My Story: Julie Packard

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What were the steps leading up to your diagnosis?

After struggling with life in general for many years, I finally found a doctor that knew exactly what was wrong with me. That was over 20 years ago. There have been many ups and downs in the past and life has never been easy, but I have the tools to deal with what is going on and I know how to use them. I have had excellent professionals in my life to help me with this journey. But ultimately it is up to me to take care of myself and do the things I need to do to stay healthy for my family and myself.

What lifestyle changes have you needed to make?

As far as lifestyle changes are concerned, I have not had to make many concessions. I have had to learn to live my life like normal and do the things I have needed to do to stay healthy. Over the years I have had to have medicine changes to keep me nice and steady but my doctors knew what to do to help me. I have been able to have a wonderful career and an amazing family. I have always been open with everyone about being bipolar and it makes things much easier, especially when others have questions and misconceptions about the disease.

Who has been there for you? How?

I have an amazing family unit. My parents were instrumental in helping me find the doctors who finally made the right diagnosis. They have stood by me through thick and thin and never judged. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them. My mother has been my spiritual rock and she had the ability to know when there was something wrong with me even when I couldn't talk about it. My husband has stayed by my side for 33 years, even when I was very unlovable. Because of the bi-polar, I have put undue financial strain on the family with the money I spent that we didn't have. He worked through all of those difficulties and he is still married to me and tells me he loves me, which is amazing. I have wonderful children who still love me even though I made their childhood quite difficult. They have seen things that children shouldn't see. The fights, financial struggles, the bad decisions they witnessed growing up – no child should have ever been put through that. But we went through it and I have amazing relationships with them today. I have felt support and love from my siblings and my extended family. They all are heartfelt followers of Christ and have never judged me for anything in my past. Like I said, I have an amazing family.

Ultimately it is up to me to take care of myself and do the things I need to do.

I have had to learn to live my life like normal and do the things I have needed to stay healthy.

I have had to learn to live my life like normal and do the things I have needed to stay healthy.

What accomplishment are you proud of?

When I graduated high school I went to college to get a music education degree. I ended up getting pregnant with my oldest daughter and then just a few months after I had her, I became pregnant with my second daughter. Our girls are only 17 months apart and I left school to work so that my husband could finish his degree. Those few years were horrible as far as my illness was concerned. We didn't know yet what was wrong with me and the crazy behavior was making everyone concerned. I was not able to finish my degree at that time. I am now working as a music teacher and have been for 12 years. My job keeps me sane and teaching children to love music as much as I do is a wonderful career, one I thought I would never have. But my greatest accomplishment is the amazing people my children have become. My oldest daughter is an opera singer and is happily married. The next daughter is a nurse and is planning her wedding now. We also have a son who went to college on a wrestling scholarship and is now living at home and working. They are wonderful kids and love for them fills every part of me.

My greatest accomplishment is the amazing people my children have become.

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

I have read many stories about people with bipolar and the one thing I see over and over is everyone (including me) tries to stop taking their medicine. I have had three major suicide attempts and each one happened at a time when I thought I didn't need my medication. I have learned that medicine is the most important thing, no matter what. Yes, there are side effects; upset stomach, shaking hands, stuff like that. The side effects from not taking the medicine is nothing to fool around with, as I found out. Never stop taking your meds! Work with your health care provider to find a way to make it work. I did.

Is there anything else we should know?

Over this 20 plus year journey I have learned many lessons. I think I am a success story, I hope anyway. Bipolar is nasty stuff and sometimes the depression gets to be almost more than I can handle. I know my cycle really well and I know when I get up in the morning what is going to go on with me and I adjust to handle it. My bipolar is severe and I am a rapid cycler – but if I can make it work so can others. It is my dream to help others with my story. I have been through so much more than what I have told here. Helping one person would be a blessing.

About Julie Packard

My Story: Julie Packard
I am a wife and mother of 3 amazing children. I am an elementary music teacher. I teach kindergarten through 5th grade and I love every minute of it. I now teach in the school district of my home town and even live in the house I grew up in. My children are all grown and I am just waiting on some grand kids. I stay super busy with family, friends and school. I am also the musical theater director at the high school, which is a blast. Staying busy is staying healthy.

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