Being Bipolar

Being Bipolar

Hello, my name is Denise and I’m bipolar. There I said it. For some of you, this will come as a surprise. For those closest to me, you’ve known for a while. 

Being BipolarWhen I was 25, in late 1996, I was diagnosed as Bipolar II. Many people think they know what being bipolar (or manic-depressive) is like based on images they have seen on TV or movies or from people they may have known. However, the most publicly portrayed version is Bipolar I — a full-blown manic-depressive (full mania and clinical depression). I am Bipolar II. With Bipolar II, people deal with hypomania and clinical depression. There are a few differences between the two: type II never has a manic episode on the scale of type I. fewer occurrences of any mania, and more depressive episodes.

Since 1996, I have been on medication. It started with just Zoloft (I wasn’t fully convinced I was Bipolar because my knowledge on manic depression only dealt with type I). I remember the first day that I realized the anti-depressant (Zoloft) was working. It was like a load had been lifted. I could see clearly and didn’t feel so overwhelmed anymore. 

As early as 6th grade, I have battled with clinical depressions, but was never diagnosed. As early as 10th grade, I remember feeling as though I was living outside of myself, more like I was witnessing my life and not being a part of the world. The Zoloft changed all that for me. All of a sudden I realized that the world I had lived in was NOT normal. I finally was experiencing normality.

A few months later, I realized the doctors were right and that I was Bipolar II (could be because I had averaged only three hours of sleep a night for five nights, had plenty of energy, and was starting my 8th project with the first seven being unfinished). So, I started a new medicine called Neurontin. 

Neurontin is not typically prescribed for a manic-depressive. It was experimental in that type of treatment when I started it. However, it worked for me. I started with 300 mg three times a day. Over time, I convinced a doctor to decrease me to two times a day. Finally, I found a doctor who thought I was still getting too much. Unbeknownst to me, it causes short-term memory loss (I thought I was having issues because I was over 30) so the psychiatrist lowered my dose to 100 mg twice a day and it worked fine.

Since my diagnosis, I’ve done pretty well and stayed balanced. I no longer drink alcohol (well, maybe 2-5 times a year I’ll have a drink) because it counteracts my medicine. I don’t drink nearly as much caffeine for the same reason. The only times I’ve had issues is when I have moved and had problems locating a new psychiatrist quick enough and have gone temporarily off my meds (which may be a shock to my folks since I never told them I did that…sorry). But I always rushed back to them because I didn’t feel right without my meds. I need them.

Well, because Chris and I are trying to conceive, things have changed. I saw my psychiatrist last January, before we got married, and told her that we wanted to have a baby. I wanted to know what I should do about my meds. While Zoloft is safe (it works great for women with postpartum depression, too), Neurontin and all other drugs for mania can cause miscarriage and/or major birth defects. So, she took me off the Neurontin. I have now been off that medicine for 18 months. I am still hypomanic free, but I wonder how much longer this will last. The moment it starts up again, Chris and I will have to stop trying, while I attempt to get balanced again.

Trying to be a mom and having a mental disorder is not an easy road in terms of medication. I feel the pressure of the clock on me. Not only because I’m 38, but also because I’m Bipolar II and will need my meds again someday. I don’t think it is an issue because of moods, etc. Unlike many people out there, meds worked for me right away. I love life and have learned how to cope with stressors these last nearly 14 years.

I just pray that God gives us a baby someday soon before time runs out…

UPDATE 2/17/2016: I am still not on my meds for hypomania with no incidence of mania in over 7 years, making me wonder if I am really bipolar. In the last 5 years since I wrote this post, I have had three beautiful daughters and navigated pregnancy and my mental health well. Yay, me! 

tbt option 2

About Denise

Hi! I'm Denise, a 40+ year old SAHM trying to navigate the world of motherhood. I blog about parenting, food, and have been featured a few times on BlogHer. I enjoys solving mysteries (Okay..reading mysteries or watching them on TV), cooking, and drinking way too much caffeine than I should. Basically, anything I needs to do to survive the toddler years.

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  1. Ok, I figured out how to ba able to read your blog. Medications… always the side effects to think about, but they do 'save' us, don't they.Best of luck on the baby thing. It's God's will after all.

  2. I have to say the Zoloft is a life saver/changer for me. I have been taking it since 2000, and wish I would have known about it sooner. Like you said I can now get through the day without stressing and being anxious about everything. I can actually sleep at night and not have constant thoughts running through my head all night long.

  3. Your introduction itself gave me a sense of camaraderie. I was just diagnosed with bipolar II in the Fall. I have had series of major depression episodes since my teenage years and three suicide attempts in my lifetime. After having done much work in the online mental health space (under a different username) I am finding myself struggling with the stigma of the bipolar diagnosis. I find that disturbing, frustrating and sad. Thank you so much for sharing boldly.

    I’m so happy to hear that you have three beautiful girls! What a blessing.

    So glad we’ve connected on Twitter and now, here.

    1. I had one suicide attempt. It was pretty major and I’ve never tried again. (Let’s put it this way, I’m lucky to be alive.) The stigma is tough. I try to rebel against it, but found in my work life that I couldn’t. Now that I’m a SAHM, I feel more freedom to be me. Thanks so much!! I can’t wait to check out your blog.

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