I have had bipolar disorder all my life, from the age of fifteen to the age of seventy-six where I am now. It has been my constant companion, dictating everything I did from childhood to adulthood and beyond. Bipolar has always been there by my side, ruining my schooling, my college, my jobs, my friendships and my marriages. You could say, bipolar has been a wrecking ball in my life. If you are unfortunate enough to have bipolar, you will know exactly what I am talking about.
I was a lonely, only child as my siblings were way older than me. I kept to myself at school and didn’t play with the other kids in the school yard. I think, even in those days I was depressed. But of course, that was a very long time ago, and depression was not a diagnosis that was banded about, especially where young children were concerned.
My father died when I was ten leaving me lonelier than before, and when my mother died I was fifteen and ripe for my first manic episode. Once again, in the 1960s, there was no mention of mental illness, and manic-depression was not a well-known diagnosis. So there was no medication or therapy to help you cope back then.
Most of my jobs were ruined by bipolar, too, as I was prone to depression. When I was in my thirties, I was a marketing manager for a group of hospitals and couldn’t do the work because the old depression monster came calling. I was out of that job before you could say ‘mental illness.’
Friendships have always been dicey. It is not easy to make and keep friends when you have mood swings. One day you are bouncing around with exuberance, the next day you are suicidal and can’t get out of bed.
This goes for marriages, too, and I had three marriages to prove my point. People, no matter how good their intentions, can’t keep up with life on the roller coaster with their partner. It is fine during the euthymic period when you have no symptoms, but the craziness of mania, and the devastating symptoms of depression can ruin any marriage. Thank goodness, I never had children.
I had depression from the age of fifteen to twenty-five when I finally got a diagnosis of manic depression as it was in those days. Since then it has been upgraded to bipolar disorder.
Then at twenty-five, I had my second manic episode and did a lot of damage all round. This is when you upset all your family and friends and don’t see them for dust. And you do the craziest of things every day. I remember buying three cars in one week, and taking off my top in a public place. The embarrassment afterwards is unimaginable, unless you have bipolar, of course, then you will have your own stories to add to the mix.
But, guess what, there have been good times, and I was well for many years on Lithium. In fact, from the age of twenty-five to forty-seven I felt well and enjoyed my life. Friendships began to form, I was perfectly capable of work, I became an RN, and my marriages, at first, were good. I was also lucky enough to travel to many different places and lived in four different countries. I traveled with my husband and our dog in an RV for six years in America, even went to Europe and did the same thing for six months.
Then came menopause and everything went wrong. Bipolar made a comeback and just wouldn’t go away. I tried umpteen medications but none of them worked, and I lost about twenty years of my life. I was unproductive, without ambition and generally fed up with everything. You could say, I just sat around waiting to die.
My third husband committed suicide the day I was released from a mental hospital and life was never the same again. I can’t tell you the damage that did to me. It was unbelievable, but when you are psychotic, you cannot pick yourself up and start all over again. So those were very dark years, but I survived, even thrived and am now doing fine.
Luckily, I found a medication that worked for me. The anti-psychotic Vraylar. I am not saying it would work for you, and I am well aware of the extraordinary price. But, you can sometimes get it for free with a Patient Assistant Program. It has been my magic pill and I have been 100% well for the past three years.
In the past two years, I have felt so well that I have written and published seven books. I started writing at seventy-three, then carried on writing in my spare time. So never give up. There is an answer out there for you. It just takes perseverance to find it.