Answering these 31 questions on Bipolar (piecemeal as it is) does get me thinking about my ‘condition’ as a separate entity. For so long I have viewed it as almost an extension of myself. Hi, my name is Edel and I am bipolar. One of my favourite bloggers said this recently at the top of her entry. She likened it to a support meeting where you stand up, bare your soul and take ownership of your illness. Not so long ago, I was asked why those of us struggling with bipolar are given a ‘pass’ for their bad behavior when those struggling with alcohol abuse had to take ownership of and make amends for their misdeeds while drunk. Interesting thought that! I did answer the question. I’m not sure I liked the answer myself. I said it wasn’t my fault. My misdeeds, misspoken words, my behavior was all the fault of my illness. But so are the misdeeds of those struggling with alcohol addiction except they have a choice to drink and I don’t have any choice on being ill. If we view alcoholism as an illness however, that argument doesn’t hold water. So where is my accountability then? I’m still musing over that one…….
But back to the questions at hand.
What treatment, therapy etc do you do?
I go to a psychiatrist once a month and have a session with her. I normally spend around an hour with her, where we go over the previous month and we talk through any issues I have had or anything I am worried about. She takes extensive notes and recalls everything; she questions me on anything I raised the previous month. Depending on my ‘wellness’ or ‘stability’, these appointments get longer between visits or stay the same. She determines that.
At the moment I am also undergoing CBT and talk therapy with a psychologist linked to the practice. This is harrowing but at the same time rewarding. It is forcing me to face issues I have not wanted to face and delve deep to find out the reasons I do things, and the reasons I let other people treat me the way they do and the reasons I repeat the same behavior towards others over and over again. I am being invited to take bipolar out of the equation and question what is left. Very interesting.
What do you wish you’d known when you were diagnosed?
For me now, what is most important is I wish I had known that just because I have bipolar, it does not mean that my feelings, my anger, my annoyance, my upset are all invalidated. I still have/had the right to be annoyed, I still have/had the right to be upset, I still have/had the right to be angry. I had the right to go through my life without thinking that everything negative was as a result of my bipolar and was in some way invalid as a result. This suffocated me. I spent a considerable amount of my life thinking I was at fault all the time, I apologized all the time, irrespective of the situation, I apologized even when I knew in my heart that I was not to blame. It was easier to do that than hold my ground because after all wasn’t I not aware of my own reactions and whether they were valid or not? I think that a lot of things could have been so different had my illness/disorder/shitstorm been explained to me. I wish (and this is not really in answer to the above but it is one of my greatest regrets) that my significant other had learned more about my illness from day one. I wish he had been interested in reading the books I read, watching the videos I watched, understanding the illness and therefore me better himself. That I think would have been much better for all of us.
What are the worst things someone can say to somebody who is bipolar?
Snap out of it. Pull yourself together. Get over it. Smile for fuck sake. You’re in control of how you feel so you’re the one deciding to feel like shit. Move on. Get lost. I don’t think I want to know you because you’re not right in the head. You’re a bad mother. Relax for fuck sake. Cheer up. Etc, etc, etc…..ad nauseum.
What do you dislike most about the disorder?
I dislike the uncertainty of things. I dislike the fact that there doesn’t appear to be any triggers to avoid so that I don’t start cycling all over the goddamn place. I dislike the fact that there is no cure. I hate the fact the meds stop working and have to be switched sometimes. I am petrified by the fact that after so many years on medications I could become drug resistant altogether. I abhor the fact that it makes me feel so shit about myself. I dislike my reaction to my swings sometimes. I hate the fact I can’t control the mania. I don’t like who I am when I’m a raving mad lunatic. I dislike the fact I regularly refer to myself as a raving lunatic. I am not mad, I am not broken, I am suffering with a brain disorder/chemical imbalance and it is not within my control. I dislike the fact I don’t always get that. I dislike the fact I comfort eat. The last few things are not really about the disorder itself, but my reactions to it, but hey, who says I’m perfect!!
Are there any benefits to bipolar for you?
No. I’m not of the mind where I feel that my mania has resulted in fabulous talents that I wouldn’t have without the bipolar. Sorry, I’m not getting on that wagon. No-sir-e…. Nope…. Nada…… No fricking way. I am who I am in spite of my struggle with this illness and yes, because of it, but not in any beneficial way.
Do you tell people you’re bipolar? Why/why not?
I told the world and ‘everyone in it’ at one time because I believe and still do to this day that there is nothing to be ashamed of. But I wore my bipolar like a badge. I told work colleagues so they could understand the mood swings and the rapid talk, the sight of me going around the office like an energizer bunny, the bad temperament, the explosive laughter, all the ‘good’ stuff that comes with being bipolar. I have however become more reticent about coming forward in the last few years, except on the blogosphere (ain’t anonymity grand), because the reactions are not always what I expect of people and that leaves me genuinely hurt. Those I would have been sure would take my diagnosis well didn’t, so I’ve been stunned/flabbergasted when that happened. I’ve been ‘dropped’ by people I would have called ‘developing’ friends. I’ve been ignored by people I genuinely called ‘friends’ already and dropped like a hot potato/pile of shit/leper (no offense to lepers!) when I really needed them the most. I’ve learned my lesson; keep quiet until my hand is either ‘forced’ or I make the choice to ‘out’ myself. It takes longer nowadays than it did before. I’m not as much the advocate I perhaps should be and at one time professed myself to be. But I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. Not for me because it is not for me right now. But things change.
And so endth the session on the couch today….. Lets take this up tomorrow!