Monday, November 26, 2007

Coming out of the (padded) closet

(View from my front door)

No, I am not gay. This is about me having Bipolar Disorder. And you know, I am not sure if Bipolar (as a title) helps, and I sure as heck know that Manic-Depression (as a title) doesn't help. But, I guess if one went running around saying "Hey, I have Mood Instability" they may not want to get to know you. So, how did I figure this out? I didn't. Ben's psychiatrist did. I should not say that Dr. C is 'just' Ben's doctor...because he really watches out for the whole family.

Ben was diagnosed, by me, as having Bipolar 4 years ago, when his current psychiatrist was telling me I was dealing with atypical Aspergers. I knew I wasn't and when Ben had his first "break" and started rapid cycling through the Summer of 2004, I was desperate for someone to help our boy before we might end up having to hospitalize him (which almost happened July 4th weekend 2004). Literally, by the providence of God, my husband's friend's husband (got that) worked in the same little cottage turned office as Dr. C. Dr. C wasn't taking any new patients, as he had a boatload to deal because his reputation as "the" doctor to see if you're suffering from a mood disorder was known around Atlanta. I knew about Dr. C from Georgia Bipolar Children yahoo list. There were a few who were fortunate to have him, and their testimonials as to his level of care were all glowingly positive.

So, you can imagine my surprise when Ellen (my husband's work colleague and wife of the other doctor who worked across from Dr.C) called and said her husband told Dr. C about Ben and asked if he would just call us. Ellen confirmed to us that we would be hearing from Dr. C really soon. You can imagine how stunned I was. I had no idea that Ellen's husband worked in the same office as the doctor I had been reading about for months. Also, little did we know, that Dr. C lives a mile and a half from our house!!! We were so grateful to God for this chance to save Ben. Because, by this point, he needed saving. We got the call and Dr. C talked with us by phone several times until he could work us in to see us. He never charged us during that time. He believed I was correct in what I thought about Ben and apologized on behalf of his fellow psychiatrists that we and Ben and been dragged through the ringer of misdiagnosis.

Dr. C absolutely saved Ben that Summer from being hospitalized. Ben was becoming a danger to himself and had it not been for God"s intervention via Ellen, her husband and Dr. C, there is a very strong possibility Ben would not have lived to see 8 years old. (It was THAT BAD).

So, fast forward to now. Dr. C spend a good 60-90 minutes with us, when we see him now, which is about 2 times a month. We are on a first name basis with him and he really loves our family. He loves how we parent our kids and that we ultimately want Ben homeschooled again. He fully supports homeschooling, but felt this year, because Ben was becoming extremely obsessive, that the special needs school he is in is helping shake him out of his obsessive thought pattern and helps him deal with the transitions of life. I fight against this, but after Thanksgiving, and seeing how Ben has a total inability to just chill and go with the flow, I see that this "school" situation is actually positive...for now. At least, in his IEP he doesn't have to be at school until 8:30am and he doesn't get homework. I also take him out of school in order to take part in fun homeschooling field trips that come up throughout the year, but I do have to make up "stories" so the school will excuse his absences. Hey, a mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do, right?

Okay, okay back to me. So, Dr. C has Robert alone during one appointment, as I couldn't make it that day. And Dr. C take the opportunity to suss Robert out as to things I had been going through (for the last several years , every Summer, I have a complete breakdown...I cry, yell, scream...get in the car and drive and sob and pray...and basically feel like I want to disappear).

Okay, so that is the thing that makes one say, "Hmmm, there could be something going on here." But when you add in how manic I get in the Fall and Winter...staying up late to alphabetize all my books, or clean out all the cabinets from 1 to 4 am, to complete research binges on whatever my interest is at the time with accompanied by erratic sleep patterns. And then there are the times when I want to sleep til noon and 3 hours later I am ready to sleep again. My energy level is completely unpredictable. All of this has been with me my whole life. I used to stare at the ceiling for hours as a kid because I wasn't tired. When I fell asleep you couldn't get me up. I still don't 'wake up' in my head until about 5 at night. This is why school completely exhausted me. I have suffered from crippling anxiety until , about a year after my mom's death, I consented to go on anti-depressants (they help alot with anxiety, but only slightly with my bouts of depression) and that is just what they are...bouts. I have always had cycles of depression, but they never lasted more that a few weeks so I thought it was nothing. After growing up with a mom who was depressed chronically, I thought nothing of my bouts with it.

My mom was classically clinically depressed most of her life. Alot of it had to do with a co-morbid eating disorder. But mom was never manic. She could be happy, but was almost always dealing with an internal level of sadness (breaks my heart to even write about it). My dad should be on the frickin poster for Bipolar disorder. Life with Dad was a total roller coaster...ohman...and the temper he had (it's getting better as he ages). Yikes! After Mom died Dad first became depressed and then manic and has been cycling severely between the two ever since . He was wildly angry at me, spent all mom's life insurance in a year, later married a wacky woman on the west coast, then a year later divorced her and during this time drove from the east coast of the US to the west coast of the US at least a dozen times over the course of 5 years (because he couldn't decide where he wanted to live), constantly threatened suicide, borrowed a credit card from me and put 8 grand on it in 2 months. There's Bipolar for ya!

So, I am thinking, I am NOT as nutty as my Dad and certainly not continuously depressed like my Mom was...but then I thought that I couldn't live with my parents and not get some of it. I do have my Dad's temper. I have since I was tiny. What is even weirder is that I have never been afraid of conflict. "Bring it on!" that is me. Then there was my Mom who was conflict intolerant...just like Robert and Andrew.

So, Dr. C and Robert are talking all this through and then they pitch it to me. At first I was like, "No Way". Then I started thinking about how I have felt on the inside. Outwardly, I am a total extrovert. People tell me I should be a public speaker. I am loud, funny, quick witted and friendly. But on the inside, I am extremely distractible, hot tempered, unfocused, late, forgetful, internally disorganized (my house is very neat and organized as it calms me to be in a clean house). When I say I live by the seat of my pants, that is no lie. If I could just sleep all day and stay awake all night I would have it made. I am not a day person.
Oh, and I know there are lots of wonderful things about me too. I am not my disorder.
I don't believe that crap. But, when I realized that my ups and downs had a real pattern to them, and were more extreme than a typical person, I had to take notice.

Am I rushing out to get on another medicine? No. I have been living this way for many a moon. And though I would not have a house this large as clean as it is without real, honest to goodness MANIC energy, as I age, the DEPRESSION cycles are scary and horrible. Being up is great...but being down is becoming harder to bounce back from. If I can keep track of triggers and have an idea when I am heading up and when I am crashing, I can maybe put in some support systems to get me through. My husband, of course, is amazing...but I want to be able to be there for him too. However, I am not against taking something more "stabilizing" if the depression hits me even harder next Summer. I really didn't think I was going to be able to climb out the one this last year. The end of January sucks too, but not because of the weather, I love the cold...maybe it's the cyclical thing and it's 6 months from July.

Well, that is about it. I don't know how many folks will actually read this. I think I just needed to write it...oh and of course I had to be writing at 2 in the morning!


Madeline said...

I am glad that you may have found support, for what it seems you are dealing with too well inside. Because you're so capable, you're not getting to live as peacefully as you could if you got some help. My uncle is bipolar and I sometimes wonder about other members of my family. Thanks for sharing this.

Wendy said...

Thanks for sharing this. I have struggled with depression my whole life. I was finally diagnosed w/depression in 2000. Then, 2 summers ago, I had a psychotic break and was diagnosed bipolar. Unfortunately, my mania sometimes includes intense paranoia, so I am currently medicated out the wazoo. Right now I am on Paxil, Invega, and Xanax. I would do better if I could stay up all night and sleep all day. The later it gets them more creative and energetic I get.

Wow! I just stuck my big toe out of the closet and it feels pretty good.

Rachel said...

Ben had his first psychotic break when he was 7 years old. He had been on Paxil for several months for anxiety so severe it limited his ability to function. In Ben's case he can't tolerate any SSRI's. So, we live with his anxiety which, tho still there, is better from the mood stabilizing effects of Lithium, Trileptal and Abilify. I was on Paxil for 4 years then switched to Prozac. Dr.C would like me to try Lamictal. I am still thinking about it.

Oh...and I think Xanax is FAB! But it's something I take only rarely.

Leonie said...

Thank you for sharing. My dh suffers from depression and I notice that it is getting more serious as he ages....

julie fonger said...


Tjanks for sharing - I can so relate to so much you have described. I would like to discuss more via e-mail if you are interested. My 9 year old has been diagnosed with anxiety, mood disorder and ODD. We have dealt with issues since he was 4. Family history of all kinds of mental issues on both sides. And yes I love to stay up at night - it is so peaceful and could sleep all day. God bless you and your family.

Julie Fonger