Stop The World, I Want To Get Off!

I've been a lurker for awhile, but I feel I should finally go ahead and share my story.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar II when I was 16 or 17 years old, not long after my father passed away. I was never compliant with my medication. I hated taking it, I felt lethargic and zombified-- incapable of producing one single creative thought. I craved mania, when lights and colors and life seems so much more vivid and loud, and I was in love with the world--and it with me (gotta love the delusions of grandeur, right?) So, I just wouldn't take it. I'd spit it out, hide it, lie to my therapists and my mother that I felt so much better, lie to myself that I was capable of controlling the thing writhing around in my skull.

I tried to control the bipolar without medication for ten years. TEN YEARS. During that time, I managed to marry and divorce two of the most ungrateful men God ever made, developed a nasty case of bulimia, got myself arrested for being a drunken ******* (funny how so many of us become alcoholics, I never knew that alcohol had mood-stabilizing properties. I guess that's why some of us crave alcohol when the world gets too loud) and moved around to four major U.S. cities. The only substance I have ever found to be remotely beneficial in all my years of self medicating, was marijuana. I become very chill when I smoke, and it seems to smooth out the static in my head.

In 2009, I moved in with an off again/on again boyfriend I'd met in college, and we became engaged. (This is after the first two marriages, mind you) My fiance (we'll call him DF) is a very patient man, and knows exactly how to deal with me. For a year and a half, I had only one major mixed episode, but aside from that, I was very stable. I believed that perhaps my bipolar was in remission, so to speak, as I've read it can happen in some cases. In late 2010, I found out I was pregnant with DS, so we relocated from our hometown to live near my family, as I knew that I would need a lot of support from them. Pregnancy turned out to be a fabulous mood stabilizer. I felt great, I was sleepy all the time, yes, but I had a very easy pregnancy. I was concerned about the possibility of postpartum depression, given my mental health history, so my OB prescribed a low dosage of Zoloft for me to start taking in my 36th week. Labor and delivery was fast, natural, and uncomplicated-- and there was my beautiful baby boy, the love of my life.

The first month of DS's life was difficult. He was born in the middle of a ridiculously hot summer, so we couldn't go out and do anything at all. We were shut-ins for the first month of his life. I was so in love with my baby, but I was also having to take care of a newborn on my own. DF worked long hours, but even when he was home, he was virtually no help at all. My mother was out of state for the first month of DS's life as well, so she received quite a few tearful phone calls from me. Thank God for a family friend's teenage daughter, she came to watch the baby a few hours every day so I could sleep for a few hours. She was such a godsend.

I went back to work full-time when DS was six weeks old. I noticed that I was becoming more and more agitated, restless, aggressive. I had no patience for anyone, except for the baby. I didn't sleep. I rarely ate. I felt like a tightly wound guitar string, taut and ready to snap.

This is when I decided I should up my Zoloft dosage.

That was my first mistake.

I also thought I could start having a glass of wine at night after the baby went to bed.

That was my second mistake.

By the time DS turned two months old, I was downing a bottle of wine a night once he went to bed, and I was mad as a hatter. I began lashing out at my fiance constantly, becoming physically aggressive towards him. One night, I just snapped. I do not remember anything except the part where I woke up in a jail cell.

He had me arrested for my own safety. My brain, poisoned with too much Zoloft and pickled in booze had finally gone around the bend. I had a psychotic break.

I wish I could say this scared me enough to stop immediately. It didn't. I got out of jail, stayed off the Zoloft, but picked up where I left off with the drinking. When another violent night almost had me carted off to the loony bin, I thankfully had a lucid moment. While packing four inch long self-inflicted gash wounds in my left arm (thank God I missed the arteries.), I suddenly realized: I'm dying. I am actively killing myself and hurting everyone around me. I can't do this anymore.

That thought saved my life. The thought of my son growing up without a mother, with the knowledge that a) she was crazy and b) didn't love him enough to go get help, the thought of my mother going through the pain of burying her child, the thought of my fiance having to raise our son by himself... I wanted to live. That day, I marched over to the community mental health clinic and demanded they see me immediately.

Initially, they refused to see me without an appointment. So, I unwrapped my left arm, which looked like a piece of raw hamburger meat and dropped it on the receptionist's desk. "No", I said, "You need to see me. NOW."

 I was re-diagnosed as Bipolar I, rapid-cycling. Had I not refused meds for ten years, there is a possibility that the bipolar would not have progressed to this stage.

It's been nearly nine months since that day. I am compliant, and gladly so. My day consists of three different medications: Zoloft, Lamictal and Geodon-- a cocktail that produces all sorts of fun side effects. (loss of libido, vertigo, akathisia, parkinsonism, etc) I keep a daily mood journal, which I update at every med dose, and bring with me to my psychiatrist's appointments. It keeps me honest- I may look happy during one particular appointment, but he could flip back four days and see that I had a day where all I did was cry. It's helped him fine tune my medication, and he's even let me play with dose distribution to figure out what works best for me. (Dose distribution means I take the prescribed amount of medication every day, but I'm allowed to split the dosages in certain ways to better accommodate my schedule. I take my Zoloft and 1/2 my dose of Lamictal in the mornings, then at night, I take the other half of my Lamictal and my Geodon.)

To his credit, DF educated himself about Bipolar disorder-- extensively. He bought book after book, read them, dog-eared them, highlighted sections. It's not uncommon for him to yell out from across the house, "Hey, did you move around a lot when you were crazy? Like from place to place? You did? Holy ****, you were manic!" He understands how my mood swings work, he can see a potential blowup from miles away. He gently reminds me to take my meds and dissuades me from impulsively booking us a trip to an Israeli kibbutz, or buying every season of Grey's Anatomy. "No, honey. Give me the debit card. We can't fly to Israel on $200."

My mother and I are much more close than we have been in the last ten years. I'm honest with her about 95% of the time, there's always going to be that inner child holding back 5% because she's afraid she'll be punished, but 95% is pretty good for us, given the past ten years. She's not afraid to call me out on things, and for the first time in my life, my mother's been able to lean on me for once.

My life revolves around a carefully structured routine. It's time consuming, and there are drawbacks-- I've also taken a lot of flack from people for being open about having a mental illness, in fact my inlaws told DF that he should leave me and take my son away because I was a danger to him. That broke my heart, and I even said to DF, "Maybe they're right. Maybe I have no business being a mother." To which he replied, "No, they're not. They don't understand. They're ignorant. You are not a bad mother, and I'm not going anywhere."

Some days the side effects are ridiculous, some days I can barely make it out of bed because the Geodon is still making me sluggish, some days I'm fine. It's a crap shoot....but it's worth it. I'm stable. I'm a better mother when I'm stable, a better daughter, a better fiancee. I'm able to be the person I was supposed to be ten years ago.

ShortBiscuit83 ShortBiscuit83
4 Responses May 23, 2012

I LOATHE GEODON. It's definitely the zombie drug for me, but after trying two different antipsychotics, with massive weight gain as a result-- it's been the best weight neutral med that works for me. I don't like the chemical apathy, which is why I take half the dose necessary (with doctor's blessing) but even still, I have issues. *sigh* One day at a time, right?

Thank you for sharing your story. I wish it didn't sound so familiar. One thing I have to say is some people who have bipolar disorder can not take antidepressants. It can trigger mania for them. I am not saying this is your situation but it has been for me and my other members of my family. Of course, after child birth someone who is bipolar can have more prodblems than most people. I had severe post partum which worsened after each child I had. I an glad to hear you are now stable and have some support. I know how hard it can be I had life altering symptoms for over 20 years before taking medicine. I have been on and off medicine for 11 years. I had a 15 month period of not being able to function properly during which I almost died. So I have been there and back. I raised 4 kids anyway. You will persevere. God bless you <br />
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When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

I'm on lamectal and prestique. I had to get off Geodon because I couldn't feel anything emotionally or enjoy anything. I've been on meds for 20 years. I can relate to having a hard time with medications and side effects. Loss of libido and loosing or gaining weight have been big ones. I tend to go really down. My mania usually translates into obsessive workaholism, paranoia, overspending and irritability.

Sounds to me like you have either mixed or dysphoric manic episodes. Mine usually operate with the seasons, however, my mood swings and behavior have improved immensely since beginning medication. I'd say each behavior shift is about 15-20% of what they usually are. This is what the shifts usually look like:<br />
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Spring: From February through May/early June, I'm hypomanic. I sleep maybe 2-3 hours a night, become more irritable, but generally productive. <br />
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Summer: June through late August/early September, I'm very manic. I don't sleep, I need constant sensory stimulation (movies, music, books, writing, anything tactile), excessive spending, (I have been known to spend ridiculous amounts of money in a very short amount of time) and I'm more likely to engage in risk-taking behavior, as my impulse control is virtually shot. Delusions of grandeur, pressured talking, the whole nine yards. I have had occasional psychotic breaks over the past ten years during the summer. Basically, summer sucks for me, except I don't realize how much it sucks until it's over.<br />
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Fall: September through November/mid-Decemberish, I have mixed episodes. I'm not so far up that I'm on the ceiling, but I certainly don't have my feet on the ground. I'll have a few intense short-lived depressive episodes here and there.<br />
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Winter: December through January/early February, I'm full-blown depressed. I have found that using a light box helps quite a bit, but I still have to fight the urge to hide under the bed and wish the alligators away.