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.