When you hear the words "I think you have bipolar disorder" spoken by a psychiatrist the first time you know your life has changed forever. I remember holding my first dose of lithium in my hand forever and finally calling a friend to talk me through taking them. I knew it was time, but I was afraid to start the spiraling effects of the medication.
It's funny though. Even at that point, even now when I'm pretty thoroughly educated about what I'm living with, I still am surprised sometimes what is affected. I've been trying to ignore that I've gained quite a bit of weight since increasing to so much depakote. I also just haven't been the best eater lately because it's hard to find stuff that is appealing when I'm hot. I have been surprised this summer at the extent to which the heat can affect me. It has since I was first on lithium, but this is the first year heat has been absolutely disabling. Last week I made it through work and thought I had put in a lot of hours, only to learn I hadn't even hit the number that is supposed to be my minimum.
The thing that I never knew psychiatric illness could change though was my hair. I have known that since I started Depakote of course. Depakote can cause hair loss and it always has for me if my levels were rising. It's one of the ways I can very accurately predict my level without bloodwork. The consensus has always been that I have significant hair loss but that it's toleralbe because I have very thick hair. But this time it has gone farther than ever before, and my beautician is able to see lines where it is thinning. So, I now get to use treatments on it and add even more vitamins to my list. It's one of those things that is easily fixed by backing the dose down a bit, so I'm not that upset, but it's weird.
This week is when I'm going to start my new psychological adventure. It is time, I believe, to begin to determine how to not put myself in the same position I did this last time. I made myself miserable for a long time by insisting on believing that "better" meant back to the way I was, the way I knew myself. Instead, when I finally gave up and accepted that I lost ground that was permanent, I was feeling better (in new ways) in a matter of weeks. I do not ever want to not believe an episode will totally go away (because they have and do), and I don't want to focus on the idea that my path with this illness has been a slow but fairly steady decline over time. That part just goes to the whole idea that the right medicine for me hasn't come along yet. And I do believe it will. But I have to balance having hope with realism, because this last time I kind of messed that up. It was a really bad idea to let myself believe that I wasn't better until I was like I used to be. Nobody is the same now as they were 2 years ago, and illness doesn't change that. It just makes it harder for me to understand the passage of 2 years in a blur.
Let the healing commence.