Tuesday, July 6, 2010

It's All In My Head

I'm Bipolar.  I'm crazy too. And to make matters worse, my pedophile dad was a psychologist.  So, even though it was important to the family that I keep my piehole shut about what my daddy had been doing to me, my daddy was always telling me that my seething fury and the self inflicted wounds of careless "accidents" was all in my head.  And it was, in the sense that I might open my mouth and spill my guts to a sympathetic stranger, and what would come out might just put my whole family in jail and me in the looney bin for life.  My mother would scream, "Snap out of it!"  My father would say, "It's all in your head."  It never helped, and though it was all in my head, I could not snap out of it.

My dad's dad was a famous surgeon here in Salt Lake City.  He was Chief of Staff of a couple of Salt Lake's finest hospitals and a high up muckymuck in the Shriners.  He too was a pedophile.  I found this out when he died and his elderly only daughter (another crazy woman) got all Doc's films and photos.  As she and her children were watching the first of Docs carefully numbered films they were surprised to see two kids, ages ten and seven, having clumsy sex with one another.  The little boy was the seven year old and he grew up to become my daddy.  The little girl was the old woman watching home movies with her children.  It was a little awkward.  The man with the movie camera was Doc and the director was his wife, my Grandmother.  And so begins the problem that would disguise my bipolar disorder with all the symptoms of an adult victim of child sexual abuse.  Turns out that's not uncommon in children with bipolar disorder.  Pedophiles either create their own victims or find them.  But the kids with underlying bipolar disorder are often also the victims of child sexual abuse precisely because they're vulnerable.

It is rare for the bipolar child to be unscathed by other victimization.  We are bullied, we are withdrawn, we are moody and sometimes full of a rage so fierce it can only be safely turned within and we are often the teens who cut ourselves or have frequent "accidents."  It is also rare for the bipolar adult to be without substance abuse.  We are mostly self-medicating, trying desperately to find a place within that feels "normal." If I'm describing your childhood here and you have been diagnosed as "depressed," that may just be your predominant pole in the bipolar swing.  It was mine.  I spent years so depressed I couldn't get out of bed.  And depression almost always begins with symptoms that seem like a serious sickness.  You ache all over; you feel so tired movement seems like walking through molasses; you might have a low grade fever, a headache that won't go away; you lose your apatite; you go to your doctor certain there will be a diagnosis and a pill to fix it.  And eventually, after a series of expensive tests that find nothing, you'll get put on an antidepressant. And there are pills to fix your symptoms.

There are so many drugs to treat depression and the mood swings that go along with it, like the occasional psychosis.  But first everything else has to be ruled out.  My thyroid was almost always suspected since my eyes are prominent, or were before the upper lid began to droop.  But, if after a month or so on a new drug, my symptoms aren't getting less debilitation, I probably need to try another drug.  There is one that will help.  And it needs to be a psychiatrist who works through that process of finding the right drug, so I can live in a place of emotional balance.  It's a process of trial and error.  The errors can feel like a full blown psychosis or a lobotomy.  And most bipolar drugs are not weight neutral as it is so genteelly described in the inserts that come with a new drug.  I gain up to forty pounds on certain antidepressants, and no amount of dieting will get rid of it.  This is one of the reasons so many women won't stay on their antidepressant.  Would you rather sleep for a couple of years or live your life with a bit more weight?

At the depth of a depression is a coma-like sleep that is dreamless and very difficult to come out of to eat, bathe, and then make it back to bed.  Eating, bathing and walking across the room all take enormous energy when in the depths.  Sorrow resides there as well as oblivion.  Regret is sorrows twin.  And it doesn't help to have a family member shout "Snap out of it! I don't believe in depression!"  That's probably just a family member who is in the hypomanic phase of bipolar disorder and hasn't been diagnosed yet.