Last year I went through an incredibly negative experience in August. I was brand new in my field, pushed hard and fast to take on my full role when I have my doubts now that I was truly ready. In my own way, I was traumatized by that experience and by the time I hit January I was ready to leave the field for something that didn’t eat me alive psychologically and even physically.
Here it is, a few weeks shy of another August, and I’m still in the field… in the same position. Thinking about it makes my teeth clench. The word alone now has meaning that I never before assigned to it. It means misery, exhaustion, and even anger.
No matter that this is a different year and I’m not the brand new person on the team. It’s a learned behavior. Or call it a learned response.
It’s the reason, in essence, why I sought out medication now. I knew that there was no way I could do it again. The fact that just knowing it is coming was enough to cause all the stress symptoms to accelerate was reason enough for me to talk to my family doctor. She didn’t feel comfortable dealing with psych meds, so that led to the referral to the psychiatrist. Filling out the paperwork opened the door for the memories I had tucked away and that led to my hunting down my psychologist.
So here’s the funny thing in all this: I actually think that ultimately the psychologist will help the most. Medication is just a bandaid over a wound. Already I am discovering some freedom because I understand where some of the behaviors come from. It’s not magic. It’s not a medical issue that will require a lifetime of pills. It’s a learned response. What can be learned can be trained away.
I pulled a towel out of the cupboard today, saw that it was folded in that silly, illogical way, and laughed it off. I knew why I noticed and I knew that it doesn’t matter. And to note, yes I’m still on the lithium but I had to reduce the dose. I cannot be losing sleep, not with the apnea issue. By Saturday I was so ill and tired from being up and down each night that I thought I was going to fall over. I backed off the does to 600 mg and cut my intake of liquids again. Last night I slept for 6 hours straight. It was bliss.
To pull back in from the digression, I think we all seek out our identities. If we are healthy and focused and sensible, it isn’t that tough. We can say, “I am this person and I understand what my life is about.” Sometimes we go through periods where we might lose track, so we end up fumbling around for a bit. Sometimes, though, we feel like we lost our way a long time ago and we don’t even know where the path should be.
About 16 years ago I was diagnosed as bipolar. At the time it seemed to fit. I had unreal crying jags, depression, anxiety, and my sleep pattern was horrible. Prior to the diagnosis I was placed on Prozac for depression and had a breakdown that required 24 hour monitoring.
Things that were never asked (and I might not have known the answer to): had I ever been identified as gifted? Were my crying jags timed with my cycles? Had I ever had a sleep study performed?
When I got pregnant with my first son, the mood swings stopped. I had an incredible sense of peace while I was pregnant… no crying jags and I felt good in comparison to all of those ups and downs. After I delivered I had mild postpartum depression, but that was it. After my second child was born I had a more severe case of postpartum depression mixed with anxiety related to nursing. Since that time it has mostly been stress and anxiety… until the crying jags started. Interestingly enough, this time I noticed that the crying jags were timing about 2 weeks prior to my cycle (the beginning of the luteal phase). Then odd hair growth and finally acne like a teenager.
Thankfully someone wonderful at my OBGYN’s office listened… truly listened. She told me my hormones were out of whack, put me on Beyaz and within 2 cycles I was no longer having random crying jags. When macaroni and cheese makes you weep like your best friend has died, there is something seriously not right!
This is where I am now, although some may not agree with my choice. I am psychologically at a point where I want to let go of these things that have caused me to feel so lost about who I am. My job may not be perfect (who’s job is), but it helps to support my family and I’m mostly helping others. Intellectually it’s reasonably challenging. I either learn how to let go of these negative responses to stress and get healthy, or I am going to have to find something dull and unstimulating for work.
All this stress response that I’m holding at bay with lithium has to be processed in a healthier way. In the process perhaps I’ll discover more of my true identity buried under the noise.