It’s been my goal for some time now to have a normal, symptom free life. There have been so many struggles over the years; so many problems; so much damage and hurt. I really get tired of it all and just want to live without all of the angst. And I think for the most part, I have. I’ve been on the same medication for almost two years now and it seems to be working. Focusing on my therapy has taken me a long way with learning how to deal with this disease. For maybe the first time in my life I go through the days without even thinking about being bipolar. Let me tell you…it’s a great thing.
Or is it?
I think one of the reasons I’ve been making so many improvements is because I’ve stayed aware of my moods. As I feel them change I can react before they get out of control. The therapy has helped tremendously with this. I’m able to talk through issues that I’ve learned can be triggers for an episode. In our discussions about things that I seem inconsequential I sometimes realize that they are having more of an impact how I feel than I realize. My therapist knows me all too well. She can see changes and mood shifts way before I can, and lead our conversations into my own awareness. My life may have smoothed out, but it doesn’t mean I can ignore the fact that I’m bipolar. There are improvements, but there is no cure.
And frankly, it scares the hell out of me.
One of the things I tell myself is when I’m having a bad day, the weather is not good or my job is really stressful is; if you don’t have a bad day, how can you appreciate the good ones? If everything is the same every day, day in and day out, how do you know if it’s good or bad? I love the beach, and no other place I’ve ever been makes me any happier. The waves hitting the shore are very calming for me. The Sunlight hitting the water is beautiful; sparkling more than any diamond. I especially love the beach at night. It’s almost a primal feeling for me. It’s the best place on earth for me.
But what if I had never been there?
Without actually being there I would have no idea what it brings to me. I could read about it, or see photos, even hear about other’s experiences. But until walking through the sand and hearing the waves it’s just an imagination. I thank God that I live close enough that it’s only a short drive away.
But the converse is true too.
It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all; right? Maybe that applies to some situations, but not to this one. Not for me. Having lived so much of my life dealing with the horrors of this illness, now that I’m not consumed by it the idea of having a new episode is absolutely terrifying. I know what it’s like to live symptom free. And now that I’ve had it, I don’t want to ever lose it again.
So many things have changed as I’ve gotten more stable. I’ve gone from being a contractor to being hired as a full time regular employee. I have health benefits! The last three years I was unable to get insurance, and have not kept up with basic health care. With the job however, not only do I have coverage, it’s very good. You can believe I’m taking full advantage of it now; having all the tests and exams I can to make sure there are no unforeseen problems. I do my job calmly and professionally. It’s extremely stressful, and in the past I’ve overreacted and created unnecessary problems for myself. Now however I deal with the ups and downs of work appropriately and without drama. I have a great house, and it stays clean and organized all the time. I can pay my bills, and do; even on time. Every day is positive, even when I’m not having the good ones.
I’m even getting involved in a serious relationship. And that’s something I never believed I’d ever have again.
Yes, life is good. I’ve really enjoyed being free from the devastation to myself and others.
But…what if that changes? There’s no guarantee that the medications will remain effective indefinitely. Body chemistry changes, tolerances develop and suddenly what has been working for years doesn’t make enough difference. Or maybe it’s not so sudden after all. It’s the slow subtle change that can get you in trouble. Moods can shift just a wee bit every day, and you don’t even realize that their changing. And even if you do notice that you’re moving too fast, or sinking down, it’s easy to rationalize and find excuses to explain it. It’s okay to have a bad day, isn’t it? Or my work can be frantic; it makes sense that I’m pouring more energy into each day. Before you know it, you can be out of control yet again.
Now that I’ve experienced the good life I have come to expect it. I feel healthy, and my actions and thoughts reflect it. I don’t do crazy things, or sit in dark rooms brooding and feeling miserable. I don’t explode in anger over anything; even if it should make me mad. Bad days don’t send me spiraling down. It’s not that I’m apathetic or numb either. I react appropriately to all life throws at me; good and bad.
I fear that might be changing however.
Lately I’ve been fighting more and more to keep positive and upbeat. My energy level has definitely decreased. I am keeping up at work, but not as well as I have been. Weekends are a total loss. I get done what absolutely has to be done, and very little else. Projects that I have started remain unfinished. I spend way more time on the couch than I care to admit. I can tell myself that I’m just bored, that life has just become mundane and repetitive. I go to work, I see my girlfriend, I go to sleep. And tomorrow I get back up and do it all over again. That’s enough to drain energy and motivation, isn’t it? Being completely honest with myself however I have to admit that it’s becoming a problem.
But I won’t go back there again. I won’t; I can’t.
I’ve heard it said that most suicides occur not during a depression, but as one is developing. No, I am not suicidal, not even close. But I understand how it could happen. I don’t want to give up what I have. I know just how horrible and devastating depression can be; been there, done that. And that knowledge, the realization that it could be happening again just feeds the feeling of depression.
What the hell am I going to do? There’s just so much at stake here.
I’ll tell you what I’m going to do; I’m going to stop this before it takes over. The medication that I’ve been on so long may need a little adjusting. I’m actually prescribed for twice the dose that I’m taking, so going up to 75% isn’t unreasonable. I can do that on my own, without a trip to the doctor. Well, not without discussion with my therapist; I trust her judgment completely. She can let me know if it’s the right approach. As luck would have it, I happen to have an appointment with her this afternoon.
Wait. It’s not luck.
I have an appointment with her today because I’ve kept up my appointments with her every week, even as long as I’ve been doing so well. I’ve toyed with the idea of moving my visits out to every other week, but now I’m glad I haven’t. And if she says I should meet with my Psychiatrist, I will. I’ve worked way too hard, and much too long to ignore what could turn into a big problem.
The word of the day is vigilance. It’s nice to live a quiet, normal life without a disease hanging over my every waking moment. But it’s not smart to think that I can just ignore that fact. I still have signs to watch for, and need to watch for even the slightest changes in mood. Life IS good, and I want to make sure it stays that way. I just have to remember, it is possible live a regular life even if I am bipolar.
But it will never be normal.