To my dear husband,
When you married me, we didn’t know. I had suffered from depression since childhood, but the intensity, sensitivity and transcendent hypomania of bipolar II disorder was yet to be revealed. It was a powerful secret tucked away in the fortune cookie folds of my brain.
We knew so little about marriage 20 years ago. We knew a whole DSM-IV manual less about navigating mental illness. Here’s what I wish we knew then, and a few things that still need working out.
1) Exercise: my non-pharmaceutical drug of choice
Exercise actually is the most important thing. It is not elitist, superfluous, a sign of too much leisure time, or empty socializing.
Here is my hierarchy: Tennis, Family, Work, Cooking Dinner and Friends. I try to squeeze in bills, laundry and cleaning. If in doubt, I choose exercise.
I cannot parent the children, love you (no, not even that), work or leave the house if I’m sunk into bed under 1,000 tons of tortured gloom.
2) Medication titration
Changing medications can feel like a slow death from poisoning while running on a barrel — a barrel rolling downhill.
The NIH lists these possible side effects from mood stabilizers(1) :
- Mood swings
- Cold-like symptoms
These are possible side effects from atypical antipsychotics(1) :
- Dizziness when changing positions
- Blurred vision
- Rapid heartbeat
- Sensitivity to the sun
- Skin rashes
- Menstrual problems for women
I have never tolerated SSRI antidepressants. These “rare” side effects were all mine:
- Worsening depression
- Suicidal thinking
- Trouble sleeping
The NIH didn't mention restless leg syndrome, a misnomer. Your legs don’t feel restless. They feel they want to fly off your hips and explode into a million restless pieces.
So, back to #1, my non-pharmaceutical drug of choice: Tennis.
3) Early to bed
My regular bedtime is no laughing matter.