This week I am writing an extra blog in recognition of National Bipolar Awareness Day.
I found out I was Beautifully Bipolar after a suicide attempt. It was a mixed episode brought on by stress – a new job, new city, new roommate, new life. Too much new. I had a psychotic break and overdosed on Xanax. Enough to stop my breathing. Enough for an ambulance to come. Enough to land me in intensive care. Enough to intubate me – threading a breathing tube down my throat and into my lung.
I don’t remember much about it. I remembering feeling wildly happy. Then taking the pills. Then being in the psych ward. That’s the short version. If we were friends I would give you the longer tale, but that will do for the Internet.
The first year and a half after my diagnosis was awful. My mental health team and I were on a quest to find some medications to tame my wild moods. The extreme highs and bitter lows. The irritability. The anger. This “other” me. I’ve always wanted control so not knowing who I was waking up to be or who I would be in three hours was horrible. All I wanted was stability, to be happy, and to know who I was again.
Then along came Dr. C. He introduced me to a drug called Saphris and that has made all the difference. As the drug settled into my system, I settled back into my life. Saphris isn’t the be all, end all of my medication management. Today I take five medications for Being Beautifully Bipolar, Saphris is just one. It is an atypical antipsychotic. Yes, I need that to keep me well and, no, I am not embarrassed or ashamed by it. It’s chemistry. That is all.
Today I monitor myself. Am I feeling low or perhaps too giddy? Am I making rash decisions? Is one bad day bleeding into another and then another? Am I sleeping too much or too little?
I’m not the only one watching. My live-in boyfriend is always on watch as is my mother, who I talk to every day. When things aren’t quite right I talk to my psychiatrist and therapist. I work with them. We make med adjustments, talk through problems. I go spend time with my parents. It isn’t always easy, but I will do anything to avoid being in another hospital or psych ward, though in the past they have proved the best, safest, place for me to be.
Today I am better than I was. I am imperfect. I work hard at “wellness.”
My aunt died two years ago of pancreatic cancer. Before her death, before she was sick, she wrote me a letter in which she said: ” With your eloquence in writing perhaps God’s plan was for you to educate people on the depths of your illness and their reactions or lack of understanding of what you go through on a daily basis.”
I believe she was right.