Little White Pills

Trigger Warning: Mentions of suicidal ideation, self-harm

When you’re prescribed antibiotics, they tell you to take the entire prescription even if you start feeling better after one or two pills. It’s a fact of life. It’s how it’s supposed to go.

But with psychoactive drugs? When can you stop? Can you actually stop if you think you’re feeling better?

I tried to. I had been on mood stabilizers and antidepressants for almost four years. I’d felt okay. I’d gone off for bits of time, but never completely. I felt okay, never totally great, but I’d find myself going back.

I had been on mood stabilizers and antidepressants for almost four years. I’d felt okay. I’d gone off for bits of time, but never completely. I felt okay, never totally great, but I’d find myself going back.

I was done this time.

I went off my meds completely for a few months. Four, I believe. My psychiatrist had left the office I was accustomed to visiting after work; he’d kept evening appointments there and the commute from the office wasn’t impossible. I liked that office. Suddenly things had changed. He wasn’t there. I didn’t know where his other locations were and I didn’t want to be a burden to my wife or to my job in trying to get to one of the other ones he keeps.

There were a few different reasons, but the biggest was that my psychiatrist had left the office I was accustomed to visiting after work. While there, he’d kept evening appointments there and the commute from the office wasn’t impossible. I liked that office. Suddenly things had changed. He wasn’t there. I didn’t know where his other locations were and I didn’t want to be a burden to my wife or to my job in trying to get to one of the other ones he keeps.

Suddenly, things had changed. He wasn’t there. I didn’t know where his other locations were and I didn’t want to be a burden to my wife or to my job in trying to get to one of the other ones he keeps.

And so, I gave being med-free a try. (It was also partly because I was tired of being dependent on pharmaceuticals; I wanted to be normal, to be able to live life without little chalky white pills each and every morning promptly at 10:05 am.)

At first, it was fine. I was stable, able to function normally. It was like nothing had changed.

But the tides soon changed. My rapid-cycling got faster. My anxiety got worse. I stopped being able to go to work or the days I went to work were accompanied by panic attacks on trains and about finding desks. I gave up three years being free of self-harm during a moment of weakness.

My passive suicidal ideation came back with a vengeance. I became perfectly fine with the idea of someone bumping into me on a crowded Metro platform and plummeting into the electrified tracks below or falling off my balcony in some kind of freak accident. It wasn’t pretty. None of this is.

But none of that was the worst part. The worst part? I stopped being able to write regularly.

My ideas weren’t gone, they were there, buzzing around like hornets in their cozy nest. I’d get an outline down on paper and once I put pencil to paper or fingers to keys trying to write it, I couldn’t do it. It would disappear. I would perseverate over single words, erasing, deleting, backspacing until there was nothing left but a blank screen or smudged pages.

I am nothing if I’m not a writer; it’s my full-time profession and my favorite hobby. Being unable to do it was humbling and discouraging. I shed many a tear over the fact I couldn’t do it. It was more than writer’s block, worse than writer’s block. The worst I’d seen since I started my job and since I picked up writing more than just journal entries. I had to do something about it.

In an effort to save myself from having to go back on my meds, I started therapy. I thought that having a therapist again might help me keep being med-free. I didn’t disclose to him right away that I was unmedicated; I was ashamed of that fact. I wasn’t comfortable enough with him. Therapy is like dating. Just like how many people don’t fuck on the first date, you don’t disclose your biggest fears, your most shameful attributes on the first few dates. It’s just not how it works.

Two months into our appointments, I told him. He was understanding, kind, and supportive when I told him why I’d gotten off them. He didn’t scold me. He didn’t judge me. And over the following few weeks he helped me make the difficult decision to return to them.

And so I did. I returned to them thirty-four days ago, on April 17th. It’s been thirty-four long days.

It humbled me to go back to them. It really did. I wanted to believe I was stronger than this illness. That it couldn’t beat me and only me. But it turns out, I was wrong.

And I paid the price for my pride. For the first two weeks, I vomited nearly every morning right after waking up. I started budgeting time in my morning routine for it so I could still make it to work on time. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat.

Still, over a month later, I jitter, I forget words or thoughts in the middle of saying them. I forget things I’m doing in the middle of them.

I have to keep multiple copies of my to-do list at work now. Two written, one digital: my planner, a Post-it note on my computer, and in my sent email folder.

I am perpetually apologizing for forgetting.

If I’m taking repetitive notes, I need a Post-it to remind me of format. It’s broken my facade of perpetually being “okay” in the office.

I’m still nauseous 90 percent of the time. I’ve had to give up my favorite thing in the world: coffee. The thing I lived on for over three years. I can no longer have it because if I do, I will throw up. I now live on iced tea and Coke.

Things got worse before they got better. They always do. I knew they would. I warned my therapist and he stuck right by me. I kept going to therapy. As a notoriously flaky patient, I have yet to skip an appointment with him. I took days off of work when things got too bad. I talked to my wife.

However, things also did get better.

I have a normal range of emotions again and my rapid-cycling has slowed down to an acceptable speed, where my moods don’t feel like they’re on a two-hundred-mile per hour rollercoaster anymore. They’re going the speed limit on the freeway again–a pace I can handle.

I’ve lost a few things as well: my sex drive, my appetite, my coffee habit, but these are the things I could probably live without anyway.

There is no true “better” and there’s no true end of the prescription. Just prescription slips with no refills and Saturday mornings in psychiatrist waiting rooms. And for now, it’ll be me and these little white pills, just trying to get through this life together.


There are five stages of grief. The last one? Acceptance.

This has been a theme in my life as of late. Starting with a conversation I had with my therapist, bleeding into my yoga practice, and seeping back into my therapy sessions. There have been quite a few things I’ve had to accept–and some that I just am not quite ready to.

One of the things that’s weighing on me right now? My illness.

I have bipolar. I am bipolar. It is not all that I have and it is not all that I am. I have to remind myself of this constantly.

There are days where my diagnosis consumes me. There are days where all I want is to let it finally win. To let it take me and devour me. These are the days when I just want to give up and give in. But I don’t.

I don’t like to acknowledge or accept the fact that I’m probably going to be on mood stabilizers for the rest of my life. Colors get duller when I’m on my meds. My happiness is muted, my sadness subdued. I feel like I lose a little bit of my “creative mojo” (to adapt a phrase recently used by a coworker).

I can function like any other person though. I can sit on crowded trains a little easier (that will never be fun or easy to do for me). I don’t get as irritated by the catty gossiping women that sit around me and I don’t get as annoyed by presumably Swedish tourists congregating all in one place. I can get my coffee at any time of the morning rather than timing it almost to an exact minute, like coffee acquisition is a science, and be absolutely fine.

And, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I’ve had considerable trouble writing lately. In all honesty, I’ve had trouble doing much of anything lately. I’m still probably considered to be “highly functioning” as all of a sudden, I’m able to get myself to work on time–the bare minimum for neurotypical folks. (Glad that something that is so average, so mundane, is so absolutely mindbogglingly difficult for me. Debilitating anxiety can do that, I suppose.)

Admittedly, I’m off my medication right now. It’s hard to admit that after three years, I’ve finally completely gotten off them. And I don’t want to admit or accept that I need them. I want to rebel against the muted tones and subdued creativity of my medicated, yet stable life yet without them, I teeter and totter toward a treacherous area… One that I never wish to see again.

I’ve written about my bipolar in various forms, in various states of medication. Right now, it’s really difficult. Bipolar makes everything difficult. There are days where I wish that everyone in the entire world could understand what it’s like to have bipolar–to experience the mood swings, at least at their euphoric high level. There are days where I wouldn’t wish this experience on even my worst enemies, for it is just so painful and so goddamn annoying that I wish those enemies a slightly softer fate.

I’ve had difficulties accepting this diagnosis for a little over three years now. I don’t think I will ever fully accept it. It’s difficult, it’s challenging, it’s painful as all hell. But, someday, it will be okay. I will be okay.

Coffee Talk

Editor’s Note: I borrowed this format from my friend Amanda. If you’re looking for more great writing, I highly recommend her and her work.

If we were having coffee, I’d take note of your order and remember it. It’s a little habit I’ve had since I started working my first job. Your coffee order tells me a lot about you, if you can believe that.


If we were having coffee, I might cry a little if you ask me about the wedding. It’s a touchy subject at the moment.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that work was frustrating, but still good. I’m writing more than I had been and it makes me happy. It’s hard to do what I do in the climate we’re in. But I’m holding on. It’s all I can do. I would tell you that I’m working on my first series of the year and another one I have in the works that I’m extremely passionate about.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you about how I finally got a laser pointer for our boy cat and it’s the smallest thing ever but brings me endless hours of joy watching him chase a little red dot around.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that being apart for my wife even for a few days is difficult. The apartment is too quiet without her and I don’t know what to watch on television when she’s not here. The cats miss her. I miss her more.

If we were having coffee, I’d be honest and tell you that things aren’t as bright as they seem. Things are a little scary sometimes and I don’t like the way they’re headed. I’d been okay for a little while but right now, they’re not great.

If we were having coffee, I’d try to reassure you that I’m taking the right steps to make sure things don’t get too terribly bad. I’m seeing my therapist, I’m doing what I can when I can. It probably wouldn’t work out too well, honestly. You might feel uncomfortable–talking about mental health with certain people can be. And that’s okay. Don’t worry. I’m trying–and that’s all I can do.

If we were having coffee, I’d say thanks for listening. And say “Enough about me now. How are you?”

Back On the Couch

There’s a suite of condos down the street and around the corner from my apartment. A simple, short ten minute walk away. I’ve run past that complex even before I started going there. It looks nice, it’s on top of a hill and overlooks the park I usually run through.

Upon entry through the doors that open the completely different from how you’d expect them to, you step into a bright lobby. A right hand turn down a long hallway brings you to the office that greets you with leather chairs and throwback 80s music as you walk through the door. At the desk is the most helpful receptionist I’ve ever met, who remembers me even after just a few appointments and welcoming bowl of DumDums, like you’d see at the bank. Comforting is a great description.

On Wednesdays, usually in the afternoon, that’s where you’ll find me.

I work from home on Wednesdays to make it easier to get to these appointments, and that’s helping me make sure that they remain constant. It’s one of the only things that I really actually do keep constant these days, while everything else is perpetually fluctuating.

Back on the couch. A supple grey leather couch with yellow filigree throw pillows.

Places I never thought I’d be again? The top of the list includes a therapist’s office. Especially after the last time.

But, I’m back on the couch. I don’t have to lay flat, I don’t have to stare at a generic popcorn plaster ceiling, counting the specks like they’re the problems in my life.

I sit in the same spot every week, close to the door but inside, careful and comforted by the fact I’m not told I have to lay down and stare at a ceiling that makes me uncomfortable. (I’m a creature of habit.) I can sit up, face his desk, and talk like we’re old friends. A welcome change.

Of course, I’ve only had three or four appointments with him, but it already feels like we’ve known each other a long time. He reminds me of a good friend. He laughs at my jokes sometimes and doesn’t get upset when I swear and will sometimes swear as well.

He didn’t recoil when I mentioned I was married to a woman rather than a man. He didn’t shy away when I mentioned I’d previously tried to kill myself. It was like he knew he was in for a ride with me. And it was like he’d actually been adequately prepared. I’ve had therapists who weren’t prepared.

Obviously, therapists are meant to be prepared for and ready for people like me, people with the illnesses I have, but it’s not every day you find one that you gel with. One that feels more like a friend than a doctor my insurance company pays.

Therapy to me is like dating and it’s like we’ve had a few dates that have gone well. I’ve opened up a little more and I’ve processed a little more. I’m looking forward to feeling better again. Of course, I haven’t mentioned everything that needs to be mentioned, but there’s plenty of time for that. It’s a long road.

So, I’ll be back on the couch. For the foreseeable future. And I’m happy again.

Nevertheless, She Persisted

“Nevertheless, she persisted.” Words said about Elizabeth Warren last night as Mitch McConnell explained why she could now no longer take part in debate on the Attorney General nomination.

“Nevertheless, she persisted.” Words I have been thinking about a lot today. They’ve seemed to be a theme, I think.

Anxiety tried to get me this morning. Nevertheless, she persisted and actually worked today.

Fear tried to get me in yoga class today. Nevertheless, she persisted and nearly (finally) achieved crow pose.

Shame tried to keep me from going to the therapist. Nevertheless, she persisted and sure enough, made it to the office, through a full session, and a serious weight’s been lifted.

But back to yoga class. Because while those three instances all do prove that perseverance is a theme, the yoga piece is important.

One of the instructors at my studio focuses on one region of the body over the course of the month. January was hips (that was a lot of fun, honestly–I’ve always had pretty tight hip flexors and now they feel much better) and February is full of legs as a whole.

While setting our intention, the instructor asked us to call to mind times where we (class this morning was me, my wife, and one of our friends–it was glorious!) were knocked down and had to stand back up.

There were so many times that were called into my mind. Liz Warren served as an inspiration for me too. She stood up for what she thought was right and while she wasn’t allowed to speak (because misogyny and sexism, of course), she still went and read the letter to over a million people on Facebook Live. She persisted.

And of course, there were quite a few times of my own that came into mind. So many. Recent, not-so-recent… Real dark things. Softer, more “trivial” things.

But regardless of what things seemed like, how bad they were, or whether or not I thought they were the end, somehow, I stood up. And I’ll keep standing up. It’s the only thing I really know how to do anymore. Stand up.

Because, like Liz Warren and so many other strong women I know, nevertheless, I will persist. 

Ease Into Courage

There have been two things I’ve thought about a lot today. They’re kind of related, but interestingly, they came from two different places–in a matter of about an hour.

My mind hasn’t been able to stray too far from either of them and they’re both important.

They intersect at a point I hadn’t realized until I started putting fingers to keys… (Funny how writing–at least for me–always seems to bring things into perspective…)

The first: what would life look like if it were easy for you?

I subscribed to the #AsktheQuestion newsletter from Ms. Laura Jane Williams after a work friend recommended it via Twitter. When I clicked, read the description, and subscribed, I hadn’t thought that I would sit on Sunday mornings, anxiously and excitedly awaiting an email ever at any point in my life. But, now that’s what my Sundays look like.

This morning I was pleasantly surprised as I awoke to find today’s edition, talking about things (read as: life, etc.) being “easy” for people.

In essence, the essay closed with the, seemingly simple, question: What would life look like if it were easy for you?

I thought about it. Tried to digest it. Mulled it over. I tried to go on with my morning, but it stuck there.

I thought about it a lot as my wife drove us to our yoga studio this morning. I thought about it a lot as I waited for my vinyasa class to start.

I thought about it a lot as we strolled around Target and as I stood in the middle of the store holding a bunch of random items as she went to find something.

When my brain wasn’t preoccupied with other things like work or my yoga schedule for the week or trying to get my body to contort itself into lizard or tree pose, it was there, wondering what things would be like if they were actually “easy.”

My life, while when I was younger might have seemed easy to some, isn’t easy now. Sure, it’s not has hard as some others (I will openly admit that I have some white privilege), but it’s not easy–by any stretch of the imagination. I struggle. A lot.

If my life were easy, I wouldn’t have to worry about being the “fat girl” in my yoga class.

If my life were easy, I could wear whatever I wanted and feel happy.

If my life were easy, I wouldn’t have to worry about my marriage being legal tomorrow.

If my life were easy, I wouldn’t have to worry about what pronouns I use for my wife, actually using the term “wife” instead of “spouse” or wondering if the one person I decide to come out to today is going to be the one to end up attacking me for being gay.

If my life were easy, I wouldn’t need pharmaceuticals to keep me a functional member of society. I wouldn’t have ended up spending four days in a mental institution. I wouldn’t have wanted to die.

If my life were easy, I would’ve been able to learn to drive like all my classmates, instead of facing crippling anxiety every time I even think about getting behind the wheel of a car. 

If my life were easy… so many things would be different.

But then, the more I think about it, the more I realize having life be easy would take the most important pieces out. The pieces that teach us the most and the pieces that help us grow. The pieces that sometimes seem to bring us to our knees, but the pieces that help us get back up again.

This brings me to the second point of the day. The other thing I’ve been thinking through.

In my yoga class this morning, the instructor (one of my favorites), asked us all a question as we set our intention for our practices today. (Fun fact: My intention for any and all yoga classes is usually a single word–survival–but that’s a post for another day.)

Her question: What does courage look like to you?

For me, courage looks like a lot of different things–especially given the way things are right now.

Right now, courage looks like using the correct pronouns for my wife. Courage looks like being able to openly say that I’m married to a woman. Courage looks like standing up for my faith when so many Christians now are denouncing many of the values that I uphold–or interpreting the Bible in ways that go against the values I have and believe in. Courage means being open about my mental illness. Courage means making that appointment with a new therapist. Courage means waking up and living my life.

I’m not trying to make an extraordinarily bold statement. I’m not trying to say that I’m any better than anyone else just because I was able to get out of bed and live today. But, for me, that’s hard sometimes. There are times where things get ugly and living is the hardest thing there is to do–let alone actually trying to be a functional member of society and actually do things like go to work or go to the grocery store.

Right now, all I can do is remember that courage for me is going to be different than courage for other people. And easing into that thought is all I can do for today.

On Carrie

I’ve been mulling over writing about this, and about her, for a long time. She died the day I married the love of my life, casting a bit of a dark cloud over that day. I haven’t been able to string enough words together in quick succession to make it work. It’s been a little over three weeks, you’d think I would’ve been able to put something together by now.

But no. All my words are messy. They’re all kinds of garbled and jumbled and scrambled and I don’t even know which way is out or up anymore when it comes to this.

And as I sit here, fondly remembering my favorite pieces of Wishful Drinking, I find it even harder to pull them–and myself–together. (As if it could’ve gotten any harder…)

I finished The Princess Diarist while sitting in the bathtub. I finished Wishful Drinking not long after–as I’d taken a sick day to pull myself together. As I read each and every word of those beautiful books, my heart broke a little bit more. I couldn’t quite get the tears to fall. I started Wishful Drinking right after Princess Diarist because I didn’t want to give her up yet. I couldn’t leave her yet. I still can’t leave her yet.

The world lost a bright light when it lost Carrie.

My world lost a bright light when it lost Carrie.

I lost an inspiration, a hero, a friend.

I’ve written a lot about my own struggles with bipolar disorder. It hasn’t been easy to deal with and there are days I still resent it. There are days I hate it and I hate myself and I curse everything that comes along with it. The days where I can’t make it to work, the days where all I want to do is cry. The bad days. The good days, those I’m grateful for. The manic days, where nothing can phase me, where I’m invincible and I don’t have a care in the world–those I would live for. But they don’t come without a cost. And the cost? It isn’t worth paying.

But, one of the first things I learned when I was first handed that diagnosis by a doctor that was less-than-friendly about it, was that Carrie had it too. Carrie had it and survived it. It didn’t kill her, like it threatened (and tried) to kill me (on more than one occasion).

She spoke about it in a way you could relate to, that could make you laugh, that could make you understand what it was like to be bipolar.

It’s something I try to do but fail miserably at. I’ve heard her explain it, I’ve watched her explain it, I’ve read her words explaining it. (In Wishful Drinking, she refers to her moods as “Roy” and “Pam,” where “Roy” is “Rollicking Roy” and “Pam” actually stands for “pissing and moaning”–something I absolutely understand, especially on the worst of the worst days.)

When I read her descriptions, I can commiserate, I can relate, and I understand. Carrie made that painful diagnosis a little easier for me to deal with. Of course, it’ll never be easy to deal with; it’ll always require some kind of medical assistance–whether mood stabilizers and antidepressants or something else down the road.

The more of her writing I read, the more inspired I feel to not only keep writing in general, but to keep writing about my illness. To keep being open about it, to not let it win on the days where it feels like it might drown me. To let my own versions of “Roy” and “Pam” know who’s boss. (Me, that’s who!)

As I read her words, in Diarist and Drinking, I realized that now, maybe more than ever, we can’t stop or give up. She wouldn’t want us to. She wouldn’t dare.

And as so many things are changing, her words and her strength are two of the very few things we can hold tight.

I miss her dearly. I’m so grateful for the works she gave the world, for her emoji-filled tweets, for her photos of Gary, and for her in general. My world got a lot darker when it lost her.