I was trying to explain to my mom how confusing illness is when you’re bipolar. Last week I was diagnosed with bronchitis, and this week we’ve added reactive mono and mycoplasma pneumonia (a mild form of pneumonia). And all this time I really haven’t thought I’ve been that sick. Sure, I’ve been super-tired. Sure, I’m out of breath if I so much as walk from the bedroom to the den. And if somehow I venture to take a deep breath, I have a cough that sounds like Dementors are sucking the bottom of my lungs for my soul.
But I’m in a decent mood. So I can’t possibly be sick.
For so much of my life, my sickness was depression. Exhaustion that rivals and sometimes beats (hands down!) mono. Muscle aches and body pains with symptoms that mimic ones associated with numerous other illnesses including chronic fatigue, hypo- or hyperthyroidism, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus among others.
Except depression’s body aches and pains take place in a world where the Dementors needn’t bother to suck my soul; they already rule the world. Not just my world. The world.
In the Dementors’ world, the relationship to my physical body became surreal. For years there was inevitable confusion, when I was first coming down with something, about whether I was really depressed instead of sick. Later, once my meds got resolved and major depression became a stranger, my body, ill—but without depression—still lives under its shadow, unsure how seriously to treat physical symptoms not lodged within the Dementors’ world.