A month ago I was in the middle of a fairly severe “mixed state”, which is like a panic attack with a triple shot of espresso. I couldn’t sleep or eat, and I had a gigantic ball of dread and despair in my stomach. Going for walks, meditating, lying quietly in my bed, calling a friend… none of these things could get rid of the freight train of anxiety crashing through my body. Medically speaking, a “mixed state” is when a bipolar person is both depressed and hypomanic at the same time.
My doctor treated this mixed state by putting me on an atypical antipsychotic medication. That’s right, I’m on a medication with the word “antipsychotic” in it. I have refused to take this type of medication for years both because I managed okay without them (until this incident) and because of the stigma I attached to this class of drugs.
I hate to say it, but I thought this type of medication was okay for actual crazy people, but not for someone just a little bit crazy like me. These medications are known to cause weight gain and I’m a little bit vain in this regard. Being very sick is incredibly humbling, though, and really puts things in perspective. This episode forced me to realize that bipolar disorder is a scary illness that cannot be taken lightly. I am now cured of my elitism, and I paid a heavy price for it.
Three weeks after starting this new medication, I feel like a normal person. If my brain was a grease fire, this new medication was the fire extinguisher. Literally two days after starting this medication, my brain felt like a habitable place again.
These days I’m grocery shopping, doing school drop-offs, cooking meals, reading bedtime stories, going for walks with friends, scheduling play dates, exercising, walking the dog, and the list goes on and on and on. The speed of my recovery has been dramatic and has both my husband and me scratching our heads and asking, “What just happened?”.
In addition to medication, I owe my quick recovery to my strong support system. My husband, my in-laws, my doctor, our church network and a few close friends showed up in a big way in terms of childcare, cooking, running the household, sending me encouraging messages and answering my teary phone calls. I healed quickly because I had people around to support me and to help carry the load I couldn’t carry.
The good thing about a crisis is that sometimes it can make certain things very, very clear. Never before has it been so crystal clear to me that mental illnesses are medical illnesses. Never before have I been more committed to helping other people who struggle with mental illness. Never before have I been more aware of how lucky I am to have access to quality healthcare. Never before have I been more sure that healing is possible, even if it feels impossible in the moment. I don’t want to return to such a dark place ever again, but I’m grateful for the light I now see on the other side.