My Story: Melissa

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What were the steps leading up to your diagnosis?

It took years of the wrong diagnosis to get someone to listen to me finally. A lot of the blame is on me because after a suicide attempt I was sent to therapy and because I didn't like my counselor (and I didn't tell her everything).

It took years for me to decide if I was going to get the right diagnosis – I needed to be honest. So 11 years after my suicide attempt I went back to the same place I went after. I was completely honest. We went back to when I was a teenager and talked about everything that led to my attempt.

When I was in eighth grade, I started cutting myself. I would cut my boyfriend's name on my leg. Then that escalated to cutting my arms, I would even scrape my knuckles against the brick wall to feel the pain and see the blood. It was the only thing that would relieve the stress and pain I was in.

My sophomore year in high school I was molested. I didn't tell my family anything until six years later. So while dealing with trying to cope with what happened to me, I started drinking.

Not much in the beginning, but by the end of my senior year, I was drinking on a weekend-to-weekend basis. I remember one time my friends got a keg and they went to pick up more friends while I stayed behind. The beer keg became my friend.

When I turned 18, I got married. My family didn't communicate, so I had no clue on speaking what I was feeling, and I guess that was what started our problems.

I had a lot of anger issues. About a year before my attempt I was drinking a case of Bud Light nightly. Sometimes heavy liquor. I had affairs; I'll leave that one at that.

I wouldn't sleep for days, and when I crashed, I would sleep for two days straight and sometimes I wouldn't be able to take my kids to school. I am not proud of that fact at all.

Before seeking help, I had so much rage in me, and it would build up and then when it did I would explode. It could be months worth of anger coming out because of something as little as spilled milk on the counter. I couldn't keep my thoughts straight. I had a million things running through my head and only catching bits and pieces of the thoughts. So that made me angry too.

When we got insurance, the first thing I did was make an appointment. I was so happy that my counselor listened. She didn't look at me like I was to blame and I didn't feel like I was being judged.

My counselor rushed a meeting with the doctor and she listened. She finally said I had bipolar 1, along with borderline personality disorder, anxiety, major depression, and probably PTSD which we would discuss more together.

Who has been there for you? How?

I have a few people who have been here for me. My husband along stood by me through everything even when he had every reason to leave.

He wasn't always here for me because he didn't understand and how could I make him understand when I didn't understand myself. After we both did research, he's been there through everything.

I have a couple of friends that I talk to because they are going through the same thing. They are also bipolar and have anxiety and depression issues. It's easier to talk to them because they can give advice without just saying get over it or it's all in your head.

What lifestyle changes have you needed to make?

After my suicide attempt, well during, I decided and told myself I didn't want to die. I stopped drinking on a nightly basis and now occasionally have a drink at dinner.

I am learning different things in therapy that I am trying to use on a daily basis. The biggest thing my therapist recommended is a box filled with one item for each of the senses. For example, if I feel overwhelmed I go to my room and pull my box out. I first start with the taste, smell, touch (I find this one very helpful. I made stress balls) and then hearing.

I am now trying to work on communication, so instead of building the explosion up, I try to get it out before it happens.

I am taking my medications like I am supposed to. I guess for the most part they are working but like with anything I have my good days and my bad days. I keep telling myself one day at a time.

Another thing I am working on in therapy is DBT. I am trying to be mindful of how I react to things. That is still a work in progress, but I can tell the difference in how I respond.

Since I have been on my medications, I have only had a couple of "rage" issues. When I say rage I mean, I would literally scream at the top of my lungs, throw stuff, scratch or cut myself. I have been on my meds since February, and I have only had a couple of issues instead of a weekly problem.

What accomplishment are you proud of?

My biggest accomplishments that I am proud of are my kids. Even with everything I am going through mentally, I have tried to be a positive influence. I have been very open with them about my issues so if they feel like they are having problems they can be okay to come to me.

I am also proud of being married for 20 years now through everything we've been through. I am also proud that I have a book published. It's a children's book. I am also writing an adult book too.

What accomplishment are you proud of?

My biggest accomplishments that I am proud of are my kids. Even with everything I am going through mentally, I have tried to be a positive influence. I have been very open with them about my issues so if they feel like they are having problems they can be okay to come to me.

I am also proud of being married for 20 years now through everything we've been through. I am also proud that I have a book published. It's a children's book. I am also writing an adult book too.

I have tried to be a positive influence.

I have tried to be a positive influence.

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

My advice would be... just be honest. It makes it much easier to get the right help. Don't be afraid to ask for help. It's never too late.

My biggest thing I always say is to take one day at a time, one minute at a time and even one second at a time. Breath, take a deep breath because it will get better.

I've been to the bottom and I don't want to go back. I don't want anyone to feel like I did, so the biggest thing is to communicate. If you have a hard time talking, write it down. Get it off your chest somehow. Lastly, take your medications like you are supposed to.

Don't be afraid to ask for help. It's never too late.

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