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It just hit me. I'm BP-who-me?


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It has just recently sunk in that I am bipolar and I am going to be taking pills probably for the restof my life.(or do people grow out of it?) My pdoc said I will probably be on meds for the rest of my life. I keep looking at all these pill bottles and I have to look on the refridgerator to see- ok, it's 6 pm- what do I take and how much? The people at the walgreen's pharmacy know me by name. It had me kind of depressed the last couple of days- I wasn't going throuhg this before. It seems like I was better before I ever started taking meds or at least not as bad. But then, I like doing housework for the first time in my life. And I'm hoping that since my anxieyt is under control, I will not scare people away and I will be able to make friends. Or friend. Cause the only 2 real friends I have live on the other side of the country. I

It has really changed how I see myself. I am not used to thinking of myself as bp. It was not 4 months ago that I had a bipolar student who I thought- wow!he's bp- he must be really crazy. I'm glad Brooke Shields is coming forth with her depression and making it so public(and publicly opposing Tom ;) ) Maybe people will start to come "out" about being bp because I'm sure not telling anyone. The only people who know is my older sister, mydh and my tdoc and pdoc. it's not so much that I'm ashamed. But I don't want to freak people out. oh weell I have nothing moreto say onthe subject. mel

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Hey Mel-

I have been dx'd for over two years and I still deny my illness. It is the only mechanism that I have. I'm really bad about avoidance and denial. It seems to be the only way I can cope.

At least I am med compliant. I know in the back of my mind that I am sick but I can't seem to come to terms with it all.

It's the way I've been operating all my life. First my wife's illness, my brother's untimely death and then this.

What's your secret?

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Hi Mel--

I am sorry to hear you have been diagnosed, but isn't it better to know what is wrong than not knowing?  At least you can get treated accordingly.

I have been depressed for years along with anxiety problems.  It is just coming to light now that my doc and phychologist think I may be biopolar II. I do not have the extreme mania but do have extreme mood swings, and seem to have a bi weekly cycle.

I have been on and off work so many times--it is frustrating.  Do you work.  I find it so difficult, and it seems to make me even worse and more depressed.

I am off work now on sick benefits, with a possiblity of Long term disability if I am not stable enough to return to work.

What med's do they have you on now?

Biopolar seems very complicated, and alot of adjusting.

How is the medication working so far?  How are you coping?  I wouldn't worry so much about what other's think...there will always be a "stigma" with having a mental illness... other's can't understand unless they can physically see something wrong with you.

Take care!!

Pharmamania

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I completely understand... have been on the medication and misdiagnosis merry-go-round for some years now; and today my pdoc said to me "you are unequivocally bipolar 1".  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  I don't know why; it's not as if the last while hasn't specifically involved my being treated with mood stabilizers etc, but she's the 1st doctor who laid it out to me straight like that.  I had just gotten used to the BP2 dx and kind of liked the fact that so much of it (to me at least) seems to be non-specific.  Now I've been labelled in a category that feels like a kick in the stomach.

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Sometimes it's like that with my schizoaffective disorder.  I'll forget about it for a while and then WHAM...it's like I repeatedly realize that I'm schizoaffective.  I'm not in denial or anything, I know I'm crazy...sometimes I just forget that I'm crazy. ;)

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Mel,

Your post triggered a memory of something I read in a magazine a while ago.  People are starting to say,  "I AM bipolar" or "I am ADHD" versus "I have bipolar" and the like.  I know I do.  Do people say "I am diabetes" or "I am AIDS"?  No.  We become our diseases.  There is no separation.

I have no idea how this pertains to your post, but I feel like there is a connection that I cannot verbalize.  God, this is frustrating!  What am I trying to say?  Can someone help me out here?

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Part of it is just that some of these illnesses used to have adjectives -- "I'm schizophrenic/manic-depressive/depressive/neurotic/psychotic/hysterical."

(Okay, maybe not all of those at once.)  Even today, nobody says "I'm depression"; "I'm BP/ADHD" may just be shorthand for the adjective (which "bipolar" was before it was a noun).  On the other hand, nobody says "I'm cancerous/leprous/tubercular" anymore, do they?  That would still be more of an identification than "I have."

The prognosis/identification research does worry me though, because I tend to overidentify with the condition.  In fact, I feel like I have the right to identify if I choose to, especially when symptomatic, because the mood state is so intertwined with stuff that's so central to my identity -- in the way that you can't distance yourself from headache pain in the same way you can from, say, leg pain: you're right in there with it.

And for me, part of overidentifying is that I've been better but not well (and sometimes spectacularly bad) since starting meds, so I can look back to this lost time (no doubt romanticized) of perfect health, and feel like the current me is something different from the old me.  But once I hit remission, I fully expect to quit thinking about it so much, except when actually taking pills.  I hope.

sg

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Do people say "I am diabetes"

No, they say "I am diabetic", which is pretty close to saying "I am bipolar". People do not say "I am cancerous" though. I don't think that means anything, necessarily- sometimes oddities of speech are just oddities of speech. (Hm, shades of Freud's cigar....)

I AM bipolar. The more I read this forum, the more I find that what I thought was my personality was really a manifestation of my illness. I was hyper, dressed really weird, went on spending sprees, was very volatile. had very little self-confidence, etc. Um, all bipolar symptoms. The problem with illnesses of the brain is that it IS so hard to separate them from our personalities. I'm not sure that there is any separation- I have been shaped by my past experiences and all of my past experiences were shaped by being bipolar. I never will be the person I would have been had I not been bipolar. (Is everyone confused now?)

I'm really comfortable with being bipolar- it is not something I wrestle with. I think that is because getting that diagnosis was such a huge relief. I needed someone to say "no, you aren't a failure in life- in fact, for someone who went so long without being treated, you've had an amazingly successful life". All this time I thought I was just a major fuck up with a problematic personality.

I gladly take my meds because they do create a state that is like remission. Acceptance and medication brings peace, and that is what has been missing from my life.

She steps off her soap box....

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Whew!  Thanks for helping my thoughts take shape. 

Skittle, I would LOVE references.  I adore research, because I am a geek.

I HAVE bipolar, but that is not all I have.  I AM bipolar, but that is not all I am.  And sometimes bipolar is not really me.  The real me would probably have not run into traffic on Broadway or stayed in bed for a month.  She most definitely would not have.  That is my bipolar.  My disease is me, and yet it is not me.

How can we come to terms with this entity that is the reason we are who we are, but yet is the antithesis of ourselves?

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. Even today, nobody says "I'm depression"; "I'm BP/ADHD" may just be shorthand for the adjective (which "bipolar" was before it was a noun).
I think it's far more profound than a semantic issue - adjectives which have been turned into nouns, modern language usage and translation etc.  There's a definite identification with the illness which goes down to how you define yourself as a person; how you see the "whole" of yourself.  If you have serious issues with the dx (ie you see all the negative connotations and use language such as "labelled", "categorised", as I do myself) there is a danger of taking it on as part of your fundamental identity.  As JBella said above" I HAVE bipolar, but that is not all I have.  I AM bipolar, but that is not all I am".  Surely we are more than the sum of our mental "conditions"?

On the other hand, nobody says "I'm cancerous/leprous/tubercular" anymore, do they?  That would still be more of an identification than "I have.

Well, the point was that "I have" doesn't involve identification on the personal self level.

The prognosis/identification research does worry me though, because I tend to overidentify with the condition.  In fact, I feel like I have the right to identify if I choose to, especially when symptomatic, because the mood state is so intertwined with stuff that's so central to my identity
Of course you have the right (who am I or anyone else to take that away from you?!).  I mentioned the research because of the interesting conclusions about the prognosis, and it was the point that JBella had raised.  And I'm interested in identity on all sorts of levels.  When the BP dx was first thrown in my direction early last year I took it on at a very personal level. My husband (who came on the scene after my dx  :P ) constantly tries to affirm his belief that I am far more than my illness. He's mentally interesting too, so you can imagine the fun we have when we're both going through a particularly batshit crazy period... heh  ;)

The problem with illnesses of the brain is that it IS so hard to separate them from our personalities

Ooh, yes, I love this point! I have had regular rants at my tdoc about the attempts of the pdocs to medicate what I believe is my personality.  Some of my ups and downs are just part of who I am.  The extreme damaging ups and downs I'd like to think are not.  But the line between the two seems very smudged.  Antipsychotics irritate me because they flatten the WHOLE of my personality.  And this isn't a matter of "not wanting to let go of the mania", it's a matter of recognising that I'm a woman, my whole body is about cycles, and my personality has natural cycles too.  Cycles that don't need the medication equivalent of a nuclear bomb thrown at them.

Skittle, I would LOVE references.  I adore research, because I am a geek.

heh... I guess I am too.  :) I won't forget; just feeling a bit too ghastly to go hunting for it right now.

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Okay, you just really scared me about taking AP's. Shit. I am actually starting to be scared about the fact that I have to take these drugs and how did I get along without them before? For the last 34 yrs. of my life. I was just dx'd depression and then bp2 starting in Jan. Sometimes I wonder if the drugs make me worse and make me need more drugs and IS THIS IT?? Are they going to throw any more at me?? Right now I take cymbalta, klonopin, lamactil, seroquel.That's an AD, benzo, mood stabilizer, and AP. That's alot of freakin' drugs. Forget about all the nouns and verbs! I want to know how I made it through my life with NO drugs(other than self-medication with pot and alcohol from myearly teens til I had kids). Pot and alclohol are alot cheaper. But, I am really confusing myself. I just want someone to tell me: Are the meds. making me worse? Because I'm not all that great. I should be a beaming ray of sunshine w/ all the meds I take.

My days revolve around- remembering to take my meds. WEll, not totally, but it is something that is asignificant part of my day. So I start off w/ a dx of MDD- go on cymbalta, felt like a kid again for 6 weeks, then comes the agitation and irritability that is bad enough to make my life unliveable. Then comes the xanax, which my dumbass gdoc said I could take up to 4-6 mg per day. ANd no, it is not addictive. Where do these doctors go and hide to stick their heads up their asses. I took xanax for only 3 wks and my tolerance and physical addiction to the drug made me want to see a "real" pdoc.

WEnt to my firsst pdoc. Waited for wver an hour in the waiting room, which was filled with people who were probalby crazier than me-lol- but managed to have a massive panic attack -finally get seen. They made me pay before I went in, then I went to pdoc without filling out any paperwork. He asks me,"Do you have plans to kill yourself? and "Are you seeing or hearing things that aren't really there( BTW- if I was seeing or hearing things that arent' really there, how would I know whether they are really there or not?!)He then prescribed me klonopin and wellbutrin to add to my cymbalta(this is supposed to help w/ anxiety and panic attacks?) and out the door in 20 min. or less.

Changed to an arnp when after having a super-fun manic week on a non-therapeutic dose of wellbutrin-wwhhhhheeeeeeeeeeee! She was my only other option because thee before mentioned pdoc was part of a county clinic-only pdocs that take my ins. She dx'd me possible BP. but said she didn't want to lable , just stabilize. Put me on thelamactil starter pack.

While I was titrating up on my lamactil, up to 200 mg., I went BATSHIT CRAZY at work, was almost taken to ER, where they surely would have committed me, but, because of my sis, who dragged me to my arnp instead of ER, just INCREASD MY MEDS.  I will admit, since taking the lamactil, I have not seriously freaked out to the point of people wanting to call in the guys with the little white coats. Not long after, went on seroquel, holding steady at 275 mg per day.

I think back over my life and realize I have had debilitating episodes of depression , where I was suicidal, and couldn't work, where I lived with my mother who told me to get my head out of the sand and go get a job. "Mcdonald's is hiring." I have also lived with such acute anxiety and suffered through innumerable panic attacks. I was never able to stay in a relationship-always getting dumped. It was -and still is- really hard for me to make friends. So, I guess, I will givethese meds a chance. Maybe my heart will not drop into my stomach because someone next to me says they think they have the flu. Maybe I will not lay in bed all day long thinking about different ways I could kill myself. Maybe I will not push people away , because who wants to hang out with someone who talks a mile a minute, interrupts constantly,has the forced speech that is common to the manic side of bp, and is so consumed with anxiety that I constantly pick at the skin around my cuticles(oh-wait- I still do that!).

Maybe I wasn't functioning so well . Sorry this was so long. End rant. Melissa

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I feel like you're are talking yourself out.  You know, figuring stuff out in your head here, and that's great.  Holy shit,  my tdoc called and wants her line back. :) No really.  And hey,  don't be afraid of APs.  They work differently for everyone.  I have no problem being on 400 mg of Seroquel and having absolutely no significant altering of my personality except I'm not cyclling like a beast.  Same with the Zyprexa.  I'm also on an AC and that is a different story, so you can't judge a caategory of drugs on an individual's reaction.  Maybe on 1000 individuals reactions, but even then, you have to stay open minded.  I am in the .001% of people who get EPS from Wellbutrin and hallucinate and get paranoid delusions.  Doesn't mean its not a safe drug with few side effects. ;)

I feel you on the beaming ray of sunshine bit, though.  I should have laughing monkeys flying out of my ass by the hour by now, and thus far... NO  MONKEYS.

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In my view, there are two benefits to saying "I have bipolar disorder" instead of "I am bipolar."

First, it clarifies that the bipolar disorder is distinct from my true self.  Before treatment, meds, and tons of therapy, it didn't really feel like there was a whole lot of me left; the disease burnt me up with manias and crushed me up with depressions.  After the existential crisis of diagnosis and wondering who the hell's been doing all this crazy stuff, it took a while to start teasing out what it was that enabled me to survive 40 years of unmedicated insanity.  Turns out I'm pretty tough, pretty smart, and pretty much interested in living.  That's me (or part of me--the softer parts are just starting to come out), not bipolar disorder.

Second--and I think more important at the diagnosis stage--saying "I have bipolar disorder" means that when I seek treatment, I'm not seeking treatment to change me; I'm seeking treatment for my disease.  This makes it much easier to be med-compliant, to keep my therapy appointments, to do my homework, and to be patient when new meds aren't working or give me annoying side effects.  It lets me take care of myself by taking care of my disease.

Mel1, one pretty trite suggestion for you: get a daily pill box!!  I'd be lost without my box.  Each day has 4 compartments, morning, noon, PM, and eve, and each day's boxes pop out in one piece so I can put it on my dresser and tell if I've taken each med or not.  I can also keep it in my purse if I'm going to be out late.  I also got a watch with an alarm so I don't forget to take my PM meds if I get busy at work.  I got mine at the drug store, but I've also seen them at rite-aide, etc; they're like $5.  Every Sunday I sit down and fill the box up.  That way I don't have to think about what I'm taking during the week.  If the lamictal works for me, I'll be able to go to a morning/evening box.  Whoopee!

Keep talking here, Mel.  The "identity crisis" stage was very hard for me, and thank god I had a great therapist and a very good friend who'd already gone through it to talk to about it.  My therapist was very firm that BP is a disease I have, like her MS, no matter how much I tended to identify with it.  Now that I've experienced having it controlled, it's more clear than ever that I am NOT the disease.  It's shaped my life, as her MS has shaped hers.  But my moods aren't me.  They just look like me, sneaky little bastards. ;)

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I think it's best if one has stronger parts of your identity than the MI stuff, so that MI stuff isn't any more important than being tall or something. I suppose the more difficulties one's particular dx throws in your way, the more difficult this is to acheive.

I've been taking meds of one sort or another regularly for 15 years or so. But adding two psych meds was still pretty strange. I definitely freaked for a little while. Not for very long, I guess, since I've self medicated (with what might be called success) in the past. At this point it's not a big part of my day, perhaps because of all the practice. Also because one of the meds helps me remember.

It's possible to see or hear things and know they are not real. Has happened to me a number of times. Most recently, even while I was asleep, or else, when I dreamed that the world, or at least the human part of it, was ending, why didn't I wake up screaming in a cold sweat instead of with an attitude similar to someone going to the dentist for a filling? Then there was the Adderall generated alien chorus in my exercise bike. Or, long ago, the fungi enabled Victorian wallpaper pattern that appeared on a white painted wall.  So the question is not entirely unreasonable, I suppose.

I never know whether to say I'm ADDish or that I have ADD. Best way I've found to deal with the identity stuff is not to get stuck on it. Certainly things I've always thought were part of my character just kind of evaporated with meds. I suspect that in 100 years, if people are still around and technically advanced, that attitudes and ideas about identity and "character" will have changed to be a bit more congruent with what we see when people take meds.

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But, I am really confusing myself. I just want someone to tell me: Are the meds. making me worse? Because I'm not all that great. I should be a beaming ray of sunshine w/ all the meds I take.

I know the feeling all too well, sis.

I don't think the drugs are a 'cure-all'. And bi-polar disorder is a moving target for me as far as tweaking meds go. I would give anything to have a truly happy life. For now I'm settling for mediocre. I just hope it isn't always going to be this way. I really don't know how much of it I can stand.

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Okay, I feel a little bit better now, I jsut read that it can take up to 2 years to become stabilized on meds after first being dx'd bp. i read that on thebp thread......ummmm.....weeellll-I forget. mel

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Guest Skittle unlogged

Okay, you just really scared me about taking AP's.

I'm sorry Mel-- that definitely wasn't my intention -- I should have put all sorts of disclaimers around my "antipsychotics are the equivalent of a nuclear bomb" comment.  Obviously I have issues with them......! I really wish you well, and apologies again for scaring you.

Lisa

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A good friend of mine & I have been discussing how I view my my illness in relation to myself.  He's a bit on the overly positive side & we haven't known eachother for too terribly long so sometimes he says some goofy things. Like suggesting that my bp was simply a part of myself that I should accept & embrace.  I've also got some friends who think that I'm not really bp- I'm just an artist & artists tend to be weird.  Being an artist does not explain the severe mood swings, the suicidal ideation or the fact that I tend to vary between not sleeping for days to sleeping 16 hours per day with dreams so vivid that I think they actually happened.

I view my illness two ways- First, I view it as being like diabetis.  Just like some diabetics have to take insulin every day, I have to take my meds. It's not something I can control through force of will.  I have to pay attention to myself & my symptoms.

Second, I view it as having a demon that lives in my brain.  He's evil & he's trying to kill me.  He lives to cause me pain.  (what it means that I view it as a "him" specifically, I'm not really sure).  So he sits around & says nasty things to me & tried to convince me that there's no reason to hope life will improve.  I want the bastard out of my head. 

I guess I view it that way because there's kind of two different things going on-- there's the chemical part & then there's the cognative part. 

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I was dx'd with BP II about 10 years ago. Also went through several years of denial. Took AD's for those several years and was totally manic, mostly dysphoric. Lost jobs.  Had a nervous breakdown. Finally came to terms of what I have and what I am. Maybe it will take you several years as well.

Because BP or MI is so intertwined with our personality, it seems natural to me to say I'm bipolar. Diabetes or cancer doesn't affect one's personality, or at least, not nearly as much.

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I guess diabetes isn't that great an example, except that it requires not only medication but serious lifestyle changes if you don't want your toes falling off and stuff.  I stick with things that are more subtle and intertwined like MS and lupus, which require not only medication but stress management, dietary adjustments, specific exercise, that sort of thing. 

I know it's hard to separate a brain disfunction from personality, but it can be done.  I know because I do it.  I can tell the difference between actual sadness and depression, and the difference between excitement or anger and the agitation of my manias.  I know the kinds of things that set me up for mood switches (emotional triggers, sleep, too much caffeine or sugar, family events) and I manage them so I stay sane.  I put my sanity first. 

This may sound a little uppity but it's a point I want to make for the benefit of those who are new to this fun little world.  The quality of my life is hugely improved if I don't play around with the idea that I'm a victim of the vagaries of my brain.

If I want to be well, I can't afford to think like "normal" people, like SmithingChick's well-meaning buddy who thinks her illness is a charming little part of her personality.  "Normal" folks don't get it, unless they have tons of experience with friends/family with MI.  They don't understand the suffering.  I do.  And since meds alone rarely completely resolve all my symptoms, I need to be ready to take responsibility for the rest.

Yeesh, was that a rant or what?  Sorry, guys, I'm just on one today.

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