Sometimes it’s best that I don’t look at the traits or qualities of people that have bipolar disorder. I sometimes use it as a crutch or an explanation for some of my irrational actions or lack of motivation. But how do you tell when your actions ARE a direct result of your mental illness?
Bipolar Disorder is a Diagnosis, Not Your Identity
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in about 2009. I was formally diagnosed with it when I had to be put into a mental hospital for blacking out and going crazy with a knife. My hand went down the knife and severed the tendons in my right hand. When I came to, there was blood all over the kitchen and I was just all messed up.
The problem was that I was already on medication for Major Depressive Disorder. Had been on it since 2000. However, that day, I missed ONE dose of my Zoloft. One issue that I have that my Zoloft dulled was my anger when I feel as though I am being attacked or picked on. If I do something to diffuse a situation, just let it go. I can’t do the person constantly talking when I am doing what was asked. So this just happened to be the wrong day for someone to try that and it didn’t help that I then felt ganged up on when another voice added their opinion.
Anyhow, once I got out of the psych ward (I was there for 5 days. On day 3, I was pissed because I thought I was going to get out but they said I was still too mad), I then went to see a psychiatrist and social worker. Unfortunately, I still had to live in the home with the people that had driven me to that point. Why am I telling you this story?
Well, when I went to my psychiatrist, Dr. Errol Segall (love him!), they had already put me on Lithium and let me keep the Zoloft. I wasn’t feeling the Lithium. It made me fuzzy and it felt like there was something in the corner of my eye and I was going to run into walls. So he took me off the Lithium and gave me Seroquel instead (Seroquel was great…… for about 8 years and then it gave me dang on Diabetes(I blogged about that as well)). When he did this, knowing what I know about bipolar disorder, I know that Lithium is usually the first thing they put you on so I questioned the change. His response:
“I treat the person, not the diagnosis.”– Dr. Errol Segall
And this is when I knew I was going to be with him until he retired or I died. LOL Listen, this is one of the biggest issues when it comes to mental health. There was a time where you just got put on certain medications due to your diagnosis. Oh, you have bipolar disorder, well Lithium it is. They treated the diagnosis, not the person. Granted, there are a lot more options out here for us to choose from when it comes to medications.
The issue now is getting people to go through the process of finding the med(s) that work for you. Many people get frustrated and give up. I know of many people that do that. It’s a frustrating process but it can be worked out as long as you communicate with your doctor.
I Said All This to Say What?
Everyone isn’t the same when it comes to treatment for their mental illness. Just as the same trauma doesn’t impact everyone in the same way, a diagnosis doesn’t manifest itself in people in the same way. This is also why I tell people not to suggest meds for other people because they worked for you. I can go down the list of all the meds that I was on that didn’t work for me but work just fine for other people. We have to really pay attention to things like that.
Anyhow, the main feature of bipolar disorder is usually going from one extreme to the other when it comes to moods. And then you have Bipolar II. Yes, and then you have depressive type, manic, with psychotic features, without psychotic features, current episode manic, depressed, mild, moderate, server (I’m thinking about the codes that we use for this because I’m a coder).
With ME personally, I’m usually in a depressed state. And this is even when I take my meds. Sometimes, as my psychiatrist explained, the change of the seasons can have an impact on my moods. At the start of spring, for some reason, I get really sad. It’s stupid and it happens every year and, every year, I’m emailing him about how bad I feel.
I have been manic before. Man, manic bipolar for me came in the form of being overtly sexually promiscuous. So, I would say that I had two periods of just being out there. Many times I would get drunk so that I could do whatever and not care about it. Now, alcohol and your prescription drugs are not friends so don’t do that. DON’T DO THAT!
So, with MY bipolar disorder, I know what I can do and can’t do. I also know the overall rules and actions if one has bipolar disorder as there are some that a good chunk of people with the diagnosis share.
When I got on Seroquel, I gained a lot of weight. To combat that, I got a personal trainer (tax money) and started working out. I kept the weight off because I worked out. Working out helped my mental illness because I would run in the sun (the sun is great for your mental health) and my body was looking great. After those years went by and the Seroquel started to work against my body, I got frustrated. I was literally doing what I was supposed to be doing as far as eating, working out, lifting weights, and the weight wasn’t coming off.
Now, I could have just blamed it on the meds and stayed unmotivated. But, since I’m in the medical field, I went to the doctor. I knew something was wrong. People would assume that I was lying about doing everything I was supposed to do to keep the weight off but I wasn’t. A blood test showed that I had flippin diabetes and the Seroquel was no longer my friend. I talked to my psychiatrist and he took me right off it. Seroquel, however, HAD been how I got to sleep until it stopped working and I had to take Melatonin (it’s natural) to go to sleep. So, since it wasn’t working after all those years, it had to go.
They put me on Metformin for 30 days and found out that I didn’t even need it. The weight came off and all was well.
I am now on Zoloft (my ride or die) and Klonopin. Klonopin really hasn’t been doing much for me lately. With MY bipolar disorder, I don’t stop thinking so I need something so that I can quiet the chatter and go to sleep. I have since found other ways outside of that medication to get to sleep. However, according to my Fitbit, my sleep is not a restful sleep. It’s usually very light with very little deep sleep.
So I had to learn to turn everything off and just listen to a book on a timer or listen to one of my podcasts. A really good one is Snoozecast on Spotify. They just read boring books until you fall asleep. I usually don’t make it through an episode. You just turn everything off, turn over, and go to sleep. If I don’t get sleep, I can run into a manic episode. If I don’t at least take my Zoloft, that will allow my anger to come out at the slightest thing so I rarely missed my Zoloft after “the incident” in 2009.
I could very easily use my diagnosis as a crutch. If I wanted to, I could probably be on disability because I have lost jobs because of my temper. I don’t want to do that though so I take my meds and try to keep on.
Yes, it’s hard but life isn’t easy most days. And there are many days where I want to give up. I could use my diagnosis as a reason to just never talk to anyone and be a hermit. I could stop taking my meds and just act a fool and blame it on not taking my meds. I could blame not being motivated on having bipolar disorder and let my house look like trash (it looks like trash now but I do my best to set a goal to do something every day to rectify the situation).
Many people make generalizations about people with mental illnesses. We’re “crazy”, we’re “violent”, we’re “great in bed”. Well, some of us are those things if we don’t do what we’re supposed to do. I see a therapist as well as my psychiatrist, I set goals, I try to better myself as a person, and I try to help other people that might need some help coming to terms with whatever affliction they are suffering from. I try to make myself useful to others. I could just lay down and be like “Well, the bipolar got me so I just won’t do anything.” But I can’t do that.
I have a little girl and I’m all she has. And life isn’t easy for her as she has a moderate intellectual disability as well as autism. And, who knows, she might get my genes and have bipolar disorder too. So what example am I setting for her? Yes, it’s hard and sometimes I’m VERY hard on myself but I have to look at the bigger picture. I could be dead. I mean, I want to be dead most days BUT I have to keep on chugging along.
My Suggestion (No, I’m No Doctor)
Evaluate yourself alone or with the help of a therapist. Even if you don’t have a mental illness and just don’t feel right, do this. Find out what makes you happy and, if it’s safe, do it.
I talked in my last post about how Kpop has changed my life. I might not be motivated to do something but let one of my favorite Kpop songs come on and watch my whole attitude change. And I KNOW this but sometimes I just literally want to be unmotivated and that frustrates me because I KNOW what I need to do to change my attitude.
My friends tell me often that I am a bit too hard on myself. Sometimes I am because I know what I am capable of but I just sit there like a dummy and be like “Yeah, the bipolar got me today again.” That’s not an excuse. Bipolar disorder or not, I know what I can do and I know what can motivate me to do it.
In other words, learn yourself, KNOW yourself. You can do whatever you want and no diagnosis will stop you from doing it. I bet you were doing it before so don’t let your diagnosis define you. Sure, it might seem a little hard at times. I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder at 20. I had to talk to a therapist, learn my triggers, learn what made me happy and sad, learn what made me want to murder, and learn how to cope with those things (I have blogged about all these things) but I know myself better and I tailor everything I do to my limitations; because, although my diagnosis doesn’t define me, I still have limitations. I don’t want to put myself into situations where the old me might come out.
In the process, I have had to cut people off that I found out really didn’t care about me at all. I had to be happy with being an introvert because I have always been one although it doesn’t seem as though I am when I am out with people. I had to seek out a job where I don’t have to deal with actual people in person. I have had to give myself a little bit of credit for the things that I have accomplished regardless of all the things that were thrown at me. I have had to learn to give myself a little bit of grace. During the week, I get drained so I give myself ONE day on the weekend to stay in the bed and do absolutely NOTHING (besides feed my little family and make sure they are okay). I deserve that day and I will not feel guilty for doing it.
In the end, I am not bipolar. I HAVE bipolar disorder, but it’s not who I am. So I will not let it define me and I will not use it as a crutch. But I have to remember that there is a happy medium. We won’t always have great days and that’s okay. But don’t just lay down and stop because someone gave you a diagnosis that people feel should limit you.
I was all over the place in this post but these are just the thoughts that tumble off my head sometimes. I really think a lot. You guys would HATE to see me manic. I was manic a couple of times last year. That was fun (NO, it really wasn’t).