Hope for Bipolar Disorder
My depression began when I was ten years old. I remember being in my driveway at dusk and looking up at the sky seeing all the different colors and feeling emotions deeper than sad. Something stronger than sad, something that sat in my gut. It stayed there for many years until I came home from college after missing a final exam due to a panic attack, which I was also having on a regular basis.
My mom took me to my primary doctor immediately to get my depression and anxiety under control. He put me on medication. Following that visit, which was helpful, as I was sleeping better, I was taken to see a psychiatrist. He told my mom I needed to be on a medication, which back then, was very controversial. She reluctantly gave in and I didn’t know anything about medication. She told me I was finally me without the cloud and I couldn’t have agreed more.
Once I adjusted to the medications my mother said I was up and down and rarely in between. I always spoke fast, but my friends were saying they had a difficult time understanding me sometimes. I would be laughing or depressed. Still mostly depressed, believe it or not, even with therapy.
It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I had my first major manic episode while working as an inpatient hospital social worker. I was hyped up. Restless. I could not sit still. I remember asking my co-workers if I could suddenly develop ADHD because I had such a difficult time concentrating, yet my thoughts were racing and I couldn’t keep up. I felt invincible; like I could do anything. I wasn’t sleeping. I had a visual hallucination that was constant during the episode. A few of my peers—one being my friend/psychiatrist—said I was manic and needed to see a psychiatrist. He didn’t know I had already had one. My friend and office mate also recognized the signs and told me to see my psychiatrist.
So, I did. And he said that I was living with bipolar disorder. I cried. I had actually speculated this diagnosis for some time (since my twenties), but to have an episode this big was quite scary. He gave me medications for the episode and told me I needed to be tested by a psychologist. Well, the psych testing revealed that I was not, in fact, living with bipolar. This enraged me. My emotions, my diagnosis that was done by two psychiatrists that I worked with, and my friend/social worker at work, and my actual psychiatrist, was minimized, demolished by this psychologist and his testing. Needless to say, I thoroughly disagreed. This became an ongoing debate I had with my psychiatrist.
Things got so bad after I opened up my private practice that I had to close it after being hospitalized four times in one summer due to severe episodes of depression. Following each episode, I would go home and either remain depressed or become hypomanic. It was during the third hospitalization that my wife decided to divorce me because she “couldn’t live her whole life with me having this.” This led to one more final hospitalization and moving into my father’s home.
I attended a partial hospitalization program where I met with the resident psychiatrist there for a few occasions and he noticed right away that I was manic. He diagnosed me with bipolar disorder. I felt a sense of relief, strangely, because this made sense and I wasn’t going “crazy.”
I now have an amazing clinical team that works relentlessly to help me, see my therapist twice a week and my psychiatric nurse as often as needed. There is hope. I now have hope even when the going gets tough and I have to tamper with the medications and be patient as to how long they will take to work effectively.
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