You know those days? I mean the ones that get away from you. You have plans, you have obligations, maybe you are supposed to meet someone for dinner, maybe you just have work to do, or a blog thingy to write. Best laid plans, eh?
So, a couple of days ago I was sitting on the couch. It was early, since I don’t really sleep much past 5, and my husband had already left for the early shift. (Why does this stuff always happen in the semi-dark?) I was fine. Fine. Fine. And then suddenly, I wasn’t.
To be fair, it has been a rough few weeks. I barely have any work, and my husband was off work for a bit with a dislocated shoulder. There was one week where we had $7, and half a carton of milk. That was a little dicey. There were acres of time, and nothing to fill them with, sitting next to an empty fridge and half a bag of cat food.
But back to the couch.
Suddenly, without any real warning, all of the little lies that mental illness tells you wormed their way out of whatever corner of my brain they hide in when I’m well. Sort of like herpes simplex B viruses that lurk until you get a sunburn, and then wham, cold sore, but with more consequences. The speed at which I went from placid, dull stream, to angry, anxious tidal wave, was a little overwhelming.
I tried all of my coping stuff – sort of. The breathing, the talking to myself, but all of that is hard when you are shaking and crying and you pretty much feel like you deserve to be that miserable so why try to fight it?
The rest of the day was a write-off.
Being the good little mental patient I am, I took the benzo I’m supposed to take when I can’t calm myself down. The idea is the benzo will help the situation from escalating to the point where I have a panic attack or crash in a really bad way. This usually works, but there was a bit of a problem. My fascination with sharp objects was sort of back. I couldn’t stop thinking about them. Bits of glass. Sigh.
I was really good when I moved. I threw out all my stuff. All the little chips of glass , the broken bits of plastic and all the rest of the sharp things. I was proud of myself. Unfortunately, I was really unhappy about that now.
Ultimately I found something, and I did a bit of damage. Nothing major. No wound management. Just a smear of polysporin, and a whole lot of explaining when my husband got home. The trouble is, the damn thing works. The anxiety basically vanished. What the hell. How did I end up here again? No wearing a bathing suit in front of my normal friends for a few weeks for me.
So here’s what happened.
The benzo is dis-inhibiting. It can be sort of like being drunk. Sometimes I just sleep, but when my thoughts are really swirling around sharp things, it can get dangerous. The last thing I need when I am fighting something like self-injury is a hit to my decision-making abilities, and I had kind of forgotten that.
The benzos work really well for anxiety, I don’t want to totally knock them, but when you are working with dodgy safety issues, lowering you inhibitions is not really something you want to be messing around with.
So I fell off the wagon, and I’m not really happy about it. I’m trying to figure out if this is a giant red flag, flying on a pole over my couch, or if it was just a really bad day, and some iffy decision-making. I’m not really sure yet. On the one hand, I’ve blown 2 years of good behaviour, but on the other, that two years came from not beating myself up over slip ups, and not spending a lot of time promising myself I would never do it again. Taking that pressure off has been really good for me, but I could feel the shame/berating myself thing creeping back later in the day.
I think I’m ok. I’ve poked and prodded my brain over the last few days, and nothing is leaking out. I’ve had some horrific dysmenorrhea the last couple of months, and that always feels like bone-crushing depression, but all the other signs are good. I think I just have to chalk this up to a bit of not paying attention, and a higher level of anxiety than I’ve had in a while.
I’m in one of those phases where everyone is telling me how fabulously I’m doing, and how all the troubles are behind me, but you know what? They never are. I can have months, or years of really good, stable times, but if I let my concentration go, if I stop paying really close attention, it gets away from me. You can question whether mental illness is a biological entity, or a social construct, or some cool, unique feature of my personality that makes me creative and special, but when it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter.
In the semi-dark, when it’s just me and the cats and my thoughts, it still behaves like a chronic illness. I still have to deal with it every day. It doesn’t go away, and when I pretend that it has, it sneaks up on me. The lying, cheating beast that is mine slinks up to my ear and whispers the litany of all the horrible things I’ve ever done, and all the people I’ve ever hurt, and all the things that will always be wrong. Even though some part of me knows it isn’t really true, and that I’m not evil incarnate, I buy it.
So I need to be more careful. I need to get more sleep, and I need to deal with the stress in my life. The risk of thinking that everything is ok is not really one I should be taking. Recovery doesn’t mean you can leave mental illness behind you. It just means you figure out how to continue living with that particular piece of luggage on your rack.
Oh, and I didn’t make it to dinner. Sorry.