I was first diagnosed at age 13 with depression. I was taken out of my home environment, which was abusive, and my depression was labeled situational. While I had symptoms of mania and PTSD, those symptoms were somewhat atypical and those aspects went undiagnosed. I was given talk therapy for 4 years with one 6 week support group for abuse survivors. For several years, I would self-medicate off and on with drugs or alcohol.
When I was 27, I had my first psychotic break with reality. It lasted 3 days. I was in college and went to the college health center, was given the MMPI and tested normal. At age 29, I had another manic episode that resulted in 72 hours with no sleep and my first psychiatric hospitalization. Depression was the diagnosis I was given, although I was put on anti-psychotic medication along with an anti-depressant at that time. A year later I was hospitalized with manic symptoms again. I still remained diagnosed with only depression.
Finally, at age 31, I was given my correct diagnosis of bi-polar disorder. My family doctor diagnosed me and wrote out a script and sent me on my way. 9 months later, 67 pounds heavier and still having symptoms, I insisted he change my medicine. Later that year, I had a manic episode that landed me in the psych hospital a third time, but this was a different hospital and I was connected with an amazing psychiatrist. This was the beginning of wellness and recovery for me.
I still require medication adjustments on average every 8 months, but over the decade I have been with this doctor I have learned to see my symptoms when they are mild and use coping techniques or call the doc for a med adjustment and avoid hospitalization as much as possible. In December of 2010 I was able to take NAMI In Our Own Voice Training. It is very helpful and therapeutic for me to get out into the community and tell my story. This helps others who may be dealing with symptoms, those who have friends and family with symptoms, reduces stigma for the mentally ill and also educates the audiences. I have also been able to help with Crisis Intervention Training for police forces to help them deal more humanely with the mentally ill population. In addition, I do presentations for the Indiana Department of Corrections new employees.
In the past 3 years, I have had the diagnoses of PTSD and ADHD confirmed as well. I have not been hospitalized in over a year and a half. I currently take one atypical antipsychotic and a benzodiazepine to help me sleep. I get counseling every 2 weeks and practice good self care. Coping mechanisms are a lifeline, including an excellent group of family and friends I can talk to, listening to Christian music, praying and reading my Bible, meditation, walking or other forms of exercise and getting to bed about the same time each night. I keep myself educated about new medications, new therapies and am continuously seeking new coping skills that work for me. Wellness and recovery ARE possible. It takes work, but it is very much worth the time and effort.