A Bad Day: Why Medication Is NOT a Weakness

Wile E Coyote

I forgot to take my Lamictil last night. I feel like shit today. I took it this morning when I remembered but then I forgot to take my Prozac. I was dragging all day and nearly in tears because it was horrible.

I didn’t feel half as bad as I did before medication. I’m surprised I lasted all those years without it. I should be dead and somehow, I’ve clawed my way through to the other side.

Yesterday, I listened to a woman cry out her frustration on the phone. She has fibromyalgia, which is basically your body telling you to go-fuck-yourself. It’s mistaken for Lupus or rheumatoid arthritis and is often misdiagnosed for years.

No one believes her pain is real because they can’t see it, but it destroys her days and nights. She battles through every moment of pain and knows very little relief. A single mom and facing the indifference of her employer, she works until she drops. And the vicious cycle repeats.

Fibromyalgia’s physical pain is probably the best analogy I can make to how Bipolar feels in the mind. Both have something to do with the nervous system but the damage occurs in different ways. One is physical, one is “psychological,” and the people who carry these illnesses suffer in silence.

I do not want to be that person again, suffering and scaring my loved ones. The medication helps so much because when I forgot to take it today, when my routine was interrupted, the aftermath reminded me that I am very ill. I will not get better without my meds. I’ll fight this battle for life.

I talked to one of my friends about how down I felt, how hard it was to accept that I had Bipolar, and how hard it was to accept that it wasn’t my fault. I’m angry at society and the people who hurt me when I couldn’t defend myself. I’m angry at the people who made fun of me and shamed me for being different.

I rage for the broken, little girl that I found in a broom closet, beneath the stairs, in the basement of my subconscious. There is so much anger and all it does is poison me.

I cried to my friend on the phone, and instead of telling me it was going to be all right, he said, “I’m here.” His words lifted a burden from my chest. There was no “advice.” He has no idea what my illness is like and he acknowledges that he can’t fix it no matter what he does.

It took a while for him to get to this place where he stopped trying to fix me, but only after seven years of friendship. He watched me deteriorate. His frustration was as unhelpful as his advice but he’s a true friend. He kept trying until he figured out the equation.

I can’t think of anything that anyone has ever done to make me feel as safe as his two words. He didn’t promise a better future because that’s up to me. Fragile as I was, his understanding filled in some of the slash marks the illness leaves now and then, soothing the wound like a balm of Comfrey.

I told him my deepest fear, that I would age into this lonely, old lady who kept forgetting to take her medication. I’d end up wandering through Target in my dressing gown only to have a melt-down because corn pads were no longer in stock. This is a viable reality for me. Jail time could be an option.

He didn’t laugh, though there was a dark humor to the scenario. Instead, he offered to remind me to take my medication. In that moment, he not only comforted me, but my acceptance of his help comforted him. It’s not easy for anyone to walk this tightrope of well-being or to watch from the ground.

Just because I feel better doesn’t allow me to deny that I have an illness or that medication is the reason I’m okay. For nine years, I denied that I had asthma or that I needed medication to manage it. After semi-annual bouts of bronchitis and increasing allergic reactions that set off moments of terror as I fought for breath, I broke down. I take my medication daily and if I don’t, I pay.

I will do my civic duty. I won’t let my family and friends worry needlessly. I won’t grumble at my friend when he tells me to take my meds. I’ll swallow the damn pills and remind myself that I may be ill, but I don’t have to be miserable.

©2017 I.O. Kirkwood. All Rights Reserved.

Part Two: How Treated Bipolar II Presents to Those Who Love You



I have never felt this good in my life. Right now, I’m experiencing an irritable anxiety (mixed state) and instead of crawling into bed to hide, I’m dressed and warmed up for the gym. I’m not imposing my irritability on the people I love—road rage does not count—and I’m not burrowing into a hole of misery.

You should have seen my ex’s face when I told him I was back to my “old self.” I’ve known him for over twenty years so I could tell by the set of his mouth, the way it wobbled just a bit, that he was not pleased with the current situation. I was once again the woman he’d first dated all those years ago but new and improved. If he’d just stuck it out, we would still be married. Disloyalty has its price.

I’m ready for a relationship now. I’m not willing to settle for the man-children I’ve dated in the past. I have my heart set on a mature relationship, one where he takes care of me and I take care of him, like family. Where there’s a meeting of not only hearts, but minds and spirits. I know I will give my all to a worthy man.

My children are over the moon. My younger son gave me a hug today because I had anxiety so badly I trembled. My stomach hurt but I was quiet and I didn’t lash out at him. “Do you need a hug?” he asked. I sighed in defeat. “Yes.”

He hugged me and he didn’t seem so tense. He comforted me, and though it didn’t make me feel any less anxious, we both felt better. He felt empowered because I’d let him inside my hellish moment and I felt better because I didn’t feel alone. I felt seen and I felt loved.

My friends are still worried about me. I’ve been holed up with my laptop churning out articles and poems and listening to music non-stop. But I don’t make plans and break them anymore. If I say I’m going to be there, dammit, I’ll be there. I’ve just learned to make better commitments of my time. #INFJ

Everything I tried to do to organize myself, my life, is paying off now. When I was ill, I couldn’t get past the research but I’m glad I did it. From zero to sixty is an apt description.

At work, I am efficient, positive, and goal-oriented. I still need leave now and then because I feel like I do today, but I can also work tomorrow’s 13-hour day I’ve planned in my head as my gut churns for reasons that I can’t discern.

As far as ritual goes, I was so miserable that I had no discipline in my life. I have come into my power as a human being. I don’t need others to show me the way.

Now I wake up at five in the morning, because I write best in the morning, and I have a discrete set of activities I must perform. Those activities may be done in any order, but the actual tasks within are in a set order so I don’t lose my damn mind. On the other side of my work schedule, I’m developing a set of evening activities.

One small step at a time, I’m changing my life, not just habits but perspectives and illogical beliefs. I’ve shed layers of my past that seemed caught in the grip of my illness. Six months later, I feel whole. I don’t think I’ve ever felt like this before.

Granted, I still cycle through happiness and doubt, but the length of each cycle has shortened from weeks to multiple cycles in a day. That means at the top of the wheel, I’m happy. On the sides of the wheel, I’m at rest, and on the bottom, I’m having a bout of existential dread or irritability.

For my type of personality, this is considered normal. I have higher highs and lower lows than others, and that’s just how I am, but medication has balanced these experiences. Happiness is no longer a precursor to misery, and the length of my happiness has increased while my misery has decreased. Since I’m human, misery is not going to wink out of existence.

I used to worry when I had bouts of intense elation. Colors were more intense. Sunlight was a texture. The sense of oneness with my environment was supernatural.

When this happened, I knew I would suffer for at least a week. I chalked it up to ‘as above, so below, but in a different manner.’ I couldn’t feel this ecstasy without experiencing the opposite but the cost had become too great. The ecstatic moments shortened and came fewer and further between the bouts of depression and anxiety.

Ecstasy has evolved into contentment. I can pursue goals, organize my world, and enjoy my achievements. I’m now as gentle on myself as I was with others yet I’m no longer a door mat.

I have no desire to commit suicide. Life is good. There are still moments where I say, “I want to die.” The urge only lasts for about ten seconds and the wheel turns upward. I’m not drowning. My wings are on my back now, instead of on my feet and holding me under water.

I’ve also noticed that the urge happens maybe twice a week, and only when I’m faced with something unpleasant. I’m putting it down to habit and the fact that I’ve only been on medication for six months. I’m still learning what belongs to my personality and what belonged to the illness.

Medication is only part of my process. Working out, taking supplements, doing things that nourish my mind, eating well, and relaxing my standards of perfection all contribute to my overall well-being. The medication was instrumental, but to get the most out of it, I must salvage only what supports my new outlook. It’s still work, but now I have the grit and I’m going to take this to every level I can before I take my last breath.

If you want to feel well, whether for the first time or again, and anti-depressants just make it worse, you might have Bipolar II. Resources can be found in a prior article called The Hidden Illness: Bipolar II.

If you want to know how untreated Bipolar II can look, check out the article Part One: How Untreated Bipolar II Presents to Those Who Love You.

If you think you want to commit suicide or are close to making that decision, please read Suicide: How You Can Help Yourself.

Meanwhile, I’m going to hit the gym for an hour of cardio and another hour of weight training. Maybe it will wear out my anxiety. Wish me luck.

©2017 I.O. Kirkwood. All Rights Reserved.