It's been more than 12 years since I was diagnosed as a rapid cycling bipolar 1. In retrospect, it was an illness that had been misdiagnosed for most of my life. As a young child, I lived in terror of man who was determined to snuff out my creative energy and joy. I survived, and no one ever knew about the horrors of my days spent in a dark basement, held captive by the man I thought was my daddy. " No good, worthless, sick!" He died when I was 13, and I can so clearly remember the first time depression paralyzed me. The bright and shiny child was gone...I only remembered his words, " No good, worthless.." Junior high and high school were hell for me...The pain was so intense that I began to hurt myself...I took over the abuse he had dealt out to me for all those years.
Although bipolar is a genetic disorder, it's impact can be accelerated by childhood trauma, and undiagnosed, it exacerbates as you age. When I was 22, I had tried to kill myself one too many times and I was hospitalized for two months with the diagnosis of clinical depression. I left that clinical prison determined to find a way to overcome the self-hatred that haunted me for so many years. I went back to school, graduated with honors, and got a job with a Fortune 500 company making very good money for a 26-year old. Taking antidepressants became as routine as brushing my teeth. For years, I somehow hid the abject sorrow that often pulled me down into a blackness that threatened my ability to function. I was later told by doctors that I had developed the ability to overcompensate for the demons that threatened me. For more than two decades, I rose through the ranks of non-profit communications and management. Somewhere after the love of my life died in my arms, I began to lose the battle with that unnamed demon.
I had no idea what was wrong with me...I couldn't control the violent rages that contorted me. I began to drink heavily, grateful for the numbness it gave me. I began to lose my ability to function on a sustained basis, and my successful career slowly slipped out of my hands. I quit drinking and went to AA meetings two or three times a day. Despite my efforts, I wasn't getting any better, and I was referred to a new doctor. After talking with me for less than 10 minutes he asked me if I had ever been tested for bipolar, known by most at that time, as manic-depression. I thought it strange when he, almost gleefully, said, "You're not an alcoholic; you're bipolar."
I was suddenly at a new starting line, still it took another five years to find the right combination of drugs that would finally allow me to start living fully again. Those years were not very pretty, and the friends began to fall by the wayside. I do not blame them. My life hung by a tenuous thread...I almost didn't make it...but then I did. I learned the medications that became a part of my life, actually protected my life.
This is a long story that is finally meandering to the point. Many individuals with bipolar disorder quit taking their meds when they start feeling better. As I often was, in those early days, they are seduced by the incredible euphoria that initiates the first few days of mania. They succumb to the meteoric moments that will always end in sorrow and devastating pain. It's not worth it, I assure you.
I'm not crazy about being on an array of powerful drugs. They subdue me, dull me down, and slow my metabolism to a crawl, but they have also allowed me to rejoin the world of the living...Some days, I even forget I am bipolar. Sometimes, I still feel the pull of depression...Sometimes, I don't want to sleep, so tempted to fly across the skies...I have to resist, and I HAVE to take those meds.
I know you only asked what time it is, and I have belabored how to build a watch. Bottom line is, take your meds. If they aren't helping you, keep working with your doctor until you find the perfect "cocktail" for your disorder. Educate yourself about what you are taking and why. Be sure to know the side-effects. I almost died from the side-effects of one drug. Mostly, don't give up. It's not unusual for it to take years to find the right combination of meds. Hang TOUGH...It's worth it when you reach the other side!
(It's 10:49 p.m.)