Saturday, July 08, 2006

How I Know When The Bell Tolls

Lately, it's been creeping up on me. That something's-not-right feeling. And then it starts. The anxiety attacks, the sleep difficulties, the sadness, the mild grandiosity, the up and down and up and down of a mixed state and rapid cycling.

Time for a med re-evaluation. I have a feeling that perhaps lithium is not doing the job. I'm at the right level and it seems to me that it is not taking care of the manic dysphoria that I am seeing once again.

When I was last diagnosed two years ago, as bipolar I, my psychiatrist felt that my dysphoric mania had pushed me from II to I. I believe he was right. And since I began with hypomania back in 1995, clearly the disorder is worse. Still manageable but unquestionably more serious.

I did a search on Google so that I could read what was out there about dysphoric mania. And I came upon something at that really made me think. I'd like to share it with you.

The standard propaganda about bipolar is that it is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain, a physical condition not unlike diabetes. For the purposes of gaining acceptance in society, most people with bipolar seem to go along with this blatant half-truth.

True, a chemical storm is raging in the brain, but the analogy to the one taking place in the diabetic's pancreas is totally misleading. Unlike diabetes and other physical diseases, bipolar defines who we are, from the way we perceive colors and listen to music to how we taste our food. We don't HAVE bipolar. We ARE bipolar, for both better and worse.

In one way, it's akin to being God's chosen people. As God's chosen - the (un)lucky one or two percent of the population - we are prime candidates for God's wrath, but even as God strikes the final blow - as the old Jewish saying goes - he provides the eventual healing. In a way that only God can understand, God has bestowed on us a great blessing. Living with this blessing is both a challenge and a terrible burden, but in the end we hope to emerge from this ordeal as better people, more compassionate toward our fellow beings and just a little bit closer to God.

For some reason, I found this incredibly uplifting. I'm not religious--spiritual, certainly, but I don't Jesus-shout. Nonetheless, I am guilty of comparing bipolar to diabetes with those who do not have the disorder. I so want people to understand it and I am so tired of the stigma.

I am bipolar. I will never again compare it to diabetes. And despite the struggle, I would never accept a cure that would make me any less than myself.

So I'll be calling the doctor on Monday to make an appointment as soon as I can. Because this thing just don't quit.