- Mental Health
My Life With Bipolar Disorder
My name is Christopher Thompson, and I suffer from Bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed at the age of 21. That was about 18 years ago. It was an ex girlfriend that suggested that I get help. My troubles really Began when I joined the Army, a few months before I turned 19, which is usually when mental illnesses like Bipolar disorder take root.The minute I set foot in Fort Sill I knew I made a huge mistake. I started having suicidal thoughts soon after I arrived. Towards the end of Basic Training I was really starting to have emotional problems. In Advanced individual training(AIT) in Fort Sam Houston, were I was training to be a field medic, I began to have public, emotional break downs. I was given an appointment to see a psychiatrist, but didn't go because I felt good the day I was supposed to see him. God, I was a stupid teenager! As you could Imagine, this would not be the end of my problems.
After AIT, of all the places I could have been stationed,They sent me to Panama! that Country was the armpit of the world, and it smelled like it too! It was during peace times, so I didn't see combat.It was hot and miserable, and the people were mean to US soldiers. Women used and Abused me, and I was already miserable in the Army. The military definitely was not somewhere I belonged, and that's probably why I'm such a rebel nowadays. My being stationed in Panama, eventually led to my suicide attempt. I was give the option to leave the Army, when I was hospitalized; so of course I took It. At the military hospital I was diagnosed as depressed. This would turn out to be a misdiagnosis, and a grave error.
So I went for a couple of years, misdiagnosed and untreated. When I was finally given the correct diagnosis, it made sense, and explained why Prozac had made me Hallucinate, since mixed with hypomania it caused a Serotonin overload. I was first put on lithium and given a year of therapy. The therapy helped, the Lithium did not. After lithium, they switched me to Depakote, which made me very ill. So I ended up unmedicated for several years. I applied for Social security, following the advice of my mother. I originally had reservations in doing so. I eventually signed up, thinking I would just be on it a couple of years, until I got better. I didn't get better.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Let me take a few minutes to explain what Bipolar disorder is. Bipolar disorder, like many mental illnesses, is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. According to Wikipedia, Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder characterized by Periods of elevated moods and periods of depression. The elevated mood is known as Mania. Mania is normally euphoric to Bipolar people, and is usually why they don't take their meds. These manic episodes are usually accompanied by delusions of grandeur, and poor impulse control. After this "high," there is Usually a crash. This crash consists of depression and bouts of uncontrollable anger.
Bi-polar disorder is broken up into 2 categories, Bipolar 1 and Bipolar 2. Bi-polar one is characterized by the dominance of the manic moods. In Bipolar 2, depression is the dominate mood. People with Bipolar 2 usually don't have full blown mania, but instead have a milder form of it called hypomania.
What Bi-polar disorder Is to Me
Medical Jargon aside, I believe that the experience of Bipolar disorder varies from person to person. The official definitions of Bipolar disorder are generalized, and probably nobody fits completely into a particular category of Bipolar. I was Diagnosed as Bipolar 2 but I also have symptoms that seem to fit in with Bipolar 1. I will now discuss my struggle with bipolar disorder. I have always been more depressed than anything else. My disease has always been an agony. I have never had any of the euphoric highs that most people associated with the disorder. A lot of the information on the internet about bipolar disorder does't mention much about anger. This is a very huge part of being bipolar. It is a very explosive anger. At times, especially when not on medication, or when the medicine stops working, the anger can be almost uncontrollable. This can be very scary to people around the person with the disorder. Family members and Spouse usually get the brunt of the emotional abuse.
The person with Bipolar disorder can feel like a prisoner of their own anger. I have struggled with this a lot. I am overall a nice person, but when I'm in that angry hypomanic state I am a monster. I always regret how I act and what I say when I am a slaver to my anger. This is not who I am, nor who I wan't to be. I have a disorder, but I am not my disorder. You always hear addicts say, I'm an addict, its who I am: well with that attitude, it is what you will continue to be. Someone who suffers from an affliction, isn't the affliction. You are who you chose to be and your attitude, has a big influence on how you turn out.
Jim Carrey on Being Bipolar
I'm fine, but I'm bipolar. I'm on seven medications, and I take medication three times a day. This constantly puts me in touch with the illness I have. I'm never quite allowed to be free of that for a day. It's like being a diabetic.— Carrie Fisher
Bipolar Disorder can Strain Relationships
Bipolar disorder can take it's toll, both on the sufferer, and their loved ones; especially their significant other. I have struggled for years with my anger. Although I know that a lot of it is the disorder, I also know that some of it because of Issues I haven't learned to deal with. I have the tendency to take out my anger on those around me. When my medication stops working, and they all stop working eventually; It is very hard to keep my anger in check. Recently My meds had stop working, and I was a total mess. It took around 7 months to finally get me mentally stable. I was cycling very rapidly. It seemed like my mood changed every 20 minutes. It was Horrible. Unfortunately my poor Becky, the love of my life: got the worst of it. I always feel bad after my rampages, but saying sorry doesn't take back the emotional damage that is caused by harsh words.
This period of borderline insanity has taken it's toll on our relationship. We have began couples therapy which is helping. We are going to make it through. Luckily Becky, is understanding enough to know that it is my illness, and it's not who I am. Yet I know I don't always treat her the way she deserves. I need to learn anger management skills, so when my medicine stops working; it won't turnout to be DEFCON1. I do realize that there are things I need to work on that are issues, that aren't part of my disease. I do also realize their are other things that are a result of my chemical imbalance. I realize I have a mental disorder, but I am responsible for my own behavior.
I hope that sharing my story could help people understand this illness more. For those of you that are also bipolar, you are not alone. I also hope that those of you that know people with the disorder will realize that people with Bipolar disorder are not mean or selfish, they are sick. Yes, they still are responsible for their own behavior, but some of their negative behavior is due to a chemical imbalance in their brain. It may be a struggle for family members of a person with Bipolar disorder, but the struggle is 10 times harder for the Afflicted.