Monday, December 2, 2013

Day 52: I Get Along With The Voices Inside Of My Head

I hope today's title doesn't offend anyone.

It's just kind of the way I'm choosing to face reality with a touch of humor right now.

And I think my reality has recently opened up to include a diagnosis of Bipolar II Disorder.  Which is a big deal for me.  A month ago I would have fought such a diagnosis with every fiber of my being.  For whatever reason, depression was okay.  But, Bipolar?  Not me.

Because... what?  I'm too good for something with a stigma like that?  Mostly, just because it scared me.  How could I live with something like that?  What would that mean for me?  For those around me?

The funny thing is, I'm basically coming out with that diagnosis on my own now.

Let me 'splain.

Several years ago, a therapist suggested I might have Bipolar Disorder because I had some anger issues.  Unfortunately, she didn't explain to me that there are different types of BP.  All I knew was Bipolar I, and I was confident I didn't fit that.  So, I got mad at her (not to her face) and never went back.

But, while I was doing the program at the hospital, they showed us a movie about a variety of mental illnesses.  One being BP I and II.  And this little tiny voice in the back of my head said, "Maybe that fits."  Tiny because I didn't want to risk getting mad at myself, right?

So, I mulled that over for a week or so.  I got more information on it.  And the more I learned, the more I knew it fit.

And suddenly, so many things made sense!

Like, why I haven't responded well to typical antidepressants, but why I am responding well to a mood stabilizer.  And why I can get over my depressed periods relatively quickly (most of the time), but why I always sink back in.  And why, sometimes, I get overly talkative and excited when I'm out with my friends and then I can't sleep when I come home.  And why sometimes I'm just so irritable and angry.  And the way this has all progressed over the years.

And then, this diagnosis that would have terrified me just a short period ago became this welcome relief.  The last decade of my life is no longer inexplicable.

But, more importantly, I know how to treat, deal, and cope with it.

So, I went to a therapy appointment a couple weeks ago and got brave enough to blurt out a quick, "I think maybe I have Bipolar II".

And, it was like the flood gates had opened.

I'm pretty sure he's suspected BPII for a while now, but he didn't want to make me angry.  He's done that before.  He knows how stubborn I am.  And I'm pretty sure he knew it wouldn't have done any good to mention it to me.  Before I brought it up on my own, that is.

So, he explained more about it to me and how he thought it fit my history and that, in a recent conversation he'd had with my nurse practitioner (who is treating my psychiatric needs) (so fun having all of my doctors consulting with each other about me--but, not really), she asked a lot of questions that made it seem to him that she suspected BP, as well.

I talked things over with HH.  I helped him get more informed as well.  And I told him that once I got the official diagnosis, I was going to go public about it.  I'm done being afraid of stigma.  And I'm done worrying about what other people will think and letting that rule my life.  And he has been so supportive.

No surprise there.

Fast forward to my next appointment with my APRN.  I brought BPII up with her, after she reviewed some genetic testing results that came back saying I have a marker that is correlated with BP.  I expected her to confirm my self-diagnosis.

Instead she told me that she avoids "labeling" like that, for fear that I would then "become the illness".  She just wanted us to be aware of the possibility and move forward.

But, I'm not really good with that.

I understand where she is coming from.  And maybe at a different place in my life, that would be exactly what I need.

But, not here.  Not now.

I am embracing this.  Because with it, my life makes sense.  I make sense.  And I know what to do.  I know that I need medication.  Probably forever.  I know that I need therapy.  Probably forever.

And now, finally, I get it.  The necessity of those things in my life aren't a sign of weakness or failure.  Shouldn't be a source of guilt.  Aren't evidence that I'm just not strong enough.

They are the treatment I need to be well.

That is all.

And it has brought me so much peace.

The proof is in the striped sweater:

I did my best to avoid photos during the horrible month of October.  But, this is pretty much what I look like in all of them.  I just couldn't muster a smile.

This was me on Thanksgiving.

I don't know about you, but I think I kind of look like two entirely different people.

I still have my struggles.  Every day is a continuing challenge.  But, I'm doing infinitely better now that I'm at peace with myself.


Jentry said...

I am just so proud of you I can hardly stand it. I have a feeling that your experience is going to help many many women. So many women, especially in our faith, struggle with perfection issues and putting on Sunday faces. I think that you will be an inspiration to many. You are an inspiration to me and your example has led me to face with some tough truths about myself. I love you so much, "high five for hard work!"

Nikki said...

I have so much respect for you. Glad you shared so much and that you have more peace about everything. Looking forward to reading more as you embrace it all.