I only wish I was talking about the band. No, that’s my DSM-IV diagnosis as of this moment. I can now see the pattern all the way back through college: I’ve been an undiagnosed bipolar depressive. I’m more of a bi-polar II type, really—I never go into full-blown mania, but I do go hypomanic, often for long periods.
This explains so much about me, and yet I am not even close to settled with it.
I can choose to be my diagnosis, or I can choose to treat the symptomology and see myself as a whole person. Once we came to the idea that this might be what it is—before Christmas, if you must know—I strongly defined myself by that diagnosis. I went into a shell of myself, honestly, living this whole meta-life where I overanalyzed everything. The only reason I was functional at all during this time was because I spent December in hypomania: I wasn’t ten foot tall and bulletproof, but I was at least eight feet high and ready to run through brick walls.
Running through brick walls. That’s a common act here on my end. I get convinced that I can do anything, and being a generally capable chap, I find that I’m able to accomplish much of what I set my mind to—but only when I’m hypomanic. When I’m depressed, I do very well to get out of bed in the morning and put one foot in front of the other. Imagine, then, when I came off that hypomania back to the depths while my good friends Kat and Sean were in town. That first weekend, the only thing that got me out of bed was the knowledge that I’d get to spend some time with them. Spend a lot of time with them, I did; then I’d drive home and the blackness would settle back in.
So, I did what any smart depressive does: ask for help. I met with my psychiatrist a couple days early, then started on a new drug regimen. By the end of the week, I was feeling much better, but the last few days … well, let’s just say that I’m happy that I titrate up to the next dose of the mood stabilizer tomorrow.
This is not easy. In fact, it’s quite hard. But doing nothing would be worse, for me. I can’t go on living like I was, with the antidepressants working some of the time and fighting some of the depression, except when it got worse, and then it would get better again, and that would be because I was hypomanic, and while I never quit my drugs or even stopped the dosages, I’d take my eyes off the prize, thinking I was Fixed.
I wasn’t Fixed. I’m trying to learn how to manage this, this which is so clearly my life and has been for a decade, though maybe I’ve not wanted to face it. But here in my thirties, I’d rather face my demons than be owned by them. I’d rather fight them and lose and lick my wounds than just lie in a pile in bed, unable to move, crushed by the biochemistry being off in my head.
And why the hell am I writing about this on the Internet? In a few hours, Facebook will import this as a note, and all 1200+ of my friends can confirm what they’ve long suspected—that I’m batshit insane at times. Isn’t this a bit of an overshare?
I want the stigma of mental illness to go away. I want people to understand that people they know and love can struggle with these things, publicly, unafraid of who might know or find out. When I took time off at work back in June, everyone there really didn’t want to talk about it. I understood that, but man, seriously … I needed it. I realize now that I was coming off of some hypomania and plunging really, really far down in the hole, to a place where the antidepressants didn’t begin to touch things.
Yes, I need to talk about these things—not out of narcissism, but because others need to know that they’re not alone in this struggle. I’ve had at least two friends who, because I’ve written about my depression in the past, have sought help themselves, saying to me that they felt emboldened because I’d been public with it. In the light of that, how can I not share this fight with you?
I won’t get into specifics on meds or anything, but I’m combining an antidepressant with a mood stabilizer. It takes eight weeks to get to a therapeutic dose of the latter, and that’s proving to be hard, but I’m at least functional. That’s how most people end up fighting this: both barrels. The goal is to get to a normal person’s ups and downs, because those can be handled. I also see a therapist in addition to my psychiatrist, and if you ask if it’s worth it, I’ll tell you that I pay her out of pocket, and when I was seeing her every week last year, it was 10% of my takehome pay. It was worth every penny. I’ve unlocked a lot of wrong thinking in my head, and it makes me a lot more equipped to handle this. Talk therapy is not for everyone, but it’s definitely been for me.
So that’s what I’ve got, and that’s what I do about it. Got questions?