Bipolar II disorder is a strange beast. It’s a mental illness that is comprised mostly of lows, regardless of optimal circumstances, and the highs are not so intense that they would be considered manias. It becomes even more confusing when you suffer from the disorder, but also take medication to treat it. Perhaps people who have suffered from severe nausea can relate to the bewilderment of treating something in your body that is doing everything in its power to hinder the events of your day. I know as a pregnant woman, I dealt with terrible nausea. I would be so nauseas that it would be near impossible to complete the most simplest of tasks. I had to focus all my energy on not throwing up. Making quick movements, or really any movement, was out of the question. Not to mention knowing that food could potentially ease the nausea, but there seemed to be no feasible way to actually eat the item that might help. You get the idea. However, if I took Zofran, a medicine designed to prevent nausea and vomiting, I could function. It did not eliminate the issue completely. It was almost as though my body was still on board to throw up at any given moment, but my brain had been given strict orders otherwise. Or maybe it’s the other way around? Maybe my brain was screaming to my body, “Get it out! Get it all out! You’ll feel better!” But the body just shut down. All I know is that Bipolar II disorder responds in a similar manner to medication. The body and the brain are given different memos and it’s confusing as heck, so the whole system just wants to call it a sick day and go to sleep.
That’s where I’ve been the last few weeks. It’s been a long series of sick days. Many may not notice, as I am still functional, but things aren’t feeling right on the inside. Huzzah! I figured it out. The brain is not in control when it comes to treated Bipolar II disorder, it’s definitely the body. I realize this now, as I think of the feelings I’ve had over the past month or so. The brain sticks to the task it has set out to do during a down cycle – remind Sara how worthless she is, point out the fat roll on her that is getting bigger, convince her that she’ll be happier if she just sleeps, explain to her that her children don’t listen to her because she’s a bad mom, and assure her that any feelings of happiness are a lost cause. The body, thanks to medication, says, “Nonsense!” The body challenges the brain with its plans – I’ll have Sara wash some dishes and do something kind for her husband, I’ll get her on the elliptical machine, I’ll get her out of bed in the morning, I’ll hug her kids and tell them that she loves them, and I’ll jog her memory to recall moments of genuine laughter. The body follows it’s plan of attack and the brain continues on its path and things start to get really befuddled inside.
I’ll provide the perfect example of how something like this unfolds in a real life situation. It was my turn to host book club this past week. I’m not a regular book club attendee. I’m not sure if that’s relevant, but it somehow played a role in my feelings toward the arrival of several women entering my home. The day had arrived. I sent an e-mail reminding everybody about the book club being held that evening. While it was not my intention to send out a reminder late, I got a bit excited about the chance of less people showing up due to my tardiness with the reminder. It’s not that I don’t like these women in the group, it’s all the things the brain had been telling me that I didn’t want to face, “You know they’re going to judge you, right? You know your home isn’t clean enough. You’re not going to have anything healthy that they like, you fatty mcfat fat! I hope you’re ready for everybody to note this month’s book club as the worst yet.” I wish I could say I was exaggerating, but that’s how it goes in my brain in a down cycle. It’s really quite self-centered for me to even believe that people care enough about me to even take the time to make judgments about me, but then again, isn’t that thought just as self-deprecating? That people don’t even think enough of me to judge me? Why would they waste their time? Then the medicated body checks in and yells, “STOP IT!” The body usually chimes in the same time that my husband comes to my rescue. My body is not allowing me to come up with a logical reason to cancel book club, while my husband is baking a cake to serve at the night’s event. Between the body and my husband, the house gets cleaned enough that the brain believes judgments will be minimized, fruit joins the fare with the cake and mozarella sticks that the fatty mcfat fat (AKA – me) craves, book club questions have been planned out, and the living room is set with what is hopefully deemed a suitable comfort level.
The ladies begin to arrive, and my panic lessens, as I realize that few people are actually going to show up. Again, it’s not that I don’t enjoy all the ladies in the group, it’s the perceived lies that my brain has been telling me about the whole of them coming into my home. I have a nice time, or so I have deduced by the laughter I hear coming out of me. I’m not really sure, honestly, how I feel. Things are funny, I know this because the body chose to laugh. I can’t feel the humor though. This is the confusion I speak of. The medicine doesn’t turn on and off according to the emotions that I want to feel and don’t want to feel. It attacks them all. So the highs get muted, especially when I’m in a low cycle. I don’t know why this is, but everything just feels dull. The evening ended and the women left, thanking me for the fun night. I asked myself, “Oh, was it fun?” It wasn’t that I didn’t have fun. I did. Or at least I think I did. Once everyone has gone home, my husband asks me, “So, how did it go?” I answer him with raw honesty since he knows my battle, “It went well, I think. Not as bad as I feared, but I felt pretty numb to it all. I laughed though. That’s gotta be good.” So, that’s how it goes in a low cycle when medicated. It’s a weird feeling to have your body go through the motions, while your brain remains apathetic. The toughest part to swallow is that this is better than unmedicated Bipolar II disorder. I’ve been there before too and it’s equal to the fear I experienced while trapped inside my body during my stroke.
So, that’s it right there. That’s the cycle I’ve been in. That’s the cycle that wants to write an uplifting post, but can’t come up with an uplifting thought to share. That’s one snapshot from a medicated down cycle. I’m certain that the dreary weather we had in January did not help me fight off this down cycle. My hope is that the warmer temps will get me outside long enough to shake this cycle and move back to status quo.