I retreated because I was embarrassed by my own erratic behavior (when I was really sick and taking so much medication), and hurt by the responses it elicited. And I didn't know what to do. At the time, none of the books talked about the bipolar symptoms I was experiencing, or if they did, it was in a blaming mode. And I was tired of being blamed for being sick.
If I'm being honest, I know that a part of me didn't care how my behavior was affecting others. What I truly wanted to say to people during this period was this: "I'm fighting every day to stay alive. You can't possibly imagine how extraordinarily difficult this is. Each day when I awaken, I feel like I want to die and yet...I push myself to live. And I would never kill myself because I love my son more than life itself.
"But let me tell you this, I don't really care if I talk too much because I go through months where I can't talk at all. I'm sorry if I'm irritable and get easily annoyed, but walk in my shoes for a few days and tell me how it cheerful you are when you wake up every morning feeling nauseous, and you've either got diarrhea or you're constipated, and all of a sudden you get head sweats for no apparent reason and you're drenched (and look sloppy even though you looked fine when you left the house), and you feel like you're going to vomit a half-dozen times a day (and sometimes you do), and suddenly you experience such a frightening shortness of breath that you're terrified.
"Most of all, describe how you feel when you tell your doctor about the side affects that have gotten increasingly worse, and you figure he should be sympathetic because you've been a trooper for so many years and have barely complained when you think about how truly awful you've felt--but he says nothing.
"Tell me how you try to remain civilized and choke down your rage, anger, and disappointment when what you really want to do is scream at him and say:
Why didn't you think about all this because you put me on this medication merry-go-round from which I can't get off? Why didn't you admit that you knew nothing about the short-term or long-term effect of these drugs? Why won't you and your colleagues admit that you have no idea what you're doing so you keep on prescribing more and more medication in different combinations and different dosages, and I'm now living in this nightmare from which I can't get any relief?"In fact, this is what I wanted to say to my friends, to the people who were turned off by the way I looked and acted, to the psychiatric establishment, and to anyone else who would listen.
But I didn't...until now.
(one final installment tomorrow)