Lithium: It's Not Just for Teenagers Any More
Here’s a link to WebMD's page on bipolar disorder for anyone who’s interested in further reading. I plan to add links about bipolar disorder to this page soon.
I spent the first three months of the year in the highest manic state of my life and have since crashed into the lowest depression I have ever experienced. In the middle of some discussions with Karen last month, she suggested that I might be bipolar. I didn't think much of it at the time, but started to do some research the next week and found myself answering a vehement "yes" to almost every question on the diagnostic surveys. I started seeing a counselor who soon concurred that I should see a psychiatrist for an evaluation. It took two weeks to get in to see Dr. Sajid, and about 15 minutes for him to make a diagnosis.
There's no blood test or CT scan for bipolar disorder (though I am having blood work done to check other chemical levels). There's no "if it turns blue you're bipolar." The way it works is we try some medication, keep talking to medical practitioners, refine the doses, and see how it feels. I'm taking lithium right now (just started yesterday); it's the most commonly-prescribed medicine for my indications. It will be several days before I begin to feel any of its effects, and weeks before enough has built up in my system for a real gauge. Also, potential side-effects are myriad, and are worsened by too much caffeine intake (down to one cup of coffee per day) and use of anti-inflammatories, which means I have to hope aspirin will soothe my aching joints.
This comes in the middle (or as the result) of a host of massive personal questions and issues that may or may not have much of their foundations in a hypomanic or depressive phase of bipolar. In simple terms, I'm kind of a mess right now, and Karen and I could really use your kind thoughts and prayers. I'm not a lot of fun to be around right now.
I've posted this information on my blog first of all so my friends will know what's going on and second of all because part of the purpose of my blog is to make my artistic process transparent. Certainly a mood disorder like bipolar can't help but be a factor in your artistic process. The biggest question I have, and one no one can really answer for me is this: How much of my artistic identity is tied in with a mood disorder? I'm not afraid of lithium taking away my creativity per se, but the fact remains that the best work I've done, particularly recently, has definitely been heavily influenced by the boundless energy and running mind of an extended hypomanic episode. Intellectually, I believe this so-called "disorder" is in reality nothing of the kind; my bipolar design is part of what makes me Andrew and an artist. That, of course, doesn't make it any easier to figure out how to live with, but I'm not going to be ashamed of it or try to conceal it.
So where does that leave me? Well, I kind of have to put a lot of my personal questions and problems on the back burner while I figure out how much of them is purely a chemical imbalance in my brain. That's going to take a while. So forgive me if you're not getting the Andrew you saw in the catalog. In many ways, I'm re-learning how to be, and I'm doing it on the fly in the midst of a handful of personal crises that may or may not be the results of a disorder in the first place.
I'm not posting about this to get sympathy or pity or for anyone to feel like they have to treat me differently. But I want my friends to understand what's going on, and I want to take some steps toward advocacy for people (artists in particular) with mood disorders and mental illnesses.
Labels: bipolar design