So I just got off the phone after talking with an East Coast graduate student for almost an hour about my bipolar disorder. She is with a group doing research for the University of Virginia, part of which is reaching out to people with the illness and asking them a lot of questions about how it affects them. I found out about the study from a reputable source and thought I’d participate for the fun of it. I also get a $20 Walmart gift card for my trouble, but that’s not the reason I did the interview. I did it because I am passionate about mental health and I want to do whatever I can to further understanding of brain disorders…mine in particular.
I was asked first about when and how I came to be diagnosed with bipolar NOS, and why it changed to bipolar 1 a couple of years later. How did that feel? Well, gobsmacked was the first word that came to mind, and I said as much. Then it was relief that there was a name for what ailed me and a way to treat it, even though it was incurable. Then came the denial, which I still fight even today, because I’ve felt so good for so long that I forget how bad things really were in the past. It’s a good thing I have this blog to remind me of how it used to be when my illness was raging out of control, and it was even worse before I got help.
She asked me about my medications, and what I call my love/hate relationship with them. I think I’ve finally gotten over the temptation to tinker with them, but I had to admit I still hate having to take so many for just this one reason. (We won’t even talk about the blood-pressure meds or all the supplements I take for various health concerns…suffice it to say that I’m on a hell of a lot of pills.) I think she was actually impressed with the quantity because she let slip a “Wow” while I was giving her my statistics.
We also discussed in depth the impact that BP has had on my life. I don’t think I’ve ever really put it all together before, but it boiled down to this: in the short term, the disease ruined me. I used to be a high-functioning, employed, successful nurse holding down a very responsible job, maintaining a household, and participating in society. Now I’m on disability, unable to even imagine going back to nursing, relying on my family to help support me. At first glance, my life looks terribly depressing…and yet, there is incredible optimism in my heart.
After all, I’ve learned to appreciate my many blessings, like my current stability, the aforementioned family and the fact that I have a safe place to lay my head at night. My husband is gone, but I am used to it now and while I will always love and miss him tremendously, I know he wouldn’t want me to mope around feeling sorry for myself and crying for him (well, I still do that on occasion, but I think he understands). I have friends, both online and in real life. I have four little dogs to love and play with who tend to bark at unfortunate times, like during this interview. (She got a kick out of that.) My blog is doing well and I’m getting a lot of page views these days. I even get to go on nice vacations like the one coming up in December. What’s not to love about my life?
This all came tumbling out as we neared the end of the survey. I don’t know how useful my story will be to the research project, but to me it was worth the 45 minutes out of my day. I think she thought so too; “awesome” was the word she used.
I’m encouraged. 🙂