Budd's Bipolar Story
My Story About Bi-Polar

by Budd Abbott   (Comments and questions Welcome)

Thank you Budd!

I have read and heard stories about those who attribute their illness to

abuse, neglect and the like, but I came from a somewhat "normal" childhood

and don't believe these things to be the core source of my illness.

 

I grew up in a suburb of Pittsburgh and attended public high school in one of the

largest graduating classes of the area.  I was too young to be part of the

"hippy" period, but I tried to mold my life to that era.  Partying was the

thing to do, although it wouldn't be some time later that I did some serious

partying.   If one didn't "party hearty" one was considered a "narc".

(Narcotic agent or someone who snitched on those who did use drugs or

alcohol). 

 

I was mostly a loner through out my life because I always

considered myself less than my peers and didn't seem to fit in anywhere.

As I look back on my teens, I believe the disease(s) were prevalent even

then.  It was probably chalked up to being high strung or considered just a

phase I was going through.  And of course, I wasn't able to share my

feelings with anyone at all.  As I look back, my energy level in the winter

was sluggish at best.  I would sleep after school until dinner and any

chance I could afterward.  My grades suffered from the result of this,

especially in English. 

 

During the summer months, starting around May or

June, I would start into my manic cycle, requiring only one hour or two

hours of sleep.  I believe my parents thought I was on drugs. As a matter

of fact, not too long ago my mother admitted that she thought that very

thing.  With this routine, unwarranted fear was always a part of my life. I

know I learned part of this from my home environment.  I believe I was

maladjusted to life even then, which would contribute to decisions I made

later in life. Some weren't all that good either.

 

My father was a binge drinker and did most of his drinking when my mother

would visit and help her aging parents in Florida.  He put a lot of the

responsibility on me when my mother was away because I had to care of my younger

brothers and sisters during those times.  If I had to put him on the charts,

he would probably rank in the second stage of alcoholism.  To my knowledge,

he never physically abused any family member, although he would worry

everyone when he didn't arrive home on time from work.  I always knew

because my mother would get very quiet and pace the floor until he arrived

home and then the silent treatment for the next few days toward my father.

She would be very short with us kids because of it too.  With all this, I

still looked up to him and took from him the best and left the rest.

 

My mother seemed always high stung and nervous most of time. She never

seemed to be at ease. She would sit in a rocking chair and constantly and

rock.  My mother was for the most part was the prominent head of the

household and disciplinarian.  It seemed that my dad was never around in my

late teens.  I knew he had to work hard to keep us in the modest, but

efficient lifestyle we lived.  My father and mother's principles clashed more often

than not.  With conflicting messages, I didn't quite know how to handle

simple situations that most teen-agers could.  As an adult I had to learn

how to handle matters that most people might consider routine.

 

After graduation I joined the Navy for a couple of reasons.  One was to get

away from my family who I felt didn't understand me.  And second, I wanted

to start a career where no one would know me.  I got everything I wanted for

a duty station.  I was assigned to permanent shore duty at a Naval Air

Station in Virginia Beach.  It was there that I found alcohol.  I found out

when I drank alcohol, my perception of the myself and the world around me

changed and once I started to drink, I didn't want to stop until I was

completely drunk.  Alcohol at this point was my medication to slow me down

during my mania stage.  I didn't start out daily drinking until the end of

this career.  Because of my interest in alcohol, it also seemed to even me

out during the winter depression stages.  It took me seventeen years to go

through the three stages of alcoholism.  Of course with that, my

decision-making processes were quite hindered to say the least.  I don't

want to go into detail of my alcoholism as I'm focusing on the bi-polar

aspect.  I firmly believe my bi-polar disorder came before my drinking as I

mentioned.  However, I believe the two illnesses go hand-in-hand.

 

I have been in recovery from alcoholism since July of 1991.  As I started to

sober up, the bi-polar cycle started again.  At first the symptoms were mild

and I couldn't see anything was wrong with me.  I thought it was normal to

have more energy and to be creative during the summer months.  However, as

the years went on, the mania grew stronger along with the depression in the

winter.  It took me several sessions with a councilor to understand bi-polar

was a progressive illness.  It wasn't until this past summer (June 2000)

that I really went off the wall in the mania cycle.  I began having rushing

thoughts, which I describe as movies playing in my head and not knowing

which one to watch first!  Most of the winter months I would have feelings

of impending doom.  I would go to the window and look for the police even

though I didn't do anything at all to warrant such feelings.  Although I

didn't have thoughts of suicide, I felt if a bus would run me over it

wouldn't have mattered one way or another.  I had no motivation and things

that I liked to do showed no interest for me.  One family member commented

that he knew something was wrong when I didn't want to go hunting.  I am a

avid hunter and for me not to want to go seemed normal to me at the time.

My wife finally gave me an ultimatum, "Either get help or I'm leaving."

 

The denial was super thick just as it had been for my alcoholism.  I felt as

though this was a weakness more than an illness.  I also felt my wife wanted

me to have this illness because she suffers from depression as well.  I

finally agreed to seek  some professional help. My back was to the wall.

 

At my first session I told the doctor how I was feeling both physically and

mentally.  She explained what the nature of my illness was.  She put me on

medication and I began 1 on 1 psychotherapy with a councilor once a week

for the first three months.  During the winter months it was all I could do

to get out of bed.  I would just sit in my chair and watch television. I

continued going to my A.A. meetings, but felt alienated because I felt as

though they didn't understand.  (Of course there were many who have been

dual diagnosed.)

 

As spring grew into summer I had a radical change in my illness.  The mania

stage came on with vengeance.  I had to call my doctor and explain what was

happening and fast.  I was going without sleep for days on end and ate very

little.  I lost weight and began losing touch with reality because of sleep

deprivation.  My doctor changed my medication once again and now I take

three medicines, once in morning and in the evening.  I still find it hard

to function and had to go on disability, which I'm in the appeal stages.  I

feel hopeful about someday returning to work and being a productive human

being, although I don't feel I'll ever be able to do what I did (machinist)

for a living before I was diagnosed with bi-polar.

 

While all this was happening, I was dragged into court four times for

non-support for my two daughters.  Each time fear of going to jail hounded

me.  The possibility of such an event overwhelmed me and I became physically

sick each time.  The last time I went to court I felt reassured I had an

understanding judge.  I took with me research I found over the Internet and

letters from the doctor on my behalf explaining my illness.

 

As the winter months approach again, I sometimes ponder what this illness

has in store with me.  I feel stronger mentally now than I did a year ago,

but still there is dread of the unknown.  I have a support group I attend

and still go to counseling every other week.  I have the encouragement and

support of my wife even though we are planning to separate in the near

future.  Our separation has nothing to do with my illness.  I also have a

very close Christian friend, and although he doesn't understand bi-polar

disorder, he has been very supportive.  He makes sure that I get out of the

house at least three times a week.  Fear still takes hold of me at times,

but not with the intensity it used to.  My therapist has put me in touch

with an intensive care coordinator and together will work out a plan for

getting me back on track.

[UPDATE: My wife and I separated on 24th of October.]

 

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