I am so psyched to connect with Anne Cain – and love the title of her blog (lol): “Bipolar Survivor“. Ann blogs about her frustrations, happiness and the illness plus shares some really cute pet pics. You can check out her Facebook page here: Anne Cain Bipolar Survivor.
1. Thank you for taking the time to share your story. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am a wife and a stay at home mother to 2 teenage daughters. I have an overwhelming love for animals, especially beagles. I have 2 of my own in addition to a black lab mix, 2 cats, and 4 chickens. I am a foster mother for cats at my local Humane Society and I also volunteer there with my daughter on the weekends.
I love musicals and opera. I am a classically trained Soprano and dreamed of Broadway and the MET. Now I just offer free concerts while I work out in my garden listening to my headphones! I enjoy all kinds of music. I also love coffee and wine. But most of all, I love snuggling at home with my husband, children, & pets.
2. What events led to you receiving a diagnosis of bipolar disorder?
I was already being treated for depression and anxiety and I started having terrible insomnia. After trying everything I could, I went to my primary care physician and he gave me something to help me sleep. It worked, but it wasn’t long before it stopped working.
I went back and he asked me a few questions, then his expression changed and he started asking me different questions. When he was done, he told me that he thought I had bipolar disorder. He told me that he could start me off on some medication but I would need to find a psychiatrist for a full diagnoses and treatment. I did and the rest is history.
3. If you don’t mind, can you share how old you were at the time of diagnosis and what type of bipolar illness you have i.e. Bipolar I Disorder (BP-1), Bipolar II Disorder (BP-2), Cyclothymic, etc.
The first time someone told me that I may have a mental illness was when I sought help at the counseling center in college. It was 1997, I was 19 and felt very low. He told me that he didn’t think he could help me because he thought I was Manic Depressive and they weren’t trained for that.
“Manic Depressive?” I thought, “That is crazy!” I left and didn’t seek help again until after my daughter was born in 1999. I was initially diagnosed with Postpartum Depression and then Major Depressive Disorder shortly after.
It wasn’t until 2006 that I was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder. I was 27.
4. Do you have other diagnosed medical conditions besides bipolar physical or mental)? For example, I have fibromyalgia and deal with chronic fatigue. I also have a form of subclinica hypothyroid. All of these have affected my bipolar states and when treated successfully my severe bipolar illness states (mania, suicidal depression) improved much.
I was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder in 2003, although I am pretty sure I have had it my entire life. When I am in a depressive episode my anxiety gets really bad.
Note from Molly: Other sufferers have shared similar experiences and I want to include on the site more information on anxiety as it connects to bipolar. A guest post is coming up soon from someone much more familiar with the issue than I am. It will have links to resources, will add here when is completed.
5. Now for the good stuff! What things – medications, vitamins, therapy, books, alternative treatments, etc. – have helped you to not only survive this difficult illness but thrive in your life?
I have been on 900 mg of lithium for the entire 10 years of my diagnoses. I think I finally have a good combination with 100 mg of Pristiq and 25-200 mg of Seroquel. I also think education has helped immensely.
I have read books, articles and listened to experiences my friends (in person and online) have had with this disorder. I started living a very positive, healthy life. Routine and sleep are my best friends.
I also diffuse essential oils, I don’t know if it actually works, but it smells good 🙂
6. What advice do you have for others who may be overwhelmed by the symptoms (hypomania leading to impulsive behaviour, rapid cycling mood changes, hospitalizations due to severe depressive episode or a manic episode resulting in psychosis…) and feel discouraged or without hope?
Stop. Take a moment to catch your breath. Make a goal for yourself. Start simple like “getting out of bed.” Then add a new goal when you are ready and keep moving forward. Ask for help, whether family, friends, or someone online. Someone is always there to listen.
What a great story and it is clear you have created quite a lovely life for yourself – in spite of living with bipolar – which is impressive and inspiring. Two kids would have pushed me over the edge (just Mom to one teenage son) so you get extra admiration there too 🙂
The music part I am simply jealous about, and it is sad you have not gotten to live your dream of being a professional singer but who knows what the future holds. I personally think you should start recording some of your backyard concerts and putting the tracks up on YouTube and your website!
Photograph courtesy of Anne Cain, all rights reserved.