Today, March 7, 2022, is the 10th anniversary of my bipolar diagnosis. In some ways it seems like it was only yesterday that I heard the words proclaiming the nature of my “nonconformity”, but in others I feel like I’ve lived the longer part of my life with it. As indeed I have; I was bipolar long before I ever got the label, and I suspected it a full decade before I sought help.
Well, I didn’t exactly seek help, I had it thrust upon me by my internist, who got tired of prescribing various antidepressants for a patient who had problems with all of them. He said I had something too serious for him to handle, so he insisted I visit someone who knew more about these things than he did. Of course, I was furious and almost refused to go once I realized he was sending me to an actual psychiatrist, not a therapist or counselor. But I did, and almost immediately formed a bond with the great Dr. Awesomesauce, who treated the whole patient and not just his or her illness.
I’ve been very lucky with psychiatrists over this past decade, too. I saw a psych nurse practitioner for a few months in between doctors, and she was kind and compassionate. I’d just lost my husband and she was a relatively new widow herself, so a lot of our time together was spent in grief work. Then there was Dr. Goodenough, who gave me a very firm bipolar 1 diagnosis which has since followed me like a lost dog. Now I have Dr. Young, who is a nerd like me who likes to research and analyze everything; we get along great and I feel she’s really invested in my care. I never thought I would want a female psychiatrist, but this gal is tops!
In other news, I finally got the chance to see the neuropsychologist last month, and the good news is, I DON’T have dementia. What I have is called mild neurocognitive impairment disorder, which is a fancy way of saying I’m not quite all there but able to manage in average, not fast-paced, situations. The main problem is my executive function, which doesn’t function very well, and that’s why I can’t multitask or pay attention to what I’m doing when I’m under stress.
But the real shocker was the recommendation that I should stop driving. Evidently I failed miserably on a test that strongly correlates with driving ability, and given my difficulties with depth perception and how I park a car all cattywampus in the stall, I can see why it might be a good idea. I’m not ready for this, though, because on top of it I recently broke my right ankle and am in a cast and using a front- wheeled walker to get around. And as much as I hate the prospect, I have also begun to think about making walker use a permanent thing.
I can’t believe how much safer I am with it. My balance is so poor that it takes only a few feet of uneven ground or getting up off the sofa when I’m sleepy to spin me off course. I’ve had more near-falls than I can count. This thing stabilizes me and gives me something to lean on when I’m standing, which is what I’ve been needing for awhile now. I did almost kill myself yesterday by going out to the garage with the walker and fetching a carton of buttermilk; I forgot about how heavy the door is when you come back in the house…how high the step up is…how awkward it is to carry something and hang onto the walker. Since I wasn’t using the equipment properly, I lost my balance and almost fell backwards, which would have been disastrous on a concrete floor. So I vowed never to do anything so reckless and foolish again.
Of course, all this makes me feel older than I already am. I’m not even 65 yet, but time is marching on and it’s marching right across my bad back. Everything hurts now, and the undignified process in which I fractured my ankle made my hips and knees ache ferociously for days afterwards. In fact, the knee and hip on the broken side hurt so bad the ER staff did X-rays on them too. Good Lord, what if it had been the knee or hip? So I promised myself and my nearest and dearest that I would never again put myself in a situation where that could happen another time.
But in spite of everything, I try to maintain my sense of humor and an attitude of gratitude. After all, I’ve survived a whole decade of full-blown bipolar disorder in all its flavors, and winter’s almost over. 😊