This week marks the 1 year anniversary since I was hospitalized for depression. It was also 25 years ago this month when I was first diagnosed as bipolar. Ironically, it’s only been six months since I began serious treatment.
I’ve agonized over whether or not to bore everyone with this story, but, what the hell? If there’s one person out there who gets anything out of it, then it will all have been worth it.
By the time I was 20 years old I knew I was suffering from a mood disorder. I didn’t know it had a name but I knew I was in trouble. Some miracle of fate brought a biography of Vivien Leigh into my hands. I read it. Then, I read another. And then another. By the time I had devoured all three I was dead certain I was just like her. Except for one huge detail – I never tore off my clothes and ran around the garden, raving to the point of needing restraint and sedation. (I would later discover, this is one of a handful of features which separates Bipolar I from BP II, a categorization that was not around in Vivien’s day.) Everything else about Vivien’s situation, however, fit.
After a trip to the family physician and a very long appointment, I received the diagnosis of manic depression as it was still widely known in 1986, and was given lithium. I took my medication religiously for a few weeks and began to see improvement. The family doctor seemed to have rescued me. Within a month, that would all change. The doctor who had put me on the right path then misdiagnosed my sister as having a very serious condition. My mother, who had remained silent about my diagnosis, was absolutely living about my sister’s situation. Surely, if my sister was misdiagnosed than I was as well. This doctor was not to be trusted. So, I was more or less bullied into stopping my visits and medication. I was left without a family practitioner, had no access to a psychiatrist and was feeling well enough at the time to let the whole thing go. Perhaps my mother was right, after all.
Fast forward 24 years and many, many trials with antidepressants later. It was May of 2010 when I was hospitalized with the worst depression I’ve had since my bout with postpartum difficulties. I was put on a huge dose of Wellbutrin and my mood began to turn around. However, what the hospital’s doctors believed to be somewhat of a recovery was actually the tipping of the scale. After an 11 day stay, I was released from the hospital in a full-blown hypomania. Many months of risky and embarrassing behavior ensued. It was only when I was on another downward spiral during a trip to England last November that my husband thankfully intervened and assisted with getting me the help I needed. Thanks to him, my wonderful therapist and the psychiatrist she referred me to, for the first time in almost 25 years I was back on the path of treating my true condition: Bipolar II Disorder.
The moral of the story? If there is one person out there reading this post who believes they may be bipolar, I only hope they will get an evaluation and stay the course of treatment for whatever it is that ails them. My life hasn’t turned out bad in the least – at 45 this year I can say I have a wonderful family, amassed many achievements and consider myself successful. I do sometimes wonder, though, if my life would have been better and less painful overall if I’d had a better support group and stayed the course of treatment began back when I was 20. If you are someone reading this post who suspects someone around you is bipolar, all I can say is love them and support them…your attitude, words and support can make all the difference in the world. If it weren’t for my husband, I do not know where I would be.
So, in a nutshell, that’s it. One of the messages I would like to deliver is that with all the resources available today, there is no need to live without help or hope, because both are out there now more than ever.