I was seventeen when I suffered my first ‘episode.’ Toward the end of my senior year in high school, I became withdrawn and depressed. The previous year, I was wired, involved in everything,…so, looking back that shows a cycle.) My parents did not want to believe anything was wrong with me, so when the psychiatrist they took me too said she thought nothing seemed wrong, they wanted to just leave it at that. But when I didn’t get better, I was prescribed whatever drugs they had back in the 70s (MAO inhibitors) and I suffered severe reactions to them. So, I was taken off of them and never ended up going back to a doctor.
I went off to college and the excitement of my first year I guess pushed me out of depression. During my sophomore year of college, however, during the winter months, I suddenly wasn’t getting any sleep — suffering from seasonal affective disorder. This was the first time in my life during which I hardly slept AT ALL for weeks despite (according to my parents) having trouble getting to sleep since childhood. I tried to make it through the semester anyway. I didn’t want to go home since when I tried telling my parents something was really wrong, they couldn’t accept it. My Dad got angry and said something about how I often just wrapped a cocoon between myself and others.
One night when I told my Mom I couldn’t sleep, she said, “Have a glass of wine.” (I wasn’t even old enough to buy alcohol in the state where I was in college at the time!) I ended up going home early but my professors allowed me to do the work at home so I could get credit for my course. Not only did I get credit — but I still ended up with a B- average that semester despite an episode. (This was a grade lower than normal). This shows the positive side of bipolar — a brilliant mind. I also have a very creative mind. One thing that’s certain– as all of you out their with bipolar disorder know, too — my mind never stops.
I wasn’t diagnosed as having bipolar disorder until twenty-two years after my first major depressive episode! Prior to that, I was diagnosed with just depression. It took ten more years for me to have the correct mix of medications.
Today, I have been stable for years and my husband is very supportive. I only wish I had had more support at a younger age so that I would not have felt that my family saw me as someone to be stigmatized. Too many years of my life were wasted because I felt the low self-esteem that comes not only from my disease but is a product of being looked down upon by others.