It’s 2pm and I’m curled up on the couch with my dog, Basil, trying to wait it out. “It’s not real. It’s not real. It’s not real,” I type over and over again in a note on my phone. I wish I were being productive. My head hurts and I can’t focus on words on a page. Nothing interests me. I have no motivation. Organizing anything is impossible. If I am able to respond to a friend, it’s only to say that I will have to respond later.
“Why is this happening to me?” I type into the same note. I don’t want to live like this. This is not who I want to be. What if this is who I am? What if it will always be like this? No one will ever like the person I am right now. I need to sit here and hide from the world. I should ask someone to do something with me so I can get out of my own head, but I don’t want to see or talk to anyone. I don’t want them to see me in this state and I know I will be mean and nothing they can say will make it better.
I put on a TV show to distract myself. It’s not enough to keep the anxiety at bay so I also play Tetris on my phone, but I’m still sobbing through the commercials. I wonder if this will ever end. I don’t want to live like this.
I rock back and forth repeating, “It’s not real” aloud, which only makes me feel more insane and sob harder. I try telling myself that this will pass. My thoughts are drug-induced and not my own. But I question that assertion—maybe this is really who I am. Maybe it will never go away. I decide that no one will ever like the person I am right now and I worry that maybe I am that person at my core. Why can’t I function and contribute to society? I start believing this life is not worth the effort.
My phone alarms at 4pm and I get off the couch to take pills and eat a snack. I make use of inertia and force myself out the door to take Basil on a walk. I feel miserable. Everything hurts. I want to turn back, but I keep going. I am angry and I hate all humans. I wish I could move somewhere remote and live alone with Basil and never talk to or see anyone. I decide that for now, I will just spend all my days going on walks alone. “I will get through this by myself,” I think, fully aware of how dependent I am on the support of others. I start walking faster.
“This feels pretty good, actually.” I look around and realize I no longer recognize where I am. I walked further in this direction than I ever have before. I’m seeing a view of the city I’ve never seen before. “Breathing can be fun,” I tease, referencing the inscription on a hat my friend gave me.
The hat-giving friend picks me up at 5:45pm to take me to the climbing gym. She already knows it’s been a tough day so I confide in her. Talking helps. Things start making sense in my head. I ace my second belay test and I feel like I am climbing stronger than ever before. My confidence soars.
I take the last medications of the day at 9pm. It feels like an enormous accomplishment so I throw my fists in the air and shout “freedom,” interrupting my friend who is trying to tell me about her life. Oops.
I work my way through the crowded room as quickly as possible, pausing when I see someone I know so I can hug them and shout a few words through the mask. “So good to see you!” “I’m doing great. How are you?” “It’s so crowded! I hope we can catch up sometime when you can hear me.” I keep moving. People I’ve never met find a way to ask about my mask. “Are you the Grinch here to steal Christmas?” “Excuse me, can I ask you a random question?” I try to answer efficiently, but for some reason they continue asking questions, even though it’s impossible to carry on a conversation over the loud music. I realize I’ve been at the party way longer than my 20-minute goal. Time to go, I think, but then I see another person I want to say hello to.
Finally home, I bounce around the house, shouting and laughing at my friend who is already receiving texts from a cute guy we met at the party. It turns out that the manic side effects of Prednisone make me the ultimate wingwoman. I get in bed feeling fulfilled and ready to do it all again tomorrow.
As the highs get higher, the lows get lower. Because I know what GOOD feels like, feeling BAD is all the more tragic—even when I’m feeling GOOD, memories of past BAD can make me mournful. I am developing a routine and it’s easier when I am expecting it to hit, but the anticipation of future BAD can make me anxious.
Every day feels like a race against the poison. I know I will become irritable and mean, but I can’t seem to prevent it. I still burst into tears and snap at people I love. I hate not being able to control my emotions and I find it frustrating and heartbreaking to know that so much of it is chemical.
When there has been more time since taking the toxic drugs, I feel good and positive and clear-headed and happy. I know that the person I am in the middle of the day, when I am the most medicated, is not the real me. I jumble my words and can’t seem to communicate what I intend to. I am quiet, shaky, forgetful and confused. I get overwhelmed and have to leave events that I would normally be enjoying.
I will be taking less of the toxic drugs after January 1st and even less after July 1st. So there is hope for the future, but it’s over 4,000 hours away and I am not totally sure how I am going to get through this one. Send hugs and funny videos!