Before the diagnosis of my illness, it was already apparent to those around me, in my later years, that I may suffer from manic depressive, or bipolar disorder. I’ve always been a more emotional person, and was seen as just that. Angry one moment, seething with rage, and the next extremely apologetic. Labeled as nothing more than a highly emotional teenager, I like to feel that my illness was untreated for years. It wasn’t until a triggering event that the true, more severe symptoms of my illness became colorfully apparent, which leads me to the belief that triggers cause the illness to escalate.
My wife had an extremely debilitating pregnancy, to make a long story short, and we became more distant with one another, but I still cared deeply for her. I had a feeling in the back of my head that something was off with her though, even though she acted like her normal self would. Doing what I still regret, I violated her privacy and snooped through her email, to find interchanges of an adult nature between her and an old time friend. Overcome with emotions I had never felt before, I immediately confronted her. She was stoic in her response, which made my emotions that much more volatile.
She left the room, I asked her politely to stop, she didn’t listen. I grabbed her shoulder, she shrugged it off. I “lunged” at her, using her words. In that moment, emotions shifted, I collapsed down a set of maybe 6 stairs, completely bawling my eyes out at what I’d done. This was the moment I think I truly realized that there was something truly wrong with me. Wrong may not be the right term, but at the time that was what I felt.
I suffer from rapid cycling in my bipolar disorder, my moods can go from manic one moment, in this occurance also referred to by some as black rage, to extreme emotions on a completely different spectrum. It has lead to mixed episodes (a mix of both mania and depression simultaneous), to hypomania, to severe depression, all throughout the period of a day.
I immediately sought out help for my condition. I tried a plethora of anti depressants, but they all had an adverse affect on me. When my psychiatrist finally put me on a mood stabilizer called Lamictal, that’s when I started on the path to treatment for my disease. After it started to take effect, I noticed more control over my moods. I still cycled through various moods, but I could recognize that my moods were off from my baseline.
Now, I’m currently on a combination of Klonopin for my anxiety, and Lamictal and Abilify for my Bipolar Disorder. It’s an ongoing battle to make sure that my medication properly treats my disorder, and I have to keep track of my moods and communicate with my doctor, to make sure we appropriately adjust my medication as it becomes less effective.
But as time goes on, I feel like I’ve come to understand my illness better, and that makes it more manageable. However, the illness never goes away. I still experience shifts in my mood, however light. Some days are more severe than others, but I’ve learned to cope with a combination of my medication and the help of my peer support group. It’s a hidden struggle that everyone with Bipolar Disorder battles in their own way. As for myself, I’m still carving out my own path.
I also take Lamictal. I am fascinated by the fact that you take it and Abilify. More than that, I’m happy it helps you manage the disorder.
I feel like you showed great strength in how you pulled back from your wife before anything happened. I, too, experience rage. I literally stop thinking coherently and see through a tunnel. It takes a lot to stop me.
Calling it a hidden struggle is profound. We hide it from others. Sometimes we hide it from ourselves. And, we don’t have any physical signs of it that show. It’s a triple whammy.
I take a cocktail of two mood stabilizers, an anti-psychotic, two anti-depressants, and Xanax. Lamictal was my turning point, too. It has been a steady climb from that point — adding a drug here and there to tweak my mood culminating in Vyvanse to help my ADD — but I think I have been more stable than not for the last few years. I credit the meds, but also therapy, exercise, support groups, and my own determination. May you find the faith you need to see yourself through.