Bonjour, I’m Pauline. It’s a privilege to offer my experience to your understanding of bipolar disorder and dual diagnosis with substance abuse. I once self medicated with alcohol, but now have 11 years of sobriety. May I begin by respectfully acknowledging the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations on whose traditional and unceded territories I live, work and play.
I’m a 55 year old mother of three, Nani-Ji to a half Punjabi Grandson, and I’ve spent 35 yrs being the wife of a saint. I’m a daughter, sister, friend, teacher, mentor and colleague. Many people are affected by having this ‘soul sickness.’ Besides social dysfunction, I have suffered from denial, which presented a barrier to accessing care and finding interpersonal healing.
In the last 16 yrs, I have been on 10 medications, and now fine tuned on three. Honing my insight, I am at my healthiest yet, with the expertise of my psychiatrist and psychologist. In my own mind, it is far easier to relinquish alcohol and gain a clear mind than give up the highs of mania. I had resisted adequate treatment fearing “a root canal of my soul”. To compound denial, my eccentricities were encouraged by all except those closest to me. I was lauded for my flamboyance, generosity and humour. Coercion to step up treatment occurred in 2014, when for one day, I found myself psychotic after many sleepless nights in pain. I was rescued by my family and kept safe in five point restraints over night. This, my only hospitalization, lasted 1 month. Besides avoiding hospitalization, the imperatives to accept aggressive treatment also included avoiding depression and dementia, both associated with brain burnout from the highs. Less ups means less downs.
Depression is waking to the disgust within the nostrils of my rotting body. It is the compulsion to take all my pills and slip under the bath water, a profound inertia confining me to days of indecision and bird watching from the sofa. Where can one find hope? In the words of Tagore; “Hope is the bird who feels the light and sings while the dawn is still dark.”
For patients suffering, hope in mental illness is the gift that treatment extends into the darkness. To the many scientists and clinicians who have played a part in this miracle of healing, I give my deepest gratitude. Treatment resulted in dampening my inner world of symbols and connections. Purpose and significance, I now share with others. I am abstinent of spirituality; which has been replaced with reasoned atheism and measured forays into transcendence. I still write poetry, but much less prolifically. And I am more objective about their quality.
Ecstasy is replaced with peace.
Unpredictability becomes constancy.
Impulsivity is stayed with pause.
Multitasking concedes to completing one.
Irritability softened into patience.
Restlessness is answered by acceptance.
Overconfidence yields to humility.
Bragging surrenders to confidentiality.
Interrupting quiets for listening.
Over-sharing is set aside for curiosity.
A monologue of opinions opens to dialogue.
Gregariousness settles in self-contentment.
Flirtation returns to loyalty.
Extravagance levels into moderation.
Risk taking is tempered with caution.
Selfishness imbued with empathy.
Insomnia crushed by sonorous coma.
I don’t miss drinking whatsoever, but I do miss my highs. I doubt myself when I am feeling good, worried I am escalating. Rebuilding self-trust is by one deserved day at a time. I am grateful to have got a grip before I lost everything I cherish. I am thankful for effective treatment, for wholeness and the chance to renegotiate my identity and rediscover my soul.