“Depression is a thin coating, it’s a thin sheet of reflective ice concealing an ocean. It corrupts our ability to Reason, and without that ability we can’t defend ourselves against the thoughts inside our heads, so we find excuses we can live with. People with our disease are excellent at rationalizing unreasonable behaviour to fit situations we can’t understand.”
“kicking at the darkness until it bleeds daylight“; Me (Nov 16, 2006).
At some point, usually before we really understand the need for a recovery plan, people who have been diagnosed with manic depression ask how much of ourselves are we willing to give up to get better. Most of the time the answer is nothing.
For most of my post-diagnosis / pre-recovery period I self-medicated with Lithium. I had what amounted to an open ended prescription… when you walk into a Clinic and explain to them your diagnosis they’ll give you a script for a one to three month supply. Walk up to any pharmacist and do the same and you’ll get four to seven days worth of free pills.
So when I decided my life was so far into the toilet only some kind of treatment would work, the only one accessible to me was Lithium. But it would only last until I felt a Change coming on, then I would get worried about losing my ability to write or think fast — which, at the time, was where I thought my talent came from. Then I’d either put the pills away or forget to take them…
For awhile I really didn’t need to go to a clinic or a pharmacist because at any one time I had six weeks worth of Lithium tucked away in a shoe box… there was a period of a few years when, if I was lucid for a few days and could think rationally, I’d just dip into my pill box and down a few days worth of Lithium.
But after a few days, or a couple of weeks, the question always came back… of the things about me that I like, of the things I consider to be Who I Am, what am I giving up to not have the crippling depressions and the manics?
And the answer was always “too much.” I could, I decided several times, live with the Disease. Then I’d go back to my rooming house, kill a few roaches and wonder why I had nothing to eat…
What it comes down to is how much of the Disease do you consider to be You and what I’ve learned from the experiences I’ve had is none of it is Me and I haven’t given up anything of me to be rid of It… I’ve gained more of Myself the more I’ve rid myself of It. I would suggest that the parts of you which want to be better are the parts that are You and the parts which want to stay the same or get worse are the Disease.
When you think about the disease, when you think you are what the disease tells you who You are, You’re not what it says you are at all. Christ, the disease is really just a tiny piece of something in your brain… little microscopic drips of chemicals that are just a little bit out of place or about four out of a trillion neurons sparking once instead of twice.
Seriously, get an eyedropper and drop a single drop onto a piece of glass… that’s the disease. That’s what has you thinking about cutting and dying and Not Being. Manic Depression is just a couple of out of place hormones and chemical reactions. That’s all there is to it… its power is an illusion which can be beaten, there is no bogeyman. The natural, clinical depressions can be treated, Will be treated, just get the two separated so you can focus on what’s real and what’s a reflection.
There’s something really wrong about the idea of “giving something away” to get better… it makes sense in terms of addiction: “I’m an alcoholic so I’m giving up alcohol in order to get better”, but in terms of getting better from a disease “giving something away” doesn’t really seem to apply. Like cancer… “I’m giving away / up my hair so I can get better”, but if you get better you get your life and your hair back.
With manic depression I’m not even sure what it is we “give away” to get better… to me the question means we’re contemplating a sacrifice of some kind, like there’s something we really, really want that we’re going to lose forever in exchange for this other thing of equal or somewhat greater value.
“Giving away”, in my head, just has too many negatives attached to it… also, by attaching ‘sacrifice’ to recovering from the disease it seems to lend certain anthropomorphic qualities to the disease. Like you’re Rocky and it’s Clubber Lang and to win you have to take body shots for the first nine rounds… or maybe this works better, like you’re a farmer trapped under a tractor and the only way to survive is to cut your arm off with a nail file. So you file it off, hobble back to the Village, have a pint, marry your sweetheart and, thirty years later, you tell your grandkids how you sacrificed your arm so they could have life but then you die from blood loss because you forgot to have the wound sown up. Or something.
When I was off the pills most of the little poems and stories I wrote were asking the same question in different ways… like, “what if I lose my ability to write?” or “what parts of my personality will I lose if I take these pills?”, but the questions were really me rationalizing staying untreated using my apprehensions and ignorance as proof.
I honestly believed it was important to write ‘Pro v. Con’ lists because, unmedicated, I thought there were Pro’s to having manic depression… and I was wrong.*
*About 60% of this was lifted from a comment I left on Exact Science‘s blog.