Steph's Story

My bipolar began in September 1996, right after my mddle child was born. At first, I blew off the symptoms
and thought it was just stress or hormone problems, but it turned out I was wrong. I had spending sprees
with credit cards and lost my temper a lot at work. Other times, I withdrew from people during my
depressive moments and thought if people saw the real me, they'd run the other way, screaming
"WEIRDO!" all the way. Mental illness is a major stigma in the military, so I had to keep it to myself or
face severe ridicule from everyone.Things were okay until 1999 and then things were getting stressful again,
so I went to a mental health clinic and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at that time. I was given lithium
to help stabilize my moods. Because bipolar disorder is recognized as a chemical imbalance in the brain, I
was medically retired from the military and receive pension each month. I don't mind talking about it here
because everyone here has bipolar too and would understand the mood swings and other symptoms that go
with this disease. My husband and kids are helpful and care about my well being. I have difficulty obtaining
decent work and don't know why. I never bring up the disorder during interviews and am cautioous about
whom I discuss this with because I live in a small town and want to stay in good standing here. I'm
attending college full time very soon and will major in Business Administration. Since I'm under control, I
have the green light from my doctor to do this. She encourages me to go all the way and get the degrees I
need to become a CPA so I can eventually work at home and spend more time with my kids. I do my best
not to let this disease get in the way of living a normal life. I found out this disease is also hereditary and at
least one of my kids could have this someday. Who better to help them cope than a fellow bipolar who's
been around the block? Now, I don't spend money unless I have to. I cut up my credit cards and sent
them back. I use money orders and cash to pay for things. My main focus is rebuilding my credit and
keep paying my bills on time. My e-mail address is: and my story is about hope
and some triumph too. 

Steph Gagne


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