Eight Weeks

Today marks exactly eight weeks since I tried to kill myself, and it already seems like it happened in a different lifetime. I figured it was a good time to take an eight week life inventory.

Eight Weeks Ago: Heading to the ER after not having taken my insulin in two days
Now: Heading to boyfriend’s house to watch Superbowl (commercials) after not having eaten in two hours

Eight Weeks Ago: Called National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Now: Called US Masters Swimming and renewed membership for 2017

Eight Weeks Ago: Sixteen tattoos
Now: Twenty tattoos

Eight Weeks Ago: Dating life – unsustainable due to severe depression
Now: Dating life – boyfriend, stable, happy

Eight Weeks Ago: No car, no money
Now: Great car paid for outright, no car payment, credit card debt paid in full

Eight Weeks Ago: Taking one psych medication that did not work for shit
Now: Taking five psych meds that provide functionality; learned that previous psych medication cannot be metabolized by my body

Eight Weeks Ago: Almost completely isolated, by choice
Now: Surrounded by people and love, by choice

Eight Weeks Ago: Stayed in apartment to escape from real life
Now: Only stays in apartment to sleep and do laundry, otherwise out and with people

It’s fair to say that eight weeks ago I didn’t think I would be here today. I wouldn’t have believed you if you had told me that I would not only still be alive, but I would be fighting harder for myself than I ever have before; that I would find more love and support than I have ever let myself feel before; that I would be slowly but surely making my own dreams come true.

There is no moral to this story. I’m not going to say that I shouldn’t have tried to kill myself two months ago. At every point in my struggle I made the very best choices that I could at that given moment. Past Allison Anarchy will always have my retroactive support and validation.

Genetic Psych Testing

At the risk of sounding like a human infomercial…

Attention anyone who has ever taken anti-depressant, anti-psychotic, hypnotic, or ADHD medication: have you had genetic testing done by your therapist or psychiatrist?

Did you know that genetic testing was a thing? I didn’t until about a month ago when I heard about it from my therapist. It’s a test they can run in a lab that will tell you specifically which medications will and won’t work with your genetic makeup. It is a cheek swab (no needles required!) that can be done in your doctor’s office.

The results are very specific and will even tell you why a certain medication won’t work. For example, for me, my body can only metabolize Trazodone in low doses. Higher than 50 or 75mg and it builds up to potentially toxic levels in my liver. There’s a green, yellow, and red category for each group of meds (anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, mood stabilizers, etc.) which is self explanatory: the green category will work without issue, the yellow will work but only under certain circumstances (like my Trazodone) and the red category won’t work at all.

Much to my surprise, my red column of antidepressants was extensive. So extensive in fact that I learned that I have spent years of my life taking medications that were never going to work in the first place. It wasn’t because I was broken. It wasn’t because I wasn’t working hard enough. It wasn’t because of a flaw in my character. It was because my liver doesn’t contain certain chemicals to metabolize other certain chemicals.

Yes, I grieved the years lost, where I possibly could have felt better and been more productive. But the validation that this test has given me is absolutely priceless. Never again will I have to play roulette with medications, or forfeit months of my life to wading through side effects only to find that the medication doesn’t help me. This is a huge step in mental health treatment.

Speaking of priceless, the test isn’t. It was $300 and not covered by insurance, but you have an option to pay it over time based on your income level. To me, it was worth every penny I paid that wasn’t in my budget. The test has been around for a long time, but it’s only recently been made more affordable and available.

It’s so recent in fact that a lot of doctors and therapists don’t even recommend it to their patients. That’s why I have taken it upon myself to proselytize the cheek swab. Ask your health care professionals about it, and think about never having to metaphorically throw a handful of meds at the wall and see what sticks. Scrape together some spare change from the couch, work a few extra hours, sell a kidney – if it provides you with even half of the validation it provided me, it will be worth every penny.

Visit the Genesight website for further research. (Note: I get no money for proselytizing)

genesight

Feel Less

So many major life changes, crises or otherwise, have happened to me over the last year, and I have felt every single feeling that has arisen along the way. I feel everything fully, to the point where my capacity for feeling emotions has shrunken to almost nothing. I was not aware that this was possible until now, but it is. I don’t know how to halfass anything in my life, from work to play to relationships to, apparently, feeling emotions. How much of that is the bipolar vs. innate personality or character, I’m not sure. But I don’t quite understand why I feel my feelings so strongly, to an overwhelming and depleting level, and other people don’t.

Can a person learn how to feel less? Is it possible to let some feelings in but not others? I don’t want to stop feeling altogether, but with the new medication cocktail I’m taking and my reduced emotional capacity, it seems like that might be where I’m going. Right now I often use apathy as a coping mechanism because I am fearful of irrational emotional ambushes.

I just started reading Carrie Fisher’s novel Postcards from the Edge, which is about chemical addiction; openly truthful about how people use drugs and alcohol to avoid or cope with their feelings. Honestly it would make so much more sense for me to self medicate. People get by in life by wanting to ease pain and dampen their feelings, and I think it’s a common human denominator to want those things. But for some reason I face everything head on and want to deal with feelings unfiltered and until they make sense or dissipate. Someone who does this without self medicating is going to be deeply affected by the emotional roller coaster. Why can’t I learn to self medicate like a normal person? It would save me so much grief. But then I wouldn’t stop, ever.

I’m so deeply affected by the intensity of my own feelings that I need prescription medications to make me stop feeling much of anything. The modern lobotomy. The meds will keep me alive, possibly allow me to create some sort of productive stability in my life, but they’re also taking away my feelings. I am frustrated that these are the choices I have. I don’t want to make either, and neither makes me very excited about my future as a human. I just want to feel things on a healthier scale. One that doesn’t destroy me.

But until I figure out if that’s even an option, I’m taking meds that work on a sliding scale of effectiveness, stockpile things and people that make me feel happy, and figure out how to get through a half a day at a time.