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[B]Today, for the first time in a long time, a [I]stranger[/I] reached out to me with kindness.[/B]:angel:

[B]Hi Paul-A-Bipolar,[/B]

Thanks for your honesty when responding to my post about Keppra.

After reading your reply, I realized I was a bit misleading. While trying to be specific, I ended up leaving out some important facts.

I need to set the record straight. This is hard. It means I need to be completely honest with myself. Not to mention admitting to everyone that I was unintentionally dishonest.

My pdoc is excellent. He's always been patient and upfront with me. He told me to research Keppra and Lamactil because he "knows how I am" about trying a new drug. [U]He's[/U] [U]very well informed[/U] about these drugs, as well as all the drugs I've tried. He is the Chief Of Psychiatry at the Veterans Administration where I'm treated on an outpatient basis. His assistant is a Psychopharmacologist. Both of them are very aware of my "personality". [B][U]And there lies the problem![/U][/B]

Please indulge me for this post. This is my first real support group and I think I might feel better if I could just vent/ramble for awhile. It's nice to meet a group of people who can really understand.

How do I begin to explain who I am? Or,who I was. I served in the Army during the Viet Nam era. As a Psychiatric Nurse, I worked with soldiers who'd returned from Nam. It was very challenging work and I loved it. The funny thing is ( not funny really)....I was so absorbed with trying to help them with their psyche issues that I couldn't see my own.

My goal was to have a medical career in the Army. In fact, I was attending college fulltime at night, studying pre-med. (Knowing what I now know, that screams MANIA! Fulltime job. Fulltime college.) I thought I had it made. My superiors were very impressed with my initiative. My ego was so far out there I couldn't grab ahold of it. But God always reminds those who indulge in too much self-will. I found [I]that[/I] out the hard way.

While on a weekend pass to Washington DC., my car was hit by a drunk taxi cab driver. It took more than a year to fully regain the use of my legs. During that time I received an honorable discharge from the Army and was transferred to a VA facility for rehabilitation. Goodbye Army career. Goodbye college. Goodbye out of control ego. Hello bad attitude! Hello self-pity!

I became a very controlling and demanding person. Truth....I was an out of control bipolar "witch". This was not a good thing. Especially when I was confined to a VA facility where among the hundreds of Vets there were only a handful of women at that time. It no longer mattered what I had been trying to accomplish in the Army. To the VA personnel, I was known only by "the last four digits of my social security number". Add to all of that the fact that I was an undiagnosed rapid cycler. It wasn't a pretty picture.

Don't misunderstand. Though it doesn't sound like it, I'm actually very grateful to the VA. They literally got me back on my feet! They awarded me a 100% disability. And they let me play Bingo every night! Several years later the VA even paid for me to finish college.

Okay...I'm getting way off the point here. I've been in the VA healthcare system for....well...a very long time. Now is where it's really hard to be honest with myself. I have a dual degree. One in Psychology and the other in Special Education. Somewhere along the way I got it into my bipolar head that I was special and just as intelligent and knowledgable as all the doctors I was seeing. That attitude seems so ridiculous and pompous to me now. Just who did I think I was? Denial made me blind. I studied Psychology of all things, and never once made the connection between bipolar and myself.

After being diagnosed as a rapid cycler with panic/anxiety disorder, I made it my mission to find out as much as possible about the symptoms. That's when I realized the world according to Buckeyeblu (me) was a creation...a dream world where I felt special and held the secret knowledge that I was extremely intelligent. "My little world" held no limitations. What a joke! How snobbish! What I truely thought was real about myself were only symptoms of a mental illness.

Ten years ago I took an early retirement from my job. I taught Special Education to high school seniors, and was the school's Psychologist. The retirement wasn't my idea. My mood swings interferred so much with my work that kids were complaining to their parents. And all along I thought I was doing a great job of hiding my mental illness.

Another career down the tubes. Another major blow to my ego. But this time it was different than when in the Army. The small town I live in thrives on gossip. My family has always been very well known and respected in this town. Within a few days of retiring, the news was everywhere. They could just as well have published it in our local newspaper. Buckeyeblu was mentally ill!!! People commented to my family how sorry they were to hear about my "condition". They couldn't even bring themselves to say mental illness.

One by one, I lost all of my friends. Well, that's not exactly the way it happened. Once they heard I was "mentally ill", they began treating me different. So the truth by one, [I]I[/I] dropped all my friends. My neighbors, who were at one time so friendly, now treat me different. I know I'm not just being paranoid when I say these things. I can see it in their eyes. I can read it in their body language.

I've been divorced for a long time. For awhile I played the dating game. I even managed to sustain a few sort of long-term relationships. But they always ended the same. "Buckeyeblu, you're a really nice woman and I care for you very much. But I just can't handle your mood swings. I know that in the beginning I told you I'd be able to handle it. But I can't. I'm very sorry." So I stopped dating.

For many years I've fought very hard to [U]not accept[/U] that I have a mental illness. At the same time, I've fought just as hard to cope with my mental illness. Something had to give. It was me. I finally caved in and faced reality. I am what I am. Period. It doesn't matter how many college degrees I have. It doesn't matter what I accomplished in the past because I can't continue to live in the past. All I have is today. And today I am a rapid cycler who has no control over her disease. Believe me, I've tried to control it, but I can't. It controls me. Some days are good. Some bad. Some really rotten. But I manage to get through them and thank God at the end of each that I [I]did[/I] get through them. Some days I feel productive and manage to accomplish something small. Other days I can't seem to get out of my chair. You probably know how that goes.

[B][U]Paul-A-Bipolar[/U][/B].....I began my treatment 15 years ago with Lithium. From there I went to Depakote. Then Tegretol. I've also tried Neurontin (Gapapentin), Abilify, Topomax, [U]all[/U] the other drugs you mentioned and I can't remember what else. Let's not leave out the anti-depressants. I've tried them all, too. Nothing has worked to control the mood swings. All I get are side effects. In fact, on three different occasions I ended up in the psyche ward due to the side effects of Tegretol, Neurontin and Topomax. Topomax actually caused temporary brain damage. It took about 8 months for my brain to get back to "normal".

After the Topomax episode, I told my pdoc...."no more drugs for mood swings"! I was sick and tired of feeling like a guinea pig. Obviously nothing was working. I've also tried years of Psychotherapy. I must be one stubborn, controlling nut case because it isn't working either!

The reason my pdoc told me this past Monday to go home and research Keppra and Lamactil is because he's been trying to talk me into going back on a mood stabilizer for the past year. Actually, his primary recommendation has been Lamactil. But I've been adamant about not wanting to try anything. So you see, it's not him. It's me. He knows how afraid I am of side effects. (Especially after the temporary brain damage.) We've discussed how my trying to be in control of my illness/treatment, thereby trying to control whatever he suggests is counter-productive. He's told me many times that all he can do is suggest a medication and point out its benefits. But, it's up to me to make the final decision. After all, it's my body. My brain. My mood swings. He knows me better than I know myself. He realizes that if I continue to "research" a particular drug for a long enough period, I'll eventually do the right thing and take his advice. The only reason he mentioned the drug "Keppra" was because it had fewer side effects.

Today, I made a major decision. I called and told him I would agree to take Lamactil. I promised him I would hang in there through any side effects and give it my best shot. He's going to have the VA pharmacy put it in the overnight mail. So, I guess I'll start taking it tomorrow night.

Does it sound too irrational to say that I'm scared? It's not just the possibility of side effects. I'm afraid to get my hopes up....once again. What if it turns out to be like all the other drugs that haven't worked? [U]Lamactil really [I] is[/I]the only drug I haven't tried.[/U]

I want to end this post by saying that I don't allow self-pity. It's a waste of my time. I had to learn that one the hard way. I've led a full and interesting life....actually much akin to a soap opera. Really! However I do get frustrated and angry with myself when my attention span and concentration level aren't what they used to be. (which is often) Sometimes I feel like I'm walking on the dark side. I can stress out at the drop of a hat, or cry at the drop of that same hat. Dare I mention irritability? (LOL) But I know it's all in the name of being bipolar.

Thanks for listening. I'm so glad to have found this group!!!!

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