On Being Bi-Polar
The diagnosis was quite casual, but it has saved me a lot of frustration in the long run I am sure. I’d been to see several counselors and psychiatrists since 1988, but none of them really understood what I was going through.
It was Dr. Oringer who told me that I was most likely Bi-Polar in the April of 1993. Some five years after my problems began she told me that she’d consider putting me on Lithium once I stopped drinking and doing drugs. But I never went on Lithium because by the time I stopped drinking and doing drugs I felt like I didn’t need any medication.
I felt fairly normal until the beginning of my 7th grade year despite being a sensitive child who was prone to flights of fancy. At age 12 I began having suicidal thoughts, but told no one. The biggest problem at that time was the panic attacks that I suffered in school. Because I been absent so many times and because I’d skipped out of school in the middle of the day twice, I was labeled a delinquent. My counselor at the time told my mother, in front of me, to put me into the Juvenile Detention Hall next time I skipped school. Feeling like a trip to Juvie would prove a death sentence, I begged my mother not to make me go back to the counselor at the Shelby Center. She took pity on me and we stopped going to him.
Eventually she started taking me to New Horizons at the Marion One Building in Mansfield in 1989. It felt odd because that was the same office that my Eye Doctor had been in a few years back. I started seeing a man named Steve, who by all means was nice, but ineffective. I had issues with trusting men and I felt I might open up better to a woman. We transferred to the woman doctor in the same office.
Again, Veronica was nice, but felt ineffective to me. Like her male counterpart, she listened, but said nothing. I wanted to know what was wrong with me and why I felt so awful all the time, but no one offered any insight into my condition. They remained silent and I remained in the dark about what was really going on. If they had any sort of diagnosis in mind they never shared it with me that was for sure.
The very idea of therapy began to depress me, so I asked to stop going once again. My Mom obliged since it didn’t really seem to be helping. And I didn’t see anyone again until the spring of 1992. I returned to Steve who prescribed Buspar for my school related anxiety. It seemed that after my prescription ran out at the end of the school year I felt more depressed than ever. I contemplated running away.
And I did runaway the fall of 1992, but I returned. Mom took me to Richland Hospital after that little stunt, but found that we had no money and no insurance to cover a stay at the loony bin. So I returned to school and my life with only the addition of new a new counselor. Having admitted to experimenting with drugs and alcohol, I was eligible for free Drug and Alcohol Counseling through the school. So began my sessions with Tom.
Due to much complication and drama, my sessions with Tom came to an end less than four months from when they began. I was referred to The Health Center for further attention in December of 1992. It was there I was diagnosed as Depressed and put on Prozac. Little did the doctor know that Prozac can cause suicidal thoughts in young adults and teens. And on top of that, it can cause the Bi-Polar to swing the opposite direction into a Mania.
The Prozac didn’t seem to have any affect at all, so I stopped taking it. It was shortly after going off Prozac that the suicidal thoughts returned. The winter and spring of 1993 turned out to be the worst time of my life. I swung from deep depression to hypomania and back to some mixed-up state between the two. I was never sure which was worse, feeling completely dead inside or feeling angry, anxious and agitated.
At the time I simply felt worthless and like a giant failure. I didn’t understand what was going on or why I continued to struggle to function on a normal basis. In reading back over my diary entries during that time it seems so glaringly obvious that I was bi-polar and needed to be on medication, but not a single person had picked up on it.
I was hospitalized in March of 1993. I felt suicidal and had put in an emergency call to my Case Worker Ann-Marie. She drove me to Med Central the next day, where I was admitted to the Psych Ward. All of us adolescent patients referred to it affectionately as the Loony Bin. We had a variety of people there, but all of us had suffered and were considered quite troubled.
The Staff doctor at Med Central saw me a total of three times during the three weeks I spent there. He listened, but said nothing. He gave no diagnosis and prescribed no mediation. The nurses and other staff members provided more support than my so-called doctor did.
When I was released back into the world I continued to see Emily, Becky and Dr. Oringer at the Center. Emily was my general counselor, Becky dealt with my drug and alcohol issues and Dr. Oringer was in charge of prescribing medicine if I needed it. I was never prescribed anything despite the eventual diagnosis of being Bi-Polar.
I quit counseling the summer of 1993. I turned 17 and felt like I no longer needed any help. When I had a bad break up a year later, I returned briefly the fall of 1994. I saw a counselor at the Shelby Center for a few weeks before stopping. I dropped out of care in order to drink and do drugs once again.
I cleaned up my act at the end of 1995 when I got with Jason. I drank only socially and no longer smoked pot after he and I began seeing each other. And although I still had a ton of issues, I managed to deal with them without counseling or medication for years. I always said that my diary was my therapist. And for a long time it was enough…..
Moving to North Carolina in 2000 sent me into a brief depression, but I shook it after a few months. Then the spring of 2002 I lapsed again briefly. I struggled after the birth of my daughter in September of 2003 and kept struggling after we moved back to Ohio at the end of December of 2003. Jason became depressed in 2004 and I soon followed as well. All of 2005 felt like an uphill battle. I knew something was wrong, but stubbornly I refused to ask for help. I knew it would pass eventually, so I waited it out.
In 2006 I felt a surge of creative energy. It might have been the result of a mania, but I didn’t care. I was just happy to feel productive and have direction again after so many years of feeling drained and directionless.
I suffered postpartum depression after the birth of my son in November of 2007, which lasted a while. By the January of 2009 I was back to bouncing off the walls with energy. I felt alive and productive once again, which was wonderful. But, of course, it didn’t last long.
We moved to Colorado in July of 2009, which brought me crashing down into depression once again. Being away from friends and family took its toll and left me with no one to turn to. Once I focused on my writing, I began to pull out of the funk I was in, but then things began to fall apart with Jason.
In January of 2011 suicidal thoughts returned and they scared me. Despite my fears, I decided to deal with my physical health problems first in the hopes that the depression would lift on its own. I struggled to keep my Ulcerative Colitis symptoms under control, but neglected to deal with the mental symptoms that were overtaking my life. I cried pretty much all day every day from January until April of 2011.
Finally, I sought help in April of 2011. I started seeing a psychologist weekly and I was put on medication again. This time we bypassed the guessing games went straight for Citalopram and Seroquel. This combination has worked wonders. I rarely cry and the suicidal thoughts are gone. I am able to focus and work on my writing like never before.
I used to write a story within one manic week and then not write anything for several more weeks. Now I write sure and steady rather than working in bursts.
I am lucky that for so many years I was able to function as well as I did despite my illness. In reading memoirs of people affected with Bi-Polar Disorder, I realize that, by some grace, I was able to work though what would have driven many over the edge. My story is far less dramatic or extreme than their stories are, but I felt the same things that they did. Make no mistake. I was strong and smart, which helped me a great deal, but I could not be strong forever. Sometimes you have to ask for help anyway. And I am glad I did. Being Bi-Polar is nothing to be ashamed of.