I’m just going to come right out and say it — right now I don’t WANT to smile and I don’t WANT to write about anything anymore. In fact this week I contemplated giving up writing altogether because I no longer saw any value in it.
Let’s just say it was a terrible week. It was like a bad dream from which I could not escape. Something devastating happened to a friend of mine that I can’t quite wrap my head around yet, AND on top of that, despite my best efforts to pretend it isn’t happening, I haven’t been feeling well. The whole springtime-mixed-state business has been in full force so for the first time in five years my doctor increased the dosage of my mood stabilizer. I felt like I had taken a one-two punch in the face. Upon swallowing my first pill I immediately felt crushed…like a failure. I’ve been doing well for over five years and have even been writing about my journey hoping to help others dealing with mental illness. This set back was definitely not part of my plan…especially now.
However, I know this illness like the back of my hand. When I was first diagnosed I read everything I could get my hands on regarding Bipolar Disorder. All along I’ve been aware that it’s likely symptoms will reappear even if I stayed vigilant about my meds and took good care of myself. Sometimes things just happen. I had started to feel a little off kilter a few weeks ago, but now I can no longer ignore it. I had to accept my doctor’s recommendation to adjust my medication. She had suggested this two months ago but I had insisted I was strong enough to deal with it without adjustments. I hate being wrong.
The side effects have not been pleasant. Actually they downright suck. I’ve been nauseous, my head hurts all day, my brain feels numb, it feels weird to speak — like my voice is a million miles away — and my hands have been trembling. Thursday I resorted to taking a sick day because I couldn’t string my thoughts together and I was exhausted. My mind would literally stop mid-thought, then I couldn’t remember what I was trying to say. My sleep is restless, my dreams are vivid and scary. By Friday I couldn’t even figure out how to explain multiplying fractions. But at least the agitation and impulsiveness seems to have subsided. That’s definitely a relief. I have my fingers crossed that my body will adjust and the side effects will subside. I’m praying it doesn’t eventually come down to having to decide which is better…being a zombie or bouncing off the walls and trying to keep myself from ripping my hair out.
I don’t want to feel this way. I want to FEEL happy. I want to FEEL in control. But I’m not and so I struggle. The way I FEEL right now is numb so I guess technically I don’t actually FEEL anything. Sunday in church I caught myself staring into space unable to concentrate and afraid to speak to anyone because I knew my words would be jumbled. At work it’s difficult to process information and stay organized. On the way to work this morning I literally forgot where I was going.
I’m starting to come to grips with the fact that there are many things in this life we cannot control and will never understand such as sickness, relapses and sudden death. That honestly doesn’t sit well with me, especially because I tend to be a control freak with an insatiable desire to figure everything out all the time. I’ve questioned my purpose and asked “Why?” a million times this week. WHY, after feeling so grateful and inspired last week, are things going south? WHY, after several years of wellness when I truly thought the worst was behind me, am I having to fight to keep my head above water? WHY should I continue to write or share if I can’t tell people everything is wonderful and that this illness can be conquered for good? WHY did my friend die so unexpectedly?
I did however just realize something that helps. A few years ago a week like this would have had me questioning the very existence of God and the purpose of faith, or triggered a fit of anger especially toward Him. Surprisingly that hasn’t happened and that’s how I’m different and can see where I’ve grown. Even though I don’t get it and it devastates me I am confident that God has my back. Somehow I sense His power surrounding me. That may sound odd but all I can say is that in my heart I KNOW it to be true. Whereas in the past I would have reacted to these circumstances by turning to alcohol, boycotting church or giving up on life altogether, I can honestly say now I am going to turn to God. I’m going to get real and tell Him that I don’t get it and I wish with all my heart things were different. I know He will hear me and deep down I know He is working for good in this moment even though I may not see it or comprehend what’s going on. I have to lean on Him and look to Him for comfort. That’s all I can do and I have to be ok with that.
I wish I had all the answers to the WHY’s or something profound to say but I don’t. All week I’ve wanted to throw in the towel, quit writing and just give in to becoming a zombie on my meds. The only answer is to look to something bigger than me — much bigger than all of us. Maybe asking “What if?” instead of “Why?” would be more productive. What if I’m going through this so I can be more empathetic to those around me? What if having to adjust my meds is God’s way of telling me I can’t always be in control and it’s ok? What if this is happening all at once to make me stronger?
A message my friend sent to me recently, before he died, included this — “It’s so important to not be anonymous and to share your thoughts. I’m so proud of you and personally thankful for you laying it all out there.” We all need to remember that. We need to share and not be ashamed of our struggles. He encouraged me endlessly and I need to keep going in order to honor him.
I know God has this figured out. He knew I would start getting sick again and question just about everything, but I don’t blame Him for anything that has happened. I would have in the past but thanks to all my previous struggles and experiences my faith has grown and I can honestly say there is still hope.
What if that’s the whole point?
My prayers tonight will be for all of us to hold on to hope even when it seems impossible. I pray we can all continue to see glimmers of goodness even in the darkest times and that it will draw us closer to God, because in the end He is the one who will carry us and that’s all we really need to know.