On Bipolar, Ever-Evolving
I have, as is my habit, been fighting a depression that wins a little ground each day. My strategy, generally speaking, is to put a brave face on it in hopes that nobody will notice, and then, when I can no longer manage that, to beat a hasty retreat into the nearest isolated cave, emerging only to dance.
I’ve decided to pop the rest of this behind a cut, both because of strong language (“He said a-hole, Mom!*”) and because of subject matter that maybe could be a little on the triggery side for those of us currently wrestling mood disorders.
This is no longer surprising. Summer for me begins with mania or hypomania, and then, when my brain has burned all its kindling and every book of matches it can find, it careens into darkness. Sometimes there’s a second cycle, sometimes not, depending on whether I’m able to keep my insomnia and all the other precipitating variables in check.
I shore myself up with words, with action, with knowledge. Dancing helps as much as anything, but eventually the tide turns. That is the way of things.
I’m using a new metric these days. It occurred to me the other day that if someone came along who could take this thing (that is, bipolar disorder) away from me, no strings attached — if I could still be me, just without the staggering depressions and knife’s-edge glittering manias — I’d jump right on that train.
If I could be a me who remained creative, dynamic, active — if I could have all of the essential me, without the pain and disruption (especially the disruption) — my G-d, yes, I would.
But I am not yet at the point where I’d be willing to consider going back on meds; at least, not the ones conventionally used to treat bipolar. The pain and the disruption are not worse than the loss of my creative faculties and abilities; they are definitely not worse than the loss of my ability as a dancer. I would, at this moment in my life, rather skate along this precipice, knowing that chaos and even death are quite real risks, than ever, ever be unable to dance again.
In short, meds might temper my bipolar, but they do so at the cost of the essence of my being. I do not tolerate lithium well. I do not tolerate antipsychotics well. They may help pull my mood back towards the center, but they leave me stupefied, uncoordinated, and fogged (and, honestly, the center I experienced on them was not so much euthymic as simply a-thymic; on meds, I felt unreal, even dead). They leave me literally unable to dance, paint, or even really write.
Every year, at least once or twice, I revisit this question: has it come to that, yet? So far, the answer is still unequivocally no. (For the record, I would consider electroconvulsive therapy, if it was offered — that, too, has side-effects, but ones I’m willing to accept.)
I do think it’s time to see an endocrinologist, though. I think my lack of sex hormones, and the unsteady levels of those that bother to exist, aren’t helping. I have mixed feelings about this, too — I’m fairly content with my body, and anything we add will change it in one way or another. Some of the changes in question would be perfectly fine; others less than welcome.
But HRT will not render me unable to dance, and it might help take the edge off of my mood problems, as it has done in the past. It, too, bears side-effects I’m willing to accept in trade for a measure of function; for fewer days that I wrestle the voice in my head which tells me that I have no business living the life I’m trying to live and reminds me, as I lie in the bath attempting — lizard-like — to bring my body temperature high enough that I can move, that there’s a razor at hand; that I should use it.
I should stipulate, here, that this is not a cry for help or an attempt to wrangle sympathy: it’s actually not as bad as it sounds. I’ve been wrestling that inner voice for a long time, now, and I am pretty good at ignoring it. Sometimes it’s a constant undercurrent; a sort of soundtrack of suicidal ideation that is not sufficiently powerful to beget action. I have had therapy enough and I trust myself and Denis enough to speak up before it gets that bad.
It’s more like living with a conjoined twin who is basically an asshole, but who isn’t physically strong enough to overpower you. Sometimes he gets hold of a knife, even, but since his nervous system and yours are entwined, there’s no chance that he’ll stab you in your sleep or while you’re off your guard — he can’t be awake when you’re sleeping; he can’t act without you knowing what he’s going to do.
He’s still a pain in the ass, though, and he can make it hard to get things done sometimes, when he gets into a refractory kind of mood and won’t agree to go along with things that need to get done, so you have to drag him around like an overgrown toddler who desperately needs — and thusly refuses to take — a nap.
Anyway, this is getting long.
So that’s my new metric: okay, so I own that, if there weren’t side-effects, I’d happily take a magic bean that would just make my bipolar disorder go away, and I’m okay with the specific side-effects of ECT or HRT, but not those of lithium, antipsychotics, or anticonvulsants.
And this is all part of how I’m hanging in there, I guess.
*For some reason I’m reminded of this episode from my childhood in which a friend and I created this elaborate story about “The Swear Stone**,” which allowed its holder to use strong language undetected in the presence of adults.
Neither of us really believed in it (we were cynical pre-teens, something like 9 or 10 going on 40; I was so much older as a kid sometimes than I am now), but jokingly tested it with a fake sneeze and a fake swear — an, “Ah — ah — ah — SHIIIHHH!”…which emphatically did not end with a T, because A) the whole thing was a cynical joke and B) I had never gotten away with anything in my life, ever, so I had no delusions that I would start getting away with things now.
Only, my Mom either didn’t realize it or felt that the spirit of the thing was just as bad as the actual thing (I suppose she was probably right) and I was roundly shouted at.
Oh, and later my friend totally threw me under the bus about the whole thing, because we were basically both horrible little narcissists with bad cases of (sing it with me!) “…SCHAAA-DEN-FREU-DAAAAAAAAH, SCHAAAAAAAAA-DEN-FREU-DAAAAAAAAAH (fuck you, lady, that’s what stairs are for!)”
…But I’m not bitter.
**Yes, I did immediately think of this the first time I saw Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone***
***Autocorrupt seems to think the phrase Harry Potter and the should be end with …Charger to Which the Phone is Currently Attached. Which, yeah, that totally sounds like a super-exciting novel, there, I guess…? Fanfic challenge, anyone? I’m old enough to be a long-time fan of the Potter/Malfoy ship, after all.
****PS: Devolving into this strain of darkish humor, by the way, actually did make me feel a touch better. That or else my blood sugar is now so low that I’m starting to feel a touch euphoric. I don’t know. Kinda makes ya feel like riverdancin’, as it were.
Posted on 2016/06/27, in balllet, bipolar, healing, health, life and tagged bipolar, decisions, weights and measures, why I'm still not taking lithium, yeah verily it sucketh like unto a mighty vortex. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.