This is an interview with Rebecca Lombardo – an inspiring lady who though stuggles with mental health issues is happily married and an author, blogger and contributor to The Mighty and to The Huffington Post.
1. Thank you for taking the time to share your story. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I have been happily married going on 16 years now. We don’t have children, but we have cats. I have been writing since a very young age. I lost my mother in 2008 and lost my father in the last week, so everything is a bit of a struggle right now but keeping busy helps.
Note from Molly: Very sorry for your loss.
I love movies, books, music, TV, and photography.
2. What events led to you receiving a diagnosis of bipolar disorder?
I was 19 years old and living in an apartment when I started have suicidal thoughts, flashbacks, and feeling unable to cope. I felt it before then, but I only thought to go to my parents when I felt like I had a complete mental breakdown and had to leave the apartment and move back home.
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.
At the age of 19, I do not know which type of bipolar I was diagnosed with. It has changed slightly over the years. At times, they’ve added psychosis. This is something I keep meaning to ask my new doctor about. I only recently started with a psychiatrist again.
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 subclinical hypothyroid. All ofthese have affected my bipolar states and when treated successfully my severe bipolar illness states (mania, suicidal depression) improved much.
I have borderline personality disorder, panic disorder, PTSD, agoraphobia, social anxiety, and I’m recovering from self-injury. (3 years and 11 months) Also, severe migraines.
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?
As far as medications, Seroquel has always been pretty consistent in my life, but unfortunately has also consistently contributed to weight gain. I take several supplements, and sometimes they help that day, others not.
I recently started on Thorazine and that seems to help. I rely a lot on Valium. My husband has been the main reason I have kept going. He is constantly there for me, and without him there would be no me. Writing is an incredibly useful tool for me, as well as coloring, as silly as it sounds.
Note from Molly: You are lucky to have him as he is to have you I am sure 🙂 And no, not silly. I like to scribble my thoughs… half the time makes no sense (to anyone but me), but is cathartic. I have always wanted to do water color painting… maybe some day!
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?
Even if you feel like doing nothing try not to isolate yourself. Stay in contact with your parents, friends, etc. – whoever is in your support system. Stay in communication and be 100% honest about what you are feeling. Tell your doctor about any medication side effects when they occur. They are there to help.
Don’t stress yourself out by reading about your diagnosis online – unless you find that helpful to you. There is a lot of information that is incorrect, and may worry you unecessarily.
I need to say if you are on medication it is very important to not stop taking it without first consulting with your doctor. It could lead to a serious episode and possibly require you to be hospitalized.
And lastly… know you will be OK. You can get better and live a full life, you may just have to work at it a little harder than some others do. And that’s OK.
And yes – let me emphasize that point above too, stopping psychiatric medication without support can be dangerous. If you want some basic information and resources read this: Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal Resources.
You are the first person in this interview series to talk about not isolating yourself, etc. and is such excellent advice. I tend to do that, and know at times it might not be the healthiest choice. And your advice to not get freaked out reading stuff online is excellent as well. Though there is a lot of great info online that someone may find helpful.
Doctors simply don’t have the time to share much, and are medication-oriented, which isn’t the best path for many. Once on those meds, it can be very difficult to get off of them. Just a note, as that is a part of my advocacy.
I appreciate the work you do and you have been so nice to interact with – thank you for doing the interview and sharing your story. I hope you continue to do well and find things that help you live well. I’ll keep following your work for sure.
Best to you and your hubby, Molly