Well, Happy World BiPolar Day-coming-up-this-Wednesday,-March-30th!
As many of you know, comorbidity (Definition: noun. 1. the simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases or conditions in a patient.) happens a shit-tonne (a medical term) when dealing with alcoholism. It (alcohol) is such a ready and easily available and socially okay way to ‘deal’ with Life, and/or Mental Illness. Oftentimes, like in my personal experience, a person won’t even know they’re self-medicating with alcohol in order to lessen the mental effects of a comorbid condition, which in my case is bipolarismness.
So here I am to tell you, ‘Don’t be scared of looking deeper!’ One of the most positive things I’ve done in my adult life is this “short” series of actions:
1. Sought cognitive behavioral help with regular (biweekly) therapy sessions, because I was SOsosososoSOso sad and could not find my way out of it.
2. After about two years of therapy, I decided I was ready to pursue a medication regimen to see if that would help (Had been turned off by a horrible experience ten years previously.).
3. Sought said-psychiatric help and worked over the course of a year to find a balanced med routine (mood stabilizer and occasional anxiety med).
4. For the first four months working with a psychiatrist, I was lying about my alcohol consumption. Then, scared of what I might do to my body, or because of my children’s safety, I came clean and told her the real numbers of my alcohol intake (a LOT). On June 9, 2015, I committed to sobriety in order to give me the best chance at ‘making it.’
Almost 10 months later, on meds and sober and without regular therapy appointments any longer, I am happy and doing very well. It’s interesting to me, because for the longest time, when I was first diagnosed with BP at the age of 20, I fought it and fought it and fought it. I did not WANT to be bipolar. I thought if I was, then it was all that I was, that I would be defined as being bipolar and only bipolar. Eventually however, it became a part of life. It became what I was, or rather, I learned it was only what I had, that it did not define me as I was so scared it would. Even with this enlightenment, I wasn’t necessarily willing to do the work to help manage it in a positive way. Instead, I drank. And in a very similar way as the BP, I struggled with accepting that I had a problem with drinking. That I was, in fact, an alcoholic. And I did everything possible – above all, IGNORE – that I had a problem with alcohol. However, after two years of therapy, it got to the point of, ‘Well, something has to change, or else nothing will.’ And so, meds first, then, using my brain, I finally got sober.
Untangling the BP from the alcohol, and vice versa, has been instrumental in dealing with each of them in their own turn. In understanding them each in their own ways, they have become less threatening and less overwhelming.
It’s interesting because I am still quite secretive about them both. I am more and more comfortable telling people I am sober, but being bipolar is still not something I want to share openly. The stigma is so harmful. I read this article yesterday entitled “Thriving with Bipolar Disorder,” and I was struck by Melody Moezzi’s beautiful quote: “While psychiatric disorders account for some of the leading causes of disability worldwide, with depression now topping the list, these conditions are not nearly as inherently disabling as the scorn and stigma that surround them.” And I just wanted to shout, ‘YES!’
Later, she uses the phrase psychiatric condition, and I was struck with the openness of those words, as opposed to ‘mental illness.’ I’ve always felt deformed or poorly made when talking about mental illness, but just relabeling mental illness as a condition is incredibly liberating. The struggle I had with ‘alcoholic’ created a large hurdle to jump, as well as a social stigma hard to ignore, and was and is a term I am not one-hundred percent on-board with. Even in my own head, I find comfort thinking I am sober, or in recovery, as opposed to saying, ‘I’m Monster and I’m an alcoholic.’ I mean, yes, I do say that whenever I attend an AA meeting, but other than that, I still really resist the word. Amazing how words can have such power, isn’t it?! But of course they do. They absolutely do.
In the past year of work, I think the phrases ‘mental illness’ and ‘alcoholic’ have become smaller issues for me, because I’m just getting the shit done, do you know what I mean? Instead of over-thinking the words, I’m just getting through the work and just doing it. (Swoosh.) And now that I am here in this point of recovery and stability, I can think about the words more philosophically, without getting hung up in them too much, too tied-down or defensive, as long as I still remember to just do the work.
For those of you out there wondering if you are an Alcoholic or if you have a Mental Illness – bipolar, depression, anxiety, etc. – don’t get scared by the words. They may put you off from finding help sooner rather than later. There are many of us here to help and to listen. You’re not alone. You truly, truly are not alone.
Day 291, .