I want my medications to work.
I want them to work now. I want the myth of the happy pill to sometimes be the reality. I want to know that when I walk up to my pharmacy with a prescription in hand, they are going to give me something that is going to do exactly what I need it to.
That’s not how treatments for mood disorders work. There isn’t a magic menu of pills that your doctor prescribes to you because you have symptom x and another because you have symptom y. The process of treating a mood disorder like bipolar is a life long process. There is no short order pill set or quick fix. There is only try and see.
Right now, I am on Fluoxetine and Risperidone. One in the morning, one at night. It is a combo my doctor and I are hoping will help manage my depression and mania, help me sleep like a normal person, and help my mind focus and stay sharp through the day. Three weeks or so into this treatment and I don’t know if it’s working. I sleep more, my mind is more focused, but damn this depression. It’s still nipping at my heels, still crippling me in the day, still keeping me from working a full week. So maybe we have to change the treatment for my disorder.
This is the constant reality of living with bipolar.
When I start to slide into mania or dip into depression, there is no quick fix to cure me. When I live in the mixed states, my mania and depression co-existing in my chest, there is no easy answer to how I am supposed to function, go to work, be “normal”. Sure, I can do things to manage my moods, to try to prevent the destructive cycles and wild mood swings, but there is nothing I can do to cure them. I can only try to figure out how to live with them.
I feel like such a failure every time I am unable to cope or have a really bad day and have to stay home from work. I should be able to handle this. I should be able to function, after all I am on medications. I am making life decisions to help me be healthy: no refined sugar, little alcohol, sleep more, exercise more regularly. I am treating my mood disorder, yet still I am failing to function. My paychecks are small because I can’t function, which creates more stress which makes me more depressed, which further deepens my cycles of shame at my inability to function, to provide for my family.
I have to tell myself over and over again: medicine isn’t a cure, it is a treatment. It’s not that I am failing when I can’t go to work. It’s not that I am a failure when I keep having hard days when my depression gets the best of me when my mania eats at my sanity. I am not a failure; I am sick.
We all want a cure, a quick fix for our sickness. Some conditions don’t have a cure before the resurrection. Living with mental illness is living with something that must be treated, but may never be cured.
That doesn’t make me a failure. Even when I have hard days when I miss work when I can’t function: it doesn’t make me a failure.
Neither does admitting my need.
The Long Game
Here’s the truth: I have no idea how to live with bipolar and have enough money in the bank. I am having a really hard time going to work right now. I am struggling with my condition, my demons of depression and mania. I hate every second of it, and – as much as it terrifies me – I hate that there is no cure.
Short of some divine miracle, I will be treating my bipolar condition until I die… but I will be alive.
As hard as it is, admitting that I need treatment for my sickness is the best thing I can do. When I stop pretending that I can hold it all together, stop pretending to have found my cure, I am able to take things one day at a time, one medicine at a time, one step at a time. I will find the right medicine mixture my body needs. It may change over time. As hard as that is, it is still my long-term treatment, my long-term management, my long-term living, even with bipolar.
Yes, it is hard right now, but you know I am learning to ask for help. If I had cancer, I would ask my friends, my family, for help when I need it. Why should this illness of the mind be any different? I need to let go of the fear that I am a failure and hold to the fact that some people care about me and my treatment; people love me and want me to live as healthy as I can. that means, sometimes I get propped up, sometimes I get a helping hand, sometimes I ask for help.
So, here is me asking you for help if you can. I miss days of work as my meds change. This makes the paychecks small, but the bills stay the same. If you want to help me and my family, one practical way is financially. You can donate via PayPal here.
It is hard living in treatment. It is hard asking for help. It is hard not feeling like a failure. As hard as all this is, this is what I must do to figure out how to live as healthy as I can.
When you look at those of us with a mental illness, with depression, with anxiety, with bipolar, don’t look at us as if we need to be cured. We need treatment for our conditions. Sometimes, there may be a cure that comes from treatment. Sometimes, there may not be. either way, it’s going to be a process. Treatment is a long-term thing. Stay with us in treatment. Tell us we aren’t a failure. Help us as you can. This is the support we need to succeed in treatment.
It’s a long game. Treatment for mental illness is something we live with for life. At least I am living.