09 March 2007

Sadness vs. Depression?

For many of you following my blog, be it by reading my prose or my poetry, you can see the battle I am waging with my bipolar disorder. For financial reasons I decided to do the unthinkable for a bipolar patient—wean myself off all my medications. I understood all of the implications and ramifications of this decision yet I felt I had no choice.

Within two weeks of my careful and conservative weaning protocol I did a crash and burn. I was more motivated to commit suicide than at any other time in my life. In fact, in the middle of that two-week window, when I saw my shrink, even he said that he did not recognize the person who walked through his door. My crash also resulted in hearing voices in my head dictating to me to break off all my relationships with my immediate family whom, for the most part, have been very close to me. What I said was harsh, mean-spirited and angry, all of which were on the eve of my phone being disconnected. I never bothered to wait for any response; I simply hung up when I finished my invective.

The break that hurts me the most is the fracture I created between me and my son—my son whom I love with all of my heart, who has always been there for me no matter what, and has made sacrificial decisions in his past to meet my needs. My whole being aches for that action. This morning I finally mustered up the courage to call the ones I hurt and ask for forgiveness. The only person I could not get in touch with was my son and my heartfelt voicemail will have to suffice until repeated attempts can be made that will result in a real-time conversation.

I am still not in a space where I want to have a regular dialog with anyone except my son mostly because of the emotional energy that it requires of me. I don’t want to put on a façade with my family, yet at the same time, they do not deserve my dark ramblings when I am in this space. The only exception is my son because I feel I can be myself and still be loved unconditionally and without judgment. I feel loved by most of the rest of my family, but judged by some.

The dynamics of my family of origin is a strange one and proves the point that blood is not necessarily thicker than water. I have three siblings only one to whom I am particularly close. One I never talk to because she won’t initiate or sustain a relationship with me (for some unknown reason—I’m always told by other family members to simply accept it because that is how she is with everyone). Another I rarely talk to and it is always brief spurts of email, dry and inconsequential. At best, I am an enigma to him, one he will never understand, but has no trouble repeating the sins of the father—nothing I do is ever good enough. At best, what it is that I do is always considered suspect as if there was a better way to accomplish the same thing with the attitude that I wasn’t smart enough in the first place to have already thought and considered any suggestion he might have had, but I had already rejected it for sound reasons. I am treated as a child that, for some reason, needs to be approached in a cautious and questioning manner. Nothing I do or any decisions I make are simply accepted at face value; everything always has to be questioned.

Now, mind you, to be fair, being one of the middle kids, I was a pain in the ass to be around and was always considered to be the black sheep of the family. I know my behavior and actions surely colored my relationships as we were growing up, but for goodness sakes, my youngest sister will be 46 this year. Are we not all adults at this stage of the game? Even I eventually grew out of my need to show my ass as frequently as I did.

Do you want to know what my mother’s biggest fear is? She is afraid that once she dies none of the rest of us will keep in touch, and I think she has a very real reason for thinking that. I happen to agree with her. With the exception of my oldest sister, the other two apparently have no need for me; that is quite obvious in our current state of relations (or lack thereof). Perhaps the oldest two might stay in touch as they are the closest in age, but I doubt it would be a substantive relationship. The fact that my brother and I do not live in the same part of the country as my sisters will probably have some bearing on the future of any relationships.

I guess I went into some detail about these dynamics because it only further points out to me just how alone I really am in this world. Since leaving the gay community I do not have any close friends here in the same town I live in (I do have two that live away). I have some relationships with individuals that fall into the acquaintance category, and one budding relationship that has all of the earmarkings of turning into a fine, durable friendship as I am taken at face value, respected for who I am (and who I am not) and we both give what we get. But that doesn’t really leave me with much as a whole. Truth be told, seriously, with the exception of my family (and I will be honest about that), if I were to drop dead tonight, there would be no one in this world to miss me. Oh, sure, my death would have an immediate impact on a couple of people as death always does, but after the initial shock, life goes on and I will never be thought of again. I guess it boils down to the fact that I have never really done anything in this world that has had any measurable impact on someone else. And that is my own doing as I have always kept everyone at arms length, never letting them see the real me, and always having whatever face I needed to put on depending upon the situation I was in. Imagine being in a room filled with 100 people and feeling all alone.

I have said all of this to preface the title of this discourse: when one is bipolar, how can one tell the difference between true sadness or the madness of depression? I have yet to determine where that fine line lies. I am a very binary individual. By that, I mean that everything either is or it isn’t; it’s on or it’s off—very black and white. My life is a series of ones and zeros (trust me, the zero column is stacked a bit higher). Certainly, I should have the capacity to be able to experience the normal emotion of sadness without all of the trappings of depression. I think I felt that once when I close friend of mine died. I was able to feel the pain of the loss and mourned him for quite some time, but it was of a different caliber than how I feel when I am depressed which is a cold, calculating numbness.

Being bipolar has robbed me of the normal ranges of emotions that most people experience. For me, I have two: mania or depression. There is no middle ground (again, think binary). Well, no, I take that back. There are two other emotions that I can be honest enough to say that I feel. One is a level of love so overwhelming that sometimes it catches my breath. That is what my son means to me. The other emotion that I am bridled with, that I do think is a consequence of bipolar, is abject anger. Not feeling a tad pissed off about something, but true black anger. I think I have always had this anger even as a child. They say that bipolar is most likely hereditary. I am constantly trying to figure out which gene pool mine comes from. Some in the family would say without a doubt that it is from my father—someone that I really never knew well. Yet, sometimes I think it could be my mom because of so many of the traits I see of her in myself (mom was always the master at The Façade). For me, there is nothing so disquieting than looking in the mirror and have absolutely no idea who is looking back. And the eyes—always these deep, black pools of emptiness.

After I saw my shrink the other day, I agreed, mostly because I had enough meds to do this for a little while longer, to go off of my weaning protocol while he tries to see what kind of volume samples he might be able to get to help me along. I hate what my bipolar has taken from me. It’s not enough just to be bipolar, but to be so treatment resistant that two weeks of dropping the dosage of one of the six meds I am on caused me to go into a tailspin that truly scared even me. I know that at some point soon my finances are going to preclude the ability to continue my meds schedule. I am not eligible for any financial assistance. Believe me I have tried everything under the sun. The sad part is that I look great on paper if you just look at the gross income. But no one ever considers the outgo. When the meds are gone for good, what will happen then?©2007


  1. Alix, I know this isn't a forum for advice, but having read what I have so far, you of all people should know not to quit taking your medicines, regardless of the reasons. You know you can't afford not to take them. You know what road that will take you down. You write of your depression with such truth, it saddens me to think what may happen if you do stop all your pills. i hate taking mine, but I do it anyway because I have been in both worlds, and I can tell you crossing over sucks after the fact when you realized that you didn't accomplish what you set out to do. You've already written one epitaph, who will write the one when all the pills are gone?

  2. I felt like I was looking into the mirror when I read some of these passages in this post. So much of it reminded me of myself. I too have taken myself off all my medicines, but things just got so bad that I had to be hospitalized and started all back over again. I'd hate to see you have to learn this lesson the hard way, considering your already mentioned history of being in a psych ward.

  3. i can feel the pain in this entry over what you did with your son. if he is like you say, give him some time to absorb what happened. he doesn't sound stupid and it sounds like he's lived with your bipolar in the past, so he has to understand that. take courage in those words, alix. i like what robert said at the end. you know you can't stop taking these medications. just look what happened after only two weeks. just when i thought everything was fine i went off my pills because i just got sick and tired of having to take them. it took longer than two weeks to see the damage, but what a trail of destruction i left. can't you see how dependent you are on these pills right now? i just hope you will find a way to get them. the medical industry is such a load of crap. it's like extortion. i can feel the frustration you must be feeling because of the money thing.

  4. Alix, The depression/anger is skewing your view of the people who care for you.

    I can think of a number of people who enjoy their friendship and relationship with you.

    As for myself, you have opened a world of knowledge to me. It is good for me to see through your eyes...it helps me to appreciate you and others as well as keeping me oriented in the right direction instead of swallowing the stereotypical "partyline."

    I actually enjoy our friendship. Really....truley. When you are a little short with me, I dismiss it. When you are kind I enjoy it.... but, isn't that what friends are supposed to do????

    So, friend.....when the voices tell you you are all alone in the world, it's a lie...a bold faced lie.

    Hmmmm, kill, steal, destroy....I think I know that voice!

  5. Oh....you raise a good point!

    Is it deep sadness, or is it depression?

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