Christina S.

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 Toward the end of my senior year in high school, I became withdrawn and depressed.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.

5 responses to “Christina S.”

  1. Sheridy says:

    My mother was diagnosed with bipolar around 10 years ago. I believe hers was triggered when she unexpectedly got pregnant with me at the age of 16. She was incredibly smart, beautiful, popular but then shunned by family and society and treated rather poorly all around. I can’t be certain that this is when her bipolar was triggered but what I do know is that her episodes…ups and downs were very frequent. I grew up in a very abusive home and my father tried his best to give us stability.
    My mother is currently in a dual diagnosis facility after she tried and came very close to taking her own life just a few days after my father had brain surgery and her own father passed away. It all became too much and the scales were tipped for her. We are all in therapy now trying to learn how to move forward. We live in the state of Maine and unfortunately there are minimal mental health resources for my mother when she returns and no public transportation…and my father isn’t even sure he can live with her anymore. Its all very difficult but this story and others on the website have really helped me through this difficult time.
    Thanks for sharing and keeping the conversation going.

  2. Cheri VanS says:

    try not to be too hard on your family. When health care professionals tell parents there’s really nothing wrong, we believe them. We assume they know what they’re talking about. After our son was diagnosed at 22, we learned everything we could about his disease, but by that time he was married and we had no say in his treatment. We are now the only people in his life that want anything to do with him. He is lonely and isolated, but refusing treatment. We are trying to have him hospitalized, but this is extremely difficult to do. It is a heartbreaking experience to watch someone you love so much deteriorate over and over and over. Try to put yourself in their shoes as uninformed people counting on healthcare pros to get it right.

  3. Leigh M says:

    been there, done that, still happens on the family front. it is the one psychological pain that I can’t seem to move forward from. it still exists, the inability to accept and the questions that suggest I should be better by now, or why isn’t anything working after all the time you have invested into this.
    I wish I could get past that, the hurt that comes with having your parents feel disappointed that all of it and the progress are not meeting with their agreement. I was the one who finally found out what was going on with me, after 40 years of hell I pushed and pushed and I found the answers. ironically, this was pointed out to my parents in my childhood from the school and nothing was done, that was the 40 years ago part I mentioned.
    so I get you.
    thanks for sharing your story. helped me just write what I did from part of mine. maybe this little step will help with the healing process I am going through. I hope you are there. for me it will be such a relief. 🙂

  4. Laura H says:

    Thank you for sharing your story Christina.
    It’s not easy being a parent, and there are no instruction manuals.
    Until there is more open talk between people about brain health, there will be little mental illness care reform.
    We talk about migraines, kidney disease, and cancer. We need to be able to talk about brain disorders and coping skills.
    Break the cycle,

  5. Meagan says:

    Christina thank you so much for sharing your story! I am bipolar as well. It was first suggested when I was 18. I was in outpatient treatment for an eating disorder and I had just attempted suicide. When she said she thought I was bipolar my parents got mad at her and said my daughter isn’t crazy. We left and I didn’t go back to treatment for the eating disorder or being bipolar. I was diagnosed with depression because that seemed to be the issue. When I was experiencing hypomania I just got a lot of stuff done. Like you I did very well in school. I graduated high school with a 4.2 and I honestly never studied. That made college harder because I had zero study skills. I was used to everything just coming natural to me. And When I was in college my ED got worse. And my moods started swinging all over the place. I tried every anti-depressant there was and nothing worked. It wasn’t until I put myself in inpatient treatment for my ED that I was properly diagnosed with bipolar. After that I lost health insurance and had a hard time affording meds. Finally about a year ago I got health insurance but I had also had my first really bad manic episode. It ended up with me in another state and my parents having to come get me and I spent $2000 in 2 days. It was bad. But this year I started to notice myself getting manic and went into my psych right away. I’m still getting meds adjusted but I am so grateful that I didn’t end up where I was last year. Because that was not fun.

    I really want to use my experiences to help bring awareness and make other people feel like it’s ok for them to tell their story too. So thank you so much for sharing yours!!! 🙂

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