Friday, September 30, 2005

Thank God, I'm not Crazy

Or, rather, I am crazy...but not uniquely so. For the past month, I've been confessing to Jeff almost every day that I don't really feel sick. I know what depression feels like, and it's easy to classify that as illness. But I'm not depressed. And I've ranted about how what is pathology for me (mania and hypomania), in people who do not suffer the depressive side of the coin is not considered pathology- and how damned unfair that is. They're not sick- they're your tireless leaders, your undauntable explorers, your unflagging visionaries and reformers. So they came with a thermostat set a little higher than the average- they only sleep 5 hours a night, say, or can come up with fresh ideas for saving the world when everyone around them is dozing off in exhaustion ("It's 5 am? Wow, time flies!"). They're not sick.

It's incredibly. Fucking. Unfair.


"I'm honestly not scared - yet - of the diagnosis. It's not a complete surprise. What I am nervous about is the medications...But it's more than that. I don't feel bipolar. Good moods don't feel like mania or hypomania to me - they feel like - good moods."

Quoted from this article, but I could have written the exact same thing. And I think it may be harder for me right now, as someone who has never displayed a lot of classic psychotic symptoms (hallucinations or grandiose delusions) with my manias, to frame mania in terms of illness at all. Yes, I understand this is a progressive disorder, that without treatment, I will deteriorate until I die (from either natural or self-inflicted causes, self-inflicted being more likely without treatment). I understand that mixed episodes, like I have been experiencing ever since my second week of Zoloft- these will become the norm for me. The giddy, pure mania that I'm trying desperately to reclassify as something other than illness will disappear almost completely. But it's not enough. I don't know if "enough" exists to make me comfortable with permanent medicated status. Did I mention that I don't like taking drugs? Not even Tylenol.


So, anyway, I tell Jeff I'm not sick. And he always responds with this totally priceless's the look our kids are going to get when they ask if they can stay overnight at the hotel after prom, or have a kegger for their underage friends at our house (ok, so it's probably wishful thinking that they would ask if they could have the kegger). And that helps, because to be brutally honest with you all (and I think I can do that, after dropping the f-bomb on ya), if it was for my own sake, I would not seek treatment.

Oh, ok, I love being in therapy (c'mon, what could be more fun for a type 4 than having someone listen for an hour while I talk about myself and how I feel?) I'd probably do that. Mood stabilizer? Forget it. I'd rather ride the waves than blunt them. When I'm not in the thick of depression, it's easy to convince myself that there is romance in the crushing despair. When I'm not in the grip of mania, it's easy to convince myself that it's just Stacey, only better- smarter, more creative, more interesting, more energetic. It's easy to forget the frightening loss of control...the things I have said and done that were an excruciating embarassment months or years later, the risk-taking, the overspending, the frightening rages, the eventual crash-and-burn.

But regardless, I don't have the option of complete selfishness. I have children who need a mom who isn't incapacitated for 1/3 of the year, who doesn't rage without warning, who can provide some consistency and predictability and structure. I have a husband who needs to be able to trust me with the finances, and trust me with myself. None of that is happenin' without a friendly little dose of lithium (or depakote, or whatever they end up picking for me). I love my kids to death, and I firmly believe that that fact balances out a helluva lot of crap they might otherwise carry, but it doesn't cancel out "my mom's bipolar". This is a case where love isn't...can't be...enough. I have to cooperate. Be a good girl. Take my meds.

And I resent it, intensely.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

What a ride

If you all read Jeff's blog, you know that I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder a few weeks back. At the time, I was had just started taking a small dose of zoloft for depression, and it made me nuts...I was constantly bouncing from very high to very low, and thankfully, the psychiatrist had me stop taking it right away. Unfortunately, she wasn't comfortable prescribing a mood stabilizer (that's what's generally used to treat bipolar- lithium, depakote, etc) because I am breastfeeding. So while the pendulum is swinging less quickly post-zoloft- every few days instead of several times each day- it's still swinging, and with the year heading toward fall and shorter days, the lows are starting to get lower and longer, while the highs are disappearing completely.

Season is a big influence on when mania and depression manifest in me, although obviously not everyone with seasonal affective disorder should be diagnosed bipolar (you could, however, make a pretty strong argument that SAD is itself part of the bipolar "family"). Pregnancy wields a lot of influence, too- I wonder if a lot of the reason I have been so much "healthier" the past five years is because I have had very stable, mostly uncycling hormone levels thanks to pregnancy and lactation. Which begs the question- does that mean that when I am no longer breastfeeding I will rapidly lose ground to this illness? I doubt that the influence of hormones and lactational amenorrhea on bipolar women has been studied (heads up to any research psychiatrist or psychologist who wants to break ground!), but I think it's likely that they have therapeutic effects. I know that it has been found that buildup of hormones during late pregnancy makes bipolar women manic, and that it usually lasts 4-6 weeks after delivery (then we tank). Jeff's comment: no wonder you feel so good when you're pregnant! My response: yeah, and now that I know that, I don't think I like being pregnant as much as I used to...being in a good mood is a wonderful feeling. Knowing you're in a good mood because you're getting manic kind of kills it, at least for me.

I also think that if you go through my archives, you could probably get a decent idea of where my mood was at by the length of my posts. I don't have the energy to write as much when I'm down (right now I would characterize my mood as "headed down"...but not there yet).

Oh, hey, if anyone needs to get ahold of me, your best bet is to either email Jeff or call our house...I probably won't be checking for comments, and my response time for emails right now leaves much to be desired.