A recent health concern requiring medical tests, doctor visits, and more appointments complicated not only my daily living but also my bipolar, triggering a depressive episode. Here is how I got through it and came out the other side.
Regular Maintenance, a Reality of Bipolar
Let’s face it. Sometimes, having and dealing with bipolar can be difficult. There are doctor’s appointments and visits to the pharmacy on a regular basis. These can be not only time-consuming but also mentally draining.
Bipolar requires additional “life admin.” You must schedule out the doctor’s visits, make sure your schedule is cleared and open, and account for any missed work or school or childcare—whatever applies to your life situation. Then there is making sure you pick up your monthly prescriptions on time. If you are lucky, they all fill on the same day, and you only make one trip.
At times, this regular maintenance for bipolar can feel overwhelming. How, then, do we also deal with other, unexpected medical issues or concerns that crop up—ones that have nothing to do with our mental health but still affect our bipolar and overall wellbeing?
Managing New Medical Concerns
Recently, this happened to me. I had a medical issue for which I ended up in the emergency room one night after work. I really tried not to go. I had the attitude that I could deal with this, but, after a discussion with my husband, I decided it was time to go. The medical staff in the ER were great. I got there and spoke to the doctor right away. They took care of me and ran tests. But they could not find anything wrong with me and sent me on my way. They did instruct me to follow up with my primary care doctor and a specialist if my issue continued.
I did as I was instructed and made the follow-up appointment, and I ended up having to see a specialist. Making these additional appointments, and handling all of the mental and emotional “what if’s” took their toll on me. (On top of that, I did an internet search online for my symptoms. Which we all know is one of the worst things someone could do. Yes, the internet can provide great guidance, but there are some scary things that come up when you start to “diagnose” yourself with only online info as guidance.) After seeing both doctors, I was given more prescriptions, and I had to schedule more medical tests.
With all of this going on, I had personal issues come up that affected how I was feeling; and this all did trigger my bipolar depression. These are the emotions I faced, how they made me feel, and how I handled them.
To say I was worried would be an understatement. I was flat-out scared. Scared that something could really be wrong, and how the medical test would be. The “C” word—cancer—was mentioned. If that does not send a shock through you, I do not know what will.
On top of the doctors saying, “Well, we need to check for this or that …,” the medical test itself added to my fear. The tests are everyday tests that thousands of people get a year, and are all outpatient tests. However, that did not help at all with the way I was feeling.
I was in constant communication with husband, my love, and he reassured me over and over that everything would be just fine, and that he would be with me and he would do anything for me. He sat with me in the ER for four hours, and I trust him. We had many conversations, and he comforted me the whole way. This made me feel better and safe.
I was impatient because I wanted the test to hurry up and happen, and I wanted my test results right away. Like I said, I used the internet to look up my symptoms—which only caused me to worry more. Which only made me that much more impatient.
I tried to keep my mind busy. I went to work every day, cooked dinner, cleaned the house, and did yoga. In other words, I kept to my normal routine. I used these as a distraction to what was going to happen and what my diagnosis would be.
One of my medical tests was late to get started. I had to wait two hours longer than scheduled. So, there I was, in the waiting room, impatiently waiting. I was antsy, uncomfortable, and hungry. It was one of those tests you must fast for. Yes, I was “hangry”!
The other medical test went off without a hiccup. I did feel relief once all these tests were over, and—to my surprise—I did get my results quickly. I just had to get out of my head and not focus on the “what if’s.”
#3 Bipolar Depression
With all of these fears and emotions and ideas racing through my head, plus feeling scared and impatient, I was triggered into depression. I was worried about the potential outcomes, How could affect my family and our lives? And would this interfere with my bipolar?
It was extremely difficult to focus on the positive and to not overthink things. I was trying to remain positive, but I kept thinking, What if this issue could affect me physically? And how would it affect my bipolar? Could I continue to take my medication? I have been on the same medication for a while; I am stable, and I have been for a while.
I also realized that this depression was triggered by a specific situation. This gave me hope that it would end once my medical uncertainties resolved and the results were in. So, I wasn’t surprised when that is exactly what happened.
We All Struggle with the Unexpected
Having medical concerns that pop up unexpectedly can take a toll on anyone. I believe that when this happens to someone who is living with bipolar, it can be more difficult. That is because there are so many other factors and variables to consider.
I am happy to report that all of my tests came back normal, and I feel much better. My feelings and how I dealt with them took time to work through. Nothing is perfect. Medical concerns and issues should be investigated, and you should take care of yourself physically just like you do mentally.
The one thing that kept me on track was my love. His caring and understanding and compassion was the biggest help. I am a lucky girl to have such great support.
Jessica Taylor lives in the Tampa Bay area. She has an MBA from Western Governors University and a BS in accounting from the University of South Florida. She was diagnosed with bipolar II in 2016, at age 35. She has been with the love of her life for almost two decades. A corporate accountant who found her passion for this career in 2004, Jessica is also an avid outdoorsman. She loves Jesus and spending time with her family. Her hope is to shine a light on living with bipolar from what she has learned.
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