I was a very happy little girl with one exception. I did not feel like I could overcome obstacles in my way. As a 3-year-old, my favorite phrase was, “I CANT like it mommy, I just CANT want to!” What I was trying to say was that it was impossible for me to do or like what my mom wanted. I simply couldn’t imagine it. Over a lifetime I have learned that I can like and want to do the impossible, and I want to let you know how I have made it this far.
When I turned 12, I realized that I was different from the other kids my age. They were looking forward to their lives, I was looking forward to its’ end. I didn’t realize that this was the first episode of bipolar depression. I just knew that I hated every minute of every day. For years, I would slip up and down the slope. At its’ worst, I would stop eating and teeter on the edge of anorexia. Then I would feel better and gain some weight back. If one were observant, and no one was, my mood was mirrored on how thin I was.
Anorexia is silent rage, a passive-aggressive letter to all that life is intolerable, and a war is raging in the brain of the sufferer.
At some point after my start of depression, another and more devastating problem emerged. I will never forget it. I was sitting in English class in 8th grade, scooting around trying to find SOME kind of position that didn’t hurt, when I realized that I couldn’t remember the last time I was pain-free. The realization that not only was I the saddest person I knew, but also had to deal with some kind of mysterious chronic pain, made me bitter and I lost hope that I would find any peace.
I decided not to tell my parents about it, knowing that finding out the problem wasn’t going to be cheap, and they already had years of medical bills from other problems I had as a child. I thought I had bone cancer, sometimes I hurt so bad I couldn’t get out of bed. And I had odd symptoms: spasms in my face, terrible TMJ, sleep problems, horrible neck pain. I felt like I had been kicked in the head every minute of the day. I spent all my free time laying on my bed, time ticking so slowly, every heartbeat one of pain and sadness. My weight plummeted again.
For two years I beat against the prison in my head, silent and talking to few people.
With hindsight, I was right not to pursue my chronic pain. Juvenile Fibromyalgia was uncommon in the late 80’s, and kids diagnosed with it lived with a poor prognosis due to high suicide rates. They were also fed loads of narcotics, turning many into addicts. I am proud of my silent struggle. It taught me to be strong against anything. My childhood phrase no longer had any power over me.
By the time I was 16, I started cycling between depressed and mildly manic. I think it was part of my coping against pain. Fibromyalgia is associated with both inflammatory disease and mental health disorders, both of which I have. Perhaps that is why it started so early. But I found that I could smile, go to school full-time, go to my job that I loved, and deal with the pain. I realized that I didn’t have bone cancer, just some crappy condition that wasn’t going to kill me. I figured that someday I would figure it out.
It still never occurred to tell someone, the symptoms were too hard to describe, and I was afraid doctors would think me nuts, which I was already figuring out myself. My bipolar disorder really affected my judgment. Had I received some help for it, perhaps I could have coped with the pain a little better.
My memories of teenage years are a little bitter, but dealing with my problems kept me out of trouble. I spent so much mental energy just trying to get through the day that I didn’t have anything left for relationships. So my book and journals were my main friends and my solace from a life that seemed so worthless.
It’s been 30 years since the start of bipolar and fibromyalgia. Such long years spent trying to live the best I could. My philosophy was that it was what the cards had dealt me and my cross to bear. But I often think back on my life with deep regret for all the opportunities that I missed because I was just too tired to try.
While I was a very “good” girl, I rejected God in my heart. He let me down. But I never asked Him for any help with my conditions, never asked for his strength or for opportunities to use my condition to help other people chained to pain and sadness. I had a ME problem, and I was stuck on it. While I leaned on Him for my cancer, I have not brought any of my other illnesses to Him. I still feel that it is my cross to bear. Perhaps someday I will give these over to Him as well.
I recently posted this poem on my other blog, but it perfectly describes my bitterness when I look back at life with the hazy gaze of bipolar memories, so I decided to re-post it here. For those who read both, an easy skip! A rather bitter, harsh poem on Fibromyalgia is posted Here at the bottom.
Tainted memories, frail remnants of
partially medicated past, meld
seamlessly with immoderate mood.
Parchment-aged, triste-hued thoughts,
coded on bipolar treated synapses,
fluctuate with the ebb and flow
of blood-brain saturation.
Oh that experience and heart alone
left pure imprint on memory templates
untweaked by man’s medical gifts!
If I could tease apart with precision skill
these paper thin layers of moody memories,
glued together with a lifetime of saline tears,
and reconstruct events unsullied
by the pendulous swing of bipolar mood,
I would strike years off my life to embrace
an unhazed unadulaterated past with clarity!
But I am doomed to forsaken colored remembrance……