Tuesday, February 21, 2017

What doctors fail to tell you about bipolar disorder

What does the DSM V say about bipolar disorder? 

It says many things, like you must have at least 3 behaviors from a list of symptoms in mania, lasting a week or longer. It says you must have 5 behaviors from a list of symptoms for depression lasting 2 weeks or longer. These behaviors include a markedly diminished  diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day with depression, and an inflated self-esteem or grandiosity (ranges from uncritical self-confidence to a delusional sense of expertise) for mania. 

So once you've displayed these behaviors, you're diagnosed and treated. The doctors tell you side effects of medications, and how often to take the meds, but they rarely explain what your diagnosis means, perhaps offering you a handout on bipolar disorder, or advising you to check a reputable website. 

That's all well and good, but they don't tell you what to really expect with your disorder. 

They rarely tell you that mania doesn't always look like a euphoric high, that it can look like your worst nightmare with major irritability and lashing out to loved ones, and you not knowing why. 

They don't tell you that you can have mixed episodes, which is a mixture of depression and mania. 

They don't tell you that the minimal effects like weight gain or drowsiness affect more people than usual, and are real and life altering. For example drowsiness is a side effect of Seroquel, and it doesn't just make me tired, it turns me into a non-functioning zombie for days at a time.

They don't tell you that there's no silver bullet when it comes to meds, that rarely what you try first will work. That you'll be paying medication roulette until you find the right combo. That's right combo, it's not often that you're only put on one medication to control your symptoms. 

Nowhere is it mentioned that you might miss your highs, and struggle to stay medication compliant because your creativity is gone and you hate it. 

This sounds gloomy af, I know, but there are benefits to being bipolar that they don't tell you. 

They don't tell you that you're joining the ranks of awesome people, like Carrie Fisher, Vincent Van Gogh, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Russell Brand, and Demi Lovato - oh, and myself. 

They don't tell you just how awesome it can be to finally have a name for what you're going through.

They don't tell you how wonderful a night of sleep can be once you're on the right dose of medications. 

They don't tell you how wonderful life can be once you're free of the demons in your head that are ruining your life. 

They don't tell you that being bipolar is not a death sentence, that you can live and thrive with it, no matter how you feel at the time of diagnosis. 

They don't tell you that there is hope of recovery, and remission of your symptoms. Well, maybe they do tell you that, but you might have missed it, reeling from everything else they told you. And, it never hurts to be reminded of that. 

So those are some things that your doctor might not mention. 

It never hurts to do your homework and research your diagnosis, because knowledge is power. The more informed you are as a patient, the best advocate you can be for yourself. And that's really the best thing a person with any illness can be. 

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