Sunday, September 8, 2013
My Diagnosis with Bipolar Disorder
I was diagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder at the age of 15. In my mind, this is a fuzzy time period to say the least, which is probably for the best. Initially I was misdiagnosed with clinical depression and was treated with an antidepressant. For those of you who do not know, when someone with Bipolar Disorder is treated solely with an antidepressant it kicks them into mania. That is exactly what happened to me. I began to get progressively worse because I was taking an antidepressant only.
I do not remember exactly what flipped the switch, but one day I came home from school and “attempted suicide” by taking some over-the-counter pain pills and chasing them with some vodka that was in the basement freezer. I put the words attempted suicide in quotations because in my heart I know it was not a real attempt; it was a cry for help. This was a scary day for me and my family, although I did not really show my fear, I was petrified. My mom and my sister were home at the time; my mom called 911. I was taken to the ER in a police car; this was of course, far from enjoyable, to say the least. My sister rode in the police car with me, my mom followed, and my dad met us at the hospital after he got off work. Word of advice, do not yell, scream and curse at cops; I learned that early in life!
The Northwest Hospital ER was where I was given the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. From there I was transferred to Howard County General Hospital to a mainly adult psychiatric unit (Dad saved the day with his directions when the ambulance driver got completely lost). The Howard County General Hospital unit was not at all ideal for me; they were not set up to deal with adolescents. After a few days, I was transferred to another hospital with a pediatric unit for the remainder of my inpatient stay, about two weeks in total.
Those 2 weeks were extremely petrifying for me. As a 15 year old dealing with the beginning stages of Bipolar, I did not know how to express my fear properly. Instead, I would do things like scream, throw fits, and try to run out the locked door to the unit when I saw a staff member open it, etc. By no means are psychiatric hospitals a nurturing and caring environment. I would have to earn being able to eat a snack by drinking milk (something I cannot stomach), there was never anyone to talk to if I needed to talk, and I basically had to earn the right to do anything that would have any chance at making me feel better. In the psychological state I was in, I did not earn anything; instead I lost every possible privilege. Instead of being somewhere where I felt I was getting help, I was somewhere where I felt as if I was being punished. An adolescent who is newly diagnosed with a major psychiatric illness needs a more nurturing and caring environment than the psychiatric hospitals have to offer (at least what they had to offer 13 years ago). Lucky for me, my mom worked in the hospital I was in, and she came up to eat lunch with me every day. I looked forward to this because it was the one consistent thing I had to give me a small bit of hope at that time.
There are two main things I got out of this hospitalization. The first was when a social worker made a comparison to me that I will take with me for the rest of my life. She compared Bipolar Disorder to Type I Diabetes. Both are illnesses someone is born with that require daily medication, neither of which are illnesses that one has control over having. While this did not mean anything to me at the time, I never forgot it, and down the line it became very helpful to me in the way I viewed my disease and the way I viewed myself for having the disease. Second, it was the start of my lifelong journey of taking medication. I left the hospital with the necessary prescriptions and continued to see my psychiatrist for medication management. Did I start taking my medication properly every day after getting out of the hospital? Absolutely not! I was a 15 year old who did not want to accept that she needed to take medication every day. It was, however, a starting point; a step in the right direction.
The teenage years are such a fragile time; a time where everyone is looking for acceptance. At 15 years old, all anyone wants is to be a “normal” teenager (whatever that means). No 15 year old wants to find out they have a mental illness and they will need to take medication for the rest of their life. No 15 year old wants to all of a sudden accept taking medication every day when their friends do not need to take medication. No 15 year old wants the others at school to know they have a mental illness. Coming back from two weeks in the hospital was hard to explain away to the kids at school. The teenage years are already hard enough without anything additional added. Hey, I’m 28 now, so I must have done something right to make it through it all!
“Every adversity, every failure, and every heartache, carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater Benefit.” -Napoleon Hill-
Thank you for reading! Until next time…
-Kissing stigma Goodbye-
Posted by Sara Breidenstein at 1:52 PM