Thursday, December 2, 2010

words can hurt,... even unintentionally

This morning I had someone I love tell me in an email to “Try and pull yourself together.” I’m bipolar, have BPD and suffer with chronic major depression. If I was able to pull myself together I would have done it 30 years ago. This is not something I enjoy struggling with and don’t do it for fun.  And saying things like that  just makes me feel weak, a complete failure, because I can’t function normally right now because of my illness. Bipolar and/or depression is actually a chemical imbalance in the brain so can’t be ‘controlled’ by your brain telling it to get better. I don’t ‘act’ like this ~ I am like this,…. Through no choice of my own. And I have no control over it except through medication. . It would be like telling someone with diabetes or cancer to just ‘get over it’ So people telling me to pull myself together is in fact, quite hurtful. Because that tells me that you think I’m just faking it or that I’m,… what? Acting to get attention??
Believe me. I would give anything to be well. To be just like everybody else who enjoys a normal life. I have asked myself what my life would be like if I wasn’t Bipolar or suffer from depression. It is very hard to know because my experience spans almost 30 years. If I am honest, I have been suffering symptoms since I hit puberty. I have effectively been depressed for ever, at least as long as I remember. I think that there may be too much emphasis placed on first symptoms and diagnosis. First symptoms only come to light when they are severe enough to require treatment. In my case, it was a long journey to diagnosis from the first severe symptoms (I was a complete mess in high-school!) to my actual diagnosis in 1999 where a depressive episode lead to a hospitalization where they finally took the time to evaluate me after many years of struggling.
So in this blog, I am trying to write about how it is to be a sufferer of manic-depression. Being Bipolar means that you have to live in a chaotic mind. Because of this I need to live with a regime of medication and psychiatric support. My psychiatric support at the moment is practically non-existent, which is probably why I am so unwell right now. Really I should be under the care of a (local) GP (mine is presently 3 hours drive away), a good therapist and a good psychiatrist. Right now I only see one Doctor who I’m not even sure what his title actually is. His card says (M.D, FRCP(C)) But I haven’t a clue what that means. I go in every 7 or 8 weeks and he prescribes my medication – end of. I have no therapist. No counseling of any kind. When I see my family doctor my mental illness isn’t even discussed except to ask what medications I’m on for her records. So I take meds every bedtime. Right now it’s Seroquel but I’ve had many over the years. Anyone who has followed this blog knows of my medication problem presently. On them, I’m completely stoned and can’t function,… (Sleeping for very long periods of time – usually 12 to 24 hours at one time!!)  Off them, I’m suicidal,… It’s always a “lesser of the two evils” with me and so far I haven’t decided which is the better evil. But, for now I do remain on them.
There are actually different types of bipolar. I have been diagnosed with the one that sees very few highs and instead I deal with long periods of chronic, severe depression.
When you are in a ‘high’ ~ full blown mania ~ you have pretty well lost control. You think everything you do or say is sane and rational when in fact you are away with the fairies. For me, this usually results in acquiring a new tattoo which I now have 7 of,…(???) But I have been known to become very chatty, talking at a high rate of speed and not letting anyone else get a word in edge-wise. My last manic episode I painted the whole downstairs of my house in 3 days staying up all night to finish. But for me, the downs are the thing I deal with the most. Depression or depressive episodes are notoriously hard to handle. Everything can seem so hopeless and it is hard to carry out a plan. I become over-whelmed with life and the simplest of tasks become monumental. My world crashes down around my ears and I usually retreat inside myself and become paralyzed. Unable to function at all. So even though I have had long periods of time where I have lived a some-what normal life, there is still a lot of time that I am quite ill.
And I’m not ill because I don’t try to get better.  I am ill because of my genes and a chemical imbalance in my brain. So please, nobody tell me to “Pull myself together”.  I have tried that many, many times. It just doesn’t work that way. And it is just so hurtful to me when you say that. I can appreciate that you may get frustrated with my behavior. And I know most ‘normal’ people haven’t a clue what it’s like to be so depressed your paralyzed. Depression is a horrible, all-consuming disease.  It’s an exhausting struggle ~ but I am trying,…. I wish there were words to explain how powerful this disease is but I can’t think of any.

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