Gather ’round, kids. Mom is mentally ill.

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’m bipolar.

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)

catasaurus shirt, unicorn, clown, alcatraz
You can kind of see the shirt. This picture doesn’t do much to offset the crazy part of the diagnosis.

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:

I hate being bipolar it's awesome

30 thoughts on “Gather ’round, kids. Mom is mentally ill.

  1. I read recently that Jane Pauley has it also and is being very open about it. So glad you have such a positive outlook and choose to be open and just do what needs to be done. Everyone deals with something (s); some are just more visible, and how blessed we are that there are medications to help us. Best of luck and many blessings on your journey.

  2. Yep. You continue to rock. And amaze me. Let’s hope your life is a leetle bit smoother, just knowing what’s really going on and being able to better treat it. Love you always!

  3. Love the absolute shit out of your honesty. I always do. You blogged so eloquently about your lack of buoyancy and some other crap. Mostly what I remember though is that you’re part unicorn. I fucking knew it!

  4. I love you so hard. It took me years to recognize that I had depression; I felt like I should be able to snapping of it. I’ve now been on meds for the last year and that has been life changing. I’m glad you write about this. Maybe someone will read it and get help when they need it.

  5. Same as you ever were. Being open about our quirks of neurology is, I think, vitally important to finding a way go live successfully with them. I don’t hide any of my labels, not online and not with my students. We are not alone.

  6. Just wondering, what type of doctor was able to help you with this? Psychologist? Psychiatrist? I have long suspected that I fall somewhere in that range, but have yet to find a doctor to take me seriously!

    1. It actually just was my general practitioner. I told her that my therapist had thought it, that I had a genetic history of it, and that the prozac made me go apeshit. There’s a questionnaire that isn’t too long that can pretty much decide if it is bipolar. I have a great GP who takes a ton of time. I can’t get into see a psych to save my life.

      Wow. Given the context of the conversation, “to save my life” seems like an inappropriate cliche.

  7. Thank you for writing about this – and using your great sense of humor to approach the topic. It’s something I wish more people were open about as it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Really, thank you.

  8. I read what you write. Then, I feel like I can breathe again. We don’t walk the same path, but there are enough times when I can read that there is someone (you) out there that struggles kinda like me. You’re far more humorous about it, but I can really hold my liquor, so I suppose it balances- every one has their strengths.

  9. Thanks so much for sharing this. I recognize myself in it. Would you be willing to tell us the medicine that is helping you? I have tried a few

  10. I have heard really good things about that one! Thank you for sharing! How long were you on it before you started feeling better? Thanks for being so open and helpful about this!

    1. I’m still going up on the dose. You have to wean on and my doctor seems to be going impossibly slow. I started feeling some of it in a couple of weeks. We’re still working on the dosage.

  11. Lexi, this is exactly how I felt when I was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder at the ripe old age of 33. Relief! It can be treated! It has a name! The stigma surrounding mental illness is undeniable and unfair, yet we have nothing to be embarrassed about.

  12. I have been reading your blog that I just found, and I love you! I wanted you to know this. I am bipolar1. I have 4 daughters (ages 7, 6, 4, and 1). My oldest ha an autoimmune disease, my 4 year old is on the autism spectrum and my baby has a compromised immune system.
    And I wouldn’t trade it for any amount if sanity or “normal” healthy kids.

    Thank you for this blog

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