Sunday, August 28, 2011

Bipolar- where it all begins, over and over and over again

Some days I am up, some days I am down. Some moments I am up, some moments I am down. I think we can all say that at some times. What makes it so different for someone who is bipolar? I am asking myself this question, but I am working harder on the answer. Some things that I know: Addiction loves mental illness. The wrong meds make the wrong addiction that much more appealing. Self medicating takes practice, and damn am I good at it. Proper medication takes practice and I am not at all good at it. I am just as afraid of success as I am failure, perhaps even more so. I have misconceptions (ideas that I create), misperceptions (ideas I perceive to be true, that are not), and the truth. I have been living in a place filled with more of the first two. I have to learn to let the end fit the means.

So those are all pretty random, but can you tell I have been working on how to save my life? Desperate times call for desperate measures. When existing is first and last on your list, it has a way of taking up the whole list.
I am going to take a much needed step back from all of the hopeless negative thoughts that I have been berating myself with, and start by accepting who I am today. I am going to work on a couple coping skills for when the negative intrusive thoughts come, some of which include taking my medication, relaxing, or distracting myself. I am going to focus on the things I am still capable of instead of the things I am not, and build on those, slowly and only a few at a time. I am expecting to conquer my illness over night instead of learning the proper ways to  LIVE with it.

Some of the difficulties I am fighting with are: my ability to stay positive, my ability to cope through some very normal life situations, my pain level, and differentiating what (positive and negative) is really me and what is really my medication (my least favorite part of being bipolar), as well as some negativity towards myself about my abilities to contribute towards my family. I am not used to being the taken care of one, and my family isnt used to the caring for mom roles.

I must admit, being an advocate for my family is much easier, and speaking the truths about my illness is much easier when I perceive myself as well and don't have to admit to my current struggles. That is- past tense bipolar is a lot easier than present tense.

I would like to share a story.... it is representative of the quality of mental health care as well as how taboo it is, even in the mental health field.

About 6 weeks ago I got a call about my then upcoming mental health evaluation. I had waited over 3 months for this appointment and suffered a hospitalization in the mean time. It seems there had been a staff member quit, and my soon to be Dr. had to do fill-ins and they were bringing in a temporary Dr. to do my evaluation. I was so thrilled to know that my intake was going to turn into some notes passed on to my actual caretaker.
During the course of the interview I was more worried about my other health problem, my back pain. After some interaction with my actual Dr., it was to my surprise and relief that this fill in Dr. was going to use the super secret, off the record rx pads to give me my normal pain meds. After all, it was his concern that an opiate withdrawal would only complicate things, and I happened to agree.

We were discussing all of the ways my bipolar illness was affecting my life.... all of the usual, like my current and past medications, side effects, current signs and symptoms, and side effects. I started out a sentence like this, "I have realized that managing my illness through self medication isn't working for me...." The Dr. looked over his paper with serious concern and a degree of shock and said, "Oh my God, that's terrible that you have been sick, what is wrong?" I was experiencing my own degree of shock. "I am bipolar," I replied. The Dr. took a minute to even realize what had been said. He tried back stepping and then apologizing, but I found some serious irony that a "Dr." who's degree is in psychiatry, would fail to recognize, especially during an "exam" of a "patient" that being bipolar could be accurately represented by the word "illness." When we think of illness, we do think of a physical manifestation of some sort. I am used to it in the general population, really I am, but for the Dr.? This is why it is so important to raise awareness and educate people about mental illness. Perhaps that is why it is so hard to ask for help, because it is so hard to acknowledge, even for a Dr.


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