AM 125 Nuvigil, 20 Adderall
afternoon 10 Adderall
PM 10 Zyprexa, 30 Prozac
A friend recently asked me about the when, how, and etc., of my diagnosis.
I thought I would share the story with all of you.
I'm not sure, exactly, how far it is I need to go back for the symptoms to first present themselves. Was I a bipolar child? I'm not quite sure. I was not always a difficult child, at least I don't think I was, but my mother may have a different opinion.
I feel very fortunate that when I think about my childhood, the general mood I remember is happy. I was curious, and artistic, and loved exploring and playing outside. I had several good friends, great parents who encouraged me, the normal love/hate relationship with my siblings, cats to love and dress in doll clothes, tall trees in my yard to climb, all the art supplies I ever desired, and in my opinion, just the right amount of activities. But I also remember a lot of anxiety and sadness. However, I don't necessarily think it was more than the average child of the 80's, but I'm not quite sure.
I think my first depression might have been in third grade. I pretended to be sick for at least half of the school year. I stayed in bed for months. Much of that time I cried. I was absent long enough for my classmates to make me two sets of get well cards. I pretended to be sick because I just couldn't go. I couldn't do it. I couldn't bare the thought of writing in cursive, riding the school bus, or playing hop scotch.
I'm sure my mother would agree.
Middle school was hell on earth. I saw my first mental health professional in seventh grade. She sat back in her chair, kicked her feet up onto her desk, and called my sister a bitch to try to win me over. It didn't work. I don't remember having very many sessions, but I do remember hating them.
I knew something was wrong with me, I just didn't know what it was. I cried a lot. I was moody, but then again, aren't most thirteen year old girls moody? I started having bizarre experiences. I thought my father, who died when I was in fifth grade, was talking to me through my pens and pencils in his chicken scratch handwriting. I also thought an evil spirit was taking over my thoughts. He was mean, and he wouldn't shut up. I was scared and confused. Were they my thoughts? Or his? I listened to a lot of sad music and daydreamed about the best way to die.
I'm sure most everyone who knew me, and not just my mother, would agree.
If middle school was hell on earth, then high school was straight through the gates of hell. I was full of teenage angst. I took angst to a new level; I was that angsty. I was volatile and unpredictable. One minute I loved something, and the next I hated it. One minute you were my best friend, and the next I hated you. Everything was turbulent. Everything.
I think I had my first major depression in high school. Nothing could get me out of bed, or stop the crying. I ditched a lot of school. I ditched so much school I almost didn't graduate. I smoked. I drank. I did drugs. I listened to even sadder music, and prayed each night that in the morning I wouldn't wake up. Life was simply unbearable.
I had more bizarre experiences. When I looked in the mirror I thought I could see all the evil of the world in the iris of my eyes, playing like a filmstrip. I was saddened that I was powerless to stop all the bad in the world from happening. This started blazing panic attacks that left me unable to breathe, crawling on my hands and knees, terrified. When I went to the doctor, he prescribed that I carry a brown paper bag everywhere with me for when I hyperventilated. When that didn't work I started taking my first crazy pill, Paxil. My little pink pills, I called them.
I began to experience happiness like I had never felt before. Happiness I didn't know existed. I ditched more school, but this time because life was too perfect not to. I remember riding the train into Chicago, standing in the sunlight, barefoot, gazing at the swirling clouds, hearing the most mesmerizing music. Life was beautiful. I would cry, but not because I was sad, because I was full of so much awe. I was always smiling or laughing, making friends with strangers, ready for the next adventure.
I wouldn't need to sleep. I would, instead, spend the nights creating artwork. I tell that story here. No more thoughts of dying - I was in love with being alive. The world was a wonder to explore - each experience better than the last. I was hopeful for the future. I made plans to leave Indiana to chase my dreams.
After high school, I moved to Los Angeles. I stopped taking my pills, and less than a year later, in 1999, I had my blackest depression. At this time, I started seeing a psychiatrist, Dr. L.A. I talk about that here. He didn't diagnose me with bipolar disorder until two years later. In 2001, with a fresh diagnosis, I started taking mood stabilizers.
This began the real beginning of my treatment. However, I didn't start to have the appropriate treatment until 2006 when I met Dr. Crazy.
What do I mean about appropriate treatment? I mean the right drugs at the right dosages. Sure there was a lot of trial and error. There still is. But Dr. Crazy is brilliant, and each experiment gets us a little closer to just right.
Do I still get depressed? Sure.
Do I still get manic? Sure.
But it happens with less frequency and less intensity.
We all experience trials in adolescence and young adulthood. Life isn't merely a path of roses for anyone. I'm not a special exception. But perhaps, being crazy, being bipolar, made that journey a bit more turbulent. The thorns on my path of roses a little sharper.
I do wonder how my life would have been different if I had treatment earlier. If I had crazy pills as a child, or in middle school, or if I had mood stabilizers sooner. Looking back, I wonder if my first manias were triggered by the antidepressants. Antidepressants without mood stabilizers are the perfect recipe for manias for us bipolar folks. Would my path of roses smelled sweeter?
I don't have weird hallucinations anymore; I don't have crippling panic attacks anymore; I have lots of crazy pills; and I have a rock star doctor.
With the right doctor and the right crazy pills, we can live the life we've imagined for ourselves. We don't have to lay in bed wishing to die. We don't have to live in our worst version of hell. We can be happy. We can be "normal."
Until next time...