I read my first book on bipolar disorder probably about five-and-a-quarter years ago. It was The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide: What You and Your Family Need to Know, by David J. Miklowitz, PhD. I already knew my diagnosis, I had for many years. I had sought therapy for the first time a few months prior, and was lucky enough to find the only professional I ever connected with, as therapists go.
I trusted her, which is not something I ever do, I cried in front of her and didn’t feel ashamed afterwards, I disclosed many things I had never before disclosed – even to friends, let alone some strange woman.
She listened to me, she really and truly “got” me as a person, and thus she was able to give me the best feedback any therapist ever has.
Our time together was very limited, because she quickly reached the conclusion which I had. I was bipolar, and how. She was not a doctor, “just” a LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker), and she told me – gently, but in no uncertain terms – that what I had was beyond her scope and specialty. She suggested I get a few books on the disorder to read, and (if they confirmed what we both already knew in our minds) seek further help from a psychiatrist, an M.D., no more talk therapy for the moment, do not pass go, do not bother with opinions other than your own, go straight for the big guns, the heavy hitters.
Did I mention that I was in the throes of one of the most profound episodes of depression I have ever in my life experienced?
That isn’t the point. The point is that I chose three books from the shelves at Barnes and Noble, and Dr. Miklowitz’s was the one I opened first. I had no idea then that there would be over 40 more I would read, cover-to-cover (and counting).
It’s funny, because I vividly remember sitting on a little balcony attached to a home whose owner’s cat I was minding while she was away. Me and kitty enjoyed the shade while I read. If I recall correctly, and I might not, I may be hyper-focusing on a specific theme – but if I do the book was rife with direction and imperatives about how someone with bipolar disorder must alter their lifestyle choices. Regulate sleep and wake times, regulate meals, regulate social interactions, regulate exercise, regulate what time you brush your damned teeth!
Okay, it wasn’t quite that militant, but in my memory it was close. If you haven’t noticed, I tend to be a bit of a free spirit, and scheduling my life equated to living as a different person entirely. I was absolutely sure it would never work for me. I slept when I was tired. I woke up when I had to. What the hell were meals? I had spent all of my adult life as a grazer. Social interactions I was either up for or I wasn’t, not a big deal. Exercise? Did walking from my garage to my car and later back again count?
I knew it would never work for me, I was certain it would never work for me.
But after a little while, I came to think about how the reason I had read that book (and many others by then, which all said pretty much the same thing) was because what I had been doing for well over a decade seemed not to be doing much good for me either.
So I gave it a try. I gave it my all. I am exhausted just to think of how hard I worked to conform to a lifestyle which I was told by all knowledgeable sources, in no uncertain terms, was key to my stability and recovery.
***WARNING: The rest of this post is where the bad modelling thing comes in, and none of it applies to anyone but me. Trust me on this.***
I tried for years, and I tried so hard I eventually helped contribute to blowing out my mind. And do you know what I came to realize about scheduling and regulation being cornerstones of my life, were I ever to be stable again? It was horseshit (except for taking my medications in strict, scheduled intervals, but that’s just my metabolism – you aren’t actually supposed to have to do that with the meds I take).
The reason it was horseshit had nothing at all to do with the theory, though. The theory is quite sound, and most manic depressives I know would agree that you have to have regulation and scheduling as a major part of staying well. The reason was much simpler, and infinitely more complex. The reason was me.
I’ll spare you a diatribe on how trying to be someone I was not was a deeply depressing and unhealthy thing for me to do. But what it comes down to is that since I have said ‘F*** you’ to things that my body and mind have been screaming from the background are not right for me, I have made so much progress. Am I working and supporting myself and married with two perfect kids and a wonderful, loving husband? None of the above. But I am much happier and calmer and peaceful and self-aware, and I am moving toward more functional. My definition of more functional, which includes having vastly improved my ability to move with the tides of my moods.
I sleep when I’m tired (or try to, anyway). I wake up when I do, or occasionally if I have an appointment or engagement, when I have to. I graze. I socialize when I’m up for it. And no, of course I don’t exercise. ;P
And the net result is that when I do have a mood episode, I acknowledge it and deal with it and don’t make things worse by fighting with it.
Okay. Maybe that very last sentence falls into good modelling instead of bad.
© Ruby Tuesday and A Canvas Of The Minds 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ruby Tuesday and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.