Invisible Illness
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Invisible Illness

Bipolar: Some Days I Win, Some Days I Lose

When Appropriate Isn’t Appropriate and a Mask is a Mask

Photo Credit: Myself 9/2016

My therapist told me it’s common for individuals that experience Bipolar Disorder to stop taking their medication once they feel balanced. They may get to a place where they feel safe and no longer have the awareness it’s the medication that got them there. They stop taking it. Then they crash.

As I swallow each pill daily I would like to believe that I will never be that person. I have a reminder set on my phone and my laptop. “Take your medicine each night at 9:00 PM,” is written on the mirror in the bathroom and “take me,” is written on the pill container that sits on the night stand by my bed. I’m prepared because sometimes my mind plays tricks on me.

Must. Keep. Taking. The. Medication.

46 days and counting. It had been 46 days since I started the Lamictal and 32 since I experienced suicidal ideation. I know this because every night at bedtime I mark the calendar with the color I felt that day. That is how I’ve always kept track of my mood swings. This is how I know when the dark days are coming.

Red: Manic

Gray: Depressed

Blue: Even

Black: Suicidal Ideation

I had 12 consecutive days of blue. Blue. I thought, I’m proud of myself. The medication is working.

Until I woke up Friday morning, in a bad place, a black place. Conveniently it was therapy day except I didn’t want to go. I considered not showing up. I considered never going back again. Not because I thought I was cured, but because I knew I wasn’t. There’s no more of a desperate time then this moment, I thought. So I went.

“The medication is only intended to alleviate symptoms in order for you to feel better and increase function,” Kathy, my therapist said. “As you increase the dosage you will continue to improve.”

“The medication masked the symptoms,” I said. “I didn’t know it was coming.”

But I did. I did see it coming. Not in the moment, but now that I look back at the past several days the warning signs were there. I hadn’t slept more than a couple of hours the past three nights. I’d been struggling with myself and my relationships. There were triggers, but the medication had me believing I was even.

I indubitably realized it when this happened the day before:

Yes, that’s me. That was what I believed in the moment was an appropriate response to an email my husband sent me. My appropriate was not appropriate. The thing is, before the medication I would have known it. I would have seen it coming. I would have had a handle on it and never would I have allowed myself to react like that.

I sound like I’m in denial, but I’m certain because my husband’s reaction to my reaction was to leave work immediately to come home and ensure I were okay. He had never seen me react that way before, and it freaked him out, and I don’t blame him.

“Who are you? He asked.

I don’t have an answer, I thought. Who am I and what the hell was that?

I felt horrible, I felt ashamed, and I felt alone because someone who experiences Bipolar Disorder can explain it over and over, and in 20 different ways or seven different languages, but you physically appear normal so they just don’t get it.

Last night when we got into bed I talked to him about my session with Kathy. “I need to take a step back,” I told him. “There are pieces of me still coming undone and I need to keep myself together. I need to hold out.”

“I love you so much,” he said.

“I know you do,” I said. “I probably would have left me by now and you’re still here. I promise you I just need to get stable on medication.”

I’m grateful to have a husband that loves me through the good times and the bad, through the black days and the manic days. He believes that I’m creative and intelligent and funny. He believes that I’m kind and compassionate and loving. He also believes that I’m rational and handle myself with grace. (That one I often question, but maybe I don’t see myself as he does.)

Every Saturday I receive the Ted-Ed lesson of the week in my inbox. He was in the kitchen cooking breakfast when I ran downstairs and shouted, “You have to come watch this video with me!”

It was a gift from the universe, a reward for the past week of struggle and a bridge to close our gap.

“Wow,” he said. “Two is so definitely you. It’s actually kind of creepy that it described you so well.”

“This is me, but I’m hopeful.”

“What can I do that I’m not already doing?” He asked.

My heart melted. “All I need is your love and support,” I responded.

Well, that and medication and therapy.

48 days and counting. It has been 48 days since I started taking the Lamictal and two days since I experienced suicidal ideation.

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Also, you can follow my cats on “The Crazy Cat Lady Photo Blog.” Com’on, you know you want to.

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We don't talk enough about mental health.

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Erika Storms

Erika Storms

I blog to stay sane. erikastorms.substack.com

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