I CAN’T DO THIS…BUT I’M DOING IT ANYWAY
Some people refer to us as “bipolar sufferers” and that may well be true. Personally, I like to refer to myself as a “bipolar survivor”. It has caused those that I love and me, much pain and anguish – even costing me my marriage. But don’t count me out yet.
After many, many trials of meds over the course of about ten years, I had finally found a combination that all but eradicated my mania (with just a shallow bout with hypomania now and then), and left me with depression that I can usually work through with many strategies and “tricks of the trade”. I have been taking the same combination of meds at very high doses for almost 10 years now with no major changes. Until now.
But let me go back a couple of years.
I finished my doctoral dissertation in December of 2013. I pushed myself, cajoled, begged, tricked and strategized my way through that 155-page text. I worked myself to near exhaustion and during those last 5 months in that year, changed jobs. I now am a full time professor of graduate studies at a small college in the Central Valley of California. I went right from teaching high school full time and working on my dissertation, to teaching college full time with a learning curve steeper than the bell curve.
My life is all work and no play. Yes, this is my own fault, I freely admit. It’s hard to be a type A person with bipolar – easier when manic, it seems.
Jump to today. My three adult children moved out last April and my 80-year-old parents, whom I adore, are moving in, and though I worry about my children, and now watch over my parents, I consider both a privilege denied to many. But that isn’t the problem or the point.
The point is, that I have never fully recovered from the 4-year doctoral program. They didn’t warn me that I would lose my husband (my second), lose many friends, and basically live under a rock for 4 years to finish on time. With working full time throughout, and being a single mom for most of that time, I had to narrowly focus on my goal; so narrow that I lost sight of life.
They say if it were easy, everyone would do it. That must be true. But now, I struggle with the aftereffects of the dissertation process and as a person with bipolar disorder, this has caused some very real stress on my brain. Cognitive dysfunction. Verbal processing difficulties. Issues with attention. Weaker working memory. All comes down to what some call “brain fog”.
I have become easily distractible, highly sensitive to noise, have difficulty focusing and sitting still for more than thirty minutes at a time, and it takes me much longer to process auditory information than ever before in my life. It seems as though I have worn out my brain in some way: either through years of psychotropic med use, or the stresses of life.
When I was first diagnosed, I felt my own brain had betrayed me. The very thing I had relied on for my self-identification all my life, was now broken. I lived in a fog those first ten years trying this medication and that combination. I barely remember my children’s childhoods. I thought I had recovered after finding my current cocktail. I even used the word remission. But now I realize there may be short reprieves now and then, but I will always be on my guard against the symptoms of bipolar disorder.
I am going to see my pdoc next week. I am going to ask for a change of meds. The last time we discussed this possibility, he said it was a crapshoot – 50% it could work, 50% it might not, so we decided to leave things as they were. But I am deteriorating. I have restarted taking D, B12, Iron and Omega 3. I am even going to give Bulletproof coffee a try. I mean, what have I got to lose?
Sometimes I feel that I can’t do this anymore. But for today, I’m doing it anyway.
Photo by symphony of love