What is it like?

I have gotten the questions “what is it like to be bipolar?” “What is it like to have OCD?”  “What is it like to have ADHD?”  I figure this is as good a place as any to talk about it.

First of all.  Bipolar.  Bipolar is just what it sounds like, you’re swinging between two polar opposites:  depressed and manic.  Depression is a dark, terrible place.  I am reminded of all the things I’ve said and done wrong.  I think no one loves me.  I sleep as much as I can.  Small spends hours on the t.v..  I can’t work on the house and struggle to do whatever I have to do that day, for example, work in the classroom.  I can’t remember directions and do things like drive to the dentist when I have an orthondtist appointment.  I tell myself I’m stupid and I’ll never get out of debt.  I want to kill myself and decide why, when and   how to do it.

Manic feels like I have monkeys playing 54 card pick up in my brain.  Or like a litter of kittens have invaded me.  I stop and squeeze my head, trying to get them to calm down.  I can easily accomplish pretty much anything, including regular stops at the $1 where I have spent up to $74.  Once I spent $2000 at Kohls on a vacuum and clothes, and I did it in 1/2 hour.  Impressive, no?  I check out twenty books from the library.  I also get super angry at things I later interpret as trivial.  My mom is often the brunt of these corrections and attacks.  She has it coming, though.  Once, Small was in my bed and had woken up before me.  She was kissing my face 100 times.  I thought, “If I just put her under the water, this will go away.”  It’s that bad.

Mixed states give you the benefits of both.  I am manic and depressed at the same time.  To quote a woman in one of my programs, “You’re depressed enough to commit suicide and manic enough to do it.”  I have spent a considerable time in mixed states.  I have never made an attempt on my daughter’s life, and during these states I have back up, for example, I slept at the neighbor’s house for about two weeks so as not to risk hurting her. 

Being bipolar means a lot of your dreams cannot come true.  I wished once that we could go to Costa Rica for a year.  Mr. M could teach, both of my family members could learn Spanish and we’d have a grand adventure.  Problem is, my health care team is here.  I could find another if I moved to, say, Duluth, but not most foreign countries. 

I love staying up late, book-making with friends until  1 in the morning.  Problem is, I have to be in bed by ten.  I had a little party here which would have probably lasted that long and had to kick them out.  It felt very rude and it was disappointing to the people there.

I can eat everything but I do on schedule.   Breakfast around 7, lunch at 12, snack at 3, and dinner around 6.  If I don’t do this, I will binge and get even fatter.   There are a number of foods I’ve dropped from my diet, and this makes it difficult to eat just about anywhere that’s not home.  If I do I will spend the rest of the day, and maybe the next, feeling terrible.  And, oh, I can’t drink.

Drinking is interesting, because I love to drink, however, I have done many, stupid things in the name of alcohol.  I told Mr. H that I thought I was drinking too much.  I quit and three weeks later I was in the hospital, in the first of my stays.

Meds help, but they don’t do it all. I take a whole heckuva lot of them and it’s finally gotten to the place I am now:  Centered and stable.  I’ts been since Monday, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but in my world, it is.  I went through months of being in a drooling stupor.  They were trying to keep me from suicide, but all I was, was beaten down.  When I switched doctors she changed my medication immediately and things got immeasureably better.

You still with me?

Let’s talk about ADHD.  First of all, people like to say it doesn’t exist.  That’s fine, say whatever you want, that doesn’t make it true.  When doctors in the bay area were trying to fix my bipolar symptoms, they never considered an additional diagnosis.  My new doctor listened carefully to my complaints and diagnosed me with ADHD.  Not to toot my own horn, but I am a smart lady.  I graduated college, I read almost viciously and have the ability to do lots of things with my mind.  That said, when I took her ADHD “quiz” I scored very highly on it.  I was restless, and that often drove me to new and interesting tasks.  It also kept things like church and the movies difficult to watch:  I just never could sit still.  Math classes were the worse.  I tried as I might and I could never pay attention.  It’s true I could pay better attention to things I had a strong interest in, which leads people to say I could be attentive when I want to, but that was not true at all.  The amount of concentration calculus needed was not in the realm of my possibility.

Even being medicated I am “easily distracted by irrelevant stimuli and frequently interrupting ongoing tasks to attend to trivial noises or events that are usually ignored by others”.  In my case, this applies to windchimes.  I cannot freaking stand them.  Not any of them.  Ever.  I have felt like I would slit my wrists if I have to listen to them.  Even writing about them now makes me tense.

This website http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/guide/adhd-symptoms describes everything about ADHD, and everything about my experience.  I could cut and paste but I don’t feel good about.

And now, OCD.  This is the wierdest of them.  People constantly make jokes about it and think it means things like multiple handwashes and rituals and obsessions.  None of that.

I have to touch things.  I have to touch someone’s dress.  I have to fix the tags hanging out from shirts.  I have to breath and tell myself, “it’s okay.  No one is going to die” and deep breath.  OCD is a panic disorder, and I believe I have a mild version.  I don’t get panic attacks hardly at all. 

The good that came with the OCD diagnosis is Zoloft.  I must have had that Social Anxiety Disorder because talking to strangers was very difficult and even talking to extended family could be hard.  I could never walk up to a group of people and participate in their conversation without feeling like an idiot.  Even as a kid I have vivid memories of being alone on the playground and hating recess.  It was just something I’d endure to get back in to the class room and learn.  I was very lonely.  As I got older things were not as bad, but I never could have spoken to all the parents on the field trip or make jokes about myself with out the Zoloft.

And friends, mothers, fathers, I hope that you have learned something.  When I write like this I always do.  I am always reminded about how far I’ve come.


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