My name is Stef, I am a 28 year old mother of 2 beautiful girls and have been dealing with severe mood swings for about 10 years. The first time I actually went for help was at age 23, but was diagnosed with clinical depression and after my "depression cycle" ended I quit going in to the doctor. Just recently my mood swings have become more severe and I can't seem to pull myself out of it.  This is my story, it is long, and maybe too much to put on the web site, but I feel better just getting it out and reading the others also made me feel better, so if this helps anyone I will be glad I shared!

     I am crying all the time! I don't want to leave the house, everything makes me afraid. I feel like I am having a heart attack and I can't breathe! There is pain in my chest and in my arm, my left arm! It must be a heart attack, but I have gone to the Doctor with this before and they can't find anything, they tell me it is a virus in chest wall and will go away in a couple days. They have even checked for blood clots in my lungs in the past and nothing has happened. A friend tells me maybe I should call a mental health doctor. Why? I am not crazy! No, she says, maybe you have anxiety.  You definitely have depression and should be seen anyway. What do I have to be depressed about? I have two great kids, my husband is awesome, I have good friends and close family. I have a house and my health. What do I have to be depressed about? I don't know, but there must be something, no-one cries this much unless they are depressed or have had a tragedy in their life. I call the mental health department at my clinic. They get me an appointment right away with a psychiatrist. I need a ride to the clinic, why can't I drive myself? I love to drive, but the thought of doing it today makes those pains start in my chest again.

     The psychiatrist said I have panic disorder and clinical depression. We have started Zoloft and Xanex for my treatment and I am seeing a psychologist. The psychologist is helping. I am talking about things I haven't and it feels better to get them out. I have terrible headaches, no sex drive, and feel blah! The Zoloft is not working and the Xanex makes me too tired to accomplish anything, not that I feel motivated anyway. I am still crying a lot and feeling hopeless. I will bring this up my next appointment. We switch to Paxil and Lorazapam. I am starting to feel a little better. Is it the meds or is it the end of my depression cycle? I stop the meds and my appointments, I'm all better and it's spring. It must be that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I haven't gotten that diagnoses from my doctor, but it seems reasonable considering the depression started shortly after the New Year began and now that it is Spring I feel normal again. Anyway, it doesn't matter right now because I don't need help and that's all that matters.

     I am spending like crazy! I am always either going to the casino, the dollar store, or thrift stores! I love to go out shopping, of course I do these things with my sister-in-law and never alone. I need to get a job though, my husband doesn't make enough to dig us out of the debt I am putting us into.

     I have a couple of good years.  I am working. We are catching up on bills. I am still spending out of control though, so my husband and I get separate checking accounts. I can afford to spend the way I am though, so it's okay as long as I don't go into his money. I am gambling. The casino's take way too much of my money and I will never go again (until next time)! I have discovered online shopping through the Internet and mail and we are receiving packages probably weekly. Then it will taper off to nothing one month then weekly again. My husband groans every time the mail lady shows up at the door with a parcel. I try to convince him that we did somehow need the package that has arrived and remind him that it's my money so he shouldn't complain. We both know though that by the end of the week I will be asking him to loan me some money until next payday. I still have mood swings, mostly between happy and angry. I don't really feel any depression and when I do I ignore it or turn it into anger, I can control that better and deal with it better. I feel good about the way things are going though. The anxiety is not gone, but I can function in stores and family functions. I feel especially strong when I have someone with me and can do almost anything then! Then the depression is getting tough to ignore and when I try to make it anger I just cry. I am crying about everything! I even cry when we are watching comedies. I am starting to feel helpless again. Everything that could go wrong in anyone's life is somehow linked to me and it's my fault! My anxiety is also getting worse. I don't want to go out again.

     I have a panic attack on my way to work and drive around for two hours trying to find my way home. I am disoriented, I get home and don't even remember the drive. I am hysterical. I am losing my mind and there is nothing I can do about it! I call work and lie about why I'm not there, I will make it in tomorrow. Next morning, I can't leave. Every time I think about the drive I feel panicked! I call the Psychiatrist from 3 years ago, he says he doesn't have any appointments right now but my file says I was on Paxil and Lorazapam all those years ago, so he will call in a prescription and call me back on Monday with an appointment time. I call work and talk to my supervisor. I tell the truth about why I am out. Why is this back? Everything was going so good! Was it really? Or was I just ignoring it until it made me physically sick? Monday morning, I still haven't left my house and still don't want to. I thought the meds would help! I thought I would be able to go to work today! I call the Doc, he says he has an emergency appointment and come in right away today. How can I get there? I will need to have someone drive me.

     I am seeing the psychiatrist and a psychologist, and I am not being honest with either of them. I am afraid of being committed!  They will think I am crazy and suicidal and they will hospitalize me for sure! I will just keep telling them I am depressed so they up the antidepressant, it will have to work eventually, right? I go see the psychiatrist and we up the Paxil then switch me to Clonzapam (better known as Klonopin) and Trazadone (sleep aid) for the anxiety and to get me more sleep at night. I say I'm sad and feel down and unmotivated, but I don't mention the mood swings because how can you be happy then angry then depressed in so short a time span? Sometimes even in one day! Sometimes even all at the same time! If that doesn't sound crazy, then what does? I don't mention my feeling of helplessness or thoughts of suicide. I'm getting no where in my recovery. I will have a couple good days than back to square one!

     Though I tell the doctor's I am just depressed and anxious, here is an idea of what I am really feeling and doing at home:
I get up to wake my kids for school. After they leave I think about all the stuff I need to get done, I feel depressed and not motivated to do anything, I will usually try to read but I can't concentrate because I know I have a lot to get done (I have been reading the same book about 3 months and am only on Chapter 3). I get up to start cleaning. I will start dishes from supper the night before and leave the water running in the sink and go rewash the clothes in washer because they have been in the wash to long and smell bad, so need to be washed again. Then I realize the water is still running in the kitchen, go back wash a few more dishes then leave the water running again and take out the garbage. Come back in get the dishes finished and remember to shut off the water but there is no hot water left to shower, so I'll sit and read again. Then I decide, since I can't concentrate on my book, I will vacuum the living room and sweep the kitchen. I take the clothes out of the dryer and put the clothes from washer into the dryer and start a new load in the wash (which will have to be washed again tomorrow because I won't get it into the dryer today). The clothes I took out of the dryer will sit folded on the coach until I move them to a basket because I never get motivated to put them away. I still haven't swept, but I have a pile started and the broom next to it. The Vacuum is plugged in and in the middle of the living room floor, but the floor is still not clean. I start thinking about getting the mail and am having anxiety already, after about 2 hours or so, I finally get out to the mailbox (if I don't just send my husband) and get the mail, run back in the house (literally run) and put the mail in the microwave (Anthrax scare) then wash my hands while I cook the mail for 30-45 seconds which will sometimes burn it and stink up the house so I have to watch it closely. I take the mail out and wash the microwave with disinfectant, leave the water running the whole time so I don't have hot water to shower still and am still in my pajamas. I start supper, feed my kids and husband, try to eat something myself because I realize I haven't eaten all day. Then my kids read with me and go over there homework, I can't concentrate on what they are telling me though I am trying so hard. My husband is fortunately able to concentrate and says "good job" in all the right places and helps when they need help. Everyone goes to bed accept me. I read for a while, or cry and think about the things I can't seem to make myself do anymore, then finally get in the shower and put my pajamas back on. I think about how stressful this must be for my family because I feel like I'm going crazy and they would probably do better without me, but I know the pain it would cause my kids and my husband if I were to kill myself so I cry myself to sleep about 3 or 4 in the morning -- after getting out of bed 5-6 times to check the locks on the doors. I finally fall asleep and get up at 6 am to start the day again. My house looks a mess because I can't seem to focus long enough to get anything completed so although it is clean, it isn't straightened up or organized.

     Now I'm on top of the world! I feel great, I still haven't slept much but my house is cleaned, rearranged even! I have many projects going on. I am making all kinds of things and thinking about writing a book. Maybe a romance novel! I can't get enough of my husband, waking him at all hours of the night for intimate contact. My sex drive is insatiable! I feel as if I could go anywhere do anything, the anxiety is there, but not as strong. I can go places if I set my mind to it and have confidence in my ability to do things. I rearrange the house, go through the kids clothes and take out what doesn't fit. Then I think of all the things I could make to hold their toys and organize their room better. While I'm rearranging their room, I'm sure I hear one of them call me. They are still at school though, so it can't be them already! Maybe it's later than I thought, I go check the door. No-one there. I go back to the bedroom to finish arranging and organizing. What if something happened to one of my kids? What if what I heard was their spirit come to say good-bye? No, they are fine and they will be home soon. I check the phone, yep it's working. If something happened the school would have called. I finish the bedroom, every so often I am sure I hear one of the kids call for me again or the phone ringing, but there is nothing. No call and the kids are still at school. I must be going crazy! Turn on the radio for noise and finish cleaning their room. They are home from school. No, Mom, nothing happened today, it was a normal day. A good day. It was just anxiety. They get a snack while I try to finish another project and tell them about my ideas for making stuff to hold their toys. They like the ideas. Cool Mom, when will you start them? Probably tomorrow, I have a lot I'm doing today.

     Then I'm angry, I can't get my ideas of yesterday started! I don't know how to start them! I'm yelling at everyone and no-one understands why! I don't understand why! I know I am being irrational, but can't seem to bring it under control, even though I know it! I can't control anything! Not even my moods! What is wrong with me? I have unfinished projects everywhere and I am overwhelming myself with the need to get things done. So now I am very tired - I will just sleep for a while. After about three days of sleeping about 15-16 hours a day (making up for all the days of 2-3 hours a night?) I am feeling guilty for sleeping so much! My house is a mess and laundry has piled up. My husband is frustrated because we don't have the money to pay for all the things that keep coming in the mail, but I assure him we can pay for them later! I shouldn't have made all those online purchases when I was feeling better for that couple days. The car needs repairs and he goes to get parts, his credit card is almost to the limit because I am using it to catch up on bills. Well, I can't use either of mine, they are over the limit from all my spending sprees and gambling! Now he is outside finishing the dog house I started to build, assuring him at the time I started it that it was my idea and I would finish it so he need not worry about all the wood on the deck and I would take care of everything when I was finished with it. "I just need help getting the roof on" I tell him because I am frustrated that it isn't turning out the way I pictured. Then I leave it -- floor, supports, and roof -- no sides, it looks like a doggy carport! I can't complete thoughts, I can't finish projects, I feel helpless and useless! Why do I have to keep going through this? Why is he still with me? I want to leave me and I can't, he has that option, why does he stay here? This can't be PMS because it doesn't "cycle" with my menstrual cycles!

     The mood swings are just as bad, even worse than they were before! I have been seeing the Doc's for four month's and though I will have a day or so that is good, I'm not getting better! Maybe it's time to tell them the truth so they can really help me, and if I have to be committed then that is what will have to happen. I talk to the psychologist first, I am afraid the psychiatrist will be mad at me. For some reason I rely continuously on the approval and acceptance of others. If someone gets angry with me I fall all over myself trying to make it better. The psychologist says that they are not going to commit me, but it does help with getting me started to a recovery if I am honest. I do have thoughts of suicide, I tell him, but I won't act on it because only I can raise my children the way I want them to be raised! He says if that is what you need to hold onto to keep you from hurting yourself or taking your life, then hold on tight while we get you feeling better about yourself.

     The psychiatrist says there is a possibility of Bi-Polar II, but people with Bi-polar are crazy I think. My cousin with Bi-Polar sees things and thinks he's other people when he goes off his meds! No, the psychiatrist informs me that there are different degrees of Bi-polar and most likely my cousins is more severe. I am put on a mood-stabilizer, Depakote and the amount of Paxil is brought down. He doesn't want to take me off the antidepressant though because I have obsessive compulsive tendencies. I can't sleep without checking the door is locked over and over. If I think I might want to get something done before I go to bed then lay down before I do it, I stay awake until I get out of bed and take care of it (I have gone to the grocery store at 3 am to get milk because I couldn't sleep until I did it).

Well, now I have a diagnoses! Great! I am on the road to being normal again and I feel good about the diagnosis because it means that I can't control what I am feeling and I am not putting this all on myself! Yeah! I leave feeling great and feel that way for a couple of days! Now I am depressed again, why would I be if the meds are working? The diagnoses must be wrong, I don't feel like it's working and my parents don;t believe I am Bi-polar, so it must be wrong. I stop the meds and things go from bad to worse! My husband is beside himself with frustration in my mood swings and my kids are afraid to look at my funny because I may start to cry. Great! I can make everyone crazy! I start the meds again and the psychiatrist ups the dosage of the Depakote, lowers all the others a little more.

I think I am feeling better, still depressed but the thoughts of suicide aren't as strong or as frequent. The anxiety is also letting up a bit, but I need to face that head on to really get it to a point of being livable (I've been letting it win too long)! I get a letter from work, my short term disability is denied and I need to return to work in one week or I will no longer be employed there! I try my damnedest to get there over the next couple days, just to prove that I can! I have a panic attack every time! I am frustrated, feeling helpless again, and I watch the job go. I have been fired for the first time in my life. I have
quit jobs in the past when I felt a lot of anxiety about being there or getting there, but this is the first time I have been fired! I am contemplating suicide again. It would be so much easier for my family if I was gone and they had the insurance money to catch up on the bills I have racked up and even get out of this trailer park. Sure, they may miss me for a while, but things would be better for them in the long run, and I would be done fighting! I have lost my insurance though and I am again off my meds. This time it was out of necessity, not because I felt I knew what was best. I just can't afford them without insurance! I make a plan to take my life, but I cried and my plan was thwarted by my husband and sister-in-law. They kept close watch on me until we felt I was safe to be alone. Now it is the Holiday season, I am really depressed, but will not commit or attempt suicide now and I tell myself it is because I don't want my kids and husband to forever associate Holidays with my death. I have applied for SSI Disability and Medical Assistance, in the meantime I just wait until I can get back to the doctor and start over again the road to healing. I still have days where I feel on top of the world, but as soon as I think of going out and shopping or something I have a panic attack and at home I stay!


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