I remember trekking through the Himalayas. Being in the middle of nowhere amongst towering mountains and surrounded by stones — so so many of them, in their infinite array of shapes and colours. I had to pay close attention to them because my next step was certainly going to be onto one. And it only takes one loose stone to put an ankle out, ending one’s entire trek. But I took this in my stride. None of this worried me. It was all part of the thrill I came looking for.
This memory is coming back to me because I’m currently feeling similar things. I feel like I’m in the middle of no where — lost. I feel overwhelmed by all the possibilities surrounding me — uncertain about which ones are stable choices and which will give way under me . The idea of staying still is comforting. But just like in the Himalayas, I know staying stationary for too long will only lead to me slowly succumbing to the situation surrounding me.
I’m not on another trek. What I’m describing is my experience of seeking professional help and being prescribed medication for ADD (attention deficit disorder) and bipolar 2. I have a wonderful psychiatrist that I trust — but I can’t help but feel we are both looking for a light switch in the dark. This is just the reality of it. I don’t want the trill, I don’t want the uncertainty; I want stability.
After one week on the stimulant medication, I started to experienced side effects which lead me to stop. Even though they helped, it felt like I had just traded in my problems. My other medication (which I’ve been on for over 2 months) does help, but it also causes sleep issues. I’d like to weigh up the pros vs cons, but given how long it takes for medications to come in and out of effect, it’s just not an easy process — even with daily self-monitoring. Then there’s the anti-pharma arguments — the treatment of symptoms vs addressing underlining causes etc. And of course, the concern about long term effects.
It all leaves one feeling lost… and down.
Having an official diagnosis has helped, but forgiveness hasn’t come easy as I imagined. Now the narrative is that I should have swallowed my pride a long time ago long with these pills. Then by now I would have this all figured out. I’d be on the higher ground enjoying a better view. Instead of here, scrabbling.
But it is what it is. I’m different from everyone else, and because of this, I’ve lived a different life to most. I’ve slept on beautiful beaches in Tonga under the stars. I’ve written a book. I’ve moved to the biggest city in Australia (Sydney) and stuck things out when every part of me wanted to quit. I moved once again (to Melbourne) and successfully set up a life that works for me. I’ve used my time working to allow me to trek through the Himalayas. And although I didn’t make it to the end, I pushed through barriers daily and I’m proud of my efforts, reaching an altitude of over 5,000 meters. I’ve seen the Taj Mahal in person and got to experience one of the most vibrant and hectic places on earth.
It’s entirely possible that taking medication any earlier in my life could of made my life turn out very differently. But I’m not sure if that’s what I would want. I know my pain pushed me to go looking out in the world for answers. If there’s one thing uncomfortable people do, it’s definitely not staying still.
It is what it is. I keep saying that because I need to keep looking ahead. I thought medication would be a turning point in the terrain, but it’s just another sign post for the time being. I’m here and now I’ve got to keep going. Taking things step by step as I’ve been doing since this journey started.
I don’t know if I’ll ever hit a point of “smooth sailing”. My life might always consist of hills and valleys, but it is what it is. I’m more blessed than most people who occupy this spinning planet in the cold thin air of space. What I’m going to do is find a way to make myself useful. To make this “curse” some how a “blessing”.
The other thing I’m surrounded by is footprints. Just like the route I travelled to basecamp, I’m far from the first person to seek wellness and better mental health. There are people I know in person and online that are walking with me (and ahead of me), and that makes this journey bearable… and the possibility of it leading somewhere, believable.