Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada, My Real Opinion

Picking up just one prescription today?

I have been going to the same pharmacy for as long as I can remember. They know me by name. They know that when I pick up my bag of prescriptions, it’s usually 6 prescriptions that I have filled.

Last week I went to pick up a prescription for Prevacid (because stomach problems go so well with mental illnesses, right?), and when I got to the pick up counter at the pharmacy, the pharmacist said, “Picking up just one prescription today?” I had picked up my 6-pack last week, and although she may not have been aware of that, I still wanted to ask, “Does that matter? Why is that your business?” And of course there was someone behind me in line.

Why would a pharmacist feel the need to say that? It was also interesting because this same pharmacist, a couple months ago, had printed out a list of my medications, “flagged” my prescription profile and when I came in said “You’re on a lot of medications, we should talk about this, to which I said, “I’ve been on these medications for years, and the dosages haven’t changed in over a year, or longer.” I had to sign off on some form. I am not sure if it was some proactive legal “pharmacist consultation” form or something like that, but if she was really that concerned, she should have flagged my file when all of these prescriptions first started appearing.

I had another interesting encounter with one of the pharmacy assistants a while ago while bringing in prescriptions to fill and keep on file. I asked him to fill the usual 6 and log the refills and said I would be back the next day to get it. It was after 6pm and he asked me if I worked. I responded that I do and that I work full time. I feel like he wanted to ask me, “How is that working out for you?”

just people living with a condition

It’s unpleasant to feel like you are being judged for filling your prescriptions. But there are pharmacists/pharmacy assistants there who at least use more discretion. When I come in to order my prescriptions, they’ll just say, The same as last time?” or show me the screen to verify.

Writing this actually reminds me of something that happened at my last job. I never disclosed my diagnosis to my boss, but I had told him that I have an anxiety disorder and I go to a psychiatrist and sometimes required extra time on lunch for my appointments (since my office was so close to the doctor I was able to pull it off). One evening, I was putting files away and on the way back to my office, my pill box (a.k.a. mini pharmacy with pills for the day – Ativan, Rivotril, digestive enzymes) dropped out of my pocket and spilled all over the carpet, IN FRONT OF HIM. I was so embarrassed, but he was really kind about it and helped me pick everything up and said, You should see what some of my clients carry on them!” We never spoke of it again. I don’t think he really knew what to say but it’s not like he recognized what each pills was or knew what it was for.

Is it written somewhere that someone with a mental illness like type II bipolar disorder can’t work, hold down a full time job and lead a “normal” life? I don’t think there are any rules against it!

Any time I have left a job, it was because I wanted to, it was always my decision to do so. I am in control of my life.

I found a great article on Huffington Post Canada, “5 Things People With Mental Illnesses Can Do”, that I want to share, because it’s so relatable and empowering. This particular part of the article hit home:

Do not minimize my illness by stating that it will pass; that it’s just a phase. Trust me, I’d love for it to pass too. I’d love for this to be “just a phase.” Because imagine how much more I could do if I wasn’t so wrought with anxiety that I have to cancel bridal showers, family dinners, and avoid friends. I can’t overcome the symptoms of my illnesses. But I can write about them. That I can do.

YES – How many times have you had someone tell you, “This too shall pass.” The saying is trite and it’s just empty to people like us. The worst thing you can do to your friend or loved one who has a mental illness and is going through a difficult time is to say that, and to call it a phase. Bipolar disorder has cycles. My bipolar disorder has many, many cycles thanks to its rapid cycling component. But what I like about this particular excerpt is the honesty – let’s get real, if the rough periods just “passed” or were a “phase” and had a specific duration, maybe I could do more. Maybe I wouldn’t have missed that wedding, that bridal shower, that bachelorette, that baby shower, that bat mitzvah, countless birthday parties, family dinners….maybe I would be a world traveller like my sister. Maybe I would have taken a different path in life.

You know what? I can’t live in “Maybe-land” and wonder “What if?” I am a firm believer that what will be, will be and if it is meant to be, it will happen. There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but you learn to manage your symptoms. And you know what I can do? I can help people. From the safety of my couch/bed (or wherever I write these blogs from), I can make the conscious choice to help by sharing my story, my thoughts and letting others know that someone else thinks the way they do.

Maybe I am not a world-traveller, a life-saving doctor or a high profile business woman, but I am owning my life and my illness. And that takes guts. I am not shy about my feelings towards mental health stigma and the importance of seeking treatment. I am myself when I am able to be. And the best part is, my dream job was always to be a writer. I am not a journalist or a novelist (yet), but my job at the office is 99% writing and look where my creative energy and urge to help brought me? To Healthy Minds Canada. A place to find my voice and to be myself!!

owning our story

Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada, My Real Opinion

Am I supposed to be happy?

How do you define happiness? Does happiness mean you have your life in order? You are successful? You have nothing to worry about?

The first definition of happiness that came up in my Google search was this one:

Happiness, gladness or joy is a mental or emotional state of well-being defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. A variety of biological, psychological, religious and philosophical approaches have striven to define happiness and identify its sources.

Helpful, right? What is the difference between a mental or emotional state of well-being? What is the exact range of happiness? How happy should one be, on average? Can you really tell if someone is happy?

I bet you can’t. So many of us put on masks – at work, at parties, in front of friends, loved ones…we want people to think we are “okay”, “fine”, “happy”, whatever acceptable emotion we want to project that day or at whatever event we are at. You really never know who is wearing a mask.

Robin Williams

I am going to be honest and say that I am not currently happy, and I can’t remember the last time I felt really, really happy in the past few years. I feel guilty about this, because I should feel joy. I have a good life, right?

I can’t say that I am entirely numb to feelings, because I am still able to feel anger, irritability, sadness etc. I feel disappointment and frustration because I am still struggling with self-confidence, I am still having trouble focusing and my sleep is non-restorative. I am mentally exhausted. I am tired of these feelings. There will always be stressors and triggers to deal with. There will always be something to worry about. I just keep expending all my energy on everyone else and forgetting to take care of myself. I don’t know how to say “no” and be “selfish”. I care too much about everyone in my life and want them to be okay, and put that before my own well-being. I am such a people-pleaser that I just can’t stop caring/worrying/thinking about everyone else.

I forgot about myself, and I feel lost. Maybe that’s it. I don’t know myself anymore, so I am not happy. I don’t know how to relax, and if I did relax, maybe I would know what I wanted. I need some down time, some “me” time, some “everyone just leave me alone” time. But I feel rude saying  that, although I really want to hibernate at times and not provide an explanation as to why I want to do so. I need time to hear my thoughts. MY thoughts, about myself, not my worries about everything else!

Yesterday, I texted my husband and said, “I just feel really sh**** mentally, I don’t know how else to describe it.” You know how you feel awful when you have a cold or migraine or another physical ailment – well, I just feel awful mentally. It’s a buildup of emotions; it feels like there is just so much in my head that I need to process and deal with and I need to figure it out for myself.

I am a big believer in being true to yourself, and if you can’t do that, it’s sad, frustrating and resentment builds up. If I want to be myself, I need to be able to express my full range of emotions, even the unpleasant ones. So…to the family and friends reading this post…can you just let me “be”, no questions asked?