You can learn a whole lot more about how a brain functions if you pay attention to those of us who are mentally ill.
We’re not listened to.
I’ve had a psychiatrist tell me the drug that was causing me all sorts of problems was a “very good drug.” I was thrilled when he got his license pulled for overprescribing meds. I’ve had another psychiatrist who, after I told her the med I was on was working really well, increase the dose. I’ve had friends tell me I’m on the wrong medication when it was clear to me that my meds were working well.
I can’t always tell when I’m in crisis.
You’d think having a mixed episode – simultaneously manic and depressive – would cause me to think something was wrong. It didn’t. I don’t follow the stereotypical manic behavior of spending well more than I can afford during a manic event. I get manic, I cook. I brought to class King Cake cupcakes on Mardi Gras. I brought in sourdough crumb coffee cake cupcakes when I was having major anxiety. I showed the class my first nerve quilt and when I explained the real name was: Get back her motherfucker, sit your ass in that chair, shut the fuck up and listen to me, I could hear the manic in my voice. I’m pretty sure my classmates did as well. They saw the manic. They didn’t see the depressive part. The part where I had formulated a really good, effective plan to kill myself and had decided when and where to do it. I didn’t want to shoot myself in the house because I didn’t want my husband to have to clean up the mess. I even wanted to tell my husband to refuse to accept the body so he wouldn’t have to pay for a funeral.
The class didn’t see that it took me a couple weeks to realize this wasn’t an ordinary depression and that I needed to go back on an antidepressant. They didn’t see that I went through a complete personality transformation about 20 minutes after I took the first pill.
I had to do a short presentation for my neurobiology class. I explained, prior to starting my presentation, that I had my meds tweaked and today’s med adjustment deficits were: balance and coordination problems, memory, and emotional control so don’t be alarmed if I start crying in the middle of the presentation.
My brain works differently from yours.
My moods have little to do with what’s going on in my life. I can feel calm, but then open my mouth to say something, and cranky crap comes out. My brain has a mind of its own. It does stuff without asking first. Like when I have a brain dropout. I’ll be saying something, and the next word I want is no where to be found. My brain goes dark. Literally. I have to put the word together little bit by little bit. Each tiny concept that I grab makes finding the next tiny concept easier. When I was on Lexapro, words would hide in my brain about an inch behind my right eye. I’d have to physically move the word to the left side of my brain to be able to say the word. Psych meds cause brain fog. I’m pretty sure I lose 20 IQ points every time I go on a psych med. I miss my fog free brain. There’s weird stuff I can’t explain. Sometimes people appear taller or shorter than the last time I saw them. I once watched a person’s eyes change from light blue to deep blue and back again. It was fascinating.
Sometimes, my brain makes no sense.
I’ve never had a brain dropout in court. This amazes me. Court happens at the speed of sound, there’s no script, and the person sitting next to me is facing prison time. I’m able to think fast. I’m able to formulate responses fast. I never struggle for words. I’d love to know why this is.
I don’t like the idea of having a brain disease.
Long ago, I learned from my clients that I cannot ever have anything remotely like a normal life if I do not accept my diagnosis. I’m bipolar. Not accepting the diagnosis won’t make me not bipolar. It will make me out of control bipolar. Still, I don’t like the idea of a brain disease. That sounds so permanent. I know I’ll never be able to function without psych meds. I just don’t want to be reminded of that.
I wouldn’t want to not be bipolar.
Some people who are bipolar wouldn’t give up being bipolar because they like their manic episodes. I hate manic episodes. If I have to be not at center, I want to be depressed. Depressed feels natural to me. It feels comfortable. I withdraw inside myself and pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist. The reason I wouldn’t want to be not bipolar is more complex. I was better able to help my clients because I truly do understand mental illness and psych meds. I’m able to do good work with my bipolar disorder – work like educating people so they aren’t afraid of mental illness. Work like being out of the closet and letting people know it’s not so scary here in the middle of the room. I’d lose all that ability if I weren’t bipolar.
Don’t feel sorry for me and above all, don’t tell me I’m courageous.
I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t bipolar. I’ve no idea what it’s like not to be bipolar. Bipolar to me feels normal. I have the same two choices everyone else has: keep going forward or jump off a cliff. Suicide scares the snot out of me. By choosing to keep going forward, I’m choosing the less terrifying option. Courage has nothing to do with it.
Does anyone have any questions?
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