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 and 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 became extremely difficult. It was more of a cognitive thing like memorization, understanding and processing information suddenly became a challenge. I saw a few doctors and they all said the same thing- 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 7 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. 911 finally sent cops out 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 option a, to the hospital I went. From there I was transported to the first psychiatric hospital who 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. 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. The time when most of my friends were getting married, having kids and getting promotions- my life came to a complete stop. I was unemployed and living back at home.
3 years and one more hospitalization later at the age of 30 I’ve finally found a combination of meds that seem to work for me. 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. The difference now versus 3 years ago is I’m no longer embarrassed I have 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.
Her story is now on NAMI.