I was talking with a friend who hates being bipolar. I understand that because I’ve been there. There is very little true fun in being bipolar, but if you want to live without the danger and self-hatred of being someone with manic-depression, there are a lot of things you have to do that aren’t fun in the least. I’ve decided to tackle the task of explaining what it is I (and probably you) have to do to live a life worth living. (I want to remind my dear reader that I also have ADD/ADHD and OCD. I am trying to leave those out of it, but they are as much a part of me as the bipolar.)
First of all
I have a box filled with 3×5 cards with tabs that say things like, “church” or “to go” or “chores”. Each 3×5 lists the things I need to do or bring for each activity. For example, one “to go” card is marked pool. I need things like, “swimsuits for everyone, towels, sunscreen, flip-flops, cover-up, snacks, juice boxes.” You might be able to remember these things and not show up at the pool with swimsuits and towels thinking you’re good to go – but then again, you don’t have ADD.
I wake up about 6:30 every morning. Shortly after that my five year old gets in to bed with me. We stay in bed until seven, then get up, eat a real breakfast, eggs, or oatmeal or something else like that. I take about 11 different pills and some 1/2 pills. I drink a lot of water. I walk my daughter to school, leaving at 8:05. Two days a week I work in my daughter’s classroom. Notice the consistency? I eat a different breakfast, but I only get three options. I have a regimented time we leave. It’s all planned out. I can do it all on automatic if I’m just staggering through life. There are no real decisions to be made: I’ve already made them.
I am supposed to eat a diet with lots of fresh foods, low in junk food, . I am to avoid caffeine and sugar because they slow the absorption and the efficacy of my medicines. I’d like to avoid fried foods because of the carcinogens, but am not good at it. We like to go to the Farmer’s Market. We buy a ton of eggs from Trader Joes, and meats, fish, chicken from Costco. We eat a lot of sweet potatoes, not a lot of dairy. When I’m feeling bad or taking meds that make me hungry I binge on foods like chocolate covered pretzels, or ice cream. I am so impulsive about food. That is why I am so large – compounded with the order to take late night meds with food, a number of bipolar folks are big.
It feels like I am constantly at the pharmacy, on the phone with the pharmacy or on the computer with some sort of med concern. I take eleven pills every morning, including vitamins. They are all powerful and I could easily end my life by taking them all. When I’m cycling, Mr. M holds on to all of them and I have to ask for them. I have never felt resentful of him for this.
The psychologist is the therapist. Mine, Dr G, is very good at what he does. One time he spent half of our hour chewing me out for not telling my husband about something bad that I did. I appreciate I can’t just roll over him like I could my previous therapist. I see him once every other week, Tuesday or Thursday, at nine o’clock.
I drive out of town for the psychiatrist and she is worth it. The one thing I do not like is that she calls my husband during our meetings to check in. I might say, and think, everything is fine and dandy. He will report otherwise. He is right, I guess, but the whole thing pisses me off because I think I should have more control over these situations. However, intellectually I know that their partnership is vital for me becoming and keeping well. She is the one who tweaks meds and takes them away. I was walking around with a stoned look on my face, I even drooled some times, before I came to the office. Now there is no more drooling or constantly staring in to space. But that is another entry. (Need to add I get blood drawn every three months to check my liver, blood sugar, etc)
In a perfect world I will do intense weight bearing exercise every other day. It helps tremendously with making my body feel strong. It deflects stress and really helps with my anxiety. On the off days I am supposed to go for a walk, or dance or something lower impact. I haven’t done this in a week and I can feel it.
I write this blog, because I think I have got something to say that people need to hear. It’s one source of engagement. A few months ago I started doing paper crafting. I made books, pretty cards, scrapbooks, I love to touch paper, smell paper, fold it, cut it. It delights me and puts me back on track. It is hard to think of too many things at once while I am working on these projects. Finding this was a surprise. Like a lot of people with significant mental illnesses I had trouble finding an interest or a hobby. I read a lot and I love to do so, but sometimes during this journey it’s been hard to settle down enough to read. Not so with the paper-crafting. I also like to blow bubbles; it’s meditative. Hot baths are great, too.
I often want a nap in the afternoon. I admit it: I plug my daughter into the television and snooze until Nick Jr is over. Lately I haven’t needed one and a I attribute it to the B-100. Afternoons are also cleaning time. I do not like that part of my life, but a good portion (but not all) of the time I do clean or tidy up. I’m working on it.
I have this blog, and I try and write for it every day. I obviously don’t do that, but I want to. I make myself check my email first. Then I check Gentle Christian Mothers’ Message Board. I feel responsible for the women there, even though I realistically am not. I most always check in to the Depression and Anxiety Forums to see if there is something I can add. Lastly, I check facebook, my favorite. I love the chat features, I sometimes have four chat programs running at once, and a lot of the time it is talking to a precious friend about her moods. It is times like that I can be thankful for all I’ve been though.
None of these things are options for me. I will have to do every one of those things, see everyone of those doctors, have blood tests, and need to wake up at the same time every day until my marriage to bipolar is over and death do us part. It’s a lot to do and I used to be convinced I would get to a point when I didn’t have to do it. I thought if only I am good for a while I can toss all this to the side. There are other things I could do with the time, energy and money that it costs to be mentally ill. The problem is that I can’t. If I replaced the doctor’s visits to a trip to the smoothie bar for wheat grass juice, I would slowly get very sick. If I replaced my veggies with french fries and milkshakes I surely would get very fat and put even more strain on my heart than I already have.
I think that it takes guts to manage bipolar. I don’t have enough of them to do all of this stuff all the time, but I do it as much as I can, and it gets easier. Even through the veil of depression if it’s all written down on the card I told you about, you can get through the day. Sometimes, that is all you need to do.