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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

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Consequences for the Mentally Ill During the Coronavirus

It’s only been the past few weeks that I have seen news outlets, both online and on TV, as well as social media, talking about the ramifications of the Coronavirus on those with mental illness and those who develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of working with the ill, enduring the virus and simply trying to get by, day by day.

My question is: why wouldn’t we pay attention to those with mental illness throughout this life-altering time? Wouldn’t this be obvious? I know the answer: why would it be obvious when the stigma around mental illness is alive and well in our society? It’s still extremely upsetting given our daily life experiences.

For me, the Coronavirus entered our country while I was in an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) due to depression. I had a bad reaction to a medication for a medical problem that made me hypomanic and then once off of the medication, I became depressed. Not the best time for a pandemic to hit, not that it ever would be. Moving from in-person groups to group therapy on Zoom was not a “normal” psychiatric treatment but I did it and was discharged last week, although I am still not yet stable. The world is not normal and I don’t feel normal.

My therapist and I switched to phone sessions and then to Zoom. Our schedule is usually 4x per week and having therapy through a screen is definitely not the same as in person.

I am now weaning off of my Lithium due to all of the side effects I am dealing with. I included them here as parts of my day since this is happening now. This is where it becomes complex. This is basically my current daily schedule:

  • Wake up
  • Hands tremble (side effect)
  • Exercise
  • Eat breakfast
  • Take morning meds
  • Take a walk
  • Feel off balance (side effect)
  • Try to decide what to do
  • Stomach ache (side effect)
  • Feel sad
  • Continue online art class
  • Feel tired (side effect)
  • Feel extremely thirsty (side effect)
  • Sit and watch TV
  • Hands tremble (side effect)
  • Ruminate over thoughts
  • Eat lunch with husband and daughter
  • Watch TV
  • Feel anxious about having so much time
  • Stomach ache (side effect)
  • Feel anxious about any feelings I’m feeling: bordering on hypomania and/or depression (yes, you can feel both at the same time or within minutes of each other)
  • Take walk with husband and daughter or alone
  • Have Zoom therapy session (right now, 5 days/week, usually 4 days/week)
  • Feel sad: not able to see therapist in person
  • Feel extremely thirsty (side effect)
  • Get dinner ready
  • Feel overwhelmed
  • Feel sad
  • Eat dinner with husband and daughter
  • Play Xbox with daughter or watch TV and do mandala coloring
  • Stomach ache (side effect)
  • Put daughter to bed
  • Feel exhausted
  • Take night meds
  • Binge-watch TV shows with husband
  • Stomach ache (side effect)
  • Go to bed and worry about next day, cry

Time is no one’s friend. Too much time plus being in the midst of an episode of mental illness is exhausting. Living through a pandemic, a virus that is easily spread, that requires everyone to stay home, while being in the midst of a mixed episode of depression and hypomania is paralyzing and incapacitating. There are consequences for everyone with mental illness living through this pandemic. The psychological consequence, for me, of not being well during a literal and figurative lockdown is that of defeat.

It’s just another fucking day during a pandemic for someone fighting with her mental illness.