Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A Bad Week

Today is the first day that I've been at my computer for more than 10 minutes all week. That is unusual for me, and is indicative of my mental state, which deteriorated rather dramatically and painfully on Monday morning. I found myself, after my normal morning anxiety attack (how I loathe them), ensconced in a frame of mind that had me seriously considering checking into the nuthouse.

What happened? I don't know. I'm no closer to understanding what causes these episodes than I was when I was first hospitalized in 1998. It feels like being under attack, and that's not good. It's not good because I'm not under attack from anyone. No harsh criticisms are voiced or judgments leveled, at least from other people. I'm always the recipient of bitter, nasty, dark and cruel thoughts that are merciless and constant. It's a withering barrage. My inability to cope with said comments either shows how weak I am, or that I'm genuinely up against something that normal people don't have to worry about. Or maybe it's both.

Back in 1998, I went to the Boston Evening Clinic in Boston. The union for which I worked offered all sorts of health benefits, and I went in to see a psychiatrist, looking for answers. They gave me Prozac, of course, which is a bad idea if the fellow you're giving it to is bipolar. Two weeks later there was all the drama of an attempted overdose, complete with stomach pumping, restraints, and a 2 week visit to a locked psychiatric ward; The Arbor in Jamaica Plain. The Arbor turned out to be very educational. They put me in the men's "dormitory," which was (and probably still is) essentially a very large room with beds and broken-minded people who happened to have a penis. I'm pretty confident that that wasn't all that helpful, although aspects are burned into my memory. But the "interview" that preceded it was extremely efficacious.

It was in that meeting that a plump, tired and kind woman promised me a couple of things. One, I would never be "cured" of clinical depression, hypomania or any of the various personality disorders from which I suffer. And two, medication and therapy would make my mental illness endurable. If the worst of it wasn't over, she assured me, it soon would be. Help was on the way.

I liked to think that not a soul would blame me if I flung myself in front of a bus, given my pathetic condition. I now know that there really are people who would be upset, although I honestly and sincerely don't completely understand why. After I took some good natured ribbing from my friends Adam and Mikhail (Adam actually sent me a letter in the nuthouse that basically mocked me for fucking up a suicide, I found it comforting) I set out to approach my madness scientifically. No hypnotizing or acupuncture for me. Many, many different prescriptions were tried, as well as group and individual therapy. Eventually I settled on Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and chose a weekly group.

Now it is 2008, and as I sit here my heart is in my throat. There is fear that I may lose my mind entire and do something terrible, to myself or someone else (although that is a fear I've had all my life). There is also that withering voice that whispers not-so-sweet nothings in my ear, as it were. The "voice," I'm told, is my inner monologue; It's not like my schizophrenic uncle who endured a commanding voice that compelled odd actions.

Instead, guilt and a desire to make the world a better place, and to end the fucking paranoid shit sandwiches I have to keep eating, compel me to end it. Kurt Vonnegut, who suffered from a terrible depression before he mercifully croaked, said that he dealt with suicidal thoughts his whole life. So it can be done. The guilt, self-loathing, paranoia and depression, on the other hand, make it such an attractive option.

Another bothersome aspect of this is that my illness compels behavior that is sometimes totally indistinguishable from the actions of any run-of-the-mill asshole. Mental illness or no, I haven't the right to treat people the way I sometimes do. Punching walls and yelling about this and that can't be tolerated, by me or anyone else. That's why I felt strongly on Monday about going to the nuthouse (even a polo mallet to the head would have been an appealing option at the time). I obviously didn't, and I do feel better, but how much of this nonsense (albeit infrequent these days) should I allow to continue? At some point, my insanity may impel me towards unacceptable behavior in general, not reserved to "episodes" every so often.

I live in fear of myself, and of the impact I have on them. Particularly, of course, those whom I love. If there only were a god I could blame. But there is only me.

Onward, however. Tomorrow I will reveal all this to my therapist and psychiatrist. Whatever help they offer, plus the passage of time, will help me get past this recent setback, I hope. Today I'm optimistic.

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