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.


Christina said...

I think people with bipolar/depression/etc. liken their disease to a physical disease so they will feel compassion and empathy, mostly because people think you chose being bipolar or I chose depression. I think by saying "my chemical symptoms are like a diabetic's war with insulin," we are saying that we didn't choose bipolar/depression but it chose us.

Though I dislike many parts of depression there are things about me that I think are inextricably linked to my depression: my passion, my intelligence, and my deep seated empathy for others. If I had to choose between living with depression or living without passion, intelligence or empathy, I'd pick depression without hesitation.

Milinda said...

Interesting timing on your latest "episode," for lack of a better term. I also started vibrating at a faster rate about the same time & the, ahem, rage started late last week. I have managed to only scream at 2 people (my supervisor!) but still. The irony is that it is timed perfectly with my starting a new antidepressant that supposedly works well with Depakote to provide more a balance. Ha!

I wanted to share an interest article with you that came to me via WebMD about obesity & mood disorders: 47% of obese folks are more likely to be bipolar. As an obese person, this adds an additional stigma to the whole mess: If I hadn't gained the weight, would I not be bipolar? The weight gain came with the start of the antidepressants.

Be well.

Marilyn said...

Agreed, Christina. Absolutely.

Jeez, Milinda, that's very interesting about the obesity. I've had a weight problem since I was in my mid-20s, although my first manic episode was when I was 18. I wasn't on meds back then. Although lithium and other meds will cause you to gain weight, I rather doubt that obesity causes manic depression.

My rage, when I have it, is something I've learned to manage. Although I did yell at the guys in my office yesterday for making too much noise. But when I find myself raging inwardly, I do breathing exercises. And think about a med adjustment. I'll be writing soon about my trials and tribs with finding a new shrink. They closed the UMDNJ office where I had been going and now I have nothing. It's been a real struggle.

Milinda said...

I did call my "Mental Health" office. Spoke with the nurse on day 1; day 2 I got a phone call back from a med tech who was pretty darn funny--she was asking me a series of questions & at one point she said "hmm, talking incessantly & rapidly." Day 3 Med tech called me back & told me that the doc wants me in his office on Tues. Period. Day 3 being Friday.

I know that the obesity hasn't caused my manic depression--that was the luck of the draw. But, as my brother put it, we are all a little nuts in our own way.

As for the rage, I just need to stay away from my supervisor & wear earplugs more frequently. It actually helps.

Good luck finding a new psych. Good ones are so hard to find.