My younger sister put up a new status on facebook: Looking for Balance. I commented "Story of my life". Sometimes it's scary how our thoughts run in the same channel.
Ironically, Looking for Balance means a very different thing to me than 98% of the population. The other 2% have Bipolar Disorder, like me.
My quest- because it has and will be life-long and epic- is to keep my brain chemicals balanced enough so that the workings of my brain do not interfere with the working of my brain. I have Bipolar I Rapid Cycling, which, roughly translated, means that I experience both Mania and Depression, and I can swing from one to the other in a matter of hours. Depression is easier to understand, because most people have experienced it at one time or another. More Bipolar folks have Bipolar II, which means they get mostly depression, with brief spurts of hypo-mania (a lesser degree of Mania). And I hope they never get to true Mania.
Mania is the Yin to Depression's Yang. They are opposites and partners. Depression can freeze you. Keep you in the house, or in bed, unable to move.
Mania is not just about being able to get out of bed, and get a lot of things done. Mania starts off like that. Hypomania can be like that. Day one of mania, I can get my socks organized by color, respond to a backlog of phone calls, and do errands efficiently. The trouble is, Mania doesn't go away at night with me tucking myself into bed, with a mental pat on the back to say "Well done!" Mania causes sleeplessness. So I can go on into the night, alphabetizing, rearranging, dusting....Until I've had no sleep. That's when it kicks in, and suddenly my mind is whizzing along 10 or 11 tracks, work on projects, and start new ones.
After a while, the projects aren't getting done. And the new projects get stupid, irrelevant, and even dangerous. Rational thought goes out the window, fleeing for its life. I don't always recognize that I'm not thinking clearly. In fact, I get confident that I am getting on marvelously. At this point, I get irritated at people who don't see the wonderful ideas that I'm having, and don't agree that life is zipping along nicely. My choices get worse and worse. I can engage in behaviors that are very risky. I'm not going to get into all of the really stupid things I've done while Manic, but while I'm in it, I don't care about consequences. There don't seem to be any, really. After irritation, comes anger and destruction. Some directed outward, most inward. I become dangerous. And really, really angry. After 4-5 days or so, I can get hallucinations from lack of sleep, lose time, and find myself saying and doing things that I never would, in my "right" mind. So although Mania sounds fun and productive if you've never experienced it, for me, it is by far the worse state of mind as opposed to depression. When I'm depressed I don't say and do the hurtful things I can do manic.
When I was first symptomatic, around age 11, I tended more toward depression. Now that I'm older, I tend more toward mania. I went into a remission from age 14-20. Then I became symptomatic again, and finally, at 22, I got a diagnosis. And the Merry-Go-Round of shrinks and meds began.
Several years (and meds, and shrinks) later, I have learned that although Lithium is a godsend to many bipolar people (like Patty Duke), the amount I have to take to control my moodswings is equal to the amount that is toxic to my body. I have permanent side effects from the lithium and some of the other meds I've taken.
I've learned that I get a minor depression in the spring, and a minor mania in the autumn. I'm okay with this. Because I am faithful to my treatment plan, the swings are more of a blip on my mental radar. I've also learned that, due to my Rapid-Cycler status, meds stop working after a while, and I need to work with my shrink to change them and re-stabilize myself.
I am lucky. I have been on the same med schedule for 5 years now, and they work better than any other combination I have used thus far. The spring and fall blips happen because I refuse to take a level of medication that would render me, for all purposes, a zombie. I have reclaimed my creativity, my memory skills, and am working on dealing with the side effects of the meds I am or have been on. My hands shake. I can't feel hot, cold, or textures in my fingertips, and some days I have "word search" issues, which means that words will randomly disappear from my vocabulary for a few days. So I let someone else use the scissors, remember to use a hot mitt cooking, and get around the word search by doing a sort of verbal charades game that is similar to describing the plot of a movie and having someone guess the title.
Permanent balance may or may not be in my future. Another reason I tend to live in the Now, I suppose. I'm not ready to give up my quest, though I may just be tilting at windmills. I'll tilt until they tie on the toe tag.
Oh- it's today again. I'd best go saddle up.