One month into being medicated, I didn’t notice a difference.

For those playing along at home, about two years ago, our marriage counselor suggested that I get checked out for possibly being bi-polar.  Well, of course, rather than outright get checked out, I wrote a blog post about it and had a group wrestling session on the topic of writers struggling with mental issues as a theme for Mo*Con VIII (2013).

Once I got a day job with full health benefits, I eventually ran out of excuses to avoid my check-up.  I was finally pushed over the edge to get checked out due to sleep and memory issues I was having.  My penchant for only sleeping three to five hours a night I always considered a blessing which allowed me to get more stuff done during the day.  However, the fact that I couldn’t remember what happened to me the previous week was a bit more problematic.  Once the MRI revealed no organic cause, I was left with checking out mental causes.  And yes, I went in every direction first before facing the possibility that I’d have to face the inevitable diagnosis.

It took longer for me to have a glass of Pepsi than it did for the psychiatrist to diagnose me:  bi-polar with an extra dose of hypomania plus a side of free floating anxiety issues.  Which meant that a conversation about medication needed to happen.

In my process of ducking being medicated doing my due diligence about possible implications for my writing/creativity, I talked to a lot of my friends, especially the ever-patient Lucy Snyder, Doug Warrick, and Jerry Gordon.  Each of them have either struggled with similar conditions or had been in a relationship with someone who had.

My chief reason to put off being medicated involved some of the symptoms of hypomania:  excess energy, feeling invulnerable, like you can take on anything (notice that I focused on the “positive” symptoms, not the ones which were hardest on those in close proximity to me).  Which, practically speaking, meant that I had accepted a lot of projects and had a lot of looming deadlines.  In other words, in my manic phase I had said yes to a lot of gigs, and to my thinking, I needed to stay manic in order to make all of my deadlines.

While this apparently made sense on paper, every single person I talked to (and I kept looking trying to find someone to agree with me) said the same thing:  1) yes, this sounds like it makes sense; 2) you may be able to pull this off, but you will always have/find some excuse to stay manic; 3) those closest to you will be the ones you’ll be grinding to make this happen; and 4) when the delicate balancing act goes off the rails, and it will, things may become … unmanageable.

By “kept looking” I mean I was going o talk to people until someone agreed with me.  I then called Jim Hines.  During Mo*Con VIII he told me to call him any time about any of this. He, too, agreed with everyone else.  He also told me I would be the worst judge of not only my condition but also of how well medication would be working on me.  He went onto say how I should have someone close to me (read: my wife, Sally) be the final arbiter on how well any medication is working.

So after promising him that I would quit conveniently missing all of my follow up appointments, stay on the meds for a least a month, and let Sally be the judge of the effects of the regimen, I went to see my doctor for medication.  She started me on a low dose one, to alleviate my fears on the drug impacting my creativity; and two, to see if I’d even take it.  Did I mention some of the symptoms of hypomania? Apparently few actually *want* to be treated for those symptoms.

I remember being resistant to the idea f even doing counseling.  Again, by my reasoning, I wrote from a place of brokenness, it was the pain inside that I drew upon to write.  I didn’t want to be “fixed” because it might mean an end to my stories.  My counselor accepted that but countered with the idea that since being a writer was who I was, could I accept writing different stories (and, you know, find some healing along the way)?  So I remain open to all of this.

On the practical/writing side of things, I’m adjusting my productivity expectations (accounting for the need to sleep like a normal person).  I miss late nights.  I miss not sleeping.  I miss my bursts of crazed energy.  Two months in, I didn’t notice a real difference.   Though I admit I followed my wife around for the first three weeks asking “Am I better yet?  Am I better yet?  Am I better yet?”

Though one thing has been pretty telling:  this mediation is crazy expensive.  Even with insurance, we could easily pay a utility bill for what this stuff costs.  With money being so tight, I volunteered to let the medication go in order to save money.  My wife informed me that we’d make the budget work.  Something must be different.  So I guess we’ll keep this on-going experiment going. At least for a little while longer.