I left that as diagnosis for a reason. I hate the term mental health because it has such an incredibly awful stigma attached. You know what I hate even more? I hate the word disorder. I don't have a disorder and I'm not sick. I can, however, if I'm not freaking careful as hell, slide right off the rails.
I don't really want to slide off the rails; been there, done that, and they didn't even have freaking t-shirts. There should have been participation t-shirts. Just sayin'. I spent eight days in lock down and lived to tell about it.
What I do have is a diagnosis which states that there is something neurologically different in my brain than perhaps your brain. Although I look around these days at some of the behavior patterns of people in my life and kind of wonder just how different we really are. For example, that guy upstairs? The one who does not work for me but really sort of does? He's so close to sliding off the rails he's actually scary. They had to put him in his own office because he has now officially scared the shit out of three co-workers. Anger management issues, yes, but why? What is happening for him that he spikes like that? I watch him struggle in meetings. You can see the struggle, it is outwardly visible and the he snaps. He is cyclical, you can almost time him. These days he seems to be on a three week cycle. He'll be OK, regardless of the stress level and then he snaps for four or five days and then he comes down again. I'm just sayin'.
So, back to me. I am neurologically different. Lots of people are neurologically different, some more so than others; it's all a matter of degree and then there are the classifications.
Autism. We got that bad boy in a box. Nobody argues with it anymore. We campaign for it for crying out loud. We mainstream the hell out of it and we have a huge amount of the stigma off of it. It's even kind of cool now to be in that box, same way it's really cool to run around saying, I'M AN INTROVERT! YAY ME!
I remember a woman I worked with trying to find herself a diagnosis. She really wanted one. She came back from a session with her something or other and said, 'well, we almost have it nailed down. I'm either borderline or a narcissist.'
Veronica. Have you looked up the definition of either or those?
No, but borderline sounds cool.
Christ. You're not borderline but I'll buy narcissist.
So about those neurological differences. They're real and they can be terrifying. They are not a result of childhood trauma although they can certainly be exacerbated by things that happen to us because things that happen to us affect our coping skills and how we react to stimuli in the world. But what is wired in our brain is wired in our brain. Currently they are trying to isolate the gene for bipolar. This scares me because if they do that they can eliminate us. I don't want that. Why don't I want that? Because people with brains like mine are pretty cool. Here's a list. It's incredibly incomplete and some of it is posthumous by my favorite by far is Byron. Next up is Nietzsche. I do not want these people to stop existing.
Here is something I will tell you. Until you have been in the body of someone who is neurologically different you will not, simply cannot know what it feels like. And yes, it actually feels like something. It's not just about what's happening in your head, it feels like something and sometimes that something doesn't feel very good. It makes me think of Epstein-Barr and Fibromyalgia.
Epstein-Barr is the virus that causes mononuceolsis, otherwise known as EBV. EBV is one of the eight know herpes viruses and once you have it, like all the others, it lives in your body forever. It picks a spot and stays there. Sometimes it remains dormant forever and sometimes it jumps up and says HELLO, SUCKER! For a very long time nobody believed in EBV, they believed chronically exhausted people were hypochondriacs or idiots. People with active EBV were miserable and sad.
Fibromyalgia as I am told is unfreaking believably miserable. We don't know enough about it yet to do anything other than treat the symptoms. People with Fibromyalgia are also often depressed. The worst thing you can say to someone with Fibromyalgia is, 'I don't believe it exists'. There's nothing wrong with you, get up and get your shit together and then it will go away. I'll get into that a little more later.
Back on neurologically different. As with EBV and Fibromyalgia, we can feel it when something is happening. In my case if I'm starting to slide off the rails it does actually start to hurt; I do feel it in my body and it's not good but mostly it's a tightening in my chest and a build up of pressure which is both physical and emotional. It's why I cut myself in February, 2008. I'm not a cutter. I honestly thought if I just made a small cut in my thigh there might be some relief. It was that bad. It didn't help by the way, so don't try this at home, kids.
What did help, and they still don't know why it helps, were the anti-convulsants that are used to treat epilepsy. I considered it a miracle right up there with the second coming of Christ. That is how sick I was at the time and how much of a difference it made in my life and just how quickly.
I got my life back.
I went from telling myself I just had to make it until Elizabeth was 20 (that was 12 years and I really didn't think I could do it) to HOLY SHIT I'M ALIVE AND I CAN BREATHE.
So this is what I have to say. These are the things you don't ever say to someone with a diagnosis of anything when they say they are going to see their therapist or their doctor or they talk about their medication or more importantly when they say they are slipping and are going to have a medication adjustment:
You do not say:
- You do not need those drugs
- It is all in your head
- You should change your life
- There are better ways
- This so called disease (god, PLEASE don't call it that) isn't real
- What?! You need more?
- xyz isn't real
- You do not make faces even if you're holding your tongue
- You do not suggests alternative solutions in lieu of
- If you just did xyz you wouldn't need this
What you do is:
- Good job noticing you need help
- How can I support you?
- Do you want to talk about your medication change (this is helpful if you really want to understand and it helps the person not be alone with it)
- Are you getting enough rest (this is often a problem when slipping happens)
- A few days in: How is going? Is the new or changed medication helping? Are you eating and sleeping ok>
- A few days in: Is there anything I can do?
- If at all possible get in front of your friend, even by facetime so they can see you, make sure they're not isolated. When a medication change occurs it's happening during a very scary time and if very few people know then there an outlet to vent or cry or just be heard.
That's it. That's what don't do and what you can do.
All that other stuff? That's your shit. Your beliefs from whatever crap YOU carry. And YOUR crap is not MY problem.
We, my bipolar brothers and sisters are never going to be able to come out of our closet and into the world where we be supported for as long as YOU and YOUR crap dominates the conversation.
My doctor asked, do they know at work?
hahahaha. Very funny. It's enough to contend with being female in that department but female and what's still considered crazy? Right.
Bipolar is not crazy. It's stunningly creative, brilliant, emotional, empathetic, intuitive, and prone to go off the rails because it doesn't seem to have any skin or filter or built in protective devices. Pressure builds up no matter what. Even locked in a room by myself I'd end up overstimulated by my own dreams eventually.
I have never wished to be anyone other than exactly who I am...