Hi there, my name is Christine and I was diagnosed with Bipolar just over two years ago. My journey began in grade 12 at which time I experienced living with a mild depression that I was not aware was in fact depression. It lasted all winter and even though I saw a psychologist, I was not diagnosed with anything. It wasn’t until the summer after grade 12, while on a camping trip and drinking heavily for the first time, that I had a psychotic episode. I know now that my high periods usually fall in the late summer, which was the case this time.
When I came home from the trip, I was not myself. I distinctly remember my parents saying that I was not the Christine who had left before the trip. I thought I could read my parents’ minds. They then brought me into the emergency room where I had a psych. assessment performed. I was admitted and in there for 10 days. It was one of the most traumatizing experiences of my life. I went with a psychotic break and was then sedated without consent for two days. I was apparently violent, and even bit a nurse, none of which I remember. My parents weren’t even allowed to see me the first day and I can only imagine how petrified they were. It took me a few days to regain total consciousness and some understanding of what happened. Unlike many people I had a blast once I was more ‘with it’ because I was at my highest manic point in the hospital.
Once I was released I saw the same psychiatrist I had seen in the hospital and in my opinion he was not very good at his job. I told him I heard voices and the impression I got from him was that there was nothing wrong with me. In my case I would have received no support or follow up from the hospital had it not been for my mother who put me in touch with 1st Step . I was assigned a case worker, a psychiatrist and could attend groups with other young people suffering the same thing.
The next 9 months after being out of the hospital were the worst of my entire life. I was at the bottom of the barrel with severe depression. After a severe manic episode, the depression that follows is even worse. It was once explained to me that after being in overdrive for so long you brain pretty much goes into hibernation. That’s exactly how I felt, I was tired ALL the time, I had difficulty concentrating, difficulty carrying on a conversation and I thought about suicide a lot (never having attempted). It felt like a huge weight was pressing down on my shoulders from above at all times. I have learned also that my bipolar symptoms directly coincide with the seasons. During the winter I am depressed and by the time spring rolls around I am starting to come out of it. The main thing that kept me going through that year was the fact that I had a job at a coffee shop. I had to force myself to get out of bed because I was obligated to go to work, I had no excuse. I made a couple of friends at work, whom I confided in. I did tell my boss eventually, but discovered it was unnecessary because she said even though I felt depressed, it didn’t show through to her in my work ethic. Meeting with my case worker on a daily basis also helped me to get through everything.
As I said it has been two years since my diagnosis and I am getting along swimmingly. I am in my second year at the University of Waterloo, studying Geography. I am pleased to report I have had no episode of mania or depression. The only time I even think about my illness is when I go to take my Lithium before bed. I would never stop taking it, no matter how good I feel because I know that it what is keeping me stable. Mental illness is not curable but it is very much so controllable and I am living proof. I love sharing my story with people, it was a very traumatizing time in my life and each time I tell it I think I grow a little more. I feel that since I have been through what seemed like hell, I have developed an increased ability to show empathy towards others, regardless of what their trials may be. I am also spiritual and God played a huge role is helping me find peace and meaning. My faith in God and life helped me get my feet back on the ground. I hope that my short story here will help someone living in darkness to realize that it won’t last forever and there is a light at the end of this thing called “mental illness”.