Well, I went to the doctor
I said, “I’m feeling kind of rough”
“Let me break it to you, son, your shit’s fucked up.”
I said, “My shit’s fucked up?”
Well, I don’t see how-”
He said, “The shit that used to work-
It won’t work now.”
— Warren Zevon, “My Shit’s Fucked Up”
I should have expected the diagnosis for my mental condition; maybe not exactly bipolar, but some sort of chronic mental illness. I was used to being diagnosed with chronic conditions. In 1996 I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes, ulcerative colitis in 2002, and coronary arterial disease in 2010 when I had three stents put in. So it made perfect sense when I was diagnosed as bipolar II in 2012.
It’s been frustrating. As soon as I felt I had a condition under control, the next condition would be battering at the gate. After finding out I had ulcerative colitis, I even asked my doctor, “Can’t I just get a goddamn cold or something? I’m tired of collecting diseases.” Little did I know that the most terrifying one was still several years away and would seemingly put me at odds with my own brain. I had made concessions for one disease after another, although until this year, dealing with my diabetes had been the toughest challenge. Some foods were seemingly impossible to give up. Not just sweets, but complex carbohydrates, which were some of my favorite meals. Pasta, bagels, and bread had been staples of my diet since I was a kid, not to mention the fact that they were inexpensive.
When I finally went on insulin my blood sugar was easier to control, but I would occasionally find myself the victim of my own binges. Looking back, I still can’t figure how much of the desire to binge was because of the natural diabetic desire to binge, or how much was either mania or depression. I felt the same uneasiness about my inability to quit smoking after having stents put in two years ago. Was it difficulty quitting a bad habit in which I’ve indulged for almost thirty years, or some form of self-sabotage?
I was diagnosed with bipolar II and this has forced me to shift the perspective of my entire life. I had to look at my entire past through the filter of mental illness. In the documentary, Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, Fry talks about the suicidal urge, and that even when he’s happy and doesn’t want to kill himself, he still feels that he wouldn’t mind if he were dead. This raised an interesting question for me. Were behaviors like not eating properly, smoking, and using drugs and alcohol not just a part of the mania, but also, in some way, passive suicide attempts? Rather than indulge in some violent or bloody method, wouldn’t it be easier to die of a heart attack or stroke? Were the behaviors just, once again, my brain’s way of trying to kill me? I truly felt this way about bipolar disorder; that I could no longer trust myself, or at least what my brain was trying to accomplish, before I went back on my medication. I no longer want to kill myself, nor would I be particularly happy to be dead. I very much want to live, so this gives me impetus to take care of myself. I take all my medications on a regular basis, including my insulin. I have cut down considerably on sweets, but I am still trying to quit smoking. It’s been the one vice I’ve managed to hang on to, but hopefully can quit soon.
As I final note, I’m, apparently not done collecting diseases. I found out two weeks agao that I now suffer from psoriasis, a skin disease which can be brought on as a result of type II diabetes, or stress, or both. This one should be fun, too.