This time, I thought I would share a real story from my life. It’s actually my partner’s story. In his mid-twenties he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but he chose not to follow up as the antipsychotic drugs were too disabling. He went on as before, drinking, fighting in pubs, losing his licence, losing jobs. When we got together I copped occasional verbal abuse. Even though I knew of the old diagnosis, I put the nastiness down to his drinking.
Skip ten years to a couple of months ago. The episodes were quite frequent, but because he had been in rehab a few times for the alcohol problem, we were able to talk openly about the booze. One time an episode of mania started and I spotted it early. I also noticed that the episode came first and the drinking later (this had never happened before). At last the old diagnosis was verified. I understood my great-grandfather’s quote better than ever: ‘I drink to still the mind.’ Because of our ability to talk rationally and openly even during an episode I suggested he take some of my lithium. He agreed; it worked within three hours. He’s still taking it more than a month afterwards (with his own script!)
So what have I learned from this?
· Diagnoses may be ‘dropped’ and let slip into the murky past, sometimes for good reasons;
· Observation is crucial: spotting the mania causing the drinking rather than blaming the drinking for bad behaviour;
· Medication works and life is better when you‘re treated;
· Waiting ten years is a long time but could not be hurried: we have to wait for the right time to be persuasive;
· As insight develops over time, so too does our ability to contribute solutions;
· Rehab was useful in enabling us to talk frankly and without values about alcohol; this spread over to talking about bipolar disorder.
· Looking back and grieving over the losses, asking what if he’d been taking lithium then? is futile, makes me hurt and those times were simply what they were. We were held together during that time and now it’s a season to rejoice.
I hope your journey is fulfilling, safe and peaceful, and stays that way for good.