Don’t ever forget!

Sometimes I really wonder… Am I really bipolar?  Sure, I have issues.  But don’t we all?  I don’t know a single soul that doesn’t struggle with something from time to time.  And I’ve done really well for quite a long time, relatively speaking.  It’s been about a year and a half without any major problems.  There’s been some up and downs of course, but nothing really dramatic.  So is it really bipolar?

You bet your sweet ass it is!

Yes, I feel like I’ve got my mood swings under control.  That in itself is a clue.  I have mood swings that need to be controlled?  That is a lot bigger problem than dealing with issues from time to time.     The depressions aren’t just bad, they are devastating.  And there’s no question that my ‘highs’ are more than just a good mood.  In fact, most of the time those highs are not good at all; they’re angry and destructive.

And what about all the hospitalizations?  My first one was in 1983.  That was 31 years ago!  And honestly, I have no idea at all how many subsequent hospitalizations I’ve had; I’ve completely lost count.  There have even been some long term institutionalization.   In the mid 90’s, I spent three weeks in a mental hospital, and then transferred to a long term facility where I spent another 50 days. That’s almost 3 months before I was considered safe enough to be released to society.  I’ve been in all the major hospitals in a 200 mile radius.  Are those common issues?  I think not.

Then there have been the suicide attempts.  Again,  it has been 30 years since my first one.  And that attempt was damned near successful!  I overdosed on Lithium, and by the time they got me to the hospital, my blood level was 3.15.  To anyone that knows about lithium, you know that should have been fatal.  God only knows why it wasn’t.  There have been many other times where I’ve tried to kill myself as well.  I’ve overdosed on tranquilizers, antidepressants, lithium, and pain medications.  Several times it should have been successful, but somehow I always managed to pull through.  The last time wasn’t calculated; it was really accidental, at least on a conscious level.  But I probably came the closest then I ever have.  That one required transport by ambulance and three days where I have no idea where I was or what happened.  Is that ‘normal?  I think not.

Let’s talk about relationships.  Up until now I’ve had nothing but failed ones, and a lot of them at that.  I’ve had countless ‘serious’ relationships that survived anywhere from three months to several years; but they always ended, and for the most part because of something I did.  And then there are the marriages; all four of them.  Directly or indirectly my moods and behaviors have killed them all.  I even married one woman who I met during one of my hospitalizations.  There’s a formula for success!  Take one seriously mentally ill person and match them up with another one just as sick.  That’s not a decision a healthy person is likely to make.  (Oddly enough, that was my longest relationship lasting almost 17 years!)  But every one of them ended badly, and everyone involved was hurt.  Not to mention the awful amount of money that was wasted.  I have made an incredible amount of money during my career, and have absolutely nothing to show for it.  I’m almost 53 years old and living hand to mouth, with no retirement plans in place at all.

My career has reflected my mental health as well.  I’ve done everything from mopping floors in a shopping mall to being a Director of an international firm and topping out as a Vice President.  And I’ve lost every one of them; even the janitorial job.  I’m working now as a mid level position with very little responsibility and no management duties.  You know what though?  I’m doing well, and I’ve been here for two years in a very bad economy where jobs are hard to get and even harder to keep.  It doesn’t change the fact though that keeping jobs has been a major problem for me; and I only have myself to blame.

Through hospitalizations and support groups I’ve known quite a few people diagnosed as bipolar.  NOT that I’m trying to compare, or judge who is worse off, but it’s been rare that I’ve met anyone who’s behavior sounded as outrageous as my own.  I’ve done some really crazy things; it’s really a miracle that I haven’t ended up in prison or that no one ever was hurt. (Physically hurt, not emotionally hurt).  No, I don’t mean I stalked anyone with a weapon or tried to attack anyone.  But my actions have been extremely dangerous and destructive, particularly with driving.  I get so angry during my manias that I I completely lose all sense of consequences.  There have There have been even more outrageous behaviors that I’m not even willing to discuss publicly.  No, that doesn’t make me any worse off than anyone else, regardless of the perceived severity. The point is, can I really think that I’ve been mid-diagnosed?  I think not.

All the treatments I’ve been is another clue.  I’ve been on practically every anti-depressant that’s ever been on the market.  I’ve been on anti-seizure medications, antipsychotics, major tranquilizers and mood stabilizers almost consistently for 30 years.  For the same time I’ve been in and out of therapy (mostly in).  That’s both an indication as to how bad it’s been, and how well I’m doing.  I’ve maintained on the same medication now for almost two years, and I’m actually having a little bit of difficulty finding things to talk about with my therapist.  Well, almost; there are still personality issues to resolve.  But I’m not dealing with any crisis’s; just focusing on being a better person.

So it’s understandable to me why I sometimes question my diagnoses.  My treatment has become almost routine.  It’s easy to forget that the medications are greatly responsible for moderating my mood swings.  I’m beginning to develop a relationship that really feels healthy.  For quite a while now life has been good.  I can live each day without thinking about mental illness or dwelling on my condition.  I feel ‘normal’.

But I’m not normal.

As stable as I feel, as much as I don’t want to let my illness rule my life, I have to at least stay aware.  Part of my success has been keeping in touch with my mood, and reacting when I sense a change.  When I take time to reflect, my whole life up until now has been full of craziness.  And without constant vigil the craziness can return.  Since I’ve accepted my diagnoses, my goal has been to live life as free from mental illness as possible.  And I feel rather successful about my success.  But does that mean I’m not bipolar?

Yeah;  you bet your ass I am.

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5 Responses to Don’t ever forget!

  1. Dee says:

    Even though I am not bipolar, I can certainly relate to the “me? really?” thoughts. I’ve spent about half of the past 10 months either in the hospital or all-day-long mental health programs. I’m in the hospital right now, and I think, “I’m not that bad. I don’t belong here. No way do I have an eating disorder. That’s not me. I just don’t like to eat — I could do it anytime I want, I just don’t want to.”

    Or when I am in a state of hopelessness, I say, “I’m not depressed. … My psychiatrist told me I do not have ‘garden-variety depression.’ I must not have depression at all — after all, I get up, I bathe, I do what I need to do until I’ve worn myself out. People who have depression spend their days in the slippers and in bed. This can’t be REAL depression … I’m FINE!”

    I’m glad that you are feeling stable and relatively well, but I’m also glad you do have a serious illness, and that now is not the time to toss out the meds or can therapy. Best to you!!


  2. risingthirteen says:

    your frankness and self-awareness illustrate your clarity. in order to stay in balance – one must continue to move forward.


  3. Hi, I loved your post. I would like to repost it on my blog ( which is a blog for people who are trying to live creatively with moods… Is that OK? Peter Forster, MD.


  4. Dr. Foster, please feel comfortable with reposting any of my posts. Thanks for the feedback! -Bipolar Blogger.


  5. Arby says:

    I ask myself that same question more than I should. A lot of the times it’s when I’ve done a good job at remaining calm and stable for a while, but even when I do lose my shit, I tend to just say “everyone has crazy days…or a week..or a month, maybe even a crazy THREE months.” I’ve also been a job whore – hopping around from one job to the next: from waitressing at the strip club (and then trying out the “real” thing in ANOTHER STATE – totally manic then) to working in a research lab and then a managing an organization at a community college to serving at a restaurant etc etc.

    I think I still struggle with accepting my disorder. But when I do have those moments when I accept it, I actually feel “normal” in my own way and the more sane side of my mind quietly tells the crazy side of my mind: “it’s okay, I must be going through an episode – remain calm because this too shall pass.”


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