Welcome to the Roller Coaster

So, right now I have eleven windows open on my Windows desktop.  This blog is one of them.  The other ten all have to do with Bipolar II Disorder and the treatment of same.  Those among you who are more hasty of mind will already have jumped to the correct conclusion.  For those of you who want it spelled out: I’m nuts.

Crazy.

Mentally unstable.

Cognitively unbalanced.

Mad (but not in the Nixon way).

Deranged, demented, and deserving of a nice, white, padded cell.

Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating, but all of those labels have been applied to people with bipolar disorder over the years, and I’d rather pre-empt them.

Anyway, the short story is that first thing last Saturday morning I went to the psychiatrist and was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder.  I’d been suspecting it for a while, but I always thought that bipolar disorder meant that you got real periods of mania, where you turned into a kind of, well, maniac.  And it does, if you have bipolar I disorder.  For bipolar II disorder, you get “hypomanic” episodes, which means you just get really, really energetic, creative and productive.  This explains a lot about me, I think.  Going back to my teenage years, I can remember periods of extreme laziness.  I just thought I was a lazy procrastinator, but sometimes I was very proactive and productive.  I guess those were just the first signs of the alternating depressive and hypomanic episodes which characterize bipolar II disorder.

Welcome to the roller coaster.

But if I started having these symptoms so long ago, that calls into question all of my decisions from then until now.  How much of what I did, said, or thought was actually rational?  How much of my behavior was actually due to me being just Ben and how much was due to being depressed Ben or hypomanic Ben?  How do I tell the difference?

At least from now on I will have the help of a psychiatrist or therapist to help me regulate the episodes, and I can start to develop the self-monitoring skills to tell when I can trust myself to be making correct choices.

The really frustrating thing is that there is no cure for bipolar disorder.  This is something I’m going to have to deal with, and control, for the rest of my life.  The psychiatrist put me on a 500mg dose of Depakine Chrono, to be taken twice daily. From what I know about bipolar disorder, though, the amount and type of medication is something that is going to have to undergo perpetual monitoring and adjustment, to account for various side-effects, and the body’s every-changing reaction to the medicine.

Hello, monkey on my back, welcome to the roller coaster.

Even more depressing than the fact there’s no cure, though, is this statistic:  The average divorce rate in the USA is 50%.  The average divorce rate for people with bipolar disorder: 90%.

On this roller coaster, you have to ride alone.

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5 Responses to “Welcome to the Roller Coaster”

  1. mom Says:

    I saw that statistic about divorce rates, also, and my heart dropped. But then I realized three things:
    1) the statistic didn’t differentiate between bipolar 1 and bipolar 2. There is a BIG difference in the two, and my guess is bipolar 2 wasn’t identified as early as bipolar 1, so the statistic is probably more likely to be for 1.
    2) the statistic didn’t differentiate between those who were in treatment and those who weren’t, at the time of the divorce. Again, there is a HUGE difference between a bipolar type 1 person who is not in treatment, and a bipolar type 2 (or even type 1) person who is.
    3) the statistic didn’t differentiate between couples who knew about the issue before marriage and those who didn’t (see thing 2). Everyone has mood swings, yours are just a little wider than most. But everyone has issues, so yours are just a little more interesting than most. You just have to make sure you and your partner understand each other’s issues.
    so because of that, I don’t think the statistic is that valid, for you.

  2. Cousin Dick Says:

    There are several thousand things I’d like to say to you, but my fingers aren’t that strong and I’m not Skyped yet. So let me try it this way:

    At this moment I have a headache and some subtle nausea. There is a persistant pain in my left shoulder. It’s been there for about 14 years. My eyes sting from the dryness of the winter-radiated air in our living room, and part of my mind keeps reaching out toward the noise coming up from the avenue below. Overall there is a deep concern for you and what you seem to be going through.

    For me to wait until all these things subside (and not be replaced by other input) in order to be my “real self” is patently absurd. For me to delay decision-making until I am utterly uninfluenced by my inner and outer world would leave me paralyzed until I was dead of starvation or dehydration–keeping in mind that to do so would, of course, be the result of a decision made while under the influence of all these things.

    All the decisions you’ve made need not be questioned any more than had you made them under the diagnosis of Flat Personality Disorder (i.e., no ups or downs or anything else of interest.) Besides all that, what guarantee is there that decisions made without the influence of some attitudes of productivity and proactivity would be better than those you’ve actually made?

    Manic, hypomanic, depressed, drunk, dyspeptic whatever, you are Ben. The same Ben we love, care about, laugh with, marvel at and ultimately admire. Don’t sweat what goes into being that Ben. Just take care of him and–more than anything else–be him.

  3. MBS Says:

    Hey Ben,

    Keep your chin up. You’re still the same great guy you were before the diagnosis. Any girl would be lucky to have you. Don’t worry about getting divorced, first find a girl good enough to deserve you. Then just try to be happy for the rest of your life.

    Hang in there buddy. BTW, if you need to get away for a little while, we do have a guest room over here, and it’s not nearly as long a flight as going back to the States.

    With much love,

    -Matt

  4. Bill Says:

    Myself, I am depresive. Depressives are much better than bipolars. We take, however, no pleasure in our superiority. I take three meds, which seem to work well in combination. Took a while to get the combo all figured out, but the meds work pretty well now.

    I probably should have been on antidepressents about 45 years ago. Of course, they didn’t exist back then. The first treatment I received was theological. The question to be answered was which of my admittedly numerous moral failings was responsible for my alienation from G*d, thus causing my depression. That lead to some interesting religious discussions, but no cure.

    After that came psychologcal questions, a number of them depending on which school the therapist followed. I picked up some really good insights into who I was and how I functioned but still no cure. Finally, when things were getting very bad, medication was tried and voila! My biggest regret is that it was not availble much earlier. I think I could have done so much more if I didn’t have to fight depression.

    Contrast the way the depression was treated to the way my nearsightness was handled when I was 9 or 10. No one asked why G*d was depriving me of my sight, or what primal scene I had witnessed to cause me to refuse to use my eyes. I just got a pair of glasses and the problem was resolved.

    I agree with your mother on the questionable statistics you quoted. There are a lot of variables that need to be accounted for before you get too worried. You live in a time which can offer you real treatment and you have the sense to avail yourself of that treatment. There are good options open to you.

    Of course, you still might want to check with a rabbi. There just might be something to the sin theory. I remain

    Your a’fc’t cousin,

    Bill

    P.S. I noticed that the Formosan post office has a block of stamps on local idioms. Do you know what the idioms are?

    Dearest Ben,

    I love you so much. You have done everything that needs to be done to manage the bi-polarity portion of your brain: a doctor, meds and self-awareness. Knowing this, I will be OK, too. Let us know if you really get a problem some day that you can’t handle.

    Love, Barbara

  5. Sabrina Says:

    I’m sorry to hear about the diagnosis, sounds like it’s bumming you out big time. But you know we (all your friends) are here for you, regardless.

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