Blue Genes

Life With Manic Depression

My personal journey with manic-depression began in my youth. My parents can trace signs of it back to my childhood. I was a sad child with periods of hyperactivity and constant talking. My father tells me that I would sometimes tell him that I was sad. When he would ask why, I always replied "I don't know. I'm just not happy." This disturbed my parents deeply because there was no explanation for my discontent. I was a child in the 60s and it never occurred to anyone in those days that there might be something wrong with me.

My life took a bad turn when I went through puberty. My mood turned very dark and suicidal. My family believed that the change in me was due to the hormonal and emotional changes of growing up. I was just being a normal kid. I repeatedly complained to my mother that something was wrong with me. She finally took me to the doctor just to put my mind at ease that I was perfectly normal. My pediatrician agreed with Mom. His professional opinion was that I was not adjusting well to all the changes that were going on in my body. He also felt that I was having anxiety as a result of leaving grade school behind and entering middle school. His answer to the problem was that I just needed a little something to calm my nerves. He prescribed Valium for me to take on a daily basis. By this time it was 1973 and Valium was the wonder drug for anyone who had 'nerve' problems. The medical community had no idea what a damaging drug Valium can be to those who take it. I took it a couple of times and it made me sleepy. After that I threw it in my school locker and forgot about it.

Things only worsened. I continued to try and convince my family and teachers that something was wrong. All told me that what I was experiencing was normal for my age. I, and my peers, knew that it was not. As my mood swings worsened, the other kids knew that I was different. I was the life of the party when on a manic swing. Kids loved to be around me. I made a lot of friends while in a mania. Then the crash would come and they would all reject me. I cannot blame them. These were children and what was happening to me was something they were not prepared to deal with. It did not take me long to gain the reputation of the 'crazy' girl. As time went on I found myself with less and less friends until I was a social outcast.

Rejection from peers became a regular and expected thing in my life so I began to withdraw. At the age of fourteen, I was in so much pain and so lonely that I made an honest decision to end my life. I couldn't take the pain any longer and it was clear that there was no help in sight. I had lost all hope and resigned myself to death. Once I made the decision to end my life a certain peace came over me. I would never have to suffer through this hell again. I went into my parents bathroom and began rummaging through the medicine cabinet. I had no knowledge of medications or their purpose. I just grabbed a couple of bottles and swallowed everything in them. I then went and kissed each of my parents, told them I loved them and went to bed. I fell asleep with a smile on my face that night. I knew the hell was over and God would take me home. At one o'clock the next afternoon I heard my father's voice. I opened my eyes and there he was standing over me trying to wake me up. Once I realized where I was and that I was still alive I was deeply disappointed. What went wrong? Why didn't God hear my cry? Did He just want me to suffer endlessly? Several years later I discovered that what I had taken was twenty-seven Donnatal which is a med that coats your stomach. I also had taken seven Darvon which caused me to sleep for a long time.

My mood swings continued to worsen. I began using the Valium to self medicate when on a high and speed for the lows. I was fortunate because I did not use drugs on a daily basis and never developed any addiction problems. I had to stop using the speed because it made me physically ill. I continued to take the Valium as prescribed and as a result I spiraled into a very deep depression, a side effect of Valium.

I was fifteen years old and on the edge. I had a bad argument with my best and only friend while at school. I knew then that I was all alone. My prescription of Valium had just been refilled. I went into the bathroom and swallowed all thirty pills. I sat down in a stall and waited to die. I don't remember much after that. I know someone found me and got me to the office. I remember the office staff walking me in circles and giving me coffee. Soon my parents came, put me in the car and headed to the hospital. I remember my father was driving. I was in the passenger seat and my mother was sitting directly behind me. I was screaming "I want to die. Please let me die". My mother was stroking my hair and talking to me as tears streamed down her face. The next thing I remember was lying on a table with a long tube inserted into my mouth, down my throat and into my stomach. I don't rememeber the medical team actually pumping the drugs out of my stomach. I can only recall that it felt as though the tube would come busting through my throat at any moment. I only have flashes of memory about what took place the rest of that day. My friend felt responsible for what had happened. I assured her that it wasn't her. I was already on the edge of insanity when we argued. We never really resumed our friendship.

My pediatrician referred me to a psychiatric group. For the first time in my life I had hope that someone would help me and find out what was wrong. The head psychiatrist decided that since I tried to take my life with drugs and since I had been on Valium that I must be a drug addict. I tried to explain that I did not use drugs. I had tried speed but other than that I had only been taking Valium as prescribed. I then was diagnosed as a drug addict in denial. I was placed in group therapy with teenage drug addicts. The sessions were a waste of my time. I could not relate to the other patients and they could not relate to me. Their addiction to drugs was something that I could not even begin to understand. I sat in those sessions once a week for a year and never said a word. I also had a weekly private session with a psychologist. He spent most of his time trying to convince me that I had a drug problem. After awhile I got tired of all the psycho babble and went to sessions with a smile on my face claiming that I was very happy with my life. My doctors concluded that there was nothing wrong with me and I was released.

This experience taught me that trying to kill myself only brought severe pain to my family. I decided that death was not the answer. My experience with mental health professionals brought me to the realization that there was no help for me. I was on my own. The stares and whispers from my peers taught me to trust no one. Things did not improve much over the next couple of years, however, I did learn to cover it up and to never tell anyone what I was feeling. My parents felt that the best thing for me would be to move. The next year I began a new school. Making friends was nearly impossible because I wouldn't let anyone close to me. I just stayed to myself. I was no longer thought to be crazy or weird by my classmates and I was determined to keep it that way. I had learned to quiet the demon that lived inside of me. I had learned to scream out in pain and agony without others being able to hear my cries. At eighteen I suffered my first broken heart. The reason the relationship didn't work was because I was unable to keep the monster inside of me quiet with someone I had grown so close to. When the break-up came, I was told the reason was that it was impossible to deal with my moods and I needed professional help. That experience taught me to never, under any circumstances, allow anyone to see the monster that lived inside of me. Looking back on all of this I can see that a lot of good came out of those teen years. I learned how to cope with manic-depression. I learned how to cover it up so others wouldn't know. I am grateful for that skill. It has allowed me to pursue many things in my life and be successful in many areas. The downside is that it is very difficult to allow anyone to get close to me. I am basically a loner.

It did not take me long to discover that it is impossible to hide the demon from the people I live with. When I was twenty I fell in love. At twenty-one we got married. I believed I had to keep the demon hidden or I would lose the only person I ever really loved and more importantly, I would lose the only person who ever loved me. Over a period of time I realized that I was able to hide behind walls when in public but was not able to do so in the privacy of my own home. I lived in constant fear that my husband would see through me, discover that I wasn't who I presented myself to be and he would grow to hate me. After we had been married for three to four years and had two children, my worst fears began to come true. He began to mistreat me. He pulled away from me, refused to touch me, said very cruel things to me and over a period of time beat me down emotionally untill I was just a shell of a person. I blamed myself for all of it. I knew he had seen my demon and hated me. This went on for three years. I got to a point where I just couldn't take it anymore so we split up. A month later I discovered that the past three years really had nothing to do with me. The problem was with him. He was struggling with his sexuality and was trying to deal with the fact that he was gay. The news was a shock but my first feeling was one of relief. It wasn't me!!! Then the realization that my husband was gay and my marriage was over sunk in. This kicked off the worst bipolar cycle of my life and I ended up in a psychiatric ward of a local hospital.

One would think that this would have been a turning point for me but it wasn't. I had an incompetent doctor and was misdiagnosed. She put me on so many medications that when I came off the drugs I went through physical withdrawels. It was a horrible experience that left me with nightmares for several years. Luckily I did have a good therapist. Over the next three years he tried to get me to see another doctor but I refused. I was too scared. Then the day came that I decided to end my life. I sat on the couch in my den and just stared straight ahead as I planned out every detail of my death. Then I heard a little voice from the door of the room saying "Mommy, whats wrong?" I looked up and and saw my beautiful little girl. I snapped back into reality that very instant. I knew there was no way I could leave my children. They needed me!! I broke down and cried. The next day I went to my therapist and agreed to see a doctor. I saw the doctor the following day. That was when I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. I then went through med trials. I was still unable to work due to the constant changes in medication. Lithium was tried first and then Tegretol and finally Depakote. I remained on Prozac throughout. My psychiatrist had me charting my moods everyday. He soon realized that my true diagnosis is Rapid Cycling Bipolar II Disorder. This man, without a doubt, saved my life. Once we had the right diagnosis we were able to find the right meds for me. I was 31 years old and finally had found someone who could help me.

Things have not been perfect since diagnosis. Meds can only do so much. I still go through cycles. I am never in a 'normal' mood. I am always running in a low level depression or a hypomania. I don't expect this to ever change unless future medications make it possible. The difference is that I can now function and have a fairly normal life. That was not possible before I was properly diagnosed. I have learned how to live with the depressions and the hypomanias. Its not easy but I do cope and get through the cycles. From time to time something happens to kick off a major cycle.

This has been a long journey for me. I have learned so much from having this illness. It has made me a strong person. I have developed wonderful coping skills. I have learned how to recognize early warning signs that trouble is on the way. I don't fool myself. I know its not over. There is no happy ending here. I will be on this rollercoaster for the rest of my life but now I have the tools to handle it. I used to wonder what my life and what I would be like if I were not Bipolar. I then realized that I would not be me. I realized that being Bipolar has influenced me and my life more than anything else I have ever experienced. Being bipolar has brought a lot of good in my life. I encourage anyone who suffers from this horrible illness to look at the positives that it has brought into their lives. Someone asked me once how I would feel if a cure was found. My first reaction was elation. After further thought I knew that I would be terrified. If I were not bipolar then who would I be? How would I feel? Could I handle the foriegn feeling of a normal mood? As hard as this illness is it is a part of me and I don't know any other way of life.

Click here to learn more about Bipolar Disorder - Manic Depression