I’ve been dealing with mental illness for more or less my entire life, but it was only one year ago that I was diagnosed correctly as bipolar type I and OCD. Why did it take so long to have an appropriate diagnosis and develop a workable treatment plan? It wasn’t because all my doctors over the years just misdiagnosed me, I was told over and over I was bipolar but refused to believe it. I always had an explanation as to why I was having the symptoms I was being treated for.
My first documented depression was easy to explain. I was a junior in High School and had been skipping class on a regular basis. The more I skipped the worse I felt about myself. As I got further and further behind, I just skipped more days. So it was completely understandable that I was depressed, right? I was cutting class so I could hang out with friends, not because there was anything wrong with me.
And the next year, when I crammed as many classes as possible to get back on track for graduation, worked three part time jobs, took another class at the local community college, and still managed to have a social life wasn’t that abnormal. I was just highly productive and driven.
Getting married at 21 to a woman I knew deep down I didn’t love was just a bad choice. The fact that I was still so ‘productive’ and was functioning on only about 3 hours of sleep each night had nothing to do with it. She was very pretty I loved being part of her family and had gone into business with her father. It just made sense that we get married. It just turned out to be a poor decision.
Damn. My marriage didn’t work out after all. I was ecstatic when we first split; free at last! But after two or three weeks later I was brought back to reality. Now I was so sad that I was alone. I was so sad in fact that I started to see a therapist to help me work through my feelings. My therapist overreacted big time when she had me committed to the mental hospital. I mean come on! I was only a little depressed, and it was completely understandable.
It was a good thing she did have me committed though. While I was in the hospital I met someone special who became wife number two! I guess the medicines they started me on worked. I was on top of the world by the time I was released; never felt better. In fact, I was back to my old self. I was working full time, starting my own business, and taking care of both my house and my new girlfriends.
And they said it wouldn’t last! After a year we got married. A year after we got married we had our first daughter. It was kind of funny though. I thought that the woman usually had postpartum depression. I guess I was just having sympathy symptoms. But I decided it was time to change therapists when she sent me back to the hospital after I didn’t get any better after six months. By then, my Psychiatrist started throwing out the whole bipolar thing, but I think he was out of his mind. Sure I had a couple of depressions, but all with good reasons. I had never had a manic episode. I was just one of those people who normally didn’t require a lot of sleep. And I was young so you have to expect some poor decisions, like when I quit my job to pursue my own business. It was a great idea, and I did really well at first. But the long hours and the worry over succeeding took its toll. After just a couple of years I crashed. I wasn’t really depressed, I was just exhausted. I didn’t need to go back to the hospital, but I didn’t argue this time. At least it was a way I could catch up on my sleep. I really needed the sleep too as I was spending all day in bed. I decided it was time to chance psychiatrist too, because this one kept trying to call me bipolar.
Over the next six or seven years I had a lot of ups and downs. After our second daughter was born I decided to give up my business and become Mr. Mom. Wow; what a hard job! Sometimes I was super dad! I did a wonderful job taking care of the kids and the house, and even two or three projects too. We decided to buy a 150 year old house, and I did a complete restoration job even while taking care of the family. My new doctor convinced me that taking lithium enhanced the effectiveness of the antidepressant he insisted I take, but I had a lot of side effects and ended up stopping both.
I guess I kind of over did it taking on the house project, because I ended up worn out again after a couple of years of all the hard work. I just wish my psychiatrist would quit throwing me into the hospital every time I got over tired. Sleeping 14 hours a day should be expected after going on two or three hours for so long. And of course when you are getting that much sleep is going to make you feel bad.
But all good things must come to an end, and after 17 years of marriage we called it quits. Well, I called it quits anyway. She was just getting old and couldn’t keep up with me anymore. I was a lot smarter about a new relationship this time. It was almost a year before I had a new relationship. This time it was great! I mean, I knew we weren’t really in love, but we were having a great time! I was at the peak of my career, making more money than I thought possible, and had a great social group. But she too got old, and I ended up getting involved with a younger woman. It was a shame I got caught, I had just about everything lined up to leave her when it all came down.
But it was OK. Two months later I met the woman of my dreams! But by then my career nose dived. I spent a year unemployed, and when I did manage to go back to work it was for a bunch of idiots. They pissed me off almost every day. I got so angry so often I felt like I was out of control. And I must have been, because I ended up back in the hospital. But I wasn’t depressed this time, I was just overwhelmed with energy and needed a break! Or was I? I had a new doctor, and he used example after example of all the ups and downs I had been through all my life. Suddenly it all made sense.
I am bipolar. For the first time in my life I knew what was wrong with me. I found out too late though, and a month after I was discharged the love of my life kicked me out and ended our perfect marriage. That is a whole story in itself, but it’s not time to tell that one yet.
Denial of the truth and refusing to accept what doctor after doctor tried to tell me cost me a great deal over my life. If I had only listened to them from the beginning I might have been able to avoid a lot of the pain and heartache that not only I went through, but that I inflicted on others. But at least now I’m on the right track, and feel like for the very first time in my life that I am truly in control. My medications are making a big difference, and I’ve been able to make some real progress in my therapy.
There is a message here. Be honest with yourself. Listen to your friends and family. Listen to your doctors and therapists. They are not always correct, but at least consider their advice with an open mind. Whether it’s a diagnosis of bipolar or some other mental illness or condition, acceptance can not only help you feel better, it could even save your life.
I wish I had listened.