Although I could recognize patterns in my life I didn’t think anything could be done about it. I would dive into one project or interest only to abandon it in time. I had few friends, but those I did have became my lifeline. I depended on them for my beliefs, thoughts, interests. They become an invaluable crutch, without which I felt lost and alone.
Throughout college my emotions began cycling in a pattern that would rule my life. When I was up I’d feel invincible, self-important, grandiose. I’d accomplish a huge amount of work in very little time and got by on very little sleep. Eventually however, I’d swing down low. So low that getting up in the morning would be an arduous task. Life was drudgery and it hurt just to be alive.
My relationships would unravel very swiftly as the women I dated would find me exhausting to deal with or too emotionally unstable for anything serious (which I definitely was). Then in 1989 I met the woman who would become my wife. She has been my angel, my strength and comfort. Without the love and support of my long-suffering wife, I’d never have gotten where I am today (or it sure seems that way to me today).
Several years ago, my wife plead with me to talk to my doctor about my depression. She was growing understandably weary of my emotional instability and my self-destructive fits of rage had begun to frighten her.
My doctor diagnosed me with clinical depression and prescribed Paxil. I noticed that I didn’t swing so low anymore and my anger although still a problem was no where near as severe and upsetting as it had been. And since I was now taking meds I could fool myself very easily into thinking I was “fixed”.
But I was not.
I still cycled between high and low. Still had a hair trigger temper I felt I had no control over and was prone to expensive buying sprees that has made the financial life of my wife and I a mess.
The turning point was all in my attitude. Although I knew something else was wrong, I wouldn’t listen to my wife’s insisting I was bipolar.
A few weeks ago I went to the doctor for a physical and found out I had high blood pressure, cholesterol and had to make some major lifestyle changes to get healthy. As I did so, I began to notice my attitudes toward myself shifting. Now it was okay to get healthy, regardless of the perceived cost. So when Cynthia asked me one day to come with her to our internist I agreed. He gave me an initial diagnosis of bipolar disorder and in a week I was diagnosed by my psychiatrist as bipolar II rapid cyling.
Now I take paxil and zyprexa and things are much better. I still cycle but not as severly and I am gaining control over my temper. Also, I am regaining interest in things I’d given up on in the past. In all I am hopeful and contented.
If my story sounds at all familiar to yourself or someone you know or love, please see a doctor. You don’t have to live like this. There’s nothing wrong with you. Bipolar may be incurable but it is one of the more treatable mental illnesses.
I heartily recommend that anyone interested in further information check out the following websites:
National Depressive/Manic Depressive Alliance
The Winds of Change (they have a superb online support group)
An Unquiet Mind by Kay Jamison -- this is a superb book!
The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide by David J. Miklowitz -- another great book