He Loves Me

He loves me.

He loves me even though I have a diagnosis of Bipolar disorder.

Even though I’m not great with the whole “mushy” thing, and generally show my affection through sarcasm and teasing.

Even when he found me on the bathroom floor covered in blood.

He loves me even though I mock his beard and continually enquire as to when he is going to enter Whisker Wars.

And even though I changed my ringtone for him to “I’m Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO. And when he complained, changed it to the Star Wars “Imperial March”

He loves me when I’m manic. And I call him up at some ungodly hour from the hospital. To inform him that I am going to bake a cake.

Even when I was psychotic and began to believe that he may actually be a criminal mastermind.

He loves me when I have to cancel the “date night” we rarely are able to have because I have had an allergic reaction to something.

He even waits outside the toilet with a glass of water.

He loves me even though I fall asleep during every damn movie we watch. Then he patiently restarts it the next night and asks me “what is the last thing you remember.” To which I reply; “I don’t know. I was asleep!”

He loves me even though I have scars, and stretch marks, and a post childbirth body. He says he loves me even more.

He loved me on the days I couldn’t get out of bed. The days I told him I couldn’t keep on living.

He saved my life. More than once. And he didn’t stop loving me.

He loves me even though I sing “The Thong Song” every time he mentions his Cisco qualifications.

He loves me even when I ask him inane questions. Like “If you had to sleep with either Susan Boyle or The Queen who would be the lucky lady?” And he will be all “neither.” And I will say “You have to choose. Or the world will DIE.” And this happens most days.

And also when I strap a garden gnome in his car, or tuck it into his side of the bed, or sit it on the toilet, and then upon discovery gleefully tell him that “he has been Gnomed!”

Even when I have been frogmarched by security guards.

Even when I forgot pretty much everything after ECT.

He loves me even though I veto his music choices on car journeys.

He lets me put on my playlist.

And doesn’t complain.

Much.

In the ten years we have been together I have spent a total of eight months in hospital, had at least 3 manic episodes, a handful of mixed episodes and countless depressions. He knows Bipolar disorder is episodic. That it may happen again. He still loves me.

He tells me every day he loves me. And every night before we go to sleep.

He loves me.

Me.

And I’m the luckiest girl in the world.

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More than just a mood

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Bipolar disorder is part of a cluster of disorders classified as ‘mood disorders’. Most people associate high and low mood changes with bipolar disorder. For me (and probably many other people too) bipolar is so much more than just a mood change.

Drive and Energy 
When I am depressed I have NO energy. Seriously. Nothing. Every little thing becomes such a drama. Sometimes I feel I can’t even move. I don’t even have the energy to cry, I just kind of sit there. Waiting for time to pass by.

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On the other hand, at the other pole I am like a kid on a sugar high. I need very little sleep, I can’t sit still, I’m impatient with people who can’t keep up with me. I talk and talk and talk and talk. My whole body is fueled with energy…which can be quite annoying sometimes. I have so many projects and ideas. When I’m hypomanic this can be quite useful, I recently completed 10 days of thesis work in under two. But once I cross the threshold to true mania it becomes counterproductive. I have so many ideas that I can’t keep track of them all, I start a project then become bored and leave it. I become extremely annoying. My husband will testify to that 😉

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Self esteem:
When I’m depressed I hate myself. I’m ugly, I’m fat, why does anyone bother with me, I’m a waste of space. I dress in tracksuits or anything to hide under. I avoid social activities. On the other hand when I’m hypomanic/manic I feel confident and self possessed and this generally manifests anywhere on the scale between “Damn, I’m good looking!” to “Holy crap! I’m superhuman!”

ImageMystical experiences:
There is this other aspect that individuals with bipolar, particularly bipolar 1 tend to have…and it is often referred to as mystical experiences. Now I personally think that is just a nicer way of saying ‘psychosis’ myself. I mean how much cooler does mystical experiences sound?! Harry Potter anyone?

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Anyway I read somewhere that believing yourself to be completely normal is a positive sign for stability. When I was severely depressed I slipped into psychosis and started having paranoid delusions where the police were after me for being a bad mother. When I was manic I thought I was superhuman (because I didn’t need to sleep) and that my dreams predicted future events. I believed myself to be special, have special powers, and people were to pay special attention to me. Egocentric much?! 😉

So there you have it. To me bipolar is so much more than just a mood change. It’s almost a personality change. From self loathing to self loving. Failure to fabulous. Miserable to majestic.

And somewhere in between there is the normal, average, non-wizarding me too.

What are your experiences of bipolar disorder? Do you feel like a different person during episodes? I’d love to hear! 🙂

What the Dickens is Bipolar Disorder?!

Bipolar disorder is a universal mental illness. It doesn’t discriminate. People of all ages, nationalities and from all walks of life can experience bipolar. Perhaps this is due to the genetic component of the disorder. Scientists have identified several genes, including the Dysbindin, Neuregulin and G72  genes which when damaged contribute to Bipolar disorder. As such, bipolar tends to run in families, although episodes can be triggered by significant stressors, and in women, childbirth. It is estimated that about 1.1% of the population suffer from bipolar disorder

People with bipolar disorder are 50 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population. That is huge. The suicide rate for the average population is around 0.01%, in the Bipolar population it is around 13%. What’s more, nearly half of individuals with Bipolar disorder will attempt suicide at least once. Extreme depression and psychosis resulting from lack of treatment are the usual cause for suicide. IF YOU FEEL SUICIDAL PLEASE REACH OUT FOR HELP BY CALLING YOUR LOCAL EMERGENCY NUMBER OR PRESENTING AT A HOSPITAL EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT!

A bipolar depression is nothing less of horrific. Unlike Major Depression, often there is no apparent cause for bipolar depression. A bipolar depression can persist for months and may become so severe that psychosis results. Traditional anti-depressants used alone generally have little effect, and can even trigger manic episodes. Unfortunately, because many individuals affected by bipolar seek help during depression rather than mania (which may be enjoyable), they are often misdiagnosed with Major Depression and treated accordingly. Individuals who present with mania may be misdiagnosed with Schizophrenia. Consequently bipolar is one of the most difficult mental illnesses to correctly diagnose.

Symptoms of mania can include pressured speech (or talking REALLY fast), racing thoughts, needing less sleep and not feeling tired, grandiose beliefs (for example, I started to believe that I was superior to everyone else because I didn’t need sleep to function but they did), and general euphoria. People may become impulsive (e.g. spending lots of money, quitting their job) and promiscuous.  But there is a dark side to mania; during a manic episode people can quickly turn irritable and even aggressive. They may experience hallucinations and delusions.

Sometimes individuals experience mania and depression at the same time, for example, a deep depression fueled with energy. This is termed a ‘mixed state’ and is one of the most dangerous psychological states to be in.

Bipolar is generally shuffled into three types: Bipolar Type I, Bipolar Type II and Cyclothymia.

Bipolar Type I is often referred to as the more ‘severe’ disorder in that individuals in that people’s  high’s tend to be higher, and they are more more likely to experience psychosis and be hospitalised.

In Bipolar Type II the high’s are less severe and are termed hypomania. While the mood, cognitions and energy is still elevated, there is no psychosis, and usually little need for hospitalisation. However, depression can be crippling in those who experience Bipolar II, and affected individuals are more likely to rapid cycle between episodes.

Cyclothymia (or ‘Bipolar Lite’ as Stephen Fry once described it), is a milder of form bipolar where individuals experience mood swings from mild depression to emotional highs chronically over many years.

If it’s Hurting You, It’s Hurting Me

I realised today that I have written very little on my depression, the very thing that saw me hospitalised in the first place. From a creative perspective I find my depression very difficult to write about. Depression for me was bleak, cold nothingness. How can I begin to describe the pain of nothingness? I usually try to inject a little humour into my writing, in an attempt to make it more ‘readable’. But there is absolutely nothing humouress about this particular depressive episode. Nothing at all.

My depression was, and remains to be a uniquely personal experience. I rarely talk about it to anyone, including my nearest and dearest. I seldom like to think about it. Irrational as it is, I’m frightened that a thought could suck me down into the darkness again. Because this is the darkness that nearly killed me. This darkness was, without a doubt, the most horrific thing I have ever experienced.

I didn’t really cry much when I was depressed. I’m not sure that I even felt sad. I just didn’t feel anything. I was completely numb from my soul outwards. In a way this is what allowed me to carry on untreated for as long as I did. Robotically, I carried out everyday activities. I did the things I needed to do. I created a facade that I was fine.

Occasionally I would break down, the numbness would melt away and all I felt was pain. Anger. Grief. Sadness. I started having panic attacks regularly and dosed myself on Valium until I had built up such a tolerance that the drug didn’t work anymore.

One day I was in a near car accident that would have been entirely my fault.  I wasn’t concentrating and made a stupid decision. Fortunately all I received was a loud honk and an angry gesture. Afterwards I felt completely calm, I felt no adrenaline rush, no guilt or remorse. It was then I realised how truly ambivalent I was. When faced with what could have been a serious accident, I felt nothing. I didn’t care whether I lived or died.

Eventually I began to give up. I stopped eating, stopped sleeping. Hubster frequently had to leave work to care for Master D and I. I kept experiencing this bizarre sensation where I felt I simply could not keep going. I couldn’t take another breath. I couldn’t take another step. If I was out when it happened I felt I was going to physically collapse and someone would have to come and get me. They would have to come and get me and I would be stiff as a board, carried out on a stretcher, not even able to move my limbs. In a plea for help I started telling the people around me, over and over, “I can’t keep going. I just can’t keep going.” I think they interpreted this as “I don’t want to feel like this anymore.” When really what I was trying to say was “I don’t want to be alive anymore”.

I was consumed by guilt and a pure hatred towards myself. One morning I woke up, listening to the two people I loved more than anything in the world sleeping peacefully. I decided I needed to leave. I couldn’t do this to them anymore. They both deserved so much better than me.

So – out of pure impulse – I grabbed the first article of clothing I could find, a dress, and threw it on over my pajamas. I slipped some shoes on, quietly opened the front door and left.

Halfway down the drive I realised I was wearing odd shoes. So I slipped them off and continued to walk barefoot down to the road. When I got to the road I looked around. Now what? I had no money, no phone, no plan, no SHOES for Christ sake. What on earth did I think I was doing?

Defeated, I dutifully checked the post box and started walking back up the drive. On the way I passed a tree. One of those weepy trees with long concealing branches. Before I knew what I was doing I sat inside the tree, huddled in the dirt. Suddenly I felt safe. I could see people go past, joggers, people walking dogs, women with prams…but they couldn’t see me. I felt like a child once more.  On the off chance that someone may see me I concocted a story where I was doing some weeding. The fact that I was in a dress, with my pajamas visible, barefoot, with no gardening implements in sight didn’t really concern me.

Suddenly our front door burst open and I heard Hubster running down the drive. When I saw him he looked absolutely frantic.

“Hubster?” I called out. He stopped. Looked around, clearly confused, then spotted me under the tree. He paused for a moment and then parted the long branches.

“What are you doing under there?” He asked calmly.

“Just…sitting” I said nervously. At this point I knew I had screwed up. Big time. Wordlessly he held out his hand. I hesitated and then took it, climbing out from underneath the tree. We walked back up to the house and I tried to explain that I felt safe there, that I wasn’t going to do anything bad.

Hubster just turned to me and said “do you have any idea how worried I was?! Don’t ever do that to me again. Ever.” I cried, told him how sorry I was. He just nodded and walked away.

I felt truly terrible. I realised what it must have looked like to him. My phone still at home. My (odd) shoes left in the middle of the drive. I realised that this couldn’t go on.

When I went into the bedroom Hubster was laying face down on the bed. I apologised and we held each other. I saw that he had been crying, or at least close to it. “do you think I’m bad if I go in to hospital?” I asked him. He looked at me “Quite frankly, I think you would be selfish if you didn’t go in and continued on like this” he said.

Suddenly I realised the effect that this must be having on him. Working fulltime, constantly on edge that he was going to get a call from me saying that I need him. Coming home and cooking dinner every night, feeding and bathing and putting Master D to bed. He had come to appointments with me, taken me to hospital, taken days off work to look after Master D. He had never once lost his patience with me. This man is a saint. I realised that he looked tired. I had been so consumed with my own despair that I hadn’t even considered him.

I realised my problem, my illness, was hurting him just as much as it was hurting me. I vowed to put an end to this. I decided I needed help. I made the decision to go into hospital.