I’ve got a lot of letters to write. One to Mom, Dad, my boss, and to Kenny. I want to tell them how I really feel and how they’ve affected me throughout my life. In the case of my boss, I want to say to her exactly what is wrong and why I have to take months off of work. I want to tell her some of my histories and give her perspective about why I react to things a certain way or tend to have shit confidence and significant anxiety at work. I want to tell everyone that I am doing the best I can to get better, but the path to wellness with mental illness is hardly ever just a straight road.
I would like to think of recovery as a game of Chutes and Ladders. You do your best to land on the ladders, but sometimes luck and external conditions lead you to the chutes. In a way, my bipolar disorder reminds me of the tale in Greek mythology about Sisyphus, the king of Ephyra who had much greed and bloodlust. His sentence for his crimes was to move a boulder up a hill and then have to watch it roll all the way back down to the bottom only to have to push it back up again for eternity.
Unlike Sisyphus though, I don’t feel I’ve done much to deserve my illnesses. But it is still frustrating to watch my boulder of progress end up at the bottom of the hill and have to roll it up again. I think that is why so many people with bipolar disorder end up taking their own lives. They are in the darkness once again, and this time they are so sure they are not going to get out.
Mania and hypomania also don’t help this. Flying high and then landing in the swamps of depression is quite the fall, but that is typical after such an upswing. When in these high moods individuals can have a tendency to go off medication, believing that they do not need it because they are feeling great. Before I was diagnosed with bipolar II, my only medication was Zoloft, an anti-depressant. When I flew into my high moods, I began to think that maybe I was faking my depression or that perhaps I just needed to “toughen up” a little bit.
I started having dangerous ideas of just completely going off of my anti-depressant because I was so ridiculously happy, so apparently, I was faking it, and other people needed these meds more than I did. What really was wrong was that I had bipolar, not just severe depression. Sometimes being on an anti-depressant without a mood stabilizer can worsen mood cycling, which I believe was my case. I was violently thrown from euphoria to suicidal ideation in what felt like an endless loop.
It takes on average ten years for someone with bipolar disorder to be correctly diagnosed. Depression is the initial diagnosis for many. I was lucky, and within two years of starting anti-depressants I had found the culprit, but not without having to go inpatient first. My insurance and the availability of psychiatrists was making it hard for me to find one at all. I basically ran out of time and hit my crisis point before I could see a psychiatrist outside of the hospital. I’m just glad I got to see one at all. I’d much rather have my friends and family get a call that I am inpatient instead of dead.
So yes, many letters to write, much explaining to do. I hope I can reach an understanding with my family and work that will help me in my progress toward wellness. This isn’t easy for me, and it indeed isn’t a cakewalk for those I love either. Watching me struggle with my existence is probably one of the scariest things they may deal with in their lives, and for that, it is incredibly hard not to feel guilty, but I am trying to do everything I can in the battle with my illness.