A Bipolar Balancing Act

I’ve written about my struggles with Bipolar Affective Disorder on this blog before, but I know some of you are new readers.  It showed up in the two years before 2011 in rather dramatic ways that I don’t care to relive with you.  Needless to say, it disrupted my life.  It disrupted my family’s life.  I began treatment in 2011.  Treatment consisted of psychotherapy, nutrition, and medicine.  I was taught that my brain chemistry was in constant need of balance through meds, supplements, nutrition, exercise, and what chemicals I put in my body.  Until I achieved balance I was restricted from drinking alcohol, using tobacco products, and drinking caffeine.  I followed to a T.

It took me over a year before I could feel balanced.  It’s funny, it’s hard to tell when you’re balanced until you are.  You look back and see the daily struggle with mania and depression and realize that you were imbalanced all along.  I can tell by reading my blog sometimes if I was imbalanced.  There’s an acceleration, a frequency, a chaos.

Part of the balancing act is in adjusting medications.  My meds might work great for a year, but then stop working, or a side effect becomes unbearable.  I hope to never have a full manic episode again like I did in 2011, but I still have little ones and that’s probably never going to change.

It’s an illness like any other in many ways, but a mental illness is different in other ways.  If I get sick, I don’t have pain or a fever or nausea.  It’s not exactly physical.  Bipolar is listed as a neurological disease as well as a mental illness.  So when I get sick, my brain doesn’t work properly.  And when that happens my behavior changes.  My feelings change.  My personality changes.  My perception of the world changes.  There are social lines that I would never cross while I’m well that I might cross when I’m sick.  This leads to disruption and embarrassment and sometimes hurt, none of which I see until I level out.  But these days I’m so well treated that only the people who are the closest to me would likely notice when I’m off.  I’m glad for this.

This week, I got up to go to work and my wife noticed that my speech was slurred and I had a very flat affect; more so than normal for just having gotten up. This was to the point where I might have gotten a DUI.  She’s noticed that I’m forgetting entire recent conversations.  We went to see a movie, and the next day I couldn’t tell you what we saw.  I didn’t remember that my mom just had knee surgery.  I pretended that I did so that I wouldn’t upset anyone. (Mom! If you are reading, I love you and I hope you’re knee is better!)  I’ve been working on the same problem at work for days in a row.  When my coworkers talk to me about the technical aspects of their work, I don’t always understand what they are saying.  And so it’s time to see the doctor.

My wife came with me this time, as she does once in awhile, because I wasn’t seeing everything that was happening and she was.  And so now I have to stop a  medicine that has saved me from suffering for months because it’s affecting my cognition.  That is frustrating.  I started taking that medicine because a medicine I’d been taking for years just wasn’t cutting it enough.  And the cycle continues.  Fortunately, there are new drugs coming out every year for me to try.

I’ll be starting a new drug tonight, and it’s a gamble.  Will it keep me balanced?  Will it have side effects?  I’m very anxious about it.  I want to be well.  I want to be balanced.

P.S. – Many of you have expressed concern for me after reading this post.  Med changes and side effects can put me in an anxious state, but I’ve been through this many times.  I’m not in a crisis at the moment.  Thanks, though, for your prayers and encouragement.  Perhaps I’ll follow up with the results of the change.

5 thoughts on “A Bipolar Balancing Act

  1. Did you know that a few months before my senior year (and therefore right before we met) my bipolar father took his own life? I often think that if there were more resources, medically and socially, for him, he’d still be alive. Thank you for your blog.

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  2. David, I will pray for you. It means a lot to me that you share your eloquently written blog. I find many parts within it that I can relate to and grow. I admire your attitude and insightfulness.

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