It’s New Years Eve. I’m sure that there will be a lot of blogs that reflect on the past year and offer their resolutions for the coming year. I guess I’m no different. It is good times to look at all that’s happened over the last twelve months and think about how it’s affected my life. And how my life has affected others. This has been a year of great pain. It’s also been one of fun and happiness. I’ve learned a lot, failed in applying my lessons and succeeded with personal growth. I’ve hurt people who are close to me, I’ve lifted up others, and enriched the lives of total strangers. It’s been quite a year.
Things couldn’t have started out any worse. I was unemployed. What I thought was my soul mate had ended our marriage that I had put so much hope in. I was alone in the worst way possible. Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week I spent my time isolated in my little apartment with nothing but time to think about how bad it was. I was broke, reduced to eating egg sandwiches twice a day and lost over thirty pounds. I looked horrible and sick, and felt even worse. It was one of the hardest times of my entire life.
But all things change.
By the end of February I was working again. Not only did I have a daily distraction, but I was making decent money and could afford to get out and see friends again. It wasn’t a great job, and only a six month contract position so there was no security that I would be all right for any length of time. But it was a job, and I wasn’t about to complain. I was still struggling with the end of my marriage, but it was getting better a little bit at a time. It wasn’t the excruciating pain and misery that it had been.
I got a tattoo.
Totally out of character for me, but that was part of my healing and growth. I was out to redefine myself, and wanted to do something that was totally outside the box of my life’s experience. And the tattoo I got was very symbolic. It was a heart with four pieces broken off… one for each of my marriages. But there was still plenty of heart left. Another reason I decided to get this tattoo was to kind of remind myself that I really was just a simple man. It may not make sense, but I had spent the last 10 years of my career in senior management, and it was a way to bring myself down. Vice Presidents don’t get tattoos. At least they don’t in their 50’s. It was a big step for me, and very grounding.
Then I met someone special.
It was an awesome time, and a wonderful validation of my worth and attractiveness. It quickly developed into something serious and deep. We were spending all our time together; taking trips, doing fun things, and just hanging around her house living a comfortable life. It was incredibly deep and intense. We even believed we were in love. But of course any relationship that grows so fast and burns so hot can’t last, and it started to fade away.
I got another tattoo.
This one was much simpler than my first. I had really embraced my illness and accepted that it was something I was going to deal with the rest of my life. So this tattoo represented the permanence of my disease. It was a smile and a frown together. It all depended on how you looked at it. I have the same choice with my life. I can either have a positive outlook, or wallow in self pity.
Then my illness took over.
My depression returned with a vengeance. I think part of it was knowing that my relationship that had been so important to me was ending. But in reality it was just another cycle. Going into that relationship I was probably hypo manic. It was really too soon to get involved with anyone, much less at that level so quickly. It doesn’t change the fact that I had real feelings for this person, but it probably contributed to the speed it developed.
The depression deepened.
By August I was in a full bore depression. I was being consumed by the despair and hopelessness. My work began to suffer. I was somehow able to do just enough that it wasn’t obvious that I had stopped being productive and spending my days off in misery. But the decent continued. By the end of the month it had gotten just about as bad as it could be.
I tried to commit suicide.
I really don’t think it was a conscious attempt. I couldn’t stop thinking about how miserable I was. I was having panic attacks. My OCD was out of control. I needed it to stop. I had to have a break and stop my mind for a while. So I took a couple of tranquilizers. It worked for a while; I was able to sleep and turn off the pain. But I woke up, and craving the nothingness of sleep, I took a couple more. At that point, I became completely unaware of my actions, and apparently continued to take more and more, until the bottle was empty.
I have no idea what happened next.
It wasn’t until a couple of days later, when I woke up in a mental hospital that I regained conscious thought again. But I had no idea about how I got there. Even though I was back in the land of the living, I was in a fog for days. But as usually happens when I’m locked up in the mental ward, my goal became just getting out. I started playing the game. I was participating in the programs, going to group, engaging with the staff and showing daily improvement. I don’t know if I was really getting better or not. I just wanted to go home.
I had no idea how close I came to dying.
I threw myself into therapy. I worked with my Doctor to make changes in my medications to bring the depression in check. I had intensive sessions with my therapist delving into my deepest feelings. I spent my free time researching the illness and looking for ways to improve my coping skills. I put all my focus into getting better.
And I did.
Again, everything changes. I started pulling out of the depression. I’ve always had pretty good insight into myself; and with all the focus and therapy I was becoming even more aware of what drove my cycles. I became myself again.
But this is a relentless disease.
As usually happens, I didn’t stop when I hit equilibrium. My mood elevated out of the depression, but it didn’t stop there. In spite of my looking so closely at myself I was creeping higher and higher. My behaviors got more and more outrageous. So much of that is documented in my recent posts as I started to realize what was going on.
I finally admitted that I was getting out of control.
I’m ending the year totally determined to maintain. I have no illusions that I won’t continue to cycle. There’s no end to this disease. I can count on success and failure. But I also know that I can count on myself, my support group, my Therapist and my Doctor to help me through the highs and lows I know are coming. I’ve expressed my determination before I know. Even though I haven’t always managed to keep my resolve I haven’t stopped trying.
And I won’t.
So what do I take away from the past year? It’s been an intense time from beginning to end. I’ve gone from the depths of hell to the uncontrolled excessive highs. There’s been a full range of emotions as I’ve fought this illness. But I continue to learn a great deal about myself in the process, and with everything I gain I get a little better at managing my life. I’m not done; I will never be done. But I am committed to fighting this with all the strength I have. I celebrate that I’m starting 2013 in a much better place than last year, and have more hope than ever that this illness will not defeat me I will prevail.
Happy New Year!