It started with a throwaway comment, a comment borne out of concern & care, not one meant to lead to bitter soul-searching, tears flowing down the cheeks, collapsed onto the floor.
“Those meds aren’t you.”
What is ‘me’? Taking meds is keeping whatever me is alive. That much I do know. Without any I felt like a tiny little fragile row-boat being repeatedly & continuously flung against the rocks in a rough storm. Sometimes, the sun would shine, the waves would calm, and I would feel fine. But I learnt never to trust that the storm wouldn’t come again, and whilst every time I survived the battering, meant that I knew I could survive a battering, the never-ending batterings were causing me to wonder more & more why I bothered trying. If life was only ever going to be about riding the storm, and not trusting the sunshine intervals, what really was the point? So, I started on the meds. And whilst I still had dark days, I felt more in control, like maybe I could row away from the rocks, somehow, someday.
The first lot of meds weren’t quite right, and I’ve recently changed them. Instead of sweating like I’m going through the menopause at the age of 40, I am suddenly feeling liberated and free, able to enjoy a walk in the sun without fearing the human shower that I was. I’m sleeping better – not great, but better. The dreams are psychedelic & often disturbing, but they’re not hanging over me like a black cloud the next day. About mid-afternoon I have about an hour of floating haze, distant, disassociated from the cold reality of the day; it’s like what I imagine an opium-hit would’ve been back in the day… And I’m not totally fatigued the whole time, wanting to just curl up in my bed, needing to force myself into the world; instead, I have energy, motivation, enthusiasm.
Yes, these meds seem to be, at different times of the day, providing me with LSD trips, e-like calm & floatiness and speed-driven hyper-mania. Three illegal highs in one legal prescription drug. Oh, lucky me.
Except, is this me? My friend was referring to the manic hyper me. That’s not the real me. But why shouldn’t it be? I’m happy when I’m in that place. I’m enthusiastic, I want to share my thoughts, my feelings, my dreams. Yes, it might be a bit exhausting to be around – if those around you are high and you’re not, it’s hard to keep up with the lightning speed cut & thrust of the conversation, the various directions, sidebars and general jabbernesses… But, why shouldn’t that be me?
What is me? Before the meds, I was so unhappy I wanted to die. Is that me? Before the rape, was that me? But even then, I know I was trying to figure out who me was – post divorce, post walking on egg-shells, post crying myself silently to sleep most nights so the person lying next to me didn’t hear. The time when I was happily married, was that me? Boden-wearing, ballet shoes, hair long and pulled into a ponytail, DIY & garden centres? Was it me to be middle-aged in my 20s? When was I me? At university, studying so studiously I didn’t sleep around, and didn’t even learn to drink beer? At school, friends with the other misfits, or always the third in a twosome who wanted power over me? Or, when I didn’t speak, when I couldn’t hear, when I was just the me inside my head? What is me, have I ever been me?
So, yes, I’m on medication that creates versions of me, but those versions are me. I know some of the things I am. I’m the little girl who cries when she feels unaccepted and unacceptable by the people she loves. I’m the child who curls up in her bed and hugs her toy dog for comfort. But I’m also a strong woman, who’s tired of being what others want her to be. I’m experimenting, I’m exploring, I’m fiercely determined, I’m not making apologies for who I am, whatever that is.
Another friend asked, is there a sweet-spot, between the hyper hyper and the lows… not right now, there isn’t. I hope there will be, one day; living with PTSD isn’t easy. The window of normalcy is very small, tiny things can tip us into a state of hyper arousal. Sometimes that is characterised by extreme anxiety, vigilance & jumpiness. That’s an exhausting place to be, and the see-saw can suddenly then dip into hypo arousal, unable to leave the house, be with people, engage, do anything but sleep & disassociate from the world. I prefer this version of hyper, where I’m not always so scared, where I’m not always panicking, where I feel positive, not defeated.
This is me. I’m on meds that are creating versions of me but they’re keeping me alive. I can self-medicate some of the hyper away – drink some red wine, curl up at the feet of a Dominant man, be stroked by my girlfriend, do some vigorous exercise (note to self, do that one more), but if I’m appearing manic in front of you, please don’t make me feel unaccepted. It’ll drive me back into the foetal state, the child reasserts, the adult doesn’t dare go out into the world. If I’m ever going to find out who me really is, I need to be less child, more adult; and to do that, I need to be allowed to be me.