Saturday, August 29, 2009

Friends and Elevations

When Saturday morning comes and six or four or twelve of us are gathered around a table, knitting and talking, my thoughts inevitably turn to the topic of having friends. If there is anything in this world that makes my heart beat faster with gratitude, it is my relationships with family and friends. After a few years of isolating myself due to illness and an ill-chosen religious home, I am thrilled to be in contact with so many friends. Lately they seem to be coming out of the woodwork. I signed up for Facebook, and amazing people from my past - usually ones that I never suspected would hunt for me - have turned up and "friended" me. I've made friends at the chemotherapy suite who are still regularly checking in by email. People are stopping me in the grocery store, in restaurants, hugging me and vowing to get together. Younger family members have been calling and keeping in touch. My friendship cup runneth over.
I have grown close to my group of knitting friends, and I felt comfortable sharing with them today that I've been a bit manic lately - what a psychiatrist would label as "hypomanic". How can I tell? I am emotional - tears of joy flow very easily. I feel more religious fervor than usual. My everyday, normal-mood approach to religion is pretty dry and matter-of-fact. Today I was blasting gospel in my car and singing at the top of my voice, even entertaining the idea that I might detour and go to a church service instead of
to knitting group. I gave away a cashmere hat that I would have sold for $50 to an elderly lady at the chemo suite. Hmm. I might have done that last one under any circumstances. But you get my drift - when I am manic, my heart is open.
However, there is a downside. I may find that my opinion of something has changed completely from, say, last month, even though I felt very firm in my conviction before. I can be more irritable and short when things don't go well. I may confuse and frustrate my friends and family with my inconsistency or change of mood.
Does this need medication? Complex question. I took lithium at one time, when I was in my early thirties. The evening-out that it did affected some things that still seem surprising to me. Yes, my mood was more consistent, but I also had a more normal appetite and my music sight-reading improved. Those things were nice, but I had to give up lithium when I began some of the medications that were essential for treating lupus. At the time, there weren't good alternative medications. That has changed drastically with the introduction of a number of anti-seizure drugs which have been found to be quite effective for bipolar illness. At any rate, I have remained on antidepressants, which smooth out the other end of the spectrum and keep me from the most serious side effects of this disorder. I now recognize the occasional manic spike and can control my symptoms much more easily, as I have grown older.
What the heck?! I didn't designate this day as mental health blogging day. It has, however, been on my mind because of (1) my own change in mood and (2) the death of Senator Ted Kennedy, who championed the inclusion of mental illnesses in all health care coverage, something that has not yet been achieved. As much as I value my Medicare, it pays painfully little for me to stay in the care of a psychiatrist. The knowledge that I need an objective specialist managing that aspect of my health doesn't make it any easier to pay those giant-size bills.
So here we are, back at health care reform. No change in my opinions on this one. We need a public health care option. We need to provide health care for every single American. I missed the last rally because of joint issues. I will try my best to attend the next one.


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