My husband, Kent, knew he couldn’t leave me alone. I was unsafe and suicidal. In my conscious mind, I knew I was unsafe because I was going through withdrawal from a neuroleptic (the ‘atypical antipsychotic’ Latuda), but that didn’t matter to me, that knowledge.
I had read somewhere that sometimes nicotine quelled the terror of akathisia, so I sat on the back porch smoking the mildest cigarette brand I could find because smoking was not a habit I enjoyed. I would finish half, then stub it out. The first few drags took the edge off. The edge came back within minutes. Light, inhale, stub, repeat.
My body shook and trembled as I sat in the patio chair next to the table with the makeshift ashtray. I rocked back and forth as my mind scoured the entire field of my experience for a reference point, something to which I could anchor my feelings of terror and panic.
Kent sat with me as sounds from our suburban neighbourhood floated through my ears ironically, cruelly, as if to say, “This is what normal people do.” On some level, I knew I was outside of “normalcy” forever. My neuropsychologist had told me, based on seeing me weekly for over a year, that he didn’t think I had bipolar disorder, but I didn’t fully believe him, and I didn’t want to. I’d spent years tailoring my beliefs, behaviours, and self-concept to reflect the socially-sanctioned diagnosis. What was happening to me was not socially sanctioned.