A year ago, I was in a locked psychiatric unit after telling my therapist I planned to attend a gun show and buy my suicide method. Therapists tend to be sensitive about that sort of thing. I knew where I was headed when I said it – I had a back-up plan of asking a friend to call the cops to come take me for an involuntary admission, if I were to chicken out about telling my therapist about my plans.
During this inpatient stay, I received my official diagnosis of Bipolar I Disorder and was started on medication. Soon afterward, I read something very depressing about it taking up to a year to be stabilized after a major episode. I couldn’t imagine how I would survive a year of this instability, and as the year continued with delays and setbacks, I was very frustrated with my progress.
One year later, I can say that it took almost exactly a year, just as I had read. My life kept falling apart spectacularly throughout that year. I fluctuated from suicidal to anhedonic and back, rarely experiencing joyful moments. I struggled through the longest months imaginable in a job which I liked but which did not like me much in return. I worked long hours, coming home only to collapse into bed and start over again the next day. The best things I can say about the job are these:
* I had excellent insurance coverage.
* I worked 3-4 days a week, leaving plenty of time for therapists and doctors.
* My supervisor was as lenient as possible with handling my absences and need to leave early on occasion. Okay, on a lot of occasions.
The job ultimately did not last. I had special accommodations made for me in regards to tasks and to scheduling. After they agreed to let me leave earlier to get out of the enormous, anxiety-inducing crowds, I only lasted 3 more weeks, one of which I was out of work due to another inpatient stay. At the end of the third week, dangerously close to losing my job for attendance reasons, I had a very bad day which could not be improved by all the coping skills in the world, and I ended up quitting the job.
Since quitting, my moods have improved greatly. I have more motivation and more ability to concentrate. Occasionally I feel joy, and I almost think I’m stable. The drawback has been lack of income and lack of insurance. I’m getting by for now, but this situation is unsustainable.
Things are looking up. I’ve had two job interviews and am working with supported employment services in my job hunt. We are waiting to see if I’ve been approved for assistance from Vocational Rehabilitation. I’ve been approved for new insurance coverage through my state, which will leave me with no co-pays and a premium of $1 per month. After 7 years away from theatre, I am stage managing a play, and I also applied to volunteer at the local library. I indulge in my love of writing through this blog, and planning a book about my experiences over the past year.
My medication seems to be working, without significant side effects. My psych APRN only wants to see me every other month, and my therapist is talking about reducing our appointments as well. I go to group DBT therapy every week, and am almost starting to be comfortable enough to share in the group.
Of course there are still obstacles. Right now I’m feeling a lot like sleeping my days away, just wishing for the time to pass. I still occasionally feel impulses toward self-injury and suicide, although I’m learning to handle them better. I am very anxious about the future, and fear that this period of relative calm will not last.