My illness was first diagnosed as depression in 1998, but didn’t get chronic until 1999. I tried a combination of antidepressants from my family doctor, several weeks of therapy, and self help (using the book “Feeling Good”), but didn’t stick with treatment for long. Soon my wife noticed my symptoms swung to mania. I was in denial until one pivotal night when an argument with my wife, with my young sons present, escalated to the point of my wife threatening separation. That was enough to break through the walls my mania had erected, and I sought treatment again.
Early in 2002 I was diagnosed with bipolar type 2. My specialist put me on herbals, which helped a little while. Then I went on a four month deployment as a Coast Guard contractor. The separation from my family and lack of treatment triggered another manic cycle. I went to the VA and was prescribed Tegretol. It helped, but my decision to take a job December 2003 with the Air Force contributed most to my improved mood. After moving I made a grave mistake by not renewing my prescription. Things were good until 2008, when multiple changes at work and a missed promotion the previous year occurred.
I gradually slipped into depression subtle enough that nobody around me noticed. By 2010, after I had been taking sick days about every 3-4 weeks, my wife noticed and asked if I was depressed. I denied it. In October 2010 I heard an officer in our unit recount his story of planning his own suicide, only to be saved by another officer. This prompted me to seek care again.
The St Louis VA staff prescribed meds for depression, despite my bipolar history. After a wonderful Christmas, I swung into a strong manic phase in January. The next three months were so bad that my wife and I threatened separation at least five times. A VA psychiatrist diagnosed me as having bipolar type 1, and sent me to the psychiatric ward, which was a nightmare. My wife came to get me after four hours, we explored private care options, and discovered St. Anthony’s Medical Center.
I self-referred at SAMC March 6 2011. At last I got the right combination of medicine and therapy! After 3 weeks with SAMC, and another 8 months with a psychologist, I was back to “well”, and have been there ever since!