So many people ask me how I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at such a young age. Back in 1989, very little was really known about this disorder and there was such limited information. Back in those days it was still referred to as Manic Depressive. The one thing that I believe caused my illness to surface so early was all the stress in my life. A lot people have said at 16, how could the stress be bad enough to cause symptoms. Well as most people remember that time in any one's life can be difficult. The problem with me though was was my need for perfection and overachieving. I was taking 5 college level classes in the 11th grade, I was on the school's dance team, I was President of the honor society, and I was involved with many clubs and doing volunteer work as well. I still remember the shock in the eyes of the treatment team when they looked at just my class schedule. They said that no one should be under such stress and it was no surprise to them that I was having extreme mood swings. I was barely sleeping back then and I was also obsessed with my weight so I would skip eating for days. This was a recipe for disaster.
For me losing sleep and not eating properly will cause manic symptoms to appear. I can happily say that just keeping a close eye on those two things has prevented myself for having a major manic episode in almost 10 years. I have had 4 major manic episodes in my life and I am happy to keep them at bay as much as possible. I also live a much more stress free life now and I am no longer after the perfection and overachieving that I once longed for badly. I still have goals in my life but they are much different than back in 1989 or when I was going to college. I have come to love the simple things life has to offer and be thankful for the smallest things now. Small things to be thankful for in my life include things like a good night's rest, a calm living environment, a treatment plan that is working, and being surrounded by supportive loving people. I still suffer from major depression from time to time but at least I have the right people in my life now that can get me through the bad episode and the ability to survive with bipolar disorder.
A great place to seek out information for children or Adolescents that have bipolar disorder can be found at www.bpkids.org . The Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation or CABF is a great place to seek information for younger people diagnosed with this disorder.