Tuesday, February 16, 2010
I find it odd that two little words changed my life forever. Oh there were more words spoken at that time, but none as powerful as those words consisting of just 15 letters. They were about to impact my life in ways I could have never imagined.
As I sat in the doctor's waiting room I surveyed the photographs she had chosen for her walls. They were black and white photographs of people of all ages. Some were happy, some were not. Some were on the beach and some lying in the grass. If you've ever watched the Sopranos you know what I'm about to say. Just as Tony did, I looked at each picture carefully trying to find the hidden meaning the psychiatrist was trying to convey with each choice. Were there hidden meanings, or was I just being paranoid from sitting in this office?
I flipped through magazines while wondering whether to stay or to run. I knew that this meeting could provide me with life changing information and I wasn't sure I was ready to deal with it. On the other hand I was curious. Was I my own enemy? Did I have an enemy? Did it have a name?
My life has been anything but calm. From my early days I remember the turmoil as it sometimes surrounded me, pulling into its depths. At the time I wondered why these tumultuous times wouldn't release their grips on me, now I wonder if I was I that couldn't release my grip on them. It's strangely funny how introspective I became waiting for the verdict.
In my primary care doctor's office, I chat with the staff, look at magazines, play Sudoku on my iPhone and look forward to seeing the doctor that we have become friends with. This time was different. I was nervous. I was a little bit afraid and I was certain. I was certain of the verdict she would issue and it would be a life sentence.
Within minutes, that seemed like hours, the door opened and the doctor appeared. She was about my age, 45 or so, attractive, tall and thin. Her blonde hair fell to her shoulders and flipped up slightly on the ends. She was casually dressed in black pants and a red long sleeve shirt. She didn't wear much makeup, but she didn't need it, her big blue eyes captured my attention at once as I'm sure they did with everyone that saw her. She most definitely didn't fit my stereotypical image of a psychiatrist.
Her voice was soft and calm as she called me into her office and introduced herself. Her name was Linda and she had been referred by my regular therapist, another Linda. Her office was done in neutral colors, but stylish with its classic furniture. Though not small, it was cozy and comfortable. There was no couch, no butterfly net and no straight jackets. There were shelves filled with books, kids' toys and boxes of tissues.
I looked at the chairs trying to decide which one to choose and if that might mean anything in the evaluation. I mean, if chose the chair on the left am I psychotic, if I chose the chair on the right was I a hypochondriac? I decided to choose paranoid and took the chair in the middle.
I sat down scrutinizing my posture. How were my hands? Was I sending off uncooperative body language, or was I too eager for a diagnosis, making it invalid? I thought I'd better calm down before she called in the men with the nets, who I was sure were in the other room. I could feel anxiety-induced beads of sweat forming at my hairline. They were beginning to drip down my neck and to the small of my back. I needed to calm down before I sealed my own fate, a fate worse than death, the fate of being admitted to the Adventist "Behavioral Center" otherwise known as the Cuckoo's Nest.
She began with asking me the usual questions about childhood, parents, siblings and then the more difficult ones regarding present experiences and traumas. The entire meeting took almost three hours. As she spoke, I became much more comfortable with her. I calmed considerably and stopped looking for hidden syringes and various other torture devices.
She focused on my shopping, my forgetfulness, irritability, depression and mood related issues over all. In the third hour of the evaluation she turned at her waist, put her notepad down on her walnut desk. She then turned back toward me, leaned forward, folded her hands and uttered the life changing words: Bipolar Disorder. I believe her exact words were "I feel comfortable with the diagnosis of bipolar disorder II."
Well I'm glad someone's comfortable, but it certainly wasn't me. I was thinking of that nice big check I had just written her and thinking "No, shit you're comfortable!"
Bipolar Disorder II, not the classic disorder everyone associates with manic-depression. There are no delusions, no psychotic behavior, none of the serious things usually associated with the condition. But there is shopping, irritability, severe depression, mood swings and all that shit. Wow, I'm feeling more comfortable every second.
However the more I think about it, the more I agree with the diagnosis. When you know your enemy, you can fight them offensively. I like that my enemy has a name and it's not Diva. It's going to be a challenge, but really I'm the same person I've always been, just now I know why things get so skewed sometimes and why my moods can fall so quickly. I wasn't going to tell anyone, but I am the same person, I'll keep the good and work on the bad. And now you'll know when I disappear for awhile or am quiet, it's not you, it's me and I will be ok. Yeah, I think I'm getting more comfortable every day.