Friday, October 11, 2013

My Story: Life with Bipolar Disorder

I just posted this with the same title as above, on the sidebar of the blog for people to easily access when they visit my blog. This will make information about myself, the author, readily available for new readers. I am posting it as a blog post as well so all of my tried and true readers will see it as well. This is what I posted:

Hello and welcome to my blog! My name is Sara, I am 29 years old and I live just outside of Baltimore, Maryland. Here is a little bit about my story of life with Bipolar Disorder.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at the age of 15. I was initially given a misdiagnosis of clinical depression and was treated solely with an antidepressant. This course of treatment kicked me out of depression and right into the hands of full blown mania. It was the mania that ultimately landed me in the hospital after an intentional overdose of over the counter pain medication. I received the diagnosis of Bipolar I Disorder while in the Emergency room. My trip to the ER was followed by a 2 week stay in a psychiatric unit at two different local hospitals. Those 2 weeks were the very beginning of a journey that forever changed my life; the journey of living with and overcoming a mental illness! This is a lifelong journey for me and so many others!

I did not leave the hospital at 15 thinking; “Great, I’ve got this mental illness and I’m going to take medication every day and everything will be alright.” In fact, it was just the opposite. High school was a time of complete turmoil for me. The addition of the onset of bipolar symptoms to the already tumultuous time that high school brings did not bode well for me. I cannot even begin to put into words how treacherous that time in my life was. It is a time that I do not want to remember and to be honest I have trouble recalling a good portion of it; which is for the best. It was in my senior year of high school that things began to turn around. At that point, I was finally faithfully taking my medication as prescribed. The change in me that accompanied my medication compliance was truly phenomenal. It was like night and day; two totally different individuals. During my senior year in high school I was able to take a half a day of classes in high school while taking a college course at the community college in the afternoon. I had hated school so much during these years. Taking college courses allowed me to discover my love for learning. It was a fantastic discovery to have made during a period in which I thought I completely hated education; it gave me the much needed desire to continue on to college.

Let’s fast forward 5 years from my diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder to my 2nd psychiatric hospitalization at the age of 20. I was experiencing a very severe depressive episode and was feeling suicidal. I locked myself in the bathroom with the intention of taking an overdose. My dad came to the rescue by literally banging the door down before this could fully occur; I had taken a few pills but not enough to cause any damage. I voluntarily admitted myself to Sheppard Pratt, a psychiatric hospital in the Baltimore area. I stayed as an inpatient for six days, which was followed by a week in the day hospital. I took the semester off of college during which I was hospitalized and returned full force the following fall semester.

I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in 2007 and went out into the full time workforce. Two months after graduating college I went through the scariest experience of my life. I made a suicide attempt that I am extremely lucky to have survived. After taking an extremely large overdose of Tegretol, I woke up in ICU unable to walk or talk and remembering only small parts of what took place after I took the overdose. I spent quite a few very scary days in ICU with my family by my side, and I managed to come through it all and am so thankful to be alive!

Since that scary event in 2007, I’ve had my obstacles. I have been through a subpar marriage (which is an understatement), a divorce, a series of changes in my bipolar symptoms requiring medication adjustments, and various other stressors.

On the other hand, since that scary event in 2007, I have overcome the psychiatric symptoms that I have dealt with on each and every occasion, I have changed my outlook on life and on mental illness, I have taken a stand to fight the stigma of mental illness, I have told my story using various avenues, and last year, I graduated with my MBA degree!

In between the significant events that I wrote about, I have experienced many other rough patches throughout my life. I have experienced times of severe mania and times of severe depression. I have also experienced times of mania and of depression that were much less severe yet lingered over time before I achieved a successful medication increase or change. Finding the right mix of medications has not always been easy. In fact, it has often been tiring and cumbersome; sometimes feeling like more trouble than it is worth but I’ve always stuck it out. There have been obstacles to overcome through every step of the way as a result of my Bipolar Disorder, and I am happy to say that I have successfully done so on each and every occasion. That is not to say I don't still have obstacles. I have plenty that I’m faced with at any given moment, which is a lifelong battle. However, Bipolar cannot and will not stop me from anything! I proudly take the psychotropic medications I have been prescribed and stand tall for all that I have accomplished despite having a mental illness!

Bipolar has knocked me down temporarily, but I will never let it keep me down!  The stigma of bipolar kept me from ever discussing that I had an illness until recently. Last year, I went from hiding my bipolar in the back of a closet like a big dark secret to saying to the entire world “I have Bipolar Disorder and I am just like you!” I started this blog, Kissing Stigma Goodbye, to raise awareness of mental illness, fight the stigma attached to mental illness, and provide hope, encouragement, and a sense of belonging to individuals living with a mental illness and their loved ones. It provides me with the chance to use my experiences to help others and to show others that they are not alone in this fight! My bipolar disorder and my experiences have given me the gift to help others who may be struggling. It took me many, many years to realize how strong I am for all that I have overcome. I hope that my blog can help others living with a mental illness see that they too are strong, and they are not alone in this battle. I hope my journey and my story helps you in some way.

Thank you for reading! Until next time...
Sara Breidenstein
Kissing Stigma Goodbye 

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