So I have a long history with depression. I have a slightly less long but still long history with Major Depressive Disorder. I met Bipolar Depression less than 2 years ago. The depression aspects I am totally comfortable with. I know what I feel like when I have a depressive episode, I know how to handle an episode, how to move it along away from my brain before it gets worse. Bipolar Depression doesn’t change that. However, I am totally at sea with the other pole: mania.
I don’t remember if I talked about this before because it’s been a while since I blogged regularly. My mania is not what I expected mania to be, which is a large part of why it took me so long to be diagnosed. It makes sense, if you think about it, because I didn’t know enough about depression to know I had it when I finally got diagnosed. I wasn’t sad, so it had to be a physical ailment keeping me from getting out of bed. Surprise! Depression doesn’t necessarily include sadness. It maybe even rarely includes it.
I was reading a bunch of books about depression and a few other mental illnesses in the hopes of finding one to give to my mom to help her understand my mental illness. I read Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir, and while Ellen Forney’s main symptoms of mania do not match mine, I saw enough familiarity to think “huh, maybe I should ask my therapist and psychiatrist about this.”And I did, and they said maybe, and a few months later my insurance changed and I moved in with The Boy, and a few months after that Meredith died, and I started seeing a new therapist and then stopped seeing the therapist because of scheduling and then I was hospitalized and given an official diagnosis.
Before all that, what I knew about mania was this: overshopping. lack of self control. wild mood swings from second to second.
that’s not actually entirely correct. (Mostly the last point.) In my case, my mania shows up a few ways: fidgeting more, talking/typing faster than usual with greater intensity. Talking louder, and verbally running over other people I’m talking with. I get frustrated easily, more easily, and out of proportion to the situation (especially in traffic/while commuting/walking downtown). I drive more recklessly. I experience paranoia, particularly about people I’m close with. This is the one that really drove home the point that this has always been my diagnosis, even though I didn’t hear it from a doctor until recently.
When I was in junior high and high school I alienated friends several times by asking them, over and over, if they were mad at me, until they got mad at me for asking. The worst part is that in college and my 20s, there were times when I was right, but the person I thought was mad would say everything was fine right up until they said “things aren’t fine and they haven’t been for months, we’re through.” When discussing this with a therapist, she told me that since I was right I should learn to trust myself more. That was true, I did need to trust myself more, but it was also true that I was paranoid and I have to look for external evidence to corroborate my feelings.
I recently started seeing a new therapist and a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist asked me how I felt about my current meds, and I told her I didn’t think they controlled my mania well. She prescribed a mood stabilizer, it cost $1000 after insurance, so she picked another one, it was still too pricy, but the third time was the charm, I could afford it. When she prescribed it she told me to let her know if I was clenching my teeth. I started it this past Saturday. I totally started clenching my teeth all the time. I had an appointment set up so I figured I’d wait until then. I noticed some other side effects, potentially minor stuff, and I looked up all the side effects-minor through severe. Turns out I was experiencing a severe one (it has to do with pee, I’m not gonna tell you more). It was a “call your doctor immediately”type side effect. Naturally I waited until they opened because that’s how I do (but also didn’t take my morning dose just in case) and they said to discontinue taking it and the psychiatrist on duty would call later. When I told him my symptom he said he had never encountered a patient that had that effect because it’s incredibly rare and I am 1 in 10,000 for having it. I told him I’m just lucky. He also said to stop taking it after checking to make sure I didn’t need to be tapered down, and started to talk about what to prescribe instead and I told him I had an appointment scheduled already and I’m fine with not having a mood stabilizer until then.
And I am fine with that. But I would really like to be able to control my mania without gaining a million pounds or breaking out into a rash or acne, or clenching my teeth constantly, or staying awake all night, or sleeping all day, or diarrhea, or constipation, or tingling in one earlobe, or my toenails falling off, of becoming a literal undead zombie….some of those may be exaggerations.