noun: bipolar disorder; plural noun: bipolar disorders; noun: bipolar affective disorder; plural noun: bipolar affective disorders
- a mental condition marked by alternating periods of elation and depression.
It's been almost two years since my first symptoms of bipolar disorder (depressive episodes) started cropping up, and to celebrate that, I thought it would be nice to openly talk about the things I've been through and maybe, just maybe, prevent you from making the same mistakes I - and my doctors - did.
So here's the story: my symptoms started around May 2015, although I'd had what now seems to be major depression in 2012, and a short period of depression again in 2014 during my first year of college. But in both those instances, there was a reason for my sadness or lack of emotion.
When it started happening in May, there was no reason to be upset. I'd finally started warming up to the idea of college - just slightly, mind you. I was almost done writing my second YA novel, Not That Kind of Girl. I had a few close friends, was living in a wonderful new house with a wonderful roommate, and my family and I were closer than ever.
And yet, I was a wreck.
At first the episodes would happen once a month. They'd last two-ish days, two days of pure torture when my mind wouldn't work and my heart wouldn't stop pounding. I would be crippled with depression, anxiety and this hollow feeling in my chest that told me nothing would ever be okay again.
And then, just as it started, it would end, and I would scratch my head, wondering why the hell I had had those thoughts. It didn't make any sense to me.
I didn't do anything about it, even though with time, the intensity doubled, then tripled, and it started happening every two weeks. I struggled through my bipolar disorder for seven months before my sister finally convinced me to seek treatment.
Oh, that's a whole other story. My tests came back showing I had no mental illness, that I was just sensitive. Then I had a really bad episode, and my diagnosis was changed to depression. I was put on Sulpitac and Arip, both atypical antipsychotics used for either dysthymia (mild depression), mania or schizophrenia. I suppose that's why I didn't have any manic episodes, but they didn't stop the depressive episodes. By this point my doctor decided I had bipolar depression, not regular depression, So I was switched to Cipralex, an SSRI antidepressant, Lamictal, a mood stabilizer, and still kept on Arip.
Now, you should know that prolonged use of an antidepressant when you're bipolar can cause a manic episode. That is what happened to me, except it was hypomania, a milder version. So my diagnosis was officially confirmed to be bipolar. At last.
My doctor's idea of treatment was to push meds after meds on me every time I complained of an increase in symptoms, without any behaviour therapy. So of course there was no improvement. I finally had enough and switched to a new psychologist and new psychiatrist in January of this year, and now the results are astounding. Yes, I still have an episode every month or so - I suppose that can't be helped - but they're so mild (most of the time) that I can live a normal life and even go to college when I'm depressed or hypomanic. I'm currently undergoing cognitive behaviour therapy and relaxation therapy, and my meds have decreased substantially without any significant impact on my mental health. Earlier, just a change in 5mg would render me incapacitated, but now I've gone from 15mg to 5mg and nothing had worsened. Rather, my dependency on meds has decreased, which is brilliant.
What's next? Well, I'm still on 200mg of Lamictal, but we're planning to bring it down to 50mg in the next few months, which I think is the lowest dose. My Arip will go from 5mg to nothing, and my Inderal (side effect medication) will go from 20mg to zero. I cannot thank my new doctors enough for this.
All throughout, my parents and friends have been incredibly supportive, even though sometimes - a lot of the time, actually - they don't understand what's happening or why it's happening to me. But I'll be honest: sometimes I don't, either. And that's okay.
I'm very optimistic about this, and I know that thanks to treatment, I'll be all better. I already am getting better.
So yes. That's my story.
I just want you to know, dear Geek, that if you are going through something similar - be it depression, bipolar, anxiety, schizophrenia, BPD or any other mental illness or personality disorder - you are not alone. I cannot stress upon the importance of treatment. I know it's difficult to take that first step, I know it's difficult to talk to your friends or parents about it, but ultimately, it's something that has to be done. If you can't do that, though, there are always depression and suicide helplines, as well as support groups you can go to. Help will always be given to those who ask for it.
I don't shy away from talking about it. Sometimes it comes up in conversation that I go to therapy, and I'm perfectly honest about it. My classmates know. Heck, some of my professors know. People who read my blog know. My ex and current employers know. And you know what? I'd thought they'd freak out, but they're completely okay with it. It's not a big deal to them, and it's not a big deal to me.
I'd like to end with something I told a friend recently: no matter what diagnosis you get, you don't need to worry. They're just words on a piece of paper. They don't change who you are, they just help you overcome your problems.
Remember, Geeks, that I'm not a victim. I'm a survivor.