Sunday, March 4, 2012

Meet Wayne

I’m excited to share with you an insightful interview with Wayne Smith. I found Wayne through his twitter posts that often provide helpful information about bipolar disorder. Once I visited his website,, I became more interested in his story because he experienced his first symptoms as a child. If you’ve been on the internet long enough, you may have come across a lot of information that claims that bipolar disorder can not exist in children, so naturally I was intrigued with his story. Today, Wayne has graciously agreed to do an interview with me so we can all learn a little from his own personal experience. Enjoy the interview!

* * *

Welcome Wayne to my blog! Before we start, can you share a little about yourself?
My name is Wayne Smith and I am 42 years old. I am separated from my wife and she wants to be divorced. I served as an associate pastor in two churches for 10 years. I have a masters degree in religion with a specialization in pastoral counseling. I live in metro Atlanta and have my whole life, with the exception of 3 1/2 years. I struggle now primarily with severe anxiety. I feel like I am stabilized with my medicaitons with the exception of this. I believe in the power of prayer and plan to invest more time in prayer to help with my anxiety.

What is your official diagnosis?
Rapid cycling bipolar disorder is what my doctor has told me. I cycle to the point of being in the classification of ultra rapid cycling bipolar disorder.

How old were you when you were diagnosed?
I was 36 when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Did you have a previous diagnosis that turned out to be wrong or incomplete?
I was diagnosed several times with various things. My initial diagnosis on my first visit to a psychiatrist was ADD. My next psychiatrist diagnosed me with severe depression and borderline psychosis. Then I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. When I was 37, I was diagnosed with rapid cycling.

How old were you when you first started experiencing symptoms?
I remember experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder at age 4. Some psychiatrists say this isn’t possible. My psychiatrist, who is a neuropsychiatrist, told me that it is possible. Besides, I know it because I lived it.

As a child did you realize that something was wrong with your mental health?
I did not realize what the problem was. I’ve always known that I’m different. I didn’t know what to call it when I was young. I thought I was just unlikable and weird. I thought that I had problems socially because I was inferior. I had no idea that I had a mental illness.

Did anyone in your family recognize that you were suffering?
My parents knew I was depressed when I told them I was in the 7th grade. Actually, I didn’t use the word “depressed” I don’t believe. I remember telling them that I had been thinking about killing myself. They took me to a psychologist twice and I never returned. He said he couldn’t help me because I wouldn’t talk to him. He apparently didn’t know what he was doing.

What were your symptoms as a child?
As a child I was very anxious. I stayed depressed much of the time. I felt shame. I felt inferior to the other kids. I didn’t like myself. And I still don’t. When I was manic I would get on my friend’s and family’s nerves. I didn’t know why I kept annoying them until they were mad. I knew I did it. I just didn’t understand why. It was very embarrassing to me to have a friend yell at me for annoying them.

How did these symptoms make you behave?
I was slower in motion than the other kids. I was annoying and fearful of making friends. I became a total loner in high school.

How did you experience mania as a child?
My mania as a kid manifested as being extremely hyper to the point of annoying the daylights of those around me. I never had sleep problems with it then. I have always behaved kinda recklessly, which is consistent with mania.

Were the symptoms constant or did they come and go?
My symptoms would come and go to a degree. I would say 80% of the time I had symptoms

Did you have trouble sleeping as a child?
I never had any problems going to sleep or staying asleep when I was young. However, I had recurring nightmares that stayed with me for years.

What symptoms affected you the most as a child and how did it affect your childhood development?
Anxiety and depression affected me the most. I was anxiety ridden a lot of the time. I was depressed to the point of being physically exhausted. I often could barely put one foot in front of the other. It was laborious to live. This resulted in me growing up thinking something was wrong with me. I had a very low sense of self-worth. I didn’t think I mattered to anyone and to be honest I didn’t matter to myself. I just wanted it all to stop... but it wouldn’t.

Did you use medication as a child to treat symptoms?
I was not medicated until I was in college in 1999.

Do you wish you did?
I think if I could have had the right doctor medication would have been helpful. But I didn’t know I needed it. I just thought I was one big loser.

As an adult, what symptoms do you struggle with today?
My most dominating symptom is anxiety. I am overcome by it. Depression is a major issue as well. Mania causes me to not be able to sleep like I should sometimes.

Did your symptoms change as you grew from a child to an adult? If so, how?
My symptoms worsened as I got older. They snowballed in 2003–2004 to the point of me having a nervous breakdown.

You mentioned on your blog that you have rapid cycling bipolar disorder. Can you explain what this is like for you?
Ultra rapid cycling means I can go from suicidal one night to manic the next afternoon. I can then return to depression that same day. It’s a roller coaster ride that doesn’t seem to have an end.

Did you have rapid cycling symptoms as a child, if so, is it the same as what you experience today?
I did have rapid cycling as a young person. It just has worsened since I have become an adult.

At what point did you receive treatment for your illness?
I initially sought treatment before getting married with a therapist. It didn’t solve the problem. But, to be honest, nothing has solved the problem.

What has helped you?
The most productive treatments have been the mixture of Geodon, Wellbutrin, Klonopin, Lamictal and a prescription sleeping pill.

What forms of treatment did not work?
I had 20 something ECTs that were utter failures and a waste of time. I did not receive a benefit worth mentioning from them.

Do you have a family history of mental illness?
Yes I have a history of mental illness. My grandmother on my mom’s side has struggled with depression for years. My grandfather on my mother’s side was institutionalized for bipolar disorder. My mom suffered with depression and anxiety for years. She is better now.

Besides medication, what gets you through the tough times?
God gets me through the tough times. If it wasn’t for Him, I would be dead. My children also get me through. If it wasn’t for them as well I would be dead.

Can you share with us a little about your website
I started the website because I’m not only bipolar but have a master’s degree in pastoral counseling. I thought I could help people.

What would you say to parents of children who are struggling with bipolar disorder or other mood disorders?
Pray for your kids. Listen to them. Always be there for them. Take them to a neuropsychiatrist if you can find one in your area as opposed to a psychiatrist. Get them into therapy when it is appropriate. Love them unconditionally. Don’t stop seeking treatment from as many doctors and therapists as necessary before you get proper help for them.

Thank you so much Wayne for sharing your story! I encourage all of my readers to check out Wayne’s website, it has a lot of helpful information! You can send him an email by going to the “About Me” page on his website listed below. He would love to hear from you and hear about your story.

* * *


  1. Good luck with things. Nice blog. You might like this poem about mothers.

  2. What an informative interview! It is interesting to see the adult side of the disorder. I appreciate Wayne's honesty and willingness to share his story.