Not coping, managing

I have a difficult illness and, as my former consultant psychiatrist often said, I present an unusual “picture”. He has never seen anybody quite like me and I have never met anybody with bipolar disorder with whom I could identify. I often think, as people talk and relate their symptoms, that if I had their version of bipolarity then I would be living a much different life.

I have been taught by the aforementioned psychiatrist (and many other people) over the years how to manage my bipolarity and to really find out where it and I divide; where I stop and it begins.

I have been taught not to assume that the way I feel when I wake up is anything other than feeling the way other people feel when they wake up. I have been taught that a day that starts badly can finish well and a day that starts well can finish badly but both can be counted as successes.

I have days where the highs and lows change so often that I want and need to rip my brain out but all I can do is take sedatives and wait to be sedated. There are days when I can’t keep awake (no drugs to help with that) and nights when I can’t sleep (no drugs can help with that) and the middle of the road days where medication helps and nights where I succumb to the effects of sleeping pills. There are also days when I touch on normal and sleep comes easily – apart from the ever present fear that I’ll die as soon as I close my eyes.

For the past year or so it’s obvious that my unusual picture has become more unusual and there’s nothing I can do but sit back and wait and see how it pans out. I’m a few months short of a year of much mania and ultradian cycling but I’m sleeping and I am getting a lot of bread baked. I’m not getting much housework done, my personal hygiene takes a knocking at times (I could well be that woman who smells of pee on the bus at times) and my chaotic eating habits are uncontrollable.

Having said all this I manage the illness. I take the medication, I practise mindfulness, I live to spite it not in spite of it, I try to look after myself and I recognise that there are days when I blame the illness for things because I refuse to own up to them.

This is not coping with an illness this is management of an illness.

I don’t cope because, try as I might, I don’t get enough baths in a week, my hair often smells like I have a sheep living on my head, I buy food and then don’t eat it, I get the vacuum cleaner out and it stays out and unused for weeks at a time. Some days I sit and wish I could cry just so I could feel something other than the borderline hysteria that I’ve felt for the past year. I cannot control the irritation that I feel (I don’t suffer fools gladly at the best of times but when I’m manic I want to kill) and it boils over into an anger that isn’t always, if ever, reasonable.

I don’t cope because I have to be alone because I like being alone but I have to go out and be with people I don’t want to see. I want to be with the people I am emotionally close to but I keep them at a physical distance because it’s kinder on them.

I don’t cope with the effects of my illness I manage the symptoms. Big difference.