Day eleven #powerrehab: Predictable.

It’s about time in this cycle for this thought to come up, and I’m just going to let it.

I don’t want to take medicine.

This isn’t particularly special snowflake of me, most people don’t want to take medicine, unless it comes in the form of Hanna Barbera characters or they’ve been in labor for more than X number of hours.

I am currently taking the most medication I have ever taken outside of a hospital setting.

The side effects are beginning to add up.  The problem with having a chronic disease that requires daily medication is that the side effects are constant, even though the symptoms of the actual disease were not.

When I did not take an anti-psychotic, a mood stabilizer, an anti-anxiety medication, a migraine prophylactic, and a nerve pain medication, I did not have constant tremors, persistent nausea, all day exhaustion, dizziness, and a general longing to just lay down on any flat surface. Now I do.  If I were actually mood swing, anxiety, migraine, and nerve pain free, I would probably be slightly less irritated by this fact.  At the moment, it doesn’t feel worth it.

I managed my moods and migraines without medication for 8 years.  I just had a major episode — I should be careful with the language, I AM HAVING a major episode, what goes up must come down– that definitely benefited from pharmaceutical intervention.  Though the other medications are disappointing me, the anti-psychotic has worked.  I am no longer manic.  My purse has ceased to levitate, the tarantulas have left my desk, my familiar disdain for the mall has returned, and I have regained my composure in front of the pastry case.  For these things I am grateful.

But I cannot help but wonder what progress I am making with the rest. More than I make with my notebooks and star charts? More than I make with my meal plans and medium chain triglycerides?

When I sat in my psychiatrist’s office with my first baby, a barely beating heart in my belly, he told me there were no guarantees, lithium or no, that the bus of bipolar wouldn’t plow me down one day.  “I’ve had patients go unmedicated for 30 years without a single episode.  I’ve had other patients who take their medication every day and are hospitalized every year.  I have others that go a decade just fine and then BOOM!  They get hit.  There is no way to know, medicated or not.”  It felt like he was telling me the horrible, dark secret of psychiatry.  This man who had fed me nearly toxic doses of heavy metal since I was a teenager had just told me that it may not have ever done a single thing for me other than label me as compliant and destroy my thyroid.

That experience, combined with the fact that I have had more stability in the 8 years since that day than in the 10 medicated years prior, and the unpleasant cocktail of side effects I’m experiencing now leaves me understandably skeptical about the handful of pills I swallow everyday.

If they are working, if they are preserving my life, if they are protecting my family, then I will gratefully take every last one of them.  But if they are making me sick under the illusion of keeping me sane, if they make everyday a bad day instead of limiting them to seasons we have built liturgy to support, I do not want them.

Day ten #powerrehab: Do they not know?

I have turned the dark and twisty corner.

I tried not to.

I thought I wouldn’t.

There is still a chance I might pull up. Pull up! Pull up!

Yesterday I captured the most perfect little depressed thought and pinned him down by his tiny fuzzy thorax, “I just want to go to sleep and fast forward time to…I don’t even know when.”

I can think of at least a dozen reasons why I would be on the slippery side of the manic depressive slope right about now, the most obvious one being that I was recently manic.  A person always hopes that the handful of pretty pills she diligently counts out every morning, noon, and night will protect her, but really, there’s only so much protecting before pills become straight jackets.  Have you ever cleaned a fountain pen in a straight jacket?

Other good reasons:

— while manic I pumped myself full of sugar, dairy, and alcohol, all things that are depressive triggers for me.

— all that crap happens to increase inflammation in the the rest of my body as well, adding to the physical pain I was already in.

— the migraines will not quit.

— my husband is in the middle of a massive career transition.  (Do you like how I’ve minimized this?  I haven’t been able to talk about it much, but I will, eventually.)

Today is the fourth day of my ketogenic restart, and the eleventh day of #powerrehab (I report to you one day in arrears).  Historically, this is the day I wake up feeling better, feeling like the veil has lifted, feeling like a new person.  I’ve been up for three hours now, waiting for the feelings and they’re not here yet.  Maybe they’re running late?  Maybe they need another day?  Maybe they’re not coming this time?  Maybe I need to take the girls out for a long walk on this cloudy morning to meet them?  Maybe they are in the park somewhere?

Wherever they are, I need them to come quickly.  It’s like they’ve forgotten that I have three children to actively love and cabinets of Easter chocolate to fiercely resist.  I have a brain that needs to breathe, a body that needs to go, a chart that needs to earn stars or this whole thing just falls apart. 

Day nine #powerrehab: Someone needs an attitude adjustment.

My brain does not want to do the plans today, so I bring you this list of yesterday’s victories in place of prose:

The jelly beans did not win.   
I made ketones.

I walked farther than I have since the surgery out of spite for my surgeon.

I made it home before my migraine halo gave way to the screwdriver through the eye stage.

I remembered that there was a drug I am not on.

I did not die.


Day four #powerrehab: Ugly.

Breakthrough depression and migraines are tantruming children, kicking, biting, continuing to scream even with their mother’s hand clasped over their foaming mouths.  Yesterday attacked me with both, and because I have three real life children and all the other things, I summoned the power of the YMCA and my life rules.

I took several very deep breaths, fed everyone, put on my ridiculous shoes that I hate but bought on the internet and can’t return, and drove us all to our favorite place on earth, the Town Lake YMCA.  The girls found their friends in childwatch and I found, surprise surprise, this rose out on the trail.  But, I also saw Thong Man, who I also see around town with some frequency but choose not to photograph, so I’m hopeful this isn’t a theme. 
I mediated on my rules.  I did not judge Thong Man.  I admired his tan, his confidence, his commitment.  I did not judge the women judging Thong Man, nor the tourists taking pictures of him as he strolled smiling along the crushed granite path, his water bottle casting a glimmering shadow against his leathery thigh.  I hoped they got the bluebonnets in the background.  I considered this to satisfy rule number 4.

I satisfied all of my rules, took all of my medicines, used all of my resources, pushed through the sweetest Maundy Thursday rituals with my daughters, and went to bed with the migraine and the deep sadness, and the stabbing pain.

And I am beginning to wonder when I turn the corner into acceptance?  When do I become the person who can accept pain as a gift, drink the cup and whatnot?  Because I am not that person yet.  I am not that woman who gracefully suffers with Christlike dignity, who falls asleep of Maundy Thursday thinking about how special it is to know him in this small measure of his suffering.

I am still that woman in her ugly shoes, dragging her screaming pain along the trail, just trying shut it up.

Intention of doing.

What one does is what counts and not what one has the intention of doing.  — Pablo Picasso

I spent a great deal of time making plans yesterday.  After my morning pep talk, I was all fired up about #powerrehab, doing work with my body, sweat bands and whatnot, so naturally I sat down at a table with some notebooks.  I spent several hours distracting my children while drawing up half a dozen graphical illustrations of how the next eight weeks of life would support my physical hopes and dreams of being pain free and avoiding assimilation by the Borg.

It was a bright, beautiful spring day and in the amount of time I spent agonizing over how I was going to fit 56 days into the 48 pages of a very particular Field Notes notebook and whether or not it was necessary for me to track down another set of the Texas County Fair editions, and did those take fountain pen ink, or should I order a $25, 4cm stamp in the shape of a human body from Japan, or maybe just hand carve my own, and what’s involved in that, I could’ve walked to Waco and back.

There is nothing wrong with planning.  Planning is huge part of what has made me successful at maintaining a 100+ pound weight loss for over a decade and kept me relatively sane without psychiatric medication for 8 years.  But sometimes I get so caught up in what it looks like on paper, that I miss the point completely.

On Monday, March 30, I am taking myself to #powerrehab.  I’ve built my plan, I’ve mapped it out, I’ve chosen my training log, I’ve tried on my spandex and they still fit because they’re spandex and that’s what they do.  I made my plan thinking I was going to get my back healed, I was going to fight another surgery, rebuild my core, and be superhuman again.  But as I ran my hands over all the charts and graphs last night before bed, what I saw was a map for my mind.

To take the brisk walks without toddlers to chase, to focus for ten minutes without a four year old asking seventeen questions and smearing paint on at least four surfaces, without a seven year old asking me how to spell “catastrophe”, I need a very structured schedule, I need protected quiet, I need space.  These are things that rehabilitate more than a bad back.  These are the things that heal a scrambled brain.

So it turns out that #powerrehab is about more than all the discs in my back trying to escape, or the scar tissue on my nerve.  It’s about healing all my wounded body parts, from my bipolar, migraine riddled brain, all the way down the to the numb toes on my right foot.

I will be documenting my progress here and on Instagram (@mosesface), but I haven’t decided what that looks like yet.  It may or may not be every day, it may or may not involve japanese stamps and fountain pen friendly notebooks.  You are welcome to follow along and be very impressed.