I interviewed Margaret who kindly introduced herself: Hi. My name is Margaret. I am 58, happily married, with no kids. I have a wonderful old dog name Jack. He is a rescue and the joy of my life. I live in Memphis, Tennessee.
1. Thank you for taking the time to share your story. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I come from a large family with six other siblings. My dad was an alcoholic and my mom was bitter. She was diagnosed with BP at the age of 88, four months before she died.
I moved out of my parents house and have been on my own since I was eighteen. I took a few college courses, but worked full time to support myself. I never got the college experience. I fell into a job at 21, in management for a Fortune 500 company, eventually managing over 200 people. It certainly wasn’t my passion, but the money was excellent.
I worked there for 18 years and went on disability due to my schedule. I was on call 24/7, with the majority of my hours being at night. No way can a person be stable with that schedule. After six months of disability, I took the long term disability package and never looked back.
2. What events led to you receiving a diagnosis of bipolar disorder?
My fiancé died when I was thirty. I started drinking and using non stop for three years. Finally, one day I woke, not knowing where I was, or whom I was with. My finances were a mess, my house about to go into foreclosure. I was hanging on by the skin of my teeth.
I called our EAP and was recommended a psychiatrist. I had been in therapy off and on for years, knowing something was wrong. In high school, my files read that I was “over emotional”. Not a single teacher reached out to me as I slid deep into depression, failing classes and missing school.
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.
I have BP-2, rapid cycling. I was 33 when I was diagnosed.
4. Do you have other diagnosed physical or mental medical conditions besides bipolar? For example, I have fibromyalgia and deal with chronic fatigue. I also have a form of subclinical hypothyroid. All of these have affected my bipolar states and when treated successfully my severe bipolar illness states (psychosis of mania, suicidal depression) improved much.
I have chronic 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?
I am on a cocktail of lamictal, abilify and Prozac. I have tried every medication there is and hit on this cocktail eight years ago. I have been stable ever since.
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?
Hang in there. Find the right support. If your doctor won’t work with you, fire them.
Be sure to have an open and honest relationship with your pdoc and therapist. Get your loved ones involved. My husband saw my pdoc, at her insistence, before we married, so he would know exactly what he was getting into. Remember, your doctor works for YOU.
If you feel like you are going into an episode, contact your doctor at once, don’t “wait and see”. Educate yourself. Know what meds you are on and the type of bipolar you have. It never ceases to amaze me how some people don’t research the disorder, or the medications.
Had I educated myself when I was on lithium, I would have known not to take NSAIDs. As it was, I became toxic and landed in the hospital. Know your body and understand when there is a change in your patterns.
Most of all, have fun. Having the disorder isn’t a death sentence and it is easier to have a sense of humor and be able to have fun with it.
I loved your responses, insight and suggestions for living well with this illness, especially the part about researching and that a doctor works for the patient – such great advice.
Photograph is a free use photo courtesy of Simple.Wikipedia.org.