Chances are, I am sicker than you. I have a major psychiatric illness, and I’ve three lesser. I have a tumor the size of a man’s finger in my foot. I also have freckles.
While it’s not full blown pancreactic cancer, it’s pretty bad. I read once that people with bipolar have progressive brain damage – http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/article/5374 is a link.
When I first read this I had just gotten out of the hospital. I asked my psychiatrist about it and he defered to my psychologist. She said we’d cover it later.
I cried and cried at the idea of being brain damaged. I could deal, almost with this terrible illness and my ungodly urges. But brain damaged? In the emotional center of the brain? What do I make of that? Will I stop being able to emphatize? Will I become like Spock, with no real emotions at all? Or does this mean I’ll get stuck on one of the gears – either mania (which can be both fun and deadly at the same time) or depression?
Months later, I began to think about it some more. I have a pretty good brain, when not clouded by Seroquel or Paxil. I am able to think, and think some more. I’m not as good as I once was, I forget a lot of things, such as forgeting why I cut out some words and where did I mean to paste them. However, I am not too worried about that.
Brain damage can be a huge deal, or not. Rats taking lithium in the study had strokes. I am not a rat, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to have a stroke. My dad has had several strokes without even knowing it. That’s a possiblity for all of us.
This progressive brain damage doesn’t seem to spread through out the brain, rather it sticks to the emotional center and works it’s magic there. It doesn’t effect ability to speak, or walk or hear, or any other modern conveniences I enjoy. If I lost ten IQ points, chances are no one would notice. Maybe if we played Trivial Pusuit they could tell, but I don’t like Trivial Pursuit anyway.
Bipolar kinda reminds me of a cat I used to have, Angie. She would sit on my lap and sometimes someone else’s lap, but just not anybody’s lap. She lounged under the bed and maybe, just might come out to investiage you. If you tried to pick her up she would squeal and scratch you. She’s let me pet her, but as for you, if you stratched wrong or pet her too much she would scratch you, bite you and run away.
Bipolar is like that in some ways. It’s always there, but if you do wrong it will get you. If you can put up with the scratches and the bites sometimes you might be able to tame it. I’m getting there, although the spending, the eating and the sloth still get at me. But I am doing better. Today, instead of a milk-shake I blended some frozen bananas and a tad bit of milk. I don’t know how to do things better than I am, but I am willing to learn.
I have little doubt that the powerful medications I take will end my life prematurely; However, not taming the beast means as early as a death as this evening. This is the one I am most concerned about. I can think about old age later.
What does all this have to do with bipolar?