Life begins at….?
They say life begins at 40, well for me it was two years earlier at 38. Two months ago, as I type this, I had my 40th birthday which was rather a dull affair – no party and just me, my fiancee, four cats and two dogs at home. This was my decision not to have a full on fortieth party like I have seen my school friends have via Facebook. I suppose I should explain why.
At 38 years old I finally went to see my GP (General Practitioner) after constantly breaking down in tears one minute and then feeling on top of the world the next. The GP diagnosed me as textbook bipolar, especially as my mother has bipolar, and her mother was thought to have committed suicide due to manic depression (manic depression is now named bipolar affective disorder). Thus started the cocktail of meds I am now on. Although now I am said to have rapid cycling bipolar it is actually ultra rapid (according to my own research) but my doctor doesn’t like saying that for some reason. I can cycle between the two poles of mania and depression up to three times a day which is quite exhausting. The big problem in treating rapid or ultra rapid cycling is finding the right medication solution.
At the moment i’m taking an antidepressant, mood stabilizers and antipsychotic daily, with an occasional benzodiazepine when required. Now, this sounds like one helluva cocktail and you’re right, so how did I cope with an illness I most probably had since my early teenage years for 25 years?
The answer lies unfortunately with the same solution as many other victims of bipolar and other mood disorders turn to. Alcohol was my self medicating drug of choice. When I was depressed I would immediately turn to alcohol to lift my mood. When manic I would use alcohol to try and chill and even knock me out so I could sleep. So,you would think that in the stable times I wouldn’t drink wouldn’t you? Wrong! When I was stable or down I would miss the manic highs so would drink to try and find the euphoria I would feel at the top of my buzz. Although I did drink regularly, I abused alcohol rather than become addicted to it. I was however, drinking daily when I had my bipolar diagnosis.
Since my diagnosis I have had short periods of alcohol abstinence, and today I have had almost two months completely off alcohol even though my doctor did say I could have one or two beers a week if I fancied. Part of my abstinence is willpower of course, but its also the medication negating the need for alcohol, and also having the knowledge of why I was turning to alcohol in the first place.
Advocate and stigma fighter
I have now found my inner voice which enables to me speak openly about my mental illness, and I have even been on my local radio station a couple of times to encourage other people, especially men to seek help. A recording of one of my radio interviews can be found on my blog Latest Bipolar News, be sure to check it out.
Thanks for reading and be sure to look out for the next installment.
Wow, your story is compelling, yet unfortunately, it is not uncommon in our society to be undiagnosed for so many years and self-medicate as you did. I applaud you for finally finding your inner voice and not letting it go.
Thank you for your kind words. For me I think that opening up is part of the healing process.
Somehow, I didn’t fall into the drugs and alcohol trap. I felt my feelings and they were excruciating.
Hi Joel. You did well not to submit, I recently read that according to one study up to 75% of bipolar sufferers had abused alcohol and/or drugs.
I have read about how difficult it is to treat rapid cycling bipolar. That’s a pretty heavy statement considering how difficult it is to treat any other bipolar disorder in general! My heart goes out to your struggles. Thank you for sharing. I look forward to other posts!
I feel your pain with rapid cycling, it can get exhausting indeed! Mine has calmed down quite a bit when properly medicated, but I’ve been in your boat of back and forth, and back, and forth. I’m glad to read how far you’ve come though, and also look forward to continued postage. 🙂