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Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

I have a tendency to unconsciously appropriate other peoples' affectations, leading me to say things like y'all.

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Thursday, March 09, 2006

This will be long and emotional and possibly painful too

This post is inspired by a fellow blogger who isn't feeling so hot, but it's actually directed to anyone who is or might be suffering from a psychiatric and/or mood disorder. I started this blog four days after quitting a medication that really wasn't doing good things for me and I've never really gone into any great detail about how I came to be on that medication primarily because I assumed that in the natural course of things that bit would just come together. Now I feel like it's important to just get the history out.

Last summer John and I took a trip to India because two of our friends were getting married there. Our entire "crew" was there with us and it was one of the more wonderful times I have had in my life. It was also one of the most painful. One morning, after we'd been partying for nearly 8 hours, John brought up the possibility that maybe, just maybe, I should be on some sort of medication for depression. This was a suggestion that I really hadn't seen coming. We'd been having a wonderful time. I was totally caught up in the majesty of the East and the wonderfully dirty streets of Bombay. Besides, it seemed that when I did feel depressed it was just a product of my food/body issues and that really once I got my weight/size/image stuff stabilized I would be a much happier person. When John pointed out that I was unhappy more often than not, and that he hadn't seen me smile in too long (which by contrast I did a lot during our trip), I felt crushed and a little betrayed. For years I'd been under the impression that I was just a totally normal, over-extended woman with an unpleasant childhood history. I'd even gone to a therapist who wound up giving me a clean bill of health right around the time that John and I started seeing one another. I have never been so happy or free or easy in spirit as I am with John and I couldn't stand the thought that my feelings were being overshadowed by some inexplicable, irrelevant malaise. So, I reacted the only way I could: I cried, a lot, and said that I couldn't believe he didn't love me just the way I was, and then I cried some more and then withdrew a bit emotionally. I also refused to consider the possibility.

When we got back to the US, shit got ugly. I really don't remember how it started, but at some point I had the brilliant idea that I needed to lose weight desperately and in a panic I cut my intake down to 500 calories (or so) a day. I ate only one meal. I took laxatives everyday, the use of which I validated by the constipation I normally have as a result of my Crohn's disease. On nights when I came home, ravenous because all I'd eaten was an apple and a few slices of cheese, and I couldn't stop myself from eating something, I would typically have a few tablespoons of peanut butter and maybe a handful of chocolate chips, which I would then throw up immediately. When I did eat, it was something I was so ashamed of that I would sneak around like I was performing a covert operation, anything to hide the fact that I needed food in my body. For me, a plum and a granola bar was a binge.

Thank goodness for Sophie and John, because if it weren't for having to look them in the eye everyday this behavior wouldn't have stopped. As it was, it only went on for a few months before I sought out a shrink. That was when I finally had to admit that yes, I do have a huge problem and yes, I have had episodes of depression more than once in my life. I saw a psychiatrist thinking that I needed to correct an eating disorder, but discovered that the disorder was just a manifestation of my unchecked bi-polar condition.

Looking back (through the clarity of Depakote), I've been rapid cycling since I was about 14...and the cycling had become far more rapid in recent years. I could go from really good to really suicidal three times in a day and there was never an indication or a warning sign of what mood I would be in from one moment to another. All of my energy went to keeping up appearances for Sophie and then, at the end of the day, when it was only me and John, I had nothing left to give. I was living the best life I could ever have dreamed for myself and I wasn't able to enjoy it at all. I knew, in a rational way, that I'd never been so happy, but my emotions just didn't quite hook up to or reflect that.

Now I know this is more than anyone wants to know about me, but my point is that since I found the help that I needed and found the right dosage of meds, my life has improved exponentially. Every day is pretty much the same. I feel cranky at times and I feel down right enraged or elated or just sad at others, but never is there a moment that is totally crippling. I can wake up in the morning and know that this day will roughly resemble the day before it on an emotional scale and that next week will probably hold few surprises and that is an assurance that really can't be quantified.

My body issues are still unresolved, but I don't hate myself for looking the way I do. I just wait, patiently and happily, for the inevitable lower body liposuction that is most likely in my future, while popping another piece of chocolate in my mouth. Life isn't full of panic anymore, just the quest for the ultimate pair of jeans to fit me now.

Depression is the coldest, loneliest place I can think of. It is cruel and dark and manipulative and I hope that the blogger I am thinking of can find a good way of dealing with it in the event that what she experiences requires more than just riding it out. I hope too that she knows there is a world of internet people whom her life, even in bad moments, touches daily and that in the life she lives there are enough real people to remind her that she is loved.


Blogger Cupcake said...

I'm really glad that we are writing about these things. I feel helped and helpful.

11:55 PM  
Anonymous Francesca Gray said...

This is a lovely, sensitive and important post. I identify so much with alot of the things you have to say. My diagnosis is 'Depression and Anxiety' but the more I have read the more convinced I have become that I am bi-polar. The rapid changes of mood you describe are so familiar. Thank you so much for your honesty in sharing your experience with others.

With your permission I would like to link to this entry in the 'Diet Coke' section of my blog.

5:26 PM  
Blogger Irina said...

Francesca, of course it's fine for you to link to this...

I really appreciate your kind words. Mental illness is a tough thing to go through and I think it's important for all of us suffering from such disorders to feel like we're not alone.

Again, thanks.

5:52 PM  

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