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Two Little Words

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

 This was written a couple of years ago. Many of you have never read it. It kind of seemed appropriate today.

I find it odd that two little words changed my life forever. Oh there were more words spoken at that meeting, 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.


Furry Bottoms September 29, 2010 at 2:06 PM  

The thing that really bothered me a lot in psychiatrists offices regarding those photos on the walls... they HAD to have a camera behind them. I was very sure of it.

And I completely agree with the fact that when you KNOW what you are battling, it becomes a little bit easier. Not a whole lot, but you KNOW now what it is you're dealing with. My therapist of 9 years in CA refused to support any labels whatsoever. Now I wonder why therapy took 9 years and why it wasn't that effective. I moved to WA, and about 2 years later, was referred to a psychiatrist and within 5 minutes he knew what I had and I've been improving ever since. I thought I was bipolar for the longest time, but I'm not. I have borderline personality disorder, which is VERY similar to bipolar in terms of shopping, irritability, mood swings, etc etc etc.

Take the time you need, Diva. Your health is much more important. Strap on your "Don't Mess With Me" boots! ;-)

thepunkrockmom September 29, 2010 at 3:00 PM  

I just heart you and what you write so much.

For me, getting that diagnosis changed my life. For the better in a lot of ways. I felt like, finally, I know what's wrong with me. Someone can help me now.

It's not an easy thing to hear or go through and I give you kudos for saying it and rocking on.

And I just had a similar 'disappearance' from my blog. So you know I'm right there with you!

Keep on keepin on with your awesome self! You rock!

Daisygirl September 29, 2010 at 4:08 PM  

I love every single description you used in this post. I felt like I was sitting there in the office with you. Reading this I wonder if I need to see someone to be diagnosed because somedays I wonder if I am tripolar?

Pat September 29, 2010 at 4:09 PM  

You are brave to "come out of the closet" so to speak and tell everyone of your disease. It is becoming more common - well - we're hearing it more and more - and it's nothing to feel ashamed of. Good for you for being such a strong person. I hope you get continued relief/help for this condition.

Liz Mays September 29, 2010 at 4:34 PM  

Just knowing there is a reason and a label for it is reassuring that you're not alone, that there are answers, that it can be lived with. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful you!

Debbie September 29, 2010 at 5:12 PM  

I am sure its easier for others to say..but I would think facing it makes it less of a threat!! I think you ROCK and I love your blog and your willingness to share YOU!

Classic NYer September 29, 2010 at 6:16 PM  

You know, my brother said a similar thing when they diagnosed him with Asperger's... but your version is so much more eloquent.

Unknown September 29, 2010 at 7:38 PM  

Thanks for sharing this. My boyfriend is bipolar and I'm finally starting to understand why he sometimes acts the way he does. I've been diagnosed with clinical depression and social phobia so I can relate.

Cheeseboy September 29, 2010 at 8:53 PM  

Ahhh, I now I sort of get the name. Interesting history... Interesting how this diagnosis has shaped you.

Holly September 29, 2010 at 10:56 PM  

You have such a talented writing flair! I LOVE the way you say things. I wish I were so articulate in my writing!

I fought my diagnosis first... the more I learned about it, the more I had to accept it. Then I felt like you did... I knew what my dragon was. It was better to learn my triggers... So many in my family just don't get it. That's the hardest part for me. I get more support online than in the reality in my life. Thank you for giving me someone else to relate to. Thank you for letting me share your life on my blog. YOU ROCK!! <3

Rob-bear September 30, 2010 at 3:02 AM  

If you're going to deal with a demon, first you have to know its name. When you know its name, you begin to have control. It's Biblical.

The Green-Eyed Brat September 30, 2010 at 6:28 AM're a cheater! Here I am slaving away trying to come up with clever things to say and new things to post....and you recycle your post?!?! CHEATER!!!!!!

Good thing I love you!!! heh heh

Becky September 30, 2010 at 10:46 AM  

Having a name for the demon inside me was both a blessing and a curse. I knew that finally having a name I could finally get the help I needed to live with it. The problem I faced was I now lived in fear that my ex-husbands would use that diagnosis and take me back to court claiming I was insane, and try and take my children away from me. (they did try, they lost)
The diagnosis bothered some in my family, who refuse to talk about it and are ashamed to have a 'mentally ill' family member. I figure it's their loss.

Unknown September 30, 2010 at 2:01 PM  

The demon I live with is depression. As a matter of fact, my sitter is on the way over so I can go have a follow up w/ my psychiatrist right now.

You are brave.
And you are not alone.

JoJo September 30, 2010 at 2:22 PM  

We all have our demons, but I so admire how you handle yours with a combination of both grace and pizazz. You transformed the concept of bipolar into something attractive and human instead of something psychotic and scary.

Maybe that's not the message you were trying to give in this post, but I just thought I'd let you know how I feel when I hear bipolar now. It's not just a mental illness to me anymore.

InnocentlyGreen June 6, 2011 at 2:04 PM  

I loved this post so much. As sitting on the other side, I notice this behavior in new patients but it's great to see it in writing. And so beautifully, I must add.

Also, it's great to see how far you've come from when this post was first written.

Best of luck from here on as well!

The Bipolar Diva June 6, 2011 at 5:08 PM  

Innocently Green;

Thank you so much!
Your comment put a much needed smile on my face after a pretty crappy day. Now, it just may turn around!

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