Monday, May 7, 2007

Bipolar stuff

I realize that I haven't much blogged about bipolar stuff, although it's in the title of my blog. Well, at least not lately. Really, the main thing, should you have this thing, or any other psychiatric disorder, is that this takes time to recover from. It's not easy, even with meds. I think I'm relatively lucky in that I think I got the diagnosis rather quickly in only a year and a half after beginning treatment for depression. Everyone thought it was just a really bad depression. I was just lucky that my therapist (psychologist) could tell from our sessions that it was probably bipolar disorder and she and my psychiatrist got together because they work in the same building. Lucky. My psychiatrist then switched meds for me. Great. Still, I had to try a few different medications before I found Trileptal. But, I had hope for the first time in life. I knew I was on the right track and that helped me get through the trial and error period. I knew I might have to be on a combination of meds and I just had to be patient. Really, on the Trileptal alone, I couldn't think clearly. It was like I was walking around confused and distracted all the time. I couldn't even read because I couldn't follow a paragraph without having to reread it over and over again. It became more frustrating than relaxing. My doctor knew I just needed an additional medication and he added Geodon, an antipsychotic. When he suggested it, I went home and researched it first thing. At the mention of it being an antipsychotic, I was scared. I was afraid he was changing the diagnosis to schizophrenia. That was frightening to me. But in the end, I was so desperate to feel better that I didn't care. As long as the medication worked, what did it matter what the diagnosis was? Through further research, I saw that Geodon is given for bipolar disorder, so I was a little relieved, although I don't know why. But the Geodon helped with my concentration. I was finally able to read again, although I started slow. In low doses, I still had to concentrate really hard to follow a story, but as my doctor raised it my focus got better and now I'm back to my usual Shakespeare-reading self. Wow.

Now, I don't know how I'd handle a job just now. I haven't worked while on meds. At my last job, I was only on Paxil and I felt like crap. I was still depressed and I had trouble keeping up with the workload. Plus, after that car accident, I was suffering the effects of post-traumatic stress syndrome. The nightmares kept getting worse. I had to sleep with the lights on. Really, I wasn't sleeping well and I was going to work in a daze. Not good. Still, that was the longest I'd ever held down a job and over all I liked that job. I just don't want to do that much driving again. I can only hope that I'm better adjusted now and can handle normal work stressors. But I've taken a long time off. I haven't worked since March of 2003. Well, I take that back. I was let go from the job in March (with the option to go back if there was an opening), but I hadn't actually worked since that winter, then I was on a medical leave until March. Whatever. Still, it's been a long time and I don't know how to deal with that question in interviews. It always comes up. When I tried to explain to someone that it was personal (hint: I don't think it's appropriate to talk about it), she said, "So, you've just been hanging out?" like I was just lazy or something! How can I get across that I don't want to talk about it in a polite way that doesn't hint that I'm unreliable or something? How? If I say it was a medical leave, that still sounds like I'm unreliable. I know that technically they can't use that as a reason not to hire me, but good luck proving that's the reason they didn't hire me. I'm now registered at three different temp agencies. Should I register with several more or what? I just need a job. The graphic designer part can come later (hopefully).

Anyway, just to let you know that this could take a while, and you still have to do some work to get there. The meds can only take you so far. There are books to help as well as therapy and even group therapy. Sometimes it just helps to know you can get better. Sometimes it helps to know you're not alone. Sometimes it helps to go through and make a list of everything that makes you happy. Make a list of the things you have going for you right now. Make a list of things you did every day to prove to yourself that you can get up and do something and not just sleep. Even if it's just watching TV, eating, and hygiene, that's something. Plus, you have to think of all the hard times you've seen and how you've managed to get this far. It can't hurt to wait longer during your treatment. And I can't stress the importance of taking an active role in your treatment. You need to follow your medications and read up on them. You need to remind your doctor of what you're taking every visit and check with him or her on drug interactions every time. It might seem stupid, because they write everything down, but it can't hurt to be on top of it yourself. Doctors can make mistakes. They're only human. This means over-the-counter medications as well as herbal remedies and vitamins. Everything. Also, if you don't like your doctor, switch doctors. This is your treatment, not theirs. You have to be comfortable talking about some really personal topics with him or her. This is a big deal to get better and you have to do some things you may not like, but you should always like your doctor. And inform all of your doctors, dentists, etc. of all the meds you're on. That's really important. I knew someone who ended up on 12 different meds because her doctor kept prescribing drugs every time she had a problem and didn't keep track of what she was on. She was too depressed to care what happened to her and it ended up messing her up. Don't do that. Don't assume everyone is keeping track for you. That's your job.

Anyway, I'm not pretending I'm 100% better, but I'm so much better than I was before that it feels like a complete recovery to me. Still, I know I'll have to keep adjusting my meds throughout my life. That's normal. This is a genetic condition and there is no cure. All I can do is deal with it and hope I can get on with my life. I've wasted too much of it being miserable. To be honest, even the manic episodes weren't so great. I told my therapist that it almost felt worse to be manic than depressed because I was more impatient with people and they couldn't stand being around me. I was also more irrational and irritable. I could lose my temper over the slightest thing. I hated that feeling of not being in control.

Well, I don't see that I have any plans for today, but R may be coming down for a weekend. Should be fun. Last time I went up to FW I got the stomach flu, so hopefully neither of us will be sick when we get together this time. I'd better go heavy on the green tea. : )

Check out R's blog here. Will try to get a list of blogs up here sometime soon.


Bipolar Housewife said...

Maybe instead of saying "medical leave" in an interview to explain the hiatus, just say you you had "medical reasons" and leave it at that. It doesn't say you are unreliable, but it implies that it might be personal and provides enough of an explanation that they might be satisfied to overlook such a gap in your employment record.

Just an idea. Anyway, good luck. And I should be seeing you soon.


Bipolar Housewife said...

Thanks for the link, too.

And hey, girl, where's my banner?


CJ said...

Sorry on the banner, there. I don't have a clue what to do. I had some ideas, but it's just hard to know where to start sometimes and what I want the finished product to look like. I'm not really having creative impulses here. : (

Bipolar Housewife said...

Oh, I have an interview response suggestion from Chris:

Tell them you've been doing freelance photography work. It's semi-true, as you would have taken the work if it were there, and you did do freelance photography while you worked at CC, and there's not a real way to verify or anything. Plus, it provides an explanation without getting personal or saying in any way that you are unreliable.

That's the key, anyway, is to provide an explanation that a potential employer will feel comfortable with, one that says you are willing to work, that you continue to hone your creative reflexes, and that you had a schedule.

Good luck, and see you soon.


CJ said...

Wow! Awesome. Thanks C.