My Story: Jennifer

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What were the steps leading up to your diagnosis?

My experience with bipolar has been going on for the last 15 years. I spent the majority of my twenties dealing with deep lows and hypomania in the form of severe agitation and anxiety.

I knew something was off, but could not put my finger on it. I finally started getting therapy on and off in my early thirties and tried different antidepressants. However, they all seemed to not work and I took that as a sign that the medications were not for me.

I think I spent a lot of time in denial about how I was living life in a fog. I had no motivation, being a mom wasn't enjoyable at all, and I felt guilt about all of it.

So things kept slowly getting worse and I got to the point that I was constantly having suicidal thoughts and planning it out. I was hospitalized last year due to trying to act on my suicidal thoughts.

I was diagnosed as bipolar II, and at first I had a hard time accepting it. I would think, “But I do not fit all the classic manic symptoms,” and my depression did not keep me in bed.

But I knew I needed help and nothing else worked, so now I'm on a medication combination that seems to be working and I'm feeling more hopeful.

The biggest thing I've learned so far is everyone's symptoms are different and bipolar is not a one-size-fits all disease. It can be hard to find the right doctor and medication, but sticking with it is definitely worth it.

What lifestyle changes have you needed to make?

One of the biggest changes I've had to work on is communication. I used to push everything down and suffer in silence — but now I'll let a few select people know when I need something.

I also keep an eye on my calendar to make sure I do not to begin to feel overwhelmed with all that I do between my kids, marriage, volunteer work, and job. I have always enjoyed being creative through crafts, art, and even writing.

So, when I feel stress coming on or have feelings I don't understand, I write. It seems to calm me and helps me put words to what I'm feeling.

And lastly, when I have the chance to walk, I do it. Being outside makes me feel better and decreases my anxiety.

Who has been there for you? How?

I don't have the luxury of a big support system. But I do have a wonderful husband, sister, and friend who are understanding and helpful.

My husband doesn't really understand bipolar very well, but he is a great listener when my thoughts are out of control and helps to ground me when I'm feeling unstable. My sister and I can talk each other through tough times — she has also been diagnosed with bipolar and is knowledgeable in medications and different types of therapy.

Even though we live in different states we can still communicate late at night if sleeping is a problem. My friend also has bipolar and her symptoms are worse than mine. However, she has a positive outlook and is easy to talk to.

Being outside makes me feel better and decreases my anxiety.

What accomplishment are you proud of?

I'm starting to enjoy life more. When you’re not depressed you can see all those little things you were missing out on.

I'm becoming more self-aware and picking up on subtle changes in thoughts and my mood. This will help me stay on top of things. I'm proud that I'm feeling more motivated and when I complete small task I feel accomplished.

What accomplishment are you proud of?

I'm starting to enjoy life more. When you’re not depressed you can see all those little things you were missing out on.

I'm becoming more self-aware and picking up on subtle changes in thoughts and my mood. This will help me stay on top of things. I'm proud that I'm feeling more motivated and when I complete small task I feel accomplished.

I'm starting to enjoy life more.

I'm starting to enjoy life more.

What's your advice to someone else living with Bipolar?

When you first get diagnosed, take the time to let it settle. I think bipolar carries a stigma with it and we have to learn to accept ourselves and our situations for what they are.

Remember to not let the label of bipolar define you. We all have an inner strength — we just have to find it.

Be open to trying different medications and trust your doctor. The treatment of bipolar is not an exact science — it is an art.

Find your support through others and learn to communicate. The worst thing someone with bipolar could do is turn inward and not let others in.

Remember to not let the label of bipolar define you.

About Jennifer

I am a 35-year-old wife and mother of three. I volunteer within my church and work with preschoolers.

I also have three dogs, so I have a full house. I enjoy comic books, sarcasm, and writing. I hope to become a writer one day and to advocate for others who struggle with mental illness.

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