3 February 2007

On to more serious matters

You Are 100% Bipolar

You have some serious ups and downs, maybe to the point of endangering your own life.
Consult a doctor to see if you may truly have bipolar disorder.

Five years ago I was hospitalised and diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

I believe I have had the illness since childhood, but bipolar is notoriously difficult to diagnose in children. I had my first episode of severe depression when I was nine. I first noticed symptoms of hypomania when I was thirteen, but at the time, although I guessed something was not normal, I didn't know what it was. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

I was mis-diagnosed with depression, and subsequently wrongly medicated, which actually made the condition worse. This is a common story with bipolar. After all, when we are depressed we know something is wrong. But who goes to the doctor because they feel great? And hypomania does feel great. It's only when it slips over the line to mania that it becomes frightening and life-threatening.

To be honest, right now I can't be arsed explaining the illness. If you want to know more about its symptoms and effects on quality of life (and life-expectancy) here is a comprehensive page with good information and good links, and here is a brief overview.

Reading this information makes me feel quite hopeless. My prognosis is not good.

When I was diagnosed, I felt my life was ruined. I'd lost my job, my home, my friends, my partner, my education and my reason for living and all due to the illness. But none of these things would have ruined my life. You can always get new friends, another house, another job. What made me feel ruined was that I couldn't trust my own brain anymore. The illness both impaired my cognitive abilities and and made me behave in abhorrant ways. (I might write further posts on this, because really, hearing the direct experiences from the horse's mouth give people an understanding of the realities of living with bipolar that you simply can't get from a dispassionate account of symptomology.)

I'd wound up in hospital because I had severe mania, with delusions which were bordering on psychosis. (There is a joke that schizophrenics think they have a direct line to God, but bipolars think they are God.) And when I come out of that, and was properly medicated, I realised that my mind had betrayed me. I'd thought a lot of things were true which were in fact products of a diseased brain. And of all the things I have, the one thing that is truely mine and I could truely trust is my mind. We all like to think that we can evaluate facts and situations and come to accurate conclusions. But what if those conclusions turn out to be wrong? If you can't trust your own mind, what can you trust?

I began to wonder if everything I'd ever thought was wrong. I spent years after that learning as much as I could about the illness, and monitoring my own thoughts and behaviours until finally the day came when I could trust my own thoughts, and recognise when they were faulty.

I thought bipolar was a curse. As I said, my prognosis is not good. I'm likely to die young. I have to accept that my relationship has only a 10% chance of lasting that lifetime. I have to accept the years of lost productivity, and bad health. I have learned to have flexible plans and deadlines because I never know when I will be well.

But I have come to regard this illness as a blessing in disguise. Because of it, I have highs higher than most of you will ever know. I have periods of greatly increased energy, productivity, creativity and sociability. But more than that, I've learned to treasure my mind. I've learned that my mind is an organic product, and that my thoughts don't define who I am. I have learned to analyse and scrutinise my thoughts and behaviours, and as a result I know myself better than I possibly could have otherwise.

In Broken Images

He is quick, thinking in clear images;
I am slow, thinking in broken images.

He becomes dull, trusting to his clear images;
I become sharp, mistrusting my broken images,

Trusting his images, he assumes their relevance;
Mistrusting my images, I question their relevance.

Assuming their relevance, he assumes the fact;
Questioning their relevance, I question the fact.

When the fact fails him, he questions his senses;
When the fact fails me, I approve my senses.

He continues quick and dull in his clear images;
I continue slow and sharp in my broken images.

He in a new confusion of his understanding;
I in a new understanding of my confusion.

Robert Graves


Anonymous said...

wow. You are so brave, talking about this on your blog. Your openness could really help someone out there.

I struggle with depression and the dr. did ask me, in passing, are you bipolar? I said no, but, how am I supposed to know? So I did some research and though I still have questions in my mind, I think for the most part my original no was correct. But it is so important for people to educate themselves, it I had relied on my doctor totally, it wouldn't be much help to me.

Hang in there!

Summer Rose said...

I have to agree, you are one brave young lady who has a positive out look on life. You are a true inspiration to any one, who is going through some thing like this. Every day we are blessed with so much than what meets the eye, yet you are truely one that lives and loves her mind.

I do have one tough question, many women suffer from head echs either caused from too much stress or during that time of the month, or sinus headechs. Since we haven't had much rain, that has been a big issue for me.

I also wanted to let you know I do enjoy reading you, it doesn't matter what you are writting about, you have a way of expressing what your going through.
you deserve BIG {{{{HUGS}}}}

ArtfulDodger said...

I would also like to send some big HUGS your way and thank you for writing so openly and honestly about this and about you and how you have faced this in your life. It isn't easy and it can't be easy for you, but hopefully by expressing your feelings and dealing, as you so obviously have, with it you can be an inspiration to others that are struggling with their own issues. Bipolar or not.

Hang in there, stay strong and keep the courage. More big hugs!

hasarder said...

Dammnit, I posted a long response to your comments last night but blogger seems to have eaten it!
No time now, but thankyou so much for the hugs and well wishes.

Anonymous said...

ack, I hate when blogger does that. Grrr.

But that's OK. We understand. :-)

Stinkypaw said...

Thanks for sharing, from experience I know it's not easy. I like your outlook on it and that you're taking it as an opportunity to know yourself and mostly to be honest about it. You're doing great, keep it up! Big hugs!