There have been quite a few questions concerning my post yesterday. I have enjoyed getting all of the feed back and hope to continue to receive more. Bipolar, as well as all mental illnesses, are important to me. I also deal with severe depression and severe anxiety. I will touch upon those in later posts.
Everyone has a story that tells how they have gotten to the place that they are currently at. My story is greatly impacted by my mental illness. I had to work harder to do things because I had to fight through my anxiety, depression, and Bipolar. Things that shouldn’t be hard to do where obstacles to me.
The beginning of my journey to diagnosis
When I was 23 I was a young mom to 2 toddlers. I was trying to be the best mom that I could be. I was struggling with my ups and downs and didn’t know why I always felt the way I did. I remember commenting to someone that I just wanted to feel normal. Their response was that everyone wanted to feel normal. The obviously had no understanding for what I was going through. All I really wanted was to have normal highs and lows and not these extreme ones that I couldn’t control.
I found out during this time that I was expecting another baby. I knew that I wanted more children, but I wasn’t ready to have another one, quite yet. I tried with all that I had in me to be happy about having another child that soon. It took me until a few weeks before she was born to feel excited to have her. This made me feel like a bad person and mom to feel this way about having another child.
During this time I knew that I suffered from depression but I had never actually been officially diagnosed. After much prayer my husband and I had decided that we where done having children. A mental illness is just as real as any physical illness. You need to realize your limitations and not do more than you are able.
A mental illness is just as real as any physical illness.
I talked with my doctor and he was hesitant because of how young I was. I explained my reasoning and he suggested that I try some anti-depressants. He explained to me about postpartum depression. I’m sure that my Bipolar was worsened by postpartum depression. He prescribed me an anti-depressant that was considered safe to use while pregnant. Looking back, that’s probably why I finally started to feel happy about having this baby.
We had prayed about it and still felt that it was time to take permanent measures for not having anymore children. This doctor didn’t do anything until at least a week after a baby is born. So, we scheduled the procedure for a week after my precious baby girl was born.
An unexpected change in our life helped lead to my diagnoses.
I have learned throughout my life that the Lord answers my prayers in ways that I would have never expected. I don’t know if I don’t listen well enough so I have to do it the long way around or what. This was one of those times. Three days after Brittney was born Andrew was still taking time off of work to help me. I was in bed healing and he came in to inform me that he had been laid off.
Our whole world had been changed in a second. They had waiting until after we had the baby so that we could have health insurance. There just wasn’t enough work and he was the last one hired so the first to go. We no longer had health insurance for me to get my tubes tied.
I was so confused as to why I received that answer if I wouldn’t actually be able to follow through with it. After much prayer I discovered that the discussion with the doctor had led to me finally receiving a diagnoses of depression. This doctor thought it was temporary depression that would eventually go away. We later learned that this was not the case.
After 8 months of unemployment we received the answer that we where to move to Idaho Falls, Idaho. This was quite a leap of faith because we didn’t have a job. However, we knew it was the right thing to do. I was still taking my antidepressants and they where helping me to not always be so sad. I was, however, still having my extreme ups and downs.
Soon after our move to Idaho Falls I talked with my bishop at church about how I was feeling. He suggested that I go see a counselor. We didn’t have the money for one so he referred me to one at the LDS Family Services. I learned about self talk and that I wasn’t doing as bad as I thought I was doing from this lovely counselor.
You do more for others than you really think.
I don’t even remember how many times that I saw her but the first time sure left a lasting impression on my life. As I was explaining to her how worthless and sad I felt she asked me what I had accomplished the day before. I listed a decent amount of things but none of them seemed signification to me. She pointed out how much I really had accomplished that day and that it was extremely important to my family. I’m getting teary eyed as I think about how much that has changed my life. When I’m having a hard day and feel like I not of any use to anyone, I remember to list in my head what I really did do.
She also taught me that we need to learn skills in order to get by in life. Medication can help us but it doesn’t replace skills. You can’t count on medications to be a magic pill, you have to do some work too. She helped me to understand that I needed to change my self talk. I needed to stop being so hard on myself and to start appreciating myself for what I really did do.
Shortly after this time, Andrew got a job that had decent insurance. I had been taking my antidepressant all during this time. LDS Family Services referred me to a psychiatrist. I visited with him for only a few minutes before he had diagnosed me with Bipolar. He prescribed two medications for me to control my Bipolar. I needed both in order to control my symptoms. One of them to help me with my highs and one to help me with my lows.
I continued to see this doctor until he decided to do pediatrics. I am now being seen by a lovely D.O. that specializes in medication management. I have had to adjust my medications every so often, whenever they don’t seem to be working as well.
You may need to adjust your medications every so often.
At one time I tried another psychiatrist that wasn’t sure if I really had Bipolar. He put me on a Wellbutrin, meant for depression. Apparently this medication will put you in a extreme manic state if you are truly Bipolar. So much so that, if your not careful, it can put you in the hospital. After 3 days of none stop cleaning, pulling weeds, etc. I went back to him and he determined that I did, in deed have Bipolar.
My Bipolar story isn’t finished, it is a continuous journey. I will always struggle with my ups and downs and discovering new triggers. I will need to occasionally reevaluate my medications and coping skills. I will also continue to help educate others about Bipolar.
If you will bear with me for a little longer I would like to address a few questions. I hope that I can shed a little light on these questions, however, I am only an expert of my own Bipolar. Everyone is different and there is no substitution for actually meeting with a true professional.
How do you know if it’s Bipolar and not just a bad temper?
Bipolar has extreme highs and lows. That’s where the bi part of the name, meaning two, comes in. My high is anger, most of the time. I can also have a high of none stop getting things done. I’m sure I have other highs that I’m not even aware of. My low is depression that varies from just being sad, to not being able to get out of bed, to suicidal, and everywhere in-between.
To get to the point of the question. Does the individual have any form of a low, or just the anger high? Remember to check out the chart in this post for ideas of what that looks like. (http://reclaimingmyexistance.com/crazy-unpredictable-life-ups-downs-feels-like-one-bi-polar/) Can they be doing just fine and a trigger sets them off and there is an extreme change in mood? Are there triggers that you have found that always set them off into a drastic change of mood?
Is there a test you can take to diagnose Bipolar?
No, there isn’t really a test that you can take to diagnose any mental illness. That’s what makes it so hard to diagnose and help those with mental illnesses. When you go in to be diagnosed they will ask you a set of questions to help determine what you might have. Some psychiatrists even have much more in-depth questions and tests that they will have you do.
Psychologist, Psychiatrists and counselors have a fun little book that they can look up symptoms in. This book helps them determine what they think you might have, based on the mixture of symptoms you are experiencing. It’s really a guessing game that is getting more and more sophisticated than it used to be. When you go in for diagnoses they really try to help figure out what they are dealing with.
It is very important, however to find a professional that is experienced and good at what they do. I’ve dealt with some horrible and amazing ones through my own experiences, and that of my children. I have had them not even care about what was really going on and just wanted to throw out medications. I’ve had professionals treat me like all I’m trying to do is drug my kid to make my life easier. I’ve also had a wonderful professional finally diagnose my son correctly because she took the time to do the right test for him. Ask around for other people’s experiences with different professionals. Just because they are popular doesn’t make them good.
There seems to be an overuse of medications in our society. How do you know that you really need them?
I am a firm believer in trying counseling, skills and natural remedies before you even consider medication. You are going to need these tools even if you do end up needing medication. I tried all the former things before I had to resort to medications. I have had to accept that I will be taking medications for the rest of my life. Not everyone will. There’s even a theory out there that if you catch it when your young that you might not have to take them your whole life.