My Struggle with Bipolar II
This is my story about my struggle with Bipolar II depression. Bipolar II is a less severe illness than Bipolar I but it is still an illness that can wreak havoc in your life.
I have had severe depression issues since I was a child. I remember in 4th grade wanting to step out in front of a bus and take all the pain away. Thankfully, I had a very good friend. She loved me and I loved her but most of all we needed each other. My mom also has depression/mood issues that to this day are not diagnosed and she divorced my father when I was around 3 years old. She then continued on, in one bad relationship after another; countless men came and went. Then she went away for a weekend and came back married; my brother and I were devastated. Her new husband cheated on her constantly and kept her distraught all the time.
She was difficult as a parent; she was physically and mentally hard on both me and my brother. We couldn’t do anything correct and she was always telling us how worthless we were. To her defence she was working more than one job and had no idea how out of control she was and still is. My father also has some serious depression/anxiety issues also not diagnosed or treated. He led a life of partying and really wasn’t a good presence in our lives.
In high school I was completely withdrawn. I didn’t go to the lunch area, didn’t eat at school; I just went to my next class, sat in front of the door, and did my homework.
I had one friend in all of high school and she was the opposite of me; she was wild and crazy and totally outgoing. It was truly a difficult time! Then after high school I moved away and into an apartment with a roommate that didn’t turn out well. So by the age of 19 I had my own apartment and such bad anxiety that I couldn’t even go get gasoline for my car alone or go get groceries. I relied on anyone that would go with me and I lived in constant fear and anxiety. At one point I decided I had to try to fight against it. I chose a store that I thought could be a safe place and when I was anxious about getting out of the house I made myself go there. It still took preparation but it helped me. I was determined to gain control of my life but it took many years before I won that battle. I’m not sure you ever WIN but you gain some control and change things that are not healthy for you.
My parents being so dysfunctional, and life being so hard as a child, I swore I would not be the type of parents I had! When I had my first child in 1995, my husband had injured his back and wasn’t working so I worked a full time job. I left her with him for the first 10 months of her life when I had to go to work. As she grew older I began to notice the reactions I was having to her were similar to my moms when she had me. It took until she was 3 ½ years old before I started looking for help. I knew this wasn’t who I was. I had rages that felt like an out of body experience. I could see and hear what I was doing but had no control. I started seeking help by seeing my physician. I got some antidepressants, and felt better, but was still so angry and full of swirling feelings.
Then I had a health issue that needed surgery so I had to visit a different family practice doctor. After some time he said to me, “I can’t help you; I need to refer you to a psychiatrist…”. WOW! not what I wanted to hear but I was desperate and would do anything. So I saw the doctor that he had suggested and for several months he gave me some different meds but kept telling me I needed ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy)! No way was I doing that when there were so many meds out there and new ones coming out. This was where my research was helpful. I realized after a while that he didn’t know who I was, had me confused with someone else. I then went on search for a GOOD doctor. I also did research on my now diagnosed illness and went to chat rooms about my illness. It is true that knowledge is power. You can’t just rely on doctors you must read up on and learn about your illness. I saw several different doctors and therapists over months and years but things just got worse. I finally tried another doctor and he was the right one.
It took many years of work but I am not the same person I was when my child was born. Well, I am, but I can now live as ME and not that out of control person. I have taken many meds and spent many hours with doctors and therapists. I broke down about age 32, a couple years after I had my second daughter, I was so unpredictable I just couldn’t take any more and the doctor took me out of work placing me on disability. Another blow to my life because a big part of my identity was wrapped up in my work. But I knew there was more out there for me. My husband was not at all supportive. He really, to this day, doesn’t know ME. He only knows that out of control illness and he can’t see me. Our relationship was obviously difficult as he has his own issues with life. He chose to cheat and we separated and divorced. I was truly devastated! We had two girls, 10 and 7 years old at that time.
What was I going to do? How could I raise these kids on my own??? Well, after about a month, I realized I had really been raising them alone for a long time. I was fearful that I was going to end up back to that out of control ill person, but was determined to continue making positive changes in my life. I had come a long way and couldn’t allow him to take that from me and our girls.
I had serious ups and down and met some really nice people online. One of which lives in a completely different country but we started talking and we ended up talking daily and she helped me and listened. I was there for her too but I wonder if I would have gotten thru without the support of this total stranger. There are several people I have met online that I still treasure in my life. I also met a woman at my kids school. I was volunteering and was really upset about the loss of my marriage and she put her arm around me and said, “Three years ago I was right where you are. Come out with me and my girlfriends tonight!”. I did and learned that there was a life to be had. Up until then, I had been so wrapped up in my husband, kids, changing my behaviors and controlling my illness. Then I realized I was missing friends and people in my life.
It is a full time job just monitoring my illness and at the age of 7 my oldest daughter was also diagnosed with Bipolar II. That means I have to constantly monitor my issues as well as my daughters. Sometimes we saw this doctor weekly and sometimes it was monthly, all depending on how we were. We now see the doctor a minimum of once a month and my youngest is being treated as well.
Despite all of this, I am a happy person. One day I heard this voice in my head and it said, “Happiness is a choice” and I realized that was very true. All of my life I was really hard on myself, repeating stuff to myself that my mom used to say, if you listen closely to what you think you may find yourself doing the same thing. I had to really stop myself and change those thoughts. So I kept telling myself, “No, I do not have what I want in my life but I am happy!” After some time I began to feel happy. Something I had never felt before! I know so many people that are going through life looking for that one thing that is going to make them happy and I just want to shout out to them and say “Your happiness is inside you. Just choose it!” Then 9 months ago I met a man that is really a nice person, who knows me and likes me for who I am.
I write this in hope that, for those of you out there that feel lost and overwhelmed, that you can realize just how strong you can be! YOU choose your path, YOU seek help with what you cannot do yourself, and YOU choose happiness!
If you have any questions about Bipolar II, or anything mentioned in this story, feel free to get in touch.