That title seems trite. I mean, it’s true. But it should say, “Gather around my wonderful children, we have some news for you. Your mother, whom we just adore, is mentally ill.”
Yeah, that doesn’t sound much better, does it?
I went to the doctor the beginning of December and talked to her about my medication. My friend Bec has told me for ages that I have bipolar disorder. I laughed at her, “I’m not mentally ill. I’m just insane some days. Jeez.” (And then for emphasis, I laughed and laughed) Because in my head, there is a dividing line between having depression and having bipolar. The line? Mental illness. I had depression. I was open about it. But I fought the bipolar because I didn’t think I had mania. I didn’t compulsively shop, I didn’t have periods where I was excessively social, I wasn’t flamboyant, I’m barely buoyant at all. I also didn’t want to think I had crossed that line into mental illness, when I knew that my depression on its own qualified. But after getting back on depression meds, I had a couple of fantastic weeks where I cleaned all of the things, did all of the things, was all of the things! … until, well, I wasn’t. I crashed and I crashed hard. In speaking to my Aussie love, she gently reminded me of what we’d both known for a while…
I have bipolar 2. It’s funny, the doctor after administering the test, said, “You are just below the threshold for bipolar 2, so we’ll just call it that. You’re more cyclothymic, but the meds are the same either way. You’re not close to being bipolar 1. If you were, I’d expect to see you wearing strange clothing and things.” My jacket had been zipped up over my favorite shirt, it has a picture of a cat head on a t-rex body. A catosaurus rex. Seen here (I’m the unicorn. You can see Alcatraz in the back)
I walked out of that appointment strangely shocked. I mean, I knew this, but actually hearing it kind of messed with me a little. There wasn’t much time to process it, because in an insane act to one up me, my sister went ahead and got diagnosed with kidney cancer the next day.
I kid because I have very limited ability to deal with the fact that we now have had three members of my immediate family be diagnosed with three different kinds of cancer. Both of my sisters and my father. My sister had cancer. She had it in December and now she doesn’t have it anymore. She had a really awful surgery to remove the cancer from her kidney. But it’s gone now and we are all very, very glad. She’s pretty dang tough and I’m so glad it wasn’t worse than it is, but still pretty rotten.
I digress. But now everything I write seems pretty petty in comparison. That kind of sucks, no?
Back to my crazy. I got on a new medication. A real life anti-psychotic, friends, and I feel great! Here’s the thing- like with Casey’s diagnosis- it doesn’t change me. I was bipolar before and knowing it now only gives me a map to being well. To not deal with the ups and downs of all of it. I’m not embarrassed to tell you my diagnosis anymore than I would be embarrassed to tell you I had cancer (or will be, when it’s my turn, I guess). Because my fault in it is about the same. I didn’t do this to myself through bad choices and a lack of platitudes and cat posters (I do have cat pants, they’re amazing.). This is the way my body was made. It’s an imbalance that is responding readily to the medications I’m throwing at it, the therapy and all in all the choices I’m making.
I choose sanity.
And I hope you do, too. I hope that outing myself will help others to see that seeking treatment is not wrong. That mental illness is not someone’s fault. That there is hope for better days. Because there is.
And now, and inspirational poster: