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I’m Here, I’m Me

It’s been quite a while since I have written, but in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I’ve pushed myself to do so. I’ve been through a lot, in terms of my bipolar disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder since December of 2019 and, well, I have no end date, yet. Since March of 2020, I have either tried or increased/decreased doses of 9 medications, all to help regulate my mood and even out the hypomania and depression. I attended 2 different Intensive Outpatient Treatment Programs from February of 2020 to June of 2020, then from July of 2020 to September of 2020. During this time, the medication trials were happening in conjunction with the programs.

I did not improve and then underwent 2 separate courses of TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation), which I had done in 2016-2017. Unfortunately, I could not complete each course as each caused hypomanic states.

All of this happened while a pandemic took over all our lives. I was already going through something unimaginable and then it was as if there was a part II of something unimaginable occurring at the same time. I would be depressed for a week, then be in a mixed state with both depressed symptoms and hypomanic symptoms at the same time, then would be hypomanic for a couple of weeks. All of this while trying to keep things as sane as possible for my daughter, while having distance learning at home and then 10 weeks of summer vacation at home.

I had to take a break from my job in February of 2020, pre-pandemic, due to my illness and attendance in the IOPs. I was then, with all my fellow employees, placed on furlough, which continues today.

The last time my psychiatrist and I decided to try another new medication was in March of 2021 and that didn’t work out due to side effects, which happened with all of the prior trials. Since then, I have been maintaining myself on my current 5 psychiatric medications. It is difficult and we are ready to add a new medication if I become too depressed or hypomanic. It’s a medication I have not tried but it is known to help those with Bipolar II (me).

I still have zoom sessions with my therapist 5 times per week and we do some very difficult work together. We are a good team and she has helped me since the day I first met her in 2017. I see my psychiatrist every 2-4 weeks, depending on how I am doing, and we also work well together.

It’s difficult to be at home but I try to schedule things but often become overwhelmed by them and I don’t always follow through. I hope to return to work sometime in June but only 4 hours per week to start. I need to take things slowly and my manager is completely supportive of my needs. I am very lucky.

As difficult as the past year and a half has been, I am here and doing my best. It’s not always that great, but I’m learning a lot about myself that I never knew, or connected, in my work with my therapist and none of that is easy.

I’m not feeling terrible and I’m not feeling great and I never know when certain symptoms will show themselves, which is the hardest part of having bipolar disorder. I just thank God every day that I have my husband, our daughter, family, and amazing friends who always support me, no matter what state I am in.

All I can really say is:

I’m here, I’m me.

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My Experiences with Bipolar Disorder

Here is an update of how I have been managing, emotionally, with my Bipolar Disorder.

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Hello, Bipolar Disorder

It sucks to have a reaction to a medication, whether it be for a medical or psychiatric issue. It also sucks when that reaction leads to a new psychiatric diagnosis. I now carry the diagnosis of Bipolar II Disorder. These are some of the symptoms I have experienced since December 2019: insomnia, extremely restless, euphoric, agitated, unusually talkative, racing thoughts, low appetite, hopeless, helpless, sad, empty. Those are not all of the feelings and experiences I have had over the past months but are the majority.

I’ve always been the “depressed” one, the one who can be sensitive but smart. The one who became severely depressed in 2013 and had to have many invasive treatments including hospitalizations. I’ve always been that person, yet now, I am not. I have been hovering between two worlds: that of being depressed and that of being hypomanic. It is possible to feel sad and laugh at the same time. It is possible to feel very happy but cry at the same time. I have experienced this and I will tell you, it feels strange when I am aware of it. This is called a mixed episode where I feel hyped up and an hour later I am despairing on my couch. It can be within minutes. It can be taking a walk on a sunny 60-degree day and feeling powerful and euphoric to then feeling like I can’t believe what a failure I am.

It is utterly exhausting and I continue to contend with it while my psychiatrist keeps prescribing medication to alleviate these symptoms. It’s as if he is running a non-stop chemistry experiment with me and I am grateful to him and his experience. I ended up not doing well with the most well- known mood stabilizer, due to many negative side effects. I am now in an “in-between” phase where we will introduce a new mood stabilizer in a few days. I try not to think of the medication difficulties but I have endured them for years. My body is very selective in terms of what medications it will accept.

Honestly, it was important to be given the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. As a clinical social worker, I know the focus should always be on the symptoms and that diagnoses are for insurance companies, but I needed it. I needed it as validation of years of wondering, of being given so many other diagnoses that basically equal Bipolar Disorder. Even though the illness lives at a higher pitch than what I experienced before, I had to hear it and see it. I need to own my reality, as my blog states. While I wish the past months were different, in terms of my mental health, I can only move on from here, meet it head-on and do my best work with my treatment team (including my husband, family and friends) and move forward. This is not easy but it is the only choice I have and want. So…

Hello, Bipolar Disorder