“If there was a clone version of me, would you be able to differentiate between me and the clone? Like could you tell that it wasn’t the original? This troubles me. I think if there was a clone version of you, I’d totally know that it wasn’t you. It would say something and I’d be like, bam, you’re not Shane you’re a replicate. What’d you do to my husband?”
We were sitting in a small examination room with walls that reminded me of The Yellow Wallpaper. In a few steps, I could walk the length of the room and if I stretched I could touch it wall to wall.
My husband, who is 6’4, looked gigantic in this tiny room and sitting in an even smaller chair. It was straight out of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and he ate the mushroom that made him grow ten feet tall.
Meanwhile, I feel like a caged animal as I pace back and forth and ramble about clones.
“I would know it’s not you because the clone wouldn’t ask me questions like this.” He looks at me and laughs and I laugh too. Was it inappropriate? Was it too loud? I have no control over the volume of my voice.
In these situations where I’m in the grips of my mental illness — in this instance deep in hypomania — my husband has the ability to bring levity to the situation while also keeping me calm.
“Why haven’t we seen the doctor yet?” I asked. We had been waiting in the walk-in clinic for 3 hours. My doctor was working at the walk-in clinic today so I had to spend the long wait in the waiting room with people who are physically ill. I will probably contract some virus from them in the coming days. So that when I finally come down from my hypomania, I will be depressed and sick. I considered putting on one of those masks they give you if you have a cough, but I didn’t want to look crazy. “What if she’s taking so long because she’s calling the hospital thinking that I need to be admitted?”
“That’s a paranoid thought Marisa,” Shane reminds me gently. Logically, I know he’s right. That’s not how the system works. Hypomania overrides all logic and, for me at least, brings in paranoia.
“It’s the waiting, it’s getting to me.” I keep scratching my arms like I’m tweaking. We’ve been here for what seems like forever and I’m about ready to tear my skin off. I can’t sit still. I’m sure the pacing is driving him nuts.
I poke my head out of the room and I can see my doctor on the phone. She’s speaking french. I have to listen hard to understand her because her voice is lowered, and for some reason when I’m hypomanic, understanding french is more difficult. She’s definitely not talking about me.
After 40 minutes of waiting in the Yellow Wallpaper room, my doctor finally comes in to see me. This is the second time I’ve seen her this week. The first was when the hypomania started.
“Ça va mieux Marisa? Are you doing better?” Although she knows I’m an anglophone she speaks in both languages. It’s sort of endearing. We speak in a mixture of French and English. Something that only really happens in Montreal.
“No, I’m not doing any better. It’s getting worse actually.” I try and speak in short succinct sentences because I know that if I talk too much, the words will come out in a loud flood. Hypomanic speech embarrassing. As someone who already speaks fast when I’m healthy, my hypomanic speech is a flood of words that don’t always make sense.
“Oh ma pauvre.” She looks at my husband. “I feel really sorry for your wife. Ce n’est pas facile ça. It’s not easy.”
“So what do we do now?” I ask.
She writes me a script for 1 mg of lorazepam that i’m to take twice daily, plus an extra 50 mg of Seroquel that I’m to take at lunchtime and then at night I take 200 mg of Seroquel. My insurance company is also demanding another note from her with a consultation report.
“I do not think you should start working full-time yet. I want you to go back to 3 days per week.”
“No!” I shout at her. My tone and volume startles her. “No, no, no. I’m not taking steps backwards from going back to work because of this. No. It’s not happening.” I’m shaking my head and pulling my hair back in anxiety.
“But they’re going to ask why if I saw you and you are hypomanic, why are we going to stay the course? Tu comprends?”
“Okay, well I already started at 4 days a week this week. I don’t want to go back to 3 days a week.”
“Okay, so I write that you remain on 4 days a week because of the hypomania. Does that work?”
“I guess…” I’m sitting on the examination table and I kick my legs back and forth like a child. I feel like a loser because of this. Why are my moods cycling so much? Why can’t I just return to work like I wanted to? Nothing ever works out the way I want it to.
“Doctor,” my husband speaks up. He’s been mostly silent during this appointment letting me speak for myself, except when I ask for his observations. He’s a good man. “I’m concerned by the frequency that her moods have been cycling. We’ve had a mixed episode a few weeks ago, depression a few weeks before that, and now this. Should her medications be reevaluated?”
“Je comprend, mais je suis pas psychiatre. I’m not a psychiatrist. Maybe I refer your wife to one.”
I wonder if I look as dejected as I feel.as I stare at my husband. He knows how much I hate psychiatrists. I’ve had so many bad experiences. But ultimately, my doctor is a GP and doesn’t have the expertise to deal with Bipolar Disorder. Perhaps it’s time to bite the bullet and go and see one.
We left the office with a medical consultation report for my insurance company, a referral to the agency that can refer me to a psychiatrist, and more anxiety than I know what to do with.
I call my therapist, who was once a psychiatrist back in Europe but is non-practicing in Quebec, and explain everything that has happened, Once I’ve stopped talking she finally says, “Well you could present yourself to the ER at the Douglas to ensure you see a psychiatrist there. They have a good team that I trust.”
My stomach drops. That’s the last thing I want. I don’t want to be hospitalized. “Isn’t there another way?”
It turns out, at the Douglas Institute that specializes in psychiatry and is more advanced in the way that they treat people, the only way to see one of their psychiatrists is to admit yourself into the ER. The admission into the ER could result in a hospitalization, which would completely ruin my back to work plan. My husband and I discuss this and decide that my fear of hospitalization is greater than my fear of dealing with hypomania.
Right now, I can at least channel my hypomania. I work with it. It’s not pleasant, but I can mold it into useful energy to get shit done. I work out. I socialize. I clean the house.
Hypomania is wrapped up in productivity, which makes me appear normal and ultimately that’s all I really want — to appear normal.