Christine's Story

 

My name is Christine, and I’m 30.  I was born in Denver, Colorado, and I am the fourth youngest of five children. My dad left when I was three, and my mom managed to raise all five of us by herself for a couple of years before marrying my step-dad when I was five. He is the only father I have ever known. 

Both of my older sisters had moved out by the time I was six, so my primary memories are of my older brother Lance, and my younger brother Mike. [I found out recently that my biological father was an alcoholic, and most likely Bipolar; and that his mother was institutionalized for most of her life.]

My early childhood was magical. I was always a very imaginative and creative child, and my memories of growing up with my two brothers are wonderful. But there were those incidents that just did not fit in with a healthy childhood. I had spells of being moody and full of rage. I would talk non-stop for hours, earning me the nickname “motor-mouth”. My first suicide attempt was at age nine; I drank a glass of water mixed with Comet. I lost my virginity at age twelve. 

My second suicide attempt was at age thirteen, and that time I almost “succeeded”. I took a mix of heart pills, aspirin and vitamins. I went to sleep for about thirty minutes and then I woke up scared, so made myself throw up. I was sick for two weeks with the “flu”, [accompanied by hallucinations and anxiety] and I never told a soul. I should have been hospitalized. [To this day I have tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, because of the aspirin.]

My high school years were where things really started to get bad. On one hand, I was very popular with my friends. I was funny and talented. I participated in theatre and choir. But I had violent mood swings and rages. I also had depressions so bad in the wintertime that I would miss weeks of school at a time. I was even expelled for missing so much school. 

During my depressions, I would spend hours in my room writing poetry, or walking the streets of my town. I felt completely alone and had no way of connecting with people on my level. I was considered “weird” and pretty much left alone. My friends just waited for me to “come out of it” and that come summer, I would be my fun-loving self again. In spite of how much I hated school and how lousy my grades were, I somehow managed to graduate in May of 1989, with no clue as to what I wanted to do with my life.

I met a man 17 years my senior in January 1991. He was married and I was stupid. I had an “affair” with him for three years. This was one of the most difficult periods of my entire life. The summer before we split up, I had my first full-blown manic episode. I was working for a middle school at the time, so we had summers off. I can remember not sleeping more than two hours a night, pacing my apartment for hours - afraid to go outside. I couldn’t eat. I thought people were watching me. I was convinced that my upstairs neighbor was planning on killing me. I only took my trash out in the middle of the night because I was convinced that there were people waiting to sift through it. I cried for hours for no reason. This manic episode “topped” out with me holding a gun to my head, completely in hysterics. Then one clear thought broke through: “but if you die, who will take care of the birds?” [I had four parrots at the time. I now have eight.] That thought was followed by images of my family, my friends, etc; and rationalization broke through… I should have been hospitalized then, too. Instead, I went to a family clinic, was diagnosed with depression, and introduced to Prozac. I was 22.

Prozac “worked” wonderfully for me for about a year or so. It set me free! I broke off my relationship with this man – who had been nothing but bad for me – and started up another relationship immediately afterwards with someone who was his complete opposite. This was in January of 1994. The relationship was a whirlwind, and within eight months, we were engaged. Six months later, we were married. And immediately after that, I became severely depressed. I lost my job.

[This, by the way, was the ninth or tenth job I’d had since graduating high school.] I went through two “therapists” and several more anti-depressants and all kinds of amazing ups and downs and adventures before being prescribed Zoloft. Zoloft again, set me free. It made my mind clear and my resolve more strong. I knew I was destined for greater things. I was separated from my husband within five months of starting it. In January of 1997, I moved into my own place, and began cycles of partying and fun and depression that lasted well over a year. My prevalent symptoms of mania include frequent job changes, extreme promiscuity, brief relationships, spending sprees, and a complete lack of personal safety. I have also been engaged several times, and I have started college numerous times with numerous majors. I would always lose interest about midway through the semester – if I even made it that far!

 My wonderful, loving mother basically supported me through all of 1997. My life was in a constant state of change. I never stayed at a job for more than a month. I never dated a man for more than four months. This lasted until March of 1998, when everything came crashing down around me.

      My family has always been amazingly close; [except for one sister. ‘nuf said.] My oldest sister is ten years older than me, but I feel very close to her. My older brother Lance basically lives his own life, but comes around for family gatherings. My younger brother Mike has always been my buddy; especially when we were kids. My mom has always been the very center of this warm and loving universe, and I worshipped her. No matter how difficult and crazy my world got, an afternoon of coffee and conversation with mom made everything all right again. My dad was strict but loving.

Nothing prepared us for March of 1998. Mike went into the hospital with pneumonia. At first, we figured a couple of days rest, some medication; and he’d be on his way back home. We found out that Mike actually had AIDS, and the pneumonia was deadly. It took him six weeks to die, with every one of us there, every single day. I was there in that room with him, and the rest of my family, when he passed away. After that, I was going full speed ahead, making one stupid life altering decision after another; all on whatever whim propelled me. I felt frantic. I got pregnant. I took one look at the father and freaked out. Broke up with him and had an abortion. Started yet another job. Did some highly embarrassing things there as well. One day in May, just a little over a month after Mike died, I got a call from my mom. She had been diagnosed with cancer. It took her six months to die.

Again, I was in that room, with the rest of my family, when she passed away. These two tragedies are what I believe to be the major triggers for the intense level of my Bipolar Disorder today. I now know that I have always had it; but it never reached the pinnacle like it did after my mom died. I was in self-destruct mode. I wanted to die, but was terrified that if I committed suicide, I would never be reunited with my mom and brother. So instead, I drove on the highways as fast as I could, while drunk out of my skull. When I would arrive in front of my house [a house I lived in with yet another boyfriend] I would just sit there and cry…

      I met my now fiancé five months after my mom died. I was still living with boyfriend # who-the-heck-knows, and was out on one of my typical self-destruct evenings.  I met him in a nightclub. I was acting drunk and stupid, and he was nothing but kind and compassionate. He drove me home, and four days later, I moved in with him.

      It took another year before I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and ADD, June of 2000. I was so depressed that I wouldn’t even get out of bed to take a shower or eat. My boyfriend told me to get help NOW. So I did. My doctor put me on Lithium, and then increased the doses far too rapidly; going off of what my blood levels were and not by asking me how I felt. I had a bad reaction to the drug, and went through a month-long psychotic episode. My doctor was awful! He said the drug could never have done that to me, and that I was in denial about my “panic disorder”.  He loaded me up on Klonapin and wouldn’t put me on any other mood stabilizer but Depakote. Of course, I had all of the worst side effects this drug is capable of, before finding myself a new doctor. She put me on Lamictal; and slowly took me off of the Depakote. It was during one of our sessions together late last year that we discovered that I also have psychotic paranoia. [I often believe that people are plotting against me, or talking about me, or just don’t like me and are telling other people not to like me. I have quit jobs because of these beliefs. My delusions range from slightly uncomfortable to bizarre.] My doctor said that this is a major problem, and put me on Seroquel. We have also tried Cytomel [a thyroid drug] to help with my depression, but it made my thyroid levels fall dangerously low.

      So my current diagnosis is Bipolar I with Paranoia. No ADD or panic disorder. I have had several set backs so far this year, a couple of serious manic episodes, and med adjustments left and right; and I was also recently laid off from my job. [one that I was actually succeeding at, too.] Through it all, my fiancé has stood by my side. Without him, I don’t know where I would have ended up. I honestly think that my mom had something to do with us meeting, because the timing was crucial. I also owe a great deal to my beloved parrots and my dog, [my “kids”] because they have saved my life several times. My family has also been nothing but supportive and loving. I owe them so much! [My 20-year old niece was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder in May of this year after a serious suicide attempt; and I’ve been trying to help her as well as helping myself.]  I’m still not 100% [I just recently went through yet another manic episode resulting in a med change that resulted in bad side effects, etc. etc. etc.] I’m actually beginning to realize that there is no 100%.  I may be too sensitive to the medications to ever be on one at its full therapeutic dose. I know now that the meds are just the base of being well. It’s up to me to do the rest. 

Learning this part is where I am now, as I end this long-winded story!! Thank you to everyone who reads it.

 

Christine Y.

Cyork1971@qwest.net


 

 

 

 

 

 

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