[caption id="attachment_78" align="alignright" width="187" caption="Bipolar Journals"][/caption]]My name is a mystery to you and it will remain so. This book has not been edited and it will remain so. The purpose is to thrust into your life an unedited snapshot of what Bipolar is really like. I am diagnosed as having Bipolar Disorder Type II (Depressive). If you take nothing else from this literary work, I really want you to understand this: I am an individual suffering Bipolar Disorder, I am not Bipolar. It does not define me, but it is an affliction.
I could give you the clinical definition of Bipolar Disorder and other mental illnesses here, but I’d rather not. Instead I’m going to share with you a few months of my journal. The purpose is simply to give you a glimpse into the disorder.
January 11, 2012
Why Doesn't the World Stop with Me?
Sometimes it feels like I’m swimming in my own head. And I’m so concentrated on how I feel and protecting myself from things that bring too much emotion that I don’t take the time to consider others. On good days, when I can loosen the reigns, it is easy for me to be helpful. But because of my preoccupation with my inner battle, I have failed at mastering the technique of being intuitive when it comes to other’s needs.
I want to be a beautiful flower, hidden by lots of weeds; to shine and be a star without being ripped apart. I don’t like impending conflict. My insides tense up, and the emotions wrap themselves up in each other and become a big nasty ball in my stomach and the poison it creates leaves my body weak until exhaustion comes along. When I’m able, I am very able. When I am not, it is too much.
I used to ask, “why can’t the world stop long enough for me to sleep for three days?” Sometimes I just have to recuperate. Unfortunately the world doesn’t wait. And absences are what school and work hate. But why should it matter when I can do in two days what takes another a week? Why can’t I play to my strengths? I want to tell the world, “When I’m going, get out of the way or get on my side. But when I’m not going, leave me to my thoughts and don’t hold it against me.”
January 11, 2012
I Don't Hold Onto Emotions, They Stick to Me
I don’t hold onto emotions, they stick to me. Irritibility; turning me into someone I don’t want to be. It turns me into something that can’t accept the slightest things, like an interruption when I’m concentrating. It’s so aggravating. But it shouldn’t be. It isn’t that way for others, why only me?
Why does everything wrap itself around itself? Its a tangled up knot, tight as anything. I see others and they have their own pains and scars. But when they see me, I am the taken care of, the lucky one.
My pain is the invisible kind. The kind no one sees because it can hide. I've always hidden. Always been driven to do and be the best and never accept 'good enough'. It's never good enough. And that attaches itself to me, ensnares me and doesn't let go. It creates a lump in my throat. The familiar hurts-so-good lump. The driver of creativity that oozes that black despairity. But no one ever sees it. And I hide. I stay away from people as much as possible, less they discover my eccentricities. I believe I fail miserably at that because I'm always the one made fun of, the easiest target because no one knows me. I guess they think I don't have feelings because they can't see them. I guess they think I don't hear them. But I do. Every word. And then these sad unaccepted notions wrap themselves up into spiraling emotions and down I go. And all because no one asked if I wanted to go to lunch with that group. All because I felt left out.
But I can't say anything because I have to stay hidden. Hidden from all of them. I dream of having girlfriends to talk to, to go to lunch with. But the drama that comes along with that normalcy is too much. I feel too much. That's why I stay behind unless I'm certain there is no one there to bring on all the emotions. Most times solitary is what is needed, but sometimes I need to be around people. I need to be around them, but not completely connected. Otherwise they'll see how different I am, and the real unacceptance begins and that is one beast I wouldn't survive.
Sometimes my ideas are flighty. When I think it, I need to write it. Perhaps that is why I get aggravated when interrupted.
I look back on the way I've treated my mother. If I were someone else I'd beat the shit out of me for it. The truth is I can't stand me. And sometimes I get the sense that there are two of me. One is a shy, weak, small creature and the other is the one that faces the world; the one who takes care of things. But honestly she's not very good at it. It is almost like there are pieces of me and one moment I am happy and some small thing changes and I become aggravated.
January 25, 2012
They ask me why I feel proud
When I see the tight white line
On my peachy-white skin.
It's because I'm still here
To describe it.
I'm still here to show it.
I won that battle that day
So long ago.
It may be an ugly scar to most
But to me it is so beautiful
It reminds me that I won.
February 2, 2012
Capturing the Journey
I was smart once, when I was younger. Everything came very easily to me; I learned faster than anyone in my class at school and finished tests & assignments first. I never made less than 100% on anything. Then bipolar came along. It crept in with puberty. And over time most of my A’s became B’s and I never had perfect attendance. In fact, by the time I was in high school I was being threatened with a truancy officer.
Somehow I managed to graduate high school with a 3.14 GPA and, with the gracious sporadic hypomania states, had served two semesters as Editor in Chief of the school newspaper. I didn’t realize it back then, but every single little thing was so hard. Sometimes I would wake up in the morning and just couldn’t do anything. Those were the days when I would stay home. Many would think I was feigning sick, but the truth was that I really was sick. I just wasn’t sick in the traditional way what with throwing up and running a fever. No, I was sick in a different way. I was experiencing the severe depression that is the ugly monster of Bipolar Disorder. But no one else understood. Fortunately I have been given to a mother who has an endless aptitude for sympathy. And she would get frustrated with me and even thought I might be taking drugs. She could see I was suffering, even if I didn’t know how to tell her how or why. I didn’t understand it myself, but I knew no one else seemed to have the same problem coping as I did.
Right after high school I went to college. During this transition I had my first real romantic relationship. It was also the point in time where I became 100% certain that there was definitely something different about me. I thought I had depression. I knew what I was feeling was not sadness like other people experience sadness. It was to a greater degree. What I was feeling was depression and depression is considerably different from sadness. However, this new and fun relationship kept me from the depths of it.
The summer after my sophomore year in college that relationship came to an abrupt end and I spiraled downward fast. For the next two years I would experience lows that would leave me so debilitated that I wouldn’t come out of my room for four days straight. Not even for class. Not even for work. Not even for food. I had a friend who came over and we went out a couple of nights, but nothing really helped. I had another serious relationship, but that didn’t help either.
Finally I went to the doctor and she prescribed me an Anti-depressant that was a Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI). I hated this medication with a passion. It literally felt like a vice grip was pinning my brain down and I was very nauseous and dizzy every second of the day. And next to that I would get these episodes of feeling out of control and wild with laughter and hyper senses. And just after I’d get really sick again and not go to work. This caused me to get fired from not one, but two jobs post graduation. Me; the smart girl, I got fired…twice.
“Why didn’t you just go to work?” I couldn’t go because I just couldn’t. And there’s no way for me to describe to you why I couldn’t just go. I just couldn’t.
So obviously these anti-depressants were not working out for me. I was getting more and more physically sick with the increase of doses so I stopped taking them.
For the past few years before this time in my life I had thought what I needed was to see a psychiatrist or a psychologist or even a therapist. In fact, before I lost my job at the land services company I had made an appointment to see a therapist. But I was afraid and didn’t go. I was completely alone.
About three months later I met a new person and ended up moving over 1,000 miles from home. And it was a good thing that I did. Where I had come from, you have to get referred to see a psychiatrist and getting a referral was not an easy thing. But in this new place, all you have to do is call and make an appointment with one. I didn’t know this.
Fortunately, one day at work I became so overwhelmed I couldn’t even breathe and all I could do was cry and the amount of fear was horrible. It felt like I was living in a horror film, but there were no practical reasons for what I was feeling. But reasons or not, the feelings were there and I was terrified so I told my supervisor I had to leave and rushed straight to the ER because I knew this was the breaking point. I wanted it to end. I wanted this to be the point where I was sick enough to warrant giving a referral to. There I saw what I imagine to be a screener who gave me the referral to see a psychiatrist. I had to wait a whole week, but I was fine with that. One more week and then maybe I’d have someone who could tell me how to make it all stop. The ER prescribed me another SSRI and sent me home.
I went home instead of back to work, took the SSRI and threw up for the rest of the evening. Apparently SSRIs and my stomach do not get along well at all.
I saw a psychiatrist for the first time during the winter of 2009. We talked for only a few minutes before he told me I had Bipolar Disorder II. He prescribed me Wellbutrin and some other medications that I do not recall.
For the Christmas season I flew in alone to spend the holidays with my family. While there, my family convinced me that I should not be taking medication like that and insisted that I stop. So I did. And I stopped seeing the psychiatrist
Over the next six months I’d have to come to terms with a number of things including not being able to have children. And even if I could, would I want to? Why would I want another human being to suffer what I have? I don’t think people understand the real pain of bipolar. It is like having the biggest heartache of your life every day of your life. It’s like being pushed down stairs by a monster that strips you of everything and leaves you nothing but a pile of goo on the floor. And sometimes you can’t put every single piece of your puzzle back together. Sometimes pieces are gone forever. And the pain can be physical too. Sometimes you wake up in the morning and feel like you’ve been ran over by a Mack truck. Every bone and muscle in your body aches.
In these next few months I’d also have to deal with money problems. I was not making as much money as I had been back home and everything was much more expensive so my savings that I had brought along with me was depleted. I also would have to know my best friend was having her second baby and I wasn’t even going to be there for it because I lived so far away. And even though I had my boyfriend and loved him very much, I still felt alone because I was not with my family.
In August of 2010 I hit a stage I had not been in before. In fact, I do not remember the period of my life dating August 2010 to October 2010. It is a blank.
I remember at the end of July I got very sick again, except this time there was a difference. This time, it became difficult to distinguish being asleep and being awake. Sometimes I could not tell if I was awake or if I was dreaming. I remember walking down the hallway at work and trying to make things make sense so I could determine if I were awake or not. I couldn’t remember waking up that morning, I couldn’t remember what I had been doing just before walking down the hallway and I couldn’t determine where I was going so I decided I was asleep only to discover just a few moments later in a moment of clarity that I was actually awake.
This scared me and sent me right to that place of shear terror again so I went to the ER. Here they gave me another SSRI even though I told them it only makes me sick. I took it anyway and for the next four days I was throwing up and crying. I cried and threw up so hard that every blood vessel in both of my eyes burst. I looked like a demon because every part of white in my eyes was red. I tried to go to work anyway but was sent home.
After this I do not remember much of anything. I can remember waking up in a hospital room and having bruises all over my arms and chest. I thought I had been in a car wreck or something. Later my boyfriend told me the bruising was from where they had tried to stick me with an IV and couldn’t get it to go in. They had stuck me eight times. The bruises on my chest were from where the EMTs were pressing on it with their fingers to get me to respond to something, anything.
The next thing I remember my mother was around and it was starting to get cold outside again. I remember driving her out to see the mountains that are about an hour and a half from where I lived and then decided to drive all the way to the beach. I remember having medication on this trip, so I must have been prescribed them before my mom came up.
After our trip to the beach, my mom went back home and I went back to work. I continued to take the medication, but I was never quite OK. I still had bad days. I would always use up my sick days and even some vacation days on days when I felt like I couldn’t go anymore.
Then one day my psychiatrist gave me samples of Seroquel XR to add to my plethora of other medications. And to tell you the truth it is a difficult thing to tell if a medication helps you or not. It is not like having a urinary tract infection, getting prescribed antibiotics and poof it is gone. It’s such a slippery thing. This is where you have to depend on those around you who love and care about you and are able to spot mood changes and irritability and such things. As time went on I noticed I could focus more and go more days without having to take a day off. When I went two months without a sick day I wanted to cry I was so happy about it.
Then came the big insurance change at my company. Now that Seroquel XR pill would be costing me $319/mo.! I’ve never met someone who would have enough money to be able to afford it. I know they exist, but I have never met any of them. So I had to switch to a medication that was on the $4 Walmart Pharmacy list. I used Lithium. Within 1.5 weeks I was a horrible train wreck. I was on Lithium for about a month and a half before I found away around my insurance to get Seroquel XR for free. But during that time I received a Discplinary Action filing due to “Professional Appearance & Attentiveness in Meetings.” I didn’t realize I had gotten that sick and that’s the thing…sometimes you aren’t able to notice it until someone tells you.
Fortunately, as I mentioned, I was able to get Seroquel XR back and have been fine since. And now I can look back and see how hard things were for me when they could have been easier if I’d had this pill earlier. Now I get to experience things normally. When I wake up in the morning there’s the nag, ‘oh I don’t want to go to work,’ but it’s a normal ‘oh I don’t want to go to work.’ It is not debilitating, daunting or hopeless. I don’t think individuals without mental illness understand how lucky they are to be able to think clearly, react normally to situations and be able to process emotions. I don’t think someone without mental illness will ever be able to understand why sometimes things are so extremely difficult. And it’s the smallest of things…going to the grocery store, going to class, going to work…anything and everything is just so monumental and hard.
With the risk of sounding like a Seroquel XR advertisement, I have to say that this pill gave me what I never thought I’d have: Normalcy. I can think, react and do things like normal people.
The road for those with Bipolar Disorder is a difficult one and, most of the time, an unseen one.
“I’m not crazy. I’m just a little unwell. I know right now you can’t tell, but wait a while and then you’ll see a different side of me.” Matchbox 20 ~ Unwell
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