Friday, June 20, 2014

My Struggle with Starting Medication

I had an appointment with a psychiatrist last month. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I suspected that I had the illness so I studied it. After my research, I expected the news so it was not surprised. 

Bipolar disorder, formally known as manic depression, is a mood disorder. A person with the disorder experience extreme mood swings between depression and mania. Most people are familiar with the term depression. I like to refer to it as depressions because there is more than one type.

There is unipolar depression (what most people are familiar with) and bipolar disorder. Unipolar depression has one pole (a unicycle has one wheel) and bipolar disorder has two poles (a bicycle has two wheels). Imagine that those poles are at an extreme distance from each other. 

A person with unipolar depression would stay at “one pole” and experience moods that are low such as severe and chronic sadness, feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness, lethargy and a lack of energy or motivation. 

The other pole is OPPOSITE of the first. It displays inflated self esteem, decreased need for sleep, racing thoughts, increased goal-directed activity and excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences. This is considered to be mania. 

A person with bipolar disorder experience phases of mood swings between the poles, the lows of depression and the highs of mania. Individuals without the illness do not exhibit the extreme shifts in mood.

The psychiatrist prescribed me a mood stabilizer. I don't want to take them. I consider the manic stage euphoric and intoxicating. The doctor told me that when I am on medication the manic phases will go away. The feelings and behavior during a manic phase is not normal. People would not consider it to be a big deal because they haven’t experienced mania. 

If I started medication I am afraid that I will feel numb. Imagine being high on life and suddenly someone tells you that those feelings were abnormal and dangerous and that you need to be sedated. Goodbye to the euphoria and the excess energy. Those feelings are from the disorder, they are not you.

I don’t know who I am anymore. I've always prided myself in being fun, spontaneous, carefree, a bit wild and crazy at times. I don’t know who I will be once I start my meds. It has taken me a long time to accept myself for who I am. This is the only “me” I know. What if I don’t like who I become? I don’t want to feel like a shell of the old me. I feel like my identity is being stripped away. And I’m really scared of losing myself.  Will my hopes and dreams fade away?

It took a few weeks before I filled the prescription. Countless times I would hold the bottle in my hands and stare at the label as I contemplated if I even wanted to take it at all. The decision to begin medication was tough.
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