OK, so here I go. I’ve been working my way up to actually publishing this for a couple of days/a week. I wanted to give people who (hopefully) read and take something from this a little background about me, and my illness.
Before I get into the “heavier” stuff, I do want to put this out: I was born with hydrocephalus, which is a brain condition where the cerebrospinal fluid that your brain makes does not properly flow through to the spinal column (where it’s supposed to go). The repercussions for me was that I have had a few brain surgeries which involved installing a shunt behind my ear that drains the fluid for me. MORE INFO http://www.hydroassoc.org/
Ok, now that I’ve gotten that one out of the way, down to business. As I mentioned, I’ve got ADHD and Bi-Polar disorder. I was diagnosed with ADHD in elementary school, and was on medication from 2nd grade through to my freshman year of college. The Bi-Polar was not something that we knew about until my early 20’s.
Up until about 5 months ago I was not getting treatment for either condition. That was a bad idea. Here’s the thumbnail sketch of why:
I work in sales, on commission, in a very high pressure environment. I’ve been doing this for a year. Previously I’d been a telemarketer for the same organization (which was not as pressurized). I got promoted up to outside sales, as I said, in a more high pressure, high-profile position. I thought it was a good fit, especially since my old role (telemarketing) was being moved out of my state. So I took the high pressure outside sales gig.
I had some early success, but mostly struggled (I’m not afraid to admit that) in the role and with the higher level of scrutiny and expectations. Pressures were building, and I was facing the idea that I might get let go, despite working hard to “get it”. The combination of lowered pay (no commission) and higher pressure on me (due to struggles) added up to panic attacks.
On May 29th, I thought my heart had exploded. Not my most shining moment, to be sure. I was in a grocery store, hyperventilating and, I thought, dying (sort of). I actually thought I was having a heart attack. Turns out it was a panic attack. Once I could breathe, I got in touch with my doctor, and my employer. I’ve been on STD since May 30th, 2012.
So I got some treatment, and was put on some fancy new medication. Maybe you’ve heard of them? For the ADHD, I get to take Adderall. It’s been in the news. Athletes are using it as a PED. I can’t figure that out – the side effects (even for those who need it) stink for about 2 weeks. I can’t see how flying high as a kite (if you don’t need the meds) would be a “performance enhancer” for an athlete. For others? Sure 🙂
For the Bi-Polar disorder, I was put on lithium (hence the idea for the title of this little project), which has been the leading medication of choice for manic depression/bi-polar disorder since the 1970’s. There are side effects there, as well.
So, there’s the thumbnail – I’m on meds, sitting at home, and I have a lot of time to read and think. So the idea of GetBetterBeBetter was born. I know for a fact that there are others out there (adults and kids) who struggle with Bi-Polar and other mood disorders. Most of us are functional, “normal seeming” members of society. Sadly, some of us are not. Either way, there is a daily element of struggle, and I don’t feel like that story gets told often enough. We all hear about the “crazy’s” who shoot up schools, theaters, and do other terrible things who turn out to be sick. This does not excuse what the do at all. These people should be prosecuted, just like everyone else.
But I would ask you to ask yourself this: When we see this segment of the population snap, how must it feel to be a young adult/kid who’s been diagnosed, and is getting treatment, and is healthy? Are they seeing you react and thinking – great, now I can’t tell ANYONE about what’s going on with me. Now I had best stay quiet about my issues.
I am here, as a 35-year-old happily married man, to tell you straight out: NO. DO NOT KEEP IT TO YOURSELF. It is ok to admit that you need help, and not just if you are really sick. It’s ok to admit that you aren’t able to do things the way “everyone else” does. It’s ok to admit that you need some coping skills, and think in colors (I had someone tell me once that made me “different”)
I need lists to get anything done. When I was first getting treatment, my lists had to include such basics as: take a shower, eat your lunch.
There is never complete silence in my mind, it’s like buzzing. Not saying I hear voices, but it’s like white noise, buzzing. I can’t turn my brain off, it’s like constant REM sleep, without the benefit of the actual sleep. It makes focus difficult, to say the least. And that’s when I’m healthy. That’s an improvement over times when I can’t focus AT ALL.
What I’ve begun to learn is that it’s ok to have these issues, and that (as long as I’m getting help) I’m going to be ok. And so will that young adult I mentioned.
I guess I’m trying to contribute in my own way to the “It Gets Better” idea, but in regard to mental health. Maybe my ego thinks I can help. I certainly hope I can.
In closing, I am in fact Bi-polar, and I do in fact like it (despite the issues in 2012) because it’s what I am.
Thanks for reading