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Living With Bi-polar Mental Illness And Addiction

Updated on July 29, 2016

Getting Diagnosed

I had had some diagnoses before, but never bi-polar. It had been ADD, OCD, and depression. At 18, I started talking a whole lot one week, and by the end of the week had pretty much everyone scared of what was going on. I had all these ideas, I had all this energy, I had the idea that I was teaching everyone and that everyone needed to hear what I had to say. I started writing stuff down, math, physics, english, all kind of jibberish I would see later.

Eventually I got a bible out and started trying to interpret it and write in the margins about what Jesus really meant. By the end of that day I was Jesus, or at least his offspring. I told my parents I needed to talk to a priest about this and they said that the only place that would have one this late would be a hospital. Pretty clever, right? They got me in to see someone in Boston in the emergency room and pretty soon I was in the mental hospital. There I was diagnosed as having had a manic episode and being bi-polar.


I was given medication to deal with the bi-polar while I was in the mental hospital. I think it started with Depakote and Risperdal. The Depakote is known to cause increased appetite and it definitely did. I had been abusing my Adderall before I went in and had been thin as a result, and now I gained 30 lbs in a month. I was in there for about a month. The Risperdal, on the other hand, caused weird problems with movement and feeling stiff. I did get out of my episode, but I was all drugged up in the beginning and wasn't as sharp as I had been, as well as I seem to have developed a problem with reading speed.

Over the years I've taken all sorts of different medications. It's been about 13 years of dealing with taking medication (I'm usually good about taking it) and finding a good mix took a long time but I finally feel I'm on with. I'm on several different medications and several vitamins and supplements, but I'm fine with that. The best part is that there aren't any crazy side effects like there used to be.

Along with wanting to avoid side effects, there was also the natural idea that taking something to control your mind isn't a terribly good idea long term, so there was always a low-level desire to stop taking everything.

How Addiction Plays In

I never really knew whether the drugs caused the bi-polar or the bi-polar caused me to self medicate with drugs. I got into recovery at 20, two years after I was diagnosed, and for a long time never had an episode without some use of drugs. I kept relapsing thinking that if I could avoid certain drugs I wouldn't go manic and everything would be ok. The drugs I used made me manic and then I would try other drugs and it was just a big mess. Most of the time I was sober I was fairly controlled with medication and healthy living, and the only big issue was pretty persistent low-grade depression. Sometimes I think the depression was a large part of starting to use again, especially because I was big on stimulants which countered the fatigue and the depression.

When I finally had an episode in this period of sobriety, without any drugs whatsoever and without my medication, I got convinced that I really am bi-polar and that it needs to be taken seriously and that I can't just take meds and forget about it, I actually have to factor it in to my self care. If I quit taking my meds I won't make good decisions and might go manic and if I go manic I definitely won't make good decisions and with addiction the cravings kick in after you start again and it starts all over.


Today I try to exercise, I meditate, I practice a recovery 12 step program, I go to therapy, I take good medications, and I'm extremely stable and fairly well-adjusted.

There are a lot of things to be worked out in my life situationally, but my mental and physical health and my sobriety are all solid.

It is possible to live successfully with bi-polar, even as an addict!


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