Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The New Normal. Tuesday, July 20, 2010.

“The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well.” –Joe Ancis

For almost three months, I had been in a bipolar “mixed episode,” but never having experienced one, I didn’t know what it was. I only know that I had been experiencing white-knuckle fear every day, for weeks and weeks.

Even medical misjudgments about my medication, and significant job stressors, couldn’t explain the depth of my constant panic. Sounds were too loud, colors were too bright. Pounds fell off, until my pants wouldn’t fit even with a belt. I could only manage about four hours of sleep a night, and exhausted, I could barely drive or function at my full-time job, much less my home business.

I’d quit wearing makeup and styling my hair. My thoughts were so fragmented I couldn’t choose a cereal brand at the store or count change. I did jumping jacks in the restroom at my office to discharge my nervous energy. And always, there was the pound-pound-pounding of my heart, which had taken me to Urgent Care.

I wanted desperately to cry, but could not. I’d begged to move up my appointment with my psychiatrist, but he was booked for months. I contacted the hospital and asked if I could go inpatient; my insurance wouldn’t cover unless I was in “imminent danger.” My mother complained that I was distant; my husband complained that I was self-centered. I tried Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, journaling, meditation, self-hypnosis, EMDR, yoga, walking, breathing, and copious amounts of prayer.

By the time I arrived in the psych ward via the ER, with four kinds of pills in my body and stitched-up wrists, my mind and body were on such overdrive that even the entire bottle of Valium I’d taken didn’t sedate me for 12 hours. I tried to tell a psych nurse about the state I’d been in for almost three months, and I said to her, “I’ve always been a nervous person. But this isn’t normal.”

“Well, maybe it’s your ‘new’ normal,” she responded. “Maybe this is just the way you are.” And she shrugged.

I’m sorry, but – what the fuck? Incapacitated? Unable to work, sleep, eat, or even think? My “new normal?” The way I was going to be every day for the rest of my life? Obviously, I would have rather been dead – hence the stitches and the IV cleansing out my liver. What was this nurse thinking?

Of course, I was in the psych ward, where some patients are prone to exaggeration. She’d never met me made-up and dressed professionally for my job. She didn’t know about the awards I’d won or the promotions I’d received. She hadn’t seen me interact happily with my family. In short, she hadn’t seen me at my high-functioning self. All she saw was a pale, disheveled woman in a hospital gown, who hadn’t washed her hair for a week.

Now it’s over a year later. To be honest, I don’t feel 100% yet – I hope I will someday. But I finally found a doctor who would see me, and who prescribed mood stabilizers and an antidepressant. I’m enjoying time with my family, and I’m on full steam at my demanding job. I fix myself up for work, I eat, and I sleep. I have a ways to go before my mood is where I’d like it. But I’m leading a normal life.

I’d like to go back and visit her the psych nurse. Not that she would remember me; obviously, I was just another psych patient to her. But I’d like her to know that I was not about to settle for HER idea of “normal.”

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