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Is my bipolar disorder too mild?


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I'm 21, bipolar II, living with my parents and commuting to college because when I went away for school, things went south really quickly.

My mom doesn't understand mental illness. She knows that I have one, but she doesn't know what it means. She thinks that because I'm on meds, I should be fine. So when I have a hard time getting to school or work, or I'm up all night, or I do something impulsive, she thinks that I just use bipolar disorder as an excuse. She thinks I'm lazy and manipulative and that I've been hiding behind the disease as a way of getting out of responsibilities.

My dad doesn't talk to me so I don't know what he thinks.

That list of things up there is almost all that's left of my symptoms. The meds do work, at least a bit. I do have urges to go on spending sprees, to get on a bus and just see where it takes me, to try illegal drugs, etc. The vast majority of the time, I think that those things are crazy and bad and will have terrible consequences. But sometimes, I just want to do them anyway. I REALLY want to do it. I make plans to. I've sat on credit card application websites for hours. I've "planned" cross-country trips. I know how to get my hands on drugs. Thankfully, I've never acted on these things. But it takes all of my energy and self-control to stop myself.

Sometimes I wonder if I should just do it so she'd know I'm not faking. It's like I'm being punished for being proactive about my treatment. For applying the things I've learned from therapy, from taking my drugs like I'm supposed to. I don't always win the fight with myself. I still haven't figured out how to get myself to class and work regularly. I still stay up all night when I'm manic. But I'm getting better. I'm going to class more often. I'm trying to fix things.

I've tried to get her to read about bipolar disorder countless times. Sent her links on how to support a loved one with bipolar disorder. Explained to her what I'm doing and why. I don't know how to make her understand that this is real, that I'm struggling, and that every negative thing she says to me takes me two steps back. Any ideas?

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I think sometimes that family will never "get it" and going out to prove a point to them is unlikely to make them "get it." My mom is great when I'm depressed but just doesn't get me manic, (heh, sometimes I think no one does, but Mr. A really does, thankfully) and I don't think anything i do or don't do will help the situation.

So my best advice would be to focus on yourself and not engage in any self destructive impulses to prove a point. They may never come to the realization of how hard things can be, but there will be others in your life that can, and will.

Anna

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You know what would be manipulative? Doing something on purpose (not impulsively due to a disease like bipolar disorder) like one of the things you have talked about just "so she'd know I'm not faking."

Keep doing what you're doing with your treatment. I know it's easier said than done, but don't let your mom get in the way of your health. It's great that you actually CAN control your thoughts/impulses whatever you want to call them. That's wonderful really! It's a gift. Treasure it.

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Maybe for now you just shouldn't engage with your mother on the subject of your MI? It doesn't seem like she's interested in further educating herself at this point. Though I'm sure she has only the best of intentions, her input seems to be pretty destabilizing for you, which is just the last thing you need.

It sounds like you've been doing a great job of learning how to manage your illness. You're working in therapy, taking your meds, and are aware of specific things you need to be focussing on. That's fantastic. It's really hard, and you're doing really, really, well. Try to keep going with that, and engage with your mother on other subjects for now, whatever the two of you can do together or talk about that's positive, and fun. Maybe even specifically tell her that, while you know she means well, you really don't want to discuss your MI with her right now.

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Being aware of all those things at your age is a gift. Took me 14 years and to places I never want to return. BP is serious stuff and should be handled as such. Maybe buy a Bipolar wookbook, it helps me alot. Stay Strong your moving in the right direction!!! :)

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Guest Vapourware

I think acting on your impulses is a tactic that would backfire in numerous ways. Aside from hurting you from the repercussions of those acts, you're also going to come off as being manipulative - and I'm guessing that's not something you want to portray and reinforce.

Sometimes no matter how hard you try to educate people on your condition, it doesn't happen or it takes time. Sometimes they will never "get" it. The point is that you should focus on your own recovery and try not to take your mum's thoughts into account, because it's your life and not hers. It's good that you are aware of your impulses and can control them.

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When I was first diagnosed with bipolar II it wasn't something I was expecting at all. When i told my mom, she said I didn't have that and so I decided to be in denial for 15 months about it. I barely saw my psychiatrist let alone took meds. I think it was easy to put responsibility on my mom rather than say, I chose not to get treatment and because of that my life is in the toilet.

Maybe you want so badly to give into your impulses that you are saying you'd do it just to show your mom. I don't know if that's true or not I just know that it is a lot easier to put responsibility on others sometimes especially if we're struggling.

I agree that if you're staying up all night and having problems getting where you need to be that something isn't quite right with your meds. You might just be halfway there. Which is better than nowhere near "there", but you can feel better than you do now. Good luck.

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I'm also bipolar in college and fucking up attendance wise. I go about 60% of the time. I know it's not the illness for me. It's just laziness.

I second what pretty much everyone is saying here. It's good that you can control your impulses. Hopefully soon enough you won't be bothered by them much at all. I was manic a year ago and I no longer feel the desire to run away or experiment with shit loads of substances/crazy shit. I'm more tame now lol.

And good luck with your Mom, when you can I would just ignore the comments she says that bother you.

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I've got to agree with everyone else here. If you're managing to control your impulses, then you're doing well. Don't stuff it up just to prove a point to your mum. Most likely, she still won't understand. Unfortunately, if she isn't even trying to understand, then doing something 'out there' won't change her attitude. She'll just have something else to throw at you.

Stick with your meds, and work on what you need to work on. It's your life. Don't make a mess of it because of what someone else says - even if it is your mum.

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I think you need a med fix. When I was first diagnosed, I was put on lamictal and trazadone. Once I stablized, I was edging on hypomania most of the time, so they added Geodon. That seems to have done the trick. I still get the occasional night where I can't sleep well, but it's usually due to too much caffiene.

That's the funny thing about meds, when they are working. No one realizes you have MI.

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As others have mentioned, I think you need to see your pdoc. You sound like you're better, but you definitely don't sound stable. Stability is the goal.

As far as your mom, I wouldn't discuss it with her, period, but instead, just leave it between you and your doctor. Put it in the category of your sex life - intimate details that your mom doesn't need to know about, and will only make both of you uncomfortable. Your mom has a lot invested in you being 100% perfect, and she'll have a hard time accepting any other version. It will be a kindness on your part to leave her out of the details and find other ways to relate to her, and other interests you may have in common. At 21 your mom should be transitioning from your mom/authority figure to adult friend, and that may or may not be a close friend.

Regarding your mom or anyone else in real life except your pdoc, don't expect anyone else to understand what it's like to have a MI, except fellow sufferers. That's why I'm here so much, because no one in my real life can relate about MI. I have very close friends that know about my MI, but we rarely talk about it because it's frustrating for both sides.

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Thank you all for the advice. I know that I'd never go through with acting on one of my impulses to make a point--I just felt hopeless when I wrote this. I am working with my pdoc to fix my meds. Upping the lithium, specifically. My mom and I talked on Sunday and we agreed that I would go live with a friend as her roommate and continue to receive some financial support from my parents (most importantly, their health insurance). I have her support now in my treatment. Thank you for your support!

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