One night in January 2015, I got an electric-feeling headache in my right temple. My speech slowed and my vision went blurry so I went to the ER. I was told it looked like my psychiatric medication was doing damage to the nerves in my brain and I had to change it immediately. I started seeing a new psychiatrist to do that in February. I liked him a lot at first and I was looking forward to a change. With him on my team, things were looking up.
On April 8 my basement flooded. On April 19, a Sunday, I woke up more manic than I have ever been. I had never felt more like a stereotype, sitting in the corner of a walk-in clinic, rocking back and forth with fidgeting hands, muttering to myself to stay calm. I knew I needed help, I knew exactly what was happening but I also knew that at any moment things could cross an invisible line from only looking unstable to truly losing touch with reality. The walk-in doctor was kind; he gave me some sedatives to sleep it off. My Mom came into town and got us a suite in a fancy hotel for me to do just that. We got room service. After a week or so, I was confident that things were looking up.
I didn’t return to work for seven weeks. The doctor I started to see in February had become a weekly staple in my calendar. We met for twenty minutes every few days for me to tell him why his most recent choice of medication wasn’t working. There were rashes, manic episodes, too much sleep or no sleep at all, and muscle aches he insisted were blood clots (and therefore certainly not his fault). In June, a week before my birthday, we had finally figured it out and I went back to work. Things were definitely looking up this time.
On June 25 I went to the ER. Two weeks and four days after returning to work, I spent forty straight hours at the Emergency Room. They too insisted there was no way that my medications could be the reason I was feeling so sick. They thought it was much more likely that I had some kind of intestinal blockage. So I didn’t eat or drink for almost two days, I was poked and prodded with needles and things much scarier than needles. Eventually I was sent home with instructions to change my medication. My mother spoke to my boss; I wasn’t going back to work anytime soon. I had the summer off, so I guess things were looking up…
In July I officially quit my job; I had no timeline for when I would return. When you’re sick, the world moves on and they had to as well. My landlord had not yet fixed the basement, but with no job, there weren’t the funds to move. However, it was summer and I was really active, I had even started dance classes, so – you guessed it – in my mind, things were looking up.
September came and went and so did new medications. That doctor I had really liked in February was clearly out of ideas. He had started to circle back through old medications that he felt we’d given up on too soon. On Thanksgiving I broke out into an itchy, burning rash covering my torso and arms. I Googled the medication I was on: “Seek Medical Attention Immediately If…” Great.
The morning before Halloween I hit my head and got a concussion. No exciting story, no harrowing tale. I got tangled in shoes, a dog leash and my broken spirit. My forehead met the doorframe. My mood, which had been hanging on by a thread already, became wildly unstable. My Doctor told me that being basically un-medicated for months meant my brain was working overtime to keep me in reality, now that muscle was injured. She likened it to running a marathon on a broken leg. I had to be patient now and let myself heal. I lost the ability to do any physical activity harder than an old lady yoga class; stairs and short walks to the grocery store became difficult. I became angry and volatile. The basement had not yet been fixed, my Employment Insurance had run out, and things were not looking up.
Today, my concussion has not healed, my stomach issues have not been resolved and I remain unmedicated. On all three fronts I am playing a hurry up and wait game that has already being going on for eight months.
However, I have a partner who had stood by me through every single one of these moments and I don’t think he’s packing to leave. My family remains a constant source of support, dark humour and love. My family doctor swears like a sailor and is in my corner like a coach. I am going to school to start my own business in January. My dog still loves me. My friends still love me. I just finished a great teen-romance-fantasy novel. Christmas is in a matter of days and my shopping is done. Things are looking up.
2015 was a year of hardship and hands down the most difficult I’ve ever had. It showed me that resilience is earned. The universe has a plan. She will provide the moments we need to make us who we’re meant to be. I still have faith in her plan for me; all this is leading somewhere, and it’s definitely not somewhere mediocre.
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