Unipolar depression. That was my diagnosis for 12 years. I was first diagnosed with postpartum depression after having my first son, but when the symptoms stayed long after he was born, I was treated for unipolar depression. How very wrong that diagnosis was.
I have never been a truly happy person. I grew up with a neglectful, emotionally abusive and sometimes physically abusive mother. After my father passed away, my siblings and I cut ties and moved on with our lives. I never realized I couldn’t run from my childhood because too much damage had been done and it would revisit me later in life.
While being treated for depression, I had brief times of feeling OK. I wasn’t really happy, but I wasn’t lying in bed trying to sleep time away either. Other times I was in deep depressions that seemed to last forever. When the depression was really bad, I didn’t shower, brush my teeth or contribute to our household at all. I hated what I was doing to my family, but I couldn’t come out of the dark. I took my medication and used my therapy light but neither seemed to do anything for me. If I wasn’t really sad, I was irritable and mean. I hated myself.
Then there were times I felt amazing. I would get these sudden surges of energy. I could get so much done and would have the best ideas. I saw these bouts of energy as making up for time lost in the depression. The only bad part about them was sometimes I would get really irritable and have sudden angry outbursts. They would come out of nowhere and would leave horrified victims in their wake. I hated myself.
No matter how hard I tried to suppress the irritability and nastiness, I couldn’t sometimes. As time went on, I rarely ever could, and I just got meaner during my angry outbursts. I would say things I didn’t even feel or believe. I got more and more confused about what was going on in my head and with my depression.
A few years ago, my irritability, depression, and lack of interest in anyone got much worse. It was so bad my husband told me something was wrong with me and started losing his patience with me more and more. And he is a very patient person. He’s amazing.
Around that time, I think I had gotten so bad I couldn’t suppress anything anymore and everything going on inside me was coming out full force. I couldn’t keep the thoughts going on in my head that before I knew wasn’t true, or wasn’t how I really felt, in my head and not out of my mouth. There were days I would look at someone and I didn’t like them for no apparent reason. They wouldn’t have done anything. The next day, or a few days later, I liked the person again. I felt like everyone was talking about me wherever I went, everyone was out to get me, and people were out to get my son. All these thoughts would race through my head at once. I was tired and hated myself.
I finally got to a point where I went in to see my doctor. At the time I was in my depression and that was the focus of each visit. I had med changes and was told to keep using my therapy light. What neither of us realized was I was getting sicker at a faster rate and everything for me was about to change.
My irrational thinking and behavior turned into full-blown paranoid delusions that everyone was out to get me, and my son was going to be beat up to the point he was sent to the hospital by ambulance and that he was going to be killed. I went into a psychotic episode and acted in a way that was far from my true character and had no recollection of it happening. I should have gone to the hospital that day, but instead, I was told I was lying about not remembering anything and received no help.
I had an assessment done by a psychologist and again saw my doctor. My diagnoses were now major depression, triggered PTSD, and a severe medication reaction. I followed the treatment plan I was given and fell into the worst depression I have ever experienced. It lasted six months and I still am not sure how I’m still alive.
Everything changed for me when I started working with a social worker. The first time she came to my house she told me I wasn’t on the right medication, and I needed to see a provider who specialized in mental health. She helped get me in to see a provider she worked with who was very knowledgeable.
My first appointment with this psychiatric provider changed everything. After two hours, she diagnosed me with bipolar disorder type 1. I didn’t know much about it, but I knew it was worse than depression. I was shocked at first and then relief settled in. Someone finally understood me and could help me.
My provider went through everything I had been experiencing and that’s when I learned what I had experienced were paranoid delusions and psychosis. I had gotten so sick and the environment I was in made it worse so that it got to the point that my brain couldn’t take it anymore and the bipolar disorder had to come out so it could be treated. I was put on lithium right away and as time went on I was finally able to start thinking clearer. I recognized so many of my thoughts over the last few years as untrue and my awful behavior at times connected to the manic and depressive episodes I now knew I was having due to bipolar disorder.
My husband may have been more relieved than I. He couldn’t take how sick I was anymore. He was getting close to calling it quits and I didn’t blame him. I even told him once I felt like a burden. My husband and sons seemed better off without me. Now there finally seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel. We finally had answers to why I acted the way I did sometimes, and I finally had a treatment plan that included the right medications.
After a few weeks on the new treatment plan, I asked my husband if he noticed any improvement. He pointed out that I had made dinner twice already that week which was a vast improvement. My family had been living on frozen pizza, hamburger helper, and whatever leftovers could be scraped together because I had little interest in doing any household tasks in the six months since going into psychosis.
I have a long way to go, but I am slowly getting better. I never miss a dose of my medication or the vitamins recommended, I try to eat better, and I am working on recognizing my triggers for my bipolar disorder to help keep it under control. I need to add exercise into my daily routine, but I haven’t quite managed that yet. I still have bad days where I feel sorry for myself for having this mental illness and it getting so bad I went into psychosis. My husband still loses his patience with me sometimes when my bad days turn into a week, but I don’t blame him. Bipolar disorder isn’t just hard on the person who has it, but also on everyone around them.
I am lucky to have a great support system of people who love me. They stayed by me while I was lost inside myself and have helped me continue on each day. There is life after psychosis, and I am going to live it.