Monday, May 8, 2017

What Is So Bad About Feeling Good?

I read something recently in which someone wrote that he could comfortably talk all day about his bipolar depression, but that it was difficult to talk about mania. Suddenly I realized that because people with bipolar disorder DON'T talk about it as often (most likely because it is less understood by those without the disorder) most people wouldn't know a person experiencing mania if she/he were right in front of them. So I am going to break down mania for you in a way that you can, hopefully, relate to and understand. 

Imagine yourself, age 7, on Christmas morning. Take that feeling that you get when you see the piles of gifts beneath the branches of that gorgeous, twinkling tree. That feeling of infinite possibility for all things that are good. Now hold on to that, and add to it the feeling that you get when you look at the sky, out in the country where the light pollution is absent, and are in complete awe of the immensity of the universe. That feeling in your chest, that joy. Now put those two feelings on, and wear them (as an adult) for a while. A couple of hours, if you're lucky. Days, or weeks, straight if you aren't. 

Everything is amazing. Everything feels 1000% better than it usually does. Chocolate? Omg it is the best taste and feeling on the planet. Sex? HOLY SHIT you can't get enough. Orgasms are more intense, and your inhibition is practically nonexistent. You feel SO GOOD. You feel intelligent. Sexy, even. Your self esteem is through the roof. Money is no object, and the moment is meant to be lived in! God forbid you meet someone, for the first time, when you are manic, because they will instantly be impressed and think you have it 100% together. (Pro tip: Interviewing for a job when you are slightly manic works well for this reason.) 

Wait, what? Slightly manic? Oh yeah, there are varying degrees and various TYPES of mania. The mania that I just described is mine. 90% of my mania is euphoria and elevated self esteem, with very little danger to myself or others. I can overspend, and the quality of my driving suffers, but otherwise I'm mostly giddy and fun. You are, no doubt, wondering "what's so bad about feeling good?" Well, here's the thing: what goes up must come down. Also: an object in motion tends to stay in motion until acted upon by an outside force. And who knows what, or from where, that outside force will be. So one minute you are flying high, and certain that depression is behind you. Everything is infintely possible. The next minute you can't get out of bed. And I don't mean you don't feel like getting out of bed. I mean that your body aches, you can't talk to anyone without crying, and you feel like you haven't slept in days. DAYS. Doesn't matter if you slept 8 hours the night before, or 12, or 3. You're exhausted. You hit snooze 10 times before getting up for work, and you may not even know that you did. This is the crash, and it hits hard and fast. It doesn't give a crap whether you are at home cooking dinner, at work in an important meeting, grocery shopping alone or hanging out on vacation. You are suddenly and inexplicably incapable of blending in as a functioning member of society. 

For some people, mania is anxiety and extreme irritability. Anger, brought on in an instant. I think this type is less common, but that's just from talking to people that I know who experience mania. When it comes to bipolar episodes, more often than not, there is no discernible trigger. We each have our own mental list of the things that will DEFINTELY bring on our mania or depression, but there are far more unexpected episodes. And those lists? Carefully compiled over years of introspection and self-analyzation. People who function well in spite of bipolar disorder spend YEARS working, with and without therapists, to understand our own behaviors and triggers. We work very hard for the same things that the average person takes for granted. The average person doesn't have to wonder if what they are feeling today is genuine happiness or the beginning of a full blown manic episode. The average person doesn't have to monitor their every mood change in order to be aware, as quickly as possible, of things spiraling out of control. 

As hard as I feel I work to understand myself, my moods and my motives in life, I could not function without the medications that my psychiatrist prescribes. An antidepressant, a mood stabilizer, and an antipsychotic. They are not "magic" pills, but they ARE tools that enable me to live a relatively stable life. In that way they DO sometimes feel like a bit of magic. 

One more thing: Bipolar disorder is a preexisting condition. Before the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) I was ineligible for insurance unless I obtained it through an employer who offered group insurance thst I could afford. If I lost my job I had a set amount of time by which I had to find new coverage through another employer offering group coverage that I could afford. If I lost access to affordable healthcare that covered my mental illness, my quality of life would decline dramatically. More devastatingly, so would Davis'. I can tell you now that I would not be the patient, loving, and egaged parent that I am now without my medication. 

By denying affordable insurance to people with preexisting conditions, insurers and our current administration will cause irreparable damage to the families of people who are struggling just to survive as it is. Please think about that before you support any changes to our health care laws that would limit coverage for preexisting conditions.