Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Meet “In the Pink”

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 ?
A: No

Q: What helps you the most?
A: Medicine

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?
A: Yes.

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: You mention “self harm”. Can you tell us more about what would cause you to do this?
A: Causes of self harm are more internal than you would ever imagine. I would get home from school and just rage on myself for being so weak and insecure. I began to punish myself for being so weak by cutting with a razor or steak knife or paper clip. Anything I could mark myself with. As if I were branding myself as socially unacceptable.

Q: What else would you do to “self harm”?
A: Usually I would cut myself but also I would slap myself on the face or yell hateful things to myself.

Q: Did your parents find out about this “self harming” and if so, how?
A: No, not to my knowledge because they both worked and by the time they got home I had calmed myself down and would be so embarrassed by my behavior that I kept it secret and only scarred myself in ways that looked like I fell or you couldn’t see it.

Q: Did you ever think about suicide or try to commit it? 
A: Yes, I have thought about it many times but never went through with it, ever. I cannot imagine leaving my loved ones with that kind of pain.

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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Check out “In the Pink’s” own blog at:


  1. I will check back at the end of every day this week till Sunday. Then you may want to notify me Mama Bear if there are any more questions after Sunday and I will be so happy to answer it on your blog.

    I also posted a link to this article from my blog.

  2. Thank you so much for your candor!

  3. "In the Pink"...

    I am so glad you are doing well and are navigating the journey with such grace and perception. You're insight and candor are helpful for all parents of all children.

    My question to you is in regards to your teenage years and the friends around you. Being the mother of three teenagers myself, I am hearing stories of kids at their school that are cutting themselves and having a tough time. I teach my kids to be compassionate and kind and would like to know what you would suggest to them on how they can be supportive and helpful to them if possible.

    Also, looking back, deep down, did you want an adult to find out. If your mother's friend had called and told her that her daughter was cutting herself, would that have been helpful or disruptive?

    Your story makes me a better person.

    Thank You!

  4. You're so articulate, Pink. I loved all your answers.

    At Redbird, like Pink, I struggled with self mutilation. I would suggest for your teenagers to just let the other person know they are there for them and they can be honest about their struggles and encourage them to seek help. And to fight the stigma.

    And I would have wanted my mother to know. And I would have wanted her to help me find a therapist.

  5. Thanks for your response Elizabeth and thank you RedBird for such a great question.

  6. Redbird: Many of my friends as a teenager were also self destructive. We were never very shocked by self mutilation because we were all doing it. We didn't quiet realize how abnormal that behavior is. I recommend your kids give the child a chance to tell their mom about the cutting or they will because parents need to know. I think the cutter is just so ashamed of their behavior and they do not want to disappoint. I agree that I wish my parents would have known I cut.

  7. That's a great interview!

  8. Just one question, Pink:
    Are you sure we're not the same person?

  9. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Pink. As the mom of a young daughter (9) with bipolar disorder, I really appreciate your honesty and your advice for us parents!

  10. A: lol...I know I have always been me but when in an episode I lose a part of me that involves reasoning.

    Bug's Mom: Your very welcome...I wish the best for your little girl.

  11. Thanks In the Pink for sharing your insights (both here and in the comments in general.) It really helps me to see that there can be a positive future with this illness.

  12. Thanks so much In the Pink- great to have some perspective on what my teenage daughter is going through. Keep blogging because we will keep reading! Congrats on your engagement:) I love your advice to "keep on trucking" and to not make a big deal out of abnormal behavior- I know my daughter already feels bad enough when things are bad...I will remember those words.

  13. Heather and E: Thank you for your supportive comments. I hope your children lead rich lives and have few side effects from meds. If only there were no side effects.

  14. Oh I-t-P, I am sobbing!!!!!!
    My daughter is just like you.
    We have yet to find stability and I worry about her so much, as well as the rest of her siblings. She is currently on Seroquel, but this week she has begun to display an inability to control her movements (constantly moving) along with increased agitation, irritability, and impulsivity again. I WISH there was a magic formula to address what is going on with her. She is in pain and so are we....

  15. Mel-So sorry to hear about your daughter. Are they going to take her off Seroquel?

  16. No doubt. I want to do a post on this - and my thinking around where we are with the whole medication management thing - ASAP on my blog. Please check back there I guess...

  17. Mel: I was on Seroquel for over a year and it didn't help that much so the doctor just kept upping the dose until I to started having jerky movements and muscle flexing. It was horrible so I completely sympathize with your daughter. I recommend Abilify because it is so much smoother and less sedating while being such a blessing in treating my Bipolar symptoms. But I do not know if she is old enough to take Abilify?

  18. Thank you for your story. After reading the Depression and Mania Symptoms I can flash back to what my son had in most of the time. I wish you well always and hope that you remain strong and always as you said "Be proud of yourself"

    1. Thank you so much Tahir. I hope your son is doing well because mentall illness no matter which one is .... really difficult to handle sometimes. But so long as he always keeps faith in himself that he is a valuable whole person and not just ill then he will get through this. Be strong and enjoy the good times as they come.

  19. Thank you "In the Pink" Makes me feel very hopeful for my 7 year old daughter, who was just diagnosed BP this past year. It's been a tough road for us and even tougher for her. But knowing what we are dealing with, medication an dthe right behavior therapy, we're better. We still have a lot of work to do but your cando and optomism gives me great hope. Thank you! And thank you Mama Bear for conducting and sharing this interview!

    1. I am so sorry to hear about your daughter's diagnosis. It is not easy for any person to have to deal with this disorder. That is probably why I try to always keep such an upbeat attitude because if I gave into every thought of failure I would be no good to myself. You know? But even deeper than that is that your child's belief that they are more powerful that the illness must be upheld. I grew up in the country so crying about things like depression and anxiety was not very understood by my self made parents. They are hard workers and taught me to be strong and to hold my head high no matter what was put before me so that was good but there was little room for understanding my struggle. I think that is why my diagnosis took so long was because my parents didn't know how to handle me. (sorry this is so long) But your daughter has your emotional support going for her and that is priceless. I wish your family the best and your daughter has my sympathies. This is not an illness I would wish on anyone because no one cares if you are bipolar because there is nothing they can do. No get well cards are meant for the mentally ill. You know what I mean. It can be lonely so always have her back....which I am sure you do.