You know you’re doing well when you’re sitting in your psychiatrist’s office and all the two of you do is BS for the entire 50 minutes.
While he did find something to nag me about—he always does—the need for a colonoscopy is not imminent, and for the rest of the time we told each other funny stories and generally enjoyed each other’s company.
This is a far cry from where we were just a few months ago. Back then there was no lighthearted banter as I was locked in a life-or-death struggle with my disease; only the passage of time and the reassessment of the circumstances have made me realize how very close I came to ending it all. And only the fear of eternal separation from God and the love of my husband kept me here…..and even that almost wasn’t enough.
But now the tide has turned and life, while not thrilling, has become kinder. It doesn’t hurt that the weather has been gorgeous lately; I feel light and breezy, like I do in the early summer, only without the manic component. Suddenly it’s easy to overlook the sins of the guy who just cut me off in traffic, or to be extra nice to the harassed checkout girl at Safeway. What’s more, I no longer feel so guilty over losing the house and the lifestyle we once enjoyed. It happened, it’s over, there’s no going back…..and it’s OK.
In fact, things are so OK that I won’t see Dr. Awesomesauce until May. It’ll be the longest time I’ve gone without seeing him in the three years he’s been my doctor, but it’s time to let the leash out a little bit and we both know it. It’s nice to not need him so much now, even though he ranks second only to Will on my candidate-for-sainthood list. Maybe he’ll finally forget about that stupid toucan shirt in the meantime…..and then again, maybe not.
It’s all good. :-)
In an effort to get back into reading again, I got a library card and checked out Kay Redfield Jamison’s “An Unquiet Mind”, which I’ve wanted to read for years. Dr. Jamison is a well-known bipolar expert who happens to suffer from a particularly nasty version of BP 1, making her writing that much more credible given her lived experience with the disorder.
It took me a full week, reading in fits and starts according to my attention span, but I made it through this fascinating story of manic-depressive illness (she doesn’t like the term ‘bipolar’). The only problem is that it’s made me question my own diagnosis: how could I be in the same category with someone who’s gone through psychotic manias so severe that she became violent, needing hospitalization and sometimes even physical restraints?
OK, I’ve had episodes where I was verbally abusive and thrown things. I even punched a refrigerator once. I’ve also had touches of psychosis (ever heard music that isn’t playing or cats running around the ER? I have). But I can’t imagine going through the kind of hell Dr. Jamison has…..and yet we carry the same label.
I’ve researched this topic in the DSM and found that bipolar 1 has a number of specifiers (e.g. ” with mixed features” and “most recent episode depressed”. But there are no different levels of severity within the category, and I wonder why there aren’t. I don’t think my manias are as serious as those of some other members of my cohort. But then, several psychiatrists (including my own) have agreed on my diagnosis, so I may as well stop trying to wiggle my way out of it.
Anyway, I found Dr. Jamison’s story compelling and utterly believable, because even despite the advantages of wealth and privilege, she has suffered the tortures of the damned that make all bipolars kin. I recommend this book for anyone with bipolar of any variety, as well as those who love someone who has the disease.
And yeah, I’m proud of myself for reading an entire book, as brief as it was. It was the first one I’ve read since 2011. Now it’s on to a book of Stephen King short stories!
This post will probably seem somewhat disjointed because I’m having trouble concentrating today. It goes in spurts; some days my focus is laser-sharp, while others find me unable to string together a cohesive series of thoughts.
Today is one of the latter. Even this short post is taking forever to compose. My nails tap the keyboard as I search for words while ideas swirl maddeningly just out of reach. This must be what having attention-deficit disorder is like, although I don’t carry that diagnosis. Sometimes I wonder about that in spite of the fact that I only get crazy-active when I’m hypomanic. However, I can usually channel that energy into goal-directed activities unless I go into full-blown mania, in which case I bounce off the walls of the universe.
Which has nothing to do with the present situation. I’m really only writing because I need to put something out there for my readership and I’m too spacey to get into my usual groove. I forgot my AM meds the other day, but that should’ve been an issue then, not four days after the fact. I was wondering why I was so speeded-up and irritable, until I noticed my Breakfast of Champions was still in its slot in the pill minder. Of course, by that time I was due for my nighttime Fistful of Sanity. Shit.
Now Will is back on my case about taking my meds, even though I’ve been 100% perfect otherwise since I got out of the hospital in November. (Yeah, I checked my mood chart.) That’s pretty good. But then, I’m pretty motivated too, because I do NOT want to end up in there again. Besides, there’s a lot to like about being free from big mood swings.
And now the stereo is playing Elton John’s “Benny and the Jets”, which instantly takes me back to the summer of ’74, when all I had to worry about was my tan and whether my bikini would fit right. Sure wish I had those problems now!
It’s been several months now since my brain last attempted to murder me, and with the passage of time the harsh lines that defined that episode and the resulting hospitalization have blurred somewhat. Now I look back and wonder how I could have even THOUGHT about suicide, let alone planned it…..only the method, and whether I had the nerve to go through with it, were in question.
And that scares the hell out of me. Because it could happen again. Because it probably WILL happen again. I’m doing great now, but as I’ve learned to my sorrow, remission is just another part of the cycle; I cycled in, and no doubt will cycle back out at some point.
I wish it wasn’t this way. I wish bipolar were like chicken pox, which is (usually) a one-and-done proposition. Failing that, I wish I could take meds only when I’m actually ill—I hate being a zombie in the morning and a space case the rest of the time. I even scare myself while driving sometimes because I forget to check my mirrors and go along my merry way without being fully aware of my surroundings.
But that’s the price I have to pay for these magificent periods of tranquility. It’s infinitely better than not having them at all, which I fear would be the case if I were not being treated. I still wonder how an illness I didn’t really know I had until three years ago could come screaming out of nowhere and blow up into a raging case of bipolar 1.
Still, it’s easy to forget in between episodes how very sick I can get, especially in times like these when I’m well and all’s right with the world. While there’s no need to borrow trouble, it’s best for me to remember that it all can go bad on me at any time…..and that surviving bipolar means being vigilant for signs of trouble without letting the illness run my life.
Here’s a few more random thoughts, if you want them.
I’d forgotten how long my hair really is until my son-in-law colored and straightened it for me last weekend. It’s way down past the bra line, and even though I should probably act my age and cut it short, I’m going to wear it as long as I want for as long as I want. So there.
Life is definitely on an upswing, even if I am a little bored and restless. I get dressed every day now and I’ve even started caring about my fingernails again. I’ve neglected them sadly for the past few months, leaving them ragged and roughened, but now they’re buffed to a shine and sporting a sheer mint green polish. Who knows, maybe I’ll go back to wearing mascara again.
I have noticed that I don’t seem to have much of an appetite lately. I mean, I get hungry and eat whatever is put in front of me, but eating doesn’t excite me. This is usually a sign of budding hypomania, but in the absence of other symptoms I’m not too concerned. I just wish I could lose some weight, but my diet is crap and there’s no way I’ll drop any pounds eating bacon-and-cheese hot dogs and taking Zyprexa. C’est la vie.
And speaking of food, I have decided that dogs are bottomless pits. They are never full. They eat their own food, then they come after ours and wait under the table, praying we’ll drop some. We never have to sweep the kitchen floor because they consume everything including the dust kitties in the corners. Rufus even eats paper towels out of the trash can (and then sicks them up on the carpet because he can’t digest the fibers).
Anyway, that’s some of what’s going on in my little world these days. Thanks for reading!
It seems as though several blog posts are swimming around in my head at the same time, so I can’t guarantee how this one will turn out. Maybe I should try combining a couple of them. Here goes:
I’ve noticed a growing restlessness lately that makes me wonder if I should try working again, if only for a little variety (not to mention the dough). There really isn’t much to do here except clean the kitchen and bathroom, and you can only do that so many times in a given week.
Of course, the fact that my online life has been somewhat curtailed doesn’t help, although I manage to stay in touch via phone and tablet. But I do need something to do, and I’m half-tempted to say “aw the hell with it” as far as Social Security is concerned…..
…..at least until I remember that I get the heebie-jeebies just THINKING about working in a fast-paced environment. And aren’t they all fast-paced nowadays? Why do employers seem to be so proud of that—don’t they know that this sort of thing wears most people down? I’ve been there and done that, and I have the doctor bills to prove it. If only there were something I could do that would provide structure without overstimulation!
It’s fun to watch the dogs interact, though. My Zinnie and the landlady’s dog, Rufus, have become good friends—TOO good, actually, as Rufus has been doing his best to make her preggers. The fact that he’s three times her size (and neutered to boot) hasn’t stopped him, or her either for that matter. But she’s just like a pesky little kid who keeps pestering her older sibling to play long after he’s had enough, and last night he got in her face and let out a loud warning bark that scared the bejeebus out of her.
Well, Zin got the message and stayed away from Rufus for the rest of the evening. In fact, she was more subdued than I’ve ever seen her…..he really put her in her place! I hope they kiss and make up sometime soon, though, because it’s hilarious to watch them run around the house, my little dog acting lije a circus monkey trying to ride a bucking bronco. Sometimes she even manages to stay on the whole eight seconds. :-)
I probably should mention the fact that my stress levels have dropped dramatically since we got settled into our new place. On a 1-10 scale, I used to be in the 8 or 9 range; now it’s more like 1-2. Of course there’s always SOME stress involved, especially with finances, but then I fretted about money when I was making $60K a year, so that’s nothing new.
I don’t know how to live this way quite yet. I’ve been stressed and anxious for most of my adult life; but this move has taken a great deal of pressure off me. After all, we have a decent roof over our heads,we are warm and dry,and our rent and bills were paid before the first of the month. I know we owe a fortune to our former landlords, the hospital,and the utility companies,but there’s nothing we can do about it. So why worry?
It’s amazing how living simply takes so much of the heavy decision-making off the table. We’ll be SOL if something happens to the car or if I don’t get disability, but we don’t have to choose food over medicine, or rent over electricity. In other words, all we really have to do is put one foot in front of the other.
And I can’t help but think that’s the lesson in all this. I learned about “one day at a time” in AA, but never made it my own. Now I get it, and it’s a game-changer.
I still think about what’s happened in my life over the past several years and wish it hadn’t, but it did and it can’t be undone. I’ve forgiven myself; there is a reason for everything and perhaps surviving a while longer is it. I was so close to suicide in October that it still scares the hell out of me; now I wonder how I could even have thought it was an option. As hard as it is to be flat broke and living in someone else’s house, it’s a hell of a lot better than being dead.
So is keeping it simple and being mostly stress-free for the first time in ages. Long may it last.