bipolar disorder

Three Day Quote Challenge: Day 1

Challenged by Sahara at Creo Somnium

I’m sure many of y’all have heard the news that Carrie Fisher passed away earlier today. As someone who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder about a year and a half ago, I was intrigued with her (beyond my Star Wars obsession) because of how honest and outspoken she is about having bipolar disorder herself — quite the inspiration. I’m not usually affected by celebrity deaths, but this one hurts. At the risk of seeming tacky for using a quote by Fisher today as part of this challenge, I’m going to use this anyway as a reminder to my fellow blog friends suffering from bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses, since her words apply to mental illnesses across the board IMO. carrie-fisher-bipolar-disorder

I’m not nominating anyone to participate — join in if you’d like. If you do, I’d like to challenge you to use a quote on mental illness for one of your days.

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Drop It

I don’t often tell people in real life that I have bipolar disorder. As would be expected, that’s on a need-to-know basis, and most people don’t need to know. As far as family and friends go, a few know, but most don’t. They do know, however, that I’ve dealt with anxiety and depression (mostly because I post links and stuff on Facebook, not so much me telling them directly), which is enough to explain any odd behaviors on my part. Even with new doctors, I avoid mentioning it unless I’m specifically asked why I’m taking certain medications. (A couple doctors didn’t bat an eye, but another acted flabbergasted before telling me, “that’s okay…that’s okay, don’t worry about it.” Awkward.)

Recently, one of the few people that knows brought it up. The ones that know generally don’t mention it — they sometimes ask how things are going, if everything is all right with me in such a serious way that I know what they’re referring to, but that’s the extent of it. My answers are usually “things are fine,” “things are okay,” or “things are a little tough right now, but they’ll be okay soon enough.” +0 points for transparency.

“I don’t think you have bipolar disorder,” this person told me. I had regretted telling this friend, who was more of a pal and less of a close friend (if you know what I mean), but it was an alcohol-induced admission, one of those times when I had too much to drink and had gotten emotional and said too much. Ugh.

“Okay…” I was taken aback. The comment was out of left field (we hadn’t even been discussing anything related to mental health).

“My cousin has bipolar disorder, and it’s really bad,” he said. “I’ve never seen things bad with you at all, so you probably don’t have that. It’s just something else with you.”

Right. Someone who hasn’t spent a lot of time around me, who has never had an in-depth conversation with me about my mental health issues, knows better than my psychiatrist and doctor.

“Okay…well, things do get bad with me. The psychiatrist diagnosed me with bipolar disorder for a reason. And…after almost a year and a half, that diagnosis hasn’t changed.”

“Yeah,” he said, “but I’ve never seen it with you. And bipolar disorder is bad. My cousin can barely function sometimes. I really think you’ve got something else.”

I started feeling kinda pissed, but didn’t let it show. “Maybe your cousin has type 1. I have type 2. But it’s not going to look the same with everyone. And you probably won’t ever see anything from me. Not to mention, I’m on medications that help a lot, and that can take a long time to get right for many people,” I rambled.

Drop it. 

“My cousin doesn’t take anything, but I feel like I would see it from you if you had it,” he insisted.

“Okay. Like I said, my psychiatrist has diagnosed me. With mixed features. And I’ve actually read the criteria, so I know that it fits.” Plus, in a period of doubt once — when I had myself had convinced that the psychiatrist was wrong, since who wants to have something that’s going to be wrong with them lifelong and take meds lifelong? — the psychiatrist had broken out her copy of the DSM-5 and went through it with me, hitting on all my symptoms that fit the criteria.

“You know, they really do over diagnose bipolar disorder now,” he told me. “I read about it online.”

This was pointless. And ridiculous…why should I have to convince something like this to someone who really didn’t have a clue — not about me, not about bipolar disorder, not about how to be a polite person? “Right. I’m sure they do.” And then I changed the subject, which I should’ve already done.

People always do this sort of thing — when you’re anxious, it’s not that there’s anything wrong with your brain, but you just need to stop worrying. It’s easy enough for everyone else, so it should be for you, right? Same with depression — everyone gets a little sad sometimes, so you just need to get over it.

I don’t really have any point with this post other than to get something that had been bothering me for a few weeks off my chest. I could tell you not to be that person who makes such comments, but if you’re someone who reads this blog, I probably don’t need to say that.

Edit: Also (since I’ve said it a couple times in the comments already), I don’t think people always have bad intentions when they make ignorant comments or push with topics like this. That doesn’t make it any less frustrating, but does make the difference between being ticked off and wanting to punch someone in the throat.

I’m Okay (And I Am)

It’s been a while since I did a mental health check in post, so I’m going to do that now.

If you asked me how I am right now, I’d tell you that “I’m okay,” and actually mean it. Typically when someone asks how I am, I respond with “I’m okay” or “I’m fine,” but what that really means is “no way in hell I’m telling you anything.” This holds true even with the people who know and understand depression. Very rarely will I tell someone if things are fucking awful, and even then, it will be a seriously downplayed version of what’s going on.

But today I am okay.

My version of okay:

  • My depression has been much more manageable.
  • My daily mood swings are more stable. I still have ups and downs, but there is improvement.
  • The PTSD nightmares aren’t happening nearly as often.
  • The suicidal ideation that was…tough as hell, I guess (I’m not quite sure how to describe getting stuck with those thoughts) has been occurring less, and I’ve been able to not get stuck in those thoughts for the most part.
  • My anxiety is all over the place still, but if i compare it to my anxiety level a couple years ago (something I may address in a future post), I know it’s not quite as bad. So that’s something.

I really expected to fall apart last week. We had the anniversary of losing Baby N and my grandmother, and that always seems to fall within the early stages of a deep depression. And then an anniversary of something else bad that happened last year is coming up at the end of the month. With all of that, I figured I’d be a fucking mess at this point, but for now I’m okay.

While things had been mostly gradually improving since starting the mood stabilizers, most of this improvement has come about in the past 5-6 weeks when the psychiatrist increased my dosage of Lamictal again. I know what you’re thinking right now — it hasn’t been enough time to have a full blown depression to know whether the higher dosage has truly made an impact. If I were feeling this way during almost any other time of the year, I’d probably be more inclined to think the same and would be waiting for the other shoe to drop, but given that this is historically the worst time of year for me, I truly think we’ve finally hit a truly effective dosage.

I will see the psychiatrist in a couple of weeks and look forward to reporting this improvement. I think there’s more room for improvement, but I doubt she’ll go up on the Lamictal for now since things are manageable. She has major concerns about overmedicating patients with bipolar disorder and prefers to keep symptoms manageable rather than wipe them out completely. She told me before that she expects me to still go through depressive and hypomanic periods, but that they shouldn’t be so severe that I can’t deal. On one hand, who wants to feel depressed at all outside of the normal situational stuff, but then again, if completely medicating away the depression means I’ll also lose the good stuff, well, I don’t want that, either. (And I believe that would happen, as when I was on high doses of antidepressants, I was so numbed out that I had no desire to be creative at all. I was nearly completely devoid of feeling, until they simply stopped working and things would start going to hell.) So, I get her philosophy for sure.

Now on to therapy. The therapist would likely say the therapy is part of the lack of falling apart this month. Maybe she’d be right. We’ve been working on my feelings around these things, plus have been working through the thing that happened almost a year ago. That was the breakthrough I mentioned in my last therapy post, which has us back to weekly sessions now.

And for those sessions — they have been tough as hell. Hence my not writing about them. Well, I’ve tried, but words can be hard to come by sometimes, especially for the tough as hell things. We’ve been doing more EMDR, which led to the therapist telling me that we need to start exploring some abuse that happened when I was really young that I mostly can’t remember. I’m not entirely sure how that will work, but I would imagine that things are only going to get harder in therapy for the time being. I’m hoping I can be tough enough to deal with that and not fall apart as I did before when it came up. With the meds improving things and maybe being mentally stronger than I was several months ago, there’s a better chance at least.

TL;DR: Moods are better, therapy is getting harder.

You’re So Lucky

Whenever I talk to someone about my husband, I’m often told how lucky I am.

“He cooks? Wow, you’re lucky.”

“He helps out with the kids? You’re so lucky.”

“He changes diapers [in public restrooms]? My husband would never. You don’t know how good you’ve got it.”

Those are just a few drops in the bucket of my perceived luckiness (or otherwise good fortune), but they’re fairly representative of the type of comments I’ve gotten over the years. Many of these comments make me question the standards some women have for their husbands. I don’t think it should be considered luck that my husband changes the diapers of the child he helped create or cooks some meals, as he eats, too.

(I also wonder whether people ever think that my husband is lucky to be married to me. Probably not. If I’m letting my husband do so much to help out, then he probably got the short end of the stick in this marriage in their eyes, and they haven’t gotten past the tip of the iceberg as far as the things my husband does goes.)

But this post isn’t really about the roles husband and wife or mom and dad have in the home. Because at the end of the day (when I’m not griping about my husband’s slobbiness or attempts to give us frostbite by adjusting the thermostat), I really do feel lucky. Just not in the ways those other women think I am.

I feel lucky that I have a husband who copes with my mental illness as well as he does. Not only did he encourage me to get help when he noticed things were spiraling out of control, even though I was adamant that nothing was wrong with me, he didn’t bat an eye when the many, many labels started getting thrown at me. I was scared that he might leave me and want to find someone normal, but he told me that I was “perfectly imperfect” and that he loved me just the way I am.

I’m lucky that my husband can pick up on my mood shifts. I’m not talking so much about the big cycles (although he’s aware of those, too), but the ups and downs that I often experience throughout the day. I try not to let things show, but he can often tell by the slight edge to my voice or my sudden quietness that I need my space or need him to take over doing homework with Little Man or whatever it is that I need in order to try to get a handle on myself.

I’m lucky that I have a husband who picks up the slack when I’m depressed. While I’m not about praising my husband for doing chores around the house or running errands, I do appreciate it so much when he takes on some of my load (on top of his full-time job) when making myself get out of bed in the morning is like climbing a mountain. Does everything get done during those weeks and sometimes months? No, but he tries. (For the record I do try, too, but during those times getting one or two chores done feels more exhausting than deep cleaning the entire house.)

I’m also lucky that my husband tries to reel me in when he notices certain moods (I guess you’d call it) getting out of hand. For example, a few weeks ago, we had dinner with some friends. On the drive home, I told my husband I got a weird vibe and didn’t want to do anything with them again. He was shocked, as these are long-time friends of ours. Instead of arguing with me about it, he said it was something we could talk about later, that we didn’t have to make any decisions at the moment.

A week later, he asked if I still felt that way. I told him that I didn’t and couldn’t understand what came over me in the moment to feel so strongly, as no one did a thing the least bit offensive and were awesome as always. I guess it’s just part of the whole mood disorder thing, but the main thing was that he was looking out for me on that.

Staying with that same “reeling me in” theme, I’m lucky that he tries to divert my plots to go off my meds and quit seeing the psychiatrist and the therapist. Yes, I know I shouldn’t do this when I’m of a rational mind. Occasionally I’m not of a rational mind, though. I doubt everything, including the legitimacy of my disorders, and am convinced that all I need to do is quit everything and mentally toughen up. He makes sure that doesn’t happen, thankfully.

So, yes, I think I’m lucky to have a spouse that supports me through thick and thin. Is thinking this a bit hypocritical since I raise my eyebrows at other women when they tell me I’m lucky my husband does things? Especially since this is kinda what he promised when he said his “through sickness and in health” vows? Probably. But I still feel lucky to have someone who loves me in the way that he does.