Red Lipstick and How It Saved My Life
My Journal From the Year I Was Crazy
Copyright 2010 by Amanda Snyder
Smashwords EditionOne cool February day in Austin, Texas in 2009 I was sitting in my car with my son. He had just turned three the month before and was becoming something of a handful. We were parked outside the space where my seven-year-old daughter's Tae Kwon Do class was held. She had been resistant to attending for the last several weeks. It was a big struggle to get her into her uniform and into class. There were a lot of tears and yelling involved on her part. I was exhausted by the end of these fights with her. As a result I simply didn't have the energy to either make my son behave in the viewing area or run after him on the walkway of the strip mall. I'd taken to sitting in our parked car and letting my son out of his car seat to crawl around. This was a heady treat for him, to be able to shimmy into the back cargo space or open the glove compartment. On this particular day I was looking at a Big and Easy crossword puzzle book in my lap. I wasn't solving any of the puzzles, I was just looking at it. While I looked at it I planned out what I would say to my primary care physician in order to obtain a prescription for Ambien. I'd explain I couldn't sleep more than an hour at a time and over the counter sleep aids didn't help. Warm milk didn't help. Relaxation exercises didn't help. I was hoping I could get some assistance from a prescription but it was my last choice. Later, I would complain of panic and anxiety attacks to receive some Valium or Xanax or Ativan. I wouldn't take any of the sleeping pills or the anti-anxiety medications. I'd hold onto them for awhile and continue to complain of insomnia and panic and anxiety. I'd try lots of things and take pills out of the bottles and hide them somewhere, probably in my book safe, where my husband never looked. Then, after weeks of complaining I'd take an overdose and it would all be a terrible tragedy. I could make it look like an accident. Then Scott could find a better mom for the kids and a better wife for himself. It would be fine. The families would rally around my children and my husband. The neighbors would pitch in to help with child care. In the long run, it would be better for everyone. While I was making these plans I was wearing a stained pair of yoga pants and a fleece hoodie that smelled bad. I'd taken to wearing the same thing day after day. In a fit of self-loathing brought about by my bad decision to look up some people I'd known in high school on Facebook, I'd dyed my hair a dull brown color. Covering up the fading pink and purple I'd stopped maintaining. It hung lank around my face which was spotted with acne. I'd stopped washing my face or brushing my teeth unless it became absolutely necessary. It wasn't like anyone cared what I looked like. I was just another housewife in the suburbs, picking up her kids from school or buying milk in the grocery store. It wasn't like I had anywhere exciting to go, even though we lived in a city that offered every kind of music you could want and some of the best restaurants in the country. Scott was always playing games on his computer and babysitters were expensive. I didn't like to ask the neighbors because I felt guilty for taking advantage of their kindness. Even though I would take children for literally days, I didn't feel right asking anyone to watch mine so I could have a break. A break from cleaning and cooking and child care. Laundry I could never catch up with and the constant battle to keep my son from hitting people. I tried to keep myself busy to distract myself from how horrible I felt, but the busier I became the more horrible I felt. The more I volunteered, the more I felt I was being exploited and taken advantage of. Because I bought things to make myself feel better when I felt bad, our finances were a mess. I'd caused our credit card balance to soar. I'd overdrawn our checking account more than once. We had more than enough to live on, but my need to obtain stuff made our outgo more than our income. I had been a stay-at-home mom for almost eight years. In those eight years we had moved five times. Only one of those had been a local move. The other seven were to other states and in one case, to another country. We had finally landed in Austin two years before. I'd hoped to make this move stick. I wanted to put down roots for my kids. I wanted them to be able to say they were FROM somewhere. But, Scott kept coming home to tell me stories of how badly things were going at his company. Between his complaining and the collapsing economy, I was scared to death. I stared at my crossword puzzle book and made my plans while my son pulled all the papers out of the glove compartment. My daughter came running out of her class and climbed into the car. “How did you do today?” I asked her. “It made my legs hurt. Can we get a donut?” she replied. I leaned my head on the steering wheel and sighed. ************************************** That I was depressed wasn't anything of note, I had been diagnosed with clinical depression in 1996, not long after I turned 25. The diagnosis was no surprise, as it runs in my family and I had been taking antidepressants for years. It's not uncommon for the prescription to stop being effective after a period of time, letting symptoms come through. Once that happened, it became hard to me to recognize that my medications had stopped working. I had made the assumption that I was dealing with winter time/holiday blues. I was depressed? So? I was a depressive. But, I had not been suicidal since I had been fifteen years old. And then it had been more about attention seeking, hoping someone would listen to me about being so sad and angry and hopeless. Those feelings had left me long ago, even in the lowest moments of my adult life I hadn't thought of hurting myself, even in an attention getting fashion. The calm planning was something new. One of the things about having episodes where a person's mental and emotional well-being shift up and down, in and out without warning, at least for me, is that you get mad yourself for even allowing the shifts to happen. One should be able to exercise enough self-control, strength and willpower to make it stop. You shouldn't have to deal with pill bottles or head shrinkers. YOu are just being self-indulgent and lazy. There are people in this world with real problems and your whining is selfish. Once, when I eighteen or so, I was at a party with my mother when a person she didn't care for walked in wearing a neck brace. After we left my mom said "Just how much sympathy does she think she's getting with that thing on her neck? If you're in so much pain why are you even leaving the house? I mean, how much attention do some people need?" For me to say that my medications have stopped working is for me to walk into a party with a neck brace on. The problem with his philosophy is that you can't will a chemical imbalance away. The harder you try, the harder you fail. The harder you fail the harder you come down on yourself for not being able to control something that can't be overcome without outside help. The world goes round and round and your sanity goes round and round until someone steps in to pull you off the merry-go-round. At that point, you have to make the decision to let them help you. The person who reached into the mess my life had become was my husband Scott. That February we had been married for nineteen years. He could tell when something was wrong with me. And one day, he told me he'd noticed. ************************************* It was now almost the end of February. My mother and father were in Spain, celebrating my mother's sixtieth birthday. My family had had several challenges thrown at us since the beginning of the year. My daughter was diagnosed with ADHD. I'd had to take her for a consultation with a neurologist who recommended behavioral therapy before trying medications. I was in the middle of trying to find a child psychologist who would take our insurance. Our Canadian born son had not been presented to the American Embassy in British Columbia within two years of his birth. We'd been told by Immigration and Naturalization that we would need to complete a full immigration process for him. Even though he'd been born abroad to American born parents, we were told since we'd botched the birth abroad presentation, we needed to start from scratch. Scott had developed a pinched nerve in his right shoulder. It caused him a great deal of pain along with tingling down his right arm and numbness in his fingers. Since his job required him to be on a computer all day, this was very worrisome. His doctor had given him steroids and a referral for physical therapy. It was a wait and see situation. I had continued to live my life with a gray fog hanging around me. On the day Scott took my choices away, I was angry as well as sad. I hadn't slept well the night before and the kids seemed overly needy and demanding. I stomped around. I slammed doors. I had no patience. I was mean to my son. Scott came home just as I yelled “WHAT?!” at one of the kids. After the children were in bed he cornered me in the living room. On my usual spot on the couch, ready for my nightly dose of several hours of pointless television. I liked to watch reality programming so I could think mean things about the cast. He wanted to know why I was so cranky. I insisted I was fine. He corrected me that I was NOT fine. He needed to know what was bothering me. He wanted to help me feel better. Tears started to fall from my eyes. “You don't help me. You SAY you'll help me but you never do. Can you just leave me alone please?” “No. Tell me what's going on.” he said in an exasperated tone. “My meds stopped working.” I held my hands up in front of my face, palms toward my husband. I turned my head away from him. “How long ago?” he leaned forward in the recliner. “Christmas.” “Oh, honey. Why didn't you say something?” “Because no one is interested in my problems. Can we just not talk about this please?” He sighed and put his folded hands to his forehead. “How bad is it?” he asked. I didn't answer him right away. I considered my options. Did I lie or did I tell the truth? “I used to have good days and bad days and now I have mostly bad days with some REALLY bad days.” I paused. “And on my bad days I think about hurting myself.” “Oh god. Oh sweetie, that's not okay.” I sat on the couch crying, not knowing what to do next. *************************************** Sixteen hours later I was in my doctor's office. I had just been there ten days before for my annual well-woman check. I'd lied and said I was fine. All systems go. I was having a good day and thought that my holiday blues had passed. My doctor, a gorgeous woman in her forties with a mane of curly black hair came into the exam room. First, she handed me a box of tissues. Next, she told me not to be embarrassed, she dealt with these issues regularly, it was her job. I nodded and wiped my eyes. She immediately asked me what I meant when I said I thought about hurting myself. “I'd need a lot of lead up time.” I explained. “To make it look like an accidental overdose.” Now that I'd told someone about my plan to pull a Heath Ledger, I couldn't do it. My doctor wouldn't trust me with Ambien or Xanax unless it was in very small quantities. She would tell Scott to be watchful and make sure I didn't bring any other pills into the house. I'd be babysat. After our conversation she leaned into me “Well, I think you're bipolar type 2. I really think you need to get some counseling. And I need you to promise me that you WILL NOT take any other pills besides what I give you in the quantities prescribed.” I kept nodding my head. I promised.