My name is Heather and I am 19. I was diagnosed with Bipolar one year
ago today. Previously to that I was assumed by my doctors to have
major depression. How wrong they were!
I am still quite young and many of you may think that there is nothing
that you can learn from my experience but I have so much to share with
everyone and so much to learn at the same time. Take a few minutes,
read my story and reflect upon the life that you are living.
When I was 14 years old I had my first depression attack. My mum and
dad would constantly be angry at me for exam results, wearing the
wrong clothes, watching the wrong shows on television or spending time
with the wrong people. The list goes on and on. I grew up in a
household where work was more important that family. Where showing
feelings, even happiness or love was considered a weakness. We never
talked, only argued. Life was very difficult.
To deal with the pressures of home I retreated. I threw myself into my
school work. Taking on extra assignments just so I didn't have to
leave my room. I didn't spend time with friends. I was my only friend
and confidant. Life was spinning out of control.
During all of this, was the first time I cut myself. I cannot remember
exactly why I did it (the first time that is) but all I know is that
it made me feel so much better. Looking back on the situation from
today, I know that it was so much easier to deal with the physical
pain, rather than the emotional pain. People around me also could deal
with me with a physical injury rather than an emotional injury.
That frightful time started me on a journey of over four years of
daily mutilation. People could never understand why I did it. They
looked down on me as if I was carrying an infectious disease. This
just made me feel worse. The feelings of low self-worth and low
self-esteem became more frequent and the scars on my body were (and
still are) a constant reminder of how I was feeling.
At the same time I was crying out for help. But it was not there. My
friends (the few I had) would not listen to me and eventually they
ignored my cries altogether. To combat this I started lying. I told
stories about everything. I needed help and the only way that I could
get people to listen to me (I believed) was to make up a story. I was
pregnant. I had HIV. My parents were getting a divorce. I was sexually
abused. Anything and everything.
I feel so guilty about it still to this day. I deceived so many people
and ignored the silent vows of friendship. However it did to the
trick. One of my friends realised all of this (God bless her soul) for
what it was, and told the school therapist. She told her about how I
was cutting myself as well. Suddenly the cat was out of the bag and I
had nothing to hide from.
I ended up seeing a therapist at my local community clinic for seven
months until my parents told me that I was not allowed to talk to a
stranger about my problems or anything that happened in our family.
For two years everything went back to 'normal'. I threw myself into my
school work, spent time by myself, still cutting myself and retreating
from the world.
As I look back on that time I can see the first symptoms of my bipolar
coming through. At first they were quite mild, but at time progressed
they became more and more devastating. Initially I would fall into
deep depression for no reason for months and then return to my
'normal' self. I had very few periods of mania.
By the time I was 17 I had my first manic period. It was terrifying to
both myself and all of those around me. It was like God had flicked a
button which moved me from the depths of misery to the uncontrollable,
horrible highs. I was invincible. Suddenly I could do anything that I
I stayed up for days upon end, until my body collapsed. I cleaned,
cooked, went out with friends and spent money that I didn't have. It
felt like I was on ecstasty and speed for a period of 2 months. I was
doing so much that my weight fell from a healthy 65kg (143 pounds
approximately) to a unhealthy and disgusting 49kg (107.8 pounds
approximately). My hair was falling out, my skin was an unhealthy
yellow colour, my eyes set deep back in their sockets and the scars
upon my skin became more visable.
Despite all of this I still had this energy. My family and friends
said nothing about my behaviour, only my weight loss. However at the
time I didn't think that it was unhealthy and they did not say
anything negative about it either. Comments such as "God Heather is
looking slim these days!" or "I wonder what her secret is?" just made
me believe that I was better off thin.
Slowly I fell down from my mania into 'normality' again. My behaviour
changed on most aspects except for my weight. My constant struggle
with Anorexia Nervosa began here. I refused to put on the weight that
I had lost. I would exercise more and more and eat less and less. All
the time I would hide my figure under baggy clothes so that no-one
would bother me.
It was only 6 months later that I fell into my next depression period,
which was a blessing in disguise. All I could do was sleep. I was not
running around doing anything, and my mother was forcing food down my
throat. I slowly started to put my weight back on. I hated it. I was
feeling fat, ugly and worthless. I tried to kill myself for the first
After weighing in on the scales at 50 kg (110 pounds approximately) I
decided that enough was enough. I drank 3/4 of a bottle of vodka, 6
panadol (paracetamol) tablets and tried to slit my wrists. However it
didn't work. I woke up after 12 hours with a headache, sore stomach
and sheets covered with splatters of blood.
This was my wake-up call. I realised how bad I had gotten and when I
saw the look of fear in my mum's eyes when she saw what had happened,
I went to the doctor.
I was diagnosed with depression and put on my first lot of
anti-depressants. I was seeing a psychiatrist once a week and slowly I
felt like my life was getting better. However the medication did not
continue to work. So my doctors just put the dose up each time they
saw me. I was incredibly frustrated with this and decided that I would
take myself off all the medication and do it my own way.
This did not work. I started to self-medicate. Alcohol and speed were
my crutches. If I felt myself getting too high I would drink, if I
felt I was getting two low then I would take a few grams of speed. It
was a constant rollarcoaster ride. Even when I was feeling 'normal' I
would use the two. Alcohol was a daily factor in my life. Before,
during and after school. Before, during and after work. When I was
with family or friends. Even when I was by myself. When I drank, it
was the only time that I felt real, and the only time that I could
'let go' and be myself. No-one would criticise me, they said "Don't
worry about Heather, she's just drunk!"
I took speed as a precaution. If I thought that I would have a
hangover the next morning I would go and get a gram so that I could
have it to get me through the day. If I had an exam to study for, or a
job interview or even a date, I took speed to give me that energy
boost that I needed. I was going through at least a gram a day, if not
more. All my money went on drugs or alcohol.
I couldn't sleep because of all the speed, so I either stole my dad's
sleeping tablets or drank myself stupid until I passed out.
I don't know if I was manic or depressed during this period, because I
cannot really remember a large proportion of it.
I saw my psychiatrist and I was put straight away into the local
private psychiatric hospital. For a total of 5 and a half months in
2001, I was kept away from society. I was put on almost every anti-depressent
from every different class. I had countless hours of therapy, diet
changes and even ECT.
Nothing worked. It was not until I had a manic episode while I was in
hospital that my doctors decided that they would try me on a mood
stabiliser. I was tried on Epilim first but had a terrible reaction to
it. I was begining to believe that I would never get better.
I was tried on Lithium, an anti-depressent, anti-psychotic and valium
all at one go. I started to feel a little better. I was diagnosed with
Bipolar Disorder. After about 3 months on this combination we all
believed that I was going to make a full recovery and go on and get on
with my life. I left hospital, got a job and started saving some
money. I saw my friends and settled down in a supportive relationship.
Only 6 months ago however I started to believe that I did not need to
continue taking my medication because I was feeling so much better. So
I stopped it all together. Life retuned to the rollercoaster.
Over the past 6 months, I have only occasionally taken my prescribed
dosage of medication. I still take drugs and still drink. I still
work. I have gone back to school to study for my degree. I see my
friends and try and look after my health.
I know that I should go back on my medication but I cannot bring
myself to take a handful of tablets every morning. I am trying to
mangae my bipolar. My friends and family have a hard time dealing with
it. But everytime someone tells me that I should go back on my med's
and get some regular therapy, I tell them the side effects of the
I can't think clearly. I had a constant tremor in my hands. I have
disturbed GIT function. I have headaches, constant thirst and a
frequent need to urinate. I can't go anywhere without carrying a bag
full of tablets. I am not myself on my medication.
I write this story to you all, not just to let you know that there are
people out there who suffer from Bipolar, and all at varying degrees
but I have a lesson to teach you.
I have found that medication is not the best way to manage my Bipolar.
I am sure that there are plenty of you out there who are quite happy
to take your medication and I respect you for that. For anyone of you
out there who has that bit of you that says "Do I really have to take
this?" take note.
THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO MANAGE BIPOLAR.
I have done research on many natural ways of self-management. The
internet is a huge source of information and if you sit down and spend
the time then I am sure that you will find the information you
I do not recommend any of you to go off your medication without
talking to your doctors first. If you do decide to go off it, then be
sure why you are doing it. Research possible alternatives and find
someone (a friend or even your doctor) to help you through this hard
I will get better. I am only 19 years old. I have the rest of my life
infront of me. Yes I do things that do not help my condition but I
need to do them so I can feel alive. I have made my choices in life,
and wether or not you or anyone else agrees with them, is of no
concern to me. I am the only person I have to answer to.
I wish all of you success in your life. Please contact me if you would
like any of the information I have on alternative treatments for
Bipolar. I am happy to discuss anything.
If you are only a family member or a friend of someone who suffers
from Bipolar then I tell you this; They are not crazy. It is not fun.
They need your support. Be there for them, and trust me, they will be
so grateful for it.