When people talk about bipolar disorder, they generally talk about the highs and lows - hypo/manic, mixed, and depressive episodes. For us who have bipolar disorder, those are the times we need help, so naturally those are the times we talk about how we're feeling and go looking for support, advice or answers.
I wonder, though, whether the lay public - those whose idea of bipolar disorder comes only from the media - thinks of bipolar disorder as being purely "manic depression." We know that there are periods between episodes when things are relatively stable - in fact, the purpose of treatment is to make those stable or partly stable periods as long as possible. Yet these periods get very little attention.
I've been searching for stability for over a year now, and although some of my depression turned out to be because of an undiagnosed physical illness, I didn't completely come out of depression the moment the illness was treated. Deadlines went unmet, bills went unpaid, work remained undone and backed up even more, the house remained a catastrophic mess.
In a brief hypomanic phase after the blood sugar medication kicked in, I started inviting people to a party at my house in July. I had plenty of time to catch up with everything and clean the house because, of course, I was going to be stable now. I was going to have energy and focus. I'd be able to cope with everything.
Wrong. The depression returned, and the invitations had already gone out. Over the next three months my mood bounced between depression and normalcy, and I struggled to do everything that would be needed.
Three days before the party, I had outpatient surgery on my left ear to remove a basal cell carcinoma and the surrounding skin. The next day, my houseguests arrived. Two days later - party time. I coped.
My houseguests - two wonderful young adults who are the children of my heart - and some good friends who were experienced party-givers, made a world of difference. Without them, I'd have been lost, the party would have been a disaster, and I'd have turned into a wreck. Instead, everyone had a good time - including me.
Now my "children" have gone home. The house, that was cleaned up pretty well for the party, is trashed again. My ear still hurts and I'm wrung out by the heat wave that has blanketed our area. But I am not depressed. I may not get a lot done, but I'm not agonizing over it, I'm not paralyzed by thoughts of how much has to be done, I'm not a basket case.
There are, as is often true in periods between episodes, lingering symptoms of depression. I have to kick myself, but I can kick myself. I have to force myself to eat and am only getting one good meal a day. But compared to a depressive episode, this is - decent.
I hope it continues.
Published On: July 19, 2010
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