He KNOWS Me (NOOO!)

I don’t think I would want to work at a pharmacy.  No one goes to fill prescriptions thinking, “Hooray!  Yet another reminder that I am not well, and I get to pay money to be reminded!  THANKS, PHARMACIST!”  Plus, it’s always a little embarrassing to pick up pills because now some random human is privy to my secrets.  Maybe they don’t know what my medicine is for, but maybe they DO.  I mostly try not to look at the pharmacist.  It’s like a drug deal.

Except, wait, it literally IS a drug deal.

If I could, I would always walk up to the pharmacy counter with a large floppy hat and sunglasses, wearing a black trench coat, and I would be staring mostly at the ground.  Are those new floor tiles?  They’re fascinating!  Inevitably, though, I’m always already at the store to pick up milk or something, and then I suddenly remember I need to pick up pills. I do a quick 360 degree scan to make sure no students are in sight (not kidding), and I rush to the pharmacy counter to pick up the drugs as quickly as possible.  “Quick – hand over the goods.  Here’s my credit card.”

I don’t really say that.

Most of the time.

Okay, fine. I never say that.  It turns out that I could, though, because last week I found out a horrifying fact: I am such a regular at my pharmacy that my pharmacist knows me.

It started innocently enough.  I did my regular scanning turnaround, and no students were in sight.  I walked up to the counter and said I had to pick up pills for Hazel Hillboro.  The pharmacist asked for my birthday, looked me up, and then went to go get the pills for me.  When he brought them back, I handed him my credit card.  He said, “Can I see your ID?  Actually, wait, never mind.  I know you.  You’re here all the time,” and he didn’t even look at my ID.

WHAT?!?!?

I wanted to protest.  “No, sir.  I am not here ALL THE TIME.  It’s not like I hang out here on the daily.  Also, this is totally unfair.  I don’t know your name, pharmacist.  I can’t access your birthday.  Hey, are you on any medications?  I feel like you should tell me all the things you’re on, since you already know all about mine.  It’s only fair.  Everyone knows drug deals should be a two-way street.”

Wait a second, are drug deals a two-way street?  I’m not sure.  Do people send their drug dealers Christmas cards?  Invitations to baby showers?  I don’t know too much about the illegal drug scene.  I’m on too many legal drugs as it is.  I won’t add any more drugs voluntarily, thank you very much.

I think this was a significant moment in my medical history.  MY PHARMACIST KNOWS ME.  Not only that, he classified me a being there “all the time.”  Those were his literal words:  All. The. Time.

Yes, I’m on a lot of medications.  I’m on one in particular that is ridiculously expensive.  That one’s for my brain tumor.  Any time there’s a new pharmacist, they raise their eyebrows at the total and say, “Ummm…are you aware of how much this drug costs?”

Yes, I am.  Your shock never makes me feel better about handing over that much money.  I could have gone all-inclusive to Europe on how much I’ve spent on that drug.  Trust me, I’m not excited about it.  I never want to talk about it, though, so I keep studying those oh-so-interesting floor tiles and say, “Yeah, I know.  I’ve been on it forever.”  And then the floor tiles get a little blurry and I start wondering when they’ll give me back my credit card so I can get the heck out of there.

I tried to justify the pharmacist’s recognition of me by thinking that maybe I’m the one customer who’s on crazy expensive pills.  Maybe he thinks I’m pretty, and that’s why he recognized me.  Right – that must be it.  I’m fabulously beautiful enough to leave an impression on this random pharmacist.

(Excuse me a moment.)

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

(Okay, I’m back).

The hard truth of the matter is that I’m at the pharmacy quite a bit.

Of all the places to be a “regular,” I never would have picked my neighborhood pharmacy.  Why can’t I be a regular at Tiffany and Co. or a swanky wine loft or something?  I’m a regular at a pharmacy.  COOL.  My family would be so proud.  In the event that I ever do anything warranting an acceptance speech, I’ll be sure to say, “…and thank you to my pharmacist, who was always there for me, since I was at the pharmacy *ahem* ALL THE TIME.  He knew all about my secrets, but I didn’t even know his name.  What a tragic story.”

Starting tonight, I’m going to find somewhere really amazing to go.  Then I’m going to go there every single day until I’m a regular, and I won’t feel so losery about being a regular at a pharmacy.

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Eight Years Lost

“I’m so glad you’re back,” my husband Andy whispered.  He gave me a tight hug and kissed my hair.

“Back?”  I asked. I was confused.  “I didn’t go anywhere.”

He looked sheepish, almost like he didn’t want to tell me.

“You know…just…back.  You’re yourself again, and it seems like you’re back for good.  I missed you so much.”

I immediately knew what he was talking about.  He’d mentioned something similar this past fall, when I first started on my meds for bipolar disorder.  I knew I hadn’t been myself for the past few years, but I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten.  “Was I really that bad?” I asked him.  “I don’t remember.”  I honestly didn’t.  “How long was I out of it?”

“Well, we were okay for a couple years when we first got together,” he explained.  “Then you sort of entered this…I don’t know…fog.  Every day you were either extremely sad or just…um…’out there.'”

I asked him what I meant by “out there,” even though I already knew.

“Like when you said you had to sleep in the back yard to ‘keep us safe,’ or when you locked yourself in the bathroom and thought I was going to kill you, or…you know…just…’out there.'”

“So when I was crazy,” I said flatly.

“I know you don’t like that word, so I don’t use it,” he responded.  He looked past me, as if he was unable to meet my eyes while talking about this.

“But it’s true,” I said back.   My voice wasn’t angry or sad.  I knew it was simply the truth. “I know I was crazy.  I was.  I am.  I don’t know.”

“I think you’re back, though,” he said.  He met my eyes again.  “When you were first feeling better this fall I was too worried to get my hopes up, but it seems like you’re really, really back.  There are good days and bad days, but overall you’re YOU again, and I could not be happier.”  He hugged me again.

“You waited an awfully long time,” I commented.  This year we will have been together ten years, and my brain tumor was diagnosed eight years ago.  We (and my doctors) think this could have been part of what caused the chemistry upset now diagnosed as bipolar disorder, so it’s logical to think I’ve been struggling with this disorder for almost eight years.  It went undiagnosed until this past fall, even though I’ve clearly had symptoms that entire time.  That means that out of a ten year relationship, Andy has had two years (well, now two and a half) with a woman whose brain actually works.  Eight years have been spent waiting.

“I know it was a long time,” he told me.  “But every single day has been worth it.  I knew that somewhere in there the real you still existed.  I would have waited decades to see her again, and it still would have been worth it.  I missed you so much.”

Which, obviously, makes Andy the best husband in the world, because I’m quite sure that he meant it.  He took eight years of hell on the outside chance that I might one day get better – on the chance that we would maybe one day solve the mystery.  He took totally delusional panic attacks, nights of me locking myself in the closet and crying/hyperventilating until I threw up, nights of my manically staying up all night writing because I-just-had-the-most-brilliant-idea, nights of me crying because I knew I was going to kill myself, the night that I actually tried…  He took all of that, and he still loved me.  He still loves me now.

I am genuinely, legitimately confused.  If I could break up with myself, I would have.  So, so, so long ago.

I am blown away by this kind of love, but I’m also angry and scared.  I’m angry that he had to go through this.  I’m angry that I had to go through this.  I’m angry that FOUR psychiatrists got this diagnosis wrong, when now I look at the symptoms of bipolar disorder and it’s basically a checklist of every symptom I told them.  I didn’t know to look for bipolar disorder.  They should have known.  They should have known those symptoms.  At least one of those doctors should have gotten it right.  Why did I have to waste eight years in a fog of depression, mania, and paranoia?  Eight years of my life, people.  It took away eight years of Andy’s too, because he had the misfortune of falling in love with the wrong girl.  Praise God that he stayed, but only God knows why he did.  This wasn’t fair to him either.  I don’t take much time to feel angry about all this, but to see how much Andy loves me and to see (from a standpoint of relative sanity) how much he’s been through, how long he’s waited, because of a condition that could have been detected years ago?  That makes me angry.

No, scratch that.  Angry is when a student forgets their homework for the third time this week.  This situation makes me livid.  I try not to think about it too much.  Anger will only take up more of my life, and I think I’ve been robbed of enough.

I’m also scared.  Andy’s right when he says I’ve been “back” for the past few months.  My personality is back.  I’m not paranoid anymore.  I don’t want to die.  It seems like maybe we’ve found a solution; like maybe I’m better.  Everyone I know who has bipolar disorder, though, says that this stable period only lasts for so long when inevitably the symptoms come back.  I don’t want to waste my life by worrying about the future, but I also want to be prepared.  I don’t know how, though.  How can one prepare to have their sanity taken away again?  I don’t think I’ll every be ready for that.

Eight years was too long.  I don’t want to lose any more.

The Fat One

My therapist was trying to recall something we talked about in our last session, but she couldn’t remember what it was.  “Hold on a second,” she told me.  “Let me grab your folder.”  She pulled out the drawer and started flipping through folders.  “Where is it?” she asked herself, still flipping.  “Ah ha!  Here it is!  I forgot – yours is the fat one.”

MINE’S “THE FAT ONE”?!

I obviously peeked at the rest of the files as soon as she said that (I couldn’t read names or anything.  Calm down, HIPAA).  Mine was definitely the fat one.  I simultaneously felt two strangely opposing emotions: horror and pride.  Horror because I am the craziest client she has, but also some pride because, hey, I’m the craziest client she has!  If I’m going to be crazy, I might as well go big or go home.  Looks like I win!  Hoooooray me!

I would have preferred to win a different sort of competition (like maybe…um…any other one), but oh well.  A win is a win.  I’m going to take it.  They’ve been tough to come by lately.  While I’m basking in the glow of my victory…does anyone know how to put a folder on a diet?  I don’t actually want to be “the fat one.”  I know!  I’ll stop adding so much every week and let the other people in that drawer catch up to me.  Next week I’m going to say, “I have nothing to report.  I am GREAT.  Please write down ‘she is great’ in super tiny letters, and that’s all you need to say.  You know what?  You could even throw out some of those other papers, because I am so very over all of those issues.  They’re not even worth keeping.  Let’s do a ceremonial purging of the folder to show how over them I actually am.”

I would love to know what’s in that fat folder.  Why does she write so many more notes for me?  Have I been seeing her the longest of all of her clients?  (That can’t be true…I’ve only been seeing her since fall.  It’s barely spring.  She sees some people for years).  I want to break in after hours and take a look at that folder.  It’s a great plan, because if I get caught I’ll say, “Officer, here’s my ID.  Look at which folder is mine.  See how fat it is?  CLEARLY I am super crazy.   This isn’t my fault.”

On second thought, if I did that then we would have a bunch of arrest paperwork to add to the folder, which wouldn’t really help my cause.  Pretty soon I’d need my own frickin drawer.  Perhaps I’d better skip that idea.  I’ll just embrace my fatness.  At least my therapist can’t say that I don’t I keep things interesting.

#1 on the list (and also glitter)

Every once in a while I type “bipolar disorder” into the Google news search box to see if there are any new articles or research findings that might interest me.  This occasionally goes well and occasionally goes poorly…proceed with caution if you ever do this.  There are a lot of articles I probably should have left unread.

One caught my eye the other day – it was called something like “How to Best Help Your Spouse or Loved Ones if You Have Bipolar Disorder.”  CLICK – I needed to read this one.  My husband is an absolute star, and I would like to make his life as easy as possible.  I know I’m the one with the disorder, but trust me when I tell you that it’s a team effort to deal with it.  He might as well have it too.

I clicked on the article, and I don’t remember much of what it said because I was so annoyed/struck by item #1.  The #1 item on the list was simply and impossibly this: “Take all of your medications.”

That should be easy.  That should be so easy.  That should be, “Quick, let’s move on to #2 because #1 was so ridiculously obvious and unhelpful.”  Unfortunately, my mind immediately flashed to the night before:  Andy was getting settled into bed, our dog was already asleep where my feet were supposed to go, and Andy said, “You took your pills tonight, right?”  I responded with, “Some of them.  I don’t think I need all of them today.  I’m gonna give it a try.  I might be doing better.”

Andy knew it was pointless to argue with me. He can’t force me to take my pills, and when I’ve made my mind up about something, it’s extremely hard to change it.  He just gave me a look of disappointment, sighed, and let his head drop to his pillow.  I pulled my knees to my chest and wished he could realize that I really didn’t need them.  That this time I would be fine.  Really.

I’m not sure why I do this.  When I’m thinking rationally, it’s completely obvious that I need to take my medications.  For some reason, though, occasionally I simply…don’t take them.  This is apparently a common struggle for many people with bipolar disorder, and it’s one I need to get over in order to accomplish the NUMBER ONE ITEM on “how to help my loved one.”

I don’t know why I do it.  I know I’m not healthy.  I know I probably never will be.  I guess I can’t shake this tiny glimmer of hope that one day I won’t need medications anymore.  It’s a tiny glimmer.  It’s sort of like when someone has one solitary piece of glitter on their face and you’re like, “Hey, there’s a sparkle on your face.  Let me get it off for you…no wait, I lost it…turn your head a second…there it is!  Let me just…oh dang.  Lost it again.” (Has this happened to anyone else?  I feel like I come into contact with more glitter than the average human, so maybe that’s just me).  But that’s how tiny the glimmer is.  I can’t get rid of it.

Every once in a while there’s some random article like “I cured my own mental illness by spending a month eating nothing but kale and wheat germ!”  Then I immediately yell, “ANDY?  WHERE CAN WE BUY KALE IN BULK?” while I simultaneously Google “What is wheat germ?”   Or I’ll read some medical journal and then suddenly find myself buying copious amounts of vitamins because everyone knows that enough vitamins D and C and B12 cure bipolar disorder, right?  I mean, RIGHT?!

Um, no.  They don’t.  Neither, I’m sorry to inform you, does kale and/or wheat germ.

I’m still not entirely sure what wheat germ even is if I’m being honest.  I didn’t try it.

You know what’s scientifically proven to cure bipolar disorder?  Nothing.  That’s what.

Although there isn’t a cure (yet), certain drugs make this condition much more livable for everyone involved.  That’s why taking said drugs is #1 on the list of how I can help my family.  That’s why I need to actually take my pills.  I’m not all better because I have a good day.  I’m not going to wake up one day and be suddenly and magically un-bipolar.

I mean, probably not.  It could happen…theoretically…  (Wait – did you see that sparkle?  I saw it a minute!  No, wait…lost it.)

It’s time to get the glitter out of my eye so I can see this for what it really is.  Sometimes life isn’t sparkly.  Sometimes it’s taking just-one-more pill, even if I don’t want to, because it’s the #1 thing I can do to help myself and my husband right now.

She Finally Gets Me

I hate how therapists are trained to dig up a bunch of dirt from your past.  It’s psychological paleontology.  They tend to find the stuff that makes you want to scream, “I WAS DOING A REALLY GOOD JOB OF FORGETTING ABOUT THAT!  Let’s not talk about THAT stuff.”  But that’s the paleontological equivalent of stumbling upon a T-Rex skeleton, and they get all excited that they found the cause of some crazy problem you have.

Of course, that’s the exact kind of stuff that you need to “process” with a therapist.  Once again, I’m still waiting for the certificate of completion that says certain events in my life have been fully “processed,” but I’m not holding my breath.  I’m just paying a lot of money to talk about things I would really like to forget.  Interesting economical choice, me.

This past week, we were talking about a topic I hate talking about.  It was about a guy who messed me up pretty bad (which, I’m sorry, is the most cliche girl problem of all time.  MY LIFE IS A CLICHE.  I don’t like that.  Mental note: process this.  Whatever that means).  My favorite part of this therapy session came when my therapist said, “Well, with a lot of people, I would have them talk as if the person was sitting in this chair,” (she motioned to the empty chair next to me), “and I would have them say what they would want to say if the person was here listening to them.”

I wrinkled my nose.  “Umm…are you going to make me do that?”

“No,” my therapist said, “because I know you wouldn’t do it.  Or you would do it while actually thinking it was super strange and not get anything out of it.”

Peeerrrrfect.  My therapist and I are finally starting to understand each other.  I’ll talk about topics I don’t like, and she’ll stop doing crazy stuff to make me process said topics.  Fabulous.  Talking to invisible people would not help the “I’m not crazy” vibe I’m trying to achieve here.

Prison

Last night I went to go watch my little cousin in the play Alice Through the Looking Glass.  It was sort of like Alice in Wonderland, but even trippier.  Does anyone ever wonder if Lewis Carroll had mental issues?  Because his stuff is pretty effed up.  Perhaps he was on drugs the whole time he wrote.  Maybe I should try that!  Maybe if I’m on drugs, my creative writing will become suddenly iconic, and high schoolers far into the future will want to act out my bizarre stories.

alice

Except wait, I’m already on drugs.  Lots of them.  They’re just legal ones.  Blast.

Anyway, one scene in the play really caught my attention.  It is arguably the only scene in the entire play that made sense.  The Mad Hatter was put in prison for killing time, and he somehow escaped.  Alice (the bitchy little tattle tale) went to go alert the authorities that the Mad Hatter had escaped prison.  The guard, totally uninterested, said, “No, he has not escaped.”  Alice gestured wildly to the prison cell and said, “No, look!  He’s gone!  He got out!”  The guard leaned into Alice and whispered to her, “He may have escaped this room, but he’s still in prison.  He will never escape his mind.”

My eyes were glued to the stage.  I wanted to stand up and shout, “YES! THIS GUY TOTALLY UNDERSTANDS ME!”  Except, you know, I was identifying with a high schooler playing the Mad Hatter in a play that was written while an author was probably on drugs.  That’s not exactly something I should be excited about.  The people in the audience continued looking completely baffled for most of the play (Why is Alice’s pudding talking to her?  Why are those oysters dancing?  Why is that horse riding on that man?).  At least one line made sense.

Escaping my mind would be true freedom, but that’s an awfully difficult prison break.

 

Hypomania and Me

My friend Charlotte asked me to write about my experience with mania.

By “friend,” I mean she reads my posts and comments on them, but she lives on the other side of the world and I’ve never met her (Hi Charlotte!).  The internet is pretty cool like that, huh?  Anyway, disclaimer about this post: I can only write about my own experiences, and I in no way am trying to diagnose anyone or say, “You probably have bipolar disorder if…”   I have no idea.  Go ask my psychiatrist friend from high school who went to school for a zillion years to be able to actually know these kinds of things (Hi Sarah!).

Okay, enough with the shout-outs.  Here’s what I’ve got for you:

I have been diagnosed with bipolar II, which presents with episodes of depression and hypomania.  This is different from full mania.  Hypomania is scary enough, though.  I mean, it’s a little awesome at the time, but also completely terrifying.  Confused yet?  Try living it.

I think the biggest, most objective way for me to notice a hypomanic episode is to notice that I need barely any sleep.  This past summer (before my diagnosis), I went to Asia.  I flew through thirteen time zones, which is a hugely bad idea for people with bipolar disorder.  I didn’t know at the time that I had the disorder, so I didn’t know to look out for this.  Upsetting a sleep schedule can trigger a manic episode, and there’s not a much better way to “upset a sleep schedule” than flying through thirteen time zones.  Ugh.  Anyway, when I got to Asia, I basically didn’t sleep.  Going back through my texts after my diagnosis, things started to make sense that were completely baffling at the time.  I texted my husband things such as, “I’ve gotten four hours of sleep in the past forty-eight hours, but I’m totally not tired.  I’m going to go explore the city.  I tried to sleep, but I can’t.”

Also, everything sounded like a good idea.  When I was in South Korea, my cousin asked if I wanted to go mountain climbing.  I hadn’t slept at ALL the night before, not even five minutes, but when he asked me that I said, “Yeah, sounds like an awesome idea!” and proceeded to go on an eight hour rock climbing excursion with rock picks and climbing ropes and such.  It was crazy, but it sounded like a great idea at the time.  I went with no equipment.  Some Korean guys bailed me out and let me use some of theirs.  I’m lucky I didn’t die.  According to me, though, why would I need equipment?  I could totally do that with no equipment! (*facepalm*)

During this same episode (episodes can last for days or for weeks, which this one did), I decided that you know what sounds like a good idea?  Smoking!  Ummm… I realize that you don’t know me that well, but that is COMPLETELY out of character for me.  I’m definitely a “good life choices” kind of girl (to the point of being occasionally pretentious…I’m working on it).  Doing out-of-character things is another symptom of a hypomanic episode.  I found myself smoking cigarettes off of a balcony in Seoul and simultaneously thinking, “This is awesome” and also, “What on EARTH I doing right now?!”  It’s like the usual part of your brain that sends up “this is a bad idea” red flags is totally disabled.  Like the guy who holds that red flag is standing about five football fields away on a foggy day, and he’s waving that red flag with all of his might but you’re like, “Is this actually a bad idea?  I can’t remember…hmmmm….it’s probably fine.”

I was extremely confident throughout this entire episode (as is common with most hypomanic epidsodes).  This in itself is strange, as I’m usually quite a bit more reserved and unsure of myself.  Throughout this time, though, I thought, “I am so awesome – of course I know what I’m doing.”  I met up with a group of teachers in Japan (that’s the reason I went over there in the first place…to meet up with these teachers and study Japan’s education system).  I’m sorry to say that I was quite a bit more flirtatious than I should have been with the guys on this trip.  I’m not even sure if there is a line for “appropriately flirtatious” when one is married, but if there is a line then I definitely crossed it.  The guy waving the red flag five football fields away in a fog finally threw down his flag and walked away.  It was pointless.  Poor guy…my bad.

Believe it or not, overly sexualized and promiscuous behavior is another symptom of hypomania (I’m not making this stuff up.  Look it up.  I didn’t believe it either).  There was this one guy in particular…the suave playboy of the group…we’ll call him J.  I ran into some trouble with J.  See, even though I was being flirty, I made it clear that I was married and didn’t want any sort of Asian fling with anyone on this trip.  I was just having fun.  J was being pretty flirty back with me, and I literally said, “Seriously…don’t try anything.  If you try to kiss me I’ll be TICKED, because I’m really for real married, I love my husband, and I’m not doing anything with you.”  In J’s mind, I’m pretty sure that translated to something along the lines of “Look!  A challenge!”  He wouldn’t let it go.  Suffice it to say, he didn’t stop trying to get me into bed with him for the rest of the trip.  At one point we were in an elevator together, and he literally pushed me up against the side of the elevator and tried to make out with me.  I pushed him off and said, “Ahhhh!  No! I SAID NO!” but apparently that didn’t really work either.  He still liked me.  He kept trying.  As I mentioned, he was a playboy.  I hate to put a stereotype on anyone, but I really think it’s guys like him who make that stereotype what it is.  He had been with a lot of women, he always knew exactly what to say to get what he wanted, and I think he was really rattled by someone who he couldn’t get to say yes.  Even though, you know, he had a fiancee back at home in America.  He’s a quality man, ladies and gentlemen.

I think my experience with J is what scared me most about myself during this episode.  My flirtatious behavior at the beginning of the trip seemed really unlike me, but then also I found myself with a crush on this J character, even though he’s a scum-of-the-earth kind of guy.  It was very strange.  I knew I shouldn’t like him, but I think there’s a part of me that liked being pursued and borderline worshiped.  And really, who wouldn’t like that?  I kept telling him no, but I hated the fact that deep down I loved the attention, and I think I really liked him.  I should be a bit more stable in myself and in my marriage to not let a guy like that shake me up, you know?  It scared me that I let him keep talking to me.  It scared me that I didn’t hate him.  He never did get me to kiss him or do anything with him physically (ha, I win), but psychologically that whole situation had me pretty messed up.  It was scary.  At one point J told me he liked the way I did my hair that day, and I said, “Thanks.  I’ve never done it this way before.”  He said, “Really?  Like, never in your life?”  I said, “Yes. Never in my life.  It’s becoming a common theme for me in the past few weeks…”  He asked what I meant, but I didn’t tell him.  I didn’t know how to explain it myself.  I just knew it was scary.  I felt out of control.

I was still hypomanic for a little while after this trip, but then I crashed into a super deep depression.  I think this is partly because depression tends to follow any type of manic episode, but I do wonder if maybe that’s because once someone comes off of a manic episode, they have to turn around, look at what they’ve done, and say, “WHAT DID I DO?!”  I’m lucky the aforementioned situations didn’t end worse than they did, but they still messed me up.  I take full responsibility for my actions during this time, but it’s a bit tricky when a psychiatrist tells me, “You couldn’t really help it…you were in a hypomanic state.”  Like I was drunk and I’m supposed to blame it on the alcohol, except people get drunk on purpose.  I’m not bipolar on purpose.  I would rather take full responsibility, because anything less than that means that it’s not totally in my control and it might happen again.  I am not okay with that.

Anyway, that’s a summary of my most recent hypomanic episode.  Take it for what it is, and nothing more.  It’s only my experience.  I will say that one misconception that bothers me about bipolar disorder is that people think it just means you’re in a really good mood and then suddenly really irritable and in a bad mood, like PMS on steroids or something.  As far as my specific type of bipolar disorder goes, that’s not true for me.  Episodes last an excruciatingly long time.  Depressive episodes can last months.  Hypomanic episodes can last weeks.  Neither are good for me (even if hypomania might feel like it makes perfect sense at the time).  I’m currently trying to stabilize toward somewhere in the middle of the extremes.  Fingers crossed that I’m able to pack up my baggage, move into that place, and live there for a long, long time.