For quite a while now I have been convinced that the past 4 psychiatrists that I’ve seen have been wrong about a major diagnosis of mine. In 2014 I was diagnosed with bipolar 2. Bipolar 2 is a bit different than bipolar 1 because the 2 just has something called hypomania instead of mania. The symptoms of this are just high energy, being able to get a whole lot done at one time, feeling a bit “on top of the world.” It has been a while since I’ve experienced this. I started my journey of finding the right meds, and it took a while. Because my patterns/cycles are more seasonal, I have been wondering if I just have seasonal affective disorder, not bipolar 2. I have been told by one therapist and my current psychiatrist that cycles can be seasonal for some people. But I just haven’t been convinced. I don’t know if it has been denial or just wanting to shed the stigma off my back, but I just didn’t want to come to the conclusion that they are right. I mean, I haven’t had a ton of extensive testing (yet… I will in less than a week). At this point my main struggle is severe/extreme anxiety that is completely debilitating. Depression happens, but it mostly comes out as anxiety (and I do struggle with not feeling joy/motivation to do the things that I love and wanting to sleep more).
Well, I decided to do some digging. First, I talked with Robert for a while about it. He reminded me of what life was like before meds. I was even more up and down, having extreme bouts of crazy energy (having a huge to-do list and getting it allll done in a day, making everything from scratch, etc) followed by deep depression. I remember a couple episodes of depression that were really bad. One of them was in 2014 and one was in the fall of 2015 when we moved here to camp. I should have gone into inpatient but couldn’t figure out how to make that work with the kids. I also didn’t think I could afford it. So I just suffered until I got into a new psychiatrist who prescribed Lamotrigine. It has been life-changing. I haven’t gone into a deep depression since. It’s a common medication for bipolar. So that’s one sign that yes, I do have bipolar 2.
After talking with Robert, I decided to do a little research on the internet to find out what info there is to understand seasonal patterns of bipolar and I found out that it IS a thing.
The National Library of Medicine says, “Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is an umbrella term for mood disorders that follow a seasonal pattern of recurrence. Bipolar I disorder (BD I) or bipolar II disorder (BD II) with seasonal pattern (BD SP) is the DSM-IV-TR diagnosis for persons with depressive episodes in the fall or winter and mania (BD I) or hypomania (BD II) in spring or summer.”
So. I guess I have bipolar II disorder with seasonal patterns. And instead of feeling a deep depression, I feel extreme anxiety. I do get “down,” but not like I used to. I’m mostly down because I’m suffering from anxiety so severely. I guess the meds do help to an extent. Between PTSD and Bipolar II with SP, my mental illness can be debilitating. I’m still working closely with my doctor to figure out the right meds. If I feel like we can’t figure it out in the next month or so, my PCP said she can refer me to a new psychiatrist. I love mine but maybe it’s time to have a fresh set of eyes on the situation. I’ve seen her since 2017. I guess the benefit of that is that she knows what I have tried and what I can’t handle side-effects wise. And she knows me and my patterns (she has mentioned them many times). Maybe I just need to stick with it. I also love that I have virtual appointments, and I can message her at any time.
I want to take the time right now to say a few things about the stigma of mental illness. Did you know that you know a lot of people with mental illness? Some you know about and some are too afraid to share because of the fact that they will be looked down upon. Even after all of the work to demolish the stigma, it’s still there. When I went to take a leave of absence in January I was told by the superintendent that I would not be trusted by the parents anymore if I took a leave of absence. I was also told that someone had been sharing my Facebook posts to him (which included posts about my mental health). It was clear to me in that moment that he saw mental illness as something that I should be able to control and not an actual illness. I stopped sharing for months because I was afraid it would happen again. But I KNOW God has called me to being vulnerable in this way. It has helped so many people and only hurt me a few times (both job related). If I can’t be me, then I can’t do a good job with my employer. I am a good teacher with or without my struggles. We all have struggles to some degree…
About my new job…
I LOVE my summer job, but I am looking forward to routine. It always helps me. I’m going to have time in the mornings to workout and have some quiet time (after dropping the kids at the bus). Then I’ll work a normal 8-5 schedule with an HOUR long lunch (I’m lucky to get 20 minutes in the classroom). 2 1/2-3 hours of my day is live teaching and the rest is office work/planning. I do have a lot of students, but it’s just different. I’ve been watching videos of what everything is like, and it seems pretty awesome. I start training August 1st! My last day here at camp is July 26th. I needed a few days to get the house cleaned and get some things organized. And probably a town day to stock up on groceries and things. I’m excited!
My office is mostly set up with the exception of a bit more organizing. The decor is just like I like it, and it is comfy and cozy. I have a reading nook in the corner with my favorite fun chair. I have very fun decor on the walls thanks to Goodwill and Hobby Lobby. My book shelves are MOSTLY organized with the exception of a few things. It’s ready to go.
I have a good feeling about all that is to come.