My ride on the bipolar train (with multiple diagnosis stops along the way)


I came here today not knowing exactly what I wanted to write about. I have had a multitude of subjects running through my head the last few days. I’m sure I will hit on those subjects soon enough. I decided to look through the blogs I have been following for inspiration. It hit me as soon as I saw this: Being new to WordPress, and blogging in general, I had no idea how many people blogged about mental health. I began to read through several of the blogs listed on this site. I was moved, truly amazed by the honesty that people were conveying.  They made me feel less alone, like they understood me and what it means to live day in and day out with a mental illness. These are just a few that touched me today:

They all had the bravery to tell their stories, so here is mine:

I knew from a young age that I was “different”. I always felt over emotional about everything. No matter how hard I tried, or how much I knew I should stifle my emotions in public, they always came pouring out. Sometimes at the most inopportune times or inappropriate ways. (Who knew laughing in the middle of a funeral would be so frowned upon?!) Back then you were labeled as “spirited” or “odd” or, my favorite, “mental”. There was no running to a psychiatrist or psychotherapist for help. You were just told you would grow out of it or it was just a phase you were going through. I just went through my early teens thinking I was “different” and didn’t think much more about it.

When I hit high school and my hormones really started kicking in, my emotions heightened drastically. I would laugh uncontrollably at the stupidest things. I could cry at the drop of a hat if someone looked at me the wrong way. Dare to piss me off or yell at me, and I would be inconsolable for days. It would get so bad that my physical health would take a nose dive and I would have to miss days of school. I knew this wasn’t something “I would just grow out of”. I knew this was something that I would have to endure for the rest of my life. I knew I needed help. I remember explaining all of this to my mother one afternoon after having a rough day of school in my junior year. We cried together while sitting at our kitchen table. She promised to get me the help I needed. Shortly after, I started seeing an amazing therapist that helped me to understand that I was not alone in this world. She asked me if I had ever heard of a condition called “bipolar disorder”. I shook my head “no”. As she explained it all to me, I remember nodding my head as she listed off the symptoms. Racing thoughts? check Mood swings? check Hard time completing tasks? check Uncontrollable laughing or crying? check and check The more she listed off the symptoms, the more I felt a little bit of the heaviness lifting off of my shoulders. It all made sense now.

Shortly after that conversation, I was sent to a psychiatrist to be properly diagnosed. He told me the depression side was a bit more prevalent so he wasn’t sure the bipolar diagnosis would be correct. I was diagnosed with major depression and generalized anxiety disorder. Although it wasn’t the diagnosis I thought I would receive, it was a relief to finally be able to put a label on what I had been dealing with for years. I was put on Prozac for the depression and was told to watch for and severe changes in my anxiety. When the medication started to work, I could feel my emotions start to balance out. I felt better than I had in years. Like I could take on the world.

Then the bottom dropped out. My Senior year of high school was full of highs and lows. I was finally part of a show choir I had been wanting to join for 2 years. It felt amazing to be up on a stage singing and dancing. I finally felt like I was a part of something, like I mattered. I was making friends and having a great time. It was a place I could let loose and let my emotions go. But, I was also dealing with an on again off again relationship that had encompassed my world for 2+ years. My boyfriend had moved on to college and was finding his way in life, and I was still in high school still trying to figure out mine. Late in my Senior year we decided to finally break it off. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I had planned on dedicating my life to this person and now he was gone and I was lost. I went through the motions of the last days of high school feeling moody and depressed. Too depressed. I would here things from my friends like, “What’s your problem?” or “Why are you being such a bitch?”. I no longer had the energy to talk with them to try explain what I was going through. I was done. I felt myself slipping down that slope of no return. I knew that I didn’t want to exist anymore.

I had it all planned out. The night of my graduation party I was going to drink a bottle of whiskey I had pilfered from a friends parents liquor cabinet and swallow down a bottle of pain killers I had found in my Mom’s bathroom. I went through the motions of the party, exchanging pleasantries, thanking people for their gifts, etc. A fake smile plastered on my face the whole night. Everyone had left and I was getting ready to go upstairs to my bedroom and start my “goodbye party” when I heard a car driving up the driveway. It was a good friend of mine who I didn’t think was going to show up. My first thought was to tell him to leave, but then something changed inside me. I knew I needed to talk to him, even if it would be the very last time. We ended up talking into the wee hours of the night. He helped me realize that life was still worth living. After he left I took a good hard look at the pills and the bottle and knew that this was a cowards way out. I could do this. I could live. I ran to the bathroom, poured the liquor down the sink and flushed the pills. I made a promise to myself that day that I would never commit suicide no matter how rough my life would get. I had no idea how hard that promise was going to be to keep.

My first marriage was turbulent. We met, fell in love, found out I was pregnant, and got married all within a span of less than a year. We were both quite young and had no clue what we were doing or how to handle any of this. We faced it head on, but just couldn’t make it work. (Much more happened to me in that marriage to make me who I am today, but that story will be saved for another blog.) I moved out and back into my parents house, 1-year-old in tow, and filed for divorce. I was now forced to start my life over while trying to raise a young child.

I, somehow, was able to pull it all together. I got a job. I was raising a child. I was saving up for a place my daughter, Darienne, and I could call our own. Oddly, I was happy. I finally felt good about life again. My daughter and I moved into our own apartment in the fall of 1996. Things were as good as they could be. I had met a new guy, David. (My now husband of 14 years.) I was in a good place emotionally. Then in June of 1997, the bottom dropped out again. My beautiful, sweet little 2-year-old Dara was dead. (Another looooong story for another day.) My world was over. I fell into a state of shock and despair. I moved back in with my parents. I took a leave of absence from my job. I just holed up in my room wishing it was all a disgusting nightmare I would wake up from at any moment.

Things after that are a bit hazy. (Most of this paragraph is what I can piece together from different things people have told me throughout the years.) I was staying over at my now husbands house one night woke up with no recollection of who he was, where I was, or how old I was. I had regressed to where I thought I was about 8-9 years old. I overcame pieces of that, but still needed help. Shortly after, I was admitted to a psych ward and was diagnosed with retrograde amnesia and PTSD. My mind just couldn’t process the trauma any longer and it had to shut down to protect me. (I still to this day cannot recall a good section of this period in my life. It is like a giant jigsaw puzzle where no matter how hard you try none of the pieces will fit together.) I now can look back and call that a blessing in disguise.

I eventually, with many months of psychotherapy, meds, and help from friends and family, was able to get my life back to normal. As normal as one possibly could, anyway. I went back to work and moved back out on my own. I was in love again and happy. I found out in 1998 that I was expecting another daughter. I was happy to hear the news, but completely scared and panicked that something would happen to this child as well. I pushed that thought aside and David and I got married. In 1999 we welcomed Caitlyn into our lives. I went into protective overdrive. Which sent me into deep postpartum depression. I was having panic attacks and crying all the time. It was time to get back on my meds after having to off of them while I was pregnant. I recovered with the help of the meds and therapy again. I was happy. I was a Mom again. I was in a great marriage. Things were looking up.

Then in 2004 my Mom was diagnosed with brain cancer. She had 6 months to live. BOOM! My bottom dropped out again. I went back into therapy. I knew it was the best thing I could do for her and for myself. I held it together the best I could for her, but it killed me inside to see her slowly fading away from this world. She passed away right before Christmas 2004. I went through all the stages of grief quicker this time. I was afraid of falling back into that deep dark hole of despair. I was depressed. My anxiety kicked in vehemently. But, I was able to keep myself stable. I had strength inside me I had never known.

That inner strength has kept me going through many things. I have had my own medical issues over the last 10+ years. (I will write about that at a later date as well.) My daughter, Caitlyn, (now almost 14 years old) has her own string of diagnoses – ADHD, ODD, and possible bipolar. With what I have been through, I have been able to help her understand why she is the way she is and guide her through her tough journey. I just hope that hers is a much less bumpy road.

Recently, I was sitting down with a health advocate introducing myself and explaining what I had been through and all the mental health diagnoses I have had throughout the years. After a long pause and lots of consideration, she looked at me and asked if I knew what bipolar disorder was. I literally had to laugh out loud. I had come full circle. After all this time and all these different meds, it was true. I am proud to say, “I have bipolar disorder!”

Thanks for reading my LENGTHY story. I know I went off subject at times, but that is how my mind works. It was important to me to tell you about my life and how I ended up where I am today. I know there are many gaps to fill in, but I didn’t want to go overboard. I will write about those things and whatever else comes up in my life soon. I welcome all comments and questions.