Thriving with Bipolar Disorder – Meet Zarina in New England!


This interview is with Zarina Quinn who is a New England native. She is a busy Navy wife, mommy and poet. She shares her thoughts and scrapbook pages on her blog Rainbows and Ballerinas. Be sure to check it out!

Thriving with Bipolar Disorder - Meet Zarina in New England!
Thriving with Bipolar Zarina

1.   Thank you for taking the time to share your story. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am a poet and a happily married mother of one. I’m also a mixed media artist. Zarina Quinn is a pen name. My work is published under another name. I’m a Hokie, and my favorite hobbies are reading and scrapbooking.

2.   What events led to you receiving a diagnosis of bipolar disorder?

I was committed in college for being suicidal. I was 21 years old. My therapist thought I was going to kill myself (I was) so she had me committed. I ended up in a good, small overflow facility for the state hospitals.

I was kept for the ten day maximum. When I described my symptoms (that sometimes I wasn’t depressed at all, but felt really, really good) the doctor at the hospital suspected Bipolar. A few months later, when I got out of the hospital, I was put on antidepressants to go with my stabilizer. My instantaneous hypomanic reaction to the antidepressants cinched my diagnosis as Bipolar.

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 am a Bipolar I with rapid cycling. I’m always on a rollercoaster. Initially they thought I was Bipolar II because of the frequency of my depressions, but after I went psychotic on a manic phase my diagnosis was changed.

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.

No other illnesses. Thank goodness. Bipolar is more than enough.

Note from Molly: I wholeheartedly agree!

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?

COLOR THERAPY, LIGHT THERAPY, AND AROMATHERAPY all help. I still take my medication, of course. Right now I’m on Depakote and Seroquel and Prozac, and Buspar for anxiety. I was on lithium for awhile and it worked well for a time, but then it quit working so well and I developed lithium toxicity. I use color therapy, light therapy, and aromatherapy as supplements to my medication.

For color therapy I purchased a box of ten colored glasses. You put the glasses on for about thirty minutes, and the color helps with your mood. The red, orange, and yellow glasses can help with depressions. Cooler colored glasses help with mania. You may be surprised what a difference color makes.

For light therapy I have a “daylight” box. I read under it or create my art under it for about 20 to 30 minutes when I am feeling depressed or need extra light in the winter. Be aware though that you should not use the daylight box for too long in one sitting. For some that can lead to hypomania or mania, myself included.

For aromatherapy, I use a variety of scents to help my mood. Perhaps the most useful essential oil I have found is marjoram (wild marjoram, specifically). It smells somewhat like eucalyptus or camphor, but it has been extremely helpful in quelling my anxiety attacks.

All of these supplements help me, but I want to add that they are just supplements. They augment medication. They can’t replace it.

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’ve been there. My last hospitalization was for overdosing during a mixed state. I was sent to a horrible, depressing, and abusive mental hospital. I felt hopeless and panicked, like a caged animal.

One thing I did to pass time was get a marker (no pens allowed) and paper and write letters to the people I wanted to talk to. In my case, I wanted to speak to my husband. Phone privileges and visitation are often scarce at these hospitals, especially the bad ones, and you can find yourself pacing and crying just waiting for the chance to connect with your spouse or your parents.

Writing gives you something to do with your mind and your hands, and helps fill time and make you feel more connected to the people you miss desperately.

For dealing with episodes of mania and depression at home, try not to feel guilty for asking for help. I went through a spell where my moods were shifting a lot even for me and I was feeling worn down and unstable.

I got a babysitter for my child even though I’m a stay at home mother. Don’t feel embarrassed to turn over credit cards, stay in bed, get childcare help, or call family. If you don’t have any family to turn to, please feel free to contact local churches and see who can help you.

No one should have to do this alone. It is too much.

Thank you!

Thank you for your candid sharing as I am sure many will relate. I agree no one should be dealing with this illness alone, especially when suffering severe states of the illness like you have – and like I did when younger.

I am interested now in learning more about color therapy, that sounds so cool! I love color. I worsen when not getting enough sunshine so understand living in New England a lightbox would be very helpful.

Best of luck with your poetry, art and happy homelife 🙂

Photograph courtesy of Zarina Quinn, all rights reserved.


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