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I knew very young that the way I felt things was different from those around me. I was unable to get the help I needed as a child and adolescent due to unwilling parents, and quickly turned to alcohol and drugs to feel something "normal", to boost my unknown mania, or to try to dull the ache of depression. It wasn't until I was 19, pregnant with my son, that my family doctor asked my partner if he’d be willing to fill out a bipolar screening for me. (As he said, sometimes family knows better than we do.) I finally had my diagnosis, but couldn't take any meds due to pregnancy, and ended up with severe postpartum psychosis. Struggling with bipolar has been a very interesting and challenging journey. After being hospitalized three times, I finally sought the help I needed and got sober. By the grace of God I have been sober for 2 years. I have been hospitalized twice since then, and each time the doctors have said it is easier to treat me since I am sober. The first time after I got sober that I was hospitalized was for attempted suicide. I struggle with Bipolar 1 disorder, PTSD, anxiety, narcolepsy, and borderline. Everything was so chaotic because I wasn't taking care of myself or reaching out for help. It’s hard to do, regardless of never being taught how to get my needs met. These days, I still struggle, but I know where my help is. Each step of the way is either better than the last, or gearing up to be. I have regular psychiatry appointments, weekly therapy, have gone through DBT twice, and meet with my AA sponsor weekly. I know that attending these appointments and taking my medications as prescribed are only a small but important part in my ongoing recovery. –Jess, MN

Dear Jess, 

It’s not unusual for children and adolescents to have their first bipolar-type mood events, but so often the diagnosis appears much later—maybe many years into the future.  Postpartum is certainly one kind of catalyst for adult bipolar disorder.  It’s great to hear you’re sticking with your treatment.  Always remember that bipolar is a life-long illness, but can be very manageable.

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I’m not sure how long I have really had (bipolar disorder), but I was diagnosed by a doctor last year. There are days I just want to sleep all day and night. And I do. There are also days where I will not go outside or move. I just lay in bed. I also have times where I have angry outburst, mad and frustrated for no reason. I have very bad mood swings...My mood changes in seconds. Mostly because I remember something from my past. Or a song. I can be happy bit then hear a song that makes me sad and I’ll cry and be sad for a little while. And I can go all day being fine and when I’m around my roommate, the mood changes. Sometimes I get mean and freak out for no reason on them as well. I also have time where if something they do bothers me I’ll be thinking about it all day, basically getting ready to tell them about it. When the subject comes up, I can’t even speak. My mind is blank. I can’t literally remember nothing about it. I also have times where I can’t speak. I can’t process what to say or think and I just stutter and I start getting frustrated and crying because I can’t help it. My main problem (is) the mood swings. And the lack of energy. There will be sometimes I can be motivated. I’m surprised I even work hard at work or don’t really show my signs at work. I try not to. I’m not lazy at work. But at home, no energy. Sometimes, I feel like there’s a weight pushing me down and I can’t get up. I also feel like the old me is screaming at the me now to get up or something and I don’t answer. Like the world around me us changing and I’m still sitting here like this. Not wanting to move or get up. I want to change this. I want to be better. I know I have this problem. But my roommate and I fight everyday because of it. My roommate also use to be with me. I caused our split because if this. I want treatment because I can’t keep doing this. I feel like I’m going insane and everyday is a constant battle with it. It has made me just stuff my face everyday and I don’t take care of myself like I use to and I sometimes self-harm. I can’t live like this anymore. I hope that maybe what I have said in here might help someone. You can overcome it. I haven’t yet but I’m going to fight it. --Hailey

Dear Hailey,

It sounds like you could get a lot more out of your treatment than you’re getting now.  Maybe a review with your current doctor—or a new one—is in order.  And along with the right medications is the right therapist to guide you through self-image and relationship problems.  People with bipolar see themselves through the lens of mood swings.  Once stabilized on proper meds, they need a whole new way to see who they really are, as well as the world around them.  Thank you for caring about others.  We hope you find your own care, too

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I would have very long bouts of depression, then suddenly pop up. In episodes of hypomania, which sometimes lasted quite a while, I would always cheat on my partner, make impulsive decisions, not be able to sleep because of my limitless energy. It felt like this infinite source of strength and energy, and after dealing with so much depression I loved it.

In my most recent hypomanic episode I fell into a sort of passionate infatuation with someone, left my husband, then sank into a deep depression that I've been struggling so hard to get out of.

I'm filled with regret for all the decisions I made while hypomanic, and all the friendships I've lost because of how far I retreat during episodes of depression.

After years of talk therapy, I'm on lamotrigine now, and sometimes I feel like it helps, sometimes I don't. 

I am hopeful that I can find a balance. I crave the energy and joy I have while hypomanic, but I don't want to make such bad decisions. And I am so, so tired of being depressed.

I'm still working on the happy ending for this story. :)

MT, Cheyenne

Dear MT,

 

Thank you for reaching out.  Research shows an average of 15 years before a person with Bipolar 2 is properly diagnosed and treated, so your experience is shared by so many others.  One mission of our Network is to reduce that gap in treatment.  I hope to share your story--along with many other stories--to raise awareness among mental health patients, families, and professionals.
I hope you have opportunities to work-through the effects and consequences of bipolar with an experienced therapist.  Medications like lamotrigine are good and necessary, but finding true stabilization and a happy life requires reparation and healthy self-concept life-long.  Please let us know if you need any further direction.  We're happy to help.

 

 

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Hello, My mother is severely bipolar and I am not sure how I can help. I am 26 and she is 54. Currently she is in a state hospital soon to be transferred to a nursing home. I recently relocated close to her for work. I saw her for the first time in years yesterday. I can't believe how bad things have become. She weighs 90 pounds and all her hair has greyed, she can no longer walk and barely use her hands. She looks 20 years older than she is. 
She won't look me in the eyes when I come to visit. 
So where did things go so wrong? Well, growing up she had her bipolar under a very delicate balance of medications which seemed to help her function well. She would have her bouts of depression mania but always came back. She was full of life and love. My parents divorced just after I graduated high school, my dad confessed his being transgender and could no longer live a lie. My mom took it hard but bounced back quickly, working and going to the gym and seeing friends. The trouble began when she met her current husband. We all had our suspicions about this man but wanted her to be happy and make her decisions without our judgment. He was an alcoholic with no job going to community college. He quickly moved in with her and they began smoking pot and drinking together and her behavior went into a drastic downward spiral . Mind you, he himself is also bipolar. They decided to get married and things only got worse, he is abusive mentally and physically and now collects my fathers pension from serving 20 years in the military. He thought moving to florida would be better for my mom and better for him since he has family here. Since she moved to florida with him she has been in he hospital and through ECT Treatments many times. I can't get enough information from him to understand why. I know it was court ordered that she stay a minimum of 6 moths in the state hospital. She was placed on a feeding tube because she was not eating and became catatonic. She is now feeding herself and only on one medication which is a sedative. Her husband says she is unresponsive to medications so they only have her on a sedative to slow her mind. She is dependent on my stepfather and can no longer make her own decisions medically. Meanwhile he is living a good life, and not visiting her, I see Facebook posts of other women on his couch and see him at bars with friends, while my mother slowly dies. Part of me thinks he just wants to collect the money and keep her barely alive so he can.
I don't know what I can do but i feel i have to help...From Florida

 

It is a very difficult situation when a mentally ill loved-one is so vulnerable and without good material support.  I would suggest consulting with an attorney who specializes with conservatorships and disability cases.  Most states have laws against the abuse of elders and the disabled to protect against financial predators (which is her husband), though I'm not sure how your state would handle your mother's age and marital situation.  However, she is clearly disabled from both a psychiatric and a general medical point of view.  You can try to gain support from her treating doctors/therapists, and attempt a legal maneuver to protect her.  After you find out what you can do, please let me know, and we'll take it from there.

 

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I recently have started psychiatric therapy because of desires and spending sprees I have acted upon that have ruined relationships with my wife and my in laws. Once everything was on the table and I lost my good paying job all of the spending and risky behavior came to light. I have been told that I am a person that doesn't care what people think, has no remorse for what I have done, and have destroyed everything. 


After starting with therapy my therapist started asking questions about my behaviors and my sleeping patterns. I was curious as to why so she told me I was showing a lot of the symptoms of bipolar 2 and hypomania. Of course I thought, “What? Me?”  I started thinking back to what I had done and all of my impulsive behavior, risky behavior, spending sprees, and large business investments that really made no sense. I would go spend money like crazy and frequented strip clubs on a regular basis without any consideration of what I was doing and ultimately who I was hurting. 

My therapist is working with me to nail down my diagnosis and exactly what version of bipolar I may have. As of 1 month ago, my life was great and I never thought anything of it. Today my life is crumbling around me because of my choices and impulses I have acted upon. My wife is at her wits end and my in laws want nothing to do with me. My direct family lives in the Midwest, and I basically have no one here local to me to turn to. I have had bad thoughts of suicide and hurting myself and there are two things that really keep me going day in and day out: My 10 year old daughter and my 7 year old son. Whenever I am having suicidal thoughts, I think of them and it goes away. Without my children frankly I don't know if I would be here today

Outside of my kids I have no support system here. My life everyday is one of struggle and trying to understand how I got where I am and how I can fix it, or can I ever fix it. I decided to educate myself and started researching bipolar disorders and mental health like a rabid dog looking for someone to bite. I want answers, I want to be better, I want a normal life, and more than anything I want my family back. 

My therapy continues and it will only be a matter of time before my therapist diagnosis me officially with bipolar disorder 2. I fit the profile I know I do, I have researched and read a lot and I am a walking talking blueprint for bipolar 2. 

My mind races on a daily basis as to what I do next. I'm an engineer by profession so my work keep me occupied during the day but at night I am terrified to come home to what I will be blamed for next. The shining light in my life is my children and when I think about them I am able to walk in the front door. 

My wife continues to be angry and I understand why. I did a lot of damage and once I told her about bipolar she said she doesn't necessarily agree with it and that she feels I have just made bad choices and I continue to hurt her. I am trying to provide her with space and time and hopefully her wounds will heal and we can have a life again. 

Where do I go next, what do I do? I am early into this and learning more and more daily. I still make impulse decisions thinking that they are okay and then regretting it after I see the damage I have caused. 

I want to just scream out for help, I want to go outside on my back patio and just scream to the top of my lungs for someone to help me. I'm taking a bankruptcy because of the damage I’ve done.  I'm taking therapy, and I work hard to mend the damaged fences with my wife. Only time will tell my story ultimately as to where I will be in a year.  I'm hanging in there thanks to the most powerful medicine of all, love. The love of my children.

Corey, Colorado.

Corey,

It's great that you love your children and find in them your purpose.  But know also there are resources for you and your wife to understand this illness better.  Sometimes a spouse fears that diagnosis and treatment would serve to simply justify the impulsive behaviors without consequences.  That is truly not the case.  Instead, it's a opportunity to make changes and be the person she needs you to be.  Stay in touch, and let us know how you're doing!

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Bipolar Disorder has changed my life dramatically.  While I knew that I suffered from "depression" since having my first son, I felt that something more was going on when I had my second son, something I didn't understand.  I'd fly into rages for no apparent reason, and would go from zero to sixty in a matter of seconds.  It was like there was no shut off valve.  One moment I'd be fine, sometimes happy, the next angry.  It was an emotional roller coaster, for me and everyone around me.  I knew something was wrong but didn't know what it was. I felt isolated, out if control, crazy.  Then I would sink into episodes of deep depression, so deep that I didn't feel that life was worth living.  It was so hard to "fake" being happy around people.  It took so much energy.  And sometimes I'd skip out on social gatherings with friends because I didn't trust what I'd be like, or what people would think if I "suddenly went mad." I began to hide more and more from the world into my own isolation, feeling helpless and very much alone.

Then one day I happened to turn on the TV and it was about Bipolar Disorder.  It featured a woman, a mom like myself, who was in pain and destroying everyone around her with this disease.  I got it right then.  I was watching myself.  I wasn't alone.  There was a name for this- and other people had it!  

I went to my Dr. with my husband and after much discussion we all agreed that there was something "more" going in than merely depression.  It all seemed to fit.  The rages, mood swings, inability to control myself, outrageous behavior such as a spending spree where I had to return a few thousand dollars the next day. Other manic behavior where I had outrageous bursts of energy, extreme emotions and elation where you could drop a bomb next to me and I'd laugh, and extraordinary behavior.  I'd have so much going through my mind at once there wasn't enough time to get it all out.  The highs were very, very good.  I didn't want them to go away.  My friends always liked my highs.  But the lows, very bad.  Very dark, very deep.  Nowhere anyone would ever want to go.

So we started meds.  Apparently one that wouldn't necessarily wipe out all of the highs, but just take them down, bring me out of the depression and stabilize the mood swings to avoid the mania.  Has it worked?  It's saved my life.  I can't imagine life without it.  Sure, I miss the highs, as I rarely experience them as I used to.  But I rarely get the lows.  The meds don't "fix" the problem.  You need to find your triggers and do your best to avoid them.  Sure, Bipolar Disease has changed my life but I've got a pretty good grip on it and I won't let it take it away either.

Lillie, Connecticut

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From Sandy...

My husband and I got married 10 years ago. We had our son one year after we were married. All went well for the first two years. Then my husband started to drink. He followed a downward spiral until the police arrested him for a DUI. He took that seriously and quit only to cross-addict to prescription drugs, which he's been on since with ups and downs all the way. He always vows to get off them and, I believe makes a serious attempt to do. When he is up, he throws all medication away only to plummet and panic and need more medication. He gets angry at the world, rants and raves during manic times, and lies prone on the couch eating ice cream and high on prescription pain drugs the rest of the time. He seems unable to break the pattern. He held an executive position at a good firm for five years after we were married. Most of that time, his boss covered for him. After the company went under, he was no longer able to hold down a job. I have been the shock absorber between him and the world and softened his angry times with our son for all that time.  I am now at the point where I despair and am wondering if divorce is my only option despite the fact that it will leave me in financial ruin to do so. 

I guess my point is that there is always talk of the person who is ill? There seems so little talk about the people surrounding them. Before our marriage I was sadly and amazingly unaware of what the real implications of addiction and bipolar disorder really are. I wish I had known more and had know the red flags before this marriage. I think it is admirable that your site and the world at large are trying to put the word out; both to help people who have the disease and for their loving companions and family. 

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My son is 41, diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was around 29 or 30. My ex husband and I adopted Sam when he was 2 months old in Vietnam. Our relationship has been a real roller coaster ride. At it's best, we are able to talk with love and support; at it's worst, there is no communication and we both feel anger and lack of trust. 

Sam recently asked for help in an email. I realized he was in a depressive cycle and was concerned about suicide. I offered to pay for treatment/meds and he has an appointment with a therapist on Apr. 6. How to help Sam from such a distance is my challenge. My financial resources are not limitless but I want to try and support him in his search for treatment. He is unemployed, married with a 16 year old son. They live in a transient motel and have for many years. He is very bright but up until now his illness has controlled most of his actions. 

How do I best help him without enabling him? 

 Sam's Mom 

The feelings and "roller coaster" you speak of is exactly the experience of the bipolar person and their family.  It's good that you both want to help, and yet not get into an enabling situation where there is ultimately an avoidance of treatment.  One good way of knowing that boundary is to require an authorization to speak with the treatment professional, which should happen anyway if you're paying for that care.  That way, the professional can keep you advised about how Sam is doing, making his appointments, taking meds, etc. Your help can certainly remain contingent on those things.  As a therapist, I know that confidentiality is important, but so is family support to stabilize this chronic mental illness.  I also would encourage you not to question too much your feelings regarding the lack of trust.  That is entirely appropriate to this disease, and that's what we're focusing on.  It's no one's fault that he has this, but it is his responsibility to do the best he can with the opportunity he's given.

Kind regards, Michael

Thank you for hearing me and responding so genuinely.  It helped to have you suggest an authorization to talk with his therapist.  I have had mixed feelings about this and your response reinforced my opinion that asking for authorization was not an unreasonable request.

 Thank you again.  I have sent Sam a copy of our email exchange in case he chooses to look for another therapist. 

 Sam's Mom

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My husband and I have been married for 9 months. He was excited to join our family when we got married. (I have 4 kids). He finally had the chance to be the daddy he has always wanted to be. Prior to our relationship, he was hospitalized for trying to commit suicide. He was doing so good in all his therapy and classes that we both thought it would be OK for him to move in and get settled before our wedding.
Things have gone downhill since Christmas. He gets seasonal depression along with his bipolar. The last week particularly has been the worst. We spent the weekend in the mountains as a family for my husband's birthday. It was great. After we got home Sunday, things changed. He suddenly snapped and kept telling me that I deserve better and the kids are going to need therapy for the rest of their lives because of him. He feels guilty that he is dependent on me for everything and can't calm down unless I'm there.
He was going to the VA for mental health, but the VA doesn't seem to treat each individual person. It truly feels like they try to treat everyone in a cookie cutter situation. The medications my husband is on are no longer working. The VA won't adjust them or change them to something different.
Today was the hardest day yet. The kids woke us up by playing loudly. After sleeping all day yesterday, I knew what was coming today. My husband was gong to have another episode. This episode lasted all day. He was angry with my oldest daughter the most. It seems like every time he had an episode, one of my kids are the reason why (in his eyes, not mine). I do my best to keep the kids quiet when I know it's going to be one of those days, but they are kids and that's pretty much impossible. So today my husband was so angry that he hit himself and started packing to move out (he said to make the kids happy). He has hit himself before, but not like today. He got angry and grabbed whatever was close to hurt himself. He used a computer lamp and then later a wrench.
After we talked for awhile, he decided that he needs better treatment and should probably go stay at an inpatient facility. The only problem with that is that he needs to go to school since it's finals week and he refuses to miss class.
Here is where the major problem came up. I called several different places to try to get him the urgent help he needs. I was transferred to the hospital which told me that the wait could take hours. At the time my husband felt that he didn't have several hours to wait. I called our insurance company's mental health line, but the automated thing only works Monday through Friday and disconnected me. I made several calls only to find out that no one could do anything unless he waited in the local ER. We have limited resources in our small city and I don't know where else to turn. I've called several different psychiatrists and had to leave messages paying that someone will call me back and have an urgent appointment available for my husband. Why is mental health so big in the news, but it's so hard to find help? I'm holding out hope that tomorrow is a better day and that we can get him the help he needs Monday.

Signed, Mrs. Green

Dear Mrs. Green,

Your story about limited resources and limited available help is all too common, but there is hope, especially if you know more about what and how to approach hospitals, insurance, providers, etc.  The "cookie cutter" issue you mention changes when you advocate for him in each situation.  This puts more pressure on you, I understand, but this is indeed how it works.

The "positives" here are worth noting.  He is invested in school, and he wants you and your children to be happy. We need to focus on these as reasons for him to get help, not check out.  His behavior does not appear to be just bipolar reactions, but also suggest underlying issues that maybe trauma-based.  Psychotherapy is just as important as meds in his case. Christmas, children, close family times set him off for particular--not random--reasons.  See if you can also find particulars like these to get the attention of the institutions who are supposed to be there for him, not just rely on meds and then move on to the next person.  When you address his specific life issues, people tend to attach a more personalized approach--sort of like immediately introducing yourself to someone so they can't ignore you as just another face.  Therapists who really care also bond to stories of real people, so again try to incorporate these issues when seeking help.  In smaller communities you may have to look beyond those boundaries--don't forget to contact universities that are sometimes outside metro areas as good resources for psychiatric help.

Best wishes,
Michael

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From Tana...

I spent my life as an emotional wreck. One moment calm and in the next moment a bundle of nerves and raw emotion. When I was growing up I thought it was all because of puberty but as I got older I realized it was much more then that. After many years of suffering an emotional roller coaster I searched for help. My primary care doctor treated me for anxiety a few years then decided it was more then that and sent me to a OBGYN thinking it was PMS. The OBGYN treated me for two years with Prozac trying to control my mood swings. After awhile the doctor realized there was more to this then anxiety. So, he sent me to a psychiatrist for more complete treatment. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and treated with many kinds of medications until after years of treatment finding a combination of Antidepressants that finally worked. I still fight with Bipolar Disorders episodes. I would love the opportunity to help others who fight with Bipolar Disorder and possibly don't even know what is wrong with them.

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I guess it is harder for some of us to share because we don't know which parts of our life to share without being judged. It is and always will be a daily struggle, just as it has been since before I was 12. They always thought that I was just a bad egg. --Bobbi R

Bobbi, you make a great point. So much of what it is to deal with a life-long mental illness, is about facing the prejudice of others. That's a big reason why we're here--to share our stories (to the extent we can) to break down barriers, and help each other feel a part of something bigger. Sharing stories and connections helps us to know we're not alone, and for that matter, not bad eggs at all. 

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From Andrea....

Finding this page made me cry.. happy tears! Finally a place for me to be myself and have others like me. I am the only bipolar I know and my family/friends do not understand what I go through everyday and just tell me im a pill popping over dramatic person and to sensitive instead of facing the truth that I have a disorder and thats why I see my doctor every month. Thank you for making me feel "normal" for once in my life :)