“Being bi-polar is not a crime.”
These are some of the most comforting words I have ever heard. They were spoken to me by the woman who successfully diagnosed me after I’d somehow blown $18,000.00 on credit cards (in less than 2 months) and was sitting in her office unable to sign my own name due to being in the middle of a severe nervous breakdown. She became my doctor that day and has since become a dear friend.
Lovingly and patiently over the next 3 years, she helped me out of the never ending cycle of emotional highs that are better than any drug, followed by depressive crashes that are the closest thing to Hell I ever want get. I was desperate and hopeless when I sat in her office that day. After so many years of struggle, I didn’t think anyone could help me. Suicide seemed an attractive option at that point. I sat there, totally ashamed, guilty, overwhelmed with self-hatred over doing something so unlike myself, so impulsive and irrational. I mean, $18,000 is not a small chunk of change! And living paycheck to paycheck with my husband who was self employed and I a stay-at-home mom, there was no way we could pay it back.
“Overspending, impulsive shopping sprees on credit cards, those are things bi-polar people commonly do. Doesn’t make it ok, but it is fixable.” She told me. “The good news is that once diagnosed, bi-polar is easily treatable.”
Of course, “easily treatable” is a relative term. The easy part was getting started on medication and therapy counseling. The hard part was actually taking the medication….and taking it consistently. The brain map I got at a neurology clinic indicated severe sleep deprivation and I could clearly see on a biological level how abnormal my brain chemistry was.
As I sat calmly, nearly ready to fall asleep in the relaxing environment of the neurologist’s office, also on very strong anti-anxiety medication that had basically turned me into a zombie, he told me, “If my brain map was anything like yours I’d literally be crawling out of my skin! It’s like you’re driving down a freeway and one part of your brain is screaming at you to slam on the brakes to STOP NOW or you’ll die. And the other part of your brain is screaming at you to push the gas pedal to the floor and RACE NOW as fast as you can or you’ll die.”
That described so well the constant inner turmoil I experienced on a daily basis. No wonder I was having panic attacks!
“Your brain doesn’t have an off switch.” He explained. “Most people’s brains know how to turn off and go to sleep, but yours doesn’t.”
All my life I’d had trouble with sleep. Either I couldn’t sleep at all or I only wanted to sleep all the time. It was a constant pendulum swing. Rarely could I ever just get tired, go to sleep for 8 hours and wake up feeling like I’d actually slept for those 8 hours. Now I knew why.
So, easily treatable? Yes. Easy to stay the course of treatment and trust my doctor and therapist? Not so much. Especially those first 3 months when I felt like a living dead person. I hated the sedated, drugged feeling of the sleep meds I had to take. My head felt like it was stuffed with cotton and I was completely numb all over. I honestly didn’t care if I lived or died. The only thing that kept me going were the faces of my 3 beautiful children who needed their mommy to get better so she could take care of them. I often felt guilty for sleeping so much and being such a baby, having someone else help me cook and clean because I could barely function.
“Don’t feel guilty.” My therapist encouraged me. “A nervous breakdown is no small thing to recover from. Right now you have to put the oxegyn mask on yourself first. Otherwise you won’t be in any shape to help anyone else.”
Once I finally had energy again, could think clearly and didn’t want to sleep 16 hours a day, the worst part was giving up the high of the manic phases. It was during those times I didn’t need to sleep and could go non-stop like the energizer bunny with the power of super woman. The last thing I wanted to do was take sleep meds and kill the fabulous buzz. But somewhere along the line I realized I had to give up the highs to keep from nose diving into the depressive crashes.
So, while being bi-polar is not a crime, the crime committed is when those of us who have been diagnosed, refuse to follow a treatment plan. It takes time and is not always a fun or easy process, but the reward of a stable, healthy, fully functional life, is well worth it!
Check out the link below for pictures of brains that suffer from bi-polar, PTSD, ADHD, and depression. You will see just how different they are and that these are real diseases, even if you can’t see or clearly explain them.