In my last personal update, I had started on the mood stabilizer lithium with incredible results. Unfortunately, after about a month, I started to notice things going downhill, which has led me to where I’m at now.
If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen the decline in mood in my tweets, especially over the last few days. I felt it starting to decline a few weeks ago now, but for a while was hoping it was just temporary. But I suppose the reality of my illnesses is that they could always relapse, even if I’m doing everything I’m supposed to.
Some good news is that I’ve started a DBT program here in Missoula. This week will be my fourth individual session and my second skills group session. This year-long program should help me increase my ability to regulate my own emotions, maintain healthy interpersonal relationships, and tolerate and adapt to changes in life. Hopefully my next medication adjustment will solidify my ability to progress with that too.
The first thing I noticed was that I was having lapses of sadness with no cause. It didn’t start as episodes of depression, but I was noticeably sad. I didn’t think much of it because even emotionally healthy people feel sad, right? But then it started becoming more severe and more frequent. Then it was episodes of depression rather than sadness.
As well as that, I was starting to be more irritable with people close to me. I’ve had too many arguments with someone I’m close to in the last couple weeks. I know “it takes two to tango” and everything, but still. I get fired up and argumentative, this particular person doesn’t respond well to it, I end up shutting down completely. These arguments started happening more often, which was the second warning sign that the lithium wasn’t being as effective.
I assume this is a deal of my body tolerating the drugs. With every medication I’ve been on that made a difference, I’ve noticed the effects wearing off after a while until we increase dosage. I’m hoping that with the lithium we can just increase it or one of my other mood stabilizers and just rest there, that the tolerance doesn’t keep building up to the one mood agent that’s brought me a sense of peace.
It doesn’t seem like many people around me truly understand what it’s like to have a chronic mental illness. I’ve experienced severe depressive episodes for over 14 years now. I’ve experienced suicidal ideation and self-harming tendencies for over 16 years. It’s been a few years since I’ve self-harmed now, but I still feel the urge sometimes, so strongly that it’s agonizing to not act on it. But I made a promise to an old friend that I would stop, and for whatever reason that still has enough value to me to resist the urge.
It’s discouraging to see so much stigma around mental illnesses like mine. My worst symptoms are mood symptoms. I don’t get enjoyment out of accomplishing things, pursuing my hobbies. I rarely feel happiness. Even with the lithium working, it wasn’t so much that I felt good, it was that I didn’t feel so bad. Instead of happiness, I experience manic or hypomanic episodes. An emotional high that is dangerous, increases my likelihood of acting on uncharacteristic impulses, and always ends in an emotional crash simply because the neurotransmitters are so burnt out from being that overactive. It’s hard to feel like anything in life is worth it when you don’t know how to feel good emotions.
I don’t want pity, and I can almost guarantee that whatever advice you have, I’ve tried it already. I just want people to understand that mental illness can be just as debilitating as any other type of sickness. I’m not saying this for me. I’m willing to speak out because I simply don’t care. I have nothing left to lose. Not everyone has found their voice for it yet, usually because of the horrible stigma around mental illness.