Simply put, it looks like I have bipolar disorder. While the discovery is a relatively recent event, it only makes sense after an 18-year history of questions and loose ends that occasionally bobbed to the surface for a fleeting moment before quickly re-submerging. It’s not just that there were long periods of time that I got by just fine without anti-depressants, it’s that I did so with a suspicious lack of a need for sleep, especially for a teenager, and a tremendous amount of energy. I was quite the little insomniac, staying up all night (and even getting through the next day), often twice a week.
See, I was diagnosed with major clinical depression but unbeknownst to everyone at the time, that was only half the story. I never did really have all the traditional symptoms. Sure, I felt hopeless, useless, and sad, and I had aches and pains and a general feeling of constant malaise for a while, but then that gave way to utter restlessness and I had this mild on-top-of-the-world feeling…at least, until the others in my life got in the way. I resented the people involved for dampening the vibe.
Since, of course, clinical depression is simply a Prozac or Zoloft deficiency and our family let the drug lords with stethoscopes have their way in those days, I had my stint with both drugs, starting with the former. Sure, it lifted me a few levels, but then the progress tapered off. I paid a price for the little boost; my creativity diminished, and when it did occasionally manifest, it was often forced and the fruit was lame. Within a year, I took the initiative to take myself off the meds. Withdrawal symptoms suck, even if they’re mild. Trust me, it’s not cool to be 14, frantically en route to the restroom because you’re about to lose control of your bowels.
Nobody recognized I had bipolar disorder for a couple reasons. First, for men, it’s the mania that hits first, whereas for women, it’s the depression that hits first. We’re diagnosed, drugged with artificial happy pills, and everyone stops there, never giving it another thought.
Another reason is that those in the field have divided bipolar sufferers into different subclass. Many people don’t consider bipolar disorder because they don’t have manic periods intense enough to cause them to mortgage their house to the horse racetrack or melt the credit card at the local mall.
The truth is that now, one of the subclasses recognizes a tendency toward hypomania–where the manic periods are less pronounced–in between regular depressive episodes. Alternatively, the manic periods may not bring about a euphoric mood; instead, the bipolar person may be glaringly, almost-unreasonably irritable. In my own case, the reasons I didn’t the bipolar classification is all those mentioned above, plus the fact that my own cycles between highs and lows are longer than most and I never “rapid-cycle” (where manic and depressive periods last a mere 3 months or so). So no one put two and two together.
Bipolar disorder can be what’s known as a wastebasket diagnosis or the Syndrome Du Jour and so everyone gets hit with the label out of convenience. However, some people truly fit this label. Just ask Edgar Allan Poe or Kristin Hersh of Throwing Muses.
I don’t even remember how I arrived at the notion that I might actually be bipolar instead and to confirm it through research, but it hit me couple of weeks ago. I was able to track an 18-year history of bipolar disorder, and it often didn’t even matter whether or not I was on any medication. Sure, my depressive periods were less pronounced and I could both think and function a little more rationally, but honestly, diet modification goes a lot further than medication. For me and many others, drugs don’t do anything special that eating the right foods can’t accomplish, and plenty of us actually get better mileage from simple dietary changes than from anything from a pharmacy.
Meds don’t make you happy. They don’t solve your problems. They just make you apathetic, so that you don’t care about that which bummed you out before. They remove your passion, your true personality, and in some cases, your lust for life. They can take you out of the dumps, but they do so by making you numb and moulding you into a shadow of who you truly are. I’ve come away from my 11-year experience with them with a feeling of contempt. Do I still experience long, sometimes-intense and occasionally-debilitating downer periods? Sure. But, at least I’m feeling something. I care about something. I experience life through my own senses and with my own mind, and all of life’s trials and blessings, even when the blessings are hard to come by, and when they do, I have a greater appreciation for them. Not to mention that the eponymous song by Jazz Butcher (aka The Jazz Butcher Conspiracy) kicks ass. 🙂