Having recently passed the anniversary of my hospitalization, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on the course of my bipolar 1 disorder and stand in awe at the miracles wrought by hard work and a little medication. Well, OK, a lot of medication, but by this time I’m no longer counting.
It’s been five years since my last severe depression. It’s been even longer since my last big manic hurrah. For someone who looked (and felt) pretty bad off for a while, I’ve done quite well. Oh, I have the usual wintertime blues and the spring silly season, but that’s nothing compared with what I used to go through every year, and sometimes even between seasons. Despite meds and therapy, I struggled badly through the first few years of my diagnosis, and I almost gave up because if that was the way my life was going to go, why stick around?
Thank God I did. Life isn’t what I thought it would be at this stage, but it has its good times, and I enjoy them that much more because I know what it’s like to be so hopeless that the whole world loses color and becomes blurred around the edges. I also know how much damage mania can create when you have no filter between your brain and your mouth, and when you spend your family and yourself into bankruptcy, not once but twice. I look back on those days now and wonder how the hell I could have done so many impulsive and downright stupid things. In what universe is it OK to drop a thousand bucks in Walmart and have nothing to show for it but a bunch of junk? What was I thinking when I cranked up my car stereo full blast and flew down the freeway at 90 MPH, singing at the top of my lungs? And I certainly wasn’t thinking when I overshared with everyone at work the fact that I had a serious mental illness. Foolishly, I thought it made me seem more fascinating and mysterious.
Now THAT’S a hoot! This thing is not glamorous or romantic, it’s a giant pain in the ass and I hate it. But I can minimize its impact on my life by continuing as I have ever since I fully accepted my diagnosis and committed myself to staying compliant with my medication regimen. I didn’t have a hint of mania or hypomania this year, and with the exception of a little depression and anxiety (both situational) during the late summer and early fall, I’ve been completely stable. It’s as if none of the craziness ever happened, or it happened to someone else.
But of course it did happen to me, and I’m always going to be missing a chunk of my life because of symptoms that have interfered enough with my day-to-day existence that I’ve had to make permanent adjustments to accommodate my limitations. I had to give up my nursing license this year because I haven’t been able to practice in five and a half years, and there’s no going back. It was a good career while it lasted, and I met so many great people and got to do some pretty incredible things. But it’s over, and I’m not sure I’d try to resurrect it even if I woke up tomorrow completely free of bipolar and able to work. I’ve moved on from it. Besides, I’m getting to be an old lady and my back and knees would punish me severely if I even attempted it. Haha!
(Speaking of achy body parts, I think I’m nearly done with this walking cast/boot. I go back in to see my foot and ankle guy this week for another X-ray to confirm it is healing, which I think it is because I’m no longer in severe pain. It feels very delicate, like it could break again with little to no provocation; but I’ve been able to put my full weight on it on occasion and can even stand up in the shower without it hurting much.)
I’ve come a loooooong way since 2014. To have no bipolar symptoms at all is amazing and if it stays like this for the rest of my life, I will be one HAPPY woman. But of course, I can’t count on that because this is a cyclical illness, and eventually I’ll probably cycle out of this wonderful phase and into something less thrilling. Still, I’ve heard of people who experience long-term remission for years, even decades…why not me?