After suffering from major depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts for over a year, I've finally found out that I'm actually bipolar. I'm trying to take a well-rounded approach to treating my illness. I have a psychologist for CBT, psychiatrist for specialist help with medication, GP for general health and personal trainer for exercise and nutrition. Ironically, I've studied as an experimental neuroscientist, and am quite interested in the role of stem cells and neurogenesis in mental disorders, if anyone is interested :). I am happy to share my journey and experience with anyone.
I've had quite a long journey and I would like to be as candid as possible so that it helps as many people as possible.
I have quite a number of people in my family that suffer from some mental illness - depression, biopolar, schizophrenia, and probably a number of others that haven't been diagnosed. Unfortunately I drew the short stick on genes and I have been suffering from bipolar since puberty. I have only recently been diagnosed with bipolar.
I had a life crisis only a couple of years ago in the form of my PhD. To cut a long story short, I couldn't understand why I found it so hard to concentrate, I lost my short term memory, became aggressive and short with everyone and thought I could conquer anything and anyone. I was crying all the time, stopped sleeping and lost so much weight because I had stopped eating. I got to the point where I felt so irritated and couldn't sit still that I decided to go to a GP. After all the tears came out, she diagnosed me with depression and placed me onto Effexor and I took sick leave from my PhD.
I honestly think that no one except the most depressed should be on Effexor because the side effects are so bad. However, it managed to bring me out of the very depths of despair. The effexor made me exhausted and woozy. This was really difficult to manage but we split the dose over the course of the day which helped. On the darker side, effexor made me suicidal. As I was stubborn, I just put up with it and pushed through it. Truly, I have no idea how I got through the suicidal periods, I was so very close on each occasion. In retrospect, I probably should have just changed drugs. I did try to change, but the environment that I was in was not supportive, and I decided to keep on with Effexor.
I moved up to 225mg so that I could hit anxiety levels. At this level, the Effexor started numbing me - I didn't really feel any kind of emotions, and it made me really tired. I had to take Effexor 3 x a day to cope with the side effects.
When I was first diagnosed with depression, I ensured that I exercised for at least 3 hrs a day, no matter what. The purpose of this was 2 fold. Firstly, it was to increase my endorphin levels and decrease my stress and nervous energy. The second reason is that exercise has been shown to affect the proliferation of stem cells in the brain.
I also found a very good psychologist who specialised in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). This gave me the tools to change the way I thought about myself and any situations that come about. One example which my psychologist and I still make use of even today, I text my friend and she didn't message me back. I automatically assumed that she hated me and that's why she didn't contact me. As it turned out, she'd recently changed her number and hadn't got round to telling me. In my experience, CBT is a wonderful tool, but it is not a quick fix. It took about a year of seeing my psychologist before the tools started to turn into a habit.
I went back to my PhD after my sick leave. However after a time I started to became emotionally exhausted due to my PhD and the people around me. Eventually I was persuaded to quit the PhD. Without getting into to much detail, I was devastated, I truly was, but I was so tired as well. Despite this, I managed to get a job - I was actually head hunted which really made me feel good.
I decided to take the treatment of my illness to the next level. I hired a personal trainer. This was to ensure that I actually went to the gym (at this stage I was having trouble) and could have someone watching my nutrition.
It happened that I was reading up on the symptoms of bipolar. At the same time I went into mania and recognised what it was. I saw a psychiatrist, since I wanted a specialist, and he diagnosed me with bipolar and placed me onto lithium. This was the hardest 3 weeks I have ever had to endure. Coming of Effexor is just wrong. I had headaches and nausea, but the last week I spent 7 days vomitting and photosensitive. I'm still not great, but I'll get there.
In summary depression and bipolar are difficult times in a person's life, but they can enrich your life. After experiencing suicidal thoughts and coming through, the small things don't matter anymore and I value life so much more. I also know how to think positively and I can understand why other people react in specific ways.
I'm finally starting to feel great. I feel motivated and am actually starting to have hobbies! I love working out at the gym, gardening, photography and painting, and of course playing with my cat (not at 3am, however!).
Mar 25, 2008
Sep 14, 2011