Friday, March 12, 2010

Travels in My Bipolar World

For those of you who know about my bipolar, thank you for being there for me. For those who didn't know until this blog, I pray that you can be understanding or at least patient with anyone who may have a mental illness.

See, there is this nasty stigma that is stuck to the phrase "mental illness." People hear "mental illness" or you tell them "Hi! I'm bipolar!" and they ever so slightly tense up or back away like all of a sudden you are going to go homicidal or suicidal on them. There have been some people that I had considered friends tell me they just couldn't handle it and left my life after "the revelation." Then there are some that have stuck by my side through the nightmare that occasionally rears its ugly head. If you are one of those people who stuck by me, and you know who you are, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, from the depth of my soul.

So, what is the point of this blog? Well, more to get it on "paper" what I have experienced in the past more than anything. And for those who are interested, to try to explain in some minute way what it is like to "have an episode." While this particular accounting happened several years ago now (Winter 2007), it is not unusual for me to visit parts or all of this several times throughout the year. Some "visits" are longer than others, but what I try to focus on is the fact that it will not last forever. It is important to remember though that this is just one side of bipolar, the depression side of it. There is a whole other world of mania and hypomania that I am not addressing in this post.


January 9, 2008

I've been on a roller coaster of emotions for the last several years, but the last three months have by far been the worst. I have a great job, great friends, a wonderful family, a place to call my own, my dog and cat, and a wonderful man who loves me unconditionally. And yet, I found little joy in any of that. I found myself not really wanting to deal with anything. It all took too much energy. To smile took too much energy. To eat took too much energy. To pick up the phone and call a friend took too much energy, not to mention the risk of them realizing that something just isn't right with you. I slowly slid downward toward the murky and dark depths of depression.

Now, some of you may say "Oh I know what that is like" and you truly may know, but others may say that and really have only scratched the surface of this deep, abysmal type of depression. I am not trying to discount what they went through or say that it wasn't horrible, just more of a "I hope you never have to go where I have been" type thing.

The place I went was not just an "Oh I'm so sad" type of place. The best way I can think of to describe it was more indifferent and uncaring than sad. Everything just existed. Nothing really mattered. Anything that got done was out of absolute necessity and even then, only because it was expected of me. If I got up and went to work, it was simply because it was necessary to pay the rent so I could have a place to hide in. If I ate, it was simply because it was necessary to make the hunger pains go away. Everything was autopilot at best.

It slowly got worse with me doing less and less. Things started looking more and more hopeless and I found myself asking many times, "What's the point?" I wasn't suicidal, but I just didn't care if I existed anymore either. If I just blinked out of existence, that would be fine with me. If something happened that made it so I didn't wake up the next day, that would be fine with me too. If the roof came crashing down on my head crushing all the bones in my body, who cares! I sure didn't. I didn't care because it just took too much energy to care.

And then I finally collapsed. I will never forget the date. December 3rd I went home for lunch, thinking that if I took a shower it might make me feel better. Instead, I spent an hour in the shower crying. No, not crying, bawling. Big fat tears of hopelessness, pointlessness, and just the fact that crying was pointless and useless made me cry more. I couldn't stop. It seemed to be an unending well of tears. I cried for nearly two hours before I messaged a co-worker telling her I wasn't coming back to work because I just couldn't stop crying. Looking back, I think I picked her because I knew she would understand how I was hurting and how nothing seemed worth anything.

She came to my rescue. She came to my house where I continued to cry. Finally the tears dried up, but I felt ready to shatter into a million pieces if someone just sneezed on me. We decided it was time for me to get help. She packed my clothes, my medications, pajamas, slippers, etc. for me. She put out plenty of food for the cat and asked how to feed the dog. Then she loaded what I viewed as my pathetic self into her car and drove to the Behavioral Health Hospital. She called another co-worker to meet us there as she had to go pick up her daughter, but someone had to take care of me.

As it turns out, we were in the wrong place. We were directed to where we needed to be, but by this time I had started thinking that maybe this wasn't such a great idea after all. I was scared of this unknown step. I was still in tears, barely able to function enough to know that the numbers to my psychiatrist and case manager were in my purse. We found the numbers and called. Apparently someone was shining down on me because my case manager could see me in less than an hour. My co-worker sat in the waiting room for 3 hours while I saw my case manager and then my psychiatrist.

I came out with a new prescription, an order to not work the following day, and a referral to the "Intense Outpatient Program." Why the Intense Outpatient Program (IOP)? Both my doctors felt that I was not a good candidate for the hospital as they felt I would only get worse if I didn't have any control at all over what happened to me. We then sat for another hour at the pharmacy, waiting for my prescription to be filled, Zoloft, an anti-depressant. One more pill to add to my cocktail. She then took me home, making me promise that if I needed anything or started thinking about harming myself that I would call her, and if you know me, you know how I value and stick to my promises. Funny how keeping a promise was the only thing I actually cared about during this.

That night, it didn't take long for me to fall into a deep sleep. I slept for 15 hours. After an entire afternoon and evening of tears, I was exhausted. I woke up, still hopeless, but not crying anymore which in itself I considered a blessing. Over the next month, I would go to the IOP program 3 days a week from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and then work in the afternoon and the days I had "off" from IOP. The medications started kicking in, the therapy started kicking in, my support network kicked in, and things started to become less hopeless and more hopeful.

Friday, I "graduate" from the IOP series. I am being discharged from the program but will continue to see a therapist, my case manager, and my psychiatrist on a frequent basis until we are sure things have stabilized a bit for me. I am happy, truly happy, to say that for the first time in a very, very long time, I don't dread the coming of tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day. For the first time in a very long time I look forward to my morning shower. I look at my dog and smile, knowing that she loves me no matter what. I check my text messages every morning and smile that I have a wonderful man who says good morning to me every day. For the first time in a very, very long time, I feel alive and I feel content.