As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I suffer from Bipolar II mood disorder, which means I cycle in mood rapidly and suffer from extreme, crippling anxiety and depression if not medicated. I haven’t posted since last April (except for the past couple of days) as my drugs stopped working. I couldn’t focus, spent my time staring out my window with my leg jiggling up and down, or asleep with the help of tranqs.
I have a good doctor who desperately tries new treatments and has even sent me to a psychopharmacologist who deals purely with the chemistry (and it is chemical) of mental illness. He sent on a few suggestions to my shrink, but I have been on so much ‘stuff’ that the options are limited. At present she has added in a new drug which is an anti-psychotic (mwahahaha) which I DO NOT use for psychosis, but it has the side effect of reducing bipolar cycling. Many atypical anti-psychotics do the same, but this is brand new so I am more than willing to give it a try. There’s a lot of fine tuning with this stuff.
At first it increased my anxiety (oh good), then we changed the time of day I took it (makes me sleep early and wake up early – I’ve been up since 3 a.m.). This looks more promising as I do not currently feel like flying over rooftops, crawling out of my skin or swimming out into the bay towards England. I suspect my body may get used to the drowsy factor. I am hopeful.
This however, brings up the side effects of the cocktail of medications (anti-depressants, mood stabilizers, anti-manics, anti-anxieties, and yes I take all of these). I have no balance. I’m a wall hugger. I can’t even get on a pair of pants without sitting down. I suffer ataxia and stumble. If I am not suffering from acute anxiety, I sleep. And as mentioned I wake up at 3. What a productive life. My cognitive abilities have decreased to a frightening state. My memory is dubious.
My concern is with all of us suffering from some form of chemical mood disorder…what happens when the options run out? Are we expected to receive no pleasure from an otherwise good life because our brains will not produce the correct chemicals for the years to come? Anhedonism (inability to feel pleasure) is a common symptom. The anxiety can become so severe that the ability to focus on even reading becomes impossible. The depression can be overwhelming. So if doctors, despite their best efforts, have to shrug their shoulders, what are we to do?
To some, the prospect of living with these symptoms is not acceptable. I understand this. Many brave cancer patients live each day as if it were their last, pulling in all the pleasure they can, despite their terrible circumstances. But at some point, if no pleasure, only pain is possible – I do believe in a dignified death. Why is this considered so horrifying when applied to mental illness?
Do I feel sorry for myself? You bet. I feel ripped off. When my symptoms became severe I was finishing graduate school and had to stop. I look at my colleagues and see them now as accomplished college professors and I am not only jealous, but angry that this disease has stolen from me in so many ways.
I still have hope for now, however – I am not out of options…yet. But I think of those who have nothing to help them anymore, nothing but the pain of mental illness for the years to come and there is no dignity in that. I know what my choice would be.