Waters Crashing Down: How I Survived The Storm

Ready. Set. Sail!

(Trigger warning)

….one Klonopin…half a glass of red wine…

…two Klonopin…a full glass of red wine…

…three Klonopin….another half a glass…fuck…

How many Klonopin do you need to take to overdose?!

Rowing faster and faster towards the shore I’m starting to see the bright orange glow of dawn peak over the horizon. I’m not that far from the shoreline I can see it!! All I need to do is keep rowing toward the lighthouse.

C’mon Jess, you can do it!

As I’m rowing, the thoughts in my mind begin to brighten like the soft orange glow just at the break of dawn. It’s as if the darkness of the night is finally subsiding. Not one cloud in the sky! All is well. Uh oh! I smell smoke. Somewhere off in the distance, I can smell the smoke from a hot burning Fire and I’m headed right towards it! Fuck! I immediately stop rowing. I’m relatively close to the shoreline, but the smell of the smoke is starting to hit my nose. It’s calling to me. The Fire is feeding me images of Mark. Oh God I need to do something. Cover your nose! The memories are coming back. My sex drive just woke up. I need to get out of here before I do something stupid. Can I row back? I don’t really have a choice I can’t head towards that trap. So I turn around and start to row back.

Now, I need to mention to everyone the kind of thing I saw when I turned around but I need to use a nerdy example. For those of you who have seen the movie Interstellar, I think you know what I’m about to point out. If you haven’t please go watch the movie! It’s an incredible, scientifically accurate film about intergalactic space travel directed by the one and only Christopher Nolan. In the movie, there is a new galaxy that has some strange planets in it. I’m not about to go into detail (although I’d love to because that movie is phenomenal!) but one planet that the main characters discover is made of water. All of it is a shallow pool of water as far as the eye can see. Doesn’t sound like a habitable planet does it? Scratch that off the list! Well, there is something particularly terrifying about it. Periodically, there will be a wave that passes over the surface of the planet. It’s a big wave:

6e358cc4db4b91c502607438ff4f56cb5d3d3517

https://www.yahoo.com/movies/remember-when-the-space-crew-in-interstellar-114054637517.html

As I turn around to try and row back, I see THAT WAVE! I freeze. Just like in the movie, this wave happens to me more than once. This is the second time I’ve seen it and it’s headed right for me.

In my post Untitled, I mention that my dad had been going through some rough times and decided he wanted to end his life. Well that’s how I felt. Normally I would just punch a hole in my boat and let myself drown. To me this wave represents the overwhelming backup plan Bipolar has when I suddenly decide to think clearly and want to be happy. It’s not as patient or predictable like the Fog and it comes out of nowhere. To be honest, I actually completely forgot about it, but I had a feeling this was a calm before the storm.

Back in January 2014, the news of my dad being on suicide watch hit me hard. On top of that, I was dealing with his sad phone calls telling me about how melancholy he was about the impending divorce. So I sank into a severe depression. Getting out of bed was the hardest part of my day. I sobbed uncontrollably all the time. I’d even take breaks to the restroom at work when I had a moment to just sit in the stall and cry. I was a mess. To make matters worse, I gained a ton of weight and basically gave up on my appearance. Every day looking in the mirror was a disappointment. Whoever that person in the mirror was staring back at me didn’t matter. She was a loser.

Around March 2014, I began talking to my husband about the information packet from NAMI my dad’s psychiatrist gave us to read. It talked about Major Depression. As I started to read the symptoms, a light turned on! That has to be me! Mental disorders are genetic so that must be why I keep having these 6 month periods of depression.

So I made the decision to set up an appointment with a PCP (primary care physician) and tell her I’m depressed and need some pills too. After doing the usual paperwork, intros, and such we get to the topic I checked off about Depression. Perplexed she asked me if I was still on meds for Depression or if I had stopped taking them. Being new to the whole “I need to do checkups now because I’m an adult and my mom won’t do it for me anymore”, I didn’t have any current medical history. By that I mean I hadn’t been to a doctor in 8 years. Other than Planned Parenthood for my birth control, I saw no need to.

I told her about my discovery and she had me take this test. As we were going through it, I noticed that I’m not always depressed. That sometimes it stops and all of a sudden I get a period of time where I’m elated and super energetic. During these times I’m more social and seductive and I usually have trouble sleeping.

She looks at me and she said, “I don’t think you have Depression. I think you have Bipolar Disorder.”

Wait. WHAT?!? What the hell is Bipolar Disorder?

I laughed and replied with, “Isn’t that the thing where people have violent mood swings and go crazy? I’m not crazy. Where in the world do you get that idea?”

Needless to say I got a long lecture. At the end of it, she said I needed to be on medication now. She made me arrange a follow up after seeing a psychiatrist and taking some meds. She called the nurse in and had her help me set it up. She smiled before she left the room and said she’d see me in a couple weeks.

A week later I was sitting in this crappy mental health clinic with rude receptionists and a long wait for a prebooked appointment. Angrily sitting there in my chair, I was counting down the time until my boss called me and asked what time I’m coming back to work. After about 20 minutes past the time I was supposed to have my appointment, I got called in. This lady pulls me into her office and tells me to sit down. I look around the room. A hot yellow mustard paint peeling off the walls were housing lots of paintings of horses. The leather couch I sat on, jet black and uncomfortable, was the only place I thought I could sit. I’ve never done something like this before. After a few minutes of silence as she scribbled on her deck of papers, she turns to me and says hi. She goes into detail about how this is just going to be an introductory session and she wants to get to know me first before we do any actual therapy. I immediately hated everything at that moment. So I go over my family history, my dad, my depression, etc. After a little bit of time, I ask her when she is going to give me some pills because my PCP said I needed them. She said that because she is only a MFT (marriage and family therapist) she can’t prescribe medication.

On top of that, she says the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard a health “professional” say: “Honestly, I don’t think you need meds at all. I think you are just sad. Sometimes the best thing to do when you’re sad is just sit and think about it. Learn to accept it and move on.”

Well, fuck! That was the entire God damn point. Now what do I do?

After the session with the heartless, unhelpful woman was over, I immediately drove back to work and apologized profusely. In my opinion, I wanted an apology because I was now more depressed and confused.

When it came time for my follow up appointment, my PCP redid the test with me. Still same score, still same Bipolar. She asked me how my meds were going. Reluctantly, I said I wasn’t prescribed any meds and I wasn’t sure what to do. The look on her face was something rare for her: anger. Beforehand, I’d done some research and according to some random review websites, she was supposed to be the nicest, sweetest, and most caring PCP in North County. I agree wholeheartedly. But in that moment, I felt scared. She reiterated what I said about that being the whole point. I agreed with her but told her that as an MFT she couldn’t prescribe medications. My PCP looked at me with shock, “The nurse set you up with an MFT instead of an MD?!”

Details aside, we got things cleared up, set me up with a psychiatrist and I went to that appointment. This facility was a lot nicer than the last one and the staff is super friendly and professional. The usual mountain of paperwork and intros and life story and I was finally in the room with the one person who has been able to get inside my head and somehow navigate her way around with my broken Bipolar Compass. She is the same one I’ve been using and I love her. In May 2014 I was officially diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 2 and was put on 25mg of Lamictal.

From then on out, I went to my appointments, followed up with both my PCP and my psychiatrist, and eventually got set up with a warm caring therapist. In the Bipolar world, I think I won the lottery. Stories I’ve read say you go through a rollercoaster of misdiagnoses and shitty mental health professionals until you find the right fit. As much as my therapist may not be the absolute perfect match (she tends to ramble) I really like her and I’m too lazy to restart all that paperwork and life story again with another one.

However, I was still depressed. My job at the time was stressful, exhausting, and monotonous. That department was and still is a hostile work environment. Managers are overworked and underappreciated which they then translate their frustrations back to us. It was grueling work that required a lot of memorization and meticulous attention to detail. Furthermore, there was constant competition to be the manager’s favorite. I was for a while until I kept fucking shit up and then the crown got passed. Normally, the kiss-ass wears it and he is more or less immune to the manager’s scoldings (if you are reading this [blank], go fuck yourself!).

With that in mind, managing my triggers was difficult, thus trying to keep my stress and anxiety low while slowly increasing my doses wasn’t working. I hated my job. I hated my life. I hated myself. In a small effort to pull myself slowly out of hell, I applied to work in the molecular biology department at the same company. One person had just recently jumped ship and I thought I might as well try since another position had just opened up. I got on the candidate lineup and did the usual process: presented my work in a presentation for the whole science department (despite the fact that everyone knew me), interviewed with a panel of people in the department, and waited to hear back. Meanwhile, doubts about it swirled in my head, my shift-based schedule had me working nights so I wasn’t seeing my husband frequently, and I wasn’t getting enough sleep. Whenever my shift changed, I would have to adjust my sleep schedule. It was fucking with my head.

One fateful morning in June, I couldn’t take it anymore. I snapped. I was about to take down an experiment and forgot to do something important. Panicked at the thought of getting yelled at AGAIN, I ran to the restroom and cried profusely. I texted one of my coworkers and said, “I can’t do it anymore. The pills aren’t working. I can’t do it anymore!” After about 20 minutes, I went back inside and said I needed to go home. I said I was sorry but I can’t take down this experiment and begged her to do it for me. Confused but caring, she told me to go home and rest and it would be taken care of.

I drove home. Went to grab the bottle of Klonopin I had recently been prescribed for my anxiety, and fell sobbing onto the bed. Staring intently at the bottle, I began to pour the pills in my hand. How many Klonopin do you need to take to overdose?!

I started writing a note. Telling my parents about my disorder, letting my dad know I’m sorry and how proud I am of him. The fact that he was strong enough to keep going. I told my husband I loved him more than anything on the planet and I refuse to be a burden to him any longer…

…I called the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. They talked me out of it. Told me to call my psychiatrist. I did. I got an appointment within an hour and she sat me down. I told her I wanted to die. I hated my life and I couldn’t take it anymore. That the Depression was burning a hole in my heart and it’s too painful to live with anymore. She gave me some Abilify and a prescription for a bottle. My Lamictal was increased to 100mg and she told me to see her at the end of the week. She wrote me a note giving me a week off of work to recover and let the medicine kick in. She asked me if I needed to be hospitalized and if I’m going to hurt myself or anyone else. I said no. She sent me home.

My husband came rushing out of work panicked and worried. I told him the story and he kindly stopped by my work to drop off the note to HR. Afterwards he kept a close eye on me. My friends stopped by and we had a girls makeover day with a friend of a friend who was a Mary Kay representative. She was adorable and friendly. We’re still good friends. During that week off, I don’t remember if my husband hid my medications and dolled them out for me or not, the memory is fuzzy but I wanna say yes. After a few days I was feeling much better, I went back to work after about 11 days. That Monday I received exciting news, I got the job! I was going to be transferred to the molecular biology department!!

After that, things began to look up, I officially moved over in September 2014 after we hired someone to backfill my position. That job is the best job I’ve ever had and I love the people I work with. I still had some lows and drama during the holidays which bumped me up to 150mg Lamictal. That of course lead to the whole incident earlier this year as you are all familiar with by now (if not read it: The Forbidden Forest: How My Mania Helped Me Cheat on My Husband).

Fast forward to last night. Water poured down on me in torrents of negative emotions and I wanted to die. That feeling came out of nowhere. I was at a friend’s birthday party a few hours prior; hanging out with some amazing and vivacious people. Among the group were great friends I haven’t seen in awhile mixed with fun people I just met then. Drinking and hopping breweries was the theme and I was loving it.

Unfortunately, Bipolar doesn’t just let you live your life, and the Fog rolled back in. It told me no one was enjoying my company at the party. That everyone in the crowded breweries were staring at me and judging me. That the birthday girl couldn’t care less if I showed up or if I left. My husband caught on and asked me how I was doing. All I could think of was scared. I began to tear up and told my friend I was overstimulated and wanted to leave. That the Bipolar doesn’t show up at convenient times. She gave me a cute story about calling Bipolar into my office and kindly telling it things aren’t working out anymore and, while we appreciated the time and dedication to its projects, that we simply have to let Bipolar go.

Cute right? If that were possible, that speech wouldn’t be as cordial, am I right?

So we left and I dropped my husband off at his friend’s place who lives close by for a guys night. I told him I’d pick him up at the end of the night so he doesn’t have to drive back drunk.

So I went and picked up some Thai takeout and sat at home alone with a bottle of wine and some Netflix.

Then I began to cry. The wave hit me and it hit hard. In between bites of pad thai I would sob loud and hard. I wanted someone to hear me. I wanted someone to help me. No one was around. I remembered this pain from last year. It was so immense; so dark. It burned a hole and I felt nothing. I grabbed the bottle of Klonopin and, in my drunken stupor, poured out some pills.

….one Klonopin…half a glass of red wine…

…two Klonopin…a full glass of red wine…

…three Klonopin….another half a glass…fuck…

How many Klonopin do you need to take to overdose?!

While watching Melancholia (yes that’s where I got my alias from) I was trying to somehow pour out my pain onto the screen. I wanted someone who was in pain to tell me it was going to be OK. I stumbled into my bedroom and grabbed An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness to bring back to the couch to read. The words on the page were so blurry. I put the book down. I looked up how much Klonopin you need to take to overdose. Those words were blurry. I needed to get more pills into my body before I passed out.

The last thing I remember is mustering up the strength to get off the couch and grab some more Klonopin from the bottle in my medicine cabinet. I passed out cold.

I woke up this morning lying in bed next to my husband. I got up and walked over to the computer and here I am telling you this story.

So where am I now. I’m lying in the boat, exhausted and hungover. It’s too bright out to see where I am right now. I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

Fuck Bipolar Disorder!


5 thoughts on “Waters Crashing Down: How I Survived The Storm

  1. Your story brought me to tears. Gone through depression myself. And is damn tough. But just reading slowly through words I created the image of you and i think you are much stronger than that bipolar disorder. Never forget there are people who love you dearly. They really do, and they really need you. And it’s great that you shared your story so keep going. Thank you and oh just keep smiling.
    I love your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for those encouraging words Seb. I’m glad you are reading and enjoying my posts. I really hope that on my journey through life I can grow and learn and help others by becoming the person I eventually want to be.

      Liked by 1 person

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