Eat Me; Drink Me

Valproate Depakote Carbamazepine Tegretol Lamatogrine Lamictal Gabapentin Neurontin Topiramate Topamax Eskalith Lithobid Clozapine Clozaril Olanzapine Zyprexa Risperidone Risperdal Quetiapine Seroquel Ziprasidone Benzodiazepine Clonazepam Klonopin Lorazepam Ativan Zolpidem Ambien

I curse the medicines. I curse them sweating in my bed, crawling from the stainless steel bowl I sleep with to the porcelain bowl of my bathroom. When I start a new one, it’s always a grab bag. I was violently ill and dehydrated with a toxic dose of lithium. I fell asleep if I sat down to fold clothes with Depakote. There was a plethora of side effects in between. My favorite was one manic-depressives call “Benedryl high, “ a combination of antihistamines innocently taken for a cold and lithium, which made me feel like I was on speed, a soaring substitute for the highs I missed so much.

Not only do I curse the meds, I curse every doctor who prescribes them, and I curse myself for not staying on them. Every time I selfishly decide I don’t need them and have to come crawling back, the combinations have to be stronger, more debilitating.

I do not have bipolar disorder. I live with manic depression. The DSM revision of my label to negate all but the most extreme ends of the emotions I navigate has never suited me. Everyday life in this illness is not black and white; it is a pushing at the edges of gray in every direction, not just toward two opposite ends. Manic-depression is, for me, a disease that is not book-ended, but chaotic at its core; the cruelty of it resides in its inconsistency.

Everyone affected by manic-depression knows it kills. Some trials estimate the survival rate at a paltry twenty percent. My odds are better in Vegas, though my bluff at cards isn’t near as good.

What isn’t said is that it is a disease of selfishness. As addicting as the mania is, I would sell my soul to keep it from spiraling out of control. I may want to buy all twelve bottles of ketchup in stock at the Food Lion at 2am, drive to the Keys to pick up a bale of pot when I’ve said I’m going for a soda, and have sex with the guy sitting six seats away from me at the bar just because I like the number six, but those decisions aren’t always good.

So you learn to manage, and I manage well. Meds, only the ones my doctor allows, twice a day, exactly twelve hours apart. Water in hand constantly for the dry-mouth. Typing instead of writing when the tremors are epileptic in scale. The girl who always leaves the party early to get her sleep, because once the line blurs between day and night, it’s all downhill from there. Structure everywhere for the omnipotent free spirit that mania morphs me into just before I can’t speak a coherent sentence and tumble over the edge. I am obsessive about it, and whenever I feel myself starting to slide, I let everything go and shut down until I’m back in control.

In the past month, I’ve lost 15 pounds, slept erratically, driven around in the country between the hours of 2 and 5 am when I can’t sleep, started a relationship, selfishly run screaming from the same relationship when I found it full of ghosts, and twice seriously considered the size and number of stones I would need in my pockets to sink to the bottom of the river.

No matter how many times I’ve tried, there’s no room in this life for a relationship. It’s a liturgy of the damned that always ends badly, and I should know better. I do know better. That doesn’t mean I can stop it.


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