I imagine my life in a series of metaphors. That habit has grown as I've kept this blog, lived the last year of my life and had to explain a lot more than I used to what happens in my head. To share with someone who doesn't understand mental illness, even well-meaning people who just can't wrap their heads around it, a metaphor can neutralize buzz words and offer a more relatable explanation.
As I delve into this next level of my . . . I struggle for a word here. Recovery? I've accepted that recovery, for me, is not a reality. Treatment? I suppose this fits, but it sounds so clinical and the path of my life, of my "treatment," hasn't been sterile the way that those words connote. Perhaps I will just say care and hope that the remainder of my words are able to better convey my feelings. As I delve into this next level of my care, I'm stuck feeling like I'm starting from scratch but with a history that belies truly beginning.
You see, I'm about to see a psychiatrist for the first time in more than six months. I'm also seeking a new diagnosis. Seeking? Yes. Although I have suffered the same, obvious symptoms of depression for years, when I stopped rushing through my life and started living with some awareness, it became clear to me that a diagnosis that I once greatly feared for its stigma may very well provide me the relief that my several stints in therapy, in the hospital and on various anti-depressants have failed to.
I have to take a deep breath before I type these words. I have said them to many close friends, but those people support me and won't judge. They won't stereotype me when even I have stereotyped. I believe I am bipolar. I think it's been missed for years because I have only sought therapy in the midst of my very worst bouts of depression. Once I feel better, I stop treatment. It makes it difficult for a professional to recognize the ebb and flow of the cycles of mania to depression and back.
I won't pretend it hadn't weighed on my mind in the past. In fact, when I first started the longest stretch of therapy that I've ever received, my first explanation was that I thought I might be bipolar. It was quickly dismissed because, admittedly, I was living a very stressful, unsupported life with a history that explained a simple diagnosis of depression and anxiety disorders. It was readdressed as I started my hospitalization and I simply said I didn't know. I acknowledged to my psychiatrist there that I certainly fit the criteria, but that I wasn't sure. It's easy to find something you relate to in a list of "symptoms." Everyone could. So, we watched and waited. Unfortunately, I stopped watching and waiting. I obediently took medication that didn't do enough for me, until I decided it wasn't doing enough and then I quit taking it. I made massive changes in my professional and personal life, all of which alleviated a lot of daily stresses I was previously experiencing.
When I stopped with the medication and ultimately with any therapy at all, I stopped being present with my mental illness. I was focused on other things, celebrating unrelated victories, growing my life in other ways. But for me, that meant ignoring what was happening in my mind. Then I started crying again. I spent too much time sleeping. I started to pay attention again.
So I'm heading back into this variety of self-exploration. I need some relief from the mess in my head again. I'm going to give it more time and see it through. So what's with all the metaphor talk? What's the big deal? I imagine it like a broken bone that didn't heal right. It feels better than it did when you broke it. You can walk on that leg again, but every time that you do, you notice it's just not quite right. You have some pain, and you've lost some of your range of motion. It's not unbearable, but you know it will get there eventually. You know that to fix it properly, there going to need to rebreak the bone. And you know that it's going to really hurt to go back in. You're starting from scratch in that you've got to start at the beginning (with the broken bone or the life stories) and yet you've got scar tissue and baggage and all that plays a role in this starting over.