Disclaimer: This year I was wrongly diagnosed with bipolar disorder and treated with Lamictal. My psychiatrist prescribed me a very low dosage and quickly – within four weeks – my dosage was multiplied by eight.
I’ve always been placid. Mom always says I was born thirty. I wasn’t active, I didn’t have a whole lot of friends, I’ve always been pretty mellow. When my fifth grade teacher “punished” the class by taking away recess for the sake of quiet reading, I was the only one who smiled. Why would I want to run around by myself when I could sit at my desk comfortably and read my newest Ramona Quimby book?
For most people, mental health disorders don’t show up until late teen years. I’m not saying I was depressed as a kid, but I was clearly different from everyone else.
I had my first panic attack when I was a junior in high school. My mom was rushed to the emergency room after she coughed up blood into a ball of toilet paper. Daddy didn’t wake us up, he just drove Mom to the hospital in the middle of the night. Stomach ulcer, he told us the next morning. She needed surgery and to be kept a few more nights under supervision.
I thought all of the air was sucked out of the room. I was crying but I couldn’t breathe in or out to try and stop the waterfall of tears. I was so scared for my best friend, my confidant, my home. Daddy just stared at me, seeing my mother in my eyes.
There’s something special about anxiety disorders. Don’t misunderstand, it’s just that there is nothing quite like quarantining yourself in your room, pushing the dresser against the door, and crying hysterically on the phone to your fiance because of a mayfly in the kitchen.
I get that you don’t get it. You really can’t get it unless you’ve had one.
While taking such high doses of a mood stabilizer can be dangerous, my doctor didn’t seem to have any reservations.
I’m having suicidal thoughts.
I’m spending a lot of money on my credit cards.
I’m not sleeping.
While these are all symptoms of bipolar disorder, these were not behaviors I own. It’s the Lamictal. She told me to take more.
Of course I did as I was told; she’s a psychiatrist with a fancy degree from a fancy school. She must know better, right? And anyway, I was feeling great most of the time.
Probably a little too great.
Low-energy-me had never had a high before. I didn’t know what was happening and it made my heart pound with fear but it felt so good to be alive and free that I didn’t want it to stop. I would have taken the medicine forever just for that feeling. My fiance was the one who made me stop.
I was in the car driving home from work while the sun set. The highway was busy but not stopped. It was late October, and the weather wasn’t quite cold yet. I was having a hot flash – another side effect of the high dose medication – so I rolled down my windows.
My favorite Top 40 song came on the radio. The mixture of the loud music, the cool air on my hot skin, and the relief that my work day was over and I could go home and rest was too much.
My ears were ringing I was so ecstatic in the moment. That’s exactly how I would describe it: Ecstasy. I turned the music up louder and I pressed my foot on the gas. I yanked on the gear shift so I would go faster, faster, faster. I couldn’t get home soon enough, and I couldn’t get enough of the pinks and oranges and blues that painted the setting sky.
It was laughing at everything so hard tears would stream down my face. It was feeling the music instead of listening to it. It was thinking hard about what would happen if I swallowed all of the pills at once with a beer. It was skipping class and work and assignments because my body ached so much I couldn’t get myself out of bed to even use the bathroom.
The highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
I can’t keep taking it.
Give me something else.
She told me to keep taking more. That was when I called someone new.
I would have probably died. Not because I wanted to end my life, but because I couldn’t control what I was doing.
It was cold feet and hot hands. It was speaking-so-fast-I-couldn’t-catch-my-breath. It was needing someone to lay on top of me just so I would stop shaking.
It wasn’t a mood stabilizer. For me it was a mood intensifier.
Megan Clark is earning her BS in English and Creative Writing from Towson University. She lives in Harford County, Maryland with her boyfriend and their fur baby, Rudy. She currently works as a Data Tracking Specialist and grant writer for the Boys & Girls Clubs.