Image by Gatis Gribusts, used with Creative Commons License, edited by Mydnyht Rantings
I wish I wasn’t so different when I’m off my meds. I wish I didn’t behave in embarrassing ways that I’m afraid to admit while I’m feeling more in control and “neurotypical”. I wish people I thought were my friends didn’t talk behind my back while I’m off meds, saying things like I’m over-reacting and being too sensitive. I wish the people I know are my friends didn’t have to try and let me down gently when admitting that there were problems when I’m off meds. I wish these things because I’m afraid of what the way I behave says about me when I’m off my meds. I don’t want to admit I have a mental health concern or a “problem”, so when it’s painfully obvious by the way I act that there’s “something wrong”… it hurts. It makes me doubt myself. I’m not really at a place where I can say that the person I am when I am medicated and appear “sane” is the person who I’m supposed to be, or the person who I really am, and so it makes me feel bad that I’m the kind of person who needs to be “fixed” in the first place. While there have been times where my meds weren’t working in the way they were supposed to, the only time I’ve actually not been on medication at all since I was about twelve was a four or five month period in 2011, the year where I started experiencing symptoms of PTSD due to a suspicion of having a repressed memory of childhood sexual trauma. There were certainly things that were off about the situation, but it’s hard to figure out what that “off” feeling was due to. Was it because I went off my meds cold-turkey without tapering them, and went through withdrawal? Was it simply an adjustment because the meds I was on weren’t working anyway, and so I was simply transitioning to a different type of not working? Was it because the deep depression I had sunk into right before I turned eighteen was finally coming to a head, after years of threatening to rip open and wreak havoc on my psyche? Or was it because, as I so deeply fear, I simply am a different (and in my opinion, lesser) person when I’m not on medication?
There were positives, as well. While I was incredibly depressed, to the point where even getting out of bed to go to the bathroom was difficult for me, for the first time in about five years I didn’t feel like I wanted to die. I was more aware of my emotions and felt more in-tune with my thoughts. I didn’t feel numbed down. I would have been interested to see if I would have made any kind of progress if I had a therapist during this time or if I had any sort of social outlet. I only went back on meds because of the December issue. Unfortunately, due to the stigma of being off meds while having a bipolar diagnosis, two things happened: people doubted what I believe was and is a legitimate concern that I have a repressed memory, and I will likely never have another chance to experience life without medication. In the event that my self-perception is warped, it’s far too dangerous to go off of my meds and realize that there are problems I have that will affect my interpersonal relationships that can only be fixed through medication. I don’t want to put the romance, friendships, and familial relationships I’ve cultivated over the past four years in jeopardy. Everyone says that if you have bipolar disorder, the last thing you should do when things are going well is go off your meds. Things going well means the meds are working, not necessarily that you don’t need them anymore. It leads to a vicious cycle of depression, medication, going off meds, mania, and then depression again. And although I wonder how well I’m really doing if I can’t even work, and although I wonder if I really even have bipolar disorder… meds it is. I guess it’s just a matter of working on feeling like I’m not damaged goods just because I need to take pills every night.