Bipolar, At Last!

#mentalhealthminute #susanstrasser #susanstrasserblog #amwriting

How’s your mental and emotional health? May is Mental Health Awareness month. I was inspired to write these blogs for you this week and tell my story. Hope you enjoy today’s final installment!

CONTINUED FROM LAST BLOG, “PMS? Prozac?”

One day my primary care physician moved out of town, and in one of my first appointments with my new one, we reviewed my medical needs. I am blessed to be pretty healthy, but my mental health and my taking Prozac still didn’t add up. Even as a primary care physician, she thought what I described to her didn’t seem like depression.

Therapy and program tools continued to help me manage my anger, rage, sadness, boredom, jubilation, exhaustion, overwhelm, and the infinite spectrum of feelings that it seemed human beings are supposed to navigate as adult, but man, I feel a lot feelings and I still had a hard time processing life and all my emotions that went with it!

So I hunted down a psychiatrist that my regular doctor recommended, made an appointment, got an evaluation, and tried to wrap my head around her diagnosis: that I was bipolar.

Me? Manic?

We don’t really use that term anymore, the psychiatrist explained.

For me, the idea of being manic— oops, I mean bipolar!— seemed more serious than being depressed. Being depressed somehow did not seem like a bona fide mental illness. But something like mania or bipolar? That seemed like I was truly crazy. Oh my God. Was I? NAMI (the National Alliance for Mental Illness) link below specifically states the following when defining bipolar mental illness:

https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Bipolar-Disorder

  1. Causes are stress, genetics, and brain dysfunction. (How about that? Not family dysfunction, or my personality’s dysfunction, but my grey-and-white matter, which is what I was born with and completely beyond my control! Oh. OK.)

2. That there are four types of bipolar disorder: bipolar I, bipolar II, cyclothymia, or unspecified. (guess which one I am? That’s right! “unspecified!” gotta laugh about that)

My first “real” therapist that I’d had for 20 years always reminded me of how high-functioning I was. I.e., I did not need to be on any kind of medical disability. (and no, I was not crazy!) So I can see how I am not the other types of bipolar.

Unspecified simply means I have the mood elevations, and I need to manage it with treatments like medicines, therapy, and a healthy lifestyle.

Isn’t that something? I’m not chronically depressed. I have bipolar disorder, I treat it, and everything’s going to be okay.

The psychiatrist and I experimented with different levels of Depakote and Lithium, until after approximately 6-9 months, I felt good. Not perfect. There is no magic pill, but hey.

Also, I researched and found a therapist after my old one went into semi-retirement. But that one didn’t work for me. Then I went back to the drawing board and found another. She works for me.

And always, of course, my 12 step meetings.

Being in recovery and treating my mental health, physical, emotional, and spiritual health is so much work! Every grown up knows that, lol! But I’m worth it. We all are.

Occasionally, I forget to take my “meds,” or don’t feel like running to CVS AGAIN to refill my prescriptions for the lithium and Depakote that my psychiatrist will only fill one month’s at a time. But you know what?

It’s okay. My local CVS is right next to a Starbucks and my favorite florist/gift shop. Plus it’s a beautiful neighborhood jaunt there and back this time of year with everything green and flowers blooming. I take a breath, take the 20 mins., and go. Gotta take care of myself.

My sponsor responded to my daily email to her lately with some lovely wisdom as I went on about balancing work, my recovery, my husband, my kids, my cats…

Gentleness is self care. Self care allows you to take care of your family.

Yes! One thing at a time.

After all, I’ve come a long way, and I’ve got a lot of great life ahead of me.

Thank you so much for reading these blogs. I enjoyed writing them.

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