Shame vs. Pride
I watched as the small white pills slowly made their way to the bottom of the toilet. I thought I would be proud of myself; instead I felt stupid and ashamed. I felt some sort of regret for a couple of reasons: #1 I hate wasting anything. I’m the type of person that saves plastic ice cream containers to use as bowls—shoe boxes to store the useless nick-knacks I collect— even broken glasses with the intention of replacing the lenses! You get the picture. #2 Most importantly I hated that I felt the need to destroy the pills. The fact that wasting good pills was something that should make me proud of myself, made me feel small and weak. Woohoo! I threw some pills away, let’s throw a party! What a loser.
When I used to drink, part of the reason I would get out of control is that I always wanted to keep my buzz going. If I felt it start to wear off it was time for another shot or another beer. Then I started getting ahead of the problem and not waiting until the buzz started wearing off. Instead of keeping it going steadily I would increase it until I was no longer just buzzed but completely schnockered. All too often I found myself waking up in the morning wondering what I had done.
The pills I disposed of were Xanax. I was entrusted with an addictive medication to use sparingly while I was exhibiting symptoms of postpartum depression. I was entrusted with them, yet I treated myself as though I was not trust-worthy. Truthfully, when I decided to destroy them my thought was that there was no reason to keep such a highly addictive substance that I wasn’t going to use. If they were stolen they were my responsibility, plus I didn’t think I should be using them either. The issue I had with this specific medication was the onset and the half-life; The pills acted relatively quickly — peaked and then dropped suddenly. In order to fight my anxiety, I would’ve had to take more than one pill in a short period of time. I felt that this type of behavior was a slippery-slope to a place I didn’t want to go. It reminded me of the temptation I felt when trying to keep a buzz. Even though my logic was sound, I felt like I was doing something an addict on the cusp of giving in would have to do. Then again, I shouldn’t keep the pills just to prove my strength either, right? That is just as bad.
I was prescribed Lorazepam before Xanax, both benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines in general, are known for being physically and psychologically addictive medications if taken for long periods of time. They should be taken with extreme care, which I fully intended to do—and I was doing a damn good job of it if you ask me. Lorazepam made me sleepy and that worried me because I didn’t want to pass out while taking care of my baby, so I switched to Xanax. Lorazepam wasn’t a problem as far as encouraging addictive tendencies; I’m confident that I can use it occasionally to fight extreme anxiety without back-pedaling. So why was shame still sneaking in? Why is the ability to fight shame and anxiety lost on me?
When I decided to start taking these medications, my counselor and I came up with a plan. My counselor and my doctor both agreed to work together with me to avoid any problems— we discussed what an acceptable thresh-hold would be. At what point is use of this medication appropriate? I have a journal in which I record and analyze my thoughts; I decide whether or not a specific thought is realistic or if a cognitive distortion is deceiving me. I contest negative unrealistic thoughts with positive ones. There are many ways to recognize negative thinking patterns; I feel it’s important to find what works for each individual. Here is an example of how I defeat intrusive negative thoughts:
My dad is nowhere to be found. His father died and he has no idea. I need to let him know before he finds out somewhere else. I can’t control my dad or where he is, it’s not my responsibility to make sure he’s ok. I need to take care of myself and deal with my own emotions. I have spent to much time worrying about his well-being. His actions are a large part of my mangled, self-taught, coping mechanisms. I’m an adult now, and I have a child and family to love. I need to spend as much time as possible appreciating all of my blessings.
My grandpa died and we never made up, he was still so mad at me that I wasn’t even allowed to come to his house. It really hurts that my grandpa never reconnected with me but I still cherish the good times that we had and love him despite his unwillingness to forgive. He was stubborn by nature and I’ve learned to ditch similar habits of my own. LIFE IS SHORT.
My counselor is leaving and I will never find another counselor like her, and I am going to slip back into my old ways. It took me a long time to find someone that I could confide in. My husband and my counselor are both people that I’ve been able to count on to support me. Just because she’s leaving doesn’t mean I’ve lost my support system. I don’t know what I will do yet but I think it will be ok. It’s hard for me to say that with complete confidence at this point, but I know it will get easier. It’s difficult not to feel abandoned. My dad has left so many times that it’s scarred me for life; it’s very traumatic for me when someone important to me leaves.
I’m trying to find some happiness but it’s really difficult not to be sad right now. I’m broken and I should be happy because I have so much to be thankful for. I forget that it’s natural and OK to be sad sometimes. I’m going through a tough time and I’m going to cry. Sometimes emotions just need to be experienced and validated. I’ll get through it. It’s important to stay focused and mindful. Live in the moment – not tomorrow and not yesterday— live today. Be present.
I haven’t been invited to go anywhere for thanksgiving. I’ve been forgotten and burned bridges. There’s no fixing the damage I’ve done. I have always dreaded going places for the holidays. I’m much more comfortable at home in pajamas cuddling with my husband and baby, watching a movie. However, being forgotten and having nowhere to go for the holiday hurts more than I would expect. I feel like I’ve disconnected myself from everyone and I honestly don’t know how to handle it. Part of being bipolar means going through times when I don’t want to see anyone at all, and times when I want to be social and have friends. It’s not fair to friends and loved ones and it can be confusing. I lose a lot of people when I push them away and then expect them to come back as soon as mania kicks in. I actually ended up having a great Thanksgiving with my mom, husband and daughter. I couldn’t have asked for a better day and I was able to spend time with some of my cousins and my grandma the next day. I haven’t burned any bridges in reality; I just have to take the time to reconnect with my loved ones. I have to be patient and stop trying to rush things. Yet again, I just have to be mindful and present.
The rest of my family is doing better than me. They’re all more successful than me and own houses. Keyes and I have had different struggles and have overcome just as much as they have. We should be very proud of how far we come. The success of others should not detract from our accomplishments. Comparing myself to others is a tactic I’ve always employed and it always turns into jealousy which leads to exclusion.
Using this method, I’m able to practice new coping skills and strengthen my ability to think and react positively, disputing negative distortions. The more I practice these skills and use these techniques the less likely I am to have to rely on any type of anxiety medication in the future. I may not have needed to destroy the pills, but in the end it doesn’t really matter. It’s in the past and it isn’t a big deal. I need to focus on bettering myself and learning to be happy. I have so many wonderful tools at my disposal; the trick is using them and giving myself a break every now and again.