Does This Sound Like You?

When my life started to spiral out of my control in 1996, I didn’t know the cause. All I knew was that everything I did, every bit of self-control and discipline I exerted made no difference. My close relationship with my family was disintegrating, I was seeing my friends less and less, and work was something I frequently dreaded to go to. I often felt tired or restless for days on end. And then there were the odd periods when I would disappear for a few days. Definitely not normal.

I knew things weren’t normal, but strongly resisted going to see a psychiatrist. After all, I wasn’t crazy or mentally ill. It was just that I was having a difficult time with the amount of work I was doing, or I had just finished a project and I was tired, or I needed some time alone away from people, or…well there was always a reasonable excuse.

But one day, after a period in which everything had gone horribly wrong, I looked at myself and realised how far I had drifted from the image I held of myself. My own image was of a relatively quiet, intelligent, creative person who had a reputation for being reliable and responsible. In reality, I actually was a somewhat irresponsible, occasionally lazy person who could finish no long term task. Who was fun to be with, but was always late, missed appointments or parties without notice and couldn’t remember anything. And unreliable.

That was not who I had intended to be or wanted to be. I was horrified enough to start seeing a therapist recommended by a friend soon after that. I found that therapy was useful in its own way for helping me sort out existing problems. But it didn’t stop the continuous mood shifts I was having at all and the problems they were creating. Finally, after one holiday during which I nearly lost two of my best friends because I was incapable of even the barest of social niceties, I asked my therapist to refer me to someone who could prescribe medication for depression.

The psychologist ran me through some tests (very basic, I thought), pronounced me “Bipolar Type II, possibly Cyclothymic,” and gave me a prescription for Tegretol (carbamazepine).

The diagnosis was a mixed blessing. On one hand it was a relief to know there was something recognisably wrong with me. I could be treated. I could get better. On the other hand, I was mentally ill. In the same category as the people you see in the movies, moaning, and acting crazy. It was not something I wanted to be associated with.

I started researching what being Bipolar was about. Although I came up with many excellent resources on the net, I was left unsatisfied. There were descriptions on how to determine if I was bipolar, descriptions of the medications I was taking, and suggestions on what I could do to cope with being bipolar and get on with my life. However, I came across very little on what living a bipolar life would be like.

I wondered what happened to other people like me. Did they overreact emotionally to daily incidents in their lives. Did they have periods of mild mania that allowed them to be super-efficient and charismatic at work or play. Did they have depressions that prevented them from going to work. I wondered how other people coped with all this. What had others learned to counteract the effects of being bipolar. What tricks did they use to get around any limitations.

I found support groups on the net that were invaluable in helping me, but due to the inherent instability of my mood swings I was unable to remain with them. Mostly I have had to cope with this on my own. Friends and family have been very supportive, but they don’t live being bipolar.

I have muddled through, sometimes doing well and sometimes doing very badly indeed, but surviving and doing better than I was before. This site contains my experiences and some of the things I have learnt along the way.

If you are coming to grips with it all,

  • You might see bits of yourself here
  • You might say – “that sounds familiar”
  • You will know that you are not alone
  • You may find something or two you can use to help you along

I’ve built a rather large site. You can go back to the  New to the Site page, or you can

  1. You can use the menus on the top right of the page where the information is ordered into neat categories.
  2. You can use the tag cloud on the right to look for specific words you might be interested in.
  3. You can use the search box on the left (but don’t look for ‘depression’ or ‘mania’ – you’ll get every page on the site).

Or some suggestions,

  1. If you were recently diagnosed and are looking for ideas, try this page on What you might do next.
  2. If you wish to read about my experiences, start with my bipolar diary.

Hope you find stuff that is helpful. Cheers.