Last night, my poor husband made a minor mistake and I ripped his head off and spit down his neck. Today, I was writing an utterly banal stream-of-consciousness in my journal when suddenly I scrawled out: “I don’t deserve my life because I’ve tried to kill myself three times since my daughter’s been alive.” This was the second mood issue in two days, it was more extreme than the anger (which was pretty extreme), and this thought I wrote was so deflating I literally sat in a stupor for a second, while I racked my brain to explain it…
…I had run out of one of my psych meds 4 days ago. It had been ready at the pharmacy, but I was waiting for another to become available to save a trip and get them both together tomorrow. A seemingly small and time-saving idea, but a major mistake: I quickly looked up the withdrawal symptoms of the medication (Topamax). Sure enough, just as expected: extreme anger, depression, mood swings, diarrhea, appetite changes, headaches, etc etc. I was having them all.
I quickly stopped what I was doing and went and picked up the medicine. Just knowing that my moods had a reason behind them helped me feel better. Taking the pills when I got home made me feel better. Explaining this situation to my husband and daughter (who witnessed me scream at her daddy) made all three of us feel better.
But, it was only upon further reflection during dinner tonight that I actually was able to feel completely, 100% at peace with something about being me, being bipolar, and about living with this diagnosis for over twenty years, the hardest thing to come to terms with, which is this: bipolar disorder is simply a chemical imbalance, nothing more and nothing less.
For the first 10 years of my diagnosis, I could only assume that when I was unhappy, it was a problem to be solved with me fixing external things in my life. I would change jobs and careers, move to different towns or cities, break up with men, date the field, get engaged and un-engaged, write a book and then burn the book, etc., always thinking that if I could simply change my external circumstances, then I’d be happy or “cured.” It never worked for long.
Then I met my husband, and I became truly happy. He supported my ambition and my illness so that I didn’t have to work and could be a stay-at-home mom who wrote, and I was truly happy for years and years with no sign of bipolar illness.
Then, awhile ago, my daughter went to school full time and I didn’t react well and my symptoms came back and lasted for four years. This time, I thought the problem was me, an internal problem—I picked myself apart, trying to figure out what was wrong with me. This led to those suicide attempts because I couldn’t fix myself. No matter how hard I tried, I was still sick.
Once I started seeing a psychologist and got on a different medication cocktail, I was able to stabilize and today I can say that I’ve enjoyed months of happiness again, it’s like the first round of happiness with my husband and daughter but new and exciting: there have been promotions, a brand new bigger house, school successes, more opportunities, more new kinds of joy. I am happy despite the weight I’ve gained. I’m happy inside and out.
So, that’s why I knew today that the only reason in the world there was to explain why I was feeling suddenly so depressed was because I hadn’t been taking my medication. It was actually the biggest relief in the world. I can fix that easily by taking it! And if I’m lucky, my world will continue to spin out in a lovely radius of good vibes, love and gratitude forever and ever amen….Bipolar disorder isn’t caused by external or internal factors in your life, those were never my problem—I’ve always been at my core a happy, positive person who had a good and uplifting life—the problem is simply in chemicals that we naturally do not have in balance and that we must take our medication to rebalance. It’s as simple as that.