Sunday, July 18, 2004

The Grieving Period

In a recent post on a bipolar yahoo group, one woman mentioned that she is still grieving over her recent diagnosis. I suppose that I've never given much thought to the anguish I've felt over my own label.

I felt a deep sense of loss when I finally realized that I will be on medication for the rest of my life. Unlike a cold, my mental flu is chronic. This battle will never end. I will always have to struggle to navigate my moods, to ensure that my illness causes the least amount of damage to those around me. I am always going to be cognizant of the slightest variation in my emotional state. I will always have to worry about whether a day of sadness will push me into months of depression. I have to be wary of my happiness, lest I tilt into mania so intense that I'm ready to exhaust my lover with sexual energy.

I have to tiptoe through life's ups and downs and for the longest time, I felt bitter about it. I felt persecuted. I was angry that I was feeling so anxious, so depressed, so hyper and irritable. I suppose I still mourn over the memory of the day I realized that other people did not have to struggle so hard. They can take for granted their emotional and physical calm. They don't understand that some of us have to fight for our sanity, for the ability to wake up every morning.

I mourn for the notion that I will never be a survivor of this disease. It will never go into remission. It can only be managed. It can not be cured. I will be sick forever. I will always be treading water while others can stand on solid ground. When I get pregnant, I will have to decide whether to withdraw from my medications or to continue them at risk to my child. When my babies are born, I have to decide whether I should breastfeed when my medications are excreted in breast milk. This illness will always impact my life.

Those are scary thoughts. They overwhelmed me at one point and I fought them. I think that my half-hearted suicide attempt was born of my despair and frustration of truly experiencing those thoughts. Now I've come to slowly accept them because fighting reality is simply fruitless. It's too painful to foster the hope that I can recover when all current medical trends indicate that I cannot.

I suppose a part of me will always grieve for what might have been, for the happy ending that has become increasingly elusive. But overall, I have learned to be humble, to accept what I cannot change.

I've been trying to convince myself that being bipolar makes me special somehow. I experience emotions more deeply than other people. I can tell you what true despair feels like. I know what it's like to be utterly hopeless, to feel as though Lucifer is hiding under the bed torturing me. Conversely, I know absolute joy. I know what it's like to be so passionate that everyone is a potential sexual partner.

Life will never be boring. And maybe that's the silver lining on this cloud.