“I don’t put a whole lot of emphasis on diagnosis,” she said. She lowered her pen back to her clipboard and locked eyes with me. It was something I’d heard from every medical professional I’d ever liked. The people who understood they couldn’t put me in a box and go through the corresponding motions. But you still have to have something to submit to insurance. Diagnostic codes: 309.28, 305.00, 309.81, 296.33, 296.53. Each had its own set of symptoms and accepted treatment options. Each meant something, even if what it meant wasn’t the end of the conversation.
She took another breath and changed the cross of her legs. “That being said, we need to start talking about medication. You have some options, but I’m not comfortable leaving this where it’s at.” Because all those diagnoses have very real, tangible symptoms attached to them. And bipolar disorder is one of those.
Bipolar disorder–for me–is like depression with a scheming side. I get miserable for a couple months, but then I feel pretty good for a few weeks. Just long enough that I start to think maybe my depression isn’t going to come back with force. But right when I’ve gotten comfortable, it sneaks in. Like a friend you were just starting to trust breaking your heart again.
My mania gives me just enough confidence to be dangerous. I sign up for things I won’t be able to follow through with when the depression comes back. It makes me just optimistic enough to line me up for a solid let down. Swings wide enough to make me feel like I’m never getting my feet under me. Narrow enough I can sometimes convince myself nothing is wrong.
We’ve known I have this illness since I was sixteen. It wasn’t extreme then, either. Since it wasn’t getting me in trouble it was left untreated. But over the last few years it’s been getting more violent. It’s been growing teeth. And so a couple weeks ago I made the call.
“Do you talk to your husband about how you’ve been feeling?” the woman from the psychiatric outpatient program at the Bellevue hospital asked me.
“Yeah, I do. He’s great. He doesn’t like those conversations much, though.”
“No, of course he doesn’t. You’re trying to kill his wife.”
I slid down the wall, landed slow on the ground and pulled my knees up to my chest. “It’s time to get help, isn’t it?”
So we doubled up the therapy. We added medication and adjusted doses. Took time off work and wrote for hours every day.
And today I woke up and I felt… Okay.
For the first time in a long time I feel safe.