Bipolar Disorder: How to Recognize the Signs and How to Cope
When I was a child I believed in monsters, the one in my closet, the one under my bed and the one my parents always warned me about. But I didn't know about the one that lived in my head. I wouldn't find out that monsters are real and that sometimes they can live inside us without us knowing. I wouldn't meet him until many years later...when he got out of control.
My child hood was uneventful until my teen years. My parents separated and divorced. I moved to Texas with my mother. I began to suffer depressions, very deep and very intense ones. Everyone attributed them to the divorce and the move. At fourteen I fell into a mood so black, I couldn't get out of bed. I couldn't experience happiness, didn't want to be around anyone, and basically didn't want to live anymore. I swallowed a whole bottle of my mothers valium. At the hospital my stomach was pumped and I was sent home. As time went on the mood swings worsened and I would have fits of anger, become irritable, or feel uncontrollable rages. Then one day I woke up very very happy for no apparent reason. On top of the world I felt I could do anything. I wrote in my journal endlessly, enrolled in performing arts classes, became extremely socialable. I filled my to do list with so many things I had to write on the back. My grades were excellent, I stayed up all night listening to music and talking on the phone. My mother and new step-father were elated that I seemed like a normal teenager again. I fixed my hair and makeup, took great care of my personal hygiene and dressed to the nines. All the while continuing to write and perform, cheerleading, band, whatever was available I enrolled. I didn't need sleep and still had boundless energy. I was in my own little world. "Slow down" my friends told me "your going to fast." I would just laugh and reply "no your going to slow." This elated phase lasted for about 2 months.
The dark clouds began to slowly cover me again. All the things that had held my interest for the past 2 months seemed boring. I was overwhelmed,exhausted, cried endlessly without knowing why and withdrew from family and friends. I stopped attending all of the activities I had enrolled in and once again took to my bed. I was tired, unhappy and couldn't sleep enough. In desperation I cut my wrists. At the hospital I was kept restrained, under observation, and in a locked unit for three days. After three days I was once again released and sent home, no diagnosis, no medication. Just going through the mormal stages of teen life everyone said. She'll out grow it, it's just a phase. This so called phase of ups and downs lasted for years. During this period I was either sailing on clouds or sinking to the bottom of a dark black ocean not knowing how to swim. In the up phase I felt invincible, like I could do anything or be anything. In the downs I felt like nothing mattered, and I would lose the will to live. By this time I was in my thirties. Now everyone just considered it my personality.
In 1990 I married again for the third time, the previous marriages didn't last partly because of my moodiness. My new husband somehow was able to see that something was wrong. I suffered from paronoia, anxiety for no apparent reason, and continued the up and down cycles. Then one day lost in the darkness again and filled with depression, I decided once again to end it all. Once again I was hospitalized. This time it would be different. This time I would meet the monster in my head causing me the pain, face to face, and I would begin my journey to understanding and recovery.
By this time I had moved to a quiet little border town called Del Rio. It is on the border, 3 miles from Mexico. I was working for the 83rd Judicial District as an Interpreter and somehow barely managing to maintain my stability. Del Rio is a very beautiful and boasts a total of one hospital, and one red light in downtown before you reach the border. While in the Hospital I was visited by a psychiatrist from the mental health center who took a complete history. It included my childhood and teenage behaviors, my family situation and my recent suicide attempt as well as the prior ones. I was given a an appointment card for the next week, until then I was not to be left alone.
Arriving at the clinic for my appointment I was skeptical and afraid. I didn't want people to think I was seeing a shrink because they might think I was crazy. I did all the required paperwork and waited. When my name was called I slowly followed the doctor to her office. I'm not crazy I told her. No Christal, you are not crazy. You have a mental illness called Bipolar disorder, that is the reason for the mood swings and feelings you are having. You have probally had it since your teen years. You also suffer from Post Traumatic Stress and severe Panic Disorder. When will it go away, how long do I have to take the medications before it goes away? The doctor explained to me that it does not go away but with proper treatment it can be managed. You can still have a life, as normal as you choose to make it.
It took two years before my medications were adjusted to the right levels. I had to change my diet, exercise, go to bed and get up at the same time. I had to set a schedule and not over-exert or over commit myself. I had to attend counseling sessions, see the doctor monthly and stick religiously to a medication regime. Little by little the turmoil inside me became to calm down. I felt better, my energy returned and I began to learn the tools I needed to manage my monster. I began writing, painting, and sculpture. I did breathing and relaxation. I began to take pride in myself again. My self confidence returned. I learned to notice when my moods were changing, how to avoid triggers that could set off an episode, but most important that I was still me only better.
I have been diagnosed now for ten and a half years. I am stable, no attempts on my life, able to control my moods to the extent that I have not been hospitalized for the ten years. I facilitate two support groups, one bi-lingual, twice a week. Since I am no longer able to work in corrections, I spent the ten years becoming trained to be a mental health counselor and suicide prevention counselor and most important a mental health advocta and master trainer for persons with Bipolar Disorder and other mental illnesses.
I also now have made friends with the monster in my head. I have learned to tame him, and in my up days he is my friend. My doctor says he is responsible for my creative talents, such as writing, learning foreign languages, painting and helping others not suffer the pain I went through.
Mental illness is often missed causing the person affected to suffer for years before it is recognized and diagnosed. There is hope. There is life even with mental illness. If you or a loved one exhibit any of the above mentioned symptoms, please consult your local mental health professional. There are many support groups available, you don;t have to do it alone.
My greatest wish is to terminate the stigma associated with a diagnosis of mental illness. That is why I made this hub, to share my story, to educate the community and to encourage others to seek help when needed.
Thanks for reading this article and GOD BLESS YOU.
Reaching the end
Sometimes I feel like ending it all, like its more than I can take and ending it all would be a better choice. The4n I think of my children, grandchildren, and others who would suffer. I know the pain would be over for me but the pain and questions I leave unanswered to those I love would last a lifetime. They would be left to deal with the mess I had of a life. Its no ones fault but my own. maybe if I had been diagnosed earlier things might have been different and maybe not.