My medication has lots of side effects. Most of them aren't too bad, a couple are pretty heinous (especially when it comes to training for an ironman). But, once I get past the first couple of weeks the side effects start to wind down, which is good. It's been a little more than three weeks since I restarted the lithium and welbutrin, and just over two weeks since I restarted the lexapro. And, you know what? I feel better. Most of the side effects have stopped. I lost my appetite for about two weeks and had a terrible case of dry mouth. Both of those seem to be better. (Although now I'm having different, more irritating problems, a crazy bad sweet tooth, worse than normal, and insane hunger pangs pretty much all the time - even when I've just eaten and don't need more food, grr.) My sleep patterns have also returned to normal and I don't feel exhausted all day long. This is good news. But, the really good news? All the anxiety is gone. Just like that. The swallowing of four pills a day and poof, anxiety monster has gone back in to hiding.
And, the best news of all? Well, I still feel like me. I don't know exactly what is different this time, but I don't feel the fog that can sometimes settle in when I restart my meds. The thing is, usually, when I start taking all these meds, it takes longer for some of these side effects to pass. And, I usually feel foggy and not like me at all - at least for a little while (usually for a couple of months). It's a hard place to be. Because off the meds I feel like a magnified version of myself. Until I don't. And I was headed to the place where I don't. So, all in all, it's good.
Something that I found out just this week, February is National Bipolar Awareness Month. Who knew? Not me. Its funny, cause five years ago, in February, I was diagnosed with bipolar. Sort of fitting that its the awareness month. In the spirit of awareness I thought I'd clear up a few things about bipolar and those who live with it (this is all from my point of view, you can take it with a grain of salt if you like and I know not everyone's experiences are the same, but I think these are some good broad strokes).
Bipolar is not a debilitating disease. Or, at least, it doesn't have to be. Even with bipolar a person can live a long, happy, productive life. Some people do wind up on disability, for good cause, but not all. Not me.
Taking medication is not as easy as you might think it is. It's easy to say that its like taking medication for diabetes, but really, for the person taking it (or maybe just me) it is not like that at all. Its hard taking medication(s) that changes part of who you are. It just is.
Having bipolar does not define a person, it certainly does not define me. It is a part of who I am, sometimes a bigger part than others, but still just a part. I am also a daughter, sister, friend, writer, photographer, runner pretending to be a triathlete, hard worker, and so much more.
I don't mind the word crazy, and I use it often, mostly to describe myself. I usually am doing so to make a difficult topic a little easier to handle, bring a little light to the subject. You say you're crazy and people usually laugh. I probably shouldn't sue the term, because it isn't accurate, at all. And, MANY people with mental health issues find the word offensive when people use it. Basically, you probably shouldn't use it, and neither should I.
People who have bipolar are not violent criminals. Of course some are, but so are a lot of people without mental health issues. You don't have to be scared of someone with bipolar. Most of us are law-abiding citizens.
You might think someone you know has bipolar because they are moody. Moody doesn't mean bipolar. Don't try to diagnose people. You can't do it, I promise. It took my doctor 10 years to properly diagnose me, and he's trained to do this. So, you can't diagnose someone.
Using the word bipolar to describe everything that has two sides is no good in my book. It teaks away from what it really is and how it really affects so many of us. So, stop, please.
There are multiple types of bipolar disorder, not just one. Seriously. Look it up.
Mania is not always happy and fun. It is often times out of control, anxious, risky and angry. Many people in mania use drugs and alcohol leading to other issues, such as dependency (my own mood shifts led me to drink more to try to mask what was going on in my head, and before I was diagnosed with bipolar I got sober).
Even on medication you can still have "episodes" of mania and depression, for me they aren't as extreme, but they still happen.
Bipolar doesn't just affect moods, it also affects physical well-being, including sleep patterns. Many people who are manic sleep less, or not at all. And, those suffering from depression will sleep much more. For me, when my sleep patterns are off I know that it is the signal for an oncoming episode. When I'm don't sleep through the night for more than two nights in a row I know I will become manic if I don't take something to break the cycle (usually Tylenol PM). And, when I'm more tired than usual, and sleeping a lot I know that there is a bout of depression on the way - this one is harder to head off, but I usually do so with increased exercise and activity, no matter how hard it feels.
Bipolar disorder is not someone being dramatic about their mood swings. It is much more. The shifts in mood are extreme and can last for weeks, and for some people, months. It is unpleasant and a hard way to live.
Just because a person is bipolar doesn't mean they are always manic or depressed. Most of the time we live in the middle, just like everyone else.
A lot of famous people are thought to have (or had - some speculated - if they are deceased) bipolar disorder. Including Kurt Cobain, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Patty Duke, Carrie Fisher, Ernest Hemingway, DMX, Sinead O'Connor, Virginia Woolf, Florence Nightingale, and Vincent Van Gogh, to name a few.
I hope that I brought you some awareness to the subject. And, lastly, just be mindful of your speech and behavior. There are far more people living with bipolar disorder than you might realize (approximately 6 million Americans are bipolar - at least I know I'm not alone!). Be aware.