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.
When 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!