What If People Treated Physical Illness Like Mental Illness?

Have a look at this Blog post, it has a great cartoon illustrating how ridiculous it would look if we treated physical illness they way we treat mental illness…oh I can’t wait to show you, the picture is below….

What If People Treated Physical Illness Like Mental Illness?

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Posted in Bipolar, Musings, Personal, Stories

Misdiagnosis to Mania

When looking back at my younger self, I know now that I was suffering severe depression and social anxiety disorder (actually, I know now that I was suffering bipolar disorder, but until that time mania had not presented itself yet). I was always paranoid, though I could not identify what I was feeling at the time, but it was in the realm of psychotic. I was convinced that people, anybody, especially my “friends” only asked me to hang out so that they could laugh at me. They were pretending to like me but I was the joke in the room. They thought I didn’t know, but I was on to them. This is how I get when I am going through depression.

I experienced my first hypomanic/manic episode just after my first year of college. It didn’t last long. It did however last long enough for me to make the life changing decision to leave all my plans, my relationship, my life on a whim to move to the other side of the country by myself. Once there, the mania dissipated and the weight of my decision landed heavily on my shoulders. What had I done? Where was everybody? Where was I? I was alone and scared thousands of miles from home. Enter paranoid social anxiety closely followed by depression. My depression and anxiety worsened quickly and dramatically. I developed severe social anxiety to the point that I would not leave my apartment except to dodge to my classes and back. There were exactly two people that I trusted enough to communicate with, only sometimes, and as long as nobody else was around. I was sure that I was the world’s clown; they didn’t know I knew it, but I did. When around people, I would catch a glimpse, or a look from them and my stomach would sink and churn, the room would spin and everything sounded as a distant echo. I had to run, I had to get out! I was in a constant state of panic. I had no idea that this was something that a medical professional could help with, I thought that it was just how I was, but I walked into a doctor’s office and explained everything. The whole time I was thinking that the doctor must think I am crazy, but he didn’t even act surprised. That was where I heard about depression and social anxiety. I didn’t even know those were things, but I read the information I was given and was shocked that I was not alone! At that appointment I was misdiagnosed with depression and social anxiety disorder and was prescribed Paxil. This started a life altering mania.

Within weeks I did not recognize the world. It was beautiful. I had no idea what people were laughing at until now. It certainly wasn’t me, I was awesome. I got it. I got why people smile and laugh! I was confident, I was happy, it never occurred to me that someone would make fun of me. I finally got it! It was such a relief from an existence of darkness, guilt, shame and blindness. I was genuinely happy.

Then I started to really get it. I was understanding things about life and the universe that I believed nobody else got. I tried to explain the missing link between relativity and quantum, I stayed up for days working on assignments. They were genius! I was alive! Why did nobody see the magic that I was seeing? Was everybody blind to the universe around us? I kept trying to explain. People stared at me as though I was a wonder to behold. I was such an amazing, special person! They stared! They could tell that I was brilliant and they were amazed. I could see it in their faces. Oh, the stares…

I remember those stares a little differently now.

During this mania I began to experiment with mind altering substances. I found some likeminded people who understood the wonders of the universe, or at least tried. They were at least as blown away by them as I was. We ate many mushrooms to get closer to the truth, acid, weed, anything to enhance my already awakening genius. I was flying! I was on cloud nine, or at least I thought it was cloud nine. I had hit the north pole and flown head first into a manic episode. I wish I could say that this is where I found help. That I was admitted or that I came crashing down. This mania was one of the worse that I have suffered and I believe that it was sparked and sustained by the treatment for my misdiagnosed unipolar depression. I believe that the mania was so severe, and lasted so long because I was on the Paxil for so long. I eventually decided that I felt so god-like that I didn’t need medication anymore and I weaned myself off. I did okay for a while, but it was only a matter of time before the same psychotic depression hit again. This rollercoaster of antidepressant treatment to mania, to depression, to mania went on for years.

Oh the stories I will tell. I have had some of the most amazing experiences while manic, but have also made negative decisions that I will deal with for the rest of my life. I will leave off here for now, but be sure to come back for more manic stories. You don’t want to miss the one about my life with the mountain man….

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Posted in Bipolar, Musings, Personal, Stories

First Signs

The first signs that I can piece together are memories of myself as a child being repeatedly told that  I was born difficult. That I came out of the womb strong willed and opinionated (however an infant can be opinionated). In fact, on one of my first t-shirts my mother had imprinted the words “no way” to display to the world the disposition of her little terror. I was reminded of this repeatedly as a child. For example, my parents, avid church goers, reminded me time and again about how a gentleman approached me to say “hi” after the Sunday service and I, in all my charm and poise as an 11 month old hauled off and slapped him across the face. Of course this was used as an example of how I was born with a difficult and somewhat rotten personality throughout my childhood. I believed it. It hurt.

As young as I can remember I remember feeling a heaviness. A tiredness and sadness that was unrelenting. As young as the third grade I remember constantly fighting the urge to cry, particularly if an adult, like a teacher for example, would talk nicely to me. It was like I was holding in so much pain and sadness that I was always about to explode. Unfortunately, it usually ended up releasing in anger and rage. I was ashamed to cry.

This continued right through high school. I was a high achiever in academics, athletics and music and I remember dragging myself to every single practice, day of school, event, everything! How did I do it!?

There was a lot of fighting every day in my home all throughout my childhood and I believe that might have sparked the illness that I was predisposed to. The depression started early in childhood, and became deeper and deeper as I got older. It became so deep and confusing that I never actually believed that I had friends. I was a very popular teen in high school, but somehow I just never felt like my friends actually liked me. I know better now that I am sorted out, but how strange looking back on it. A paranoid depression where  I believed that those closest to me were inviting me out and wanting to be with me just to make fun of me. It was truly delusional, I know now. I feel sad for my younger self. These were many years of turmoil both internally for me and externally in my home life. This life continued until just after I graduated from high school, then something unexpected happened. It was like an epiphany, a revelation! A freedom that I had never felt or experienced. It was what I know now to be my first Manic episode.

More about that in my next story….

Posted in Bipolar, Musings, Personal, Stories

Piecing it Together

Have you ever tried to think back and piece together how you came to that fateful time in your life where things had just become undeniable. There is, for certain something terribly wrong. Be it a first breakdown, hospitalization, or just you dragging your butt to a doctor throughout the surrounding wreckage of your life? That moment where you realize “wow, I always thought I was the problem.” “I always thought that there was a flaw in me, in my personality or self.” “I am not just a screw up for no other reason than that I am a miserable person?” “You mean there could be a reason for this, a medical one?”

This far from erases the guilt and shame that you have collected over the years for being so “difficult” being so “hard to get along with”, a “screw up”. However for me, it was a ray of light and a glimpse of blue sky after years of self hatred and abuse. To find out that this could be medical! I am not Jekyll and Hyde, I am not demon possessed, as some more religious members of my family had concluded, I am not EVIL! Really? Could it be? It took me years to fully believe that I genuinely had an illness that was not anything to do with whether or not I was a bad person. That glimpse of blue sky was my first conception that I might not be a bad person.

Over the years since, I think back to the time before that diagnosis. Through childhood, the rage, the confusion. I try to remember my first signs of mania. I think I’ve pinpointed those times of depression and mania in their earliest stages. The worst mania being the one after my first wrong diagnosis as unipolar depression. The antidepressants sent me into a god like ride that doesn’t’ exist on this earth. Having mostly only felt depression I thought I was acting normally, like a happy person. Um, nope.

In some of my upcoming posts I want to share my stories as I piece together the events that lead to my understanding and acceptance of this disease. Some are tragic, some are (now) hilarious, but I want to get them straight in my mind as a way for myself to piece things together and help me towards completeness, self understanding and acceptance.

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