It’s going to take a whole lot of posts to cover my life and experiences in this department. So I started at the beginning, but I’ve been jumping around since that first post. I’m going to try to explain a bit where I am now.
We moved to California in late summer of 2008 from Alabama, where we had lived in one town for 10 years. We were pretty well settled there, even though we hadn’t expected to stay there for so long. But our children’s needs, primarily, induced us to move cross-country. Though I had some time to plan and prepare for the move, the whole thing didn’t go nearly as smoothly as I would have liked. It took ages to get into a house of our own, during which time we lived with family and had all of our possessions in a storage unit. Then we waited and waited for our house in Alabama to sell, and after a year of waiting and one very low offer that fell through, we decided to rent it out. The stress of all those things, combined with the financial stress of paying two mortgages for a year, made life very difficult. I just felt depressed and frustrated and irritable pretty much all the time.
I had been seeing a psychiatrist in Alabama for a year or two, during which time he’d put me on an antidepressant that seemed to help fairly well. But with the move, it just wasn’t doing enough. So I started surfing the Web one morning and found a site that turned out to be very useful. It’s just a very simple-looking site by a psychiatrist who has shared many of his insights online. He also wrote a book called Why Am I Still Depressed? I pored over the site and then ordered the book. I decided that it was time to see a psychiatrist in my new town, rather than having my general doctor keep writing scripts for the old antidepressant.
The site had really struck a chord with me; its information led me to believe I was experiencing what this doctor (James Phelps) describes as bipolar II. Armed with this bit of information, I found one of the two psychiatrists in town that my health insurance covered and made an appointment. My new doctor and I talked, I shared my opinions, and he prescribed a new medication; he called my condition “atypical bipolar disorder,” but it’s just a slightly different name for what Dr. Phelps called bipolar II. The new medication seemed to work fine, and just knowing I had new information and a new medication gave me hope.
Three years later, this is still the diagnosis I’m working with. I’ve tried some different meds and a different doctor (I’ll write other posts on those topics), but we’re still going with that. Honestly, though, I still wonder how many other factors are at play. Dr. Phelps’ website talks about how thyroid disorders are sometimes tied in with bipolar II, and since I’ve been hypothyroid for about 12 years now (well, that’s when my doctor and I discovered it), I can’t help but think it may play a part in what I experience, even though I have been on thyroid replacement medication for all that time and it’s supposedly controlled (according to blood tests that my current doctor administers every year: and THAT, again, is a whole other topic). I also have noticed that I feel particular sensitivity to hormonal fluctuations, during pregnancy and postpartum and my monthly cycles, and those must be factors as well. I’m fascinated by how things work, and the complex interplay of hormones in the body is so interesting to me (I even wrote a paper about hormones for a research project in English in high school before I knew how personal it was). So I would love to figure out exactly how all these things work together to create my particular issues. Doctors, however, basically don’t seem to care about this (How could they not? Do they not have any curiosity?), at least when it comes to treating me. They just want to know that they’re finding a good medicine to treat me, and that’s all that matters. They have a point, I suppose, but I’d just love to know how all this works inside me. As far as we’ve come in being able to treat mood disorders, it still feels like we’re kind of living in the 19th century treatment-wise compared to all the other feats of medicine that exist.
So I could say now, “Well, this is it. I’m almost 42, and I’ve finally figured out what’s going on with me.” But even though I feel fairly confident that I’m on the right path — and it’s a big relief, I must say — I still wonder if in 10 years my diagnosis might change and I’ll look back and say, “Gee, we were close but not quite there.” At any rate, this is the best we have right now, and we’re going with it. It’s something, and something is better than nothing. I suppose, when it comes down to it, this is really just an extension of my previous post, “What’s in a name?”, because we have a name but that name could very well change. It’s just nice to have a name; it helps me to wrap my mind around what I experience, it helps me on occasion to explain to others if I feel so inclined, and now it might help you.