Bipolar II, in conjunction with anxiety and self harm issues and mild OCD
What is that?
It is a mood disorder where intense/extended mood shifts are experienced far beyond the scope of the 'normal' population. The two polar extremes in bipolar II are depression and hypomania (a less intense state than the mania of bipolar I) I refer to the time in between these as 'stable' rather than 'normal' because I am never completely symptom free.
How does it affect you?
When hypomanic I enjoy the boundless energy, creativity and productivity, the playfulness and openness; as the episode takes stronger hold it gets darker and I become reckless, uninhibited, and even aggressive. When depressed I close off, become increasingly drawn to thoughts of death and suicide. Loneliness suffocates me and frustration rises as I try to explain the danger of my situation only to have it dismissed. The world becomes a dark and soulless place that rejects me even as I lay plans to leave it. I have not actually attempted suicide but my plans have come minutes from fruition 5 times so far in my life. Between episodes I experience issues such as poor concentration, poor memory, severe anxiety issues, sleep problems - I also binge eat and self harm but these are coping mechanisms developed to help me cope with my mental illness. I am aware that they are self-destructive behaviours and I am actively working on finding other coping strategies to replace them.
"after struggling with the unknown for so many years,
it felt good to finally name the demon"
How long did it take to get diagnosed?
30 years (Yes 30)
How did you feel when you were diagnosed?
Relieved, after struggling with the unknown for so many years, it felt good to finally name the demon. The dx gave me validation and confirmed I wasn't alone in my struggle.
Have you ever been hospitalized due to your condition?
Yes. I went in voluntarily for 3 days but it was 4 weeks before I was discharged.
Do you feel hospitalization helped you?
Absolutely, it was a positive experience for me. Perhaps things would have been different on the secure ward? I don't know. My stay helped me.
"Overall very positive and supportive since diagnosis,
but in the early years I didn't get the same level of understanding"
Overall very positive and supportive since diagnosis, but in the early years I didn't get the same level of understanding.
What treatment if any are you undertaking?
I continue to use my Cognitive Behavioural Therapy skills on a daily basis and I try really hard to comply with my medication requirements. I also use meditation and breathing techniques. I currently take Lithium, Seroquel, Diazepam, Temazepam, Levothyroxine, and various things to address the dry mouth side effect.
Does your treatment have any negative side effects?
Luckily only dry mouth and weight gain with this combination.
Have you tried any other treatments?
Depokote, Zopiclone, Risperidol
"Varied reactions, some pull back ever so slightly just in case
crazy is contagious and they will catch it if you breathe on them"
Did any of your family or friends have a negative reaction?
Yes, some people starting avoiding me, or talking about me behind my back.
Have you lost any friends or family due to your mental health issues?
Yes - some friends.
Do you think your family and friends understand your condition?
Actually, they do well but often our measure of intensity goes out of sync - I say "I feel suicidal" and they hear "I'm feeling a bit down "
Do you tell new people about your condition?
Yes - I am totally open about my mental illness
If so, what kind of reaction do you usually get?
Varied reactions, some pull back ever so slightly just in case crazy is contagious and they will catch it if you breathe on them. Some smile and share their own mental health story. Some panic slightly because they want to say the right thing but find that they don't know what it is.
"I have found lately that I think of myself as a survivor rather than a victim - that choice makes the world easier to deal with and frees me of a lot of baggage"
Absolutely - some see me as a stereotypical 'loony' and patronise me - some acknowledge my strength of character for dealing with it so well.
Do you feel your mental health has an impact on your self-esteem?
Mood wise, when depressed my self-esteem plummets - the extreme weight gain means my self-esteem never really gets a chance to recover. My social anxiety messes with me as well.
Is your self-image affected by your mental health?
Yes. I have found lately that I think of myself as a survivor rather than a victim - that choice makes the world easier to deal with and frees me of a lot of 'baggage'
What’s important to you when you’re struggling?
Having someone to really listen - not to advise me - not to fix me - just be there to lean on while I find my way back to a safe place.
What keeps you going?
My Husband - He is the rock that I cling to.