Thursday, April 17, 2008

Well, That Explains A Lot...Or Does It?

My bipolar diagnosis nearly five years ago didn't really come as a surprise...at least, not after the initial shock wore off and I was able to process the fact that there was actually a name for what had always been different about me.

But what has come as a surprise to me is how long it's taking me to integrate that diagnosis into my self-concept. There are so many thoughts and feelings surrounding the diagnosis that I'm still trying to sort them all out.

When I think about it, all of these conflicting thoughts are flying around my brain:

1. How dare you give me this label/life sentence after talking with me for only 45 minutes? You don't know me. You know nothing about me except what I've told you, and if I'm as MANIC as you say I am, then how can you possibly trust my judgment about what's relevant and what's not?

2. Well, this explains so much of what I've felt and done over the years. It explains the wild frenzies of activity...it explains the rages...it explains the Pit of Unending Despair...it explains my intermittent non-stop sex drive...it explains all the writing all night every night on and on and on...it explains why I don't sleep any more...it explains those crackling, unbearable agitated depressions...If I don't take on this mantle, then how can I possibly explain all of those things that I always thought were character flaws, or weaknesses? I always knew there was something wrong or different about me...now I have a name for it.

3. Oh, good...I've actually got a legitimate medical excuse for my atrocious behavior over the past year and a half.

4. What do you mean, I need to be on medication for the rest of my life? You mean that I don't act/feel like everyone else, so I need to medicated into submission so that you can fit me neatly into one of your little boxes.

5. Who are you to tell me I'm not "normal?" How dare you tell me that you know what's "normal" for me and what's not?

6. If I know I have this disorder and I know what can happen when I'm manic, aren't I being awfully irresponsible not taking meds?

7. But meds don't guarantee an absence of episodes...all anyone can really say is that the onset of the next one might be farther out, and it might not be as bad as it would be if you were unmedicated.

8. Do you really think this medication might help me? Or are you just pushing it on me because if you can write x number of new prescriptions in the next few months, Big Pharma's going to invite you to a week-long one hour continuing education seminar on Maui?

9. Is this really as dangerous for me as I've been led to believe? Almost all of my episodes can be traced back to some kind of stress--chemical or situational: ah, yes, that was the fall I was on steroid treatment, or, that was right after the Barrister was born, or that record three episodes in a year was when I was taking Lexapro...

10. I've managed for 38 years without medications...why should I suddenly need them now?

11. Yes, but there's no blood test. You can't show me any proof that I have this chemical imbalance you say I have. Surely, if that were the case, there would be something you could measure.

12. Maybe I'm just a Horrible Person.

I want to ignore this label and just live my life, dealing with each episode as it comes. But I have had to change my lifestyle so much in order to feel safe that it is constantly on my mind. I take medications to help me sleep. I take medications to calm my nerves when I get anxious. I meditate and do yoga regularly. I avoid certain family members and situations that I know will be triggering. I avoid crowds (not too hard, I hate them anyway!) I go to bed at 10:00 every night, whether I want to or not. I eat right. I don't eat the things I'd really like to eat, I take supplements every day....

Hard to ignore it when the things I do to help myself feel safe are there in my face every single day. Sometimes I think it would be much easier to just take a pill and forget about it.

Except that all of the pills have side effects, so you can't really forget about it. And knowing what I know now, there is no way I trust that the makers of these pills have my health, safety, and best interests at heart.

Does anybody else out there feel as conflicted about their diagnosis as I do?

3 comments:

Gianna said...

oh I felt like for a long time...now I just don't accept my diagnosis...

It's a garbage pail term "bipolar disorder" a whole host of symptoms get called this...I really don't fit into the "classic" variety either...

but yeah, otherwise, I have felt all the things you feel and still do to a great extent...I certainly can't forget about what is going on when withdrawal constantly reminds me...I do think it might help to shift my energies to things other than fighting the injustice done in the name of mental health...maybe someone else should do that for a while...maybe I can come back to it when I'm stronger?

thinking aloud here....

Jazz said...

Glad I'm not alone in my feelings.

(also thinking aloud) One of the best things we can do for ourselves is to be true to ourselves and to be aware of what it is we need at any given moment. If your mind is telling you that you need to take a break, maybe you should listen to it...

BPD in OKC said...

I'm not exactly conflicted about my diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. I know I have it. I can't really deny that I fit every single one of the criteria, but I am conflicted as to whether or not I need to be treated for it. I don't necessarily think I need to be on medicine or need counseling. I think I was doing fine without those things, but my husband would say I definitely need medicine.