Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Online and Offline Friends (Part 4)

For my second to last post in this series, for now, I think I need to correct a false impression I inadvertently may have created. I'm not saying I don't have "offline" friends; I just don't have as many friendships as I used to. And for the past few years, I haven't tried very hard to develop new relationships.

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)


Tony C. said...

Hi Susan,

We may be half a world apart, but the feelings are so similar. Those words are so powerful and so real.
Ive tried to write down my thoughts, an attempt to keep them in a jar to explain how I feel when I cant, dont or wont communicate. Whether it works or not I dont know.
Thanks again

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Tony,
You're welcome. Some people find posts like this to be too angry. While I rarely express these feelings aloud, I don't believe they're angry enough. But everyone once in awhile, I like to release them. It's like taking the top off a steam kettle. It's a great feeling of release...


bart said...

hi susan,

i can understand your feelings to an extent, and although i've suffered more from the chronic variety of depression than the acute one i sympathise with you sincerely...

my attitude nowadays is more one of "it's my problem and if you can't deal with it, that's your problem because i've got enough of my own"...

what others don't understand they are more than willing to judge on the basis of no/little/faulty information and fail to see the realities of what's really happening...

i tell people in all honesty what my problem is, if necessary tell them of my addiction problems which arose out of the depression and just be as honest as possible under the circumstances... if it doesn't work, bad luck 'cause i've got a life to lead in the only way i can do it...

keep well...

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Bart,
I appreciate your point of view. It's interesting to see how various people deal with their illness. For the most part, I remain upbeat, and this is what this blog is about. But every once in awhile, I like to vent...which is helpful to me as well.


JayPeeFreely said...

I appreciated your comment. Quite a compliment.

As to the friends, I hope you didn't think that supposed differently.

I think it is harder to communicate all the stuff you really are feeling to a real live body - for one, they get bombarded too quickly, and feel your, "overblowing things", when actually you are only touching the surface of the true depth of your own malaise. And no one really wants to deal with that - unless they are looking for an explanation, like, in a blog...

And it isn't your fault. You just do what we all are educated to do, "suck it up", when we really don't want to "suck it up."

The difference is the interaction. Via a blog or chat, it is passive.
We can take time to gather thoughts - in response - and the person we are talking to can get something more.

In person, we are so superficial to me. I can never get too deep, else, they think I am flying off a handle to Pluto, never going to return to mother Earth.

I loved the rant Susan...a doctor needs to hear that one. Stupid doctors!!! (Homer said.)

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear JayPeeFreely,
You're welcome! And thanks for your most recent comment on this. Actually, I loved the rant too. I spend a lot of time on this blog being upbeat, but occasionally it feels good to "let it loose," and the fact is--that's really how I feel.

I guess everyone in the bipolar universe has better doctors than I have had. And mine were considered to be among the best. People blame the medication, and they blame the lack of diagnosis, and they blame the stigma of the illness, but when it comes down to it--they rarely, if ever, blame their doctors who are in a very powerful position to change things.



Paula Joy said...

It may be a 'full-fledged rant' and not make me chuckle, but it does make me say, "You go girl." It's good to get it out, and getting it out is a part of the healing. For me, that rant was the best part of the series so far - it showed your strength; the strength I see when I look at the picture of you.
Through the years, your emotions have been here, there and everywhere in between, but you have an internal strength that has kept you going. I can sense it in your writings.
Then, you let it out. Good for you.

my life with bipolar disorder said...

Dear Susan,

I can empathize with your feelings as I too go through that from time to time. How wonderful if our friends can be more understanding and caring. Hopefully they don't have to go through our experiences in order to do so!

I found that my best friendships are those in which I give of myself to care for others. It's hard to expect others to understand my bipolar and care more for me. My sufferings make me want to love and care for others who are suffering in other ways. When I become their friend and care for them, they in turn become my dear friends too :) Somehow people who suffers tend to be more caring and friendly, and more accepting of me.


Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Paula Joy,
Thanks for all your comments on this series...but particularly this one.

I know you're new to all this, but in my estimation, there are basically two kinds of bipolar blogs. Most of them are downbeat and depressing and if you read them, you'd think that no one who's bipolar ever laughs, smiles, chuckles, or has a great day. For years, these blogs dominated the field and you could barely find anyone who was positive.

Then there are the blogs that are upbeat, inspirational, and motivational. For the most part, that is my mission with this blog.

But there are times...when I need to cross over to the "dark side" (just kidding). Actually, I believe it's important to strike a balance.
I seem to be one of the few people for whom the treatment has been worse than the illness. And it's important for me to be honest about that.


Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Nanci,
As always, thanks for your comment. I know you help people through your church and I applaud your good deeds.

This was one of the few posts where I seem to have confused people. For the most part, my friends have been very supportive. The problem has been making new friends--and these are the people who have been so judgmental. It was particularly bad when my son was in elementary school.

But my greatest level of anger and hostility is actually directed at my doctors--who truly made me feel worse rather than better.

It's something I deal with--and since I rarely read about others who feel similarly--I find it important to express my point of view.