Yes, I Have Bipolar Disorder. No I Can't Forget About It.
In the times when I've had prolonged periods of wellness, I don't particularly think about bipolar disorder and I don't feel its implications. I just get up, get out of bed, say 'hi' to my cats, and go about my day. True, the med-taking is a reminder, but bipolar isn't necessarily top-of-mind.
This does not mean, however, that I can forget about the bipolar disorder. Forgetting about bipolar disorder is one of the most dangerous things you can do.
I Thought I Was Better
Many people start to think they're "cured" of bipolar disorder. Sometimes this is because they're in a natural remission, sometimes it's due to mania and sometimes it's because the meds are working properly.
And it's OK to feel that way. Maybe something has gone right for you and you'll never experience another bipolar episode.
But you still can't afford to forget about bipolar disorder.
I Ignored Bipolar Disorder / I Forgot I Had Bipolar Disorder
I can't tell you the number of people who have said this to me:
. . . it has been those times when I have tried to ignore it, pretend that all is good, when Life falls apart.
[Part of a great comment by Scott. I recommend reading the whole thing.]
Even if life really is good, the forgetting of the illness can make life fall apart.
Diamonds and Bipolar Disorder Are Forever
I know there are people who would disagree with this one, but bipolar disorder is forever. It's not a "sometimes" illness. There is no antidote. As much as I know we want to forget the unpleasantness, we want to believe it will never happen again, we want to believe we don't have to worry about it, wanting just doesn't make it so.
Because we know that the more episodes you have, the more likely you are to have future episodes. Sorry. That's just the way it is.
Caution - Bipolar Symptom Crossing
And while it is terribly unpleasant, you need to be on the watch for bipolar symptoms. They pop out of nowhere. Or they pop out of somewhere. But they pop out. Even when everything is going well and you're doing everything right, they pop out.
It doesn't matter if you're taking medication or not, in therapy or not, shooting wheat grass or not, it's critical to see the early warning signs or reoccurring symptoms.
Because bipolar disorder is a slippery slope. You can go from feeling good, to OK, to sad, to suicidal in the blink of an eye; mania is the same. And if you haven't been there in a while, your coping skills might be a little rusty.
The Good News About Being a Crossing Guard
The good news is if you watch for oncoming symptoms, you can work to avoid them before the soccer-mom-talking-on-a-cell-phone-while-yelling-at-her-kids-driven SUV hits you. It's easy to avoid a car you see coming down the street, it's really hard to avoid one that's five feet away.
Believe me, I understand the temptation to try to forget the pain you didn't want to remember in the first place, but also believe me when I tell you it's in your best interest not to do so. Unfortunately, with bipolar disorder, ignorance is not bliss.
Tracy, N. (2011, April 22). Yes, I Have Bipolar Disorder. No I Can't Forget About It., HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2011/04/yes-i-have-bipolar-disorder-no-i-cant-forget-about-it
Author: Natasha Tracy
Your situation sounds very frustrating, but the problem seems less about the bipolar and more about the person.
No one has the right to tell you what they "owe" them. Certainly we all go through rough times and sometimes we need a lot of help during these times, but there is a limit to what a person can be expected to do.
You cannot let another person destroy you or you're no good to them or to you.
It sounds like either your husband's treatment isn't very effective and he's lashing out or that he has interpersonal problems and needs professional therapy. (Being demanding isn't part of bipolar disorder.)
I've written about convincing someone to get help: http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2010/09/how-do-i-convince-my-friend-to-get-help-for-bipolar-disorder/
I've written how to help a person with a mental illness: http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2011/03/how-to-help-someone-with-a-mental-illness/
The only thing you can do is set personal boundaries and stick to them. No one deserves to be treated like a slave. You have to decide what is right for you and what you can live with.
You cannot help someone who refuses help. You deserve better.
Since I go to school my daughter-in-law helps me clean the house when they visit. Last night I forgot to tell her his computer room was off-limits to everyone. He is very secretive about this room, but his e-mail sent my e-mail a virus and now I am getting ads about on-line dating and he has about 15 pictures hanging on his wall of naked women so I know what he is up to. Anyhow she went in and cleaned and dusted his desk not throwing away anything just getting it straight and dusted-free I have not been allowed to dust it and he has severe lung problems. When he saw what she had done he freaked out yelling and everything. When I mentioned about her being so upset he yelled at me and told me he was so tired of all my sh- -. Any suggestions before I go crazy myself??? Thank you. I posted this on the form suggested above, but did not proofread it until after it was already posted and found out my pointer had been skipping and post made no sense, so no replies were made.
Talking (even ranting) can definitely help. I hope you get some help just for you too.
We go to a counselor and his MD and they have talked to him about getting out of bed and moving around but after we leave and get home it is right back to bed. I am no longer allowed to go in to his therapy sessions because of all the things I told her the last time.
Thank you for the web site. Just writing on this blog has already helped me with my frustration with him.
"It may sound like you are pointing out the obvious here Natasha or at least it might seem that way to the uninformed but this is something we need to remind ourselves, we cannot ignore this illness because it will not ignore us. We have to be vigilant and above all hope for the best."
Obvious is my stock in trade :)
Yes, I believe we, those with an illness need reminding, and others around us need understanding. There is nothing more annoying than friends who are trying to get you to do things that would derail your progress (like staying out late at night or drinking). They aren't necessarily trying to hurt you, they just don't understand the impact of their behavior. We have enough troubles without people reminding us of what we _can't_ (shouldn't) do.
Everyone is different, but if he doesn't think there is a problem, then he's certainly not going to get help for what he thinks is not there.
You can take a look at this article: http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2010/09/how-do-i-convince-my-friend-to-get-help-for-bipolar-disorder/
But when it comes down to it, there's only so much you can do for someone, and there's even less when the person refuses to get help.
I would suggest getting some help for yourself and defining clear limits and boundaries. If anger is an issue, perhaps you could visit a counselor together.
It may sound like you are pointing out the obvious here Natasha or at least it might seem that way to the uninformed but this is something we need to remind ourselves, we cannot ignore this illness because it will not ignore us. We have to be vigilant and above all hope for the best.
Yes, when things are good it's hard to stay motivated to do all the things we don't want to do to keep things good. Drinking with friends can seem so harmless, and everyone else is there, having a good time, but for someone with a mental illness (not to mention on meds) it can be a really bad idea. I've come to the conclusion that alcohol _never_ helps, if you're lucky, it won't do anything, but more often then not, it does something negative.
And you're exactly right, you do one small thing and then it takes months to recover. We _have_ to stay on top of these things or they'll be on top of us. (If you will.)
"Today is my first day on this site….I should have started on here a long time ago. I appreciate the opportunity to talk…"
We appreciate having you.
Talking is a must. And feeling like you're part of a community is helpful too. You (and your wife) don't have to be alone dealing with these struggles.
I hope you're getting some in-person help too. There are many resources that can help:
When I was feeling good, and i don't know if it was low level hypomania or just a remission, I let myself drink alcohol over the xmas and new years period - and when I still felt good, I drank more - and probably a lot less than most people would drink over that period - but still I know I shouldn't drink, becuase history tells me that when i drink, inevitably, after awhile it will catch up with me and I get depressed - and then that takes MONTHS to get a handle on.
It's true that I can't afford to forget, especially when times are good. It's so easy to get into a false sense of security. It's like weight loss and dieting - when I've lost a few kilos i think "oh I've lost weight i'll let myself eat sugar" and then boom I'm back eating sugar all the time and putting it all back on again.
I've been trying to cope with bi-polar for 31 of my 49 years, including
spending the last 25 with my wife/best friend. I'm constantly reminded of
some bad things I've caused in our relationship by seeing all the tears and lonliness I've put my wife thru.
I keep trying to be a romantic loving guy, but I can't seem to be the person I know I can be. I feel very sad and loss for words when I see the tears in my wifes' eyes.....but I can't even cry anymore. She's been thru so much with me and been there for me but sometimes feels she has wasted the last 25 years with me.
I try not to be focused on my bi-polar or use it as an excuse, but I desperately need to salvage my relationship with my wife. Today is my first day on this site....I should have started on here a long time ago. I appreciate the opportunity to talk...
"It is not possible with ultra rapid cycling to forget one is bipolar. You are always on guard for symptoms of the next episode."
That's what I think too. It sucks but I never feel "at ease."
"I still entertain the idea that maybe this time is it and I will never fall into a funk again! While I realize it isn’t true, part of me can’t help but hope."
Yup. I think this too. Even when I'm less depressed, there's a part of me that believes I'll never go into severe depression again. That reality is highly unlikely, but there's a part of me that just refuses to stop thinking it.
Thanks for chiming in. I guess there's a difference between "obsession" and doing all the things you need to do to remain well. But the line is foggy.
"I do still believe one day I may get there, but I’m not holding my breath and I won’t be sad if I don’t. It’s just something to look at mainly because of some of the long-term effects of the meds. for me, it’s worth trying things out"
I'm not what you mean there. You think meds _will_ give you long-term remission or you think they won't because of side effects?
(And you eagle eye is appreciated, as always.)
Well, it depends on how much thinking/educating you're doing. If you do it above all else, well, you might be me, with such things as a career, or you might be obsessed. The line is a bit grey.
Regarding a compelling narrative, writing is writing. If you're a writer, you can work on creating a compelling narrative. But if you're not a writer, you should consider taking a class on writing. Not to be overly-egotistical, but what I do here and elsewhere isn't easy. It took me years to find a voice for my own life. Make sure you make reasonable goals for yourself. "Compelling" doesn't happen overnight no matter how talented you are.
(Oh, and I hope you read this: http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2011/04/so-you-want-to-be-a-bipolar-blogger-e28093-anonymity-for-bloggers/)
I don't really experience hypomania anymore because lithium has killed that (which is rather frustrating as those were about my only productive periods). But it's still interesting to me that after almost two decades of this cycling, during my normal or good moods I still entertain the idea that maybe this time is it and I will never fall into a funk again! While I realize it isn't true, part of me can't help but hope. Emotions and brain don't match. I know I will never be "cured."
This time, however, I was able to see a lot more due to my previous insanity and my current med/therapy regimen. You are so right, Natasha and Mike about having to "obsess" to keep a grip. Hell, anyone who wants to live a healthy life must obsess to some degree to avoid slipping into the pits we are offered on a daily basis in this world.
I did not forget I was bipolar, but I went through a period I call unbipolar.
I do still believe one day I may get there, but I'm not holding my breath and I won't be sad if I don't. It's just something to look at mainly because of some of the long-term effects of the meds. for me, it's worth trying things out. and if they don't work...
Please excuse all the blog references but I thought them to be appropriate. I hope you feel the same. :)
Thanks for the post, Natasha!
This is something that I struggle with a lot - I will never be cured of bipolar disease and I will never stop fighting to educate my peers, friends, and community about it. Does that make me obsessed? Or does that make me passionate? If I were fighting to raise awareness about another type of illness, would these lines appear so blurry to others? Thank you for writing about this important topic.
I have started a new blog at thementalwell.blogspot.com. I am a 24-year old young professional in California and I am trying to create a compelling first person narrative of this illness. If you have any advice or input for me I would greatly appreciate it - I really admire what you do.
"He is the one that wants me to keep a daily journal and mood chart, take my meds three times a day, stay on my sleep schedule, not drink"
Yeah... stop obsessing. I dare you. It's tough to do "all the right things" without some sort of obsession. I agree.
(The quotes were fine here. :) Getting better all the time.)
(Sorry for all the quotes - but I think they were appropriate:)