My Bipolar story

I’ve talked a lot about being bipolar, but I haven’t said much about when I was diagnosed and what happened to lead up to it. So let me share my story with you. It’s unique to me and though it may hold similar aspects to others you’ve experienced/heard, everything here is seen through my perspective and my experiences.

As a child, I was very moody. It didn’t help I grew up with an undiagnosed/untreated bipolar mother who swung between perfectly wonderful to batshit crazy and abusive. There were certain things that would trigger her temper, but for the most part you never knew when she was going to make the shifts. It was a hard environment to grow up in, and was made even more difficult by a father who wasn’t really “there” even when he was home. He was something of a workaholic so every time overtime came up or a teaching trip was scheduled, he was gone.

My mood swings came in bouts of hiding from everyone, being irritable and occasionally violent (mostly towards my poor younger sister), and being so wired that I wouldn’t sleep for days. They got worse as I hit my teen years. Then, when I was sixteen, my parents found a note I’d written in a fit of depression that shared my thoughts on possibly committing suicide. I lied to them about it being an assignment for seminary (I grew up LDS), but I know they didn’t buy it. This was the first time I saw my mom take my mental health seriously.

She went through the church and took me to a counselor. He was kind of worthless because I couldn’t see him without my mom being present, but he did refer me to the first psychiatrist that diagnosed me with Bipolar II disorder. He put me on Depakote and told my mom to make sure I took it.

I tried to rebel. I was a teenager. It’s what you did. But I was so scared of my mom that I ended up taking my meds mostly on schedule. There were times when she’d leave me alone that I’d flush my pill down the toilet rather than swallow it. I thought I was fine, that I didn’t need the help of the medicine. I was very wrong.

When I was seventeen, I’d had enough. I took a whole bunch of Advil and chased it down with half a bottle of Nyquil. My dad found me passed out in the bathroom in a pool of vomit. I don’t remember much of what happened after that, and my dad swears it didn’t happen. But what I do remember was waking up and being told I had a bad case of the stomach flu. Maybe I did only have a bad case of the stomach flu and the Advil/Nyquil scenario was something that I dreamed up in fevered delusion. But I don’t think so. I truly believe I tried to kill myself.

I have a feeling my mother suspected something like that was happening because she took me back to the psychiatrist and told him the Depakote wasn’t working. He added Lithium to my drug regimen and told my mom I needed regular blood tests to make sure the Lithium wasn’t killing me. So we stopped by the pharmacy, picked up my prescriptions, and I went back home.

I despised the Lithium. I felt like a zombie. Things I used to get pleasure out of, like reading and writing, held nothing for me. My friends complained that I wasn’t any fun anymore. My teachers were worried about me. But my psychiatrist insisted it was the only way for me to stay sane and my mom enforced it. So I continued taking the drugs that were slowly ruining my life almost as much as the untreated Bipolar did.

My mom didn’t like how I was acting and took me back to the psychiatrist. He told her it was a side effect of my disease and INCREASED my Lithium again. By this time I was taking more than the standard therapeutic dosage. My blood tests started being every week instead of every month. The phlebotomists at the hospital grew very familiar with my face.

I pretty much was forced to continue taking Depakote and Lithium until I was twenty one. That’s when I moved away from my parents and started living with roommates. At that point I didn’t have health insurance or a lot of money, so I stopped going to the psychiatrist. I cut down on the meds I was taking to make them last longer. I started feeling human again. I cut them down even more. The mood swings returned but at least I could feel again.

I was dating someone at the time and it seemed like it was very serious. At least it was to me. She didn’t see it that way and eventually we broke up. I found out later she ended up sleeping with my now ex-brother-in-law and two of my older sister’s friends as well as several men from her workplace. Once I got over feeling betrayed, I felt a great sense of relief that I was well away from her.

But at that point my moods were all over the place again and I needed a change of scenery. So, at the age of 22, I went to Job Corps. I still had some of my Lithium left. I’d started seeing the psychiatrist again and he insisted the Lithium was the only thing that could “save” me. Once I was at Job Corps, I stopped taking all meds.

Some very good things happened at Job Corps. I made new friends. I met my husband. I learned a lot. But underneath everything was the roller coaster of moods that was slowly killing me again. It was another eight years before I started doing something for my mental health.

At one point in my life, I was a mother. I had four children in five years – two girls and two boys, in that order. I loved my children deeply, but I wasn’t a good mother. My mood swings were so out of control that at one moment I was happy and taking them to the park and the next I was screaming at them and closing them in their rooms because I couldn’t deal with them. I couldn’t even take care of myself all that well, let alone four little kids. My husband wasn’t much help at that time. He disappeared into his computer and didn’t offer much in the way of assistance – either with the kids or with the cleaning. It got to the point where our apartment looked like a garbage dump. The police were called and our kids were taken away.

We fought to get them back and won. However, only a few months later we lost them again because I was still untreated and we stopped taking care of the house. This time our loss was permanent. We signed away our parental rights in 2010 and our kids were put up for adoption. Shortly after we signed away our rights, I got a job at a company with killer medical benefits. So, at the urging of my husband, I got back into a psychiatrist.

He confirmed my Bipolar II diagnosis and started me on meds. I started to feel human again. Then the guilt settled in. Why hadn’t I done this before? I’d have been so much better as a mom if I had. I’d have been able to take care of the house, the kids, my job, and my husband. A counselor helped me understand that even if I’d been stable I’d have still been overwhelmed because the biggest thing we lacked – other than me being treated – was a viable support network. We had none.

I still struggled with taking my meds, sometimes turning to alcohol over the pills I was prescribed. But I got better. I became stable again. With the new drugs on the market, I was quickly pulled off anything that made me feel like a zombie and put on something else.

Now, once again, I’m suffering because of a lack of mental health care. But I see a light at the end of the tunnel. I have hope again that I’ll feel stable one day soon.

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Author: anilaheartland

I'm a writer, a cook, a wife, and an unabashed word junkie.

11 thoughts on “My Bipolar story”

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I think it’s important to talk about this, to shine a light and dispel the stigma. People shouldn’t be afraid to get help, and shouldn’t be forced into “help” that isn’t right for them.

    *hug*

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  2. You’ve gone through a long road. It’s always hard when this is a thing you have deal with forever. I know, I deal with chronic pain (Fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis) and diabetes. I’ve struggled with depression, but not like this. I had a friend who is bi-polar and watched her ups and downs. The meds are difficult.

    I’m sorry for all you’ve gone through. There are no words I can say to comfort except I love you and I’m proud of you for sharing all this. It takes courage and strength to be this vulnerable. You are an awesome woman and a great friend. I love you always.

    Like KD says, keep talking about it. The more educated the rest of us are, the better it is. Hugs today.

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  3. Dear Annikka,

    My name is Ashlee. I’m co-founder of the Youshare Project, with the mission to connect people around the world through true, personal stories. I recently stumbled across your blog and read the above post entitled “My Bipolar Story.” It’s so raw, honest, and compelling. I think it would make a wonderful youshare, because I believe others struggling with Bipolar II or other mental health issues could identify with your story and find comfort in your words, but also it’s eye opening and educational for friends, family members, and allies of people living with mental health disorders. And this is a dialogue that so desperately needs to happen in this country.

    If this sounds interesting to you, I would love to email you directly with more information and formally invite you to adapt your story to youshare and share it with the project. You have my email address and website. I hope to hear from you soon.

    Best,
    Ashlee
    http://www.youshareproject.com
    ashlee@youshareproject.com

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  4. I JUST, as of 2 weeks ago, determined to get child sexual abuse therapy. I’m 29 now, and thought that “therapy” (I’m sure you can place the implied sneer in that word with me, lol) was for losers, babies, suckers, the privileged, and people who wanted better medication than simple OTC stuff. And that I didn’t want to be obsessed with incest. I was forced to admit I was already, my life was reflecting it in how I raised my children. I could never decide whether I was doing anything right; I’d tell them No, then 2 seconds later say Yes. And I still do. I should have sought help, but I’m trying to now-a bad breakup forced me to face the terrible decisions I’ve been making, and that I need to do better by them. I’m sorry to hear you’ve lost your little ones, but I’m glad you sought to better yourself with the time and space given you in their absence. It’s the honorable thing to do, if you ever loved them at all, and I’m sure you do.

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    1. It’s one of the hardest things in the world to admit you need help. You did a courageous thing by choosing to get it. I wish you luck with your therapy and hope that you and your children have a wonderful life. Everyone deserves that.

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      1. Absolutely! And if a child molester dares fix his mouth to tell me I could get HIM in trouble, I’m learning he did it to himself. I promised I’d seek to better myself and I’m trying to. I have to fix ME so that I can keep the good things I get and not sabotage them anymore

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      2. I’m with you on that. Good luck in the future. I’m still working through the child sexual abuse I dealt with. The first step is acknowledging they LIE when they way it’s all our fault. Not so. It’s their issue; we’re the victims. A victim/survivor always has the right to tell.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. You’re absolutely right! I’m still trying to get that in my head, it’s hard wanting to protect someone and put them out there for what they did at the same time!

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      4. My advice, for what its worth is to heal yourself. Be careful what you say so you don’t open yourself up to scorn or disbelief. I’ve been healing since 2002 and have learned that it’s enough that I, my family, and my closest friends know what happened. I have people who can’t or won’t believe me. it doesn’t matter; I know what happened and I won’t be just a victim or a survivor any longer. I’m working on being an overcomer. I have days where I go back to survivor or victim, but mostly not so much any more. This is not meant to scare you into hiding again, but to let you know how some people will react. I had to learn to choose my words wisely and also whom I told. But I still told.

        I don’t know if your abuser is still alive (sounds like it). If so, keep standing for yourself and make sure you keep yourself safe. And always remember, you are worth it!

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      5. Sad, but true, my abuser-my own father, the bastard- is still living, and doing so well he has retired and is drawing a check, while I, his daughter, have been jobless and homeless 3 times now. And only to find that he would still molest me as many times as he could get away with it, at 29. I can’t seem to get away from him, not even in my dreams. But that’s fine-I’m nowhere around him and neither are my kids. I’ve told all I can tell and was looked at like a leper from Biblical times. No matter, though. I’m fine.

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      6. Have you told the police? That’s not always a sure thing to remove a predator, but it can sometimes be a start. My abuser is dead (not a family member), so I have a measure of safety there, but no way of obtaining justice. I’m sorry for what you went through and what you still deal with. Family predators are the worst; it’s so hard for other family to take sides, so you are often left feeling on your own. You aren’t, there are others out there who have experienced what you did. The dreams are hard and take time to subside. I still find myself dealing with dreams and wake hubby up screaming or yelping. Make sure you let people know you are safe — and if you aren’t safe. Document everything. See what resources you can find in the police/legal community. I hope you can settle down now and not have to run again. Hang in there and keep us informed.

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