We have featured bipolar disorder on this site a couple of times. Today, one of our users, who goes by the name of 2krazitu, tells us about his experience of living with the disorder.
In 1975 when I was 18 yrs old I experienced my first high in a pattern hi's and lo's to follow. I did not know what manic depression was, as it was called at that time, but i suspected that my somewhat bizarre behaviour was related to substance abuse. It was my first year at university and I was experimenting with that somewhat over romanticised drug-marijuana and the ever popular and 'kosher' alcohol.
However after stopping the use of these substances altogether for over three months, the symptoms did not go away. I naturally became afraid and tried to find other reasons for my moodswings. Prior to the first moodswing I was mugged and severely assaulted and needed stitches, etc. I thought that I might be suffering from some type of post traumatic stress but that did not explain the euphoric highs I experienced.
From being a shy, reserved person, in the high I would have attempted to woo Bo Derek if I had seen her. After approximately 18 months on Tofranil and Lithium I got over my episode. (Tofranil being a tricyclic was the drug of choice at the time since SSRI's had not been discovered yet.
Lithium is still the mood stabiliser par excellence for Bipolars although Carbomezapine and Valproic acid, anti-psychotic drugs are often used as mood stabilisers these days. The choice of antidepressants is probably 10 times that of 1975. For starters there are at least four groups of antidepressants.
Tetracyclics and new ones are being developed constantly and consistently. The breaking of the DNA code will definitely add many more to the list. As you can see I have strayed from my objective - one minute I was telling you about my first episode and the next I am trying to educate you on the different antidepressants. This is typical manic expansive behaviour albeit not overdone I hope. I am no fundi on antidepressants or anything like that but very experienced in unsuccessfully combating bipolar disorder since 1993.
In 1984 I had to go back to varsity to update a qualification, and after going on my binges again I started having the symptoms again after about three months. This time around I was employed and had to admit myself to hospital on four different occasions over a period of approximately 18 months before I got over the episode.
The antidepressants used were Ludiomil and Anafranil which stangely enough none of the six psychiatrists had prescribed over the last ten years. I did not receive ECT's and this time around there was less of a stigma attached to my mental illness. There was not much literature available on the subject as in 1975.
Shame and stigma
You know initially I was really ashamed of having a mental illness despite the causes but recently especially manic depression has been so romanticised. It's been recognised for years. Even Van Gogh who cut off his ear was suspected of being a sufferer.
My present episode began in 1993 a year after my father had passed away. Again some doctors tried to explain my symptoms as a delayed action reaction. From my experiences I would say that 95% of my illness is physiological and 5% or less psychological. Oh yes there is a psychological factor since every illness can be considered psychosomatic but in my case I just cannot psyche myself to 'normality'.
After 10 years on medication I feel that my dreaded lo's are getting progressively worse. I must have had without exaggeration 10 different mood stabilisers with about at least 40 antidepressants in various combinations to find the "tailor made" solution of drugs to stabilise my moodswings. Let us not mention the various side effects and of course the cost. I feel that Psychiatry is the branch of medicine that is the most speculative as far as the patients go, most lucrative as far as drug companies go and when I say this I am being euphemistic.
Hope for better control
Although I've stared suicide in the face many a time I've got no guts and besides I recovered from two previous episodes which is a positive factor although 10 yrs of not stabilising is tedious. I know that I can never be cured but I pray that the illness can be "controlled" and that I can be 'normal'.
I don't want to win the lottery if I had a choice. In these past 10 years I have been hospitalised at six different times in four different hospitals. I have seen more than six psychiatrists and have received ECT's on two separate occasions. I have been to umpteenth alternate practioners and don't talk about the psychics, priests etc - they too have their purpose. Although I know that there is no cure as yet I pray for one everyday.
It might be said that there are many people who suffer worse fates and I cannot deny this but the inability to experience normal feelings of sadness and happiness seems immaterial unless it is taken away and suddenly you're in a prolonged low and suicidal without 'reason' or maybe you are in a euphoric high and you are attending your best friend's funeral. – (2krazitu)
If you have any questions about Bipolar Disorder and its treatment, post a question to Cybershrink.