I have now been diagnosed and on multiple medications for the last two-and-a-half years. I hate taking my medications, but I continue to do so because I know what’s waiting for me if I don’t. My medications have been tweaked and changed (and I’m sure they will still continue to be), but I’ve gotten to a pretty stable point now, which is good. I do have to fight the urge to flush all of the pills down the toilet from time-to-time, but at this point, I’m holding off that urge quite well.
It actually took a couple of years to get the official Bipolar II diagnosis, as my doctors kept watch over what was happening and comparing it to the past. I’ll go into more detail on this further down in this post, but originally my psychiatrist knew I was bipolar, but wasn’t sure if it was type I or type II. This year is when I finally received the definite type II diagnosis. It’s strange really. I sat there in my psychiatrist’s office and began to cry. I did not cry in her office two-and-a-half years ago when she first diagnosed me with bipolar, yet two years later I was crying, as if it was the first time I had heard it. I realized afterward, that there was a part of me that still wished she were wrong… that all of my doctors were wrong. I guess my tears were the last bit of denial that was leaving my body; denial that I thought had long gone. I think it finally hit me how real this all is. It isn’t a game or a pinch-me-and-then-I’ll-wake-up moment. This is very real, and as much as it hurts to hear, I need to deal with it in the best way that I can. It hasn’t been easy to come to this realization, but thanks to three blessings from God, I have finally reached the point of accepting my diagnosis.
The First Blessing
The day that I was given the soft diagnosis is one that I’ll never forget, but a couple of months prior to that day, my new primary physician had already told me that she believed that I was showing signs of bipolar II. I still remember the feeling of electricity shooting through my heart upon hearing that information. I did not believe it. I had not even heard of a type II before, and thought it had to be some mistake. She looked at me with so much care and concern and urged me to meet with a psychologist who she said was great. I did not care about that, though. At that point, the therapist could have been the reincarnation of Sigmund Freud himself and I still would not have wanted to see her. I was not going to go to therapy. So, when I went home, I told my mom what the doctor had said. Something strange happened that day, though. I thought for sure that my mom would say I didn’t need a therapist. She comes from the old-school mentality, and so I thought for sure she’d say don’t worry; it’s not that bad. I felt as if I was a little kid again and just wanting my mommy to say it was going to be all right and that she would take care of it. But, instead of that reaction, I received the complete opposite. My mom lovingly said, “Well, if it’s going to help you, then maybe you should do it.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My mom was telling me to go to therapy, something that I never thought she’d do. I told her I didn’t want to go. I wanted so desperately to feel better and stop the pain, but therapy just seemed so pointless. How on earth can talking to someone you don’t even know help? I thought about it for a bit and then asked my mom to make the appointment, because I knew that I wouldn’t do it myself. My mom made the call right then.
The Second Blessing
So, how did that meeting with the therapist go? Well, I’ll put it this way, two-and-a-half years later she’s someone who I look forward to seeing every single week.
It took a while for me to adjust to the whole “sitting on a couch and talking to a complete stranger” idea, but as time has gone by, it feels almost natural now. It’s as if I’m going to a non-judgmental friend’s house and sitting on her couch.
However, it was not always like that. In the beginning, my therapist agreed with my primary doctor and felt strongly that bipolar was present. My therapist didn’t stop there, though. She now wanted me to also see a psychiatrist who she highly recommended. Ok, one couch-sitting, emotional puke fest was all I could take; so, there was no way I was going to see a psychiatrist. I declined the recommendation. I was barely getting used to talking to a psychologist, and to me, a psychiatrist was on a level that I was not ready to visit. So, over the next couple of months, my therapist talked with me, listened and never judged a single thing that I said. The thoughts and experiences were slowly coming out, but as I saw a face looking back at me with a caring smile and eyes, I felt them flow more easily with each passing session. Something was happening to me… I was beginning to trust her.
For two-and-a-half months, my therapist continued to gently offer me the card for the psychiatrist, and each time I’d shake my head and look to the floor in shame. But, then, one day a thought entered my mind.
Entering the Time Warp
You see, over the years, I had tried talking to doctors who never had the time to discuss what I had to say. It was my fault too, though, because I’d never make an appointment just for that reason alone. I never felt like my emotional issues were worthy of their own appointment. I would just bring my problems up at appointments that I made for other ailments.
Years earlier – when everything had first started to rear its ugly head – I had talked to one of my doctors about having hot flashes. I had no idea whether or not that’s what I was experiencing, but from what I had heard and read about them, that’s what I thought was going on with me. I also told this doctor about how I had been having some issues with my emotions, and that I would have periods of feeling really great, and others where I just felt down. She just nodded and said, “Uh, huh.” She continued to write in my chart. I then told her that I was often getting light-headed and having what seemed like hot flashes. I went on to describe the frightening experiences that were taking place. That’s when I got her precious reaction. She looked up from the chart and literally began to laugh at me along with her nurse who was still in the room. The looks on their faces still make me clench my fists. She then proceeded to say, “Oh honey, you’re too young for hot flashes.” And, as I sat there dissolving from my embarrassment of sounding so stupid, she just went on to write more notes about my exam in the chart. So, the next time I went back to see her…. Uh, yeah right! I never went back to her again.
I’m not sure what my luck with doctors is all about, but the following year, I went to see my new primary doctor at the time. My long-time primary physician since childhood had retired a couple of years earlier, so I had been in limbo as to which doctor I would make my primary. I went in to see this new doctor for another medical ailment, but when I got the chance I mentioned about how I had often felt light-headed and as if I was going to pass out. I did not mention the “hot flashes” again though. But, it was the same problem that I had been dealing with, except I felt as if it was getting worse. I was relieved when she did not laugh at me. No, she didn’t laugh at all. Instead, this doctor proceeded to try and make me pass out in her office.
She first had me lay flat on my back, and then sat me up really quickly. Then back down really quickly, and then back up once again. She repeated this a few times. I didn’t pass out, but my lunch sure wasn’t having a good time. I asked her afterwards what the point of that was, and she told me that if I had passed out then she would have known what was causing my problem. I mean what the heck? I was telling her about my symptoms because… well… um, I did not want to pass out. I was trying to prevent the very thing she was trying to induce. When she couldn’t make me lose consciousness there in her office, she determined that I was fine and that nothing was wrong. Ah, ok, good to know. Next time I feel like I’m going to pass out, I’ll just remind myself of that brilliant medical advice, and all will be perfectly fine. Maybe, there is some medical procedure for such a test, but the way she handled it made me feel more like I was being played a fool, as if she was just humoring me. I didn’t like that my previous doctor had laughed in my face, but at least she didn’t try to knock me out.
So, yeah… two doctors down and out of my life for good. Oh, and I have now learned from my current primary and psychiatrist that the symptoms of the “hot flashes”, light-headedness, and feelings of passing out (which still happen) were the result of my anxiety, that I had no idea I even had back then. Thanks for nothing, docs!
The third and most recent experience with a doctor not listening, or helping, occurred about four months prior to seeing my mom’s doctor (one deserving of that title), in 2009. I saw my, then, primary physician regarding what I had been feeling. For the first time in my life, I had made an appointment for my feelings only. It was scary and emotional. I cried throughout the appointment and felt embarrassed that I was sitting in this room with someone talking about my emotions of all things. In my opinion, this doctor is an excellent medical doctor. However, when it came to the issue of emotions, his view turned into a more natural solution. He told me to go home and start doing breathing exercises, and to also discuss with my family what I was feeling. There’s one problem with that last recommendation… that was part of the issue. I could not speak to people about what I was feeling. It had taken me that long just to make an appointment with him, and here he was telling me to just go and talk to my family. I went home, feeling disappointed that I was being given such flimsy advice, but as I said before, this doctor is a great medical physician. So, I also had hope that maybe he was correct in the recommendation of breathing exercises. I wanted to believe that he was right and that it was all going to be ok if I just followed his advice. I knew the talking with my family was not going to happen, but the breathing was something that I could try. So, I gave it a shot, but the advice did not work at all. My depression only got worse.
It is for that reason that I never wanted to go to another doctor for my issues again. By that summer when I was being encouraged by my mom and cousin to seek help, I kept refusing because I did not need to be told to do breathing exercises again. I did not need another doctor laughing in my face. And, I definitely did not need some kooky doctor trying to force me into unconsciousness. I was tired of being either ignored or brushed off, and I was disgusted with feeling as if what I felt was insignificant. All any of those doctor visits ever accomplished, was making me feel even more insignificant than I already did.
The Third Blessing
So, back through the time warp and onto my therapist’s couch, from which she sat across. She was once again offering the psychiatrist’s contact information. I looked at her, and all of those experiences came rushing back. For so long, I had wanted someone to listen. I did not want anyone to laugh or brush me off. I wanted someone to give me an answer. I wanted someone to actually try to really help me. I had desired a definitive answer for so long. And yet, here I sat pushing away the offer to finally get that answer.
That is when I took the phone number.
I remember walking into my psychiatrist’s office for the first time. I felt smart. I was going to do something different this time. After getting the possible diagnosis of bipolar II from my new primary doctor, I had gone into my therapist’s office and told her what my doctor had said. This time I wasn’t going to do that. No way did I have bipolar and I was going to prove them all wrong. And, I was going to let this professional figure out the truth, without any possible coaching from myself. I knew that if I didn’t say anything about bipolar then she wouldn’t see it. I wasn’t about to put that thought in her head. So, I went in there and just started talking and answering the questions she was asking. So many questions that day.
And, by the end, I sat there as she looked at me and the words came out of her mouth. “It seems like you have bipolar. It’s somewhere between type I and type II, but that’s something we’ll have to figure out over time.”
I was beginning to feel physically ill, except I did not yet realize it. I remember hearing her say this and just nodding very matter-of-factly. As if she had just told me the sky was blue. But, then I went into a tunnel. She kept talking because I could see her lips moving, but all of the words were jumbled. I was in a fog. She was not supposed to give me that diagnosis. She was supposed to say something else. I’m not even sure what I would have rather been told, but I didn’t want to hear what she was saying. I sat there, and as she wrote the prescription for medication, I looked at her with a mind filled with disbelief. How did I get here? How did I reach this point? I was a college graduate. I had dreams. I had goals. I had always tried to live a good life. I was once a little girl who just wanted to grow up and be every profession that ever crossed her mind. And yet, there I was, watching a psychiatrist’s hand write out a prescription of medication for my screwed up brain. And, as I left her office, went down in the elevator, and back to my car, I did not even know what was moving me along. I just knew I wanted to get home.
Initially, I did not want to take my medication. It took me about a month to get myself to finally start my first medication, as I was so scared. I’ll talk more about my fears and such in another post, but for now I’ll just say that putting drugs into my body that will affect my brain was, and still is, terrifying to me. All medication affects the brain, but there’s something different about these types of meds. The brain is the engine that navigates us day-in and day-out. And, now I was supposed to take medications that are meant to specifically alter that engine.
Two-and-a-half years later, those medications are what allow me to function everyday. It’s taken a lot of work to reach this point, but I’m here, and I continue to work hard each day. Every week, I sit and talk with a therapist who does not judge, does not push her own expectations onto me, and who gives me a place to safely learn about what is going on with me. My psychiatrist is always there and I see her once every one to two months, depending on how I’m doing. And, how about the doctor who started it all? Well, I recently saw my primary at the end of last year. She said that she was so happy to see a smile on my face. She got teary eyed and gave me a big and long hug. She told me that she knows it hasn’t been easy, but thinks I’m doing so well and that I look happier than that first time I sat in her office, over two years ago. Her hug did something to me that day, and I left her office, thanking and praising the Lord.
That’s right! Jesus Loves My Messed Up Brain!
I know that the Lord is with me. He put my primary physician, psychologist and psychiatrist in my path. They are three blessings that He gave me. He wanted me to get help and knew that these three doctors were the best to finally reach through to me. He put them in my life, and it’s with His strength and loving embrace that I am still here today.
So, can someone suffer from mental illness and still have a strong faith in the Lord? The answer is a resounding, “Yes!”
How do I know this? What makes me so certain and confident in my answer? Simple. I have Bipolar, Anxiety, OCD and I love Jesus. I love Him with all of my heart, the very heart that He gave me. I know what sacrifice He made for me – and every other human being – when He died on the cross that day so long ago.
No matter what may be going on in my brain, I know that He still loves me. He gave me my brain. He made my brain. The chemical imbalance that is occurring in that very brain He created, is not due to sin. It is not due to punishment. It is due to the fact that God wants me to deal with this for some reason. He’s allowing me to feel what I feel for some purpose that is not yet clear to me. And, no matter what goes on inside of my brain, things in my heart are doing just fine. I’m not speaking in an anatomical or physiological sense, but rather a spiritual sense. I mean if a surgeon was to open up my heart tomorrow, he’s not going to see Jesus sitting inside, looking up at him and waving. Although, wouldn’t that be awesome?
However, as I said, I’m speaking in a spiritual sense. I believe we have two kinds of hearts: the anatomical heart and the spiritual heart. One can be completely broken, while the other works just fine. And, as long as we have Jesus inside of our spiritual heart, then we’re ok. “Here I am! I stand at the door [of your heart] and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” Revelations 3:20 (NIV). I talk with Him, pray to Him, and love Him. So, if I have welcomed Him into my heart and life, and can feel Him inside of me, then why can’t He still be with me through my struggles? I know that I’m nowhere near perfect (who is?), and that I need to read the Bible more (I’m trying). But, I’m not delusional. I know that I feel Him with me. And, as far as I’m aware, Jesus will not just say, “Ok, I’m sorry, but your brain is too messed up, so I’m out of here!” The only way Jesus will leave (yet, always return if we ask and let Him) is if I kick Him out for good, and I’m not doing that.
So, as I live my life trying to balance my brain’s teeter-totter, Jesus is with me. I know it, and no one can tell me otherwise. That’s what I try to remind myself whenever I feel like I want to just give up. I keep trying to hold onto the idea that God must have a purpose for me, and that these struggles are a part of that purpose.
What God has planned for me, I do not know, but I sure look forward to finding out.