When I was about 39 years old my doctor sent me to a psychiatrist as I had to change my anti depressant medication and the doctor was the sort who preferred a psych to assess a patient before making any medication changes.
I had never been to a pysch before. I am not the sort who can open up easily and I was very resistant to it. But I went. We did not hit it off at all. He was rigid and I was in denial I suppose. After a number of intensely uncomfortable visits I decided not to go. I was not ready for anything like this.
After the first three visits he said to me that he believed I was bipolar and he wanted me to not take anti depressants, he wanted me to go on Lithium. I said he was wrong and there was no way I was going on that, ever. He brought it up a few more times and then I stopped going. I ended up changing GP’s and got a script for Lexapro which did me well enough until I came off all medication in 2005.
Since then I have managed my depression with exercise, behavioural changes, diet, sleep and all those things. It takes a lot of effort and I have to confess that I am often concerned about what happens when my strict routine is not able to be followed (holiday, illness or other things). It has happened and it sends me off the edge and I have to start all over again.
However, despite all my efforts, I do still have constant mood swings. And depression. I do weird food things when I am struggling. This year I have had a couple of things happen that triggered scary mood changes and I thought I was going almost mad. But because I am aware of the symptoms I can generally cope well enough and unless you really knew me well you would never know I was having an episode. My husband is very, very supportive but he does worry when I say “I am struggling” because if I say that he knows it is just the tip of the iceberg.
This year my younger sister was diagnosed with bipolar 2 which I guess you could say is a less extreme version of bipolar. She is on a mood stabiliser and goes to a psychiatrist. It took years to get diagnosed and she feels so much better.
This weekend I had a very bad weekend. I was totally fucked in the head and had a mood that changed almost every two hours. It was very tiring. This is not the first time and I am very good at functioning through these moods but I must admit this one was worse than usual.
I rang my sister and spoke to her today about it. Today I was okay and was talking at a million miles an hour. Racing words falling out of my head. Lots of what my sister and I call “white noise” in my head.
“I’ve told you this before. You need to see a professional Linda. I believe you have bipolar 2,” she told me.
I told her I might one day but am not ready to.
I explained that my plate is a bit full at the moment with work, exercise and the Oxfam walk I have committed myself to. I needed to adjust and make allowances to reduce the risk of having a trigger episode. She told me to be open minded.
On the weekend when I was talking to my husband about it I said “I wish I was a more open person” and he said “So do I”.
Now, on a normal day I would just hear the words “So do I” and take them exactly for what they mean. But on the weekend with the inside of my head I read those three innocent words as “I wish you were different too. I don’t like the way you are. I want you to be another person. You are not open enough and I don’t like you. You are never good enough”. Blah, blah and blah.
I know enough to know this is very fucked thinking and I told my husband how I interpreted those words and he just shook his head. It is very hard for him when I am like this. But he thinks it is harder for me when I am like this.
The reason I am careful what I say during an episode is that I can say things that are really strange and I can talk myself into believing things that, in two hours, I am shocked I even said or thought. So I have taught myself to take time to speak or just talk trivia to bring myself down.
So today after my bad weekend (which had been preceded by a week of poor sleep, feeling unwell, intrusive negative thoughts and some other things) I was on a high and got loads done. But I talked non stop. I talked to my sister for an hour over the phone. I talked non stop to my book keeping client for over an hour and I also talked non stop through exercise class.
My husband thinks that if I can manage it and cope then that might be okay. My sister says that I have to be open minded to the fact I may have to see a psych one day as she thinks the episodes are getting closer. She may be right.
There is a lot more to it which is too long and boring to go into but you get the drift.
I am just going to take it day by day. It feels the right thing to do.
I really do not want to take medication. I don’t feel I need it. I am managing the anxiety. Very aware of the ups and downs and feeling I am in control. But maybe that is part of the thing about mental health problems. You think you are in control but may well not be.
It’s a difficult path to navigate sometimes.