I was 19 years old when I first began to experience symptoms of bipolar. I knew something was wrong with me at the time but didn’t want to believe it. When I would cycle out of a hypomanic state into depression I called it the “slump.” My hypomanic phases would last months and l absolutely loved them. I was making all A’s in college, excelling at work and having a blast in my personal life.
Then depression would strike. My depression wasn’t like a “sad depression” where I cried or felt sad; I just became very unsocial, my grades would suffer and work would become extremely difficult. It was more of a cognitive thing—memorization, understanding and processing information suddenly became a challenge. I saw a few doctors and they all said the same thing, “It sounds like you might have bipolar.” I was definitely not prepared to accept that as an answer to my “slump” so I continued living in hypomania and depression for seven years until I had my first psychotic break.
I only remember bits and pieces from my first full blown manic episode. I thought the radio was personally talking to me. I had extreme religious delusions. I thought all my friends and even people on TV were my brothers and sisters and my dad had fathered all these illegitimate children. I thought my cell phone was tapped. I thought I was being stalked by one of my customers at work and had called 911 several times. The police were finally sent to my house and they could immediately see that I hadn’t slept in days and knew I had a chemical imbalance. They told my mom I could go to the hospital or jail. Since I was super paranoid I went with the first option.
I guess this time there was no running from my diagnosis; it was time to get help.
From there I was transported to the first psychiatric hospital that had an open bed. My first night at the hospital I was sedated and finally got some sleep after days of no rest. For the third or fourth time I heard those dreadful words from the psychiatrist at the hospital: I had bipolar disorder. I guess this time there was no running from my diagnosis; it was time to get help.
The next year I fell into a deep depression. I couldn’t come to terms with my diagnosis. I didn’t want to believe I needed a pill to live for the rest of my life. I began to see a social worker and psychiatrist on a regular basis. Every few months my meds would change and I’d experience horrible side effects. Nothing seemed to help. There was no digging me out of this hole I was in. When most of my friends were getting married, having kids and getting promotions, my life was coming to a complete stop. I was unemployed and living back at home.
Three years and one more hospitalization later I’ve finally found a combination of meds that seem to work for me at the age of 30. I feel they could use a little fine-tuning, but overall I’m doing much better. I know this is an everyday battle and one I could not fight without the support of my friends and family, especially my mom. I’m still a work in progress since I do not have a job and still do not socialize as much as I’d like to.
I know this is an everyday battle and one I could not fight without the support of my friends and family, especially my mom.
The difference between now and three years ago is that I’m no longer embarrassed by my bipolar. I found a NAMI support group in my area and my first meeting is next Tuesday. I’m excited to see what that can bring to the table. I look forward to the day where I can work again, socialize and live life more fully and am very optimistic that is in the near future.
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