Saturday, May 26, 2012

Changing my Blogspot Address

Please note my blog is in the process of changing from to   The old will link will work but please make a note of the new address.

Thanks for reading my blog.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

I heard the words today Don't Ask, Don't tell today on a news program and I started thinking about sometimes I feel that way about having bipolar disorder.  I have gone through many phases of being transparent about my illness and I am still not sure where I stand with it.  While I sit here and write a blog about informing others about this illness and fighting stigma, I sometimes feel like a hypocrite.  I still find it very hard to tell others that I meet or have been in my life for years that I do in fact have bipolar disorder.  My journey of deciding on whether or not to disclose my illness started soon after I was diagnosed.  I remember feeling so free and feeling some relief of finding out what was "wrong" with me.  I went back to my high school and I told many people and it turns out it freaked out most people and others just didn't know how to react to the news.  I had a lot of friends that turned their back on me because honestly they did not want to be around it.  It was almost like it was contagious and they did not want to get it.  I did have a select few that stuck by me and never treated me differently.  At that time I was still very young and I thought once I went to college things might be different.  Well things did not change there either and sometimes I think it was worse.  I was in a sorority and I told one of my dear friends about it in confidence I thought but turns out she told a lot of people and after that things were never the same.  People just treat you differently after they find out you have it. 

Soon after this I became quite the actress and no one around me knew that I had Bipolar Disorder and most to this day tell me they would never think I did have it.  I soon moved to Atlanta after college with a fresh start of no one knowing about my "secret".  Well this worked out great for the first two years.  After two years of working at that company things changed drastically.  The company was being sold to a bigger company and everyone was afraid of losing their jobs.  I know the stress took it's toll on me.  I was getting very little sleep and barely eating anything.  This just is the perfect storm to have a manic attack.  I did fairly well for awhile but I made the huge mistake of telling a close co-worker who was the Vice President at the time that I had the disorder and I needed some support during this time.  Well turns out the next day she ran to the CEO and told her about me after she told me I could trust her and she would tell no one.  I think she was trying to get me fired because every one's job was on the line at that time.  However the very cool thing about that potential ugly situation was that the CEO actually had bipolar disorder and she totally understood.   I never knew she had it either.  That just proves you never know who around you has a mental illness.  She gave me a week off and gave me the name of her psychiatrist.  Turns out I was one of the few people the new company kept and that vice president was fired.   After I returned to work, things were a little weird at first but when I met the management of the new company and the workers they were great to me.  Granted none of them knew either and never found out.  I worked there for another six months or so but I was really missing my home and had lost a lot of my support.  The company even offered me 3 months off to go home with pay to reconsider to come back at the end of summer but I knew my time there had come to an end and I did not feel right taking the money when I knew I was never going to return.  It still made me feel good about myself though because they did not want to lose me.  They never found out I had a mental illness though and I think I was glad about that at the time.   I left Atlanta and moved back to a city near my hometown.  I thought being closer to my family would help me stay stable.  Turns out it was the right thing to do because my Mom can come over quickly to help me if I am having a bad episode.   

So I started a new job and everything was bright and shiny again.  I made new friends and had some great co-workers.  I went almost a year with little trouble but I was handed a former employees work load in addition to my own and I got overwhelmed.  They never replaced her and I took on two jobs at this time.  I have always had this bad habit of never being able to say no.   Finally things got so bad and I could feel myself going into a depressive state and feeling suicidal.   I finally went to my boss and told her I would probably have to quit due to the added stress and how is was affecting my mental health.  She told me to take the day off and we would discuss it the next day.  Well she is probably the best employer I ever had.  She had never heard of bipolar disorder but she spent that night researching it and that was amazing.  She fixed my work load and allowed me to work from home on my more difficult days.  She never told anyone else in the company of over 300 people and to this day I will never forget that.  However she retired and things changed and I no longer had her protection and the new boss was very harsh and had no room for this.  So I decided to leave a company that I dearly loved because they just could not accept that I had a mental illness.   I once again looked for a fresh start.  I never found one again of course.  I had other jobs but the other bosses were not that understanding or really did not care.  So I have have mixed responses in the work environment.  My feeling now even though I no longer work is to not tell unless it is necessary for your own mental health.  They are not allowed to ask you by law on most careers.  There are a few exceptions but the accounting field is not one of them.    I know some companies do not always follow this or they pressure you to  think you have to tell them.  Make sure you know your rights if you are working with a mental illness. Here is a link that might be helpful.

I have lost friends, dates, boyfriends and a career after people found out that I had a mental illness.  There are only a very small group of people that know in my life and they are mostly family.  My husband's response to finding out about my illness was a shocking one.  He really did not see my mental illness he saw me and loved me for the real me.  Even now after almost three years of marriage he does not see my illness he sees me.  He is my rock and helps keep me stable and really tries to be there for me.  It was even tough to tell people in my old church.  They found out when I was in the hospital for depression and they didn't know what to say, send flowers. call me or even send a card.  However when I had a hysterectomy they sent so much stuff and I had so many visitors.  The funny thing is I really did not need them then and I was fine other then some recovery and minor pain.  I needed them the most when I was suicidal.  They however were no where to be found and they never treated me the same after that.  I left that church of course and I am still having problems finding one.  I feel a lot of people in church just do not know how to handle mental illness or want to deal with it.  I think I was even told once that I had a spiritual weakness and it was just all in my head and it would go away if I was more faithful.  My social anxiety also dampers my ability to meet new people and a new church can be overwhelming.  However my faith in God is strong and I know he knows how I feel and that is truly all that really matters. 

So at the end of this blog I guess I am still a great actress to those that do not know and free around those that do know.  I do not even use my first name on this blog but my middle name because most do not know it and I still have the fear of everyone around me finding out and I am not ready for that at this time.  I was not even going to put my picture on here but I thought well that is a start.  I wanted readers to see my face and be able to relate to it and and know that it comes from my heart.  I think it also shows another face with bipolar disorder and it's not your predictable stereotype everyone has about the illness.  The media of course loves to show the most extreme cases that end in tragedy.  The majority of people with bipolar disorder are more likely to harm themselves rather than others.  The media leaves that out because it does not sell.   I get so tired of having to keep such a huge secret about my life and I tell very few people that I am on SSDI.  I do encourage everyone though that thinks they might have a mental illness to go tell a professional and get help.  Those are the people you need to be honest with to get the help you need.  They are legally bound not to disclose your information unless you request it so that is a good thing to know and it builds trust.   I guess I still have not answered my question and still ponder on the thought is it better to tell or not tell.  What do you think?

Friday, May 18, 2012

We have come so far.. but have many miles to go

I was thinking yesterday while I was reading many of the stories from blogging for mental health day at that we have a come quite a long way in understanding mental illness but there are so many more things we need to do to fight the stigma associated with mental illness.  There seems to be so many news articles in the media that show mental illness in such a bad light and I wished we could get more of a positive message out there to the media that it's treatable and it is nothing to fear.

I was reading an article yesterday about how the family of Mary Richardson Kennedy were very upset on the way the news media were reporting her death.  I can't say that I blame them either.  Why is that when someone takes their own life that the media floods the airways of negativity about that person's life in the few months leading up to the death or sometimes just a few hours before their death.  They also go after their character if they had any bad decisions in their life.   They never seem to focus on  the positive aspects of their life and most will never know anything more about their life other than the way it ended.

I know I had a good friend a few years back that killed himself and all anyone could talk about was the day of his death. No one wanted to talk about what a great guy he was or how much he impacted their lives.  How creative, intelligent and funny he was in his life.  All anyone wanted to talk about was his suicide and criticize him.  I guess unless you have never been in that dark moment that you want to take your life that you cannot relate and just judge them.  I have heard so many people say how selfish those people are or what a coward they were for taking their own life.  I know once in the hospital when I was having suicidal thoughts that one therapist tried to tell me that I was seeking attention.  All of these things could not be further from the truth.  The pain you feel is so dark and deep all you can think of is how much you want to end the pain.  You feel worthless and you even feel your friends and family would be better off if you were not there to bring them down and be a burden.  I know these feelings and I have always had support to get through it.  If you do feel alone there are many places to reach out to but the group I think that does it the best is

I also find it ironic that the media loves to leave out the stories of mental illness that need to be told.  I was reading the very sad story about the beating of Kelly Thomas by police officers and then he died as a result.  This was the first time I have heard of this case and it happened a year ago.  Kelly Thomas had schizophrenia and was homeless at the time.  I will not go into the details of his beating nor show the upsetting video but I will leave you with a link to his story if you want to know more about his story at  I  praise his father, Ron Thomas for fighting for his son and getting his story out there.  We should all take a note here and keep fighting the stigma for our loved ones with mental illness and for our own rights.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

To share or not to share... that is the question

After over 20 years of living my life having Bipolar Disorder, I decided last year to start a blog about my life experiences and how it affects my life as well as others in my life. I decided that sharing my story would be helpful to promote a better understanding of mental illness. I started my blog for many reasons that I thought would help others learn more about Bipolar Disorder and how to seek help.  My main reasons were:
  1. To inform others about Bipolar Disorder
  2. Guiding others to find the help they need to promote better mental health
  3. To fight stigma that can often be associtated with mental illness
  4. To help others to not feel ashamed of having a mental illness and how to find support
I remember when I was only 16 and I was told that I had Bipolar Disorder that it was a very confusing time for me.  I was not quite sure what that meant to my life.  I remember feeling scared, and I did not know what to expect in the years to come.  Back in the 1980's there really was not much information out there about mental illness or Bipolar Disorder.   I was hoping to reach those today that are now in my shoes that day when mental illness walked into my life.  I also wanted to reach family members that have loved ones with Bipolar Disorder because I know back when I was first diagnosed that my family knew very little if nothing at all about this illness.  I really wanted to put a real spin on the disorder and share my life as painful as it can be at times with others with the hope that they might relate to my experiences and seek treatment.  However, writing the blog actually turned out to really help me get through many tough days.  During the past year I have connected with numerous others that have Bipolar Disorder and write blogs about it and it is another form of support for myself.  The most important thing to me with these new connections is that I never feel alone and they are very encouraging to me.

I thought when I started this blog if I could help just one person out there learn more about Bipolar Disorder than it was worth putting my painful feelings out there.  Well after hearing so many comments and questions from others I know I have done that and such much more.  I think of the Mom that wrote me about her daughter that had committed suicide 6 months prior to reading my blog.  The doctors thought her daughter might of had Bipolar Disorder and that my blog helped her understand Bipolar Disorder better and she just wished she could of found out more information before that happened to her daughter.   She told me she hoped that my blog would save other people's lives. I strive to do that each time I write a blog entry and to help myself from taking my own life.  I still have many dark days but support helps me get through those times.  My readers have also helped me find out new information that I was not aware of  before I started writing and encouraged me on the rough days.
Now that I have been writing this blog for about a year, I am encouraged to keep writing because I have had so many people write to me that my honesty about my illness has helped them to actually seek treatment.  So many people tell me that the stigma of having a mental illness stops them from seeking treatment.  This is the one thing I am most passionate about and have always tried to do what I can to on my part to help others understand it and not run away from it.  My dream is that one day Bipolar Disorder will be treated by the public, the media, and the medical community as just another illness that needs medical care and nothing more.  I think that having a day set aside to focus on blogging for mental health is so important to fight this stigma.  There is so much to be shared at and help others find out more about mental illness and promote better mental health. I encourage everyone to check this site out and share their own stories.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Something new, Something old, Something blue, Something no one knew

The last time I wrote on my blog the sun was shining, the birds were singing and I felt better then I had ever felt in my life.  This was my something new.   I kept wondering when the bottom was going to fall out of my new feelings of well being.  I kept asking and asking everyone I knew around me if I seemed manic.  All of them said they do not see the manic signs I showed in the past.  Then I ran into something I knew nothing about or had ever felt.  That something was Hypomania.  That was the something I never really knew much about.  For some odd reason I only thought that was part of Bipolar Disorder 2.  As a person living with Bipolar Disorder 1, I had always had extreme moods swings of being very manic or extremely depressed.  I have never encountered the feelings I had with being hypomanic.  I was very confused and thought that maybe just maybe my medication had kicked in very quick.  I also thought that maybe I was healed by God because I am a Christian.  Well God has a plan for my life and at this time he still wants me to continue down this path.   I know as a patient for many years, medicine does not work that fast but I guess I was living in the great feelings and I did not see it.  My own guess is to why I was kicked into that state was maybe that I was coming off one antidepressant and a mood stabilizer and then introduced to a new ones.  As I look back on that week that I felt "normal" and how I thought most people live their life.  I now can see I was Hypomanic. 

So after about five days of having all these wonderful feelings about life and about myself and having a ton of energy, I finally crashed and stayed in bed for two days feeling so tired from all the activities I had been doing.  This was the something that was old and blue.  Thank goodness when I was hypomanic all I did was clean my house from top to bottom, workout everyday, and I was able to drive myself to places and had no social anxiety.  I did not do anything careless or reckless that normally comes with full blown mania.  I actual did really productive things that I needed to do months ago.  I was able to to finish task and I slept about five hours a day and I woke up feeling refreshed and full of energy.  I was also talking every one's ears off but it was not rapid speech that did not make sense or too fast.  So for a few days all I did was look up hypomania and find out all I could about it to see if that is what happened to me.  I have been keeping a mood journal for eight weeks now and my Psychiatrist confirmed that is was hypomania.  The largest difference I found between hypomanic and full blown mania was that I did not have psychotic thoughts or symptoms and no grandiosity about my life or something I wanted to do in the future that was reckless or harmful to my life.  I was also able to be highly functional and I was sleeping every night.  In the past when I had full blown mania I did not sleep for days and I could not be told or believe I was manic. 

I was reading on the NAMI website that someone referred to it as "mania lite".  I thought that was a good way to describe it.  It lies somewhere just under mania but higher than deep depression.  So for someone who has studied and tried just about any medicine and therapy, I could not believe I had never been told that as a Bipolar Disorder 1 patient that I was also capable of feeling something in between the two.  I will be honest I was quite sad when the bottom fell out. I felt cheated of feeling normal for once in a very long time.  I would also love to stay at this level because the feelings were wonderful.  But with my illness I know this is not a healthy or productive attitude.  After my crash I fell into a depression with one or two days with suicidal thoughts and felt I was worthless.  I have a wonderful support team that got me through those days.  After the new medicine kicked in I was no longer feeling depressed but I also felt like a Zombie.  I felt very medicated and just really had no feelings of happy or sad.  So after quite a journey on Mr. Toads Wild Ride of going up and down, I finally started feeling a lot happier with no suicide thoughts but I still had some issues.  I kept reading from other people on the same medication to just hang on because it can take about six to eight weeks for my medicine to truly kick in and make me more stable. 

My last visit to my Psychiatrist went fairly well.  He tweaked my medicine slightly.  Taking the second dose of Wellbutrin in the afternoon kept me from sleeping at night, so he changed me over to Wellbutrin XL 300 mg to take just once in the morning with an increased dose of my mood stabilizer to 150 mg of Lamictal.  I also still take .5 mg of Xanax for my panic attacks and social anxiety.  In a few weeks he wants to get me to 200 mg of Lamital and stop there unless I have issues.  I did not get the rash that everyone warned me about so that was a relief and for the most part the side effects are less than other medications I have tried in the past. I know these medication do no work for everyone just like I can't take other medications.  I really do like my new Psychiatrist and I feel he has an incredible knowledge of Pharmacology.  He is actually something old in my life as well.  When I was admitted into the hospital for suicidal thoughts and extreme depression about ten years ago he was my doctor and he got me home within 6 days.   I am thankful to have found him again and the last thing he said to me was "keep up the good work".  As a person with this illness that could not be more true because everyday is work to stay on top of your environment, medication, and staying stable.

It's funny I read an article last week that stated that Bipolar Disorder is just a made up illness by doctors and Pharmaceutical companies to make money and there is no such thing as a chemical imbalance in the brain.  Well I am here to say other wise and my last eight weeks if not last 20 years has proved that theory very wrong. I do have an imbalance and the only thing that helps is the doctors and medication.   I feel stable at the moment but I know it's a daily fight and I take it one day at a time and I am very thankful for my wonderful husband for sticking by me, taking care of me and loving me for the real me.  My Mom and Dad are also very helpful when I need help while my husband is working.  I feel very blessed to have so many wonderful love ones in my life that get me to the next week.  I turn 40 in about a month and instead of being sad or feeling old I am celebrating that I have made it to 40 years.  This illness can take so many lives early in their life and I have made it this far and fight everyday to make another 40 years.