At this time of year, we might think about how to change various aspects of our lives. We might want to change our looks, habits, or many other things. These changes are often expressed in the form of new year's resolutions. And as most of us have witnessed, new year's resolutions rarely last past the year being new. I think this, in part, is because we don't think about how to change and what's required to change. And in many cases, change begins with one simple idea: not changing has to be more painful than changing.
Desire For Remission
I thought for a very long time that I could outthink bipolar disorder. I thought, if bipolar disorder is in my mind, then my mind can defeat it. I thought that if I just read the right book, learned the right coping skill or understood the right philosophy, I could outthink the bipolar disorder. And this is not an uncommon feeling. It's one of the reasons that people refuse medications or go off their medications -- whether they express it in those words or not. People think -- errantly -- that bipolar disorder is all in their head, and so their head can fix it.
I've found hope is harmful. I know, the reflex is to disagree with this, but, at least in my case, hope is harmful. I recently found a bit of hope of ending a profound, debilitating depression. I knew feeling that hope was a mistake, but some part of my brain refused to listen to that. And sure enough, it turned out that hope was harmful.
I'm tired of disappointing my loved ones because my bipolar won't improve. I'm tired of looking at my doctor's face as I tell him that the new bipolar treatment isn't really making things better. Their disappointment becomes my disappointment. I feel disappointment in me too. Of course, When bipolar won't improve, disappointment is natural, but it's the disappointing my loved ones that twists the knife.
I consider bipolar disorder to by my main enemy most of the time and I’m trying to win against my bipolar disorder. But the word “try” sucks. I hate the word “try.” Yes, I’m “trying” to win against my bipolar disorder but all this “trying” is exhausting and full of failure.
I have spent a great many years with this bipolar disorder thing. I have spent a great many years dealing with it. I have spent a great many years suffering with it. I have spent a great many years with medication unsuccessfully controlling it. I have spent a great many years in pain. And when in an episode, for me it’s a depressive episode, I just want to know, “how many days until I get better? How many more days do I have to live in this agony?”
When I was first diagnosed, I went through 18 months of medication trials without success. I initially tried a bunch of antidepressants thanks to misdiagnosis and then I went through mood stabilizers when it was confirmed that I had bipolar disorder. And every medication was pretty much the same. I would take the drug, it would induce horrible side effects, I wouldn’t be able to tolerate the drug and then I would have to try something else. It was unadulterated hell. After 18 months of that, I went to my psychiatrist’s appointment, sat down and looked at my doctor as he threw his hands in the air and said, “I can’t help you. You’re no longer my patient.” My doctor had fired me.
While it seems hard to believe, some people want others to stay mentally ill and, indeed, sometimes even individuals themselves, choosing to maintain mental unwellness. You have the obvious example of people refusing medication and thus becoming very sick but there are other forces as well that can encourage a person to stay acutely, mentally ill.
It’s devastating to get a diagnosis of bipolar disorder or another mental illness. It means many things to many people, but I know for me, it meant a lifetime condition and a lifetime of treatment. It honestly felt like a death sentence. But a bipolar diagnosis doesn’t just affect the person with bipolar disorder. A bipolar diagnosis can affect their family and friends, especially if the person with bipolar disorder is younger. It’s completely understandable for a parent to wonder if bipolar disorder is a death sentence. It’s completely understandable for a parent to wonder if his or her child is going to be okay.
OK, maybe it seems like I’m being a bit hard on commenters. I swear I’m not. I like people who comment and express their opinion, but sometimes their opinion spurs one of my own. This is one such comment: I’m bipolar, and I think we ALL should have to take a Dialectal Behavior Therapy course. The DBT course helps with coping skills, year class, and helps . . . these skills work if you want them too. Here’s someone singing the praises of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). She would certainly not be alone as many people find DBT to be helpful. The problem I have with this comment is the last bit, “these skills work if you want them too [sic].” So, this means that if the skills learned in DBT don’t work for someone it’s because they didn’t want them to? I don’t think so.