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The Love-Hate Relationship with Meds–A Chat with Becky Johnson, Part 2

by Laura on August 29th, 2013

Since you have become medication free, have the functions and the creativity you lost returned?

This was the question that blogger, yogi and cool chick Becky Johnson asked me in the last post, Creativity and Bipolar Disorder.

Can the creative edge be rediscovered?

Laura–The answer for me is yes and no. Even after stopping the antipsychotics and anti-anxiety meds (to keep the mania away), and then the antidepressants (to combat the lethargy and sadness brought on by the former two types), I never regained that “spark” of potential when it comes to dance choreography.

Of course I could still put together cute dances for kids, but without that creative edge and that ability to picture dance and juggle multiple movement-phrase ideas, I was out-of-the-game. For the professional level that I wanted to work, you need all of your creative juices and facilities at 100%. And although I can’t name exactly what happened, I can say definitively that my ability to choreograph at a high level was and is gone.

I definitely grieved that for a long time, but was able to move on and use my intact multi-tasking abilities to different use in medical device sales, a job that didn’t end the day with bloody feet.

I want to return for a moment to the notion of love-hate when it comes to meditating for mental health.

Like you, I get the love-hate relationship with prescription drugs. And so do most have struggled with mental illness and have had to take medication for the sake of stability and living outside a mental health facility.

No, this isn’t “Peter Pan Joins the Circus,” this photo from Stumble danceCircus performance exploring bipolar disorder perfectly exemplifies the euphoric, but dangerously precarious, nature of mania. Courtesy of Flickr.

Those medications pretty much saved my life. Or, at least they kept me from doing serious harm until I calmed down enough to stop thinking everyone was out to get me, and everything was part of some huge conspiracy. Honestly, I don’t know whether I would have “snapped” out of the episode without the help of medication.

But of course, I hate the way the drugs made me feel.

My question for you, Becky, would be—coming to terms with the “love” aspect of having to take medications for the long-term, if not the rest of your life, seems to be one of the key aspects to maintaining a stable life. It’s one of the reasons people who suffer from mental illness continue to fall into the dangerous end of the spectrum—once the medications start working, they feel cured and stop taking them. Which can eventually lead to another hospital stay, and possibly suicide.

What was your process in coming to terms with your love-hate relationship?

Welcome, Becky!

Becky–The process of acceptance of being diagnosed with a mental illness and the reality of needing medication to “keep it in check” is not easy. At least it wasn’t for me. For me it all started in 1998 when I was misdiagnosed as having major depression rather than Bipolar I Disorder. I was prescribed my first pill. I did not want to take this pill. I hated the fact someone thought I needed a pill.

“What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I cope with life like everyone else? Why do I need a pill to be normal? Why is everyone else normal without pills?” 


Photo credit: Flickr

I decided I would only take that godforsaken pill until I was “back to normal” and then I would never take another pill as long as I lived. Eventually I returned to “normal” and I quit my medication. But it didn’t take long for things to go south. Except this time it was worse. Way worse—think absolute bat shit crazy. So I started taking medication again. I wasn’t happy about it this time either, but I was so miserable and hopeless I was willing to do anything. But it took years for me to get to my current place of acceptance and “loving” my pills.

I had to destroy a lot of things in my life first. I had to really suffer. A lot. I hurt and lost so many people I loved. I went into great amounts of debt. And I hastily threw away and destroyed opportunities I had worked so hard to earn to be able reach lifelong dreams. Like becoming a choreographer, for example. I also dropped out of college. Multiple times—think five. And on, and on, and, on.

Another problem specific to bipolar disorder, is it’s really damn hard to give up those manias. I didn’t want to give up the euphoria, bursts of creativity, endless energy, and the knowledge of the secret of life by simply swallowing a pill. And so I wouldn’t and started acting like a complete idiot.

I got a speeding ticket for driving 115 mph, barefoot in my bikini. Even though I thought that was completely normal behavior. I got three tattoos, on three separate occasions, at 2am, and I hate tattoos. I would never in my right mind get a tattoo. But I wasn’t in my right mind. Oh, and one of them is a Japanese character that isn’t even a real word.

I finally made the connection that these manias always crashed into suicidal depressions and each one got progressively worse. I finally realized manias weren’t worth it and started diligently taking my pills. I finally “got it.” Taking pills didn’t mean I was weak. And it didn’t mean I had some retched flaw normal people were graced without. For whatever reason my neurotransmitters were (still are) pesky little assholes who need a little help. And I am strong—not weak—for doing something about it.

Once I accepted and believed I needed those medications, you know those ones I didn’t want to take with every fiber and bone in my body, something funny happened. I will never forget this. I woke up and there was no emotion attached to the day. It wasn’t, “Oh, dear God, how am I ever going to get out of bed? How am I am going to have the strength to squirt toothpaste on my toothbrush?” It also wasn’t, “Yehaw! Another day! I’m going to buy everyone I know a pair of argyle socks and save every homeless kitten. Then I’m going to have lunch with the President of The United Sates and tell him how firmly I believe Starbucks should offer recycling bins inside every store.”

Nope. None of it. My eyes opened and I thought, “Huh. It’s morning.” It was amazing. And then it just kept getting better. I could smile again… and mean it. I could laugh spontaneously… because I actually thought something was funny. I not only felt like myself, but the best the best version of myself—the person I remembered I was, but forgot what it felt like.

But best of all, I could soak up all the beauty in our world and even offer a little of my own. Dare I say it—I started to “love” my medication. I’ll share an insider’s secret with you: the trick is I have to be here for that to happen. And in all honesty, without those gosh darn pills, I wouldn’t.

It took years for me to accept that truth. Literally years. But I did eventually get there and learn… that those things that make the experience of my life beautiful and rich… are only possible for me with medication… and they are far more important and meaningful to me than any stupid side effect.

But this is just my story and my journey. Everyone and their story is different. Sometimes the potential benefits of medications don’t outweigh particular side effects.

How did you come to determine that your particular side effects weren’t worth it the potential benefits?

*  *  *  *  *

This is such an excellent question, one that I’ll answer in next week’s post! Thanks again, Becky!

Becky Johnson is a creative nonfiction writer, playwright, and artist who creates art from what normal people call garbage. She blogs about something doctors call bipolar disorder that she calls being good old fashioned crazy. She wakes up ridiculously early to watch the sunrise and has a personal mission to float in fifty different bodies of water. As a Certified Laughter Yoga Leader, she thinks nothing beats sharing the healing joy of a good jelly-belly-laugh. She lives with her husband in Annapolis, Maryland, where she is living her mantra to “Celebrate Your Crazy,” and writing her first book.


From → Mental Health

  1. jackieblue012 permalink

    Wow Pretty amazing. I had a very difficult time when I was first diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder & they were not sure whether it was I or II until against a whole lot of people saying please don't go home for that visit that I thought that I was ready for lol @ least after it took 2 months for me to crack like a walnut they realized that of course it was Bipolar I For the 1st time I wasn't pink papered into the hospital but went in on my own to "Get my meds adjusted".
    Of course when 1st diagnosed I only took them until I felt better & didn't want to come to terms with my reality because of the stigma & ignorance. However I am grateful that I got past it as they have been a life saver.

  2. I am 29 and i have lived with bipolar all my life and not known about, i could be happy and talkitve with my freinds and work colleges in the morning and in the evening i couldnt look at them they would irritate me so much, recently i had a really bad spell where i was going up and down so much and wanted to kill my self, my partner made me go to the hospital to go get checked out, this is where i was diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar i was prescribed really good medication that has helped my life no end, dont be afraid to talk about it or go get checked out guys it helps so much and you are not alone.

  3. For the professional level that I wanted to work, you need all of your creative juices and facilities at 100%. And although I can’t name exactly what happened, I can say definitively that my ability to choreograph at a high level was and is gone.

  4. Love is the actual positive things. Its element is totally dependent on the positive side. But we have observed to the different people. Who are involved in the love sickness. They feel mental sickness. They cannot survive in their own society after love.

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