We Need to Talk

The deeper sorrow carves into your being the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven? – Poet, painter, and novelist Kahil Gibran (1883 to 1931), best known for the book The Prophet.

“We need to talk” is probably one of the scariest sentences in the English language. It ranks rank right up there with the classics “We’re going to prison,” “I’m leaving you!” or “I see tanks rolling down the street.”  Now that I have your attention what I want to talk about is mental illness, more commonly referred to as wacko, bonkers, of his rocker, 2 sandwiches short of a picnic, and other untidy euphemisms.

Why do people tend to dance around the subject and stop just short of actually looking right in the face of it? The stigma attached is one reason. Another reason is the very real possibility of intense and profound loss; loss of self-esteem, self-worth, spouses, friends, lovers, jobs, finances. Shame, embarrassment, fear, and denial are on the short list too. Nice, moral, stable, responsible people don’t go crazy. It just isn’t done! How rude, snap out it. Get up outta that bed and wash your silly head.

Today I don’t feel nice, moral, stable or responsible. I feel a bit medicated and that’s OK. Also I feel stripped naked and walking around with a tattoo on my forehead that reads “Warning – Mentally Ill.” The scarlet letter M. The medicated part came about at the last emergency to my psychiatrist a few days ago. I was in an extreme state of agitation, panic and was sleeping as little as 2-3 hours a night with horrendous technicolor nightmares.

I also was doing some strange things. An example is I went to put on shoes and discovered that I had rearranged my massive shoe collection. I put 1 of every shoe on the shoe rack and the mate to every pair was in a jumbled pile on the floor of the closet. Maybe it seemed logical at the time, but I have no recollection of doing it. That’s the scary part. I knew something was way wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger on what was bothering me. I also knew that I was not functioning on anywhere near a “normal” level. A mere shadow of my former self, so to speak.

I was expecting my Doc to say something along the lines of “there, there, it’s not so bad now. Have you tried meditation and hot baths? ” Instead she became extremely concerned, we had a long talk, looked at a menu of new meds to try, and gave me paper bag full of mood stabilizer sample meds. She explained that “functioning” bipolar patients frequently get misdiagnosed as clinically depressed because being depressed is when we seek treatment. I left the office with instructions to call her every day to check in until our next appointment in a week instead of the usual 3 months.

The worst part was that I also left her office with a shiny new diagnosis – Bipolar Type 2, rapid cycling with mixed states. Say what?? What the hell does that even mean? And why is it so long. I hate a diagnosis that is longer than 4 syllables. It grates my nerves like fingernails on a black board. That right there is a clue that I have a few issues. I prefer neat concise descriptions that can be boiled down to acronyms like TB or HIV.

The rapid cycling part means that I hop on the emotional roller coaster from hell and ride it every day. Sometimes up and down several times per day. The mixed states means that I also experience manic and depressive episodes at the same time. I want to do 587 different things at once but am too tired to get out of bed.

So we haven’t actually talked yet because this is a monologue, but it’s a start. I look back and realize that my disorder manifested in my blogging as sometimes writing many blog posts in one day. And then not touching me laptop for weeks. Thank God for the “schedule your post” feature of WordPress. This helps because I don’t shoot all my posts out in 1 day like a verbal fire hose and then disappear off the face of the earth for weeks. Well sometimes I do disappear but at least now I know a little more of what I’m dealing with.

11 responses

  1. I am going to blog about mental illness for a bit… now that it is in the forefront of the news. About damn time, too, I think. Thanks for stepping up and grabbing the bull by the horns, letting people know that you aren’t crazy, just ill. Like a cancer patient or a diabetic or…

    1. It is about damn time. I agree with you 100%. What I don’t agree with are the people who say mental illness is on the rise. Not true – the diagnosis of mental illness is on the rise. To me that’s good news because it means that people who are suffering are getting the help they so desperately need.

      I hope you do blog about mental illness and am looking forward to your perspective of having a front row seat to watching someone you love crash and burn 🙁

  2. You gave me a fright with your “we need to talk” title! And then when I started reading I thought “oh, she’s just bipolar”. Not to make light of your diagnosis, but I know somebody in “real” life who is bipolar. On meds he’s still the funny and unique person he always was, without any of the “crazy”.

    1. Oh dear, so sorry I scared you. I do tend to get melodramatic. But then I did get scared to death when my Doc told me what was going on.

  3. I’m not a hugged but I’m sending you a virtual one anyway. Reading your post is such a real, raw glimpse into this disease. I give you a lot of credit for writing about this and sharing what it’s like to live with this disease.
    PS Have you seen the movie Silver Linings Playbook? The main character is bipolar and since it’s Bradley Cooper he’s pretty easy on the eyes.

    1. No haven’t seen that movie. I’ll check it out, thanks 🙂 and thanks for the hug. Huggles to you too.

  4. I agree; knowing what you’re up against is half the battle. Because once you know what the hell is going wrong in your head, you can find the right mix of stuff to restore a comfortable chemical balance.

    I hate that mental illness is so stigmatized. It’s just that–an illness that can be treated with proper medical care. You aren’t broken or flawed; you’re sick. And you’ll get better. ((Hugs)) because I’m a hugger, even virtually.

    1. I’m one of the lucky ones that can afford excellent mental health care and I love my PDoc. She calls me to check on how I’m doing and spends time talking to me about coping and managing not just popping pills. She’s not the write out another script and hussle me out the door kind of Doc.

      Thank you so much for the hug. I love hugs, virtual hugs work just as well for me. I can feel them 🙂

  5. Hey Trinity I wish you all the best as I can just imagine what you must be going through. I have to agree that at least understanding what it is, is half the battle.

    1. I’m hoping it’at least half the battle, not only 25% or so 🙂

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