I hardly know where to start in writing this. I promised I would explain more, but I don't know how. I guess I'll just start wherever I want and hope that it's not too jumbled or confusing in the end. :)
As I mentioned in the last post, the psychiatrist I went to see suspects bipolar disorder. In fact, she is convinced it is that as long as there is nothing physical making me feel the way I've been feeling. This might come as a surprise to some people, but I agree with her completely, not only because of the way I've been feeling, but also because of the constant thought to research more about bipolar disorder in the last few weeks. It was a persistent thought, and the more I researched, the more my mind was opened to the possibility of this being more than just depression.
Before doing my own research, I was very uneducated about bipolar disorder. All I knew was that it included manic episodes (highs) and depressive episodes (lows). I always pictured the highs and lows having to be the most extreme highs and lows possible. I guess my mind might have been influenced by the media, because I didn't think someone could function at all with this disorder. I thought it expressed itself in crazy ways, was always severe, and required lots of treatment.
To say that I am functioning right now is kind of a lie, but I am able to meet the basic needs of my daughter and some of my basic needs too. I'm not crazy, at least not in the way that I thought of mental illness craziness when I was younger :) This is just a chemical imbalance that manifests itself in different ways and will require treatment just like any other physical illness. It's not something that will stop me from reaching my potential. It's not something to be ashamed of. I didn't do anything wrong. It's just God's way of helping me grow and influence others. Maybe I can play a part in dissolving the stigma of mental illness, and this is just a tool to doing that. Who knows what good will come out of this, but I know without a doubt that this has a wonderful purpose.
So I want to explain my manic and depressive episodes, because I'm sure that's something confusing and needing explanation.
The manic episodes manifest themselves in the feelings of anxiety without actually experiencing anxiety. It's not anxiety at all, but that's the best way to describe what it feels like, so that's why I use that word. It's like a misplaced energy that lasts for 4 or 5 days and my heart feels like it's racing (even though it's not), I feel completely restless and can't get comfortable sitting in one position, my chest feels heavy, I can't breath very well, I can't focus, I can't process words when reading (my scripture study is basically useless but I let my eyes scan over the words anyway), my thoughts race constantly, my legs shake, I don't have an appetite, sometimes I throw up or at least I just feel really nauseous, I feel very impulsive, I can't remember things, I can't sleep sometimes, my muscles feel tense, and I want to do things like speed or pull really close next to a car when parking because it feels like I wouldn't actually hit it. I don't know if that last part makes sense at all, but basically I just feel kind of risky. This time isn't all bad though. It's during this period that I feel like I can change the world through sharing my experiences with depression. It's during this time that I want to be open about how I am feeling, and I have a strong desire to help others through my trials.
Then, like the flipping of a switch, the depressive episode starts. I begin feeling numb to all emotion and very frustrated. Some of the frustration is because it feels like the manic episode never existed and that I'm making it all up. The manic time feels so foggy that it just seems like it couldn't have been real. I also feel frustrated and somewhat angry at the fact that I can't cry. The emotion builds for a whole day without the ability to let any of it out, all while feeling like I don't care about anyone or anything. I feel very bothered that I can't feel love for my family. After a day of this, I begin crying and can hardly stop crying for a couple of days. I will cry several times a day with or without a reason. Everything in my life feels like it slows down, including my driving :) This lasts for about two days before suddenly switching back to the manic episode.
I feel pretty overwhelmed and unproductive no matter the episode I am in. I also spend too much time on the computer, because it distracts me and dulls some of the pain. I'm hoping to get better with this as I get more help dealing with how I feel.
So basically, this started in October, about a month ago. I have already gone through 4 complete cycles and am on the fifth. That's why it would be rapid cycling bipolar disorder, because each cycle only lasts about a week.
It's a lot to try to wrap my mind around right now, but I'm hopeful that the psychiatrist can do more to help me as time goes on.
This isn't something I can control. I can't make myself feel better, at least not with the things I've tried so far. It's like the feelings are thrust on me and stay until they choose to leave. Some days are worse than others. Some days, the "anxiety" feels less extreme so I can do some things. Other days, it feels so awful that I curl up in a ball and shake, while praying that it will pass quickly. Some days, I just feel sad, but I don't actually cry all day long. Other days, I can't really control crying. It feels like the only way to release the tension inside my body.
Despite all of this recent struggle, I have more blessings than I can count, and God has made them incredibly obvious to me. From the people babysitting Brooklyn or bringing dinner to the people helping change our two flat tires (in one day!) to the million texts of well wishes on the day of my appointment to there not being frost on my window one morning because all the parking spots were gone the night before and we had to park in another spot. These are all tender mercies that I can only recognize because of the struggle.
I am hopeful and full of faith. I'm not scared or worried. I feel peace. Surely, that's the greatest gift God could give me at this time!