After working at the rehab for 9 months, I decided I wanted to move forward with my life. I applied for many jobs in Phoenix. I got a job as a receptionist for a legal compliance and ethics e-learning company. I found an apartment in Phoenix and moved there with a guy I was dating from the rehab, but that relationship didn’t last. I don’t know when our relationship ended, but I think we lived together for about a year. I adopted a dog and named him Cash (after Johnny Cash). He was awfully energetic and liked to chew on everything. I learned how to train him, and he started to behave properly. Cash came with me to AA camping events, which was a blast. At some point, I found a great AA club where I would go to the same meeting every day at 6pm. I don’t like change, so moving was scary. I like to keep a regular schedule. I made a lot of friends at the meeting, but I would only go to that one meeting every day. One of the guys I met was Brandon, who became my best friend. He had the same sarcastic attitude that I have and we got along wonderfully.
I was doing really well at this time in my life. I got a promotion at work, I was able to live on my own, make friends, and maintain my sobriety and my mental health. I took my medication and saw my doctors regularly. I was seeing the psychiatrist that was treating me while I was in rehab. Brandon asked me to workout with him. I told him no for months, and then I ultimately caved and decided to go with him. I was terrified because it was something new, but Brandon made me feel safe. After working out with him once, I was hooked. I loved it. We started working out together 5 days a week. It helped me get through my days at work. I would go to work, then workout with Brandon, and then go to my meeting (often with Brandon). I was happy with this new schedule; it was working well for me.
In the beginning, I wasn’t open about my mental health when it came to my AA meetings. My close friends knew, but that was all. Eventually, I ended up talking about my bipolar disorder in a meeting. I felt as if it wasn’t accepted. Several times, I was told that I didn’t have a mental health problem. It was just an issue to work on through step work. That was a problem for me. I didn’t feel accepted. My mental health was a huge part of my life. Even when I’m doing well, it’s still a large piece of my life. I was stable for years. That had never happened to me before.
My psychiatrist decided to wean me off my meds slowly because I had been stable for such a long period. It was possible that my mental health issues were drug related, so we thought it was worth a try to get off medication. I was down to two medications, and then she took me off the Seroquel. About 4 months later, I started to fall apart. I thought it would be a good idea to go to therapy again because I started to remember things that I hadn’t previously remembered. These memories triggered what was eventually diagnosed as PTSD. With the PTSD coming up and the med changes occurring, it was like the perfect storm. I started having hallucinations and was shaking uncontrollably. My psychiatrist put me on Abilify, but that made it worse. I barely slept for 3 weeks.
My job let me work from home, but after a little while, I couldn’t even manage that any more. I went on short-term disability, which then turned into long-term disability. There were times that I struggled to feed the dog. My mom came out to stay with me for a little while, but she couldn’t be there all the time. I decided to move back to Connecticut because I couldn’t be on my own anymore. I’m lucky that she was able and willing to let me and my dog move in with her. My long-term disability turned in to Social Security Disability.
I thought writing my story would help my memory, and it has; but it has also become difficult for me. There’s a lot that I struggle to remember, and a lot of other things I wish I didn’t remember. I think I’m going to take a break from writing my story for a little while.