Chris Jones here.
I wear many hats, both figuratively and literally. The hat I am wearing in this photo is special to me because my mother bought it for me and I customized the band to suit my preferences (Sharpie markers great for that). The hat that I would like to share with you through this blog is my writing hat. I was taking online graduate classes in Southern New Hampshire University’s English and Creative Writing Program. I am now in the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program.
Above is the simple explanation of my life. I was not sure if you wanted to know the rest right off the bat, so I warn you that, if you continue reading, you may form an actual opinion of me. That is okay. You are entitled to one.
Not even a month after I turned 40, I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 Disorder. I have had a diagnosis of Chronic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from my military service for 21 years now, but there has always been something that was not responding to treatment, and it had been dragging me downhill for the last 21 years. I have become less and less functional and more and more treatment-resistant. Until a mania or hypomania rears its (ugly) head, the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder cannot be made, therefore there was no reason to think that we were treating the illness the wrong way because I had never had either of those.
The day that I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 Disorder, I called my psychiatrist’s office manager Kathy and told her that something was really wrong—that I was having a really good day . . . too good. I had gotten two weeks’ worth of graduate creative writing schoolwork done in five hours. I am very efficient, but that was superhuman. I felt electric, and I told her that I needed to talk to the Doc. Having undergraduate degrees in both biology and psychology, and a graduate degree in psychology, I knew in my mind what it likely was. I knew what the Doc was going to say, but he needed to know, and the last thing I wanted to do was have to tell him about this.
The Doc called me a short time later and I told him what was happening. “Well, Chris, what do you think it is?” he asked, knowing me quite well. I told him that I did not want to tell him what I thought it was. He replied calmly, “Well, you know that I think it is what you think it is. But this clarifies the diagnosis. You’re going through a mania.” Mania. Bipolar Disorder. I thought I was prepared to hear those words, but I was not. I broke down hardcore and the Doc spent 45 minutes calming me down on the phone. “Chris, what I don’t want you to do is to go and do something rash. This is actually a good thing. We’re going to change your medications. Things are going to get better. But I don’t want you to do anything rash or anything that would make things worse than they are.” He knows me too well. We remained in close contact for the next few days, even over the weekend, and then we set out to overhaul my medications as I grieve the loss of my sanity . . . again.
That was in October 2020. I am still going through a Bipolar 1 Mania the day before Thanksgiving 2020 in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, but my Doc’s quick thinking and availability helped me to avoid having to go to the hospital over this. I am grateful for such a genuinely good human being in my life, especially right now. So thanks, Doc!
UPDATE ONE YEAR LATER (2021): It turns out that the manic “event” was probably a bad medication interaction, as the Doc and I had changed my medication regimen two days before it began. Now, since the Doc retired on Memorial Day of this year (extremely devastating to me), I have a new psychiatrist and we are currently adjusting my medications. We added the antidepressant back in and I am doing much better than I had been, leading me to believe even more strongly that I do not have Bipolar 1 Disorder, but instead my former diagnosis of Recurrent Major Depressive Disorder. Nothing in my life adds up to a Bipolar Disorder diagnosis except that one, probably medication-induced, incident. Everything else in my life over the past 21 years points to Recurrent Major Depression and Chronic PTSD. Although I need to get the “label” changed back again, the new psychiatrist has been very understanding and receptive to changes in my medications that are helping me deal with life in a reasonable manner. I do not fault the Doc for having given me “this albatross of a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder”, but I do expect that it will eventually be revised. At least I hope that is the case…