Is It a Relapse?

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I thought I would republish this piece from July, 2007 in case you happen to be relapsing right now.
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My very savvy editor constantly reminds me to write from where I am.

Today that place is scary. I’m at the edge of the Black Hole, and the power of its suction has me crouched down in fear, shielding myself, as if that will make it go away.

After a week of severe anxiety, my breath getting shallower with each day as I clutch my St. Therese medal, I’ve exploded into tears that won’t stop. Not at the gym, or David’s soccer camp, or in the library, or with a pile of laundry. I’m once again blowing my nose with my t-shirt because I run out of Kleenex within an hour.

I somehow feel cheated–as if I’m supposed to be immune from the blow of depression and anxiety now that I do so much research on it for Beyond Blue, now that I write inspirational ditties to help people get over theirs. The fact that I study neurobiology–that I know that the amygdala, or the brain’s fear system, is hosting a massive keg party inside my head right now–should, somehow, protect me from the shortness of breath, and the loss of appetite (there’s a BIG problem if sweets don’t make me happy), an inability to sleep, feelings of tremendous guilt (for hiring a babysitter to watch the kids for a few hours so that I can work), a lack of confidence about absolutely everything (and especially motherhood, marriage, and writing), and the inability to make any decision (like which salad dressing to buy).

But no. Damn it. I can practice my 12 steps perfectly. I can eat organic fruits and veggies for lunch, free range chicken for dinner, run six miles a day, swallow a dozen vitamins (including the supplements of Omega-3 that get shipped to our house by the boxload), check in with my psychiatrist, practice cognitive behavioral techniques, go to counseling, call my supportive friends–and still get sick.

That’s what I am right now. Sick. As loudly as my inner demons are trying to convince my brain that I’m weak and that I’m pathetic, I am trying to yell even louder that I have a brain disease, an illness called bipolar disorder, and it is going to act up at times, just as a diabetic has surges and drops of insulin.

What’s different this time from past bouts with this beast is that today I have hope, and I know this place is only temporary.

Yesterday at the pool, I stared into a daze as Katherine played in the baby pool.

“What’s the matter?” one my friends asked me. “You’re looking into space.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I replied. “I just have some things on my mind.”

I watched Katherine some more. I looked at her chunky legs, and her three-year-old belly (she takes after me), and her camouflage swimsuit with hot pink hibiscuses all over. Which was symbolically appropriate to relapse and how you feel when you’re in one.

Right now I’m wearing camouflage–an ugly pattern of green and brown that wants only to blend in. But my faith and my history of recovery insure me that I will get to the garden of hot-pink hibiscuses soon enough. The flowers are in there with the camouflage. Even though I can’t smell them today.

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Originally published on Beyond Blue at Beliefnet.com

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