Living With Bi-Polar Disorder
From a very early age, I always knew I was more sensitive than most. I was more sensitive, more anxious, more passive, I cried more, I shook more. I was just different. To others, I wasn't so much "different" as I was just a child. There really wasn't any way to know that there was a problem. I was an obedient child with good manners and good grades. I did all the things most children do. I hung out with my friends, went to parties and sleepovers. As a teen, I did all the things teens do. I hung out with friends, went to parties and sleepovers. I had boyfriends and did the puberty thing. Now the crying, sensitivity, uncontrollable shaking, passiveness and anxiety was just puberty. Again, there was really no way of knowing there was a problem. I had no way of knowing that all the emotions that I felt weren't always normal.
My son was born two weeks after I turned 21. It wasn't long before pure exhaustion set in. I was in a relationship with my son's father who was basically little to no help. Truth be told he just made me more agitated and tired than anything else. I felt like I was raising two children instead of one, so as the depression got worse, I chalked it up to normal.
I decided to start college when my son was an infant so I would be able to offer him some sort of a decent life. On top of an exhausting, unhealthy relationship I was going to school full time and also working a full and part time job. Now the exhaustion and depression seemed to be a no brainer. Totally normal. But if was so normal, why was I having such a hard time controlling the moods? I couldn't control my moods because they weren't consistent in any way. Then the physical pain set in.
When I started getting these pains in my stomach all the time, I made an appointment with my doctor. Sure, depression and exhaustion were normal, but physical pain I knew wasn't. It turned out that I had ulcers. I was told that they were caused by about 10% food and 90% stress. I told the doctor I would just have to live with them then, because I didn't see my life becoming any less stressful any time soon.( I never was an optimist.) He suggested I see a therapist. I took his suggestion as at that point I felt I had nothing to lose.
I wasn't quite sure what to expect as I started my first therapy appointment. I know I didn't expect to meet someone only a few years older than myself and have them want me to talk to them for an hour about my life while they just stared at me and took note after note. I was so uncomfortable, but decided to give it another session. The second session wasn't much better. She never even spoke except to keep asking me "How did that make you feel". I don't know if she thought that just by me venting I was going to miraculously feel better. I didn't. In fact by the end of the second appointment I felt worse. Now, not only was I depressed, in pain and exhausted, I was pissed. I had a baby at home to take care of, I didn't need to be wasting my time with someone who obviously had no clue what they were doing. That was the end of therapy for me. At least for a short while anyway. A very short while.
Trial and Error
It was back to the doctor for the ulcers. He sent me for tests and prescribed meds for the pain. He asked that I try therapy again. When I told him that I wasn't keen on the way the therapist was making me feel, he gave me the name of another therapist. I knew I didn't like the way I was feeling so I agreed to try it again. This time I tried not to have any expectations beforehand and that proved to be a good way to go, because if you don't expect anything, you won't be too disappointed when you don't get anything. I got nothing from this appointment. Only the feeling that once again I had wasted my time.
Another trip to the doctor, who finally told me that It was a matter of just finding the right therapist. He failed to mention that it could and would take years. 15 to be exact. Some people like to use the expression that the third time is a charm. How about 8 or 9? It took that many therapists to finally find someone who I actually didn't mind talking to.
I never even saw my meltdown coming, it hit me so quick. I knew I was moody and I knew I wasn't coping with it very well. Not only wasn't I coping with it well, nobody else was either. I was working with my mother at Dunkin' Donuts at the time and not a day would go by when she wouldn't have to tell me to "get out of that mood". She wasn't the only witness to it. All my co-workers just thought that I had two personalities, the happy go lucky girl and the absolute bitch. Nobody understood that I couldn't help it. I never wanted to be in a bad mood, I just couldn't control it.
I was seeing a therapist at this time and had been on Paxil for the previous 15 years. I tried to tell the therapist, who was actually the head of the Psychology Department of the hospital, that my medication wasn't working and that I needed to change it. When he wouldn't change it, I asked for a new therapist. He actually had the audacity to deny my request. I kept seeing him so that I would at least be on some medication, hoping that it would at least keep me functioning. I functioned all right! Creating an absolute nightmare of a working environment for anyone around me. Finally, in the middle of waiting on a customer, I broke down crying so uncontrollably that I couldn't finish the order I had taken and had to take off to the rest room to try and save face and get my wits back. I was in the restroom crying for the better part of an hour. My poor mother didn't know what to think or do. But she finally realized that I wasn't exaggerating when I told her I had absolutely no control over my moodiness.
I am honestly a relatively nice person. I get along with almost everyone and will go the extra mile to help when I can. Although my co-workers hated my moods, they liked me and vice versa. I didn't want to keep being nasty. It's not who I was or wanted to be. With this meltdown, not only did I scare my mother and co-workers, I scared myself. I knew it was time to finally get the real help I so desperately needed. I needed answers. I didn't need someone to tell me I was depressed or had mood swings. I lived with me, I knew how I felt. I needed to know why. I needed to know why I was always crying, always moody and why I could be smiling and laughing one second and all of a sudden, without warning, I could feel the blood boiling from my feet and out of my mouth.
I left work right after my meltdown, because I couldn't stop crying long enough to wait on anymore customers and went straight to the emergency room; I was that scared. After crying and waiting over an hour in the ER, I finally snapped at the receptionist and demanded to be seen (I don't wait well when I get in my moods. Ok, I don't wait well anyway, my disorder just doesn't let me). A doctor called me in within the next 30 seconds and asked why I was there. He let me speak for all of three minutes before he called in another doctor. Again, I was allowed to speak for a bout another three minutes before they called in a third doctor. I was becoming extremely aggravated now, because nobody was saying anything to me. Finally when the third doctor came in I thought I was going to get some help. She only let me speak for two minutes before telling me that if I wanted help, I would have to go to group therapy. I was floored! This woman had no idea who I was or what I was going through. How could she know what I needed in all of the two minutes she had been in the room. I asked her how she knew what I needed and she told me that it was my only option. I exploded. I stood up and pointed my finger at each doctor in turn while yelling Fuck You! Fuck You! and Fuck You!. At that point the third doctor ordered the two first doctors to "discharge this woman".
I left the hospital bawling my eyes out and went to my best friends house where I continued to cry until I couldn't breathe anymore. She held my hand while I called my PCP. His first suggestion was that I go to the emergency room. When I explained that I had already been there, he told me to call my community health center as they also have a behavioral health division. That was my next call. They didn't have an appointment available for three months. Although, I wasn't suicidal, I told them I couldn't wait. They transferred me to their affiliated Behavioral Health Clinic. When I explained to them what I was going through they asked me if I could at least wait until the following morning. Hell, it was already after 6pm. I could wait until 9am the following morning, so grateful that they would take me at all.
Light at the end of the tunnel :)
The next morning, exhausted, I made it to the clinic not knowing what to expect, but too desperate not to find out. I was called right in and met with an intake worker who seemed to be the most unintimidating man I'd ever met. He asked me only a few simple questions and then brought me down the hall to the Clinic's Chief Psychiatrist. After talking with him for about a half an hour and giving him a summary of how I'd been feeling, he suggested medication. His second suggestion was therapy. There was the word. I told him I didn't know if I could do it again. I was tired and I had no luck in the past. He asked that I try two sessions and if I didn't like it then I wouldn't have to do it anymore. Because the man who had done my intake paperwork had seem to be easy going, I asked if by chance he might be a therapist. He was. I agreed that I would try two sessions if it could be with with the nice man who did my intake. Although his case load was already overflowing, he agreed to see me. We weren't too many sessions in before he asked me if any of my therapists had ever told me that I had bi-polar disorder? When I told him no, he seemed almost baffled. I apparently had every single symptom of a person with a classic case of Bi-polar manic depressive order with anxiety. I had heard of the word, but didn't know exactly what it was.
I was 35 when I was diagnosed 6 years ago. Since that time,I have learned all about the disorder I have and I have learned to accept it, cope with it and most days even control it. I have been on a numerous amount of different medications. Some mood stabilizers. Some anxiety meds. Some sleeping meds. Mixi these with those, those with these and so on and so forth. They work for awhile then stop, so we try something different. It's always changing. What most likely will not change is the fact that I will always need to be on medication. But that's ok, because what else will not change is my therapist. His name is Jim, but I refer to him as "MY Jim". He was the gift from God that saved my sanity.
I still have many people in my life that don't understand the disorder, but that's ok. I understand it enough now that I can usually at least give them enough information on it, so they will be able to understand where I am coming from when my mood or attitude suddenly changes without warning or if I become holed up in my house or on my couch for a couple of days without what they consider to be a good reason. Although they don't fully understand it, they are accepting of the fact that it exists and they just do their best to support me the best they can.
I have finally found the help I need. It was a long, slow and painful process, but with the grace of God, I am usually in a good place these days. I finally get to see the light at the end of the tunnel on most days. Sure, I still get depressed and moody and boiling mad, but that's part of the disorder. But, what I also get now are beautiful, happy days where all seems right with the world and I can go out with a smile on my face and a positive attitude.