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The Seven-Year Itch

March 7, 2019

Well, here we are…the seven-year anniversary of my first bipolar diagnosis. I remember it as if it was yesterday: the long questioning session with Dr. Awesomesauce, the many reasons he cited as to why I might not be bipolar, and then the surprising diagnosis of bipolar NOS. In retrospect he might have given it to me because I thought I had it, and of course I did, but it took a couple more visits for him to figure it out. When I showed up at his office one day wearing bright blue eyeshadow and colorful clothes, he knew instantly that I was manic, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I have mixed feelings about this anniversary. I’m still dealing with mild depression and that’s discouraging, but I know enough about my version of bipolar to understand that it’s seasonal and will go away. March Madness hasn’t set in yet, and it may not come at all as heavily medicated as I am. Usually by now the trees are budding and there are cherry blossoms everywhere, but we had a cold February and snow is still in the forecast. I’m SO ready for spring I can taste it, but the flowers and trees are still dormant except for one little confused daffodil in the front yard that’s survived heavy rain, snow, and a hard freeze. I bet it hopes for warmer weather too.

Even after seven years, I still struggle with acceptance of my diagnosis. I know on an intellectual level that I indeed have bipolar and have always had it, even though it wasn’t labeled as such until I was 53. I recall many, many phases in my life that weren’t recognized as episodes at the time; in retrospect I’m amazed that I never figured out what was wrong until I finally lost my shit in 2012. Not that it was the first time I’d lost my shit—there have been some spectacular flameouts, especially in my adult life—but it was a defining one. That was when my internist washed his hands of me and said he would not see me anymore if I didn’t get a psych eval. He led me to believe he was referring me to a therapist; when I found out I was to be seen by an actual psychiatrist, I was livid.

“I’m not crazy!” I told my doctor, “I just have really bad mood swings.” I learned later that I wasn’t crazy/loony/nuts/bonkers at all, and I didn’t want to be referred to as such. It’s a stereotype that has no place in modern society. I’m not easily offended, and I have a pretty thick skin because I’ve been teased so much throughout my life…but them’s fightin’ words!

Looking back at the course of these past seven years, I mourn the destruction bipolar has wrought upon my life. Seven years ago I was a reasonably successful nurse manager, wife, mother, and grandmother. Yes, I struggled—a LOT—but I was able to work, live in a big beautiful house on a couple of acres of lush forest, have my very own car, and enjoy the company of my loving husband. Now all of those things are gone, and I can’t help missing them.

However, I’ve learned to appreciate what I have now, and perhaps that is bipolar’s greatest lesson. I live with family who loves me and whom I adore, I have a comfortable room and a living area that’s always warm and cozy, I have good food to eat and I can use a car whenever I need it. I have four little dogs to love (and I don’t have to pay vet bills!), cable and Internet, and this blog, which keeps me sane and not too bored. I hope to grow in my writing and maybe even get paid decently for some of it, and even though I can’t work, one day I might be able to write consistently.

Still, I’m glad it isn’t seven years ago today. I’d hate to have to go through all that and learn those life lessons all over again. Perhaps the next seven will be a little kinder, although there is still a lot to learn about living with a serious mental illness.

It’s all good.


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