My crazy pills are killing me.
About fifteen years ago, I tried to say goodbye to the cycles of incredible, unstoppable energy punctuated with bone-crushing, suicidal depression. I was a married man with a serious job. I had a kid. I had to fit in.
They seemed to work, at least, at first. They did something for the depressive episodes but nothing for the wild, out-of-control “I can do anything” episodes.
And I really could achieve amazing things. I wrote essays in the morning, taught school all day and came home and took pictures with my pinhole camera. I’d develop all those pictures and get them loaded into the computer. I once got obsessed with radio and built one on a whim. I terraced the entire back yard with nothing more than a shovel. Facebook posts revealed not only frenzied craziness but also a kind of weird paranoia. Somewhere in there I took naps, cooked dinners, and did the laundry. I even rode the bike, walked the dogs, and went to a kid-school event or two.
Even on the anti-depressants, however, I’d fall into weeks long depressions when I had no energy to do anything, including getting out of bed. The house darkened, shades pulled, doors and windows locked. Nothing I did or said erased or even dented the gloom.
On medication, I still careened from one extreme to the other, sometimes within the course of a few hours. I don’t know how my family dealt with me. I think sometimes they just tolerated me. After all, they had lives of their own.
Why don’t these things work for me, I’d ask the doctor—actually a series of doctors that insurance companies and circumstances dictated. They all had the same answer. You have depression. Here are the appropriate pills. Take them. You will feel better.
I did and I didn’t feel better. My libido declined to zero, which wasn’t such a big deal since sex, as good as it is, has always been a pain in the ass anyway. I didn’t seem to crash as hard from an episode of frenzy. But over time, the drugs seemed to do less and less, and the side-effects seemed to get more pronounced. I gained weight. I could give a shit about sex. I slept at odd times of the day.
Despite being on these modern medications for about a decade, I hit a point about four years ago when I had to go to the mental hospital or hang myself in the basement. I’d just gone through an upswing in which I rewrote all my lectures for my classes. I changed the way I graded and made the classes harder for me, as a teacher. I added more writing assignments. I was very excited about my new prospects. I took a million pictures with my pinhole camera. I felt like I was on a creative streak that would last forever.
Well, that stint in the hospital got me all straightened out. I went on a different regimen of medications. I settled down. Life evened out. I gained the ability to work through my difficulties in a thoughtful way. Going to work got easier. I became a steady family man. I was reliable. People could count on me.
And that’s the problem. At least, when things were up and down all the time, life presented new kinds of danger at every turn. I never knew where I’d be when I woke up in the morning. The day might start slow and end late the next morning with a million projects started and completed. I might wake up, excited about the day, and then find myself huddled in the corner waiting for the end by mid-afternoon.
Creativity bubbled through all the ups and downs. I wrote essays, poems, and letters. I rarely found myself at a loss for words, either written or spoken. I seemed to be able to get things done. I rarely had a free moment, up or down.
All that’s different now. This morning was typical of my machinations of late. I woke but tried to go back to sleep. I didn’t want to get out of bed. That meant I’d have to do something, anything. I couldn’t think beyond a cup of tea and the newspaper. What do I do after that? In the last year, I haven’t had the energy to do much more than what I need to everyday.
Don’t get me wrong. I get a lot accomplished even during an uneventful day. I’m just not excited about it. And that’s why the drugs are killing me.
Everything is so even. I rarely feel an up or a down. The days are predictable. Nothing changes. One week rolls into another with ease. Every time I look up it’s Friday again. The week is gone. I have done what I was supposed to do but what for? What’s the point?
I don’t want to hang myself or go back to the mental hospital. At least, those were events. They were different, just like each high and low of a bipolar cycle was different from the ones previous.
I want to feel like I can do anything again. I loved that energy, that unbounded confidence that anything I put before me would be complete, and I would be complete through it. The close brushes with suicide represented something different, something uneven, dangerous, thrilling.
Now, life fluctuates only in the rising and setting of the sun. Everything feels like work. Even getting out of bed promises little but the same kind of thing I did yesterday and the day before.
These crazy pills probably don’t kill anything in me. I think it’s all still there, just shut down. Evenness has its good points. But looking back from the plain that medication puts me on, I pine for the old days when nothing was sure, when everything was in flux, when, even on a good day, I was in danger of killing myself.