Page 29 in the series Before the Pirates Came*
After a few months on the medication, Miranda began to feel better. Lithium did not produce a particular noticeable effect, not a buzz or a high. Instead, it was the lack of any appreciable sensation that stood out the most. Her thoughts were not racing, she wasn’t staying up all night, and the excesses that used to drive her had seemed to level out. Nor was she trapped in her blue chenille bathrobe mourning the deaths of people in the local paper— people she did not know. Taking a shower every day started to feel good again, as a balanced energy level returned.
Feeling “well”was unfamiliar to Miranda, and participating in a life with less color felt awkward. She noticed that the paintings she did in art class were no longer the most dark with drama or screaming with zeal. When she sat down to write in her journal the words were precise and mechanical. And where she used to doodle those cute little drawings down the margin of the page, there were squiggles of frustration where the pictures used to be. She told herself she would adjust.
Looking back, Miranda could see how bipolar disorder had impacted her life from the time she was very young. She recalled the trip to Walt Disney World with her family just before her tenth birthday. It was her parents, three brothers, and their precious little Schnauzer, Duchess, driving south on I-75 to Orlando.
During a brief stop to see the sights at St. Augustine, something strange happened. Instead of looking happy and excited, Miranda was morose, a happy healthy girl possessed by sadness for no reason at all. The cannons roared and the fountain of youth spit its historic venom on her, drawing her away from her happy thoughts and into a disorder the family knew nothing about. The historic landmarks ridiculed her in all her despair, and finding herself in front of the camera only made her feel worse. Somewhere there are photographs to prove it.
Miranda played with this memory over a scotch straight up at the club. It was Mavis’s day off and it was safe to have just one. (She promised her friend she would try to stop drinking, and she would, very soon.) Lost in thoughts of the past, she wondered if she had ever experienced what it was like to be “normal.” How would the new medicated Miranda ever feel at home with her new way of thinking, feeling, loving, spending (!). She was a tourist in a foreign land who never studied the language. She was afraid of getting lost.
In those days parents didn’t take their kids to see a doctor about mental illness. And those that did rarely came home with a bipolar diagnosis. Miranda was glad she didn’t end up a child psychiatrist’s guinea pig, sampling new drugs willy nilly. There would be time for that later, when doctors prescribed a veritable candy store of pills to choose from. She looked back and wondered how her younger self would have fared.
Miranda knew this was how it had to be. With Lydia at her side, the support of her loving husband, and a bottle of yellow pills, she was hopeful that she would fall into step. But when Lydia asked again whether she had stopped drinking, Miranda couldn’t tell her a lie. Although she cut back a little, Miranda was still drinking.
* * *
**Lithium carbonate is a salt that appears on the table of chemical elements. It remains a commonly used medication for treating bipolar disorder. More than 2 million Americans are affected by the disorder each year, with many more going untreated.
National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI)
*This story is based on some true events, however, has been fictionalized and all persons appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real people, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
© 2012, Shoes for an Imaginary Life. All rights reserved.