I’m coming up onto my second week of pharmacological treatment for bipolar disorder.
The headache that wasn’t has finally become, so I’ve been squinting through these past couple of days and dry swallowing Advil like it’s candy. It doesn’t get rid of the headache, but it dulls it enough that I’m only constantly aware of it instead of unable to work because of it. I feel stupid and forgetful and tongue tied at intermittent points throughout the day. Basic math is suddenly difficult. My muscles ache. I’m frustrated with myself. I’m boomeranging between accepting the diagnosis and resenting it. I am trying to come to terms with the idea that there is no “sick me” and “real me”, but instead the real me is someone who is also sick.
I am mourning the highs I haven’t actually experienced yet. I’m going to lose precious hours of my time to sleep. I am going to be actively trying to prolong the life that I’m not always certain I’m invested in. I have to be very careful about things that I’ve always taken for granted. Just being happy and exuberant with no direct cause is now a warning sign. Buying things just because I want them is a warning sign. Sudden flights of whimsy are now a warning sign. Staying up all night chasing an idea is now a warning sign.
But not always.
It’s starting to really sink in that this is going to change me. Who I thought I was. That I have to change if this treatment is going to work.
I have to want this to work.
It’s so, so tempting to try to believe that this is a temporary thing that I can play along with and quietly stop when I get tired of it. That ten years down the road I can have a story about my “bipolar phase” in my early thirties, and then laugh it off. “Oh yes, bipolar disorder. Nasty stuff, that. I’m glad it’s over.”
My best, preferred coping mechanisms are avoidance and waiting for it to be over. I am the Patient Dodger. But it won’t ever be over, will it?
And that feels so self-pitying and whiny. (Over)dramatic even. But I need to stare it in the face. I need to convince myself that it’s true. And the process seems so cruel, in order to be healthy I have to acknowledge that I can’t always trust myself and my perceptions. For somebody who is as stubborn and independent and used to relying only on myself as I am and have taught myself to be, this is a terrible and huge thing to face.
I need to be able to trust myself. I can’t always trust my perceptions.
How do you come to terms with that? How do you constantly audit and challenge your truth from the inside?
It took me years to get to the point where I could actually acknowledge that I have feelings besides anger and grief, and now that feels scary again. I still feel so new at this.
People with bipolar disorder (and ADHD too, actually) are proven to do better with a set routine. I resent that. I’ve loathed routine all of my life. Routines are boring and I can’t abide being bored.
But really, you know what’s boring? Depression is boring. Depression is boredom amplified. Distilled, overwhelming, intolerable boredom. Depression is listless, lethargic and loathsome. It is incredibly painful and awful, but it is also mundane and tedious and boring. I NEED TO REMEMBER THIS.
I know, down to my bones, that I am going to be one of those patients. Who will try to convince themselves that they are actually All The Way Better and Don’t Need Drugs Anymore. Everything I’ve read so far indicates that the majority of those patients have horrible depressive relapses or psychotic breaks when They’re Really Fine Now. A sobering number of them kill themselves.
I’ve seen this play out with my mother. Complicated by the alcoholism, yes, but this inability to accept the reality of a lifelong illness that needs treatment was there at the root as well.
I’ve comforted myself for years by knowing that I’m adaptable and I can cope with impressive amounts of shit. Perhaps a little too well, all things considered. If this is true and not a pretty self delusion, I can cope with this. I can adapt to this. I can change and it doesn’t have to be terrible. Or boring.
And it’s okay if it’s scary. It is scary. It’s okay to be frustrated. It’s frustrating. I’m even allowed to be angry about it. And resentful.
But it doesn’t have to be everything. It just feels that way right now because it’s new. It’s only been six weeks since the first diagnosis. Less than two on medication. The fact that this is consuming so much of my attention is completely understandable and, dare I say it? Normal.
Good talk, brain. Good talk.
(Still rash free, btw.)