In 2012 I was sitting in my psychiatrist’s office having a very pleasant conversation with her about shamans and healers and their moments of spiritual awakenings. I let out a little chuckle and said something about how unfair it was having the diagnosis of bipolar disorder that any spiritual awakening I may have would likely be chalked up to a delusion. She tilted her head and, as a sad smile crossed her mouth, she nodded in agreement.
“You have a gift, Nicole, but one that requires harnessing. There are records of people who have burned out those parts of their brains. They dedicate their lives to harnessing this energy and it becomes a lifestyle, a very disciplined lifestyle”.
Confession. After 14 months, I had once again jumped off of all my medications. I had been up, down, and rarely in the zone. My frustration, illness, and inpatient stays lead to these decisions. This is how our conversation transitioned from my blurting out the words, “I’m off my meds, I need to be clear again” to a discussion about spiritual awakenings. I had been off of my meds for three weeks prior to this visit, and I felt good. I felt clear. Holy shit–I actually FELT SOMETHING! I could give as many reasons as you want to hear as to why I thought I no longer needed or wanted to take my meds. I’m gifted, from years of practice, at convincing people to jump on board with my decisions. I was truthful with my doctor. I held nothing back and didn’t whitewash my decision with the usual, “I know what I’m doing” cover-up. Although wary, she listened to me. She understood my point of view and was willing to work with me.
You see, when I get sick, my illness becomes a freight train I can’t control, and I leave a path of destruction in my wake. Sadly, I’m not the only victim. But this time felt different to me. I had been a compliant patient for 14 months and had learned an amazing amount of information about my many moods and the meds that control, or didn’t control, them. I’d learned what triggered me and how to handle the triggers I couldn’t avoid with coping and life skills. In other words, my mind no longer controlled me–I was in charge now, or so I thought. l left my appointment overcome with a raw emotion I hadn’t felt in so long that it took my breath away. It was beautiful. It was empowering. I began to reflect–awakening or delusion? You decide.
I’ve never been a religious person, spiritual yes, but religious no. In manic states I was in-tune with the Universe, I wanted that feeling back. I honestly felt that the medications held that part back from me. Things made sense to me. Balance, although very difficult to accomplish in a state of mania, was actually something that made perfect sense. Balance of mind and body and spirit just clicked. Under the effects of many different medications while trying to find that perfect cocktail for so long, took that knowledge away from me. While the meds helped to stabilize the moods and the behaviors, they also took away part of whom I was. They took my gift, as I saw it.
I enjoyed a couple of med free months, but like bipolar disorder tends to do, it overtook me again. This time we had a plan in place. Scott and I had both met with my psychiatrist and the three of us had agreed on a plan of action for when this ultimately was going to go down. I was prescribed an emergency med to be taken at the first sign of mania, for three days, before non-compliance set in. Unfortunately, we had to follow through with the plan. I was put back on meds, and admitted for a very short stay in the psychiatric unit to get back up onto a new med regime. I think it was three days in total after my three days of emergency crash meds; all I know is that it wasn’t a good time.
I just had to find that balance between over-medicated and under-medicated, don’t we all? I’m happy to report that I have been back on a new med regime for well over a year now, and it’s been working. We’ve had to tweak it a few times, but that’s to be expected. The key for me is to stay mindful and try to be present. Who’s to say I can’t have my spiritual awakening or Aha moment just because I have bipolar disorder and tend to have some grandiose thinking and behaviour? Everyone, regardless of mental illness or not has something a little eccentric about them, don’t you think? I love that about people, I encourage it. Have your moment. Don’t let a label tell you it isn’t something special. And now I ask you this same question-awakening or delusion?