Traumatized by your illness

My psychiatrist said something interesting to me a few months ago. It was that she didn’t want me to become “traumatized by your illness”. At the time I don’t think I understood what that meant but now I think it means being afraid of the current or next episode. It genuinely didn’t occur to me until recently that some people aren’t afraid of getting ill again. I am frightened of it. What’s going to happen next? What am I going to loose next? What exciting new way am I going to find to humiliate myself next?

Related to that is that I also absolutely hate surprises now. Even television series I look on the web to find out what happens next. I don’t like the tension. I don’t want surprise presents either. I want to be able to plan for everything and preferably have a backup plan as well. I can’t do that with rapid cycling. I might be manic next week.

I don’t think it’s that unreasonable for me to assume that the next episode of illness is going to be bad. Isn’t that part of the definition, that it’s bad? I suppose I’ve never found a way of working whilst ill. I’ve always taken time off. Is that because my episodes are more severe than the people who can continue working? I don’t know. It must also be influenced by how they cope with their symptoms. Sleep and in particular waking up has been difficult for me. I don’t even feel like I have a right to say that. I didn’t try hard enough, I could have made more of an effort, complete rubbish that a person can’t wake up when they should. In my defence, the medications I’ve been on over the years have all had the ability to fuck with sleep. But have I had it worse than the people who kept working? Did I make it worse? It doesn’t matter now of course because that is all in the past now.

I’m frightened of bipolar I disorder. It can do all this stuff to me without me getting any choice or say in the matter. I don’t even know what it’s doing sometimes until afterwards. When I loose my insight and have weird thoughts and ideas it isn’t until after it is all over than I can see what it was like. And that leads to the inevitable “is that what is happening right now?” Am I psychotic now but don’t know about it? How are some people not frightened of that? How are they not paralysed by it?

I’m not even convinced I have bipolar disorder anyway. I remember trying to find a description that I did agree with and I came up with ‘intermittent psychological problems’. That I can 100% agree with and I don’t think anyone else would disagree with. But narrowing it done from there I don’t find easy. I agree with the depression. I’ve definitely had depressive episodes. I don’t know if they were as bad as some other people though but I definitely didn’t cope well with the symptoms I got. In my medical file the worst episode would be the one where I got ECT but I don’t think that’s true. I think I’ve had worse ones since then but either a) have hid it better or b) coped with it better and not needed to be hospitalized. It’s the so-called manic symptoms that I have a problem with. I don’t know if what I’ve had was bad enough. I have only had one manic episode though I’ve had several hypomanic episodes – this is according to my medical file. Does it even make that much of a difference? The whole point of a diagnosis is to direct you to treatment and what approximate order to try them in. If a treatment works it works and it doesn’t matter what the diagnosis it. But I want to be sure, 100% sure. I want absolutes and certainty. Trotting out the trite “there’s no absolutes in life” really doesn’t change my underlying belief.

So we have Exhibit A: doesn’t think she has bipolar I disorder but is fucking frightened of what future episodes of said disorder will bring. Even I have to laugh :-)

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