taking the next steps

For a few months now I’ve been ebbing in and out of my well-being – some days thinking I’m on top of the world and that I totally have a handle on my mental state, and the next being immobilized with depression.

When I try to think of the last year, though, I mostly see this: me, lying in bed, unmoving, unthinking, and trying not to focus on how I feel.

Days began to blur together, and I stopped being able to easily tell what had happened in a dream and what was happening in reality – my dreams made up most of my memories, so my brain must have rationalized that these could be my reality, too. The dreams became realistic – there was no strange warping of the world, or odd dopplegangers replacing my loved one. The dreams seemed like normal conversations in my real-life. Simple things, like discussions on movies and walking down the street.

A few weeks ago, I snapped at my boyfriend over pizza.

I hung up the phone, filled with anger and betrayal, feeling unloved, un-thought of and alone. I sat in the car, and cried.

Over pizza.

My mom, later that night, told me she thought it was time I get back on medication.

She knew how I felt about it – I did not trust medication, to the point of blaming it for the worst of my days. I felt as if medication was this little demon that could crawl inside of me and control me, and I had a vision of my psychiatrist in my head as man with mean, sharp eyes and a condescending nature.

But she had also seen something in me that even I wasn’t seeing – gone was the girl who used to smile at the smallest things, sing little songs and be up to do anything. Gone was the girl who would never raise her voice, no matter how upset she was, preferring to kill with kindness. Gone was the girl who once had a smile that could brighten anyone’s day, and make anyone feel at home and loved and wanted.

That girl had been replaced with a sad, dark version of herself. One who only wore dark colors because the bright colors she used to wear drew too much attention. One who no longer took long walks around the city for the day, alone, and who no longer felt comfortable being on her own in public. One who needed reassurance all of the time, and couldn’t understand compliments as being truths. One who slept all day, and rarely cracked open a book, and who all the time was sadder than she had eve been. One who broke her mother’s heart each time her mother looked at her, because this was not the girl she knew.

I decided, then, to message my primary care physician. He had his assistant call me immediately the next morning to set me up for an appointment, and by thursday I was sitting in his office.

I was surprised, if I’m being honest, by his reaction – he seemed a lot more concerned about my recent thoughts and actions than I thought he would be. I guess I’d hoped that two years of therapy gave me an accurate handle on where I was, but all it did was let me know what I was doing, and how I could fix it without giving me the strength to actually fix things.

As the session started to end, he turned to me and said, “I want you to consider hospitalization.”

I said no. I said I wouldn’t go back if I didn’t have to.

He said okay. He said I had to promise, though, that that was my next step.

I promised. Because I would rather be hospitalized than do something I could never un-do.

But things were out of his hands – he wasn’t comfortable with my history prescribing me medication.

I left feeling defeated – how could I have waited so long that hospitalization was the next step? How come I didn’t see how bad off I was? Was it too late? Was I about to spiral? I felt all of these fears bubbling up as I tried to control my crying, wiping my tears hastily as I made my way back to work, avoiding my coworkers’ questions as I returned to answering phones and pushing down my emotions.

I had resolved myself – this would be my life: sleeping it all away, wasting my potential, spiraling between feeling great one day, and then feeling miserable for the next 20. I wasn’t worthy of anyone, I was a filler character in a novel with no real lines to just be in the background and go idle when the pages weren’t on me. I couldn’t see a future for me that would be any different than being tired and sleeping and doing nothing with my life.

And then  my doctor called me. He had consulted with my psychiatrist. He would start a medication for me as long as I followed up on Monday.

I had hope.

When I followed up with the psychiatrist the following Monday, I was surprised to see a kind, gentle man, with a small warm smile and a hobbit-like nature in that he seemed to take his time with everything he did – from typing, to walking, to sitting down – it was all slow, and relaxed.

He didn’t seem like the beady-eyes shrink I remembered.

At the end of the session, I asked for something specific – for a medication that used to calm me down. I was surprised that he immediately agreed to it.

It’ll take 6-8 weeks for my daily medication to start having a true effect on me. Right now, I feel no different, but the lorazapem helps me when I feel those spikes in anxiety that often immobilize me in a pit of despair.

I still don’t see a real future for me – I don’t see what my life might be one day. And that scares me.

But it scares me even more to know that if I don’t try this, this will be the rest of my life.

And that’s something I absolutely cannot do to the girl that once smiled freely and wore yellow dresses. And I won’t allow it to be the future of the girl who can’t get out of bed most days. They both deserve better. We deserve better. I deserve more.

With confidence, I’m moving forward – for the first time I have a care team that I feel truly knows me, who can work with my psychiatrist to get me on the track I need to be on.

And it’s not just for me. I’m doing it for my pets, who I sometimes can’t find the energy to entertain – I feel them trying to get my attention when I’m in bed, and it kills me that I can’t even sit up and wiggle a feather at them. I’m doing it for my parents, who I snap at for no reason, and try to hide my pain from. I do it for my boyfriend, who is the ideal boyfriend past-me would have killed for but the current me can’t fully appreciate.

I do it all the people I care about, who deserve to feel that I care about them.  And that includes myself.

I’m giving myself small goals, and trying not to beat myself up over them when I don’t get to them. I’m taking little steps to draw a little more, to write a little more. I’m not wracked with guilt when I can’t get around to the sites I like to be active on.

I’m just taking one step. One step until I’m ready for the next. And for now, I’m okay standing here while I figure out where to place that next move.



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