Is it really so bad?

Am I really bipolar?

I’ve been asking myself that more frequently these days.  Oh, I know: there’s no question I have issues.  I have a tendency to get pretty excited at times.  But that could be just a zest for life.  Making the most of the things and living life to the fullest.  Some people are just more energetic than others, and I guess I’m one of them.  I’ll definitely admit that I’ve struggled with depression.  But God knows I have plenty of reasons for that.  My life hasn’t been easy, and many bad events easily justify being down.  Besides, a lot of people deal with depression at some point or other in their lives.  Why should I be any different?

I’ve also noticed a dramatic upswing in the number of people diagnosed with bipolar.  I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met in the last year who believe that they ex’s were bipolar; I would guess maybe 1 in 4.  Of course, most of those are based on opinion, and not an official diagnosis.  But still, couldn’t the same apply to me?  Couldn’t I be one of those people who are labeled based on popular opinion?  It seems that there’s always a ‘diagnosis of choice’ by doctors.  The “Illness de jour”.  ADHD is another one that I believe is grossly overused, and there are tons of kids who are medicated unnecessarily.  Reading online there has been a dramatic upswing on children being diagnosed as bipolar.  Some articles have reported a 400% increase.  Is that even possible?  Why would there be so many more diagnosed today than before?

So am I really bipolar?  Or have I just been caught up in the popular wave?

I know my behavior hasn’t been the most stellar lately.  But I’ve admitted that it’s from personality traits and the result of how I was raised and experiences I’ve had.  And others have agreed with me.  How I’ve been acting doesn’t support a diagnosis.  It’s just been bad behavior.

I’ve been on mood stabilizing medication for several years now.  But I’ve also been on anti-hypertensive medication for decades, but when I run out my pressure doesn’t change.  So are my psych meds really helping?  Or is it just more wasted chemicals I’m pouring into my body?  If you take too many vitamins your body just excretes what it doesn’t need.  Perhaps that’s where all the drugs I’ve been taking have been going.  I might as well take the hundreds of dollars I’ve been spending each month and flush it down the toilet.  Shorten the trip.  Not to mention, all the damage I’m probably doing to my liver.  Is the ‘cure’ worse than affliction?  This would especially be true  if the affliction isn’t there.

Now that all the external stressors have resolved I’ve been normal.  I got to work every day, I’m productive, I have a healthy social life, and my interpersonal interactions are completely appropriate.  I’m even enjoying, even craving time to myself.  Reading back through the last six months or so of my blog, all the references to bipolar have been in the past.  And when I started writing, I had just separated from my wife and was in a horrible emotional state.  I had every reason to be a mess.  Maybe it’s time to let go of this diagnosis and stop using it as an excuse.

Who am I kidding?

There is a strong tendency for people who are bipolar to question their illness when they stabilize.  After a while it’s easy to think that the meds aren’t really needed and that they really aren’t necessary.  Admitting you have this illness is difficult enough and feeling ‘normal’ makes it even harder.  No one wants to be sick.  And no one wants people to think they are crazy.  So when things are going well, convincing yourself that there’s really not a problem. Well, acting normal doesn’t mean that you are, it just means the meds are working.  I have no idea if psych meds would have any negative effects on someone if they truly weren’t needed, but I suspect that there would be.  Medications that affect the brain as much as this class of drugs does will change brain chemistry in anyone, needed or not.  And if you don’t’ need them I have to believe that there would be a change in anyone’s behavior.  I know that when I’m not actively depressed I have to adjust the dosage of my antidepressant or I start an upswing.  So if I weren’t bipolar, wouldn’t I be able to tell that the medications were really not needed?

I’ve said before, and I’ll say again; I am not blaming all my behavior on being bipolar.  I believe that I truly have gotten the physical disease under control, yet I still act out emotionally.  Maybe the adverse personality traits developed because of it, but that doesn’t change the fact that I have them.  Nor does it change the fact that I’m responsible for my actions.  Bad behavior is just that; bad behavior.  I can’t blame everything I do on a brain disorder.  Many things I do are just plain old dysfunction.  I don’t think personality issues can be ‘fixed’ with medications either.  Sometimes behaviors can only be relearned, not chemically resolved.  That’s one of the reasons I continue with my therapy.  If the meds were truly working, there would be no reason to meet with my therapist as often as I do.  Just going in once a month or so for a med check would be all that was needed.  Before I got things under control medically we focused on coping skills to deal with the physical illness.  Now however we are working on behavior modifications.  I believe I have the worst of my issues under control.  Now I can address the rest of the problems.  It’s going to be a lifelong process.  And I’m not about to stop now.

I’ve learned a great deal about myself and about my illness over the past year or so.  And one of the biggest things I’ve learned is that it’s real, and much more than just a chemical imbalance.  Deep down I believe that I am a good person.  My behaviors may not always be appropriate, and can be very harmful to myself and others. But I know that.  If I wasn’t a decent human being I wouldn’t even know that I was acting out so negatively.  And that gives me hope.  If I wasn’t aware I wouldn’t care.  I believe without a doubt that I have the capacity and ability to overcome all the issues and merge the person I am on the inside with my actions on the outside.  That is my goal; to be who I am, and not be controlled by my dysfunctions.  I’m not there yet by any stretch of the imagination.  I’m certainly not about to quit treating my physical illness just because I’m feeling better.  I AM feeling better, which only means the meds are working.  There is no question here, and no way to alter the facts.

I am bipolar.  And I always will be.

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2 Responses to Is it really so bad?

  1. risingthirteen says:

    I commend your awareness. happy 2014.


  2. weavergrace says:

    When we watched the movies “As Good As It Gets” and “Silver Linings Playbook”, we wondered what other people might think of the main characters. Did they think they were just misbehaving? Did they understand that a person with mental illness who is behaving in a socially-unpleasant way is very different from another person who is being sarcastic, aggressive or otherwise mean? Do they perceive the effort that the main characters are putting into behaving better, compared with the non-effort that the other people are putting in?

    “Now that all the external stressors have resolved I’ve been normal.” Those are magic words for me. As a friend tells me, our shock absorbers don’t work. When stress hits, we overreact instead of riding smoothly over the bumps. Right now, stress is enraging my life, and I am taking responsibility for my behavior as I talk myself through it, and wait for the surging chemicals to clear from my blood and brain.

    I, too, wonder if I will ever stabilize permanently, and if I will then know that I can reduce my meds. I know to reduce my Welbutrin when it makes me too wired. I know to reduce my Klonopin when I get too sleepy. How will I know that I no longer know that I need a mood stabilizer?

    Thank you for your blog. It has been therapeutic for me today.


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