Thursday, May 16, 2013

Poles Apart


So what’s new?

Well, after much discussion with my GP and psychiatrist, I have been diagnosed with Bipolar 2 disorder.

Over the years, I have often pondered over about the possibility of being Bipolar. Although my main symptoms are depressive, I am definitely a bit all or nothing (binary as I call it); either happy or sad, totally in or totally out. There isn’t much middle ground with me.  I do get rather excitable at times, but having never had an episode of true mania, it seemed less likely.

Having researched Bipolar 2 fully, this seems to pretty much cover it (Bipolar 1 is the ‘classic’ bipolar picture). I have tried to summarise the condition here, and I can certainly recall several episodes of hypomania over the years.

In fact my chasing of extreme events, Ironman in the 1990’s and now ultra’s, seemed to be a major diagnostic clue. More accurately, the fact that I’m always seeking to ‘push the envelope’. My first ultra was 40miles, then 50, then 100, then multi-days. How far is long enough? I don’t know. I seem to be always hunting down a new challenge.

Some of you may remember how unenthused I was prior to going to Morocco for the Marathon des Sables. This actually got worse for the first couple of days of being away. The first night in the desert was miserable; I just wanted to be at home, in bed with my Jenny. However, I could feel myself getting excited the day before the race started, and once we got going I was in my element. I felt alive, at ease, in touch with my spirit. Life was simple. I was running free, uninhibited by the usual stresses of life. But I became very excitable, often loud and boisterous, swearing a lot, always something to say, and having to get the last word in. My mind was firing on all cylinders. Jenny calls me Donkey (from Shrek) when I’m like this.

One of my tent mates actually asked me if I had considered the possibility that I might be Bipolar!

When I left home for the MdS, I didn’t want to go. When it was time to return from the desert, I didn’t want to leave.

Of course once we were back at the hotel, back in civilization, I just wanted to get home to Jenny and the kids. I really missed them. Jenny has been so incredibly supportive over the last year, so understanding of me. I am truly grateful.

So now I’m back being depressed mainly. I have been started on Lamotrigine, a drug generally used in epilepsy but also in my condition as a mood stabiliser. I have reduced my Fluoxetine.

Am I feeling any better? Too early to tell really. Not as flat and lacking in energy as I was last year. My main concern was that I would lose the ‘top end’. I still want to have those moments of excitement and the drive to achieve. I like those bits! Jenny says I’m like a little boy when I get excited about something. Perhaps I could do with losing some of the over-the top stuff; it can get rather tiring, having to keep up the Richard Show.

So far so good!

I fully recognize that a lot of people still have issues with mental illness, and understanding the reasons. After all what have I got to be depressed about? I have a lovely wife, a good job, children that I’m proud of and who cause minimal trauma, a nice house.

My main purpose in being so open about this is that I want to help break down those barriers. I want to help people to understand mental illness and what it’s like to live with it. I know I tend to make everyone around me miserable but, as I often say, I can’t get away from it. I have to live with my head and it’s a complicated place!

I just ask that people accept mental illness as a very real problem, as a problem that affects so many people but is so poorly understood. To have some sympathy, some empathy, because, believe me, it’s actually not a bundle of laughs having it.

4 comments:

marathonmercer said... [Reply to comment]

Richard, thank you for sharing this very open and frank blog post. One thing I would say though, is that you should never say 'I have nothing to be depressed about'; mental illness is entirely indiscriminate and doesn't pick and choose only those with a 'reason'!!

Richard Lendon said... [Reply to comment]

Thanks, Marathonmercer. I think I was using the above as an example of what others think rather than how I feel - probably didn't word it very well!!

Mike Dobson-Hornett said... [Reply to comment]

I think you worded it very well ... my very personal concern remains very simple.

I have very few "highs" anymore.

Richard Lendon said... [Reply to comment]

@Mike Dobson-Hornett
Thanks Mike. Sorry to hear that - I find I'm needing more & more ' ultra drug' to get my high!

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