I recently joined a small, private Facebook group for those who deal with bipolar illness or other mental health issues. I posted a note asking if anyone would like to share their story publically and Liz from Utah was one of two folks who replied… thank you Liz!
1. Thank you for taking the time to share your story. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m nearly 53 years old. I was born in England but came to the USA 15 years ago with my ex-husband who was in the U.S. Air Force. I am a registered nurse and have 2 children; a boy and girl. I recently became a Grandma for the fist time.
Note from Molly: Congratulations Grandma!
2. What events led to you receiving a diagnosis of bipolar disorder?
My daughter made a comment during an argument that I was BP! I’d had depression for years and went to my Nurse practitioner to discuss the possibility. After my daughter said this to me I did some research into it and found that I had a number of the signs and symptoms.
I had symptoms such as: binge drinking, hypersexuality, mood swings, outbursts of anger and inability to sleep due to racing thoughts. I’d hidden all of these things from my practitioner because I was so ashamed!
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 was 50 years old when I was diagnosed with BP-2.
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 of these have affected my bipolar states and when treated successfully my severe bipolar illness states (psychosis of mania, suicidal depression) improved much.
I’m actually very healthy other than my mental health issues! When I was 40 I realized that I probably had ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). I discovered this when having my son assessed for it.
I always thought that my being hyper was from that, although apparently the hyperactivity is rare in girls. I realize now that it was hypomamia that I’d had all those years.
I’ve had many years of depression as far back as I can remember – probably my first memory would be when I was 8 years old. I’ve had suicidal depression and times of feeling so low and just wanting to be on my own. It’s really hard to describe 44 years of the hell of depression and the craziness of mania!
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?
The things that have helped me the most are Lamictal and not drinking alcohol. Alcohol really screws with the Lamictal.
Other than that I like to have time on my own away from everyone. “Me time” is so important as is seclusion! Really happy to have joined this Facebook group – it’s good to be open about living with a mental illness. Most people just don’t understand what it’s all about and judge without knowing.
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?
I’d tell them it’s ok to take medications to help! After all if you were a diabetic you would take them to treat your disease.
Have a physician you trust who you visit often to monitor you. It’s easy to ignore mania when you’re really enjoying it! Also important is having close friends you can trust and who are there to listen. Never lose hope!
Like I said I was 50 years old before I knew that I’d been bipolar all those years! So much sorrow both in me and loved ones. Look forward towards the future though it can be hard at times and think of positive outcomes for your life – it’s possible!
What great advice and I appreciate you sharing your story. It’s wonderful you feel ok with the diagnosis and that treatment is helping you. I so agree with the ‘needing alone time’ to heal and be well. It’s almost like we have a need to reduce stimuli at times to be able to just enjoy being ourselves.
Almost a form of spirituality for me – a type of meditation just to sit and be. You are the first person to share that helps you as well, glad I am not the only one!