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  • Writer's pictureOutlaw Angel

Nothingness is Full of Noise

I wonder what the landscape of other minds is like. Quite often, mine is a cacophony of noise, thoughts screaming for attention, rushing by but whether those thoughts are being chased or single mindedly seeking something, I couldn’t say.

Some moments I can see myself standing amidst colorful, swirling energy, swarmed by the noise, squinting from the bright yet abrasive nature of most of these thoughts, their venom running in rivulets around my boots. There was a time when these thoughts would pull me into a sea of manic energy, a rip tide of emotion diminishing the shoreline and depositing me in an ocean of conflicting emotions.

I would grab the mane of whichever emotion brought me the highest, throw my leg over, leaning into the muscle carrying me forward faster and faster. The ground would race past, a blur of greens, fallen logs a momentary pause in the thundering of hooves, hair wildly whipping into knots. Then, randomly and suddenly, flinging myself off my mount, diving into the depths, buried under tons of earth, unable to move or breathe, buried alive.

Then there are the moments of deafening silence, standing on a hard, noiseless surface, no wind against my cheek, I can’t tell if the light is just beginning or ending - absolutely silent without even a hint of emotion. All feeling gone, no voice to cry out with and no one to hear it. There is no where to rest, no water to quench the dryness, no bird overhead and no life beneath. I don’t know where this place is, only that I’ve been here before.

If you’ve never had a mixed episode or rapid cycled, never experienced mania or depression, you’re probably thinking I could have at least re-read those words above and untangled the mixed imagery. My bi-polar takes all these conflicting forms, on any given day. There are still those days when that horse wants to barrel off the cliff into the ocean, to be swallowed up by deafening silence.

I remember the days when those thoughts were quieted by no fewer than six, usually nine, sometimes twelve medications. The medications never stopped the noise, returned me to shore or brought life to the dead place. Rather, they cocooned me, separating me from myself and depositing me in a new place where my physical body began to fall apart. My mind had been handcuffed, my head draped in a soft pillowcase, dark enough I couldn’t see, permeable enough I could still breathe. The meds put me in a small, locked room. I thought it was a safe, well managed space with a team of people watching out for me.

I put the mask on willingly, I was not made to take the prescriptions. I asked for help and in the weeks it took to navigate from the initial realization I needed help to the point of picking up the first in a decades worth of prescriptions, I could have changed my mind. But there was relief in the form of speaking the monster out of my head and onto someone’s note pad. Relief that someone else now had the job of taming this monster with me.

In my relief I never questioned the methods we were using to tame the monster. Everyone with bi-polar needed medication. Everyone. Never once was the option presented to walk this path without medication. That was in 2004.

In 2014, my biggest medical fear was realized: I would lose my health insurance. I fell in between every crack in the system: no longer lived in a state that had expanded Medicaid, made just enough money to not qualify for help (yet not enough to pay market value rent and eat), and my employer didn’t offer medical insurance that I could afford.

With my final 30 days worth of prescriptions in hand, I called the psychiatric nurse practitioners office and asked for help in titrating off the meds. I was told there was no safe way to do so with the variety of medications I was on and the doses I was taking. She advised I should expect to have a severe heart attack or seizure. I grabbed a notebook, marked out the next 8 weeks and set up a schedule to titrate off my meds.

Gratefully, I didn’t die.

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