mental illness issues
Every day I fight bipolar disorder. I have to because every day my bipolar disorder requires fighting. Every day, bipolar disorder is at the forefront of my mind. Every day, I have to do all the things that are required to improve (or at least maintain) my mental health. Every day, I have to fight the bipolar depression that makes me exhausted and upset. Every day, I have to focus on medication and schedules and sleep. Every day, every day, every day.
And my reward for all of these fighting and fighting and fighting of the bipolar disorder? If I’m lucky, it’s the reward of not being sick. If I’m lucky, my reward is feeling like one of the normals for one day – a way that other people feel without putting any work into it at all.
And if I’m not lucky? My reward is just another day with illness, with me expending hopeless amounts of energy in a seemingly-impossible fight to stay alive.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about a life with bipolar it’s this: it’s never going to be what you expect it should be.
I was watching a television show about gluten-free baked goods and on it, a gluten-free chef said of gluten-free bread, [when compared to bread with gluten,] “it’s never going to be what you think it’s going to be, so one of the things you should do is to try to adjust your expectations.”
Now, I don’t know anything about gluten-free bread, but I do know about a life with bipolar and I have to say, in my experience, it’s never going to be what you expect it should be and you should probably learn to adjust your expectations so it doesn’t taste quite so bad when you bite into it.
My bipolar is making me feel like hell. But then, there are so few days that I don’t. And now it’s particularly bad because my body won’t seem to regulate its sleep properly. I’m having trouble getting to sleep and then I’m waking up too late. (Yes, an alarm would fix the too late part but then I’d be even more tired than I already am.)
Did I ever mention that I hate bipolar disorder?
I hate you.
Or, perhaps, it might be more accurate to say my bipolar hates you. Or my bipolar makes me hate you. Or something.
I feel this pervasive negative, black, dark, inky hatred spread atop my “Natashaness” that seems to affect how I feel about everything. Theoretically, philosophically, intellectually, I know that I don’t hate everything. In fact, I know that I don’t really hate anything. But I sure feel as if I hate everything.
Someone recently reached out to me for some recommendations of mental illness resources as she was concerned for her sister. Unfortunately, the feedback I received from her afterwards was that her sister felt, she was “beyond help” for bipolar disorder.
I understand the feeling of being beyond help. I have felt that way so many times. I had so many goes at medication roulette and I had two doctors give up on me completely so I absolutely felt (and was pretty much told) that I, and my bipolar disorder, was beyond help.
Here’s the thing – those doctors were wrong and so was I.
So many people come onto this blog and say, “the answer to curing bipolar disorder is . . ..” Their answers range from magnesium to religion to talk therapy.
And all of them tick me off (as I ranted in Stop Telling Me How to Cure my Bipolar Disorder).
Because your answer to curing bipolar disorder is nonsense.
Yesterday I got the news that I’m losing one of my best friends of 16 years. He’s someone I’ve known pretty much since birth. He’s giving and loving and very furry. He’s my cat.
And while I can understand that not everyone will fully comprehend the bond between a human and animal, you will just have to take my word for it that the news put me into shock and I am now grieving what will very soon become a physical loss.
And, of course, a trauma like this (yes, it is a trauma) will make my bipolar disorder blow up. Bipolar makes grief worse and grief makes bipolar disorder worse.
When someone breaks a leg, people “get” it. They understand it. They empathize with it. They’re compassionate about it. The same thing is true when people get cancer or undergo surgery for a heart condition or even get the flu. And yet when someone has a mental illness, people just don’t “get” it. And in spite of spending more than a decade educating about my mental illness, bipolar disorder, sometimes I feel like they never will. This tends to make people with mental illness feel alone.
In the world of chronic illness there is a concept of “caregiver fatigue.” This is where caregivers of people with chronic illness get burned out because they just spend so much time and effort caring for another person. This is a real thing and a real problem.
I would suggest there is also such as thing as “bipolar treatment fatigue.” Bipolar treatment fatigue is when a patient with bipolar disorder becomes burned out because of all the time and effort it takes to fight the bipolar disorder. I think this is a real thing and a real problem.
Recently a received a message from someone who was very distressed because her family wouldn’t accept her because of her mental illness. Her family hadn’t cut her out of their lives, necessarily, but they didn’t understand bipolar disorder and just waved her off telling her to “take her meds.” They made no effort to support her dealing with her mental illness.
And to this woman, family was everything. She didn’t think she could live without the support of her family.
And while I know that family is critically important to some people, I’m here to tell you: you can live with a mental illness, with bipolar disorder, without the support of your family.
I was having a very annoyed/angry day. This was annoying me and then that was pissing me off. And I realized this was a thread through my day and thought to myself, “Yup, I have days like that. It’s a bipolar thing.” And then I wondered, “Do normal people have days where they’re mad at everything?”
And then I realized I had no idea. I have no idea if normal people have irrationally angry days. I’ve forgotten what it is to be normal.
[And before someone has a hissy fit because I’m saying that people with bipolar disorder aren’t normal, please read the linked article.]
Last year, I wrote an article on psychomotor agitation at HealthyPlace. Psychomotor agitation (or retardation) is a symptom of bipolar (and unipolar) depression as well as hypomania/mania and very little information about it is available (in spite of the fact that it is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness (DSM-5)).
Most definitions for psychomotor agitation include the words, “inner restlessness.” I don’t know about you, but “inner restlessness” reminds me of a 22-year-old who can’t find himself and so is backpacking across the country. It really doesn’t sound like a mental illness symptom – let alone like a serious one.