I stand confused (you dropped a bomb on me)

Ayelet Waldman (who I really haven’t liked every time she’s written a column for the Times, just my gut, I have felt like she’s often written herself so she comes off as selfish and there’s a projective worry I’ll deal with later…) wrote recently about her initial diagnosis as bipolar II and her experience with topamax and her later discovery that she wasn’t bipolar at all– “just” premenstrual dysmorphic.  I’d missed the article, but my therapist brought it up at yesterday’s session as a way to work back to a frequent topic– her perception of my overreliance on my organic disease versus more situational causes for my depression and my consequent feelings of powerlessness over my future, and the fact that Topamax hasn’t been effective for me in the long run even as it seemed to really work at the start.

I can concede the last point, even as I argued with her (again) about how I know and understand that there’s an intersection between genetic predisposition and my situational triggers and how I cope/choose to respond– but that sometimes I do better than others.

What Waldman says in the article, though, about the intense feelings of relief that the bipolar diagnosis gave her because it explained some of her more intense behaviors– her rages, her hypomanias, all of those things– those are things I’ve had too, even as it’s been true that no mood stabilizer has worked for me for more than a bit and unpacking the question– am I medication refractive?– or is it just that coming off one med and onto another works an equilibrium/placebo effect in me for a while before I hit another major depression, and I’m “simply” subject to major anxiety and depression, as she suggests?

I don’t know what to think.  I’m going to be working with a new psychiatrist starting next month because the one I’ve worked with since I was first diagnosed is changing to a different type of practice and won’t be able to continue to see me– and I’m certainly beyond the efficacy plateau on the Topamax at the 2-ish year mark (suicidal ideation will kind of make you see that light), just like the rest of the mood stabilizers, just as I’m feeling better now that I’m on SSRIs and reducing the mood stabilizer in my system– but there are things left to explain.

It makes me sick to my stomach to think I have to start from scratch in trying to understand the whys of my crazy again.  Shellshocked, even.


9 thoughts on “I stand confused (you dropped a bomb on me)

  1. Jocelyn

    I haven’t read the Waldman…but will. My feelings towards here are mixed enough that I might be able to call it “I might not like you, Ayelet.” She did get my attention with being willing to say she loves her husband more than her children–that who resultant brouhaha highlighted our kid-centric culture (at the expense of many a romantic relationship) in a way I appreciated. However, I’ve been trying to crack a novel of hers for almost two years, and I just can’t get interested.

    All of which is incidental to anything in your post, really. I cannot imagine the effort and energy it will take to re-establish with a new therapist. And I cannot imagine trying to figure out meds and what the body does with them. What I do know is that I feel for you, for wanting and working and trying to make things better, but feeling confounded at every turn. May it all just get easier from here. Oh, may it, please.

    1. shecurmudgeon Post author

      I’ve never been able to make it through her novels, either. And there’s something about her essays I find really grating (though I read that “I love my husband the most” article and it was the first thing of hers I really wanted to cheer), even as I can admit she writes well, is frank and brave, funny, etc., but something about it seems too neurotic– I don’t really know, it’s hard to put my finger on it. Until I wrote this this morning and looked up her bio for the link, I also hadn’t known she was a former lawyer, so the fact that she gets on my nerve is even more amusing because it looks more and more like she and I are lost sisters or something.

      Doing anew what I should be doing, regardless, at this juncture of things when I’ve been questioning everything else, so why not this and just revamp everything all at once…. I am trying really hard not to feel resentful and angry at my therapist as I try to think what to think about this, because I don’t want to mood chart and med chart and keep a separate calendar and write down how much sleep I got and what I ate and all of that crap. But. I can’t complain about things being entrenched in one part of my life and then not turning things over and examining the roots in another. Goddamnit.

  2. Jenn @ Juggling Life

    I actually like Waldman’s fiction, but I generally can’t stand her essays–I think she’s way too self-congratulatory much of the time. I did think this article was really interesting.

    I’m sorry all of this is such a constant struggle for you, but sometimes seeing someone new is a good thing when the old approach no longer works. I hope that’s how it goes for you.

  3. Jada

    oh dude, I hear you.

    I spent years integrating bipolar into “me”, only to come to find out that there was really nothing wrong other than a horrible relationship and my own inability to keep shit cool in my head…I still think “something ” is off, and the conversation of disorders she had rings true since I’m entirely unreasonable for a few days around then each month, but it was hard. I had to reexamine everything in my life and head. The drugs never really worked, and I found that any doctors I dealt with only wanted to give the drugs. I even mentioned the coincidence of “increased irritibility” and my period (i.e. my black rages and urge to murder) They shook their heads and said it didn’t matter.

    I didn’t know how to start with the new me when I did, but slowly I’ve come around. It’s hard because just when you think there’s an answer and a handle, then there’s not. There’s still just you. And sometimes that’s hardest of all.

  4. mercurialgirl888

    Ughhhhh… backstory and all that charting. Gives me the blearghs. It takes so many sessions to even get through all that crap it’s annoying. Sending you mental chocolate {{{hugs}}}

  5. Karen

    I have done this dance before. I think they (I?) have finally just decided that I have dysthemia with occasional /regular bouts of major depression. I was, because of my rage, once thought to be bipolar. Oh, good grief–I do know that dread of having to start once again from the beginning. I am sending you love and light.


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