intensely personal, and my mind races with the possibilities that I have once again fucked everything up in my life, or am just on the brink of doing so. You see, with the manic depressive, the mind races and races and races, so there is no peace. All of the failings, of which I have had many, are exptrapolated into future failings. All of the faults, the guilts, the wrongdoings, the badness race into a maelstrom that will not stop turning. I want to vomit it all out, but I fear that I wouldn’t ever stop wretching for all that I have done wrong is eternal.

I go to the cabinets with shaking hands, looking for relief. What pill will even out the jagged, raw biochemistry? What will give me relief for an hour, or two, maybe afford me a night’s sleep? If I up my antidepressant for a few days, I could push myself into a hypomanic phase, a delightful reprieve from the mixed, angsty, needy state, to be sure. But then I may run out of meds, and I could risk entering a dysphoric manic state where I snap at people I love, and up my suicidality. If I increase my antipsychotics, I wander through life so sedated that I cannot string words together to complete a sentence. The weight gain is a constant fear with the increase, as well. I cannot increase my anticonvulsants temporarily, as decreasing them again means I risk seizures.

Playing with my med cocktail is a Frankensteinian way to ensure I come through Spring with my partner still by my side, with what few friends I have intact, a job, a place to live, and a sense of dignity. Managing this biochemical beast within me is exhausting; a full-time job for which there is no recognition, no thanks, no reward, no gratification, no pay. There is only destroyed relationships when people refuse to understand, refuse to be patient; there is only weight gain and lost hair, dried skin and mucous membranes; expensive medications and irritated doctors; there is only restless nights and a perpetual sense of emptiness, a sense of dread, knowing that this, this is the rest of my life.

And in truth, I have it good, I have it great compared to so many others, who can’t manage it as well as I do, who can’t stay out of hospitals, who can’t work, who haven’t found the right meds, who suffer greater than I do.

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13 Comments

  1. Colin said,

    April 1, 2008 at 9:36 am

    Marya Hornbacher writes about this exact same thing, and her new book on being bipolar is coming out next week.

  2. thoughtracer said,

    April 1, 2008 at 9:39 am

    Thanks for that. I will check it out. I hope in writing about this people don’t start telling me to go to the shrink. Just because a person thinks about suicide doesn’t me a person is suicidal. I hate spring. Just be sunny already. Something is wrong with my pineal gland. I swear it. If I were a goose, I’d migrate.

  3. kira said,

    April 1, 2008 at 9:47 am

    Hang in there – May will be here soon!

  4. Autonym said,

    April 1, 2008 at 10:34 am

    I am right with you. All of my suicide attempts were in the spring, and this spring so far has been ROUGH for me. Also, there is a halfway point between toughing it out alone and going to a psychiatrist. For me, I have to accept that I NEED to see my therapist once a week until I can trust my brain to leave me alone.

    That said, you know yourself and what you need. And suicidal thoughts don’t mean suicidal tendencies, but for me, I need lots of reality checks with my therapist to keep on the right side of that equation.

    Keep your head up. 🙂

  5. thoughtracer said,

    April 1, 2008 at 10:43 am

    Literally just got off the phone with my therapist’s office. Of COURSE she doesn’t have any appointments until my next one, which is April 11. I hate the mental health system. Why did she say she was taking new patients? Being able to see someone once a month does not constitute taking a new patient. I am continually a case study for why the mental health system DOES NOT WORK. Anybody who bitches about the crazy people to me will always get an earful. My local mental health center just CLOSED the waiting list. That’s illegal, you know. But the list is 7 years long, and they closed it, because they recognize that the people seeking help just are never going to get it, so they said: Hey, we aren’t going to lie to you any more folks. We can’t do it.

  6. vesta44 said,

    April 1, 2008 at 10:55 am

    My best friend was a multiple personality and when we first met, she was so scared that if I found out, I would abandon her. Now I understand why she thought that, but at the time, I was like “We’re friends, you don’t abandon friends just because they have a psych diagnosis.” Of course, I think it helped that I’d read When Rabbit Howls and seen Sybil and The 3 Faces of Eve. Those all gave me some idea of what she was dealing with, but seeing it on a daily basis, and interacting with all the different personalities (and even figuring out who I was dealing with at any given time) was certainly interesting. It’s also not an experience I would have passed up for all the money in the world. She died a year after her 2nd WLS, 11 years ago, and I still miss her so damned much. She was the only person who knew all the good, bad, and ugle about me and loved me anyway. Everyone should have at least one friend like that, and I hope there’s someone like that in your life, you deserve it. We all do.

  7. vesta44 said,

    April 1, 2008 at 10:57 am

    Oops, shoud be “good, bad, and uglY”,not ugle, sorry for the typo.

  8. Autonym said,

    April 1, 2008 at 11:58 am

    Sorry to hear about your therapist. I have struggled with finding someone who I could appts with in the past, not fun. That sucks about the waiting list. I am so lucky to be in the situation I am in (LOL, that is a funny way to put it), having a breakdown is helpful when getting services. Doesn’t that just suck?

    I’m seeing a lot of parallels with the mental health and adoa systems. It’s hard to find treatment, hard to afford it, and there is a lot of stigma attached to it. Makes no sense.

    Okay, now I’m letting myself get all wound up. My mantra lately has been, “each day, it’s own day”, trying to keep myself from getting caught up in the laundry list of things I *should* be doing.

    Best wishes.

  9. Autonym said,

    April 1, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Oh, and I forgot to say before, you describe the bipolar dance so well, in relation to meds. I’m still, and very slowly, trying to find the right mix. I’m so afraid of being overmedicated, particularly because I’m in school and I can’t think straight on some things.

  10. thoughtracer said,

    April 1, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    I ended up going home on lunch and popping the antipsychotic to get my brain to shut up. It is working. I am back to my usual self. Sometimes I genuinely think just the act of putting the pill on my tongue and swallowing has as much, if not more, therapeutic benefit than the actual chemical properties of the pill itself. Because I am actively staring in the face of my symptomology and saying: Fuck you. I am not succumbing. I am not going to cry all day. I have a plan. I am taking meds. I am getting Under Control. I have a life to live. I have Things to Do. I have a paper to write, I have work to do, I have people who care about me and I am Not Fucking it Up, thank you very much.

    I hate taking pills. The goddamned pills. I have struggled with it since I was 16 and started taking Prozac. Why shouldn’t I just deal with my emotions like a normal person? Why shouldn’t I just ride out the sadness? Why shouldn’t I just wallow in it, feel it, exist in it, breathe in it, allow it to be me, feel me, wind itself into my DNA for a while? I struggled with it for so long. I’d take meds, stop them, take them again, stop them again. I didn’t want to be a life-long drug user. I hate being bound to them, my own biochemical ball and chain. I carry a purse just to keep my meds with me; it is the repository for my mood managment.

    I beat myself up more often than not for being so, well, weak. Other people can just be sad and get over it. Other people can be happy and not let it get out of control. I can be neither without it turning into a personal cacophonic circus, one hand on the phone to a therapist or shrink, letting them know that I’ve gone and done it again. I’ve gotten too sad. I’ve gotten too happy. I’ve just gone and done this thing called life, and now I need some blue pills or some peach pills to bring me back to this earthen sphere that my moods insist I should not inhabit.

  11. Mindy said,

    April 1, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    omg I thought it was just me….

  12. BamaGal said,

    April 1, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    I’m with Mindy—thought it was just me.

    winter—I know what expect, just where I’m headed, straight depression I can deal with.

    Spring and fall I’m all over the place—rapid cycling, mixed episodes the works. I never know where I’ll be on the mood scale at any given time.

    This year is especially difficult —with all my nutritional/medication malabsorption issues from the WLS.

    Try finding the right combination of psych meds when your body isn’t absorbing the ones you are taking. At least my therapist and pdoc are on the ball about that and see me frequently.

  13. Karen said,

    April 4, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    I don’t have the seasonal thing going so much, but I understand hating that you can’t “just get over it” like other people. I know where my problems are, why I get to where I feel like I don’t matter, and I’m working on fixing the actual problem, but sometimes, sometimes, I just feel like the world is crumbling and can never go back together. If you never learned the tools to put your world back together, then you’d be like this even without funky brain chemistry. Since I can identify my problem, I tend to reject the notion that my depression is brain chemistry, but it has still taught me something.

    You know how you think you’re weak? You aren’t. You aren’t because even though you’ve thought about it, even if you’ve attempted it, you’ve not killed yourself yet. You are getting through it, it just isn’t easy. Those people who don’t have these problems? They aren’t strong the way you are. They don’t have to push through this. Not having to deal with adversity would not make you a stronger person, and not having to deal with your adversity does not make them stronger. You get up in the morning, look the thing that is trying to kill you in the eye and say, “No. What ever I have to do I will do so long as you don’t win. No matter how hard it is.” And you do that just by being here to tell us that it hurts. It is hard, but you can, will, and are doing it every day. And you have people here who want to do what they can to help you.

    Oh, and Jerry Orbach = AWESOME


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