I consider myself okay most days. Most days I deal, with some kind of patience, the realities of this disease. I deal with the stigmas, the discrimination, the secrecy from my friends and family. I try to find it in my soul to forgive those who honestly speak out of pure ignorance about mental health. I try to not get frustrated with the doctors who don’t care to know what they are talking about, and I honestly try to reconcile in my heart the truth that there are those that would disdain my very existence if they knew of the things I suffer. It sounds dramatic, but the truth is the only way to deal with this disease is to find forgiveness, patience and the ability to keep secrets. It is a truth, one that every mental patient must learn; and learn well.
I can take all of it. I have learned that being secret does not mean that I have done something wrong. I have learned that being secret doesn’t mean I have shame. I have learned being secret about a disease that is scary and often misrepresented is just smart business sense.
But there are those in my life I expect to not only understand, but to help make my life easier. They are the doctors, the pharmacists, the insurance companies. They are the ones that should be educated about this disease, not the rumor but the truth. They are the ones that should look at me and see not something disgusting or wrong, but someone who simply has a disease out of her control. A patient that simply needs her medicine to function.
I have of course, met with doctors who treated me like the scum on the bottom of their shoe because of my disease. Once I even met a doctor who refused to treat my simple symptoms because he couldn’t accept that there might be something else wrong with me other than this disease. He couldn’t see past his own prejudice to recognize that I was sick not of the mind but from what was probably a simple sinus infection. He almost single-handedly destroyed all my belief in doctors and the good that help can provide. Almost.
I have moved on from that incident, and simply bring it up now to make a point. The point being that there is an overwhelming consensus that mental health is a dangerous and unpredictable disease. That those suffering from the disease are not whole, not good, not worth the time and money that others take for granted. I have learned to accept this, even if it has scarred me in ways I don’t want to begin to describe.
Most doctors, pharmacists, and even others will tell you about the importance of a mental patient’s medication. When one has a relapse or even an episode, the first question that is asked concerns their medicine. When I have a bad day or tough time, no one asks if I as a woman is PMSing, but rather if I am taking my medications; ever other husband and man in the world rolls their eyes with assumption of that time of month. When my pill bottle is empty the level of stress this can cause is astronomical; and that is probably even justified. Drinking causes concern, because of the reaction to the meds; and even other pills can put fear into love ones.
Medication is considered the most important constant in a bipolar’s life; even more so than therapy. And I can’t actually argue with that. It is not pretty when I take the wrong dosage of a medicine, or I decide not to take my meds for a period of time. It is not pretty when I run out of my medicine, or even when that medicine is a chemical concoction that is not balanced. Trust me, finding the right medicine and the right balance is a battle I fight. What works today may fail tomorrow; and the failure has consequences beyond my control.
So because of the importance you would naturally assume that those in the health professions, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and the insurance companies would recognize the importance immediately. This, my friends is simply not true. And it is a frustrating aspect of a disease that does not make sense in any way to begin with.
I take high dosages of medicine. I take higher than the recommended amount; the amount created by some obscure lab tech in the middle of nowhere. I take enough pills on a daily basis to ensure that while I may have ups and downs, they aren’t necessarily violent or brutal to those I love. I take the pills almost religiously; although I admit to being only human and forgetting sometimes. I take all those pills after fifteen years of working diligently to find a balance and a combination that works. I actually have a great fear of the day when this set of pills doesn’t work anymore and I am going to have to experiment once more for a temporary cure. There has to be a balance with all the pills, because there is not one that cures all.
With those high dosages however, comes the required hoops and jumps that one can not even imagine. Because I take such high dosages, I am required every three months to not only get evaluated by a specialized doctor, but I am required to get special permission to take the medicines I need. And that special permission comes not only at a cost, but with my time and patience. Because I am not normal, the medical community has decided that I need oversight beyond just a simple doctor’s prescription.
Most people, when sick or even when trying to manage a disease, receive a piece of paper with some chicken scratch that they take to a pharmacist, and in exchange are given a bottle of pills. This is the norm for the vast majority of people. Have a complicated physical disease, that is okay, here is your medication. Have a complicated mental disease, whoa – is your doctor sure that this is what you need?
Never mind that I have been taking this regiment of pills for three years. Never mind that my doctor is fully qualified to write the correct prescriptions for me, at the right dosages. Never mind that I wouldn’t know how to edit those prescriptions because I can’t read the darn writing. Because it isn’t the norm, it has to be investigated. This wouldn’t bother me, I hope, if I didn’t have to go through the exact same hoops every three to six months. If I didn’t have to figure out the steps every three to six months to get medications I must have to live. I must have this medicine to survive in some semblance of control, and yet it is that very thing that people have to question.
It always seems to me that the worst hypocrites are those that on one hand hate me for the disease that I have, are scared of me because of the medicines I am required to take; but on the other hand make it nearly impossible or at least very difficult to get those medicines. I realize that I take a class of medication and a dosage amount that is not the norm; but then this disease isn’t normal. I have to take the pills that they don’t seem to want me to take.
You, all of you out there, get life one way or the other. And while I will continue to play the game, the consequences are on you. Quit making those of us who need help have to go through a maze of nothingness to get it. Stop what you are doing and think for a moment about what happens to those that can’t mentally go through this much disappointment, this much confusion, this much frustration. And then think which you would rather have; a dosage that is controlled, or a mental patient that has control?