Past Endurance

I have been medicated for over a year now, to treat mental illness. I’ve been medicated in the past, but I said I was stronger than medication. I was better than that.  I was trying to write while enduring panic attacks, suicidal depression, generalized anxiety, manic highs and disorganized thoughts. Terrifying hallucinations.

I was coaching myself through a panic attack in a bathroom stall at the newspaper I was working at, when I decided I wanted to be able to actually eat lunch on my lunch break. Not hide in a bathroom stall having a panic attack. I had started to take honest, successful steps with my career. People were starting to hear my name. And I had fallen in love.

The way I saw it, my choices were to try treatment again, or keep losing the battle. If treatment was successful, I’d hold onto words, the love of my life, and actually start living. If I didn’t get treatment, I was going to drown. I didn’t have the mental or emotional bandwidth to keep going.  And you can only hide in a bathroom stall for so long.

That was in 2010. I’ve written through tapering off the pills that didn’t work, through starting new medications, and the awful adjustment periods. There are entire phases of projects that are just a coloured smear of memory. They got done, but goodness knows some bits are fuzzy. If you’re just starting medication, I can tell you that yeah, it’s not easy, but it’ll get easier.

Many of my peers, who are also your peers, are on medication. Slowly, some of them have started to be public about it. About being suicidally depressed. The blown deadlines. The litany of agony and self-medication many of us experienced for years. People I love and respect are medicated. They still struggle, but they use whatever resources they have to stay some measure of sane. And now that I have some small measure of success, and things I love and never want to lose…I emulate that. I do what it takes to stay healthy and sane. I am far from perfect or normal, but I don’t spend every single day panicked, and every morning regretting that I didn’t die in my sleep.

Sometimes success, even the start of it, crushes writers. I’ve lost friends to that moment, when their resources surpassed their ability to hold on.I nearly lost myself to that.  I was lucky enough to get treatment I needed before I could try a second time. The path back from that has not been easy.  I don’t think it is easy, for anyone. I still struggle, often daily, to write around the remnants of an illness the pills cannot cure, to keep fighting through what they call incomplete recovery from my mental illness. But every day I sit down to my laptop, pop the cap on the bottle next to it, and take the pills.

I don’t regret going back on medication. You couldn’t pay me to give up my life, or the things I’ve written, since clearing that hellish fog.


4 thoughts on “Past Endurance

  1. I admire anyone who can set aside his/her pride, and the culture that teaches us that accomplishment is only valuable if it's done "all by yourself," to take care of what needs to be taken care of. Too many priceless talents and worthy souls are wasted because people are afraid to admit they need help. This needs to stop.

    Depending on the type of illness, sometimes medication is necessary, sometimes it is not, and sometimes it is a temporary bolstering of the natural healing process and can be discontinued later. Regardless of whether medication is involved, I agree that there is no point in trying to "power through" debilitating emotional difficulties, fears, obsessions, and breaks with reality on one's own,. There are people who devote their lives to learning how to help people with these sorts of problems. I owe my life to one of these professionals and can attest to the fact that what they do is very real and very important.

    Very few people would think of trying to handle a broken leg on their own, but a broken mind seems somehow more personal, more tied into our own identity, even though the brain and its chemistry is just another part of us rather than the entirety of us. Our mental health is not our identity, any more than our physical health is. We are not our diagnoses. I hope some day more people can understand that.

  2. As the daughter of a woman who battled both mental illness and the *stigma* of mental illness all her life, let me tell you that this post nearly brought me to tears. Your strength and determination and honesty are inspiring, and heart rending too. I hope many people read this and understand.

  3. I think we’re living our lives in parallel. In 2010 I realized that self coaching and force of will was not going to be enough to get me where I wanted to go and went to find a doctor who I could work with and medications that work. Probably the best choice I ever made.

  4. Pingback: » The Rundown Lillian Cohen-Moore

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