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THE BIPOLAR PERSPECTIVE: BEARING THE BAGGIE OF BURDENS   Leave a comment

PISSED

The other day I finally went to the urologist.  I wanted to find out why at fifty years of age I started wetting the bed three nights a week.  As I walked into my sparse HMO Plan’s Doctor’s Office, I was prepared for news of a cancerous growth in my manhood, a renegade testicle or an untreated progressive tropical sexual disease I picked up eating Cuban Food in San Francisco’s Mission District.  But I got even worse news… There was nothing physically wrong with me.  The emotionless managed care physician even managed to look at my prostate, which apparently gave him the “OK” sign as well.  I wonder if it was a “thumbs up” or it just “winked”at him like a Cheshire cat?

RESTRICTED FLOW

 If my member is not sick, that means my night-time urinary incontinence must be in my head.  Or at least that was my first conclusion.  After all these years in therapy trying to keep my Bipolar mind afloat, now I had sprung a leak down below.  And, the treatment was as vague as the apparent cause.  So the vanilla urologist gave the tasteless advice not to drink fluids three hours before bedtime and see what happens.  He also emphasized no alcohol.  I knew this was implausible. My Bipolar medications make my mouth extremely dry.  I have to keep drinking liquids or suffer from such bad cotton mouth my lips stick together when I speak, causing annoying suction sounds.  Plus, the thought of restricting the flow of alcohol prematurely during an evening on the town is out of the question.  I prefer to drink with wanton abandon.  Why should I once again have to add another limitation to my already restricted existence?

HI-HO!

And then it hit me… This was just one more annoying annotation to my treatment schedule I will have to endure due to my Bipolar Disorder.  Just like the cadre of pills I have to take twice a day, now I must regulate my liquid intake.  Another hurdle to clear, inconvenience to negotiate and regiment to be saddled with in order to remain ready for prime time.  I feel like I am in an 1800’s horse-drawn wagon, piled high with pills and their side-effects, barely inching across the baron plains of the old west.  Hi-Ho Effexor, Lamictal and Topamax! Git!

MANAGED MEDICAL INCONTINENCE

However the thing the Managed Healthcare Professional said that bothered me most is he felt the assortment of Bipolar medications I take are probably the cause of my night-time incontinence.  I’m well aware they cause dry mouth, nausea, severe constipation and weight gain, among other things.   But because my nightly dose of the anti-depressant Seroquel makes me sleep quite deeply, I may not be waking up when I have the urge to urinate.  Consequently, I go in my sleep.  And, the doctor made it clear he did not think I should discontinue any of my medications.  So in essence, he was saying it was best to continue wetting my bed.  That way “at least I have my sanity.”  I call this Managed Medical Incontinence.

BEARING THE BAGGIE OF BURDEN

One time a friend who I met in a Bipolar Chat Room came to visit me in San Francisco. When I helped her get settled in her hotel room, she pulled out an identical Zip Lock Baggie to mine filled with pill bottles containing her personal mixture of Bipolar elixirs and poultices.  I suddenly felt a strong commonality with her. I realized all Bipolar sufferers carry their own “baggie” full of unique prescriptions and medication induced limitations like mine, everywhere they go in life. I take a handful of assorted pills twice a day. Some people take theirs three times daily. Some have to take meds with food. Mine make me too nauseous to eat right away.  A number of people can drink alcohol with them, but others get violently sick or depressed and can not combine the two.  Each baggie contains a mixed bag of burdens specially formulated for that individual.  But we all bear the same baggie of burden.

MY BAGGIE IS BIGGER THAN YOUR BAGGIE

Wetting the bed is a pretty heavy burden for a baggie to bear.  You can learn to keep your shaky hands in your pockets, and take your midday dose of medication out of sight from your co-workers.  But if you are ever going to have an intimate relationship, you can’t hide the fact that you are irrigating the bed.  Or, you can wear a diaper to sleep at night and call it an “undergarment,” so it sounds more like Mormon underwear. However I’ve come to the realization that everyone’s baggie seems equally big in their own eyes.  Different people with Bipolar Illness have different medication regiments.  It’s not as simple as just popping a Prozac.  And consequently, we all have our own set of annoying side-effects. Moreover, if they are your annoying side-effects, they are bigger than anyone else’s.  When I first started taking a once daily dose of the anti-depressant Elavil in the mid-1980’s to treat my Bipolar, I didn’t even need a baggie. Conversely,  I thought taking that single pill at night would be a massive intrusion on the rest of my life.  Now I carry a heavy duty Zip Lock Baggie, and yearn for the days of simplicity that came with only needing one pill bottle.  These were the days when my side-effects could be counted on one hand, not amplified to a roar and punctuated by constantly having to change my bed sheets.

THE CAT IS OUT OF THE BAGGIE

Now that the cat is out of the baggie, do I accept my predicament or search for a solution? If you suffer from Bipolar Disorder, you are forever trying to do one thing to compensate for another.   Am I willing to discontinue the Seroquel, become sleepless, depressed and dehydrated, so I can awaken dry just in time for another miserable day of suicidal ideations? Personally I am not ready to accept the Meaningless Managed Medical Memorandum on my nocturnal incontinence. So I will go forth seeking solutions that may or may not materialize.  Will I end up adding to my baggie or shrinking it?  I don’t know. But I do know I am not alone. Because Bipolar babies all have baggies.  No matter how big or small, they are enormous to the bearer.  And all of us in the Bipolar Community anticipate with bated breath a cure for their individual intolerable side-effects just around the corner.  Side-effects are the price we pay for being alive and sane.  However they can also drive you insane.

HALF IN THE BAGGIE

I thought the only way I could write about this was if I were “half in the baggie.”  It’s an embarrassing thing to do sober.  And nobody except the person “sleeping on my bottom bunk” really has to know.  But so rarely can you showcase a Bipolar medication related side-effect that makes the non-afflicted truly realize how gruesome this business can be.  There is no free ride.  Moreover, in most cases Bipolar medication only works to a point.  It does not completely wipe out deep depression, anxiety or mania.  Just enough to get by.  But the side-effects are full strength and show no mercy.