Bipolar is My Boyfriend: Pills, Pills, Pills
Pills, Pills, Pills
A Weekly Column by Kala Wahl
I rely on our country’s medical system to medicate my severe bipolar disorder, but I’d be lying if I said I haven’t abused that system. Quite a few times. Because I once preferred getting high to actually properly medicating my mental disorder.
I don’t like illegal drugs. I like prescribed pills, scripts specifically. They have to be prescribed to me because I don’t do middle men. I’d rather look my dealer straight in the eye within the confines of a cramped room filled with tissue boxes and uncomfortable couches, and ask her to send my Ativan or Seroquel right to my local Walgreens.
“Yeah, you know, you were talking a lot about exercise last time,” I began. “So, I’ve been running a lot more. Doing some Yoga. I heard like, breathing a certain way helps a lot with bipolar symptoms or something.”
I was in my psychiatrist’s office to get a script. I wanted more sleeping pills—I’m a sedative addict. And I was lying, because I hadn’t really been working out that much, but I needed her to think I’d been taking her advice. I raised my voice slightly when I spoke to her because that’s how I’ve learned to get what I want with people in positions of power. Well, at least men. My psychiatrist was a woman—but lucky for her, I swing both ways and am always willing to try new things.
“That’s great, Kala.” She started scribbling on her clipboard. I never really wondered what she was writing on that thing, but I always secretly hoped she was drawing me. I’d sometimes angle my body a little to the left and tilt my head slightly just in case she was.
“You’ll be amazed at how good exercise will make you feel,” my psychiatrist looked up from her clipboard, “now, what about the sleeping-”
I cut her off, “Yeah. I need more of those.” She stared at me for a minute. Her pause lasted too long; I was too eager. “I mean, once I find a rhythm in the semester and everything I’m sure I’ll fall into a normal sleep pattern. I just need something until then.” She began to nod. Now I was speaking her language.
But she had to know I was lying. I knew I was lying. I couldn’t find it in myself to care about that, though. I usually feel a slight pang of guilt when I lie to my mom or something about not letting the dogs out while she was at work. I just pretend like I had no clue why they shit all over the house. Like, I dunno, Mom. Maybe they’re sick or something. Looking at my psychiatrist, I never felt any guilt. I don’t know why that is.
I did have trouble sleeping, but I mainly liked the feeling the pills induced—slurred speech and fluttering eyes. It feels as if a weight is pushing down on my head. I love being asleep. That’s probably why I love sleeping pills so much.
Before my bipolar was diagnosed, my doctors fed me Ativan for what they thought was just anxiety. And boy oh boy, did I fucking love Ativan. I loved Ativan like I loved any guy who was willing to sleep with me during a manic episode.
I was only told to take one 1mg pill, but after I picked up on the fact it got me high, I’d take just one more each week. Before I knew it—I was stomaching five to ten a day. Ten to force myself to sleep on those days where I felt too depressed to be awake, and something below that to keep me propped up like a mannequin while in my classes—seemingly attentive and awake, but so not fucking listening. Just one 1mg pill had become not enough. I had been taking so many; I wouldn’t feel shit with just one pill anymore.
It was obvious the Ativan wasn’t actually helping anything, and that whatever mental condition I was dealing with was something much bigger than what doctors were currently diagnosing it as. But that’s not what I told them. Why would I mention that to them? My undiagnosed bipolar made me feel like I was on an awful rollercoaster, constantly dipping up-down-up-down, and I couldn’t make it stop. And the Ativan? Well that made me feel as if someone had just knocked me out with a huge wooden plank. I didn’t feel much of anything at all; it was great.
“Yeah, I’ve noticed it helps especially with school and stuff. I’m focusing so much better,” I lied.
“Good,” My doctor said. “That’s really good.”
“But I don’t know….”
“Don’t know what?”
“I mean, I’m still feeling just slightly off sometimes. It’s like, maybe the dose needs to be tweaked? I don’t know.” I folded my arms. The I don’t know was deliberate. Because I had a motive and I knew exactly what I wanted, but I couldn’t let on to that. I know how to play it cool—at least when it comes to pills.
“Off…like, still a little moody sometimes. Still just a little anxious. It’s like maybe if we raised it to-”
“Maybe a 1.5mg pill?” The doctor offered.
“Yeah! That’s exactly what I was thinking. 1.5.”
And he wrote that script for me.
I take Lithium now. It doesn’t give me a high. It actually gives me insanely bad dreams and makes me puke about every other night because of how intense it is on my stomach. I have to take it, though. Because while I consider the Ativan and sleeping medication luxury (as in ‘I don’t need them, but man do I fucking crave them’) pills that bring me a certain escape from the real world, the Lithium doesn’t do that for me. It doesn’t really make me feel good. It dumbs my bipolar down to where I’m able to function day-to-day, and depending on the dose, I tend to go into complete autopilot mode. But not the fun autopilot mode like Ativan gives you where you’re drowsy and slurring your words constantly. It’s like a being-plugged-into-life-support kind of autopilot. Like when you really want to insult someone but you can’t think of a single clever thing to say. Imagine that—always. I’m never mentally active enough to say the thing I want to say. I tend to be a zombie. Hopefully a really cute zombie though.
It’s either that extreme, or the bipolar, however. I either take nothing and feel way too much of everything to where I can’t maintain a job, academic career, or relationships—or I take something and become some kind of robot that just rides life like a slow-paced conveyor belt. It’s a shitty ultimatum. But the truth of the matter is I have a mental disorder that requires I be medicated for the rest of my life if I plan on leaving my house regularly.
My psychiatrist weaned me off the Ativan after I got a proper diagnosis and put me on Lithium. I still tried a few times to get some before I really committed to my Lithium, but she would never give them to me. Maybe it’s like a mother’s intuition-type situation—she can just sense the Ativan-fiending in my voice. Or maybe I’m blacklisted from Ativan in the Northwestern medical community. They just recently took away my sleeping pill script.
Because I still want Ativan. I want Ativan all the time, and I don’t want Lithium. I don’t think it’s fair that I have to take medicine in order to function, when most other people don’t. I don’t miss when I was undiagnosed, but I miss the sentiment of just needing something to tweak my levels. Just a little something. Now I have to take a medication that doesn’t just tweak my levels, but completely alters them and results in a me who doesn’t feel like me at all. But I have no concept of what me is, or what me is supposed to feel like anymore, because unmedicated me doesn’t seem right either. If I linger in that thought, I feel really angry. I can’t do anything but accept it. Some days I do, and some days I don’t.
But if you know someone who has Ativan, you should hit me up. I only want like two, maybe ten?