I just realized something: with the exception of a couple of brief hypomanic periods, I haven’t had a real, live, rip-roarin’ manic episode in a year. Seriously. It simply has not happened. Not even during the summer. And it feels like it’s been an eternity since it did.
Obviously, I have mixed feelings about it. I know that mania is NOT my friend, and that I’ve been playing much better with others since I last experienced it. But now all I get are downswings, and even though they’re not as severe as they once were, I’m not thrilled. The only advantage (if you can call it that) to having bipolar disorder is the high, before I go completely “toucan”…..when I’m happy and productive and I love people and everything is BEAUTIFUL!! And now I don’t even have that guilty pleasure.
Yeah, I know…..pass me a little cheese with that whine. Most of the time I’m content to be stable, which is a state that eluded me for much of my life until medications and therapy entered the picture. I just hate it that when I do decompensate, my mood always goes in the dumper. I’ve had three depressive episodes and a mixed episode in the past year, which still makes me a rapid cycler, but there are no upswings. What kind of bullshit is that!??
Now I understand why people stop their medications. It’s not just that they miss mania, it’s that there’s no “reward” for surviving the depression. I’m feeling marginally better today, which is probably why I’m whiny; I was too dispirited before, so my bitching and moaning are actually a good sign. And I know I should be grateful that my meds do what they’re supposed to in suppressing the highs…..I just wish they were as good at eliminating the lows.
But I have to chuckle at myself a little, too. I have researched my illness to the point where I could have written Bipolar For Dummies, but for some reason I got it into my head that my diagnosis had changed because of the repeated bouts with depression. My paperwork from the mental health clinic showed only that I was being seen for depression and anxiety, so I asked Dr. Awesomesauce if he had, in fact, changed the DX.
He tried hard not to laugh, but couldn’t help himself. For one thing, he doesn’t change anything without talking to me about it first; and for another, I had the same idea LAST fall too, although I’d arrived at that conclusion via different means, and it’s just as full of malarkey now as it was then. After all that’s happened and all my studies, you’d think I’d know that bipolar is a forever diagnosis—you don’t lose it just because you’re no longer experiencing one of the “poles”—and that mania is still a possibility, even though it’s been a long time gone.
Well, he fixed that in the computer and effectively eliminated all doubt, which was just as well because I needed something to give the Social Security office that lists all the medical problems I have. What the hell, at least the documentation matches up now. And I’m not as depressed as I was. It’s all good.
One of the advantages of admitting one is depressed is it takes all the pressure off to pretend otherwise. I’ve fought it tooth and nails for over a week, but the truth is I feel lousy and I may as well acknowledge it. There’s no use in trying to pass it off as a little blip on the radar, or blame it solely on what’s going on in my life (although that definitely triggered it). It just is, and it stinks on ice. Or as Dr. Awesomesauce poetically put it the other day, “You feel stuck, and it sucks”.
It’s not ALL suckage, as yesterday’s amazing Facebook hook-up goes to prove. Will and I have to give up our three cats because the family members we’re moving in with are wildly allergic—the kind of allergic that requires the carrying of an Epi-Pen—and I posted my dilemma on FB. Before the day was out, however, I not only had a friend who would take all three, but another friend agreed to drive them to Seattle and still another is going to finance the trip. Now I won’t have to worry about them, because I know where they’ll be and that they’ll get to stay together. I already miss them, even though they’re still here…..but at least there’ll be a happy ending to their story. Who says there are no miracles anymore?
I’m still majorly bummed out about pretty much everything else, though, and that doesn’t help matters. I’ve apologized to Will a hundred times because I’m basically useless and he doesn’t need me to be sick now. Of course, he doesn’t blame me for anything and is doing everything he can to raise my spirits; luckily for us both he has succeeded in quashing my budding suicidal ideation (the last thing on earth he should have to deal with at this tough time in HIS life). It wasn’t as serious as it was back in June when I was really down, it was only fleeting and I think it just happened because that’s the way my mind works in depression: I want OUT, dammit!
But there is no way out of either the depression or the situation, only through it, and I know that. I keep trying to do what Dr. A said and seek the opportunities in it; never one to blow sunshine up my skirt, he still thinks I can turn this into a positive thing, and he’s probably right. I just haven’t found the good stuff yet, and being in a downswing makes it really hard to look for it.
This, too, shall pass…..
OK, I’ll admit it: I am officially in a depressive episode. It says so right on my paperwork from Dr. Awesomesauce’s office. It’s what they call an “atypical” depression, which is common in bipolar people, meaning I sleep too much and eat too much junk but can still derive some pleasure from enjoyable experiences, like watching The Big Bang Theory. It is also what Dr. A considers a perfectly understandable downswing, given the fact that I am grieving the loss of my old life and having trouble visualizing a happy ending to this story. Even so, I hate it, because it’s more than just sadness. It’s hopelessness.
As is usually the case with these episodes, I have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, and occasionally I’m so wiped out that I need an afternoon nap. I don’t feel like showering or grooming myself, and I’m spending too many days lounging in the old sweats that double as pajamas. I have a million things to do in order to prepare for this move and don’t want to do any of it…..today all I could manage was to take down all the pictures off the walls, and I cried through most of it. The act of removing the wall hangings symbolized everything that’s wrong with life these days, and I just couldn’t help myself, even as I cursed myself for doing it. I HATE crying. It does no good, and I look like hell afterwards.
I also asked Will how he was managing. Dr. A questioned me about that yesterday, and all I could say was that he was calm and focused, as usual. But it got me to wondering how he really does feel, and I was ashamed that I hadn’t thought to discuss it with him before. He confessed that he was “disappointed” that nothing had come along to make all of this unnecessary, and he feels every bit as badly as I do about having to give up the cats. But he absolutely, positively is NOT angry with me for any of it, even though it’s my illness that has, in essence, betrayed us both.
Naturally my depressed brain tends to believe otherwise, but I am forcing myself to accept his refusal to assign blame at face value. Number one, because I didn’t screw up on purpose, and number two, because it really isn’t my fault. Shit happens. People get sick. I did the best I could to keep going in the face of what turned out to be insurmountable odds, and all I wound up doing was hating my life and spending much of it ill. And overall—this depressed mood notwithstanding—I’ve been a lot less stressed since I haven’t been working.
There. I said it. I was killing myself trying to work full-time and do what I believed was my duty as a productive citizen. It was all I knew how to do, and there were even times when I did it pretty well. Some days I miss my fast-paced lifestyle (and the money and prestige that came with it), and I’ll probably always wish I could have continued it and stayed well. But I couldn’t, and while this move looks, smells, and feels like failure, I have to listen to the people who care about me and accept the unacceptable.
That’s what logic says. I wish someone could explain it to the part of me that’s looking at bare walls and seeing the outlines of where family pictures used to be.
Great visit with Dr. Awesomesauce this morning. I’ve been more depressed than I wanted to admit, but an hour with him and I feel better. As always, he gave me some food for thought and encouraged me to look beyond the immediate situation, which is hard to do when I have a metaphorical brick wall in front of my face, but not impossible. This is one time when “one day at a time” is NOT serving me well. At least I can see a glimmer of hope now, and maybe these upcoming changes really aren’t the end of life as I know it after all.
We talked about disability again, which he is going to do his best to help me with. I don’t think either of us wanted to think it was the best thing for me, but it is and I’m glad I applied. I’m in the process of gathering documentation, and was going to print a copy of my diagnoses and med list from the patient portal to send in with my other paperwork. Ironically, the only diagnoses I found in my online medical record were depression and anxiety. WTF?
I asked him if he’d changed my diagnosis, which I rather doubted because he ALWAYS talks to me about things before he does them, but stranger things have happened. (Maybe I was hoping he had…..?) Silly me. He was quite amused that I would even think that for a moment and quickly corrected it in the computer, then printed it out and handed it to me. So now all my records match up, and I can quit tantalizing myself with thoughts of not having bipolar. Seems I went through that last fall, and got smacked upside the head with back-to-back mood episodes. I better watch that stinkin’ thinkin’…..it never ends well.
Dr. A is also not going to change any of my meds (read: taper me off Zyprexa) anytime soon. Which makes sense, because even though I’m somewhat down, I’m basically stable and not having manic or mixed moods. So if it ain’t broke, goes the thinking, he’s not gonna fix it. And I have to acknowledge the fact that I’ve been so much better overall since I went on the Z full-time. There have been a couple of very brief hypomanias and some depression, but NOTHING like I used to experience. I just hate it that when I have to go on a new med or increase an old one, I never seem to be able to get back to where I was. There are so many scary stories about long-term side effects in people who have to be on multiple anti-psychotics for extended periods of time, and I don’t want them to happen to me.
But consistency is a good thing, and Dr. A is nothing if not consistent. He is a port in the storm that is my life with this disease, and I feel safer knowing that he’s there to guide me through the rough water. Don’t get me wrong—Will and my family and friends are wonderful and I’m blessed to have their love and support. But it’s also good that there is someone who knows the things I can’t tell my loved ones lest I frighten them, and doesn’t judge me for it. The world would be a far better place if everyone had someone like him in their lives.
I am definitely having a downturn. It’s situational. There’s so much that needs to be accomplished in the next few weeks and nothing is even remotely settled yet. I’m looking at finances and the numbers scare the hell out of me. Will and I have to re-home three cats whom we’ve had for their entire lives, and it’s breaking my heart even to think about it. One is 14 years old, for Pete’s sake—who’s going to take care of her for the few years she has left? I never thought I’d have to give up having cats, but my son-in-law is wildly allergic and we can’t take them with us. But then, I never thought life would come to this.
I’m beginning to think filing for disability was a really good idea. I’ve continued to look for jobs, but I can’t get around the fact that the market is horrible for people over 50 and my work history over the past five years makes me look like a complete flake. I’m not getting down on myself for this, it’s just a fact of life; and having been a hiring manager myself a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I understand why employers are reluctant to take a chance on me. It doesn’t make my work search any easier, but I get it. I really do. I only wish I could fix it.
Wouldn’t it be nice if life came with “Ctrl-Alt-Delete” buttons?
I have also resigned myself to the fact that I am going to go through this transition whether I like it or not, and I can’t be expected to stand here grinning like an idiot while it happens. I wish I didn’t have the bad thoughts that accompany these down times; they seem to come whether I’m clinically or merely situationally depressed. But I can usually banish them by forcing myself to think about something else—today it was the movie “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, which not only distracted me but I enjoyed it thoroughly. I also made a big pot of chili and a pan of cornbread for dinner; who says I have to get bogged down and wallow in my miseries?
So I’m in pretty decent shape for someone who is NOT having a good time in life. I see Dr. Awesomesauce on Monday, and I’ll bring all this up to him but I don’t think it will alarm him too much. He’s seen me through these things before—as have you—and I always come out on the other side. Always. There will be no early exit from the festivities. And maybe if I tell myself enough times that it’ll be OK, it will be.
OK. I’ve taken a couple of days off from posting and I feel refreshed. A good friend of mine took me to task the other night for overthinking and being too self-involved, and as much as it hurt (me? overthink? I would never…..haha) I had to admit she was right. As a result, I’ve been able to crawl out of my cave a little and focus on something besides my own misery, and surprise, surprise, I feel much better.
If there is one good thing to say about having bipolar disorder, it’s this: no matter how you feel at a given time, it’s going to change. You can count on it. However, it usually doesn’t turn on a dime like this, which is how I know that what I’ve been dealing with is a lot of anxiety, rather than depression or a mixed mood. I’m still not a happy camper, but I’ve settled down a lot and even been able to enjoy things like an evening with the kids and grandkids and a supermarket trip with Will.
That’s something I’ve always loved about us…..we can even make something as mundane as grocery shopping fun. We talk, we laugh, we goof around, and we get it done without a big hassle. It’s a team effort, and we sometimes have to negotiate regarding desserts (he’s a chocoholic and would be content to eat Hershey bars every day of his life, while I like a variety of sweets). But overall, we have a pretty darn good time doing this weekly chore.
We still don’t have firm plans for our move, although I imagine our landlords will assist us in this regard when they get back from South America where they’re doing missionary work. I look around at the mess the house is in and wonder how the hell we’re ever going to get all this stuff packed up and ready to go—and I know sitting in front of the computer writing isn’t getting us any closer to that goal—but we’ve got to start somewhere.
And I have to stay well. This isn’t a time to get bogged down in self-recrimination and give in to my fears about what may lie ahead. There’s too much to do. Time to shift gears.
Thank you, my friend (you know who you are).