I’m so excited to share this post with you. One of my followers, “In the Pink” , has agreed to do an online interview with me, letting me ask all those deep questions many of you parents want to know about someone who is living, as an adult, with a mood disorder. I can’t say enough how thankful I am for her complete honesty and willingness to share even the toughest moments in her life. I’m encouraged to see that even though she has been through so many challenges, she’s living a good life with her fiance, planning a future filled with the dreams we all wish for our kids.
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Welcome “In the Pink”, let’s start this interview with your background.
Q: What mental illness are you diagnosed with?
A: Bipolar Disorder type 1, ADD and PTSD
Q: What are your symptoms?
A: (I will focus on my bipolar symptoms):
Mania Symptoms: insomnia, agitation, anger, hearing music, shadows play tricks on me, paranoia, pressured speech, spending sprees, inability to stop focusing (I have permanently scared my face because I thought I had a pimple and also wouldn’t fall asleep till I finished a 500pg book I started the same day) hyper sexuality, decreased need to sleep, extravagance, feeling on top of the world, self assured and take on many tasks at once with gusto and charm.
Depression Symptoms: always tired, crying, thoughts of self mutilation and suicide, major feelings of guilt, lack of sexual desire, inability to make a decision, lack of confidence or drive, feels as though I am melting into the furniture, lack of vitality or assuredness, inability to thrive, lacking a zest for life or a care to live, focusing on shortcomings and decreased care for anything... it hurts to be depressed.
Q: When did you get this diagnosis?
A: I was Diagnosed Bipolar at 21.
Q: Did you have other “labels” prior to this one?
A: I was labeled depressed at 15 and sent to my first therapist at about 11 years of age.
Q: Is anyone else in your family diagnosed bipolar?
A: Yes, my brother and grandmother on my dad’s side of the family.
Q: Do they lead fulfilling lives like you do?
A: No. My grandmother never took medication and committed suicide at around 44 years old. My brother also refuses to take medicine and has attempted suicide, been hospitalized against his will 4 times, cannot hold down a job and lost custody of his children. This is why I cannot stress enough the importance of taking medicine.
Q: What meds are you currently taking and are you finding success with them?
A: My meds are very, very good for me. I take Lamictal 300mg for mood stabilization (my saving grace) Abilify 10mg for mania (very good antipsychotic) Cymbalta 60mg for depression and anxiety (love it), Trazadone 100-200mg and Rozerom 8mg to get to sleep as needed.
Q: Have you ever had a bad reaction to medication?
A: Yes, Seroquel caused me to go into convulsion, Zyprexa caused severe weight gain, Ambien made me sleep walk, eat and try to drive.
Q: How long have you been taking medication?
A: Since the age of 13, sleep medicine and anti anxiety meds.
Q: What do you dislike about your current medication?
A: Weight gain of Abilify, lack of sex drive and that’s really it.
Q: Are you in therapy ?
Q: What helps you the most?
Q: What do you still struggle with the most?
A: Currently, it is lack of self confidence and sleeping too much.
Q: How old were you when your symptoms started and what were your very first symptoms?
A: I can remember not sleeping at the age of 5 and being sent by my school to therapy at the age of 9 for anger and rage.
Q: What symptoms did you have as a child?
A: Self harm, anger, hostility, hyper sexuality, decreased and increased need for sleep, lack of a sense of calm and hope.
Q: Did you experience mania as a child? If so, was it different than the mania you experience as an adult and if so, how?
A: Yes, I experienced mania. I had lack of sleep, increased drinking of alcohol to get myself to sleep as a kid, hyper sexuality and rage. Now as an adult, I’m still hyper sexual, I still have a decreased need for sleep and also rage. But I also spend more, become overly talkative and take on more hobbies than I know what I can do with.
Q: How old were you when you felt mania?
A: I recall feeling increased energy as young as 8 years old or so. I began drinking a glass of wine from the Franzia box in the fridge at about 12 years old to get to sleep. A clear cut mania didn’t happen till I was about 15 or 16 and I stopped sleeping for a few days and didn’t want to sleep. I even stopped eating for a while and felt so on top of the world. It was such a wonderful time. To this day I still drink beer on occasion to calm my nerves when I’m getting angry manic.
Q: Did you know early on that there was something wrong with your brain?
Q: What did you struggle with most as a child?
A: Depression, rage and self harm.
Q: When did you face your most challenging time during this illness? How old were you and what caused it?
A: When severely depressed I struggled with cutting myself and also hurting my family. I wanted to kill my parents and burn down our house as a child.
Q: Have you ever been hospitalized? If so, what was that experience like for you?
A: Yes, twice and the first stay they kept me over three months, the second time just one week. Both stays were good experiences because I was happy to be getting help. In fact, I see those times as a sort of vacation because I was finally able to get my meds worked out and had no fear of hurting myself or others.
Q: Can you share why you were hospitalized and who made the decision to do it?
A: The first time was because I was abusing pain pills and drinking so I was kicked out of my house and told to go to rehab. I was there and detoxed for 11 days then went through treatment for a month. After that time they noticed my behavior changing so I was sent to the psych unit and released 60 days later diagnosed as bipolar instead of depression. Ever since being put on mood stabilizers, my life has been so much better. I’m like another person. It’s such a good thing. The second time, I admitted myself into a mental institution because I was going to kill myself if I didn’t. I was so full of anger, depression and hate for myself that I was going to drive my car off a bridge. Turns out, I needed an antipsychotic and I have been much better since that hospitalization. I’ve not been back to an institution in over 7 years.
Q: How are you doing today?
A: Pretty good, though I’m still somewhat depressed from my most recent depressive episode. I’m sleeping too much and “easy to cry” but day by day I feel better.
Q: Besides medication, what gets you through the hard times today, what tools do you use?
A: Routines, rituals and small obligations such as having to take my dog out to potty or taking a shower and putting on perfume. Calling my best friend of 15 years and crying on her shoulder over a cold beer. All these things help to ease me into thriving even when I do not feel up to it. I also tend to meditate by laying flat on my back and lighting a candle or wearing a scent that comforts me such as my grandma’s favorite perfume Red Door. It’s amazing how powerful a sense smell is to finding peaceful memories and states of mind.
Q: Now that you’re an adult, is there a way your parents can help you as you struggle with your symptoms?
A: Yes, by being compassionate and adaptable. Example is that I missed Mother’s Day because I was in a deep depression. Instead of being mad she was understanding and concerned but not to the point where I felt babied. She let me reschedule Mother’s Day and give her a present without bringing up my inability to be normal and celebrate on the actual holiday like everyone else. The trick is to act as if the abnormal behavior is not a big deal, is normal, and keep on trucking, despite the bumps in the road a mood disorder brings. Don’t make a big scene about the odd behaviors because I know it makes me feel very ashamed and small.
Q: Do you plan on having children?
A: Absolutely and I know I will be a wonderful mommy despite being mentally ill. My only concern is passing my illness onto my children.
Q: What has been your greatest life lesson learned through all of this?
A: That I am not the only one who has ever felt this way and it is indeed okay to want to self harm or hurt others so long as you never act on it because acting on it will never make anything better. The urge is merely a way of expressing rage you don’t know what to do with. So paint, run, dance, meditate or go swimming, anything positive. Going inpatient is a good way to correct medication and see things through a new light. Bipolar is not an end all diagnosis, just a speed bump in the road.
Q: What are you the most proud of?
A: That I am engaged to a man who loves every part of me, I speak openly to anyone about my illness who is interested to know, I am a productive person who works part time, that I am an awesome friend, that I have an associates degree, and that I gave myself a chance to live by never committing suicide. I am proud that I have stuck with medicine and found the right cocktail. I am proud to be me.
Q: What would you say to other parents whose children are struggling with mood disorders?
A: Be patient...very patient, be strict and be kind. Do not let us walk all over you in our rages but be gentle, do not let us expect less of ourselves because we are ill, do not expect miracles, but do not be afraid to expect our best. Love us and teach us to love ourselves no matter how low we feel. Be an optimist to the core. I really wish I had better answers but this is what I know. Bipolar disorder is what I have and in a sense it is part of who I am so do not ever expect me to not be bipolar as you should never expect your children to not be bipolar. Maybe the best advice is to throw all expectations out the window.
Thank you so much “In the Pink” for sharing your life with us and for being so supportive of families like myself. We really appreciate you!
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Please show your love to “In the Pink” by leaving your kind comments below, as a special bonus to you, “In the Pink” has agreed to continue this conversation with all of you through the comment section below, so feel free to ask her any questions and check back for her answers over the coming days.
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