Bipolar and Me: A brief history

In the past I have been diagnosed with and/or treated for Social Phobia, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

I was first treated for severe depression when I was 14 years old. In actual fact I had suffered from both depression and some level of mania prior to this.

I wanted to be a Clinical Psychologist before I knew I had psychological problems.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in April 2008 after seeing one clinical psychologist and two psychiatrists.

My official diagnosis is Bipolar I featuring rapid cycling and mixed moods.

Initially, I paid little attention to my diagnosis, had no intention of taking medication and believed I was only showing symptoms because I had read about Bipolar Disorder in one of my textbooks. Later, I believed a brain tumour was responsible.

I know these days people tend to refer to rapid cycling as ultra, or ultradian or some variant of this. I don’t know specific terms because I actually don’t care. Personally, I find it a bit annoying when people specify they are a rapid cycler, or an ultra-ultra rapid cycler. Usually it’s done in a manner which implies “if you don’t cycle as rapidly as me, then things aren’t as bad for you”.  I think that’s bullshit. So, I have had rapid cycling in the past, and it has been really really fast, and it has slowed down over time, and then sped up again. That’s all you really need to know.

I’ve never been hospitalised. It was suggested, and I should have been but the fact I wasn’t was entirely because of the next point.

I am exceptionally good at hiding my symptoms even when severely unwell.

I haven’t had a pure mania since 2008.

I once turned up the emergency department and told them to admit me. I was forced to wait alone for a ridiculous length of time. Given the rapid cycling I mentioned earlier, my mood changed and I seduced a man and left the hospital. My parents were not phoned. No one ever tried to find me.

Even when I was delusional and losing touch with reality, even my best friend thought I was “pretty much okay”.

I started taking Quetiapine at 6.25mg per night. It took me two years to get to 400mg.  This meant my recovery was long and drawn out, but the drug was well tolerated and my adherence exceptional.

I only decided to take medication because I thought I had contracted Genital Herpes (I hadn’t).

I am incredibly loyal. Even when completely manic, I slept with anyone except my friends’ boyfriends; even when they tried it on with me.

I have never purposefully not taken my medication. I forgot once or twice after a night out, and so just took it in the morning instead.

I went to four different high schools.

I have never attempted suicide.

I like writing a blog about having Bipolar Disorder, but I don’t know why.

I have no professional interest in Bipolar Disorder. I used to think I should but I’m just not interested.

I don’t  say “I’m Bipolar” because I’m not. I have this disorder. It doesn’t have me.

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I don’t want any new friends, thanks.

300mg Quetiapine (The withdrawal has ceased. There is no timeline to begin again). 

Bipolar and me; we’ve been together for a while. At least 13 years by my count, maybe longer but no shorter. We’re friends really. We’ve spent a lot of time together over the years, been through a lot. There have been good times, and there have been bad times, and there have been plenty of them. Bipolar is quieter now. But every now and then it stops in to say hello. It’s a relationship. A bond. It’s not a battle anymore. It’s just me and Bipolar. We’re together, and I’m okay with that.

I didn’t always think this way. There was a time when I thought Bipolar was the worst thing in the world. Where it seemed completely unmanageable, and insurmountable. Where it seemed as though the suffering would never end. But it did, as it always does, and I bounce back to being me. It’s our pattern. It’s our thing, and I’m okay with that.

But close friendships like this, they best work in pairs. That’s what I think. There’s no room for intruders. We don’t want to share our space, our secrets, our lives with anyone else. It’s me and bipolar, and no one else. I learnt to be okay with that.

Except, now we have Arthritis at our door, and it won’t leave us alone. Like an unwanted visitor, it showed up one day when we least expected it and refuses to leave because it knows that we’re inside. It saw me turn the lights off when it pulled up in the drive. I’ve got the door  firmly shut but it’s sitting out there, waiting for us to let it in.

Knock, knock, knock.

But, bipolar and me, we won’t answer. We’re not in. No one is here. We don’t need anymore friends.

Except, this is not how things work in reality. I’d like to say it is, but it isn’t. There is no door, and if there was, arthritis would have broken it down long ago and I’d be lying on the couch in an illness sandwich. Mental on one side, physical on another, and me in the middle. They’d think it was a game, fun even but it wouldn’t be. No one likes to get squished.

The truth is, no matter how hard I want to close that door and pretend that arthritis isn’t out there. It is. And it’s not really out there at all. It’s in me. It’s in my house. It’s  made itself at home.

Threesomes have never been my thing. But at some point, I’m going to have be okay with it.

We all fall down

275mg Quetiapine

I don’t understand how people write when they’re depressed. I can never write anything at all.

My mind goes blank. I become slow.  My senses are muted.

A friend said to me the other day that she could relate to ‘living in a cloud of black’. Except, that’s not what it is like.

It’s like I’m here but I’m not. The world is dull and so am I. The sun is shining brightly, but the sunlight hurts my eyes. It’s warmth on my skin makes me want to shrink away to a place where nothing, where no one, can reach me.

It’s not dark, but it’s heavy. There is pressure. It rests above me and around me, and it pushes me down.

It’s not dark, but there is a man here, with his hands around my throat. Holding me tightly, so I can just barely breath, but not too much. I am suffocating slowly. I am losing the will to fight. I am weakened.

People without a mental illness think they have some sort of idea what it is like, but they don’t. There is something disheartening about those who think they understand, those who think they have any kind of idea that they know, when really, they know nothing at all.

It is not helpful to me when an ignorant person claims some sort of understanding. You can never feel my experience. I can never feel yours.

This is a waiting game. I watch the clock, and the clock watches me. But there is always a way out. There is always hope (but that is not what depression is telling me). There will always be change. What goes up must come down. And we all fall down.

This is not abnormal. This is Bipolar. This, is me.