Daniel, 37, Illinois, US

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“I was 16 when I had my first depressed episode, 17 when I had my first manic episode, and 18 when I tried to end my life. Now at 37, I am the Clinical Director at a PTSD Center and a psychotherapist working with bipolar disorder. None of this would have fallen into place without medication, therapy, and a lot of self-awareness.

Living with bipolar disorder requires great effort and a will to fight. Manic episodes are frighteningly euphoric. Your brain chemistry shifts to the point where slowing down is impossible. Your mind is being tricked into thinking that overspending, overworking, and hyperactivity are normal. That is the part that people fail to understand, Mania is NOT fun. You go, go, and go until exhaustion and fatigue take over. Despite the body pain and emotional toll, your brain refuses to let you stop. Then, when the inevitable crash happens, you enter into a depression that becomes the ultimate void. When you fall into a depressed episode, it is numbing and painful. But when you fall from the height of mania into that same depressed episode, the numbness and pain are that much more sinister.

But nothing is more overwhelming than the dreaded mixed episode. Imagine you are feeling deeply depressed and yet, at the same time, you are enormously invigorated and enlivened with energy. This is like mixing superheated gas with a blowtorch. This was me 19 years ago. I fell into a depression yet something felt different. Instead of just entering the void, I felt the energetic, irritable, and exceptionally touchy as if I was a contact explosive. Anything anyone said or did, regardless of how benign the act, was an excuse to blow up. I was angry, sad, in pain, numb, excited, and anxious all at once. It was white noise that was just loud enough to be harmful, yet I could not turn the sound off. For two weeks I hovered in this state until I finally decided that I had enough energy to empty a bottle of pills into my stomach.

Clearly, I am alive and ok as I am writing this today. But lessons were learned. My existence is wonderful. I love who I am and love what I do. I am a clinical director at a newly formed PTSD center and I work with other sufferers and survivors of clinical depression and bipolar disorder.

I never forget how tense the line is that separates my health from an instant switch to extremes. My mornings and nights consist of a hefty medication regimen that keeps me moving at an appropriate pace. But that doesn’t change the fact that my Seroquel causes psychotic, multi-layered nightmares. It doesn’t change the fact that my Trazadone is needed to knock me out some nights. And it doesn’t change the fact that I need buproprion in the morning to get started. Yet, in all of this, I am thankful for the psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, friends, and family for all they have given me. Without the medical, professional, and personal care, I am not sure where I would be today.
Awareness and determination will be your greatest ally in treating bipolar disorder. When I finally became truly determined to make my life extraordinary, I read as much as I could on the subject of bipolar disorder. I am now in weekly therapy and on proper medications. I also make it a point to have allies in my corner. My wife knows me well enough after 14 years of marriage to see when I may be slipping to an extreme. My best friend checks in on me at regular intervals. I exercise and lessen my caffeine intake. I meditate when possible and dive into my work.

All of these activities, along with a host of others not mentioned, will be your best friend when you are suffering. If you are reading this now and have concerns you may be suffering bipolar disorder, or are diagnosed and feel like giving up…don’t.

It is possible….it is achievable…and it is life-changing (for the good). Be your advocate, find your support system, and don’t give up.

Thanks for reading my little tale. If you want to read more on stigma and mental health, you can head to my professional site at http://www.informedmind.net/

Twitter- @Informed_Mind

 

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PATREON’s THIS MONTH:

Stuart, https://www.flickr.com/photos/74009/

Harry, https://mindlessmuso.wordpress.com

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