My Story: Elizabeth

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What were the steps leading up to your diagnosis?

My earliest memory was suffering from anxiety attacks at the age of 6. When I was 11 I began to self-harm, I felt relief when I was angry or sad, but I kept it to myself.

I started seeing a psychiatrist who put me on Zoloft. I was off and on a myriad of antidepressants until I was diagnosed with bipolar at 19. I dismissed the diagnosis and began my journey down a long road of crippling depression and anxiety along with the over the top manic highs.

At 33, I was again diagnosed with bipolar, and I took the diagnosis quasi-serious, however, the physician I was seeing had me on a myriad of drugs only to realize I was over medicated and a walking zombie.

I would sit and rock on the floor when I was home, my eyes were vacant, and I had enough. I quit my meds. I moved back to my home state and began to see a psychiatrist for my anxiety.

After a lengthy visit, I was asked if I had ever been diagnosed with bipolar. I started to cry and told my doctor that I was diagnosed twice before but thought it was just doctors looking to shove medication down my throat.

I told my doctor what I had been through with being over medicated, the hair loss, weight gain.

She treated me kindly. I realized that my explosive anger, mood swings, grandiose feelings, the delusions of invisibility, spending sprees, self-harm, days in bed, not being able to function were all a part of my disease.

I felt hopeful for once. I was terrified of the stigma behind my illness, how my family, friends and even my husband would see me.

What lifestyle changes have you needed to make?

To change my life I first had to accept my illness. If I were going to get myself in a stable place–mentally, and I would not allow myself to dismiss the severity of my illness which meant I had to be honest with myself and confide in people I trusted that I am bipolar.

Once I accepted that I had a mental illness, I began to treat myself a lot kinder. Rest when I needed, understand my triggers, avoid my triggers if possible.

I've also learned to ask for help if I need it, not be ashamed. If I have a mood swing, I will verbalize and remove myself and give myself a time out and regroup.

Who has been there for you? How?

My husband, David, and family have been an incredible support system for me. If I have an episode, my husband will let me vent, hug me, and let me cry. If I'm manic, he will support and talk me through my paranoia, the delusions I may be experiencing, and even the psychosis.

Through all the different medications and side effects, David has supported me physically, when I was ill from the meds, and emotionally when I realized this was a life long illness and mentally when I wanted to give up.

My family has been wonderful. They are my cheerleading squad because they cheer me on to just keep going, keep trying, don't give up.

It was terrifying to feel your mind not being yours for a period.

What accomplishment are you proud of?

Well in the throws of my mania, four years ago, I completed my Bachelor's degree in a three-year time span while working full time. Mania will do that to you; it will make you super productive.

My biggest accomplishment with this illness is recognizing when my moods swing, my triggers and redirecting my knee jerk reaction to be more mindful.

Currently, I am not on any medication due to resistance, allegedly from my doctor. I have been unmedicated for four months only my Clonazepam at night and see a new physician in March for a second opinion.

It has certainly been challenging coping without mood stabilizers or antipsychotics, and I do not recommend it for anyone unless advised by your doctor. But this would be my greatest accomplishment since my diagnosis.

What accomplishment are you proud of?

Well in the throws of my mania, four years ago, I completed my Bachelor's degree in a three-year time span while working full time. Mania will do that to you; it will make you super productive.

My biggest accomplishment with this illness is recognizing when my moods swing, my triggers and redirecting my knee jerk reaction to be more mindful.

Currently, I am not on any medication due to resistance, allegedly from my doctor. I have been unmedicated for four months only my Clonazepam at night and see a new physician in March for a second opinion.

It has certainly been challenging coping without mood stabilizers or antipsychotics, and I do not recommend it for anyone unless advised by your doctor. But this would be my greatest accomplishment since my diagnosis.

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

Speak and be honest with your loved ones, you do not have to fight this illness alone. You may feel isolated, embarrassed; but there's nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of.

You are you. You are not broken. And your brain is not broken. You just observe this world differently than most, you feel more intensely, love and feel pain more extraordinarily and that is beautiful because it makes the world more interesting.

Find a creative outlet to express any negative feelings because you will be amazed at the beauty of the artistic expression once the negative feelings subside.

You are you. You are not broken. And your brain is not broken.

About Elizabeth

My Story: Elizabeth

I am a 36-year-old wife and mother who married her childhood sweetheart. My life's work has been helping others and being part of the medical community for the last ten years.

I feel speaking openly and being an advocate for my illness will serve others hopefully as a beacon of hope and end the stigma.

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