Present Day, November 26, 2017

‘Tis the season.

No time of year is probably more defining of my plunge into mental illness than the holidays. There was a time in my life when I lived for November 1st. When the day after Halloween launched two months of thanksgiving, joy, celebration, and happiness. Don’t get me wrong, there were still the challenges, arguments, and stresses that come with any two month period of life…but they were tempered by decorations, music, and those glorious days off of work.

Now I would describe it as being marked by a huge unknown. The unknown of what emotions will hit me, when they will hit me, and what they will do to my overall psyche.

For example, today was to be decorating day. You know, haul out the holly…deck the halls…stringing up the lights. And it still is. There is a box sitting to my left and three more hours of daylight with which I am to get the outside lights hung. But I simply don’t have it in me. Haven’t all day. Tried Christmas carols playing in the shower. Tried moving around the pieces of a Dickens-like miniature village. Tried looking over wish lists and contemplating Christmas gifts for those I love. None of it works.

Why? I don’t know. I have enjoyed a four-day Thanksgiving break which included quality family time, visits with my out of town children, and lots and lots and lots of rest. The weather is nearly ideal for this time of year. Sunny. 50s. Perfect for walks, taking in fresh air, and avoiding the sedentary indoor trap that can come with the tryptophan coma. Two date nights with my wife in the past week. And the prospects of just four more weeks until a 10 and a half day…yep, 10 and a half day Christmas break!

But still the darkness. The sadness. The loneliness.

I worry about the direction my life is going. The trajectory. On a scale of 1 to 10, the existence of medications has given me a fairly steady and consistent year, but one that I had always described as being about a 4. The last few months, it feels more like a 3.5…maybe a 3. My environment has improved (employment, home life, relationships, etc.), but my emotions seem to continue to slide downhill. Depression has gone from simply the norm, to a deeper and darker daily hole that I have to climb out of each morning simply to manage a shower and climb in my truck in time to arrive at work.

A medication change has been prescribed to attempt to counter this direction, and we will see if it does. Ironically enough, the next 30 days may make it hard to tell. They can be filled with so much happiness while simultaneously serving as such a period of struggle for so many people. Myself included. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” while simultaneously being one of the least predictable. Especially with a mind that can do its own thing and turn left right when you are longing for it to turn right.

‘Tis the season. The season of the unknown.

Present Day, March 6th, 2017

I have entered into a loosely defined two or so week period that is traditionally a bit dicey at best and dangerous at worst for my life. It is the period of, and please…this is not a clamor for attention, my birthday. ¬†Annually one of the most challenging periods of my year.

If you wonder how that might be possible, I would venture to say that you may not have spent the better part of your life wishing at some level that you were not alive. Or at the very least failing to see the upside of still breathing. For those who struggle with Bipolar, depression, suicidal thoughts or ideation, or other battles to stay alive it is difficult to differentiate the difference between celebrating having survived another year, and mourning having survived another year.

As is normally the case for me, there are soldiers on both fronts attempting to win the battle. It was the first full year of my life married to my beautiful wife. I was able to see my daughter achieve a massive life dream of heading off to college in the city of her dreams. My son performed an amazing senior recital and will soon find out where he will next venture to for his master’s work. My relationships continued to grow with three unique step-children. Together, my wife and I were able to purchase and launch our own business. I seem to have achieved a new level of stability in regards to medications, therapy, and management of my illness.

However, in almost the smack dab middle of all this was an unscheduled, unannounced train ride that resulted in a pseudo-arrest and eight-day hospitalization proving once again that no matter how well things may be going I am more than capable of losing my shit on a moment’s notice. There was an intense struggle with a depressive low at the Christmas holiday which almost resulted in a second hospitalization. As predicted, by the resident psychiatrist and staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the addition of medications to my life have added 15 pounds and climbing to my frame. And my inability to keep my mind together that glorious week will likely cost our family a cool $8,000 thanks to a health insurance policy that is “ass.”

I suppose every life has its yin and yang. For the Bipolars in the crowd, it is more like a damn yin and mother fucking yang. And it all makes the “celebration” of a birthday a little more precarious for a man who is notorious for over memorializing landmark days and moments.

In a few days, I will turn 48. My daughter asked me what I wanted. I told her that I wanted her to save her money. I told her I wanted her to enjoy her college experience and friends. I told her I have everything I need. And I meant it all.

They say money can’t buy happiness, and I happen to believe that. In my case, nothing can. Some days are just happy days. Some days just are not. For year 47, more were than were not. So I guess that means being alive for another birthday is a good thing. Let’s just hope that by the time this little period of life ends I still feel that way.