My Story: Elly Lannager

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What were the steps leading up to your diagnosis?

I was diagnosed in 1995 with major depression. In 2002, I began to see a therapist who noticed a change in my behavior. I was risk-taking, agitated and talking fast.

I agreed to see a psychiatrist as she felt I was showing symptoms of mania. After a long conversation with the psychiatrist, I wanted to mention this to my doctor.

We determined my first major depression episode was when I was nine years old, and I experienced my first manic episode at eighteen. My official diagnosis is bipolar depressive.

I am 60 years old and learning to live with a different range of symptoms – I also have fibromyalgia. I'm more sensitive to feelings, and I have trouble figuring out what does a person mean.

I feel as though my ability to read people has diminished. As my doctor tells me mood wise, "If someone reacts 'normally' to a situation, your reaction will be more extreme." Oh, is he right! I can't handle stress well and I become anxious easily.

Who has been there for you? How?

My husband, Wally, and my daughter equally were my rock. My husband passed away in 2005 from suicide.

Where ever I was, there was usually one go-to person. I moved around for ten years after Wally died. So, it has always been my daughter who has been there for me.

What lifestyle changes have you needed to make?

I need quite a bit of quiet and I stay to myself mainly. Is this a good thing? Well no, not all the time. I'm an empath and everything is about emotion. I absorb others, which sucks.

I live a low-stress life. I read, do crafts, and make candles. I believe in aromatherapy. I even have a Tibetan Salt light. 90% of the time I'm very good about taking my medications. As much as I hate it, I'm not pretty when off them.

I use a representative payee. I'm not fiscally responsible when I'm manic and dug some decent holes for myself. I have found this route to be less stressful for me than I thought. I saw it as "giving up" control versus security.

In 2002, I began to see a therapist who noticed a change in my behavior. I was risk-taking, agitated and talking fast. I agreed to see a psychiatrist as she felt I was showing symptoms of mania.

What accomplishment are you proud of?

When the doctors described the symptoms of mania to me, I was surprised at first. I just thought those behaviors were okay. On the mania scale, I ran a bit high.

They (the professionals) tell me that's how I accomplished the next 20 years.

I went to college in 1994 and made Dean's List in Human Services. Then I moved on to social work where I maintained honors. After getting my degree, I obtained a Masters in vocational rehabilitation counseling while holding full-time and a part-time job with two teens!

Not bragging, just showing what I mean. I was an overachiever.

After I graduated in 2002, that was my most significant achievement – along with acceptance for a state job. However, I paid the price. After that, I no longer had what it took to do that again, ever.

What accomplishment are you proud of?

When the doctors described the symptoms of mania to me, I was surprised at first. I just thought those behaviors were okay. On the mania scale, I ran a bit high.

They (the professionals) tell me that's how I accomplished the next 20 years.

I went to college in 1994 and made Dean's List in Human Services. Then I moved on to social work where I maintained honors. After getting my degree, I obtained a Masters in vocational rehabilitation counseling while holding full-time and a part-time job with two teens!

Not bragging, just showing what I mean. I was an overachiever.

After I graduated in 2002, that was my most significant achievement – along with acceptance for a state job. However, I paid the price. After that, I no longer had what it took to do that again, ever.

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

If you're young, start training your brain! I can't stress that enough. I don't care what anyone says, but a minimum of 5-6 hours of sleep a night is a must.

First, I have found for me omega-3, and vitamin D3 helps. It's okay to educate yourself and those you trust about bipolar. We have trouble understanding ourselves, and we can't expect others to understand us.

Know your medication! There is a lot. We are now into third and early fourth generation medications. When I started, I took Zoloft, a new 2nd generation of medicine at the time. Over the years I have been on many medications, and you may too go through this.

Remember, you're not a guinea pig, but all the chemicals in our brains are not created equal. Anyway, I just want to say know yourself, know your medications and the side effects, and understand your diagnosis.

I just want to say know yourself, know your medications and the side effects, and understand your diagnosis.

Is there anything else we should know?

I remember the one time I was asked a very odd question. The question was, "Is there a way to get rid of your bipolar?" I thought about it and then responded with a simple no.

Why? I'm caring, a little zany, smart, eccentric, awesome, artistic, trusted too much, now I don't.

I love trees, nature, water and, my sanity. I can be snotty like a 5-year-old, have a verbal temper tantrum and my daughter laughs. Goodness, I love her!

It has taken forever, and I still fight the demon, but a little more every day. I love me.

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