For years I felt as if I was one enormous burden, a grumpy pest that hung on for sympathy and purposely alienated people.
In 1998, while in hospital, they diagnosed me with Bipolar Disorder.
Bipolar I. Moods can swing from extremely ‘low’ (depression) to an exhilarating ‘high’ (mania). My disorder was BPII, meaning I still experienced ‘depression’; however, the ‘high’ (mania) is lesser of a degree and therefore named ‘hypomania’.
For a decade, I literally “lived” in and out of hospitals. My wonderful husband stood by me through those turbulent years. Years of endless hospitalizations, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT, shock treatments), suicide attempts and a myriad of medications became the norm.
My immediate family (my side) were absent when I needed their support most. Friends? They were supportive at first, regularly visiting me in hospital, but as the years lingered on, friends became scarce. Had this been cancer or heart disease, would they have been more empathic?
I believe it is the stigma attached to mental illness that drives people away.
Are mentally ill people dangerous? No, but some surmise they do! A family member (his side) cut ties with us during the past years of my illness and hospitalizations, assuming I was dangerous and feared for his children. At Christmastime, only my husband’s name appeared on the Christmas card–it excluded my name. We haven’t seen them since 1998.
One family member visited me in the hospital, stating perhaps I had a “bad case of the nerves”. Bad nerves? Anxiety and anger are connected to depression, though.
My husband was sorrowful and frustrated during my hospitalizations, said I appeared defeated with each admission, comparing me to a person heading towards death. I lacked motivation. My facial expression looked somber and drawn. Strangely, while in hospital, I wished to break free and be home, but when I was home, I wanted to return to the hospital. Was this called conditioning?
Distressing hubby mostly were the suicide attempts; feeling powerless and enraged that the medical system was failing me. And getting two or three-day passes. He was frightened to arrive home from work discovering me dead.
Finally, I fired my psychiatrist of six years, a new psychiatrist (2002) came on board and ordered an altered combo of meds. My health improved, avoiding hospitalizations, with my doctor clarifying that bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness, remaining on medications is vital and avoiding alcohol or drug used to stay healthy.
I returned to the working world for 6 years, struggled with depression, and the pressure of working was frightful, therefore, forced to head for long-term disability. That was the end of my working career.
Today, I seriously question that Bipolar diagnosis, as years have passed, I’ve yet to experience a ‘manic’ episode, only in the dark basement of black depression, and by my research hardly recalling a ‘hypomanic’ episode.
I’ve been off lithium and mood stabilizers with a new psychiatrist in 2012, assessing my mental illness and concluding it was serving no purpose. I continue on antidepressants with my mood fairly stable, but my depression still comes and goes. Therapy has helped me much more than medications.
You wonder if they (doctors or medications) are doing their job, should patients be on this much medication, or reduce it, or….
I also question testing for Bipolar Disorder. Are tick boxes next to questions a qualified diagnosis? Are there some patients misdiagnosed?
There IS life with mental illness, however, the stigma remains.
Written and copyrighted by Deb McCarthy, (edited and reposted) 2020