Analytics Tracking

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

My Bipolar Life in a Blog Post

Not including the intense, short-lived manic episodes and fleeting periods of normalcy, most of my life since my teenage years has been spent fighting bipolar depression.  

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in August 1997, while being held against my will in a psychiatric hospital by a 5150. A 5150 is a section of the California Welfare and Institution Code, which states a person is required to be hospitalized if they are considered to be a threat to themselves or someone else and/or are gravely disabled.  

I would say I may have been gravely disabled (whatever that means), certainly not a threat to anyone. Of course they didn't ask my opinion. 

I have been blessed to make it up to this point. It has taken brains, willpower, and help from above to make it. AND I get a lot of help from a good pdoc and psych meds, a good psychologist, supportive family, and understanding friends.  

Shortly after my 1997 manic episode I had a major depressive episode that lasted three years. By the time I got to a more "normal" state I had cleared up all the financial, social, and work-related messes I'd made. My "normal" state was probably more like dysthymia (a chronic, low-level depression that lasts for at least two years) that lasted until 2002.

By May 2002 I was doing well at work, it was spring, and I had a girlfriend.  No problems, right? Wrong.  

The girlfriend insisted there was nothing wrong with me and I did not need to take my meds. I argued for weeks that she was wrong. I had bipolar disorder and pretty much everyone knew it. So, to prove her wrong, I stopped taking my meds in May. Houston we have a problem.

Shortly thereafter we all know what happens. Since I was off my psych meds I went manic in a matter of days. This manic trip was more bizarre and damaging and exciting than my 1997 episode. I did some fun stuff, but also had delusions, anger, and the symptoms associated with unbridled mania: a flood of racing thoughts, tons of energy, little or no need for sleep, rapid speech.

I was Supermanic: faster than a pissed off bartender; more powerful than an upset badger; and able to escape from bad situations in a single bound. The depression dragon feared the sight of me. I felt invincible (a bad thing).

That fun ride landed me in the hospital twice that summer. The first was a 72 hr hold (another 5150). The second was voluntary, but I left early AMA (against medical advice). I was stabilized and I got bored so I left. Plus the head doctor was being a dick. He tried to get me committed for another two weeks. It was a nice try, but I beat him in mental health court.

Following the years of depression after Mania 2002 my symptoms began to recede by 2005. I was mostly stable from 2005 to 2010. I wouldn't say recovered - more like remission from most of my depression symptoms. 

In early January 2010 my mom died. I was devastated. I was drinking hard at this point. I was drowning my sorrow over my mother's death. And then my pdoc up and retired on me in March with no advanced notice.  

By May I'm a little hypomanic maybe (definitely). By late May to late June I found myself in a manic phase once again. But this time it's without a psychiatrist!

I couldn't work. I got approved to take all of June off for medical reasons. I ended up resigning for medical reasons in November 2011 and I haven't been back to work since. I'm calling it my retirement transition period. 

Anyway, there you have it. The cliff notes version of my life from when I was first diagnosed (1997) until now. It is my life during the time bipolar dominated all else, as it does now.

Present status. I live in a house with two dogs for roommates. Currently I am in a 17 month treatment resistant bipolar depression, with a splash of anxiety.  I am on meds and participate in one-on-one psychotherapy. Dogs, sun, blogging, family, friends, and faith continue to provide me strength and sense of purpose as I struggle to live with bipolar disorder. 

I hope you are blessed with the kinds of things that contribute to a stable bipolar existence. If you continue to struggle with the disorder please be patient and do not give up.  There is good reason to remain hopeful. Many people with bipolar learn to cope and live quality lives despite the demons and depression.


  1. I can't imagine why you were considered a threat to yourself or others. Is Bipolar disorder really that dangerous? Most of the manic episodes I've seen are just rapid speech or over excitement over something, but normally they do not show aggression.

  2. Hi Natalie - Yes, bipolar disorder is life threatening to the person with the disorder. It is usually very risky behavior (mania) or suicide that is the danger. There are the other signs you mention as well. Thanks for commenting and sharing your thoughts! Jeff