Bipolar Blues - Fighting Bipolar Depression
I woke up this morning to the sound of rain on my window pane. “Great.” I thought, “My son and I are supposed to distribute brochures to the local libraries in the county.” I took my medication and went back to bed for about an hour. Taking medication in the morning is a new development for me. I am used to taking all medication only at night. But lately, I have been battling bipolar depression, so the morning seems to be a better cadence.
Dealing with bipolar depression sucks. “I just worked out twice today, but I feel like every cell in my body is screaming,” I texted to my sister at one point. Even when you have good things happen to you, you feel like you are in this insulated wall, you can’t feel anything. Someone is silently screaming inside your body.
This Depression Thing
Depression. In our culture, it’s a dirty word. Think positive. Be positive. No one wants to be around a negative person. But what if it isn’t your fault? What if your brain chemistry is such that you naturally see the glass as half empty? For the last year, my doctor has been tweaking my medication. First, I was hypomanic. Now, I am struggling with bipolar depression.
“Maybe we can still do it,” I think to myself as I pull off the covers, “Maybe we can still deliver those brochures.” My doctor recently started me on an antidepressant. It seems to be helping. Antidepressant or not, my day starts the same. I have my breakfast, do my morning stretches, and go work out on the rowing machine. Routine seems to help immensely.
Over the last year, exercise has helped preserve my sanity. I feel like I have lived the last year on a rollercoaster ride of medication changes. I think back on how I felt and shudder. I never want to go back to that again. I was plagued by anxiety. Even these days, taking a shower is an intentional act for me. Will I cut myself shaving? Will I have enough time to get ready? What should I wear? I look with relief at the woman in the mirror as I am finishing curling my hair with a flat iron.
As my son pulls out of the garage, I have my phone with Google maps in one hand and the brochures setting on my lap. I am Executive Director of a new National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) affiliate. Today we are delivering brochures to some of the libraries in our county. My son is helping me out this summer. He also needs the experience driving. “It’s 11:20 a.m.” I think to myself. “I don’t have to be back for my conference call until 2:00 p.m.”
Driving for my son is a lot like managing my medication for me, a necessary evil. Each day is a struggle. Each day is a gauntlet for me. Over this last year, we have been dealing with medication adjustments. For a while, I was paranoid about driving. I got in a small fender bender approximately six months ago. Nothing major, but ever since then, I became paranoid about my driving. I kept driving, but as I was driving I would envision all the accidents that were possible. I never used to think that way.
As we turn onto the highway to begin our journey, I remind myself we are using Google maps. So far in my travels around the county, I have always found my destination with Google maps. Today, I have my son with me. I find comfort in that. It reminds me of last summer when we had hours to just talk together. By myself, I would be anxious every step of the way. Today, I have a companion. “Why does that make it easier?” I muse.
“Turn right in .5 miles to Main Street,” the lady in my phone says, as we emerge off another small one lane road lined with cornfields on both sides. “I guess there are a lot of main streets,” my son observes dryly. As we make our first stop, I jump out of the car with a stack of brochures in one hand and an umbrella in the other. I make a mad dash to the front door to the library. “I am from the National Alliance on Mental Illness,” I say breathlessly to the woman behind the desk.”These are brochures with the support groups we now offer in Brown County.” “Great! Thank you!” she replies. At each of the libraries, I am greeted just as warmly. With each library, I get a sense of accomplishment. “I will be able to report back that all the libraries in the county have brochures,” I think to myself.
“We got here in plenty of time,” My son comments as I get back into the car from the last library. “We can have lunch at the soda shop.” He’s right of course, it’s just around the corner. My son and I discovered this 1950’s soda shop last summer when he was learning to drive. As I watch my son drive home, I am reminded that managing my anxiety takes qualities my son exhibits when he drives: thoughtful consideration.
As we pull into the driveway thirty minutes before my conference call, I am reminded of what I say at every presentation, “Being bipolar, I feel like a captain on a sea of emotion when everyone else walks on dry ground”. My conference call goes well. Another program to raise awareness about mental illness underway. Although not as bad as in the past, every day is a gauntlet of sorts to me. “Because you struggle you are a better spokesperson,” my sister often reminds me. “You are seed planting.” Managing a mental illness is never easy. “Today it was worth it. Today we got things accomplished,” I remind myself.