Wednesday, September 01, 2004

The Famous Face

I'm watching an interview with Jane Pauley on Dateline NBC. The former anchor confesses in her book, Skywriting: A Life Out of the Blue, that a mismanaged course of steroids combined with antidepressants tossed her into mood swings; she was eventually diagnosed bipolar.

Listening to her talking about how it feels to be bipolar is like looking into a verbal mirror. Her description of a mixed state—like trying to thread two constantly shaking needles—is beautiful and accurate. Being in a mixed state, that is, being manic and depressed at the same time, is so infuriating and exhausting. When I'm manically depressed (or is it depressively manic?), I feel so agitated and impulsive, self-destructive and anxious, angry and lazy. It's like having someone constantly poking you in the arm and being helpless to stop it and so your annoyance grows to a fever pitch.

The end of her interview is talking about her father, which I find useless in a discussion of bipolar disorder. I guess it's supposed to be tracing her problems to a far away root cause or something. Either that, or she's trying to sell books.

The main differences between Pauley and the millions of bipolar sufferers in the world is that most people with bipolar disorder have had it for years and can see its impact on their young adulthood and beyond. Most don't have the money to hire the best psychiatric care and so, suffer through years of misdiagnosis. Most are shuffled between doctors and therapists and so, are forced to reinvent the wheel at every turn.

Personally, in my lifetime, I've been seen by six psychiatrists. Two were university health center staff (the two worst, might I add), one worked in a psychiatric hospital, and three were in private practice. From my first appointment at 17, it took 3 years until I arrived at my diagnosis of bipolar II. The next year, shrink #5 backed off that diagnosis and when I dumped her and took up with shrink #6, I was re-diagnosed as bipolar II. The fun never ends.

I wish I could be manic again. It's been a really long time since I've been plain ole hypomanic and that's all I want. After everything else psychiatry has done to me, you think they'd be able to perk me up a bit! :)