One year ago, I suffered a terrifying mental breakdown, requiring me to go to the ER. I was then hospitalized on a psych ward, where I was prescribed Latuda for my particular brand of bipolar 2. I’ve talked a lot about being mentally ill here on my blog, and a few readers have asked how I’m doing now. My experience is just one experience, and not representative of everyone’s experience. I still think it’s helpful to talk about outcomes to reduce the stigma, to help others who are currently struggling, and improve care overall. The more we talk about these things, the more we encourage an ongoing dialogue that educates and empowers, much like talking about sex.
I know I’m lucky. I also don’t know if I was ready to take the self-care steps necessary to manage my mental health until that night, a year ago, when my brain sent me frightening thoughts. That’s a hard thing to admit. When I was manic and cheating on Carrie back in 2008 and 2009, I was actually experiencing the pleasures I sought. I was productive at work. But when I crashed, I crashed hard, and suddenly nothing felt good, and I could barely get out of bed, much less be reminded to take care of myself. The stint on the psych ward last year was a wake-up call that I needed. Bipolar doesn’t just go away.
A year ago, I drank heavily, late into the night. I used to put so much pressure on myself to write that the words wouldn’t come and I would have debilitating panic attacks. I had quit my good-paying government contractor job in the middle of a manic state, unable to handle the fallout of an affair gone sideways at the office. I left so as not to be left with the memories of what was done in that very office. I’d not only picked up home schooling, but multiple other projects as well, and had switched sex toy party companies. Before, we had long stretches of not schooling because I went through a long depression and couldn’t get out of bed most days. I hardly drink at all anymore, and getting out of bed isn’t hard to do.
In the last year, I’ve scaled down the many projects I took on. I’ve adjusted my outlook on my career. I’ve quit doing sex toy parties. Today, I focus on this blog and home schooling Youngest. She was so far behind, she’s only just finished 3rd grade. Her peers have been in 4th grade for a semester already. Today, I have a plan to catch her up. I briefly dabbled in sex coaching before realizing it was yet another full-time commitment. It’s best for my mental health if I only focus on home and this blog.
I’ve cut my long hair short and dye it a different color every month. It’s much easier to care for and lets me experiment with showing who I am on the inside to the world. As much as I dislike it, I go to the gym several times a week now to give my body the exercise it needs so I can live longer. This helps me shower more regularly, too, something I had a hard time with on my down days. I eat much more balanced meals, and listen to and trust my body. I’m unashamed of having a fat body. The anxiety of fitting into boxes of our culture have slowly faded, although I still have days where internalized self loathing still rears its ugly head. Those days are easier to deal with now.
I’m still taking Latuda, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. It’s part of my self-care regimen. It works for me. I also take an anti-anxiety medication to mute the restlessness that’s often a side effect. I need it less and less, though. I no longer have anxiety or panic attacks in a crowded grocery store. I’m able to push aside those sometimes-scary existential “what if” thoughts that cross all our minds from time to time. I’m also treating my Vitamin D deficiency with more regularity.
I’m far less angry and agitated than I used to be. This has helped restore my relationships with my children. Carrie is no longer in constant caretaker mode, and we’ve learned more about who we are as a couple as a result. I’m much more attentive and purposeful about taking care of myself and those around me.
I’m less impulsive, calculating my actions. I’m much quieter on social media than a blogger probably should be, but I want to be far more intentional about what I put out there. I still have cut ties with people who are toxic to me or who hold antagonistic views towards civil and human rights. That’s part of self-care. The “good idea fairy” still occasionally visits me, but I’m able to assuage it with fully considering the consequences of my choices. I understand it just isn’t realistic to assume I’m disliked by friends and family, and even if they do, it matters less. This has helped me build strong friendships within the sex blogging community. I can be impulsive on occasion, of course, but not to the point of self detriment.
I have “bad” and “down” days occasionally, too. I find those much easier to deal with today. I have an excellent therapist and I’m able to put into practice strategies that lift me up, even if that’s taking an evening to veg in front of the TV. I’m still able to get things done on those days, and I am able to take responsibility and do what’s right by my family and me. I’m no longer incapacitated by the down days. They don’t define my state of being. I intentionally seek out joy and pleasure.
My sex life has been affected, though. I’m not sure if it’s a natural occurrence of being in my mid-30’s or the Latuda, but my libido is certainly diminished. This hasn’t posed a huge problem, but I am a sex toy critic, so a low libido means I take longer to review toys. Carrie is on the asexual spectrum, so it hasn’t brought about much conflict there. When I don’t feel up to it and they are, we’re able to work around it, and I don’t feel broken. This is just how my libido is today, and I really don’t miss my high sex drive. It’s almost harder to orgasm, but only slightly. I’m willing to take that extra time to work myself up when I need to masturbate. Before, I probably would have felt like a failure for scheduling sex toy testing. Now, it’s more of an accomplishment. I’m proud of my work here.
As I read back over this, I’m proud of the change in my life since that scary night. My breakdown was quite honestly the best thing that could have happened to me.