I quit meds eight years ago. I did not go cold turkey, run wild and squeal, “Nanny nanny boo boo! Psych meds are a joke!” No, I titrated down with the help of a psychiatrist, a tiny baby in my belly, and a year of stability under my mental health belt.
I spent the years that followed perfecting a formula to replace the lithium I had faithfully swallowed everyday the decade before. Like all great discoveries, I found ketosis by accident. In an attempt to change my weight, I changed my brain. Ketosis worked better than lithium ever had and it lifted the haze I had been swatting at my whole life. Then came exercise, at first just a way to push the babies round and round to sleep, then a way to run straight up hills, then a way to pick my weight up off the ground until I found myself unreasonably calm. And with both came deep, solid sleep, the kind that wakes you up in the morning all by itself, full.
Ketosis was my anti-depressant. Powerlifting was my mood stabilizer. Sleep was my anti-psychotic.
This formula worked so well, I bottled it. I was my own pharmacist, measuring precise doses each day.
So it should be no surprise that when my formula fell apart, when my spine crumbled and I lost exercise, when stress knocked me out of ketosis and head first into cupcakes, when post-surgical narcotics had a paradoxical effect and stole whole weeks of sleep, that my brain would come tumbling down.
The good news is that nothing catastrophic happened outside of my head. I was able to stay out of the hospital with the help of quick doctors, a good husband, lots of babysitters, friends, and an excellent therapist. I didn’t drain the bank account or fly off the roof. My kids got the truly fun parts of mania: fantastic tea parties, Bulild- A – Bear, the Lego store, and all the Muppet movies (except that creepy Treasure Island one. Yikes!) and several amazing babysitters who will stay with us for a season.
And in the end, we are all okay.
This is the brilliance of fighting mental illness out loud, with a crowd. Mine is not a secret battle. This is not a secret blog. I have help beyond fountain pens. My kids have help beyond Sesame Street. My husband has help beyond Bluebell Homemade Vanilla. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, visible and invisible and they are quick to swoop in, despite my comfort level, to intercede. I am not alone, out in the field.
My precise formula may have failed, but this one holds firm. And while these new medicines I’ve swallowed work their chemical magic (and yes, they are working!) I grow increasingly thankful that I have this skilled team fighting for me while I go back to just dealing with a bad back. Just a bad back. Which doesn’t seem as hard a pill to swallow.