I am in hospital, waiting for this monster to decide. Which way will it go? Mania and worse, or depression and worse. Yes, it gets worse than both of those. Mania can tip into psychosis. Depression can turn catatonic. At least it can for me. We are nowhere near either…yet. But it can happen within hours. I’ve learnt from bitter, repeated experience… and if it does, this will be the last you’ll hear from me for a while.
But right now, I am just caught in deep, deep water.
It always happens suddenly. One minute I’m happily paddling in the shallows, with everyone else, admiring the colourful reef. Sure, there are sharks out there somewhere, but they are safely wrapped in perspective. I’m just swimming through the normal currents of life, children and husband by my side, holding down a good job in my chosen profession. Getting some writing done. Of course, we all have days when it feels like we are swimming against the current. We get cranky with each other and life. But we’re a pretty resilient bunch. We hold each other to the surface when one of us needs a breath…my family and friends.
So what happened over the course of this weekend?
A rogue current rushed in and swept me out to sea. The current became a whirlpool, sucked me under and pushed me down into a forced free dive. Deeper and deeper. The light faded. Black out, and suddenly I no longer know which way is up to the surface, and which way is deeper. I don’t dare panic. That would speed up my heart and oxygen consumption, and I’m down here on one breath. No scuba gear. Surface too fast and risk death by decompression sickness, dive deeper and get crushed to death by the water pressure.
But I’ve been disorientated at this depth before, and (so far) have made it back to the surface every time. The reason: I’m not trapped down here alone. I have the ultimate dive buddies. An excellent psychiatrist and private hospital care.
Managing wobbly Bipolar 1 Disorder is oh so tricky. Too much anti-depressant medication and you risk a manic/psychotic swing. Too much anti-psychotic medication and you risk descent into depression. Neither are easy states to return from. Most successful treatment is the result of trial and error. So, you need a team of medical professionals you trust to walk you through that process.
Many times I go into hospital for this illness clinging to a shred of hope that it will be a short admission (less than a month), only to emerge many months later, having gone through multiple medication changes, sometimes a course of electroconvulsive therapy, and my sense of self obliterated.
May this be the time the shred wins.