“I am not bipolar, no matter how many doctors have attempted to diagnose me with it.”
– Myself, February 12th, 2009.
I am going to use this as a bit of a writing prompt for how things change over time. How a person can grow up and come to realize that just believing in something hard enough, isn’t going to make it true. This is a part of my story.
I am not bipolar. That was a fact.
The thing is, I am bipolar. I just wouldn’t or couldn’t admit it to myself due to a sense of pride, or something larger. A feeling that after my mental break with reality that I could still be a normal person. It was just a one time thing, I could pick myself up and go on going on in life like everything was normal.
And I did, and it was — except for that it wasn’t.
After completing out-patient and probationary treatment I didn’t take anything or talk to anyone for my bipolar for years. I kept at my job and my relationships with my then girlfriend (now wife) and family continuing to find opportunity after opportunity to find work and succeed. To an onlooker from the outside looking in, I’m sure everything was normal. I’ve gotten good at that — normal.
It’s inside though. It’s the roller coaster of two very associative emotions that constantly feed into each other in the worst of ways. I do not have typical bipolar, you see. I have bipolar 2 — this means that rather than regularly swinging between mania and depression I swing between anger and depression. I still have moments of mania, but it isn’t as frequent or as unmanageable as BP1. This is an extremely important distinction. Typically, with a lot of the anger I would regularly feel — I had just gotten used to hiding it from the rest of the world, or, at least not giving in to it outwardly. This would result in absolute eruptions about the smallest of things. In fact, I had two nicknames growing up, one “Meat”, which sticks to this day and came around purely because I don’t consider a meal a meal without it. The other however is less endearing, “Angry Man”.
I have bipolar 2 — this means that rather than regularly swinging between mania and depression I swing between anger and depression.
Angry Man came around when all stamping of every little micro-frustration just couldn’t be stamped down any more. I would erupt at something as small as someone asking me to pick up my things. I can’t think of a great example right now, because usually in those moments I could only see red and I no longer am able to think or control myself before I speak or act. It got me in trouble plenty of times.
My depression is not as strong as some other people, thankfully. It’s fairly easy for me to “ignore” in a way without medication. I used to like to describe myself in two ways. I had two emotions to share: ambivalence, or anger. The ambivalence is my depression. I just didn’t care, and don’t care about life and myself sometimes. Like it doesn’t matter.
But then, things all came crashing to a head one day.
I can’t remember the exact day precisely, but I know it was about two to two-and-a-half years ago. It was about 3:00 in the morning and I couldn’t sleep. Then a thought crossed my mind that hadn’t in quite some time.
“I should just kill myself. I know I have the balls to follow through, why the fuck not?”
This was, if I am remembering correctly, after a night where Megan and I did not get along very well. I believe there was something trivial she did that set me off and then we preceded to escalate on each other. This is a low point in my life because I think I came very close to hitting her that night.
So that exchange, coupled with my inherent nihilism and depression fueled by anger gave me the thought. Why not? There’s plenty of reasons why not that I don’t need to get into here, and what’s nice is I had plenty running through my head just after I asked myself that question. However that is a very serious question to ask oneself, for that to be a serious thought after nearly hitting my wife? I knew something was wrong with me.
So I went into the bedroom to wake Megan up and tell her I was concerned about myself.
Talking about my concern turned into “I want to kill myself and I think it’s time to talk to someone.”, but it wasn’t that clear. It was a different kind of eruption that I’m really not all that used to. An absolute deluge of tears and blubbering facial contortion while huddled in the fetal position grasping at my wife like lost child.
It was that night I realized that maybe my ambivalence was also me just stamping down my depression as well, and that was the first of what could be some very bad eruptions ending in the worst kind that affects everyone who loves us.
The next morning I looked into my health insurance and found a psychologist with good reviews nearby. I found someone who I felt based purely on a few lines of text and other superficial nonsense could mesh with me — so I went for it. I mentioned my suicidal thoughts and made an appointment as soon as possible.
When I got to see him we hit the ground running on those thoughts to find out the why, and evolved from there. In just a few sessions we did in fact settle on bipolar which I had been previously diagnosed with. However he was the very first to mention bipolar 2, cite its differences, and how they are relevant to my behavior in every day life.
“I want to kill myself and I think it’s time to talk to someone.”
My psychologist who I am still seeing about 4 times a year then referred me to my psychiatrist who worked with me on the long journey over a year through about 5 pills to find the exact one that would work for me. This is an adventure to say the least, and I will say that my prior drug history allowed me to have a very quick grasp on how different medications affected me. It also gave me a very clear idea of exactly the type of pill I wanted.
I wanted something that I could not feel or tell was in my system whatsoever. Couldn’t even tell a change in my behavior at all, but I wanted everyone else around me to be able to tell. And I found it, Trileptal, Oxcarbazepine, my magical Yin-Yang pill.
Magical is entirely the wrong word and right word at the same time.
Pills are not a magical fix for everything, or even anything. They aren’t magical and especially when it comes to mental health they are a tool in a wide breadth of tools within the box for someone to use. They do not and will not ever fix everything entirely, but they should if used correctly help make it easier for the person to function and be aware of themselves. I was even lucky in that I knew what I wanted and it only took me about 5 pills to get there. I just hope it doesn’t ever stop working.
Pills though are magical in that I often am truly far more in tune with my body and mind and am balanced to boot. Balance is something I have always really had difficulty with, and I always will. The balance that Oxcarbazepine has helped me be able to find along with family support has really made me feel like I am finally in a space where living in tandem with and being open about my bipolar is a healthy thing.
I just need our country and the world to understand that mental illness isn’t a disease that keeps us from being human, or functional, or caring. If there was less of a stigma maybe people would get more help. I believe there is a vast majority of people out there with mental illness struggling because they are afraid of how they will be perceived. I can assure you it is much more freeing and healthy to just accept it and try to find a way to work with it.
This turned out to be much longer than I was originally intending, but it is an important subject to me.
I believe everyone should talk to a therapist, they don’t even need to be a psychologist.
We as imperfect human beings need an unbiased third party to just dump all our head trash that we don’t want to burden anyone else with. It’s unhealthy to keep those things inside — they can develop into worse problems if not taken care of.
So to bring this back around to the beginning, I went from being staunch about not being bipolar to coming to and understanding years later that it is okay to be so. If you need help, get it. Sometimes even if you don’t believe you need it.
National Suicide Help Line: Call 1-800-273-8255
Please call someone, anyone if you are having suicidal thoughts. Sometimes just talking to someone can make all the difference in the world.