Monday, October 25, 2010
Magic Little Pill
When I was first diagnosed as bipolar (recap HERE), my biggest concern (aside from the fact that I was officially CUCKOO) was that I would have to take medication for the foreseeable future. The only drug that I had ever heard of treating bipolar was Lithium and everything that I had heard about it made me think that for sure it would make me a fat zombie shell of what I once was. The idea of this TERRIFIED me. Jenn Lafferty = a bubbly, fun, fabulous, jazz hands, sassy pants good time. And if it were to come down to a choice, I was pretty sure that I would suck it up and live in ‘crazy town’ everyday over ‘fat-zombie-shell-of-what-I-once-was’ town.
Thankfully I took a moment to stop being a drama queen (yes it can happen), reminded myself that it was not longer 1952 and got on my google machine to see what the dealio was. Turns out, there have been a lot of advances in crazy drugs (and, it just so happens that, Lithium does work just fine for many people). So I printed out stacks and stacks of research (sorry trees) and was off to meet my new psychiatrist. It was important to me that I see someone who would be open to my questions, open to exploring alternative treatments and willing to discuss (even if at length) my options. My doctor’s first experience with me started out something like this:
I continued to wildly gesticulate and go on and on and then I finally took a breath, at which time, she took that opportunity to looked up from her notes to offer up her suggestion as to what medication I should start with. We opted for one that was fairly new in the treatment of bipolar and took 8 weeks to be effective, but it had few side effects and that was a huge plus for me (and besides, I am all about being a trendsetter).
As I attempted to gracefully dive into the pool of crazy pills, I felt really strongly about not just taking drugs and carrying on my merry way. If I was going to accept this whole thing, then I needed to DO something about it – my life – as a whole. So I quit drinking (which is an legendary story for another time), changed my diet, started exercising, being in bed by 10 and reading a TON about other lifestyle changes that I could make to help me live a balanced life.
The other really hard part about deciding to go on medication was navigating everyone’s opinion on the situation (in case you are wondering, EVERYONE has an opinion). At the time, I was still fragile and it really mattered to me what people thought. One person would tell me that their uncle took a certain medication and is a rockstar and I was positive that I was making the right decision. Then the next day I would talk with someone who’s belief was that all medication is poison and really I should be strong enough to do it naturally, next thing you know I am googling herbs and witch doctor potions. Meh! What does a crazy girl do?!?! Well, I had to accept the fact that it was my life and it really does not matter what people think. They are not the ones who get so depressed that they sleep 18 hours a day and cry the other 6 or who get so manic that they stay up for weeks at time drinking and shopping (not an exaggeration and not as fun as it sounds). It has almost been 6 years since I made the choice to go on medication and honestly it has changed my life. I am not suggesting that going on medication is the only thing to do…I am saying that it was the right thing to do for me.
Not to say that taking this one pill twice a day makes everything magically ok. I am of the belief that my behavior was 50% brain chemistry and 50% habits that I developed as a means of survival. SO just because the chemistry part is addressed that does not mean that the habits disappear (much to my unhappiness!). This is something that I struggle with even to this day. Of course, things have gotten better, but there are still times (many, many times) that I find myself in the same situation thinking, “Really Jennifer Ann? We have not worked through this yet?”
But that is the beauty of life: it’s a process. So on days that I get frustrated with myself, I have started taking a moment to be thankful that I am on a medication that works, that I have an incredible doctor who is brilliant and open, that I have supportive friends and family and that God has given me another day. And that my friends, is magical!
[End note: I have decided that I am writing the drug company that makes my crazy pills to request that they start to make them gold and glittery (how fabulous would that be??), in the mean time, I am perfecting shinny liquid red lips!]