I saw my new primary care provider yesterday. My doctor of some 20 years retired this past summer, so an appointment was set up for me with the resident whom I will call Dr. Pleasant when I was released from the hospital. I wondered why I was following up with an internist after a psych hospitalization (I see Dr. Awesomesauce on Monday), but as I’m generally a compliant patient, I decided to keep the appointment.
It turned out to be a most satisfying experience. Dr. P spent a full hour with me, going over my entire medical history—when was the last time that happened?—and he listened respectfully to what I had to say. He may be all of 30, if that, but he is very thorough and seems to know what he’s doing. He’s a lot more interested in my diabetes than my former doctor was, and of course he wants me to diet and exercise; but he’s realistic about what I can do (or will do) with all my aches and pains and isn’t going to push me too hard. As a result, I’m going to cut back on the carbs at least a little, and make a good-faith effort to take off a few pounds.
Then we got down to basics about the bipolar. I wasn’t looking forward to this part of the discussion, seeing as how I live on the thin edge of dignity and it’s always hard to talk about my psych history with medical people who don’t know me. But it became obvious within a very short time that Dr. P is completely non-judgmental about mental illness, and he thinks it’s great that I finally have a definitive diagnosis so I can work on getting better within that framework. “Sometimes it takes a hospitalization and new eyes to look at the situation,” he said. “It’s tough to be in limbo and not know for sure what you’re dealing with.”
You can say that again. All I feel, now that the question of what “flavor” of bipolar I have is settled, is relief. I’m not thrilled, to be sure, but I can live with it. Besides, I had it long before someone slapped a label on it…..I just wasn’t fully accepting because the old diagnosis was so nebulous. It gave me wiggle room to deny I had the illness at all, and for me that can be very dangerous. You can’t give me wiggle room on such a serious issue.
I did the same thing with alcohol way back in the day, before I quit drinking—I figured that if I didn’t get hammered every time I drank, I didn’t have a problem. But then it got to the point where I WAS getting hammered all the time, and when I finally sought help, the good people at Alcoholics Anonymous broke through the last of my denial. I accepted the fact that I did, indeed, have an alcohol problem, and it happened much more quickly than accepting that I had bipolar disorder. The only thing that’s kept me from destroying myself completely is that dignity thing I was talking about earlier. I don’t want to be messy. I don’t want to be thought of as a coward. I don’t want people to know how much I hate myself sometimes. And I don’t want anyone to be angry with me.
But those are thoughts for another day. Today it’s cold and dry, but the sun is shining and my daughter has invited Will and me over for a barbecue. It’s time to enjoy life a little and appreciate its gifts.