Heather's Story

 

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 wanted to.
 
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 time.
 
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 medication...
 
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 require.
 
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 time.
 
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.
 
God Bless
 
Heather
zmbnfthr@hotmail.com

 

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