There’s an old short story called “The Lady or the Tiger.” In it, a man must choose between two identical doors. Behind one is a beautiful princess for him to marry, and behind the other is a ferocious tiger that will eat him. The story ends just as he chooses a door and turns the knob.
If I use this story as a metaphor, I have to make a very important change…it’s not a lovely Lady behind one door, but a merciless and dark one, casting a spell that numbs my mind and saps my life force. She’s just as destructive as the Tiger in her own way.
Sometimes I, as in the story, don’t know what is coming when I open the next door on my path. But there are times that involve choice–there are things I can do to increase the probability of encountering one or the other. This week, I’ve been facing one of these dilemmas.
My meds got changed a couple of months ago, when my hypomania/anxiety symptoms began to get more out of control. We added another non-addictive med that we hoped would help, and for about two weeks it seemed to. But I’ve been struggling with a much higher level of depression since then, and also gained twelve pounds in less than eight weeks. The twelve pounds is in addition to the fifteen I have been struggling with all spring, so we’re talking about a serious potential threat to my health if it goes on.
Six days ago, I went off the new med. My mood is better, and the food behavior and cravings have settled down markedly. But making that decision, and leaving the room of my spellweaving Lady, means opening the other door and meeting my Tiger again.
My Tiger, with the fearsome snarl of anxiety and the swift stride of hypomanic thought. With the vigilance of sleeplessness and the piercing teeth of sensation. It isn’t as extreme as it was a couple of months ago, but it’s beginning. Sleep has already taken a big hit, and I’m pacing around, unable to decide what to do next.
Rejecting this med feels like the right decision–I don’t want to accept or reject any med because I think my hypomanic state is somehow superior; I don’t! Both sets of symptoms have their own characteristics and cost. Right now, though, the level of depression is worrisome. My psychiatrist and I will try something else, and I will try to cope with the Tiger until then.
I don’t enjoy writing about these cycles again and again; I want to be writing new and clever things all of the time. I see many other bipolar folks writing similar check-ins, and I imagine they feel the same frustration. I suppose everyone has cycles to their challenges and faces recurring themes.
What’s the point of writing about it again and again, one might ask? I suppose, for me, it refines the quest for meaning–that is to say, in every cycle I write about it with a different twist. I use a new metaphor, give it a slightly different flavor, and in doing so I make it more a part of a larger tapestry. I remove some of the recursive-loop feeling from it.
We search for meaning. It’s our nature. Cynics say we’re fooling ourselves, but so be it. I couldn’t go on living if I saw what I go through as nothing but an endlessly repeating teeter-totter. Fool or not, I choose to use my creative quirks to make myself think there is something a little new in each brief season of my brain. That with every encounter of my Lady or Tiger, I experience something that can matter. Some bit of growth and change; some progress toward whatever’s next for my soul.