The Queen of Denial

An online friend of mine named Sarah, who blogs over at bi [polar] curious, once wrote a post called “The Denial Relapse”, about why we BPs tend to be so resistant to accepting the fact of our illness and how we end up in trouble because of that. Every so often I go back and re-read that post, which I have bookmarked for easy reference, and now that I’ve had the game-changing hospital stay and new diagnosis, it holds a different meaning for me.

I can look back at several instances when denying my bipolar-ness either led to or exacerbated mood episodes. Oh, I knew intellectually that I had a problem that was not going away, but somehow I always found a way to attribute it to something else, like an existential crisis or seasonal affective disorder. I talked a lot about having/being bipolar, but some small part of me resisted the label right up until that night in the hospital, when I sat at the nurses’ station reading my online chart and saw the words bipolar I disorder with depression.

It was as if all the cosmic tumblers clicked into place at that moment. If I’d been a cartoon character, you would’ve seen a light bulb come on over my head. I will never know why it took those words to break through what remained of my denial, but it was just like that defining meeting in AA years ago when a fellow member asked me what it took for me to get a “buzz”. I told her about half a case of beer. She said, “Good God, Maria, what do you consider a ‘buzz’!?” and at that instant I realized that I really was an alcoholic and not just a problem drinker.

I’ve never had another drink. I’ve been sorely tempted to many times, and there was that one time that I overdosed on Ativan, which was pretty much the same thing; but not one drop of alcohol has touched my lips in almost 23 years. Not even Communion wine. So how come it’s taken me almost three years—and five words—to fully internalize the fact that I have this illness too?

I don’t know. I may never know. And it probably doesn’t matter. A friend of mine tells me I need to re-frame my thoughts so I can turn what I perceive as a negative into a positive, e.g. OK, I’m not working, but look, I don’t have to commute and put in 10-hour days anymore. Of course, in a sense it’s just another type of denial, but it sure makes me feel better when I do it.

Now, there’s no guarantee that accepting, and even embracing, my diagnosis will preclude going back into denial mode. Sarah says it happens to a lot of people, where they think they’ve got their disease under such good control that they’re fooled into believing it no longer exists…..or that they never had it to begin with. That’s been my downfall, too. And there’s nothing like a challenge to make me think I can shake off my illness—particularly if there’s a chance it may benefit me financially.

For now, however, I’m borrowing a page from AA’s Big Book and taking things one day at a time. I can’t look ahead any farther than that. And that’s OK.

Published by bpnurse

I'm a retired registered nurse and writer who also happens to be street-rat crazy, if the DSM-IV.....oops, 5---is to be believed. I was diagnosed with bipolar I disorder at the age of 55, and am still sorting through the ashes of the flaming garbage pile that my life had become. Here, I'll share the lumps and bumps of a late-life journey toward sanity.... along with some rants, gripes, sour grapes and good old-fashioned whining from time to time. It's not easy being bipolar in a unipolar world; let's figure it out together.

3 thoughts on “The Queen of Denial

  1. Just reading a couple of your posts and feel quite like you, I got a Bipolar diagnosis 4yrs ago and at the time I was a bit shocked as my whole life had been a train wreck…also alcoholic…..from an early age. I had never thought for one minute of Bipolar. Now I am starting to doubt my diagnosis. It’s not that I feel wonderful or anything and while I kind of tick all the boxes in many way for this diagnosis I am wondering if it might be something else. Or have something else aswell. I was on Lithium for 5 months and never felt despair like it….I was depressed before I started it but my mood just plummeted once on Lithium. I took myself off it and my psychiatrist was not that happy about it but then put me on Lamictal and I was no better. Over the past several years I have been on every antidepressant known. Cymbalta was the one that helped me but at the time (prior to diagnosis). After a couple of weeks on it I was a new person, with confidence like I had never known. But after a yr and a half on it I went a bit mad and did something without thinking of the consequences, I felt on top of the world….it was then I got my diagnosis. My anxiety levels became uncontrollable and I could not sleep eat or go out the front door. I felt really paranoid and kept thinking someone was coming for me. I eventually ended up in hospital but discharged myself after a week because i was so bored. Sorry, I am rambling. We are the same age and I was a nurse too(should never have gone into it, being so stressful)..I ended up leaving a job I was in for many yrs after a ward meeting and me effing everyone out of it,,,I did not lose my job but decided to leave. They kept my job open for a year but I was becoming sicker I think. I only joined this forum yesterday so I am a bit out of sorts and don’t really know how this site works but it is helpful reading other peoples’ posts as it gets you thinking and you know you are not alone and the only one in the world feeling the same…I like the term ‘a day at a time’ and try to apply it to my life. I attended AA on and off since the age of 16 but it never got me sober. I am sober for 4plus years now and doing it alone. I no longer want to drink and see that my drinking was a form of self medicating. I did a treatment program 19 yrs ago and was drunk a week later. Though I did return to meetings many times I could no longer listen to the same stories over and over again and found the 12 step program more negative than positive. My theory on Alcoholism has changed and also my perspective on AA. An old sponsor of mine says it’s not for everyone and while it has saved millions of lives since it’s inception but I have seen people who are 20 and 30 yrs sober still attending meetings several times a week…and for me that is not recovery, some of these people are egomaniacs and are usually men who prey on female newcomers which happened to me and does not inspire confidence, Bill W said AA was a bridge to ‘Normal living’…….So sorry I really am ranting and as you can see anti AA. Maybe it is just my experience of it and found the whole experience to be negative. If you ask someone a question or question anything they are programed to respond with template answers like ‘are you following your program’ or ‘just shut up and listen’ etc. That’s just me and here I am now with a diagnosis of Bipolar…..I am really struggling with it now. If you have read this far, thank you and thanks for posting so honestly… Nicky.

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