After the whole finding my father’s ten day old corpse thing, I didn’t really sleep for about a year, until I went back on meds.
I think that this was understandable. I think there are just some things it’s more dysfunctional to not be screwed up by for an extended period of time than it is to be super resilient about, and that’s just one of them.
I don’t know what would’ve happened if I’d gone back on meds sooner. I put it off, not wanting to hop right back on chemicals when, for some amount of time, I was, simply, just going to be screwed up for a while. After about a year, though, I decided it was time. The level of functionality I wanted then, compared to what I’d wanted before, was just not going to be achieved without meds.
In any case, the year of questionable sleep.
At the time, I’d been prone to going to bed around nine or ten, staying up a few more hours on my computer or with a book or my notebook, then sleeping in until ten or eleven. (Now, I’m more of a morning person, with firmer schedules.) But post trauma, after going to sleep as normal, I’d wake up around one and be up until after four or five.
I used this middle of the night time almost exclusively to write. Or, I might message with my best friend, who was working some late shifts at the time, mostly about writing. It wasn’t a time for house sorting, no lease drafting, no exhibits, no affidavits, no legal notices.
Despite the constant exhaustion, I often find myself looking back on this time period strangely fondly. I was in a creative peak. I was making constant breakthroughs on a plot I’d been stuck on for years, and churning out huge amounts of words, but what I really remember was my suddenly infinite amount of emotional writing energy.
I could write all the angst and fear and pain in the world, drawing from a seemingly bottomless well of inspiration, without emotional burnout. I didn’t tire of writing emotion, didn’t start staring at the page blankly after too many hours of creating deeply emotional content rife with tragedy. I was living buried so deeply in real trauma that fiction seemed infinitely cathartic, not burning through my usual well of emotions and then needing to be put down for a while.
I spent the year or so mostly creating, but towards the one year mark, when I went back on meds, I also started posting fiction regularly online for the first time in a long time (and that had been mostly fan fiction; now, it was original work). I went back to writing mostly linearly and still prolifically, went back to doing more editing, formatting, advertising, all of those bits, the things that come with an Internet presence.
Right around the one year mark, I started this blog. I think it was around when I started to see the light of seeking more treatment that I realized I had so much real darkness to talk about.
After the one year mark, I started self publishing books, started teaching webinars, running a social group, going to butler school, and more. Left therapy, kept the meds.
Still, so much of what I’ve accomplished since that one year mark—the things that sound good on paper: posting, publication, teaching, earning income, the plaudits—was, creatively speaking, born of that sleepless, nightmare and flashback and hallucination and dissociation ridden year. Of course, the pandemic happened in the middle, too, along with my grandmother’s death, and other things to keep stocking that dark creative well.
Meds, aided by time, gave me the mind to be outwardly productive, but it was that year just post trauma, still off meds, that truly offered the creative side.
Of course, I’m still creating. But sometimes it’s not the same. Before I adjusted to the meds, there was a brief time my daydreams weren’t as vivid, and I feared that. Considered going down a bit. There are a lot of times I wish Farrah, my puppy recurring hallucination, “appeared” to me more often, like a weird form of company. Even the nightmares and flashbacks, while unpleasant in the moment, stock something creative in my brain it’s hard to pin down and I wouldn’t want to do totally without.
I honestly don’t aim for symptom free. I think psychosis and the rest of my mental health is a part of who I am to be balanced but not eliminated, just like any other. Imagine if someone offered you a magic pill to never feel, say, mildly depressed again. Would you take it? It’s likely you don’t want to be cripplingly depressed, you want the will to live and get out of bed in the morning, not to be a danger to yourself locked in a psych ward, but wouldn’t it be strange to never feel mildly depressed again? Do you know who you are and how your emotions work without it?
So I don’t aim for symptom free but for balance. Anxiety can have me rocking in the fetal position on the floor fixated on death, or it can motivate me to do only my best work. The obsession with structure and routine I get from autism can make me resistant to positive changes and a nightmare to improvise with, or a productive, efficient person who’s hard to sidetrack for long. Maladaptive daydreaming can take over my life and have days pass where I externally mostly stare at the wall, or it can make me a creative, prolific writer.
Some symptoms I could maybe do without. I’m not really sure what sensory overload/processing issues get me if I could isolate it, but also you can’t isolate it, and I’d keep the sensory seeking, I suppose.
I err my balancing act on the side of healthy, happy, and functional, as logic tells me to do, but sometimes I kind of miss the other side. I don’t like to visit it for long, and the reality of it isn’t just the romanticized tortured artist but a lot of actual grief, fear, guilt, exhaustion, and loneliness. You probably wouldn’t want to live on a roller coaster, would you? Still, it gives that rush. It stocks the creative well.
So I’ll take the Seroquel, but would I take the magic cure all pill? Not a chance.