Manic Depression, the story of my life in two simple words, they are polar opposites yet co-exist together making one hell of a mess and leaving mayhem in its wake. It is hard to explain to anyone the extent of which this illness reaches, but I will do my best to tell you, from my experience.
It was three months before my 30th birthday when I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression), at first it merely explained why I was acting the way I was. One minute I was ready to jump off the bridge and the next I was cleaning the house from top to bottom in two hours. There was no middle ground, and I had no idea, which part of me was going to show up when, I was lost and confused. After three weeks in the hospital, I was sent home with medication and a therapist, but nothing to prepare me for what was to come, the new life I was about to face how to deal with it.
To explain the brain of a Manic Depressive is difficult, I struggle to find the right words to come close to an analogy, but what comes to mind is a train. Imagine a train going 60 miles per hour down the tracks and suddenly slam on the brakes hitting a brick wall, everything stops and the wall crumbles to the ground. Somehow, the engine of the train is still running, though everything is in a heap on the ground incapable of moving. This is the feeling we get, a body unable to move and a mind that does not have the ability to stop and wants to keep moving. The combination does not work well, and it takes time, far too much time, to figure out the correct way to deal with it.
Medication is a tricky business with this illness, to find the right combination is a game of chance and delicate adjustment. We begin with a mood stabilizer, with any luck this will keep the brain pretty balanced; then we add the anti-depressant, and this is where it gets difficult. The anti-depressant should, while working with the mood-stabilizer keep things stable, but for some, the anti-depressant if not given at the right dosage will bring on a manic episode. Are you confused yet, yeah, me too.
Therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists, these people are an interesting breed, for lack of a better word. I have had the worse and the best; I am currently in the best category after many years of searching and becoming frustrated. Without my current doctor’s I would not be where I am now. That said, I have seen some who are merely interested in their insurance money, there were one or two who I felt more like I was their therapist and then, my favorite by far, was the one who lectured me that if I just changed my way of thinking, everything would be perfect.
The most important thing that I have learned over my 18 year journey with Bipolar Disorder is no matter what medication you take or don’t take, whether you spend time in the hospital and have the best doctors around, what we really need is people. Without family and friends who care and will be there when the days get hard, and we make stupid mistakes we have nothing. The stigma that surrounds any mental illness is what strengthens the silence of those who live with it and keeps those we need the most away from us.