Bipolar · mental health

Trying to Rise Above

Years ago, shortly after I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 and was hospitalized for my second manic episode, I was considered disabled and approved for Social Security. I’m not the one who signed myself up for it. A social worker got my parents to sign me up when I was 19. My episode was severe. Before this episode, I was working at the same job for over a year and putting in 50 hours a week. I worked ten days back to back and then someone assaulted me. It triggered a manic episode, and I had a lot of anger. But I also wasn’t on medication at the time.

During my hospitalization, I was put back on meds, stronger ones and more of them. I can’t even remember all the medications I’ve tried. I became a zombie. I was very confused. I couldn’t do the things I used to be good at. I didn’t know black from white anymore.

For years I was on disability. It wasn’t much. Eventually I started working part time to supplement my income. My dad was my payee and he discouraged me from working too much, because then I would lose my benefits. I felt like I would never go anywhere in life. I didn’t have a college degree, so I worked retail. I turned down hours for a while but eventually accepted a promotion to management that included full time hours. During this time I was taking a medication that worked, and also in a committed relationship with a supportive partner. Eventually my job became too toxic and the low wages weren’t worth it, so I quit and got a better job. This time I got paid more to work in an office.

The office job lasted a couple years until there were mass layoffs due to the economy. Then I went back to college. It had been years since I pulled out of school due to my first manic episode. When I went back, I was surprised that I was able to get straight A’s again. I was a good student when I was younger, but I wasn’t sure if I could still do it. Turns out, I could. I was fortunate enough to be able to go to school full time and not work. I was afraid that if I had to work through school, I would get overwhelmed and it might trigger an episode. I notice that when I’m overworked and over-scheduled, manic episodes tend to happen.

I graduated college a few years ago, with honors. I was able to secure a competitive full-time job in the field I majored in. But it wasn’t what it was cracked up to be. I stopped taking bipolar meds because my doctor said I wasn’t disabled and I wasn’t bipolar. I thought if you are bipolar, it’s for life, but she said I must have been misdiagnosed before I started seeing her. I mentioned this in a previous post. After going off meds, I started to slip, due to many factors.

I didn’t work for awhile and now I’m trying once again to put my life back together. It isn’t easy. I envy people whose lives never got off track.¬†Sometimes I feel like my best just isn’t good enough. Everyday things that most people are able to do, are hard for me. Just taking care of my basic needs is difficult. I can feel judgmental vibes from some of my coworkers, who don’t know my whole story. It’s not their business anyway. It’s not easy to stay positive all the time.

I know I have come a long way despite having setbacks. I imagine how far I could go if I had never had those setbacks. Perhaps I could have a successful career by now, instead of always having to start over at the beginning.

Bipolar · mental health

Salvaging Situations

I’ve come a long way in the past year. A year ago, I was in a place where I felt unable to react calmly to upsetting situations. All I could do was react to extremes. I was taking Latuda, that newish bipolar medication that I had seen commercials on TV for. It was really expensive even with my copay and a discount card. I took it for the better part of a year, and it never even helped. It may work for others, but it didn’t for me.

Eventually, I took a more proactive approach and insisted to my newish doctor that I change back to a medication that had always worked for me in the past, Abilify. I was able to get a discount card that made the copay for a month-long supply only $5. I am not a doctor, but this is just what has worked for me and my brain chemistry.¬†¬†Everybody is different though. Don’t take my word for it over a doctor.

For about a year I was unable to work because I was too unstable. I have Bipolar 1, and I had a manic episode that lasted about 6 months, followed by a severe depression that was just as long. But last May, I went back to the workforce in a low-stress job. I worked that job full time for a few months and have now scaled back to a part-time job at a different place so I can have more time for self-care.

A couple weeks ago, I ran out of my medications, and was too lazy to get them refilled on time. I went a few days without my meds, and I noticed that it definitely had an effect. I felt a lot more anxiety, and less in control. I finally refilled them and have been making sure to take them religiously morning and night for the past week. I am starting to feel much better.

Sometimes when I get anxiety, I get this impending feeling of doom that I can read people’s minds, and that they are thinking bad things about me. There have been times in the past when the feeling was so overwhelmingly strong, that I felt there was nothing I could do to fix it, especially in a work situation. But now, I’m feeling more optimistic. I feel like perhaps there are things I can improve about my performance at work, and I still have time to make an effort at that and possibly turn things around. I’m trying to take a proactive approach to my life. I don’t have to just let things happen to me. I can control my destiny!

 

Bipolar · mental health

Hello!

I’m starting this blog to document my ups and downs with Bipolar 1 disorder. I think writing about it anonymously will be therapeutic for me. I’m currently trying to put my life back together from the big manic episode I had last year, but it’s still challenging. Last year’s episode lasted about 6 months, followed by a severe depression that was just as long. It had been over a decade since I have had a manic episode like that. I thought I was done having them. I felt like it wasn’t really my fault.

I wasn’t on medication for several months before the episode. The reason I wasn’t taking bipolar medication was not because I just decided not to take it; my psychiatrist at the time took me off it because she said I wasn’t bipolar. I was just following doctor’s orders! She thought I had been misdiagnosed before I met her. I remember having big manic episodes in the past, and asked if she had ever gotten my notes from previous doctors, and she said she could only go off of what she had seen. I think she was just lazy. She only saw me for about 15 minutes at a time, about four times a year. I really don’t think that’s enough time to really get to know me. I had seen her for over a decade and had actually become quite stable on the medication that I had been taking up until then. That’s probably why I didn’t seem to be bipolar, because the medication was working!

I could have gotten a second opinion, I guess, but I wanted to believe that I wasn’t bipolar. I argued with her at first, but gave in because of the stigma associated with bipolar disorder. I wanted to be free of that stigma. I didn’t want to be thought of as a person with a mental illness.

My psychiatrist said I wasn’t bipolar but only had depression. So when she took me off bipolar mood stabilizers, she put me on Prozac (or the generic form, fluoxetine) alone. However, it is well-known in the psychiatric world that SSRIs like Prozac can cause mania in bipolar patients when taken without other medications. I kinda think she is stupid, and not very good at her job.

That was the first thing that set the stage for mania. There were a bunch of other triggers in my personal life that contributed to the manic episode. I was putting in a lot of hours at a workplace that was stressful and toxic, where I felt unappreciated. I dreaded going there every day. My family relationships became very strained. I ran into someone from my past who assaulted me and triggered a bad manic episode many years ago. I thought I would be able to see him again and it wouldn’t be a big deal because that had been so long ago and I was over it, but I was wrong. And finally, I broke up with my boyfriend of 10 years during this time.

I ended up quitting that job. I ended up going to the hospital a few times. I ended up freaking out on some people. I’m embarrassed about that and I hope they can understand that I wasn’t well at the time. I don’t know if there’s anything I can do about that. I lost a few friends due to my manic episode, but afterwards, I gained some better ones. It took some time, therapy, and a med change but I’ve come along way since last year.