When I was a little girl, I would get up in the middle of the night and rearrange my furniture. I would take out all the drawers, lay on my back on the floor, and push the dresser across the carpet with my legs. Then the bed. I would shove the mattress off and scoot one side, then the other, until I had the whole thing on the other side of the room. It was deeply satisfying to have control over such big things, and to have a quiet way to exhaust my energy when the whole house was asleep.
When I had heaved and pushed and reordered all I could, I would lay in the dark, staring out into the dark room in it’s new orientation and imagine I was not myself, but some other girl in a far away land. It didn’t occur to me until very recently that those sleepless nights of heavy lifting, rearranging were likely an early version of mania.
In the years I have spent unmedicated in adulthood, nutrition has been my chief protector against depression, but exercise has rescued me from mania. Powerlifting is the equivalent of a seven year old moving dressers and double beds. In my most stable years, I was training 4-5 times a week, without fail. My schedule was incredibly consistent and there were a number of times when I would double up my workouts, add extra weight, or throw in some hill sprints to burn off a mixed state. Endorphins and hormones worked their magic on my brain chemistry. It was a potent and effective medication. And I loved it.
When I injured my back at the end of November (not while lifting), my surgeon assured me that I would be back in the game in just a few months. “Tony Romo had this surgery!” he assured me, again and again. When the surgery didn’t go as planned and the pain didn’t go away, he stopped saying that. I found a new surgeon and at our second visit he looked me in the eye and said, “You will never be able to powerlift again. No more squats, no more deadlifts. Ever. You will have to find something else, something gentle.”
“SOMETHING GENTLE?” I screamed silently. He must’ve seen the panic on my face because, in classic surgeon style, he turned on his heels and disappeared out the door. I sat and cried while my daughters ripped the pages out of the stupid magazines.
Now I had three herniated discs, a failed back surgery, chronic pain, three kids under six that I planned to homeschool, two with major health issues, a husband weighing a significant career change, weekly migraines, and a completely untreated, severe mental illness. Add the chicken pox, stomach viruses, and unending rain and darkness of the previous weeks and you can see why being told I would NEVER be able to do one of the few things that made me a functional human being ever again might be more than I could take.
It’s really no wonder that weeks later I was out of my mind, faced with an ultimatum — the mental hospital or six pills every morning, one at noon, three at bedtime.
I chose the pills, though I have regretted it many times over the last two weeks.
And because one or more of each are somewhere in my body right now, I’ve reached the end of my capacity to focus. Next up, the drug post.