Thursday, November 18, 2010

And here comes the depression

In the next month I kicked my boyfriend out of my life and watched my mom beat a path from Norfolk to Richmond every weekend. I insisted I should keep working and stay in my apartment. She wanted me home under her watch, but I felt the need for independent recovery. Looking back I think that was a mistake. In the summer of 2000, I sank into a deep depression that lasted for months. In conjunction with my other medications, my doctor also prescribed Wellbutrin, but that did not suit me. The weeks went by in a slow blur; I gained weight and slept a lot and avoided friends. I am an action-oriented girl who likes challenges and variety and inspiration and change, so moving slowly with leaden feet through my days does not suit me. I don’t imagine it suits anyone.

In the fall of 2000, I made the decision to quit my job and move home, with the intention of going to law school. My therapist in Norfolk wondered whether that would be a good idea for a Bipolar. She thought it would lead to a stressful and difficult life. I insisted I was stable, and as is my way, I insisted I knew what was right.

As luck would have it, my graceful former home of Lexington, Virginia welcomed me back for law school. I would enter Washington and Lee School of Law as a first year law student in August 2001. I looked back over the year 2000 and saw one major manic break, one not-so-minor manic break, and one ongoing bout with depression. Would you take that as a sign to jump right into law school? Never mind, it’s just what I did.

I still took Lithium (1200 mg a day), and Risperdal (1 to 2 mg a day), and Trazadone as needed for sleep. I still struggled with the dead weight of depression, but I didn’t know anything different because depression comes on like a thief in the night and only after you rise from its darkness do you see how pervasive it was. When depressed, you are stuck in a cruel mental suspension: you don’t think things are that bad but you also don’t think they can get better. So you make no great effort to change the status quo. I just kept plodding through my life. Plodding is no way to make a mark in law school.

I got a 2.28 in my first semester at Washington and Lee. Not even a C+ average. Hard to swallow for a former A-student overachiever. A national merit scholar semi-finalist. Accepted at Duke, UVA and Princeton. A cum laude college graduate. A four year all-conference volleyball player at Washington and Lee University.

The next three years were difficult to say the least. Difficult, but very, very fun. I quickly tossed aside the admonition that medication and alcohol do not mix. Those were the three drunkest years of my life. And the three most expensive.

In law school I experienced side effects from Lithium and Risperdal. I felt like I was drugged….in a fog. I had hand tremors and coordination problems. The simplest mechanical tasks, like threading a needle or zipping a zipper, were difficult and made me feel incompetent and clumsy. My memory and concentration were poor and I had trouble with articulation and organization when writing briefs. I was also impatient when it came to work; it was hard for me to follow-through on a project or even sit through a 50 minute class to the end. Reading law is not easy, but it was particularly tough for me, so I often skipped the reading for class and embarrassed myself when I was called on by the professors. Let’s be quite honest though: I don’t think I can blame all my trouble on the medications. I’m sure I was just at that point in my twenties when fun was a priority, and in the beautiful town of Lexington, it was easy to keep real work in the real world at bay.

But there were treasures in that time too. At Washington and Lee, I met my brilliant and compassionate husband Nathan and my dear friends Priya and Mark. We all battled real and imagined demons in those three years but we hung together and enjoyed the tonic of true friendship.


  1. Dear Hilary,

    Having had a personal history with depression accompanied by panic attacks, empathy wells up for you. During the dark night of my soul, clinging to Jesus was the only thing that keep me anchored to sanity. After reading your response to my post, "My Fall Flowers and New Landscaping Scheme," I realize you don't agree, but I pray that His Spirit would draw your soul and reveal Who He really is, the Lover of Your Soul!

    With the Love given to me by Jesus,

    Beautiful Grace



God, to have these guys in a room together again....