It’s been a hell of a year. It started off with a severe manic episode that lasted until July, when I ended up hospitalized and was diagnosed (again) as bipolar. This time, after 50 years of denial I finally believed it and started the long painful process of acceptance. Shortly after I was discharged, as a result of my over the top behavior of the last 7 months I lost my job. Two months later my wife kicked me out. I had no inkling it was coming, and was absolutely devastated. I found out a little time later that the reason my wife chose to end our marriage was that she had been having an affair. Because I was unemployed, I was completely alone for 8 months, dealing with my disease, the loss of my marriage and the ultimate betrayal. It was a very intense and miserable time. I never had many friends to begin with, and I because I’d met most of them during my marriage I lost all but one or two when we separated. I went literally weeks without talking with anyone, with nothing to do but dwell on the losses. And Cry: I did a lot of crying.
Even though I wasn’t diagnosed until last August my entire life had been affected by my illness. No, it wasn’t just affected; my disease has completely ruled my life. Because I was in complete denial, I was never successfully treated for my condition, and as a result I’d lost every job I’d ever had, been hospitalized more times than I can recall, had four failed marriages, gone through years of unemployment, damaged unknown number of people, hurt myself financially and negatively affected my health. Over the years I’ve been treated with practically every antidepressant short of MAOI’s. Even the ones that were effective only lasted for a little while, and the depression has always returned. In spite of the fact that I denied being bipolar, I’ve been on many different mood stabilizers, but with only moderate success, and I always seemed to discontinue before any of them could really take effect.
But now it seems like all of that is changing.
It took some trial and error, but I feel like the combination of medications I’m on is really working well. I still have the mood swings, but I think that the extremes are under control. I have a great doctor. Even when I was unemployed he worked with me to make sure I got the care I needed. His knowledge of medications is also great, and I am maintaining with only two mood stabilizers with minimal side effects. My therapist is terrific. I’ve had a lot of different therapist over the years, but the one I have now has the best approach I’ve ever had for really dealing with the day to day and developing good coping skills. I’ve found a new relationship that really feels healthy. Of course only time will tell, but I really feel like with the progress I’m making I’m starting to manage this illness and move forward. As m therapist says, I’m learning to embrace the ordinary; something I’ve never been able to do before.
In short, I have hope.
For the first time I can remember it feels like my moods are controlled to reasonable limits. Making healthy decisions as to the people I chose to surround myself with has all but eliminated the unnecessary drama. Even though I’m not thrilled with my current employment, I give it my best effort and have kept up my responsibilities without going over the top. And I’m able to continue to seek a more appropriate job in spite of the difficulty and disappointment of the difficult job market. I’m really enjoying spending time with others, especially in my new relationship. I’m also able to spend time alone without any anxiety.
Am I completely out of the woods? Of course I’m not. I’m sure that I will have days that are going to be more extreme than I want them to be. I’ve still got to make it through the winter, which has always been a real challenge with being depressed. There will be medication adjustments and changes. But now, for the first time, I believe that this illness can and will be managed. I’ve learned a tremendous amount about myself and the disease over the years, and now that I know exactly what I’m dealing with I can apply that knowledge to dealing with it. I have a strong circle of support including others who are also bipolar that have learned to effectively deal with their own illness.
In spite of having such a devastating, life altering illness, I believe that it can be successfully treated. I’ve taken the control of my life back from the beast that has dominated me since childhood. I’ve learned not only the whys of my behaviors, but the skills I need to modify them. I believe I can have healthy interactions with others. Now I have faith that I can have a wholesome and fulfilling relationship that can succeed.
For maybe the first time in my life, I know….I’m going to be all right.