For the past 18 months I have suffered from recurrent depression. This remarkable discovery was made after a long boozy lunch and the realisation that I have been unintentionally tracking my moods with my woe is me diary entries. What a stroke of luck. As a result I have now increased my medication accordingly, in consultation with my doctors I should add. I won’t lie, I have been struggling. Once upon a time I believed a diagnosis led to treatment and treatment led to so called normality. I was wrong. It’s been two years now since my diagnosis and while life is on track and I have changed, I still have Bipolar Disorder. A while back someone on Twitter posed the question:
Do you stay bipolar forever? I don’t hear of many elderly bipolar people.
To which I responded:
Bipolar forever, there are worse things. More reason to talk about it and manage it now!
I left out the part about how incredibly hard it is. Silly me.
Mental Illness. I am not sure I like the phrase any more. Illness equals sickness, and if I’m sick then I’m not right, if I’m not right I’m wrong. All of a sudden I am standing in front of people wondering whether or not my openness has resulted in me looking like a two headed freak. Fabulous.
Medication. It scares me. However, I will do whatever it takes to overcome Bipolar. While being reliant on a drug is not ideal, and I fear increasing the medication will change me for the worse, nothing can compare to the sheer hell of bouncing off the walls, or being a depressive mess on the floor. It’s a personal decision and I count myself incredibly fortunate to have a remarkable support crew by my side. Getting through mental health ‘stuff’ is not something any of us can do on our own. Personally I have the following:
I am also about to start attending a local support group
I am sure I have forgotten people but the above should indicate how much support I have. I made this happen, only a few years ago a didn’t dare talk to anyone about how I felt. Shame and guilt are very powerful indeed. I have been incredibly fortunate to have such an amazing network. I would not have it if I were not so open about my condition. It may be hard to talk but it is even tougher to live in silence.
The thing I have found the toughest over time is boredom. My research has reassured me that apparently I am not alone in this. For me boredom has always been the worst and most dangerous symptom. On a high it leads to outrageous behaviour which inevitably leads to WhatthefuckhaveIdone, next stop Shamesville. On a low, it can be equally devastatingly destructive. I am not talking “I’m bored, nothing to do” kinda boredom, this goes way beyond that and extends to nothing in life is satisfying. Interest, in pretty much everything, dwindles. Where once the prospect of the unexpected in life was exciting all of a sudden there is a certainty that nothing in life will ever fulfil you. You lose your appetite for life and the world seems dull. Limitless possibilities have disappeared and in their place there is nothing, no opportunities or anything that brings even the slightest spark. Life seems pointless and nothing can quench your desires, which soon fade out completely. Nothing is good enough because there is nothing in reality that resembles the fantastical notions now buried deep in your head. No matter what, or how much, you are doing there is no satisfaction. You are now in the Danger Zone. Coming back from this is really, really hard. So, what do you do? You could spend hours questioning whether this reality is a raw deal compared to the seductive states of Bipolar. Dwell in the fear that “This Is It” full stop. Or, accept you are in recovery and, like the depression, this phase too will pass. It is really, really hard. Firstly, stop drinking and recognise the risks are far too high. Secondly, find like-minded folk. Hence the new support group, can’t hurt, huh. “Hi. My name’s Helene and I’m Bipolar.” (I wonder if I’ll get a badge?) Thirdly, exercise. Love it or loathe it. If Legally Blonde taught me anything it’s that exercise releases endorphins and endorphins make you happy.
That’s as far as my list has got right now, but it’s a start.