Monday, July 2, 2007

What I Have Learned From Being Bipolar (Part 2)

Thanks for the comments from AC and James. It's nice to hear how other people feel. If James is the same person who recommended Sarah Hughes' book, I ordered it weeks ago. I guess it takes a long time to come from Australia.

* * *
Over time, what I've realized about being bipolar is how much empathy it has given me towards others. I actually see great similarities between aging and illness and I feel like my illness will enable me to deal much more successfully with aging.

But in terms of my mother and others...first, I have learned to listen to people and to be responsive. It's so easy for doctors and others to say, "Oh, I've prescribed new drugs for your mother and they won't kick in for a few weeks. She may say she's not feeling well now but don't worry about it. Everyone feels like that and she'll just have to wait for the medication to work."

Wrong! I waited for the medication to work for almost a decade and I find this attitude to be unconscionable. Most of the people who tell us we "just have to wait to feel better" have never felt bad. So, it's truly easy for them to say that.

I believe that most older people--like most BIPS--are probably over-medicated. When a person is old and confused, two weeks is a long time. Also, I feel that few doctors and others are sympathetic when a person, a BIP or an older person, says, "But I feel terrible right now. I'm tired all the time. I'm not myself. I feel off."

And, or course, it's worse when older people can't articulate why they don't feel well. I believe that many doctors know as little about aging as they do about bipolar mood disorder. What they hope, is that the adult children, will nod in agreement that it's okay for their parent to feel bad for while or to agree that the adult parent is being difficult.

Not me. My mother was always my advocate and I'm hers. I won't allow her doctors (or friends and relatives for that matter) to marginalize her. I won't allow them to pretend that all medication takes a long time to work. I look up every medication they prescribe and while I don't expect miracles, I also do not accept that it's okay for my mother to be uncomfortable for extended periods of time without some relief.

Second, I've learned not to be embarrassed by any behavior. At my mom's assisted living facility, many of the residents have hearing difficulties, which results in some potentially embarrassing moments.

If fact, if you don't hear well, you may not hear yourself "fart," and thus you don't automatically say, "Excuse me." If you're suffering from dementia, you certainly don't realize that you've asked the same question a few times in a row. If you're losing some of your faculties, you just may not possess some of the manners and social etiquette that you displayed throughout much of your life.

My what? I know lots of well-mannered people who are so insensitive that it takes my breath away.

Finally, I know the humiliation of having an illness when people think that just because you're sick they can dismiss you, take advantage of you, judge you, and wonder why you look the way you do. At one time, I took Zyprexa and gained 30 pounds in three weeks. Luckily for me, I went off it before I got diabetes (like some other people did).

But I clearly remember the people who looked at me as if to say, "My God, you're gaining weight. Don't you realize how unattractive it is? Don't you have any self-control?" Well, you know the litany.

So, the bottom line for me is that I treat those people I love--and even others whom I may not know--with charity. They can't help it if they spill food on their clothes when they eat. They certainly don't mean to sometimes have "accidents" with their bowels. And if you're with them and they nod off, it's obviously not on purpose.

It would be very nice if more people helped those in need rather than judging them. Honestly, I could live the rest of my life without having anyone tell me how my mother or I should "act" or "be" as if they're somehow Emily Post reincarnate.


james said...

My grandfather died about 15 years ago, after suffering from dementia (and eventually stroke) for many years. When I was looking after him some years prior I remember taking him out one night for a meal. After dinner, as we returned to the car, he stopped in the middle of the pavement and took a pee.

That was not the grandfather who I knew. He was a very polite, reserved, modest, kind-hearted and exceedingly generous man. I remember him as he really was, and not the illness. But I wish I had more of your tolerance with other people!

By the way, I am the same James who suggested the Sarah Russell book. It only takes 7 days for Amazon to get their books to me, so if you tell me where you bought it I'll show some of my intolerance and send the lads around!

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Thanks for your comments yesterday and today. I genuinely appreciate your sensitivity and point of view.

In terms of the book, I ordered it from Amazon. But I think it's Amazon (UK) that sends it. Anyway, I'll have to find the tracking code and check on it before I call on you (and your lads) to do something about it (smiling face).


Marissa Miller said...

I feel that American society does not reverence the elderly and it's so great to read the thoughts of someone who does. Thank you for sharing that.

Meredith said...

I find myself with a lot more empathy for many people, actually. For example, I'm the "Well, what if she has a medical condition?! Or something else? Or just likes looking like that? You don't know!" person whenever fat is brought up. (And, of course, it's usually a woman being picked on, because pretty much everyone agrees that women have to be thin and pretty, riiiight?) My family, normally a sensitive bunch, is the biggest bunch of fat-shamers I know, and whenever I bring up the medical problems thing, they shrug it off. As we know, among the mental drugs alone, there are a lot that cause weight gain, not to mention all the other drugs that do.

...Sorry for the long-windedness, but that topic in general is always an irk point for me, despite being what most would consider a "desirable" weight for a young American woman.

Oh! And I wanted to let you know that Abilify worked and did not cause me breathing problems. Longer post tonight on my blog, and thank you so much for the concern!

Tessa said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Wellness Writer said...

Dear Ruth,
I've been going through a difficult patch lately. You can't imagine how nice it feels for someone to leave a message just to say "I've enjoyed reading your blog." Thank you!