It's ten o'clock and I write this from my dining table because I'm awake and wanted to talk about what happened when the medication I took stopped working, and the symptoms came back. The hardest part has been letting go. I'm the kind of person who owns up to her role in whether or not something worked out. Now I have to accept that it wasn't under my control. That should comfort me, but I have a lingering doubt.
At first, I felt I was responsible for the medication failure, and now I see I was powerless. To accept I'm human is the final act in my recovery. In the past two weeks, I've come to resolve a lot of the guilt, so real to me though unfounded, about how I treated someone fifteen years ago. Can you imagine-I worried what she thought of me to this day? Listen, the past is finished business, even if it's only yesterday.
Four months into the cross titer of the new drug with the old, I've come to see the symptoms were a flawed coping mechanism. When I was first diagnosed, I had paranoia and delusions and racing thoughts. In the 1990s, scary words would pop into my head. Now, I had intense worries and feared what other people thought of me. That's why I urge you to talk to your psychiatrist if a new or unusual symptom flares up, as it could be the schizophrenia in a new disguise.
The truth is, this illness didn't come on overnight, and I'll need to treat it for the rest of my life. My goal in rounding out the year is to have a mostly calm mind. The better part of success is expecting dips in the waves. Nothing stays on top forever. How we deal with the low points determines our fate.
Dr. Altman believes the new drug will eventually smooth things out for me so that my symptoms go away again. He's executing the switch slowly. Already, something miraculous happened: my paranoia dissolved like weak tea. It swirled around in my head and slowly cooled. I'm no longer harsh on myself, and my spirits have lifted.
What changed? Work, which for the better part of the year was stressful, has become a source of cheer. I supervise the volunteers, and over the summer we had a great bunch of teens. I wrote recommendation letters, and gave them to the girls at the pizza party we held on their last day.
Again, I really do believe some kind of work is instrumental in allowing us to manage our symptoms. As I wrote in a long-ago blog entry, your "work" could be working on yourself, getting up and going out to see a matinee once a week, or meeting others at a drop-in center, or, yes, doing volunteer work. I truly believe if I didn't have somewhere to go every day, a place I enjoy, that I'd have a harder time of it with the illness.
That's why I aim to stay put where I am now. I see Dr. Altman next at the end of September, and he's going to start lowering the old drug. I'm on the maintenance dose of the atypical now.
As I write this, it's on the crest of a good day. A hip patron complimented me on the cheap drugstore lipstick I wore. And I treasure the "Best of 2007" award I won because it validates me in a significant way. I feel that people listen to what I have to say, and understand where I'm coming from. Tomorrow the tide may be high or low, my feelings may be up or down, and that's okay.
When it comes to my recovery now, I take it all in good measure. Years ago I told myself if someone else had a positive opinion of me, that's all that mattered, and I would go with that, rather than questioning it or beating on myself that it wasn't true. So much of the illness involves getting our confidence back after the sz strips us of it.
That's what I experienced over the last ten months. It really is touch and go because I have to accept I had a setback. To place the symptoms outside of myself, and let go of the pain is the step I take to heal from the battering.
I've decided to call upon my trusty "VU meter" analogy and check in with myself every two hours to see whether my paranoia has been on the rise. I aim to record no more than four troubling passages throughout the day.
Because I'm on the new drug, it has been easier to deal with things. It also helps that I can call a friend on the phone, someone who's been there and understands what I'm going through. I have a close-knit circle I can count on one hand that I go to for such matters.
Also, I've had an easier time with sleeping at night, for the most part. More often, I feel fatigued in the early afternoon, like going into the kitchen at work and taking a nap for 15 minutes on the couch. I can't do that regularly, though. And so I hope it's the New York City heat that has me beat, and not necessarily the medication.
My one shining hope is that I can get my book published. In my next blog entry, I'll talk about how the route to publication, for me, is a reflection on, and metaphor for, recovery.
Published On: August 27, 2007