Mood Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified

diagnosed bipolar and pissed about it

Category: lithium

fuck lithium

hey y’all.  :: waves ::

sorry i haven’t written.  i’ve been busy emulating super woman.  i don’t mean to boast (but i’m going to do it anyway), but in the last week-ish, i graded 195 essay questions, 65 participation assignments (also essay), submitted abstracts to three conferences, and finished part 2 of a manuscript that is now about 50 pages (with an easy 10 more coming before it’s done), ran 12 miles, went grocery shopping, bulk cooked, and re-watched all episodes of the walking dead.  on top of a 4 day trip to california, where i drank lots of wonderful champagne and IPA.  i feel like a million bucks.

i haven’t been this successfully productive in a very long time, but i have been working hard to get life back in order.  including losing the 20 (!) lbs i gained while taking lithium.  i’ve been working on it since january 2.  with few results.

lithium weight is now my arch nemesis.

to be fair, i was estimating a rate of success based on my experience 2 (short…sniff) years ago, when the south beach diet took 12 lbs off my frame in a month.  it was magical.  it was fantastical.  it was the most rewarding experience EVER.

i did the same thing starting at the beginning of january, and the scale Did. Not. Budge.  i considered the possibility that one night every week or two, going out to drink might have been the culprit.  but not with the restricted diet i was on!  there’s no way!  i started incorporating exercise (which i did NOT, i repeat, did NOT have to do before).  still nothing.

i refuse to accept the possibility that “aging” is a factor.  it was two years ago for fuck’s sake.

then i had to get an emergency root canal and follow up surgery, and being high on percocet is not conducive to a healthy lifestyle.  i got in some solid hours on far cry 3 though.  (ah-may-zing!).

so, here i am.  it’s mid-march.  i’m none-the-lighter.  i’m ready to pull my hair out.

when visiting my family in california, i felt like the fucking michelin man.  my 50-year old mother kicked my ass on a 5 mile run.  yeah, that awkward moment.  over half of the pictures we took are banned from the public because i look like a fatty mcfatfat.

there’s nothing to do but try again.  with vengeance.  and if this shit doesn’t start coming off quick status i am going to blow a gasket at my next pdoc appointment.  i am going to send the dab who coerced me to take it hate mail.

the worst part of all of this is… i can’t even console myself with cookies and milk.

is being ‘normal’ really this boring?

i’ve been on 900 mg of lithium for a little over two weeks now.  i’ve experienced some strange fluctuations since starting.  first, there was mild hypomania and then really deep depression and then back up to another mild hypomania, followed by a sense of panic and then…


i feel like i’m living in 2D.  activities sound BORING.  all of them.  sometimes i want to bang my head against a wall because it sounds like a bit of fun.

i get bored reading and playing video games and walking my dogs and talking to people and writing my blog.  i even found a stray puppy yesterday and brought her home, thinking there’s no way to get bored with a puppy!  but i did.

i’m on my way to becoming a robot.

lithium update

i can’t sleep so i thought i’d channel some energy through writing in the hopes that i might get some peace of mind.  i’m tired, exhausted really, but when i closed my eyes i started remembering traumatic events that had my pulse up and my body twitching.

i’ve been taking 900 mg of lithium for about two weeks now.  i think there is a lot of misinformation out there so i want to keep everyone posted on my own personal experience.  personally i read a ton of hype on the net about negative effects associated with lithium.  my own sister refused to take it based on the connotation of the word alone and i nearly followed suit.

so here it is, Clint Eastwood-style

The Good

Life is, on average, decidedly more…”stable” so to speak.  My thoughts run at a reasonable pace and I’m not fidgeting as much.  The depression has been alleviated for the most part which feels like a fucking miracle.  Sometimes I feel a bit hypomanic which is a welcome relief from the 2 tons of weight depression seemed to heave on my shoulders.

The Bad

I do feel a little crazy sometimes but it is definitely mild and passes quickly.  it’s like a sense of feeling unconnected to things and slightly high.  that could be the hypomania though. i drink water like i’m running a marathon in the sahara desert.  and i have to pee, constantly.  Sometimes I even feel feverish or flushed, which i attribute to not drinking enough water.

The Ugly

My skin is reliving middle school.  Lithium can make you break out like a mofo which is fucking obnoxious.  Since my crippling depression, I have basically eliminated all makeup from my daily regimen so that probably helps.  Oh, and lithium can give you the shits.  Thank goodness I mostly work from home.

My psychiatrist tells me that many of the side effects I’m experiencing will subside as my body acclimates to the lithium.  We’ll see.  I certainly don’t want diarrhea for the rest of my life.  That’s what I call a deal breaker.

Lithium is a mood stabilizer; however, it is not a body cast that shields me from any and all fluctuations.  This may be due to the fact that I’m not fully stabilized yet, or possibly due to PTSD, but I am still incredibly sensitive to stress.  For example, I tried to reactivate my old facebook account (the one with all of my friends and family etc) and I was signed on for less than a minute before I started to panic and deactivated the account again.  My objective these days is to simplify as much as possible so life is manageable.

when you’re strange

the doors ‘people are strange‘ has been on repeat in my mind for two days now.  it seems befitting since i seem to be internalizing this diagnosis a little more each day and now i can reframe behavior previously perceived as odd.  don’t get me wrong, it’s still odd, but now there are just more people who share my characteristics.  it’s like finding a sense of community in my diagnosis.

it also means i have some explanation for previously inexplicable behavior.  for instance, in the last year i have found myself unable to function more times than i can count.  i feel as though i’ve been more susceptible to stress in some ways, which has been difficult to accept because i have always felt that i have withstood a great deal of stress over the course of my life.  so, i thought, many times, that i could just push through it.  i would try to set goals and make plans and fail and fail and fail.  and i suck at failing so it just made me feel worse.

especially since i am a doctoral candidate, and i am expected to be very responsible and to have my shit together and be able to pull off research projects and teaching assignments and managing a lab.  i found i was constantly flogging myself for just sucking at life in general.  for being unable to be consistent and follow through.  i thought it was just some flaw in my character, that somehow my struggle against the waves of my mood meant i am just weak and undisciplined.  that there is always something i could be doing to remedy the situation.  it got so bad that sometimes i even thought i became failure.  like if you looked up failure in the dictionary, you would find my picture and a list of bullet pointed examples for why i am made of suck.

in fact, sitting in the psychiatrist’s office, as she was describing what i could expect from a stabilized state compared to a hypomanic or depressive episode, i asked if bipolar mood swings could account for even rapid changes in mood or in being inconsistent and she said yes.  i don’t think i meant to say the following out loud, but it kind of just came out.  i started tearing up and in possibly the meekest voice i have ever heard out of myself before–i thought i sounded like a little girl, in fact–i asked, “so you mean i can stop beating myself up for that?”

i would just like to say that going from feeling like a piece of shit failure to having a possible explanation, a REASON for behavior that had been so confusing and detrimental, was like lifting 1000 pounds off my shoulders.  and that treatment might allow me to manage those experiences…well, it was then that i decided lithium was worth a shot.

so now i am on lithium, and i am not quite sure i am at “management” stages yet.  i am still feeling hypomanic today.  i am impatient with people and easily distracted.  fidgety up the wazoo.  my thoughts are racing and i am giddy and hyper.  listening to music feels good.  the strange thing, however, is that i would expect sleepless nights with this kind of hypomania…except last night i couldn’t have stayed up past midnight if i tried.  i was SO. TIRED.

i have no idea what next week will bring, or even tomorrow.  i still don’t want to go out or socialize with many people, because my hypomanic state will be such a stark contrast to the debilitating depression i experienced not even a week ago.  i don’t want to have to explain one state or the other, or how i got from one place to the next.  and i don’t want to offend those who i failed as a colleague, or as an instructor .

there is also a fear i can’t deny, that people will somehow be able to tell.  i think my hypomanic behaviors are very obvious, and i do feel a bit like a crazy person because i’m so elated and unable to focus.  i don’t even want to call friends because i’m talking so rapidly that sometimes i stutter, and even typing i forget words or get ahead of myself.  if i had to guess, i would say i would fit in perfectly on a dance floor at about 1am when everyone else is already drunk.

if only i can figure out a way to get  paid for hypomanic behavior, then i’m set…


are we there yet?

i want to post an update about my lithium journey.  the trouble is, i find myself unsure about what could be due to lithium, and what could be due to…other things.

there are some things i am more confident about, like the metallic aftertaste in my mouth that seems to be getting sharper by the day.  for example, last night i had cookies and milk.  i never mind if the cookies break off into the milk because it just means more tasty goodness at the end.  after i savored my last cookie for that session i went to drink the rest of the milk and get to my secret pot of gold at the bottom of my cup, but i couldn’t even get past a sip.  there’s not really an easy way to describe what milk and metal taste like together, but it is NOT. GOOD.  I’m shuddering just thinking about it.

my moodscope is looking pretty optimistic too, relatively speaking.  my new high score is 45%.  still on the more negative side of things but compared to 7%, let me tell you: the weather is great up here.  it seems that the lithium is definitely doing its part for my depression, although i am curious how much of that can be attributed to the lithium + prozac combination.

if i have to be completely honest though, i would admit that i think i am a little happier than “normal”.  i mean, it is a relief to not feel abysmal and it’s possible that the stark contrast from just a few days ago accounts for this observation.  but i have a sneaking suspicion that i might be experiencing a little more hypomania and that i find myself not wanting to tell my psychiatrist about it (lest she change anything) lends a bit more support to that hypothesis.

we’ll table the fact that this physiological and behavioral response to lithium indicates a correct bipolar II diagnosis, for now.  but just to describe the experience: my sense of hearing is much more sensitive, so i have to turn down the volume of my phone or videos.  i find myself feeling a little high, a little giddy.  perhaps even a bit devious and deviant.  kind of like i’ve just had my first couple greyhounds (vodka + grapefruit) and the night is starting to take shape.  i am impatient and distractible, and even a little irritable.  laughter comes more easily.  i can conclude that this isn’t “normal”–not other people normal, anyway–because this is how i felt before i was depressed.  i notice that my writing and thinking is a bit more erratic and it’s harder for me to focus on creating a structure for this blog entry.  i really, really want to go on an adventure.

thank goodness i have video games to entertain me so i don’t go off and do something rash.

as for the “other things”…yesterday i felt quite stressed for a reason i will explain momentarily, but the result was a very turbulent sleep and what felt like psychological warfare on my dreams.  i had a long series of dreams about conflicts and problems and people from my past.  but one dream was so disturbing that i don’t even want to write about it.  i don’t want any cues as to what it was about, and the sooner i forget about it, the better.  i’ve had some pretty horrifying dreams in my day, but this one definitely hit the top 10.  i woke up sweating, stressed, anxious, and ready to cry.

fortunately i’ve been able to turn my day around due to some really uncharacteristic, but lovely weather for this time of year.  i spent a lot of time outside with the dogs, i watched a movie i loved, i felt inspired, i talked to a friend on the phone and i painted my nails green.

but the source of stress is still there, lying in waiting.  gnawing at me.  stealing this shining moment of release from darkness.

you may have guessed it by now.  XBF has made contact.  yesterday he sent a peculiar email.  it was peculiar in the sense that it communicated the opposite of what our last conversation seemed to, and he titled it Missing You.  he expressed his love for me and that he missed me.  he made no mention of our previous conversation or of his not one but now two 180-degree flips in behavior, but instead sent me a link to make me laugh like he had been there for me this whole time.

and I’M the bipolar one here?

when i told him i was confused and asked for an update since his attitude seemed to have changed quite a bit since the last time we talked, he said we could meet in person when i’m free.

ha!  no way jose.  i’m finally getting a break from mind boggling depression.  i’m not so stressed out that i feel close to some kind of  psychotic break.  there is no way i am walking into a situation where i can be potentially blindsided again, without warning.

so i told him i felt uncomfortable with that and asked to talk by email first so at least i have a chance of managing my emotions.

he hasn’t responded.  of course.  he clearly didn’t read the freaking book.

i have mixed feelings about all of this.  i love him but i am just tired of it.  if i take an inventory of the stress he has *added* to my life, it is not trivial.  and with how he handled even recent events, despite my explicit request to minimize stressful events, i don’t feel comfortable trusting him with my peace of mind.  it makes me sad, really sad.  and pretty pissed off and annoyed too but i think that may be my irritability and impatience talking.


and if my hypomanic state is guiding my behavior, then should i really be talking to him anyway?

ultimately, i am just really shitty at making decisions when it comes to relationships.  that whole setting boundaries lesson has been lost on me for years and i struggle with it daily.  i’ve gotten better, but in general i can never tell when enough is enough.  i really mean i can’t tell.  i can’t SEE it.  so i usually err on the side of caution and try to work through things, so hopefully i’m not cutting people out prematurely like SOME people in my family (:cough: my mother :cough:).

i guess in some twisted way this diagnosis can be a blessing…i am trying to stabilize (sort of) so the clear cut off point is whether something adds too much stress or not.  if it does, it’s removed.  this way, i don’t have to include my heart in the decision-making process.  and let me tell you, that makes a world of difference.

abandonment issues

i actually hate the phrase ‘abandonment issues’.  for many reasons, not the least of which is because it applies to me.  but usually i hear it in the context of some magnificent display of ignorant douchery and it gets fucking old after a while.

in any case, i can feel my inner abandonment demons doing a tribal war dance and chanting for a breach in my exterior so they can rage out in the open.  fortunately, i think the lithium is helping me defend my borders.  it’s like having an extra layer of armor. a force field, even.  now we’re talking.  go go gadget lithium!

meanwhile, i am still processing the latest explosive interaction with XBF.  i can’t tell if it’s the lithium or a sense of relief knowing i won’t have to deal with so much crap anymore, but i’m surprisingly okay with things right now.  that doesn’t mean i’m not fucking pissed off that i spent so much time and energy on “us” but at least now its possible to redirect what little energy I have elsewhere.

take, for example, my complex statistical analysis of our relationship.  yes.  i mathematically analyzed my relationship to see if it was worth it and if so, what specific areas needed work.

i expect many of my readers don’t have to ask why i would do such a thing.  when your emotions are making like a pinball and bouncing all over the place, it’s hard to trust yourself because you know your mood is going to change any second.  what’s real?  what’s not?  i didn’t want to rely on these impulses, and i wanted to actually work on our problems so, you know, they wouldn’t be problems anymore.

fortunately, i had already been working on a list called ‘reasons i love and appreciate you’ because we had been planning to date long distance starting in August.  i was thinking that i could find some crafty way to send him some of these reasons each week to keep the spark alive, or some crap.

so i started with my list of positives, and then created a parallel list of issues that i felt needed addressing.  some were associated with the positives, but many stood alone.  then i renamed my ‘reasons i love and appreciate you’ list to ‘houston, we have a problem’.

i created a third column to try and identify underlying issues for the specific examples i had provided in the pros and cons columns.  interestingly, the (108) issues could be boiled down to only 7 categories: asymmetry, incompatible lifestyles, conflict resolution, neglect, lack of appreciation, trust, and disrespect.

i made sure to code whether the specific issues had already been discussed or not (because discussed without resolution is even more frustrating, and not having discussed something means i need to try that first).

then i went through each specific issue, all 108 of them, and rated each of them on a scale of 1 to 5.  for positive items, i rated how important that positive aspect was to my perspective.  for negative items, i rated how important/detrimental/frustrating the issue was for me.

based off of these data, i was able to see that for both raw data and data weighted by importance scores, the broad categories required attention in the following order:

  1. Trust
  2. Asymmetry
  3. Disrespect
  4. Lack of appreciation
  5. Neglect
  6. Conflict Resolution
  7. Incompatible lifestyles

i conducted correlations between each of these categories to see which ones showed overlap.  some were pretty tough to interpret, actually.  still, quite a few made sense correlations made sense, such as the positive, strong relationship between trust and disrespect. so, as problems with trust increase, so do feelings of disrespect.

i also tested between positive and negative issues to see if ratings for positive issues differed statistically from ratings for negative issues.  they didn’t, so that was promising.

then i started getting tricky.

for issues that had both pro and con aspects to them, i adjusted the weighted pro score by subtracting the weighted con score.  in other words, how much did the negative issue detract from the positive one?  if there was no negative score associated, the weighted con score became zero.

i also calculated the weighted con score for items that didn’t have pro components to figure out how much they contributed to my overall feelings.  when i compared the mean of these scores to the mean of the adjusted pro scores, the outlook was not good.  the negatives were *clearly* outweighing the positives.

i then wanted to evaluate how talking influences my feelings. as i mentioned, if we had talked about it and it was not resolved, i found i was more frustrated.  if we hadn’t talked about it, i wanted to know how to prioritize those issues.  you can’t really drop 108 problems in someone’s lap and expect anything to get done.

based on that, I could rank order the topics that needed immediate attention versus those that could wait or be eliminated for now.  this cut the number of specific issues at least in half.  still 50 things is a lot so i needed to condense further.

i figured out where in the 7 categories the severest issues seemed to cluster so i could discuss 7 broader concepts and give specific examples, in the order of urgency.

when i was done, i felt a sense of relief.  i could broach these topics in a reasonable way without getting flooded or paralyzed by emotions.  i brought it up with XBF and we made plans to talk about it.  that was always how it seemed to be.  making plans to make plans to talk.

we never got to discuss it of course.  and right after i had told him we were near a precipice, he chose the very next day–which happened to be my birthday–to have a “misunderstanding”.  to miss my birthday dinner.  i’m not sure how a text that says “you need to get here now” is confusing, but somehow it is and i have to accept that “he was confused” as his answer.

so, back to my abandonment demons…their drum circle beats louder and louder when i think about the sudden turnaround in his behavior and feelings.  two days flat.  or what is more likely, of course, is that doubts had been building for a while, not communicated to me, and had eventually overflowed.  or maybe there is something else.  little abandonment demons plant ideas…like he found someone who is not clinically insane to be with romantically, or at least to get a good fuck.

they whisper that having XBF and Satan Spawn work together has been the best fuel they’ve seen in a long time.  because XBF, who doesn’t know any better, because i didn’t tell him anything different, then asked Satan Spawn for advice, and Satan Spawn will always, without fail, jump at the chance to lie.  you see, Satan Spawn has his own agenda.  it is one that will never be filled, ever.  as my friend put it, in her “clinical opinion”, Satan Spawn is still in love with me.  which i’ve known at least since December when he told me as much directly.  but XBF desperately needed research credits and i did what any devoted girlfriend would do and got him a damn position.  i didn’t tell him about the emotional abuse, or the psychological trauma inflicted upon me by Satan Spawn.  about his successful campaign to destroy my reputation by telling colleagues i am crazy (ha, not so funny now) that worked for over a year before people pulled their heads out of their asses.

and now, it seems, they’re in cahoots.  Satan Spawn is feeding XBF misinformation and coming to me telling me how “awkward it is” and trying to get information about our break up.  XBF is playing innocent and saying Satan Spawn is spontaneously saying all of this on his own.  One or both may be lying.

one thing is for sure.  my abandonment demons are hatching a plot that will require any and all future prospects to perform the equivalent of the Macy’s Parade to even crack the surface.

initial impressions

I’ve had 600 mg of lithium since last night and I’m already experiencing effects like thirst, dry mouth, and frequent urination.  I’ve also got a strange aftertaste that isn’t normal.

I am also noticing some things I didn’t anticipate, like feeling more hypomanic.  I feel restless and distracted.  It’s hard for me to follow my own train of thought, let alone that of my students.  Several times I’ve had to ask them to repeat their questions.  During the student presentation, I just hoped they were getting information right because many times I realized I had no idea what was going on.  I was going to give one of my favorite talks today but I am too disorganized.  I am having trouble forming sentences and sometimes have to correct my words.  Once I realized the disorganization in my thought and speech patterns, I realized there was no way I could lead a discussion.  I am worried: how am I supposed to provide timely grades?  I need to create a study guide for this week’s exam too, but I can’t imagine sitting and focusing on anything.  What about my extra-teaching responsibilities?  Thankfully, I had a backup documentary that corresponded with today’s material, which we’re watching now.  I’m really just counting down the minutes until I can get back home.

This agitated feeling is combined with the strange sensation that I would really like to take a nap.  Sleep for the rest of the day, perhaps.  I got 8 hours of sleep last night, but it was from 7p to 3a, so by the time I had to get up for class I was ready to go back to bed.

Another interesting and unpleasant change in experience that I’ve noticed lately (not just associated with lithium use) is that I am very sensitive to sound and light at times.  Two nights ago, I had to tell my ex-boyfriend to lower his voice.  It sounded like every syllable reverberated in my head and that there was even an echo in the room.  Same thing today: I noticed it right away when I walked in class.  The fluorescent light was on and my students started talking to me right away.  I winced at how loud it sounded.  Even shuffling papers or the tick of the clock seem unnaturally loud.

As the minutes ticked by, quite obviously I might add, my anxiety steadily increased.  So I reached out to ex-boyfriend so that perhaps he could give me some support and relief.  I hadn’t yet told him about my decision to take lithium and I was honestly surprised about his reaction.  In fact, it ended up stressing me out more.  He even just stopped responding mid-conversation.  You may be wondering why I expect my “ex” to be supportive.  We are technically broken up at this point, but we are working toward resolution and getting back together.  More on that later.

I’m so frustrated I’m going so far as to share part of the conversation here:

Ex-boyfriend (XBF): Here
 me: thank you
XBF: But it shows youre offline
 me: yeah
  i’m here
  i forgot
  so i feel really uncomfortable
  everything is loud
  and i have blurry vision
  and i’m kinda freaking out about teaching class
  i started lithium because my symptoms have been out of control and prozac isn’t helping at all
  lithium at slow doses is also used for resistant depression
  and besides i’m exhibiting hypomanic symptoms
  its dysphoric hypomania which fucking blows
XBF: I am wee aware of lithium
 me: ?
XBF: Well*
 me: why
XBF: One sec

5 minutes
me: i can’t follow what my students are saying
XBF: Im back
  Ya thats lithium
  I thought you said you might be bipolar 2
 me: what?
   it’s not lithium this was happening before
  i am bipolar 2
  and you’re stressing me out because it feels like you’re doubting me
XBF: Yes bipolar 2
 me: i am already freaking out
XBF: Im doubting a “doctor” who prescribed lithium as an early attempt to treat bipolar 2
  Thats practically off label
  Ill never doubt you
me: no it’s not
XBF: I just hope you choose to get a second opinion
 me: i am
XBF: Because i care about you
 me: i made calls yesterday
 me: i’m waiting for return calls
  babe i need your support i’m stressed
why do you know about lithium

7 minutes
me: …
fyi this is a really bad time to bail in the middle of a conversation without any freaking warning
well f you too

Any words of guidance or support would be welcomed–about the lithium, not the ex.  🙂

5:10am, 8 hours of sleep

I passed out sometime around 7pm and woke up at 3am.  I spent the first hour dividing my attention between my three animals, each of which was curled up next to me in some fashion.  Little Dog C was nestled in my arm, Big Dog A stretched over my leg and looked up at me with big puppy eyes, and Meow Cat A came to stake her claim on my other arm.  I love my animals, and it occurred to me that when people had been asking about my support group, I completely neglected to include them.  They are my biggest support group and I am certain my animal family has buffered some of the negative effects of my recent experiences.

Now only if I could train them to bring me breakfast in bed…

I’ve got a lot of mixed emotions today (imagine that).  I’m a bit scared, and definitely anxious, but just slightly optimistic.  It’s definitely an aroused state, and kind of antsy.  I wonder what the next few weeks will hold.

Will lithium be all that my psychiatrist said?  Or will I have the experience of countless others who need revision after revision of their prescriptions?

Will lithium take care of my anxiety, my PTSD?  Will I be diagnosed with another disorder once we rule out the effects of Bipolar?  Will I soon be taking pictures of my pharmaceutical breakfast?  I have already balked at my daily dose case when it had Zoloft or Prozac, Buproprion, Valium, and a Multivitamin.  It looks like that will just be the start.

How soon will I be able to clean my house?  Go to the store to get toilet paper and shampoo, which I’ve been out of for what seems like forever (don’t panic, I at least have had wet wipes and paper towels at my disposal)?  Walk the dogs every day again?  Make real progress on the myriad projects I have going?

Will I get fat?!  I should really look into starting my healthy diet asap.  Time to check the bank account, which is something I’m never fond of, to see if I can even afford the super healthy diet I want.  Why?  Because it entails mostly “perimeter shopping” – all fresh foods that can go bad quickly if not consumed right away, and virtually no processed foods.  Will I get back to making food from scratch and freezing?

What about exercise?  Will I have the energy and motivation to get back into boxing classes?  I am wasting so much money on that membership as it is…

So much to think about…

my first lithium journey

sometime in the middle of class I decided that I needed to stop by the Health Center on the way home.  I wanted something to help me get on a regular sleep schedule, and to help with the very uncomfortable anxiety that made depression feel even worse.  I also wanted to ask for referrals to community therapists and psychiatrists in order to get a second opinion about my diagnosis, and to get some help dealing with the diagnosis itself.

after class I took a nap for a little less than an hour.  It was a deep intense sleep, and I’m pretty confident that for the first 30 minutes after I “woke up” I was still in stage 1 sleep.  quite a bizarre feeling, almost psychedelic in nature.  I was so engaged in trying to figure out this strange sensation when I walked by the Health Center, forgetting my original intentions.  But, there’s nothing like a strong visual cue like a gigantic brick building to remind you to stop in.

I immediately saw the woman who provides referrals.  There aren’t many people available in my area, to my surprise, neither clinical therapist nor psychiatrist.  Of course, this has something to do with the fact that I asked specifically for a female PhD.  Female, because I have trust issues with everyone but especially with males and I feel like females are more empathic, safer, and understanding.  PhD because I’m asking for a second clinical diagnosis and even though the PhD doesn’t necessarily promise anything, I have some reasonable knowledge about the type and length of training they’ve had.  Besides, I always grill them at the first meeting to make sure they meet my standards so I can be sure I could even form the ever-important “therapeutic alliance”.  No Freudians or psychodynamic therapy for me, mm-mm.

while the referral lady had me in her office, the guy at the front desk came in to let me know that my psychiatrist just had an opening about an hour later.  I had thought she wasn’t available afternoons so I wouldn’t see her until after my class is over in the beginning of June.  My symptoms and quality of life have been beyond unbearable lately so I jumped at the chance.  I thought I might end up with some anti-anxiety meds and some sleeping pills, although hopefully not Ambien because that just made me feel crazy.

to my surprise, I walked out of the psychiatrist appointment 45 minutes after it started with a stack of papers to look over and a prescription for lithium.  she finally convinced me.  i didn’t think it would happen, but it did.  I’ve got book recommendations, prescription information, mood questionnaires for daily assessments, all kinds of goodies.  see, at first, I didn’t trust her diagnosis at all.  I felt like she had her mind made up already and that I wasn’t given a “fair chance”.  I also wanted to see more explicit elimination of alternative diagnoses, so I would understand how the symptoms I experienced are specific to bipolar 2 as opposed to something else.  she would appease me if I asked but sometimes I got the sense that she was a little impatient with my resistance, leading me to further doubt her.

not so today.  it started off a little like usual, where I didn’t really feel like she remembered me from the time before and I had to re-explain things.  as time went on I think she remembered more and more and was able to refer back to our past meetings, so that made me feel more comfortable.  I described that my current existence is EXTREMELY unpleasant because I can’t figure out if I’m depressed or hypomanic or what.  whatever it is, I’m unbelievably uncomfortable and can’t function.

we went through a mood questionnaire and she told me it looks like I’m having a mixed episode.  Mixed episodes are VERY UNPLEASANT I might add.  Too depressed to function but so agitated I want to peel my skin off.  moreover, I’m experiencing Dysphoric Hypomania, which was described as: “Mind is racing but motivation and focus are poor.  Can’t sit still but mood is depressed.  Body is restless but energy is poor.  Sleeping @ 4-6 hrs/night. Irritable, impatient, and anxious.  ‘Not right’ Characteristic of Bipolar Type II disorder.

so I’m hypomanic but without all the neat stuff associated with it.  Instead, I feel debilitated by the inability to move  and supremely pissed off.  like I can’t get comfortable.  since I had been suspecting this was the case, and because the psychiatrist’s elaboration of this type of experience really resonated with me, she suddenly had my full attention.

she brought up lithium again.  she again explained how lithium dosing depends on where along the spectrum I am, and described what type of experience I should expect after stabilizing on lithium.  to be honest, what she is describing sounds completely foreign to me.  kind of like I might be like one of those…”normal” people, but somehow still retaining the benefits of bipolar, such as creativity, passion, and energy.  she kept describing what people with bipolar 2 often feel about others, and who they tend to associate with and I felt like she was peering into my past.  feeling most people or “boring” or don’t know “how to live”.  analogies like that that just brought tears to my eyes because of their truth in relation to my life experience.  as she went on and described how a mood stabilizer would also help us isolate problems other than bipolar disorder, such as PTSD, I became more and more open to the idea.

at the same time, I have no idea what to expect.  she describes “separating me from the bipolar disorder”.  What does that mean??? If I’ve had bipolar disorder this entire time, what’s really me anyway?  Have I ever really known?

Will I even recognize myself??


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