So much has happened since I posted over a year ago (November 2009) and I’ve finally learned how to live with my condition and live fully. I am happier than I have been in my entire life. It happened when I finally realized I had to take full responsibility for my treatment and learning to choose my reactions to my mood swings. It was a wild ride and a lot of work but I couldn’t be happier with the results. I am so much better for having gone through what follows.
It’s been a long journey and some of it wasn’t pretty. There were many changes in medications and combinations of them. Some did seem to help me through a whirlwind, weeklong family visit in mid-March-2010. But soon after, my mood took a turn swinging up and down through various stages of depression. It was awful. My doctor tweaked my meds again and I became more depressed. By June 3, 2010 I had sunk to the dregs of depression and by June 7th there was no light in my soul–I wanted to die.
I saw my psychiatrist on June 9th, 2010 and he sent me to a good hospital with a good mental health unit. After a week, they decided they couldn’t help me. They dropped all my medications, put me on Wellbutrin and sent me to another hospital’s mental health unit with the hope that giving me a series of ECT treatments would help.
I was in the second hospital for a week and had 3 ECTs. I was released and over the following week I had 3 more. It appeared they were helping but I couldn’t remember anything short term. I remembered nothing of the week in the 1st hospital (still don’t), and little of my stay in the 2nd hospital. All my memories after that was filled with blanks. I had to keep lists for everything, for chores to do, to remind myself when I had to go shopping, everything. I’d forget conversations with my husband shortly after having them. It took many months to before my brain recovered and I could slowly begin to remember events from the days and eventually weeks before.
Three days after my last ECT, I hit bottom with a death wish again. The next day I swung up into hypomania & mixed moods for three days, then down to normal for 5 days, then depression for over a week, then hypomania for three days, then depression.
I became angry that over the course of 2 1/2 years I had been through trials with all kinds of meds and combinations thereof, finally ending with ECTs which fried my brain, left me feeling stupid and made simple problem solving impossible. Originally, I had been told that my doctor and I would eventually find the right combination of meds to level me out. During the one time that meds had leveled me out for a couple of weeks, what they actually did was remove my ability to feel–I couldn’t feel anything–no happiness, no sadness-NoTHING, except occasional anger.
By the end of June or the beginning of July 2010, I finally decided I would have to take control of my fate. I told my psychiatrist which meds I refused to take and which meds had to be reduced to lower doses. I told him I had to feel the mood swings to some degree so I could learn to cope with them and learn to react to them in a healthy manner. He protested–I persisted. He was worried and I thought he might drop me as a patient, but to his credit, he stood by me. We truly became a team. Slowly we kept reducing the doses of the last few meds I was taking as I learned to live well with the mood swings.
It was tremendously hard work. I had to deliberately keep my mind focused in the moment, in the NOW, all day, everyday so I could function well and the hypomania or depressions would eventually just become background “noise”. As I grew more skilled in this, I developed more tools to help myself. My doctor & I have finally reduced the doses of 3 meds to a minimal amount and I may drop one of them entirely very soon. I have been living and functioning well, living a full and normal life. My moods still swing approximately every 2 weeks. I still feel the depression hit bottom sometimes BUT it is just background “noise”. Depressions no longer disable me or slow me down. Deep depression might slow me just a little bit if it lasts more than 3 days but no one seems to notice. I am aware of where the moods are but they no longer control me. Rather, I control my reactions and choose to live well. It has become engrained in me now so I don’t have to consciously think about the cycles and my choices constantly.
My doctor is amazed and happy for me. He didn’t think my method would work. He’s read theories written by other professionals stating that living well with bipolar by learning how to choose one’s response to mood swings could possibly be done, but my psychiatrist didn’t believe them. But my mood chart, our talks and the records/chart he’s kept on my progress are proof of my success and he is both surprised and happy for me.
Along my journey for control and a better life, I have discovered there are others like me. I found one blog in particular which intrigued me on http://www.psychcentral.com written by Tom Wootton. He has written three books about his experiences and what he has learned. He now gives workshops with a team of professionals about what he calls the Bipolar Advantage or getting Bipolar in Order (instead of disorder–get it?) You can find him at http://www.bipolaradvantage.com. Reading his books has given me more to think about and discover about myself. Through his books I gained a few more tools, which helped me realize that I could achieve even greater control than I already had.
I have finally reached a place where I truly believe I have a bright future ahead. Mr. Wootton, my doctor and I are all realistic knowing that sometimes life can throw awful events in our paths which could possibly cause a setback. But having learned so much and the fact that I have the tools to get back on track gives me confidence that I won’t lose heart and will recover quickly.
I hope someday to be meds free–and I also know that it might never happen but I’m happy anyway because my hard work has paid off. And the fact that I’ve found others like me makes me feel my method and my struggle has been validated.
I know my method may not be the right fit for everyone, but I hope that what I have shared can at least instill some hope in people with bipolar or depression that there are some things that they can do to help themselves in addition to taking their meds. What the doctors haven’t told us is that the meds are not a cure–they just cover up the symptoms to keep them in check so we won’t become overwhelmed. Right now, there is no cure. But there is HOPE for a better future and we all the potential to have more control than we have been led to believe.
My advice is, stay on your meds and talk with your doctor–get him to team up with you to help you learn what you yourself can do to work towards your wellness. We are not all made from the same mold so each of us has to discover what tools work for us for ourselves. We may not all achieve the same results but I do know each of us has the capacity to make life at least a little better. It starts with baby steps and the desire to succeed at living.
I wish you peace, success and sunny days.