Do you have fun making choices?  I do – at times. 

What do I mean about fun?  Well, for one example – you should see me in a restaurant, particularly an Asian one.  My wife sits and laughs watching me licking my lips, figuratively and actually, as I drool over all of the beautiful food choices on the menu.  Finally, some time after my wife has made her choice for the meal, I get around to making my choice of what I am going to order

Life is like the restaurant menu for me, too full of choices; some are easy, some are hard.  Some are extremely difficult for me.  Some choices are thrust upon me and; some I have chosen freely.

Some I deliberately avoid.

Throughout much of my life the choices I made were taken without any real thought of any consequences or even with much thought at all!

They were either in the euphoric rush of my highs where everything was always going to turn out okay no matter what I did.  Nobody was ever going to be hurt; and the concept that I could possibly be wrong was completely foreign to me!

Or, in the depths of depression where thinking itself seemed to be non-existent, it was impossible to even consider that I had the ability to make any choices at all.

It is only in the last few years since I have been properly diagnosed and treated that I have realised the consequences and potential results of some of my earlier choices in life and frankly, it scares me.  How I managed to survive to the ripe old age I did before I started therapy and medication just staggers me.

I also now realise that simply not making a choice is also a choice, and that doing nothing can often be the worse choice of all!

When I first met with my psychiatrist and he started to discuss mood stabilizer options with me, how they worked and the potential physical effects on patients, I was concerned that taking psychotropic drugs would destroy the ‘real me’, and that I would be some kind of drugged zombie.

He then said something to me that I found very interesting.  He said that my taking the medication was not really a medical question for me.  It was really a life style choice that I had to decide on.  He would still be available to help me through various therapies if I wished, whether I decided to take the medication or not.

If I was happy with the way I was – then I didn’t have to take the medication at all.  But if I wasn’t happy with my life and the inner turmoil that I always seemed to be going through, then I could choose to take the medication and balance out the change in moods with my perception of myself and what I thought was the ‘real me’.  It was completely up to me.

I can now understand that the question he posed was a crucial one for me.  Not just from his treatment option point of view – but from a far more important personal one for me.

Did I want things to change in my life?  If I did – then I had to take ownership of the problem by deciding if I was happy with my life and was I prepared to do something about it.  The psychiatrist couldn’t do it for me, no one could.

I found this one of those choices that I would have far preferred to avoid but I knew at last I had reached that point of no return.  I had to do something - I couldn’t go on as I had before.

I am really glad I did.  Apart from the great things that have happened in my personal life, just think, I wouldn’t be pestering all of you with my ramblings, (I will leave you to decide if was a good idea or not!).   I also see a light for the future, that there are things now that are possible for me that wouldn’t have been before.

It’s not easy at times, like all of us, I get fed up having to remember taking my medication morning and night and writing up my daily mood charts.  I get sick of the stomach upsets, occasional tremors and other symptoms that the medication causes me, but still the life style choice is worth the down side for me.

Why am I sharing this with you?  Well some really good friends of mine that I used to work with came over recently and we had a nice talk over a lot of things.  They both know of my illness and what I have done about it over the last few years.  The husband suffers from chronic major depression and has regular therapy for it.  His wife admits that she is sure she suffers from bipolar disorder, and having worked for her, I completely agree.

The tragedy is that she fears losing the buzz of the highs and the enjoyment she gets from it, and doesn’t want to risk losing her manic edge, as she calls it.  As for the depressive end of the cycle, as far as she is concerned, she only suffers form depression when her husband is down and it is his fault for dragging her down.

We bipolar suffers don’t have an easy life – but if we choose to ignore the chances to improve the quality of our lives and the lives of those around us.  To me that is the most tragic choice of all.


Graham Brown

28 September 2003

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