The Three Faces of Kate

  So after this post a friend of mine contacted me and said...Do you think you might be Bi-polar? DING DING DING! Yes ma'am, that is exactly what I thought. But I didn't want to come right out and say, primarily out of respect for people who have been diagnosed already. There are enough armchair psychologists out there; I would never want to belittle another person's true diagnosis made by a doctor by claiming a diagnosis for myself.

But, all the same, the suspicion has been growing in me for many years. Three years ago, when I was still objecting to pharmaceuticals but knowing that *something* was not right, I saw a psychologist. He had me take a questionnaire, alone in a room, and proclaimed that I did not test bi-polar. And that was that. There was no exploration of my condition. No chance for me to ask for clarification, or offer clarification. My diagnosis was based on a multiple choice scantron form. Standardized testing for your mental health. The alarm bells were sounding, but I accepted his diagnosis, even though it shocked me. I was diagnosed with general depression, and after discovering that counseling wasn't helping (probably because it was a MEDICAL condition and not a problem with "negativity") I decided to go on anti-depressants. And they helped. Some.

Mostly with the weeping. I have scarcely cried in three years, and the times I have cried, it has certainly been warranted. The edge was taken off the depression. The anxiety lessened tremendously. But I was still cycling. Still having trouble functioning day to day. Probably exacerbated by my pregnancies, breastfeeding, the strain of mothering four children in a low-income setting while attempting to homeschool, work, and having a husband who not only worked full-time but also was attending school 2-4 nights a week. It would be difficult for anyone. But I knew people who did it, and nearly everyone I knew, regardless of life or circumstances, seemed to be doing a better job than me."

I was told the secret was nutrition. Schedules. Routines. I agreed. I tried. I remained unable to implement. It confused everyone, including me, because there were times when I could be *highly* functional. Late nights spent cooking up a storm, cleaning, making lists, charts, clipping coupons. Followed by the inevitable crash. It's incredibly difficult to find consistency when your body and mind will not cooperate. When you don't know which person is going to show up. My baseline is not high energy as it is, so I was really relying on these episodes to get the most basic cooking and housework accomplished. But these episodes were also problematic because they gave me delusions. I felt, not invincible, but more capable than really am day to day. I would try to take on too much, agree to too many things. And then would come the crash. Debilitating.

Depression is a very physical disorder. It's effect on the body is every bit as important as it's effect on the mind. My mind would chant "death" because that is what I felt in my body. Rocks in the head. Concrete blocks tied to every limb. Unable to think, to process, to leave a chair except in *dire* circumstances. This was not a once a month feeling down in my sweats with a pint of Ben & Jerry's time. This was crushing misery, like having a really hard flu with no symptoms. And with four small children and a husband needing me to function, it was becoming more and more unacceptable.

Sick of spinning my wheels, ready to take my life to another level, I began making decisions for change. And I decided to start by seeking out a second opinion to my original diagnosis. The more I read, the more I felt that Bi-Polar II was a fit for my symptoms. I didn't want to make assumptions, but at the same time, I *can* read. I can process. And I know myself better than anyone. So I went to a psychiatrist with the hopes that we could start this journey towards wellness with a proper diagnosis, arrived at carefully and considerately.

Putting a "label" on myself is the jumping off point towards understanding myself. Towards treatment. Towards a multitude of research, of pathways to wellness. It doesn't end with pharmaceuticals. It's a beginning to a life-long process where I explore nutrition, medicine, life-style, behavior modification, exercise, habits, triggers. Now I know where to begin.

As of my appointment, the psychiatrist said he is 75% certain that Bipolar II is the correct diagnosis. Bipolar II is one way to explain a person who has a baseline of normal, with episodes of depression and hypo-mania. I see him again next week, and I am bringing my husband along to bring some outside perspective. We are going to work on firming up this diagnosis, and finding a treatment and therapy option that is right for me.

Perhaps the most freeing thing about this journey so far is that I feel vindication. My problems in this earthly life are not caused by cracks in my character. I am not a bad person or even an unstable person. I am married. I am a mother. My husband and I have built a life together that is the very definition of stability in many ways. My brain chemistry misfires, the synapses are not level, but that is not a judgement on my soul. My personhood is defined by heart, soul, and mind, not by the wonky way my brain functions. I am a woman who is being diagnosed with Bipolar II. But that is not my definition.