I was around eight when I first was diagnosed with a mental illness, nine when I started medication. My diagnoses would change over the years, but mood disorder remained the same underlying term used to describe my ups and downs. Read more...
I was first diagnosed with depression when I was 13. I noticed things were different between my peers and me. I seemed to slowly separate myself from others as the cloud of depression settled in my day to day activities. Read more...
I was born with health issues and colic because I was extra sensitive to sound, light, etc, so my mother did her best to maintain routine for me to keep me calm. Experiencing significant trauma in early childhood, however, triggered me to become more hyper-vigilant. Read more...
It is in my personal opinion that most individuals diagnosed with a mood disorder would say, in all honesty, that their diagnoses changed their lives; I surely would. Would you believe me if I said, though, that my life has slowly changed in a positive way? Read more...
Despite experiencing my first manic episode at the age of fourteen, I was not diagnosed with bipolar I until a few months before my eighteenth birthday. The diagnosis came as a shock to most of those who knew me—I was a bright and bubbly. Read more...
I'm 23 years old, and at 17 I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I grew up familiar with mental illness, what with having some close loved ones who also live with it. But the entirety of my time in high school was dark, Read more...
Picture it: you're a sixteen-year-old girl. You have a wonderful boyfriend, great friends, a loving family and you excel at school. It seems like the picture of perfection. I was that girl. Read more...
Growing up I always handled my emotions differently. I took things very personally and become upset easily. Sometimes I didn't want anything to do with anyone. Read more...
Growing up I always handled my emotions differently. I took things very personally and become upset easily. Sometimes I didn't want anything to do with anyone. I didn't interact with friends or family even skipping meals for days to avoid social interaction. I just wanted to sleep; when I slept I didn't feel so overwhelmingly horrible.
High school was hard; I felt two emotions crushing sadness and off the wall anger. I would cry for hours unable to calm myself down or scream and destroy and hit things. College got harder, my sadness turned to gut wrenching dread and I would invasion crawling under my bed, my room in complete darkness and taking a bottle of sleeping pills. I wanted to stop the feelings hopelessness and doom but didn't know how to get relief.
The roller coaster of emotions became too much, my primary care providers weren't trained in diagnosing mental illness and randomly tried medications. I was put on one medication after another. I was desperate to know what exactly was "wrong with me" and for someone to tell me what to do so I could function and not have depression ruin everything I was trying to accomplish.
I knew I needed help and my providers weren't educated enough so I started researching on my own. I read college psychology text books on personality and mood disorder. I went to my counselor at the time who after 3 years finally admitted she had believed all along I had bipolar disorder. I was furious that she had kept this diagnosis from me. Having a diagnosis opened a door for me to start a journey to recovery and wellness.
I started looking into treatment approaches and found cognitive behavioral therapy I knew it was exactly what I had been looking for. I found a new counselor who specialized in CBT. I was overjoyed when he gave me chapters of books to read and recommended a workbook. I needed to learn how to not only cope with the depression but tools to guide me through lows so they didn't consume me. I learned skills that I still rely on today. I was able to learn about automatic thinking and how to stop intrusive thoughts from getting out of control. I was also introduced guided through reflexology. Now when I'm getting overwhelmed I find myself automatically back stepping through my thought process, dissecting them for what is fact. Consistency really does create habit, I was able to create healthy ones.
The favorite part of my recovery journey has been getting involved with mental health advocacy. I've learned that my story is unique and through it I can offer knowledge through personal experience and peer support. I have worked with organizations to create content for websites and social media and blog content for publication. I volunteer some of my time to a resource helpline, have lead peer support groups and given presentations.
Nutrition and exercise play a key role in reducing and manage symptoms of my bipolar disorder. I now share they knowledge by motivating and supporting others through online health coaching. Being a part of a positive community has given me something to look forward to everyday, goals to works towards, structure and accountability.
Creating a healthy lifestyle has allowed to get my joy and love for life back. I still struggle and as my life changes my struggles change with it. I am now married with 2 children working a great job that offers structure and flexibility. I am learning how to balance my mood shifts with work and family responsibilities, it's not always easy to be there for others when working extra hard to maintain stability. What's important is to ask for help when you need it because your health is important. We have to take care of ourselves and be the best we can be to be able to be there for others.
I am lucky I am a strong individual; I have family and community support. I want others to know there is hope for the future after a mood disorder diagnosis, no matter where you are in your journey. You just have to keep going, educate and take care of yourself, reach out for help and support before your in crisis and get involved in your community and/or school. It is possible to create a happy healthy life and live successfully.
Picture it: you're a sixteen-year-old girl. You have a wonderful boyfriend, great friends, a loving family and you excel at school. It seems like the picture of perfection. I was that girl. Underneath the surface however my boyfriend and I were having communication problems, my best friend and I were barely speaking, my parents were at each other's throats and my grades were rapidly dropping. It was into this chaos that my bipolar disorder symptoms began to develop and worsen. I stopped attending school and my boyfriend and I broke up. I began to cope in harmful ways and withdrew from my loved ones. Despite the fact that mental illness has negatively impacted my life, there have also been positives. It has made me realize what's important to me. I've learned that I am a motivated individual. I realized early that if I were going to get better I would have to take care of my health proactively. My family doesn't always understand the depth and implications of my illness. I have to be my own advocate. This has shown me that I have to stand up for myself even if I do feel little inside. If I don't then my health will suffer and those I love will suffer as well. I consider how knowledgeable I am about my mental health to be my greatest asset. When I was first diagnosed as a teenager I read everything I could get my hands on in reference to bipolar disorder. It's a constant process and I'm always learning. I have to know this illness and how it affects me personally so I can continue to get better. It was awhile before I allowed myself to move on from my mistakes. I had to forgive myself for them and leave them in the past. I realized that I had a choice now even if I didn't have a choice then and I could use it to change my future for the better. I've been through a lot these past ten years. I have been in and out of the hospital due to my symptoms reoccurring. My initial diagnosis changed as it became clear that all my symptoms had not fully emerged. I had a brief psychotic episode in reaction to my grandmother's cancer diagnosis. I temporarily left college. Wellness to me is a balance of both the body and the mind. I focus on my mental health more often than my physical health, but both of them influence each other. Therefore, while continuing to work with my mental health, I am trying to get my psychical health sorted out. Currently, I am preparing to return to college. My boyfriend and I are back together and stronger than ever. I realize now that the bond between my best friends and I are unbreakable. I have a great psychiatrist and therapist and my family is continuing to heal. I couldn't ask for much more.
I'm 23 years old, and at 17 I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I grew up familiar with mental illness, what with having some close loved ones who also live with it. But the entirety of my time in high school was dark, to say the least, and during my senior year I finally sought help for the first time. It wasn't until I was 19 that I really started treatment, though- I began seeing a psychiatrist, who prescribed me medications that helped more than I ever thought possible. When I was 20, though, my mental health took a turn for the worse. I had my mom take me to the emergency room, and was admitted to the psychiatric ward. So many people these days seem to think of the psych ward as this scary dark place we shouldn't talk about. For me, though, having had the clarity of mind to check myself in was one of the best decisions I ever made in my recovery. I learned what it means to accept help, what it means to truly begin to recover, and I started making steps towards the goal of recovery. Nearly a year later, though, one of my best friends did not seek or accept help; the loss of such a close friend threw me for a loop, and I ended up back in the psych ward 11 months after the first time. I felt so weak- I should've known what to do in order to move past my grief and continue on my journey to recovery. I learned this time, though, that recovery is not a linear process. It has its ups and downs, and there will be things that occur to throw you for a loop, as I said. That's fine, and it's normal. It's all part of the learning process. Now I'm 23 years old, a senior in college, working towards a higher management position at my retail job that I love. I have friends I can lean on and hobbies that make my time worthwhile. Most importantly, though, I am happy. When I look back at my 16 or 17 year old self, I often wish she'd known how great her life would one day be. I wish I could go back to that sad scared girl who saw no hope and no light in the darkness and let her know that recovery is possible. I'm not cured, of course- bipolar disorder is something I will always have, and something I will always have to work with. Some days are better than others, but now I have the knowledge that I can get through anything. One day I hope we live in a society free of the stigma against mental illness and seeking help- until then I will do everything I can to help erase said stigma. We are all so worth it, every single one of us, and to anyone reading this: you are loved, and there is hope.
Despite experiencing my first manic episode at the age of fourteen, I was not diagnosed with bipolar I until a few months before my eighteenth birthday. The diagnosis came as a shock to most of those who knew me—I was a bright and bubbly. I was involved in activities and had a circle of friends. My manic exuberance was part of my charm and the my depression occurred mostly in the summer, so it was easier to hide.
I felt very dismissed and like a burden when I explained my diagnosis and told people what I was doing about it. I was shamed for medication. I was pressured to hide it from family members. I graduated in June and decided to take some time off before going to college. I began experiencing psychosis and hallucinations more intensely than I had before. I was frightened and unsure of what to do. I acted on the suicidal ideations that I had dealt with for the eight years prior. I will spare the dirty details but on December 29, 2014, I decided to end my life. I woke up in a hospital bed a few days later. I was in the ICU. I was alive. I cried and my family took it as I was scared that I was in a place I didn't know. But I cried because I had survived and I did not plan to.
After eleven days in the hospital, I went home. I promised that I would dedicate myself to recovery but it was a lie. I wasn't ready. I sat at home and felt numb to the world around me. I turned nineteen in April and decided that it was time. I determined that I was worth recovery. It seems to be such a simple concept but it took time to come to it. I started slowly. I got a job and a month later, I ended a toxic relationship. A few days after the break up, I began college. It was there I began to thrive.
I prided myself on meeting deadlines and participating in discussions. I pushed myself because I was ready to achieve more. I focused on caring myself as a whole. I worked on creating new healthy relationships and mending the old, as well as letting go of the people who served as a toxins. I attended therapy regularly and opened up. I talked about my mood swings and anxieties, things that once seemed impossible. I claimed my bipolar. It was something I did not want to hide.
In January, I made the plunge and moved away from home. I trekked two hundred miles north of Connecticut and nestled myself along Lake Champlain. I took a chance on myself to achieve something greater. I had never envisioned myself going away to school and I was doing it. I threw myself into my studies and the clubs. I talked with someone who helped me set up academic accommodations. I pushed myself to be social and found myself among other people like me—the misfits and the outcasts. I was determined to make it work.
Depression set in but luckily, I was prepared and found a therapist who provides me with a safe and comfortable place to work on myself. I spoke honestly and openly about my struggle with bipolar. With my teachers, we worked together to make the class work for me. I connected with one of my teachers who encouraged me to write about it. We had insightful discussions that encouraged me to pour words onto his page. For his class, we were asked to write a scholarly personal narrative. I told the story of my suicide attempt candidly. I discussed what led up to it and used academic papers and psychology studies to better understand what had happened. I decided to share it with my class and after reading, I felt strong. I was not greeted with looks of pity. Instead I was given hugs and warm smiles. I was told that I belong and for once I agreed.
I would not say I am happy now but I am in recovery. It is possible to be both a work in progress and a masterpiece. For now, I maintain a long list of goals. I want to help other people with mental illness realize that their story does not have to end so soon. I want to better my health all around. I want to own a business. I want to share my story. At twenty years old, I will say that I am where I never thought I would be but I know that I am exactly where I should be. Life is not perfect but neither am I. I was given a second chance at life and for that I am grateful. I survived.
It is in my personal opinion that most individuals diagnosed with a mood disorder would say, in all honesty, that their diagnoses changed their lives; I surely would. Would you believe me if I said, though, that my life has slowly changed in a positive way?
I remember the day that I received my current diagnosis fairly vividly as I was experiencing a manic episode. Prior to that experience, I had been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, and of course I had shown symptoms of depression for quite some time (in my case, years). This day was different, though; the psychiatrist used the "b" word. No, I'm not talking about profanity; I'm talking about bipolar disorder. As a 19-year-old junior college student who wanted to pursue nursing as a career, I knew more about bipolar disorder than the average joe. From what I had read, the diagnosis of "bipolar" fit me like a glove. At the time, I was going through my first full manic episode, but I had symptoms of hypomania (low-level mania) occasionally for years, as well as the depression.
Anyway, back to me receiving the fresh news that I had bipolar disorder in August 2011. My doctor decided to prescribe a mood stabilizer for me, in hopes that my mania would subside. Unfortunately, my symptoms had progressed to such a dangerous state that staying at home to weather the manic storm was not the best option; it was time to check myself in to the psychiatric hospital.
Being hospitalized with mania is different in some ways than being hospitalized with depression; I have experienced both. In an elevated mood state, and one that had the potential to cause major life problems, at that, it was almost a relief to come down from the high. Like every patient, though, I went to group sessions in order to learn more about myself and available tools that would help me down the road.
After I returned home, medication and counseling became top priorities. In the past, I had been lax about my medicines and hadn't always taken them regularly. For me, proper medication management is a necessary part of my treatment; I never miss my doses anymore. Also, finding the ones that work (and in the right combination) was not an easy task for my psychiatrists, but I never lost hope that medicine would be a helping hand. Staying positive through changes in my medication was (and still is) crucial for adjusting to life with symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Counseling appointments were already on my calendar prior to my bipolar diagnosis, since I had symptoms of depression, but I do believe that knowing my new status was enough to wake me up to the reality that I had to work on what I learned in counseling. I finally figured out for myself that counseling wasn't about just listening to what my social worker said; more importantly, I had to apply her advice and techniques (plus outside reading) to my life in order to see results.
Nothing about treating my disorder was an overnight occurrence, but steadily, my mood and situation improved. I wish I could say that my recovery was strictly an upwards arrow on the graph of my life, but the arrow has pointed in all directions through my journey. I've gotten better, for sure, but there have been times when handling my mood disorder wasn't just a piece of delicious bipolar cake. I have overcome the medications changes I mentioned, a second hospitalization (for a depressive episode), setbacks in my college studies, family dynamic changes, and other smaller obstacles to get where I am today.
Guess what, though? Today looks and feels pretty darn good. I am in my final year of undergraduate work and will graduate with a public health degree in May 2017. I dream of working with either a global aid organization or a nonprofit in the future. I have been seriously dating the man I love for over a year, and we plan on getting married in less than twelve months. These elements of my life would not have happened had I not taken charge of my treatment after August 2011.
As I look back on what I have written, I truly believe that one of my greatest strengths is my writing ability. No matter what, I have that; I won't let my illness take it away. I also credit my openness to try whatever might work to treat my bipolar disorder for much of my recovery. I'm not saying I ever attempted anything irrational or illegal, but I kept an open mind to the different methods and techniques available for remedying the symptoms I experienced (multiple therapy types, group programs, online support groups, books, etc...). To me, being well means striking a balance between taking care of myself, taking care of my responsibilities, and doing what I love. It means actively working to get better and stay better.
I wouldn't be where I am today if I had not realized the role that balance plays in recovery. And, I cannot stress enough, keep the hope alive. No matter what religion (or lack thereof) you ascribe to, there is always hope in the human spirit. I know, especially in a depressive state, hope can be the farthest thing from your mind, but whenever I have reminded myself of the hope that's there, I have kept going. It may not have been my own hope that I was relying on; maybe it was that of family, friends, and those people thinking of me. Hope didn't make me happy necessarily, but it did help me get to a point where I could restore my own happiness.
I was first diagnosed with depression when I was 13. I noticed things were different between my peers and me. I seemed to slowly separate myself from others as the cloud of depression settled in my day to day activities. Though I was diagnosed early in my life, it did not stop me from being incredibly involved in my high school years (I participated in drama, art, sports, and coaching). All during this time, I was in and out of the hospital for seemingly uncontrolled depressive episodes. I also dealt with an anger so sharp that I worked hard to hold my tongue. I hurdled through various medications and therapies with only small boosts in my mood. Later in college, and through the help of my friends and family, I realized that I had more power over my health and began to consciously work to a goal of peace. I figured out that I wanted to work with others struggling with mood disorders. I am currently in my second year of a masters program in clinical psychology. I still struggle with a newly (and correctly) diagnosed bipolar disorder, but I have become an advocate for myself while learning to advocate for and help others. I have found my calling. I have struggled with a mood disorder for more than half my life, but I wouldn't change a thing. Surprising, huh? My experiences shaped and molded me into the empathetic and caring person I worked so hard to become. I hope my story sheds light into the fact that even though we all have challenges, we can take them and learn from them. These challenges can become our roots, where we are deeply rooted and firm in our experiences in our own tree of life. I have learned to sway in the stormy days, but not break, to have family and friends support me when I feel brittle, and to consistently water and feed myself so that I may continue to grow and prosper.
I was born with health issues and colic because I was extra sensitive to sound, light, etc, so my mother did her best to maintain routine for me to keep me calm. Experiencing significant trauma in early childhood, however, triggered me to become more hyper-vigilant. I was always preparing for the worst and I feared most males and I worried about losing those I trusted.
I started to feel the effects of my mental illness when I was a freshman in high school. I had high expectations I made for myself academically as well as my involvement in my extracurricular activities. Part of me loved to be busy with dance competition, musical rehearsals, after school club meetings, studying etc. because it kept me on track and it masked many of my compulsions. Unfortunately, I pushed myself so hard that my expectations became unattainable. I crashed and began drowning in depression.
When I was stressed or overwhelmed with too much emotion, I self-injured to secretly maintain my pain. The constant phrase of "I want to die" turned into "you deserve to die" on repeat in my brain and I didn't know how to shut it off. I questioned if anyone else was experiencing the same thing as I was or "was I just crazy?" Instead of cutting to hide the pain, it became cutting to bring me back to reality. This self-injurious behavior stopped working and before I knew it, I attempted suicide various ways and landed myself in the hospital a few times. I would occasionally visit the school psychologist to seek support during emotional times, but I was referred to a private practicing therapist in my junior year of high school.
After seventeen years of trying to present myself as a "perfectly fine" and "never angry" child, I couldn't believe I was sitting in a therapist's office expected to talk about my feelings. Once I got over the shame of being there, I eventually opened up about some of the demons inside my mind. I believe it's helped me because I can finally grant myself permission to release the burdens troubling my mind (and today I believe it!). My therapist also reinforced how I don't always have to be happy and reminded me the specific tasks I was doing to keep grounded, was self-destructive.
In my senior year of high school, I hit another major low. After being hospitalized for the second time, I was sent to a three month partial hospital where I had to participate in intensive daily group talk therapy, art, music, etc. to help me become stable again. This type of hospital was helpful because I was working with people in my age group, so we all could connect about the current struggles we were facing. While I was in the hospital, I had to come to terms that I could not go to college until I was managing my illness well enough to attend. It was heartbreaking for me because I was accepted into my dream school with an amazing merit scholarship and I had to turn it down. I was baffled by how fast my life changed because of this illness, but today I am grateful for this experience and what my life now has become.
It took over a year to track my moods and tendencies for my therapist and prescriber to finally diagnose me with a primary diagnosis of bipolar disorder (or as some people say "bipolar depression" or "manic depression"). In the beginning, I was in denial because this illness has a bad reputation, but I've learned more about my illness and now I feel more empowered to share my story.
The biggest turning point for me was after another hospitalization when I was nineteen. The clinician who worked with me felt I needed to go for another type of treatment for my Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD). She referred me to another therapist who specializes in a process called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) which helps individuals cope with significant repeated trauma. When I started doing the work, it pulled so many unresolved traumatic memories out of my brain that I kept in the back of my head to protect myself. I had no idea how significant it was to work on these experiences because every tendency or connection I had with people was because of specific events I went through in my early childhood. It was (and still is) tough work and I have to take it one day at a time.
Today, I am in more control over my mental health. I am not perfect, but I definitely feel much stronger than I was about six years ago. Instead of filling my workload to the max and moving to New York to attend school, I take a couple of courses each semester at my local community college and I moved into my own place nearby. It is one of the healthiest and scariest decisions I needed to make, but it has significantly changed my life. I have not self-injured in almost two years now and have been surviving the extremes of my illness. I also am currently working a full time position in the mental health field and LOVING IT! I have the opportunity to work as a Peer Support and Outreach Specialist with young adults facing the same challenges I've experienced and focus on their recovery, so they too can live successful and healthy lives. I plan to continue working in the mental health field and obtain a degree in psychology.
I thank God every day for the second, third, and many more chances that turned my life around into a more positive light. Now, I want to wake up and live every day to the fullest. For those of you having a tough time, I encourage you to reach out and talk to someone (especially a professional). I know it is hard to think about, but people do care! We have so many resources and hotlines to call now, so please dial 2-1-1 and talk to them. I didn't realize when I was a teen there were so many individuals struggling with the same problems I was, but now I know and I have supports that've helped me. I also learned not all therapists and medication are a correct match the first time, so be patient and speak up! You are not alone in this fight!
I was around eight when I first was diagnosed with a mental illness, nine when I started medication. My diagnoses would change over the years, but mood disorder remained the same underlying term used to describe my ups and downs. Now, the diagnosis I most connect to is Bipolar Disorder. I manage it with medication and therapy, and with support from my friends and family. I've learned I can't deal with my illness alone, so I reach out to others, and those I trust to help me will help me through any rough patch I happen to be in. When they need help, I do the same for them, reminding them that it will pass and supporting them through their pain. Having friends and family you can trust is very important. You need people who won't judge you, who will support you without question, but who will protect you from yourself if need be. Once you have those people, you can start on other parts of your life, knowing that you have support to fall back on in case something goes wrong. Sometimes you're not able to ask for help. When this happens to me, I try to channel my feelings into something creative, something that will make me feel better at a later date. Whatever you do, it should bring a smile to your face again. When times are bad, just remind yourself that it will pass. Because it will. All moods pass. The bad moods are no exception. They will pass, and you will be happy again.
DBSA would like to thank Rebecca’s Dream for their support of the I'm Living Proof program. Rebecca’s Dream promotes awareness and compassionate understanding of depression and bipolar disorder as real diseases. Visit RebeccasDream.org
OUR MISSION: DBSA provides hope, help, support, and education to improve the lives of people who have mood disorders.
The Power of Peers
DBSA envisions wellness for people who live with depression and bipolar disorder. Because DBSA was created for and is led by individuals living with mood disorders, our vision, mission, and programming are always informed by the personal, lived experience of peers.