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.

We’re Not All Shooters

If you’ve watched the news lately, you may have seen that there was a shooting in Michigan on Saturday night.  It was fairly close to home for me.

“Close to home” as in, they caught the guy within three miles of my house.  I heard the sirens.  That close.

As happens with most shootings, people immediately begin discussing how something this tragic could only occur because the man was probably mentally ill.  And they whisper it, like they don’t want to say it too loud or they might catch it themselves.  Put some hand sanitizer on, people.  You don’t want to catch a mental illness.

The man very well could have been mentally ill.  He probably was.  What bothers me about this conversation is that we should shine a spotlight on mental illness awareness, but not like this.  People like this man are the reason why people are scared of mental illnesses.  This man is the reason why, when I tell people I have bipolar disorder, many react with fear.  They try to act normal, but I see it in their eyes.  I slowly see a difference in the way they treat me as well, like I’m a ticking time bomb who could explode into violence at any second.  Ummm… I’m not violent.  I don’t even let Andy kill spiders – I make him take them outside so they can frolic freely in our garden.

I wish we could shine a spotlight on mental illness when someone awesome has it and has overcome its challenges.  Why can’t we say, “Hey look…Catherine Zeta-Jones just won an Oscar.  She has bipolar disorder.  Look how far she’s come.”  Why can’t we stand in art museums and say, “Did you know it’s suspected that Vincent van Gogh had bipolar disorder?  But look at what amazing things he was able to accomplish because his brain worked differently than other people’s…”  Good, successful people have struggled with mental illnesses.  Why can’t we choose those moments to bring awareness to these issues?  Then we would be bringing a message of hope instead of a message of fear.

Yes, I have bipolar disorder.  Yes, that is a mental illness.

No, I’m not going to kill anyone.

We’re not all shooters.

The Wrong Four-Letter Word

“You’re using the wrong four-letter word,” my Aunt Sarah told me.

I was confused.  Did I just swear?  I would never swear around Aunt Sarah.  She’s the kind of aunt who sits across from you at a restaurant table and wants to hold both of your hands and pray with you for ten minutes straight. It’s sweet, I guess, but it’s tough for me to focus on God when I’m sitting there with my head bowed and eyes closed while thinking, “EVERYONE IN HERE THINKS I’M A TOTAL WEIRDO RIGHT NOW.”  Even though obviously most people are just eating their food and absolutely not looking at us. My eyes are closed, though, so how I am I supposed to know?  Everyone knows you can’t open your eyes during prayer.  It’s like cheating on a test or something.  It’s just not done.

Anyway, I had just told Aunt Sarah about the bipolar diagnosis.  I really didn’t want to…  It was a compromise made between my husband, my therapist, and myself.  Apparently I need to compromise with people on how to run my life now (that’s frustrating in and of itself, but that’s an entirely different post).  My husband and therapist are worried about my imminent demise – like I’m going to off myself any day now (which I am SO NOT GOING TO DO).  My therapist wanted me to go to an inpatient facility, my husband wanted to tell my parents so they could help, and I said absolutely not to both of those options.  No to inpatient because…just…NO, and no to my parents because they’ll just freak out and my dad will make some degrading comment like, “Seriously girl, snap out of it.  Shouldn’t you be over this bipolar thing by now?”  He’s actually said that to me.  Like this is a weird phase I’m going through, and when I’m bored of it I’ll decide to un-bipolar myself.  Okay Dad.

The compromise was that I would tell another parental-type person my secret, because then in the event that I needed somewhere to go in a moment of panic, I would have an option other than “be home alone.”  Also, maybe the person I told would be wise because they’re, you know, older than me or whatever.  I don’t know.  I just know I had to tell Aunt Sarah in order to keep out of inpatient and out of disappointing my parents again.  It was a worthwhile trade to me.

When she said I was using the wrong four-letter word, though, I was confused.  I asked her to clarify.

“Beat,” she told me.  “You keep saying you want to ‘beat’ bipolar disorder.  From what I know of this disease, you don’t really beat it.  You more live with it.  There’s your new four-letter word: L-I-V-E.  Because you need to be able to live without beating this.”

Profound.

I don’t know if I agree, even if she’s right.  I know that this is probably a life-long struggle.  I know that I can’t, technically, “beat” this thing, but do I really roll over and say, “Okay, well, I’m cool with it now”?  I don’t think I’ll ever be “cool” with having bipolar disorder.  I don’t know that this will ever be “okay” to me.  Perhaps, however, I have to get to a place like that in order to live again (not survive, mind you – because I am surviving.  I’m just not living.  Two very different words).  When every day I set out to slay a dragon who can’t be killed, I’m setting myself to every day feel like a failure.  If I set out to every day to simply not be killed by said dragon, then I would feel more successful.  Like, “Ha.  I won today.  I didn’t have a panic attack and I didn’t want to kill myself.  WIN.”

But REALLY?  Is that the highest goal I want to set for myself?  I thought I was a little better than that.  I thought I could do a little more.  Maybe one day I will.

One of my students who loves inspirational quotes colored a picture for me today and put this quote on it: “Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life.  Tip toe if you have to, but take that step!”

Maybe my step is acceptance.  Maybe my step is moving from “beat” to “live.”  Maybe that student is eerily perceptive.  Sheesh.

Crazy Shit I’ve Done in Therapy (Episode 2)

I realize I have some therapy regulars who view these posts (I love you!  Please keep reading/commenting and making me feel like less of a weirdo!).  As the months go by, I’m becoming a therapy regular myself.  I’m not sure how I feel about that…perhaps I should process these emotions with my therapist.

JUST KIDDING.  I HATE PROCESSING EMOTIONS.  What does that even mean?  You process computer programs or chemicals in beakers or film negatives, not emotions.  Emotions are never fully “processed.”  As in, “Oh yes, I had that sexual assault that happened, but I put it through the processor and now it’s totally fine and doesn’t matter.”

Or maybe that is how it’s supposed to work, and I haven’t been in therapy long enough to get the printout that says, “Congratulations.  Your emotions have been processed.”  Who knows.

All that to say, now that I’ve been in therapy for a few months, the account in this episode doesn’t seem quite as bizarre to me as it did when it first occurred.  At the time, though, I was completely weirded out.  It’s worth repeating, especially because it has to do with my husband and today is Valentine’s Day (shout out to Andy – you’re awesome).

My therapist said we were going to “try something new.”  Again, I’ve come to recognize this as code for, “Buckle up – things are about to get weird.”  She handed me a sketchpad.  My face was as blank as the paper in front of me.  What was I supposed to do with the sketchpad?  She explained that she wanted me to draw my relationship with my husband.  I wanted to stop her right there and say, “Wait a minute, this isn’t like those true crime shows where the spouse is always the culprit.  My husband isn’t the issue here.  My husband is a STAR.  He’s the one who talked me into coming to therapy.  He’s the one who convinces me to take my medication when I don’t think I need it.  He’s the one who’s married to a crazy person and pretends like he’s somehow the lucky one in this relationship.  You can process the crap out of me, but leave my husband alone!!”

Of course I didn’t say that.  I just looked at my paper and said, “Well…what am I supposed I supposed to draw with?” as if I was going to catch her unprepared for that type of question and get out of this weird activity.  My therapist pulled out a box of crayons.  A BOX OF CRAYONS.

I have a college degree, people, and I was about to pay someone $75/hr to let me color with crayons.  I wasn’t even sophisticated enough for colored pencils.  Forget about nice drawing pencils.  It was going to be CRAYONS.  This was a humbling moment in my life.

I halfheartedly drew some stick figures showing different moments in my relationship with Andy.  I filled a page in about five minutes.  Not bad, I thought.  I explained my drawings to my therapist.

You know how therapists always say, “There’s no wrong answer”?  Well, they lie.  Apparently there are wrong answers.  She told me I drew the relationship wrong.

How could I have drawn the relationship wrong?!  It’s my relationship!  She said that I drew events in the relationship.  She wanted me to draw the “essence” of the relationship.  What color was it?  What shape was it?

What COLOR was my relationship?  Seriously?  And relationships don’t have shapes.  That’s not real life.

So then, of course, I flipped to a new page and started really overanalyzing everything.  I don’t like getting things wrong twice, but I didn’t know how to properly draw the essence of a relationship.  I stared at the blank page for longer than was apparently acceptable, because my therapist said, “Just draw whatever comes to mind.  There are no wrong answers.”

THAT’S WHAT YOU SAID BEFORE, REMEMBER?  OBVIOUSLY THERE ARE WRONG ANSWERS HERE.  Silly therapist.  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.  I wasn’t going to draw another wrong answer.  I was going to draw a kick-ass, fantastic “essence.”  Whatever that was.

Then I realized I was getting seriously stressed out about my coloring page for therapy, and I simultaneously felt ridiculous and also a little bit like, “Dang.  Looks like I do belong on this couch.”

Finally I realized I had to reach for a crayon.  I was going to pick red, but that’s kind of an angry color.  I didn’t want her to think we have anger issues or something.  I reached for cerulean blue, my favorite, but then I realized she might interpret that as I’m very sad and it’s clearly because of my husband.  Black and gray were out for obvious reasons.  Yellow would have looked like I was trying too hard, like, “Look!  Everything is sunny and wonderful with us!  No reason to suspect anything!” because everyone knows that’s a dead giveaway that she should suspect something.  I finally settled on green.  Nothing’s wrong with green, right?  I figured that if she made me explain, I could say that we both went to Michigan State, and we’re very dedicated to our beloved Spartan green.  Or I could try to get deeper and say that there is a lot of growth in our relationship, and it’s very healthy and green like a healthy plant.

Do you see how much I over-analyzed this ridiculous drawing?

Once I had the green crayon and had mostly gotten over the fact that I was paying to color, I had to settle on the shape of the essence of our relationship.  Oy.  I couldn’t pick a heart for the same reason that I couldn’t choose yellow.  A triangle seemed too sharp.  I could have drawn some nebulous blob, but who knows how she’d interpret that?  That’s like looking at clouds – she could see whatever shape she wanted.  She could be like, “Hmmm…that looks like a gun, do you feel safe at home?” when really I thought it just looked kind of like a dolphin holding a teddy bear.  These are the things I thought about.  I could have drawn a circle, but that seemed really boring.  Also, does it bother anyone else that it’s literally impossible to draw a perfect circle?  It always ends up looking poochy in one section.  I finally settled on a square.  She couldn’t overanalyze that, right?  (Even though I was doing enough analyzing for both of us, clearly).  I drew a green square on the page and colored it in.  A solid, secure patch of green.  It looked pretty good.  Then I was afraid she might say it was too boring, so I drew another square around the first one, basically doodling like I would do back in organic chemistry while waiting for chemicals to process (oh, the irony there).

“Hmmm…” my therapist said.

“Did I do it right?” I asked.  “Does this look like an essence?  I, personally, think this looks like a very good essence.”

“Yes,” she said as I sighed in relief, “That is what I was looking for.  It’s very interesting.  Very telling.”

VERY TELLING?!?!  OF WHAT?!?!?

I wanted to say, “No wait, I take it back!  We’re a blue circle!  A pink star!  A purple oval with orange spots and green stripes!  WHAT DO YOU WANT, LADY?!?!”  But of course I couldn’t do that.  My essence damage had been done.  Why oh why did I have to choose a green square?  I wanted to sigh in exasperation throw myself into the couch’s throw pillows, but that seemed a bit dramatic.

“Have you ever considered having Andy come with you to therapy?” she asked.

“Uh, no,” I responded. (Because, despite my OBVIOUSLY MORONIC GREEN SQUARES, he is a good husband!  I swear!!)

To make a long story short, she thought it would be a good idea to have Andy come in.  “Not because I think you have a bad marriage,” she assured me (which was a lie, obviously.  She clearly saw the green square as some secret code for “about to get divorced.”)  She thought it would be good for him to hear what we discussed and find better ways to help me cope.  Whatever you say, Meg.

In the end, Andy agreed to come in.  I apologized to him about the green square incident, since clearly I sent some terrible message about us.  Truth be told, though, I think it was actually really helpful for him to be in for a couple sessions (look, the therapist knew what she was doing…which she usually does).  After we went back to one-on-one therapy, she did make the comment, “You know…you have a really amazing, really supportive husband.  I hope you know that.”

Yes, I do know that.  I’m sorry I couldn’t correctly draw that essence on my first go-round.

Painting Bipolar Disorder

“Try painting what a bipolar diagnosis feels like,” my therapist told me.

“It doesn’t work like that,” I explained.  “I paint, but I paint things.  Like, you know, pheasants or whatever.”

“Um, pheasants?”  Her pencil hovered over the notepad.

“Yeah, I painted a pheasant a while back because my husband likes outdoorsy stuff.  Anyway, I can look at a picture of a pheasant, put some paint on a canvas, and then say, ‘hey, that looks a lot like a pheasant.’  And I feel cool because I know I did it right, because it looks a lot like that picture of a pheasant.  I don’t do abstract stuff.”

“You could try abstract painting…give it a chance.  It could help.”

Now, if I would have actually followed my therapist’s advice and tried to abstractly paint what a bipolar diagnosis feels like, then I would have categorized this post as “Crazy Shit I’ve Done in Therapy – Episode 2.”  Since I didn’t actually do it, though, I can’t put this post in that series.  The reason why I will not attempt to abstractly paint a bipolar diagnosis is because this is what I would have to do if I were to do that correctly:

First, I would have to go to Home Depot to buy a gallon of black paint.  No chintzy little tube of acrylic could do the job.  I would be in line checking out with my black paint when I would decide that I have to buy another color too.  To paint only in shades of black would be too dark, like I’m an angsty teenager watching rain drip slowly down my windows or something.  I’m not an angsty teenager.  I’m a grown woman with a messed-up brain, that’s all.  So I would go back to the paint counter and buy a ridiculous shade of neon yellow.  Not a sunny yellow, but highlighter yellow.  So-bright-you-can’t-look-at-it yellow.   No one else would ever buy that ridiculous color, but that’s exactly why I would like it.

I would go home with my gallon of black and my gallon of highlighter, and I would set up my 9 inch by 12 inch canvas on a small easel in my living room.  It would be on my coffee table.  I would take off the lids of my paint cans and get ready for my abstract painting experience.  I would pick up the black gallon of paint first and stand about five feet away from my coffee table.  I would pull the can back slowly like I’m about to go bowling with it, then quickly hurl all of the black paint in the general direction of my canvas.  Some would certainly hit the canvas, but it would also hit my couch, my rug, my hardwood floors, my walls, you get the idea.  I would look at the splotches, satisfied, then look back in the can and see that I didn’t dump it all out yet.  I would walk over to the canvas and turn the can directly upside-down, watching black paint pour over the table and onto my floor some more.  I would step in some of the paint on my way to go pick up the liquid highlighter, but I wouldn’t mind.

Next I would pick up my can of bright neon.  I would look away at first because the paint is so-frickin-bright, but then I would look back at the paint, dip a large paintbrush into it, and start splatter painting the canvas.  It would look really cool, actually – the brightness in contrast with the darkness.  I would aim for the canvas, but as collateral damage I would probably splatter paint all over the place: on my ceiling, on the walls, in our fireplace, but it would look kind of cool in a destructive type of way.  My two dogs would probably run in to see what all of the fuss was about, and they would run through the paint.  They would roll in it because it smelled funny.  Then they would go frolicking throughout the house, leaving paw prints in my dining room, in my kitchen, up the stairs, and they would roll around on my bed too because that’s what dogs like to do.

Finally, when all my paint was gone, I would stop and look at my artwork.  I would consider cleaning up my mess, but then I would think that perhaps it would be easier to just throw away all my furniture, move to a new city, and buy a cleaner house.  Unfortunately that’s not an option for me, so I would sigh and go to the kitchen to fetch my Swiffer wet-jet.  I would look around the room, not sure where to start, and finally I would randomly pick some square foot of wood flooring (it wouldn’t matter which one). I would halfheartedly start mopping that area even though all it would really do is smear around the paint.  I would realize that no matter how much I cleaned, I would never be able to really get my house totally clean.  It took about ten seconds to destroy everything, and I would have to take a lifetime trying to put it back to how it was.

With no other option, though, I would keep mopping.  I wouldn’t even be sure why.  I wouldn’t be making much progress, but stopping completely would mean to make no progress at all.  Therefore I would keep mopping.  Most of the time.

That’s what it would be like to paint what a bipolar diagnosis feels like.  My therapist is going to have to forgive me for passing on that exercise.

The Beginning

“I don’t really believe in mental illness,” I said.  This is always a great way to start off a conversation with psychiatrists.  You can almost see the smoke come off of their pencils as they try to write fast enough about how crazy you are.  I wasn’t joking, though.  I was on psychiatrist #4, and I still didn’t believe in mental illness.

I perched on the edge of my comfy blue chair and eyed the kleenex box next to me.  I wondered if psychiatrists get immune to people crying sort of like kindergarten teachers do.  Kids cry all the time, so I’ll secretly think things such as, “I’m sorry Timmy took your cookies, but actually I don’t care.  Stop crying.”  I wondered if psychiatrists have also become jaded and learned not to care.  I made a mental note not to cry, just in case.  I looked around at the “calming” decorations: beach scenes in frames and a random fake plant in the corner.  A plethora of degrees on the wall behind the psychiatrist’s desk were hung proudly to make me think she knows what she’s talking about.

“It’s like this,” I continued. “I see people all the time posting on facebook and twitter and such, ‘love me because I have an anxiety disorder,’ or ‘how to love a person with depression,’ or ‘my depression is really bad today, so everyone be nice.’  I mean, it seems like they wear their ‘illness’ as a badge of honor, a way to get attention.  It’s an excuse to be an asshole without having to apologize.  That’s dumb.  I’m a teacher, and the teachers at my school offer around xanax like tic tacs.  I realize we have a stressful job, but come on.  We’re not all mentally ill.  People just need to learn how to deal with their lives better.  People who broadcast their ‘mental illnesses’ drive me nuts.”

My psychiatrist stopped writing to look me straight in the eye.  “There may be people like that in the world, and they may be annoying, but I would rather work with someone like that than someone like you, because you just tried to kill yourself and still refuse to believe you have a problem.”

Oooooh snap.  Shut down by my shrink.

I mumbled something along the lines of “good point” and sank back into the chair.  I wasn’t going to get out of this one easily.  My vision blurred, and I grabbed a kleenex.  Stupid psychiatrists and their stupid kleenexes.

“What kind of meds have you been on?” she asked.

“All of them,” I answered.  “I don’t remember them all.  Name one.  I’ve probably been on it.”

I’d been diagnosed with depression and anxiety multiple times over the years, I’d taken medications with varying degrees of little to no success, and I’d given up on ever getting better.  I’d just tried to kill myself the day before, and I’d been dragged to this psychiatrist pretty much against my will.  I mean, not literally kicking or screaming or anything, but when one doesn’t have any will to live, it’s basically like, “Fine.  Another doctor? I don’t want to go, but I also don’t actually care.”

She ran down a standard list of medications.  Prozac?  Yep.  Zoloft?  Uh huh.  Klonopin?  Of course.  Xanax?  Got a collection.  You get the idea.  So many pills, so little time in a one hour appointment.

Finally she asked if I’d been on oxcarbazepine.  Umm…no?  Is that even English?  Did she just make that one up as a trick to say if I’d say yes to everything, even random made-up words?  The answer, however, was no.  I had not been on that drug.

She asked if I’d be willing to try it.  That’s like when the teacher asks you, “Would you like to give the answer to #5?”  You can’t very well just say, “No.”  I said fine, that I would take it.  I can’t say I had a lot of hope that it would be any different (my resume of drugs taken was impressively long with very little results, as you may recall).  I took the prescription, got the pills, and immediately googled two things:

  1. Can I overdose on this drug?  (No)
  2. What is the success rate for this drug? (Pretty good…for bipolar disorder)

Bipolar disorder?  What?  I obviously didn’t have bipolar disorder.

(If you haven’t already figured this out, I was also a pretentious idiot)

If I had anything (which I didn’t believe), then it was depression, not bipolar disorder.  I was incredibly uninformed about this disease.  I thought it just meant that people got really moody – happy one minute and furious the next.  Basically PMS on steroids.  I had no idea that bipolar people could sometimes go days without sleeping for no apparent reason (which I had absolutely done) and be super productive.  I didn’t know that it made them act completely out of character for themselves sometimes for weeks on end, and that they could then crash into a horrible depression.  I didn’t know that bipolar disorder can go undiagnosed for an average of ten years before stumbling on a correct diagnosis.  No one goes to a doctor to say, “My life feels absolutely perfect and I just solved a bunch of problems by staying up for a week straight.”  They go to a doctor when they feel depressed, hence the misdiagnosis.

My psychiatrist is very smart.  I think she knew that if she told me I had bipolar disorder, I wouldn’t have believed her.  I would have refused to take the drugs and decided she was the crazy one, not me.  Only a few days after I started taking them, though, I felt like I woke up from a years long coma.  For the first time in a very, very long time, I could think clearly.  I could be rational.  It was strange.

Isn’t that sad?

This blog is my way of reaching out to two groups of people.  The first is to people who have a mental illness or love someone who does.  I am just starting down this road, and it’s scary as hell.  I hate knowing that my brain can’t function properly without drugs.  I hate thinking that I will probably have to deal with this for the rest of my life.  I guess, selfishly, I’m looking for anyone out there who can give me a “me too” or a “been there” or a “you can do this.”

I’m also writing this for people who are like I was only a few months ago.  I fully subscribed to the “ignore mental illness and it will go away” philosophy, and I am now a true convert who knows firsthand how damaging that view can be.  I almost lost my life over it.  I would like to help other people know that mental illness is serious, it should be taken seriously, and they should stop shaming those of us who have to struggle silently.

Lastly, I’m writing this blog because in all the research I’ve done, a bipolar disorder diagnosis looks bleak.  I’ve stumbled across all sorts of (varying degrees of accurate) statistics that say things like I have a 100x greater chance of killing myself than someone without the disorder.  It says I have a high probability of ending up in a mental institution.  It says I will probably get divorced.  I’m not okay with any of these things.  I want to read a blog that says, “I have bipolar disorder, but don’t worry – I’m kicking its ass.”  I don’t see one out there, so I’m writing one.  I’m about to kick some bipolar ass, and I’d love to have you follow this blog and be on my team.