A month ago I was treading water. I hated getting up in the morning. My anxiety had me on high alert all day, every day. Fear of change, no matter how small was keeping me so tightly regimented that I was constantly exhausted. Any change to my routine or relationships meant less control, and I was clinging to the belief that control of all of my surroundings was making me healthier.
Change was coming, however, in the form of a bright young doctor insisting it was time to adjust my medication. She gently suggested that things could be better; maybe there was a solution out there that could mean health without so many restrictions. I had been on the same medication for so long, almost six years, that the way it made me feel and all the side effects that went along with it felt like they were permanent parts of my personality. I was afraid of who I would become if I was on something else. The Devil you know, I guess. Also, I know from experience that there is physical discomfort that comes along with changing medications as well was a significant chance that mood symptoms will get worse before getting better. Often it is a long, hard slough to get it right and at some point you always have to make a compromise between mood management and side effects. There is no perfect balance. Part of living with a chronic mental illness is an acceptance that even with medication, all symptoms will not disappear completely and being in a comfortable place for mood and anxiety often comes with physical side effects such as weight gain and sleep disruption. The trick is to know when to stop tinkering with doses and get to managing as best as you can.
Despite all those misgivings, the decision had been made, and on a rational level I knew it was the right one. The two wisest people in my life both underlined the same message when I expressed my fears; hope needed to prevail over skepticism. Having a positive support system meant that I had people to call when I couldn’t sleep or couldn’t eat. I am blessed that those people were always ready with a message of understanding, hope and positivity.
The next three weeks were uncomfortable. I had a number of nights with some psychedelic dreams. One evening this included sitting on the floor of my yoga studio, drinking blueberry flavoured coffee with a work colleague surrounded by about a hundred cats. Another had me helplessly watching my loved ones get beaten up. I was sleeping too much, I was pissed at everyone, and I was late for work every day for more than a week.
Through it all, I was encouraged to keep an open mind and to maintain an undercurrent of hope. The universe has shown me over the past month that a positive attitude is a strong tool.
A few long weeks later, the scene is not perfect; I’m uncomfortably nauseous every evening and I’ve developed an annoying habit of being wide awake at 5 am. However, once the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms of my old medication cleared and my body adjusted to the new pills, things became so much simpler. In the last few weeks the world has just become an easier place to live. I enjoy getting out of bed in the morning. I have the social energy and I look forward to engaging with friends, old and new. I can’t wait for things on the horizon, like vacations and dinner parties when before I viewed them as potential work and discomfort.
The hope lent to me by my closest allies got me through a difficult transition. Change is a scary thing, but with the right attitude and a saintly support network, change is good.
About Sarah Lindsay
Sarah Lindsay is in her mid-twenties and lives in Toronto with her boyfriend and their dog (who also has some anxiety issues). Sarah was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2005 at the age of 16 and is still trying to figure it out. Follow Sarah’s story on HMC’s Supportive Minds Blog, or additionally you can follow her on Twitter, Facebook or check out her new website: SarahsMoods.com