The property management firm where I used to work was originally owned by a lovely woman with a crippling bipolar disorder. When she was medicated, everything was sunshine and gumdrops, and the office ran like a damn machine. However, she’d occasionally up and take herself off her meds, and suddenly it was every manager for themselves in a post-apocalyptic war zone, which would last until she realized that maybe things might go a little more smoothly if she got the mania under control and stopped screaming so much.
This is a fairly common occurrence for those of us living with neurodiversity. We take our medications as prescribed, and we feel better — so much better, in fact, that after awhile we decide we don’t need the medication anymore. We’re cured! And everything’s great! That is, until the anxiety and/or panic and/or depression and/or delusions kick back into high gear, at which point it’s almost impossible to coax us back to our treatments, because there’s nothing wrong with us, goddamnit; everyone else is the problem.
I ran out of my own medication a couple of weeks ago, which, on paper, is not a big deal. Wellbutrin builds up in the system, so the pill I’m supposed to take daily is really just topping off the tank: If I miss a dose here or there, I’m still okay. And I felt okay, so I made a mental note to refill the scrip and went about my day. And then I forgot about it. And several days later, I was like, “Hmm, still okay,” so I didn’t worry about it, and then it was time to pack up and head to Austin, and I was all, “But I’m definitely still okay, so I’ll just grab the refill once I’m back in town.” And then I forgot all about it again, while deep in the recesses of my psyche, reports of mysterious infections began to spread.
My friend Sarah says that zombie movies are all about how society responds to challenges and responsibilities. Back in our day, zombies were shamblers — one zombie was not too hard to dispatch, but a horde of zombies lumbering down the street would inevitably overwhelm you, no matter how many of them you were able to shoot in the head. When I’m on medication for my panic disorder, the zombies are easy to out-maneuver. When I’m off my meds, though, I’m suddenly up against the modern, wind-sprinting zombies. Panic starts in the body before it reaches the brain, so by the time I realize the zombies are after me, it’s too late. They move too quickly to gun down. They’re stronger than I am. There’s nothing to do but give up and let them devour me.
The attacks started a few days ago, and I was physically and emotionally exhausted from them by the time I made it home yesterday afternoon. For me, bad panic is always followed by depression, so I took some Advil PM and curled up in bed before sunset to sleep through the worst of it. Ben always checks in on his own way home from work, and Mike and Jessie usually say goodnight, and I could hear the notifications as their messages arrived. I wanted to talk to all of them, to let them know that I wasn’t doing well and needed reassurance, to ask them to remind me that depression lies, but I couldn’t reach out. There were too many zombies between me and the phone.
I refilled my prescription this morning. It’ll take another week or so for me to be fully back to what passes for normal, but in the meantime, the zombies are already shrugging their shoulders and shuffling away. And maybe this time, I’ll remember what happens when I don’t take the proper steps to manage my mental illness.
Maybe this time, I’ll feel like a less of a monster myself.